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building of Blackfriars' Bridge, a question was very warmly agitated whether semicircular or elliptical arches were preferable. In the design offered by Mr. Mylne the elliptical form was adopted, and therefore it was the great object of his rivals to attack it. Johnson's regard for his friend Mr. Gwyn induced him to engage in this controversy against Mr. Mylne (1); and after being at considerable pains to study the subject, he wrote three several letters in the Gazetteer, in opposition to his plan.
If it should be remarked that this was a con
(1) Sir John Hawkins has given a long detail of it, in that anner vulgarly, but significantly, called rigmarole; in which, amidst an ostentatious exhibition of arts and artists, he talks of "proportions of a column being taken from that of the human figure, and adjusted by nature masculine and feminine-in a man, sesquioctave of the head, and in a woman sesquinonal, nor has he failed to introduce a jargon of musical terms, which do not seer much to correspond with the subject, but serve to make up the heterogeneous mass. To follow the knight through all this, would be an useless fatigue to myself, and not a little disgusting to my readers. I shall, therefore, only make a few remarks upon his statement.
He seems to exult in having detected Johnson in procuring, "from a person eminently skilled in mathematics and the principles of architecture, answers to a string of questions drawn up by himself, touching the comparative strength of semicircular and elliptical arches." Now I cannot conceive how Johnson could have acted more wisely. Sir John complains that the opinion of that excellent mathematician, Mr. Thomas Simpson, did not preponderate in favour of the semicircular arch. But he should have known, that however eminent Mr. Simpson was in the higher parts of abstract mathematical science, he was little versed in mixed and practical mechanics. Mr Muller, of Woolwich Academy, the scholastic father of all the great engineers which this country has employed for forty years, decided the question by declaring clearly in favour of the elliptical arch. It is ungraciously suggested, that Johnson's motive for opposing Mr. Mylne's scheme may have been his prejudice against him as a native of North Britain; when, in truth, as has been stated, he gave the aid of his able pen to a friend, who was one of the candidates; and so
troversy which lay quite out of Johnson's way, let it be remembered, that after all, his employing his powers of reasoning and eloquence upon a subject which he had studied on the moment, is not more strange than what we often observe in lawyers, who, as Quicquid agunt homines is the matter of lawsuits, are sometimes obliged to pick up a temporary knowledge of an art or science, of which they understood nothing till their brief was delivered, and appear to be much masters of it. In like manner, members of the legislature frequently introduce and expatiate upon subjects of which they have informed themselves for the occasion.
far was he from having any illiberal antipathy to Mr. Mylne, that he afterwards lived with that gentleman upon very agreeable terms of acquaintance, and dined with him at his house. Sir John Hawkins, indeed, gives full vent to his own prejudice in abusing Blackfriars' Bridge, calling it "an edifice, in which beauty and symmetry are in vain sought for; by which the citizens of London have perpetuated their own disgrace, and subjected a whole nation to the reproach of foreigners." Whoever has contemplated, placido lumine, this stately, elegant, and airy structure, which has so fine an effect, especially on approaching the capital on that quarter, must wonder at such unjust and ill-tempered censure; and I appeal to all foreigners of good taste, whether this bridge be not one of the most distinguished ornaments of London. As to the stability of the fabric, it is certain that the city of London took every precaution to have the best Portland stone for it; but as this is to be found in the quarries belonging to the public, under the direction of the Lords of the Treasury, it so happened that par liamentary interest, which is often the bane of fair pursuits, thwarted their endeavours. Notwithstanding this disadvantage, it is well known that not only has Blackfriars Bridge never sunk either in its foundation or in its arches, which were so much the subject of contest, but any injuries which it has suffered from the effects of severe frosts have been already, in some measure, repaired with sounder stone, and every necessary renewal can be completed at a moderate expense.
· Origin of Johnson's AcquaintAkenside and Rolt. Mac
Miscellaneous Essays. ance with Murphy.· kenzie and Eccles. Letters to Baretti. — Painting and Music. Sir George Staunton. Letter to a Lady soliciting Church Preferment for her Son. The King confers on Johnson a Pension of 300l. a Year.-Letters to Lord Bute. - Visit to Devonshire, with Sir Joshua Reynolds.· Character of Collins.— Dedication of Hoole's Tasso.
IN 1760 he wrote " An Address of the Painters to George III. on his Accession to the Throne of these Kingdoms," which no monarch ever ascended with more sincere congratulations from his people. Two generations of foreign princes had prepared their minds to rejoice in having again a King, who gloried in being "born a Briton." (1) He also wrote for Mr. Baretti the Dedication† of his Italian and English Dictionary, to the Marquis of Abreu, then Envoy-Extraordinary from Spain at the Court of Great Britain.
Johnson was now either very idle, or very busy with his Shakspeare; for I can find no other public composition by him except an Introduction to the Proceedings of the Committee for Clothing the French
(1) ["Born and educated in this country, I glory in the name of Briton."- GEORGE III.'s first Speech to his Parliament. }
Prisoners;* one of the many proofs that he was ever awake to the calls of humanity; and an account which he gave in the Gentleman's Magazine of Mr. Tytler's acute and able vindication of Mary Queer of Scots.* The generosity of Johnson's feelings shines forth in the following sentence:
"It has now been fashionable, for near half a century, to defame and vilify the house of Stuart, and to exalt and magnify the reign of Elizabeth. The Stuarts have found few apologists, for the dead cannot pay for praise; and who will, without reward, oppose the tide of popularity? Yet there remains still among us, not wholly extinguished, a zeal for truth, a desire of establishing right in opposition to fashion."
In this year I have not discovered a single private letter written by him to any of his friends. It should seem, however, that he had at this period a floating intention of writing a history of the recent and wonderful successes of the British arms in all quarters of the globe; for among his resolutions or memorandums, September 18., there is, "Send for books for Hist. of War." (1) How much is it to be
(1) The following memorandum, made on his birthday in this year, may be quoted as an example of the rules and resolutions which he was in the habit of making, for the guidance of his moral conduct and literary studies:
"Sept. 18. Resolved, D (eo) j (uvante),
To combat notions of obligation:
To apply to study:
To reclaim imaginations:
To consult the resolves on Tetty's coffin:
To rise early:
To study religion:
To go to church:
To drink less strong liquors:
To keep a journal:
To oppose laziness, by doing what is to be done to-morrow:
regretted that this intention was not fulfilled. His majestic expression would have carried down to the latest posterity the glorious achievements of his country, with the same fervent glow which they produced on the mind at the time. He would have been under no temptation to deviate in any degree from truth, which he held very sacred, or to take a licence, which a learned divine told me he once seemed, in a conversation, jocularly to allow to historians. "There are (said he) inexcusable lies, and consecrated lies. For instance, we are told that on the arrival of the news of the unfortunate battle of Fontenoy, every heart beat, and every eye was in tears. Now we know that no man eat his dinner the worse, but there should have been all this concern; and to say there was (smiling), may be reckoned a consecrated lie."
This year Mr. Murphy, having thought himself ill-treated by the Rev. Dr. Francklin (1), who was one of the writers of "The Critical Review," published an indignant vindication in " A Poetical Epistle to Samuel Johnson, A. M." in which he compliments Johnson in a just and elegant manner:
Rise as early as I can:
Send for books for Hist. of War:
Put books in order:
Scheme of life."
The fourth item seems obscure and strange.-C. [Possibly certain resolutions he had committed to writing, after contemplating his wife's coffin, and which he had not consulted for some time.-MARKLAND.]
(1) [Dr. Thomas Francklin, the translator of Sophocles and Lucian. He died in 1784.]