1791 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Samuel Johnson

Causidicus, "A Poetical Epistle to James Boswell, Esq. on his Life of Dr. Johnson" St. James's Chronicle (9 June 1791).



Dear BOZZY!
Your Quartoes I've eagerly read
And in them discover'd much gold — and some lead;
By the touch-stone of truth and sincerity tried
A few faults (and but few I must own) I've espy'd.
Forgive then the Poet, nor censure the friend
If a little he blame, finding much to commend:
To point out those errors, and give thee the praise
Which to genius and virtue the world ever pays,
Is a task not ungrateful — and when I have done
You may call't, if you please — Map of spots in the sun.

With anecdote various, delightful and new
In brisk pleasing language brought forward to view;
Of gossip and chat inexhaustible store,
Which when we have read make us still wish for more;
From the grave and the gay, and the learn'd and polite,
Where wit, knowledge and laughter together unite;
Of praise and of censure at least "quantum suff";
With a little law argument, tiresome stuff!
With (here and there sprinkled) panegyrick and puff;
Much critical learning and plain common sense,
And some cant — at which some may perhaps take offence;
Make an Olla podrida, or rather a sallad,
Not hard to digest, nor ungrateful to palate.

Yet why should your page with law jargon be cramm'd?
And why is poor Goldy to ridicule damn'd?
And what has the reader, dear Bozzy, to do,
With your wife, your estate, or your children, I trow?
How often you're drunk, or how often you're ill?
Be sad or be merry, or just what you will;
These trifles the world are too apt to condemn,
And may think you to be — what you've stigmatiz'd them.

Yet Candour must own you have woven a crown
Of laurel unfading, conferring renown
On the great Lexicographer, moralist, friend,
Whom pleas'd from his birth to his death we attend:
His worth and his talents display'd to the view,
His meed of fair fame is bestowed as his due:
And Virtue and Science shall ever regard
With complacency, him who confers the reward.

And here would I finish my doggrel career,
But first let me whisper a word in your ear;
Enough to the Authour, enough to the Bard
Of your life and your mind has already been spar'd.
Tho' mirth, wit and gaiety charm thee awhile,
O! let not their pleasures thy reason beguile;
But, not yet declining, in prime of thy age
Let serious studies attention engage.
Let beauty and worth from thyself which have sprung,
The family ties of the fair and the young,
To pursuits more severe thy exertions withdraw
To shine, as before, in the Courts of our law;
And nobly to rival with emulous fame
A Mansfield's, a Thurlow's, a Wedderburne's name!
Not less are thy talents than some who have sate
At the Bar, on the Bench, and have govern'd the State;
But Patience and Industry both must combine,
Ere the palm of success on thy temples shall shine:
To these then thy homage, thy services pay,
Turn over black-letter by night and by day,
And so shall that race by the Lawyer be won,
Which the Bard and Biographer have but begun.