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Birmingham. Here, too, he abridged and translated Father Lobo's Voyage to Abyssinia, which was published in 1735 by Bettesworth and Hitch in Paternoster Row, London. For this, his first literary performance, he received the small sum of five guineas. In the translation there is little that marks the hand of John. son, but in the preface and dedication are a few passages in the same energetic and manly style which he may be said to have invented, and to have taught to his countrymen.
In 1734, he returned to Litchfield, and issued proposals for an edition of the Latin poems of Politian, with the history of Latio poetry, from the era of Pe. trarch to the time of Politian, and also the life of Politian; the book to be print. ed in thirty octavo sheets, price five shillings. Those who have not attended to the literary history of this country will be surprised that such a work could not be undertaken without the precaution of a subscription, and they will regret that in this case the subscription was so inadequate to the expense of printing as to deter our author from executing what probably would have made him known and patronized by the learned world.
Disappointed in this scheme, he offered his services to Mr. Cave, the proprie. Yor and editor of the Gentleman's Magazine, who had given some proofs of a lie heral spirit of enterprize in calling forth the talents of unknown and ingenious writers. On this occasion he suggested some improvements in the management of the Magazine and specified the articles which he was ready to supply. Cave an. swered his letter, but it does not appear that any agreement was formed at this time. He soon, however, entered into a connection of a more tender kind, which ended in marriage. His wife, who was about twenty years older than him. self, was the widow of Mr. Porter, a mercer of Birmingham, a lady whose cha. racter has been variously represented, but seldom to her discredit. She was, how. ever, the object of his first passion, and although they did not pass the whole time of their union in uninterrupted harmony, he lamented her death with unfeigned sor. row, and retained an enthusiastic veneration for her memory.
She had a fortune of eight hundred pounds, and with part of this he hired a large house at Edial near Litchfield, which he fitted up as an academy, where young gentlemen were to be boarded and taught the Latin and Greek languages. Gil. bert Walmsley, a man of learning and worth, whom he has celebrated by a cha. racter drawn with unparalleled elegance, endeavoured to promote this plan, but it proved abortive. Three pupils only appeared, one of whom was David Garrick : with these he made a shift to kcep the school open for about a year and a half, and was then obliged to discontinue it, perhaps not much against his inclination. No man knew better than Johnson what ought to be taught, but the business of edu. cation was confessedly repugnant to his habits and his temper.
During this short residence at Edial, he wrote a considerable part of his Irene, which Mr. Walmsley advised him to prepare for the stage, and it was probably by this gentleman's advice that he determined to try his fortune in London. His pupil Garrick had formed the same resolution, and in March 1737, they arrived in London together. Garrick, after some farther preparatory education, was de signed for the study of the law, but in three or four years went on the stage, obe tained the bighest honours that dramatic fame could confer, with a fortune splendid beyond all precedent. The difference in the lot of these two young men might lead to many reflections oa the taste of the age, and the value of its patron. age, but they are too obvious to be obtruded on any reader of feeling or judgment, and to others they would be unintelligible.
In what manner Johnson was employed for some time after his arrival in Lon. don, is not known. He brought a small sum of money with him, and he hosbanded it with frugality, while he mixed in such society as was accessible to a friendless and uncourtly scholar, and amused himself in contemplating the manners of the metropolis. It appears that at one time he took lodgings at Green. wich, and proceeded by fits to complete his tragedy. He renewed his application also to Cave, sending him a specimen of a translation of the History of the Council of Trent, and desiring to know if Cave would join in the publication of it. Cave appears to have consented, for twelve sheets were printed for which our author received forty-nine pounds, but another translation being announced about the same period (1738) by a rival whose name was also Samuel Johnson, librarian of St. Martins in the Fields, our author desisted, and the other design was also dropped.
In the course of the summer he went to Litchfield, where he had left Mrs. Johnson, and there, during a residence of three months, finished his tragedy for the stage.
On his return to London with Mrs. Joboson, he endeavoured to prevail on Fleetwood, the patentee of Drury-lane theatre, to accept Irene, but in this was unsuccessful, and having no interest with any other manager, he laid aside his play in pursuit of literary employment. He had now become personally known to Cave, and began to contribute to the Magazine original poetry, Latin, and English translations, biographical sketches, and other miscellaneous articles, particularly the debates in parliament, under the name of the Senate of Lilliput, At that time the debates were not allowed to be published, as now, the morning after the day of meeting, and the only safe mode of conveying the substance of them to the public was by adopting a historical form at more distant periods. At first, Johnson merely revised the manuscript as written by Guthrie ', who then supplied this department of the Magazine, but when Guthrie had attained a higher rank among authors, the whole devolved on his coadjutor. His only materials were a few notes supplied by persons who attended the houses of parliament, from which, and sometimes from information even more scanty, he compiled a series of speeches, of which the sentiments as well as the style were often his own. In his latter days he disapproved of this practice, and desisted from writing the speeches as soon as he found they were thought genuine.
The value of his contributions to this Magazine must have been soon acknow, ledged. It was then in its infancy, and there is a visible improvement from the time he began to write for it. Cave had a contriving head, but with too much of Jiterary quackery. Johnson, by recommending original or selected pieces calculated to improve the taste and judgment of the public, raised the dignity of the Magazine above its contemporaries, and to him we certainly owe, in a great measure, the various information and literary history for which that miscellany has ever
"Guthrie composed the parliamentary speeches from July 1736, and Johnson succeeded him November 1740, and contivued them to February 1742-3. C.
been distinguished, and in which it has never been interrupted by a successful rival. By some manuscript memorandums concerning Dr. Johnson, written by the late Dr. Farmer, and obligingly given to me by Mr. Nichols, it appears that he was considered as the conductor or editor of the Magazine for some time, and received an huudred pouods per annum from Cave.
In the year 1738, he made his name at once known and highly respected among the eminent mon of his time, by the publication of London, a piece in imitation of the third satire of Juvenal. The history of this publication is not uninteresting. Young authors did not then present themselves to the public without much cautious preparation.Johnson conveyed his poem to Care as the production of another, of one who was “under very disadvantageous circumstances of fortune,” and as some small encouragement to the printer, he not only offered to correct the press, but even to alter any stroke of satire which he might dislike. Cave, whose heart appears to more advantage in this than in some other of his transactions with authors, sent a present to Johnson for the use of his poor friend, and afterwards, it appears, recommend. ed Dodsley as a purchaser. Dudsley had just began business, and had speculated but on a few publications of no great consequence. He had, however, judgment enough to discern the merit of the poem now submitted to him, and bargained for the whole property. The sum Johnson received was ten guineas, and such were his circumstances, or such the state of literary property at that time, that he was fully content, and was cver ready to acknowledge Dodsley's useful patronage.
The poem was accordingly published in May 1738, and on the same morning with Pope's Satire of Seventeen Hundred and Thirty Eight. Johnson's was so eagerly bought up, that a second edition became necessary in less than a week. Pope behaved
on this occasion with great liberality. He bestowed high praise on the London, and intimated that the author, whose name had not yet appeared, could not be long concealed. In this poem may be observed some of those political prejudices for which Johnson contended more frequently afterwards. He thought proper to join in the popular clamour against the administration of sir Robert Walpole, but lived to reflect with more complacency on the conduct of that minister when compared with some of his successors.
His London procured him fame, and Cave was not sorry to have engaged the services of a man whose talents had now the stamp of public approbation. Whether he had offers of patronage, or was thought a formidable enemy to the minister, is not so certain, but having leisure to calculate how little his labours were likely to produce, he soon began to wish for some establishment of a more permanent kind. With this view an offer was made to him of the mastership of the school of Appleby in Leicestershire, the salary of which was about sixty pounds, but the laws of the school required that the candidate should be a master of arts. The university of Oxford, when applied to, refused to grant this favour. Earl Gower was then solicited in behalf of Johnson, by Pope, who knew him only as the author of London. His lordship accordingly wrote to Swist, soliciting a diploma from the university of Dublin, but for what reason we are not told, this application too was uasuccessful. Mr. Murphy says, “ There is reason to think that Swist declined to meddle in the business : and to that circumstance Johnson's koowo dislike of Swift has often been imputed.". That Swift declined to meddle in the business is not improbable, for it appears by his letters of this date (August 1738) that he was incapable of attending to any business : but Johnson's Life of Swift proves that his dislike had a more honourable foundation.
About this time Johnson formed a design of studying the civil law, in order to practise in the Commons, yet this also was rendered impossible for want of a degree, and he was obliged to resume his labours in the Gentleman's Magazine. The various articles which came from his pen are enumerated in chronological series by Mr. Boswell. It will be sufficient for the present sketch to notice only his more important productions, or such as were of sufficient consequence to be pub. lished separately.
In 1739, he wrote A complete Vindication of the Licensers of the Stage, from the malicious and scandalous Aspersions of Mr. Brooke, Author of Gustavus Vasa: and a political tract entitled Marmor Norfolciense, or an Essay on an ancient prophetical Inscription, in monkish Rhyme, lately discovered near Lynne in Norfolk, by Probus Britannicus. These pieces, it is almost needless to add, were ironical, a mode of writing in which our author was not eminently successful. Some notice has already been taken of Gustavus Vasa in the life of Brooke. The Marmor Norfolciense was a severe attack on the Walpole admini. stration and on the reigning family : but whether it was not well understood, or when urderstood, considered as feeble, it certainly was not much attended to by the friends of government, nor procured to the author the reputation of a dange. rous opponent. Sir Johu Hawkins indeed says, that a prosecution was ordered, but of this no traces can be found in any of the public offices. One of his political enemies reprinted it in the year 1775, to show what a change had been effected in his principles by a pension, but thc publisher does not seem to have known how little change was really effected, and how little was necessary to render Johnson a loyal subject to his munificent sovereign, and a determined enemy of the popular politics of that time. : His next publication of any note was his Life of Savage, which he afterwards prefixed to that poet's works when admitted into his collection. With Savage he had been for some time intimately acquainted, but how long is not known. They met at Cave's house. Jehnson admired his abilities, and while he sympathized with the very singular train of misfortunes which placed him among the indigent, was not less touched by his pride of spirit, and the lofty demeanour with whick he treated those who neglected him. In all Savage's virtues, there was much in common with Johnson, but his narrative shows with what nicety he could sepa. rate his virtues from his vices, and blame even firmness and independence when they degenerated into obstinacy and misanthropy. He has concealed none of Savage's failings, and what appears of the exculpatory kind, is merely an endea: vour to present a just view of that unfortunate combination of circumstances by which Savage was driven from the paths of decent and moral life; and to incite every reflecting person to put the important question " who made me to differ?”
This life, of which two editions were very speedily sold, affords an extraordinary proof of the facility with which Johoson composed. He wrote forty-eight pages of the printed copy in the course of a day, or night, for it is not very clear which.
His biographer who records this, enters at the same time into a long discussion in. tevded to prove that Savage was not the son of the countess of Macclesfield; but had this been possible, it would surely have been accomplished when the proof might have been rendered unanswerable.
In 1745, he published Miscellaneous Observations on the Tragedy of Macheth, with Remarks on Sir Thomas Hanmer's edition of Shakspeare, to which he affixed proposals for a new edition of that poet, and it is probable he was now devoting his whole time to this undertaking, as we find a suspension of his periodi. cal contributions during the years 1745 and 1746. It is perhaps too rash to conclude that he declined writing in the Magazine because he would not join in the support of government during the rebellion in Scotland; but there are abundant proofs in Mr. Boswell's Life, that his sentiments were favourable to that attempt. As to his plan of an edition of Shakspeare, he had many difficulties to encounter. Little notice was taken of his proposals, and Warburton was known to be engaged in a simiJar undertaking. Warburton, however, had the liberality to praise his observations on Macbeth, as the production of a man of parts and genius: and Johnson never forgot the favour. Warburton, he said, praised him when praise was of value.
In 1747, he resumed his Jabeurs in the Gentleman's Magazine, and although many entire pieces cannot be ascertained to have come from his pen, he was frequently, if not constantly, employed to superintend the materials of the magazine, and several introductory passages may be pointed out which bear evident marks of his composition. In this year his old pupil and friend, Garrick, became manager of Drury-lane theatre, and obtained from Johnson a prologue, which is generally esteemed one of the finest productions of that kind in our language. In this year also he issued his plan for a Dictionary of the English language.
The design of this great work was at first suggested by Dodsley, and Johnson, having consented to undertakeit, entered into an agreement with the booksellers for the sum of fifteen hundred guineas, which he was to receive in small payments proportioned to the quantity of manuscript sent to press. The plan was addressed to the celebrated earl of Chesterfield, who had discovered an inclination to be the patron of the author, and Johnson having made suitable preparations, hired a house in Gough-Square, engaged amanuenses, and began a task which he carried on by fits, as inclination and health permitted, for nearly eight years. His amanuenses were six in number, and employed upon what may be termed the mechanical part of the work, but their expenses and his own were so considerable, that before the work was concluded, he had received the whole of the money stipulated for in his agreement with the proprietors. In what time it might have been completed, had he, to use his own phrase, “ set doggedly about it,” it is useless to conjecture, and it would perbaps have been hurtful to try. Whoever has been em. ployed on any great literary work knows, not only the pleasure, but the necessity of occasional relaxation; and Johnson's mind, stored with various knowledge, and a rich fund of sentiment, afforded him many opportunities of this kind, in ad. dition to the love of society, which was his predominant passion. We find accordingly, that during the years in which his Dictionary was on hand, be accepted