1807 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Lord Chesterfield

Lady Anne Hamilton, in Epics of the Ton (1807) 277-78 & n.



With downcast visage, and with falt'ring speech,
No lord shall hear my recreant tongue beseech;
Show, in his booby face, the mantling smile,
While all my ills I tell, and all my toil;
With heart unmoved, observe my wants complain,
And say, "he'll think on't" — but never think again—
Till raised, like Johnson, quite beyond his aid,
I throw the paltry pageant in the shade;
Who then, with smile and condescending card,
Would meanly share my duly-earn'd reward.

There is no instance in which the mind is more completely gratified by the triumph of humble merit over hereditary power and wealth, than in the transactions between Lord Chesterfield and Dr. Johnson. When the undiscerning peer, after abandoning the poor unknown author to his wretchedness, endeavoured afterwards (when Johnson had, by his unaided efforts, drawn upon himself the eyes of the world) to seize the station of patron, and share the applause which the author had earned, the indignant letter which Johnson wrote him excites corresponding sentiments in every breast. Yet Chesterfield was no common lord: He could make merry with titles and privileges: He could term the House of Peers, the "Hospital of Incurables": He could wonder that Chatham would voluntarily enter into such a society: And he could talk of genius and learning as infinitely more dignified than whatever monarchs can bestow. If, therefore, even Chesterfield acted this part with Johnson, what is to be expected from others?