How well Johnson himself could have executed a translation of this philosophical poet, we may judge from the following specimen which he has given in the Rambler: (Motto to No. 7.)
'O qui perpetua mundum ratione gubernas, Terrarum caelique sator! Disjice terrenae nebulas et pondera molis, Atque tuo splendore mica! Tu namque serenum, Tu requies tranquilla piis. Te cernere finis, Principium, vector, dux, semita, terminus, idem.'
'O thou whose power o'er moving worlds presides, Whose voice created, and whose wisdom guides, On darkling man in pure effulgence shine, And cheer the clouded mind with light divine. 'Tis thine alone to calm the pious breast, With silent confidence and holy rest; From thee, great God! we spring, to thee we tend, Path, motive, guide, original, and end!'
[Page 140: Abridgments. A.D. 1739.]
[Page 141: Marmor Norfolciensc. AEtat 30.]
In 1739, beside the assistance which he gave to the Parliamentary Debates, his writings in the Gentleman's Magazine were, 'The Life of Boerhaave,'[*] in which it is to be observed, that he discovers that love of chymistry which never forsook him; 'An Appeal to the publick in behalf of the Editor;'[dagger] 'An Address to the Reader;'[dagger] 'An Epigram both in Greek and Latin to Eliza,'[*] and also English verses to her;[*] and, 'A Greek Epigram to Dr. Birch.'[*] It has been erroneously supposed, that an Essay published in that Magazine this year, entitled 'The Apotheosis of Milton,' was written by Johnson; and on that supposition it has been improperly inserted in the edition of his works by the Booksellers, after his deceasc. Were there no positive testimony as to this point, the style of the performance, and the name of Shakspeare not being mentioned in an Essay professedly reviewing the principal English poets, would ascertain it not to be the production of Johnson. But there is here no occasion to resort to internal evidence; for my Lord Bishop of Salisbury (Dr. Douglas) has assured me, that it was written by Guthrie. His separate publications were, 'A Complete Vindication of the Licensers of the Stage, from the malicious and scandalous Aspersions of Mr. Brooke, Authour of Gustavus Vasa,'[*] being an ironical Attack upon them for their Suppression of that Tragedy; and, 'Marmor Norfolciense; or an Essay on an ancient prophetical Inscription in monkish Rhyme, lately discovered near Lynne in Norfolk, by PROBUS BRITANNICUS.'[*] In this performance, he, in a feigned inscription, supposed to have been found in Norfolk, the county of Sir Robert Walpole, then the obnoxious prime minister of this country, inveighs against the Brunswick succession, and the measures of government consequent upon it. To this supposed prophecy he added a Commentary, making each expression apply to the times, with warm Anti-Hanoverian zeal.
This anonymous pamphlet, I believe, did not make so much noise as was expected, and, therefore, had not a very extensive circulation. Sir John Hawkins relates, that, 'warrants were issued, and messengers employed to apprehend the authour; who, though he had forborne to subscribe his name to the pamphlet, the vigilance of those in pursuit of him had discovered;' and we are informed, that he lay concealed in Lambeth-marsh till the scent after him grew cold. This, however, is altogether without foundation; for Mr. Steele, one of the Secretaries of the Treasury, who amidst a variety of important business, politely obliged me with his attention to my inquiry, informed me, that 'he directed every possible search to be made in the records of the Treasury and Secretary of State's Office, but could find no trace whatever of any warrant having been issued to apprehend the authour of this pamphlet.'
[Page 142: Reprint of Marmor Norfolciensc. A.D. 1739.]
Marmor Norfolciense became exceedingly scarce, so that I, for many years, endeavoured in vain to procure a copy of it. At last I was indebted to the malice of one of Johnson's numerous petty adversaries, who, in 1775, published a new edition of it, 'with Notes and a Dedication to SAMUEL JOHNSON, LL.D. by TRIBUNUS;' in which some puny scribbler invidiously attempted to found upon it a charge of inconsistency against its authour, because he had accepted of a pension from his present Majesty, and had written in support of the measures of government. As a mortification to such impotent malice, of which there are so many instances towards men of eminence, I am happy to relate, that this telum imbelle did not reach its exalted object, till about a year after it thus appeared, when I mentioned it to him, supposing that he knew of the re-publication. To my surprize, he had not yet heard of it. He requested me to go directly and get it for him, which I did. He looked at it and laughed, and seemed to be much diverted with the feeble efforts of his unknown adversary, who, I hope, is alive to read this account. 'Now (said he) here is somebody who thinks he has vexed me sadly; yet, if it had not been for you, you rogue, I should probably never have seen it.'
[Page 143: 'Paper-sparing Pope.' AEtat 30.]