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Blest Indies there, but every grace
On the odoriferous bowers,
June's July's golden crest
I'th' roseals of the perfum'd east,
With the unpregnant sweets,
And all to satisfy the sight
Still hunting pleasures with delight.
(A second piece from the Caxtonic volume in the possession of the Marquis
Havyng grete fuson and plente;
Relevyng his necessitee.
God himself doth saye.
* The omission is an uncertain abbreviation.
Blessid is that man whiche hath any intelligence,
And also for hym that prophite his prayer thus dooth make,
Fere the not, seith Dauid, when man is enhaimod high,
Neithir yit his said glory shall than wit hym Jestende,
Wherfor I averre more precious by rightwisnesse,
I have be yong he saith, now drawen in age take hede,
Art. XVII.' The Ruminator. Containing a series
of moral, sentimental, and critical Essays.
On the Reception originally given to Dr. Johnson's.
The ill-nature of the world amuses itself with the vanity of authors, who seek consolation for present neglect by anticipating the applause of posterity. It is true that this anticipation is often a bubble blown up by the fumes of the writer's brain : but it is equally true that men of the greatest genius, who deserve the highest fame, have frequently no other reward, than the well-founded confidence that Time will do them that justice, which is refused them by their colemporaries.
I am afraid that excellence in many sorts of literary production is rather repulsive to a large portion of readers, as long as they are left to their own unprejudiced judgments. When at length the opinion of the few has prevailed over that of the many, and a reputation has become generally established, the author's works find an universal circulation, because it is fashionable to possess them, and be acquainted with their contents. Of poor Collins, whose Odes could not obtain a vent for one small edition when he first published them himself, impression after impression has been called for since his death, till the number of copies, which in many varied forms are every year taken off at the market, is beyond calculation. Sometimes however men live to reap in their own F 4
time that esteem and praise, which was long with held from them. The booksellers, who very naturally and almost of course appreciate the merits of an author's labours by their vendibility, held Dr. Johnson in his latter years in the highest degree of favour. At that time whatever flowed from his pen met with the most flattering reception. But it was not always so. His RAMBLER, which is almost all essence of thought, unalloyed by those baser ingredients which so commonly add to the quantity without adding to the worth of human compositions, experienced at first a general coldness, discouragement, and even censure and ridicule.
The most decisive proof of this will be the following cotemporary extracts from the Correspondence between Mrs. Elizabeth Carter and Miss Talbot. They form & very curious and instructive piece of literary history.
From Miss Tallot, Oct. 20, 1750. “ The RAMBLER is to me very entertaining. The Letter from Mr. Frolick has a certain strain of humour, and the last from Rhodoclea will, if he makes use of it, give him an excellent opportunity to introduce humourous descriptions of, and reflections on, the London follies and diversions, of which she may be supposed to write him the sentiments of her full beart, sometimes rejoiced, sometimes mortified and disappointed. Then another should write by way of trast, who voluntarily spends hers or his in the country, rationally enjoys it, describes its frosty prospects, land or sea, its Christmas mirth, joy, and hospitality. Mr. JOHNSON would, I fear, be mortified to hear that people know a paper of his own by the same mark of
somewhat a little excessive, a little exaggerated in the expression. In his Schreech-Owl* were so many merchants discouraged, so many ladies killed, matches broke, poets dismayed! The numbers are too large. Two or three--five or six, is enough in all conscience in most cases. 'Tis else like the Jewish way of speaking, who, to express a man's being rich, say he has 8. o ships at sea, and 800 cities on the land."
From Mrs. Carter, March 30, 1752. “ You will think to be sure that I am determined to call
you to an account for all your omissions, when I tell you I was outrageous at your not uttering a sigh of lamentation over the departure of the RAMBLER, nor once mention his farewell paper. For some minutes it put me a good deal out of humour with the world, and more particularly with the great and powerful part of it. To be sure people in a closet are apt to form strange odd ideas, which, as soon as they put their heads out of doors, they find to be utterly inconsistent with that something or other that regulates, or rather confounds, the actions of mankind. In nere speculation it seems mighty absurd that those who govern states, and call themselves politicians, should not eagerly decree laurels and statues, and public support to a genius who contributes all in his power to make them the rulers of reasonable creatures. However, as honours and emoluments are by no means the infallible consequences of such an endeavour, Mr. Johnson is very happy in having proposed to himself that reward to his labours which he is sure not to be disappointed of by the stupidity or ingratitude of mankind.”