Johnson, Charles

, a dramatic writer, was originally bred to the law, and a member of the Middle temple, but being a great admirer of the muses, and finding in himself a strong propensity to dramatic writing, he quitted his profession, and by contracting an intimacy with Mr. Wilks, the manager of the theatre, found means, through that gentleman’s interest, to get his plays on the stage without much difficulty. Some of them met with very good success, and being a constant frequenter of the meetings of the wits at Will’s and Button’s coffee-houses, he, by a polite and inoffensive behaviour, formed so extensive an acquaintance and intimacy, as constantly insured him great emoluments on his benefit night; by which means, being a man of oeconomy, he was enabled to subsist very genteelly. He at length married a young widow, with a tolerable fortune, on which he set up a tavern in Bow-street, Covent-garden, but quitted business at his wife’s death, and lived privately on an easy competence which he had saved. At what time he was born we know not, but he lived in the reigns of queen Anne, king George I. and part of George II. and died March 11, 1748. As a dramatic writer, he is far from deserving to be placed amongst the lowest class; for though his plots are seldom original, yet he has given them so many additions, and has clothed the designs of others in so pleasing a dress, that a great share of the merit they possess ought to be attributed to him.

Though, as we have observed, he was a man of a very inoffensive behaviour, he could not escape the satire of Pope, who, too ready to resent even any supposed offence, has, on some trivial pique, immortalized him in the “ | Dimciad;” and in one of the notes to that poem has quoted from another piece, called “The Characters of the Times,” the following- account of him “Charles Johnson, famous for writing a play every year, and for being at Button’s every day. He had probably thriven better in his vocation, had he been a small matter leaner; he may be justly called a martyr to obesity, and be said to have fallen a victim to the rotundity of his parts.” The friends of Johnson knew that part of this account was false, and probably did not think very ill of a man of whom nothing more degrading could be said than that he was fat. The dramatic pieces this author produced, nineteen in all, are enumerated in the Biographia Dramatica. 1


Cibber's Lives, vol. V. Biog. Dramatica.