Imatges de pàgina

remark: the sentiments were the same, but they had loft their power, their brilliancy, and their attraction: the interest which had fascinated us in the first perusal was no more, and the labour was irksome and unpleasing. We shall, therefore, haften to the conclusion, after selecting some of the more important remarks, and adding a few general observations on some parts of Dr. Johnson's character. In the present levelling disposition of reformers, the remarks on entails may be worth selecting : the veteran is at this period in his 67th year. ... He said, “ Entails are good, because it is good to preserve

in a country, ferieses of men, to whom the people are accustomed . to look up as to their leaders. But I am for leaving a quantity of land in commerce, to excite industry, and keep money in the country; for if no land were to be bought in a country, there would be no encouragement to acquire wealth, because a family could not be founded there; or if it were acquired, it must be carried away to another country where land may be bought. ‘And although the land in every country will remain the same, and be 'as fertile where there is no money, as where there is, yet all that portion of the happiness of civil life, which is produced by money circulating in a country, would be loft.” BoswELL. “ Then, sir, would it be for the advantage of a country that all its lands were sold at once?" JOHNSON. “ So far, fir, as - money produces good it would be an advantage, for, then that country would have as much money circulating in it as it is worth. But to be sure this would be counter balanced by disadvantages attending a total change of proprietors."

• I expressed my opinion that the power of entailing thould be limited thus: “ That there should be one third, or perhaps one half of the land of a country kept free for commerce ; that the proportion allowed to be entailed, foulu be parcelled out lo as that no family could entail above a certain quantity. Let a family according to the abilities of its representatives, be sicher or poorer in different generations, or always rich if its represen. tatives be always wise : but let its absolute permanency be moderate. In this way we should be certain of there being always a number of established roots; and as in the course of nature, there is in every age an extinction of some families, there would be continual openings for men ambitious of perpetuity, to plant a stock in the entail ground.” Johnson. " Why, fir, mankind will be better able to regulate the system of entails, when the evil of too much land being locked up by them is felt, than we can do at present when it is not felt.”

This indeed is but the sketch of the question, nor is it expanded in that part which is of most importance, viz. how far it is right to prevent the general diffusion of property. We


mention it only to observe, that we wish to see it discussed with all the improvements which our more experienced state of commerce may surgeft.

About this time Dr. Blair offered his first volume of sermons for sale; and we may incidentally observe, that Mr. Strahan discouraged the publication. Sermons were not at that time fashionable; and the polish of Dr. Blair, which gave elegance to sentiments not too profound for common comprehension, nor too obvious to be uninteresting, was wanting to render this fpecies of composition popular and generally pleasing. In consequence of Johnson's approbation, one hundred pounds were given for the first volume, which, in consequence of the extensive sale, the proprietors doubled. They gave him 300 pounds for the second, and 600 for the third. The last sum, we believe, was more than ever a work of equal bulk procured from booksellers; but it increased the sale of the former two volumes.

The Lives of the English Poets formed a memorable æra in Johnson's life. It is a work which has contributed to immortalize his name; and has secured that rational esteem which party or partiality could not procure, and which even the injudicious zeal of his friends has not been able to lessen. We mean not to say that they are perfect, or that on the whole they are executed with propriety. Johnson, as we have already had occasion to remark, brought to the production of this work ideas already formed, opinions tinctured with his usual hues of party and prejudice, and the rigid unfeeling philosophy, which could neither bend to excuse failings, or judge of what was not capable of a dispassio:iate disquisition. In general, it may be observed, that though there are many opinions erroneous, and many observations improper, a great part of the work is such as no one but himself could have executed, and in which he will not be followed with success. We shall trace this attempt from what appears to be its first dawn, in a letter from Mr. Dilly to Mr. Boswell. ii Dear Sir,

Southill, Sept. 26, 1777. “ You will find by this letter, that I am fill in the same calm retreat from the noise and bustle of London, as when I wrote to you last. I am happy to find you had such an agreeable meeting with your old friend Dr. Johnson ; I have no doubt your stock is much increased by the interview ; few men, nay I may say, scarcely any man has got that fund of knowledge and entertain. ment as Dr. Johnson in conversation. When he opens freely, every one is attentive to what he says, and cannot fail of improve. ment as well as pleasure.


« The « The edition of the poets, now printing, will do honour to the English press, and a concise account of the life of each author, by Dr. Johnfun, will be a very valuable addision, and stamp the reputation of this edition fuperior to any thing that is gone before, The first cause that gave rise to this undertaking, I believe, was owing to the little trifling edition of the poets, printing by the Martins, at Edinburgh, and to be sold by Bell, in London. Upon examining the volumes which were printed, the type was found fo extremely small, that many persons could not read them ; not only this inconvenience attended it, but the inaccuracy of the press was very conspicuous. These reasons, as well as the idea of an invasion of what we call our literary property, induced the London booksellers to print an elegant and accurate edition of * all the English poets of reputation, from Chaucer to the presene time.

“ Accordingly a select number of the most respectable booksellers met on the occasion, and, on consulting together, agreed, that all the proprietors of copy-right in the various poets should be fummoned together; and when their opinions were given, to proceed immediately on the businefs. Accordingly a meeting was held, consisting of about forty of the most respectable bookfellers of London, when it was agreed that an elegant and uni. form edition of · The English Poets' fhould be immediately print, ed, with a concise account of the life of each author, by Dr. Samuel Johnson, and that three persons should be deputed to wait upon Dr. Johnson, to solicit him to undertake the lives, viz. T. Davis, Strahan, and Cadell. The Doctor very politely undertook it, and seemed exceeding pleafed with the proposal. As to the terms, it was left entirely to the Doctor to name his own: he mentioned two hundred guineas : it was immediately agreed to; and a farther compliment, I believe, will be made him. A committee was likewise appointed to engage the best engravers, viz. Bartolozzi, Sherwin, Hall, &c. Likewise another committee for giving directions about the paper, printing, &c. so that she whole will be conducted with spirit, and in the best manner, with respect to authorship, editorship, engraving, &c. &c. My brother will give you a list of the poets we mean to give, many of which are within the time of the act of queen Anne, which Martin and Bell cannot give, as they have no pro. perty in them; the proprietors are almost all the booksellers in London of consequence. Tam, dear fir,

« Ever yours,


* There is more than one circumstance, in this letter, which is fufpicious: it is remarkable chat, in the tirit plan, the earliest poet was Cowley.

It was owing it seems to Dr. Johnson's recommendation that among the English poets we find Watts; who would perhaps have asked, if he had viewed the lettering on the back of the volume, whether the English poet was a relation or a namesake only. But we mean not to depreciate Watts, whose acquisitions were mumerous and extensive. He knew much, and what he knew he understood clearly; his elementary works are perfpicuous, judicious, and correct. We object only to his poetry; for the poetical beauties appear scattered almost, as it seems, by accident; and though he may rival, perhaps excel, some of the minor poets, admitted injudicioully into the same collection, we could have wished that his poetical fame had not been obtruded on the public view. With Johnson his piety and orthodoxy seemed to throw a lustre over his other talents. But this subject will lead us too far.

The fate of Dr. Dodd called forth the strenuous exertions of Johnson's vast comprehensive mind. We find from Mr. Bofwell's work that Johnson thought his sentence just; yet, perhaps, fearing that religion might suffer from the errors of one of its ministers, he endeavoured to prevent the last ignominious spectacle. All his attempts were, however, ineffectual; and we ihall add to the chances of rescuing from oblivion his laft letter to Dr. Dodd, and his concluding reflections, by transcribing them in our Journal.

“ Dear Sir, " That which is appointed to all men is now coming upon you. Outward circumstances, the eyes and the thoughts of men, are below the notice of an immortal being about to stand the trial for eternity, before the Supreme Judge of heaven and earth. Be comforted : your crime, morally or religiously considered, has no very deep dye of turpitude. It corrupted no man's principle ; it attacked no man's life. It involved only a temporary and reparable injury. Of this, and of all other fins, you are earnestly to repent, and may God, who knoweth our frailty and desireth not our death, accept your repentance, for the sake of his son Jesus Christ our Lord.

" In requital of those well intended offices, which you are pleased so emphatically to acknowledge, let me beg that you make in your devotions one petition for my eternal welfare. I 2m, dear fir,

“ Your affectionate servant, " June 26, 1777

SAM. JOHNSON.” • Under the copy of this letter I found written, in Johnson's own hand, “ Next day, June 27, he was executed.”

" To


" To conclude this interesting episode with an useful applica tion, let us now attend to the reflections of Johnson at the end of the · Occasional Papers,' concerning the unfortunate Dr. Dodd, - Such were the last thoughts of a man whom we have seen exulting in popularity, and funk in Thame. For his reputation, which no man can give to bimself, those who conferred it are to answer : of his public miniftry the means of judging were suffi. ciently attainable. He must be allowed to preach well, whose sermons Atrike his audience with forcible conviction. Of his life, those who thought it consistent with his doctrine did not originally form false notions. He was at first what he endeavoured to make others; but the world bruke down his resolution, and he in time çcased to exemplify his own instructions.

" Let those who are tempted to his faults, tremble at his punishment; and those whom he impressed from the pulpit with religious sentiments, endeavour to confirm them by confidering the regret and self-abhorrence with which he reviewed in prison his deviations from rectii ude *'

Let us add the subsequent paragraph, introduced, we think, a little too abruptly; but is a bold, well drawn, natural character, and shows a deep knowledge of the human heart.

• Johnson gave us this evening in his happy discriminative mans ner, a portrait of the late Mr. Fitzherbert of Derbyshire. • There was, said he, no sparkle, no brilliancy in Fitzherbert; but I ne. ver knew a man who was so generally acceptable. He made every body quite easy, overpowered nobody by the superiority of his talents, made no man think worse of himself by being his rival; seemed always to listen, did not oblige you to hear much from him, and did not oppose what you said. Every body liked him; but he had no friend, as I understand the word, nobody with whom he exchanged intimate though:s. People were willing to think well of every thing about him. A gentleman was making an affected rant, as many people do, of great feelings about his dear fon,' who was at school near London ; how anxious he was left he might be ill, and what he would give to see him. • Can't you (said Fitzherbert) take a poft-chaise and go to him?' This to be sure, fin bed the affected man, but there was not much in it. However this was circulated as wit for a whole winter, and I believe part of a summer 100; a proof that he was no very

As a proof of Dr. Dodd's wonderful powers of persuasion, we may men. zion the effects of his preaching on a man of sound judgment and solid underftaoduy. He went to the Magdalen chapel fully aware of the preacher's power, and, on his guard, as he said, againn his canting. He was soon deeply engaged in the subject of the discourse, and gave to the collection all the m ney in bis pocker, regretting he had no more, though ihe morning's reflect10:.6 led him io regret that he had so much.

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