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would have had much success. It was written, and sold to a bookseller, before his “ Traveller, but published after; so little expectation had the bookseller from it. Had it been sold after the · Traveller,' he might have had twice as much money for it, though sixty guineas was no mean price. The bookseller had the advantage of Goldsmith's reputation from The Traveller'in the sale, though Goldsmith had it not in selling the copy.”—Sir J. R. “The Beggar's Opera affords a proof how strangely people will differ in opinion about a literary performance. Burke thinks it has no merit." -J. “It was refused by one of the houses; but I should have thought it would succeed, not from any great excellence in the writing, but from the novelty, and the general spirit and gaiety of the piece, which keeps the audience always attentive, and dismisses them in good humour.”
He once mentioned, with an air of satisfaction, what Baretti had told him; that meeting, in the course of his studying English, with an excellent paper in the Spectator, one of four that were written by the respectable dissenting minister, Mr. Grove of Taunton, and observing the genius and energy of mind that it exhibits, it greatly quickened his curiosity to visit our country; as he thought if such were the lighter periodical essays of our authors, their productions on more weighty occasions must be wonderful indeed.
Mr. Boswell expressed a liking for Mr. Francis Osborn's works, and asked Johnson what he thought of that writer. He answered, “ A conceited fellow. Were a man to write so now, the boys would throw stones at him.". He however (says Mr. B.) did not alter my opinion of a favourite author, to whom I was first directed by his being quoted in “ The Spectator,” and in whom I have found much shrewd and lively sense, expressed indeed in a style somewhat quaint, which however I do not dislike. His book has an air of originality. We figure to ourselves an ancient gentleman talking to us.
Johnson once talked with approbation of an intended edition of “The Spectator," with notes ; two volumes of which had been prepared by a gentleman eminent in the literary world, and the materials which he had collected for the remainder had been transferred to another hand. He observed, that all works which describe manners require notes in sixty or seventy years or less; and said, he had communicated all he knew that could throw light upon “ The Spectator.” He said, “ Addison had made his Sir Andrew Freeport a true Whig, arguing against giving charity to beggars, and throwing out other such ungracious sentiments; but that he had thought better, and made amends by making him found an hospital for decayed farniers." He called for the volume of “ The Spectator” in which that accountiscontained, and read it aloud. Indeed he read so well, that every thing acquired additional weight and grace from his utterance.
Johnson on another occasion praised “ The Spectator," particularly the character of Sir Roger de Coverley. He said, “ Sir Roger did not die a violent death, as has been generally fancied. He was not killed; he died only because others were to die, and because his death afforded an opportunity to Addison for some very
fine writing. We have the example of Cervantes making Don Quixote die. I never could see why Sir Roger is represented as a little cracked. It appears to me that the story of the widow was intended to have something superinduced upon it; but the superstructure did not come.'
Johnson talked of its having been said that Addison wrote some of his best papers in “ The Spectator” when warm with wine. He did not seem willing to admit this. Dr. Scott, as a confirmation of it, related, that Blackstone, a sober man, composed his “ Commentaries” with a bottle of port before him; and found his mind invigorated and supported in the fatigue of his great work, by a temperate use of it.
In another conversation on “ The Spectator," he said, “ It was wonderful that there is such a proportion of bad papers, in the half of the work which was not written by Addison ; for there was all the world to write that half, yet not a half of that half is good. One of the finest pieces in the English language is the paper on Novelty, yet we do not hear it talked of. It was written by Mr. Grove, a dissenting teacher.” Mr. Murphy, said, he remembered when there were several people alive in London, who enjoyed a considerable reputation merely from having written a paper in “ The Spectator.” He mentioned particularly Mr. Ince, who used to frequent Tom's coffee-house; “but (said Johnson) you must consider how highly Steele speaks of Mr. Ince.” He would not allow that the paper on carrying a boy to travel, signed Philip Homebred, which was reported to be written by the Lord Chancellor Hardwick, had merit. He said, quite vulgar, and had nothing luminous."
66 It was
A gentleman mentioned Sir Richard Steele having published his " Christian Hero" with the avowed purpose of obliging himself to lead a religious life, yet that his conduct was by no means strictly suitable.--Johnson. “ Steele, I believe, practised the lighter vices.”
A desire was expressed to know his authority for the story of Addison's sending an execution into Steele's house. “ Sir (said he), it is rally known, it is known to all who are acquainted with the literary history of that period. It is as well known, as that he wrote · Cato.' Mr. Thomas Sheridan once defended Addison, by alleging that he did it in order to cover Steele's goods from other creditors, who were going to seize them.”
Johnson said, that " Addison wrote Budgell's papers in the Spectator, at least mended them so much, that he made them almost his own; and that Draper, Tonson's partner, assured Mrs. Johnson, that the much-admired Epilogue to • The Distressed Mother, which came out in Budgell's name, was in reality written by Addison.
Mr. Eliot, with whom Dr. Walter Harte had travelled, talked of Harte's “ History of Gustavus Adolphus,” which he said was a very good book in the German translation. Johnson said, “ Harte was excessively vain: he put copies of his book in manuscript into the hands of Lord Chesterfield and Lord Granville, that they might revise it. Now how absurd was it to suppose that two such_noblemen would revise so big a manuscript. Poor man! he left London the day of the publication of his book, that he might be out of the way of the great praise he was to receive; and he was ashamed to return, when he found how ill his book had succeeded. It was unlucky in coming out on the same day with Robertson's History of Scotland.' His husbandry, however, is good.” Boswell. “So he was fitter for that than heroic history. He did well when he turned his sword into a ploughshare.” Johnson at another time much commended Harte as a scholar, and a man of the most companionable talents he had ever known. He said, the defects in his history proceeded not from imbecility, but from foppery.
Berkeley, he said, was a profound scholar, as well as a man of fine imagination; but Usher was the great luminary of the Irish Church; and a greater, he added, no church could boast of; at least in modern times.
Bayle's Dictionary, he observed, was a very useful work for those to consult who love the biographical part of literature, which was what he loved most.
He said he had looked into the poems of a pretty voluminous writer, Mr. (now Dr.) John Ogilvie, one of the Presbyterian ministers of Scotland, which had lately come out, but could find no thinking in them. Mr. Boswell asked, “ Is there not imagination in them, sir?"---Johnson.“ Why, sir, there is in them what was imagination, but it is no more imagination in him, than sound is sound in the echo; and his diction too is not his own.
We have long ago seen white-robed innocence, and flower-bespan
Talking of the eminent writers in Queen