Abbildungen der Seite

« to tow me into harbour.”_Previous
to the publication of the Dictionary, it was thought
of importance that Johnson should obtain the de-
of Master of Arts. It was conferred


him by the university of Oxford on 10th Feb. 1755. At length, in May 1755, in the forty-sixth year of Johnson's age, his Dictionary, with a Grammar and History of the English Language, was published in two volumes folio. Mr Millar, who was principal proprietor of the work, had found many difficulties in urging Johnson forward with the las borious task of compilation. On receiving the last sheet of manuscript, he sent the following acknowledgment : “ Andrew Millar sends his com“pliments to Mr Samuel Johnson, with the mo. ney

for the last sheet of copy of the Dictionary, 46 and thanks God he has done with him.”_To which Johnson returned this good-humoured and brief answer:

6 Samuel Johnson returns his com. “pliments to Mr Andrew Millar, and is very glad

to find, as he does by his note, that Andrew “ Millar has the grace to thank God for any “thing."

Industry is always an advantageous basis on which to rear a fabric of literary fame. All are willing to acknowledge its value, because it is a sort of merit in which few are emulous to excel. The learned received Johnson's Dictionary with unbounded approbation, and readily applauded the labour of an individual who had been able to ac, complish such a task. It was found, on minute inspection, that the author had sometimes relieved his toil by introducing his prejudices and opinions


into the midst of his philological labours. Thus he had given the following definitions in his Dictionary :

Pension. An allowance made to any one without

an equivalent. In England, it is generally understood to mean pay given to a state hireling

for treason to his country. Pensioner.-1. One who is supported by an ala

lowance paid at the will of another, a dependent.

2. A slave of State, hired by a stipend to obey his orders.

" In Britain's Senate he a seat obtains,
“ And one more pensioner St Stephen gains.'

Pope. Oats.-A grain which in England is generally

given to horses, but in Scotland supports the

people. Excise. -A hateful tax levied upon commodities,

and adjudged, not by the common judges of property, but by wretches hired by those to

whom excise is paid. Whig.-The name of a faction, &c.

Johnson, in all probability, inserted such defini, tions in his Dictionary from mere levity, and with, out being aware that at a future period they might rise up in remembrance against him. Men of letters, at a distance from the world, are apt in this way to forget their connection with it, and that the sentiments which they heedlessly express may wound the feelings of individuals, whose regard, at a future period, they might wish to conciliate,

or against whom, at least, they might wish to avoid the suspicion of having entertained any enmity.

Although the Rambler and the Dictionary exalted the reputation of Johnson above all his rivals in literary fame, they produced, for a time, no other beneficial effects. Before the Dictionary was finished, he had spent its stipulated price, and he was still left to struggle for subsistence by future literary efforts; and accordingly he continued to write Dedications, Prologues, or Prefaces, for other authors, or to give assistance to periodical publications, particularly to one, entitled « The

Literary Magazine and Universal Review." He ássisted Hawkesworth in the publication of the “ Adventurer," and wrote sermons for indolent divines. While in this situation, he received der his protection Mrs Anna Williams, a blind lady, the daughter of Mr Zechariah Williams, who had attempted, without success, to gain the prize offered by Parliament for ascertaining the longitude at sea, by an exact theory of the varias tion of the magnetical needle. Notwithstanding this liberality, however, Johnson's circumstances were so narrow, that on the 16th of March, 1756, he addressed the following letter to Mr Richardson, author of Clarissa, &c.


« Sir,

I am obliged tó entreat your assistance. I am now under an arrest for five pounds eighteen shillings. Mr Strahan, from whom I should have received the necessary help in this case, is not at home, and I ain afraid of not finding Mr Millar.

If you will be so good as to send me this sum,

I will very gratefully repay you, and add it to all former obligations. I am, Sir,

“ Your most obedient,
" And most humble servant,

“ SAMUEL JOHNSON. “ Cough-Square, 16th March.”

On the margin of this letter, there is a memorandum in these words : “ March 16, 1756, Sent 6. Six Guineas. Witness, William Richardson." During the same year, Johnson published an abridgement of his Dictionary, in two volumes octavo. In 1757 the Ivy-Lane Club was dissolved by the dispersion of the members. . In the mean while Johnson had formed an intimacy with Bennet Langton, Esq. and the father of that gentleman offered Johnson a living of considerable value in Lincolnshire, on condition that he would take orders. He refused to do so, although this undoubtedly seemed the most rational plan that could be formed for his future life. He appears to have been influenced partly by scrupulous considerations about the laborious nature of the duty of a conscientious clergyman. His other motives are unknown. In the year 1756 he had resumed his proposal for a new edition of Shakespeare. On the 15th of April, 1758, he began his new periodical production, “ The Idler," the last number of which was published April 5, 1760. Upon the profits of the Idler, and the subscriptions obtained for his Shakespeare, he chiefly subsisted during four or five years. In 1759 he published his “Rasselas, Prince of Abyssinia." He received 1001. for the copy, and 251. when it came to a second edition. Having obtained some money in this way, he went to Lichfield to visit his mo. ther, now in her last illness; but did not arrive in time to close her eyes. He defrayed with the price of Rasselas the expences of his own journey and of his mother's funeral, and paid some debts. that she had incurred. He now found it necessary to retrench his expences. Mrs Williams went into lodgings, and he retired to chambers in the Inner TempleLane, where he lived in such poverty, that the late Mr Fitzherbert used to say, that he once paid a morning visit to Johnson, intending to write a letter at his chambers, but, to his surprize, he found an author by profession destitute of pen, ink, and paper,

Thus far Johnson's life had been a scene of perpetual poverty, and his talents had been exerted in a hard and scarcely successful struggle to obtain bread to eat. At length, in the year 1762, that is in the fifty-third year of Johnson's life, at the commencement of the reign of George the Third, his merits stood so high in the estimation of the public, that, without solicitation, a royal pension of 300 1. per annum was offered to him. At this time the Earl of Bute was First Lord of the Treasury. Mr Wedderburne, a Scottish advocate, who had removed to England, and ultimately 'rose to the rank of Lord High Chancellor of England, and was created Lord Loughborough and Earl of Roslin, is supposed to have been the first proposer of the measure. He was authorised by the minister to intimate to Johason the intentions of Government in his favour. These men


« ZurückWeiter »