« AnteriorContinuar »
-Tentanda via est; quâ me quoque possim Tollere humo, victorque virûm volitare per ora.-Virg. On vent'rous wing in quest of praise I go, And leave the gazing multitude below.
THE Johnsonian era was remarkably fertile in ESSAYISTS. At no time before, nor since, have the candidates for periodical honours been so numerous and so successful. The RAMBLER led the way; and before it had been concluded eight months, it got into so extensive a circulation, and told so well, both on the score of profit and celebrity, that its great author was encouraged to fresh exertions, and the ambition of individuals not yet upon the stage of letters was awaked into rivalry or co-operation.
JOHN HAWKES WORTH was among the modest unknown, who had contributed for many years, either anonymously or under some adopted signature, to entertain and instruct the public. His abilities were rather brilliant than profound, but by no means superficial; and few people were better acquainted than he, with the labyrinths of the human heart. In 1744, he had succeeded Dr.Johnson in the office of compiler of the Parliamentary Debates for the Gentleman's Magazine, a situation in which JOHNSON had greatly distinguished Kimself by the eloquence in which he clothed the speeches, and
thereby materially increased the repute and circulation of that Miscellany. While employed upon this Magazine, HAWKESWORTH enriched its columns from time to time with much occasional poetry, under the signature of H. Greville. It is not, however, ascertained that he contributed any prose, out of his own immediate department. Mr. DunCOMBE, who furnishes the list of his poetical pieces, does not mention prose*. But HAWKESWORTH, who appears to have been at once charmed with the manner, and excited by the success, of the RAMBLER, was not any longer satisfied to play a secondary part in literature. Emulous of the fame of those Essays which he had read with so much admiration, and conscious of a congenial taste and kindred talent, he boldly planned and put forth the first number of his ADVENTURER-a paper, worthy in all respects to succeed, and rank with the RAMBLER. Mr. CHALMERS says, that the ADVENTURER was planned by Dr. HAWKESWORTH and Dr. Johnson in conjunction; but Dr. JOHNSON was evidently not associated in
* Mr. Chalmers, on the authority of DUNCOMBE, has favoured us with the following list : ‘In 1746, he wrote in the Gentleman's Magazine, under the name of Greville, the Devil Painter, a Tale; the Chaise Percée, from the French; Epistle to the King of Prussia ; Lines to the Rev. Mr. LAYNG (who was at this time a writer in the Magazine), and to the celebrated WARBURTON, on a Series of Theological Inquiries; a Thought from Marcus Antoninus ; the Smart. In 1747, he contributed the Accident; Ant's Philosophy ; Death of Arachne ; Chamont and Honorius; Origin of Doubt; Life, an Ode; Lines to Hope; Winter, an Ode; the Experiment, a Tale. In 1748, the Midsummer Wish; Solitude; the Two Doves, Fable; Autumn. In 1749, Poverty Insulted; Region allotted to Old Maids; the Nymph at her Toilet; God is Love; Clue's Soliloquy.'-CHALMERS: Preface to ADVENTURER, p. 5,6.
the original scheme, to which he was a subsequent acceder. The author of the papers marked A., about whom we shall speak more particularly, was the only original coadjutor; but HAWKESWORTH had no co-editor, and appears to have relied principally upon his own powers. The first number of the ADVENTURER came out on Tuesday, the 7th of November, 1752; and it was continued, like the RAMBLER, at the rate of two papers a week, till Saturday, March the 9th, 1754.
The hand of Johnson does not appear in the ADVENTURER before the thirty-fourth number, when it had been established nearly four months. From this time he engaged in it with considerable activity, and interested himself warmly for its success. On the 8th of March, 1753, the following letter from JOHNSON to Dr. Joseph WARTON, shews at what period, and under what stipulations, the Corps Littéraire of the ADVENTURER becaine first consolidated.
• DEAR SIR,
I ought to have written to you before now, but I ought to do many things which I do not; nor can I, indeed, claim any merit from this letter; for being desired by the authors and proprietors of the ADVENTURER to look out for another hand, my thoughts necessarily fixed upon you, whose fund of literature will enable you to assist them, with very little interruption of your studies. They desire you to engage to furnish one paper a month, at two guineas a paper, which you may very readily perform. We have considered that a paper should consist of pieces of imagination, pictures of life,