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82

THE PUBLICATION OF LONDON

[1738

There is one passage in the original, better transfused by Oldham than by Johnson:

'Nil habet infelix paupertas durius in se,

Quàm quod ridiculos homines facit;'

which is an exquisite remark on the galling meanness and contempt annexed to poverty: JOHNSON's imitation is: Of all the griefs that harass the distrest, Sure the most bitter is a scornful jest.'

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OLDHAM's, though less elegant, is more just :

'Nothing in poverty so ill is borne,

As its exposing men to grinning scorn.'

Where, or in what manner this poem was composed, I am sorry that I neglected to ascertain with precision, from Johnson's own authority. He has marked upon his corrected copy of the first edition of it, 'Written in 1738;' and, as it was published in the month of May in that year, it is evident that much time was not employed in preparing it for the press. The history of its publication I am enabled to give in a very satisfactory manner; and judging from myself, and many of my friends, I trust that it will not be uninteresting to my readers.

We may be certain, though it is not expressly named in the following letters to Mr. Cave, in 1738, that they all relate to it:

‘SIR,

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'TO MR. CAVE.

'Castle-street, Wednesday Morning. [No date. 1738.]

When I took the liberty of writing to you a few days ago, I did not expect a repetition of the same pleasure so soon; for a pleasure I shall always think it, to converse in any manner with an ingenious and candid man; but having the inclosed poem in my hands to dispose of for the benefit of the authour, (of whose abilities I shall say nothing, since I send you his performance,) I believed I could not procure more advantageous terms from any person than from you, who have so much distinguished yourself by your generous encouragement of poetry; and whose judgment of that art nothing but your commendation of 1 trifle 1 can give me any occasion to call in question. I do not 1 His Ode Ad Urbanum probably. NICHOLS.

my

1738]

JOHNSON'S LETTERS TO CAVE

83

doubt but you will look over this poem with another eye, and reward it in a different manner, from a mercenary bookseller, who counts the lines he is to purchase, and considers nothing but the bulk. I cannot help taking notice, that, besides what the authour may hope for on account of his abilities, he has likewise another claim to your regard, as he lies at present under very disadvantageous circumstances of fortune. I beg, therefore, that you will favour me with a letter to-morrow, that I may know what you can afford to allow him, that he may either part with it to you, or find out, (which I do not expect,) some other way more to his satisfaction.

'I have only to add, that as I am sensible I have transcribed it very coarsely, which, after having altered it, I was obliged to do, I will, if you please to transmit the sheets from the press, correct it for you; and take the trouble of altering any stroke of satire which you may dislike.

By exerting on this occasion your usual generosity, you will not only encourage learning, and relieve distress, but (though it be in comparison of the other motives of very small account) oblige in a very sensible manner, Sir, your very humble servant,

'SIR,

'To MR. CAVE.

'SAM. JOHNSON.'

'Monday, No. 6, Castle-street. 'I am to return you thanks for the present you were so kind as to send by me, and to intreat that you will be pleased to inform me by the penny-post, whether you resolve to print the poem. If you please to send it me by the post, with a note to Dodsley, I will go and read the lines to him, that we may have his consent to put his name in the titlepage. As to the printing, if it can be set immediately about, I will be so much the authour's friend, as not to content myself with mere solicitations in his favour. I propose, if my calculation be near the truth, to engage for the reimbursement of all that you shall lose by an impression of 500; provided, as you very generously propose, that the profit, if any, be set aside for the authour's use, excepting the present you made, which, if he be a gainer, it is fit he should repay. I beg that you will let one of your servants write an exact

84

NEGOTIATIONS WITH DODSLEY

[1738 account of the expense of such an impression, and send it with the poem, that I may know what I engage for. I am very sensible, from your generosity on this occasion, of your regard to learning, even in its unhappiest state; and cannot but think such a temper deserving of the gratitude of those who suffer so often from a contrary disposition. I am, Sir, your most humble servant,

'SIR,

'TO MR. CAVE.

'SAM. JOHNSON.'

[No date.] 'I waited on you to take the copy to Dodsley's: as Ι remember the number of lines which it contains, it will be no longer than Eugenio 1, with the quotations, which must be subjoined at the bottom of the page; part of the beauty of the performance (if any beauty be allowed it) consisting in adapting Juvenal's sentiments to modern facts and persons. It will, with those additions, very conveniently make five sheets. And since the expense will be no more, I shall contentedly insure it, as I mentioned in my last. If it be not therefore gone to Dodsley's, I beg it may be sent me by the penny-post, that I may have it in the evening. I have composed a Greek epigram to Eliza2, and think she ought to be celebrated in as many different languages as Lewis le Grand. Pray send me word when you will begin upon the poem, for it is a long way to walk. I would leave my Epigram, but have not daylight to transcribe it. I am, Sir, your's, &c.,

'SAM. JOHNSON.'

'To MR. CAVE.

6 SIR,

[No date.] "I am extremely obliged by your kind letter, and will not fail to attend you to-morrow with Irene, who looks upon you as one of her best friends.

'I was to-day with Mr. Dodsley, who declares very warmly in favour of the paper you sent him, which he desires to have a share in, it being, as he says, a creditable thing to

1 A poem, published in 1737, of which see an account under April 30, 1773.

2 The learned Mrs. Elizabeth Carter.

1738]

PAYMENT FOR LONDON

85

be concerned in. I knew not what answer to make till I had consulted you, nor what to demand on the authour's part, but am very willing that, if you please, he should have a part in it, as he will undoubtedly be more diligent to disperse and promote it. If you can send me word to-morrow what I shall say to him, I will settle matters, and bring the poem with me for the press, which, as the town empties, we cannot be too quick with. I am, Sir, your's, &c.,

SAM. JOHNSON.'

To us who have long known the manly force, bold spirit, and masterly versification of this poem, it is a matter of curiosity to observe the diffidence with which its authour brought it forward into publick notice, while he is so cautious as not to avow it to be his own production; and with what humility he offers to allow the printer to alter any stroke of satire which he might dislike.' That any such alteration was made, we do not know. If we did, we could not but feel an indignant regret; but how painful is it to see that a writer of such vigorous powers of mind was actually in such distress, that the small profit which so short a poem, however excellent, could yield, was courted as a 'relief.'

It has been generally said, I know not with what truth, that Johnson offered his London to several booksellers, none of whom would purchase it. To this circumstance Mr. Derrick alludes in the following lines of his Fortune, a Rhapsody:

'Will no kind patron JOHNSON own?

Shall JOHNSON friendless range the town?
And every publisher refuse

The offspring of his happy Muse? '

But we have seen that the worthy, modest, and ingenious Mr. Robert Dodsley had taste enough to perceive its uncommon merit, and thought it creditable to have a share in it. The fact is, that, at a future conference, he bargained for the whole property of it, for which he gave Johnson ten guineas; who told me, 'I might, perhaps, have accepted of less; but that Paul Whitehead had a little before got ten guineas for a poem and I would not take less than Paul Whitehead.'

I may here observe, that Johnson appeared to me to

86

PAUL WHITEHEAD

[1738 under-value Paul Whitehead upon every occasion when he was mentioned, and, in my opinion, did not do him justice ; but when it is considered that Paul Whitehead was a member of a riotous and profane club, we may account for Johnson's having a prejudice against him. Paul Whitehead was, indeed, unfortunate in being not only slighted by Johnson, but violently attacked by Churchill, who utters the following imprecation :

'May I (can worse disgrace on manhood fall?)

Be born a Whitehead, and baptiz'd a Paul!'

yet I shall never be persuaded to think meanly of the authour of so brilliant and pointed a satire as Manners.

Johnson's London was published in May, 1738; and it is remarkable, that it came out on the same morning with Pope's satire, entitled ' 1738;' so that England had at once its Juvenal and Horace as poetical monitors. The Reverend Dr. Douglas, now Bishop of Salisbury, to whom I am indebted for some obliging communications, was then a student at Oxford, and remembers well the effect which London produced. Every body was delighted with it; and there being no name to it, the first buz of the literary circles was here is an unknown poet, greater even than Pope.' And it is recorded in the Gentleman's Magazine of that year 1, that it got to the second edition in the course of a week.'

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One of the warmest patrons of this poem on its first appearance was General Oglethorpe, whose 'strong benevolence of soul,' was unabated during the course of a very long life; though it is painful to think, that he had but too much reason to become cold and callous, and discontented with the world, from the neglect which he experienced of his publick and private worth, by those in whose power it was to gratify so gallant a veteran with marks of distinction. This extraordinary person was as remarkable for his learning and taste, as for his other eminent qualities; and no man was more prompt, active, and generous, in encouraging merit. I have heard Johnson gratefully acknowledge, in his presence, the kind and effectual support which he gave to his London, though unacquainted with its authour.

Pope, who then filled the poetical throne without a rival, it may reasonably be presumed, must have been particularly

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