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Erat. 72.

Various readings in the Life of TICKELL.
[Longed] long wished to peruse it.
“ At the [accesion] arrival of King George.

« Fiction (unnaturally] unskilfully compounded of Grecian deities and
Gothick fairies.”

Various readings in the Life of A KENSIDE.
“ For Canother] a different purpose.
“ [A furious] an unnecessary and outrageous zeal.

[Something which] what he called and thought liberty.
“ A [favourer of innovation] lover of contradiétion.
« Warburton's [censure] objections.
« His rage [for liberty] of patriotism.
" Mr. Dyson with [a zeal] an arduur of friendship.”

In the Life of Lyttelton, Johnson seems to have been not favourably disposed towards that nobleman. Mrs. Thrale suggests that he was offended by Molly Aston's preference of his Lordship to him”. I can by no means

a very

? Let not my readers smile to think of Johnson's being a candidate for feniale favour; Mr.
Peter Garrick assured me, that he was told by a lady, that in her opinion Johnson was
sedacing man.” Disadvantages of person and manner may be forgotten, where intellectual
pleasure is communicated to a susceptible mind; and that Johnson was capable of feeling the most
delicate and disinterested attachment, appears from the following letter, which is published by
Mrs. Thrale, with some others to the same person, of which the excellence is not so apparent:


January, 1755.
“ THOUGH I am afraid your illness leaves yod little leisure for the reception of
airy civilities, yet I cannot forbear to pay you my congratulations on the new year; and to declare
my wishes that your years to come may be many and happy. In this wish, indeed, I include
myself, who have none but you on whom my heart reposes; yet surely I wish your good, even
though your fituation were such as should permit you to communicate no gratifications to,
deareft, dearest Madam,

“ Your, &c.


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join the censure bestowed by Johnson on his Lordship, whom he calls “ poor 1781. Lyttelton,” for returning thanks to the Critical Reviewers, for having “ kindly Ætat. 77. commended” his “ Dialogues of the Dead.Such“ acknowledgements (says my friend) never can be proper, since they must be paid either for Aattery or for justice.” In my opinion, the most upright man, who has been tried on a false accusation, may, when he is acquitted, make a bow to his jury. And when those who, no matter by what right, are so much the arbiters of literary merit, as in a considerable degree to influence the publick opinion, review an authour's work, placido lumine, when I am afraid mankind in

general are better pleased with severity, he may surely express a grateful sense of their civility.

Various readings in the Life of LYTTELTON.

“ He solaced [himself] bis grief by writing a long poem to her memory.

“ The production rather [of a mind that means well than thinks vigorously] as it seems of leisure than of study, rather effufions than compositions. “ His laft literary (work] production.

[Found the way] undertook to persuade.”

As the introduction to his critical examination of the genius and writings of Young, he did Mr. Herbert Croft, then a Barrister of Lincoln's-inn, now a clergyman, the honour to adopt a Life of Young written by that gentleman, who was the friend of Dr. Young's son, and wished to vindicate him from some very miltaken remarks to his prejudice. Mr. Croft's performance was subjected to the revision of Dr. Johnson, as appears from the following note to Mr. John Nichols :

" This Life of Dr. Young was written by a friend of his son. What is crossed with black is expunged by the authour, what is crossed with red is expunged by me. If you find any thing more that can be well omitted, I shall not be sorry to see it yet

shorter.” It has always appeared to me to have a considerable share of merit, and to display a pretty successful imitation of Johnson's style. When I mentioned this to a very eminent literary character, he opposed me vehemently, exclaiming, “ No, no, it is not a good imitation of Johnson; it has all his pomp without his force; it has all the nodosities of the oak without its strength.” This was an image so happy, that one might have thought he would have Vol. II, Ааа.



Ætat. 72.

been fatisfied with it; but he was not. And setting his mind again to work, he added, with exquisite felicity, “ It has all the contortions of the Sybil, without the inspiration.”

Mr. Croft very properly guards us against supposing that Young was a gloomy man; and mentions, that “ his parish was indebted to the goodhumour of the authour of the Night Thoughts' for an Assembly and a Bowling-Green.” A letter from a noble foreigner is quoted, in which he is said to have been “ very pleasant in conversation.”

Mr. Langton, who frequently visited him, informs me, that there was an air of benevolence in his manner, but that he could obtain from him less information than he had hoped to receive from one who had lived so much in intercourse with the brightest men of what has been called the Augustan age of England; and that he shewed a degree of eager curiosity concerning the common occurrences that were then pasling, which appeared somewhat remarkable in a man of such intellectual stores, of such an advanced age, and who had retired from life with declared disappointment in his expectations.

An instance at once of his pensive turn of mind, and his cheerfulness of temper, appeared in a little story which he himself told to Mr. Langton, when they were walking in his garden: “Here (faid he) I had put a handsome sun-dial, with this inscription, Eheu fugaces! which (speaking with a smile) was fadly verified, for by the next morning my dial had been carried off."

It gives me much pleasure to observe, that however Johnson may have casually talked, yet when he sits, as“ an ardent judge zealous to his trust, giving fentence," upon the excellent works of Young, he allows them the high praile to which they are justly entitled. “ The Universal Pallion (says he) is indeed a very great performance, -his distichs have the weight of folid sentiment, and his points the sharpness of refiftless truth.”

But I was most anxious concerning Johnson's decision upon Thoughts,” which I esteem as a mass of the grandest and richest poetry that human genius has ever produced; and was delighted to find this character of that work : “In his Night Thoughts' he has exhibited a very wide display of original poetry, variegated with deep reflections and striking allusions ; a wilderness of thought, in which the fertility of fancy scatters flowers of every hue and of every odour. This is one of the few poems in which blank verse could not be changed for rhime but with disadvantage.” And afterwards, “ Particular lines are not to be regarded, the power is in the whole, and in



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the whole there is a magnificence like that ascribed to Chinese plantation,
the magnificence of vast extent and endless diversity.”

But there is in this Poem not only all that Johnson so well brings in view,
but a power of the Pathetick beyond almost any example that I have seen,
He who does not feel his nerves shaken, and his heart pierced by many passages
in this extraordinary work, particularly by that most affecting one, which
describes the gradual torment suffered by the contemplation of an object of
affectionate attachment, visibly and certainly decaying into diffolution, must
be of a hard and obftinate frame.

To all the other excellencies of “ Night Thoughts,” let me add the great and peculiar one, that they contain not only the noblest sentiments of virtue, and the immortality of the foul, but the Christian Sacrifice, the Divine Propitiation, with all its interesting circumstances, and confolations to “ a wounded spirit,” solemnly and poetically displayed in such imagery and language, as cannot fail to exalt, animate, and soothe the truly pious. No book whatever can be recommended to young persons, with better hopes of seasoning their minds witli vital religion than Young's “ Night THOUGHTS."

In the Life of Swift, it appears to me that Johnson had a certain degree of prejudice against that extraordinary man, of which I have elsewhere had occasion to speak. Mr. Thomas Sheridan imputed it to a supposed apprehension in Johnson, that Swift had not been sufficiently active in obtaining for him an Irish degree when it was solicited', but of this there was not sufficient evidence; and let me not presume to charge Johnson with injustice, because he did not think so highly of the writings of this authour, as I have done from my youth upwards. Yet that he had an unfavourable bias is evident, were it only from that passage in which he speaks of Swift's practice of saving, as, “firit ridiculous and at last detestable;” and yer after some examination of circumstances, finds himself obliged to own, that “it will perhaps appear that he only liked one mode of expence better than another, and saved merely that he might have something to give.”

One obfervation which Johnson makes in Swife's life should be often
inculcated: “It may be justly supposed, that there was in his conversation
what appears so frequently in his letters, an affectation of familiarity with the
great; an ambition of momentary equality, fought and enjoyed by the neglect
of those ceremonies which custom has established as the barriers between one
order of society and another. This transgression of regularity was by himself
and his admirers termed greatness of soul; but a great mind'disdains to hold

3 See page 67 of Vol. I.
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any thing by courtesy, and therefore never usurps what a lawful claimant may take

away. He that encroaches on another's dignity puts himself in his power; he is either repelled with helpless indignity, or endured by clemency and condescension.

Ætat. 72.

Various readings in the Life of SWIFT. “ Charity may be persuaded to think that it might be written by a man of a peculiar (opinions] chara&ter, without ill intention. “ He did not [disown] deny it.

[To] by whose kindness it is not unlikely that he was [indebted for] advanced to his benefices.

[With] for this purpose he had recourse to Mr. Harley. “ Sharpe, whom he [represents] describes as the harmless tool of others hate.' “ Harley was now because he was (irresolute] doubtful. “ When [readers were not many] we were not yet a nation of readers. “ [Every man who] be that could say he knew him.

Every man of known influence has so many [more] petitions [than] which he [can] cannot grant, that he must necessarily offend more than he [can gratify] gratifies.

• Ecclesiastical (preferments] benefices.
“ Swift (procured] contrived an interview.

[As a writer] In his works he has given very different specimens.
« On all common occasions he habitually [assumes] affets a style of
[fuperiority] arrogance.

By the Comission] neglect of those cereinonies. o That their merits filled the world [and] or that there was no [room for] bope of more.”


I have not confined myself to the order of the “Lives,” in making my few remarks. Indeed a different order is observed in the original publication, and in the collection of Johnson's Works. And should it be objected, that many of my various readings are inconsiderable, those who make the objection will be pleased to consider, that such small particulars are intended for thofe who are nicely critical in composition, to whom they will be an acceptable felection.


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