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Thus would I double my life's fading space,
And in this true delight,
But boldly say each night,
You may see by it I was even then acquainted with the poets (for the conclusion is taken out of Horace); and perhaps it was the immature and immoderate love of them, which stamped first, or rather engraved, the characters in me. They were like letters cut in the bark of a young tree, which, with the tree, still grow proportionably. But, how this love came to be produced in me so early, is a hard question: I believe I can tell the particular little chance that filled my head first with such chimes of verse, as have never since left ringing there for I remember when I began to read, and take some pleasure in it, there was wont to lie in my mother's parlour, (I know not by what accident, for she herself never in her life read
any book but of devotion;) but there was wont to lie Spencer's Works; this I happened to fall upon, and was infinitely delighted with the stories of the knights, and giants, and monsters, and brave houses, which I found every where there: (though my uns derstanding had little to do with all this) and by des grees, with the tinkling of the rhyme, and dance of the numbers, so that I think I had read him all over before I was twelve years old, and was thus made a poet as immediately as a child is made an eunuch. With these affections of mind, and my heart wholly set upon letters, I went to the university; but was soon torn from thence by that public violent storm, which would suffer nothing to stand where it did, but rooted up every plant; even from the princely cedars; to me, the hyssop. Yet I had as good fortune as 'could have befallen me in such a tempest; for I was cast by it into the family of one of the best persons, and into the court of one of the best princesses in the world. Now, though I was here engaged in ways most contrary to the original design of my life; that is, into much company, and no small business, and into a daily sight of greatness, both militant and triumphant, (for that was the state then of the English and the French courts; yet all this was so far from altering my opinion, that it only added the confirmation of reason to that which was before but natural inclination. I saw plainly all the paint of that kind of life, the nearer I came to it; and that beauty which I did not fall in love with, when, for aught I knew, it was real, was not like to bewitch, or intice me, when I saw it was adulterate. I met with several great
persons, whom I liked very well; but could not pera ceive that any part of their greatness was to be liked or desired, no more than I would be glad or content to be in a storm, though I saw many ships which rid safely and bravely in it. A storm would not agree with my stomach, if it did with my courage; though I was in a crowd of as good company as could be found any where, though I was in business of great and honourable trust, though I eat at the best table, and enjoyed the best conveniences for present subsistence that ought to be desired by a man of my condition, in banishment and public distresses; yet I could not abstain from renewing my old school-boy's wish, in a copy of verses to the same effect:
Well then; I now do plainly see,
And I never then proposed to myself any other advantage from his majesty's happy restoration, but the getting into some moderately convenient retreat in the country, which I thought in that case I inight easily have compassed, as well as some others, who, with no greater probabilities or pretences, have ar. rived to extraordinary fortunes. But I had before written a shrewd prophecy against myself, and I think Apollo inspired me in the truth, though not in the elegance of it:
Thou neither great at Court, nor in the War,
However, by the failing of the forces which I had expected, I did not quit the design which I had resolved on; I cast myself into it a corpus pérdi, without making capitulations, or taking counsel of fortune. But God laughs at man, who says to his soul, Take thy wase: I met presently not only with many liftle incumbrances and impediments, but with so much sickness, (a new mnisfortune to me) as would have spoiled the happiness of an emperor, as well as mine. Yet I do neither repent nor alter my course; Non ego perfidum dixi sacramentum. Nothing shall separate me from a mistress which I have loved so long, and have now at last married; though she neither has brought me a rich portion, nor lived yet so quietly with me as I hoped from her.
Nec ros dulcissima miundi
-Nor by me e'er shall you,
Dr. Johnson's character of his prose style merits quotation : “ No author (says he) ever kept his verse and prose at a greater distance from each other. His thoughts are natural, and his style has a smooth and placid equability, which has never yet obtained its due commendation. Nothing is far-sought, or hard-laboured, but all is easy without feebleness, and familiar without grossness."