chapter  27
22 Pages

The Vanity of Human Wishes

Dictionary; phantoms spectres; shade place of seclusion. [156] reversed turned to the contrary. [158] letters learning. [160] patron This famous alteration from the first edition, which had 'garret', was made in 1755. Johnson made the change in the wake of his disillusionment with Lord Chesterfield who, though he had not supported Johnson at all during his work over the Dictionary, claimed an interest in it when it came out in 1755. Johnson wrote a letter to him telling him how his concern came too late. The word 'patron' is defined in the Dictionary as 'commonly a wretch who supports with insolence, and is paid with flattery'. [162] the tardy bust The bust of Milton was placed in Westminster Abbey in 1737; the monument to Dryden was erected in 1720, and the monument to Shakespeare in 1741. [163] attend attend to. [164] Lydiat Thomas Lydiat (1572-1646), theo­ logian, mathematician and astron­ omer. He was fellow of New College, Oxford. His contemporaries thought very highly of him as a scholar, but he lived and died in poverty; Galileo (1564-1642), who with the aid of the telescope established the validity of Copernicus's theory that in the plane­ tary system the earth revolved round the sun; this view was unacceptable to the church authorities and Galileo was brought before the Inquisition in 1633. He passed the last eight years of his life under what we would call 'house arrest'. [135-64] The portrait of the scholar has many personal touches, and Johnson may be expressing his own difficulties here as he worked on his Dictionary. He was also harking back to his years of hardship at Oxford. Mrs Thrale

records how affected he was when he read the poem to a circle of friends: When Dr. Johnson read his own satire, in which the life of a scholar is painted, with the various obstructions thrown in his way to fortune and to fame, he burst into a passion of tears one day, the family and Mr. Scott only were present, who, in a jocose way, clapped him on the back, and said, What's all this, my dear Sir? Why you, and I, and Hercules, you know, were all troubled with melancholy. . . The Doctor was so delighted at this odd sally, that he suddenly embraced him, and the subject was immediately changed. [166] glittering eminence the prominent position. [167] awed feared rather than frightened. [168] Rebellion the Puritan rebels; vengeful talons note the compressed but powerful metaphor; Laud William Laud (1573-1645), authoritarian divine who supported the king in his conflict with the Commons; Chancellor of Oxford, 1629; Archbishop of Canterbury, 1633. Impeached for treason in 1640 and beheaded in 1645. [169] content content the persecutor. [170] sequestered sequestrated, diverted from its owner. [171] dangerous in the sense of 'powerful'; parts 'Qualities; powers, faculties, or accom­ plishments', Johnson, Dictionary. [172] fatal learning It was not strictly speaking Laud's learning that led to his death, but rather the part he played in the affairs of church and state. [173] art and genius Oxford University, of which Laud was benefactor. [175] festal of festivity and celebration; blazes Johnson could have in mind the sacrificial fires of the Roman altars; triumphal show victory parades.