Page images
PDF
EPUB

We will now give the authorities for our intellectual pedigree. Sheridan is mentioned in Boswell as being admitted to the celebrated club of which Johnson, Goldsmith, and others were members. He had just written the School for Scandal, which made him the more welcome. Of Johnson's friendship with Savage (we cannot help beginning the sentence with his favourite leading preposition), the well-known Life is an interesting record. It is said that in the commencement of their friendship, they sometimes wandered together about London for want of a lodging—more likely for Savage's want of it, and Johnson's fear of offending him by offering a share of his own. But we do not remember how this circumstance is related by Boswell.

Savage's intimacy with Steele is recorded in a pleasant anecdote, which he told Johnson. Sir Ri. chard once desired him, “ with an air of the utmost importance,” says his biographer, “ to come very early to his house the next morning. Mr. Savage came as he had promised, found the chariot at the door, and Sir Richard waiting for him and ready to

What was intended, and whither they were to go, Savage could not conjecture, and was not willing to enquire, but immediately seated himself with Sir Richard. The coachman was ordered to drive, and they hurried with the utmost expedition to Hyde-park Corner, where they stopped at a petty tavern, and retired to a private room. Sir Richard then informed him that he intended to publish a pamphlet, and that he had desired him to come thither that he might write for him. They soon sat down to the work. Sir Richard dictated, and Savage wrote, till the dinner that had been ordered was put upon the table. Savage was surprised at the meanness of the entertainment, and after some hesitation, ventured to ask for wine, which Sir Richard, not without reluctance, ordered to be brought. They then finished their dinner, and proceeded in their pamphlet, which they concluded in the afternoon.

go out.

“ Mr. Savage then imagined that his task was over, and expected that Sir Richard would call for the reckoning, and return home; but his expectations deceived him, for Sir Richard told him that he was without money, and that the pamphlet must be sold before the dinner could be paid for, and Savage was therefore obliged to go and offer their new production for sale for two guineas, which with some difficulty he obtained. Sir Richard then returned home, having retired that day only to avoid his creditors, and composed the pamphlet only to discharge his reckoning.”

Steele's acquaintance with Pope, who wrote some papers for his Guardian, appears in the letters and other works of the wits of that time. Johnson supposes that it was his friendly interference, which attempted to bring Pope and Addison together after a jealous separation. Pope's friendship with Congreve appears also in his letters. He also dedicated the Iliad to Congreve, over the heads of peers and

you, whom

patrons. The dramatist, whose conversation most likely partook of the elegance and wit of his writings, and whose manners appear to have rendered him an universal favourite, had the honour, in his youth, of attracting the respect and regard of Dryden. He was publicly hailed by him as his successor, and affectionately bequeathed the care of his laurels. Dryden did not know who had been looking at him in the coffee-house.

Already I am worn with cares and age,
And just abandoning th' ungrateful stage;
Unprofitably kept at Heaven's expense,
I live a rent-charge on his providence.
But

every

Muse and Grace adorn,
Whom I foresee to better fortune born,
Be kind to my remains; and O defend,
Against your judgment, your departed friend!
Let not th’insulting foe my fame pursue,

But shade those laurels which descend to you.
Congreve did so with great tenderness. .

Dryden is reported to have asked Milton's permission to turn his Paradise Lost into a rhyming tragedy, which he called the State of Innocence, or the Fall of Man; a work, such as might be expected from such a mode of alteration. The venerable poet is said to have answered, “ Aye, young man, you may tag my verses, if you will.” Be the connection, however, of Dryden with Milton, or of Milton with Davenant, as it may, Dryden wrote the alteration of Shakspeare's Tempest, as it is now perpetrated, in conjunction with Davenant. They were great hands,

but they should not have touched the pure grandeur of Shakspeare. The intimacy of Davenant with Hobbes is to be seen by their correspondence prefixed to Gondibert. Hobbes was at one time secretary to Lord Bacon, a singularly illustrious instance of servant and master. Bacon also had Ben Jonson for a retainer in a similar capacity; and Jonson's link with the preceding writers could be easily supplied through the medium of Greville and Sydney, and indeed of many others of his contemporaries. Here then we arrive at Shakspeare, and feel the electric virtue of his hand. Their intimacy, dashed a little, perhaps, with jealousy on the part of Jonson, but maintained to the last by dint of the nobler part of him, and of Shakspeare's irresistible fineness of nature, is a thing as notorious as their fame. Fuller says: “ Many were the wit-combates betwixt (Shakspeare) and Ben Jonson, which two I behold like a Spanish great gal. leon and an English man of war: master Jonson (like the former) was built far higher in learning: solid, but slow in his performances. Shakspeare, with the English man of war, lesser in bulk, but lighter in sailing, could turn with all tides, tack about, and take advantage of all winds, by the quickness of his wit and invention.” This is a happy simile, with the exception of what is insinuated about Jonson's greater solidity. But let Jonson shew for himself the affection with which he regarded one, who did not irritate or trample down rivalry, but rose above it like the sun, and turned emulation to worship.

Soul of the age !
Th’ applause ! delight! the wonder of our stage !
My Shakspeare, rise! I will not lodge thee by
Chaucer or Spenser, or bid Beaumont lie
A little further, to make thee a room;
Thou art a monument without a tomb;
And art alive still, while thy book doth live,
And we have wits to read, and praise to give.

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

The anglers are a race of men who puzzle us. We do not mean for their patience, which is laud. able, nor for the infinite non-success of some of them, which is desirable. Neither do we agree with the good old joke attributed to Swift, that angling is always to be considered as “ a stick and a string, with a fly at one end and a fool at the other.” Nay, if he had books with him, and a pleasant day, we can account for the joyousness of that prince of punters, who, having been seen in the same spot one morning and evening, and asked whether he had had any success, said No, but in the course of the day he had had “ a glorious nibble.”

But the anglers boast of the innocence of their pastime; yet it puts' fellow-creatures to the torture. They pique themselves on their meditative faculties; and yet their only excuse is a want of thought. It

[blocks in formation]
« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »