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patronife him, and even admit him as a gueft in his family. Laftly, it must ever appear very fufpicious, that three different accounts of the Life of Richard Savage, one published in "The Plain Dealer," in 1724, another in 1727, and another by the powerful pen of Johnson, in 1749, and all of them while Lady Macclesfield was alive, fhould, notwithstanding the fevere attacks upon her, have been fuffered to pafs without any publick and effectual contradiction.
I have thus endeavoured to fum up the evidence upon the cafe, as fairly as I can; and the refult seems to be, that the world muft vibrate in a state of uncertainty as to what was the truth.
This digreffion, I truft, will not be cenfured, as it relates to a matter exceedingly curious, and very intimately connected with Johnfon, both as a man and an authour.
He this year wrote the "Preface to the Harleian Mifcellany.*" The felection of the pamphlets of which it was compofed was made by Mr. Oldys, a man of eager curiofity and indefatigable diligence, who firft exerted that spirit of
5 Trufting to Savage's information, Johnfon reprefents this unhappy man's being received as a companion by Lord Tyrconnel, and penfioned by his Lordship, as if pofteriour to Savage's conviction and pardon. But I am affured, that Savage had received the voluntary bounty of Lord Tyrconnel, and had been difmiffed by him long before the murder was committed, and that his Lordship was very inftrumental in procuring Savage's pardon, by his interceffion with the Queen, through Lady Hertford. If, therefore, he had been defirous of preventing any publication by Savage, he would have left him to his fate. Indeed I muft obferve, that although Johnson mentions that Lord Tyrconnel's patronage of Savage was " upon his promife to lay afide his defign of expofing the cruelty of his mother," the great biographer has forgotten that he himself has mentioned, that Savage's story had been told feveral years before in "The Plain Dealer," from which he quotes this ftrong faying of the generous Sir Richard Steele, that "the inhumanity of his mother had given him a right to find every good man his father." At the fame time it must be acknowledged, that Lady Macclesfield and her relations might fill with that her ftory fhould not be brought into more confpicuous notice by the fatirical pen of Savage.
• Mifs Mason, after having forfeited the title of Lady Macclesfield by divorce, was married to Colonel Brett, and, it is faid, was well known in all the polite circles. Colley Cibber, I am informed, had fo high an opinion of her tafte and judgement as to genteel life and manners, that he fubmitted every fcene of his "Careless Husband," to Mrs. Brett's revifal and correction. Colonel Brett was reported to be too free in his gallantry with his Lady's maid. Mrs. Brett came into a room one day in her own houfe, and found the Colonel and her maid both fast asleep in two chairs. She tied a white handkerchief round her husband's neck, which was a fufficient proof that she had discovered his intrigue; but she never at any time took notice of it to him. This incident, as I am told, gave occafion to the well-wrought fcene of Sir Charles and Lady Eafy and Edging.
inquiry into the literature of the old English writers, by which the works of our great dramatick poet have of late been fo fignally illuftrated.
In 1745 he published a pamphlet entitled "Mifcellaneous Obfervations on the Tragedy of Macbeth, with Remarks on Sir T. H's (Sir Thomas Hanmer's) Edition of Shakspeare.*" To which he affixed, propofals for a new edition of that poet.
As we do not trace any thing elfe published by him during the courfe of this year, we may conjecture that he was occupied entirely with that work. But the little encouragement which was given by the publick to his anonymous propofals for the execution of a task which Warburton was known to have undertaken, probably damped his ardour. His pamphlet, however, was highly esteemed, and was fortunate enough to obtain the approbation even of the fupercilious Warburton himfelf, who, in the Preface to his Shakspeare published two years afterwards, thus mentioned it: "As to all thofe things which have been published under the titles of Efjays, Remarks, Obfervations, &c. on Shakspeare, if you except fome critical notes on Macbeth, given as a specimen of a projected edition, and written, as appears, by a man of
parts and genius, the rest are abfolutely below a ferious notice."
Of this flattering diftinction fhewn to him by Warburton, a very grateful remembrance was ever entertained by Johnson, who faid, "He praised me at a time when praife was of value to me."
In 1746 it is probable that he was still employed upon his Shakspeare, which perhaps he laid afide for a time, upon account of the high expectations which were formed of Warburton's edition of that great poet. It is fomewhat curious, that his literary career appears to have been almost totally fufpended in the years 1745 and 1746, those years which were marked by a civil war in Great-Britain, when a rash attempt was made to reftore the House of Stuart to the throne. That he had a tenderness for that unfortunate House, is well known; and fome may fancifully imagine, that a sympathethick anxiety impeded the exertion of his intellectual powers: but I am inclined to think, that he was, during this time, sketching the outlines of his great philological work.
None of his letters during thofe years are extant, fo far as I can difcover. This is much to be regretted. It might afford fome entertainment to fee how he then expreffed himself to his private friends, concerning state affairs. Dr. Adams informs me, that "at this time a favourite object which he had in contemplation was The Life of Alfred,' in which, from the warmth with
which he fpoke about it, he would, I believe, had he been mafter of his Etat. 38. own will, have engaged himfelf, rather than on any other fubject."
In 1747 it is fuppofed that the Gentleman's Magazine for May was enriched by him with five fhort poetical pieces, diftinguifhed by three afterifks. The first is a translation, or rather a paraphrafe, of a Latin Epitaph on Sir Thomas Hanmer. Whether the Latin was his, or not, I have never heard, though I fhould think it probably was, if it be certain that he wrote the English; as to which my only cause of doubt is, that his flighting character of Hanmer as an editor, in his "Obfervations on Macbeth," is very different from that in the Epitaph. It may be faid, that there is the fame contrariety between the character in the Obfervations, and that in his own Preface to Shakspeare; but a confiderable time elapfed between the one publication and the other, whereas the Obfervations and the Epitaph came clofe together. The others are, "To Mifs, on her giving the Authour a gold and filk net-work Purse of her own weaving;" "Stella in Mourning;" "The Winter's Walk;" "An Ode;" and, "To Lyce, an elderly Lady." I am not pofitive that all these were his productions; but as "The Winter's Walk," has never been controverted to be his, and all of them have the fame mark, it is reasonable to conclude that they are all written by the fame hand. Yet to the Ode, in which we find a paffage very characteristick of him, being a learned defcription of the gout,
there is the following note: "The authour being ill of the gout:" but Johnson was not attacked with that diftemper till at a very late period of his life. May not this, however, be a poetical fiction? Why may not a poet fuppofe himself to have the gout, as well as fuppofe himself to be in love, of which we have innumerable inftances, and which has been admirably ridiculed by Johnfon in his "Life of Cowley?" I have alfo fome difficulty to believe that he could produce fuch a group of conceits as appear in the verses to Lyce, in which he claims for this ancient perfonage as good a right to be affimilated to heaven, as nymphs whom other poets have flattered; he therefore ironically afcribes to her the attributes of the sky, in fuch ftanzas as this:
"Her teeth the night with darkness dies,
But as at a very advanced age he could condefcend to trifle in namby pamby rhymes to please Mrs. Thrale and her daughter, he may have, in his earlier years, compofed fuch a piece as this.
It is remarkable, that in this first edition of "The Winter's Walk," the concluding line is much more Johnsonian than it was afterwards printed; for in fubfequent editions after praying Stella to "fnatch him to her arms," he says, "And Shield me from the ills of life.”
Whereas in the firft edition it is
"And hide me from the fight of life.”
A horrour at life in general is more confonant with Johnson's habitual gloomy caft of thought.
I have heard him repeat with great energy the following verfes, which appeared in the Gentleman's Magazine for April this year; but I have no authority to fay they were his own. Indeed one of the best criticks of our age fuggests to me, that the word indifferently being ufed in the fenfe of without concern, renders it improbable that they fhould have been his compofition.
On Lord LOVAT'S Execution.
Pity'd by gentle minds KILMARNOCK died;
2 These verses are somewhat too fevere on the extraordinary perfon who is the chief figure in them, for he was undoubtedly brave. His pleafantry during his folemn trial (in which, by the
This year his old pupil and friend, David Garrick, having become joint
it with a Prologue,* which for juft and manly dramatick criticifin, on the whole
But the year 1747 is diftinguished as the epoch, when Johnfon's arduous
How long this immenfe undertaking had been the object of his contemplation, I do not know. I once afked him by what means he had attained to that astonishing knowledge of our language, by which he was enabled to realife a design of fuch extent, and accumulated difficulty. He told me, that "it was not the effect of particular ftudy; but that it had grown up in his mind infenfibly." I have been informed by Mr. James Dodfley, that several years before this period, when Johnson was one day fitting in his brother Robert's fhop, he heard his brother fuggeft to him, that a Dictionary of the English Language would be a work that would be well received by the publick; that Johnson seemed at first to catch at the propofition, but, after a pause, said, in his abrupt decifive manner, "I believe I fhall not undertake it." That he, however, had bestowed much thought upon the fubject, before he published his "Plan," is evident from the enlarged, clear, and accurate views which it exhibits; and we find him mentioning in that tract, that many of the writers whofe teftimonies were to be produced as authorities, were felected by Pope, which proves that he had been furnished, probably by Mr. Robert Dodsley, with whatever hints that eminent poet had contributed
way, I have heard Mr. David Hume obferve, that we have one of the very few fpeeches of Mr.