Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

not render them in any degree equal to him the croaking of the frogs ought not to have discomposed the lion. Instead of that, he frequently fell into the most outrageous fits of passion. He once told them that he could discipline a pack of hounds to yelp with much more melody, and equal 3 comprehension.

In the beginning of July, he made a speech on the enormities he ascribed to Hastings. In the picture he drew, he displayed powers which might have composed a most admirable tragedy. The sufferings he figured to himself, and the avarice and cruelty which his fancy drew as causing them, contained an equal degree of interest and passion with any exhibited on the stage. He brought forward a string of motions, as the foundation of an inquiry into the conduct of Mr. Hastings. Pitt very briefly opposed this, because there were not proofs of the fact, on the supposition of which Burke grounded his inquiry. It does

not

appear that at that time there really was that undoubted evidence of delinquency,which only could support the propriety of the motions. Burke's fancy and passions getting much warmer from opposition, pictured to him Hastings as the greatest monster that had ever existed. Persisting in pressing the subject, he was at length overpowered by a loud and continual clamour.

[ocr errors]

Burke did not enter much on Pitt's bill for the prevention of smuggling, and the commutation act. On the commutation act Mr. Courtenay very much distinguished himself, not only by his humour, but by his information and reasoning.

In the last measure of the session, framcd by the able and liberal mind of Dundas, most of the members were of one mind:the restoration of the forfeited estates. Burke appears to have been so much occu→ pied by inquiries into the conduct of Hastings, that he, during the latter part of that

[ocr errors]

session, seldom spoke, and never for any length of time. The session closed the 20th. of August.

Whilst the transactions of the GovernorGeneral were engaging the thoughts of Burke as a public man, a circumstance took place that much moved his feelings as a private. Dr. Johnson, after recovering from an alarming shock, was now in a state of health which, together with his age, appeared to predict a speedy dissolution. Burke went frequently to see his venerable friend, now confined to the bed of sickness. One day, he, along with his friend Mr. Windham, and several other gentlemen, was visiting the dying sage. Burke said, I am afraid, my dear Sir, such a number of us may be oppressive to you? No, Sir,' said Johnson, it is not so; and I must be in a wretched state, indeed, when your company would not be a delight to me.' Mr. Burke, in a tremulous voice, expressive of being very tenderly affected, replied, my dear Sir, you have always been too good ta

·

[ocr errors]

me.' He immediately afterwards went away. This was the last circumstance in the acquaintance of these two eminent

men.

The lofty spirit of Johnson, unbroken by old age and complicated disease, Burke venerated, as he had admired his intellectual force and exertions. He suggested to Boswell, as applicable to Johnson, what Cicero in his Cato Major says of Appius:• Intentum enim animum quasi arcum habebat, nec languescens succumbebat senectuti:' repeating, at the same time, the following noble words in the same passages: Ita enim senectus bonesta est si se ipsa defendit, si jus suum retinet, si nemini emancipata est, si usque ad extremum vitæ vindicat jus suum.

·

Perhaps literary history does not afford a more striking instance of extraordinary talents more happily and beneficially exerted than in the mind of Samuel Johnson. An understanding, acute, poignant, forcible, and profound; an imagination, rich, strong, and

brilliant; a most retentive memory, stored with knowledge; were uniformly directed to promote the cause of wisdom, virtue, and religion. His Essays,' to use the words of his able biographer,* form a body of ethics. In the usual progression of great minds, he became, as he advanced in years and knowledge, more practical. His Rambler shewed more of man in his general nature, as he himself says of Dryden: his Idler, as he says of Pope, more of man in his local manners. His Rambler was the work of a profound, comprehensive philosopher: his Idler, of a man of genius, experienced in life. The former describes men as they always are; the latter as they were then in England. As a critic, the world, since the time of Aristotle, has seen few, if any, equal to Johnson. Disregarding mere usage, he follows nature and reason. He considers not the mode in which the Greek tragedians arranged their performances, but the ope

VOL. II.

N

* Mr. Murphy, in his Life of Johnson,' p. 155.

[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »