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us not forget that we are subject to the general law of mortality, and shall soon be where our doom will be fixed for ever. I pray God to bless you, and am, Sir, your most affectionate humble servant,
" SAM. JOHNSON, “ Write soon.”
LETTER 84. TO MRS. LUCY PORTER,
“ April 12. 1763. “ MY DEAR, The newspaper has
has informed me of the death of Captain Porter. I know not what to say to you, condolent or consolatory, beyond the common considerations which I suppose you have proposed to others, and know how to apply to yourself. In all afflictions the first relief is to be asked of God.
“I wish to be informed in what condition your brother's death has left your fortune ; if he has bequeathed you competence or plenty, I shall sincerely rejoice ; if you are in any distress or difficulty, I will endeavour to make what I have, or what I can get, sufficient for us both. I am, Madam, yours affectionately,
In 1763 he furnished to “ The Poetical Calendar,”
blished by Fawkes and Woty, a character of Collins *, which he afterwards ingrafted into his entire Life of that admirable poet, in the collection of Lives which he wrote for the body of English poetry, formed and published by the booksellers of London. His account of the melancholy depression with which Collins was severely afflicted, and which brought him to his grave, is, I think, one of the most tender and interesting passages in the whole series
of his writings. He also favoured Mr. Hoole with the Dedication of his translation of Tasso to the Queen *, which is so happily conceived and elegantly 'expressed, that I cannot but point it out to the peculiar notice of my readers.
TO THE QUEEN. “MADAM,—To approach the high and illustrious has been in all ages the privilege of poets; and though translators cannot justly claim the same honour, yet they naturally follow their authors as attendants; and I hope that in return for having enabled Tasso to diffuse his fame through the British dominions, I may be introduced by him to the presence of your Majesty.
“Tasso has a peculiar claim to your Majesty's favour, as follower and panegyrist of the house of Este, which has one common ancestor with the house of Hanover; and in reviewing his life, it is not easy to forbear a wish that he had lived in a happier time, when he might among the descendants of that illustrious family have found a more liberal and potent patronage.
“I cannot but observe, Madam, how unequally reward is proportioned to merit, when I reflect that the happiness which was withheld from Tasso is reserved for me; and that the poem which once hardly procured to its author the countenance of the princes of Ferrara, has attracted to its translator the favourable notice of a
“Had this been the fate of Tasso, he would have been able to have celebrated the condescension of your Majesty in nobler language, but could not have felt it with more ardent gratitude than, Madam, your Majesty's most faithful and devoted servant."
Boswell becomes acquainted with Johnson.-Derrick.
Mr. Thomas Sheridan.- Mrs. Sheridan.-Mr. Tho. mas Davies. Mrs. Davies. - First Interview. His Dress. – Johnson's Chambers in Temple Lane. -- Dr. Blair. - Dr. James Fordyce. — Ossian. — Christopher Smart. - Thomas Johnson, the Equestrian. - Clifton's Eating House. — The Mitre. — Colley Cibber's Odes.-Gray.—Belief in the Appearance of departed Spirits. — Churchill. — Cock-Lane Ghost. — Goldsmith. - Mallet's "Elvira." - Scotch Landlords. — Plan of Study.
This is to me a memorable year ; for in it I had the happiness to obtain the acquaintance of that extraordinary man whose memoirs I am now writing; an acquaintance which I shall ever esteem as one of the most fortunate circumstances in my life. Though then but two and twenty, I had for several years read his works with delight and instruction, and had the highest reverence for their author, which had
grown up in
my fancy into a kind of mysterious veneration, by figuring to myself a state of solemn elevated abstraction, in which I supposed him to live in the immense metropolis of London. Mr. Gentleman (1), a
(1) Francis Gentleman was born in 1728, and educated in Dublin. His father was an officer in the army, and he, at the age of fifteen, obtained a commission in the same regiment;
native of Ireland, who passed some years in Scotland as a player, and as an instructor in the English language, a man whose talents and worth were depressed by misfortunes, had given me a representation of the figure and manner of DICTIONARY Johnson ! as he was then generally called (1); and during my first visit to London, which was for three months in 1760, Mr. Derrick the poet (2), who was Gentleman's friend and countryman, flattered me with hopes that he would introduce me to Johnson, - an honour of which I was very ambitious. But he never found an opportunity; which made me doubt that he had promised to do what was not in his power; till Johnson some years afterwards told me,
“ Derrick, Sir, might very well have introduced you. I had a kindness for Derrick, and am sorry he is dead.”
In the summer of 1761 Mr. Thomas Sheridan (3) was at Edinburgh, and delivered lectures upon the
on the reduction, at the peace of 1748, he lost this profession, and adopted that of the stage, both as an author and an actor; in neither of which did he attain any eminence. He died in December, 1784; having, in the later course of his life, experienced “ all the hardships of a wandering actor, and all the disappointments of a friendless author.” —C.
(1) As great men of antiquity, such as Scipio Africanus, had an epithet added to their names, in consequence of some celebrated action, so my illustrious friend was often called DicTIONARY JOHNSON, from that wonderful achievement of genius and labour, his “Dictionary of the English Language;" the merit of which I contemplate with more and more admiration.- B. - Boswell himself was at one time anxious to be called Corsica Boswell. See post, September, 1769. - C.
(2) [See antè, Vol. I. p. 136.]
(3) [Thomas Sheridan, son of the friend of Swift, and father of Richard Brinsley Sheridan, was born at Quilca, in Ireland, in 1721, and died in 1788.]
English Language and Public Speaking to large and respectable audiences. I was often in his company, and heard him frequently expatiate upon Johnson's extraordinary knowledge, talents, and virtues, repeat his pointed sayings, describe his particularities, and boast of his being his guest sometimes till two or three in the morning. At his house I hoped to have many opportunities of seeing the sage, as Mr. Sheridan obligingly assured me I should not be disappointed.
When I returned to London in the end of 1762, to my surprise and regret I found an irreconcileable difference had taken place between Johnson and Sheridan. A pension of two hundred pounds a year had been given to Sheridan. Johnson, who, as has been already mentioned, thought slightingly of Sheridan's art, upon hearing that he was also pensioned, exclaimed, “What I have they given him a pension? Then it is time for me to give up mine.” Whether this proceeded from a momentary indignation, as if it were an affront to his exalted merit that a player should be rewarded in the same manner with him, or was the sudden effect of a fit of peevishness, it was unluckily said, and, indeed, cannot be justified. Mr. Sheridan's pension was granted to him, not as a player, but as a sufferer in the cause of government, when he was manager of the Theatre Royal in Ireland, when parties ran high in 1753.(1) And it must
(1) Boswell, in his tenderness to the amour propre of Dr. Johnson, cannot bear to admit that Sheridan's literary character had any thing to do with the pension, and no doubt he endeavoured to soften Johnson's resentment by giving, as he does in the above passage, this favour a political colour; but there