Изображения страниц

master by the head-master, Mr. Hunter, who made bim a pupil of his own. Amongst his school-fellows were Dr. James, the inventor of the Fever Powder; and Mr. Lowe, Canon of Windsor.

There is no doubt that his progress under the above-mentioned gentleman was considerable, though Johnson describes him as "wrongheadedly-severe;” for at the age of fifteen he was removed to a still higher school, at Slourbridge, in Worcestershire, where he obtained a complete knowledge of classical literature. He seems to have figured there in the double capacily of usher and scholar; repaying the information he acquired from the master, Mr. Wentworth, by giving instructions to the junior pupils.--He describes this gentleman as unreasonably severe; and in his correspondence with Dr. Percy, Bishop of Dromore, he thus discriminates beIween his progress at each of the schools. “At one I learnt much in the school, but

little from the master; in the other I learnt much from the master, but little in the school."

After remaining upwards of a year at Stougbridge, he returned to his father, and when he had attained the age of nineteen, he was patronised by Mr. Andrew Corbet, à gentlemau of Shropshire, who proposed to maintain him at Oxford, in the capacity of companion to his son. He was accordingly entered as a commoner of Pembroke College, in October 1728; but Mr. Boswell, on the authority of Dr. Taylor, asserls, that he never derived the least advantage from his patron.

His favourite studies at College were ethics, theology, and classical literature; and though he was generally reserved in his demeanor, he frequently gave proofs of his extensive reading, by quoting in controversial conversations, such a variety of passages from obscure ancient authors, as convinced his audi

tors, that he possessed a memory unusually retentive.

A remarkable anecdote is related of Johnson, while at College, which strongly proves the brilliancy of his talents. The 5th of November being then kept with great solemnity, it was usual for each student to deliver in an exercise upon that subject. Johnson having neglected the performance of this duty, composed instead of it some verses, entitled Somnium, the subject of which was, that the muse had appeared to him in his sleep and asserted, “that it did not become him to write on such abstruse points, but that he should confine himself to humbler themes.” The versification was considered to be so truly Virgilian, that Mr. Jordan his lutor soli. cited him to translate Pope's Messiah into Latin hexameter verse, as a Christmas exercice. This task he performed with such uncommon rapidity and elegance, that he gained the applause of the whole

University: and Pope is reported to have said, that the anthor would leave it a question with posterity whether the Latin or the English were the original.” While at College he had a great inclination for the reading of Greek: he also projected a common place book, to the extent of six folio volumes; but Sir John Hawkins asserts, that by far the greater portion of it consisted of blank leaves.

While at Litchfield, during the College vacation, he was overwhelmed with morbid melancholy" to such a degree as to render his life miserable. Не, fancied himself in a state of approaching insanity, aud with this idea he drew up an account of his situation in Latin, and sent it to his god father, Dr. Swinfen, of Litchfield.-Mr. Boswell asserts, that his statement displayed not only an uncommon vigour of fancy and taste, but of judgment. From this dismal malady it appears he never after perfectly recovered..


His religious progress is of importance. He had been instructed at an early age in the doctrines of the Church of England by his mother, who used to confine him on Sundays, and make him read the “Whole Duty of Man;" but her strictness only caused in him an inattention to religion, and in and after his fourteenth year he was a talker against it. On going to Oxford he read by chance Law's “Serious Call to the Unconverted;" when instead of finding it å dull book, as he expected, he declares it was an overmatch for him, and be came the first occasion of his thinking in earnest of religion.-Afterwards those tenets of our Church which are most nearly allied to Calvinism were congenial to his feelings, and they were confirmed hy his babits for the remainder of bis life.

In the year 1730, Mr. Corbett quitled the university, and his father declined eontributing any farther to Johnson's

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »