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to a display of his authority: resembling in this particular Swift, and one or two other men of genius, who have had the bad taste to imagine that their talents elevated them above observance of the common rules of society. It must be also remarked, that in Johnson's time, the literary society of London was much more confined than at present, and that he sat the Jupiter of a little circle, sometimes indeed nodding approbation, but always prompt, on the slightest contradiction, to launch the thunders of rebuke and sarcasm. He was, in a word, despotic, and despotism will occasionally lead the best dispositions into unbecoming abuse of power. It is not likely that any one will again enjoy, or have an opportunity of abusing, the sin
1 [Sir Walter Scott elsewhere supplies the following anecdote :-“ Mr Boswell has chosen to omit, for reasons which will be presently obvious, that Johnson and Adam Smith met at Glasgow; but I have been assured, by Professor John Miller, that they did so, and that Smith, leaving the party where he had met Johnson, happened to come to another where Miller was. Knowing that Smith had been in Johnson's society, they were anxious to know what had passed, and the more so, as Smith's temper seemed much ruffled. At first, Smith would only answer, 'He's a brute he's a brute;' but, on closer examination, it appeared that Johnson no sooner saw Smith, than he attacked him for some point of his famous letter on the death of Hume. Smith vindicated the truth of his statement. What did Johnson say?' was the universal inquiry. “Why, he said,' replied Smith, with the deepest impression of resentment, 'he said, you lie!'- And what did you reply??_' I said, you are a son of a- !' On such terms did these two great moralists meet and part, and such was the classical dialogue between two great teachers of philosophy."-CROKER's Boswell, vol. iii., p. 65.]
gular degree of submission which was rendered to Johnson by all around him. The unreserved communications of friends, rather than the spleen of enemies, have occasioned his character being exposed in all its shadows, as well as its lights. But those, when summed and counted, amount only to a few narrow-minded prejudices concerning country and party, from which few ardent tempers remain entirely free, an over-zeal in politics, which is an ordinary attribute of the British character, and some violences and solecisms in manners, which left his talents, morals, and benevolence, alike unimpeachable.?
Of Rasselas, translated into so many languages, and so widely circulated through the literary world, the merits have been long justly appreciated. It was composed in solitude and sorrow; and the melancholy cast of feeling which it exhibits, sufficiently evinces the temper of the author's mind. The resemblance, in some respects, betwixt the tenor of the moral and that of Candide, is striking, and Johnson himself admitted, that if the authors could possibly have seen each other's manuscript, they could not have escaped the charge of plagiarism. But they resemble each other like a wholesome and a poisonous fruit. The object of the witty Frenchman is to induce a distrust of the wisdom of the great Governor of the Universe, by presuming to arraign him of incapacity before the creatures of his will. Johnson uses arguments drawn from the same premises, with the benevolent view of encouraging men to look to another and a better world, for the satisfaction of wishes, which in this seem only to be awakened in order to be disappointed. The one is a fiend—a merry devil, we grant—who scoffs at and derides human miseries ; the other, a friendly though grave philosopher, who shows us the nothingness of earthly hopes, to teach us that our affections ought to be placed higher.
i p« To obviate all the reflections which have gone round the world to Johnson's prejudice, by applying to him the epithet of a bear, let me impress upon my readers a just and happy saying of my friend Goldsmith, who knew him well: • Johnson, to be sure, has a roughness in his manner; but no man alive has a more tender heart. He has nothing of the bear but his skin.'”_Boswell.]
The work can scarce be termed a narrative, being in a great measure void of incident; it is rather a set of moral dialogues on the various vicissitudes of human life, its follies, its fears, its hopes, its wishes, and the disappointment in which all terminate. The style is in Johnson's best manner ; enriched and rendered sonorous by the triads and quaternions which he so much loved, and balanced with an art which perhaps he derived from the learned Sir Thomas Brown. The reader may sometimes complain, with Boswell, that the unalleviated picture of human helplessness and misery, leaves sadness upon the mind after perusal. But the moral is to be found in the conclusion of the Vanity of Human Wishes, a poem which treats of the same melancholy subject, and closes with this sublime strain of morality :
“ Pour forth thy fervours for a healthful mind,
LAURENCE STERNE was one of those few authors who have anticipated the labours of the biographer, and left to the world what they desired should be known of their family and their life. It is but a slight sketch, however, addressed to his daughter, and stops short just where the reader becomes most interested in its progress, being very succinct in all which regards the author's personal history.
“Roger Sterne," ' (says this narrative,) “grandson to Archbishop Sterne, Lieutenant in Handaside's regiment, was married to Agnes Hebert, widow of a captain of a good family. Her family name was (I believe) Nuttle ;—though, upon recollection,
1 Mr Sterne was descended from a family of that name in Suffolk, one of which settled in Nottinghamshire. The following genealogy is extracted from Thoresby's Ducatus Leodinensis, p. 215.
SIMON STERNE, of Mansfield.
Dr Richard 'Sterne, = Archbishop of York,
ob. June 1683.
Richard Sterne, William Sterne, Simon Sterne, Mary, daughter of York and of Mansfield. of Elvington and heiress of
and Halitax, Roger Jaques, Esg, 1700.
ob. 1703. of Elvington,
15 Richard. ROGER. Jaques, LL.D. Mary, Elizabeth. Frances.
ob. 1759. Richard