« PreviousContinue »
there was only forgetfulness in my friend; but I owe this much to the Earl of Marchmont's reputation, who, were there no other memorials, will be immortalised by that line of Pope, in the verses on his Grotto :
“And the bright flame was shot through Marchmont's soul."
Various Readings in the Life of Pope. “ [Somewhat free] sufficiently bold in his criticism. “ All the gay (niceties] varieties of diction. “ Strikes the imagination with far [more] greater force.
“It is (probably] certainly the noblest version of poetry which the world has ever seen.
“Every sheet enabled him to write the next with (less trouble] more facility.
“No man sympathises with [vanity depressed] the sorrows of vanity.
“ It had been [criminal] less easily excused.
“When he (threatened to lay down] talked of laying down his pen.
“ Society (is so named emphatically in opposition to] politically regulated, is a state contradistinguished from a state of nature.
“A fictitious life of an [absurd] infatuated scholar.
“His hopes and fears, his joys and sorrows (were like those of other mortals] acted strongly upon his mind.
“ Eager to pursue knowledge and attentive to [accumulate] retain it.
“ A mind [excursive] active, ambitious, and adventurous. “ In its (noblest] widest searches still longing to go forward.
“He wrote in such a manner as might expose him to few [neglects] hazards.
“ The (reasonableness) justice of my determination. “A [favourite] delicious employment of the poets.
“ More terrific and more powerful [beings] phantoms perform on the stormy ocean.
“ The inventor of [those] this petty [beings] nation.
“The (mind) heart naturally loves truth.” correct his statement concerning the family of Thomson, the poet, after it had been shown to be erroneous. -Malone.
In the Life of ADDISON we find an unpleasing account of his having lent Steele a hundred pounds, and “reclaimed his loan by an execution.” In the new edition of the Biographia Britannica, the authenticity of this anecdote is denied. But Mr. Malone has obliged me with the following note concerning it :
“Many persons having doubts concerning this fact, I applied to Dr. Johnson, to learn on what authority he asserted it. He told me, he had it from Savage, who lived in intimacy with Steele, and who mentioned, that Steele told him the story with tears in his eyes. Ben Victor, Dr. Johnson said, likewise informed him of this remarkable transaction, from the relation of Mr. Wilks the comedian, who was also an intimate of Steele's. Some, in defence of Addison, have said, that the act was done with the goodnatured view of rousing Steele, and correcting that profusion which always made him necessitous.' 'If that were the case,' said Johnson, and that he only wanted to alarm Steele, he would afterwards have returned the money to his friend, which it is not pretended that he did.' This too,' he added, "might be retorted by an advocate for Steele, who might allege, that he did not repay the loan intentionally, merely to see whether Addison would be mean and ungenerous enough to make use of legal process to recover it. But of such speculations there is no end; we cannot dive into the hearts of men ; but their actions are open to observation.'
“I then mentioned to him that some people thought that Mr. Addison's character was so pure, that the fact, though true, ought to have been suppressed. He saw no reason for this. If nothing but the bright side of characters should be shown, we should sit clown in despondency, and think it utterly impossible to imitate them in any thing. The sacred writers,' he observed,
related the vicious, as well as the virtuous actions of men ; which had this moral effect, that it kept mankind from despair, into which otherwise they would naturally fall, were they not supported by the recollection that others had offended like themselves, and by penitence and amendment of life had been restored to the favour of Heaven.'
66 E. M.” March 15, 1782. The last paragraph of this note is of great importance;
and I request that my readers may consider it with particular attention. It will be afterwards referred to in this work.
Various Readings in the Life of Addison. “ [But he was our first example.] He was, however, one of our earliest examples of correctness.
“ And (overlook] despise their masters.
“His instructions were such as the [state] character of his , [own time] readers made [necessary] proper.
“ His purpose was to [diffuse] infuse literary curiosity by gentle and unsuspected conveyance [among] into the gay, the idle, and the wealthy.
“ Framed rather for those that (wish] are learning to write. “ Domestic [manners] scenes.”
In his Life of PARNELL, I wonder that Johnson omitted to insert an epitaph which he had long before composed for that amiable man, without ever writing it down, but which he was so good as, at my request, to dictate to me, by which means it has been preserved.
“ Hic requiescit Thomas PARNELL, S. T. P.
“ Qui sacerdos pariter et poeta,
Various Readings in the Life of PARNELL. “ About three years [after] afterwards. “ [Did not much want] was in no great need of improvement.
“ But his prosperity did not last long was clouded with that which took away all his powers of enjoying either profit or pleasure, the death of his wife, whom he is said to have lamented with such sorrow, as hastened his end.] His end, whatever was the cause, was now approaching.
“In the Hermit, the [composition] narrative, as it is less airy, is less pleasing."
In the Life of BLACKMORE, we find that writer's reputation generously cleared by Johnson from the cloud of
prejudice which the malignity of contemporary wits had raised around it. In the spirited exertion of justice, he has been imitated by Sir Joshua Reynolds, in his praise of the architecture of Vanbrugh.
We trace Johnson's own character in his observations on Blackmore's “magnanimity as an author.” “The incessant attacks of his enemies, whether serious or merry, are never discovered to have disturbed his quiet, or to have lessened his confidence in himself.” Johnson, I recollect, once told me, laughing heartily, that he understood it has been said of him, “He appears not to feel; but when he is alone, depend upon it, he suffers sadly.” I am as certain as I can be of any man's real sentiments, that he enjoyed the perpetual shower of little hostile arrows, as evidences of his fame.
Various Readings in the Life of BLACKMORE. “ To [set] engage poetry (on the side] in the cause of virtue. “He likewise [established) enforced the truth of Revelation. “[Kindness] benevolence was ashamed to favour. “ His practice, which was once (very extensive] invidiously great.
“ There is scarcely any distemper of dreadful name [of] which he has not [shown) taught his reader how [it is to be opposed] to oppose.
“ Of this [contemptuous] indecent arrogance. “[He wrote] but produced likewise a work of a different kind. “ At least (written] compiled with integrity.
“Faults which many tongues [were desirous] would have made haste to publish.
“But though he [had not] could not boast of much critical knowledge.
“He [used] waited for no felicities of fancy.
“ Or had ever elated his (mind] riews to that ideal perfection which every [mind] genius born to excel is condemned always to pursue and never to overtake.
“ The [first great] fundamental principle of wisdom and of virtue.
Various Readings in the Life of PHILIPS. “ His dreaded [rival] antagonist Pope. “They [have not often much] are not loaded with thought.
“In his translation from Pindar, he [will not be denied to have reached] found the art of reaching all the obscurity of the Theban bard.”
Parious Readings in the Life of CongREVE. “ Congreve's conversation must surely have been at least equally pleasing with his writings.
“It apparently [requires] presupposes a similar knowledge of many cbaracters.
“Reciprocation of [similes] conceits.
“ Love for Love; a comedy [more drawn from life] of nearer alliance to life.
“ The general character of his miscellanies is, that they show little wit and [no] little virtue.
“ [Perhaps] certainly he had not the fire requisite for the higher species of lyric poetry.”
Various Readings in the Life of TICKELL. “[Longed] long wished to peruse it. “At the [accession] arrival of King George.
“Fiction (unnaturally] unskilfully compounded of Grecian deities and Gothic fairies.”
Various Readings in the Life of AKENSIDE. “For [another] a different purposc. “ [A furious] an unnecessary, and outrageous zeal. “ [Something which] what he called and thought liberty. “[A favourer of innovation] lover of contradiction. “ Warburton's (censure] objections. “His rage [for liberty] of patriotism. “Mr. Dyson with [a zeal] an ardour 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 join
Let not my readers smile to think of Johnson's being a candidate for female favour; Mr. Peter Garrick assured me that he was told by