« ForrigeFortsett »
TO TIE IMITATIONS OF THE
THIRD AND TENTH SATIRES OF JUVENAL.
We will not examine here Johnson's poetical merits, since that discussion will more properly introduce his Lives of the Poets, but merely offer some few biographical remarks. In the poem of London, Mr. Boswell was of opinion, that Johnson did not allude to Savage, under the name of Thales, and adds, for his reason, that Johnson was not so much as acquainted with Savage when he wrote his London. About a month, however, before he published this poem, he addressed. the following lines to him, through the Gentleman's Magazine, for April, 1738.
AD RICARDUM SAVAGE.
Humani studium generis cui pectore fervet
O colat humanum te, foveatque, genus !
We cannot certainly infer, from this, an intimacy with Savage, but it is more probable, that these lines flowed from a feeling of private friendship, than mere admiration of an author, in a public point of view; and they, at any rate, give credibility to the general opinion, that, under the name of Thales, the poet referred to the author of the Wanderer, who was, at this time, preparing for his retreat to Wales, whither he actually went in the ensuing year.
The names of Lydiat, Vane, and Sedley, which are brought forward in the poem on the Vanity of Human Wishes, as examples of inefficiency of either learning or beauty, to shield their
possessors from distress, have exercised inquiry. The following is the best account of them we can collect:
Thomas Lydiat was born in 1572. After passing through the studies of the university of Oxford, with applause, he was elected fellow of New college ; but his defective utterance induced him to resign his fellowship, in order to avoid entering holy orders, and to live upon a small patrimony. He was highly esteemed by the accomplished and unfortunate prince Henry, son of James the first. But his hopes of provision in that quarter were blasted by that prince's premature death ; and he then accompanied the celebrated Usher into Ireland. After two or three years, he returned to England, and poverty induced him now to accept the rectory of Okerton, near Banbury, which he had before declined. Here he imprudently became security for the debts of a relation, and, being unable to pay, was imprisoned for several years. He was released, at last, by his patron, Usher, sir W. Boswell, Dr. Pink, then warden of New college, and archbishop Laud, to whom he showed his gratitude by writing in defence of his measures of church-government. He now applied to Charles the first for his protection and encouragement to travel into the east, to collect MSS. but the embarrassed state of the king's affairs prevented his petition from receiving attention. Lastly, his well-known attachment to the royal cause drew upon
him the repeated violence of the parliament troops, who plundered, imprisoned, and abused him, in the most cruel manner. He died in obscurity and indigence, in 1646. A stone was laid over his grave in Okerton church, in 1669, by the society of New college, who also erected an honorary monument to his memory in the cloisters of their college. We have dwelt thus long on Lydiat's name, because, when this poem was published, it was a subject of inquiry, who Lydiat was, though some of his contemporaries, both in England and on the continent, ranked him with lord Bacon, in mathematical and physical knowledge. For a more detailed account, see Chalmers' Biographical Dictionary, vol. xxi. whence the above facts have been extracted, and Gentleman's Magazine, vol. lxviii. Galileo, and his history, are too well known to require a note in this place.
The Vans, who told, “what ills from beauty spring,” was not Lady Vane, the subject of Smollett's memoirs, in Peregrine Pickle, but, according to Mr. Malone, she was Anne Vane, mistress to Frederick prince of Wales, and died in 1736, not long before Johnson settled in London. Some account of her was published, under the title of the Secret History of Vanella, 8vo. 1732, and in other similar works, referred to in Boswell, i. 173. In Mr. Boswell's Tour to the Hebrides, we find lord Hailes objecting to the instances of unfortunate beauties selected by Johnson, and suggesting, in place of Vane and Sedley, the names of Shore and Valière.
CATHERINE Sedley was daughter of sir Charles Sedley, mistress of king James the second, who created her countess of Dorchester. She was a woman of a sprightly and agreeable wit, which could charm without the aid of beauty, and longer maintain its power. She had been the king's mistress before he ascended the throne, and soon after (January 2, 1685-6) was created countess of Dorchester. Sir C. Sedley, her father, looked on this title, as a splendid indignity, purchased at the expense of his daughter's honour; and when he was very active against the king, about the time of the revolution, he said, that, in gratitude, he should do his utmost to make his majesty's daughter a queen, as the king had made his own a countess. The king continued to visit her, which gave great uneasiness to the queen, who employed her friends, particularly the priests, to persuade him to break off the correspondence. They remonstrated with him on the guilt of the commerce, and the reproach it would bring on the catholic religion ; she, on the contrary, employed the whole force of her ridicule against the priests and their counsels. They, at length, prevailed, and he is said to have sent her word to retire to France, or that her pension of 4,0001. a year should be withdrawn. She then, probably, repented of having been the royal mistress, and “cursed the form that pleased the king.”
See Manning and Bray's Surrey, ii. 788. where the countess's issue is also given. See, also, Christian's note on Blackstone's Com. iv. p. 65. It is remarkable, that when Johnson was asked, at a late period of his life, to whom he had alluded, under the name of Sedley, he said, that he had quite forgotten. See note on Idler, No. 36.-Ed.