« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
Soon after the death of his mother, which happened in the beginning of 1759, he wrote his Rasselas, Prince of Abyssinia, that with the profits he might defray the expence of her funeral, and pay some little debts which he had contracted. He told Sir Joshua Reynolds that he composed it in the evenings of one week, sent it to the press in portions as it was written, and had never since read it over. He received for the copy L. 100; and L. 25 when it came to a second edition. The applause with which this work was receiv. ed, bore ample testimony to its merit; indeed, its reception was such that it has been translated into various modern languages, and admitted into the politest libraries of Europe.
In 1760, Mr Murphy conceiving himself illiberally treated by Dr Franklin, a contemporary writer, in his Dissertation on Tragedy, published an animated vindication of himself, in a Poetical Epistle to Samuel Johnson, A. M. in which he complimented Johnson in a just and elegant manner. An acquaintance first commenced between Johnson and Mr Murphy in the following manner. Mr Murphy during the publication of his “ Gray's Inn Journal,” happened to be in the country with Foote, the modern Aristophanes, and having mentioned that he was obliged to go to London, to get ready for the press one of the numbers, Foote said to him" You need not go on that account. Here is a French magazine, in which you will find a very pretty oriental tale ; translate that and send it to your printer. Mr Murphy having read the tale was highly pleased with it, and followed Foote's advice. When he arrived in town, this tale was pointed out to him in the Rambler, from whence it had been translated into the French magazine. Mr Murphy then waited upon Johnson to explain this curious incident, and a friendship was formed between them that continued without interruption till the death of Johnson.
In 1762, Fortune, which had hitherto left our author to struggle with the inconveniences of a precarious subsistence, arising entirely from his own labours, gave him that independence which his literary talents certainly deserved. His present Majesty, in the month of July, granted him a pension of L. 300 per avnum, as a recompence for the honour which the exellence of his writings had been to these kingdoms. "Johnson from this circumstance was censured by some as an apostate, and ridiculed by others for becoming a pen. sioner. The North Briton was furnished with arguments against the minister for rewarding a Tory and a Jacobite ; and Churchill satirized his political versatility with the most poignant severity in the four following lines :
“ How to all principles untrue,
And loves the Stuart he forsakes." His acceptance of the royal bounty "undoubtedly subjected him to the appellation of pensioner, to which he had annexed an ignominious definition in his dictionary. It is with great propriety remarked upon this occasion, that “having received a favour from
two Scotchmen, against whose country he joined in the rabble cry of indiscriminate invective ; it was thus that even-handed Justice commended the poisoned chalice to his own lips, and compelled him to an awk. ward, though not unpleasant penance, for indulging in a splenetic prejudice, equally unworthy of his head and heart.”
In 1763, Mr Boswell, from whose account the principal circumstances in these memoirs are taken, was introduced to our author, and continued to live in great intimacy with him from that time till his death.
Churchill in his “ Ghost,” availed himself of the common opinion of. Johnson's credulity, and drew a caricature of him under the name of Pomposo, representing him as one of the believers of the story of a ghost in Cock Lane, which in 1762 had gained very great credit in London. Johnson made no reply, for it seems that with other wise folks he sat up with the ghost. Contrary however to the common opinion of Johnson's credulity, Mr Boswell asserts that he was a principal agent in detecting the imposture; and undeceived the world hy publishing an account of it in the Gentleman's Magazine for January 1762.
In February 1764, to enlarge the circle of his literary acquaintance, and afford opportunities for conversation, he assisted in founding a society which afterwards became distinguished by the title of the Literary Club. Sir Joshua Reynolds was the first proposer; and the original members were, Sir Joshua Reynolds, Johnson, Mr Burke, Dr Nugent, Mr Beauclerk, Mr Langton, Sir John Hawkins, and Goldsmith. They
met at the Turk's Head, in Gerrard Street, Soho, on every Monday throughout the year
The succeeding year, 1765, was remarkable for the commencement of his acquaintance with Mr Thrale, member of parliament for Southwark. Mr Murphy, who was intimate with Mr Thrale, having spoken very highly of Johnson's conversation, he was requested to make them acquainted. This being mentioned to Johnson, he accepted of an invitation to dinner at Mr Thrale's, and was so much pleased with his reception both by Mr and Mrs Thrale, and they were so much pleased with him, that his invitations to their honse became more and more frequent, till in course of time he ranked as one of the family, and an apartment was appropriated to him both in their house at Southwark, and at their villa at Streatham. Nothing could be more fortunate for Johnson than this connection ; and it is recorded to the honour of his worthy friend, that the patron of literature and talents, of which Johnson sought in vain for the traces in Chesterfield, he found realized in Thrale.
In the course of this year he was complimented by the University of Dublin with the degree of Doctor of Laws, as the diploma expresses it, ob egregium scriptorum elegantiam et utilitatem, though he does not appear to have taken the title in consequence of it. Soon after, he published his edition of “ the Plays of William Shakespeare, with the corrections and illustrations of various commentators, to which are added potes by Samuel Johnson," octavo. This work was treated with great illiberality by Dr Kenrick in the first part. of a
“ Review of it, which was never completed. But it must be acknowledged that what he did as a commentator has no small share of merit. In the sagacity of his emendatory criticisms, and the happiness of his interpretation of obscure passages, he surpasses every other editor of this poet. His preface has been pronounced by Mr Malone to be the finest composition in our language : and it must be admitted, whether we consider the beauty and vigour of its composition, the abundance and classical selections of its allusions, the justness of the general precepts of criticism, and its accurate estimates of the excellence or defects of its author, it is equally admirable.
In February, 1767, our author was honoured by a private conversation with the king in the library at Buckingham house, which, as pointedly expressed by one of his biographers, gratified his monarchic enthusiasm. The interview was sought by the king without the knowledge of Johnson. His majesty, among other things, asked the author of so many valuable works, if he intended to publish any more. Johnson modestly answered, that he thought he had written enough. " And so should I too,” replied the king, “ if you had not written so well.” Johnson was highly pleased with his majesty's courteousness, and afterwards observed to a friend—“Sir, his manners are those of as fine a gentleman, as we may suppose Louis XIV. Charles II."
In 1770, he published a political pamphlet, entitled The False Alarm, intended to justify the conduct of ministry, and the majority of the House of Commons,