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vered the infant poet with leaves and flowers: for how fhould a child of three years old make regular verfes, and in alternate rhyme? The father, moreover, foretold that he would be a great man.
At a proper age he was placed in the free-fchool at Lichfield. He was not remarkable for diligence: in the fields with his fchoolfellows, he talked more with himfelf than his companions, and was never remarkable for a tenacious memory. In 1725 he went on a vifit to his uncle Cornelius Ford, who detained him for fome months, and in the mean time affifted him in the claffics. After this he was placed at another school at Stourbridge in Worcestershire, and thence returned to his father's houfe, as feems probable, to be trained up a bookfeller. He used to say that he could bind a book. On the 31st October 1728, he went as an affiftant in the ftudies of a young man, of the name of Corbett, to Pembroke college, Oxford. Corbett was entered as a gentleman commoner, and Johnfon as a commoner. The college tutor, named Jordan, was a man of mean abilities. Johnfon being fined for not attending his lectures, faid, "Sir, you have fconced me two pence for nonattendance at a lecture not worth a penny." Corbett left the univerfity in about two years, and Johnson's falary ceased. Being now ftraitened in his circumftances, his poverty was too apparent. He had but one pair of fhoes, and his feet appeared through them. A new pair being placed, by order of a friend, at his door, he threw them away with indignation. His tutor, Jordan, went off to a college living, and was fucceeded by the prefent Dr. Adams, now at the head of the college, and much efteemed for his learning and his talents. Under fuch a mafter, Johnson became more regular in his attendance. Ethics, theology, and claffical literature were his ftudies. He projected a common-place book, to the extent of fix folio volumes, but, fays Sir John Hawkins, the blank leaves far exceed the written ones. At the univerfity, his mind received an early impreffion of piety, and a tafte for the best authors, antient and modern. Of that wandering difpofition of mind, which followed him through life, he difcovered early fymptoms. His reading was defultory, and always by fits and ftarts. His ftudies were not directed to any particular science. General philology was the object of his ambition. The management of his time he never practifed; nor did he regard the hours of ftudy, more than was required by the difcipline of the college. He joined the young men in hunting the fervitor, who at ftated times knocked at the room doors, to know if the ftudents were within. One of his fchoolfellows thought that there was fomething wrong in his conftitution, which would end in the total lofs of his underftanding or his health, but, happily for mankind, he was not
a true prophet. Notwithstanding all these appearances of wildnefs, Johnson read to great advantage. For a task impofed upon him, he tranflated the Meffiah of Pope; who faw the performance through the means of doctor Arbuthnot's fon, and in ftrong terms declared his approbation of it.
Johnfon continued at Oxford from the 31ft of October 1728, to December 1729, when, for want of pecuniary fupplies, he left the place; but, having obtained the affiftance of a friend, returned in a short time, and in the whole completed a refidence of three years. Wonders are told of his memory, and, indeed, all, who knew him late in life, can witnefs that he retained that faculty in the greatest vigour.
From the univerfity, Johnfon returned to his father's houfe at Lichfield. Notwithstanding the natural ferocity of his temper, he had the highest respect for the clergy. From contempt of the facerdotal order, he thought the tranfition easy to a contempt of religion. His father died in December 1731, and in the month of March following, Johnfon became under- mafter, or ufher, of a grammar fchool at Market-Bofworth in Leicesterfhire. Of this fchool, Sir Wolftan Dixie was the patron. Johnfon was disgusted by this gentleman's pride, and, in the July following, left the place, ever after fpeaking of it with abhorrence. It appears by a memorandum in his own handwriting, dated 15th June 1732, that his whole receipt out of his father's effects was no more than 201. In June 1733, he refided with a perfon of the name of Jarvis, at Birmingham. At this place he tranflated, from the French, a Voyage to Abyffinia, written originally by Jerome Lobo, a Portuguese jefuit, and containing a narrative of the endeavours of a company of miffionaries to attract the people of Abyffinia to the church of Rome. A further account of the miffionary and the inhabitants of the country will be seen in the Appendix, which we propose to add to this extract. At prefent we are unwilling to lofe fight of our hero.
The tranflation of Lobo was published in 8vo. by a Birmingham bookfeller: what price Johnfon had for it does not appear. In February 1734 he returned to Lichfield, and in Auguft following, published proposals for printing by fubfcription, an edition of the Latin poems of Politian, with the hiftory of Latin poetry, from the æra of Petrarch to the time of Politian; and also the life of Politian, to be added by the editor; the work to be printed in thirty 8vo fheets, price 5s. For want of encouragement, the project was heard of no more.
Johnfon, it feems, now intended to become an author by profeffion. To this, Sir John Hawkins appears to have fome very nice and fqueamish objections. He points to a diftinction between the man, who writes with a view to profit, and him, who, regardless of money, follows the impulfe of his genius.
278 Sir John Hawkins's Edition of Dr. Johnson's Works.
In the year 1734, Johnfon, in profecution of his defign, made a tender of his fervices to Mr. Cave, the proprietor of the Gentleman's magazine. His letter upon this occafion is as follows:
Nov. 25, 1734.
As you appear no lefs fenfible than your readers, of the defect of your poetical article, you will not be difpleafed, if, in order to the improvement of it, I communicate to you the fentiments of a perfon, who will undertake, on reasonable terms, fometimes to fill a column.
His opinion is, that the publie would not give you a bad reception, if, befide the current wit of the month, which a critical examination would generally reduce to a narrow compafs, you admitted, not only poems, infcriptions, &c. never printed before, which he will fometimes fupply you with, but likewife fhort literary differtations in Latin or English; critical remarks on authors, ancient or modern; forgotten poems that deferve revival, loofe pieces, like Floyer's, worth preferving. By this method, your literary article, for fo it might be called, will, he thinks, be better recommended to the public, than by low jefts, awkward buffoonery, or the dull fcurrilities of either party.
If fuch a correfpondence will be agreeable to you, be pleafed to inform me, in two pofts, what the conditions are on which you shall expect it, Your late offer gives me no reafon to diftruft your generofity. If you engage in any literary projects befide this paper, I have other defigns to impart, if I could be fecure from having others reap the advantage of what I should hint.
Your letter, by being directed to S. Smith, to be left at the Caftle in Birmingham, Warwickshire, will reach
Your humble fervant t.'
To this letter Cave returned an answer, dated 2d Dec. 1734, and retained Johnfon as a correspondent and contributor
*A prize of 501. for the best poem on Life, Death, Judgment, Heaven, and Hell.
This letter, and Cave's anfwer to it, may ferve to refute an affertion in an anonymous account of Johnfon's life, that he was introduced to the acquaintance of Cave by Savage.
to his magazine. Though now engaged with Cave, Johnson thought himself at liberty to look for other employment. Accordingly in 1736, he made overtures to the Rev. Mr. Budworth, mafter of a grammar fchool at Brerewood, in Staffordfhire, and formerly a pupil of Mr. Blackwall, at Market Bofworth, to become his affiftant. This propofition did not fucceed. Mr. Budworth apprehended that the convulfive motions, to which Johnfon was even at that time fubject, might be an object of ridicule to his fcholars, and of course leffen their refpect for the mafter. Johnfon being now about the age of 27, married Mrs. Porter, the widow of a mercer at Birmingham. She was worth about 800l., which to a perfon in Johnson's circumftances made it a defirable match. Of her beauty and perfonal charms Johnson was an admirer, though his biographer doubts whether he ever faw "the human face divine." He certainly was very fhort-fighted, but it may be prefumed that he approached near enough to his wife, and, when young, perceived diftinctly. Garrick and others reprefented her as a painted doll, of little value, and difguifed with affecta
To turn his wife's fortune to the best advantage, Johnfon now projected the fcheme of an academy of literature. In this he was encouraged by Mr. Gilbert Walmsley, regifter of the ecclefiaftical court of the bishop of Lichfield. Of this gentleman's character Johnson has left a hand fome teftimonial at the end of the life of Edmund Smith. It appears that, under fuck patronage, he took a house at a place called Edial, near Lichfield. The celebrated Garrick, whofe father, captain Garrick, lived at Lichfield, was placed under Johnfon's care, by the advice of Walmfley. Garrick was then about the age of eighteen. An acceffion, however, of feven or eight pupils was the moft that could be obtained. To remedy this want of fuccefs, the following advertisement was published: "At Edial, near Lichfield, in Staffordshire, young Gentlemen are boarded, and taught the Latin and Greek languages, by Samuel Johnson." Vide Gentleman's Magazine 1736, p. 418. The plan, notwithstanding, proved abortive.
It appears, upon good authority, that in March 1737, Johnfon and Garrick were fellow-travellers on horfeback, and arrived in London together. A letter from Mr. Walmsley, though it has not the date of the year, bears every appearance of being written upon this occafion. It is directed to the Rev. Mr. Colfon, a celebrated mathematician, and is in the following terms:
Lichfield, March 2.
I had the favour of yours, and am extremely obliged to you; but cannot fay, I had a greater affection for you upon it, than I had U 4
before, being long fince fo much endeared to you, as well by an early friendship, as by your many excellent and valuable qualifications. And, had I a fon of my own, it would be my ambition, inftead of fending him to the university, to difpofe of him as this young gentleman is.
He and another neighbour of mine, one Mr. S. Johnfon, fet out this morning for London together. Davy Garrick is to be with you early the next week, and Mr. Johnson to try his fate with a tragedy, and to fee to get himself employed in fome tranflation either from the Latin or the French. Johnfon is a very good scholar and a poet, and, I have great hopes, will turn out a fine tragedy writer. If it fhould any ways lay in your way, doubt not but you would be ready to recommend and aflift your countrymen.
The tragedy above mentioned was, most probably, Mahomet and Irene, which was acted at Drury-lane in January or February 1749. It is founded upon a paffage in Knolles's Hiftory of the Turks, a book, which the Reader will recollect, has been fince highly praised and recommended in the Rambler.
It does not appear that Mrs. Johnfon attended her husband in this his firft vifit to the metropolis. The ftock of money which Johnfon and Garrick brought with them, was foon exhaufted. For immediate relief, they borrowed of Mr. Wilcox, a bookfeller in the Strand, five pounds upon their joint note. money was punctually repaid. Johnfon now wished to engage more closely with Cave, the publisher of the Gentleman's Magazine. For this purpose he wrote the following letter:
'Greenwich, next door to the Golden Heart, Church-street, July 12, 1737. Having obferved in your papers very uncommon offers of encouragement to men of letters, I have chofen, being a stranger in London, to communicate to you the following defign, which, I hope, if you join in it, will be of advantage to both of us.
The Hiftory of the Council of Trent, having been lately tranflated into French, and published with large notes by Dr. Le Courayer, the reputation of that book is fo much revived in England, that it is prefumed a new tranflation of it from the Italian, together with Le Courayer's notes from the French, could not fail of a favourable reception.
If it be answered that the hiftory is already in English, it must be remembered that there was the fame objection against Le Courayer's undertaking, with this difadvantage, that the French had a verfion by one of their beft tranflators, whereas you cannot read three pages of the English hiftory without difcovering that the style is capable of great improvements; but whether thofe improvements are to be expected from this attempt, you muft judge from the fpecimen, which, if you approve the propofal, I fhall fubmit to your examination.
Suppofe the merit of the verfions equal, we may hope that the addition of the notes will turn the balance in our favour, confidering the reputation of the annotator.