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Cibber's LIVES OF THE POETS.
Aetat. 67.] caring much about other people's children, for there are many who care very little about their own children. It may be observed, that men, who from being engaged in business, or from their course of life in whatever way, seldom see their children, do not care much about them. I myself should not have had much fondness for a child of my own'.' MRS. THRALE. 'Nay, Sir, how can you talk so?' JOHNSON. 'At least, I never wished to have a child.'
Mr. Murphy mentioned Dr. Johnson's having a design to publish an edition of Cowley. Johnson said, he did not know but he should; and he expressed his disapprobation of Dr. Hurd, for having published a mutilated edition under the title of Select Works of Abraham Cowley. Mr. Murphy thought it a bad precedent; observing that any authour might be used in the same manner; and that it was pleasing to see the variety of an authour's compositions, at different periods.
We talked of Flatman's Poems; and Mrs. Thrale observed, that Pope had partly borrowed from him The dying Christian to his Soul Johnson repeated Rochester's verses upon Flatman*, which I think by much too severe :
'Nor that slow drudge in swift Pindarick strains,
And rides a jaded Muse, whipt with loose reins.'
I like to recollect all the passages that I heard Johnson repeat: it stamps a value on them.
He told us, that the book entitled The Lives of the Poets, by Mr. Cibber, was entirely compiled by Mr. Shiels, a Scotchman, one of his amanuenses. The bookseller (said he,) gave Theophilus Cibber, who was then in prison, ten guineas, to allow Mr. Cibber to be put upon the title-page, as the authour; by this, a double imposition was intended: in the first place,
Boswell, post, under March 30,
1783, says, 'Johnson discovered a love of little children upon all occasions.'
2 Johnson at a later period thought otherwise. Post, March 30, 1778. 3 Pope borrowed from the following lines:
'When on my sick bed I languish, Full of sorrow, full of anguish ;
Fainting, gasping, trembling, crying, Panting, groaning, speechless, dying
Methinks I hear some gentle spirit say,
Be not fearful, come away.'
Campbell's Brit. Poets, p. 301.
4 In Rochester's Allusion to the Tenth Satire of the First Book of Horace.
Cibber's LIVES OF THE POETS.
that it was the work of a Cibber at all; and, in the second place, that it was the work of old Cibber'.'
In the Monthly Review for May, 1792, there is such a correction of the above passage, as I should think myself very culpable not to subjoin. 'This account is very inaccurate. The following statement of facts we know to be true, in every material circumstance :-Shiels was the principal collector and digester of the materials for the work but as he was very raw in authourship, an indifferent writer in prose, and his language full of Scotticisms, Cibber, who was a clever, lively fellow, and then soliciting employment among the booksellers, was engaged to correct the style and diction of the whole work, then intended to make only four volumes, with power to alter, expunge, or add, as he liked. He was also to supply notes, occasionally, especially concerning those dramatick poets with whom he had been chiefly conversant. He also engaged to write several of the Lives; which, (as we are told,) he, accordingly, performed. He was farther useful in striking out the Jacobitical and Tory sentiments, which Shiels had industriously interspersed wherever he could bring them in—and, as the success of the work appeared, after all, very doubtful, he was content with twentyone pounds for his labour beside a few sets of the books, to disperse among his friends. - Shiels had nearly seventy pounds, beside the advantage of many of the best Lives in the work being communicated by friends to the undertaking; and for which Mr. Shiels had the same consideration as for the rest, being paid by the sheet, for the whole. He was, however, so angry with his Whiggish supervisor, (THE., like his father, being a violent stickler for the po
litical principles which prevailed in the Reign of George the Second,) for so unmercifully mutilating his copy, and scouting his politicks, that he wrote Cibber a challenge: but was prevented from sending it, by the publisher, who fairly laughed him out of his fury. The proprietors, too, were discontented, in the end, on account of Mr. Cibber's unexpected industry; for his corrections and alterations in the proof-sheets were so numerous and considerable, that the printer made for them a grievous addition to his bill; and, in fine, all parties were dissatisfied. On the whole, the work was productive of no profit to the undertakers, who had agreed, in case of success, to make Cibber a present of some addition to the twenty guineas which he had received, and for which his receipt is now in the booksellers' hands. We are farther assured, that he actually obtained an additional sum; when he, soon after, (in the year 1758,) unfortunately embarked for Dublin, on an engagement for one of the theatres there but the ship was cast away, and every person on board perished. There were about sixty passengers, among whom was the Earl of Drogheda, with many other persons of consequence and property. [Gent. Mag. 1758, p. 555.]
'As to the alledged design of making the compilement pass for the work of old Mr. Cibber, the charges seem to have been founded on a somewhat uncharitable construction. We are assured that the thought was not harboured by some of the proprietors, who are still living; and we hope that it did not occur to the first designer of the work, who was also the printer Mr. Murphy
THE MEMOirs of Gray's Life.
Mr. Murphy said, that The Memoirs of Gray's Life set him much higher in his estimation than his poems did; for you there saw a man constantly at work in literature.' Johnson acquiesced in this; but depreciated the book, I thought, very unreasonably. For he said, 'I forced myself to read it, only because it was a common topick of conversation. I found it mighty dull; and, as to the style, it is fit for the second table'.' Why he thought so
of it, and who bore a respectable character.
'We have been induced to enter thus circumstantially into the foregoing detail of facts relating to The Lives of the Poets, compiled by Messrs. Cibber and Shiels, from a sincere regard to that sacred principle of Truth, to which Dr. Johnson so rigidly adhered, according to the best of his knowledge; and which we believe, no consideration would have prevailed on him to violate. In regard to the matter, which we now dismiss, he had, no doubt, been misled by partial and wrong information: Shiels was the Doctor's amanuensis; he had quarrelled with Cibber; it is natural to suppose that he told his story in his own way; and it is certain that he was not "a very sturdy moralist." [The quotation is from Johnson's Works, ix. 116.] This explanation appears to me very satisfactory. It is, however, to be observed, that the story told by Johnson does not rest solely upon my record of his conversation; for he himself has published it in his Life of Hammond [ib. viii. 90], where he says, "the manuscript of Shiels is now in my possession." Very probably he had trusted to Shiels's word, and never looked at it so as to compare it with The Lives of the Poets, as published under Mr. Cibber's name. What became of that manuscript I know not. I should have liked much to examine it. I suppose it was thrown into the fire in that impet
uous combustion of papers, which Johnson I think rashly executed, when moribundus.' BosWELL. Mr. Croker, quoting a letter by Griffiths the publisher, says :-'The question is now decided by this letter in opposition to Dr. Johnson's assertion.' Croker's Boswell, p. 818. The evidence of such an infamous fellow as Griffiths is worthless. (For his character see Forster's Goldsmith, i. 161.) As the Monthly Review was his property, the passage quoted by Boswell was, no doubt, written by his direction. D'Israeli (Curiosities of Literature, ed. 1834, vi. 375) says that Oldys (ante, i. 175) made annotations on a copy of Langbaine's Dramatic Poets. 'This Langbaine, with additions by Coxeter, was bought by Theophilus Cibber; on the strength of these notes he prefixed his name to the first collection of the Lives of Our Poets, written chiefly by Shiels.'
1 Mason's Memoirs of Gray's Life was published in 1775. Johnson, in hist Life of Gray (Works, viii. 476), praises Gray's portion of the book :- -'They [Gray and Horace Walpole] wandered through France into Italy; and Gray's Letters contain a very pleasing account of many parts of their journey.' 'The style of Madame de Sévigné,' wrote Mackintosh (Life, ii. 221), 'is evidently copied, not only by her worshipper Walpole, but even by Gray; notwithstanding the extraordinary merits of his matter, he has the double stiffness of an imitator and of a college recluse.'
The MONTHLY and CRITICAL REVIEWS. [A.D. 1776. I was at a loss to conceive. He now gave it as his opinion, that 'Akenside' was a superiour poet both to Gray and Mason.'
Talking of the Reviews, Johnson said, 'I think them very impartial: I do not know an instance of partiality. He mentioned what had passed upon the subject of the Monthly and Critical Reviews, in the conversation with which his Majesty had honoured him3. He expatiated a little more on them this evening. 'The Monthly Reviewers (said he) are not Deists; but they are Christians with as little christianity as may be; and are for pulling down all establishments. The Critical Reviewers are for supporting the constitution both in church and state. The Critical Reviewers, I believe, often review without reading the books through; but lay hold of a topick, and write chiefly from their own minds. The Monthly Reviewers are duller men, and are glad to read the books through.'
He talked of Lord Lyttelton's extreme anxiety as an authour; observing, that he was thirty years in preparing his History, and that he employed a man to point it for him; as if (laughing) another man could point his sense better than himself 5.'
2 This impartiality is very unlikely. In 1757 Griffiths, the owner of the Monthly, aiming a blow at Smollett, the editor of the Critical, said that The Monthly Review was not written by 'physicians without practice, authors without learning, men without decency, gentlemen without manners, and critics without judgment.' Smollett retorted :- The Critical Review is not written by a parcel of obscure hirelings, under the restraint of a bookseller and his wife, who presume to revise, alter, and amend the articles occasionally. The principal writers in the Critical Review are unconnected with booksellers, unawed by old women, and independent of each other.' Forster's Goldsmith, i. 100. 'A fourth share in The Monthly Review was sold in 1761 for £755. A Bookseller of the Last Century, p. 19.
3 See ante, ii. 39.
Horace Walpole writes :-'The scope of the Critical Review was to decry any work that appeared favourable to the principles of the Revolution.' Memoirs of the Reign of George II, iii. 260.
5 The story of this publication is remarkable. The whole book was printed twice over, a great part of it three times, and many sheets four or five times. The booksellers paid for the first impression; but the charges and repeated operations of the press were at the expense of the author, whose ambitious accuracy is known to have cost him at least a thousand pounds. He began to print in 1755. Three volumes appeared in 1764, and the conclusion in 1771. Andrew Reid undertook to persuade Lyttelton, as he had persuaded himhimself, that he was master of the secret of punctuation; and, as fear
Mr. Murphy said, he understood his history was kept back several years for fear of Smollet'. JOHNSON. 'This seems strange to Murphy and me, who never felt that anxiety, but sent what we wrote to the press, and let it take its chance.' MRS. THRALE. 'The time has been, Sir, when you felt it.' JOHNSON. 'Why really, Madam, I do not recollect a time when that was the case.'
Talking of The Spectator, he said, 'It is wonderful that there is such a proportion of bad papers, in the half of the work which was not written by Addison; for there was all the world to write that half, yet not a half of that half is good. One of the finest pieces in the English language is the paper on Novelty2, yet we do not hear it talked of. It was written by Grove, a dissenting teacher? He would not, I perceived, call him a clergyman, though he was candid enough to allow very great merit to his composition. Mr. Murphy said, he remembered when there were several people alive in London, who enjoyed a considerable reputation merely from having written a paper in The Spectator. He mentioned particularly Mr. Ince, who used to frequent Tom's coffee-house. But (said Johnson,) you must consider how highly Steele speaks of Mr. Ince3.' He
begets credulity, he was employed, I know not at what price, to point the pages of Henry the Second. When time brought the History to a third edition, Reid was either dead or discarded; and the superintendence of typography and punctuation was committed to a man originally a comb-maker, but then known by the style of Doctor. Something uncommon was probably expected, and something uncommon was at last done; for to the Doctor's edition is appended, what the world had hardly seen before, a list of errors in nineteen pages.' Johnson's Works, viii. 492. In the first edition of The Lives of the Poets the Doctor' is called Dr. Saunders. So ambitious was Lord Lyttelton's accuracy that in the second edition he gave a list of' false stops which hurt the sense.' For instance, the punctuation of the followVOL. III.