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that they were long universally regarded as dictated by the very genius of English liberty, and as almost a sort of Bible, or heaveninspired exposition, of popular principles and rights. They contain, no doubt, many sound maxims, tersely and vigorously expressed ; but of profound or far-sighted political philosophy, or even of ingenious disquisition having the semblance of philosophy, there is as little in the Letters of Junius as there is in the Diary of Dodington or of Pepys; and, as for the writer's principles, they seem to be as much the product of mere temper, and of his individual animosities and spites, as even of his partisan habits and passions. He defends the cause of liberty itself in the spirit of tyranny ; there is no generosity, or even common fairness, in his mode of combating ; the newest lie, or private scandal, of the day serves as well, and as frequently, as anything else to point his sarcasm, or to arm with its vivid lightning the thunder of declamatory invective that resounds through his pages. Indeed, much of the popularity long enjoyed by these letters, as well as of the impression they made when they first appeared, is probably to be attributed to the singular fact that they supply, besides what other matter they may contain, a tolerably abundant chronique scandaleuse of the time,that this great public writer, the eloquent expounder and vindicator of constitutional principles and popular rights, is at the same time the chief recorder and preserver, at least in decent language, of the amours of the Duke of Grafton and Lord Irnham, and of the most piquant passages in the lives of Miss Kennedy, Miss Davis, and Nancy Parsons.
The character of Junius was drawn, while the mysterious shadow was still occupying the public gaze with its handwriting upon the wall, by one of the most distinguished of his contemporaries, in a publication which made a considerable noise at the time, but is now very much forgotten : — “ Junius has sometimes made his satire felt; but let not injudicious admiration mistake the venom of the shaft for the vigor of the bow. He has sometimes sported with lucky malice ; but to him that knows his company it is not hard to be sarcastic in a mask. While he walks, like Jack
the Giant-killer, in a coat of darkness, he may do much mischief with little strength.
Junius burst into notice with a blaze of impudence which has rarely glared upon the world before, and drew the rabble after him as a monster makes a show. When he had once provided for his safety by impenetrable secrecy, he had nothing to combat but truth and justice enemies whom he knows to be feeble in the dark. Being then at liberty to indulge himself in all the immunities of invisibility ; out of the reach of danger, he has been bold; out of the reach of shame, he has been confident. As a rhetorician, he has had the art of persuading when he seconded desire; as a reasoner, he has convinced those who had no doubt before; as a moralist, he has taught that virtue may disgrace; and, as a patriot, he has gratified the mean by insults on the high. Finding sedition ascendant, he has been able to advance it; finding the nation combustible, he has been able to inflame it.
It is not by his liveliness of imagery, his pungency of periods, or his fertility of allusions that he detains the cits of London and the boors of Middlesex. Of style and sentiment they take no cognizance : they admire him for virtues like their own, for contempt of order and violence of outrage, for rage of defamation and audacity of falsehood. Junius is an unusual phenomenon, on which some have gazed with wonder, and some with terror ; but wonder and terror are transitory passions. He will soon be more closely viewed, or more attentively examined; and what folly has taken for a comet, that from his flaming hair shook pestilence and war, inquiry will find to be only a meteor formed
vapors of putrefying democracy, and kindled into flame by the effervescence of interest struggling with conviction ; which, after having plunged its followers into a bog, will leave us inquiring why we regard it.” Thus wrote, in his ponderous but yet vigorous way, Samuel Johnson, in his pamphlet entitled Thoughts on the late Transactions respecting Falkland's Islands, published in 1771, in answer, as is commonly stated, to Junius's Fortysecond Letter, dated the 30th of January in that year. Junius, although he continued to write for a twelvemonth longer, never took any notice of this attack; and Mrs. Piozzi tells us that John
“ often delighted his imagination with the thoughts of having destroyed Junius.” The lively lady, however, is scarcely the best authority on the subject of Johnson's thoughts, although we may yield a qualified faith to her reports of what he actually said and
did. "He may, probably enough, have thought, and said too, that he had beaten or silenced Junius, referring to the question discussed in his unanswered pamphlet ; although, on the other hand, it does not appear that Junius was in the habit of ever noticing such general attacks as this : he replied to some of the writers who addressed him in the columns of the Public Advertiser, the newspaper in which his own communications were published, but he did not think it necessary to go forth to battle with any of the other pamphleteers by whom he was assailed, any more than with Johnson.
The great lexicographer winds up his character of Junius by remarking that he cannot think his style secure from criticism, and that his expressions are often trite, and his periods feeble. The style of Junius, nevertheless, was probably to a considerable extent formed upon Johnson's own. It had some strongly marked features of distinction, but yet it resembles the Johnsonian style much more than it does that of any other writer in the language antecedent to Johnson. Born in 1709, Johnson, after having while still resident in the country commenced his connection with the press by some work in the way of translation and magazine writing, came to London along with his friend and pupil, the afterwards celebrated David Garrick, in March, 1737; and forthwith entered upon a career of authorship which extends over nearly half a century. His poem of London, an imitation of the Third Satire of Juvenal, appeared in 1738; his Life of Savage, in a separate form, in 1744 (having been previously published in the Gentleman's Magazine); his poem entitled The Vanity of Human Wishes, an imitation of Juvenal's Tenth Satire, in 1749; his tragedy of Irene (written before he came up to London) the same year; The Rambler, as already mentioned, between March, 1750, and March, 1752; his Dictionary of the English Language in 1755 ; The Idler between April, 1758, and April, 1760; his Rasselas in 1759 ; his edition of Shakspeare in 1765 ; his Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland in 1775 ; his Lives of the Poets in 1781; the intervals between these more remarkable efforts having given birth to many magazine articles, verses, and pamphlets, which cannot be here enumerated. His death took place on the 13th of December, 1784. All the works the titles of which have been given may be regarded as having taken and kept their places in our standard literature ; and they form, in quantity at least, a
respectable contribution from a single mind. But Johnson's mina is scarcely seen at its brightest if we do not add to the productions of his own pen the record of his colloquial wit and eloquence preserved by his admirable biographer, Boswell, whose renowned work first appeared, in two volumes quarto, in 1790; having, however, been preceded by the Journal of the Tour to the Hebrides, which was published the year after Johnson's death. It has been remarked, with truth, that his own works and Boswell's Life of him together have preserved a more complete portraiture of Johnson, of his intellect, his opinions, his manners, his whole man inward and outward, than has been handed down from one age to another of any other individual that ever lived. Certainly no celebrated figure of any past time still stands before our eyes so distinctly embodied as he does. If we will try, we shall find that all others are shadows, or mere outlines, in comparison; or, they seem to skulk about at a distance in the shade, while he is there fronting us in the full daylight, so that we see not only his worsted stockings and the metal buttons on his brown coat, but every feature of that massive countenance, as it is solemnized by meditation or lighted up in social converse, as his whole frame rolls about in triumphant laughter, or, as Cumberland saw the tender-hearted old man, standing beside his friend Garrick's open grave, at the foot of Shakspeare's monument, and bathed in tears. A noble heroic nature was that of this Samuel Johnson, beyond all controversy : not only did his failings lean to virtue's side his very intellectual weaknesses and prejudices had something in them of strength and greatness; they were the exuberance and excess of a rich mind, not the stinted growth of a poor one. There was no touch of meanness in him : rude and awkward enough he was in many points of mere demeanor, but he had the soul of a prince in real generosity, refinement, and elevation. Of a certain kind of intellectual faculty, also, his endowment was very high. His quickness of penetration, and readiness in every way, were probably as great as had ever been combined with the same solid qualities of mind. Scarcely before had there appeared so thoughtful a sage, and so grave a moralist, with so agile and sportive a wit. Rarely has so prompt and bright a wit been accompanied by so much real knowledge, sagacity, and weight of matter. But, as we have intimated, this happy union of opposite kinds of power was most complete, and only produced its full effect, in his collo
quial displays, when, excited and unformalized, the man was really himself, and his strong nature forced its way onward without regard to anything but the immediate object to be achieved. In writing he is still the strong man, working away valiantly, but, as it were, with fetters upon his limbs, or a burden on his back; a sense of the conventionalities of his position seems to oppress him; his style becomes artificial and ponderous; the whole process of his intellectual exertion loses much of its elasticity and life ; and, instead of hard blows and flashes of flame, there is too often, it must be confessed, a mere raising of clouds of dust and the din of inflated commonplace. Yet, as a writer, too, there is much in Johnson that is of no common character. It cannot be said that the world is indebted to him for many new truths, but he has given novel and often forcible and elegant expression to some old ones ; the spirit of his philosophy is never other than manly and high-toned, as well as moral ; his critical speculations, if not always very profound, are frequently acute and ingenious, and in manner generally lively, not seldom brilliant. Indeed, it may be said of Johnson, with all his faults and shortcomings, as of every man of true genius, that he is rarely or ever absolutely dull. Even his Ramblers, which we hold to be the most indigestible of his productions, are none of them mere leather or prunello ; and his higher efforts, his Rasselas, his Preface to Shakspeare, and many passages in his Lives of the Poets, are throughout instinct with animation, and full of an eloquence which sometimes rises almost to poetry. Even his peculiar style, whatever we may allege against it, bears the stamp of the man of genius ; it was thoroughly his own ; and it not only reproduced itself, with variations, in the writings of some of the most distinguished of his contemporaries, from Junius's Letters to Macpherson's Ossian, but, whether for good or for evil, has perceptibly influenced our literature, and even in some degree the progress of the language, onwards to the present day. Some of the characteristics of the Johnsonian style, no doubt, may be found in older writers, but, as a whole, it must be regarded as the invention of Johnson. No sentence-making at once so uniformly clear and exact, and so elaborately stately, measured, and sonorous, had proceeded habitually from any previous English pen. posity and inflation of Johnson's composition abated considerably in his own later writings, and, as the cumbering flesh fell off, the nerve and spirit increased: the most happily executed parts of the