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The poem was finished, as appears by a manuscript note of the author in his own corrected copy, in 1738. While he was writing it, he lodged in an upper room of a house in Exeter street, behind Exeter 'change, inhabited by one Norris, a stay-maker; a particular which would have been hardly worth noticing, but that it, in some measure, bespeaks his circumstances at the time, and accounts for his having, more than once, mentioned in the poem, and that with seeming abhorrence, the dungeons of the Strand. It is not unlikely that his aversion to such an abode was increafed by the reflection on that distress, which by this time had brought his wife to town, and obliged her to participate in the inconveniences of a dwelling too obscure to invite resort, and to be a witness of the difficulties with which he was struggling.
Having completed his poem, he looked round for a bookseller, to whom, with a likelihood of obtaining the value of it, he might treat for the sale of it. His friend Cave, in respect of publications, was a haberdasher of small wares; the greatest of his undertakings being a translation of Du Halde's History of China, which was never completed.
Johnson thinking him a man for his purpose, made him an offer of his poem, in a letter in which, with great art, but without the least violation of truth, he conceals that himself was the author of it. The letter I here insert, as also another of his on the fame
'When I took the liberty of writing to you a few days ago, I did not expect a repetition of the same
• pleasure so soon for a pleasure I shall always think
it to converse in any manner with an ingenious and
more advantageous terms from any person than from
and reward it in a different manner from a mercenary bookseller, who counts
the lines he is to purchase, and considers nothing but
his abilities, he has likewise another claim to your
will favour me with a letter to-morrow, that I
part with it to you, or find out (which I
' I have only to add, that I am sensible I have
tered it, I was obliged to do. I will, if you please
you, and will take the trouble of altering any stroke ! of satire which you may dinike.
By exerting on this occasion your usual generosity, you will not only encourage learning and relieve
we may "
* distress, but (though it be in comparison of the other • motives of very small account) oblige in a very sen“sible manner, Sir, "Your very humble servant,
Sam. Johnson. Sir,
Monday, No. 6, Castle-street. 'I am to return you thanks for the present you
were so kind to send me, and to intreat that you ' will be pleased to inform me, by the Penny-Post, ' whether you resolve to print the poem.
you please to send it me by the post, with a note to Dodney, I will go and read the lines to him, that
have his confent to put his name in the
As to the printing, if it can be set immediately about, I will be so much the author's friend, as not to content myself with mere solicita' tions in his favour. I propose, if my calculation be
near the truth, to engage for the reimbursement of ' all that you shall lose by an impression of 500, pro
vided, as you very generously propose, that the profit, if any, be set aside for the author's use, excepting the present you made, which, if he be a gainer, it is fit he should repay. I beg you will let one of your ' servants write an exact account of the expence of such ' an impression, and send it with the poem, that I may know what I
engage for. I am very sensible, your generosity on this occasion, of your regard to learning, even in its unhappiest state ; and cannot but think such a temper deserving of the gratitude of those, who suffer so often from a contrary dispo
I am, Sir,
• Sam. Johnson.
Johnson and Dodsey were soon agreed; the price asked by the one and assented to by the other, was, as I have been informed, fifty pounds; a reward for his labour and ingenuity, that induced Johnson ever after to call Dodsey his patron. It is pretty certain that in his offer of the poem to Dodney, Cave stipulated for the printing of it, for it came abroad in the year abovementioned with the name of Cave as the printer, though without that of the author. Lord Lyttelton, the instant it was published, carried it in rapture to Mr. Pope, who, having read it, commended it highly, and was very importunate with Dodney to know the author's name ; but, that being a secret the latter was bound not to reveal, Pope assured him that he could not long be unknown, recollecting, perhaps, a passage recorded of Milton, who, seeing a beautiful young lady pass him whom he never had seen before, turned to look at her, and said, 'Whoever thou art, thou ' canst not long be concealed.'
The topics of this fpirited poem, so far as it respects this country, or the time when it was written, are evidently drawn from those weekly publications, which, to answer the view of a malevolent faction, first created, and for some years supported, a distinction between the interests of the government and the people, under the several denominations of the court and the country parties : these publications were carried on under the direction of men, professing themselves to be whigs and friends of the people, in a paper intitled, ' The Country Journal or the Craftsman,' now deservedly forgotten, the end whereof was, to blow the Aame of national discontent, to delude the honest and well-meaning people of this country into a belief that the minister
was its greatest enemy, and that his opponents, only, meant its welfare. To this end it was necessary to furnish them with subjects of complaint, and these were plentifully disseminated among them; the chief of them were, that science was unrewarded, and the arts neglected ; that the objects of our politics were peace and the extension of commerce ; that the wealth of the nation was unequally divided, for that, while fome were poor, others were able to raise palaces and purchase manors ; that restraints were laid on the stage ; that the land was plundered, and the nation cheated ; our senators hirelings, and our nobility venal; and, lastly, that in his visits to his native country, the king drained this of its wealth.
That Johnson has adopted these vulgar complaints, his
poem must witness. I shall not take upon me to demonstrate the fallacy of most of the charges contained in it, nor animadvert on the wickedness of those, who, to effect their own ambitious designs, scruple not to oppose the best endeavours of the person in power, nor shall I mark the folly of those who suffer themselves to be fo deluded : the fucceffion of knave to knave, and fool to fool, is hereditary and interminable: our fathers were deceived by the pretensions of false patriots ; the delusion stopped not with their children, nor will it with our's.
The publication of this poem was of little advantage to Johnson, other than the relief of his immediate Wants: it procured him fame, but no patronage. He was therefore disposed to embrace any other prospect of advantage that might offer ; for, a short time after, viz. in August 1738, hearing that the master