[Transcriber's Note: Printers' errors have been marked with the notation ** . There are a few special characters in the section on Erasmus Darwin; macrons (a straight line over a letter) are denoted x and breves (the bottom half of a circle over a letter) are denoted x.]
* * * * *
By the same Author,
EARLY FRENCH POETS,
A SERIES OF NOTICES AND TRANSLATIONS:
Introductory Sketch of the History of French Poetry.
BY THE REV. HENRY CARY, M.A.
* * * * *
Shortly will be published,
THE ODES OF PINDAR,
IN ENGLISH VERSE.
SECOND EDITION, WITH NOTES,
EDITED BY THE REV. HENRY CARY, M.A.
* * * * *
Preparing for the Press,
LITERARY JOURNAL AND LETTERS
REV. HENRY FRANCIS CARY.
WITH A MEMOIR.
BY HIS SON, THE REV. HENRY CARY, M.A.
* * * * *
JOHNSON TO KIRKE WHITE,
DESIGNED AS A CONTINUATION OF JOHNSON'S LIVES.
BY THE LATE
REV. HENRY FRANCIS CARY, M.A.
TRANSLATOR OF DANTE.
* * * * *
The papers of which this volume is composed originally appeared in the London Magazine, between the years 1821 and 1824. It was the author's intention to continue the series of Lives to a later period, but a change in the proprietorship of the Magazine prevented the completion of his plan. They are now for the first time published in a separate form, and under their author's name.
In seeing the work through the press, the Editor has had occasion only to alter one or two particulars in the Life of Goldsmith, which the labours of that Poet's more recent biographer, Mr. Prior, have subsequently elucidated.
WORCESTER COLLEGE, OXFORD. Dec. 1, 1845.
RICHARD OWEN CAMBRIDGE
WILLIAM JULIUS MICKLE
SIR WILLIAM JONES
HENRY KIRKE WHITE
LIVES OF ENGLISH POETS.
* * * * *
There is, perhaps, no one among our English writers, who for so great a part of his life has been an object of curiosity to his contemporaries as Johnson. Almost every thing he said or did was thought worthy of being recorded by some one or other of his associates; and the public were for a time willing to listen to all they had to say of him. A mass of information has thus been accumulated, from which it will be my task to select such a portion as shall seem sufficient to give a faithful representation of his fortunes and character, without wearying the attention of the reader. That any important addition should be made to what has been already told of him, will scarcely be expected.
Samuel Johnson, the elder of two sons of Michael Johnson, who was of an obscure family, and kept a bookseller's shop at Lichfield, was born in that city on the 18th of September, 1709. His mother, Sarah Ford, was sprung of a respectable race of yeomanry in Worcestershire; and, being a woman of great piety, early instilled into the mind of her son those principles of devotion for which he was afterwards so eminently distinguished. At the end of ten months from his birth, he was taken from his nurse, according to his own account of himself, a poor diseased infant, almost blind; and, when two years and a half old, was carried to London to be touched by Queen Anne for the evil. Being asked many years after if he had any remembrance of the Queen, he said that he had a confused but somehow a sort of solemn recollection of a lady in diamonds and a long black hood. So predominant was this superstition relating to the king's evil, that there was a form of service for the occasion inserted in the Book of Common Prayer, and Bishop Bull, in one of his Sermons, calls it a relique and remainder of the primitive gift of healing. The morbidness of constitution natural to him, and the defect in his eye-sight, hindered him from partaking in the sports of other children, and probably induced him to seek for distinction in intellectual superiority. Dame Oliver, who kept a school for little children, in Lichfield, first taught him to read; and, as he delighted to tell, when he was going to the University, brought him a present of gingerbread, in token of his being the best scholar her academy had ever produced. His next instructor in his own language was a man whom he used to call Tom Browne; and who, he said, published a Spelling Book, and dedicated it to the universe. He was then placed with Mr. Hunter the head master of the grammar school in his native city, but, for two years before he came under his immediate tuition, was taught Latin by Mr. Hawkins, the usher. It is just that one, who, in writing the lives of men less eminent than himself, was always careful to record the names of their instructors, should obtain a tribute of similar respect for his own. By Mr. Price, who was afterwards head master of the same school, and whose name I cannot mention without reverence and affection, I have been told that Johnson, when late in life he visited the place of his education, shewed him a nook in the school-room, where it was usual for the boys to secrete the translations of the books they were reading; and, at the same time, speaking of his old master, Hunter, said to him, "He was not severe, Sir. A master ought to be severe. Sir, he was cruel." Johnson, however, was always ready to acknowledge how much he was indebted to Hunter for his classical proficiency. At the age of fifteen, by the advice of his mother's nephew, Cornelius Ford, a clergyman of considerable abilities, but disgraced by the licentiousness of his life, and who is spoken of in the Life of Fenton, he was removed to the grammar-school of Stourbridge, of which Mr. Wentworth was master. Here he did not remain much more than a twelvemonth, and, as he told Dr. Percy, learned much in the school, but little from the master; whereas, with Hunter, he had learned much from the master, and little in the school. The progress he made was, perhaps, gained in teaching the other boys, for Wentworth is said to have employed him as an assistant. His compositions in English verse indicate that command of language which he afterwards attained. The two following years he accuses himself of wasting in idleness at home; but we must doubt whether he had much occasion for self-reproach, when we learn that Hesiod, Anacreon, the Latin works of Petrarch, and "a great many other books not commonly known in the Universities," were among his studies.
His father, though a man of strong understanding, and much respected in his line of life, was not successful in business. He must, therefore, have had a firm reliance on the capacity of his son; for while he chided him for his want of steady application, he resolved on making so great an effort as to send him to the University; and, accompanying him thither, placed him, on the 31st of October, 1728, a commoner at Pembroke College, Oxford. Some assistance was, indeed, promised him from other quarters, but this assistance was never given; nor was his industry quickened by his necessities. He was sometimes to be seen lingering about the gates of his college; and, at others, sought for relief from the oppression of his mind in affected mirth and turbulent gaiety. So extreme was his poverty, that he was prevented by the want of shoes from resorting to the rooms of his schoolfellow, Taylor, at the neighbouring college of Christ Church; and such was his pride, that he flung away with indignation a new pair that he found left at his door. His scholarship was attested by a translation into Latin verse of Pope's Messiah; which is said to have gained the approbation of that poet. But his independent spirit, and his irregular habits, were both likely to obstruct his interest in the University; and, at the end of three years, increasing debts, together with the failure of remittances, occasioned by his father's insolvency, forced him to leave it without a degree. Of Pembroke College, in his Life of Shenstone, and of Sir Thomas Browne, he has spoken with filial gratitude. From his tutor, Mr. Jorden, whom he described as a "worthy man, but a heavy one," he did not learn much. What he read solidly, he said, was Greek; and that Greek, Homer and Euripides; but his favourite study was metaphysics, which we must suppose him to have investigated by the light of his own meditation, for he did not read much in it. With Dr. Adams, then a junior fellow, and afterwards master of the College, his friendship continued till his death.
Soon after his return to Lichfield, his father died; and the following memorandum, extracted from the little register which he kept in Latin, of the more remarkable occurrences that befel him, proves at once the small pittance that was left him, and the integrity of his mind: "1732, Julii 15. Undecim aureos deposui: quo die quicquid ante matris funus (quod serum sit precor) de paternis bonis sperare licet, viginti scilicet libras accepi. Usque adeo mihi fortuna fingenda est. Interea ne paupertate vires animi languescant nec in flagitium egestas abigat, cavendum.—1732, July 15. I laid down eleven guineas. On which day, I received the whole of what it is allowed me to expect from my father's property, before the decease of my mother (which I pray may be yet far distant) namely, twenty pounds. My fortune therefore must be of my own making. Meanwhile, let me beware lest the powers of my mind grow languid through poverty, or want drive me to evil." On the following day we find him setting out on foot for Market Bosworth, in Leicestershire, where he had engaged himself as an usher to the school of which Mr. Crompton was master. Here he described to his old school-fellow, Hector, the dull sameness of his life, in the words of the poet: Vitam continct una dies: that it was as unvaried as the note of the cuckoo, and that he did not know whether it were more disagreeable for him to teach, or for the boys to learn the grammar rules. To add to his misery, he had to endure the petty despotism of Sir Wolstan Dixie, one of the patrons of the school. The trial of a few months disgusted him so much with his employment, that he relinquished it, and, removing to Birmingham, became the guest of his friend Mr. Hector, who was a chirurgeon in that town, and lodged in the house of a bookseller; having remained with him about six months, he hired lodgings for himself. By Mr. Hector he was stimulated, not without some difficulty, to make a translation from the French, of Lobo's Voyage to Abyssinia, for which he received no more than five guineas from the bookseller, who, by an artifice not uncommon, printed it at Birmingham, with the date of London in the title-page. To Mr. Hector, therefore, is due the impulse which first made Johnson an author. The motion being once given did not cease; for, having returned to Lichfield in 1735, he sent forth in August proposals for printing by subscription Politian's Latin Poems, with a Life of the Author, Notes, and a History of Latin Poetry, from the age of Petrarch to that of Politian. His reason for fixing on this era it is not easy to determine. Mussato preceded Petrarch, the interval between Petrarch and Politian is not particularly illustrated by excellence in Latin poetry; and Politian was much surpassed in correctness and elegance, if not in genius, by those who came after him—by Flaminio, Navagero, and Fracastorio. Yet in the hands of Johnson, such a subject would not have been wanting in instruction or entertainment. Such as were willing to subscribe, were referred to his brother, Nathaniel Johnson, who had succeeded to his father's business in Lichfield; but the design was dropped, for want of a sufficient number of names to encourage it, a deficiency not much to be wondered at, unless the inhabitants of provincial towns were more learned in those days than at present.
In this year, he made another effort to obtain the means of subsistence by an offer of his pen to Cave, the editor of the Gentleman's Magazine; but the immediate result of the application is not known; nor in what manner he supported himself till July 1736, when he married Elizabeth Porter, the widow of a mercer at Birmingham, and daughter of William Jervis, Esq. of Great Peatling, in Leicestershire. This woman, who was twenty years older than himself, and to whose daughter he had been an unsuccessful suitor, brought him eight hundred pounds; but, according to Garrick's report of her, was neither amiable nor handsome, though that she was both in Johnson's estimation appears from the epithets "formosae, cultae, ingeniosae," which he inscribed on her tombstone. Their nuptials were celebrated at Derby, and to that town they went together on horseback from Birmingham; but the bride assuming some airs of caprice on the road, like another Petruchio he gave her such effectual proofs of resolution, as reduced her to the abjectness of shedding tears. His first project after his marriage was to set up a school; and, with this intention, he hired a very commodious house, at the distance of about two miles from Lichfield, called Edial Hall, which has lately been taken down, and of which a representation is to be seen in the History of Lichfield, by Mr. Harwood. One of my friends, who inhabited it for the same purpose, has told me that an old countryman who lived near it, and remembered Johnson and his pupil Garrick, said to him, "that Johnson was not much of a scholar to look at, but that master Garrick was a strange one for leaping over a stile." It is amusing to observe the impressions which such men make on common minds. Unfortunately the prejudice occasioned by Johnson's unsightly exterior was not confined to the vulgar, insomuch that it has been thought to be the reason why so few parents committed their children to his care, for he had only three pupils. This unscholarlike appearance it must have been that made the bookseller in the Strand, to whom he applied for literary employment, eye him archly, and recommend it to him rather to purchase a porter's knot. But, as an old philosopher has said, every thing has two handles. It was, perhaps, the contrast between the body and the mind, between the incultum corpus, and the ingenium, which afterwards was one cause of his being received so willingly in those circles of what is called high life, where any thing that is exceedingly strange and unusual is apt to carry its own recommendation with it. Failing in his attempt at Edial, he was disposed once more to engage in the drudgery of an usher, and offered himself in that capacity to the Rev. William Budworth, master of the grammar-school at Brewood, in Staffordshire, celebrated for having been the place in which Bishop Hurd received his education, under that master. But here again nature stood in his way; for Budworth was fearful lest a strange motion with the head, the effect probably of disease, to which Johnson was habitually subject, might excite the derision of his scholars, and for that reason declined employing him. He now resolved on trying his fortune in the capital.
Among the many respectable families in Lichfield, into whose society Johnson had been admitted, none afforded so great encouragement to his literary talents as that of Mr. Walmsley, who lived in the Bishop's palace, and was registrar of the Ecclesiastical Court, and whom he has so eloquently commemorated in his Lives of the Poets. By this gentleman he was introduced in a letter to the Rev. Mr. Colson, Lucasian Professor of Mathematics in the University of Cambridge, and the master of an academy, "as a very good scholar, and one who he had great hopes would turn out a fine dramatic writer, who intended to try his fate with a tragedy, and to get himself employed in some translation, either from the Latin or the French." The tragedy on which Mr. Walmsley founded his expectations of Johnson's future eminence as a dramatic poet, was the Irene. A shrewd sally of humour, to which the reading of this piece gave rise, evinces the terms of familiarity on which he was with his patron; for, on Walmsley's observing, when some part of it had been read, that the poet had already involved his heroine in such distress, that he did not see what further he could do to excite the commiseration of the audience, Johnson replied, "that he could put her into the Ecclesiastical Court." Garrick, who was to be placed at Colson's academy, accompanied his former instructor on this expedition to London, at the beginning of March, 1737. It does not appear that Mr. Walmsley's recommendation of him to Colson, whom he has described under the character of Gelidus, in the twenty-fourth paper of the Rambler, was of much use. He first took lodgings in Exeter-street in the Strand, but soon retired to Greenwich, for the sake of completing his tragedy, which he used to compose, walking in the Park.
From Greenwich, he addressed another letter to Cave, with proposals for translating Paul Sarpi's History of the Council of Trent, with the notes of Le Courayer. Before the summer was expired, he returned for Mrs. Johnson, whom he had left at Lichfield, and remaining there three months, at length finished Irene. On his second visit to London, his lodgings were first in Woodstock-street, near Hanover Square, and then in Castle-street, near Cavendish Square. His tragedy, which was brought on the stage twelve years after by Garrick, having been at this time rejected by the manager of the playhouse, he was forced to relinquish his hopes of becoming a dramatic writer, and engaged himself to write for the Gentleman's Magazine. The debates in Parliament were not then allowed to be given to the public with the same unrestricted and generous freedom with which it is now permitted to report them. To elude this prohibition, and gratify the just curiosity of the country, the several members were designated by fictitious names, under which they were easily discoverable; and their speeches in both Houses of Parliament, which was entitled the Senate of Lilliput, were in this manner imparted to the nation in the periodical work above-mentioned. At first, Johnson only revised these reports; but he became so dexterous in the execution of his task, that he required only to be told the names of the speakers, and the side of the question to be espoused, in order to frame the speeches himself; an artifice not wholly excusable, which afterwards occasioned him some self-reproach, and even at the time pleased him so little, that he did not consent to continue it. The whole extent of his assistance to Cave is not known. The Lives of Paul Sarpi, Boerhaave, Admirals Drake and Blake, Barretier, Burman, Sydenham, and Roscommon, with the Essay on Epitaphs, and an Essay on the Account of the Conduct of the Duchess of Marlborough, were certainly contributed to his Miscellany by Johnson. Two tracts, the one a Vindication of the Licenser of the Stage from the Aspersions of Brooke, Author of Gustavus Vasa; the other, Marmor Norfolciense, a pamphlet levelled against Sir Robert Walpole and the Hanoverian succession, were published by him, separately, in 1739.
For his version of Sarpi's History, he had received from Cave, before the 21st of April in this year, fifty pounds, and some sheets of it had been committed to the press, when, unfortunately, the design was stopped, in consequence of proposals appearing for a translation of the same book, by another person of the same name as our author, who was curate of St. Martin's in the Fields, and patronized by Dr. Pearce, the editor of Longinus. Warburton  afterwards expressed a wish that Johnson would give the original on one side, and his translation on the other. His next engagement was to draw up an account of the printed books in the Earl of Oxford's library, for Osborne, the bookseller, who had purchased them for thirteen thousand pounds. Such was the petulant impatience of Osborne, during the progress of this irksome task, that Johnson was once irritated so far as to beat him.
In May, 1738, appeared his "London," imitated from the Third Satire of Juvenal, for which he got ten guineas from Dodsley. The excellence of this poem was so immediately perceived, that it reached a second edition in the course of a week. Pope having made some ineffectual inquiries concerning the author, from Mr. Richardson, the son of the painter, observed that he would soon be deterre. In the August of 1739, we find him so far known to Pope, that at his intercession, Earl Gower applied to a friend of Swift to assist in procuring from the University the degree of Master of Arts, that he might be enabled to become a candidate for the mastership of a school then vacant; the application was without success.
His own wants, however pressing, did not hinder him from assisting his mother, who had lost her other son. A letter to Mr. Levett, of Lichfield, on the subject of a debt, for which he makes himself responsible on her account, affords so striking a proof of filial tenderness, that I cannot refuse myself the pleasure of transcribing it.
December, 1, 1743.
Sir,—I am extremely sorry that we have encroached so much upon your forbearance with respect to the interest, which a great perplexity of affairs hindered me from thinking of with that attention that I ought, and which I am not immediately able to remit to you, but will pay it (I think twelve pounds) in two months. I look upon this, and on the future interest of that mortgage, as my own debt; and beg that you will be pleased to give me directions how to pay it, and not mention it to my dear mother. If it be necessary to pay this in less time, I believe I can do it; but I take two months for certainty, and beg an answer whether you can allow me so much time. I think myself very much obliged for your forbearance, and shall esteem it a great happiness to be able to serve you. I have great opportunities of dispersing any thing that you may think it proper to make public. I will give a note for the money payable at the time mentioned, to any one here that you shall appoint.
I am, Sir, your most obedient,
and most humble servant,
At Mr. Osborne's, Bookseller, in Gray's Inn.
In the following year (1744) he produced his Life of Savage, a work that gives the charm of a romance to a narrative of real [**re in original] events; and which, bearing the stamp of that eagerness [**ea ness in original] and rapidity with which it was thrown off the mind of the writer, exhibits rather the fervour of an eloquent advocate, than the laboriousness of a minute biographer. The forty-eight octavo pages, as he told Mr. Nichols , were written in one day and night. At its first appearance it was warmly praised, in the Champion, probably either by Fielding, or by Ralph, who succeeded to him in a share of that paper; and Sir Joshua Reynolds, when it came into his hand, found his attention so powerfully arrested, that he read it through without changing his posture, as he perceived by the torpidness of one of his arms that had rested on a chimney-piece by which he was standing. For the Life of Savage , he received fifteen guineas from Cave. About this time he fell into the company of Collins, with whom, as he tells us in his life of that poet, he delighted to converse.
His next publication (in 1745) was a pamphlet, called "Miscellaneous Observations on the Tragedy of Macbeth, with Remarks on Sir T.H. (Sir Thomas Hanmer's) Edition of Shakspeare," to which were subjoined, proposals for a new edition of his plays. These observations were favourably mentioned by Warburton, in the preface to his edition; and Johnson's gratitude for praise bestowed at a time when praise was of value to him, was fervent and lasting. Yet Warburton, with his usual intolerance of any dissent from his opinions, afterwards complained in a private letter  to Hurd, that Johnson's remarks on his commentaries were full of insolence and malignant reflections, which, had they not in them "as much folly as malignity," he should have had reason to be offended with.
In 1747, he furnished Garrick, who had become joint-patentee and manager of Drury Lane, with a Prologue on the opening of the house. This address has been commended quite as much as it deserves. The characters of Shakspeare and Ben Jonson are, indeed, discriminated with much skill; but surely something might have been said, if not of Massinger and Beaumont and Fletcher, yet at least of Congreve and Otway, who are involved in the sweeping censure passed on "the wits of Charles."
Of all his various literary undertakings, that in which he now engaged was the most arduous, a Dictionary of the English language. His plan of this work was, at the desire of Dodsley, inscribed to the Earl of Chesterfield, then one of the Secretaries of State; Dodsley, in conjunction with six other book-sellers, stipulated fifteen hundred and seventy-five pounds as the price of his labour; a sum, from which, when the expenses of paper and transcription were deducted, a small portion only remained for the compiler. In other countries, this national desideratum has been supplied by the united exertions of the learned. Had the project for such a combination in Queen Anne's reign been carried into execution, the result might have been fewer defects and less excellence: the explanation of technical terms would probably have been more exact, the derivations more copious, and a greater number of significant words now omitted , have been collected from our earliest writers; but the citations would often have been made with less judgment, and the definitions laid down with less acuteness of discrimination.
From his new patron, whom he courted without the aid of those graces so devoutly worshipped by that nobleman, he reaped but small advantage; and, being much exasperated at his neglect, Johnson addressed to him a very cutting, but, it must be owned, an intemperate letter, renouncing his protection, though, when the Dictionary was completed, Chesterfield had ushered its appearance before the public in two complimentary papers in the World; but the homage of the client was not to be recalled, or even his resentment to be appeased. His great work is thus spoken of at its first appearance, in a letter from Thomas Warton to his brother . "The Dictionary is arrived; the preface is noble. There is a grammar prefixed, and the history of the language is pretty full; but you may plainly perceive strokes of laxity and indolence. They are two most unwieldy volumes. I have written to him an invitation. I fear his preface will disgust, by the expressions of his consciousness of superiority, and of his contempt of patronage." In 1773, when he gave a second edition, with additions and corrections, he announced in a few prefatory lines that he had expunged some superfluities, and corrected some faults, and here and there had scattered a remark; but that the main fabric continued the same. "I have looked into it," he observes, in a letter to Boswell, "very little since I wrote it, and, I think, I found it full as often better as worse than I expected."
To trace in order of time the various changes in Johnson's place of residence in the metropolis, if it were worth the trouble, would not be possible. A list of them, which he gave to Boswell, amounting to seventeen, but without the correspondent dates, is preserved by that writer. For the sake of being near his printer, while the Dictionary was on the anvil, he took a convenient house in Gough Square, near Fleet-street, and fitted up one room in it as an office, where six amanuenses were employed in transcribing for him, of whom Boswell recounts in triumph that five were Scotchmen. In 1748, he wrote, for Dodsley's Preceptor, the Preface, and the Vision of Theodore the Hermit, to which Johnson has been heard to give the preference over all his other writings. In the January of the ensuing year, appeared the Vanity of Human Wishes, being the Tenth Satire of Juvenal imitated, which he sold for fifteen guineas; and, in the next month, his Irene was brought on the stage, not without a previous altercation between the poet and his former pupil, concerning some changes which Garrick's superior knowledge of the stage made him consider to be necessary, but which Johnson said the fellow desired only that they might afford him more opportunity of tossing his hands and kicking his heels. He always treated the art of a player with illiberal contempt; but was at length, by the intervention of Dr. Taylor, prevailed on to give way to the suggestions of Garrick. Yet Garrick had not made him alter all that needed altering; for the first exhibition of Irene shocked the spectators with the novel sight of a heroine who was to utter two verses with the bow-string about her neck. This horror was removed from a second representation; but, after the usual course of ten nights, the tragedy was no longer in request. Johnson thought it requisite, on this occasion, to depart from the usual homeliness of his habit, and to appear behind the scenes, and in the side boxes, with the decoration of a gold-laced hat and waistcoat. He observed, that he found himself unable to behave with the same ease in his finery, as when dressed in his plain clothes. In the winter of this year, he established a weekly club, at the King's Head, in Ivy Lane, near St. Paul's, of which the other members were Dr. Salter, a Cambridge divine; Hawkesworth; Mr. Ryland, a merchant; Mr. John Payne, the bookseller; Mr. John Dyer, a man of considerable erudition, and a friend of Burke's; Doctors Macghie, Baker, and Bathurst, three physicians; and Sir John Hawkins.
He next became a candidate for public favour, as the writer of a periodical work, in the manner of the Spectator; and, in March, 1750, published the first number of the Rambler, which was continued for nearly two years; but, wanting variety of matter, and familiarity of style, failed to attract many readers, so that the largest number of copies that were sold of any one paper did not exceed five hundred. The topics were selected without sufficient regard to the popular taste. The grievances and distresses of authors particularly were dwelt on to satiety; and the tone of eloquence was more swelling and stately than he had hitherto adopted. The papers allotted to criticism are marked by his usual acumen; but the justice of his opinions is often questionable. In the humourous pieces, when our laughter is excited, I doubt the author himself, who is always discoverable under the masque of whatever character he assumes, is as much the object as the cause of our merriment; and, however moral and devout his more serious views of life, they are often defective in that most engaging feature of sound religion, a cheerful spirit. The only assistance he received was from Richardson, Mrs. Chapone, Miss Talbot, and Mrs. Carter, the first of whom contributed the 97th number; the second, four billets in the 10th; the next, the 30th; and the last, the 44th and 100th numbers.
Three days after the completion of the Rambler (March 17, 1752), he was deprived of his wife, whom, notwithstanding the disparity in their age, and some occasional bickerings, he had tenderly loved. Those who are disposed to scrutinize narrowly and severely into the human heart, may question the sincerity of his sorrow, because he was collected enough to write her funeral sermon. But the shapes which grief puts on in different minds are as dissimilar as the constitution of those minds. Milton, in whom the power of imagination was predominant, soothed his anguish for the loss of his youthful friend, in an irregular, but most beautiful assemblage of those poetic objects which presented themselves to his thoughts, and consecrated them to the memory of the deceased; and Johnson, who loved to act the moralizer and the rhetorician, alleviated his sufferings by declaiming on the instability of human happiness.
During this interval he also wrote the Prologue to Comus, spoken by Garrick, for the benefit of Mrs. Elizabeth Foster, grand-daughter to Milton; the Prologue and Postscript to Lander's impudent forgeries concerning that poet, by which Johnson was imposed on, as well as the rest of the world; a letter to Dr. Douglas, for the same impostor, after he had been detected, acknowledging and expressing contrition for the fraud; and the Life of Cheynel, in the Student.
Soon after his wife's death, he became intimate with Beauclerk and Langton, two young men of family and distinction, who were fellow collegians at Oxford, and much attached to each other; and the latter of whom admiration of the Rambler had brought to London with the express view of being introduced to the author. Their society was very agreeable to him; and he was, perhaps, glad to forget himself by joining at times in their sallies of juvenile gaiety. One night, when he had lodgings in the Temple, he was roused by their knocking at his door; and appearing in his shirt and nightcap, he found they had come together from the tavern where they had supped, to prevail on him to accompany them in a nocturnal ramble. He readily entered into their proposal; and, having indulged themselves till morning in such frolics as came in their way, Johnson and Beauclerk were so well pleased with their diversion, that they continued it through the rest of the day; while their less sprightly companion left them, to keep an engagement with some ladies at breakfast, not without reproaches from Johnson for deserting his friends "for a set of unidea'd girls."
In 1753, he gave to Dr. Bathurst, the physician, whom he regarded with much affection, and whose practice was very limited, several essays for the Adventurer, which Hawkesworth was then publishing; and wrote for Mrs. Lenox a Dedication to the Earl of Orrery, of her Shakspeare illustrated; and, in the following year, inserted in the Gentleman's Magazine a Life of Cave, its former editor.
Previously to the publication of his Dictionary, it was thought advisable by his friends that the degree of Master of Arts should be obtained for him, in order that his name might appear in the title page with that addition; and it was accordingly, through their intercession, conferred on him by the University of Oxford. The work was presented by the Earl of Orrery, one of his friends then at Florence, to the Delia Crusca Academy, who, in return, sent their Dictionary to the author. The French Academy paid him the same compliment. But these honours were not accompanied by that indispensable requisite, "provision for the day that was passing over him." He was arrested for debt, and liberated by the kindness of Richardson, the writer of Clarissa, who became his surety. To prevent such humiliation, the efforts of his own industry were not wanting. In 1756, he published an Abridgement of his Dictionary, and an Edition of Sir Thomas Browne's Christian Morals, to which he prefixed a Life of that writer; he contributed to a periodical miscellany, called the Universal Visitor, by Christopher Smart, and yet more largely to another work of the same kind, entitled, the Literary Magazine; and wrote a dedication and preface for Payne's Introduction to the Game of Draughts, and an Introduction to the newspaper called the London Chronicle, for the last of which he received a single guinea. Yet either conscientious scruples, or his unwillingness to relinquish a London life, induced him to decline the offer of a valuable benefice in Lincolnshire, which was made him by the father of his friend, Langton, provided he could prevail on himself to take holy orders, a measure that would have delivered him from literary toil for the remainder of his days. But literary toil was the occupation for which nature had designed him. In the April of 1758, he commenced the Idler, and continued to publish it for two years in the Universal Chronicle. Of these Essays, he was supplied with Nos. 33, 93, and 96, by Thomas Warton; with No. 67 by Langton, and with Nos. 76, 79, and 82 by Reynolds. Boswell mentions twelve papers being given by his friends, but does not say who were the contributors of the remaining five. The Essay on Epitaphs, the Dissertation on Pope's Epitaphs, and an Essay on the Bravery of the English common Soldiers, were subjoined to this paper, when it was collected into volumes. It does not differ from the Rambler, otherwise than as the essays are shorter, and somewhat less grave and elaborate.
Another wound was inflicted on him by the death of his mother, who had however reached her ninetieth year. His affection and his regret will best appear from the following letter to the daughter of his deceased wife.
To Miss Porter, in Lichfield.
You will conceive my sorrow for the loss of my mother, of the best mother. If she were to live again, surely I should behave better to her. But she is happy, and what is past is nothing to her: and, for me, since I cannot repair my faults to her, I hope repentance will efface them. I return you, and all those that have been good to her, my sincerest thanks, and pray God to repay you all with infinite advantage. Write to me, and comfort me, dear child. I shall be glad likewise, if Kitty will write to me. I shall send a bill of twenty pounds in a few days, which I thought to have brought to my mother, but God suffered it not. I have not power nor composure to say much more. God bless you, and bless us all.
I am, dear Miss,
Your affectionate humble servant,
Her attention to his mother, as it is reported in the following words, by Miss Seward, ensured to Johnson the sympathy of Lucy Porter.
From the age of twenty till her fortieth year, when affluence came to her by the death of her eldest brother, she had boarded in Lichfield with Dr. Johnson's mother, who still kept that little bookseller's shop, by which her husband had supplied the scanty means of existence. Meanwhile, Lucy Porter kept the best company of our little city, but would make no engagement on market-days, lest Granny, as she called Mrs. Johnson, should catch cold by serving in the shop. There Lucy Porter took her place, standing behind the counter, nor thought it a disgrace to thank a poor person who purchased from her a penny battledore .
To defray the expenses of his mother's funeral, he had recourse to his pen; and, in the evenings of one week produced the Rasselas, for which he received one hundred pounds, and was presented by the purchasers with twenty-five more on its reaching a second edition. Rasselas is a noble monument of the genius of its author. Reflections so profound, and so forcible a draught of some of the great outlines of the human intellect and passions, are to be found in few writers of any age or country. The mind is seldom presented with any thing so marvellous as the character of the philosopher, who has persuaded himself that he is entrusted with the management of the elements. Johnson's dread of insanity was, perhaps, relieved by embodying this mighty conception. He had seen the shadowy form in the twilight, and might have dissipated or eased his apprehensions by coming up to it more closely, and examining into the occasion of his fears. In this tale, the censure which he has elsewhere passed on Milton, that he is a lion who has no skill in dandling the kid, recoils upon himself. His delineation of the female character is wanting in delicacy.
In this year he supplied Mr. Newbery with an Introduction to the World Displayed, a Collection of Voyages and Travels: till the publication of his Shakspeare, in 1765, the only writings acknowledged by himself were a Review of Tytler's Vindication of Mary Queen of Scots, in the Gentleman's Magazine; an Introduction to the Proceedings of the Committee for Clothing the French Prisoners; the Preface to Bolt's Dictionary of Trade and Commerce; a Dedication to the King, of Kennedy's Complete System of Astronomical Chronology, unfolding the Scriptures; and a Dedication to the Queen, of Hoole's Tasso.
In the course of this period, he made a short visit to Lichfield, and thus communicates his feelings on the occasion, in a letter dated July 20, 1762, to Baretti, his Italian friend, who was then at Milan.
Last winter I went down to my native town, where I found the streets much narrower and shorter than I thought I had left them, inhabited by a new race of people, to whom I was very little known. My play-fellows were grown old, and forced me to suspect that I am no longer young. My only remaining friend had changed his principles, and was become the tool of the predominant faction. My daughter-in-law, from whom I expected most, and whom I met with sincere benevolence, had lost the beauty and gaiety of youth, without having gained much of the wisdom of age. I wandered about for five days, and took the first convenient opportunity of returning to a place, where, if there is not much happiness, there is at least such a diversity of good and evil, that slight vexations do not fix upon the heart.
I think in a few weeks to try another excursion; though to what end? Let me know, my Baretti, what has been the result of your return to your own country; whether time has made any alteration for the better, and, whether, when the first rapture of salutation was over, you did not find your thoughts confessed their disappointment.
Henceforward Johnson had no longer to struggle with the evils of extreme poverty. A pension of L300 was granted to him, in 1762, by His Majesty. Before his acceptance of it, in answer to a question put by him to the Earl of Bute, in these words, "Pray, my Lord, what am I to do for the pension?" he was assured by that nobleman that it was not given him for any thing he was to do, but for what he had done. The definition he had given of the word pension, in his dictionary, that in England it was generally understood to mean pay, given to a state hireling, for treason to his country, raised some further scruples whether he ought himself to become a pensioner; but they were removed by the arguments, or the persuasion of Mr. Reynolds, to whom he had recourse for advice in this dilemma. What advice Reynolds would give him he must have known pretty well before-hand; but this was one of the many instances in which men, having first determined how to act, are willing to imagine that they are going for clearer information, where they in truth expect nothing but a confirmation of their own resolve. The liberality of the nation could not have been extended to one who had better deserved it. But he had a calamity yet more dreadful than poverty to encounter. The depression of his spirits was now become almost intolerable. "I would have a limb amputated," said he to Dr. Adams, "to recover my spirits." He was constantly tormented by harassing reflections on his inability to keep the many resolutions he had formed of leading a better life; and complained that a kind of strange oblivion had overspread him, so that he did not know what was become of the past year, and that incidents and intelligence passed over him without leaving any impression.
Neither change of place nor the society of friends availed to prevent or to dissipate this melancholy. In 1762, he made an excursion into Devonshire, with Sir Joshua Reynolds; the next year he went to Harwich, with Boswell; in the following, when his malady was most troublesome, the meeting which acquired the name of the Literary Club was instituted, and he passed a considerable time in Lincolnshire, with the father of Langton; and, in the year after, visited Cambridge, in the company of Beauclerk. Of the Literary Club, first proposed by Reynolds, the other members at its first establishment were Burke, Dr. Nugent, Beauclerk, Langton, Goldsmith, Chamier, and Sir John Hawkins. They met at the Turk's Head, in Gerrard-street, Soho, one evening in the week, and usually remained together till a late hour. The society was afterwards extended, so as to comprise a large number of those who were most eminent, either for their learning or their station in life, and the place of meeting has been since at different times changed to other parts of the town, nearer to the Parliament House, or to the usual resorts of gaiety. A club was the delight of Johnson. We lose some of our awe for him, when we contemplate him as mimicked by his old scholar Garrick, in the act of squeezing a lemon into the punch-bowl, and asking, as he looks round the company, in his provincial accent, of which he never got entirely rid, "Who's for poonch?" If there was any thing likely to gratify him more than a new club, it was the public testimony of respect from a learned body; and this he received from Trinity College, Dublin, in a diploma for the degree of Doctor of Laws, an honour the more flattering, as it came without solicitation.
At the beginning of 1766, his faithful biographer, James Boswell, who had known him for three years, found him in a good house in Johnson's court, Fleet-street, to which he had removed from lodgings in the Temple. By the advice of his physician, he had now begun to abstain from wine, and drank only water or lemonade. He had brought two companions into his new dwelling, such as few other men would have chosen to enliven their solitude. On the ground floor was Miss Anna Williams, daughter of Zechariah Williams, a man who had practised physic in Wales, and, having come to England to seek the reward proposed by Parliament for the discovery of the longitude, had been assisted by Johnson in drawing up an account of the method he had devised. This plan was printed with an Italian translation, which is supposed to be Baretti's, on the opposite page; and a copy of the pamphlet, presented by Johnson to the Bodleian, is deposited in that library. Miss Williams had been a frequent visitor at Johnson's before the death of his wife, and having after that event, come under his roof to undergo an operation for a cataract on her eyes with more convenience than could have been had in her own lodgings, continued to occupy an apartment in his house, whenever he had one, till the time of her death. Her disease ended in total blindness, which gave her an additional claim on his benevolence. When he lived in the Temple, it was his custom, however late the hour, not to retire to rest until he had drunk tea with her in her lodgings in Bolt-court. One night when Goldsmith and Boswell were with him, Goldsmith strutted off in the company of Johnson, exclaiming with an air of superiority, "I go to Miss Williams," while Boswell slunk away in silent disappointment; but it was not long, as Boswell adds, before he himself obtained the same mark of distinction. Johnson prevailed on Garrick to get her a benefit at the playhouse, and assisted her in preparing some poems she had written for the press, by both which means she obtained the sum of about L300. The interest of this, added to some small annual benefactions, probably hindered her from being any pecuniary burden to Johnson; and though she was apt to be peevish and impatient, her curiosity, the retentiveness of her memory, and the strength of her intellect, made her, on the whole, an agreeable companion to him. The other inmate, whose place was in one of his garrets, was Robert Levett, a practiser of physic among the lower people, grotesque in his appearance, formal in his manners, and silent before company: though little thought of by others, this man was so highly esteemed for his abilities by Johnson, that he was heard to say, he should not be satisfied though attended by all the College of Physicians, unless he had Levett with him. He must have been a useful assistant in the chemical processes with which Johnson was fond of amusing himself; and at one of which Murphy, on his first visit, found him in a little room, covered with soot like a chimney-sweeper, making aether. Beauclerk, with his lively exaggeration, used to describe Johnson at breakfast, throwing his crusts to Levett after he had eaten the crumb. The pathetic verses written by Johnson on his death, which happened suddenly three years before his own, shew with what tenderness of affection he regarded Levett. Some time after (1778), to this couple, who did not live in much harmony together, were added Mrs. Desmoulins, the daughter of Dr. Swinfen his god-father, and widow of a writing-master; Miss Carmichael, and, as Boswell thought, a daughter also of Mrs. Desmoulins, all of whom were lodged in his house. To the widow he allowed half-a-guinea a week, the twelfth part, as Boswell observes, of his pension. It was sometimes more than he could do, to reconcile so many jarring interests. "Williams," says he, in a letter to Mrs. Thrale, "hates every body: Levett hates Desmoulins and does not love Williams: Desmoulins hates them both. Poll loves none of them." Poll was Miss Carmichael, of whom I do not find that any thing else is recorded. Boswell ventured to call this groupe the seraglio of Johnson, and escaped without a rebuke.
From these domestic feuds he would sometimes withdraw himself to the house of Mr. Thrale, at Streatham, an opulent brewer, with whom his acquaintance had begun in 1765. With this open-hearted man he was always sure of a welcome reception for as long a time as he chose; and the mistress of the house, though after the death of her first husband and her subsequent marriage to an Italian she somewhat ungraciously remembered the petty annoyances which Johnson's untoward habits had occasioned her, was evidently pleased by his hearty expressions of regard, and flattered by his conversation on subjects of literature, in which she was herself well able to take a part.
In this year, his long promised edition of Shakspeare made its appearance, in eight volumes octavo. That by Steevens was published the following year; and a coalition between the editors having been effected, an edition was put forth under their joint names, in ten volumes 8vo., 1773. For the first, Johnson received L375; and for the second L100. At the beginning of the Preface, he has marked out the character of our great dramatist with such a power of criticism, as there was perhaps no example of in the English language. Towards the conclusion, he has, I think, successfully defended him from the neglect of what are called the unities. The observation, that a quibble was the Cleopatra for which he lost the world, and was content to lose it, is more pointed than just. Shakspeare cannot be said to have lost the world; for his fame has not only embraced the circle of his own country, but is continually spreading over new portions of the globe; nor is there any reason to conclude that he would have acquiesced in such a loss. Like most other writers, he indulged himself in a favourite propensity, aware, probably, that if it offended some, it would win him the applause of others. One avenue of knowledge, that was open to Shakspeare in common with the rest of mankind, none of his commentators appear to have sufficiently considered. We cannot conceive him to have associated frequently with men of larger acquirements than himself, and not to have made much of their treasures his own. The conversation of such a man as Ben Jonson alone, supposing him to have made no more display of his learning than chance or vanity would occasionally produce, must have supplied ample sources of information to a mind so curious, watchful, and retentive, that it did not suffer the slightest thing to escape its grasp. Johnson is distinguished in his notes from the other commentators, chiefly by the acute remarks on many of the characters, and on the conduct of some of the fables, which he has subjoined to the different plays. In other respects he is not superior to the rest; in some, particularly in illustrating his author from antecedent or contemporary writers, he is inferior to them. A German critic of our own days, Schlegel, has surpassed him even in that which he has done best.
From Boswell I have collected an account of the little journeys with which he from time to time relieved the uniformity of his life. They will be told in order as they occur, and I hope will not weary the reader. The days of a scholar are frequently not distinguished by varieties even as unimportant as these. Johnson found his mind grow stagnant by a constant residence in the neighbourhood of Charing-cross itself, where he thought human happiness at its flood: and once, when moving rapidly along the road in a carriage with Boswell, cried out to his fellow-traveller, "Sir, life has few things better than this." In the winter of 1766 he went to Oxford, where he resided for a month, and formed an intimacy with Chambers, afterwards one of the judges in India. During this period, no publication appeared under his own name; but he furnished Miss Williams with a Preface to her Poems, and Adams with another for his Treatise on the Globes; and wrote the dedication to the King, prefixed to Gough's London and Westminster Improved. He seems to have been always ready to supply a dedication for a friend, a task which he executed with more than ordinary courtliness. In this way, he told Boswell, that he believed he "had dedicated to all the royal family round." But in his own case, either pride hindered him from prefixing to his works what he perhaps considered as a token of servility, or his better judgment restrained him from appropriating, by a particular inscription to one individual, that which was intended for the use of mankind.
Of Johnson's interview with George III. I shall transcribe the account as given by Boswell; with which such pains were taken to make it accurate, that it was submitted before publication for the inspection of the King, by one of his principal secretaries of State.
In February, 1767, there happened one of the most remarkable incidents in Johnson's life which gratified his monarchical enthusiasm, and which he loved to relate with all its circumstances, when requested by his friends. This was his being honoured by a private conversation with his Majesty in the library at the Queen's house. He had frequently visited those splendid rooms, and noble collection of books, which he used to say was more numerous and curious than he supposed any person could have made in the time which the King had employed. Mr. Barnard, the librarian, took care that he should have every accommodation that could contribute to his ease and convenience, while indulging his literary taste in that place: so that he had here a very agreeable resource at leisure hours.
His Majesty having been informed of his occasional visits, was pleased to signify a desire that he should be told when Dr. Johnson came next to the library. Accordingly the next time that Johnson did come, as soon as he was fairly engaged with a book, on which, while he sat by the fire, he seemed quite intent, Mr. Barnard stole round to the apartment where the King was, and, in obedience to his Majesty's commands, mentioned that Dr. Johnson was then in the library. His Majesty said he was at leisure, and would go to him: upon which Mr. Barnard took one of the candles that stood on the King's table, and lighted his Majesty through a suite of rooms, till they came to a private door into the library, of which his Majesty had the key. Being entered, Mr. Barnard stepped forward hastily to Dr. Johnson, who was still in a profound study, and whispered him, "Sir, here is the King." Johnson started up, and stood still. His Majesty approached him, and at once was courteously easy.
His Majesty began by observing, that he understood he came sometimes to the library; and then mentioning his having heard that the Doctor had been lately at Oxford, asked him if he was not fond of going thither. To which Johnson answered, that he was indeed fond of going to Oxford sometimes, but was likewise glad to come back again. The King then asked him what they were doing at Oxford. Johnson answered, he could not much commend their diligence, but that in some respects they were mended, for they had put their press under better regulations, and were at that time printing Polybius. He was then asked whether there were better libraries at Oxford or Cambridge. He answered, he believed the Bodleian was larger than any they had at Cambridge; at the same time adding, "I hope, whether we have more books or not than they have at Cambridge, we shall make as good use of them as they do." Being asked whether All-Souls or Christ-Church library was the largest, he answered, "All-Souls library is the largest we have, except the Bodleian." "Ay, (said the King,) that is the public library."
His Majesty inquired if he was then writing any thing. He answered, he was not, for he had pretty well told the world what he knew, and must now read to acquire more knowledge. The King, as it should seem with a view to urge him to rely on his own stores as an original writer, and to continue his labours, then said, "I do not think you borrow much from any body." Johnson said, he thought he had already done his part as a writer. "I should have thought so too, (said the King,) if you had not written so well."—Johnson observed to me, upon this, that "No man could have paid a handsomer compliment; and it was fit for a King to pay. It was decisive." When asked by another friend, at Sir Joshua Reynolds's, whether he made any reply to this high compliment, he answered, "No, Sir. When the King had said it, it was to be so. It was not for me to bandy civilities with my Sovereign." Perhaps no man who had spent his whole life in courts could have shewn a more nice and dignified sense of true politeness than Johnson did in this instance.
His Majesty having observed to him that he supposed he must have read a great deal; Johnson answered, that he thought more than he read; that he had read a great deal in the early part of his life, but having fallen into ill health, he had not been able to read much, compared with others: for instance, he said, he had not read much, compared with Dr. Warburton. Upon which the King said, that he heard Dr. Warburton was a man of such general knowledge, that you could scarce talk with him on any subject on which he was not qualified to speak; and that his learning resembled Garrick's acting, in its universality. His Majesty then talked of the controversy between Warburton and Lowth, which he seemed to have read, and asked Johnson what he thought of it. Johnson answered, "Warburton has most general, most scholastic learning; Lowth is the more correct scholar. I do not know which of them calls names best." The King was pleased to say he was of the same opinion; adding, "You do not think then, Dr. Johnson, that there was much argument in the case." Johnson said, he did not think there was. "Why truly, (said the King,) when once it comes to calling names, argument is pretty well at an end."
His Majesty then asked him what he thought of Lord Lyttelton's history, which was then just published. Johnson said, he thought his style pretty good, but that he had blamed Henry the Second rather too much. "Why, (said the King,) they seldom do these things by halves." "No, Sir, (answered Johnson,) not to Kings." But fearing to be misunderstood, he proceeded to explain himself: and immediately subjoined, "That for those who spoke worse of Kings than they deserved, he could find no excuse; but that he could more easily conceive how some might speak better of them than they deserved, without any ill intention; for, as Kings had much in their power to give, those who were favoured by them would frequently, from gratitude, exaggerate their praises: and as this proceeded from a good motive, it was certainly excusable, as far as errour could be excusable."
The King then asked him what he thought of Dr. Hill. Johnson answered that he was an ingenious man, but had no veracity; and immediately mentioned, as an instance of it, an assertion of that writer, that he had seen objects magnified to a much greater degree by using three or four microscopes at a time than by using one. "Now, (added Johnson,) every one acquainted with microscopes knows, that the more of them he looks through, the less the object will appear." "Why, (replied the King,) this is not only telling an untruth, but telling it clumsily; for, if that be the case, every one who can look through a microscope will be able to detect him."
"I now, (said Johnson to his friends, when relating what had passed,) began to consider that I was depreciating this man in the estimation of his Sovereign, and thought it was time for me to say something that might be more favourable." He added, therefore, that Dr. Hill was, notwithstanding, a very curious observer; and if he would have been contented to tell the world no more than he knew, he might have been a very considerable man, and needed not to have recourse to such mean expedients to raise his reputation.
The King then talked of literary journals, mentioned particularly the "Journal des Savans," and asked Johnson if it was well done. Johnson said, it was formerly very well done, and gave some account of the persons who began it, and carried it on for some years: enlarging at the same time, on the nature and use of such works. The King asked him if it was well done now. Johnson answered, he had no reason to think that it was. The King then asked him if there were any other literary journal published in this kingdom, except the Monthly and Critical Reviews; and on being answered there was no other, his Majesty asked which of them was the best: Johnson answered that the Monthly Review was done with most care, the Critical upon the best principles; adding that the authours of the Monthly Review were enemies to the Church. This the King said he was sorry to hear.
The conversation next turned on the Philosophical Transactions, when Johnson observed that they had now a better method of arranging their materials than formerly. "Ay, (said the King,) they are obliged to Dr. Johnson for that;" for his Majesty had heard and remembered the circumstance, which Johnson himself had forgot.
His Majesty expressed a desire to have the literary biography of this country ably executed, and proposed to Dr. Johnson to undertake it. Johnson signified his readiness to comply with his Majesty's wishes.
During the whole of this interview, Johnson talked to his Majesty with profound respect, but still in his firm manly manner, with a sonorous voice, and never in that subdued tone which is commonly used at the levee and in the drawing-room. After the King withdrew, Johnson shewed himself highly pleased with his Majesty's conversation and gracious behaviour. He said to Mr. Barnard, "Sir, they may talk of the King as they will; but he is the finest gentleman I have ever seen." And he afterwards observed to Mr. Langton, "Sir, his manners are those of as fine a gentleman as we may suppose Lewis the Fourteenth, or Charles the Second."
Nothing in this conversation betrays symptoms of that state which he complains of in his devotional record (on the 2nd of August, 1767) when he says that he had been disturbed and unsettled for a long time, and had been without resolution to apply to study or to business. Half of this year he passed at a distance from the metropolis, and chiefly at Lichfield, where he prayed fervently by the death-bed of the old servant of his family, Catherine Chambers, leaving her with a fond farewell, and many tears. There was no greater proof of the goodness of Johnson's nature, than his attachment to his domestics. Soon after this he placed Francis Barber, a negro boy who waited on him, at a school at Hertfordshire; and, during his education there, encouraged him to good behaviour by frequent and very kind letters. It is on such occasions that we are ready to allow the justice of Goldsmith's vindication of his friend, that he had nothing of the bear but the skin.
In the two succeeding years he continued to labour under the same restlessness and anxiety; again sought for relief in a long visit to Oxford, and another to Brighthelmstone with the Thrales; and produced nothing but a Prologue to one of Goldsmith's comedies.
The repeated expulsion of Wilkes from his seat, by a vote of the House of Commons, had (in 1770) thrown the nation into a ferment. Johnson was roused to take the side of the ministry; and endeavoured in a pamphlet, called the False Alarm, as much by ridicule as by argument, to support a violent and arbitrary measure. It appears, both from his conversation and his writings, that he thought there was a point at which resistance might become justifiable; and, surely it is more advisable to check the encroachments of power at their beginning, than to delay opposition, till it cannot be resorted to without greater hazard to the public safety. The ministry were happily compelled to give way. They were, however, glad to have so powerful an arm to fight their battles, and, in the next year (1771) employed him in a worthier cause. In his tract on the Falkland Islands, the materials for which were furnished him by Government, he appears to have much the better of the argument; for he has to shew the folly of involving the nation in a war for a questionable right, and a possession of doubtful advantage; but his invective against his opponents is very coarse; he does not perform the work of dissection neatly: he mangles rather than cuts. When he applies the word "gabble" to the elocution of Chatham, we are tempted to compare him to one of the baser fowl, spoken of by an ancient poet, that clamour against the bird of Jove.
Not many copies of this pamphlet had been dispersed, when Lord North stopped the sale, and caused some alterations to be made, for reasons which the author did not himself distinctly comprehend. Johnson's own opinion of these two political essays was, that there was a subtlety of disquisition in the first, that was worth all the fire of the second. When questioned by Boswell as to the truth of a report that they had obtained for him an addition to his pension of 200l. a year, he answered that, excepting what had been paid him by the booksellers, he had not got a farthing for them.
About this time, there was a project for enabling him to take a more distinguished part in politics. The proposition for bringing him into the House of Commons came from Strahan the printer, who was himself one of the members; Boswell has preserved the letter in which this zealous friend to Johnson represented to one of the Secretaries of State the services which might reasonably be expected from his eloquence and fidelity. The reasons which rendered the application ineffectual have not been disclosed to us; but it may be questioned whether his powers of reasoning could have been readily called forth on a stage so different from any to which he had been hitherto accustomed; whether so late in life he could have obtained the habit of attending to speakers, sometimes dull, and sometimes perplexed; or whether that dictatorial manner which easily conquered opposition in a small circle, might not have been borne down by resentment or scorn in a large and mixed assembly. Johnson would most willingly have made the experiment; and when Reynolds repeated what Burke had said of him, that if he had come early into parliament, he would certainly have been the greatest speaker that ever was there, exclaimed, "I should like to try my hand now." That we may proceed without interruption to the end of Johnson's political career, it should here he told that he published (in 1774) a short pamphlet in support of his friend, Mr. Thrale, who at that time was one of the candidates in a contested election, and a zealous supporter of the government. But his devotion to the powers that be, never led him to so great lengths as in the following year (1775), when he wrote Taxation no Tyranny: an Answer to the Resolutions and Address of the American Congress. Now that we look back with impartiality and coolness to the subject of dispute between the mother country and her colonies, there are few, I believe, who do not acknowledge the Americans to have been driven into resistance by claims, which, if they were not palpably unlawful, were at least highly inexpedient and unjust. But Johnson was no statist. With the nature of man taken individually and in the detail, he was well acquainted; but of men as incorporated into society, of the relations between the governors and the governed, and of all the complicated interests of polity and of civil life, his knowledge was very limited. Biography was his favourite study; history, his aversion. Sooner than hear of the Punic war (says Murphy), he would be rude to the person that introduced the subject; and, as he told Mr. Thrale, when a gentleman one day spoke to him at the club of Catiline's conspiracy, he withdrew his attention, and thought about Tom Thumb. In his Taxation no Tyranny, having occasion to notice a reference made by the American Congress to a passage in Montesquieu, he calls him in contempt the fanciful Montesquieu. Yet this is the man, of whom Burke, when his just horror of every thing fanciful in politics was at its height, has passed the noblest eulogium that one modern has ever made on another, and which the reader will pardon me if in my veneration for a great name I place here as an antidote to the detraction of Johnson.
Place before your eyes such a man as Montesquieu. Think of a genius not born in every country, or every time; a man gifted by nature with a penetrating aquiline eye; with a judgment prepared with the most extensive erudition; with an herculean robustness of mind, and nerves not to be broken with labour; a man who could spend twenty years in one pursuit. Think of a man, like the universal patriarch of Milton (who had drawn up before him in his prophetic vision, the whole series of the generations which were to issue from his loins), a man capable of placing in review, after having brought together, from the east, the west, the north, and the south, from the coarseness of the rudest barbarism, to the most refined and subtle civilization, all the schemes of government which had ever prevailed amongst mankind, weighing, measuring, collating, and comparing them all, joining fact with theory, and calling into council, upon all this infinite assemblage of things, all the speculations which have fatigued the understandings of profound reasoners in all times! Let us then consider that all these were but so many preparatory steps to qualify a man, and such a man, tinctured with no national prejudice, with no domestic affection to admire, and to hold out to the admiration of mankind the constitution of England.—Appeal from the Nero to the Old Institutes, at the end.
It is to be feared, that the diploma of Doctor of Laws, which was sent to Johnson in the same year (1775), at the recommendation of Lord North, at that time Chancellor of the University, and Prime Minister, was in some measure intended to be the reward of his obsequiousness. In this instrument, he is called, with an hyperbole of praise which the University would perhaps now he more cautious of applying to any individual, "In Literarum Republica Princeps jam et Primarius."
He had long meditated a visit to Scotland, in the company of Boswell, and was, at length (in 1773), prevailed on to set out. Where he went, and what he saw and heard, is sufficiently known by the relation which he gave the world next year, in his Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland, and in his letters to Mrs. Thrale. It cannot be said of him, as he has said of Gray, that whoever reads his narrative wishes that to travel and to tell his travels had been more of his employment. He seems to have proceeded on his way, with the view of finding something at every turn, on which to exercise his powers of argument or of raillery. His mind is scarcely ever passive to the objects it encounters, but shapes them to his own moods. After we lay down his book, little impression is left of the places through which he has passed, and a strong one of his own character. With his fellow-traveller, though kindness sometimes made him over-officious, he was so well pleased, as to project a voyage up the Baltic, and a visit to the northern countries of Europe, in his society. He had before indulged himself with a visionary scheme of sailing to Iceland, with his friend Bathurst. In 1774, he went with the Thrales to the extremity of North Wales. A few trifling memoranda of this journey, which were found among his papers, have been lately published; but, as he wrote to Boswell, he found the country so little different from England, that it offered nothing to the speculation of a traveller. Such was his apathy in a land
Where each old poetic mountain Inspiration breathes around, Every shade and hallow'd fountain Murmurs deep a solemn sound.
In the following year (1775) he made his usual visit to the midland counties, and accompanied the Thrales in a Tour to Paris, from whence they returned by way of Rouen. This was the only time he was on the Continent. It is to be regretted that he left only some imperfect notes of his Journey; for there could scarcely have failed to be something that would have gratified our curiosity in his observations on the manners of a foreign country. We find him in the next year (1776) removing from Johnson's Court, No. 7, to Bolt Court, Fleet-street, No. 8; from whence at different times he made excursions to Lichfield and Ashbourne; to Bath with the Thrales; and, in the autumn, to Brighthelmstone, where Mr. Thrale had a house. This gentleman had, for some time, fed his expectations with the prospect of a journey to Italy. "A man," said Johnson, "who has not been in Italy, is always conscious of an inferiority, from his not having seen what it is expected a man should see. The grand object of travelling is to see the shores of the Mediterranean. All our religion, almost all our law, almost all our arts, almost all that sets us above savages, has come to us from the shores of the Mediterranean." Much as he had set his heart on this journey, and magnificent as his conceptions were of the promised land, he was employed with more advantage to his own country at home; for, at the solicitation of the booksellers, he now (1777) undertook to write the Lives of the English Poets. The judicious selection of the facts which he relates, the vivacity of the narrative, the profoundness of the observations, and the terseness of the style, render this the most entertaining, as it is, perhaps, the most instructive of his works. His criticisms, indeed, often betray either the want of a natural perception for the higher beauties of poetry, or a taste unimproved by the diligent study of the most perfect models; yet they are always acute, lucid, and original. That his judgment is often warped by a political bias can scarcely be doubted; but there is no good reason to suspect that it is ever perverted by malevolence or envy. The booksellers left it to him to name his price, which he modestly fixed at 200 guineas; though, as Mr. Malone says, 1000 or 1500 would have been readily given if he had asked it. As he proceeded, the work grew on his hands. In 1781 it was completed; and another 100l. was voluntarily added to the sum which had been at first agreed on. In the third edition, which was called for in 1783, he made several alterations and additions; of which, to shew the unreasonableness of murmurs respecting improved editions, it is related in the Biographical Dictionary , on the information of Mr. Nichols, that though they were printed separately, and offered gratis to the purchasers of the former editions, scarcely a single copy was demanded.
This was the last of his literary labours; nor do we hear of his writing any thing for the press in the meanwhile, except such slight compositions as a prologue for a comedy by Mr. Hugh Kelly, and a dedication to the King of the Posthumous Works of Pearce, Bishop of Rochester.
His body was weighed down with disease, and his mind clouded with apprehensions of death. He sought for respite from these sufferings in the usual means—in short visits to his native place, or to Brighthelmstone, and in the establishment of new clubs. In 1781, another of these societies was, by his desire, formed in the city. It was to meet at the Queen's Arms, in St. Paul's Churchyard; and his wish was, that no patriot should be admitted. He now returned to the use of wine, which, when he did take it, he swallowed greedily.
About this time Mr. Thrale died, leaving Johnson one of his executors, with a legacy of 200l. The death of Levett, in the same year, and of Miss Williams, in 1783, left him yet more lonely. A few months before the last of these deprivations befel him, he had a warning of his own dissolution, which he could not easily mistake. The night of the 16th of June, on which day he had been sitting for his picture, he perceived himself, soon after going to bed, to be seized with a sudden confusion and indistinctness in his head, which seemed to him to last about half a minute. His first fear was lest his intellect should be affected. Of this he made experiment, by turning into Latin verse a short prayer, which he had breathed out for the averting of that calamity. The lines were not good, but he knew that they were not so, and concluded his faculties to be unimpaired. Soon after he was conscious of having suffered a paralytic stroke, which had taken away his speech. "I had no pain," he observed afterwards, "and so little dejection in this dreadful state, that I wondered at my own apathy, and considered, that perhaps death itself, when it should come, would excite less horror than seems now to attend it." In hopes of stimulating the vocal organs, he swallowed two drams, and agitated his body into violent motion, but it was to no purpose; whereupon he returned to his bed, and, as he thought, fell asleep. In the morning, finding that he had the use of his hand, he was in the act of writing a note to his servant, when the man entered. He then wrote a card to his friend and neighbour, Mr. Allen, the printer, but not without difficulty, his hand sometimes, he knew not why, making a different letter from that which he intended; his next care was to acquaint Dr. Taylor, his old schoolfellow, and now a prebendary of Westminster, with his condition, and to desire he would come and bring Dr. Heberden with him. At the same time, he sent in for Dr. Brocklesby, who was his near neighbour. The next day his speech was restored, and he perceived no deterioration, either in his memory or understanding. In the following month he was well enough to pass a week at Rochester, with Mr. Langton, and to appear again at the Literary Club; and at the end of August, to make a visit to Mr. Bowles, at Heale, near Salisbury, where he continued about three weeks.
On his return to London, he was confined to the house by a fit of the gout, a disorder which had once attacked him, but with less violence, ten years before, and to which he was now reconciled, by being taught to consider it as an antagonist to the palsy. To this was added, a sarcocele, which, as it threatened to render excision necessary, caused him more uneasiness, though he looked forward to the operation with sufficient courage; but the complaint subsided of itself.
When he was able to go about again, that society might be insured to him at least three days in the week, another club was founded at the Essex Head, in Essex street, where an old servant of Mr. Thrale's was the landlord. "Its principles (he said) were to be laid in frequency and frugality; and he drew up a set of rules, which he prefaced with two lines from a Sonnet of Milton.
To-day resolve deep thoughts with me to drench, In mirth that after no repenting draws."
The number was limited to twenty-four. Each member present engaged himself to spend at least sixpence; and, to pay a forfeit of three-pence if he did not attend. But even here, in the club-room, after his sixpence was duly laid down, and the arm chair taken, there was no security for him against the intrusion of those maladies which had so often assailed him. On the first night of meeting (13th of December, 1783) he was seized with a spasmodic asthma, and hardly made his way home to his own house, where the dropsy combined with asthma to hold him a prisoner for more than four months. An occurrence during his illness, which he mentioned to Boswell, deserves notice, from the insight which it gives into his peculiar frame of mind. "He had shut himself up, and employed a day in particular exercises of religion—fasting, humiliation, and prayer. On a sudden, he obtained extraordinary relief, for which he looked up to heaven with grateful devotion. He made no direct inference from the fact; but from his manner of telling it," adds Boswell, "I could perceive that it appeared to him as something more than an incident in the common course of events." Yet at this time, with all his aspirations after a state of greater perfectness, he was not able to bear the candour of Langton, who, when Johnson him desired to tell him sincerely wherein he had observed his life to be faulty, brought him a sheet of paper, on which were written many texts of Scripture, recommendatory of Christian meekness.
At the beginning of June he had sufficiently rallied his strength to set out with Boswell, for Oxford, where he remained about a fortnight, with Dr. Adams, the master of Pembroke, his old college. In his discourse, there was the same alternation of gloominess and gaiety, the same promptness of repartee, and keenness of sarcasm, as there had ever been.
Several of his friends were now anxious that he should escape the rigour of an English winter by repairing to Italy, a measure which his physicians recommended, not very earnestly indeed, and more I think in compliance with his known wishes, than in expectation of much benefit to his health. It was thought requisite, however, that some addition should previously be made to his income, in order to his maintaining an appearance somewhat suitable to the character which he had established throughout Europe by his writings. For this purpose, Boswell addressed an application to the Ministry, through Lord Thurlow, who was then Chancellor. After some accidental delay, and some unsuccessful negotiation on the part of Lord Thurlow, who was well disposed to befriend him, during which time Johnson was again buoyed up with the prospect of visiting Italy, an answer was returned which left him no reason to expect from Government any further assistance than that which he was then receiving in the pension already granted him. This refusal the Chancellor accompanied with a munificent offer of supply out of his own purse, which he endeavoured to convey in such a manner as should least alarm the independent spirit of Johnson. "It would be a reflection on us all, (said Thurlow,) if such a man should perish for want of the means to take care of his health." The abilities of Thurlow had always been held in high estimation by Johnson, who had been heard to say of him, "I would prepare myself for no man in England but Lord Thurlow. When I am to meet with him, I should wish to know a day before." One day, while this scheme was pending, Johnson being at the house of Sir Joshua Reynolds, was overcome by the tenderness of his friends, and by the near view, as he thought, of this long-hoped Italian tour being effected, and exclaimed with much emotion, "God bless you all;" and then, after a short silence, again repeating the words in a form yet more solemn, was no longer able to command his feelings, but hurried away to regain his composure in solitude.
After all these efforts, Johnson was fated to disappointment; and the authors of his disappointment have incurred the sentence denounced on them by the humanity of Thurlow. In this, Dr. Brocklesby, the physician, has no share; for by him a noble offer of L100 a year was made to Johnson during his life.
In the meantime he had paid the summer visit, which had now become almost an annual one to his daughter-in-law, at Lichfield, from whence he made an excursion to Dr. Taylor's, at Ashbourne, and to Chatsworth, still labouring under his asthma, but willing to believe that as Floyer, the celebrated physician of his native city, had been allowed to pant on till near ninety, so he might also yet pant on a little longer. Whilst he was on this journey, he translated an ode of Horace, and composed several prayers. As he passed through Birmingham and Oxford, he once more hailed his old schoolfellow Hector, and his fellow collegian, Adams. It is delightful to see early intimacies thus enduring through all the accidents of life, local attachments unsevered by time, and the old age and childhood of man bound together by these natural charities. The same willow tree which Johnson had known when a boy, was still his favourite, and still flourishing in the meadow, near Lichfield. Hector (whom I can remember several years after, a man of erect form, and grave deportment) still met him with the same, or perhaps more cordiality than in their first days; and the virtues of Adams, which he had seen opening in their early promise, had now grown up to full maturity. To London he returned, only to prove that death was not the terrible thing which he had fancied it. He arrived there on the 15th of November. In little more than a fortnight after, when Dr. Brocklesby (with whom three other eminent physicians, and a chirurgeon, were in the habit of attending him gratuitously) was paying him a morning visit, he said that he had been as a dying man all night, and then with much emphasis repeated the words of Macbeth:
Canst thou not minister to a mind diseased; Pluck from the memory a rooted sorrow; Raze out the written troubles of the brain And, with some sweet oblivious antidote, Cleanse the foul bosom of that perilous stuff Which weighs upon the heart?
To which Brocklesby promptly returned the answer, which is made by the doctor in that play,
—Therein the patient Must minister unto himself.
He now committed to the flames a large mass of papers, among which were two 4to. volumes, containing a particular account of his life, from his earliest recollections.
His few remaining days were occasionally cheered by the presence of such men as have been collected about a death-bed in few ages and countries of the world—Langton, Reynolds, Windham, and Burke. Of these, none was more attentive to him than Mr. Langton, of whom he had been heard to say, I could almost wish "anima mea sit cum Langtono," and whom he now addressed in the tender words of Tibullus,
Te teneam moriens deficiente manu.
At another time, Burke, who was sitting with him in the company of four or five others, expressed his fear that so large a number might be oppressive to him, "No, Sir," said Johnson, "it is not so; and I must be in a wretched state, indeed, when your company would not be a delight to me." Burke's voice trembled, when he replied, "My dear Sir, you have always been too good to me." These were the last words that passed between them. Mr. Windham having settled a pillow for him, he thanked him for his kindness.
This will do (said he,) all that a pillow can do. Of Sir Joshua Reynolds he made three requests, which were readily granted; to forgive him thirty pounds which he had borrowed of him; to read the Bible; and never to use his pencil on a Sunday. The church service was frequently read to him by some clergyman of his acquaintance. On one of these occasions, when Mr. Nichols was present, he cried out to Mr. Hoole, who was reading the Litany, "Louder, my dear Sir, louder, I entreat you, or you pray in vain;" and when the service was done, he turned to a lady who had come to pray with him, and said to her with much earnestness, "I thank you, Madam, very heartily, for your kindness in joining me in this solemn service. Live well, I conjure you, and you will not feel the compunction at the last which I now feel."
He entreated Dr. Brocklesby to dismiss any vain speculative opinions that he might entertain, and to settle his mind on the great truths of Christianity. He then insisted on his writing down the purport of their conversation; and when he had done, made him affix his signature to the paper, and urged him to keep it for the remainder of his life. The following is the account communicated to Boswell by this affectionate physician, who was very free from any suspicion of fanaticism, as indeed is well shewn by Johnson's discourse with him.
"For some time before his death, all his fears were calmed and absorbed by the prevalence of his faith, and his trust in the merits and propitiation of Jesus Christ." "He talked often to me about the necessity of faith in the sacrifice of Jesus, as necessary beyond all good works whatever, for the salvation of mankind." "He pressed me to study Dr. Clarke, and to read his Sermons. I asked him why he pressed Dr. Clarke, an Arian. 'Because (said he) he is fullest on the propitiatory sacrifice.'" This was the more remarkable, because his prejudice against Clarke, on account of the Arianism imputed to him, had formerly been so strong, that he made it a rule not to admit his name into his Dictionary.
He desired Dr. Brocklesby to tell him whether he could recover, charging him to give a direct answer. The Doctor having first asked whether he could bear to hear the whole truth, told him that without a miracle he could not recover. "Then," said Johnson, "I will take no more physic, or even opiates; for I have prayed that I may render up my soul to God unclouded." He not only kept this resolution, but abstained from all food, excepting such as was of the weakest kind. When Mr. Windham pressed him to take something more generous, lest too poor a diet should produce the effects which he dreaded, "I will take any thing," said he, "but inebriating sustenance."
Mr. Strahan, the clergyman, who administered to him the comforts of religion, affirmed that after having been much agitated, he became tranquil, and continued so to the last.
On the eighth and ninth of December, he made his will, by which he bequeathed the chief of his property to Francis Barber, his negro servant. The value of this legacy is estimated by Sir John Hawkins, at near L1500. From this time he languished on till the twelfth. That night his bodily uneasiness increased; his attendants assisted him every hour to raise himself in his bed, and move his legs, which were in much pain; each time he prayed fervently; the only support he took was cyder and water. He said he was prepared, but the time to his dissolution seemed long. At six in the morning he inquired the hour; and, being told, observed that all went on regularly, and that he had but a few hours to live. In two hours after, he ordered his servant to bring him a drawer, out of which he chose one lancet, from amongst some others, and pierced his legs; and then seizing a pair of scissars that lay near him, plunged them into both his calves, no doubt with the hopes of easing them of the water; for he had often reproached his medical attendants with want of courage in not scarifying them more deeply. At ten he dismissed Mr. Windham's servant, who was one of those who had sat up with him, thanking him, and desiring him to bear his remembrance to his master. Afterwards a Miss Morris, the daughter of one of his friends, came into the room to beg his blessing; of which, being informed by his servant Francis, he turned round in his bed, and said to her, "God bless you, my dear." About seven in the evening he expired so quietly, that those about him did not perceive his departure. His body being opened, two of the valves of the aorta were found to be ossified; the air cells of the lungs unusually distended; one of the kidneys consumed, and the liver schirrous. A stone, as large as a common gooseberry, was in the gall-bladder.
On the 20th of December, he was interred in Westminster Abbey, under a blue flagstone, which bears this inscription.
Samuel Johnson, LLD. Obiit XIII. die Decembris, Anno Domini MDCCLXXXIV. Aetatis suae LXXV.
He was attended to his grave by many of his friends, particularly such members of the Literary Club as were then in London; the pall being borne by Burke, Sir Joseph Banks, Windham, Langton, Sir Charles Bunbury, and Colman. Monuments have been erected to his memory, in the cathedrals of Lichfield and St. Paul's. That in the latter consists of his statue, by Bacon, larger than life, with an epitaph from the pen of Dr. Parr.
[Greek: Alpha-Omega] Samueli Johnson Grammatico et Critico Scriptorum Anglicorum litterate perito Poetae luminibus sententiarum Et ponderibus verborum admirabili Magistro virtutis gravissimo Homini optimo et singularis exempli. Qui vixit ann. lxxv. Mens. il. Dieb. xiiiil. Decessit idib. Dec. ann. Christ. clc. lccc. lxxxiiil. Sepult. in AED. Sanct. Petr. Westmonasteriens. xiil. Kal. Januar. Ann. Christ, clc. lccc. lxxxv. Amici et Sodales Litterarii Pecunia Conlata H.M. Faciund. Curaver.
In the hand there is a scroll, with the following inscription:—
[Greek: ENMAKARESSIAPONOANTAXIOS EIAEAMOIBAE.]
Besides the numerous and various works which he executed, he had at different times, formed schemes of a great many more, of which the following catalogue was given by him to Mr. Langton, and by that gentleman presented to his Majesty.
A small Book of Precepts and Directions for Piety; the hint taken from the directions in Morton's exercise.
Philosophy, History, and Literature in general.
History of Criticism, as it relates to judging of authors, from Aristotle to the present age. An account of the rise and improvements of that art: of the different opinions of authors, ancient and modern.
Translation of the History of Herodian.
New Edition of Fairfax's Translation of Tasso, with notes, glossary, &c.
Chaucer, a new edition of him, from manuscripts and old editions, with various readings, conjectures, remarks on his language, and the changes it had undergone from the earliest times to his age, and from his to the present; with notes, explanatory of customs, &c. and references to Boccace, and other authors from whom he has borrowed, with an account of the liberties he has taken in telling the stories; his life, and an exact etymological glossary.
Aristotle's Rhetoric, a translation of it into English.
A Collection of Letters, translated from the modern writers, with some account of the several authors.
Oldham's Poems, with notes, historical and critical.
Roscommon's Poems, with notes.
Lives of the Philosophers, written with a polite air, in such a manner as may divert as well as instruct.
History of the Heathen Mythology, with an explication of the fables, both allegorical and historical; with references to the poets.
History of the State of Venice, in a compendious manner.
Aristotle's Ethics, an English translation of them, with notes.
Geographical Dictionary, from the French.
Hierocles upon Pythagoras, translated into English, perhaps with notes. This is done by Norris.
A Book of Letters, upon all kinds of subjects.
Claudian, a new edition of his works, "cum notis variorum," in the manner of Burman.
Tully's Tusculan Questions, a translation of them.
Tully's De Natura Deorum, a translation of those books.
Benzo's New History of the New World, to be translated.
Machiavel's History of Florence, to be translated.
History of the Revival of Learning in Europe, containing an account of whatever contributed to the restoration of literature; such as controversies, printing, the destruction of the Greek empire, the encouragement of great men, with the lives of the most eminent patrons, and most eminent early professors of all kinds of learning in different countries.
A Body of Chronology, inverse, with historical notes.
A Table of the Spectators, Tatlers, and Guardians, distinguished by figures into six degrees of value, with notes, giving the reasons of preference or degradation.
A Collection of Letters from English Authors, with a preface, giving some account of the writers; with reasons for selection, and criticism upon styles; remarks on each letter, if needful.
A Collection of Proverbs from various languages.—Jan. 6—53.
A Dictionary to the Common Prayer, in imitation of Calmet's Dictionary of the Bible.—March,—52.
A Collection of Stories and Examples, like those of Valerius Maximus.— Jan. 10,—53.
From Elian, a volume of select Stories, perhaps from others.—Jan. 28,— 53.
Collection of Travels, Voyages, Adventures, and Descriptions of Countries.
Dictionary of Ancient History and Mythology.
Treatise on the Study of Polite Literature, containing the history of learning, directions for editions, commentaries, &c.
Maxims, Characters, and Sentiments, after the manner of Bruyere, collected out of ancient authors, particularly the Greek, with Apophthegms.
Classical Miscellanies, select translations from ancient Greek and Latin authors.
Lives of Illustrious Persons, as well of the active as the learned, in imitation of Plutarch.
Judgment of the learned upon English Authors.
Poetical Dictionary of the English Tongue.
Considerations upon the Present State of London.
Collection of Epigrams, with notes and observations.
Observations on the English Language, relating to words, phrases, and modes of speech.
Minutiae Literariae; miscellaneous reflections, criticisms, emendations, notes.
History of the Constitution.
Comparison of Philosophical and Christian Morality, by sentences collected from the moralists and fathers.
Plutarch's Lives, in English, with notes.
Poetry, and Works of Imagination.
Hymn to Ignorance.
The Palace of Sloth, a vision.
Coluthus, to be translated.
Prejudice, a poetical Essay.
The Palace of Nonsense, a vision.
In his last illness, he told Mr. Nichols  that he had thought of translating Thuanus, and when that worthy man (in whom he had begun to place much confidence) suggested to him that he would be better employed in writing a Life of Spenser, by which he might gratify the King, who was known to be fond of that poet, he replied that he would readily do it if he could obtain any new materials.
His stature was unusually high, and his person large and well proportioned, but he was rendered uncouth in his appearance by the scars which his scrophulous disease had impressed upon him, by convulsive motions, and by the slovenliness of his garb. His eyes, of which the sight was very imperfect, were of a light grey colour, yet had withal a wildness and penetration, and at times a fierceness of expression, that could not be encountered without a sensation of fear. He had a strange way of making inarticulate sounds, or of muttering to himself in a voice loud enough to be overheard, what was passing in his thoughts, when in company. Thus, one day, when he was on a visit to Davies the bookseller, whose pretty wife is spoken of by Churchill, he was heard repeating part of the Lord's Prayer, and, on his saying, lead us not into temptation, Davies turned round, and whispered his wife, "You are the occasion of this, my dear."