« PoprzedniaDalej »
broke college, Oxford. Misfortunes in trade happened
February 7, 1755. to the elder Johnson, and Samuel was compelled My Lord—I have been lately informed by the to leave the university without a degree. He was proprietor of the World, that two papers, in which
my Dictionary' is recommended to the public, were written by your lordship. To be so distinguished is an honour, which, being very little accustomed to favours from the great, I know not well how to receive, or in what terms to acknowledge.
When, upon some slight encouragement, I first visited your lordship, I was overpowered, like the rest of mankind, by the enchantment of your address, and could not forbear to wish that I might boast myself le vainqueur du vainqueur de la terre ,—that I might obtain that regard for which I saw the world contending; but I found my attendance so little encouraged, that neither pride nor modesty would suffer me to continue it. When I had once addressed your lordship in public, I had exhausted all the art of pleasing which a retired and uncourtly scholar can possess. I had done all that I could ; and no man is well pleased to have his all neglected, be it ever so little.
Seven years, my lord, have now passed since I waited in your outward rooms, or was repulsed from your door; during which time I have been pushing on my work through difficulties, of which it is useless to complain, and have brought it at last to the verge of publication, without one act of assistance, one word of encouragement, or one smile of favour. Such treatment I did not expect, for I never had a patron before.
The shepherd in Virgil grew at last acquainted with Dr Johnson's Room in Pembroke College.
Love, and found him a native of the rocks. a short time usher in a school at Market Bosworth ;
Is not a patron, my lord, one who looks with unbut marrying a widow, Mrs Porter (whose age was concern on a man struggling for life in the water, and, double his own), he set up a private academy near when he has reached ground, encumbers him with his native city. He had only three pupils, one of help! The notice which you have been pleased to whom was David Garrick. After an unsuccess- take of my labours, had it been early, had been kind; ful career of a year and a-half, Johnson went to but it has been delayed till I am indifferent, and canLondon, accompanied by Garrick. He now com
not enjoy it; till I am solitary, and cannot impart it; menced author by profession, contributing essays, till I anı known, and do not want it. I hope it is no reviews, &c., to the Gentleman's Magazine.
In very cynical asperity not to confess obligations where 1738 appeared his London, a satire; in 1744 his no benefit has been received, or to be unwilling that Life of Savage ; in 1749 The Vanity of Human the public should consider me as owing that to a
; Wishes, an imitation of Juvenal's tenth Satire, and patron which providence has enabled me to do for the tragedy of Irene ; in 1750–52 the Rambler, pub
myself. lished in numbers ; in 1755 his Dictionary of the
Having carried on my work thus far with so little English Language, which had engaged him above obligation to any favourer of learning, I shall not be seven years ; in 1758-60 the Idler, another series of disappointed though I should conclude it, if less be essays; in 1759 Rasselas ; in 1775 the Journey to possible, with less ; for I have been long wakened from the Western Islands of Scotland ; and in 1781 the that dream of hope, in which I once boasted myself Lives of the Poets. The high church and Tory pre- most humble, most obedient servant—Sam. JOHNSON.
with so much exultation, my lord—Your lordship’s dilections of Johnson led him to embark on the troubled sea of party politics, and he wrote some The poetry of Johnson forms but a small portion vigorous pamphlets in defence of the ministry and of the history of his mind or of his works. His against the claims of the Americans. His degree imitations of Juvenal, are, however, among the best of LL.D. was conferred upon him first by Trinity imitations of a classic author which we possess; and college, Dublin, and afterwards by the university Gray has pronounced an opinion, that London (the of Oxford. His majesty, in 1762, settled upon him first in time, and by far the inferior of the two), has an annuity of £300 per annum. Johnson died on all the ease and all the spirit of an original.' Pope the 13th of December 1784.
also admired the composition. In The Vanity of As an illustration of Johnson's character, and in- | Human Wishes, Johnson departs more from his oricidentally of his prose style, we subjoin his cele- ginal, and takes wider views of human nature, sobrated letter to Lord Chesterfield. The courtly ciety, and manners. His pictures of Wolsey and nobleman had made great professions to the retired Charles of Sweden have a strength and magnificence scholar, but afterwards neglected him, for some years. that would do honour to Dryden, while the historiWhen his Dictionary' was on the eve of publica- cal and philosophic paintings are contrasted by retion, Chesterfield (hoping the work might be dedi- flections on the cares, vicissitudes, and sorrows of cated to him) attempted to conciliate the author by life, so profound, 80. true, and touching, that they writing two papers in the periodical called “The may justly be denominated 'mottoes of the heart.' World,' in recommendation of the work. Johnson Sir Walter Scott has termed this poem 'a satire, the thought all was 'false and hollow,' and penned his deep and pathetic morality of which has often exindignant letter. He did Chesterfield injustice in tracted tears from those whose eyes wander dry over the affair, as from a collation of the facts and cir- pages professedly sentimental.' Johnson was too cumstances is now apparent; but as a keen and prone to indulge in dark and melancholy views of dignified expression of wounded pride and surly human life; yet those who have experienced its disindependence, the composition is inimitable :- appointments and afflictions, must subscribe to the
severe morality and pathos with which the contem- Our supple tribes repress their patriot throats, plative poet
And ask no questions but the price of votes;
With weekly libels and septennial ale, Expatiates free o'er all this scene of man. Their wish is full to riot and to rail.
In full-blown dignity, see Wolsey stand, The peculiarity of Juvenal, according to Johnson's Law in his voice, and fortune in his hand : own definition, 'is a mixture of gaiety and stateli, To him the church, the realm, their powers consign; ness, of pointed sentences and declamatory grandeur.' Through him the rays of regal bounty shine; He had less reflection and less moral dignity than Turned by his nod the stream of honour flows, his English imitator.
His smile alone security bestows : The other poetical pieces of Johnson are short and Still to new heights his restless wishes tower ; occasional; but his beautiful Prologue on the open-Claim leads to claim, and power advances power ; ing of Drury Lane, and his lines on the death of Till conquest unresisted ceased to please, Levett, are in his best manner.
And rights submitted, left him none to seize.
Mark the keen glance, and watch the sign to hate: [From the Vanity of Human Wishes.] Where'er he turns he meets a stranger's eye,
His suppliants scorn him, and his followers fly; Let observation, with extensive view,
Now drops at once the pride of awful state, Survey mankind, from China to Peru;
The golden canopy, the glittering plate, Remark each anxious toil, each eager strife,
The regal palace, the luxurious board, And watch the busy scenes of crowded life;
The liveried army, and the menial lord. Then say how hope and fear, desire and hate, With age, with cares, with maladies oppressed, O’erspread with snares the clouded maze of fate, He seeks the refuge of monastic rest. Where wavering man, betrayed by venturous pride, Grief aids disease, remembered folly stings, To tread the dreary paths without a guide;
And his last sighs reproach the faith of kings. As treacherous phantoms in the mist delude,
Speak thou, whose thoughts at humble peace repine, Shuns fancied ills, or chases airy good.
Shall Wolsey's wealth, with Wolsey's end be thine ! How rarely reason guides the stubborn choice, Or liv'st thou now, with safer pride content, Rules the bold hand, or prompts the suppliant voice. The wisest Justice on the banks of Trent! How nations sink, by darling schemes oppressed, For why did Wolsey near the steeps of fate, When vengeance listens to the fool's request. On weak foundations raise the enormous weight? Fate wings with every wish the afflictive dart, Why, but to sink beneath misfortune's blow, Each gift of nature, and each grace of art,
With louder ruin to the gulfs below. With fatal heat impetuous courage glows,
What gave great Villiers to the assassin's knife, With fatal sweetness elocution flows,
And fixed disease on Harley's closing life? Impeachment stops the speaker's powerful breath, What murdered Wentworth, and what exiled Hyde, And restless fire precipitates on death.
By kings protected, and to kings allied ! But scarce observed, the knowing and the bold, What, but their wish indulged in courts to shine, Fall in the general massacre of gold ;
And power too great to keep, or to resign ! Wide-wasting pest! that rages unconfined,
The festal blazes, the triumphal show, And crowds with crimes the records of mankind; The ravished standard, and the captive foe, For gold his sword the hireling ruffian draws, The senate's thanks, the gazettes pompous tale, For gold the hireling judge distorts the laws; With force resistless o'er the brave prevail. Wealth heaped on wealth, nor truth nor safety buys, Such bribes the rapid Greek o'er Asia whirled, The dangers gather as the treasures rise.
For such the steady Romans shook the world ; Let history tell where rival kings command, For such in distant lands the Britons shine, And dubious title shakes the maddened land; And stain with blood the Danube or the Rhine ; When statutes glean the refuse of the sword,
This power has praise, that virtue scarce can warm, How much more safe the vassal than the lord ; Till fame supplies the universal charm. Low skulks the hind beneath the rage of power, Yet reason frowns on war's unequal game, And leaves the wealthy traitor in the Tower,
Where wasted nations raise a single name, Untouched his cottage, and his slumbers sound, And mortgaged states their grandsires wreaths regret, Though confiscation's vultures hover round.
From age to age in everlasting debt; Unnumbered suppliants crowd preferment's gate, Wreaths which at last the dear-bought right convey Athirst for wealth, and burning to be great;
To rust on medals, or on stones decay. Delusive fortune hears the incessant call,
On what foundations stands the warrior's pride, They mount, they shine, evaporate, and fall.
How just his hopes, let Swedish Charles decide; On every stage, the foes of peace attend,
A frame of adamant, a soul of fire,
Unconquered lord of pleasure and of pain.
No joys to him pacific sceptres yield, To growing wealth the dedicator flies;
War sounds the trump, he rushes to the field; From every room descends the painted face,
Behold surrounding kings their power combine, That hung the bright palladium of the place, And one capitulate, and one resign; And smoked in kitchens, or in auctions sold,
Peace courts his hand, but spreads her charms in rain; To better features yields the frame of gold;
* Think nothing gained,' he cries, 'till nought remain, For now no more we trace in every line
On Moscow's walls till Gothic standards fly, Heroic worth, benevolence divine;
And all be mine beneath the polar sky.' The form distorted justifies the fall,
The march begins in military state, And detestation rids the indignant wall.
And nations on his eye suspended wait; But will not Britain hear last appeal,
Stern famine guards the solitary coast, Sign her foes' doom, or guard her favourites' zeal ? And winter barricades the realms of frost; Through freedom's sons no more remonstrance rinys, He comes, nor want, nor cold, his course delay; Degrading nobles and controlling kings;
Hide, blushing glory, hide Pultowa's day:
The ranquished hero leaves his broken bands, Nor lute nor lyre his feeble powers attend,
Nor sweeter music of a virtuous friend,
But everlasting dictates crowd his tongue,
Perversely grave, or positively wrong.
Perplex the fawning niece, and pampered guest. Did rival monarchs give the fatal wound,
While growing hopes scarce awe the gathering Or hostile millions press him to the ground ?
sneer, His fall was destined to a barren strand,
And scarce a legacy can bribe to hear; A petty fortress, and a dubious hand;
The watchful guests still hint the last offence, He left the name, at which the world grew pale, The daughter's petulance, the son's expense, To point a moral, or adorn a tale.*
Improve his heady rage with treacherous skill, All times their scenes of pompous woes afford, And mould his passions till they make his will. From Persia's tyrant, to Bavaria's lord.
Unnumbered maladies his joints invade, In gay hostility and barbarous pride,
Lay siege to life, and press the dire blockade; With half mankind embattled at his side,
But unextinguished avarice still remains, Great Xerxes came to seize the certain prey,
And dreaded losses aggravate his pains ; And starves exhausted regions in his way;
He turns, with anxious heart and crippled hands, Attendant flattery counts his myriads o'er,
His bonds of debt, and mortgages of lands; Till counted myriads soothe his pride no more ; Or views his coffers with suspicious eyes, Fresh praise is tried till madness fires the mind, Unlocks his gold, and counts it till he dies. The waves he lashes, and enchains the wind ;
But grant the virtues of a temperate prime, New powers are claimed, new powers are still Bless with an age exempt from scorn or crime; bestowed,
An age that melts with unperceived decay, Till rude resistance lops the spreading god ;
And glides in modest innocence away; The daring Greeks deride the martial show,
Whose peaceful day benevolence endears, And heap their valleys with the gaudy foe;
Whose night congratulating conscience cheers ; The insulted sea with humbler thoughts he gains, The general favourite as the general friend ; A single skiff to speed his flight remains;
Such age there is, and who shall wish its end ? The encumbered oar scarce leaves the dreaded coast Yet even on this her load misfortune flings, Through purple billows and a floating host.
To press the weary minutes' flagging wings ; Enlarge my life with multitude of days,
New sorrow rises as the day returns, In health, and sickness, thus the suppliant prays ;
A sister sickens, or daughter mourns. Hides from himself his state, and shuns to know, Now kindred merit fills the sable bier, That life protracted, is protracted wo.
Now lacerated friendship claims a tear. Time hovers o'er, impatient to destroy,
Year chases year, decay pursues decay, And shuts up all the passages of joy:
Still drops some joy from withering life away; In vain their gifts the bounteous seasons pour,
New forms arise, and different views engage, The fruit autumnal, and the vernal flower ;
Superfluous lags the veteran on the stage, With listless eyes the dotard views the store, Till pitying nature signs the last release, He views and wonders that they please no more ;
And bids afflicted worth retire to peace. Now pall the tasteless meats, and joyless wines, But few there are whom hours like these await, And luxury with sighs her slave resigns.
Who set unclouded in the gulfs of fate. Approach, ye minstrels, try the soothing strain, From Lydia's monarch should the search descend, Diffuse the tuneful lenitives of pain :
By Solon cautioned to regard his end. No sounds, alas! would touch the impervious ear,
In life's last scene what prodigies surprise, Though dancing mountains witnessed Orpheus near ; Fears of the brave, and follies of the wise!
From Marlb'rough's eyes the streams of dotage flow, To show how admirably Johnson has imitated this part And Swift expires a driveller and a show. of Juvenal, applying to the modern hero, Charles XII., what Where, then, shall hope and fear their objects the Roman satirist directed against Hannibal, we subjoin a
find ? literal version of the words of Juvenal:-Weigh Hannibal Must dull suspense corrupt the stagnant mind? how many pounds' weight will you find in that consummate Must helpless man, in ignorance sedate, general ? This is the man whom Africa, washed by the Roll darkling down the torrent of his fate? Moorish sea, and stretching to the warm Nile, cannot contain. Must no dislike alarm, no wishes rise, Again, in addition to Ethiopia, and other elephant-breeding No cries invoke the mercies of the skies? countries, Spain is added to his empire. He jumps over the Pyrenees: in vain nature opposed to him the Alps with their Inquirer, cease ; petitions yet remain, snows; he severed the rocks, and rent the mountains with which Heaven may hear, nor deem religion vain. vinegar. Now he reaches Italy, yet he determines to go farther : Still raise for good the supplicating voice, * Nothing is done," says he, "unless with our Punic soldiers we
But leave to Heaven the measure and the choice. break down their gates, and I plant my standard in the midst Safe in his power, whose eyes discern afar of Saburra (street). O what a figure, and what a fine picture The secret ambush of a specious prayer. he would make, the one-eyed general, carried by the Getulian Implore his aid, in his decisions rest, brute! What, after all, was the end of it? Alas for glory! Secure whate'er he gives, he gives the best. this very man is routed, and flies headlong into banishment, | Yet when the sense of sacred presence fires, and there the great and wonderful commander sits like a poor And strong devotion to the skies aspires, dependent at the palace door of a king, till it please the Pour forth thy fervours for a healthful mind, Bithynian tyrant to awake. That life, which had so long Obedient passions, and a will resigned ; disturbed all human affairs, was brought to an end, not by For love, which scarce collective man can fill ; swords, nor stones, nor darts, but by that redresser of Canna, For patience, sovereign o'er transmuted ill; and avenger of the blood that had been sheda ring. Go For faith, that, panting for a happier seat, madman; hurry over the savage Alps, to please the schoolboys, and become their subject of declamation !"
Counts death kind nature's signal of retreat :
These goods for man the laws of Heaven ordain, It will be recollected that Hannibal, to prevent his falling These goods he grants, who grants the power to gain ; into the hands of the Romans, swallowed poison, which he With these celestial wisdom calms the mind, carried in a ring on his finger.
And makes the happiness she does not find.
Yet still he fills affection's eye,
Obscurely wise and coarsely kind; Nor, lettered arrogance, deny
Thy praise to merit unrefined. When fainting nature called for aid,
And hovering death prepared the blow, His vigorous remedy displayed
The power of art without the show. In misery's darkest cavern known,
His useful care was ever nigh,
And lonely want retired to die.
No petty gain disdained by pride;
The toil of every day supplied.
Nor made a pause, nor left a void;
The single talent well employed. The busy day-the peaceful night,
Unfelt, uncounted, glided by ; His frame was firm-his powers were bright,
Though now his eightieth year was nigh. Then with no fiery throbbing pain,
No cold gradations of decay, Death broke at once the vital chain,
And freed his soul the nearest way.
Prologue spoken by Mr Garrick, at the opening of the
Theatre in Drury Lane, in 1747.
Then Jonson came, instructed from the school,
The wits of Charles found easier ways to fame, Nor wished for Jonson's art, or Shakspeare's flame; Themselves they studied, as they felt they writ, Intrigue was plot, obscenity was wit. Vice always found a sympathetic friend; They pleased their age, and did not aim to mend. Yet bards like these aspired to lasting praise, And proudly hoped to pimp in future days: Their cause was general, their supports were strong, Their slaves were willing, and their reign was long; Till shame regained the post that sense
betrayed, And virtue called oblivion to her aid.
Then crushed by rules, and weakened as refined,
But who the coming changes can presage,
Hard is his lot, that, here by fortune placed,
Then prompt no more the follies you decry,
None of our poets have lived more under the skiey influences of imagination than that exquisite but ill-fated bard, COLLINS. His works are imbued with a fine ethereal fancy and purity of taste; and though, like the poems of Gray, they are small in number and amount, they are rich in vivid imagery and beautiful description. His history is brief but painful. William Collins was the son of a respectable tradesman, a hatter, at Chichester, where he was born on Christmas day, 1720. In his Ode to Pity,' the poet alludes to his 'native plains,' which are bounded by the South Down hills, and to the small river Arun, one of the streams of Sussex, near which Otway, also, was born.
But wherefore need I wander wide
Deserted stream and mute !
Been soothed by Pity's lute. Collins received a learned education, in which he was aided by pecuniary assistance from his uncle, Colonel Martin, stationed with his regiment in Flanders. While at Magdalen college, Oxford, he published his Oriental Eclogues, which, to the disgrace of the university and the literary public, were wholly neglected. Meeting shortly afterwards with some repulse or indignity at the university, he suddenly quitted Oxford, and repaired to London, full of high hopes and magnificent schemes. His learning was extensive, but he wanted steadiness of purpose and application. Two years afterwards, in 1746, he published his Odes, which were purchased by Millar the bookseller, but failed to attract attention. Collins sunk under the disappointment, and became still more indolent and dissipated. The fine promise of his youth, his ardour and ambition, melted away under this baneful and depressing influence. Once again, however, he strung his lyre with poetical enthusiasm. Thomson died in 1747: Collins seems to have known and loved him, and he
On the Death of Dr Robert Levett—1782. Condemned to hope's delusive mine,
As on we toil from day to day, By sudden blasts, or slow decline,
Our social comforts drop away. Well tried through many a varying year,
See Levett to the grave descend, Officious, innocent, sincere,
Of every friendless name the friend.
honoured his memory with an Ode, which is cer. Collins, in the course of one generation, without any tainly one of the finest elegiac productions in the adventitious aid to bring them into notice, were language. Among his friends was also Home, the acknowledged to be the best of their kind in the author of · Douglas,' to whom he addressed an language. Silently and imperceptibly they had Ode, which was found unfinished after his death, risen by their own buoyancy, and their power was on the Superstitions of the Highlands. He loved to felt by every reader who had any true poetic feeldwell on these dim and visionary objects, and the ing. This popularity seems still to be on the incompliment he pays to Tasso, may be applied crease, though the want of human interest and of equally to himself
action in Collins's poetry prevent its being generally Prevailing poet, whose undoubting mind
read. The 'Eclogues' are free from the occasional Believed the magic wonders which he sung.
obscurity and remoteness of conception that in part At this period, Collins seems to have contemplated pervade the Odes,' and they charm by their figu
rative language and descriptions, the simplicity and a journey to Scotland
beauty of their dialogues and sentiments, and their The time shall come when I perhaps may tread musical versification. The desert scene in Hassan, Your lowly glens o'erhung with spreading broom; the Camel Driver, is a finished picture-impressive Or o'er your stretching heaths by Fancy led; and even appalling in its reality. The Ode on the Or o'er your mountains creep in awful gloom! Passions, and that on Evening, are the finest of Then will I dress once more the faded flower, his lyrical works. The former is a magnificent Where Jonson sat in Drummond's classic shade; gallery of allegorical paintings; and the poetical Or crop from Teviotdale each lyric flower,
diction is equally rich with the conception. No And mourn on Yarrow's banks where Willy's laid. poet has made more use of metaphors and personiIn the midst of the poet's difficulties and distresses, fication. He has individualised even metaphysical his uncle died and left him £2000 ; *a sum,' says pursuits, which he terms the shadowy tribes of Jobnson, which Collins could scarcely think ex. Mind.. Pity is presented with eyes of dewy light haustible, and which he did not live to exhaust.' -a felicitous epithet; and Danger is described with He repaid Millar the bookseller the loss sustained the boldness and distinctness of sculpture--by the publication of his 'Odes;' and buying up the Danger, whose limbs of giant mould remaining copies, committed them all to the flames. What mortal eye can fixed behold ? He became still more irregular in his habits, and Who stalks his round, a hideous form, sank into a state of vervous imbecility. Al hope Howling amidst the midnight storm, and exertion had fled. Johnson met him one day, Or throws him on the ridgy steep carrying with him as he travelled an English Testa- Of some loose hanging rock to sleep. ment. I have but one book,' said Collins, but it is the best.' In his latter days he was tended by Eclogue II.-Hassan; or the Camel Drirer. his sister in Chichester; but it was necessary at one
Scene The Desert. Time-Mid-day. time to confine him in a lunatic asylum. He used, when at liberty, to wander day and night among In silent horror, o'er the boundless waste, the aisles and cloisters of Chichester cathedral, ac- The driver Hassan with his camels past; companying the music with loud sobs and moans. One cruise of water on his back he bore, Death at length came to his relief, and in 1756—at | And his light scrip contained a scanty store; the early age of thirty-six, ten years after the publi- A fan of painted feathers in his hand, eation of his immortal works — his troubled and To guard his shaded face from scorching sand. melancholy career was terminated : it affords one The sultry sun had gained the middle sky, of the most touching examples of accomplished and not a tree and not a herb was nigh ; youth and genius, linked to personal humiliation The beasts with pain their dusty way pursue, and calamity, that throws its lights and shades on Shrill roared the winds, and dreary was the view! our literary annals.
With desperate sorrow wild, the affrighted man
Ah! little thought I of the blasting wind,
Ye mute companions of my toils, that bear
Cursed be the gold and silver which persuade
Weak men to follow far fatiguing trade!
Yet money tempts us o'er the desert brown,
To every distant mart and wealthy town.