Boswell's Life of Johnson, 1743
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Edited, from the two-volume Oxford edition of 1904, by Jack Lynch.
His writings in the Gentleman's Magazine in 1743, are, the
“Preface,”+ the “Parliamentary Debates,”+ “Considerations on the
Dispute between Crousaz and Warburton, on Pope's Essay on Man;"+
in which while he defends Crousaz, he shews an admirable
metaphysical acuteness and temperance in controversy; “Ad Lauram
parituram Epigramma;"*1 and, “A latin
Translation of Pope's Verses on his Grotto;"* and, as he could
employ his pen with equal success upon a small matter as a
great, I suppose him to be the authour of an advertisement for
Osborne, concerning the great Harleian Catalogue.
But I should think myself much wanting, both to my illustrious
friend and my readers, did I not introduce here, with more than
ordinary respect, an exquisitely beautiful Ode, which has not
been inserted in any of the collections of Johnson's poetry,
written by him at a very early period, as Mr. Hector informs me,
and inserted in the Gentleman's Magazine of this year.
FRIENDSHIP, an ODE.*
FRIENDSHIP, peculiar boon of heav'n,
The noble mind's delight and pride, To men and angels only
giv'n, To all the lower world deny'd.
While love, unknown among the blest,
Parent of thousand wild desires, The savage and the human
breast Torments alike with raging fires;
With bright, but oft destructive, gleam,
Alike o'er all his lightnings fly; Thy lambent glories only
beam Around the fav'rites of the sky.
Thy gentle flows of guiltless joys,
On fools and villains ne'er descend; In vain for thee the
tyrant sighs, And hugs a flatterer for a friend.
Directress of the brave and just,
O guide us through life's darksome way! And let the tortures
of mistrust On selfish bosoms only prey.
Nor shall thine ardour cease to glow,
When souls to blissful climes remove: What rais'd our virtue
here below, Shall aid our happiness above.
Johnson had now an opportunity of obliging his schoolfellow Dr.
James, of whom he once observed, “no man brings more mind to his
profession.” James published this year his “Medicinal
Dictionary,” in three volumes folio. Johnson, as I understood
from him, had written, or assisted in writing, the proposals for
this work; and being very fond of the study of physick, in which
James was his master, he furnished some of the articles. He,
however, certainly wrote for it the Dedication to Dr. Mead,+
which is conceived with great address, to conciliate the
patronage of that very eminent man.2
It has been circulated, I know not with what authenticity, that
Johnson considered Dr. Birch as a dull writer, and said of him,
“Tom Birch is as brisk as a bee in conversation; but no sooner
does he take a pen in his hand, than it becomes a torpedo to
him, and benumbs all his faculties.” That the literature of this
country is much indebted to Birch's activity and diligence must
certainly be acknowledged. We have seen that Johnson honoured
him with a Greek Epigram; and his correspondence with him,
during many years, proves that he had no mean opinion of him.
“TO DR. BIRCH.
“Thursday, Sept. 29, 1743.
“I HOPE you will excuse me for troubling you on an occasion on
which I know not whom else I can apply to; I am at a loss for
the Lives and Characters of Earl Stanhope, the two Craggs, and
the minister Sunderland; and beg that you will inform [me] where
I may find them, and send my pamphlets, &c. relating to them
to Mr. Cave to be perused for a few days by, Sir,
“Your most humble servant,
His circumstances were at this time embarrassed; yet his
affection for his mother was so warm, and so liberal, that he
took upon himself a debt of hers, which, though small in itself,
was then considerable to him. This appears from the following
letter which he wrote to Mr. Levett, of Lichfield, the original
of which lies now before me.
“TO MR. LEVETT; IN LICHFIELD.
“December 1, 1743.
“I AM extremely sorry that we have encroached so much upon your
forbearance with respect to the interest, which a great
perplexity of affairs hindered me from thinking of with that
attention that I ought, and which I am not immediately able to
remit to you, but will pay it (I think twelve pounds,) in two
months. I look upon this, and on the future interest of that
mortgage, as my own debt; and beg that you will be pleased to
give me directions how to pay it, and not mention it to my dear
mother. If it be necessary to pay this in less time, I believe I
can do it; but I take two months for certainty, and beg an
answer whether you can allow me so much time. I think myself
very much obliged to your forbearance, and shall esteem it a
great happiness to be able to serve you. I have great
opportunities of dispersing any thing that you may think it
proper to make publick. I will give a note for the money,
payable at the time mentioned, to any one here that you shall
appoint. I am, Sir,
“Your most obedient
“And most humble servant,
“At Mr. Osborne's, bookseller, in Gray's Inn.”
Angliacas inter pulcherrima Laura
Mox uteri pondus depositura grave, Adsit, Laura, tibi facilis
Lucina dolenti, Neve tibi noceat praenituisse Deae.
Mr. Hector was present when this Epigram was made
impromptu. The first line was proposed by Dr. James, and
Johnson was called upon by the company to finish it, which he
[The following elegant Latin Ode, which appeared in the
Gentleman's Magazine for 1743, (vol. xiii. p. 548,) was many
years ago pointed out to James Bindley, Esq. as written by
Johnson, and may safely be attributed to him.
AD ORNATISSIMAM PUELLAM.
VANAE sit arti, sit studio modus,
Formosa virgo: sit speculo quies Curamque quaerendi decoris
Mitte, supervacuosque cultus.
Ut fortuitis verna coloribus Depicta vulgo rura magis placent,
Nec invident horto nitenti
Lenique fons cum murmure pulchrior Obliquat ultro praecipitem
Inter reluctantes lapillos, et
Ducit aquas temere sequentes:
Utque inter undas, inter et arbores, Jam vere primo dulce
Et arte nulla gratiores
Ingeminant sine lege cantus:
Nativa sic te gratia, te nitor Simplex decebit, te veneres tuae;
Nudus Cupido suspicatur
Artifices nimis apparatus.
Ergo fluentem tu; male sedula, Ne saeva inuras semper acu comam;
Nec sparsa odorato nitentes
Pulvere dedecores capillos;
Quales nec olim vel Ptolemaeia Jactabat uxor, sidereo in choro
Utcunque devotae refulgent
Verticis exuviae decori;
Nec diva mater, cum similem tuae Mentita formam, et pulchrior
Permisit incomtas protervis
Fusa comas agitare ventis.
In vol. xiv, p. 46, of the same work, an elegant Epigram was
inserted, in answer to the foregoing Ode, which was written by
Dr. Inyon of Pulham, in Norfolk, a physician, and an excellent
Ad Authorem Carminis AD ORNATISSIMAM PUELLAM O cui non
potuit, quia culta, placere puella, Qui speras Musam posse
placere tuam? -- M.]
“TO DR. MEAD.
“THAT the Medicinal Dictionary is dedicated to you, is to
be imputed only to your reputation for superiour skill in those
sciences which I have endeavoured to explain and facilitate: and
you are, therefore, to consider this address, if it be agreeable
to you, as one of the rewards of merit; and if otherwise, as one
of the inconveniences of eminence.
“However you shall receive it, my design cannot be disappointed;
because this publick appeal to your judgement will shew that I
do not found my hopes of approbation upon the ignorance of my
readers, and that I fear his censure least, whose knowledge is
most extensive. I am, Sir,
“Your most obedient humble servant,