Abbildungen der Seite

from your Majesty how Kings should live, may they learn likewise from your people how they should be honoured.

I am,

May it please your Majesty,
With the most profound respect,
Your Majesty's
Most dutiful and devoted,

Subject and servant.

In the summer he wrote a Prologue which was spoken before “ A Word to the Wise," a comedy by Mr. Hugh Kelly, which had been brought upon the stage in 1770; but he being a writer for ministry in one of the news-papers, it fell a sacrifice to popular fury, and, in the play-house phrase was damned. By the generosity of Mr. Harris, the proprietor of Covent-Garden theatre, it was now exhibited for one night, for the benefit of the author's widow and children. To conciliate the favour of the audience was the intention of Johnson's Prologue, which, as it is not long, I shall here insert, as a proof that his poetical talents were in no degree impaired.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

“ This night presents a play, which public rage,
Or right or wrong, once hooted from the stage :
From zeal or malice now no more we dread,
For English vengeance wars not with the dead,
A generous foe regards with pitying eye
Tbe man whom fate has laid where all must lie.
To wit, reviving from its author's dust,
Be kind, ye judges, or at least be just :
Let no renewed hostilities invade
Th’ oblivious grave's inviolable sbade.
Let one great payment every claim appease,
And bim who cannot hurt, allow to please :
To please by scenes, unconscious of offence,
By harmless merriment, or useful sense.
Where aught of bright or fair the piece displays,
Approve it only ;-'tis too late to praise.
If want of skill or want of care appear,
Forbear to hiss ;-the poet cannot hear,
By all, like him, must praise and blame be found,
At last, a fleeting gleam, or empty sound;
Yet then shall calm reflection bless the night,
When liberal pity dignified delight;
When pleasure fir'd her torch at virtue's flame,
And mirth was bounty with an humbler name,”

A circumstance which could not fail to be very pleasing to Johnson, occurred this year. The Tragedy of “Sir Thomas Overbury," written by his early companion in London, Richard Savage, was brought out with alterations at Drury-Lane theatre. The Prologue to it was written by Mr. Richard Brinsley Sheridan; in which, after describing very pathetically the wretchedness of

6 IIl-fated Savage, at wliose birth was giv'n

No parent but the Muse, no friend but Heav'o :"

be introduced an elegant compliment to Johnson on bis Dictionary, that wonderful performance which cannot be too often or too highly praised; of which Mr. Harris, in his “ Philological Enquiries," justly and liberally observes, “ Such is its merit, that our language does not possess a more copious, learned, and valuable work." The concluding lines of this Prologue were these:

“So pleads the tale that gives to future times
The son's misfortunes and ihe parent's crimes;
There shall his fame (if own’d to night) survive,

Mr. Sheridan here at once did honour to his taste and to his liberality of sentiment, by showing that he was vot prejudiced from the unlucky difference which had taken place between bis worthy father and Dr. Jolinson. I have already mentioned, that Johnson was very desirous of reconciliation with old Mr Sheridan. It will, therefore, not seem at all surprising that he was zealous in acknowledging the brilliant merit of his son. While it had as yet been displayed only in the drama, Johnson proposed him as a member of The Literary Club, observing, that “He who has written the two best comedies of his age, is surely a considerable man.” And he had, accordingly, the honour to be elected; for an honour it undoubtedly must be allowed to be, when it is considered of whom that suciety consists, and that a single black ball excludes a candidate.



July 9, 1777 For the health of my wife and children I have taken the little country-house at which you visited my uncle, Dr. Boswell, who, having lost his wife, is gone to live with his son. We took possession of our villa about a week ago; we bave a garden of three-quarters of an acre, well stocked with fruit-trees and flowers, and gooseberries and currants, and pease and beans, and cabbages, &c. &c. and my children are quite happy. I now write to you in a little study, from the window of which I see around me a verdant grove, and beyond it the lofty mountain called Arthur's Seat.

Your last letter, in which you desire me to send you some additional information concerning Thoinson, reached me very fortunately just as I was going to Lanark, to put my wife's two nephews, the young Campbell's, to school there, under the care of Mr. Thomson, the roaster of it,

whose wife is sister to the author of “The Seasons.” She is an old woman; but her memory is very good; and she will with pleasure give me for you every particular that you wish to know, and she can tell. Pray then take the trouble to send me such questions as may lead 10 biographical materials. You say that the Life which we have of Thom. som is scanty. Since I received your letter, I have read his Life, puh. lished under the name of Cibber, but as you told me, really written by & Mr. Shiels, that written by Dr. Murdoch; one prefixed to an edi. tion of the “Seasons," published at Edinburgh, which is compounded of both, with the addition of an anecdote of Quin's relieving Thomson from prison; the abridgement of Murdoch's account of him, in the “ Biographia Britannica," and another abridgement of it in the “ Biographie cal Dictionary," enriched with Dr. Joseph Warton's critical panegyricon the "Seasons" in bis “ Essay on the Genius and Writings of Pope:” from all these it appears to me that we have a pretty full account of this poet. However, you will, I doubt not, shew me many blanks, and I shall do what can be done to have them filled up. As Thomson never returned to Scotland, (which you will think very wise,) his sister can speak from her own knowledge only as to the early part of his life.

She has some letters from him, which may probably give light as to his more advanced progress, if she will let us see them, which I suppose she will. I believe George Lewis Scott and Dr. Armstrong are vow his only surviving companions, while he lived in and about London : and they, I dare say, can tell more of him than is yet known. My owa notion is, that Thom. son was a much coarser man than his friends are willing to acknowledge. His “Seasons” are indeed full of elegant and pious sentiments: but a rank soil, nay a duughill, will produce beautiful flowers.

Your edition of the “ English Poets,” will be very valuable, on accouot of the “Prefaces and Lives.” But I have seen a speciinen of an edition of the Poets at the Apollo press, at Edinburgh, which, for excellence in printing and engraving, highly deserves a liberal encouragement.

Most sincerely do I regret the bad health and bad rest with which you have been afflicted; and I hope you are better. I cannot believe that the prologue which you generously gave to Mr. Kelly's widow and children the other day, is the effusion of one in sickness and in disquietudo: but external circumstances are never sare indications of the state of man. 1 send you a letter which I wrote to you two years ago at Wilton; and did not send it at the time, for fear of being reproved as indulging too much tenderness; and one written to you at the tomb of Melancthon, which I kept back, lest I should appear at once too superstitious and too euthusiastic, I now imagine that perhaps they may please you.

You do not take the least notice of my proposal for our meeting at Carlisle. Though I have meritoriously refrained from visiting London this year, I ask you if it would not be wrong that I should be two years without having the benefit of your conversation, when, if you come down as far as Derbyshire, we may meet at the expence of a few days journeying, and not many pounds. I wish you to see Carlisle, which made me mention that place. But if you have not a desire to coin plete your tour of the English cathedrals, I will take a larger share of the road between this place and Ashbourne. So tell me where you will fix for our passing a few days hy ourselves. Now don't cry foolish fellow,' or idle dog." Chain your humour, and let your kindness play.

You will rejoice to hear that Miss Macleod, of Rasas, is married to Colonel Mure Campbell, an excellent man, with a pretty good estate of his own, and the prospect of having the Earl of Loudoua's fortune and honours. Is not this a noble lot for our fair Hebridean? How happy am I that she is to be in Ayrshire. We shall have the Laird of Rasay, and old Malcolm, and I koow uot how many gallant Macleods, and bagpipes, &c. &c. at Auchinleck. Perhaps you may meet them all there.

Without doubt you have read what is called, The Life of David Hume,' written by himself, with the letter from Dr. Adam Smith subjoined to it. Is not this an age of daring effrontery? My friend Mr. Anderson, Professor of Natural Philosophy at Glasgow, at whose house you and I supped, and to whose care Mr. Windham, of Norfolk, was entrusted at that University, paid me a visit lately; and after we had talked with indignation and contempt of the poisonous productions with which this age is infested, he said there was now an excellent opportunity for Dr. Johuson to step forth, I agreed with him that you might knock Hume's and Smith's heads together, and make vain and ostentatious infidelity exceedingly ridiculous. Would it not be worth your wbile to crush such noxious weeds in the moral garden ?

You have said nothing to me of Dr. Dodd. I know not how you think on that subject; though the news-papers give us a saying of your's in favour of mercy to him. But I own I am very desirous that the royal prerogative of remission of punishment, should be employed to exhibit an illustrious instance of the regard y bich GOD'S VICEGERENT will ever shew to piety and virtue. If for ten righteous men the ALMIGHTY would have spared Sodom, shall not a thousand acts of goodness done'hy Dr. Dodd counterbalance one crime? Such an instance would do more to encourage goodness, than his execution would do to deter from vice. Lam not afraid of any bad consequence to society; for who will persevere for a long course of years io a distinguished discharge of religious duties, with a view to commit a forgery with impunity ?

Pray make my best compliments acceptable to Mr. and Mrs. Thrale, by assuring them of my hearty joy that the Master, as you call him, is alive. I hope I shall often taste bis Champaigne-soberly.

I have not heard from Langton for a long time. I suppose he is as usual.

Studious the busy moments tu deceive.'

I remain, my dear Sir,
Your most affectionate,
And faithful humble servant,

JAMES Boswell.

On the 23d of June, I again wrote to Dr. Johnson, enclosing a shipmaster's receipt for a jar of orange-marmalade, and a large packet of Lord Hailes's “ Annals of Scotland.”



I have just received your packet from Mr. Thrale's, but have not day-light enough to look much into it. I am glad that I have credit enough with Lord Hailes to be trusted with more copy. I hope to take more care of it thap of the last. I return Mrs. Boswell my affectionate thanks for her present, which I value as a token of reconciliation.

Poor Dodd was put to death yesterday, in opposition to the recommendation of the jury,—the petition of the city of London,-and a subsequent petition signed by three-and-twenty thousand hands. Surely the voice of the public, when it calls so loudly, and calls only for mercy, ought to be heard.

The saying that was given me in the papers I never spoke; but I wrote many of his petitions, and some of bis letters. He applied to me very often. He was, I am afraid, long flattered with hopes of life; but I had no part in the dreadful delusion ; for as soon as the King had signed bis sentence, I obtained from Mr. Chamier an account of the disposition of the court towards him, with a declaration that there wus no hope even of a respite. This letter was immediately laid before Dodd; but he believed those whom he wished to be right, as it is thought, till within three days of his end. He died with pious coin posure and resolution. I have just seen the Ordinary that attended him. His address to his fellow convicts offended the Methodists; but he had a Moravian with bim much of his time. His moral character is very bad : I hope all is not true that is charged upon him. Of his behaviour in prison an account will be published.

I give you joy of your country-house, and your pretty garden ; and hope some time to see you in your felicity. I was much pleased with your two lettero* that had been kept so long in store; and rejoice at Miss Rasay's advancement, and wish Sir Allan success.

[blocks in formation]
« ZurückWeiter »