Sunday, February 5, 2017

Arlene Corwin writes

When I’m Gone

When I’m gone
I’d like whomever,
To sit ‘round a table,
Read a poem or two or eight,
Tell a joke, a story,
On me with love the modus operandi.

Meanwhile I endeavor
To make this life a label,
Every movement something –
Health, a lesson, teaching.
Life is peachy if I let it,
Up and out and reaching.
 Image result for poets around a table painting
A Literary Party at Sir Joshua Reynolds’s -- James William Edmund Doyle

[James Boswell, Samuel Johnson, Joshua Reynolds, David Garrick, Edmund Burke, Pasquale Paoli, Charles Burney, Thomas Warton, Oliver Goldsmith]


  1. "I’d like whomever, To sit ‘round a table, Read a poem or two or eight"

    Samuel Johnson and Joshua Reynolds founded The Literary Club (or “The Club”) in 1764. It began with 9 members. The Club's toast, "Esto perpetua" (Latin for "Let it be perpetual"), was the dying declaration of 17th-century theologian Paolo Sarpi on behalf of the independence of the Venetian Republic. Thereafter membership was by unanimous election only. (Actor David Garrick, for one, was admitted with difficulty, since Reynolds had told Johnson that he had spoken too casually of joining The Club, which Johnson regarded as an insult.) Samuel Dyer became the first elected member; Hawkins left in 1768, ostracized for his verbal abuse of Burke. Then membership was increased to 12 and barrister Robert Chambers, bishop Thomas Percy and author George Colman were added. According to Percy, "It was intended the Club should consist of Such men, as that if only Two of them chanced to meet, they should be able to entertain each other without wanting the addition of more Company to pass the Evening agreeably." Its purpose was an open display of wit, and Johnson in particular had no scruples in demonstrating his verbal dexterity at the sake of others. When Goldsmith, the butt of everyone’s jokes, suggested expanding the club’s membership, since they all talked together so much “there can now be nothing new among us: we have traveled over one another’s minds," Johnson replied, "Sir, you have not traveled over my mind, I promise you." The Club grew to 16 members in 1773, then to 21 in late 1775; by then the roster included Garrick, economist Adam Smith, philologist William Jones, Shakespearean scholar George Steevens, James Boswell, politician Charles James Fox, physician/chemist George Fordyce, James Caulfeild (1st Earl of Charlemont), Agmondesham Vesey, Thomas Charles Bunbury, historian Edward Gibbon, and Thomas Barnard. Later member Charles Burney wrote that Johnson wanted a group "composed of the heads of every liberal and literary profession" and "have somebody to refer to in our doubts and discussions, by whose Science we might be enlightened." By 1780 they ruled that their current number, 40, could not be exceeded. By 1791 membership included Lord Charlemont, Joseph Banks, Joseph Warton, Lord Spencer, and Lord Palmerston.

  2. James Boswell, 9th Laird of Auchinleck, was a Scottish diarist. At 13 he enrolled at the University of Edinburgh amd at 19 at the University of Glasgow, where he attended the lectures of Adam Smith. When he decided to convert to Catholicism and become a monk, his father forced him to sign away most of his inheritance in return for an annual allowance, which he doubled when Boswell passed his oral law exam. On 16 May 1763 "Bozzy" met Johnson, and they became friends almost immediately. On that occasion, Bowell said, "I do indeed come from Scotland, but I cannot help it," to which Johnson remarked, "That, Sir, I find, is what a very great many of your countrymen cannot help." Some three months later, he went to Europe and met luminaries such as the Corsican independence leader Pasquale Paoli and Jean-Jacques Rousseau; when he returned to London in 1766 he was accompanied by Rousseau's mistress, with whom he had an affair on the journey home. Then he spent over a decade practising law, while spending a month every year with Johnson's literary (and other) friends, contracting venereal disease at least 17 times. He was a frequent guest of the founder of modern comparative historical linguistics James Burnett, Lord Monboddo, whose daughter was a romantic interest of the family friend Robeert Burns (whose "Elegy on The Late Miss Burnet of Monboddo" became her elegy), and he associated with Henry Home, Lord Kames, whose writings were precursers to sociology and anthropology, and other luminaries of the Scottish Enlightenment such as David Hume, whose "Treatise of Human Nature" ushered in a philosophical system of radical empiricism, skepticism, and naturalism. After Johnson's death Boswell moved permanently to London, where he unsuccessfully sought a career in Parliament. He spent his final years writing his "Life of Samuel Johnson LL D," which he published to immediate acclaim in 1791, and is often regarded as the greatest biography ever written. But it was not until the 1920s that his private papers, including journals for much of his life, were discovered and subsequently published by Yale University.

  3. Samuel Johnson, the son of a bookseller, was a poet, essayist, moralist, literary critic, biographer, editor, and lexicographer. At the age of three he began memorizing the "Book of Common Prayer" and began writing poems and transations at 16. At 19 he entered Pembroke College at the University of Oxford, where he produced a Latin translation of Alexander Pope's "Messiah" as a Christmas exercise in a single afternoon and morning, but he was only able to afford to study there for 13 months; in 1755 Oxford awarded him a Master of Arts degree in anticipation of his dictionary and an honorary doctorate in 1775. When he was 25 he married a 46-year-old widow of means and then opened Edial Hall School, a private academy that only attracted three students, including 18-year-old David Garrick. Instead of trying to keep the failing school afloat, Johnson began to write his first major work, the historical tragedy "Irene," which Garrick finally produced (in 1749) as "Mahomet and Irene." By 1737 he began a voluminous career as a writer for "The Gentleman's Magazine." He anonymously published his first major poem, "London," in 1738. Meanwhile, ashamed of spending his wife's money, he left her and was forced to spend his nights in taverns or "night-cellars" or roaming the streets because he had no money. In 1741, David Hume claimed, "The Elegance and Propriety of Stile have been very much neglected among us. We have no Dictionary of our Language, and scarce a tolerable Grammar." Five years later Johnson agreed to create an authoritative dictionary in three years. (It had taken 40 scholars 40 years to complete a French dictionary for the Académie Française, prompting Johnson to calculate "forty times forty is sixteen hundred. As three to sixteen hundred, so is the proportion of an Englishman to a Frenchman.") The work actually took him eight years to complete, but "A Dictionary of the English Language" (1755) became the pre-eminent British dictionary until the "Oxford English Dictionary} came out in 1928. Not the first, or largest dictionary, it contained 42,773 entries but illustrated their usage with about 114,000 literary quotations. Unhappy with two recommendations written by his patron, he complained, "Is not a patron, my lord, one who looks with unconcern on a man struggling for life in the water, and when he has reached ground, encumbers him with help? The notice which you have been pleased to take of my labours, had it been early, had been kind: but it has been delayed till I am indifferent and cannot enjoy it; till I am solitary and cannot impart it; till I am known and do not want it."

  4. Meanwhile, in 1750, he decided to produce anonymous essays in a twice-weekly magazine, "The Rambler." His most highly regarded poem, "The Vanity of Human Wishes," an imitation of the 10th satire of Decimus Iunius Iuvenalis ("Juvenal") was critically celebrated but sold fewer copies than "London." In 1756 he was arrested for debt, but was released through the intervention of novelist Samuel Richardson, and he launched a new publihing venture, "The Literary Magazine, or Universal Review." He also began working on a corrected edition of William Shakespeare's plays" but was again arrested for debt (repaid by his Shakespeare publisher) and began a new series, "The Idler," which was published in a weekly news journal, "The Universal Chronicle" from 1758 to 1760, and published a novella, "Rasselas" (1759), which was immediately translated into French, Dutch, German, Russian and Italian and saw a new English edition almost every year. It was written in one week to pay for his mother's funeral and settle her debts. In 1762 George III granted him a modest annual pension in appreciation for the Dictionary, largely through the efforts of playwright/politician Richard Brinsley Sheridan. "The Plays of William Shakespeare" finally came out in 1765 and included notes that clarified the meaning of any passages. In 1775 he published "A Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland," as he called his 1773 travels with Boswell (whose 1786 acount, "The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides" was a preliminary step toward his biography). In 1781 he completed critical and biographical studies which appeared as prefaces to selections of various English poets that appeared in six volumes; these "Lives of the English Poets" were his last major work; his insistence on biographical accuracy went against the grain of a society that was unwilling to accept details that tarnish literary reputations. He was buried in Westminster Abbey.

  5. Joshua Reynolds was knighted by George III in 1769, only the second artist to be so honored. He had been apprenticed in 1740 to a fashionable London portrait painter but only stayed with him for three of the four years of intent. Lord Edgcumbe, who had known Reynolds as a boy, introduced him to commodore Augustus Keppel in 1749, who took him on a voyage to the Mediterranean; from Minorca he travelled alone to italy and spent two years in Roma. Edgcumbe suggested that he should study with Pompeo Batoni, the leading painter in Rome, but Reynolds replied that he had nothing to learn from him. (Decades later, Reynolds painted Lord Keppel after his acquittal for misconduct and neglect of duty after the Channel Fleet failed to defeat the French off Ushant in 1778.) When Reynolds returned to England, Edgecumbe persuaded the dukes of Devonshire and Grafton to sit for him, and other peers followed, including the third son of George II. In addition to these full-length portraits, he did many smaller works, sometimes five or six a day. In 1764 he founded The Club with Johnson, Goldsmith, Edmund Burke, Christopher Nugent, Topham Beauclerk, Bennet Langton, Anthony Chamier, and John Hawkins; they met every Monday evening for supper and conversation in a suite of rooms on the first floor of the Turks Head in Gerrard Street and continued into the early hours of Tuesday morning. Reynolds was one of the earliest members of the Royal Society of Arts, helped found the Society of Artists of Great Britain, and in 1768 became the first president of the Royal Academy of Arts, a position he held until his death in 1792; between 1769 and 1790 he delivered a series of lectures at the Academy between 1769 and 1790, in which he insisted that "invention, strictly speaking, is little more than a new combination of those images which have been previously gathered and deposited in the memory." In 1784 he threatened to resign his presidency unless he was appointed principal painter in ordinary to the king, then within weeks complianed, "it is a most miserable office, it is reduced from two hundred to thirty-eight pounds per annum, the Kings Rat catcher I believe is a better place, and I am to be paid only a fourth part of what I have from other people, so that the Portraits of their Majesties are not likely to be better done now, than they used to be, I should be ruined if I was to paint them myself." However, he was forced into retirement n 1789, after he lost the sight of his left eye. In 1791 Boswell dedicated his Johnson biography to him. Burke was present when he died and drafted a eulogy: "Sir Joshua Reynolds was on very many accounts one of the most memorable men of his Time. He was the first Englishman who added the praise of the elegant Arts to the other Glories of his Country. In Taste, in grace, in facility, in happy invention, and in the richness and Harmony of colouring, he was equal to the great masters of the renowned Ages."

  6. David Garrick, actor, playwright, theater manager, and producer, influenced nearly all aspects of English theatrical practice throughout the 18th century, including set design, costumes and even special effects. As an actor, he promoted realistic performances that departed from the bombastic style that was entrenched when he first came to prominence; historian Nicolas Tindal claimed that "The 'deaf' hear him in his 'action, and the 'blind' see him in his 'voice.'" Johnson proclaimed that "his profession made him rich and he made his profession respectable." After Johnson's Edial Hall School failed, the two traveled to London, where Garrick started a wine business that failed. In 1740 he saw his first play, "Lethe: or Aesop in the Shade," produced at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, and within a year he was appearing in small parts at the Goodman's Fields Theatre under the management of Henry Giffard, who had helped him get a wine contract at the Bedford Coffee-house, an establishment patronized by many theatrical and literary people. In his first six months as an actor he played 18 roles; on 19 October 1741, he appeared as Shakespeare's Richard III and abandond his wine business for good. Based on the public reaction to that role, Charles Fleetwood engaged him for the 1742-1743 season at the Theatre Royal. He remained with the Drury Lane company for the next five years. With the end of the 1746–1747 season, Fleetwood's patent on Drury Lane expired, and, in partnership with James Lacy, Garrick purchased it, inaugurating 29 years of his management and making it one of the leading theaters in Europe. Its first performance under his leadership was his reading of an ode by Johnson, promising "The drama's law the drama's patrons give, / For we that live to please must please to live." In 1769 he staged a Shakespeare Jubilee in Stratford-upon-Avon to celebrate the "bicentnnial" of Shakespeare's birth there (it was five years too late), a major focal point in the emerging movement that helped cement Shakespeare as England's national poet. He died less than three years after his retirement and was interred in Poets' Corner in Westminster Abbey. after a lavish public funeral.

  7. Edmund Burke was an Irish statesman, author, orator, and political philosopher. At Trinity College Dublin he formed Edmund Burke's Club, a debating society, in 1747, which merged with the school's Historical Club in 1770 to form the College Historical Society, the world's oldest undergraduate society. After abandoning the study of law in London, he wrote a satire, "A Vindication of Natural Society: A View of the Miseries and Evils Arising to Mankind" in 1756 and "A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful" in 1757, which attracted the attention of Denis Diderot and Immanuel Kant; he was still 18. The following year he married the daughter of physician Christopher Nugent. Then he founded the "Annual Register" and remained its chief editor until 1789; there is no evidence that any other writer contributed to it before 1766. He accompanied the new chief secretary for Ireland as his private secretary, a position he held for thre years before becoming private secretary to the prime minister Charles, marquess of Rockingham. In 1765 he entered the House of Commons as Member for Wendover, a pocket borough in the gift of one of Rockingham's allies, and jojoined the circle of literati who associated with Johnson. In his "Thoughts on the Cause of the Present Discontents" in 1770 and other works he argued against unrestrained royal power and for the role of political parties in maintaining a principled opposition capable of preventing abuses by the monarch or specific factions within the government, and in 1775, less than a month before the American Revolution began, he pleaded for reconciliation with the discontented colonies; in irritation, Johnson wrote a parody of it. In 1774, Burke was elected Member for Bristol, "England's second city" at the time, but his support for unpopular causes, notably free trade with Ireland and Catholic Emancipation, led to the loss of his seat in 1780. For the remainder of his parliamentary career, he represented Malton, another pocket borough under Rockingham's patronage. In 1781, as chairman of the Commons Select Committee on East Indian Affairs, he was the first to delve into the issues surrounding the company's rule. When Lord North's government fell in 1782 Rockingham was recalled to power and Burke was appointed paymaster of the forces and a privy counsellor, but within months Rockingham died. In his short tenure, Burke ended the paymaster's post as a lucrative sinecure by disallowing the ability to draw money from the treasury at his discretion; instead, they were required to put the requested money into the Bank of England and withdraw it for specific purposes, while the treasury would receive monthly statements of the paymaster's balance. In 1783 North formed a new coalition government that included Charles James Fox, and Burke resumed his post as paymaster, but that government quickly fell and Burke was in opposition for the remainder of his political life. In 1786 his efforts to have Warren Hastings, former governor-general of Bengal, impeached came to fruition; the trial did not begin until 1788, and the House of Lords eventually acquitted Hastings despite his impeachment in the house. In 1790 he published "Reflections on the Revolution in France" in which he argued against the idea of abstract, metaphysical human rights, leading Sheridan and Fox to break with him and the break-up of the Whig Party. In addition Mary Wollstonecraft's "A Vindication of the Rights of Men" and Thomas Paine's "Rights of Man" vigorously refuted him. burke resigned his seat in 1794 and declined an elevation as earl of Beaconsfield.

  8. Pasquale di Paoli was the son of Giacinto Paoli, one of three "Generals of the People" in the Corsican nationalist movement that rebelled against the Republic of Genoa in 1729. Genoa responded with pleas for intervention from Austria and then from France. After surrendering to the French in 1739, Giacinto Paoli went into exile in Napoli with his then 14-year-old son, Pasquale, while an older brother, Clemente, remained on the island as a liaison to the revolutionary assembly of the people. Corsican exiles in Italy continued to promote the revolution and offered to make Theodor freiherr von Neuhoff their king. With the aid of the bey of Tunis, he landed in Corsica in 1736 and at first waged war successfully against the Genoese, but factional infighting forced him to evacuate; after sounding out the possibility of protection from Spain and Napoli, he set off to Holland where he was arrested for debt. (When he regained his freedom he sent his nephew to Corsica with a supply of arms and himself in person in 1738, 1739, and 1743, but the combined Genoese and French forces continued to occupy the island. In 1749 he went to England to seek support but fell into debt again and was confined in a debtors' prison in London until 1755, when he settled with his creditors by turning over his kingdom to them. He subsisted on Horace Walpole's charity until his death in London in 1756.)

  9. In 1741 Pasquale joined the Corsican regiment of the royal Neapolitan army and served in Calabria under his father. Pasquale opposed a plan to ask the Knights of Malta to intervene, and Giacinto engineered a general election to supplant Theodor I; the highland clans elected Pasquale general-in-chief of Corsica, but the lowland clans elected Mario Matra, who promptly attacked Paoli's supporters, calling for assistance form the Genovese, who still controlled the coastal cites; but Matra was killed in battle and Paoli consolidated his position. He drafted a constitution creating a representative republic, which was ratified in 1755, and he was elected president of the executive council of the General Diet of the People of Corsica. In a secret treaty, Genoa sold Corsica to France in 1764, which the French publicly announced in 1768. Paoli then led a guerilla war but was defeated in 1769 and fled to England, where he soon became part of the Johnson circle. After a series of interviews with George III, Paoli was given a pension with the understanding that if he ever returned to Corsica he would support British interests against the French.

  10. In 1780 and again in 1790 France officially annexed Corsica, but the 1790 action was taken by the revolutionary National Assembly, which amnestied the exiles. Napoleone di Buonaparte, descended from minor Italian nobility of Tuscan origin who had gone to Corsica from Liguria in the 16th century, was born the year France conquered the island; his father had been Corsica's representative to the court of Louis XVI in 1777, and his uncle was Swiss cardinal Joseph Fesch; he trained to become an artillery officer and, when his father's death reduced his income, was forced to complete the two-year course in one year, becoming the first Corsican to graduate from the École Militaire. He changed his name to Napoleon Bonaparte, and took leave in Corsica after the French Revolution began in 1789, writing to Pasquale, "As the nation was perishing I was born. Thirty thousand Frenchmen were vomited on to our shores, drowning the throne of liberty in waves of blood. Such was the odious sight which was the first to strike me." In 1791, the National Assembly ordered elections for the officers of the Corsican National Guard, which Napoleon had created; after kidnapping one candidate "to keep him safe" and having another beat up, he was elected lieutenant-colonel; he organized Jacobin clubs and arrested high-ranking French officers. He organized Paoli's re-election as president. Bonaparte was promoted to captain in the regular army in 1792, despite exceeding his leave of absence and leading a riot against French troops. After the execution of Louis XVI Paoli allied with the royalists; when the revolutionary government ordered him to take Sardinia he put his nephew Pietro Paolo Colonna-Cesari in charge of the expedition with secret orders to lose the conflict. He sent Bonaparte as a colonel in command of two companies of Corsican guard (unofficially reinforced by 6,000 revolutionaries from Marseille), which participated in the assault on La Maddalena in 1793, but the island had been reinforced just prior to the attack and the defenders mysteriously seemed to know exactly where and when the revolutionaries were going to strike. Bonaparte assumed command, but his renewed attack failed and he barely escaped. The Bonaparte family denounced Paoli as a traitor, and the French National Convention issued arrest warrants and sent reinforcements, but the Paolists and royalists defeated the Bonapartes and drove them from the island. Paoli summoned a consulta at Corte, formally seceded from France, and requested protection from the UK. Royalists at Toulon also requested British protection, and admiral Samuel Hood was sent to their aid, but the French army, under Bonaparte's direction, ejected Hood, who then proceded to Corsica to aid Paoli. Bonaparte was promoted to brigadier general and sent to Italy. The Corsicans accepted Geoorge III as sovereign head of state but retained their independence. In 1796 the British forced Paoli to resign and return to England, and the French reconquered the island soon after.

  11. Charles Burney, the son of a musician, dancer and portrait painter, was the father of writers Frances and Sarah Burney and the explorer James Burney, who accompanied James Cook on his last two voyages. In 1766 he produced an adaptation of Jean-Jacques Rousseau's opera "Le devin du village," under the title "The Cunning Man," which was performed for Garrick's theater. In 1770 he went to Paris, Geneva, Turin, Milano, Padua, Venice, Bologna, Florence, Roma, and Napoli to conduct research, and "The Present State of Music in France and Italy" (1771) that resulted served as a model for Johnson's own "Tour of the Hebrides," who admitted "I had that clever dog Burney's Musical Tour in my eye." Burney returned to the continent in 1772. His "History of Music" appeared in 1776, 1782, and 1789. Reynolds painted him in 1781 and contemplated writing a biography of Johnson. Due to the influence of Burke he was appointed organist to the chapel of Chelsea Hospital in 1783, and in 1784 wrote the music that would be annually performed in the pope's chapel at Roma during Easter week.

  12. Thomas Warton the Younger was a literary historian, critic, and poet laureate from 1785 to 1790. The son of poet Thomas Warton the Elder, he translated one of the epigrams of Marcus Valerius Martialis ("Martial") at nine and wrote his best-known poem "The Pleasures of Melancholy" at 17. He graduated from Oxford in 1747 and was appointed professor of poetry there in 1757 and later, in 1785, Camden professor of history. His three-volume "History of English Poetry" (which only covered the 11th through the 16th centuries) appeared between 1774–81. He contributed to the general project of the ballad revival and helped revive the sonnet form. His championship of the poetry of Thomas Gray led Johnson to satirize him in his parody "Hermit hoar, in solemn cell."

  13. Oliver Goldsmith was an Irish novelist, playwright, and poet from a family of clerics and attended Trinity College Dublin to study theology and law, but he fell to the bottom of his class and was expelled for a riot in which he attempted to storm the Marshalsea Prison, though he received a Bachelor of Arts in 1749. From 1752 to 1755 he studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh. After a walking tour, busking with his flute, of Flanders, France, Switzerland and northern Italy, he settled in London in 1756 and briefly held various jobs, including an apothecary's assistant and an usher of a school. Perennially in debt and addicted to gambling, he produced a massive output as a hack writer and became part of the Johnson circle. Burke introduced him to Sir George Savile, who arranged a job for him at Thornhill Grammar School and served as his model for Squire Thornhill in "The Vicar of Wakefield." In 1760 in the "Public Ledger" he started a series of fictional letters by a Chinese traveler to comment on English mores; these were collectively "The Citizen of the World." Between 1761 and 1762 he wrote the novel "The Vicar of Wakefield: A Tale, Supposed to be written by Himself;" in 1764, acording to Johnson, "I received one morning a message from poor Goldsmith that he was in great distress, and, as it was not in his power to come to me, begging that I would come to him as soon as possible. I sent him a guinea, and promised to come to him directly. I accordingly went as soon as I was dressed, and found that his landlady had arrested him for his rent, at which he was in a violent passion: I perceived that he had already changed my guinea, and had a bottle of Madeira and a glass before him. I put the cork into the bottle, desired he would be calm, and began to talk to him of the means by which he might be extricated. He then told me he had a novel ready for the press, which he produced to me. I looked into it and saw its merit; told the landlady I should soon return; and, having gone to a bookseller, sold it for sixty pounds. I brought Goldsmith the money, and he discharged his rent, not without rating his landlady in a high tone for having used him so ill." Even then, the book was not published until 1766. His fame as a writer was due to his philosophical poem "The Traveller; or, a Prospect of Society" (1764). In 1768 he wrote "The Good-Natur'd Man," which Garrick rejected but was staged at the rival Covent Garden Theatre. In 1770 he published the poem "The Deserted Village." Covent Garden staged "She Stoops to Conquer" in 1773. His death in 1774 at around 36 was due to his own misdiagnosis of a kidney infection. Johnson provided an epitaph for a monument in Westminster Abbey.


Join the conversation! What is your reaction to the post?