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which, when examined, seem absurdly untrue. Thus, when the widow of his friend Thrale married Piozzi, the Doctor, like every body else at the time, considered it an injudicious. and discreditable connection; though, with the single exception of the word "ignominious," which he applies to it, there is nothing indicating excitement of feeling; and it should be remembered that this word, which sounds so formidable, was but one of the ponderous missiles which he was accustomed to employ. Lord Brougham professes himself unable to see why it was not a very tolerable match, and thinks that Johnson's opposition to it must have arisen from an attachment to her on his own part. Now, if this was so, all the world must have been smitten with her charms, for there was a perfect unanimity of opinion as to the course which she pursued; and as Lord Brougham evidently knows nothing more than others about Piozzi's character and standing, his conjectures will not outweigh the judgment which they had better opportunities of forming. As to the Doctor's affection, we speak with diffidence, having had very little experience in these affairs of the heart; but it does not seem to us that at the age of seventy-five he would be transported with the tender passion; nor that, with one foot in the grave, he would have engaged in a love-chase with any brilliant promise of success. His Lordship makes himself merry with the aristocratic feeling of these humble persons, who considered her marriage with Piozzi as a degradation; and, sure enough, it is ridiculous for one earthly potsherd to look down upon another, which happens to be an inch or two lower in the dust. But such is the way of the world; it is universal, although it be not a true nor wise one; and well as he discourses on the subject, theoretically considered, we strongly apprehend, that, if the case should be his own, and a daughter of his house should marry a foreign adventurer, he would set up an outcry of wrath and vexation that might be heard across the deep.
We do not think that this writer, in his estimate of Johnson, makes sufficient allowance for the effect of the disease which hung like a millstone round his neck through all his mortal existence, a disease which brings with it every form. of gloom and irritability, and which, in his case, was aggravated by the loneliness in which he lived; for it is remarkable, that, with his wonderful power of conversation, his society
should have been so little sought; though, indeed, if the circle in which he moved had been ever so extensive and inspiring, it could not have afforded him the relief and comfort of a home. And yet his Lordship has had, as he says, unusual advantages for observing this fearful complaint, of seeing the paralyzing influence which it exerts upon the mind and the will, and the deadly aversion which it gives to those active efforts in which the only remedy can be found. This disorder was deeply engrained in Johnson's constitution; it brought with it a sense of ever-present misery, and oppressed him with dark forebodings; he evidently feared the time when the intellect would sink under it, leaving him a miserable ruin. Had physical education been understood in his day, he might possibly have been relieved by attention to diet and exercise, which no one then seemed to suspect had any connection with health or the want of it. One brave effort of that kind he made, in giving up the stimulating drinks of all kinds to which he had resorted for relief, an abstinence in which he persevered to the last; but generally, in this instance, as in that of Collins and Cowper, the malady seems to have been treated as a visitation of God, with which there was no such thing as contending. When one thinks of his long struggle with poverty, of his dining behind a screen at Cave's, because too meanly dressed to appear at that great man's table,of his supporting life for a long time on less than sixpence a day,—of his occasional enjoyment of conversation with men like Burke, which, when it was over, left him in solitude and sorrow, of the plaintive manner in which he would entreat others to sit up with him, that he might escape as long as possible the terrors of the night, it gives us a view of his condition, which, one would think, would excuse many of those petulant expressions that appear numerous because Boswell has faithfully recorded them, and has not always stated that it was his own folly which brought down the shower-bath of compliments upon his head. We learn from Miss Reynolds, who was the Griffith among his chroniclers, that he gave the impression of a man of unhewn manners, but of a kind and affectionate heart. And while we do not undervalue that grace of life in which he was so sadly wanting, it is but right to remember his active and self-denying charity; it is but right to ask of those who censure him, if they would be ready to receive and support two helpless
and unattractive women, together with a poor physician, whose practice, unprofitable to himself, was probably far more so to his victims, forming a community in which a favor done to one gave a pang to the rest, and where he himself found so little comfort, that he dreaded to enter his own door, but would not dislodge them, because they could have no home but for him. Truly, if it was required of those who censure Johnson to exercise equal generosity, the voices of condemnation would be few and small.
While Lord Brougham, as it seems to us, hardly does justice to the great moralist, presenting a view of him which is deficient in harmony and wholeness, and made up of parts not always consistent with each other, the shade of Boswell would be beside itself with exultation to find his own opinion of his own merits confirmed by so competent a judge; for assuredly the Auchinleck patrician never dreamed that his connection with Johnson would suggest to any human mind the recollection of the intercourse of Plato and Xenophon with Socrates. His Lordship praises not only his tact, cleverness, and skill, but his admirable good-humor, his strict love of truth, his high and generous principle, his kindness to his friends, and his well-meant, but sometimes grotesque devotion, and says that his book, once taken up, is the most difficult of all others to lay down. Certainly, no man of really intellectual taste ever joins in the contempt which is poured on Boswell's name ; nor, on the other hand, will many be ready to subscribe to such extensive praise as this. The truth is, that his contemporaries were as much at a loss to know what place to assign him, as men of the present day. Lord Stowell, when pressed on the subject, could only say that he was universally welcome as a "jolly fellow." was his pleasure to parade those weaknesses which most men keep to themselves, and as he kept his banner of folly perpetually flying, they did no justice to the merits which he possessed in no small degree. What but a strong admiration of intellectual power could have induced him to lead the life which he did? And it shows how oddly our notions of high and low are perverted, that so many wonder at his submitting to the caprice of Johnson, while it is considered perfectly natural that such a person as Miss Burney should feel herself honored by the trust of preparing snuff for the queen.
We have no disposition to find fault with Lord Brougham's estimate of Johnson's literary merits; and what he says of the style of the great moralist is altogether discriminating and true. To Johnson's poetry he assigns a rank perhaps too high, if it be regarded as poetry; but when we regard it as eloquent and powerful declamation, like that of Juvenal, against the vices and follies of the times, it certainly exhibits a striking union of deep feeling with majesty and might. He loved the regular cadences of verse, which he is said to have read in a very impressive way; and we see, in fact, in his prose, that measured step and those balanced periods which would seem wearily formal and mechanical in any other, but which affect us differently in his case, because they are the natural expression of his mind. Some of his writings Lord Brougham characterizes as dull and flimsy, in which he has reference principally to the Rambler and Idler, and seems to us to express a hasty and ill-considered opinion. Dull the Rambler may be, but flimsy it is not; it is dull to us because it was an ephemeral publication, which found readers and satisfied them in the day for which it was intended; and, if it has lost its attraction, it is in the same predicament with the Spectator, which no one now thinks of sitting down to devour. That it was not wholly speculative and unpractical appears from the circumstance pointed out by Lord Brougham himself, that Johnson, in some of these light periodicals, has an able argument against imprisonment for debt and capital punishment, thus anticipating by three quarters of a century questions of great interest, which his own age cared little for, but which have become subjects of vast importance at the present day.
We fully accede to the justice of the opinion which pronounces the Lives of the Poets the best of Johnson's works. Some of these biographies are spoken of with contempt, for their prejudice and narrowness, by those who have never read them. Lord Brougham thinks the life of Milton, for example, does not deserve the censure usually cast upon it; and any one can see, that, while Johnson had no sympathy with Milton's politics, and was unable to appreciate the peculiar beauties of Lycidas, he assigns to the Paradise Lost a place among the highest efforts of the human mind. The life of Savage is here spoken of as overpraised, and that of Swift as most objectionable; while it is admitted that Johnson may have
been so severe on the Dean of St. Patrick's because he was so untrue to the sacred profession, which, with his tastes and principles, he ought never to have assumed. As to Johnson's prejudices, whatever they were, they never worked in darkness; he always fearlessly avowed them; while his clearheaded sagacity, his sharp critical discernment, his manly indignation at every thing unworthy, his occasionally profound discussions, and pointed and glittering remarks, giving life to the narrative which generally flows full with thought, and, among other attractions, his occasional solemnity and tenderness of feeling, these various merits are united in a work which will never lose its charm for intellectual readers so long as our language endures.
But Dr. Johnson's works of various kinds, excellent and instructive as they are, will be more or less esteemed as the literary fashion changes; always sure, however, of readers of the higher order, however neglected by the light and trifling generation who disdain all things but new. If they were lost and forgotten, his fame would rest securely on his conversation as Boswell has recorded it, which is unrivalled for its point, brilliancy, and strength; it is here that his clear and powerful mind makes the richest display of its activity, and the vast variety of its resources. It goes straight as a cannon-ball to the heart of every subject; with intuitive discernment he sees the matter at once in all its bearings; no mysticism nor illusion can stand for a moment before him ; but so far from giving a cold dissection of the question presented, his views are made interesting by the finest possible illustrations, and that quick sarcasm and playful humor, always at perfect command, in which he was never exceeded. We do not well understand on what authority Lord Brougham undertakes to place Swift before him. The Dean's range was limited, he says, but within it he must have been very great. It is true that he had that strong common sense and wit which are among the chief elements of success; but we do not know that he had the overflowing abundance and easy command of his resources which conversation requires. Addison, too, he says, has left a great reputation of this kind, and Bolingbroke's superiority to all others cannot be doubted. But it seems to us, that he might as well exalt the social powers of Adam and Eve, who may have been great in conversation, for aught we know, though