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with spirit, and in the best manner, with respect to authorship, editorship, engravings, &c. My brother will give you a list of the Poets we mean to give, many of which are within the time of the Act of Queen Anne, which Martin and Bell cannot give, as they have no property in them; the proprietors are almost all the booksellers in London, of consequence.

"I am, dear Sir, ever yours,

"EDWARD DILLY."

I shall afterwards have occasion to consider the extensive and varied range which Johnson took, when he was once led upon ground which he trod with a peculiar delight, having long been intimately acquainted with all the circumstances of it that could interest and please.

66

DR. JOHNSON TO CHARLES O'CONNOR, ESQ.1

"SIR,

May 19th, 1777. "Having had the pleasure of conversing with Dr. Campbell about your character and your literary undertaking, I am resolved to gratify myself by renewing a correspondence which began and ended a great while ago, and ended, I am afraid, by my fault; a fault which, if you have not forgotten it, you must now forgive.

"If I have ever disappointed you, give me leave to tell you, that you have likewise disappointed me. I expected great discoveries in Irish antiquity, and large publications in the Irish language; but the world still remains as it was, doubtful and ignorant. What the Irish language is in itself, and to what languages it has affinity, are very interesting questions, which every man wishes to see resolved that has any philological or histerical curiosity. Dr. Leland begins his history too late: the ages which deserve an exact inquiry are those times (for such they were) when Ireland was the school of the west, the quiet habitation of sanctity and literature. If you could give a history, though imperfect, of the Irish nation, from its conversion to Christianity to the invasion from England, you would amplify knowledge with new views and new objects. Set about it, therefore, if you can: do what you can easily do without anxious exactness. Lay the foundation, and leave the superstructure to posterity.

"I am, Sir, your humble servant,
"SAM. JOHNSON."

Mr. Joseph Cooper Walker, of the Treasury, Dublin, who obligingly communicated to me this and a former letter from Dr. Johnson to the same gentleman (for which see vol. i. chap. ix.), writes to me as follows:-"Perhaps it would gratify you to have some account of Mr. O'Connor. He is an amiable, learned, venerable old gentleman, of an independent fortune, who lives at Belanagar, in the county of Roscommon; he is an admired writer, and Member of the Irish Academy."-The above letter is alluded to in the Preface of the 2d edit. of his "Dissert." p. 3. Mr. O'Connor afterwards died at the age of eighty-two, July 1, 1791. See a well-drawn character of him in "The Gentleman's Magazine" for August, 1791. -BOSWELL.

2 Dr. Thomas Leland was a divine and miscellaneous writer, and the author of a "History of Ireland," in 3 vols. 8vo. He was born and educated in Dublin in 1722, and appointed to the vicarage of Bray in 1768. He died in 1785.--ED.

Early in this year came out, in two volumes quarto, the posthumous works of the learned Dr. Zachary Pearce, Bishop of Rochester; being, "A Commentary, with Notes, on the Four Evangelists and the Acts of the Apostles," with other theological pieces. Johnson had now an opportunity of making a grateful return to that excellent prelate, who, we have seen, was the only person who gave him any assistance in the compilation of his Dictionary. The Bishop had left some account of his life and character, written by himself. To this Johnson made some valuable additions, and furnished to the editor, the Reverend Mr. Derby,2 a Dedication, which I shall here insert, both because it will appear at this time with peculiar propriety, and because it will tend to propagate and increase that "fervour of loyalty," which in me, who boast of the name of TORY, is not only a principle but a passion

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"TO THE KING.

SIR,

"I presume to lay before your Majesty the last labours of a learned Bishop who died in the toils and duties of his calling. He is now beyond the reach of all earthly honours and rewards; and only the hope of inciting others to imitate him, makes it now fit to be remembered that he enjoyed in his life the favour of your Majesty.

"The tumultuary life of Princes seldom permits them to survey the wide extent of national interest without losing sight of private merit; to exhibit qualities which may be imitated by the highest and the humblest of mankind; and to be at once amiable and great.

"Such characters, if now and then they appear in history, are contemplated with admiration. May it be the ambition of all your subjects to make haste with their tribute of reverence; and as posterity may learn from your Majesty how kings should live, may they learn likewise from your people how they should be honoured. I am, may it please your Majesty,

"With the most profound respect,

"Your Majesty's most dutiful and devoted
"Subject and servant."

In the summer he wrote a Prologue, which was spoken before “A Word to the Wise," a comedy by Mr. Hugh Kelly, which had been

3

Bishop Pearce was the son of a distiller in High Holborn, and educated at Westminster School. He became successively the Vicar of St. Martin's-in-the-Fields, Dean of Winchester, Bishop of Bangor, and, in 1756, the Bishop of Rochester. His principal works were critical and erudite editions of Longinus and Cicero. He left, among numerous charitable bequests, 5000l. to the College for Clergymen's Widows, at Brompton. He was born in 1690, and died in 1774.-ED.

2 Mr. Derby was Rector of Southfleet and Longfield, in Kent. He died in 1778.GENTLEMAN'S MAGAZINE.

3 Mr. Hugh Kelly was not only the author of various dramatic pieces, but he was also a poet, a novelist, and an essayist. His "Thespis," a poem in the manner of Churchill's "Rosciad," and his "Louisa Mildmay," a novel, are familiar to most readers. He was born in 1739, near the Lakes of Killarney, and originally apprenticed to a staymaker. He died in 1777.-ED.

brought upon the stage in 1770; but he being a writer for the ministry in one of the newspapers, it fell a sacrifice to popular fury, and, in the playhouse phrase, was damned. By the generosity of Mr. Harris, the proprietor of Covent-garden Theatre, it was now exhibited for one night, for the benefit of the author's widow and children. To conciliate the favour of the audience, was the intention of Johnson's Prologue, which, as it is not long, I shall here insert, as a proof that his poetical talents were in no degree impaired.

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Th' oblivious grave's inviolable shade.
Let one great payment every claim appease,
And him who cannot hurt, allow to please;
To please by scenes, unconscious of offence,
By harmless merriment, or useful sense.

Where aught of bright or fair the piece displays,
Approve it only ;-'tis too late to praise.
If want of skill or want of care appear,
Forbear to hiss ;-the poet cannot hear.
By all, like him, must praise and blame be found,
At last, a fleeting gleam, or empty sound;
Yet then shall calm reflection bless the night,
When liberal pity dignified delight;

When pleasure fired her torch at virtue's flame,
And mirth was bounty with an humbler name."

A circumstance which could not fail to be very pleasing to Johnson, occurred this year. The tragedy of "Sir Thomas Overbury," written by his early companion in London, Richard Savage,' was brought up with alterations, at, Drury-lane Theatre. The Prologue to it was written by Mr. Richard Brinsley Sheridan; in which, after describing vely pathetically the wretchedness of

"Ill fated Savage, at whose birth was giv'n

No parent but the Muse, no friend but Heav'n : "

he introduced an elegant compliment to Johnson on his Dictionary, that

1 This tragedy first appeared in 1723, and the profits thence arising amounted to 2007. It was the means of bringing Savage into public notice.-ED.

wonderful performance which cannot be too often or too highly praised; of which Mr. Harris, in his "Philological Inquiries," justly and liberally observes, "Such is its merit, that our language does not possess a more copious, learned, and valuable work." The concluding lines of this Prologue were these

:

"So pleads the tale that gives to future times
The son's misfortunes and the parent's crimes;
There shall his fame (if own'd to-night) survive,
Fix'd by THE HAND THAT BIDS OUR LANGUAGE LIVE."

Mr. Sheridan here at once did honour to his taste and to his liberality of sentiment, by showing that he was not prejudiced from the unlucky difference which had taken place between his worthy father and Dr. Johnson. I have already mentioned, that Johnson was very desirous of reconciliation with old Mr. Sheridan. It will, therefore, not seem at all surprising that he was zealous in acknowledging the brilliant merit of his son. While it had as yet been displayed only in the drama, Johnson proposed him as a member of THE LITERARY CLUB, observing, that "he who has written the two best comedies of his age is surely a considerable man.' And he had, accordingly, the honour to be elected; for an honour it undoubtedly must be allowed to be, when it is considered of whom that society consists, and that a single black-ball excludes a candidate.

99

66 MR. BOSWELL TO DR. JOHNSON.

"MY DEAR SIR, July 9, 1777. "For the health of my wife and children, I have taken the little countryhouse at which you visited my uncle, Dr. Boswell, who, having lost his wife. is gone to live with his son. We took possession of our villa about a week ago; we have a garden of three quarters of an acre, well stocked with fruit-trees and flowers, and gooseberries and currants, and peas and beans, and cabbages, &c. &c., and my children are quite happy. I now write to you in a little study, from the window of which I see around me a verdant grove, and beyond it the lofty mountain called Arthur's Seat.

"Your last letter, in which you desire me to send you some additional information concerning Thomson, reached me very fortunately just as I was going to Lanark, to put my wife's two nephews, the young Campbells, to school there, under the care of Mr. Thomson, the master of it, whose wife is sister to the author of 'The Seasons.' She is an old woman; but her memory is very good; and she will with pleasure give me for you every particular that you wish to know, and she can tell. Pray then take the trouble to send me such questions as may lead to biographical materials. You say that the Life which

1 Part i. chap. iv.-Mr. James Harris was born at Salisbury, in 1709; in 1774 he was made Secretary and Comptroller to the Queen. His writings display considerable ingenuity and philological erudition. He died in 1780.-ED.

we have of Thomson is scanty. Since I received your Letter I have read his Life, published under the name of Cibber; but, as you told me, really written by a Mr. Shiels: that written by Dr. Murdoch; one prefixed to an edition of 'The Seasons,' published at Edinburgh, which is compounded of both, with the addition of an anecdote of Quin's relieving Thomson from prison; the abridgment of Murdoch's account of him, in 'The Biographia Britannica,' and another abridgment of it in 'The Biographical Dictionary,' enriched with Dr. Joseph Warton's critical panegyric on The Seasons' in his 'Essay on the Genius and Writings of Pope:' from all these it appears to me that we have a pretty full account of this poet. However, you will, I doubt not, show me many blanks, and I shall do what can be done to have them filled up. As Thomson never returned to Scotland (which you will think very wise), his sister can speak from her own knowledge only, as to the early part of his life. She has some letters from him, which may probably give light as to his more advanced progress, if she will let us see them, which I suppose she will. I believe George Lewis Scott and Dr. Armstrong are now his only surviving companions, while he lived in and about London: and they, I dare say, can tell more of him than is yet known. My own notion is, that Thomson was a much coarser man than his friends are willing to acknowledge. His 'Seasons' are indeed full of elegant and pious sentiments: but a rank soil, nay a dunghill, will produce beautiful flowers.

"Your edition 3 of The English Poets,' will be very valuable, on account or the Prefaces and Lives. But I have seen a specimen of an edition of the Poets at the Apollo press, at Edinburgh, which, for excellence in printing and engraving, highly deserves a liberal encouragement.

"Most sincerely do I regret the bad health and bad rest with which you have been afflicted; and I hope you are better. I cannot believe that the prologue, which you generously gave to Mr. Kelly's widow and children the other day, is the effusion of one in sickness and in disquietude: but external circumstances are never sure indications of the state of man. I send you a letter which I wrote to you two years ago at Wilton; and did not send it at the time, for fear of being reproved as indulging too much tenderness; and one written to you at the tomb of Melancthon, which I kept back, lest I should appear at once too superstitious and too enthusiastic. I now imagine that perhaps they may please you.

1 George Lewis Scott, Esq., F.R.S., an amiable and learned man, formerly Sub-Preceptor to his present Majesty, and afterwards appointed a Commissioner of Excise. He died in

1780.-MALONE.

2 Dr. John Armstrong, the celebrated poet and physician, who has produced one of the best didactic poems in our language, entitled, "The Art of Preserving Health." He was born at Castleton, co. Roxburg, in 1709, and died in 1779.-ED.

3 Dr. Johnson was not the editor of this Collection of the English Poets; he merely furnished the biographical prefaces with which it is enriched; as is rightly stated in a subsequent page. He, indeed, from a virtuous motive, recommended the works of four or five poets (whom he has named) to be added to the collection; but he is no otherwise answerable for any which are found there, or any which are omitted. The poems of Goldsmith (whose life I know he intended to write, for I collected some materials for it by his desire) were omitted, in consequence of a petty exclusive interest in some of them, vested in Mr. Carnan, a bookseller.--MALONE.

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