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CHAPTER VIII.

247

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Richard Brinsley Sheridan.- Savage's "Sir Thomas Overbury," Thomson. - Mrs. Strickland. - The Townley Collection. Dr. Dodd. Boswell at the Tomb of Melancthon.-Isaac De Groot.- - Dr. Watts. Letter to Mrs. Boswell. Visit to Ashbourne. 66 Harry Jackson.”. Sidney's "Arcadia.". jected Trip to the Baltic. Grief for the Loss of Relatives and Friends. Incomes of Curates. Johnson's humane and zealous Interference in behalf of Dr. Dodd.

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1777.

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A CIRCUMSTANCE which could not fail to be very pleasing to Johnson occurred this year. The tragedy of "Sir Thomas Overbury," written by his early companion in London, Richard Savage, was brought out with alterations at Drury-lane theatre. (1) The prologue to it was written by Mr. Richard Brinsley Sheridan; in which, after describing very pathetically the wretchedness of

"Ill-fated Savage, at whose birth was given

No parent but the Muse, no friend but Heaven," he introduced an elegant compliment to Johnson on

(1) Our author has here fallen into a slight mistake. The prologue to this revived tragedy being written by Mr. Sheridan, Mr. Boswell very naturally supposed that it was performed at Drury-lane theatre. But in fact, as Mr. Kemble observes to me, it was acted at the theatre in Covent-garden. — M.

his Dictionary, that wonderful performance which cannot be too often or too highly praised; of which Mr. Harris, in his "Philological Inquiries (part i. chap. iv.), justly and liberally observes, "Such is its merit, that our language does not possess a more copious, learned, and valuable work." The concluding lines of this prologue were these:

"So pleads the tale (1) that gives to future times
The son's misfortunes and the parent's crimes;
There shall his fame (if own'd to-night) survive,
Fix'd by the hand that bids our language live."

Mr. Sheridan here at once did honour to his taste and to his liberality of sentiment, by showing that he was not prejudiced from the unlucky difference which had taken place between his worthy father and Dr. Johnson. (2) I have already mentioned that Johnson was very desirous of reconciliation with old Mr. Sheridan. It will, therefore, not seem at all surprising that he was zealous in acknowledging the brilliant merit of his son. While it had as yet been displayed only in the drama, Johnson proposed him as a member of the Literary Club, observing, that "He who has written the two best (3) comedies

(1) "Life of Richard Savage, by Dr. Johnson."-SHERIDAN.

(2) He likewise made some retribution to Dr. Johnson for the attack he had meditated, about two years before, on the pamphlet he had published about the American question, entitled, "Taxation no Tyranny." Some fragments found among Sheridan's papers show that he had intended answering this pamphlet in no very courteous way. See Moore's Life, vol. i. p. 152.- HALL.

(3) ["Whatever Sheridan has done has been, par excellence, always the best of its kind. He has written the best comedy (School for Scandal), the best drama (the Duenna, in my mind, far before the Beggar's Opera), the best farce (the Critic), and

of his age is surely a considerable man." And he had, accordingly, the honour to be elected; for an honour it undoubtedly must be allowed to be, when it is considered of whom that society consists, and that a single black ball excludes a candidate.

LETTER 278. FROM MR. BOSWELL.

66 July 9. 1777. "MY DEAR SIR, For the health of my wife and children I have taken the little country-house at which you visited my uncle, Dr. Boswell, who, having lost his wife, is gone to live with his son. We took possession of our villa about a week ago. We have a garden of three quarters of an acre, well stocked with fruit-trees and flowers, and gooseberries and currants, and pease and beans, and cabbages, &c. &c., and my children are quite happy. I now write to you in a little study, from the window of which I see around me a verdant grove, and beyond it the lofty mountain called Arthur's Seat.

"Your last letter, in which you desire me to send you some additional information concerning Thomson, reached me very fortunately just as I was going to Lanark, to put my wife's two nephews, the young Campbells, to school there, under the care of Mr. Thomson, the master of it, whose wife is sister to the author of

The Seasons.' She is an old woman; but her memory is very good; and she will with pleasure give me for you every particular that you wish to know, and she can tell. Pray then take the trouble to send me such questions as may lead to biographical materials. You say that the Life which we have of Thomson is scanty. Since I received your letter, I have read his Life, pub

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the best Address (Monologue on Garrick); and, to crown all, delivered the very best oration (the famous Begum Speech) ever conceived or heard in this country."- BYRON.]

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