Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

friends and relatives, and whatever letters a large measure as a criterion in giving a and speeches he can collect. Should his biographer his proper rank. choice light upon a character of an earlier Having once collected his data, the period, he will then have at his disposal writer has next the task of clothing his figthe accumulated bulk of critical material ures and facts with the weft of his imagithat has increased with each new investi- native genius. He must do this by stressgation and discovery. Any attempt to ing the human side of his subject, never proceed without exhaustive study of the forgetting that there may be more signifisources already available spells failure. cance in a single unconscious gesture On the other hand it would be unwise to than in the studied attitude with which accept the testimony thus offered without a man faces a great crisis. While due consideration of each item in the light the latter may give proof of fortiof all the material submitted. It is this tude and will power, the former reveals critical judgment involved in the accept- the native disposition which is the true ance or rejection of data which serves in self.

JOHNSON ON PATRONAGE

JAMES BOSWELL James Boswell (1740-1795), is the author of the Life of Johnson (1791), the greatest of English biographies. He was not content to give mere dates and places in the life of his hero, but strove in every way to give a complete picture of the great lexicographer. To this end he records actual conversations as they fell from Johnson's lips. The common assumption has been that Boswell was little more than a fool, a man who loved to shine in the reflected light of greatness. Prof. Chauncey B. Tinker in his recent book Young Boswell has combated this view, holding that no man capable of writing a masterpiece of biography could be such a charlatan as tradition has reputed Boswell to be.

The Dictionary, we may believe, af- for which the reason assigned was, that he forded Johnson full occupation this had company with him; and that at last, , year. As it approached to its conclu- when the door opened, out walked Colley sion, he probably worked with redoubled Cibber;' and that Johnson was so viovigor, as seamen increase their exertion lently provoked when he found for whom and alacrity when they have a near pros

he had been so long excluded, that he pect of their haven.

went away in a passion, and never would Lord Chesterfield, to whom John- return. I remember having mentioned son had paid the high compliment of ad- this story to George Lord Lyttelton, who dressing to his Lordship the Plan of his told me, he was very intimate with Lord Dictionary, had behaved to him in such a Chesterfield; and holding it as a wellmanner as to excite his contempt and in- known truth, defended Lord Chesterfield dignation. The world has been for many by saying, that "Cibber, who had been inyears amused with a story confidently troduced familiarly by the back-stairs, told, and as confidently repeated with ad- had probably not been there above ten ditional circumstances, that a sudden dis- minutes." It may seem strange even to gust was taken by Johnson upon occasion entertain a doubt concerning a story so of his having been one day kept long in long and so widely current, and thus imwaiting in his Lordship's antechamber, plicitly adopted, if not sanctioned, by the

11754.

2Philip Dormer Stanhope, Earl of Chesterfield, was Secretary of State when Johnson made his first advances. He is remembered in literature for his letters to his son.

3 An actor and dramatist of some pretension and less ability, chiefly remembered for An Apology for his Life, a vivid picture of the early eighteenth century theater and drama.

ithority which I have mentioned; but hitherto, perhaps, it may not have been phnson himself assured me, that there the worse for it. During our free and as not the least foundation for it. He open trade, many words and expressions old me, that there never was any particu- have been imported, adopted, and naturalir incident which produced a quarrel be- ized from other languages, which have ween Lord Chesterfield and him; but greatly enriched our own. Let it still lat his Lordship's continued neglect was preserve what real strength and beauty he reason why he resolved to have no it may have borrowed from others; but onnection with him. When the Dic- let it not, like the Tarpeian maid, be overionary was upon the eve of publication, whelmed and crushed by unnecessary ord Chesterfield, who, it is said, had ornaments. The time for discrimination lattered himself with expectations that seems to be now come. Toleration, adopohnson would dedicate the work to him, tion and naturalization have run their ttempted, in a courtly manner, to soothe lengths. Good order and authority are ind insinuate himself with the Sage, con- now necessary. But where shall we find cious, as it should seem, of the cold indif- them, and at the same time, the obedience ference with which he had treated its due to them? We must have recourse to learned author; and further attempted to the old Roman expedient in times of conconciliate him, by writing two papers in fusion, and choose a dictator. Upon this "The World,” in recommendation of the principle, I give my vote for Mr. Johnwork; and it must be confessed, that they son, to fill that great and arduous post, contain some studied compliments, so and I hereby declare, that I make a total finely turned, that if there had been no surrender of all my rights and privileges previous offence, it is probable that John- in the English language, as a free-born son would have been highly delighted. British subject, to the said Mr. Johnson, Praise, in general, was pleasing to him; during the term of his dictatorship. Nay but by praise from a man of rank and ele- more, I will not only obey him like an old gant accomplishments, he was peculiarly Roman, as my dictator, but, like a modern gratified.

Roman, I will implicitly believe in him His Lordship says, "I think the pub

as my pope, and hold him to be infallible lick in general and the republick of let- while in the chair, but no longer. More ters in particular, are greatly obliged to than this he cannot well require; for, I Mr. Johnson, for having undertaken, and presume, that obedience can never be exexecuted so great and desirable a work. pected, when there is neither terrour to Perfection is not to be expected from enforce, nor interest to invite it.” man: but if we are to judge by the various works of Johnson already published, we have good reason to believe, that he "But a Grammar, a Dictionary, and a will bring this as near to perfection as any History of our Language, through its man could do. The plan of it, which he several stages, were still wanting at home, published some years ago, seems to me to and importunately called for from abroad. be a proof of it. Nothing can be more Mr. Johnson's labours will now, I dare rationally imagined, or more accurately say, very fully supply that want, and and elegantly expressed. I therefore greatly contribute to the farther spreadrecommend the previous perusal of it to ing of our language in other countries. all those who intend to buy the Diction- Learners were discouraged, by finding no ary, and who, I suppose, are all those who standard to resort to; and, consequently can afford it."

thought it incapable of any. They will now be undeceived and encouraged."

This courtly device failed of its effect. "It must be owned, that our language Johnson, who thought that “all was is, at present, in a state of anarchy, and false and hollow," despised the honeyed

vour.

words, and was even indignant that Lord might obtain that regard for which I saw the Chesterfield should, for a moment imag

world contending; but I found my attendance

so little encouraged, that neither pride por ine, that he could be the dupe of such an

modesty would suffer me to continue it. When artifice. His expression to me concern- I had once addressed your Lordship in pob ing Lord Chesterfield, upon this occasion lick, I had exhausted all the art of pleasing was, “Sir, after making great professions,

which a retired and uncourtly scholar can

possess. I had done all that I could; and no he had, for many years, taken no notice of

man is well pleased to have his all neglected. me; but when my Dictionary was com- be it ever so little. ing out, he fell a scribbling in 'The Seven years, my Lord, have now past, World' about it. Upon which, I wrote

since I waited in your outward rooms, or

was repulsed from your door; during which him a letter expressed in civil terms, but

time I have been pushing on my work through such as might shew him that I did not difficulties, of which it is useless to complain, mind what he said or wrote, and that I and have brought it, at last, to the verge of had done with him."

publication, without one act of assistance, one

word of encouragement, or one smile of fa. This is that celebrated letter of which

Such treatment I did not expect, for I so much has been said, and about which never had a Patron before. curiosity has been so long excited, with- The shepherd in Virgil grew at last acout being gratified. I for many years

quainted with Love, and found him a native

of the rocks. solicited Johnson to favor me with a copy

Is not a Patron, my Lord, one who looks of it, that so excellent a composition with unconcern on a man struggling for his might not be lost to posterity. He de- life in the water, and, when he has reached layed from time to time to give it me;

ground, encumbers him with help? The no

tice which you have been pleased to take of till at last in 1781, when we were on a my labours, had it been early, had been kind; visit at Mr. Dilly's, at Southill in Bed- but it has been delayed till I am indifferent, fordshire, he was pleased to dictate it to and cannot enjoy it; till I am solitary, and me from memory. He afterwards found

cannot impart it; till I am known, and do

not want it. I hope it is no very cynical among his papers a copy of it, which he

asperity, not to confess obligations where no had dictated to Mr. Baretti, with its benefit has been received, or to be unwilling title and corrections, in his own hand

that the Publick should consider me as owing writing. This he gave to Mr. Lang

that to a Patron, which Providence has en

abled me to do for myself. ton; adding that if it were to come into Having carried on my work thus far with print, he wished it to be from that copy. so little obligation to any favourer of learnBy Mr. Langton's kindness, I am en

ing, I shall not be disappointed though I

should conclude it, if less be possible, with abled to enrich my work with a perfect

less; for I have been long wakened from transcript of what the world has so that dream of hope, in which I once boasted eagerly desired to see.

myself with so much exultation,

My Lord,

Your Lordship's most humble To the Right Honourable, the EARL OF

Most obedient servant, CHESTERFIELD.

SAM. JOHNSON. February 7, 1755. My Lord,

"While this was the talk of the town, Í have been lately informed, by the pro- (says Dr. Adams, in a letter to me) I prietor of the World, that two papers, in which my Dictionary is recommended to the

happened to visit Dr. Warburton, who publick, were written by your Lordship. To finding that I was acquainted with Johnbe so distinguished, is an honour, which, be- son, desired me earnestly to carry his ing very little accustomed to favours from the compliments to him, and to tell him, that great, I know not well how to receive, or in

he honoured him for his manly behaviour what terms to acknowledge.

When, upon some slight encouragement, I in rejecting these condescensions of Lord first visited your Lordship, I

Chesterfield, and for resenting the treatpowered, like the rest of mankind, by the en

ment he had received from him with a chantment of your address, and could not forbear to wish that I might boast myself Le

proper spirit. Johnson was visibly pleased vainqueur du vainqueur de la terre;that I

with this compliment, for he had always

was

over

high opinion of Warburton. Indeed, the worthy Dodsley, was certainly nothle force of mind which appeared in this ing but a specimen of that dissimulation tter, was congenial with that which which Lord Chesterfield inculcated as Varburton himself amply possessed. one of the most essential lessons for the

There is a curious minute circumstance conduct of life. His Lordship endeavhich struck me, in comparing the vari- oured to justify himself to Dodsley from us editions of Johnson's Imitations of the charges brought against him by Johnuvenal. In the tenth Satire one of the son; but we may judge of the Aimsiness ouplets upon the vanity of wishes even of his defence, from his having excused or literary distinction stood thus:

his neglect of Johnson, by saying, that

"he had heard he had changed his lodgYet think what ills the scholar's life assail, ings, and did not know where he lived”; Toil, envy, want, the garret, and the jail.

as if there could have been the smallest

difficulty to inform himself of that cirBut after experiencing the uneasiness

cumstance by enquiring in the literary which Lord Chesterfield's fallacious pat

circle with which his Lordship was well ronage made him feel, he dismissed the acquainted, and was, indeed, himself, one word garret from the sad group, and in

of its ornaments. all the subsequent editions the line stands,

Dr. Adams expostulated with Johnson, Toil, envy, want, the Patron, and the jail.

and suggested, that his not being admit

ted when he called on him, was probably That Lord Chesterfield must have been

not to be imputed to Lord Chesterfield; mortified by the lofty contempt, and po

for his Lordship had declared to Dodsley, lite, yet keen, satire with which Johnson

that "he would have turned off the best exhibited him to himself in this letter, it

servant he ever had, if he had known is impossible to doubt. He, however,

he denied him to a man who would have with that glossy duplicity which was his

been always more than welcome"; and a constant study, affected to be quite un

confirmation of this, he insisted on Lord concerned. Dr. Adams mentioned to

Chesterfield's general affability and easiMr. Robert Dodsley' that he was sorry

ness of access, especially to literary men. Johnson had written his letter to Lord

"Sir (said Johnson) that is not Lord Chesterfield. Dodsley, with the true

Chesterfield; he is the proudest man this feelings of trade, said "he was very sorry,

day existing.” “No, (said Dr. Adams) too; for that he had a property in the Dic

there is one person, at least, as proud; I tionary, to which his Lordship's patron

think, by your own account you are the age might have been of consequence."

prouder man of the two.” “But mine He then told Dr. Adams, that Lord

(replied Johnson instantly) was defenChesterfield had shewn him the letter.

sive pride." This, as Dr. Adams well ob"I should have imagined (replied Dr. served, was one of those happy turns for Adams) that Lord Chesterfield would

which he was so remarkably ready. have concealed it." "Poh! (said Dods

Johnson having now explicitly avowed ley) do you think a letter from Johnson his opinion of Lord Chesterfield, did not could hurt Lord Chesterfield ? Not at

refrain from expressing himself concernall, Sir. It lay upon his table, where any

ing that novel man with pointed freebody might see it. He read it to me;

dom: “This man (said he) I thought said, 'this man has great powers,' pointed

had been a Lord among wits; but, I find, out the severest passages, and observed

he is only a wit among Lords!" And how well they were expressed.” This when his Letters to his natural son were air of indifference, which imposed upon

published, he observed, that "they teach

the morals of a whore, and the manners of The famous London bookseller of the age

a dancing-master." of Johnson

The characters of a "respectable Hottentot," in Lord Chesterfield's letters, has Johnson himself talk of the character, and been generally understood to be meant for say that it was meant for George Lord Johnson, and I have no doubt that it Lyttelton, in which I could by no means was.

But I remember when the Literary agree; for his Lordship had nothing of Property of those letters was contested in that violence which is a conspicuous the Court of Session in Scotland, and Mr. feature in the composition. Finding that Henry Dundas, one of the counsel for my illustrious friend could bear to have the proprietors, read this character as an it supposed that it might be meant for exhibition of Johnson, Sir David Dal- him, I said, laughingly, that there was rymple, Lord Hailes, one of the Judges one trait which unquestionably did not maintained, with some warmth, that it belong to him; "he throws his meat any was not intended as a portrait of John- where but down his throat.” “Sir, (said son, but of a late noble Lord, distin- he), Lord Chesterfield never saw me eat guished for abstruse science. I have heard in his life.”

DISRAELI AND THE QUEEN'

LYTTON STRACHEY The Queen Victoria (1921) of Lytton Strachey (1880- ) stands as a supreme achievement in modern biographical literature, a masterpiece of subtle characterization and piquant commentary. Ignoring all but a few significant dates, Mr. Strachey presupposes on the part of the reader a general knowledge of the Victorian period, and gives his whole attention to the personality of the Queen. He unhesitatingly reveals incidents, interviews, conversations, correspondence, and all suggestive material which has been the fruit of his investigations. As a result we have no mere glorification of royalty, but a faithful portrait of a woman in the highest office of empire. In the arch cynicism which pervades the book lies no small part of its fascination.

If Victoria had died in the early sev- due to the skill and vigor of Disraeli. enties, there can be little doubt that the He returned to office, no longer the duvoice of the world would have pro- bious commander of an insufficient host, nounced her a failure.

but with drums beating and flags flying, But she was reserved for a very dif- a conquering hero. And as a conquering ferent fate. The outburst of republic hero Victoria welcomed her new Prime anism had been in fact the last flicker of Minister. an expiring cause. The liberal tide, which Then there followed six years of exhad been flowing steadily ever since the citement, of enchantment, of felicity, of Reform Bill, reached its height with Mr. glory, of romance. The amazing being, Gladstone's first administration; and who now at last, at the age of seventy, towards the end of that administration after a lifetime of extraordinary strugthe inevitable ebb began. The reaction, gles, had turned into reality the absurdwhen it came, was sudden and complete. est of his boyhood's dreams, knew well The General Election of 1874 changed enough how to make his own, with absothe whole face of politics. Mr. Glad- lute completeness, the heart of the Sovstone and the Liberals were routed; and ereign Lady whose servant, and whose the Tory party, for the first time for over master, he had so miraculously become. forty years, attained an unquestioned su- In women's hearts he had always read as premacy in England. It was obvious that in an open book. His whole career had their surprising triumph was preëminently turned upon those curious entities; and

1 From Queen Victoria by Lytton Strachey. Published by Harcourt, Brace and Company, 2Earl of Beaconsfield, Tory leader and Inc. Reprinted by permission.

political opponent of Gladstone.

« AnteriorContinuar »