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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 schenie of government, tending to promote the happiness and to elevate the moral nature of man. The horror which the sectaries felt for cards, Christmas ale, plumporridge, mince-pies, and dancing-bears, excited his contempt. To the arguments urged by some very worthy people against showy 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, "sugcharity. 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 that is all visionary, I would not give half a thought it his duty to pass several months guinea to live under one form of government without joining in public worship, solely be- rather than another. It is of no moment to cause the ministers of the kirk had not been the happiness of an individual. Sir, the danordained by bishops. His mode of estimating ger of the abuse of power is nothing to a pri the piety of his neighbours was somewhat vate man. What Frenchman is prevented singular. "Campbell," said he, "is a good from passing his life as he pleases ?"-SIR man-a pious man. I am afraid he has not ADAM. "But, sir, in the British constitution been in the inside of a church for many years; it is surely of importance to keep up a spirit but he never passes a church without pulling in the people, so as to preserve a balance off his hat; this shows he has good principles." against the crown.”—JOHNSON. "Sir, I perSpain and Sicily must surely contain many ceive you are a vile Whig. Why all this pious robbers and well-principled assassins. childish jealousy of the power of the crown? Johnson could easily see that a Roundhead, The crown has not power enough." 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 the 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." If took off his hat when he passed a church the difference between two forms of governep scopally 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 litical abuses, zeal for liberty is doubtless ridiGod, and of the ends of revelation. But with culous. But zeal for monarchy must be equally what a storm of invective he would have over- so. No person would have been more quickwhelmed any man who had blamed him for sighted than Johnson to such a contradiction celebrating the close of Lent with sugarless as this in the logic of an antagonist. tea and butterless bunns.
skeptical as to the good or evil tendency of any form of polity. His passions, on the contrary, were violent even to slaying against all who leaned to Whiggish principles. The well known lines which he inserted in Goldsmith's Traveller express what seems to have been his deliberate judgment:
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 to have preserved him from all intemperance on political questions. It did not, however, 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 was, as a politician, half ice and half fire-on their wretched data, that a modern reader the side of his intellect a mere Pococurante- perpetually at a loss to comprehend how such far too apathetic about public affairs-far too minds came by such dati. Not a flaw in thử
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.
How it chanced that a man who reasoned on his premises so ably should assume his premises so foolishly, is one of the great mys
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 study ing, 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 Westminster Hall in his capacity of legisla-jects can be compared only to that strange, tor. They can scarcely believe that the paltry nervous feeling which made him uneasy if he quirks which are faintly heard through a storm had not touched every post between the Mitre of coughing, and which cannot impose on the tavern and his own lodgings. His preference plainest country gentleman, can proceed from of Latin epitaphs to English epitaphs is an inthe same sharp and vigorous intellect which stance. An English epitaph, he said, would had excited their admiration under the same disgrace Smollett. He declared that he would roof and on the same day. not pollute the walls of Westminster Abbey with an English epitaph on Goldsmith. What reason there can be for celebrating a British writer in Latin which there was not for covering the Roman arches of triumph with Greek inscriptions, or for commemorating the deed of the heroes of Thermopyla in Egyptian hieroglyphics, we are utterly unable to imagine.
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 un 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.
Some of Johnson's whims on literary sub
Johnson decided literary questions like a lawyer, not like a legislator. He never examined foundations where a point was already ruled. His whole code of criticism rested on pure assumption, for which he sometimes gave a precedent or an authority, but rarely troubled himself to give a reason drawn from the nature of things. He took it for granted that the On men and manners-at least, on the men kind of poetry which flourished in his own and manners of a particular place and a partime, which he had been accustomed to hear ticular age-Johnson had certainly looked with praised from his childhood, and which he had a most observant and discriminating eye. His himself written with success, was the best kind remarks on the education of children, on mar of poetry. In his biographical work he has riage, on the economy of families, on the rules repeatedly laid it down as an undeniable pro- of society, are always striking, and generally position that, during the latter part of the seven-sound. In his writings, indeed, the knowledge teenth century and the earlier part of the eight- of life which he possessed in an eminent de eenth, English poetry had been in a constant gree is very imperfectly exhibited. Like those progress of improvement. Waller, Denham, unfortunate chiefs of the middle ages, who Dryden, and Pope had been, according to him, were suffocated by their own chainmail and the great reformers. He judged of all works cloth of gold, his maxims perish under that of the imagination by the standard established load of words, which was designed for their among his own contemporaries. Though he ornament and their defence. But it is clear, allowed Homer to have been a greater man from the remains of his conversation, that he than Virgil, he seems to have thought the had more of that homely wisdom which noEneid a greater poem than the Iliad. Indeed thing but experience and observation can give, he well might have thought so, for he preferred that any writer since the time of Swift. If he Pope's Iliad to Homer's. He pronounced that, had been content to write as he talked, he after Hoole's translation of Tasso, Fairfax's might have left books on the practical art of would hardly be reprinted. He could see no living superior to the Directions to Servants. merit in our fine old English ballads, and always spoke with the most provoking contempt of Percy's fondness for them. Of all the great original works which appeared during his time Richardson's novels alone excited his admiraon. He could see little or no merit in Tom Jones, in Gulliver's Travels, or in Tristram Shandy. To Thomson's Castle of Indolence be vouchsafed only a line of cold commenda
Yet even his remarks on society, like his re marks on literature, indicate a mind at least as remarkable for narrowness as for strength. He was no master of the great science of human nature. He had studied, not the genus man, but the species Londoner. Nobody was ever so thoroughly conversant with all the forms of life, and all the shades of moral and intellectual character, which were to be seen
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 can 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 generous 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 read-higher dignity. He always spoke with coning, was, in his opinion, much such a person tempt of Robertson. Hume he would not even as a Cockney who made his mark; much such read. He affronted one of his friends for talk a person as black Frank before he went to ing to him about Catiline's conspiracy, and school, and far inferior to a parish-clerk or a declared that he never desired to hear of the printer's devil. Punic War again as long as he lived.
His friends have allowed that he carried to a ridiculous extreme his unjust contempt for foreigners. He pronounced the French to be a very silly people-much behind us--stupid, ignorant creatures. And this judgment he formed after having been at Paris about a month, during which he would not talk French, for fear of giving the natives an advantage
Assuredly one fact, which does not directly affect our own interests, considered in itself, is no better worth knowing than another fact. The fact that there is a snake in a pyramid, or the fact that Hannibal crossed the Alps by the Great St. Bernard, are in themselves as unprofitable to us as the fact that there is a green blind in a particular house in Threadneedle
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 travel ler, M. Simond, has defended his countrymen very successfully against Johnson's accusation, and has pointed out some English prac tices, 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 daugh ter, 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 en tertained 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 does a man learn by travelling? Is Beauclerk the better for travelling? What did Lord 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
street, or the fact that a Mr. Smith comes into | of those strong plain words, Anglo-Saxon or the city every morning on the top of one of the Norman French, of which the roots lie in the Blackwall stages. But it is certain that those inmost depths of our language; and that he who will not crack the shell of history will felt a vicious partiality for terms which, long never get at the kernel. Johnson, with hasty after our own speech had been fixed, were arrogance, pronounced the kernel worthless, borrowed from the Greek and Latin, and because he saw no value in the shell. The which, therefore, even when lawfully naturalreal use of travelling to distant countries, and ized, must be considered as born aliens, not of studying the annals of past times, is to pre- entitled to rank with the king's English. His serve men from the contraction of mind which constant practice of padding out a sentence those can hardly escape, whose whole com- with useless epithets, till it became as stiff as munion is with one generation and one neigh-the bust of an exquisite; his antithetical forms bourhood, who arrive at conclusions by means of expression, constantly employed even where of an induction not sufficiently copious, and there is no opposition in the ideas expressed; who therefore constantly confound exceptions his big words wasted on little things; his harsh with ruies, and accidents with essential pro-inversions, so widely different from those perties. In short, the real use of travelling, graceful and easy inversions which give vaand of studying history, is to keep men from riety, spirit, and sweetness to the expression being what Tom Dawson was in fiction, and of our great old writers-all these peculiarities Samuel Johnson in reality. have been imitated by his admirers, and parodied by his assailants, till the public has become sick of the subject.
Johnson, as Mr. Burke most justly observed, appears far greater in Boswell's books than in his own. His conversation appears to have Goldsmith said to him, very wittily and very been quite equal to his writings in matter, and justly, "If you were to write a fable about far superior to them in manner. When he little fishes, doctor, you would make the little talked, he clothed his wit and his sense in for-fishes talk like whales." No man surely ever cible and natural expressions. As soon as he had so little talent for personation as Johnson. took his pen in his hand to write for the public, his style became systematically vicious. All his books are written in a learned language in a language which nobody hears from his mother or his nurse-in a language in which nobody ever quarrels, or drives bargains, or makes love-in a language in which nobody ever thinks. It is clear, that Johnson himself did not think in the dialect in which he wrote. The expressions which came first to his tongue were simple, energetic, and picturesque. When he wrote for publication, he did his sentences out of English into Johnsonese. His letters from the Hebrides to Mrs. Thrale are the original of that work of which the Journey to the Hebrides is the translation; and it is amusing to compare the two versions. "When we were taken up stairs," says he in one of his letters, "a dirty fellow bounced out of the bed on which one of us was to lie." This incident is recorded in the Journey as follows: "Out of one of the beds on which we were to repose, started up, at our entrance, a inan black as a Cyclops from the forge." Sometimes Johnson translated aloud. "The Rehearsal," he said, very unjustly, "has not wit enough to keep it sweet;" then, after a pause, "it has not vitality enough to preserve it from putrefaction."
Whether he wrote in the character of a disappointed legacy-hunter or an empty town fop, of a crazy virtuoso or a flippant coquette, he wrote in the same pompous and unbending style. His speech, like Sir Piercy Shafton's Euphuistic eloquence, bewrayed him under every disguise. Euphelia and Rhodoclia talk as finely as Imlac the poet, or Seged, Emperor of Ethiopia. The gay Cornelia describes her reception at the country-house of her relations in such terms as these: "I was surprised, after the civilities of my first reception, to find, in stead of the leisure and tranquillity which a rural life always promises, and, if well con ducted, might always afford, a ronfused wildness of care, and a tumultuous hurry of diligence, by which every face was clouded, and every motion agitated." The gentle Tranquilla informs us, that she "had not passed the earlier part of life without the flattery of courtship and the joys of triumph; but had danced the round of gayety amidst the mur. murs of envy and the gratulations of applause; had been attended from pleasure to pleasure by the great, the sprightly, and the vain; and had seen her regard solicited by the obsequiousness of gallantry, the gayety of wit, and the timidity of love." Surely Sir John Falstaff 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 '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.
We had something more to say. But ou 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
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
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 companion-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.]
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 English commoners, whose plain addition of Mister, has, to our ears, a more majestic sound than the proudest of the feudal titles. In this hope we have been disappointed; but assuredly not from any want of zeal or diligence on the part of the noble biographer. Even at Hamp-ed den, there are, it seems, no important papers relative to the most illustrious proprietor of that ancient domain. The most valuable memorials of him which still exist, belong to the family of his friend, Sir John Eliot. Lord Eliot has furnished the portrait which is engraved for this work, together with some very interesting letters. The portrait is undoubtedly an original, and probably the only original now in existence. The intellectual 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 kis Times. By LORD NUGENT. 2 vols. 8vo. London. 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 declamatica.
We are not sure that even the want of information respecting the private character of Hampden is not in itself a circumstance as strikingly characteristic as any which the most minute chronicler-O'Meara, Las Cases, Mrs. Thrale, or Boswell himself-ever record
concerning their heroes. The celebrated Puritan leader is an almost solitary instance of a great man who neither sought nor shunned greatness; who found glory only because glory lay in the plain path of duty. During more than forty years, he was known to his country neighbours as a gentleman of cultivated mind, of high principles, of polished address, happy in his family, and active in the discharge of local duties; to political men, as an honest, industrious, and sensible member of Parlia 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 Englishmen, 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 countrymen, 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 found fully equal. He became a debater of the first order, a most