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THE WORDS ARE DEDUCED FROM THEIR ORIGINALS,
ILLUSTRATED IN THEIR DIFFERENT SIGNIFICATIONS BY EXAMPLES FROM
THE BEST WRITERS.
OGILVY AND SON; CUTHELL AND MARTIN;
SAMUEL JOHNSON, LL.D. an English writer of great eminence, , was born in 1709, at Lichfield, in which city his father was a petty bookseller. He inherited from that parent, with a strong athletic body, a scrofulous taint which impaired his sight and hearing, and a disposition to morbid melancholy. He also derived from him those civil and religious principles or prejudices which distinguished the Jacobite party, at that time numerous in the kingdom. He received a school education partly at the free-school of Lichfield, partly at Stourbridge in Worcester, shire. Though his progress in literature was by no means extraordinary, yet a tenacious memory enabled him to lay up a store of various knowledge from desultory reading. This was increased by a residence of two years, after leaving school, at the house of his father, who probably designed him for his own trade. As he had already acquired reputation from his exercises, particularly of the poetical class, his father will. ingly complied with the proposal of a neighbouring gentleman, Mr. Corbet, of maintaining Samuel at Oxford as companion to his son, Accordingly, in 1728, his nineteenth year, he was entered a commoner of Pembroke college. His tutor, Mr. Jorden, was a man whose abilities could command little respect from a pupil who, doubtless, had begun to feel the powers of his own mind, and who was furnished with literary information not usually acquired in the trammels of an university-course. He seems to have been careless of his character with respect both to
the discipline and the studies of the place; and the state of indigence into
Soon after his return from the university to his native city, his father died in very narrow circumstances; and he found no better means of support than the place of usher to the grammar-school of Market-Bosworth, Leicestershire. This, his impatience under the haughty treatment of the patron of his school soon induced him to quit; and he passed some time as a guest with Mr. Hector, surgeon at Birmingham, who had been his school-fellow. In that place he wrote some literary essays for Mr. Warren, bookseller and proprietor of a newspaper; and he translated and abridged from the French the account of a voyage to Abyssinia, by father Lobo. This was printed at Birmingham, and was published in London in 1735, without the translator's name. It has no pretension to peculiar elegance; but the preface is strongly marked with the character of style and thinking which afterwards so much distinguished the author.
Returning to Lichfield, he issued proposals for publishing by subscription the Latin poem of Politian, with his life, and a history of Latin poetry from the æra of Petrarch to the time of Politian ; but such a project was not likely to meet with adequate encouragement in a country town, and the design was never executed. It may, indeed, be questioned whether Johnson had at this time sufficient access to books, and acquaintance enough with Italian literature, to have performed the task with credit.
He next endeavoured to obtain, ounc profitable employment for his pen by an engagement with Cave, the editor of the seaticinan's Magazine. This, however, was a small resource ior a maintenance; and in 1735 he made a bold effort to improve his conda con by a marriage with Mrs. Porter, the widow of a mercer in Birmingham Johnson must surely have deceived himself in afterwards speaking of it as “a love-match on both sides;" for the lady was twice his age, and very far from being attractive either in her person or manners ; and moreover, he had entertained a juvenile passion for her daughter. But she was possessed of
a eight hundred pounds, which in Johnson's estimation was at that time a magnificent object. His little acquaintance with the sex, and with polite life, probably softened all her defects to liim, and he seems always to have regarded her with fondness. The immediate consequence of this connection was, that he took a large house at Edial near Lichfield, and advertised for scholars, to be boarded and taught the Greek and Latin languages. Though much esteemed for his morals and learning, the scheme did not succeed; and after about a year's trial, he gave it up, and resolved to become a literary adventurer at the great mart of the metropolis. Among his few pupils was David Garrick, afterwards the very celebrated actor. This youth became his companion in the search of fortune; and they were furnished with a recommendatory letter from Mr. Gilb. Walmsley, registrar of the ecclesiastical court of Lichfield; a man of letters and generosity, who had before patronized Johnson, notwithstanding a radical difference in political principles, which the great author has recorded in terms not very honourable to his gratitude.
In March, 1737, the two adventurers arrived in London ; Johnson with his unfinished tragedy of “ Irene” in his pocket, and with all his other fortune in his head. The relics of his wife's property were probably left with her in the country. His engagement with Cave seems to have been his principal dependence; and at Cave's instigation he undertook a translation of father Paul's History of the Council of Trent, of which some sheets were printed, but the design was then dropt.