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Townson, the venerable rector of Malpas, in Cheshire, of his “Discourses on the Gospels,” together with the following extract of a letter from that excellent person, who is now gone to receive the reward of his labours : “Mr. Boswell is not only very entertaining in his works, but they are so replete with moral and religious sentiments, without an instance, as far as I know, of a contrary tendency, that I cannot help having a great esteem for him; and if you think such a trifle as a copy of the Discourses, ex dono authoris, would be acceptable to him, I should be happy to give him this small testimony of my regard.” Such spontaneous testimonies of approbation from such men, without any personal acquaintance with me, are truly valuable and encouraging
ON CAPTAIN CARLETON'S MEMOIRS."
THESE memoirs were first published in .1728 with this title: “ The Military Memoirs of Captain George Carleton, from the Dutch War, 1672, in which he served, to the conclusion of the Peace of Utrecht, 1713. Illustrating some of the most remarkable transactions both by Sea and Land during the reigns of King Charles and King James II., hitherto unobserved by all the writers of those times. Together with an exact series of the War in Spain; and a particular description of the several places of the Author's residence in many cities, towns, and countries; their customs, manners, &c. Also observations on the genius of the Spaniards (among whom he continued some years a prisoner), their monasteries and nunneries (especially that fine one at Montserat), and on their public diversions; more particularly their famous bull-feasts. London. Printed for E. Symon.” Another edition was published in 1743, with a title almost as copious, purporting also to contain an account of the Earl of Peterborough, and other general officers, admirals, &c. And yet another in Edinburgh in 1808, edited by Walter Scott, with a preface containing a biographical notice of the Earl of Peter
See antè, p. 245.
borough. Scott was ignorant of the existence of the edition in 1728. The original volume is dedicated to Spencer, Lord Wilmington; and in the dedication Carleton represents himself as an old soldier, who had not been one of fortune's favourites. In the Notice to the Reader he is said to have been born at Ewelme, in Oxfordshire, though no date is there given, and to have been descended from an ancient and honourable family. “The Lord Dudley Carleton, who died Secretary of State to King Charles I., was his great-uncle; and in the same reign, his father was envoy at the Court of Madrid, whilst his uncle, Sir Dudley Carleton, was Embassador to the States of Holland, men in those days respected both for their ability and loyalty.” In the opening paragraph of the Memoirs, he tells us that with many others he, being about twenty years of age, volunteered on board the London, commanded by Sir Edward Sprage, Vice-Admiral of the Red, when war was proclaimed with Holland in the year 1672. The young volunteer was consequently born about the year 1652, and at Ewelme, Oxfordshire.
These Memoirs,—are they the work of the alleged author ? Is Captain George Carleton their real author ? or are they one of the numberless fabrications of De Foe? which Lockhart, in a note to his “Life of Scott," vol. ii. p. 172 (first edition, 1837) affirms is the generally accepted opinion. It is clear that Lord Eliot, when he recommended them to Johnson, believed them to be entirely genuine; though it way be remarked he made a strange blunder when he told Johnson, that Carleton was descended of an ancestor who had distinguished himself at the siege of Derry; the siege having occurred in 1689, while Carleton must have been thirty-five years of age in that year. Johnson, after reading them with eager attention, does not seem to have entertained a suspicion of their being a fabrication of De Foe's. Nor does Scott, in his edition of these Memoirs, 1808, though he prefixed to it a preface of some length, utter a doubt as to their genuincness, or a surmise as to De Foe's authorship. Lord Stanhope, in his “ War of Succession," p. 133, speaks distinctly of Carleton as the author of this plain, soldier-like narrative. Mr. J. H. Markland (in “ Notes and Queries," 2nd Series, Vol. VII. p. 10 and foll.) quotes a document supplied to him by Lord Stanhope from the family papers of General Stanhope, which, Mr. Markland thinks, establishes the identity of Captain Carleton. Among a list of English officers taken prisoners at Denia, 1708, there is this item,-"Of the traine of Artillery, Capt. Carltone" (sic). It is in Wilson's “ Life of De Foe,'' that these Memoirs were first distinctly claimed for De Foe by the author :-“ Among the productions of the year 1728, was a fictitious narrative of an English officer; which, as far as appears, has never been claimed by any writer, but has generally passed for the production of the person to whom it relates. The work, however, belongs to the same class of writing, as the “Memoirs of a Cavalier,' and it has some passages which bear a strong resemblance to the other works of the same writer. It is, therefore, probable that De Foe has the best title to the authorship : and as such it deserves a conspicuous place among his other writings.” “The Memoirs of Captain George Carleton" have, indeed, all the air of verisimilitude so conspicuous in the fictitious narratives of De Foe,-it is inferred, therefore, that they should be attributed to him. But, on the other hand, if there were a Captain George Carleton, and he wrote what he saw and experienced in a plain, soldierlike manner, his Memoirs would bear the same impress of verisimilitude. It is, therefore, a mere argument in a circle to attribute them to De Foe, unless this attribution be sustained by external evidence-which does not seem to be the case in this instance. We apprehend, then, that Captain George Carleton was a veritable person, and that these Memoirs should be regarded as the product of his own pen.—Editor.
JUSTIFICATION OF DR. STRAHAN.?
GEORGE STRAHAN was the second of the three sons of William Strahan, the eminent printer and friend of Johnson. The eldest son, William, died April, 1781, sincerely lamented by Johnson (see antè, p. 55), while Andrew, the third son, succeeded his father as King's Printer, and sat for many years in the House of Commons. Johnson had not a more sincere friend than William
1 Published in 3 vols. 8vo, 1830. Vol. ii. p. 589.
See antè, p. 287.
Strahan the printer. It was he who, confident of Johnson's latent oratorical powers, endeavoured to get bim a seat in the House of Commons. (See vol. ii. pp. 134-5.) To him Johnson's pension appears to have been paid, and from time to time he acted as Johnson's banker.
George, the second son, seems from his boyhood upward to have excited special interest in Johnson's mind. Several letters from Johnson to him at school and college, full of wise counsel and affectionate advice, are printed in the Appendices to the first and second volumes. George Strahan was educated at University College, Oxford, where he was contemporary with two celebrated brothers, Lord Stowell and Lord Eldon, and through his long life enjoyed their intimate friendship. He took the degree of M.A. in April, 1771, and that of D.D. as Grand Compounder, June, 1807. He was Prebendary of Rochester, Rector of Kingsdown, Kent, Vicar of Islington ; and died at Islington May 18, 1824, in his eighty-first year. To his house there Johnson, in his later years, often went to have the benefit of good air ; and Boswell, when he called on the morning of May 6, 1784, found Johnson about to start in a coach to Strahan's house to enjoy once more the fresh air of Islington. Dr. Strahan was constantly with him during his last illness ; and Boswell adds as a commendation, than he “ had been always one of his great favourites."
The singular medley “ Prayers and Meditations” was published not long after Johnson's death, in the year 1785, by Dr. Strahan. In the autumn of the last year of his life, Johnson was for some days the guest of his old friend the Master of Pembroke. They conversed much on the “ subject of prayer, and the difficulty of this sort of composition,” and it would appear as if Johnson had left Dr. Adams with the understanding that he would in earnest set about the preparation of a manual of prayers.?
For many years of his life, Johnson—as Dr. Strahan says in the Preface to this publication—had observed certain days with great solemnity; and bad composed many prayers, and recorded many of his meditations; without any view, as he assured Dr. Strahan, to their publication. After his return from this visit, we are told by Strahan that he conceived the idea of revising
i See antè, p. 287.
these pious effusions and bequeathing them to the use and benefit of others.
“ Infirmities, however, now growing fast upon him, he at length changed this design, and determined to give the manuscripts, without revision, in charge to me, as I had long shared his intimacies, and was at this time his daily attendant. Accordingly, one morning, on my visiting him by desire at an early hour, he put these papers into my hands, with instructions for committing them to the Press, and with a promise to prepare a sketch of his own life to accompany them. But the performance of this promise also was prevented, partly by his hasty destruction of some private memoirs, which he afterwards lamented, and partly by that incurable sickness which soon ended in his dissolution. That the authenticity of this work may never be called in question the original manuscript will be deposited in the Library of Pembroke College, Oxford.” ?
Such is Strahan's simple, deliberate, and solemn statement, made a few months after Johnson's death, while so many of his friends were living to contradict it if they chose. Dr. Adams, indeed, in the September number of the “ Gentleman's Magazine," 1785, the year after Johnson died, writes to contradict the representation that he (Adams) had counselled the publication of this volume; he says, further, that bad he been consulted about it he would certainly have given his voice against it: and not only the excellent Adams, but others would have dissuaded the publication of such singular and, in many respects, questionable revelations. But that is not the question: it is not whether the publication of these prayers and meditations was well advised, but whether Dr. Strahan as an honest man could have acted otherwise than he did in giving them to the world. We hold that it was not competent to Mr. Croker to question the veracity and honour of Dr. Strahan in carrying out Johnson's solemn charge. “Dr. Strahan's conduct in this whole affair seems to me”—Mr. Croker :—“to have been disingenuous, and even culpable in the highest degree.” These, we apprehend, are harsh and unjustifiable words, which come strangely and indefensibly from an editor who foisted into Boswell's text passages, sometimes filling a whole column, from this culpable publication. Strahan's candour is evinced in his presenting the manuscripts of the Prayers and Meditations to the
Preface to Prayers and Meditations, p. iv. ? Ibid., pp. v, vi. 8 Note, p. 792, Lond. 1847.