Imatges de pàgina
PDF
EPUB

Ætat. 68. EMPLOYMENT.-"FORSTER's VOYAGE." 325

South Seas,” which pleased me; but I found he did not like it. “Sir,” said he, “there is a great affectation of fine writing in it.” Boswell. « But he carries you along with him.” Johnson. No, Sir; he does not carry me along with him; he leaves me behind him; or rather, indeed, he sets me before him ; for he makes me turn over many leaves at a time.”

On Sunday, September 21., we went to the church of Ashbourne, which is one of the largest and most luminous that I have seen in any town of the same size. I felt great satisfaction in considering that I was supported in my fondness for solemn public worship by the general concurrence and munificence of mankind.

Johnson and Taylor were so different from each other, that I wondered at their preserving an intimacy. Their having been at school and college together might, in some degree, account for this: but Sir Joshua Reynolds has furnished me with a stronger reason; for Johnson mentioned to him, that he had been told by Taylor he was to be his heir. I shall not take upon me to animadvert upon this ; but certain it is that Johnson paid great attention to Taylor. He now, however, said to me, “Sir, I love him ; but I do not love him more; my regard for him does not increase. As it is said in the Apocrypha, “ his talk is of bullocks.' (') I do not

( suppose he is very fond of my company. His

(1) Ecclesiasticus, chap. xxxviii. v. 25. The whole chapter may be read as an admirable illustration of the superiority of cultivated minds over the gross and illiterate.

habits are by no means sufficiently clerical: this he knows that I see; and no man likes to live under the eye of perpetual disapprobation.”

I have no doubt that a good many sermons were composed for Taylor by Johnson. At this time I found upon his table a part of one which he had newly begun to write: and Concio pro Tayloro appears in one of his diaries. When to these circumstances we add the internal evidence from the power of thinking and style, in the collection which the Reverend Mr. Hayes had published, with the significant title of “ Sermons left for Publication, by the Reverend John Taylor, LL.D.,” our conviction will be complete. (1)

I, however, would not have it thought that Dr. Taylor, though he could not write like Johnson, (as, indeed, who could ?) did not sometimes compose sermons as good as those which we generally have from very respectable divines. He showed me one with notes on the margin in Johnson's hand-writing; and I was present when he read another to Johnson, that he might have his opinion of it, and Johnson

(1) [" Before I release you, I must mention one more publication, on account of its singularity as well as its merit. It is a volume of sermons, published by Dr. Taylor, prebendary of Westminster, who is lately dead. He was an old friend and school-fellow of Dr. Johnson's, and was long suspected of preaching sermons written by the doctor. To confute this calumny, he ordered this volume of sermons to be published after his death. But I am afraid it will not quite answer his purpose; for I will venture to say, that there is not a man in England who knows any thing of Dr. Johnson's peculiarities of style, sentiment, and composition, that will not instantiy pronounce these sermons to be his. Indeed, they are (some of them at least) in his very best manner; and Taylor was no more capable of writing them than of making an epic poem."

Bp. Porteus to Dr. Beattie, 1788. - Varkland.]

Ætat. 68. DR. TAYLOR'S “SERMONS."-AUTHORS. 327

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

said it was

very well.” These, we may be sure, were not Johnson's; for he was above little arts, or tricks of deception.

Johnson was by no means of opinion that every man of a learned profession should consider it as incumbent upon him, or as necessary to his credit, to appear as an author. When, in the ardour of ambition for literary fame, I regretted to him one day that an eminent judge (1) had nothing of it, and therefore would leave no perpetual monument of himself to posterity ; “ Alas! Sir,” said Johnson, r what a mass of confusion should we have, if every bishop, and every judge, every lawyer, physician, and divine, were to write books!”

I mentioned to Johnson a respectable person of a very strong mind (2), who had little of that tenderness which is common to human nature; as an instance of which, when I suggested to him that he should invite his son, who had been settled ten years in foreign parts, to come home and

pay

him a visit, his answer was, “ No, no, let him mind his business.” JOHNSON. “I do not agree with him, Sir, in this. Getting money is not all a man's business : to cultivate kindness is a valuable part of the business of life.”

In the evening, Johnson, being in very good spirits, entertained us with several characteristical portraits : I regret that any of them escaped my retention and diligence. I found from experience,

(1) Probably Lord Mansfield. - C.

(2) He means his father, Lord Auchinleck; and the absent son was David, who spent so many years in Spain. - C.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

that to collect my friend's conversation so as to exhibit it with any degree of its original flavour, it was necessary to write it down without delay. To record his sayings, after some distance of time, was like preserving or pickling long-kept and faded fruits, or other vegetables, which, when in that state, have little or nothing of their taste when fresh.

I shall present my readers with a series of what I gathered this evening from the Johnsonian garden.

My friend, the late Earl of Corke, had a great desire to maintain the literary character of his family: he was a genteel man, but did not keep up the dignity of his rank. He was so generally civil, that nobody thanked him for it.”

“ Did we not hear so much said of Jack Wilkes, we should think more highly of his conversation. Jack has a great variety of talk, Jack is a scholar, and Jack has the manners of a gentleman. But after hearing his name sounded from pole to pole, as the phenix of convivial felicity, we are disappointed in his company. He has always been at me : but I would do Jack a kindness, rather than not. The contest is now over."

“Garrick's gaiety of conversation has delicacy and elegance: Foote makes you laugh more ; but Foote has the air of a buffoon paid for entertaining the company. He, indeed, well deserves his hire.”

“Colley Cibber once consulted me as to one of his birthday odes, a long time before it was wanted. I objected very freely to several passages. Cibber lost patience, and would not read his ode to an end. When we had done with criticism we walked over

a

ÆTAT. 68.

GARRICK.

FOOTE.

PLAYERS.

329

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

to Richardson's, the author of Clarissa,' and I wondered to find Richardson displeased that I did not treat Cibber with more respect. Now, Sir, to talk of respect for a player (-)!” (smiling disdainfully.) Boswell. “ There, Sir, you are always heretical : you never will allow merit to a player.” JOHNSON.“ Merit, Sir! what merit ? Do

you respect a rope-dancer or a ballad-singer ?” BosWELL. “No, Sir; but we respect a great player, as a man who can conceive lofty sentiments, and can express them gracefully.” JOHNSON. “What! Sir, a fellow who claps a hump on his back, and a lump on his leg, and cries, “I am Richard the Third?' Nay, Sir, a ballad-singer is a higher man, for he does two things; he repeats and he sings : there is both recitation and music in his performance; the player only recites." Boswell. " “My dear Sir! you may turn any thing into ridicule. I allow, that a player of farce is not entitled to respect; he does a little thing : but he who can represent exalted characters, and touch the noblest passions, has very respectable powers; and mankind have agreed in admiring great talents for the stage. We must consider, too, that a great player does what very few are capable to do; his art is a very rare faculty. Who

(1) Perhaps Richardson's displeasure was created by Johnson's paying no respect to the age of Cibber, who was almost old enough to have been his grandfather. Cibber had left the stage, and ceased to be a player before Johnson left Oxford; so that he had no more reason to despise Cibber for that profession, than Cibber would have had to remind him of the days when he was usher at a school. — [Cibber quitted the stage in 1730, but appeared occasionally on it afterwards ; particularly so late as 1744, as Pandulph in King John; so that Johnson might reasonably talk of him as being still a player.]

[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinua »