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« Brimstone and sin are downright out of fashion ; “ FRANCE is quite alter'd
now a thinking nation : No more of penitential tears and groans ! of PHILOSOPHY has crack'd RELIGION's bones.
« As for your Saviour of a wicked world,
In Thomas PAINE the MAGPIE doth appear :
The Sea Shore ; from poems by Dr. Aikin.
And gaze intent on Ocean's varying face.
the distant fleet appear, That, scatt'ring, breaks in varied figures near,
Now, all-illumin'd by the kindling ray,
Account of Books for 1791.
The Life of Samuel Johnson, L L. their builders, to the earth, from
D. comprehending an account of which they sprang. his studies and numerous works, in Among the numerous friends, the chronological order; a series of his admirers, we are tempted to add, epistolary correspondence and con- the idolizers, of Johnson (for the versation with many eminent per- admiration of some, however justly sons; and various original pieces founded, has been carried to lengths of hiscomposition, never beforepub- little short of idolatry), Mr. Boswell lished. Thewhole exhibitinga view is well known, as not the least conof literature and literary men in siderable, in the esteem and confiGreat Britain, for near half a dence of that great and singular century, during which he flourish- character,-the
memorials of which ed; by James Boswell, esq. 4to. he has, at length, presented to us : 2 vols. 1791.
we say at length, because the
mised work has been long exTOTHING can afford a strong. pected.
er proof of the high estimation With regard to the form in which in which the character and writings Mr. Boswell's work is given to the of Dr. Johnson are held by the pub- public, if not altogether new, is lic, than the great attention that has somewhat extraordinary as to the been paid to the various, we might manner in which the author has say numerous, accounts of his life, of written it: but to us the novelty is his opinions, of his writings, and of not unpleasant. Xenophon's Memohis social connexions, which have rabilia of Socrates may, possibly, appeared, since the presence of this have first suggested to Mr. Boswell distinguished luminary of literature the idea of preserving and giving to was withdrawn from us by the com us the Memorabilia of Johnson: but mon destiny of mankind :—but the he professes to have followed a mohand of death could only reach his del of later times: that of Mason, mortal part, which alone was vul. in his Memoirs of Gray. He has, nerable: his fame will survive; and however, by much, the advantage bis works will continue to be re of Mr. Mason, in the quantity, garded as his most splendid monu- variety, and richness of his mament, when stone and brass, when terials. temples and cathedrals, are moul “Indeed," says the biographer, dered away, and are returned, like "I cannot conceive a more perfect
mode of writing any man's life, than Before we proceed to our selecnot only relating all the most im tions, let us attend to Mr. Boswell's portant events of it in their order, general introductory paragraph, rebut interweaving what he privately lative to his opportunities of bewrote, and said, and thought; by coming acquainted with the more which mankind are enabled, as it remarkable incidents of Johnson's were, to see him live, and to "live early years, as well as with those o'er each scene' with him, as he of the subsequent part of his life: actually advanced through the seve “ As I had the honour and hapral stages of his life. Had his other piness of enjoying his friendship friends been as diligent and ardent for upwards of twenty years; as I as I was, he might have been had the scheme of writing his life almost entirely preserved. As it is constantly in view; as he was well I will venture to say, that he will apprized of this circumstance, and be seen, in this work, more com- from time to time obligingly satispletely than any man who has ever fied my inquiries, by communicatyet lived. And he will be seen as ing to me the incidents of his earhe really was; for I profess to write, ly years; as I acquired a facility not his panegyric, which must be in recollecting, and was very assiall praise, but his life; which, great duous in recording his conversaand good as he was, must not be tion, of which the extraordinary supposed to be entirely perfect.” vigour and vivacity constituted one
It is but justice to declare, that of the first features of his characalthough Mr. Boswell fondly in- ter; and as I have spared no pains dulges the feelings of friendship for in obtaining materials concerning the memory of his friend whenever him, from every quarter where I the occasion will permit, he does could discover that they were to not appear in any instance to have be found, and have been favoured been seduced from the strict impar. with the most liberal communicatiality, and love of truth, which the tions by his friends; I fatter myduty of the historian requires. To self that few biographers have enfollow the author in all the domes- tered upon such a work as this, tic privacies and minute details of with more advantages, independent the daily life and conversation of of literary abilities, in which I am not Johnson, which he has here exhi- vain enough to compare myself with bited in such abundant variety, some great names who have gone might gratify our own inclinations, before me in this kind of writing." but would greatly exceed the limits Such opportunities for obtaining we prescribe to ourselves in this biographical materials, relative to department of our volume. We an individual, perhaps never before shall therefore endeavour to extract fell to the lot of any writer ; and from these volumes the outline of greater and more unremitted appliJohnson's life, preserving, as far as cation in the use of them cannot, we it is possible, in a connected series, believe, easily be conceived. We those peculiarities of thought and have, indeed, been astonished at action by which this extraordinary Mr.Boswell's industry and persevecharacter is distinguished.
rance to say nothing of the mu
tiplicity and variety of his own oc. source of information necessary; and casional and pertinent observations, after being taught to read English which are properly interspersed by Dame Oliver, a widow, who kept with the anecdotes, letters, and a school for young children at Litchdetails.
field, and by a master whom he faSamuel Johnson was born at miliarly called Tom Brown, and Litchfield, in Staffordshire, on the who had published a spelling-book, 18th of September, N. S. 1709; and dedicated it To the Universe, he and baptized the same day, as ap- began to learn Latin with Mr. pears by the register of St. Mary's Hawkins, usher or under master of parish, in that city. His father, Litchfield school ; and rose in the Michael Johnson, was a native of course of two years to be under the Derbyshire, of obscure extraction, care of Mr. Hunter, the headmaster. who settled in Litchfield, as a book. Of this master Johnson used to say, seller and stationer. His mother, “He beat us unmercifully, and did Sarah Ford, was descended of an not distinguish between ignorance ancient race of substantial yeoman- and negligence; for he would beat ry, in Warwickshire. They were well a boy equally for not knowing a advanced in years when they mar- thing and for neglecting to know it. ried; and never had more than two He would ask a boy a question; and children, both sons; Samuel, “ who if he did not answer it he would beat lived to be,” says Mr. Boswell," the him, without considering whether illustrious character whose various he had an opportunity of knowing excellence I am to endeavour to re- how to answer it. For instance, he cord,” their first-born ; and Natha- would call up a boy and ask him niel, who died in his twenty-fifth Latin for a candlestick, which the year. Mr. Michael Johnson, al- boy could not expect to be asked. though endowed with a strong and Now, sir, if a boy could answer active mind, was afflicted with a every question, there would be no mixture of that disease the nature of need of a master to teach him." which eludes the most minute in- Mr. Boswell, however, thinks it quiry, though the effects are well necessary, in justice to the memory known to be a weariness of life, an of Mr. Hunter, to mention, that unconcern about those things which though he might err in being too agitate the greater part of mankind, severe, the school of Litchfield was and a general sensation of gloomy very respectable in his time; and wretchedness; and from him his son Johnson himself afterwards attributSamuel inherited “ a vile melan- ed his accurate knowledge of Latin choly,” which, to use his own ex- to his thus enforcing instruction by pression, “ made him mad all his means of the rod; a mode of chase life, or at least not sober.” The tisement of which he, upon all ocfather of Johnson was a pretty good casions, expressed his approbation. Latin scholar, and his mother a wo- " I would rather,” said he, “ have man of distinguished understanding the rod to be the general terror of and great piety; but the early in- all, to make them learn, than tell a stances he exhibited of the strength child, . If you do thus or thus you of his memory and extraordinary will be more esteemed than your parts soon rendered a more extensive brothers or sisters.' The rod proVOL. XXXIII.