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"If they are condemned unheard, it is because there is no need of a trial. The crime is manifest and notorious," &c. &c.
It appears from the fragments of the projected answer, that Johnson's pension was one of the points upon which Mr. Sheridan intended to assail him. The prospect of being able to neutralize the effects of his zeal, by exposing the nature of the chief incentive from which it sprung, was so tempting, perhaps, as to overrule any feelings of delicacy, that might otherwise have suggested the illiberality of such an attack. The following are a few of the stray hints for this part of his subject:
"It is hard when a learned man thinks himself obliged to commence politician. — Such pamphlets will be as trifling and insincere as the venal quit-rent of a birth-day ode. *
“Dr. J.'s other works, his learning and infirmities, fully entitled him to such a mark of distinction. There was no call on him to become politician. The easy quit-rent of refined
* On another scrap of paper I find "the miserable quitrent of an annual pamphlet." It was his custom in composition (as will be seen by many other instances) thus to try the same thought in a variety of forms and combinations, in order to see in which it would yield the greatest produce of wit.
panegyric, and a few grateful rhymes or flowery dedications to the intermediate benefactor
"The man of letters is rarely drawn from obscurity by the inquisitive eye of a sovereign: - it is enough for Royalty to gild the laurelled brow, not explore the garret or the cellar. In this case, the return will generally be ungrateful -the patron is most possibly disgraced or in opposition if he (the author) follows the dictates of gratitude, he must speak his patron's language, but he may lose his pension; but to be a standing supporter of ministry, is probably to take advantage of that competence against his benefactor. When it happens that there is great experience and political knowledge, this is more excusable; but it is truly unfortunate where the fame of far different abilities adds weight to the attempts of rashness
He then adds this very striking remark:"Men seldom think deeply on subjects on which they have no choice of opinion: - they are fearful of encountering obstacles to their faith (as in religion), and so are content with the surface."
Dr. Johnson says, in one part of his pamphlet, -"As all are born the subjects of some state or other, we may be said to have been all born
consenting to some system of government." On CHAP. this Sheridan remarks:-"This is the most slavish doctrine that ever was inculcated. If by our birth we gave a tacit bond for our acquiescence in that form of government under which we were born, there never would have been an alteration of the first modes of government no Revolution in England."
Upon the argument derived from the right of conquest he observes; "This is the worst doctrine that can be with respect to America. - If America is ours by conquest, it is the conquerors who settled there that are to claim these powers."
He expresses strong indignation at the "arrogance," with which such a man as Montesquieu is described as "the fanciful Montesquieu," by "an eleemosynary politician, who writes on the subject merely because he has been rewarded for writing otherwise all his lifetime."
In answer to the argument against the claims of the Americans, founded on the small proportion of the population that is really represented even in England, he has the following desultory memorandums: "In fact, every man in England is represented
every man can influence people, so as to get a vote, and even if in an election votes are divided, each candidate is sup
or Agamemnon.*- This an American cannot do in any way whatever.
"The votes in England are perpetually shifting: - were it an object, few could be excluded. - Wherever there is any one ambitious of assisting the empire, he need not put himself to much inconvenience. If the Doctor indulged his studies in Cricklade or Old Sarum, he might vote: the dressing meat, the simplest proof of existence, begets a title. His pamphlet shows that he thinks he can influence some one; not an anonymous writer in the paper but contributes his mite to the general tenor of opinion.
- At the eve of an election, his Patriot † was meant to influence more than the single voice of a rustic. Even the mob, in shouting, give votes where there is not corruption."
It is not to be regretted that this pamphlet was left unfinished. Men of a high order of genius, such as Johnson and Sheridan, should never enter into warfare with each other, but, like the gods in Homer, leave the strife to inferior spirits. The publication of this pamphlet would most probably have precluded its author
* He means to compare an election of this sort to the casting of lots between the Grecian chiefs in the 7th book of The Iliad.
The name of a short pamphlet, published by Dr. Johnson, on the Dissolution of Parliament in 1774.
from the distinction and pleasure which he after- CHAP. wards enjoyed in the society and conversation of the eloquent moralist, who, in the following year, proposed him as a member of the Literary Club, and always spoke of his character and genius with praise. Nor was Sheridan wanting on his part with corresponding tributes; for, in a prologue which he wrote about this time to the play of Sir Thomas Overbury, he thus alludes to Johnson's Life of its unfortunate author:
"So pleads the tale, and gives to future times
The son's misfortunes, and the parent's crimes;