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In the same year, he received a diploma from Trinity College Dublin, compliment. ing him with the title of doctor of laws, and after inany delays, his edition of Shak. speare was published in eight volumes octavo. The preface is universally acknow. ledged to be one of the most elegant and acute of all his compositions. But as an il. lustrator of the obscurities of Shakspeare, it must be allowed he has not done much, nor was this a study for which he was eminently qualified. He was never happy when obliged to borrow from others, and he had none of that useful iodus. try which indulges in research. Yet his criticisms have rarely been surpassed, and it is no small praise that he was the precursor of Steevens and Malone.
The success of the Shakspeare was not great, although upon the whole it in. creased the respect in which the literary world viewed his talents. Kenrick made the principal attack on this work, which was answered by an Oxford student, Aamed Barclay. But neither the attack nor the answer attracted much notice,
In 1766, he furnished the preface and some of the pieces which compose a volume of poetical miscellanies by Mrs. Anna Williams. This lady was still an inmate in his house, and was indeed absolute mistress. Although her temper was far from pleasant, and she had now gained an ascendancy over him which she often maintained in a fretful and peerish manner, he forgot every thing in her distresses, and was indeed, in all his charities, which were numerous, the most remote that can be conceived from the hope of gratitude or reward. His house was filled by dependents, whose perverse tempers frequently drove him out of it, yet nothing of this kind could induce him to relieve himself at their expense. His noble expression was, “ If I dismiss them, who will receive them ?” Abroad, his society was now very extensive, and included almost every man of the age, distinguished for learning, and many persons of considerable rank, who delighted in his company and conversation.
In 1767, he had the honour to be admitted to a personal interview with his ma. jesty in the library of the queen's palace. Of the conversation which passed, Mr. Boswell has given a very interesting and authentic account, which, it may here be mentioned, he prized at so high a rate, as to 'print it separately in a quarto sheet, and enter it in that form at Stationers' Hall, a few days before the publication of his Life of Johnson. He attempted in the same manner to secure Johnson's letter to Lord Chesterfield. In 1767, on the institution of the Royal Academy of Arts, Johnson was appointed professor in ancient literature, and there probably was at that time some design of giving a course of lectures. But this, and the professorship of ancient history, are as yet mere sinecures.
In 1770, his first political pamphlet made its appearance, in order to justify the conduct of the ministry and the house of commons in expelling Mr. Wilkes, and afterwards declaring col. Luttrell to be duly elected representative for the county of Middlesex, notwithstanding Mr. Wilkes had the majority of votes. The viva. city and pointed sarcasm of this pamphlet formed its chief recommendation, and it continues to be read as an elegant political declamation ; but it failed in its main object. It made no converts to the right of incapacitating Mr. Wilkes by the act of expulsion, and the ministry had not the courage to try the question of absolute inca. pacitation. Wilkes lived to see the offensive resolutions expunged from the journals of the house of commons, and what seemed yet more improbable, to be reconciled
to Johnson, who, with unabated dislike of his moral character, could not help admiring his classical learning, and social talents. His pamphlet, which was entitled the False Alarm, was answered by two or three anonymous writers of no great note.
In 1771, he appeared to more advantage as the author of Thoughts on the late Transactions respecting Falkland Islands, from materials partly furnished by the ministry, but highly enriched by his vigorous style, and peculiar train of thought. The object of this pamphlet was to represent the dispute respecting a barren island as an insufficient cause of war; and in the course of his reasoning, he has taken an opportunity to depict the miseries as well as the absurdity of unnecessary war, in a burst of animated and appropriate language which will probably never be exceeded. His character of Junius, in this pamphlet, is scarcely inferior.--The sale of the first edition was stopt for awhile by. lord North, and a few alterations made before it appeared in a second. Johnson's opinion of these two pamphlets was, that " there is a subtlety of disquisition in the False Alarm, which is worth all the fire of the other."
About this time, an ineffectual attempt was made by his steady friend Mr. Strahan, his majesty's printer, to procure him a seat in parliament. His biogra, phers have amused their readers by conjectures on the probable figure he would make in that assembly, and he owned frequently that he should not have been sorry to try. Why the interference of his friends was ineffectual, the minister only could tell, but he was certainly not ill advised. It is not improbable that Johnson would hare proved an able assistant on some occasions, where a nervous and man!y speech was wanted to silence the inferiors in opposition, but it may be doubted whether he would have given that uniform and open consent which is expected from a party man. Whatever aid he might be induced to give by his pen on certain subjects which accorded with his own sentiments, and of which he thought himself master, he by no means approved of many parts of the conduct of those ministers who carried on the American war; and he was ever decidedly against the principle (if it may be so called) that a man should go along with his party right or wrong. “ This,” he once said, “ is so remote from native virtue, from scholastic virtue, that a good man must have undergone a great change be, fore he can reconcile himself to such a doctrine. It is maintaining that you may lie to the public, for you do lie when you call that right which you think wrong, or the reverse.”
In the year 1773; he carried into execution a design which he had long media tated of visiting the western isles of Scotland. He arrived at Edinburgh on the 18th of August, and finished his journey on the 22d of November. During this time he passed some days at Edinburgh, and then went by St. Andrew's, Aber. deen, Inverness and Fort Augustus, to the Hebrides, visiting the isles of Sky, Rasay, Col, Mull, Inchkenneth and Icolmkill. He then travelled through Argylcshire by Inverary, and thence by Lochlomond and Dumbarton to Glasgow and Edinburgh. The popularity of his own account, which has perhaps been more generally read than any book of travels in modern times, and the Journal of his pleasant companion Mr. Boswell, render any farther notice of this jour. Dey unnecessary. The censure he met with is now remembered with indifference, and his Tour continues to be read without any of the unpleasant emotions which
it first excited, in those who contended that he had not stated the truth, or were unwilling that the truth should be stated.
During his absence, his humble friend and admirer, Thomas Davies, bookseller, ventured to publish two volumes entitled Miscellanies and fugitive Pieces, which he advertised in the newspapers, as the production of the 6 author of the Rambler.” Johnson was inclined to resent this liberty, until he recollected Davies's narrow circumstances, when he cordially forgave him, and continued his kindness to him as usual. A third volume appeared soon after, but all its contents are not from Dr. Johnson's pen.
On the dissolution of parliament in 1774, he published a short political pamphlet entitled The Patriot, the principal object of which appears to have been to repress the spirit of faction which at that time was too prevalent, especially in the metropolis. It was a hasty composition, called for, as he informed Mr. Boswell, on one day, and written the next. The success, since his time, of those mock-patriots whom he has so ably delineated, is too decisive a proof that the reign of political delusion is not to be shortened by eloquence or argument.
During his Tour in Scotland, he made frequent inquiries respecting the authen. ticity of Ossian's Poems, and received answers so unsatisfactory that, both in his book of travels and in conversation, he did not hesitate to treat the whole as an imposture. This excited the resentment of Macpherson, the editor, to such a degree that he wrote a threatening letter to Johnson, who answered it in a com. position which, in the expression of firm and unalterable contempt, is perhaps superior to that he wrote to Lord Chesterfield. In that he mixed somewhat of courtesy, but Macpherson he despised both as a man and a writer, and treated him as a ruffian,
The rupture between Great Britain and America once more roused our author's political energies, and produced his Taxation no Tyranny, in which he endeavoured to prove that distant colonies, which had in their assemblies a legislaa ture of their own, were, notwithstanding, liable to be taxed in a British parliament, where they had 'no representatives, and he thought that this country was strong enough to enforce obedience. This pamphlet, which appeared in 1975, produced a controversy which was carried on for some time with considerable spirit, although Johnson took no share in it : but the right of taxation was no longer a question for discussion : the Americans were in arms, blood had been spilt, and " successful rebellion became revolution.” No censure was more generally advanced, at this time, against our author, than that his opinions were regulated by his pension, and nono could be more void of foundation. His opinion, whether just or not, of the Americans was uniform throughout his life, and he continued to maiotain them when, in strict prudence, they might as well have been softened to the measure of changed times.
It is not improbable, however, that he felt the force of some of the replies made to his pamphlet, seconded as they were by the popular voice and by the discomfiture of the measures of administration. It is reported that he complained, and perhaps about this time, of being called upon to write political pamphlets, and threatened to give up his pension. Whether this complaint was carried to the proper quarter, Mr. Boswell has not informed us, but it is certain he wrote no more in defence