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Prince of Abyssinia,” that with the profits he might defray the expence of his mother's funeral, and pay some debts which she left.
He told a friend, that he received for the copy 100l. and 251. more when it came to a second edition; that he wrote it in the evenings of one week, sent it to the press in portions as it was written, and had never since read it over.
Hitherto, notwithstanding his various publications, he was poor, and obliged to provide by his labour for the wants of the day; but having been early in 1762 represented to the King as a very learned and good man without any certain provision, his Majesty was pleased to grant him a pension, which Lord Bute, then first minister, assured
was not given for any thing which he was to do, but for what he had already done." A fixed annuity of three hundred pounds a-year, if it diminished his distress, increased his indolence: for as he constantly avowed that he had no other motive for writing than to gain money; as he had now what was abundantly sufficient for all his purposes; as he delighted in conversation, and was visited and admired by the witty, the elegant, and the learned, very little of his time was passed in solitary study. Solitude was indeed his aversion; and that he might avoid it as much as possible, Sir Joshua Reynolds and he, in 1764, instituted a club, which existed long without a name, but was af.. terwards known by the title of the Literary Club. It consisted of some of the most enlightened men of the age who met at the Turk’s Head in Gerard-street,
Soho, one evening every week at seven, and till a late hour enjoyed “the feast of reason and the flow of soul. ”
In 1765, when Johnson was more than usually oppressed with constitutional melancholy, he was fortunately introduced into the family of Mr. Thrale, one of the most eminent brewers in England, and member of parliament for the borough of Southwark : and it is but justice to acknowledge, that to the assistance which Mr. and Mrs. Thrale gave him, to the shelter which their house afforded him for 16 or 17 years, and to the pains which they took to sooth or repress his uneasy fancies, the public is probably indebted for some of the most masterly as well as most popular works which he ever produced. At length, in the october of this year, he gave to the world his edition of Shakespeare, which is chiefly valuable for the preface, where the excellencies and defects of that immortal bard are displayed with such judgement as must please every man whose taste is not regulated by the standard of fashion or national prejudice. In 1767 he was honoured by a private conversation with the King in the library at the Queen's house : and two years afterwards upon the establishment of the Royal Academy of Painting, Sculpture, &c. he was nominated Professor of ancient Literature; an office merely honorary, and conferred on him, as is supposed, at the recommendation of his friend the president.
In the variety of subjects on which he had hitherto exercised his pen, he had forhorn, since the
administration of Sir Robert Walpole, to meddle with the disputes of contending factions; but having seen with indignation the methods which, in the business of Mr. Wilkes, were taken to work upon the populace, he published in 1770 a pamphlet, intitled “The False Alarm,” in which he asserts, and labours to prove by a variety of arguments founded on precedents, that the expulsion of a member of the house of commons is equivalent to exclusion, and that no such calamity as the subversion of the constitution was to be feared from an act warranted by usage, which is the law of parliament. Whatever may be thought of the principles maintained in this publication, it unquestionably contains much wit and much argunient, expressed in the author's best style of composition; and yet it is known to have been written between eight o'clock on Wednesday night and twelve o'clock on the Thursday night, when it was read to Mr. Thrale upon his coming from the house of commons. In 1770 he published another political pamphlet, intitled, “ Thoughts on the late Transactions respecting Falkland's Islands, in which he attacked Junius; and he ever afterwards delighted himself with the thought of having destroyed that able writer whom he certainly surpassed in nervous language and pointed ridicule.
In 1773, he visited with Mr. Boswell some of the most considerable of the Hebrides or Western Islands of Scotland, and published an account of his Journey in a volume which abounds in extensive philosophical views of society, ingenious sentiments, and lively descriptions, but which offended many persons by the violent attack which it made on the authenticity of the poems attributed to Ossian. For the degree of offence that was taken, the book can hardly be thought to contain a sufficient reason : if the antiquity of these poems be yet doubted, it is owing more to the conduct of their editor than to the violence of Johnson. In 1774, the parliament being dissolved, he addressed to the electors of Great Britain a pamphlet, intitled “ The Patriot; ” of which the design was to guard them from imposition, and teach them to distinguish true from false patriotism. In 1775 he published “ Taxation no Tyranny,” in answer to the Resolutions and Address of the American Congress. These
him numerous attacks, all of which he heartily despised; for though it has been supposed that “ Aletter addressed to Dr. Samuel Johnson, occasioned by his Political Publications,” gave him great uneasiness, the contrary is manifest from his having, after the appearance of that letter, collected them into a volume with the title of “ Political Tracts by the author of the Rambler.” In 1765 Trinity College, Dublin, had created him LL. D. by diploma, and he now received the same honour from the University of Oxford; an honour with which, though he did not boast of it, he was highly gratified. In 1777 he was induced, by a case of a very extraordinary nature, to exercise that humanity which in him was obedient to every call. Dr. William Dodd, a clergyman under sentence of death for the
crime of forgery, found means to interest Johnson in his behalf, and procured from him two of the nost energetic compositions of the kind ever seen; the one a petition from himself to the King, the other a like address from his wife to the Queen. These petitions failed of success.
The principal booksellers in London having determined to publish a body of English Poetry, Johnson was prevailed upon to write the Lives of the Poets, and give a character of the works of each. This task he undertook with alacrity, and executed it in such a manner as must convince every competent reader that, as a biographer and a critic, no nation can produce his equal. The work was published in ten small volumes, of which the first four came abroad 1778, and the others in 1781. While the world in general was filled with admiration of the stupendous powers of that man who, at the age of seventy-two, and labouring under a complication of diseases, could produce a work which displays so much genius and so much learning, there were narrow circles in which prejudice and resentment were fostered, and whence attacks of different sorts issued against him. These gave him not the smallest disturbance. When told of the feeble, though shrill, outcry that had been raised, he said_“ Sir, I considered myself as entrusted with a certain portion of truth. I have given niy opinion sincerely : let them show where they think me wrong."
He had hardly begun to reap the laurels gained by this performance when death deprived him of