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SAMUEL JOHNSON, L. L. D.
SAMUEL JOHNSON was the eldest son of Michael Johnson, a bookseller at Litchfield, in which city this great man was born, on the 7th of September 1709. His mother, Sarah Ford, was the sister of Dr Joseph Ford, an eminent physician, and father of Cornelius Ford, chaplain to Lord Chesterfield, supposed to be the parson in Hogarth's “ Modern Midnight Conversation"
"Za man of great parts, but profligate manners. Mrs Ford was a woman of distinguished understanding, prudence, and piety.
Johnson was initiated in classical learning at the free school of his native city, under the tuition of Mr Hunter, and having afterwards resided some time at the house of his cousin Cornelius Ford, who assisted him in the classics, he was by his advice, at the age of fifteen, removed to the school of Stourbridge in Worcestershire, of which Mr Wentworth was then master, whom he has described as
a very able man, but an idle man ; and to him unreasonably severe.”—Parson Ford he has described in his life of Tonten, as
clergyman at that time too well known, whose abili. ties, instead of furnishing convivial merriment to the voluptuous and the dissolute, might have enabled him to excel among the virtuous and the wise."
On the 31st of October 1728, he was entered a commoner of Pembroke College, Oxford, being then in his nineteenth year. Of his tntor Mr Jourden, he gave the following account. “ He was a very worthy man, but a heavy man, and I did not profit much by his instruction ; indeed I did not attend him much." He had however, a love and respect for Jourden, not for his literature, but for his worth.
« Whenever," said he, “ a young man becomes Jourden's pupil, le becomes his son.”
In the year 1730, Mr Corbet, a young gentleman whom Johnson had accompanied to Oxford as a companion, left the University, and his father, to whom, according to the account of Sir John Hawkins, Johnson trusted for support, declined contributing any farther to that purpose ; and as his father's business was by no means lucrative, his remittances were consequently too small to supply even the decencies of external appearance. Thus unfortunately situated, he was under the necessity of quitting the University without a degree, having been a member of it little more than three years. This was a circumstance which in the subsequent part of his life he had occasion to regret, as an obstacle to his obtaining a settlement, whence he might have derived that subsistence which he could not procure by any other means.
In December 1731, his father died, in the 79th year of his age, in very narrow circumstances, so that, for present support, he condescended to accept the employment of usher, in the free grammar-school at Market Bosworth in Leicestershire, which he relinquished in a short time, and went to reside at Birmingham, where he derived considerable benefit from several of his literary productions.
Notwithstanding the apparent ansterity of his temper, he was by no means insensible to the power of female charms; when at Stourbridge' school he was much enamoured of Olivia Lloyd, a young quaker, to whom he addressed a copy of verses. In 1735 he became the warm admirer of Mrs Porter, widow of Mr Henry Porter, mercer in Birmingham.It was," he said, “ a love match on both sides,” and judging from a description of their persons, we must suppose that the passion was not inspired by the beauties of form or graces of manner, bút a mutual · admiration of each others minds. Johnson's appearance is described as very forbidding. Mrs Porter was double the age of Johnson, and her person and manner as described by Garrick were by no means pleasing. It was beyond a doubt, however, that whatever her real charms might have been, in the eye of her husband she was extremly beautiful, for in her epitaph he has recorded her as such, and given many instances in his writings of a sincere and permanent affection. With the property he acquired with his wife,
which is supposed to have amounted to about L. 800, he attempted to establish a boarding-school for young
gentleman at Edial, near Litchfield, but the plan proved abortive; the only pupils put under his care were Garrick, the celebrated English Roscius, his brother George, and a Mr Offely, a young gentleman of good fortune, who died early.
About this time he was assiduously engaged in his tragedy called Irene. It is founded upon a passage in Smollet's History of the Turks, a book which he afterwards highly praised and recommended in the Rambler.
Disappointed in his expectations of deriving a suhsistence from the establishment of a boarding-school, he set out on the 2d of March, 1737, being then in the 28th year of his age, for London; and it is a memorable circumstance, that his pupil Garriok went there at the same time, with an intention to complete his education, and follow the profession of the law. They were recommended to Mr Colson, master of the mathematical school at Rochester, by a letter from a friend, who mentions the joint expedition of these two eminent men to the metropolis in the following manner :
“ This young gentleman and another neighbour of mine, one Mr Samuel Johnson, set out this morning together for London. Davy Garrick is to be with you early next week, and Mr Johnson to try his fate with a tragedy, and endeavour to get himself employed in some translation, either from the Latin or the French. Johnson is a very good scholar, and I have great hopes he will turn out a fine tragedy writer.” In London he found it necessary to practise the most
rigid æcon omy, and his Osellus, in the Art of Living in London, is the real character of an Irish painter, who initiated him in the mode of living cheaply in London. Here he experienced the kindness and hospitality of Mr Hervey, one of the branches of the Bristol family; and ever after retained a grateful sense of the services he rendered him. Not very long before his death, he thus described this early friend, “ Harry Hervey, he was a vicious man, but very kind to me. If you call a dog Hervey I shall love him.”
In three months after he came to London, his tragedy being as he thought completely finished, and fit for the stage, he solicited Mr Fleetwood, the manager of Drury Lane Theatre, to bring it out at his bouse ; but Mr Fleetwood declined receiving it. Soon after he was employed by Mr Cave, as a coadjutor in his magazine, which for some years was his principal resource for support. His first performance in the Gentleman's Magazine was a Latin Ode, Ad Urbanum, in March 1730: a translation of which by an unknown correspondent appeared in the Magazine for May following:
At this period the misfortunes of Savage had reduced him to the lowest state of wretchedness, as a writer for bread; and his visits at St John's Gate, where the Gentleman's Magazine was originally printed, naturally brought Johason and him together, and as they both possessed great abilities, and were equally under the pressure of want, in a short time the strictest intimacy subsisted between them. John