« ZurückWeiter »
the whole of his stock. This, most probably, was Irene; but, if then finished, it was doomed to wait for a more happy period. It was offered to Fleetwood, and rejected. Johnson looked round him for employment. Having, while he remained in the country, corresponded with Cave under a feigned name, he now thought it time to make himfelf known to a man whom he considered as a patron of literature. Cave had announced, by public advertisement, a prize of fifty pounds for the best Poem on Life, Death, Judgement, Heaven, and Hell ; and this circumstance diffused an idea of his liberality. Johnfon became connected with himn in business, and in a close and intimate acquaintance. Of Cave's character it is unnecessary to say any thing in this place, as Johnson was afterwards the biographer of his first and most useful patron. To be engaged in the translation of some important book was still the object which Johnson had in view. For this purpose he proposed to give the Hiftory of the Council of Trent, with copious notes then lately added to a French edition. Twelve sheets of this work were printed, for which Johnson received forty
nine pounds, as appears by his receipt in the possession of Mr. Nichols, the compiler of that entertaining and useful work, the Gentleman's Magazine. Johnson's translation was never completed; a like design was offered to the publick, under the patronage of Dr. Zachary Pearce; and by that conten-, tion both attempts were frustrated. Johnson had been commended by Pope for the translation of the Messiah into Latin verse ; but he knew no approach to so eminent a man. With one, however, who was connected with Pope, he became acquainted at St. John's Gate; and that person was no other than the well-known Richard Savage, whose life was afterwards written by Johnson with great elegance, and a depth of moral reflection. Savage was a man of considerable talents. His address, his various accomplishments, and, above all, the peculiarity of his misfortunes, recommended him to Johnfon’s notice. They became united in the clofest intimacy. Both had great parts, and they were equally under the pressure of want. Sympathy joined them in a league of friendship. Johnson has been often heard to relate, that he and Savage walked round Grosve
nor-square till four in the morning ; in the course of their conversation reforming the world, dethroning princes, establishing new forms of government, and giving laws to the several states of Europe, till, fatigued at length with their legislative office, they began to feel the want of refreshment, but could not muster up more than four pence halfpenny. Savage, it is true, had
, many vices; but vice could never strike its roots in a mind like Johnson's, seasoned early with religion, and the principles of moral reetitude. His first prayer was composed in the year 1738. He had not at that time renounced the use of wine; and, no doubt, occasionally enjoyed his friend and his bottle. The love of late hours, which followed him through life, was, perhaps, originally contracted in company with Savage. However that may be, their connection was not of long duration. In the year 1738, Savage was reduced to the last distress. Mr. Pope, in a letter to him, expressed his concern for “ the miserable withdrawing of his pension " after the death of the Queen ;” and gave him hopes that, “ in a short time, he should “ find himself supplied with a competence, Vol. I.
“ without any dependance on those little • creatures, whom we are pleased to call the " Great." The scheme proposed to him was, that he should retire to Swansea in Wales, and receive an allowance of fifty pounds a year, to be raised by subscription ; Pope was to pay twenty pounds. This plan, though finally established, took more than a year before it was carried into execution. In the mean time, the intended retreat of Savage called to Johnson's mind the third fatire of Juvenal, in which that poet takes leave of a friend, who was withdrawing himself from all the vices of Rome. Struck with this idea he wrote that well-known Poem, called London. The first lines manifestly point to Savage.
Though grief and fondness in my breast rebel, " When injur'd Thales bids the town farewell;
Yet still my calmer thoughts his choice com
“I praise the hermit, but regret the friend :
Johnson at that time lodged at Greenwich. He there fixes the scene, and takes leave of
his friend ; who, he says in his Life, parted from him with tears in his
The poem, when finished, was offered to Cave. It hap-. pened, however, that the late Mr. Dodsley was the purchaser at the price of ten guineas. It was published in 1738 ; and Pope, we are told, said, 66 The author, whoever he is, will not be long concealed ;" alluding to the passage in Terence, Ubi, ubi eft, diu celari non poteft. Notwithstanding that prediction, it. does not appear that, besides the copy-money, any advantage accrued to the author of a poem, written with the elegance and energy of Pope. Johnson, in August 1738, went, with all the fame of his poetry, to offer himself a candidate for the mastership of the school at Appleby, in Leicestershire. The statutes of the place required, that the person chosen should be a master of arts. To remove this objection, the late Lord Gower was induced to write to a friend, in order to obtain for Johnson a master's degree in the University of Dublin, by the recommendation of Dr. Swift. The letter was printed in one of the Magazines, and is as follows: