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WHEN the works of a great writer, who has be- | queathed to posterity a lasting legacy, are presented to the world, it is naturally expected, that some account of his life should accompany the edition. The reader wishes to know as much as possible of the author. The circumstances that attended him, the features of his private character, his conversation, and the means by which he rose to eminence, becomes the favourite objects of inquiry. Curiosity is excited; and the admirer of his works is eager to know his private opinions, his course of study, the particularities of his conduct, and, above all, whether he pursued the wisdom which he recommends, and practised the virtue which his writings inspire. A principle of gratitude is awakened in every generous mind. For the entertainment and instruction which genius and diligence have provided for the world, men of refined and sensible tempers are ready to pay their tribute of praise, and even to form a posthumous friendship with the author.

In reviewing the life of such a writer, there is, besides, a rule of justice to which the public have an undoubted claim. Fond admiration and partial friendship should not be suffered to represent his virtues with exaggeration; nor should malignity be allowed, under a specious disguise, to magnify mere defects, the usual failings of human nature, into vice or gross deformity. The lights and shades of the character should be given; and, if this be done with a strict regard to truth, a just estimate of Dr. Johnson will afford a lesson, perhaps as valuable as the moral doctrine that speaks with energy in every page of

his works.

The present writer enjoyed the conversation and friendship of that excellent man more than thirty years. He thought it an honour to be so connected, and to this hour he reflects on his loss with regret: but regret, he knows has secret bribes, by which the judgment may be influenced, and partial affection may be carried beyond the bounds of truth. In the present case, however, nothing needs to be disguised, and exaggerated praise is unnecessary. It is an observation of the younger Pliny, in his Epistle to his friend Tacitus, that history ought never to magnify matters of fact, because worthy actions


require nothing but the truth. Nam nec historia debet egredi veritatem, et honeste factis veritas sufficit. This rule the present biographer promises shall guide his pen throughout the following nar. rative.

It may be said, the death of Dr. Johnson kept the public mind in agitation beyond all former example. No literary character ever excited so much attention; and, when the press has teemed with anecdotes, apophthegms, essays, and publications of every kind, what occasion now for a new tract on the same threadbare subject? The plain truth shall be the answer. The proprie tors of Johnson's Works thought the life, which they prefixed to their former edition, too unweildy for republication. The prodigious variety of foreign matter, introduced into that performance, seemed to overload the memory of Dr. Johnson, and in the account of his own life to leave him hardly visible. They wished to have a more concise, and, for that reason, perhaps a more satisfactory account, such as may exhibit a just picture of the man, and keep him the principa figure in the foreground of his own picture. To comply with that request is the design o this essay, which the writer undertakes with a trembling hand. He has no discoveries, no se cret anecdotes, no occasional controversy, no sudden flashes of wit and humour, no private conversation, and no new facts to embellish his work. Every thing has been gleaned. Dr. Johnson said of himself, "I am not uncandid nor severe: I sometimes say more than I mean, in jest, and people are apt to think me serious."* The exercise of that privilege which is enjoyed by every man in society, has not been allowed to him. His fame has given importance even to trifles; and the zeal of his friends has brought every thing to light. What should be related, and what should not, has been published_without distinction. Dicenda tacenda locuti! Every thing that fell from him has been caught with eagerness by his admirers, who, as he says in one of his letters, have acted with the diligence of spies upon his conduct. To some of them the following lines, in Mallet's Poem, on verbal criticism, are not inapplicable :

* Boswell's Life of Johnson, vol. ii. p. 465. 4to. edit

"Such that grave bird in Northern seas is found,
Whose name a Dutchman only knows to sound;
Where'er the king of fish moves on before,
This humble friend attends from shore to shore;
With eye still earnest, and with bill inclined,
He picks up what his patron left behind,
With those choice cates his palate to regale,
And is the careful Tibbald of a Whale.'

where he was not remarkable for diligence of regular application. Whatever he read, his tenacious memory made his own. In the fields with his school-fellows, he talked more to him. self than with his companions. In 1725, when he was about sixteen years old, he went on a visit to his cousin Cornelius Ford, who detained him for some months, and in the mean time asPer-sisted him in the classics. The general direction for his studies, which he then received, he related to Mrs. Piozzi. "Obtain," says Ford, "some general principles of every science: he who can talk only on one subject, or act only in one department, is seldom wanted, and perhaps never wished for; while the man of general knowledge can often benefit, and always please." This advice Johnson seems to have pursued with a good inclination. His reading was always desultory, seldom resting on any particular author, but rambling from one book to another, and, by hasty snatches, hoarding up a variety of knowledge. It may be proper in this place to mention another general rule laid down by Ford for Johnson's future conduct: "You will make your way the more easily in the world, as you are contented to dispute no man's claim to conversation excellence: they will, therefore, more willingly allow your pretensions as a writer." "But," says Mrs. Piozzi, "the features of peculiarity, which mark a character to all succeeding generations, are slow in coming to their growth." That ingenious lady adds, with her usual vivacity, "Can one, on such an occasion, forbear recollecting the predictions of Boileau's father, who said, stroking the head of the young satirist, 'this little man has too much wit, but he will ne ver speak ill of any one?""

SAMUEL JOHNSON was born at Litchfield, September 7, 1709, O. S.* His father Michael Johnson was a bookseller in that city; a man of large athletic make, and violent passions; wrong-headed, positive, and at times afflicted with a degree of melancholy, little short of madness. His mother was sister to Dr. Ford, a practising physician, and father of Cornelius Ford, generally known by the name of PARSON FORD, the same who is represented near the punch-bowl in Hogarth's Midnight Modern Conversation. In the life of Fenton, Johnson says, that "his abilities, instead of furnishing convivial merriment to the voluptuous and dissolute, might have enabled him to excel among the virtuous and the wise." Being chaplain to the Earl of Chesterfield, he wished to attend that nobleman on his embassy to the Hague. Colley Cibber has recorded the anecdote. "You should go," said the witty peer, "if to your many vices you would add one more," "Pray, my Lord, what is that?" "Hypocrisy, my dear Doctor." Johnson had a younger brother named Nathaniel, who died at the age of twenty-seven or twenty-eight. Michael Johnson, the father, On Johnson's return from Cornelius Ford, was chosen in the year 1718, under bailiff of Mr. Hunter, then master of the Free-school at Litchfield; and in the year 1725 he served the Litchfield, refused to receive him again on that office of the senior bailiff. He had a brother of foundation. At this distance of time, what his the name of Andrew, who, for some years, kept reasons were, it is vain to inquire; but to refuse the ring at Smithfield, appropriated to wrestlers assistance to a lad of promising genius must be and boxers. Our author used to say, that he was pronounced harsh and illiberal. It did not, hownever thrown or conquered. Michael, the fa- ever stop the progress of the young student's ther, died December 1731, at the age of seventy-education. He was placed at another school, six; his mother at eighty-nine, of a gradual de- at Stourbridge in Worcestershire, under the cay, in the year 1759. Of the family nothing care of Mr. Wentworth. Having gone through more can be related worthy of notice. Johnson the rudiments of classic literature, he returned. did not delight in talking of his relations. to his father's house, and was probably intended "There is little pleasure," he said to Mrs. Piozzi, for the trade of a bookseller. He has been heard "in relating the anecdotes of beggary." to say that he could bind a book. At the end of two years, being then about nineteen, he went to assist the studies of a young gentleman of the name of Corbett, to the University of Oxford; and on the 31st of October, 1728, both were entered of Pembroke College; Corbett, as a gentleman-commoner, and Johnson as a commoner. The college tutor, Mr. Jordan, was a man of no genius; and Johnson, it seems, showed an early contempt of mean abilities, in one or two instances behaving with insolence to that gentleman. Of his general conduct at the university there are no particulars that merit attention, except the translation of Pope's Messiah, which was a college exercise imposed upon him as a task, by Mr. Jordan. Corbett left the university in about two years, and Johnson's salary ceased. stances: but he still remained at college. Mr. He was by consequence straitened in his circumJordan the tutor, went off to a living; and was succeeded by Dr. Adams, who afterwards be

Johnson derived from his parents, or from an unwholesome nurse, the distemper called the king's evil. The jacobites at that time believed in the efficacy of the royal touch; and accordingly Mrs. Johnson presented her son, when two years old, before Queen Anne, who, for the first time, performed that office, and communicated to her young patient all the healing virtue in her power. He was afterwards cut for that scrophulous humour, and the under part of his face was seamed and disfigured by the operation. It is supposed that this disease deprived him of the sight of his left eye, and also impaired his hearing. At eight years old he was placed under Mr. Hawkins, at the Free-school in Litchfield,

After so many essays and volumes of Johnsoni-
ana, what remains for the present writer?
haps, what has not been attempted; a short, yet
full-a faithful, yet temperate, history of Dr.


*This appears in a note to Johnson's Diary, prefixed to the first of his prayers. After the alteration of the style, he kept his birth-day on the 18th of September, and it is accordingly marked September, 7-18.

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