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1784. and its being a subject of disquisition is a proof that
much misery presses upon human feelings ; for those Ætat.
who are conscious of a felicity of existence, would never hesitate to accept of a repetition of it. I have met
I with very few who would. I have heard Mr. Burke make use of a very ingenious and plausible argument on this subject; Every man (said he) would lead his life over again ; for, every man is willing to go on and take an addition to his life, which, as he grows older, he has no reason to think will be better, or even so good as what has preceded.” I imagine, however, the truth is, that there is a deceitful hope that the next part of life will be free from the pains, and anxieties, and sorrows, which we have already felt. We are for wise purposes “ Condemn’d to Hope's delusive mine,” as Johnson finely says ; and I may also quote the celebrated lines of Dryden, equally philosophical and poetical :
“ When I consider life, 'tis all a cheat,
It was observed to Dr. Johnson, that it seemed strange that he, who has so often delighted his company by his lively and brilliant conversation, should say he was miserable. Johnson. " Alas! it is all outside ; I may be cracking my joke, and cursing the
esteem for him ; and if you think such a trifle as a copy of the Discourses, ex dono authoris, would be acceptable to him, I should be happy to give him this small testimony of my regard."
Such spontaneous testimonies of approbation from such men, without any personal acquaintance with me, are truly valuable and encouraging.
9 AURENGZEBE, Act. iv. Sc. 1.
sun. Sun, how I hate thy beams !” I knew not well 1784. what to think of this declaration; whether to hold it as
Ætat. a genuine picture of his mind.' or as the effect of his
75. persuading himself contrary to fact, that the position which he had assumed as to human unhappiness, was true. We may apply to him a sentence in Mr. Greville's “Maxims, Characters, and Reflections ;"2 a book which is entitled to much more praise than it has received : “ ARISTARCHUS is charming : how full of knowledge, of sense, of sentiment. You get him with difficulty to your supper ; and after having delighted every body and himself for a few hours, he is obliged to return home ;-he is finishing his treatise, to prove that unhappiness is the portion of man."
On Sunday, June 13, our philosopher was calm at breakfast. There was something exceedingly pleasing in our leading a College life, without restraint, and with superiour elegance, in consequence of our living in the Master's house, and having the company of ladies. Mrs. Kennicot related, in his presence, a lively saying of Dr. Johnson to Miss Hannah More, who had expressed a wonder that the poet who had written “ Paradise Lost," should write such poor Sonnets :: “ Milton, Madam, was a genius that could cut a Colossus from a rock, but could not carve heads upon cherry-stones.”
We talked of the casuistical question, " Whether it was allowable at any time to depart from Truth ?” Johnson. “ The general rule is, that Truth should JOHNSON never be violated, because it is of the utmost importance to the comfort of life, that we should have a full security by mutual faith ; and occasional inconveniences should be willingly suffered, that we may preserve it. There must, however, be some exceptions. If, for instance, a murderer should ask you which way a man is gone, you may tell him what is not true, because you are under a previous obligation not to
1 Yet there is no doubt that a man may appear very gay in company, who is sad at heart. His merriment is like the sound of drums and trumpets in a battle, to drown the groans of the wounded and dying.
2 Page 139. VOL. III.
1784. betray a man to a murderer.” Boswell. “Supposing
the person who wrote Junius were asked whether he 75. was the authour, might he deny it ?” Johnson. “I
" JOHNSON don't know what to say to this. If you were sure that he wrote Junius, would you, if he denied it, think as well of him afterwards ? Yet it may be urged, that what a man has no right to ask, you may refuse to communicate ; and there is no other effectual mode of preserving a secret and an important secret, the discovery of which may be very hurtful to you, but a flat denial ; for if you are silent, or hesitate, or evade, it will be held equivalent to a confession. But stay, Sir, here is another case. Supposing the authour had told me confidentially that he had written Junius, and I were asked if he had, I should hold myself at liberty to deny it, as being under a previous promise, express or implied, to conceal it. Now what I ought to do for the authour, may I not do for myself? But I deny the lawfulness of telling a lie to a sick man, for fear of alarming him. You have no business with consequences ; you are to tell the truth. Besides, you are not sure, what effect your telling him that he is in danger may have. It may bring his distemper to a crisis, and that may cure him. Of all lying, I have the greatest abhorrence of this, because I believe it has been frequently practised on myself.”
I cannot help thinking that there is much weight in the opinion of those who have held, that truth, as an eternal and immutable principle, ought, upon no account whatever, to be violated, from supposed previous or superiour obligations, of which every man being to judge for himself, there is great danger that we too often, from partial motives, persuade ourselves that they exist ; and probably whatever extraordinary in
be prevented by violating this noble principle, it would be found that human happiness would, upon the whole, be more perfect, were Truth universally preserved.
In the notes to the “ Dunciad,” we find the following verses, addressed to Pope :3
3 The annotator calls them “ amiable verses."
“ While malice, Pope, denies thy page
1784. " Its own celestial fire ;
Ætat, “ While criticks, and while bards in rage,
75. Adniring, won't admire : “ While wayward pens thy worth assail, “ And envious tongues decry ; “ These times, though many a friend bewail, “ These times bewail not I. “ But when the world's loud praise is thine, “ And spleen no more shall blame: “ When with thy Homer thou shalt shine « In one establish'd fame ! “ When none shall rail, and every lay - Devote a wreath to thee; “ That day (for come it will) that day 66 Shall I lament to see.”
It is surely not a little remarkable, that they should appear without a name. Miss Seward, knowing Dr. Johnson's almost universal and minute literary informa
tion, signified a desire that I should ask him who was · the authour. He was prompt with his answer :
Why, Sir, they were written by one Lewis, who was either under-master or an usher of Westminster-shcool, and published a Miscellany, in which “ Grongar Hill”
? first came out.”+ Johnson praised them highly, and
* [Lewis's Verses addressed to Pope, (as Mr. Bindley suggests to me,) were first published in a collection of Pieces in verse and prose on occasion of “ the Dunciad,” 8vo. 1732. They are there called an Epigram.-"Grongar Hill,” the same gentleman observes, was first printed in Savage's Miscellanies, as an Ode, (it is singular, that Johnson should not have recollected this,) and was reprinted in the same year, (1726,) in Lewis's Miscellany, in the form it now bears.
In that Miscellany, (as the Reverend Mr. Blakeway observes to me,)“ the beautiful poem, ' Away, let nought to love displeasing,' &c. (reprinted in Percy's Reliques, vol. i. b. iii. No. 14,) first appeared.”
Lewis was authour of “ Philip of Macedon," a tragedy, published in 1727, and dedicated to Pope ; and in 1730, he published a second volume of miscellaneous poems.
As Dr. Johnson settled in London not long after the Verses addressed to Pope first appeared, he probably then obtained some information concerning their authour, David Lewis, whom he has described as an Usher of Westminster-school : yet the Dean of Westminster, who has been pleased at my request to make some enquiry on this subject, has not found any vestige of his having ever been employed in this situation.-A late writer (“ Environs of London," iv. 171,) supposed that the following inscription in the church-yard of the church of Low Leyton in Essex, was intended to commemorate this poet:
1784. repeated them with a noble animation. In the twelfthe Ætat. line, instead of “one establish'd fame," he repeated 75.
“ one unclouded flame,” which he thought was the reading in former editions ; but I believe was a flash of his own genius. It is much more poetical than the other.
On Monday, June 14, and Tuesday, 15, Dr. Johnson and I dined, on one of them, I forget which, with Mr. Mickle, translator of the “Lusiad,” at Wheatley, a very pretty country place a few miles from Oxford; and on the other with Dr. Wetherell, Master of University-College. From Dr. Wetherell's he went to visit Mr. Sackville Parker, the bookseller; and when he returned to us, gave the following account of bis visit, saying, “I have been to see my old friend, Sack. Parker ; I find he has married his maid ; he has done right. She had lived with him many years in great confidence, and they had mingled minds; I do not think he could have found any wife that would have made him so happy. The woman was very
attentive and civil to me; she pressed me to fix a day for dining with them, and to say what I liked, and she would be sure to get it for me. Poor Sack! He is very ill, indeed. s We parted as never to meet again. It has quite broke me down.” This pathetick narrative was strangely diversified with the grave and earnest defence of a man's having married his maid. I could not but feel it as in some degrée ludicrous.
In the morning of Tuesday, June 15, while we sat at Dr. Adams's, we talked of a printed letter from the
“ Sacred to the memory of David Lewis, Esq. who died the 8th Day of April, 1760, aged 77 years; a great favourite of the Muses, as his many excellent pieces in poetry sufficiently testify,
Inspired verse may on this marble live, “ But can no honour to thy ashes give.”
Also Mary, the wife of the above-named David Lewis, fourth daughter of Newdigate Owsley, Esq. who departed this life the 10th of October, 1774, aged
But it appears to me improbable that this monument was erected for the authour of the Verses to Pope, and of the Tragedy already mentioned ; the language both of the dedication prefixed to that piece, and of the dedication addressed to the Earl of Shaftesbury, and prefixed to the Miscellanies, 1730, denoting a person who moved in a lower sphere than this Essex 'Squire seems to have done. M)
(He died at Oxford in his 89th year, Dec. 10, 1796. M.]