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sorted to for the purpose of exhilaration, or that, at times, he should find entertainment in turning over Knolles's voluminous and neglected history of the Tu:ks. In the many hours of leisure which he may be said rather to have endured than enjoyed, we must suppose some employed in the contemplation of his fortunes, the means of improving them, and of refisting the adverse accidents to which human life is exposed, and of which he had already had some experience. The stage holds forth temptations to men of genius, which many have been glad to einbrace: the profits arising from a tragedy, including the representation and printing of it, and the connections it sometimes enables the author to form, were in Johnson's idea inestimable; and, it is not impossible, but that Garrick, who, before this cime, had manifested a propensity towards the stage, had suggested to him the thought of writing one: certain it is, that during his residence at Edial, and under the eye of his friend Mr. Walmsley, he planned and completed that poem which gave this gentleman occasion to say, he was likely to become a fine tragedy-writer.
He.chose for his story an action related by Knolles in his history above-mentioned with all the powers of the most affecting eloquence: to give it at large would be to transgress the limits I have prescribed myself, and to abridge it would injure it: I will do neither; but referring the reader to the historian himself, will relate it as a bare historical fact.
Mahomet the Great, first emperor of the Turks, in the year 1453 laid siege to the city of Constantinople, then poßeffed by the Greeks, and, after an obstinate resistance, took and sacked it. Among the many
young women whom his commanders thought fit to lay hands on and present to him, was one, named Irene, a Greek, of incomparable beauty and such rare perfection of body and mind, that the emperor becoming enamoured of her, neglected the care of his government and empire for two whole years, and thereby fo exasperated the Janizaries and other of his warlike subjects, that they mutinied, and threatened to dethrone him. To prevent this mischief, Mustapha Balsa, a person of great credit with him, undertook to represent to him the great danger to which he lay exposed by the indulgence of his passion: he called to his remembrance the characters, actions, and atchievements of many of his predecessors, and the state of his government; and, in short, fo roused him from his lethargy, that he took a horrible resolution to filence the clamours of his people, by the sacrifice of this admirable creature : accordingly, on a future day, he commanded her to be dressed and adorned in the richest manner that she and her attendants could devise, and against a certain hour issued orders for the nobility and leaders of his army to attend him in the great hall of his palace. When they were all assembled, himself appeared with great pomp and magnificence, leading his late captive, but now absolute mistress, by the hand, unconscious of guilt and ignorant of his design. With a furious and menacing look, he gave the beholders to understand, that he knew the cause of their discontent, and that he meant to remove it; but bade them first view that lady, whom he still held with his left hand, and say whether any of them being poffeffed of a jewel so sare and precious, a woman fo lovely and fair, would
for any cause forego her; to which they answered, that he had great reason for his affection towards her.
To this the emperor replied, that this being their opinion, he would convince them that his actions were in his own power, and that be was yet master of himself. And having so faid,” says my author,
presently with one of his hands catching the fair « Greek by the hair of the head, and drawing his
falchion with the other, he, at one blow, ftruck • off her head, to the great terror of them all; and • having so done, said unto them, “ Now by this, “ judge whether your emperor is able to bridle bis « affections or not.
It no-where appears that, in this journey to London, Mrs. Johnson was one of the company; it is rather to be conjectured, that her husband, having abandoned the hope of succeeding in his attempt to raise a school, left to her the care of the bouse, and the management of the finall part of her fortune, which, after the fitting up and furnishing the fame, together with two years' expenditure, must be fupposed to be left; and, thae this could be no other tban finall, may be inferred from her patural temper,
• Two tragedies founded on this story had already appeared, before Johnson conceived his intention of producing a third. The former of thefe was written by Gilbert Swinhoe, Esq; a native of Northumberland, who lived temp. Car. I. & Car. II. ; and was published in 4to. 1658, with the title of Unhappy Fair Irene her Tragedy. See Langbaine's Account of Dramatic Poets, edit. 1691, p. 499. Of the latter, entitled, Irene or the Fair Greek, 4t0. 1708, one Charles Goring, Esq; supposed to be the same person with one of that name who was of Magdalen college, Oxford, and in 1687 took the degree of Master of Arts, was the author. See Biographia Dramatica, art. Goring, Charles, Esq.
which it is faid was as little disposed to parsimony as that of her husband.
It is not my intention to pursue the history of Mr. Garrick's progress in life, both because I have not taken upon me to be his biographer, and, because the principal events of it occur in the memoirs of him, written with great candour and, I dare say, truch, by Mr. Thomas Davies, and by him published jo two volumes, octavo; but the courfe of this narration requires me occasionally to mention such particulars concerning him, as in any manner connect him with the subject I am engaged in; and this leads me to mention a fact concerning them both, that I had from a person now living, who was a witness to it, and of whofe veracity the least doubt cannot be entertained. They had been but a short time in London before the stock of money that each set out with, was nearly exhausted; and, though they had not, like the prodigal fon, 'wafted their fubstance in riotous living,' they began, like him, to be in wanç.' In this extremity, Garrick suggested the thought of obtaining credit from a tradesman, whom he had a night knowledge of, Mr. Wilcox, a bookfelter, in the Strand: to him they applied, and representing themselves to him, as they really were, cwo young men, friends, and travellers from the same place, and just arrived with a view to settle here, he was so moved with their artless tale, that, on their joinc note, he advanced them all that their modesty would permit them to ask, (five pounds), which was, soon after, punctually repaid,
It has been before related, that Johnson had engaged his pen in the service of Cave; as it seems, ,
under fome fictitious name, perhaps, that common one of Smith, which he directs Cave to address him by, in his letter of 25th Nov. 1734. Being now come to town, and determined, or rather constrained, to rely on the labour of his brain for support, he, to improve the correspondence he had formed, thought proper to discover himself, and in his real name to communicate to Cave a project which he had formed, and which the following letter will explain :
Having observed in your papers very uncom·mon offers of encouragement to men of letters, I • have chosen, being a stranger in London, to com'municate to you the following design, which, I · hope, if you join in it, will be of advantage to « both of us.
· The history of the Council of Trent, having • been lately translated into French, and published
with large notes by Dr. Le Courayer, the reputaition of that book is so much revived in England, " that, it is presumed, a new translation of it from ! the Italian, together with Le Courayer's notes
from the French, could not fail of a favourable reception.
• If it be answered that the history is already in English, it must be remembered that there was the same objection against Le Courayer's under
taking, with this disadvantage, that the French ' had a version by one of their best translators, where" as you cannot read three pages of the English'history without discovering that the style is capable of