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acceptance to the Prime Minister, should put the situation beyond question: "You have conferred your favors on a man who has neither alliance nor interest, who has not merited them by services, nor courted them by officiousness; you have spared him the shame of solicitation and the anxiety of suspense."
Boswell and The Club." In the year following the granting of the pension James Boswell came into Johnson's life; and in the year following this (1764) "The Club" was formed. This famous organization included in its membership Johnson, Boswell, Goldsmith, Burke the statesman, Reynolds the painter, Garrick the actor, and other leaders in every important walk of English life. The group were influential in many ways for a quarter of a century, and Johnson was their leader to the day of his death.
"Doctor" Johnson. - Though universally known as "Doctor" Johnson, the title was not his until his fifty-sixth year, when Dublin University gave it to him. Oxford did the same ten years later.
Tour of the Hebrides. The only other event of Johnson's life calling for mention is a tour of the Hebrides, ir, company with Boswell, in 1773. Two years afterward he published an account of the tour under the title, A Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland; not at all a guide-book
but a series of observations on a people and a civilization altogether new to him.
Character and Personality. Johnson died in London, December 13, 1784, and was buried in Westminster Abbey. His character and personality are better and more widely known than those of any other English man of letters. Boswell has told the whole story, sparing none, himself least of all. Johnson was blunt, rough, prejudiced, dictatorial, slovenly in dress and table manners, given to queer performances, like touching every lamp post as he went down town. He was, on the other hand, a stanch friend, a very wise as well as a learned man, devoutly religious, and considerate of those who needed his consideration.
JAMES BOSWELL, 1740-1795
Johnson's biographer was born in Edinburgh, of a good family. Against his will he prepared for his father's profession of law. During a tour on the Continent he sought and obtained a meeting with Paoli, the hero of Corsica, then struggling for its freedom. On his return he wrote an Account of Corsica, sang the praises of the island, its people, and its leader; and according to his own story, was known in Edinburgh as "Paoli Boswell." Macaulay says "he was the laughing-stock of the whole of that brilliant society which has owed to him the greater part of its fame."
Two Views of Boswell. Boswell was ever a seeker of notoriety, a worshipper of heroes; and Macaulay makes much of this characteristic. "He was always laying himself at the feet of some eminent man, and begging to be spit and trampled upon." Carlyle, in an essay which is largely a reply to Macaulay's, points out that somehow Boswell never
attached himself to an unworthy "eminent man." If nothing but vanity inspired Boswell, says Carlyle, was Samuel Johnson the man of men to whom he must attach himself?" And again: "Boswell wrote a good book because he had a heart and an eye to discern wisdom, . . . because of his love and childlike open-mindedness. . . . Towards Johnson, his feeling was reverence, which is the highest of human feelings." The Life of Johnson appeared in 1791, and met with immediate success. The author enjoyed his fame but four years, dying at the comparatively early age of fifty-five.
Boswell's Place in Literature. In a second passage dealing with Johnson and Boswell, Carlyle extends his praise of his fellowcountryman. "We will take the liberty," says he, "to deny altogether that saying of the witty Frenchman, that no man is a Hero to his valet. Or if so, it is not the
Hero's blame, but the Valet's: that his soul, namely, is a
. The Valet does not know a Hero when he sees him! Alas no: it requires a kind of Hero to do that. . . . On the whole, shall we not say, that Boswell's admiration was well bestowed?" Add to this not quite impartial estimate the fact that Johnson certainly valued Boswell's friendship greatly, and we have no need to make apologies for Boswell the man. He might be nicknamed, after the manner of another friend of Johnson's
1 Heroes and Hero Worship, "The Hero as Man of Letters."
("Single-Speech" Hamilton), "Single-Book " Boswell, and yet be worthy of a higher place in the annals of literature than many men having numerous volumes to their credit.
OLIVER GOLDSMITH, 1728-1774
Boswell's Attitude toward Goldsmith. Two portraits of Goldsmith have been familiar for many years: Boswell's and that of other people. When Boswell is stating facts, we may accept them as such, though a recent biographer of Goldsmith1 questions both Boswell's accuracy and his good faith. When, however, Johnson's worshipper ventures upon a judgment of Goldsmith, implicit confidence cannot be placed in his statements. He was extremely jealous of every one favored by his idol; and his envy of Goldsmith appears to have been as great as he thought Goldsmith's envy of Johnson was.
Personality. Yet there is, in Boswell's estimate of Goldsmith, one word which seems the most adequate possible to characterize the man. It is the word "singular." Goldsmith was truly "singular" in appearance, dress, management (or mismanagement) of finances, manner of talking, and above all, in manner of writing. These singularities are given an unfavorable twist by Boswell; but this has been more than counteracted by the favorable interpretations of Washington Irving and many subsequent critics. The general estimate is well put in Irving's opening sentence: "There are few writers for whom the reader feels such personal kindness as for Oliver Goldsmith, for few have so eminently possessed the magic gift of identifying themselves with their writings." To know Johnson one must go to
F. F. Moore (1911).
Boswell: to know Goldsmith, one need not add a line to the
works bearing his own name.
Birth and Schooling - Irish.
He was the fourth child
of an Irish village preacher, and was born in an Irish village (name and location still in dispute), November 10, 1728. Of several schools and masters figuring in his early life, the only one to be remembered is Thomas (better known as Paddy") Byrne, a much-travelled retired soldier, who filled Oliver's head with stories and ballads of many lands. "Paddy" is immortalized in those lines of The Deserted Village, beginning:
"Beside yon straggling fence that skirts the way,"
of which perhaps the most famous line is:
"For e'en though vanquished, he could argue still."
In College in Ireland. The family finances did not permit of Oliver's attending college; but through the aid of an uncle, Rev. Mr. Contarine, he was admitted to Trinity College, Dublin, in 1744. One of the stories told of his college days indicates why we feel for him the "personal kindness mentioned by Irving. A friend who called for him on the way to breakfast one day found Goldsmith unable to rise. The night before he had given his blankets to a poor woman, had crawled into the bed-ticking for warmth, and in the morning found difficulty in freeing himself. This was not the only occasion with Goldsmith when, as did the parson in his Deserted Village,
"His pity gave ere charity began."
The Ministry; Law; Medicine. After graduation from college he was persuaded to prepare for the ministry, but was refused when he applied to the bishop to be ordained. Uncle Contarine then advised him to study law, and sup