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PART XXX.

ANECDOTES AND REMARKS,

BY ARTHUR MURPHY, ESQ. (1)

574. Introductory.

I ENJOYED the conversation and friendship of that excellent man more than thirty years. I thought it an honour to be so connected, and to this hour I reflect on his loss with regret: but regret, I know, has secret bribes, by which the judgment may be influenced, and partial affection may be carried beyond the bounds of truth. In the present case, however, nothing needs to be disguised, and exaggerated praise is unnecessary.

575. First Interview.

It was in the summer 1754, that I became acquainted with Dr. Johnson. The cause of his first visit is related by Mrs. Piozzi nearly in the following manner :—-"Mr. Murphy being engaged in a periodical paper, the 'Gray's Inn Journal,' was at a friend's house in the country, and, not being disposed to lose pleasure for business, wished to content his bookseller by some unstudied essay. He therefore took up a French Journal Littéraire, and, translating something he liked, sent it away to town. Time, however, discovered that he translated from the French a 6 Rambler,' which had been taken from the English without acknowledgment.

(1) [From "An Essay on the Life and Genius of Samuel Johnson, LL. D." prefixed to his Works; and first published .n 1792.]

Upon this discovery, Mr. Murphy thought it right to make his excuses to Dr. Johnson. He went next day, and found him covered with soot, like a chimneysweeper, in a little room, as if he had been acting 'Lungs' in the Alchymist, making ether. This being told by Mr. Murphy in company, Come, come,' said Dr. Johnson, the story is black enough; but it was a happy day that brought you first to my house.' After this first visit, I by degrees grew intimate with Dr. Johnson.

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576. Lord Bolingbroke.

The first striking sentence that I heard from Dr. Johnson was in a few days after the publication of Lord Bolingbroke's posthumous works. Mr. Garrick asked him, "If he had seen them ?” 66 Yes, I have seen them." "What do you think of them?" "Think of them!" He made a long pause, and then replied: "Think of them! A scoundrel and a coward! A scoundrel, who spent his life in charging a gun against Christianity; and a coward, who was afraid of hearing the report of his own gun; but left half a crown to a hungry Scotchman to draw the trigger after his death."

577. Picture of Himself.

Johnson's reflections on his own life and conduct were always severe; and, wishing to be immaculate, he destroyed his own peace by unnecessary scruples. He tells us, that, when he surveyed his past life, he discovered nothing but a barren waste of time, with some disorders of body, and disturbances of mind very near to madness. His life, he says, from his earliest youth, was wasted in a morning bed; and his reigning sin was a general sluggishness, to which he was always inclined, and, in part of his life, almost compelled, by morbid melancholy and weariness of mind. This was

his constitutional malady, derived, perhaps from his father, who was, at times, overcast with a gloom that bordered on insanity.

In a Latin poem, to which he has prefixed as a title ΓΝΩΘΙ ΣΕΑΥΤΟΝ, he has left a picture of himself, drawn with as much truth, and as firm a hand, as can be seen in the portraits of Hogarth or Sir Joshua Reynolds. The learned reader will find the original poem in the first volume of his Works; and it is hoped that a translation, or rather imitation, of so curious a piece will not be improper in this place: —

"KNOW YOURSELF.

"AFTER REVISING AND ENLARGING THE ENGLISH LEXICON, or DICTIONARY.

"When Scaliger, whole years of labour past, Beheld his Lexicon complete at last,

And weary of his task, with wond'ring eyes,
Saw from words piled on words a fabric rise,
He cursed the industry, inertly strong,

In creeping toil that could persist so long,
And if, enraged he cried, Heav'n meant to shed
Its keenest vengeance on the guilty head,
The drudgery of words the damn'd would know,
Doom'd to write Lexicons in endless woe. (1)

"Yes, you had cause, great Genius, to repent;

'You lost good days, that might be better spent ;'
You well might grudge the hours of ling'ring pain,
And view your learned labours with disdain.
To you were given the large expanded mind,
The flame of genius, and the taste refined.
'Twas yours on eagle wings aloft to soar,

And amidst rolling worlds the Great First Cause explore;

(1) See Scaliger's epigram on this subject, communicated without doubt by Dr. Johnson, Gent. Mag. 1748. - M.

To fix the æras of recorded time,

And live in ev'ry age and ev'ry clime;

Record the chiefs, who propt their country's cause;

Who founded empires, and establish'd laws;
To learn whate'er the sage with virtue fraught,
Whate'er the Muse of moral wisdom taught.
These were your quarry; these to you were known,
And the world's ample volume was your own.

"Yet warn'd by me, ye pigmy Wits, beware,
Nor with immortal Scaliger compare.
For me, though his example strike my view,
Oh! not for me his footsteps to pursue.
Whether first Nature, unpropitious, cold,
This clay compounded in a ruder mould;
Or the slow current, loit'ring at my heart,
No gleam of wit or fancy can impart;
Whate'er the cause, from me no numbers flow,
No visions warm me, and no raptures glow.

"A mind like Scaliger's, superior still,

No grief could conquer, no misfortune chill.
Though for the maze of words his native skies
He seem'd to quit, 't was but again to rise;
To mount once more to the bright source of day,
And view the wonders of th' etherial way.

The love of fame his gen'rous bosom fired;
Each Science hail'd him, and each Muse inspired.
For him the Sons of Learning trimm'd the bays,
And nations grew harmonious in his praise.

"My task perform'd, and all my labours o'er,
For me what lot has Fortune now in store?
The listless will succeeds, that worst disease,
The rack of indolence, the sluggish ease.
Care grows on care, and o'er my aching brain
Black Melancholy pours her morbid train.
No kind relief, no lenitive at hand,

I seek, at midnight clubs, the social band;

But midnight clubs, where wit with noise conspires, Where Comus revels, and where wine inspires,

Delight no more: I seek my lonely bed,
And call on Sleep to sooth my languid head:
But sleep from these sad lids flies far away;
I mourn all night, and dread the coming day.
Exhausted, tired, I throw my eyes around,
To find some vacant spot on classic ground:
And soon, vain hope! I form a grand design;
Langour succeeds, and all my powers decline.
If Science open not her richest vein,
Without materials all our toil is vain.
A form to rugged stone when Phidias gives,
Beneath his touch a new creation lives.
Remove his marble, and his genius dies;
With nature then no breathing statue vies.

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Whate'er I plan, I feel my powers confined
By Fortune's frown and penury of mind.
I boast no knowledge glean'd with toil and strife,
That bright reward of a well-acted life.

I view myself, while Reason's feeble light
Shoots a pale glimmer through the gloom of night,
While passions, errors, phantoms of the brain,
And vain opinions, fill the dark domain;
A dreary void, where fears with grief combined
Waste all within, and desolate the mind.

"What then remains? Must I in slow decline

To mute inglorious ease old age resign?
Or, bold ambition kindling in my breast,
Attempt some arduous task? Or, were it best
Brooding o'er Lexicons to pass the day,
And in that labour drudge my life away?" (1)

Such is the picture for which Dr. Johnson sat to himself. He gives the prominent features of his character; his lassitude, his morbid melancholy, his love of fame, his dejection, his tavern parties, and his wandering reveries, Vacua mala somnia mentis, about

(1) [This spirited translation, or rather imitation, is by Mr. Murphy.]

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