Page images
PDF
EPUB

entertainment, and left him not one idle or languid hour."

The progress which the art of painting has made in this country within the last half century, is to be attributed almost entirely to the pencil and the pen of Sir Joshua Reynolds: which of these, indeed, has contributed most effectually to the establishment of an English School, it would be difficult to decide. Their union, however, has been creative beyond the expectations of the most sanguine; and there is much reason to hope, that the disciples of so great a master, animated by his spirit and example, will support and extend his efforts, and will finally carry the productions and reputation of his school to the highest pitch of celebrity

The three Essays which Sir Joshua composed for the Idler are on the subject of painting ; namely, No. 76, on False Criticism on Painting; No. 79, on the Grand Style of Painting; and No. 82, on the True Idea of Beauty. They contain many just observations and precepts, in a style sufficiently easy and correct. To ridicule the cant of connoisseurship, is the principal object of the first of these papers: the second discloses the lofty idea which the author had conceived, and ever retained, of the genius of Michael Angelo,

Malone's Life of Sir Joshua, vol. 1. p. 85, 86.

whom he justly terms the Homer of Painting ; and the third is an attempt to establish a general criterion of beauty;, a subject full of difficulty, and which, if not very satisfactorily explained in this essay, is yet discussed with no small portion of ingenuity.

Bennet LANGTON, of Langton, in Lincolnshire, descended of an ancient and most respectable family, was one of the best beloved and most intimate of the friends of Dr. Johnson, whose acquaintance he solicited, from an ardent admiration of his Rambler, soon after the conclusion of that work. He was introduced to the Doctor by Mr. Levet, and, as Mr. Boswell relates," was exceedingly surprized when the sage first appeared. He had not received the smallest intimation of his figure, dress, or manner. From perusing his writings, he fancied he should see a decent, well-drest, in short, a remarkably decorous philosopher. Instead of which, down from his bed-chamber, about noon, came, as newly risen, a huge uncouth figure, with a little dark wig which scarcely covered his head, and his clothes hanging loose about him. But his conversation was so rich, so animated, and so forcible, and his religious and political notions so congenial with those in which Langton had been educated, that he conceived for him that veneration and attachment which he ever preserved.” *

Mr. Langton finished his education at Trinity College, Oxford, and was, in 1778, a Captain in the Lincolnshire Militia. During his encampment at Warley, in this year, he was visited by Johnson, who spent a week with him much to his satisfaction, and highly amused by the novelty of the scene.

To the moral and religious character of Mr. Langton, which was in every respect great and unexceptionable, Johnson has borne the noblest and the warmest testimony. Speaking of him to Mr. Boswell in 1777, he thus expresses himself: " The earth does not bear a worthier man than Bennet Langton;" + and in 1784, after conversing on death, and its awful consequences, he exclaimed, “I know not who will go to Heaven if Langton does not. Sir, I could almost say, Sit anima mea cum Langtono.I The Doctor's affection for Mr. Langton was strongly exhibited on his death-bed; when, turning to him, he tenderly said, Te tene'm moriens deficiente manu. $

* Boswell's Life of Johnson, vol. 1. p. 211. + Boswell's Life of Johnson, vol. 3. p. 175.

Vol. 4. p. 294. Vol. 4. p. 435.

This good man died on December the 18th, 1801. He was the contributor of one essay to the IDLER, No 67, containing a Scholar's Journal. The object of this paper, which is written with a considerable portion of spirit and humour, is, to shew how impracticable it frequently proves, to adhere to a prescribed plan of study, independent of circumstances and inclination; and that it would be often better to pursue the literary attraction of the hour, provided it be not trifling or vicious, than to toil reluctantly, at a fixed period, over what presents to the imagination nothing but the image of compulsory labour. This advice, though it may occasionally be followed with advantage, is rather too favourable to indolence to be inculcated on a broad scale. Desultory study was one of the failings of Johnson; and I rather imagine, that Mr. Langton intended his paper to convey some indirect and ironical strictures on the practice of his friend.

[ocr errors]
[blocks in formation]

TWEEN THE PUBLICATION OF THE RAMBLER, ADVENTURER, AND IDLER.

IT

T will be the business of this Essay to enumerate the various Periodical Papers which were commenced between the first number of the Rambler and the last of the Idler; that is, between March the 20th, 1750, and April the 5th, 1760; a period in which, though embracing little more than ten years, not less than twenty papers, independent of the Johnsonian essays, had been candidates for public favour.

Among these will be found the World and the Connoisseur; the authors of which have had the honour, and perhaps justly, of ranking with the few who have obtained the appellation of British Classical Essayists. The World therefore, and the Connoisseur, will very properly demand a greater

« PreviousContinue »