« ZurückWeiter »
in public, I had exhausted all the art of pleasing which a retired and uncourtly scholar can possess. I had done all that I could; and no man is well pleased to have his all neglected, be it ever so little.
“ Seven years, my lord, have now past, since I waited in your outward rooms, or was repulsed from your door; during which time I have been pushing on my work through difficulties, of which it is useless to complain, and have brought it, at last, to the verge of publication, without one act of assistance (1), one word of encouragement, or one smile of favour. Such treatment I did not expect, for I never had a patron before.
precise and probable ground for Johnson's animosity than Boswell gives, by hinting that Johnson expected some pecuniary assistance from Lord Chesterfield. He
" It does not appear that Lord Chesterfield showed any substantial proofs of approbation to our philologer. A small present Johnson would have disdained, and he was not of a temper to put up with the affront of a disappointment. He revenged himself in a letter to his lordship written with great acrimony. Lord Chesterfield indeed commends and recommends Mr. Johnson's Dictionary in two or three numbers of “The World :' but not words alone please him.'” - Biog. Sketch, p. 7.-C.
(1) The following note is subjoined by Mr. Langton:-“ Dr. Johnson, when he gave me this copy of his letter, desired that I would annex to it his information to me, that whereas it is said in the letter that no assistance has been received,' he did once receive from Lord Chesterfield the sum of ten pounds; but as that was so inconsiderable a sum, he thought the mention of it could not properly find a place in a letter of the kind that this was." — B.
This surely is an unsatisfactory excuse; for the sum, though now so inconsiderable,was one which, many years before, Johnson tells us, that Paul Whitehead, then a fashionable poet, received for a new work: it was as much as Johnson himself had received for the copyright of his best poetical production; and when Dr. Madden, some years after, gave him the same sum for revising a work of his, Johnson said that the Doctor 6
was very generous ; for ten guineas was to me, at that time, a great sum (see post, 1756). When Johnson alleged against Lord Chesterfield such a trifle as the waiting in his anteroom, he ought not to have omitted a pecuniary obligation, however inconsiderable. C.
“ The shepherd in Virgil grew at last acquainted with Love, and found him a native of the rocks.
“ Is not a patron, my lord, one who looks with unconcern on a man struggling for life in the water, and, when he has reached ground, encumbers him with help? The notice which you have been pleased to take of my labours, had it been early, had been kind; but it has been delayed till I am indifferent, and cannot enjoy it ; till I am solitary, and cannot impart it(1); till i am known, and do not want it. I hope it is no very cynical asperity not to confess obligations where no benefit has been received, or to be unwilling that the public should consider me as owing that to a patron, which Providence has enabled me to do for myself.
“Having carried on my work thus far with so little obligation to any favourer of learning, I shall not be disappointed though I should conclude it, if less be possible, with less ; for I have been long wakened from that dream of hope, in which I once boasted myself with so much exultation.
66 My LORD, “ Your lordship's most humble, most obedient seryant,
“ Sam. Johnson.” (?)
(1) In this passage Dr. Johnson evidently alludes to the loss of his wife. We find the same tender recollection recurring to his mind upon innumerable occasions; and, perhaps no man ever more forcibly felt the truth of the sentiment 80 elegantly expressed by my friend Mr. Malone, in his prologue to Mr. Jephson's tragedy of “ Julia : "
“ Vain - wealth, and fame, and fortune's fostering care,
If no fond breast the splendid blessings share;
There, only there, our bliss is found at last." - B. (2) Upon comparing this copy with that which Dr. Johnson dictated to me from recollection, the variations are found to be so slight, that this must be added to the many other proofs which he gave of the wonderful extent and accuracy of his memory. To gratify the curious in composition, I have deposited both the copies in the British Museum, — B.
“ While this was the talk of the town (says Dr. Adams in a letter to me), I happened to visit Dr. Warburton, who, finding that I was acquainted with Johnson, desired me earnestly to carry his compliments to him, and to tell him, that he honoured him for his manly behaviour in rejecting these condescensions of Lord Chesterfield, and for resenting the treatment he had received from him with a proper spirit. Johnson was visibly pleased with this compliment, for he had always a high opinion of Warburton.” () Indeed, the force of mind which appeared in this letter, was congenial with that which Warburton himself amply possessed.
There is a curious minute circumstance which struck me, in comparing the various editions of Johnson's Imitations of Juvenal. In the tenth Satire one of the couplets upon the vanity of wishes even for literary distinction stood thus :
“ Yet think what ills the scholar's life assail,
Toil, envy, want, the garret, and the jail.”
But after experiencing he uneasiness which Lord Chesterfield's fallacious patronage made him feel,
(1) Soon after Edwards's “ Canons of Criticism” came out, Johnson was dining at Tonson the bookseller's, with Hayman the painter and some more company. Hayman related to Sir Joshua Reynolds, that the conversation having turned upon Edwards's book, the gentlemen praised it much, and Johnson allowed its merit. But when they went farther, and appeared to put that author upon a level with Warburton, “ Nay, (said Johnson,) he has given him some smart hits to be sure ; but there is no proportion between the two men; they must not be named together. A fly, sir, may sting a stately horse and make him wince; but one is but an insect, and the other is a horse still.” — B.
he dismissed the word garret from the sad group, and in all the subsequent editions the line stands
“ Toil, envy, want, the Patron, and the jail.”
That Lord Chesterfield must have been mortified by the lofty contempt, and polite, yet keen, satire with which Johnson exhibited him to himself in this letter, it is impossible to doubt. He, however, with that glossy duplicity which was his constant study, affected to be quite unconcerned. Dr. Adams mentioned to Mr. Robert Dodsley that he was sorry Johnson had written his letter to Lord Chesterfield. Dodsley, with the true feelings of trade, said “he was very sorry too; for that he had a property in the Dictionary, to which his lordship’s patronage might have been of consequence.” He then told Dr. Adams, that Lord Chesterfield had shown him the letter. “I should have imagined (replied Dr. Adams) that Lord Chesterfield would have concealed it.” — “ Poh! (said Dodsley), do you think a letter from Johnson could hurt Lord Chesterfield ? Not at all, sir. It lay upon hif table, where any body might see it. He read it to me; said, “This man has great powers,' pointed out the severest passages, and observed how well they were expressed.” This air of indifference, which imposed upon the worthy Dodsley, was certainly nothing but a specimen of that dissimulation which Lord Chesterfield inculcated as one of the most essential lessons for the conduct of life. (1) His lordship endeavcured to justify him
(1) Why? If, as may have been the case, Lord Chesterfield felt that Johnson was unjust towards him, he would not have
self to Dodsley from the charges brought against him by Johnson; but we may judge from the flimsiness of his defence, from his having excused his neglect of Johnson, by saying, that “ he had heard he had changed his lodgings, and did not know where he lived ;” as if there could have been the smallest difficulty to inform himself of that circumstance, by inquiring in the literary circle with which his lordship was well acquainted, and was, indeed, himself, one of its ornaments.
Dr. Adams expostulated with Johnson, and suggested, that his not being admitted when he called on him, was probably not to be imputed to Lord Chesterfield; for his lordship had declared to Dodsley, that “ he would have turned off the best servant he ever had, if he had known that he denied him to a man who would have been always more than welcome;" and in confirmation of this, he insisted on Lord Chesterfield's general affability and easiness of access, especially to literary men. “Sir, (said Johnson) that is not Lord Chesterfield; he is the proudest man this day existing.”—“ No, (said Dr. Adams,) there is one person, at least, as proud; I think, by your own account, you are the prouder man of the two."_“ But mine (replied Johnson instantly) was
been mortified - Il n'y a que la vérité qui blesse. By Mr. Boswell's own confession, it appears that Johnson did not give copies of this letter ; that for many years Boswell had in vain solicited him to do so, and that he, after the lapse of twenty years, did so reluctantly. With all these admissions, how can Mr. Boswell attribute to any thing but conscious rectitude Lord Chesterfield's exposure of a letter which the author was so willing to bury in oblivion ? - C.