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In this section are comprehended several eminent persons, who, though noticed under other heads, may here be more particularly adverted to, as much of their fame arises from miscellaneous literature ; this department also embraces a few who fall under no other division. Of the first class the most remarkable is Dr. SAMUEL JOHNSON (1709–1784), whose character as a poet and essayist has already been given. He was born of obscure parents at Litchfield, and after an unsuccessful attempt as a teacher, became a professional author in London, where, during the earlier part of his life, he suffered great hardships. Among his miscellaneous writings must be reckoned his contributions to the early volumes of the Gentleman's Magazine, his Dictionary of the English Language, his Journey to the Western Íslands, and his Lives of the Poets and other persons. The compilation of the Dictionary occupied the years between 1747 and 1755, and though a work of great value for its admirable definitions, and rich in wellchosen and beautiful quotations, is now considered defective in etymology, and too limited in the selection of words. The Journey to the Western Islands contains many just and philosophical views of society, and some lively descriptions. Perhaps the very best productions of the pen of Johnson are his Lives of the Poets, which were written between 1779 and 1781, as prefaces to a collection of the works of those individuals. It is to be regretted that, according to the taste of the time, the list of the genuine poets of England being held to commence with Cowley, we want in this work memoirs of Chaucer, Spenser, and the many excellent writers who adorned the reigns of Elizabeth and James: at the same time, it admits notices of several persons whose writings are now justly neglected. Yet, after every defect and blemish has been acknowledged, there still remains a most valuable store of biography, criticism, and powerful thinking. The last peculiarity is that which most conspicuously characterises the writings of Johnson. Under the weight of a pompous and over-artificial dic
tion, and struggling with numberless prejudices and foibles, we see, in all of his compositions, the workings of a strong and reflecting mind. It is to be lamented that this great writer and virtuous man laboured under - constitutional infirmities of body and mind, which rendered him occasionally gloomy, capricious, and overbearing; though he seems to have been by no means deficient in either abstract or practical benevolence. It is remarkable that while the works of Johnson are becoming less and less familiar to modern readers, his life, as related by his friend James BoSWELL, is constantly increasing in popularity. This appears to result from the forced and turgid style of his writing, which is inconsistent with the taste of the present age, while his colloquial language, as reported by his biographer, has perfect ease and simplicity, with equal, if not superior energy. The Life of Johnson is in itself one of the most valuable literary productions of the eighteenth century. It
It is the most minute and complete account of a human being ever written. Mr. Boswell, who was a native of Scotland, and a man of lively, though not powerful intellect, employed himself for many years in gathering the particulars of his friend's life, in noting down the remarks of the moralist upon men and things, and in arranging and compiling his work, which was published in 1791 in two volumes quarto. Its author has thus, by an employment to which few men would have condescended, and a laborious exertion of powers, in themselves almost trifling, been the means of presenting to the world one of the most instructive and entertaining books in existence.
Dr. Adam Smith (1723-1790), who was alluded to in the section of metaphysical writers, as author of a Theory of Moral Sentiments, published, in 1776, his Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations; the first work in which the science of Political Economy was fully and philosophically treated. Dr. Smith, who was a native of Scotland, and professor of moral philosophy in the University of Glasgow, is said to have spent about ten years in preparing this celebrated book, which, in the utility of its object, and in logical and vigorous thinking, differs greatly from the generality
of the productions of the eighteenth century. It may be remarked of most of the writers, and also of the statesmen, of this age, that they aimed less at precise knowledge and sound reasoning than at rhetorical elegance; they sought the shadow rather than the subtance. Dr. Smith, on the contrary, devoted himself to the elucidation of a science which is not capable of any ornament, but professes to treat of every thing upon which the physical comfort of a country depends. He showed that the only source of the opulence of nations is labour—that the natural wish to augment our fortunes and rise in the world, is the cause of riches being accumulated. He demonstrated that labour is productive of wealth, when employed in manufactures and commerce, as well as when it is employed in the cultivation of land; he traced the various means by which labour may be rendered most effective; and gave a most admirable analysis and exposition of the prodigious addition made to its efficacy by its division among different individuals and countries, and by the employment of accumulated wealth, or capital, in industrious undertakings. He also showed, in opposition to the commonly received opinions of the merchants, politicians, and statesmen of his time, that wealth does not consist in the abundance of gold and silver, but in the abundance of the various necessaries, conveniences, and enjoyments of human life ; that it is in every case sound policy to leave individuals to pursue their own interest in their own way; that, in prosecuting branches of industry advantageous to themselves, they necessarily prosecute such as are, at the same time, advantageous to the public; and that every regulation intended to force industry into particular channels, or to determine the species of commercial intercourse to be carried on between different parts of the same country, or between distant and independent countries, is impolitic and pernicious.* Such are the leading features of a work, which, though not without some errors of doctrine, was far before the general sense of the age in which it appeared, and must ever be considered as one of the noblest productions of the human intellect.
* M'Culloch's Principles of Political Economy, 2d edit. p. 57.
EDMUND BUKRE (1730-1797), distinguished as statesman, may be ranked with the miscellaneous writers of this period, on account of his Essay on the Sublime and Beautiful, which appeared in 1757, and from the elegance of its language, and the spirit of philosophical investigation which it displayed, at once raised its author to the first class among writers on topics of taste and criticism. The hypothesis maintained in this treatise is, that the principal source of the sublime is terror, or some sensation resembling it, and that beauty is that quality, or the results of those qualities in objects, by which they excite love, or some similar affection. The splendid talents and acquirements of Burke were employed, during the remainder of his life, almost exclusively in the business of a parliamentary career, the only literary product of which was a series of speeches, which will ever rank amongst the best effusions of the oratorical genius of his country. He also published, in 1790, a pamphlet entitled, Reflections on the Revolution in France, in which, though a member of the Whig party, he took the most unfavourable view of the changes then advancing in the neighbouring kingdom, and pleaded the cause of ancient institutions with great force of argument, and still greater felicity of illustration, though not without leaving room for a very powerful answer from another writer.
One of the greatest productions of this period was the Commentaries on the Laws of England, published in 1765, by Sir William BLACKSTONE, afterwards a judge of the Court of King's Bench. In this book, which continues to be the standard work upon the subject, the spirit of the English government and laws is expounded in a philosophical manner, and with an union of research, accuracy, and elegance, worthy of the highest praise, but at the same tiine with a servile respect for technical rules, more characteristic of the lawyer than of the philosopher, and with less regard for the real merit of laws and institutions in general, than for their antiquity. A revisal of Blackstone's Commentaries, which should accommodate them to the practice of constitutional and municipal law in the present day, and to the enlarged spirit of the nation, is very desirable.
Philip Dormer Stanhope, EARL OF CHESTERFIELD (1694–1773), was an elegant author, though his only popular compositions are his Letters to his Son, a work containing many excellent advices for the cultivation of the mind and improvement of the external worldly character, but greatly deficient in the higher points of morality. SOAME JENYNS (1704-1787) was distinguished in early life as a gay and witty writer, both in poetry and prose; but afterwards applying himnself to serious subjects, he produced, in 1757, Å Free Enquiry into the Nature of Evil ; in 1776, A View of the Internal Evidences of the Christian Religion; and in 1782, Disquisitions on various subjects; works containing much ingenious speculation, but which have lost most of their early popularity.
One of the most eminent cultivators of miscellaneous literature during this period was HORACE WALPOLE (1718–1797), who, at the close of a long life, succeeded à nephew in the title of Earl of Orford. A Catalogue of Royal and Noble Authors, published in 1758, and Anecdotes of Painting in England, two volumes, 1761, are, with his Castle of Otranto, already noticed, the chief works of Walpole which appeared during his lifetime; but several large collections of letters, and a History of the last ten years of the reign of George II., edited since his death, are more valuable, the former, in particular, being full of lively and amusing descriptions of the manners and characters of the eighteenth century. Personally, and also in his manner of writing, Walpole was eccentric and heartless; but the ease, pungency, and brilliancy of his style, independently of their historical value, will long keep his works before the public eye. He spent the greater part of his life in a villa called Strawberry Hill, which he built and furnished in his favourite Gothic manner, and which is still visited as a curiosity.
It is here necessary to advert to a series of political epistles, which appeared in a London newspaper during the years 1769, 1770, and 1771, and which, from the signature attached to them, are usually called the Letters of Junius. They chiefly aimed at exposing the
aggressions which the crown was at that time supposed to