« PrejšnjaNaprej »
than Johnson. The quantities which he drank of it at all hours were so great, that his nerves must have been uncommonly strong not to have been extremely relaxed by such an intemperate use of it. He assured me, that he never felt the least inconvenience from it; which is a proof that the fault of his constitution was rather a too great tension of fibres, than the contrary. Mr. Hanway wrote an angry answer to Johnson's review of his essay on Tea, and Johnson, after a full and deliberate pause, made a reply to it; the only instance, I believe, in the whole course of his life, when he condescended to oppose anything that was written against him. I suppose when he thought of any of his little antagonists, he was ever justly aware of the high sentiment of Ajax in Ovid :
'Iste tulit pretium jam nunc certaminis hujus,
Met. xiii. 19.
But, indeed, the good Mr. Hanway laid himself so open to ridicule, that Johnson's animadversions upon his attack were chiefly to make sport.
The generosity with which he pleads the cause of Admiral Byng is highly to the honour of his heart and spirit. Though Voltaire affects to be witty upon the fate of that unfortunate officer, observing that he was shot' pour encourager les autres,' the nation has long been satisfied that his life was sacrificed to the political fervour of the times. In the vault belonging to the Torrington family, in the church of Southill, in Bedfordshire, there is the following epitaph upon his monument, which I have transcribed:
'TO THE PERPETUAL DISGRACE
OF PUBLIC JUSTICE,
THE HONOURABLE JOHN BYNG, ESQ.,
ADMIRAL OF THE BLUE,
FELL A MARTYR TO POLITICAL
MARCH 14, IN THE YEAR 1757;
WHEN BRAVERY AND LOYALTY
Johnson's most exquisite critical essay in the Literary Magazine, and indeed anywhere, is his review of Soame Jenyns's Inquiry into the Origin of Evil. 1 Jenyns was possessed of lively talents, and a style eminently pure and easy, and could very happily play with a light subject, either in prose or verse; but when he speculated on that most difficult and excruciating question, the Origin of Evil, he ventured far beyond his depth,' and, accordingly, was exposed by Johnson, both with acute argument and brilliant wit. I remember when the late Mr. Bicknell's humorous performance, entitled 'The Musical Travels of Joel Collyer,' in which a slight attempt is made to ridicule Johnson, was ascribed to Soame Jenyns, 'Ha! (said Johnson) I thought I had given him enough of it.'
His triumph over Jenyns is thus described by my friend Mr. Courtenay in his Poetical Review of the literary and moral Character of Dr. Johnson; a performance of such merit, that had I not been honoured with a very kind and partial notice in it, I should echo
1 [Every reader should make it in his business to turn to this Review, which will be found in all collected editions of Johnson. It is a masterpiece of wit, and most characteristic.-A. B.]