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DR. SAMUEL JOHNSON.
society; and, in the end, he received from George III. a pension of £300 a-year. Being now in comfortable circumstances, he visited the Western Isles, made a tour in Wales, and went to see the sights of Paris. He died in London at the age of seventy-five. He was remarkable for his conversational powers; and in argument he could seldom be beaten, though he was apt to be rude to those who differed from him. His benevolence was such that his house was an asylum for destitute women, even when he himself was very poor.
Johnson is best remembered as the compiler of the first Dictionary of the English Language—a work which it took eight years of hard labour to prepare. The dictionaries of other countries have been produced by the united efforts of learned societies; and, after all, have often been less satisfactory than that which Johnson produced by his own individual effort.
His Dictionary iş accurate as to the meanings of words, but not trustworthy in the matter of etymology. This arises from Johnson's ignorance of Anglo-Saxon roots, from which a large number of our English words is derived. In addition to root and meaning of each word, he adds a number of quotations to illustrate its various shades of meaning. Here is an example:
LESSON n. 8. [leçon, Fr.; lectio, Lat.] 1. Anything read or repeated to a teacher in order to improve, ment.
I but repeat that lesson
Denham's Sophy. 2. Precept; notion inculcated.
This day's ensample hath this lesson dear
3. Portions of scripture read in Divine service.
Notwithstanding so eminent properties, whereof lessons are so
happily destitute; yet lessons, being free from some inconveniences whereunto sermons are most subject, they may, in this respect, no less take, than in the other they must give
the hand which betokeneth pre-eminence.-Hooler. 4. Tune pricked for an instrument.
Those good laws were like good lessons set for a flute out of
tune; of which lessons little use can be made, till the flute be made fit to be played on.-Davies on Ireland,
5. A rating lecture.
She would give her a lesson for walking so late, that should
make her keep within doors for one fortnight. --Sidney. Johnson's writings for the periodicals were intendedlike Addison's—to improve the morals of the people; but in style they are not to be compared with the lively and exquisitely charming papers of that author. Rassela3 has very little of a story, and its style is so very dignified as to become, after the perusal of a few pages, very tiresome reading. It contains, however, many important moral lessons. The best of his books those he wrote after his troubles were over.
These are his Tour to the Hebrides, and the Lives of the Poets, in the latter of which especially he is lively, energetic, and natural.
His usual style, though lofty and impressive, is heavy and tedious--the result of his too frequent use of words of Latin origin—these being for the most part of the “ long tailed” order. To what lengths he sometimes carried this peculiarity is well illustrated by the meaning he attaches to the word “net-work,” which he describes as
anything reticulated or decussated at equal distances, with interstices between the intersections !" Those who write in this fashion are said to have adopted the Johnsonian style.
THE MISERIES OF WAR. “The life of a modern soldier is ill represented by heroic fiction. War has means of destruction more formidable than the cannon and the sword. Of the thousands and ten thousands that perished in our late contests with France and Spain, a very small part ever felt the stroke of an enemy; the rest languished in tents and ships, amidst damps and putrefaction; pale, torpid, spiritless, and helpless; gasping and groaning, unpitied among men, made obdurate by long continuance of hopeless misery; and 'were at last whelmed in pits, or heaved into the ocean, without notice and without remembrance. By incommodious encampments and unwholesome stations, where courage is useless and enterprise impracticable, fleets are silently dispeopled, and armies sluggishly melted away.”
EDMUND BURKE (6. 1731, d. 1797) was an orator, statesman, and author. He was the son of an attorney,
and was born in Dublin. After receiving a University education, he proceeded to London, and made an attempt to study the law. Finding this an uncongenial occupation, he devoted himself to literature.
His Essay on the Sublime and Beautiful attracted general attention; and he joined the club where the great men of the day were accustomed to meet. After some years of hard work, he was appointed Secretary to the Marquis of Rockingham, through whose influence he was elected a Member of Parliament. Then it was that his genius shone out as it had never shone before. Political speeches -usually dry and uninteresting—were embellished by Burke with the most splendid imagery, and delivered with an energy which enforced attention. His greatest speech was that delivered at the trial of Warren Hastings: It is considered one of the most magnificent ever uttered by any orator. Burke's greatest political work is a treatise entitled Reflections on the French Revolution, which is a good specimen of his style. The death of his son—which he took deeply to heart-caused his retirement from public life, and he died at Beaconsfield in 1797. His career is a grand example of the successes which may be achieved by industry and perseverance.
THE DESTRUCTION OF THE CARNATIC. "Having terminated his disputes with every enemy and every rival, Hyder Ali drew from every quarter whatever a savage ferocity could add to his new rudiments in the arts of destruction; and compounding all the materials of fury, havoc, and desolation into one black cloud, he hung for a while on the declivities of the mountains. Whilst the authors of all these evils were idly and stupidly gazing on the menacing meteor which blackened all their horizon, it suddenly burst and poured down the whole of its contents upon the plains of the Carnatic. Then ensued a scene of woe, the like of which no eye had seen, no heart conceived, and which no tongue can adequately tell. All the horrors of war before known or heard of were mercy to that new havoc. A storm of universal fire blasted every field, consumed every house, destroyed every temple. The miserable inhabitants, flying from the flaming villages, in part were slaughtered: others, without regard to sex, to age, to the respect of rank, or sacredness of function, fathers torn from children, husbands from wives, enveloped in a whirlwind of cavalry, and amidst the goading spears of drivers and the trampling of pursuing horses, were swept into captivity in an unknown and hostile land. Those who were able to evade this tempest fled to the walled cities; but, escaping from fire, sword, and exile, they fell into the jaws of famine."-Speeches.
Other Miscellaneous Writers. During this period, SIR WILLIAM BLACKSTONE, a lawyer, wrote an excellent Commentary on the Laws of England, in which the laws of the land are carefully arranged and pleasantly explained. STEVENS and MALONE edited Shakespeare; JAMES BOSWELL produced his Biography of Johnson—the best biography ever written; the EARL OF CHESTERFIELD wrote his famous Letters to his Son; and the satirical Letters of Junius appeared in the public prints. The authorship of these stinging political satires has never been satisfactorily settled.
THE POETS OF THE NINETEENTH CENTURY.
FROM 1800 TILL 1830.
Introduction. POETS. — Wordsworth — Coleridge - Southey —
The authors were now exceedingly numerous, and people required guidance as to the books they should read and the books they should avoid. To meet this want there arose a new kind of literature, that, namely, of criticism. The Edinburgh Review, followed shortly afterwards by others of a similar character, had an excellent effect in making authors more careful, and in cultivating a better taste than had hitherto prevailed among the people themselves. It is true that public attention was more and more occupied with business affairs as manufactures and
commerce continued to increase, but this did not hinder the poets, who were as numerous, and in many respects as illustrious, as those of the Elizabethan Age, from winning their way to favour and popularity.
WILLIAM WORDSWORTH (b. 1770, d. 1850), the son of an attorney, was born at Cockermouth, in Cumberland. He studied at Cambridge, and, in 1790, made a tour to the Continent, and visited France while the Revolution was raging. Sympathizing heartily with the Revolutionists, he went back to France in the following year, making friends with the Girondists, and remaining among them for fifteen months. On his return to England he had to make up his mind as to his means of earning a living. The Church, for which his friends had intended him, did not suit him; he would rather be a poet if it would pay; but fancying it would not, he was about to become a lawyer and journalist, when a young friend of his died, leaving him a legacy of £900, and earnestly entreating him to devote himself entirely to poetry. This he did with right good will. He resided first in Somersetshire, and afterwards at Rydal Mount, near Lake Windermere, where he enjoyed the pleasant company of his brother poets, Coleridge and Southey, who lived in the same neighbourhood. For this reason, and because of a certain similarity to each other in their style of writing, the three poets have been named the Lake Poets. Wordsworth was in very comfortable circumstances. He had got £1,000 as his share of a sum of £8,500 which had been owing to his father; he had obtained the office of Distributor of Stamps for the county of Westmoreland, which brought him £500 a-year; and, in 1842, he received a pension of £300 per annum. On the death of Southey, he was appointed Poet Laureate; and, in 1850, he died at the close of his eightieth year.
His great work is The Excursion, a philosophical poem, forming part of what was intended to be a moral epic, entitled the Recluse. In the Excursion, the poet takes a walk or excursion, and meets first with a Scotch pedlar,