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lowing passage from the Editor's preface, as a fair summary of his ultimate impressions :
• It was a strange and fortunate concurrence, that one so prone to talk, and who talked so well, should be brought into such close contact and confidence with one so zealous and so able to record. Dr. Johnson was a man of extraordinary powers, but Mr. Boswell had qualities, in their own way, almost as rare. He united lively manners with indefatigable diligence, and the volatile curiosity of a man about town with the drudging patience of a chronicler. With a very good opinion of himself, he was quick in discerning, and frank in applauding, the excellence of others. Though proud of his own name and lineage, and ambitious of the countenance of the great, he was yet so cordial an admirer of merit, wherever found, that much public ridicule, and something like contempt, were excited by the modest assurance with which he pressed his acquaintance on all the notorieties of his time, and by the ostentatious (but, in the main, laudable) assiduity with which he attended the exile Paoli and the low-born Johnson! These were amiable, and, for us, fortunate inconsistencies. His contemporaries indeed, not without some colour of reason, occasionally complain of him as vain, inquisitive, troublesome, and giddy; but his vanity was inoffensive—his curiosity was commonly directed towards laudable objects—when he meddled, he did so, generally, from goodnatured motives—and his giddiness was only an exuberant gaiety, which never failed in the respect and reverence due to literature, morals, and religion: and posterity gratefully acknowledges the taste, temper, and talents with which he selected, enjoyed, and described that polished and intellectual society which still lives in his work, and without his work had perished !
“ Vixere fortes ante Agamemnona
Nocte, carent quia vate sacro.' Such imperfect though interesting sketches as Ben Jonson's visit to Drummond, Selden's Table Talk, Swift's Journal, and Spence's Anecdotes, only tantalize our curiosity and excite our regret that there was no Boswell to preserve the conversation and illustrate the life and times of Addison, of Swift himself, of Milton, and, above all, of Shakspeare! We can hardly refrain from indulging ourselves with the imagination of works so instructive and delightful; but that were idle: except as it may tend to increase our obligation to the faithful and fortunate biographer of Dr. Johnson.
• Mr. Boswell's birth and education familiarized him with the highest of his acquaintance, and his good-nature and conviviality with the lowest. He describes society of all classes with the happiest discrimination. Even his foibles assisted his curiosity; he was sometimes laughed at, but always well received; he excited no envy, he imposed no restraint.
It was well known that he made notes of every conversation, yet no timidity was alarmed, no delicacy demurred; and we are perhaps indebted to the lighter parts of his character for the patient indulgence with which every body submitted to sit for their pictures.
• Nor were his talents inconsiderable. He had looked a good deal into books, and more into the world. The narrative portion of his works is written with good sense, in an easy and perspicuous style, and without (which seems odd enough) any palpable imitation of Johnson. But in recording conversations he is unrivalled ; that he was eminently accurate in substance, we have the evidence of all his contemporaries; but he is also in a high degree characteristic-dramatic. The incidental observations with which he explains or enlivens the dialogue, are terse, appropriate, and picturesque—we not merely hear his company, we see them!'-Preface, p. xxvii.
We cannot persuade ourselves to think quite so highly of Mr. Boswell as bis editor appears to do; but we have already, perhaps, sufficiently intimated our notions on this head, and shall merely take the liberty to add one or two reflections more that have occurred to us, while re-perusing the most readable of books, in regard to Boswell's peculiar qualifications for his task. We have alluded above to his country as a favourable circumstance; and Mr. Croker elegantly and judiciously runs over certain advantages derived from the social position of the man, and the easy good-natured assurance of his manners. Perhaps, however, he owed most of all to his comparatively juvenile standing at the time when the acquaintance began; to the childlike and altogether unrivalled humility, in the midst of a world of froth and petulance, of his personal veneration for the doctor; and, last not least, to his never being, during the doctor's life, an habitual resident in London. The man who, by his own talents, raises himself in any signal and splendid degree above his original position, must in general, if he is to have intimate friends at all, seek them in his new sphere. To say nothing of his being, in most cases, removed from his earlier circles by physical obstacles, or at least by many intervening barriers of adopted manners, altered and enlarged views, opinions, tastes, and objects, and almost inextricable involvement in the thousand perplexities of a different system of social arrangements, he is apt, however strength of understanding, generosity of temper, and the tenderness of old recollections might lift him above attaching serious importance to any external changes, and dispose him to cling on as many points as possible to the connexions of his undistinguished years—however safe in the true inborn nobility of his intellect from all risk, either of imbibing an unmanly admiration for mere worldly greatness, or shrinking from the consciousness of having, in former times, contemplated its sphere from a hopeless distance—he is apt to find his inclinations on this score thwarted by the workings, possibly unconscious, of somewhat ungenial
feelings on the part of those who have been surveying, from what was once his level as well as theirs, the unpartaken elevation of his fortune or fame. A touch of something too like envy is apt to mingle with their wonder; nay, many spirits are cast so earthy as to resent his rise only the more, that he seems willing to forget it himself in their presence. They cannot away with what, in spite of his frankest effort to resume the old relations, jealous feebleness keeps whispering is the condescension of the once equal associate.* A half-incredulous confusion of awe and spleen poisons everything. We cannot fail to discover abundant traces of this in the history of Johnson's intercourse, during his brighter years, not merely, in casual glimpses, with his humble acquaintances of the Litchfield period, but with those (some of them, too, highly, though less illustriously, distinguished persons) with whom he had conversed familiarly during the earlier stages of his London career,-those woeful, toilsome years, in which, amidst humiliations which make it impossible to read certain pages of his story without blushing, this masculine but sad genius was laying the difficult foundations of an imperishable
Alas for the weakness of the strongest! If Goldsmith could not repress a pang at the superior intellectual reputation and authority of Johnson, even this great and good man himself must plead guilty to having, on various occasions, betrayed a pitiable, and, as we now look back to the two persons, an almost incomprehensible uneasiness in the contemplation of David Garrick's plum and villa. But, indeed, we know of no eminent parvenu whose story is altogether undarkened by indications of the same creeping jealousy. They are rife, not to go farther back, in the memoirs of Sir Joshua Reynolds, Sir Thomas Lawrence, Robert Burns, and Sir Humphry Davy; and the base feeling, indulged certainly to a demoniacal rancour, appears to have formed the main inspiration of the biography of Napoleon written by M. de Bourrienne.
But not only was Johnson in this way cut off from the intimacy of his earlier associates, in consequence of the mere splendour of his literary success. Before he attained that success, he himself had served a hard apprenticeship to reserve, and must, when it was achieved, have felt it no easy matter to open himself to the forming of new connexions, such as would ever have seemed to him worthy of the high name of friendship. His life continued one scene of harassing struggles for bread, relieved scarcely by a stray gleam of hope, until he had reached nearly the ripe age of forty. After a much earlier period than that, we have heard it remarked by one of the keenest of observers, few Englishmen ever form a real friendship, unless the strongest of our insular passions, politics, interfere, to melt down once more the hardened crust of their naturally shy and proud dispositions. This is, we hope, far too broad a statement. If, however, it were limited to Englishmen of remarkable talents and corresponding ambition,-still more to mounting spirits stamped with the deeper and darker seal of genius,—there would, perhaps, be little room for dissent. But what shall we say to genius at once energetic, impetuous, ambitious, grave, and haughty; long exercised, in obedience to Nature's own first impulse, in the task of tracing human actions to those remote springs which it is an instinct to keep in concealment; above all, in the habitual analysis, never untinged with shame and remorse, of its own heart's secret places; and thus exercised, too, in the midst of external privations and mean worldly misery, and weary, degrading drudgery ; eating the hard-won bread of bitterness, and drinking the waters of sorrow, while fools and knaves are seen revelling in boundless luxuries all around, until the heyday of young blood is long past and gone, and years, that bring soberness even to the gayest temperament, have had leisure to plough their wrinkles also on the brow that even in infancy knew not smoothness? What wonder that the plant which has slowly risen, amidst such an atmosphere of coldness, and emerged late after being buffeted by such discipline of tempests, should have few tendrils ready to uncurl themselves at the first solicitation ? What wonder if such a man as Burns should be found writing, in the midst of what the world thought the intoxication of success—
* * There are minds," says the Rambler himself, 'so impatient of inferiority, that their gratitude is a species of revenge.' No. 87.
* I never thought mankind capable of anything very generous ; but the stateliness of these patricians, and the servility of my plebeian brethren, (who, perhaps, formerly eyed me askance,) have nearly put me out of conceit with my species.
I have formed many intimacies and friendships, but I am afraid they are all of too tender a construction to bear carriage a hundred and fifty miles. People of nice sensibility and generous minds have a certain intrinsic dignity which fires at being trifled with, or even too closely approached.?
Johnson, too, long before the clouds began to break from about his path, had undergone an affliction, the impress of which haunted him to his grave, in the loss of his wife—the affectionate partner who never had separated from him in his hours of what he calls our distress, except when their poverty was such, that she was obliged to seek refuge with some relations in the Tower Hamlets, while he walked the streets with Savage, and often had no bed but a bulk by some brick kiln, or a truss of straw in a
glass glass manufactory. And all this had been the fate of a man, the least of whose physical infirmities were, in Pope's words, “ those convulsions that attack him sometimes so as to make him a sad spectacle ;'—of bim who, in writing of Collins to Warton, says,
I wrote him a letter which he never answered ; I suppose writing is very troublesome to him. The moralists all talk of the uncertainty of fortune and the transitoriness of beauty; but it is yet more dreadful to consider that the powers of the mind are equally liable to change, that understanding may make its appearance and depart, that it may blaze and expire. Poor Collins ! I have often been near his state. We shall not trust ourselves to dwell on this last and darkest topic, but leave it, with merely quoting one of the many notes in which Mr. Croker's delicate hand has touched it.
• One of the most curious and important chapters in the history of the human mind is still to be written, that of hereditary insanity. The symptomatic facts by which the disease might be traced are generally either disregarded from ignorance of their real cause and character, or, when observed, carefully suppressed by domestic or professional delicacy. This is natural and even laudable; yet there are several important reasons why the obscurity in which such facts are usually buried may be regretted. Morally, we should wish to know, as far as may be permitted to us, the nature of our own intellect, its powers and its weaknesses ;-medically, it might be possible, by early and systematic treatment, to avert or mitigate the disease which, there is reason to suppose, is now often unknown or mistaken ;-legally, it would be desirable to have any additional means of discriminating between guilt and misfortune, and of ascertaining with more precision the nice bounds which divide moral guilt from what inay be called physical errors ; and in the highest and most important of all the springs of human thought or action, it would be consolatory and edifying to be able to distinguish with greater certainty rational faith and judicious piety, from the enthusiastic confidence or the gloomy despondence of disordered imaginations. The memory of every man who has lived, not inattentively, in society, will furnish him with instances to which these considerations might have been usefully applied. But in reading the life of Dr. Johnson (who was conscious of the disease and of its cause, and of whose blood there remains no one whose feelings can now be offended), they should be kept constantly in view ; not merely as a subject of general interest, but as elucidating and explaining many of the errors, peculiarities, and weaknesses of that extraordinary man.'—vol. i., pp. 3, 4.
Johnson, from the beginning to the end of his career, was distinguished for the kindness of his heart, the tenderness of his compassion, and the generosity with which, out of never abundant and generally sorely straitened means, he was ready to relieve the more urgent wants of his weaker fellow mortals. But whatever