Page images

He cherish'd his friend, and he relish'd a bumper :
Yet one fault he had, and that one was a thumper.
Perhaps you may ask if the man was a miser ?
I answer, no, no, for he always was wiser:
Too courteous, perhaps, or obligingly flat?
His very worst foe can't accuse him of that:
Perhaps he confided in men as they go,
And so was too foolishly honest? Ah, no! [ye, —
Then what was his failing? come, tell it, and burn
He was, could he help it? a special attorney.

Here Reynolds is laid, and, to tell you my mind, He has not left a wiser or better behind:

His pencil was striking, resistless, and grand,
His manners were gentle, complying, and bland;
Still born to improve us in every part,

His pencil our faces, his manners our heart:
To coxcombs averse, yet most civilly steering,
When they judg'd without skill he was still hard of
[and stuff,
When they talk'd of their Raphaels, Correggios,
He shifted his trumpet *, and only took snuff.




WHEN lovely woman stoops to folly,

And finds too late that men betray.
What charm can soothe her melancholy,
What art can wash her guilt away?

* Sir Joshua Reynolds was so remarkably deaf as to be under the necessity of using an ear-trum. pet in company.

The only art her guilt to cover,
To hide her shame from ev'ry eye,
To give repentance to her lover,
And wring his bosom

is, to die.


O MEMORY! thou fond deceiver,
Still importunate and vain,
To former joys recurring ever,
And turning all the past to pain;

Thou, like the world, th' opprest oppressing,
Thy smiles increase the wretch's woe!
And he who wants each other blessing,

In thee must ever find a foe.


SAMUEL JOHNSON, a writer of great eminence, was born in 1709 at Litchfield, in which city his father was a petty bookseller. After a desultory course of school-education, it was proposed to him, by Mr. Corbet, a neighbouring gentleman, that he should accompany his own son to Oxford as his companion; accordingly, in his nineteenth year, he was elected a commoner of Pembroke college. From young Corbet's departure, he was left to struggle with penury till he had completed a residence of three years, when he quitted Oxford without taking a degree. His father died, in very narrow circumstances, soon after his return from the university; and for some time he attempted to gain a maintenance by some literary projects. At length, in 1735, he thought proper to marry a widow twice his own age, and far from attractive, either in her person or manners. By the aid of her fortune he was enabled to set up a school for instruction in Latin and Greek, but the plan did not succeed; and after a year's experiment, he resolved to try his fortune in the great metropolis. Garrick, afterwards the celebrated actor, had been one of his pupils, accom

panied by whom he arrived in London; Johnson having in his pocket his unfinished tragedy of Irene.

The first notice which he drew from the judges of literary merit, was by the publication of "London, a Poem," in imitation of Juvenal's third satire. The manly vigour, and strong painting of this performance, placed it high among works of its kind, though it must be allowed, that its censure is coarse and exaggerated, and that it ranks rather as a party, than as a moral poem. It was published in 1788. For some years Johnson is chiefly to be traced in the pages of the Gentleman's Magazine, then conducted by Cave; and it was for this work that he gratified the public with some extraordinary pieces of eloquence which he composed under the disguise of debates in the senate of Liliput, meaning the British parliament. He likewise wrote various biographical articles for the same miscellany, of which the principal and most admired was "The Life of Savage."

The plan of his English Dictionary was laid before the public in a letter addressed to Lord Chesterfield in 1747. In the same year he furnished Garrick with a prologue on the opening of Drurylane theatre, which in sense and poetry has not a competitor among compositions of this class, excepting Pope's prologue to Cato. Another imitation of Juvenal, entitled "The Vanity of Human Wishes," was printed in 1749, and may be said to reach the sublime of ethical poetry, and to stand at the head of classical imitations. The same year, under the auspices of Garrick, brought on the

stage of Drury-lane his tragedy of "Irene." It ran thirteen nights, but has never since appeared on the theatre: Johnson, in fact, found that he was not formed to excel on the stage, and made no further trials.


His periodical paper, entitled "The Rambler," appeared in March 1750, and was continued till March 1752. The solemnity of this paper prevented it at first from attaining an extensive circulation; but after it was collected into volumes, it continually rose in the public esteem, and the author had the satisfaction of seeing a tenth edition. The "Adventurer," conducted by Dr. Hawksworth, succeeded the Rambler, and Johnson contributed several papers of his own writing. In 1755, the first edition of his "Dictionary" made its appearIt was received by the public with general applause, and its author was ranked among the greatest benefactors of his native tongue. Modern accuracy, however, has given an insight into its defects; and though it still stands as the capital work of the kind in the language, its authority as a standard is somewhat depreciated. Upon the last illness of his aged mother, in 1759, for the purpose of paying her a visit, and defraying the expense of her funeral, he wrote his romance of Rasselas, Prince of Abyssinia," one of his most splendid performances, elegant in language, rich in imagery, and weighty in sentiment. Its views of human life are, indeed, deeply tinged with the gloom that overshadowed the author's mind; nor can it be praised for moral effect.


« PreviousContinue »