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ended in lasting animosity. You may see,' said he to me, 'when the Poets' Lives were printed, that dear Boothby is at my heart still. She would delight on that fellow Lyttelton's company all I could do, and I cannot forgive even his memory the preference given by a mind like hers.” Baretti has been heard to say, that, when this lady died, Dr. Johnson was almost distracted with grief, and that his friends about him had much to do to calm the violence of his emotions '.]
I can by no means join in the censure bestowed by Johnson on his lordship, whom he calls “poor Lyttelton,” for returning thanks to the critical reviewers, for having “ kindly commended” his “ Dialogues of the Dead.” Such“ acknowledgments,” says my friend,
never can be proper, since they must be paid either for flattery or for justice.” In my opinion, the most upright man, who has been tried on a false accusation, may, when he is acquitted, make a bow to his jury. And when those, who are so much the arbiters of literary merit, as in a considerable degree to influence the public opinion, review an authour's work, placido
(Notwithstanding the n.ention of the “ heart" in Mrs. Piozzi's anecdote and in the foregoing letter, there seems no reason to suppose that (as Miss Seward asserted) this was really an affair of the heart—" an early attachment” (see ante, vol. í: p. 51). The other letters, of which Boswell says that "their merit is not so apparent,” (but which will be found in the Appendix), are written in still warmer terms of affection : Miss Boothby is " a sweet angel," and “a dear angel,” and his “ heart is full of tenderness;" but when the whole series of letters are read, it will be seen that the friendship began late in the life of both parties; that it was wholly plutonic, or to speak more properly, spiritual; and that the letters in which these very affectionate expressions occur were written when Johnson believed that Miss Boothby was dying. It must also be ebserved, that it is very unlikely that Johnson should seriously confess that he had been so unjust to Lord Lyttelton from any private pique; and it seems, by his letters to Mrs. Thrale (ante, April, 1779), that he had no such feeling towards Lyttelton, and that he had applied to his lordship's friends to write the life; and finally, it is to be noted, Lord Ivyttelton married his second lady in 1749, and Johnson does not seem to have known Miss Boothby till 1754. In short, the Editor has no doubt, nor will any one who reads the letters, and considers how little personal intercourse there could have been between Miss Boothby and Dr. Johnson, that the whole story is a mistake, founded, perhaps, on some confusion between Miss Boothby and Miss Aston, and countenanced, it must be ad. mitted, by the warm expressions of the letters.--ED.)
lumine, when I am afraid mankind in general are better pleased with severity, he may surely express a grateful sense of their civility.
VARIOUS READINGS IN THE LIFE OF LYTTELTON.
“ He solaced [himself] his grief by writing a long poem to her memory.
“ The production rather [of a mind that means well, than thinks vigorously) as it seems of leisure than of study, rather effusions than compositions. “ His last literary (work) production.
[Found the way] undertook to persuade.”
As the introduction to his critical examination of the genius and writings of Young, he did Mr. Herbert Croft, then a barrister of Lincoln's-inn, now a clergyman', the honour to adopt a Life of Young, written by that gentleman, who was the friend of Dr. Young's son, and wished to vindicate him from some very erroneous remarks to his prejudice. Mr. Croft's performance was subjected to the revision of Dr. Johnson, as appears from the following note to Mr. John Nichols? :
“ This Life of Dr. Young was written by a friend of his son. What is crossed with black is expunged by the authour, what is crossed with red is expunged by me. If you find any thing more that can be well omitted, I shall not be sorry to see it yet shorter."
It has always appeared to me to have a considerable share of merit, and to display a pretty successful imitation of Johnson's style. When I mentioned
(Afterwards Sir Herbert Croft, bart. He died at Paris, after a residence of fifteen years in that city, April 27, 1816. See Gent. Mag. for May, 1816. Ed.)
? Gentleman's Magazine, vol. iv, p. 10.-BOSWELL.
this to a very eminent literary character', he opposed me vehemently, exclaiming, “No, no, it is not a good imitation of Johnson; it has all his pomp without his force; it has all the nodosities of the oak without its strength.” This was an image so happy, that one might have thought he would have been satisfied with it; but he was not. And setting his mind again to work, he added, with exquisite felicity, “ It has all the contortions of the sibyl, without the inspiration.”
Mr. Croft very properly guards us against supposing that Young was a gloomy man; and mentions, that “ his parish was indebted to the good-humour of the authour of the · Night Thoughts' for an assembly and a bowling-green.” A letter from a noble foreigner is quoted, in which he is said to have been
very pleasant in conversation.”
Mr. Langton, who frequently visited him, informs me that there was an air of benevolence in his manner, but that he could obtain from him less information than he had hoped to receive from one who had lived so much in intercourse with the brightest men of what has been called the Augustan age of England; and that he showed a degree of eager curiosity concerning the common occurrences that were then passing, which appeared somewhat remarkable in a man of such intellectual stores, of such an advanced age, and who had retired from life with declared disappointment in his expectations.
An instance at once of his pensive turn of mind, and his cheerfulness of temper, appeared in a little story, which he himself told to Mr. Langton, when they were walking in his garden : “ Here (said he) I had put a handsome sun-dial, with this inscription,
Mr. Burke. --Malone.
Eheu fugaces ! which (speaking with a smile) was sadly verified, for by the next morning my dial had been carried off."
It gives me much pleasure to observe, that how. ever Johnson may have casually talked, yet when he sits, as “ an ardent judge zealous to his trust, giving sentence" upon the excellent works of Young, he allows them the high praise to which they are justly entitled. “The Universal Passion,” says he, “is indeed a very great performance,—his distichs have the weight of solid sentiment, and his points the sharpness of resistless truth.”
[The person spoken of in Johnson's strictures on the poetry of Young, “as a lady of whose praise he would have been justly proud," was Mrs. Thrale, who was a great admirer of Young, and one day forced Johnson to prefer Young's description of night to the so-muchadmired ones of Dryden and Shakspeare, as more forcible and more general. Every reader is not either a lover or a tyrant, but every reader is interested when he hears that
“Creation sleeps ; 't is as the general pulse
Of life stood still, and nature made a pause
An awful pause-prophetic of its end." “ This,” said he, “is true; but remember that taking the compositions of Young in general, they are but like bright stepping-stones over a miry road: Young froths, and foams, and bubbles, sometimes very vigorously; but we must not compare the noise made by your tea-kettle here with the roaring of the ocean.”]
But I was most anxious concerning Johnson's decision upon “Night Thoughts," which I esteem as
The late Mr. James Ralph told Lord Macartney, that he passed an evening with Dr. Young at Lord Melco:nbe's (then Mr. Doddington), at Hammersmith. The doctor happening to go out into the garden, Mr. Doddington observed to him, on his return, that it was a dreadful night, as in truth it was, there being a violent storm of rain and wind. “ No, sir," replied the doctor, “ it is a very fine night. The Lord is abroad !"--BOSWELL.
a mass of the grandest and richest poetry that human genius has ever produced ; and was delighted to find this character of that work:“ In his “Night Thoughts,' he has exhibited a very wide display of original poetry, variegated with deep reflection and striking allusions: a wilderness of thought, in which the fertility of fancy scatters flowers of every hue and of every odour. This is one of the few poems in which blank verse could not be changed for rhyme, but with disadvantage.” And afterwards, “ Particular lines are not to be regarded; the power is in the whole; and in the whole there is a magnificence like that ascribed to Chinese plantation, the magnificence of vast extent and endless diversity.”
But there is in this poem not only all that Johnson so well brings in view, but a power of the pathetic beyond almost any example that I have seen. He who does not feel his nerves shaken, and his heart pierced by inany passages in this extraordinary work, particularly by that most affecting one, which describes the gradual torment suffered by the contemplation of an object of affectionate attachment visibly and certainly decaying into dissolution, must be of a hard and obstinate frame.
To all the other excellencies of " Night Thoughts” let me add the great and peculiar one, that they contạin not only the noblest sentiments of virtue and contemplations on immortality, but the christian sacrifice, the divine propitiation, with all its interesting circumstances, and consolations to a “ wounded spirit,” solemnly and poetically displayed in such imagery and language, as cannot fail to exalt, animate, and soothe the truly pious. No book whatever can be recommended to young persons, with better hopes of seasoning their minds with vital religion, than “ Young's Night Thoughts.”