Imagens das páginas

In 1745 he published a pamphlet entitled, Miscellaneous Observations on the Tragedy of Macbeth, with Remarks on sir T. H.'s (sir Thomas Hanmer's) edition of Shaksspeare.* To which he affixed proposals for a new edition of that poet.

As we do not trace any thing else published by him during the course of this year, we may conjecture that he was occupied entirely with that work. But the little encouragement which was given by the publick to his anonymous proposals for the execution of a task which Warburton was known to have undertaken, probably damped his ardour. His pamphlet, however, was highly esteemed, and was fortunate enough to obtain the approbation even of the supercilious Warburton himself, who, in the preface to his Shakspeare, published two years afterwards, thus mentioned it: "As to all those things which have been published under the titles of Essays, Remarks, Observations, etc. on Shakspeare, if you except some critical notes on Macbeth, given as a specimen of a projected edition, and written, as appears, by a man of parts and genius, the rest are absolutely below a serious notice."

Of this flattering distinction shown to him by Warburton, a very grateful remembrance was ever entertained by Johnson, who said, "He praised me at a time when praise was of value to me."

In 1746 it is probable that he was still employed upon his Shakspeare, which perhaps he laid aside for a time, upon account of the high expectations which were formed of Warburton's edition of that great poet. It is somewhat curious, that his literary career appears to have been almost totally suspended in the years 1745 and 1746, those years which were marked by a civil war in Great Britain, when a rash attempt was made to restore the house of Stuart to the throne. That he had a tenderness for that unfortunate house, is well known; and some may fancifully imagine, that a sympathetick anxiety impeded the exertion of his intellectual powers; but I am inclined to

think, that he was, during this time, sketching the outlines of his great philological work.

None of his letters during those years are extant, so far as I can discover. This is much to be regretted. It might afford some entertainment to see how he then expressed himself to his private friends concerning state affairs. Dr. Adams informs me, that "at this time a favourite object which he had in contemplation was The Life of Alfred; in which, from the warmth with which he spoke about it, he would, I believe, had he been master of his own will, have engaged himself, rather than on any other subject."

In 1747 it is supposed that the Gentleman's Magazine for May was enriched by him with five short poetical pieces, distinguished by three asterisks. The first is a translation, or rather a paraphrase, of a Latin epitaph on sir Thomas Hanmer. Whether the Latin was his, or not, I have never heard; though I should think it probably was, if it be certain that he wrote the English; as to which my only cause of doubt is, that his slighting character of Hanmer as an editor, in his Observations on Macbeth, is very different from that in the epitaph. It may be said, that there is the same contrariety between the character in the Observations, and that in his own Preface to Shakspeare; but a considerable time elapsed, between the one publication and the other, whereas the Observations and the Epitaph came close together. The others are To Misson her giving the author a gold and silk net-work purse of her own weaving; Stella in Mourning; The Winter's Walk; An Ode; and, To Lyce, an elderly lady. I am not positive that all these were his productions"; but as

m In the Universal Visiter, to which Johnson contributed, the mark which is affixed to some pieces unquestionably his, is also found subjoined to others, of which he certainly was not the author. In Malone's opinion, therefore, the mark will not ascertain the poems in question to have been written by him. Some of them were probably the productions of Hawkesworth, who, it is believed, was afflicted with the gout. The verses on a purse were inserted afterwards in Mrs. Williams's Miscellanies, and are, unquestionably, Johnson's.-Ed.

The Winter's Walk has never been controverted to be his, and all of them have the same mark, it is reasonable to conclude that they are all written by the same hand. Yet to the Ode, in which we find a passage very characteristick of him, being a learned description of the gout, Unhappy, whom to beds of pain

Arthritick tyranny consigns;

there is the following note: "The author being ill of the gout:" but Johnson was not attacked with that distemper till a very late period of his life. May not this, however, be a poetical fiction? Why may not a poet suppose himself to have the gout, as well as suppose himself to be in love, of which we have innumerable instances, and which has been admirably ridiculed by Johnson in his Life of Cowley? I have also some difficulty to believe that he could produce such a group of conceits as appear in the verses to Lyce, in which he claims for this ancient personage as good a right to be assimilated to heaven, as nymphs whom other poets have flattered; he therefore ironically ascribes to her the attributes of the sky, in such stanzas as this:

Her teeth the night with darkness dies,
She's starr'd with pimples o'er;
Her tongue like nimble lightning plies,

And can with thunder roar.

But as at a very advanced age he could condescend to trifle in 'namby-pamby' rhymes, to please Mrs. Thrale and her daughter, he may have, in his earlier years, composed such a piece as this.

It is remarkable, that in this first edition of The Winter's Walk, the concluding line is much more Johnsonian than it was afterwards printed; for in subsequent editions, after praying Stella to "snatch him to her arms," he says,

And shield me from the ills of life.

Whereas in the first edition it is

And hide me from the sight of life.

A horrour at life in general is more consonant with Johnson's habitual gloomy cast of thought.



his own.

I have heard him repeat with great energy the following verses, which appeared in the Gentleman's Magazine for April this year; but I have no authority to say they were Indeed one of the best criticks of our age suggests to me, that "the word indifferently being used in the sense of without concern, and being also very unpoetical, renders it improbable that they should have been his composition."

On Lord Lovat's Execution.
Pity'd by gentle minds Kilmarnock died;
The brave, Balmerino, were on thy side;
Radcliffe, unhappy in his crimes of youth,
Steady in what he still mistook for truth,
Beheld his death so decently unmov'd,
The soft lamented, and the brave approv❜d.
But Lovat's fate indifferently we view,
True to no king, to no religion true:
No fair forgets the ruin he has done;
No child laments the tyrant of his son ;
No tory pities, thinking what he was;
No whig compassions, for he left the cause;
The brave regret not, for he was not brave;

The honest mourn not, knowing him a knave"!

This year his old pupil and friend, David Garrick, having become joint patentee and manager of Drury-lane theatre, Johnson honoured his opening of it with a Pro

n These verses are somewhat too severe on the extraordinary person who is the chief figure in them; for he was undoubtedly brave. His pleasantry during his solemn trial (in which, by the way, I have heard Mr. David Hume observe, that we have one of the very few speeches of Mr. Murray, now earl of Mansfield, authentically given) was very remarkable. When asked if he had any questions to put to sir Everard Fawkener, who was one of the strongest witnesses against him, he answered, "I only wish him joy of his young wife." And after sentence of death, in the horrible terms in cases of treason, was pronounced upon him, and he was retiring from the bar, he said, "Fare you well, my lords; we shall not all meet again in one place." He behaved with perfect composure at his execution, and called out, "Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori."-Boswell.

It is reported that this eccentrick man kept his bed for two years, from some whim it is imagined, but on hearing of the prince's landing, he exclaimed, 66 come, lassie, gie me brogues, must up now."-ED.

logue,* which for just and manly dramatick criticism on the whole range of the English stage, as well as for poetical excellence, is unrivalled. Like the celebrated epilogue to the Distressed Mother, it was, during the season, often called for by the audience. The most striking and brilliant passages of it have been so often repeated, and are so well recollected by all the lovers of the drama, and of poetry, that it would be superfluous to point them out. In the Gentleman's Magazine for December this year, he inserted an Ode on Winter, which is, I think, an admirable specimen of his genius for lyrick poetry.

But the year 1747 is distinguished as the epoch when Johnson's arduous and important work, his Dictionary of the English Language, was announced to the world, by the publication of its Plan or prospectus.

How long this immense undertaking had been the object of his contemplation, I do not know. I once asked him by what means he had attained to that astonishing knowledge of our language, by which he was enabled to realize a design of such extent and accumulated difficulty. He told me, "that it was not the effect of particular study; but that it had grown up in his mind insensibly." I have been informed by Mr. James Dodsley, that several years before this period, when Johnson was one day sitting in his brother Robert's shop, he heard his brother suggest to him, that a dictionary of the English language would be a work that would be well received by the publick; that Johnson seemed at first to catch at the proposition; but, after a pause, said, in his abrupt, decisive manner, "I believe I shall not undertake it." That he, however, had bestowed much thought upon the subject, before he published his

• My friend Mr. Courtenay, whose eulogy on Johnson's Latin poetry has been inserted in this work, is no less happy in praising his English poetry. But hark, he sings! the strain even Pope admires;

Indignant virtue her own bard inspires,

Sublime as Juvenal he pours his lays,

And with the Roman shares congenial praise ;-
In glowing numbers now he fires the age,

And Shakspeare's sun relumes the clouded stage.

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