Obrázky stránek
PDF
ePub

that it should not, as it did before, fhine on the paper by its broad fide, but in the direction of its length: the comparison of its light with that of Argand's lamp ftill exhibited equality. But the long flame was then much more dazzling and bright than that of Argand. This circumstance, which though highly curious, has not, as I know of, been before noticed, at least with that attention it deferves, may be applied to many valuable purposes; one in particular occurs to me that I cannot help mentioning. It fhould feem that any proportion of light may be had for microfcopic purposes, by means of a long flame placed in the direction of the axis of the illuminating lens.

I tried the tranfparency of this long flame, placed at right angles, to the ray of Argand's lamp: it gave no fhadow: but when its length was placed in the direction of the ray, it gave a fhadow bordered by two broad, well defined bright lines, which I have not yet sufficiently examined to be able to give any conjecture refpecting them; though they are undoubtedly owing to fome optical deviation of the rays which pafs in the vicinity or through the fubftance of the flame.

These observations on the tranfpa

rency of flame fuggeft an improvement of which Argand's lamp is fufceptible. Inftead of one ring of flame there may be two, three, or more concentric rings, with air paffages between them. The inner rings will fhine through the outer with more facility than the prefent flame does through the glafs chimney; and it is probable that the rapidity of the current of air will be increafed in a high proportion between thefe tubes of flame, fo as to increase the vehemence and quantity of the ignition, and caufe more light to be emitted than would anfwer to the mere increase of the line of wick.

P. S. Upon looking over this paper it occurred to me, that the fingular fact of the fame candle that gave only one twenty-eighth part of the light of the lamp, becoming fo bright on being fnuffed, as to give more than one fourth of the fame light it was compared with (which is feven times as bright as before) might seem erroneous or founded in mistake. I have, therefore, made feveral other experiments with fnuffed and unfnuffed candles, and am well affured that a candle, newly fnuffed, gives in general more light than eight or even nine candles that have been fuffered to burn undisturbed for an hour in a still place.

BIOGRAPHY.
JOHNSONIAN A.

LETTERS RELATIVE TO DR. JOHNSON.
(Continued from page 260.)

LETTER XI.

HEN Charles the Second was

W informed of the death of Cow

A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF DR. SAMUEL JOHNSON. BY T. TYERS, ESQ feafon of froft and fnow. His conftitution was totally broken, and no art of the phyfician or furgeon could protract his exiftence beyond the 13th of December. When he was opened, one of his kidneys was found decayed. He never complained of disorder in that region; and probably it was not the immediate caufe of his diffolution. It might be thought that fo ftrong and mufcular a body might have lafted many years longer. For Johnfon drank nothing but water, and lemonade (by

ley, he pronounced, that he had not left a better man behind him in England." It may be affirmed with truth, that this was the cafe when Dr. Johnfon breathed his laft. Thofe who obferved his declining ftate of health during the laft winter, and heard his complaints, of painful days and fleeplefs nights, for which he took large quantities of opium, had no reafon to expect that he could furvive another

U u 2

way

way of indulgence) for many years, almoft uninterruptedly, without the tafte of any fermented liquor: and he was often abftinent from animal food, and kept down feverish fymptoms by dietetic management. Of Addison and Pope he ufed to obferve, perhaps to remind himself, that they ate and drank too much, and thus fhortened their days. It was thought by many, who dined at the fame table, that he had too great an appetite. This might now and then be the cafe, but not till he had fubdued his enemy by famine. But his bulk feemed to require now and then to be repaired by kitchen phyfic. To great old age not one in a thoufand arrives. How few were the years of Johnfon in comparifon of thofe of Jenkins and Parr? But perhaps Johnfon had more of life, by his intenfenefs of living. Moft people die of difeafe. He was all his life preparing himself for death: but particularly in the laft ftage of his afthma and dropfy. "Take care of your foul - don't live fuch a life as I have done-don't let your bufinefs or diffipation make you neglect your fabbath" were now his conftant inculcations. Private and public prayer, when his vifitors were his audience, were his constant exercises. He cannot be faid to have been weary of the weight of exiftence, for he declared, that to prolong it only for one year, but not for the comfortless fenfations he had lately felt, he would fuffer the amputation of a limb. He was willing to endure pofitive pain for poffible pleafure. But he had no expectation that nature could laft much longer. And, therefore, for his last week, he undoubtedly abandoned every hope of his recovery or duration, and committed his foul to God. Whether he felt the inftant ftroke of death, and met the king of terrors face to face, cannot be known: for death and the fun cannot be looked upon," fays Rochefoucault. But the writer of this has reafon to imagine that when he thought he had made his peace with his Maker, he had nothing to fear. He has talked of fubmitting to a violent death, in a good caufe, without apprehenfions.

On one of the laft vifits from his furgeon, who on performing the puncture on his legs, and affured him that he was better, he declared," he felt himfelf not fo, and that he did not defire to be treated like a woman or a child, for that he had made up his mind." He had travelled through the vale of this world for more than feventy-five years. It probably was a wilderness to him for more than half his time. But he was in the poffeffion of reft and comfort and plenty, for the last twenty years. Yet the bleffings of fortune and reputation could not compenfate to him the want of health, which purfued him through his pilgrimage on earth. Poft equitem fedet atra cura.

"For when we mount the flying steed, "Sits gloomy Care behind." Of the hundred fublunary things beftowed on mortals, health is ninetynine. He was born with a fcrophulous habit, for which he was touched, as he acknowledged, by good Queen Anne, whofe piece of gold he carefully preferved. But even a Stuart could not expel that enemy to his frame, by a touch. For it would have been even beyond the ftroaking power of Greatrix, in all his glory, to charm it away. Though he feemed to be athletic as Milo himself, and in his younger days performed feveral feats of activity, he was to the laft a convulfionary. He has often stepped afide, to let Nature do what fhe would with him. His geftures, which were a degree of St. Vitus's dance, in the street, attracted the notice of many: the ftare of the vulgar, but the compaffion of the better fort. This writer has often looked another way, as the companions of Peter the Great were used to do, while he was under the short paroxyfm. He was perpetually taking opening medicines. He could only keep his ailments from gaining ground. He thought he was worfe for the agitation of active exercife. He was afraid of his diforder's feizing his head, and took all poffible care that his understanding should not be deranged. Orandum eft, ut fit mens fana in corpore fano. When his knowledge from books, and he knew all that

books

books could tell him, is confidered; when his compofitions in verfe and profe are enumerated to the reader (and a complete lift of them whereever difperfed is defirable) it must appear extraordinary he could abstract himfelf fo much from his feelings, and that he could purfue with ardour the plan he laid down of establishing a great reputation. Accumulating learning (and the example of Barretier, whofe life he wrote) fhewed him how to arrive at all science. His imagination often appeared to be too mighty for the control of his reafon. In the preface to his Dictionary, he fays, that his work was compofed "amidst inconvenience and diftraction, in ficknefs and in forrow." "I never read this preface (fays Mr. Horne) but it makes me fhed tears."

If this memoir-writer poffeffed the pen of a Plutarch, and the fubject is worthy of that great biographer, he would begin his account from his youth, and continue it to the laft period of his life, in the due order of an historian. What he knows and can recollect, he will perform. His father (called" gentleman" in the parifh register) he fays himfelf, and it is alfo within memory, was an old bookfeller at Litchfield, and a whig in principle. The father of Socrates was not of higher extraction, nor of a more honourable profeffion. Our author was born in that city; and the house of his birth was a few months ago vifited by a learned acquaintance, the information of which was grateful to the Doctor. It may probably be engraved for fome monthly repofitory. The print and the original dwelling may become as eminent as the manfion of Shakspeare at Stratford, or of Erafmus at Rotterdam. He certainly muft have had a good school education. He was entered of Pembroke College, Oxford, Oct. 31, 1728, and continued there for feveral terms. By whofe bounty he was fupported, may be known to enquiry. While he was there, he was negligent of the college rules and hours, and abfented himfelf from fome of the lectures, for which when he was reprimanded and inter

rogated, he replied with great rudeness. and contempt of the lecturer. Indeed, he displayed an overbearing difpofition that would not brook control, and fhewed that, like Cæfar, he was fitter to command than to obey. This dictatorial fpirit was the leading feature. in his deportment to his contemporaries. His college themes and decla mations are ftill remembered; and his elegant tranflation of Pope's Meffiah into Latin verfe found its way into a volume of poems published by one. Hufbands. In 1735, after having been fome time an ufher to Anthony Blackwall, his friends affifted him to fet up an academy near Litchfield. Here he formed an acquaintance with the late Bishop Green, then an ufher at Litchfield, and with Mr. Hawkins Browne. As the fchool probably did not answer his expectation (for who does not grow tired of teaching others, especially if he wants to teach himself?) he refolved to come up to London, where every thing is to be had for wit and for money (Romæ omnia venalia) and to feek his fortune. He was accompanied by his pupil Mr. Garrick and travelled on horfeback to the metropolis in March 1737.

:

The time and bufinefs of this journey are before the public in fome letters from Mr. Walmsley, who recommends Johnson as a writer of tragedy; as a tranflator from the French lan-guage; and as a good fcholar. He brought with him his tragedy of Irene, which afterwards took its chance on Drury-lane theatre. Luckily he did not throw it into the fire, by defign or otherwife, as Parfon Adams did his Efchylus by mistake. He offered himfelf for the fervice of the bookfellers; for he was born for nothing but to write,”

[ocr errors]

"And from the jeft obfcene reclaim our youth, "And fet our paffions on the fide of truth." The hurry of this pen prevents the recollection of his firft performances. But he ufed to call Dodfley his patron, because he made him, if not first, yet, beft known by printing and publishing, upon his own judgement, his fatire, called "London," which was an imitation of one of Juvenal, whofe gravi

ty

ty and feverity of expreffion he poffeffed. He there and then difcovered how able he was "to catch the manners living as they rife." The poem had a great fale, was applauded by the public, and praifed by Mr. Pope, who, not being able to difcover the author, faid he will foon be deterré." In 1738 he luckily fell into the hands of his other early patron, Cave. His fpeeches for the fenate of Lilliput were begun in 1740, and continued for feveral feffions. They paffed for original with many till very lately. But Johnfon, who detefted all injurious impofition, took a great deal of pains to acknowledge the innocent deception. He gave Smollet notice of their unoriginality, while he was going over his hiftorical ground, and to be upon his guard in quoting from the Lilliput Debates. It is within recollection, that an animated fpeech he put into the mouth of Pitt, in anfwer to the parliamentary veteran Horace Walpole, was much talked of, and confidered as genuine. Members of parliament acknowledge, that they reckon themfelves much obliged for the printed accounts of debates of both Houfes, because they are made to fpeak better than they do in the fenate. Within thefe few years, a gentleman in a high employment under government was at breakfaft in Gray's-Inn, where Johnfon was prefent, and was commending the excellent prefervation of the fpeeches of both Houses, in the Lilliput Debates. He declared, he knew how to appropriate every fpeech without a fignature; for that every person spoke in character, and was as certainly and as eafily known as a speaker in Homer or in Shakspeare. Very likely, Sir (faid Johnson, afhamed of having deceived him) but I wrote them in the garret where I then lived." His predeceffor in this oratorial fabrication was Guthrie; his fucceffor in the Magazine was Hawkefworth. It is faid, that to prove himself equal to this employment (but there is not leifure for the adjustment of chronology) in the judgement of Cave, he undertook the life of Savage, which he afferted (not incredible of him) and valued himself 5

upon it, that he wrote in fix and thirty hours. In one night he alfo compofed, after finishing an evening in Holborn, his Hermit of Teneriff. He fat up a whole night to compofe the preface to the Preceptor.

ne

His eye-fight was not good; but he never wore fpectacles, not on account of fuch a ridiculous vow as Swift made not to use them, but because he was affured they would be of no fervice to him. He once declared, that he " ver faw the human face divine." He faw better with one eye than the other, which however was not like that of Camoens, the Portuguese poet, as expreffed on his medal. Latterly, perhaps, he meant to fave his eyes, and did not read fo much as he otherwise would. He preferred converfation to books; but when driven to the refuge of reading by being left alone, he then attached himself to that amusement. "Till this year (faid he to an intimate) I have done tolerably well without fleep, for I have been able to read like Hercules." But he picked and culled his companions for his mignight hours; "and chofe his author as he chose his friend." The mind is as faftidious about its intellectual meal as the appetite is as to its culinary one; and it is obfervable, that the difh or the book that palls at one time is a banquet at another. By his innumerable quotations you would fuppofe, with a great. perfonage, that he must have read more books than any man in England, and have been a mere book worm: but he acknowledged that fuppofition was a miftake in his favour. He owned he had hardly ever read a book through. The pofthumous volumes of Mr. Harris of Salisbury (which treated of fubjects that were congenial with his own profeffional ftudies) had attractions that engaged him to the end. Churchill ufed to fay, having heard perhaps of his confeffion, as a boast, that if Johnson had only read a few books, he could not be the author of his own works." His opinion however was, that he who reads moft has the chance of knowing moft; but he declared, that the perpetual task of reading was as bad as the flavery in the mine, or the

[ocr errors]

labour

--

labour at the oar.. He did not always give his opinion unconditionally of the pieces he had even perufed, and was competent to decide upon. He did not choose to have his fentiments generally known; for there was a great eagernefs, efpecially in thofe who had not the pole-ftar of judgement to direct them, to be taught what to think or to fay on literary performances. "What does Johnfon fay of fuch a book?" was the queftion of every day. Befides, he did not want to increase the number of his enemies, which his decifions and criticifms had created him; for he was generally willing to retain his friends, to whom, and their works, he bestowed fometimes too much praife, and recommended beyond their worth, or perhaps his own efteem. But affection knows no bounds. Shall this pen find a place in the prefent page to mention, that a fhameless Ariftophanes had an intention of taking him off upon the ftage as the Rehearfal does the great Dryden? When it came to the notice of our exafperated man of learning, he conveyed fuch threats of vengeance and perfonal punifhment to the mimic, that he was glad to proceed no farther. The reverence of the public for his character afterwards, which was increafing every year, would not have fuffered him to be the object of theatrical ridicule. Like Fame in Virgil, vires acquirit eundo. In the year 1738 he wrote the Life of Father Paul, and published propofals for a tranflation of his Hiftory of the Council of Trent by fubfcription: but it did not go on. Mr. Urban even yet hopes to recover fome fheets of this tranflation, that were in a box under St. John's-Gate; more certainly once placed there, than Rowley's poems were in the cheft in a tower of the church of Bristol.

Night was his time for compofition. Indeed, he literally turned night into day, notes vigilabat ad ipfum mane; but not like Tigellius in Horace. Perhaps he never was a good fleeper, and (while all the rest of the world was in bed) he chofe his lamp, in the words of Milton,

-In midnight hour,
Were feen in fome high lonely tower.

He wrote and lived perhaps at one time only from day to day, and (according to vulgar expreffion) from sheet to fheet. Dr. Cheyne reprobates the practice of turning night into day, as pernicious to mind and body. Jortin has fomething to fay on the vigils of a learned man, in his Life of Erafmus, "As he would not fleep when he could, nothing but opium could procure him repofe." There is cause to believe, he would not have written unlefs under the preffure of neceffity. Magifter artis ingenique largitor venter, fays Perfius. He wrote to live, and luckily for mankind lived a great many years to write. All his pieces are promifed for a new edition of his works under the infpection of Sir John Hawkins one of his executors, who has undertaken to be his biographer. Johnfon's high tory principles in church and ftate were well known. But neither his Prophecy of the Hanover Horfe, lately malicioufly reprinted, nor his political principles or converfations, got him into any personal difficulties, nor prevented the offer of a penfion, nor his acceptance. Rara temporum felicitas, ubi fentire quæ velis, et, quæ fentias dicere licet. fent royal family are winning the hearts of all the friends of the house of Stuart. There is here neither room nor leifure to afcertain the progrefs of his publications, though, in the idea of Shenftone, it would exhibit the history of his mind and thoughts.

The pre

He was employed by Ofborne to make a catalogue of the Harleian library. Perhaps, like those who stay too long on an errand, he did not make the expedition his employer expected, from whom he might deferve a gentle reprimand. The fact was, when he opened a book he liked, he could not reftrain from reading it. The bookfeller upbraided him in a grofs manner, and, as tradition goes, gave him the lye direct, though our catalogue-maker offered at an excuse. Johnfon turned the volume into a weapon, and knocked him down, and told him," not to be in a hurry to rife, for when he did, he propofed kicking him down ftairs." Perhaps the lye di

rect

« PředchozíPokračovat »