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and the most estimable qualities of her sex, no praise of mine can make any addition. Hence arises that uniformity of subject and sentiment which distinguishes the Rambler from other papers of the like kind; but how great must its merit be, when wanting the charm of variety and that diversity of characters, which, by the writers of them, was thought necessary to keep attention awake, it could support itself to the end, and make instruction a substitute for amusement! Nor can this defect, if it be any, be deemed a devia. tion from Johnson's original purpose, which was not so much to instruct young persons of both sexes in the manners of the town, as in that more important science, the conduct of human life ; it being certain, that he had it in his power as well . delight as to in- . struct his readers; and this he has in some instances done, not only by the introduction of fictitious characters and fancied portraits, but by ironical sarcasms and original strokes of wit and humour, that have, perhaps, excited more smiles than the writings of many, whose chief purpose it was, like that of L'Estrange and others, to make their readers merry.
And hence we may take occasion to observe, the error of thole who distinguish fo widely between inen of study and reflection, and such as are hackneyed in the ways of the world, as to suppose the latter only qualified to instruct us in the offices of life. Lord Chesterfield, in his letters to his fon, takes every occasion to express his hatred of an university education, to brand it with pedantry, and to declare that it unfits a man for social intercourse. Some have asserted, that travelling is the only means to attain a
knowledge of mankind; and the captain in Swift, in a less extensive view of human life, swears that
. To give a young gentleman right education, • The army's the very best school in the nation.' To say the truth, there are numbers of men who contemn all knowledge derived from books, and prefer to it what they call turning over the great volume of the world. I had once a gardener that could not endure the mention of Miller's dictionary, and would contend with me, that 'practice was every thing ;' and innumerable are the instances of men who oppose mother-wit to acquired intelligence, and had rather grope their way through the world, than be indebted for instruction to the researches of others. Such men as these, in situations they have not been accustomed to, are ever aukward and diffident ; and it is for a reason nearly a-kin to this, that few rakes are able to look a modest woman in the face. On the contrary, the attainments of Johnson were such as, notwithstanding his home-breeding, gave him confidence, and qualified him for the conversation of persons of all ranks, conditions, characters, and professions, so that no sooner had the Rambler recommended itself to the favour of the public, and the author was known to be of easy access, than his acquaintance was fought, and even courted, by persons, of whom many, with all the improvement of travel, and the refinements of court-manners, thought that somewhat worth knowing was to be learned from the conversation of a man, whose fortunes and course of life had precluded him from the like advantages. Vol. 1,
Johnson's talent for criticism, both preceptive and corrective, is now known and justly celebrated; and had he not displayed it in its utmost lustre in his Lives of the Poets, we should have lamented that he was so sparing of it in the Rambler, which seemed to be a vehicle, of all others the most proper, for that kind of communication. An eulogium on Knolles's Hiftory of the Turks, and a severe censure of the Samson Agonistes' of Milton are the only critical essays there to be found; to the latter he seems to have been prompted by no better a motive, than that hatred of the author for his political principles which he is known to have entertained, and was ever ready to 'avow. What he has remarked of Milton in his Lives of the Poets is undoubtedly true: he was a political enthusiast, and, as is evident from his panegyric on Cromwell, a base and abject fatterer. His style in controversy was sarcastic and bitter, and not consistent with christian charity ; and though his apologists endeavour to defend him by the practice of the times, there were in his time better examplars than he chose to follow, the writings of Jewel, Mede, Hooker, Dr. Jackson, and others, his predecessors in religious and political controversy; nor does he seem in his private character to have poffeffed many of those qualities that most endear men to each other. His friends were few, Andrew Marvel, Marchmont Needham, and the younger Vane; and Cyriac Skinner, Harrington, Henry Nevil, John Aubrey, and others, members of that crack-brained assembly the Rota-club, all republicans ; and there is reason to suspect, from the sternness of his temper, and the rigid discipline of his
family, that his domestic manners were far from amiable, and that he was neither a kind husband nor an indulgent parent. But neither these nor those other qualities that rendered him both a bitter enemy and a railing disputant, could justify the severity of Johnson's criticism on the above-mentioned poem,
apologize for that harsh and groundless censure which closes the first of his discourses on it, that it is ' a tragedy which ignorance has admired, and bigotry applauded.'
The reflection on that enmity of Johnson towards Milton, which I have above remarked, leads me to mention another instance of it, which about this time fell under my observation. A man of the name of Lauder, a native of Scotland, and educated in the university of Edinburgh, had, for reasons that will hereafter be given, conceived a hatred against the memory of Milton, and formed a scheme to conviết him of plagiarism, by shewing that he had inserted in the Paradise Lost whole passages taken from the writings of fundry modern Latin poets, namely, Masenius the jesuit
, Taubman a German professor, the editor of Virgil, and joint editor with Gruter of Plautus, Staphorstius a Dutch divine, and other writers less known; and of this crime he attempted to prove him guilty, by publishing instances in forged quotations, inserted from time to time in the 'Gentleman's Magazine,' which not being detected, he made additions to, and again published in a volume intitled · An Essay on Milton's use of and imitation of the moderns in his Paradise Lost, dedicated to the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, 8vo. 1750. While the book was in the T2
press, the proof sheets were submitted to the inspection of our club, by a member of it who had an interest in its publication, and I could all along observe that Johnson seemed to approve, not only of the design but of the argument, and seemed to exult in a persuasion, that the reputation of Milton was likely to suffer by this discovery. That he was not privy to the imposture I am well persuaded, but that he wished well to the argument must be inferred from the preface, which indubitably was written by Johnson.
The charges of plagiarism contained in this production, Lauder has attempted to make out by citations to a very great number, from a Latin poem of Jacobus Masenius a jesuit, intitled, “ Palæstra ligatæ eloquenciæ,' from the Adamus exul' of Grotius, the 'Triumphus Pacis' of Caspar Staphorstius a Dutchman, from the Latin poems of Caspar Barlæus, and the works of many other writers.
For a time the world gave credit to them, and Milton's reputation was sinking under them, till a clergyman of great worth, learning and industry,. Mr. now Dr. John Douglas, prompted at first by mere curiosity, set himself to find out and compare the parallel passages, in the doing whereof he discovered, that in a quotation from Staphorstius, Lauder had interpolated eight lines taken from a Latin translation of the Paradise Lost, by a man named Hogæus or Hog, and opposed them to the passage in the original, as evidence of Milton's plagiarism. Proofs of the like fraud in paffages cited from Taubman and many others are produced by Dr. Douglas ; but a single instance of the kind would have been sufficient to blast the credit of his adversary.