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the Tenth Satire of Juvenal," a too near recurrence of the verb spread in his description of the young enthusiast at college :
"Through all his veins the fever of renown
He had desired me to change spreads to burns; but for perfect authenticity, I now had it done with his own hand." I thought this alteration not only cured the fault, but was more poetical, as it might carry an allusion to the shirt by which Hercules was inflamed.
We had a quiet, comfortable meeting at Mr. Dilly's; nobody there but ourselves. Mr. Dilly mentioned somebody having wished that Milton's "Tractate on Education" should be printed along with his Poems in the edition of the English Poets then going on. JOHNSON. It would be breaking in upon the plan; but would be of no great consequence. So far as it would be anything, it would be wrong. Education in England has been in danger of being hurt by two of its greatest men, Milton and Locke. Milton's plan is impracticable, and I suppose has never been tried. Locke's, I fancy, has been tried often enough, but is very imperfect; it gives too much to one side, and too little to the other; it gives too little to literature. I shall do what I can for Dr. Watts; but my materials are very scanty. His poems are by no means his best works; I cannot praise his poetry itself highly, but I can praise his design." My illustrious friend and I parted with assurances of affectionate regard.
I wrote to him on the 25th of May, from Thorpe, in Yorkshire, one of the seats of Mr. Bosville, and gave him an account of my having passed a day at Lincoln, unexpectedly, and therefore without having any letters of recommendation, that I had been honoured with civilities from the Reverend Mr. Simpson, an acquaintance of
1 The slip of paper on which he made the correction is deposited by me in the noble library to which it relates, and to which I have presented other pieces of his handwriting.—B. Yet, strange to say, the correction has never been made in any of the subsequent editions of the poem. Nay, the Oxford edition observes upon it in a note, but does not correct it in the text.-C.
his, and Captain Broadley, of the Lincolnshire militia; but more particularly from the Reverend Dr. Gordon, the chancellor, who first received me with great politeness as a stranger, and, when I informed him who I was, entertained me at his house with the most flattering attention: I also expressed the pleasure with which I had found that our worthy friend, Langton, was highly esteemed in his own county town.
FROM MR. BOSWELL.
"Edinburgh, June 18, 1778. "MY DEAR SIR, **Since my return to Scotland, I have been again at Lanark, and have had more conversation with Thomson's sister. It is strange that Murdoch, who was his intimate friend, should have mistaken his mother's maiden name, which he says was Hume, whereas Hume was the name of his grandmother by the mother's side. His mother's name was Beatrix Trotter,' a daughter of Mr. Trotter of Fogo, a small proprietor of land. Thomson had one brother, whom he had with him in England as his amanuensis; but he was seized with a consumption, and having returned to Scotland, to try what his native air would do for him, died young. He had three sisters: one married to Mr. Bell, minister of the parish of Strathaven; one to Mr. Craig, father of the ingenious architect, who gave the plan of the New Town of Edinburgh; and one to Mr. Thomson, master of the grammar-school at Lanark. He was of a humane and benevolent disposition; not only sent valuable presents to his sisters, but a yearly allowance in money, and was always wishing to have it in his power to do them more good. Lord Lyttelton's observation, that 'he loathed much to write,' was very true. His letters to his sister, Mrs. Thomson, were not frequent; and in one of them he says, 'All my friends who know me, know how backward I am to write letters; and never impute the negligence of my hand to the coldness of my heart.' I send you a copy of the last letter which she had from him; she never heard that he had any intention of going into holy orders. From this late interview with his sister, I think much more favourably of him, as I hope you will. I am eager to see more of your Prefaces to the Poets: I solace myself with the few proof-sheets which I have.
"I send another parcel of Lord Hailes's 'Annals,' which you will please to return to me as soon as you conveniently can. He says, 'he wishes you would cut a little deeper;' but he may be proud that there is so little occasion to use the critical knife. I ever am, my dear Sir, &c. JAMES BOSWELL."
Mr. Langton has been pleased, at my request, to favour me with
1 Dr. Johnson was by no means attentive to minute accuracy in his "Lives of the Poets; ' for, notwithstanding my having detected the mistake, he continued it.
some particulars of Dr. Johnson's visit to Warley-camp, where this gentleman was at the time stationed as a captain in the Lincolnshire militia. I shall give them in his own words in a letter to me.
"It was in the summer of the year 1778, that he complied with my invitation to come down to the camp at Warley, and he staid with me about a week; the scene appeared, notwithstanding a great degree of ill health that he seemed to labour under, to, interest and amuse him, as agreeing with the disposition that I believe you know he constantly manifested towards inquiring into subjects of the military kind. He sate, with a patient degree of attention, to observe the proceedings of a regimental court-martial, that happened to be called in the time of his stay with us; and one night, as late as at eleven o'clock, he accompanied the major of the regiment in going what are styled the rounds, where he might observe the forms of visiting the guards, for the seeing that they and their sentries are ready in their duty on their several posts. He took occasion to converse at times on military topics, once in particular, that I see the mention of, in your 'Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides,' which lies open before me, as to gunpowder; which he spoke of to the same effect, in part, that you relate.
"On one occasion, when the regiment were going through their exercise, he went quite close to the men at one of the extremities of it, and watched all their practices attentively; and, when he came away, his remark was, 'The men indeed do load their muskets and fire with wonderful celerity.' He was likewise particular in requiring to know what was the weight of the musket balls in use, and within what distance they might be expected to take effect when fired off.
"In walking among the tents, and observing the difference between those of the officers and private men, he said, that the superiority of accommodation of the better conditions of life, to that of the inferior ones, was never exhibited to him in so distinct a view. The civilities paid to him in the camp were, from the gentlemen of the Lincolnshire regiment, one of the officers of which accommodated him with a tent in which he slept; and from General Hall, who very courteously invited him to dine with him, where he appeared to be very well pleased with his entertainment and the civilities he received on the part of the General; the attention likewise of the General's aide-de-camp, Captain Smith, seemed to be very welcome to him, as appeared by their engaging in a great deal of discourse together. The gentlemen of the East-York regiment likewise, on being informed of his coming, solicited his company at dinner, but by that time he had fixed his departure, so that he could not comply with the invitation."
1 When I one day at court expressed to General Hall my sense of the honour he had done my friend, he politely answered, "Sir, I did myself honour."
TO JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ.
"London, July 8, 1778. "SIR, I have received two letters from you, of which the second complains of the neglect shown to the first. You must not tie your friends to such punctual correspondence. You have all possible assurances of my affection and esteem; and there ought to be no need of reiterated professions. When it may happen that I can give you either counsel or comfort, I hope it will never happen to me that I should neglect you; but you must not think me criminal or cold, if I say nothing when I have nothing to say.
"You are now happy enough. Mrs. Boswell is recovered; and I congratulate you upon the probability of her long life. If general approbation will add anything to your enjoyment, I can tell you that I have heard you mentioned as a man whom everybody likes. I think life has little more to give. "Langton has gone to his regiment. He has laid down his coach, and talks of making more contractions of his expense: how he will succeed, I know not. It is difficult to reform a household gradually; it may be done better by a system totally new. I am afraid he has always something to hide. When we pressed him to go to Langton, he objected the necessity of attending his navigation; yet he could talk of going to Aberdeen, a place not much nearer his navigation. I believe he cannot bear the thought of living at Langton in a state of diminution; and of appearing among the gentlemen of the neighbourhood shorn of his beams. This is natural, but it is cowardly. What I told him of the increasing expense of a growing family, seems to have struck him. He certainly had gone on with very confused views, and we have, I think, shown him that he is wrong; though, with the common deficience of advisers, we have not shown him how to do right.
"I wish you would a little correct or restrain your imagination, and imagine that happiness, such as life admits, may be had at other places as well as London. Without affecting Stoicism, it may be said, that it is our business to exempt ourselves as much as we can from the power of external things. There is but one solid basis of happiness; and that is, the reasonable hope of a happy futurity. This may be had everywhere.
"I do not blame your preference to London to other places, for it is really to be preferred, if the choice is free; but few have the choice of their place, or their manner of life; and mere pleasure ought not to be the prime motive of action.
"Mrs. Thrale, poor thing, has a daughter. Mr. Thrale dislikes the times, like the rest of us. Mrs. Williams is sick; Mrs. Desmoulins is poor. I have miserable nights. Nobody is well but Mr. Levett. I am, dear Sir, your most, &c., SAM. JOHNSON."
1 The Wey canal, from Guildford to Weybridge, in which he had a considerable share, which his grandson now possesses.-C.
2 His lady and family, it appears, were in Scotland at this period.-C.
In the course of this year there was a difference between him and his friend Mr. Strahan; the particulars of which it is unnecessary to relate. Their reconciliation was communicated to me in a letter from Mr. Strahan in the following words :
"The notes I showed you that past between him and me were dated in March last. The matter lay dormant till 27th July, when he wrote to me as follows:
TO WILLIAM STRAHAN, ESQ.
"'SIR,—It would be very foolish for us to continue strangers any longer. You can never by persistency make wrong right. If I resented too acrimoniously, I resented only to yourself. Nobody ever saw or heard what I wrote. You saw that my anger was over; for in a day or two I came to your house. I have given you a longer time; and I hope you have made so good use of it, as to be no longer on evil terms with, Sir, yours, &c.,
"On this I called upon him: and he has since dined with me."
After this time, the same friendship as formerly continued between Dr. Johnson and Mr. Strahan. My friend mentioned to me a little circumstance of his attention, which, though we may smile at it, must be allowed to have its foundation in a nice and true knowledge of human life. "When I write to Scotland," said he, "I employ Strahan to frank my letters, that he may have the consequence of appearing a parliament-man among his countrymen."
TO MRS. THRALE.
"Oct. 15, 1778.
"As to Dr. Collier's 1 epitaph, Nollekens has had it so long, that I have for. gotten how long. You never had it. There is a print of Mrs. Montagu, and I shall think myself very ill rewarded for my love and admiration, if she does not give me one; she will give it nobody in whom it will excite more respectful sentiments. But I never could get anything from her but by pushing a face; and so, if you please, you may tell her.
"When I called the other day at Burney's, I found only the young ones at home; at last came the doctor and madam, from a dinner in the country, to tell how they had been robbed as they returned. The doctor saved his purse, but gave them three guineas and some silver, of which they returned him three-and-sixpence, unasked, to pay the turnpike.
1 Dr. Collier, of the Commons, an early friend of Mrs. Thrale's, who died 28d May, 1777.-C.