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of seconding the zeal of our fathers, and of sending them the assistance they requested; to which we were the more encouraged, because the Emperour's letter informed our Provincial, that we might easily enter his dominions by the way of Dancala ; but, unhappily, the secretary wrote Geila for Dancala, which cost two of our fathers their lives.” Every one acquainted with Johnson's manner will be sensible that there is nothing of it here; but that this sentence might have been composed by any other
But, in the Preface, the Johnsonian style begins to appear ; and though use had not yet taught his wing a permanent and equable flight, there are parts of it which exhibit his best manner in full vigour. I had once the pleasure of examining it with Mr. Edmund Burke, who confirmed me in this opinion, by his superiour critical sagacity, and was, I remember, much delighted with the following specimen :
“ The Portuguese traveller, contrary to the general vein of his countrymen, has amused his reader with no romantiek absurdity, or incredible fictions; whatever he relates, whether true or not, is at least probable ; and he who tells nothing exceeding the bounds of probability, has a right to demand that they should believe him who cannot contradict him.
“ He appears, by his modest and unaffected narration, to have described things as he saw them, to have copied nature from the life, and to have consulted his senses, not his imagination. He meets with no basilisks that destroy with their eyes, his crocodiles devour their prey without tears, and his
cataracts fall from the rocks without deafening the neighbouring inhabitants.
“ The reader will here find no regions cursed with irremediable barrenness, or blessed with spontaneous fecundity; no perpetual gloom, or unceasing sunshine; nor are the nations here described either devoid of all sense of humanity, or consummate in all private or social virtues. Here are no Hottentots without religious polity or articulate language; no Chinese perfectly polite, and completely skilled in all sciences ; he will discover, what will always be discovered by a diligent and impartial enquirer, that wherever hụman nature is to be found, there is a mixture of vice and virtue, a contest of passion and reason ; and that the Creator doth not appear partial in his distributions, but has balanced, in most countries, their particular inconveniencies by particular favours."
Here we have an early example of that brilliant and energetick expression, which, upon innumerable occasions in his subsequent life, justly impressed the world with the highest admiration.
Nor can any one, conversant with the writings of Johnson, fail to discern his hand in this
of the Dedication to John Warren, Esq. of Pembrokeshire, though it is ascribed to Warren the bookseller.
А generous and elevated mind is distinguished by nothing more certainly than an eminent degree of curiosity ; * nor is that curiosity ever more agreeably or usefully employed, than in examining the laws and customs of foreign nations. I hope, therefore, the present I now presume to make, will not be thought improper ; which, however, it is not my
* See RAMBLER, No. 103
business as a dedicator to commend, nor as a bookseller to depreciate."
It is reasonable to suppose, that his having been thus accidentally led to a particular study of the history and manners of Abyssinia, was the remote occasion of his writing, many years afterwards, his admirable philosophical tale, the principal scene of which is laid in that country.
Johnson returned to Lichfield early in 1734, and in August that year he made an attempt to procure some little subsistence by his pen ; 'for he published proposals for printing by subscription the Latin Poems of Politian : * 66 Angeli Politiani Poemata Latina, quibus, Notas cum historia Latina
à Petrarcha ævo ad Politiani tempora deductâ, et vitá Politiani fusius quam antehac enarratå, addidit SAM. Johnson.” of
It appears that his brother Nathanael had taken ur
his father's trade ; for it is mentioned that “ subscriptions are taken in by the Editor, or N. Johnson, bookseller, of Lichfield.” Notwithstanding the merit of Johnson, and the cheap price at which this book was offered, there were not subscribers enough to insure a sufficient sale; so the work never appeared, and probably, never was executed.
We find him again this year at Birmingham, and
* May we not trace a fanciful similarity between Politian, and Johnson ? Huetius, speaking of Paulus Pelissonius Fontanerius, says, “ --in quo Natura, ut olim in Angelo Politiano, deformitatem oris excellentis ingenii præstantia compensavit." Comment. de reb. ad eum pertin. Edit. Amstel. 1718. p, 200.
+ The book was to contain more than thirty sheets, the price to be two shillings and sixpence at the time of subscribing, and two shillings and sixpence at the delivery of a perfect book in quires.
there is preserved the following letter from him to Mr. Edward Cave,' the original compiler and editor of the Gentleman's Magazine :
Nov. 25, 1734. “ As you appear no less sensible than your readers of the defects of your poetical article, you will not be displeased, if, in order to the improvement of it, I communicate to you the sentiments of a person, who will undertake, on reasonable terms, sometimes to fill a column.
“ His opinion is, that the publick would not give you a bad reception, if, beside the current wit of the month, which a critical examination would generally reduce to a narrow compass, you admitted not only poems, inscriptions, &c. never printed before, which he will sometimes supply you with ; but likewise short literary dissertations in Latin or English, critical remarks, on authours ancient or modern, forgotten poeins that deserve revival, or loose pieces, like Floyer's,* worth preserving. By this method, your literary article, for so it might be called, will, he thinks, be better recommended to the publick than by low jests, aukward buffoonery, or the dull scurrilities of
Miss Cave, the grand-niece of Mr. Edward Cave, has obligingly shewn me the originals of this and the other letters of Dr. Johnson, to him, which were first published in the Gentleman's Magazine, with notes by Mr. John Nichols, the worthy and indefatigable editor of that valuable miscellany, signed N.; some of which I shall occasionally transcribe in the course of this work.
* Sir John Floyer's Treatise on Cold Baths. Gent. Mag. 1734. p. 197
“ If such a correspondence will be agreeable to you, be pleased to inform me in two posts, what the conditions are on which you shall expect it. Your late offer? gives me no reason to distrust your generosity. If you engage in any literary projects besides this paper,
I have other designs to impart, if I could be secure from having others reap the advantage of what I should hint.
“ Your letter by being directed to S. Smith, to be left at the Castle in Birmingham, Warwickshire, will reach
" Your humble servant."
Mr. Cave has put a note on this letter, “ Answered Dec. 2.” But whether any thing was done in consequence of it we are not informed.
Johnson had, from his early youth, been sensible to the influence of female charms. When at Stour. bridge school, he was much enamoured of Olivia
Lloyd, a young quaker, to whom he wrote a copy of van verses, which I have not been able to recover ; but
with what facility and elegance he could warble the amorous lay, will appear from the following lines which he wrote for his friend Mr. Edmund Hector.
VERSES to a LADY, on receiving from her a SPRIG of
MYRTLE. “ What hopes, what terrours does thy gift create, " Ambiguous emblem of uncertain fate : “ The myrtle, ensign of supreme command,
Consign’d by Venus to Melissa's hand;
2 A prize of fifty pounds for the best poem “on Life, Death, Judgement, Heaven, and Hell.” See Gentleman's Magazine, vol. iv. p. 560. N.