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general tendency, and, by reflecting on the sentiments inculcated in the following speeches therein to be found, to measure the injustice done him :
Is it of fate that he who assumes a crown
if thou think'st
thou art the minister, The reverend monitor of vice.
The fence of virtue is a chief's best caution;
Is all the guard that e'er shall wait Gustavus. The dedication to the play, addressed to the subscribers, gives the reader to understand, that the author had studied the ancient laws of his country,
though not conversant with her present political state, that he is a friend to national liberty and personal free'dom,' (meaning by the first,' a state resulting from 'virtue or reason ruling in a breast superior to appetite ' and passion,' and, by the last,' a security arising from 'the nature of a well-ordered constitution, for those ad
vantages and privileges that each man has a right to .by contributing as a member to the weal of that com*munity ;') these declarations are interspersed with reflections on the lord-chamberlain, and a complaint that his treatment of the author was singular and un
precedented ;' after which follows an effusion of patriotic sentiments ferving to shew, that a monarch or head of such a conftitution as he above has described, is • sceptered in the hearts of his people.'
Upon occasion of this publication, Johnson was employed by one Corbet, a bookseller of small note, to take up the cause of this injured author, and he did it in a pamphlet, intitled, “A Compleat Vindication of
the Licensers of the Stage from the malicious and • scandalous aspersions of Mr. Brooke, author of « Gustavus Vafa. 4to. 1739.
Criticism would be ill employed in a minute examination of the Marmor Norfolciense, and the Vindication of the Licensers : in general it may suffice to say that they are both ironical, that they display neither learning nor wit, and that in neither of them is there to be discovered a single ray of that brightness which beams so strongly in the author's moral and political essays. Did it become a man of his discernment, endowed with such powers of reasoning and eloquence as he possessed, to adopt vulgar prejudices, or, in the cant of the opposition, to clamor against place-men, and pensioners and standing armies ? to ridicule the apprehension of that invasion in favour of the pretender, which himself, but a few years after became a witness to, or to compare the improbability of such an event with that of a general insurrection of all who were prohibited the use of gin?
Of all the modes of satire, I know none so feeble as that of uninterrupted irony. . The reason of this seems to be, that in that kind of writing the author is compelled to advance positions which no reader can think he believes, and to put questions that can be answered in but one way, and that such an one as thwarts the sense of the propounder. Of this kind of interrogatories the pamphlet I am speaking of seems to be an example ; 'Is the man without pension or
place to fuspect the impartiality or the judgment of those who are entrusted with the administration of public affairs ? Is he, when the law is not strictly
observed in regard to him, to think himself aggrieved, 'to tell his sentiments in print, to assert his claim to " better usage, and fly for redress to another tri(bunal ?
Who does not see that to these several queries the answer must be in the affirmative? and, if so, the point of the writer's wit is, in this instance, blunted, and his argument baffled. In the course of this mock vindication of
power, Johnson has taken a wide scope, and adopted all the vulgar topics of complaint as they were vented weekly in the public papers, and in the writings of Bolingbroke, flimsy and malignant as they are. And here let me note a curious sophism of that superficial thinker, which I remember to have seen in his celebrated Differtation on Parties; but which, not having the book by me, I cite by memory: it is to this purpose : “The
advocates of the minister,' says his Lordship, 'defy us "to shew, that, under his administration, any infraction
had been made of the original contract. To this we Answer, that between such an infraction and the loss of
our liberties, there can no point of time intervene; such a cause and such an effect being so closely connected, that we cannot see the one till we feel the other.
Such was the conduct of opposition at this time, and by such futile arguments as the above were the filly people of three kingdoms deluded into a belief, that their liberties were in danger, and that nothing could save this country from impending ruin, and that the most formidable of all the evils they had to dread, was the continuance of the then administration, of which they had nothing worse to say than that they hated it.
The truth is, that Johnson's political prejudices were a mist that the eye of his judgment could not penetrate: in all the measures of government he could see nothing right; nor could he be convinced, in his invectives against a standing army, as the Jacobites affected to call it, that the peasantry of a country was not an ade- · quate defence against an invasion of it by an armed force. He almost asserted in terms, that the succession to the crown had been illegally interrupted, and that from whig-politics none of the benefits of government could be expected. He could but just endure the opposition to the minister because conducted on whig principles; and I have heard him say, that during the whole course of it, the two parties were bidding for the people. At other times, and in the heat of his refentment, I have heard him assert, that, since the death of Queen Anne, it had been the policy of the administration to promote to ecclesiastical dignities none but the most worthless and undeserving men : not would he then exclude from this bigotted censure those illustrious divines, Wake, Gibson, Sherlock, Butler, Herring, Pearce, and least of all Hoadly ;
in competition with whom he would set Hickes, Brett, Leslie, and others of the nonjurors, whose names are scarcely now remembered. From hence it appears, and to his honour be it said, that his principles cooperated with his necessities, and that the prostitution of his talents, taking the term in one and that its worst sense, could not, in justice, be imputed to him.
But there is another, and a less criminal sense of the word prostitution, in which, in common with all who are called authors by profession, he may be said to stand in need of an excuse. When Milton wrote the Paradise Lost, the sum he received for the copy was not his motive, but was an adventitious benefit that resulted from the exercise of his poetical faculty. In Johnson's case, as well in the instances above given as almost all the others that occurred during the course of his life, the impulse of genius was wanting : had that alone operated in his choice of subjects to write on, mankind would have been indebted to him for a variety of original, interesting and useful compositions; and tranNations of some, and new editions of others of the ancient authors. The truth of which affertion I think I may safely ground on a catalogue of publications projected by him at different periods, and now lying before me, a copy whereof is given below:
· A small book of precepts and directions for piety: the hint taken from the directions in the countess of) Morton's' (daily] exercise.
PHILOSOPHY, HISTORY, and LITERATURE in general. · History of Criticism as it relates to judging of authors, from * Aristotle to the present age. An account of the rise and imVOL. I.