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I am very sincerely solicitous for the preservation or curing of Mr. Langton's sight, and am glad that the chirurgeon at Coventry gives him so much hope. Mr. Sharp is of opinion that the tedious maturation of the cataract is a vulgar error (1), and that it may be removed as soon as it is formed. This notion deserves to be considered ; I doubt whether it be universally true ; but if it be true in some cases, and those cases can be distinguished, it may save a long and uncomfortable delay.

Of dear Mrs. Langton you give me no account; which is the less friendly, as you know how highly I think of her, and how much I interest myself in her health. I suppose you told her of my opinion, and likewise suppose it was not followed; however I still believe it to be right.

“Let me hear from you again, wherever you are, or whatever you are doing ; whether you wander or sit still, plant trees or make Rustics (2), play with your sisters or muse alone; and in return I will tell you the success of Sheridan, who at this instant is playing Cato, and has already played Richard twice. He had more company the second than the first night, and will make I believe a good figure in the whole, though his faults seem to be very many; some of natural deficience, and some of laborious affectation. He has, I think, no power of assuming either that dignity or elegance which some men, who have little of either in common life, can exhibit on the stage. His voice when strained is unpleasing, and when low is not always heard. He seems to think too much on the audience, and turns his face too often to the galleries.

(1) Mr. Sharp seems to have once been of a different opinion on this point. See antè, Vol. I. p. 274. n. - C.

(2) Essays with that title, written about this time by Mr. Langton, but not published.

“ However, I wish him well; and among other reasons, because I like his wife. (1) Make haste to write to, dear Sir, your most affectionate servant,

“ SAM. Johnson.” (2) In 1761 Johnson appears to have done little. He was still, no doubt, proceeding in his edition of Shakspeare; but what advances he made in it cannot be ascertained. He certainly was at this time not active; for in his scrupulous examination of himself on Easter eve, he laments, in his too prou: mode of censuring his own conduct, that his life, since the communion of the preceding Easter, had been

dissipated and useless.” (3) He, however, contributed this year the Preface * to “ Rolt's Dic

(1) Mrs. Sheridan was author of “Memoirs of Miss Sydney Biddulph," a novel of great merit, and of some other pieces. — BOSWELL.-Her last work is, perhaps, her best -Nourjahad, an eastern tale: in which a pure morality is inculcated, with a great deal of fancy and considerable force. No wonder that Dr. Johnson should have liked her! Dr. Parr, in a letter to Mr. Moore, published in his Life of R. B. Sheridan (vol. i. p. 11.), thus mentions her:-“I once or twice met his mother, she was quite celestial! both her virtues and her genius were highly esteemed.” This amiable and accomplished woman died at Blois, in September, 1766, as Mr. Moore states, and as is proved by a letter of Mr. Sheridan's, deploring that event, dated in October 1766; though the Biographical Dictionary, and other authorities, placed her death in 1767.-C.

(2) [Sir Frederick Madden has favoured me with the following interesting extract from a letter of Birch to Lord Royston, dated London, October 25. 1760: - “Sam. Johnson is in treaty with certain booksellers to supply three papers a week, in the nature of Essays, like the Rambler, at the unusual rate (if the fact be true), it is said, of three guineas a paper. But I question whether the temptation of even so liberal a reward will awaken him from his natural indolence; for while his Rambler was publishing, which came out but twice a week, the proprietor of it, Cave, told me that copy was seldom sent to the press till late in the night before the day of publication.” — MARKLAND.]

(3) Prayers and Meditations, p. 44.

tionary of Trade and Commerce,” in which he displays such a clear and comprehensive knowledge of the subject, as might lead the reader to think that its author had devoted all his life to it. I asked him, whether he knew much of Rolt, and of his work. “Sir, (said he) I never saw the man, and never read the book. The booksellers wanted a Preface to a Dictionary of Trade and Commerce. I knew very well what such a Dictionary should be, and I wrote a Preface accordingly.” Rolt, who wrote a great deal for the booksellers, was, as Johnson told me, a singular character. Though not in the least acquainted with him, he used to say, “I am just come from Sam. Johnson.” This was a sufficient specimen of his vanity and impudence. But he gave a more eminent proof of it in our sister kingdom, as Dr. Johnson informed me. When Akenside's “ Pleasures of the Imagination” first came out, he did not put his name to the poem. Rolt went over to Dublin, published an edition of it, and put his own name to it. Upon the fame of this he lived for several months, being entertained at the best tables as “the ingenious Mr. Rolt.” (1) His conversation, indeed, did not dis

(1) I have had enquiry made in Ireland as to this story, but do not find it recollected there. I give it on the authority of Dr. Johnson, to which may be added, that of the “ Biographical Dictionary," and " Biographia Dramatica;” in both of which it has stood many years. Mr. Malone observes, that the truth probably is, not that an edition was published with Rolt's name in the title-page, but, that the poem being then anonymous, Rolt acquiesced in its being attributed to him in conversation.-BOSWELL.-In the late edition of Chalmers's Biographical Dictionary, the foregoing story is indeed noticed, but with an observation that it has been completely refuted. Richard Rolt died in March, 1770. — C.

cover much of the fire of a poet; but it was recollected, that both Addison and Thomson were equally dull till excited by wine. Akenside having been informed of this imposition, vindicated his right by publishing the poem with its real author's name. Several instances of such literary fraud have been detected. The Rev. Dr. Campbell, of St. Andrew's, wrote “ An Enquiry into the original of Moral Virtue,” the manuscript of which he sent to Mr. Innes, a clergyman in England, who was his countryman and acquaintance. Innes published it with his own name to it; and before the imposition was discovered, obtained considerable promotion, as a reward of his merit. (1) The celebrated Dr. Hugh Blair, and his cousin Mr. George Bannatine, when students in divinity, wrote a poem, entitled “ The Resurrection,” copies of which were handed about in manuscript. They were, at length, very much surprized to see a pompous edition of it in folio, dedicated to the Princess Dowager of Wales, by a Dr. Douglas, as his own. Some years ago a little novel, entitled “ The Man of Feeling," was assumed by Mr. Eccles, a young Irish clergyman, who was afterwards drowned near Bath. (2) He had been at

(1) I have both the books. Innes was the clergyman who brought Psalmanazar to England, and was an accomplice in his extraordinary fiction.

(2) “Died, the Rev. Mr. Eccles, at Bath. In attempting to save a boy, whom he saw sinking in the Avon, he, together with the youth, were both drowned.” — Gent. Mag. Aug. 15. 1777 And in the magazine for the next month are some verses on this event, with an epitaph, of which the first line is,

« Beneath this stone the Man of Feeling" lies.”C.

the pains to transcribe the whole book, with blottings, interlineations, and corrections, that it might be shown to several people as an original. It was, in truth, the production of Mr. Henry Mackenzie, an attorney in the Exchequer at Edinburgh, who is the author of several other ingenious pieces (1); but the belief with regard to Mr. Eccles became so general, that it was thought necessary for Messieurs Strahan and Cadell to publish an advertisement in the newspapers, contradicting the report, and mentioning that they purchased the copy-right of Mr. Mackenzie. I can conceive this kind of fraud to be very easily practised with successful effrontery. The filiation of a literary performance is difficult of proof; seldom is there any witness present at its birth. A man, either in confidence or by improper means, obtains possession of a copy of it in manuscript, and boldly publishes it as his own. The true author, in many cases, may not be able to make his title clear. Johnson, indeed, from the peculiar features of his literary offspring, might bid defiance to any attempt to appropriate them to others :

“But Shakspeare's magic could not copied be;

Within that circle none durst walk but he!”


“ Inner Temple Lane, Jan. 13. 1761. “DEAREST MADAM,—I ought to have begun the new year with repairing the omissions of the last, and to

(1) (Henry Mackenzie, Esq. died at Edinburgh, Jan, 14. 1831, in his eighty-sixth year. See his Life in Sir Walter Scott's Miscellaneous Prose Works, edition 1834, vol. v.]

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