Slike strani

Latin word procerity, Johnson had, however, the authority of Addison.

His reviews are of the following books: Birch's History of the Royal Society; Murphy's Gray'sInn Journal; Warton's Essay on the Writings and Genius of Pope, vol. i.; Hampton's Translation of Polybius; Blackwell's Memoirs of the Court of Augustus; Russel's Natural History of Aleppo; Sir Isaac Newton's Arguments in Proof of a Deity; Borlase's History of the Isles of Sicily; Holme's Experiments on Bleaching; Browne's Christian Morals; Hales On distilling Sea- Water, Ventilators in Ships, and curing an ill Taste in Milk; Lucas's Essay on Waters; Keith's Catalogue of the Scottish Bishops; Browne's History of Jamaica; Philosophical Transactions, vol. xlix. ; Mrs. Lenox's Translation of Sully's Memoirs; Miscellanies by Elizabeth Harrison; Evans's Map and Account of the Middle Colonies in America; Letter on the Case of Admiral Byng; Appeal to the People concerning Admiral Byng; Hanway's Eight Days' Journey, and Essay on Tea; The Cadet, a Military Treatise; Some farther Particulars in relation to the Case of Admiral Byng, by a gentleman of Oxford; The Conduct of the Ministry relating to the present War impartially examined; A Free Inquiry into the Nature and Origin of Evil. All these, from internal evidence, were written by Johnson some of them I know he avowed, and have marked them with an asterisk accordingly.1 Mr. Thomas Davies, indeed, ascribed to him the review of Mr. Burke's Inquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful; and Sir John

1 [I have omitted the asterisk as puzzling. All Johnson's avowed writings are included in the collected editions of his works.-A. B.]

Hawkins, with equal discernment, has inserted it in his collection of Johnson's works: whereas it has no resemblance to Johnson's composition, and is well known to have been written by Mr. Murphy, who has acknowledged it to me and many others.

It is worthy of remark, in justice to Johnson's political character, which has been misrepresented as abjectly submissive to power, that his Observations on the present State of Affairs, glow with as animated a spirit of constitutional liberty as can be found anywhere. Thus he begins:

"The time is now come, in which every Englishman expects to be informed of the national affairs; and in which he has a right to have that expectation gratified. For, whatever may be urged by ministers, or those whom vanity or interest make the followers of ministers, concerning the necessity of confidence in our governors, and the presumption of prying with profane eyes into the recesses of policy, it is evident that this reverence can be claimed only by counsels yet unexecuted, and projects suspended in deliberation. But when a design has ended in miscarriage or success, when every eye and every ear is witness to general discontent, or general satisfaction, it is then a proper time to disentangle confusion and illustrate obscurity; to show by what causes every event was produced, and in what effects it is likely to terminate; to lay down with distinct particularity what rumour always huddles in general exclamation, or perplexes by indigested narratives; to show whence happiness or calamity is derived, and whence it may be expected; and honestly to lay before the people what inquiry can gather of the past, and conjecture can estimate of the future.'

Here we have it assumed as an incontrovertible principle, that in this country the people are the superintendents of the conduct and measures of those by whom government is administered; of the beneficial

effect of which the present reign afforded an illustrious example, when addresses from all parts of the kingdom controlled an audacious attempt to introduce a new power subversive of the crown.

A still stronger proof of his patriotic spirit appears in his review of an Essay on Waters, by Dr. Lucas, of whom, after describing him as a man well known to the world for his daring defiance of power, when he thought it exerted on the side of wrong, he thus speaks:

"The Irish ministers drove him from his native country by a proclamation, in which they charge him with crimes of which they never intended to be called to the proof, and oppressed him by methods equally irresistible by guilt and innocence.

'Let the man thus driven into exile, for having been the friend of his country, be received in every other place as a confessor of liberty; and let the tools of power be taught in time, that they may rob, but cannot impoverish.'

Some of his reviews in this Magazine are very short accounts of the pieces noticed, and I mention them only that Dr. Johnson's opinion of the works may be known; but many of them are examples of elaborate criticism, in the most masterly style. In his review of the Memoirs of the Court of Augustus, he has the resolution to think and speak from his own mind, regardless of the cant transmitted from age to age, in praise of the ancient Romans. Thus: 'I know not why any one but a schoolboy in his declamation should whine over the Commonwealth of Rome, which grew great only by the misery of the rest of mankind. The Romans, like others, as soon as they grew rich, grew corrupt; and in their corruption sold the lives and freedoms of themselves, and of one another.' Again : 'A people, who while they were poor robbed man

kind; and as soon as they became rich, robbed one another.' In his review of the Miscellanies in prose and verse, published by Elizabeth Harrison, but written by many hands, he gives an eminent proof at once of his orthodoxy and candour:

"The authors of the essays in prose seem generally to have imitated, or tried to imitate, the copiousness and luxuriance of Mrs. Rowe. This, however, is not all their praise; they have laboured to add to her brightness of imagery, her purity of sentiments. The poets have had Dr. Watts before their eyes; a writer, who, if he stood not in the first class of genius, compensated that defect by a ready application of his powers to the promotion of piety. The attempt to employ the ornaments of romance in the decoration of religion, was, I think, first made by Mr. Boyle's Martyrdom of Theodora; but Boyle's philosophical studies did not allow him time for the cultivation of style: and the completion of the great design was reserved for Mrs. Rowe. Dr. Watts was one of the first who taught the Dissenters to write and speak like other men, by showing them that elegance might consist with piety. They would have both done honour to a better society, for they had that charity which might well make their failings be forgotten, and with which the whole Christian world wish for communion. They were pure from all the heresies of an age, to which every opinion is become a favourite that the universal church has hitherto detested!

"This praise the general interest of mankind requires to be given to writers who please and do not corrupt, who instruct and do not weary. But to them all human eulogies are vain, whom I believe applauded by angels, and numbered with the just.'

His defence of tea against Mr. Jonas Hanway's violent attack upon that elegant and popular beverage, shows how very well a man of genius can write upon the slightest subject, when he writes as the Italians say, con amore: I suppose no person ever enjoyed with more relish the infusion of that fragrant leaf




« PrejšnjaNaprej »