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writings had a tendency to hurt sound religion and morality.
The necessary expence of preparing a work of such magnitude for the press, must have been a considerable deduction from the price stipulated to be paid for the copy-right. I understand that nothing was allowed by the booksellers on that account; and I remember his telling me, that a large portion of it having, by mistake, been written upon both sides of the paper, so as to be inconvenient for the compositor, it cost him twenty pounds to have it transcribed upon one side only.
He is now to be considered as “ tugging at his oar,” as engaged in a steady continued course of occupation, sufficient to employ all his time for some years; and which was the best preventive of that constitutional melancholy which was ever lurking about him, ready to trouble his quiet. But his enlarged and lively mind could not be satisfied without more diversity of employment, and the pleasure of animated relaxation. He therefore not only exerted his talents in occasional composition, very different from Lexicography, but formed a club in Ivy-lane, Paternoster-row, with a view to enjoy literary discussion, and amuse his evening hours. The members associated with him in this little society were his beloved friend Dr. Richard Bathurst, Mr. Hawkesworth, afterwards well known by his writings, Mr. John Hawkins, an attorney, and a few others of different professions.
He was afterwards for several years. Chairman of the Middlesex Justices, and upon occasion of presenting an address to the King,
In the Gentleman's Magazine for May of this year he wrote a “ Life of Roscommon,”* with Notes, which he afterwards much improved, indented the notes into text, and inserted it amongst his Lives of the English Poets.
Mr. Dodsley this year brought out his PRECEPTOR, one of the most valuable books for the improvement of
minds that has appeared in any language ; and to this meritorious work Johnson furnished “ The Preface,”* containing a general sketch of the book, with a short and perspicuous recommendation of each article; as also, “ The Vision of Theodore the Hermit, found in his Cell,” * a most beautiful allegory of human life, under the figure of ascending the mountain of Existence. The Bishop of Dromore heard Dr. Johnson say, that he thought this was the best thing he ever wrote.
1749: ÆTAT. 40.]—In January, 1749, he published - THE VANITY OF HUMAN WISHES, being the Tenth Satire of Juvenal imitated." He, I believe, composed it the preceding year. Mrs. Johnson, for the sake of country air, had lodgings at Hampstead, to which he resorted occasionally, and there the greatest part, if not the whole, of this
accepted the usual offer of Knighthood. He is authour of " A History of Musick,” in five volumes in quarto. By assiduous at. tendance upon Johnson in his last illness, he obtained the office of one of his executors ; in consequence of which, the booksellers of London employed him to publish an edition of Dr. Johnson's works, and to write his Life.
7 Sir John Hawkins, with solemn inaccuracy, represents this poem as a consequence of the indifferent reception of his tragedy. But the fact is, that the poem was published on the 9th of January, and the tragedy was not acted till the 6th of the February fol. lowing.
Imitation was written. The fervid rapidity with which it was produced, is scarcely credible. I have heard him say, that he composed seventy lines of it in one day, without putting one of them upon paper till they were finished. I remember when I once regretted to him that he had not given us more of Juvenal's Satires, he said he probable should give more, for he had them all in his head ; by which I understood, that he had the originals and correspondent allusions floating in his mind, which he could, when he pleased, embody and render permanent without much labour. Some of them, however, he observed were too gross for imitation.
The profits of a single poem, however excellent, appear to have been very small in the last reign, compared with what a publication of the same size has since been known to yield. I have mentioned, upon Johnson's own authority, that for his LONDON he had only ten guineas; and now, after his fame was established, he got for his “ Vanity of Human Wishes” but five guineas more, as is proved by an authentick document in my possession.
It will be observed, that he reserves to himself the right of printing one edition of this satire, which was his practice upon occasion of the sale of all his writings; it being his fixed intention to publish at some period, for his own profit, a complete collection of his works.
8 « Nov. 25, 1748. I received of Mr. Dodsley fifteen guineas, for which I assign to him the right of copy of an imitation of the Tenth Satire of Juvenal, written by me; reserving to myself the right of printing one edition.
SAM. JOHNSON." “ London, 29 June, 1786. A true copy, from the original in Dr. Johnson's hand-writing.
His “ Vanity of Human Wishes” has less of common life, but more of a philosophick dignity than his “ London.” More readers, therefore, will be delighted with the pointed spirit of “ London,” than with the profound reflection of “ The Vanity of Human Wishes.” Garrick, for instance, observed in his sprightly manner, with more vivacity than regard to just discrimination, as is usual with wits, “ When Johnson lived much with the Herveys, and saw a good deal of what was passing in life, he wrote his
London, which is lively and easy. When he became more retired, he gave us his · Vanity of Human Wishes,' which is as hard as Greek. Had he
gone on to imitate another satire, it would have been as hard as Hebrew."9
But “ The Vanity of Human Wishes” is, in the opinion of the best judges, as high an effort of ethick poetry as any language can shew. The instances of variety of disappointment are chosen so judiciously, and painted so strongly, that, the moment they are read, they bring conviction to every thinking mind. That of the scholar must have depressed the too sanguine expectations of many an ambitious student.'
From Mr. Langton.
In this poem one of the instances mentioned of unfortunate learned men is Lydiat :
“ Hear Lydiat's life, and Galileo's end." The history of Lydiat being little known, the following account of him may be acceptable to many of my readers. It appeared as a .note in the Supplement to the Gentleman's Magazine for 1748, in which some passages extracted from Johnson's poem were inserted, and it should have been added in the subsequent editions.—A very learned divine and mathematician, fellow of New College, Oxon, and Rector of Okerton, near Banbury. He wrote, among many others; a Latin treatise De Natura cæli
, &c. in which he attacked
That of the warrior, Charles of Sweden, is, I think, as highly finished a picture as can possibly be conceived.
Were all the other excellencies of this poem annihilated, it must ever have our grateful reverence from its noble conclusion; in which we are consoled with the assurance that happiness may be attained, if we“ apply our hearts” to piety: “ Where then shall hope and fear their objects find ? “ Shall dull suspense corrupt the stagnant minu? “ Must helpless man, in ignorance sedate, “ Roll darkling down the torrent of his fate ? - Shall no dislike alarm, no wishes rise, “No cries attempt the mercy of the skies? “ Enthusiast, cease ; petitions yet remain, “ Which Heav'n may hear, nor deem Religion vain. “ Still raise for good the supplicating voice, " But leave to Heaven the measure and the choice. “ Safe in His hand, whose eye discerns afar « The secret ambush of a specious pray’r ;
Implore his aid, in his decisions rest, “ Secure whate'er he gives he gives the best.
the sentiments of Scaliger and Aristotle, not bearing to hear it urged, that some things are true in philosophy and false in divinity. He made above 600 Sermons on the harmony of the Evangelists. Being unsuccessful in publishing his works, he lay in the prison of Bocardo at Oxford, and in the King's Bench, till Bishop Usher, Dre Laud, Sir William Boswell, and Dr. Pink, released him by paying his debts. He petitioned King Charles I. to be sent into Ethiopia, &c. to procure MSS. Having spoken in favour of Monarchy and bishops, he was plundered by the parliament forces, and twice care ried away prisoner from his rectory; and afterwards had not a shirt to shift him in three months, without he borrowed it, and died very poor in 1646."