« ZurückWeiter »
can repeat Hamlet's soliloquy, 'To be, or not to be,' as Garrick does it?" JOHNSON. " Any body may. Jemmy, there (a boy about eight years old, who was in the room), will do as well in a week." BOSWELL. "No, no, Sir: and as a proof of the merit of great acting, and of the value which mankind set upon it, Garrick has got a hundred thousand pounds." JOHNSON. "Is getting a hundred thousand pounds a proof of excellence ? That has been done by a scoundrel commissary."
This was most fallacious reasoning. I was sure, for once, that I had the best side of the argument. I boldly maintained the just distinction between a tragedian and a mere theatrical droll; between those who rouse our terror and pity, and those who only make us laugh. "If," said I, "Betterton and Foote were to walk into this room, you would respect Betterton much more than Foote." JOHNSON. "If Betterton were to walk into this room with Foote, Foote would soon drive him out of it. Foote, Sir, quatenùs Foote, has powers superior to them all.” (1)
(1) The fact was, that Johnson could not see the passions as they rose and chased one another in the varied features of the expressive face of Garrick. Mr. Murphy remembered being in conversation with Johnson near the side of the scenes, during the tragedy of king Lear: when Garrick came off the stage, he said, "You two talk so loud, you destroy all my feelings.""Prithee," replied Johnson, "do not talk of feelings; Punch has no feelings." .C.
NOTE ON CIBBER'S "LIVES OF THE POETS."
Dr. [See antè, p. 149.]
IN the Monthly Review for May, 1792, there is such a correction of the above passage as I should think myself very culpable not to subjoin. "This account is very inaccurate. The following statement of facts we know to be true, in every material circumstance :-Shiels was the principal collector and digester of the materials for the work; but, as he was very raw in authorship, an indifferent writer in prose, and his language full of Scotticisms [Theoph.], Cibber, who was a clever, lively fellow, and then soliciting employment among the booksellers, was engaged to correct the style and diction of the whole work, then intended to make only four volumes, with power to alter, expunge, or add, as he liked. He was also to supply notes occasionally, especially concerning those dramatic poets with whom he had been chiefly conversant. He also engaged to write several of the Lives; which (as we are told) he accordingly performed. He was farther useful in striking out the jacobitical and tory sentiments, which Shiels had industriously interspersed wherever he could bring them in; and as the success of the work appeared, after all, very doubtful, he was content with twenty-one pounds for his labour, besides a few sets of the books to disperse among his friends. Shiels had nearly seventy pounds, beside the advantage of many of the best Lives
in the work being communicated by friends to the undertaking; and for which Mr. Shiels had the same consideration as for the rest, being paid by the sheet for the whole. He was, however, so angry with his whiggish supervisor (THE., like his father, being a violent stickler for the political principles which prevailed in the reign of George the Second) for so unmercifully mutilating his copy, and scouting his politics, that he wrote Cibber a challenge; but was prevented from sending it by the publisher, who fairly laughed him out of his fury. The proprietors, too, were discontented in the end, on account of Mr. Cibber's unexpected industry; for his corrections and alterations in the proof-sheets were so numerous and considerable, that the printer made for them a grievous addition to his bill; and, in fine, all parties were dissatisfied. On the whole, the work was productive of no profit to the undertakers, who had agreed, in case of success, to make Cibber a present of some addition to the twenty guineas which he had received, and for which his receipt is now in the booksellers' hands. We are farther assured, that he actually obtained an additional sum ; when he, soon after (in the year 1758), unfortunately embarked for Dublin, on an engagement for one of the theatres there; but the ship was cast away, and every person on board perished. There were about sixty passengers, among whom was the Earl of Drogheda, with many other persons of consequence and property.
"As to the alleged design of making the compilement pass for the work of old Mr. Cibber, the charges seem to have been founded on a somewhat uncharitable construction. We are assured that the thought was not harboured by some of the proprietors, who are still living; and we hope that it did not occur to the first designer of the work, who was also the printer of it, and who bore a respectable character.
"We have been induced to enter circumstantially into the foregoing detail of facts relating to the Lives of the Poets, compiled by Messrs. Cibber and Shiels, from a sincere regard to that sacred principle of truth, to which Dr. Johnson so rigidly adhered, according to the best of his knowledge; and
which, we believe, no consideration would have prevailed on him to violate. In regard to the matter, which we now dismiss, he had, no doubt, been misled by partial and wrong information: Shiels was the doctor's amanuensis; he had quarrelled with Cibber; it is natural to suppose that he told his story in his own way; and it is certain that he was not 'a very sturdy moralist.'”
This explanation appears to me satisfactory. It is, however, to be observed, that the story told by Johnson does not rest solely upon my record of his conversation; for he himself has published it in his Life of Hammond, where he says, "the manuscript of Shiels is now in my possession." Very probably he had trusted to Shiels's word, and never looked at it so as to compare it with "The Lives of the Poets," as published under Mr. Cibber's name. What became of that manuscript I know not. I should have liked much to examine it. I suppose it was thrown into the fire in that impetuous combustion of papers, which Johnson I think rashly executed when moribundus. BOSWELL. (1)
(1) With more immediate reference to the statement in the text (p. 149.), I must observe, that, notwithstanding the weight which must be given to Dr. Johnson's repeated assertions on a subject in which he alleged that he had indisputable evidence in his own possession, yet there are some circumstances which seem at variance with his statements. It is true that the title-page of the first volume says, " compiled by Mr. Cibber," but all the other volumes have" compiled by Mr. Cibber and other hands;" so that Johnson was certainly mistaken in representing that Cibber was held out as the sole author. In the third vol., p. 156, the life of Betterton, the actor, is announced as "written by R. S.," no doubt Robert Shiels, and to it is appended the following note:." As Mr. Theophilus Cibber is publishing (in another work) the Lives and Character of eminent Actors,' he leaves to other gentlemen concerned in this work the account of some players, who could not be omitted herein as poets." A similar notice accompanies the Life of Booth, vol. iv. p. 178.; and again, in a note on the "Life of Thomson," vol. v. p. 211., Theophilus Cibber, in his own name, states, that he read the tragedy of Agamemnon to the theatrical synod with so much applause, that he was selected to play the part of Melisander. These circumstances prove that" a Cibber" had some share in the work;- that there was no intention to conceal that it was Theophilus; and that Robert Shiels and others were avowed assistants. Mr. Boswell, in a former passage, (see antè, Vol. I. p. 216.), intimated, that "some choice passages of these lives were
ARGUMENT IN FAVOUR OF MR. JAMES THOMPSON. MINISTER OF DUMFERMLINE.
[See antè, p. 182.]
"Of the censure pronounced from the pulpit, our determination must be formed, as in other cases, by a consideration of the act itself, and the particular circumstances with which it is invested.
"The right of censure and rebuke seems necessarily ap pendant to the pastoral office. He, to whom the care of a congregation is intrusted, is considered as the shepherd of a flock, as the teacher of a school, as the father of a family. As a shepherd tending not his own sheep but those of his master, he is answerable for those that stray, and that lose themselves by straying. But no man can be answerable for losses which he has not power to prevent, or for vagrancy which he has not authority to restrain.
"As a teacher giving instruction for wages, and liable to reproach, if those whom he undertakes to inform make no proficiency, he must have the power of enforcing attendance, of awakening negligence, and repressing contradiction.
"As a father, he possesses the paternal authority of admonition, rebuke, and punishment. He cannot, without reducing his office to an empty name, be hindered from the exercise of
written by Johnson himself." That opinion I thought that Johnson's own assertion sufficiently negatived; but I must admit, on reconsideration, that there is some colour for Mr. Boswell's suspicion; for it appears that Johnson was at one time employed to contribute to that work the lives of, at least, Shakspeare and Dryden (see antè, Vol. II. p. 299., and post, 15th May, 1776); and though he certainly did not write those lives, yet several passages throughout the work are much in his style. That, however, might arise from the imitation of Shiels; but what is most important is, that the plan in which these lives are written is substantially the same as that which Johnson adopted in his own beautiful work. - C.