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by Mr. Shiels, a Scotchman, one of his amanu“ The booksellers (said he) gave
Theophilus Cibber, who was then in prison, ten guineas to allow Mr. Cibber to be put upon the title-page as the author; by this, a double imposition was intended : in the first place, that it was the work of a Cibber at all; and in the second place, that it was the work of old Cibber*."
* In the Monthly Review for May, 1792, there is a correction of the above passagé. “ This account (says the Critic) is very inaccurate. The following statement of facts we know to be true, in every material circumstance :Shiels was the principal collector and digester of the materials for the work; but as he was very raw in authorship, and an indifferent writer in prose, and his language full of Scoticisms, Cibber, who was a clever, lively fellow, and then soliciting employment among the booksellers, was engaged to correct the style and diction of the whole work, then intended make only four nes, with power to alter, expunge, or add, as he liked. He was also to supply notes occasionally, especially concerning those dramatic poets with whom he had been chiefly conversant.
He also engaged to write several of the Lives ; which (as we are told) he accordingly performed. He was farther useful in striking out the Jacobítical aud Tory sentiments which Shiels had industriously interspersed wherever he could bring them in ; and, as the success of the work appeared, after all, very doubtful, he was content with twenty-one pounds for his labour, besides a few sets of the books to disperse among his friends. Shiels had nearly seventy pounds, beside the advantage of many of the best lives in the work being communicated by friends to the undertaking; and for which Mr. Shiels had the same consideration as for the rest, being paid by the sheet for the whole. He was, however, so angry with his Whiggish supervisor (The, like his father, being a violent stickler for the political principles which prevailed in the reign of George the Second), for so' unmercifully mutilating his copy, and scouting his politics, that he wrote Cibber a challenge ; but was prevented from
“ I once introduced (says Mr. B.) Aristotle's doctrine in his • Art of Poetry,' of rabapoos two sending it by the publisher, who fairly laughed him out of his fury. The proprietors, too, were discontented in the end, on account of Mr. Cibber's unexpected industry; for his corrections and alterations in the proof-sheets were so numerous and considerable, that the printer made for them a grievous addition to his bill; and, in fine, all parties were dissatisfied. On the whole, the work was productive of no profit to the undertakers, who had agreed, in case of success, to make Cibber a present of some addition to the twenty guineas which he had received, and for which his receipt is now in the bookseller's hands. We are farther assured, that he actually obtained an additional sum. He, soon after, (in the year 1758) unfortunately embarked for Dublin, on an engagement for one of the theatres there ; but the ship was cast away, and every person on board perished. There were about sixty passengers, among whom was the Earl of Drogheda, with many other persons of consequence and property.
“As to the alleged design of making tặe compilement pass for the work of old Mr. Cibber, the charges seem to have been founded on a somewhat uncharitable construction. We are assured that the thought was not harboured by some of the proprietors, who are still living; and we hope that it did not occur to the first designer of the work, who was also a printer of it, and who bore a respectable character.
“ We have been induced to enter thus circumstantially into the foregoing detail of facts relating to the Lives of the Poets, compiled by Messrs. Cibber and Shiels, from a sincere regard to that sacred principle of Truth, to which Dr. Johnson so rigid adhered, according to the best of his knowledge ; and which, we believe, no consideration would have prevailed on him to violate. In regard to the matter, which we now dismiss, he had no doubt been misled by partial and wrong information. Shiels was the doctor's amanuensis ; he had quarrelled with Cibber; it is natural to suppose that he told his story in his own way; and it is certain he was not' a very sturdy moralist,'”
#almuatw, the purging of the passions, as the purpose of tragedy. But how are the passions to be purged by terror and pity ?" (said I, with an assumed air of ignorance to excite him to talk, for which it was often necessary to employ some address.)-Johnson. Why, sir, you are to consider what is the meaning of purging in the original sense. It is to expel impurities from the human body. The mind is subject to the same imperfection. The passions are the great movers of human actions; but they are mixed with such impurities, that it is necessary they should be purged or refined by means of terror and pity. For instance, ambition is a noble passion; but by seeing upon the stage that a man, who is so excessively ambitious as to raise himself by injustice, is punished, we are terrified at the fatal consequences of such a passion.
In the same manner a certain degree of resentment is neces. sary; but if we see that a man carries it too far, we pity the object of it, and are taught to moderate that passion.
Mr. Boswell observed, that the great defect of the tragedy of“ Othello” was, that it had not a moral; for that no man could resist the circumstances of suspicion which were artfully suggested to Othello's mind. Johnson.“ In the first place, sir, we learn from Othello this very
This explanation appears very satisfactory. It is, how. ever, to be observed, that the story told by Johnson does not rest solely upon this record of his conversation; for he himself has published it in his Life of Hammond, where he says, “ The manuscript of Shiels is now in my possession." Very probably he had trusted to Shiels's word, and never looked at it so as to compare it with “ The Lives of the Poets," as published under Mr. Cibber's name.
useful moral, not to make an unequal match; in the second place, we learn not to yield too readily to suspicion. The handkerchief is merely a trick, though a very pretty trick; but there are no other circumstances of reasonable suspicion, except what is related by Iago of Cassio's warm expressions concerning Desdemona in his sleep; and that depended entirely upon the assertion of one man. No, sir, I think Othello has more moral than almost any play.”
Sir Joshua Reynolds mentioned Mr. Cumberland's Odes, which were then just published. -Johnson. Why, sir, they would have been thought as good as Odes commonly are, if Cumberland had not put his name to them; but a name immediately draws censure, unless it be a name that bears down every thing before it. Nay, Cumberland has made his Odes subsidiary to the fame of another man; they might have run well enough by themselves, but he has not only loaded them with a name, but has made them carry double.”
Johnson said, “ The little volumes entitled Respublicæ,' which are very well done, were a bookseller's work."
Of Chatterton, he said, “ This is the most extraordinary young man that has encountered my knowledge. It is wonderful how the whelp has written such things."
Speaking of the ancient poets, he observed, “ Theocritus is not deserving of very high respect as a writer; as to the pastoral part, Virgil is very evidently superior. He wrote when there had been a larger influx of knowledge into the world than when Theocritus lived. Theo
critus does not abound in description, though living in a beautiful country; the manners painted are coarse and gross. Virgil has much more description, more sentiment, more of nature, and niore of art. Some of the most excellent parts of Theocritus are where Castor and Pollux, going with the other Argonauts, land on the Bebrycian coast, and there fall into a dispute with Amycus, the king of that country; which is as well conducted as Euripides could have done it; and the battle is well related. Afterwards they carry off a woman, whose two brothers come to recover her, and expostulate with Castor and Pollux on their injustice; but they pay no regard to the brothers, and the battle ensues, where Castor and his brother are triumphant. Theocritus seems not to have seen that the brothers have the advantage in theirargument over his Argonaut heroes. - The Sicilian Gossips is a piece of merit. Callimachus is a writer of little excellence. The chief thing to be learned from him is his account of Rites and Mythology, which though desirable to be known for the sake of understanding other parts of ancient authors, is the least pleasing or valuable part of their writings."
“Mattaire's account of the Stephani, is a heavy book. He seems to have been a puzzle-headed man, with a large share of scholarship, but with little geometry or logic in his head, without method, and possessed of little genius. He wrote Latin verses from time to time, and published a set in his old age, which he called · Senilia; in which he shows so little learning or taste in writing, as to make Carteret a dactyl. In matters of genealogy it is necessary to give the bare names