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broke college, Oxford. Misfortunes in trade happened to the elder Johnson, and Samuel was compelled to leave the university without a degree. He was
Dr Johnson's Room in Pembroke College. | a short time usher in a school at Market Bosworth;
| but ing a widow, Mrs Porter (whose age was double his own), he set up a private academy near his native city. He had only three pupils, one of whom was David Garrick. After an unsuccessful career of a year and a-half, Johnson went to London, accompanied by Garrick. He now commenced author by profession, contributing essays, reviews, &c., to the Gentleman's Magazine. In 1738 appeared his London, a satire; in 1744 his Life of Savage; in 1749 The Vanity of Human Wishes, an imitation of Juvenal's tenth Satire, and the tragedy of Prene; in 1750–52 the Rambler, published in numbers; in 1755 his Dictionary of the English Language, which had engaged him above seven years; in 1758–60 the Idler, another series of | essays; in 1759 Rasselas; in 1775 the Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland; and in 1781 the | Lives of the Poets. The high church and Tory predilections of Johnson led him to embark on the troubled sea of party politics, and he wrote some vigorous pamphlets in defence of the ministry and against the claims of the Americans. His degree of LL.D. was conferred upon him first by Trinity | college, Dublin, and afterwards by the university of Oxford. His majesty, in 1762, settled upon him an annuity of £300 per annum. Johnson died on the 13th of December 1784. As an illustration of Johnson's character, and incidentally of his prose style, we subjoin his celebrated letter to Lord Chesterfield. The courtly nobleman had made great professions to the retired | scholar, but afterwards neglected him for some years. | When his “Dictionary’ was on the eve of publica|tion, Chesterfield (hoping the work might be dedi| cated to him) attempted to conciliate the author by writing two papers in the periodical called “The World, in recommendation of the work. Johnson thought all was “false and hollow,’ and penned his | indignant letter. He did Chesterfield injustice in the affair, as from a collation of the facts and cir| climstances is now apparent; but as a keen and dignified expression of wounded pride and surly independence, the composition is inimitable:—
February 7, 1755. My Lord—I have been lately informed by the 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 i. done all that I could ; and ne 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 Love, and found him a native of the rocks. Is not a patron, my lord, one who looks with unconcern on a man struggling for life in the water, and, when he has reached ground, encumbers him with help? The notice which you have been pleased to take of my labours, had, it been early, had been kind; but it has been delayed till I am indifferent, and cannot enjoy it; till I am solitary, and cannot impart it; till I am known, and do not want it. I hope it is no very cynical asperity not to confess obligations where no benefit has been received, or to be unwilling that the public should consider me as owing that, to a patron which providence has enabled me to do for myself. | Having carried on my work thus far with so little obligation to any favourer of learning, I shall not be disappointed though I should conclude it, if less be possible, with less; for I have been long wakened from that dream of hope, in which I once boasted myself with so much exultation, my lord—Your lordship's most humble, most obedient servant—SAM. Johnson.
The poetry of Johnson forms but a small portion of the history of his mind or of his works. His imitations of Juvenal, are, however, among the best imitations of a classic author which we possess; and Gray has pronounced an opinion, that ‘London (the first in time, and by far the inferior of the two) has all the ease and all the spirit of an original.’ Pope also admired the composition. In The Vanity of Human Wishes, Johnson departs more from his original, and takes wider views of human nature, society, and manners. His pictures of Wolsey and Charles of Sweden have a strength and magnificence that would do honour to Dryden, while the historical and philosophic paintings are contrasted by reflections on the cares, vicissitudes, and sorrows of life, so profound, so true, and touching, that they may justly be denominated, ‘mottoes of the heart.” Sir Walter Scott has termed this poem “a satire, the deep and pathetic morality of which has often extracted tears from those whose eyes wander dry over pages professedly sentimental.’ Johnson was too prone to indulge in dark and melancholy views of human life; yet those who have experienced its disappointments and afflictions, must subscribe to the
| Let observation, with extensive view,
| Wea | The dangers gather as the treasures rise.
Survey mankind, from China to Peru;
| With fatal heat impetuous courage glows,
With fatal sweetness elocution flows,
But scarce observed, the knowing and the bold,
§. heaped on wealth, nor truth nor safety buys,
Let history tell where rival kings command, And dubious title shakes the maddened land; When statutes glean the refuse of the sword, How much more safe the vassal than the lord; Low skulks the hind beneath the rage of power, And leaves the wealthy traitor in the Tower, Untouched his cottage, and his slumbers sound, Though confiscation's vultures hover round. * *
Unnumbered suppliants crowd preferment's gate, Athirst for wealth, and burning to be great; Delusive fortune hears the incessant call, They mount, they shine, evaporate, and fall. On every stage, the foes of peace attend, Hate dogs their flight, and insult mocks their end. Love ends with hope, the sinking statesman's door Pours in the morning worshipper no more; For growing names the weekly scribbler lies, To growing wealth the dedicator flies; From every room descends the painted face, That hung the bright palladium of the place, And smoked in kitchens, or in auctions sold, To better features yields the frame of gold; For now no more we trace in every line Heroic worth, benevolence divine; The form distorted justifies the fall, And detestation rids the indignant wall.
But will not Britain hear the last appeal, Sign her foes' doom, or guard her favourites' zeal Through freedom's sons no more remonstrance rings, Degrading nobles and controlling kings;
CYCLOPAEDIA OF To 1780. |
Our supple tribes repress their patriot throats,
And nations on his eye suspended wait;
|The vanquished hero leaves his broken bands, | And shows his miseries in distant lands; Condemned a needy supplicant to wait, While ladies interpose, and slaves debate. | But did not chance at length her error mend ? Did no subverted empire mark his end? |Did rival monarchs give the fatal wound, |Or hostile millions press him to the ground? |His fall was destined to a barren strand, |A petty fortress, and a dubious hand; He left the name, at which the world grew pale, |To point a moral, or adorn a tale.” All times their scenes of pompous woes afford, From Persia's tyrant, to Bavaria's lord. | In gay hostility and barbarous pride, With half mankind embattled at his side, | Great Xerxes came to seize the certain prey, | And starves exhausted regions in his way; Attendant flattery counts his myriads o'er, Till counted myriads soothe his pride no more; Fresh praise is tried till madness fires the mind, | The waves he lashes, and enchains the wind; | New powers are claimed, new powers are still bestowed, Till rude resistance lops the spreading god; | The daring Greeks deride the martial show, | And heap their yo. with the gaudy foe; | The insulted sea with humbler thoughts he gains, A single skiff to speed his flight remains; | The encumbered oar scarce leaves the dreaded coast | Through purple billows and a floating host. * * En my life with multitude of days, In health, and sickness, thus the suppliant prays; | Hides from himself his state, and shuns to know, |That life protracted, is protracted wo. | Time hovers o'er, impatient to destroy, | And shuts up all the passages of joy: | In vain their gifts the bounteous seasons pour, The fruit autumnal, and the vernal flower; With listless eyes the dotard views the store, | He views and wonders that they please no more; | Now pall the tasteless meats, and joyless wines, And luxury with sighs her slave resigns. | Approach, ye minstrels, try the soothing strain, |
Diffuse the tuneful lenitives of pain: | No sounds, alas! would touch the impervious ear, | Though dancing mountains witnessed Orpheus near;
| to how how admirally Johnson has imitated this part ! of Juvenal, applying to the modern hero, Charles XII., what l, the Roman satirist directed against Hannibal, we subjoin a | literal version of the words of Juvenal:—“Weigh Hannibal– | how many pounds' weight will you find in that consummate general? This is the man whom Africa, washed by the | Moorish sea, and stretching to the warm Nile, cannot contain. Again, in addition to Ethiopia, and other elephant-breeding countries, Spain is added to his empire. He jumps over the Pyrenees: in vain nature opposed to him the Alps with their shows; he severed the rocks, and rent the mountains with vinegar. Now he reaches Italy, yet he determines to go farther: | “Nothing is done," says he, “unless with our Punic soldiers we | break down their gates, and I plant my standard in the midst of Saburra (street). O what a figure, and what a fine picture | he would make, the one-eyed general, carried by the Getulian | brute! What, after all, was the end of it? Alas for glory! | this very man is routed, and flies headlong into banishment, | and there the great and wonderful commander sits like a poor dependent at the palace door of a king, till it please the Bithynian tyrant to awake. That life, which had so long disturbed all human affairs, was brought to an end, not by | *ords, nor stones, nor darts, but by that redresser of Cannae, | and avenger of the blood that had been shed a ring."go. madman; hurry over the savage Alps, to please the schoolboys, and become their subject of declamation "
| * It will be recollected that Hannibal, to prevent his falling into the hands of the Romans, swallowed poison, which he tarried in a ring on his finger.
Prologue spoken by Mr Garrick, at the opening of the Theatre in Drury Lane, in 1747.
When Learning's triumph o'er her barbarous foes
On the Death of Dr Robert Levett—1782.
Condemned to hope's delusive mine,
By sudden blasts, or slow decline,
Well tried through many a varying year,
Officious, innocent, sincere,
Yet still he fills affection's eye,
Nor, lettered arrogance, deny
When fainting nature called for aid,
No summons mocked by chill delay,
The modest wants of every day
His virtues walked their narrow round,
Then with no fiery throbbing pain,
Death broke at once the vital chain,
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
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
bonoured his memory with an Ode, which is certainly one of the finest elegiac productions in the |language. Among his friends was also Home, the author of “ Douglas,' to whom he addressed an |Ode, which was found unfinished after his death,
on the Superstitions of the Highlands. He loved to ol on these dim and visionary objects, and the compliment he pays to Tasso, may be applied equally to himself— Prevailing poet, whose undoubting mind | Believed the magic wonders which he sung. |At this period, Collins seems to have contemplated a journey to Scotland— The time shall come when I perhaps may tread | Your lowly glens o'erhung with spreading broom; | Or o'er your stretching heaths by Fancy led; | Or o'er your mountains creep in awful gloom! | Then will I dress once more the faded flower, - Where Jonson sat in Drummond's classic shade; | Or crop from Teviotdale each lyric flower, | And mourn on Yarrow's banks where Willy's laid. In the midst of the poet's difficulties and distresses, his uncle died and left him £2000; “a sum,’ says o ‘which Collins could scarcely think exoustible. and which he did not live to exhaust.’ He repaid Millar the bookseller the loss sustained by the publication of his “Odes;' and buying up the remaining copies, committed them all to the flames. He became still more irregular in his habits, and sank into a state of nervous imbecility. All hope o: exertion had fled. Johnson met him one day, | carrying with him as he travelled an English Testament. “I have but one book,' said Collins, “but it is the best.” In his latter days he was tended by - his sister in Chichester; but it was necessary at one time to confine him in a lunatic asylum. He used, when at liberty, to wander day and night among the aisles and cloisters of Chichester cathedral, accompanying the music with loud sobs and moans. Death at length came to his relief, and in 1756—at the early age of thirty-six, ten years after the publication of his immortal works—his troubled and melancholy career was terminated: it affords one of the most touching examples of accomplished | youth and genius, linked to personal humiliation and calamity, that throws its lights and shades on our literary annals.
Collins's Monument in Chichester Cathedral.
Mr Southey has remarked, that, though utterly neglected on their first appearance, the “Odes' of
Collins, in the course of one generation, without any adventitious aid to bring them into notice, were acknowledged to be the best of their kind in the language. “Silently and imperceptibly they had risen by their own buoyancy, and their power was felt by every reader who had any true poetic feeling.” This popularity seems still to be on the increase, though the want of human interest and of action in Collins's poetry prevent its being generally read. The ‘Eclogues' are free from the occasional obscurity and remoteness of conception that in part pervade the “Odes, and they charm by their figurative language and descriptions, the simplicity and beauty of their dialogues and sentiments, and their musical versification. The desert scene in Hassan, the Camel Driver, is a finished picture—impressive and even appalling in its reality. The Ode on the Passions, and that on Evening, are the finest of his lyrical works. The former is a magnificent gallery of allegorical paintings; and the poetical diction is equally rich with the conception. No poet has made more use of metaphors and personification. He has individualised even metaphysical pursuits, which he terms “the shadowy tribes of Mind.” Pity is presented with ‘eyes of dewy light' —a felicitous epithet; and Danger is described with the boldness and distinctness of sculpture—
Danger, whose limbs of giant mould
Eclogue II—Hassan; or the Camel Driver. Scene—The Desert. Time—Mid-day.
In silent horror, o'er the boundless waste,