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"How small, of all that human hearts endure,
That part which kings or laws can cause or cure."
He had previously put expressions very similar into the mouth of Rasselas. It is amusing to contrast these passages with the torrents of raving abuse which he poured forth against the Long Parliament and the American Congress. In one of the conversations reported by Boswell, this strange inconsistency displays itself in the most ludicrous manner.
Christianity as a noble scheme of government, skeptical as to the good or evil tendency of tending to promote the happiness and to elevate any form of polity. His passions, on the con the moral nature of man. The horror which trary, were violent even to slaying against all the sectaries felt for cards, Christmas ale, plum- who leaned to Whiggish principles. The well porridge, mince-pies, and dancing-bears, ex-known lines which he inserted in Goldsmith's cited his contempt. To the arguments urged Traveller express what seems to have been by some very worthy people against showy his deliberate judgment:— dress, he replied with admirable sense and spirit, "Let us not be found, when our Master calls us, stripping the lace off our waistcoats, but the spirit of contention from our souls and tongues. Alas! sir, a man who cannot get to heaven in a green coat, will not find his way thither the sooner in a gray one." Yet he was himself under the tyranny of scruples as unreasonable as those of Hudibras or Ralpho; and carried his zeal for ceremonies and for ecclesiastical dignities to lengths altogether inconsistent with reason, or with Christian "Sir Adam Ferguson," says Boswell, "sug-` charity. He has gravely noted down in his gested that luxury corrupts a people and dediary, that he once committed the sin of drink-stroys the spirit of liberty."-JOHNSON. "Sir," ing coffee on Good Friday. In Scotland, he thought it his duty to pass several months without joining in public worship, solely because the ministers of the kirk had not been ordained by bishops. His mode of estimating the piety of his neighbours was somewhat singular. "Campbell," said he, "is a good man-a pious man. I am afraid he has not been in the inside of a church for many years; but he never passes a church without pulling off his hat; this shows he has good principles." Spain and Sicily must surely contain many pious robbers and well-principled assassins. Johnson could easily see that a Roundhead, who named all his children after Solomon's One of the old philosophers, Lord Bacon tells singers, and talked in the House of Commons us, used to say that life and death were just theTM about seeking the Lord, might be an unprin- same to him. "Why, then," said an objector, cipled villain, whose religious mummeries "do you not kill yourself?" The philosopher only aggravated his guilt. But a man who answered, "Because it is just the same." It took off his hat when he passed a church the difference between two forms of governepiscopally consecrated, must be a good man, ment be not worth half a guinea, it is not easy a pious man, a man of good principles. John- to see how Whiggism can be viler than Toryson could easily see that those persons who ism, or how the crown can have too little looked on a dance or a laced waistcoat, as sin-power. If private men suffer nothing from poful, deemed most ignobly of the attributes of God, and of the ends of revelation. But with what a storm of invective he would have overwhelmed any man who had blamed him for celebrating the close of Lent with sugarless tea and butterless bunns.
that is all visionary, I would not give half a guinea to live under one form of government rather than another. It is of no moment te the happiness of an individual. Sir, the danger of the abuse of power is nothing to a private man. What Frenchman is prevented from passing his life as he pleases ?"-SIR ADAM. "But, sir, in the British constitution it is surely of importance to keep up a spirit in the people, so as to preserve a balance against the crown."-JOHNSON. "Sir, I perceive you are a vile Whig. Why all this" childish jealousy of the power of the crown? The crown has not power enough."
litical abuses, zeal for liberty is doubtless ridiculous. But zeal for monarchy must be equally so. No person would have been more quicksighted than Johnson to such a contradiction as this in the logic of an antagonist.
The judgments which Johnson passed on books were in his own time regarded with superstitious veneration; and in our time are generally treated with indiscriminate contempt. They are the judgments of a strong but enslaved understanding. The mind of the critic was hedged round by an uninterrupted fence of prejudices and superstitions. Within his narrow limits he displayed a vigour and an activity which ought to have enabled him to clear the barrier that confined him.
Nobody spoke more contemptuously of the cant of patriotism. Nobody saw more clearly the error of those who represented liberty, not as a means, but as an end; and who proposed to themselves, as the object of their pursuit, the prosperity of the state as distinct from the prosperity of the individuals who compose the state. His calm and settled opinion seems to have been that forms of government have little or no influence on the happiness' of society. This opinion, erroneous as it is, ought at least How it chanced that a man who reasoned to have preserved him from all intemperance on his premises so ably should assume his on political questions. It did not, however, premises so foolishly, is one of the great mys preserve him from the lowest, fiercest, and teries of human nature. The same inconsist most absurd extravagance of party spirit-ency may be observed in the schoolmen of the from rants which, in every thing but the dic- middle ages. Those writers show so much tion, resembled those of Squire Western. He acuteness and force of mind in arguing on was, as a politician, half ice and half fire-on the side of his intellect a mere Pococurantefar too apathetic about public affairs-far too
their wretched data, that a modern reader is perpetually at a loss to comprehend how such minds came by such data. Not a flaw in thê `
superstructure of the theory which they are tion-of commendation much colder than what rearing escapes their vigilance. Yet they are he has bestowed on the Creation of that por blind to the obvious unsoundness of the found- tentous bore, Sir Richard Blackmore.. Gray ation. It is the same with some eminent law-was, in his dialect, a barren rascal. Churchill yers. Their legal arguments are intellectual was a blockhead. The contempt which he felt prodigies, abounding with the happiest analo- for the trash of Macpherson was indeed just; gies and the most refined distinctions. The but it was, we suspect, just by chance. He principles of their arbitrary science being once despised the Fingal for the very reason which admitted, the statute-book and the reports be- led many men of genius to admire it. He deing once assumed as the foundations of juris- spised it, not because it was essentially comprudence, these men must be allowed to be monplace, but because it had a superficial air perfect masters of logic. But if a question of originality. arises as to the postulates on which their whole system rests, if they are called upon to vindicate the fundamental maxims of that system which they have passed their lives in studying, these very men often talk the language of savages or of children. Those who have listened to a man of this class in his own court, and who have witnessed the skill with which he analyzes and digests a vast mass of evidence, or reconciles a crowd of precedents which at first sight seem contradictory, scarcely know him again when, a few hours later, they hear him speaking on the other side of Some of Johnson's whims on literary subWestminster Hall in his capacity of legisla-jects can be compared only to that strange, tor. They can scarcely believe that the paltry quirks which are faintly heard through a storm of coughing, and which cannot impose on the plainest country gentleman, can proceed from the same sharp and vigorous intellect which had excited their admiration under the same roof and on the same day.
He was undoubtedly an excellent judge of compositions fashioned on his own principles But when a deeper philosophy was required→→→ when he undertook to pronounce judgment on the works of those great minds which "yield homage only to eternal laws"-his failure was ignominious. He criticised Pope's Epitaphs excellently. But his observations on Shakspeare's plays and Milton's poems seem to us as wretched as if they had been written by Rymer himself, whom we take to have been the worst critic that ever lived.
nervous feeling which made him uneasy if he had not touched every post between the Mitre tavern and his own lodgings. His preference of Latin epitaphs to English epitaphs is an instance. An English epitaph, he said, would disgrace Smollett. He declared that he would not pollute the walls of Westminster Abbey Johnson decided literary questions like a with an English epitaph on Goldsmith. What lawyer, not like a legislator. He never exa- reason there can be for celebrating a British mined foundations where a point was already writer in Latin which there was not for coverruled. His whole code of criticism rested on ing the Roman arches of triumph with Greek pure assumption, for which he sometimes gave inscriptions, or for commemorating the deed a precedent or an authority, but rarely troubled of the heroes of Thermopylae in Egyptian hie himself to give a reason drawn from the na-roglyphics, we are utterly unable to imagine. ture of things. He took it for granted that the kind of poetry which flourished in his own time, which he had been accustomed to hear praised from his childhood, and which he had himself written with success, was the best kind of poetry. In his biographical work he has repeatedly laid it down as an undeniable proposition that, during the latter part of the seventeenth century and the earlier part of the eighteenth, English poetry had been in a constant progress of improvement. Waller, Denham, Dryden, and Pope had been, according to him, the great reformers. He judged of all works of the imagination by the standard established among his own contemporaries. Though he allowed Homer to have been a greater man than Virgil, he seems to have thought the Eneid a greater poem than the Iliad. Indeed he well might have thought so, for he preferred Pope's Iliad to Homer's. He pronounced that, after Hoole's translation of Tasso, Fairfax's would hardly be reprinted. He could see no merit in oar fine old English ballads, and al- Yet even his remarks on society, like his re ways spoke with the most provoking contempt marks on literature, indicate a mind at least as of Percy's fondness for them. Of all the great remarkable for narrowness as for strength. original works which appeared during his time He was no master of the great science of huRichardson's novels alone excited his admira- man nature. He had studied, not the genus tion. He could see little or no merit in Tom man, but the species Londoner. Nobody was Jones, in Gulliver's Travels, or in Tristram ever so thoroughly conversant with all the Shandy. To Thomson's Castle of Indolence forms of life, and all the shades of moral and he vouchsafed only a line of cold commenda-intellectual character, which were to be seen
On men and manners-at least, on the men and manners of a particular place and a particular age-Johnson had certainly looked with a most observant and discriminating eye. His remarks on the education of children, on marriage, on the economy of families, on the rules of society, are always striking, and generally sound. In his writings, indeed, the knowledge of life which he possessed in an eminent degree is very imperfectly exhibited. Like those unfortunate chiefs of the middle ages, who were suffocated by their own chainmail and cloth of gold, his maxims perish under that load of words, which was designed for their ornament and their defence. But it is clear, from the remains of his conversation, that he had more of that homely wisdom which nothing but experience and observation can give, that any writer since the time of Swift. If he had been content to write as he talked, he might have left books on the practical art of living superior to the Directions to Servants.
from Islington to the Thames, and from HydePark corner to Mile-end green. But his phi losophy stopped at the first turnpike gate. Of the rural life of England he knew nothing; and he took it for granted that everybody who lived in the country was either stupid or miserable. "Country gentlemen," said he, "must be unhappy; for they have not enough to keep their lives in motion.' As if all those peculiar habits and associations, which made Fleet Street and Charing Cross the finest views in the world to himself, had been essential parts of human nature. Of remote countries and past times he talked with wild and ignorant presumption. "The Athenians of the age of Demosthenes," he said to Mrs. Thrale, "were a people of brutes, a barbarous people." In conversation with Sir Adam Ferguson he used similar language. "The boasted Athenians," he said, "were barbarians. The inass of every people must be barbarous, where there is no printing." The fact was this: he saw that a Londoner who could not read was a very stupid and brutal fellow: he saw that great refinement of taste and activity of intellect were rarely found in a Londoner who had not read much; and because it was by means of books that people acquired almost all their knowledge in the society with which he was acquainted, he concluded, in defiance of the strongest and clearest evidence, that the human mind car be cultivated by means of books alone. An Athenian citizen might possess very few volumes; and even the largest library to which he had access might be much less valuable than Johnson's bookcase in Bolt Court. But the Athenian might pass every morning in conversation with Socrates, and might hear Pericles speak four or five times every month. He saw the plays of Sophocles and Aristophanes; he walked amidst the friezes of Phidias and the paintings of Zeuxis; be knew by heart the choruses of Eschylus; he heard the rhapsodist at the corner of the street reciting the Shield of Achilles, or the Death of Argus; he was a legislator conversant with high questions of alliance, revenue, and war; he was a soldier, trained under a liberal and gesprous discipline; he was a judge, compelled every day to weigh the effect of opposite arguments. These things were in themselves an education; an education eminently fitted, not indeed, to form exact or profound thinkers, but to give quickness to the perceptions, delicacy to the taste, fluency to the expression, and politeness to the manners. But this Johnson never considered. An Athenian who did not improve his mind by reading, was, in his opinion, much such a person as a Cockney who made his mark; much such a person as black Frank before he went to school, and far inferior to a parish-clerk or a printer's devil.
over him in conversation. He pronounced them, also, to be an indelicate people, because a French footman touched the sugar with his fingers. That ingenious and amusing traveller, M. Simond, has defended his countrymen very successfully against Johnson's accusation, and has pointed out some English practices, which, to an impartial spectator, would seem at least as inconsistent with physical cleanliness and social decorum as those which Johnson so bitterly reprehended. To the sage, as Boswell loves to call him, it never occurred to doubt that there must be something eternally and immutably good in the usages to which he had been accustomed. In fact, Johnson's remarks on society beyond the bills of mortality, are generally of much the same kind with those of honest Tom Dawson, the English footman of Dr. Moore's Zeluco. "Suppose the King of France has no sons, but only a daughter, then, when the king dies, this here daughter, according to that there law, cannot be made queen, but the next near relative, provided he is a man, is made king, and not the last king's daughter, which, to be sure, is very unjust. The French footguards are dressed in blue, and all the marching regiments in white, which has a very foolish appearance for soldiers; and as for blue regimentals, it is only fit for the blue horse or the artillery."
Johnson's visit to the Hebrides introduced him to a state of society completely new to him: and a salutary suspicion of his own deficiencies seems on that occasion to have crossed his mind for the first time. He confessed, in the last paragraph of his Journey, that his thoughts on national manners were the thoughts of one who had seen but little; of one who had passed his time almost wholly in cities. This feeling, however, soon passed away. It is remarkable, that to the last he entertained a fixed contempt for all those modes of life and those studies, which lead to emancipate the mind from the prejudices of a particular age or a particular nation. Of foreign travel and of history he spoke with the fierce and boisterous contempt of ignorance. "What Is Beauclerk does a man learn by travelling? What did Lord the better for travelling? Charlemont learn in his travels, except that there was a snake in one of the pyramids of Egypt?" History was, in his opinion, to use the fine expression of Lord Plunkett, an old almanac: historians could, as he conceived, claim no higher dignity than that of almanacmakers; and his favourite historians were those who, like Lord Hailes, aspired to no higher dignity. He always spoke with contempt of Robertson. Hume he would not even read. He affronted one of his friends for talk ing to him about Catiline's conspiracy, and declared that he never desired to hear of the Punic War again as long as he lived.
His friends have allowed that he carried to Assuredly one fact, which does not directly a ridiculous extreme his unjust contempt for affect our own interests, considered in itself, is foreigners. He pronounced the French to be no better worth knowing than another fact. a very silly people-much behind us--stupid, The fact that there is a snake in a pyramid, ignorant creatures. And this judgment he or the fact that Hannibal crossed the Alps by formed after having been at Paris about a the Great St. Bernard, are in themselves as un month, during which he would not talk French, profitable to us as the fact that there is a green for fear of giving the natives an advantage blind in a particular house in Threadneed'e
street, or the fact that a Mr. Smith comes into the city every morning on the top of one of the Blackwall stages. But it is certain that those who will not crack the shell of history will never get at the kernel. Johnson, with hasty arrogance, pronounced the kernel worthless, because he saw no value in the shell. The real use of travelling to distant countries, and of studying the annals of past times, is to preserve men from the contraction of mind which those can hardly escape, whose whole communion is with one generation and one neighbourhood, who arrive at conclusions by means of an induction not sufficiently copious, and who therefore constantly confound exceptions with ruies, and accidents with essential properties. In short, the real use of travelling, and of studying history, is to keep men from being what Tom Dawson was in fiction, and Samuel Johnson in reality.
of those strong plain words, Anglo-Saxon or Norman French, of which the roots lie in the inmost depths of our language; and that he felt a vicious partiality for terms which, long after our own speech had been fixed, were borrowed from the Greek and Latin, and which, therefore, even when lawfully naturalized, must be considered as born aliens, not entitled to rank with the king's English. His constant practice of padding out a sentence with useless epithets, till it became as stiff as the bust of an exquisite; his antithetical forms of expression, constantly employed even where there is no opposition in the ideas expressed; his big words wasted on little things; his harsh inversions, so widely different from those graceful and easy inversions which give variety, spirit, and sweetness to the expression of our great old writers-all these peculiarities have been imitated by his admirers, and parodied by his assailants, till the public has be come sick of the subject.
Goldsmith said to him, very wittily and very justly, "If you were to write a fable about little fishes, doctor, you would make the little, fishes talk like whales." No man surely ever had so little talent for personation as Johnson.
Johnson, as Mr. Burke most justly observed, appears far greater in Boswell's books than in his own. His conversation appears to have been quite equal to his writings in matter, and far superior to them in manner. When he talked, he clothed his wit and his sense in forcible and natural expressions. As soon as he took his pen in his hand to write for the pub- Whether he wrote in the character of a dislic, his style became systematically vicious. appointed legacy-hunter or an empty town fop, All his books are written in a learned lan- of a crazy virtuoso or a flippant coquette, he guage in a language which nobody hears wrote in the same pompous and unbending from his mother or his nurse-in a language style. His speech, like Sir Piercy Shafton's in which nobody ever quarrels, or drives bar- Euphuistic eloquence, bewrayed him under gains, or makes love-in a language in which every disguise. Euphelia and Rhodoclia talk nobody ever thinks. It is clear, that Johnson as finely as Imlac the poet, or Seged, Emperor himself did not think in the dialect in which of Ethiopia. The gay Cornelia describes her he wrote. The expressions which came first reception at the country-house of her relations to his tongue were simple, energetic, and pic- in such terms as these: "I was surprised, after turesque. When he wrote for publication, he the civilities of my first reception, to find, in did his sentences out of English into John- stead of the leisure and tranquillity which a sonese. His letters from the Hebrides to Mrs. rural life always promises, and, if well conThrale are the original of that work of which ducted, might always afford, a confused wildthe Journey to the Hebrides is the translation; ness of care, and a tumultuous hurry of and it is amusing to compare the two versions. diligence, by which every face was clouded, When we were taken up stairs," says he in and every motion agitated." The gentle Tranone of his letters, "a dirty fellow bounced out quilla informs us, that she "had not passed of the bed on which one of us was to lie." the earlier part of life without the flattery of This incident is recorded in the Journey as courtship and the joys of triumph; but had follows: "Out of one of the beds on which we danced the round of gayety amidst the murwere to repose, started up, at our entrance, a murs of envy and the gratulations of applause; inan black as a Cyclops from the forge." had been attended from pleasure to pleasure Sometimes Johnson translated aloud. The by the great, the sprightly, and the vain; and Rehearsal," he said, very unjustly, "has not had seen her regard solicited by the obsequiwit enough to keep it sweet;" then, after a ousness of gallantry, the gayety of wit, and the pause, "it has not vitality enough to preserve timidity of love." Surely Sir John Falstaff it from putrefaction." himself did not wear his petticoats with a worse grace. The reader may well cry out with honest Sir Hugh Evans, "I like not when a 'oman has a great peard: I spy a great peard under her muffler."
Mannerism is pardonable, and is sometimes even agreeable, when the manner, though vicious, is natural. Few readers, for example, would be willing to part with the mannerism of Milton or of Burke. But a mannerism which does not sit easy on the mannerist, which has been adopted on principle, and which can be sustained only by constant effort, is always offensive. And such is the mannerism of Johnson.
The characteristic faults of his style are so familiar to all our readers, and have been so often burlesqued, that it is almost superfluous to point them out. It is well known that he made less use than any other eminent writer
We had something more to say. But our article is already too long; and we must close it. We would fain part in good humour from the hero, from the biographer, and even from the editor, who, il as he has performed his task, has at least this claim to our gratitude, that he has induced us to read Boswell's book again. As we close it, the club-room is before us, and the table on which stands the omelet for Nugent and the lemons for Johnson. There are assembled those heads which live forever
on the canvass of Reynolds. There are the spectacles of Burke and the tall thin form of Langton; the courtly sneer of Beauclerk and the beaming smile of Garrick; Gibbon tapping his snuff-box, and Sir Joshua with his trumpet in his ear. In the foreground is that strange figure which is as familiar to us as the figures of those among whom we have been brought up-the gigantic body, the huge massy face, seamed with the scars of disease; the brown coat, the black worsted stockings, the gray wig with a scorched foretop; the dirty hands, the nails bitten and pared to the quick. We see the eyes and mouth moving with convulsive twitches; we see the heavy form rolling; we hear it puffing; and then comes the "Why, sir!" and the "What then, sir?" and the "No, sir!" and the "You dont see your way through the question, sir!"
What a singular destiny has been that of this remarkable man! To be regarded in his own age as a classic, and in ours as a compa nion-to receive from his contemporaries that full homage which men of genius have in general received only from posterity-to be more intimately known to posterity than other men are known to their contemporaries! That kind of fame which is commonly the most transient, is, in his case, the most durable. The reputation of those writings, which he probably expected to be immortal, is every day fading; while those peculiarities of manner, and that careless table-talk, the memory of which, he probably thought, would die with him, are likely to be remembered as long as the English language is spoken in any quarter of the globe.
LORD NUGENT'S MEMORIALS OF HAMPDEN.
[EDINBURGH REVIEW, 1831.]
moirs must be considered as Memoirs of the history of England; and, as such, they well deserve to be attentively perused. They contain some curious facts, which, to us at least, are new, much spirited narrative, many judicious remarks, and much eloquent declamation.
We have read this book with great pleasure, though not exactly with that kind of pleasure which we had expected. We had hoped that Lord Nugent would have been able to collect, from family papers and local traditions, much new and interesting information respecting the life and character of the renowned leader of the Long Parliament, the first of those great We are not sure that even the want of inEnglish commoners, whose plain addition of formation respecting the private character of Mister, has, to our ears, a more majestic sound Hampden is not in itself a circumstance as than the proudest of the feudal titles. In this strikingly characteristic as any which the hope we have been disappointed; but assuredly most minute chronicler-O'Meara, Las Cases, not from any want of zeal or diligence on the Mrs. Thrale, or Boswell himself-ever recordpart of the noble biographer. Even at Hamp-ed concerning their heroes. The celebrated den, there are, it seems, no important papers Puritan leader is an almost solitary instance relative to the most illustrious proprietor of of a great man who neither sought nor shunned that ancient domain. The most valuable me- greatness; who found glory only because glory morials of him which still exist, belong to the lay in the plain path of duty. During more family of his friend, Sir John Eliot. Lord than forty years, he was known to his country Eliot has furnished the portrait which is en- neighbours as a gentleman of cultivated mind, graved for this work, together with some of high principles, of polished address, happy very interesting letters. The portrait is un-in his family, and active in the discharge of doubtedly an original, and probably the only local duties; to political men, as an honest, original now in existence. The intellectual industrious, and sensible member of Parlia forehead, the mild penetration of the eye, and the inflexible resolution expressed by the lines of the mouth, sufficiently guaranty the likeness. We shall probably make some extracts from the letters. They contain almost all the new information that Lord Nugent has been able to procure, respecting the private pursuits of the great man whose memory he worships with an enthusiastic, but not an extravagant, veneration.
The public life of Hampden is surrounded by no obscurity. His history, more particularly from the beginning of the year 1640 to his death, is the history of England. These me
* Some Memorials of John Hampden, his Party, and his Times. By LORD NUGENT. 2 vols. 8vo. London. 1831.
ment, not eager to display his talents, stanch to his party, and attentive to the interests of his constituents. A great and terrible crisis came. A direct attack was made, by an arbitrary government, on a sacred right of Eng. lishmen, on a right which was the chief secu rity for all their other rights. The nation looked round for a defender. Calmly and unostentatiously the plain Buckinghamshire Es quire placed himself at the head of his coun. trymen, and right before the face, and across the path of tyranny. The times grew darker and more troubled. Public service, perilous, arduous, delicate, was required; and to every service, the intellect and the courage of this wonderful man were found fully equal. He became a debater of the first order, a most