« PreviousContinue »
"I have sat twice to Sir Joshua, and he seems to like his own performance. He has projected another, in which I am to be busy ; but we can think on it at leisure.
"Mrs. Williams is come home better, and the habitation is all concord and harmony; only Mr. Levett harbours discontent. With Dr. Lawrence's consent, I have, for the last two nights, taken musk: the first night was a worse night than common, the second, a better; but not so much better as that I dare ascribe any virtue to the medicine. I took a scruple each time."
"Oct. 81, 1778.
"Sir Joshua has finished my picture, and it seems to please everybody, but I shall wait to see how it pleases you. To-day Mrs. Williams and Mrs. Desmoulins had a scold, and Williams was going away; but I bid her not turn tail, and she came back, and rather got the upper hand."
TO CAPTAIN LANGTON.1
"Oct. 81, 1778.
"DEAR SIR,-When I recollect how long ago I was received with so much kindness at Warley common, I am ashamed that I have not made some inquiries after my friends.
'Pray how many sheep-stealers did you convict? and how did you punish them? When are you to be cantoned in Better habitations? The air grows cold, and the ground damp. Longer stay in the camp cannot be without much danger to the health of the common men, if even the officers can escape.
"You see that Dr. Percy is now dean of Carlisle; above five hundred a year, with a power of presenting himself to some good living. He is provided for. The session of the Club is to commence with that of the Parliament. Mr. Banks desires to be admitted; he will be a very honourable accession.
"Did the king please you? The Coxheath men, I think, have some reason to complain. Reynolds says your camp is better than theirs. I hope you find yourself able to encounter this weather. Take care of your own health; and, as you can, of your men. Be pleased to make my compliments to all the gentlemen whose notice I have had, and whose kindness I have experienced. I am, dear Sir, &c. SAM. JOHNSON."
I wrote to him on the 18th of August, the 18th of September, and the 6th of November; informing him of my having had another son born, whom I had called James;' that I had passed some time
1 Dr. Johnson here addresses his worthy friend, Bennet Langton, Esq., by his title as Captain of the Lincolnshire Militia, in which he has since been most deservedly raised to the rank of Major.-C.
2 Afterwards Sir Joseph.-C.
This was the gentleman who contributed a few notes to this work. He was of Brazn
at Auchinleck; that the Countess of Loudoun, now in her ninetyninth year, was as fresh as when he saw her, and remembered him with respect; and that his mother by adoption, the Countess of Eglintoune, had said to me, "Tell Mr. Johnson, I love him exceedingly;" that I had again suffered much from bad spirits; and that as it was very long since I heard from him, I was not a little uneasy.
The continuance of his regard for his friend, Dr. Burney, appears from the following letters:
TO THE REV. DR. WHEELER.'
"London, Nov. 2, 1778.
DEAR SIR, Dr. Burney, who brings this paper, is engaged in a History of Music; and having been told by Dr. Markham of some MSS. relating to his subject, which are in the library of your college, is desirous to examine them. He is my friend; and therefore I take the liberty of entreating your favour and assistance in his inquiry; and can assure you, with great confidence, that if you knew him he would not want any intervenient solicitation to obtain the kindness of one who loves learning and virtue as you love them.
"I have been flattering myself all the summer with the hope of paying my annual visit to my friends; but something has obstructed me; I still hope not to be long without seeing you. I should be glad of a little literary talk; and glad to show you, by the frequency of my visits, how eagerly I love it, when you talk it. I am, dear Sir, &c.,
TO THE REV. DR. EDWARDS. 2
"London, Nov. 2, 1778.
"SIR,-The bearer, Dr. Burney, has had some account of a Welsh manuscript in the Bodleian library, from which he hopes to gain some materials for his History of Music; but being ignorant of the language, is at a loss where to find assistance. I make no doubt but you, Sir, can help him through his dif ficulties, and therefore take the liberty of recommending him to your favour,
nose College, and a Vinerian Fellow, and died in February, 1822, at his chambers, in the Temple.-HALL. I had the pleasure of his acquaintance. He published an edition of Shakspeare; was very convivial.; and in other respects like his father-though altogether on a smaller scale.-C.
1 Benjamin Wheeler was entered at Trinity College, November 12, 1751. In 1776 he was appointed Regius Professor of Divinity and canon of Christ-church.-HALL.
2 Edward Edwards entered at Jesus College, 1743, æt. 17; M. A. 1749; B. D. 1756; and D. D. 1760.-HALL.
as I am sure you will find him a man worthy of every civility that can be shown, and every benefit that can be conferred.
"But we must not let Welsh drive us from Greek. What comes of Xenophon? If you do not like the trouble of publishing the book, do not let your commentaries be lost; contrive that they may be published somewhere. I am, Sir, &c., SAM. JOHNSON."
These letters procured Dr. Burney great kindness and friendly offices from both of these gentlemen, not only on that occasion, but in future visits to the university. The same year Dr. Johnson not only wrote to Joseph Warton in favour of Dr. Burney's youngest son, who was to be placed in the college of Winchester, but accompanied him when he went thither.
We surely cannot but admire the benevolent exertions of this great and good man, especially when we consider how grievously he was afflicted with bad health, and how uncomfortable his home was made by the perpetual jarring of those whom he charitably accom. modated under his roof. He has sometimes suffered me to talk jocularly of his group of females, and call them his Seraglio. He thus mentions them, together with honest Levett, in one of his letters to Mrs. Thrale: "Williams hates everybody; Levett hates Desmoulins, and does not love Williams; Desmoulins hates them both; Poll loves none of them."
1 Dr. Edwards was preparing an edition of Xenophon's Memorabilia, which, however, he did not live to complete.-C. It was published in 1785, with a preface by Dr. Owen.
2 Miss Carmichael.-B. I have not learned how this lady was connected with Dr. Johnson. It was no doubt his domestic experience which prompted his complimentary exclamation to Hannah More and her four sisters, "What! five women live happily together! !"—More's Life, v. i. p. 67.-C. 1885.
These connexions exposed him to trouble and incessant solicitation, which he bore well enough; but his inmates were enemies to his peace, and occasioned him great disquiet: the jealousy that subsisted among them rendered his dwelling irksome to him, and he seldom approached it, after an evening's conversation abroad, but with the dread of finding it a scene of disorder, and of having his ears filled with the complaints of Mrs Williams of Frank's neglect of his duty and inattention to the behests of his master, and of Frank against Mrs. Williams, for the authority she assumed over him, and exercised with an unwarrantable severity. Even those intruders who had taken shelter under his roof, and who, in his absence from home, brought thither their children, found cause to murmur; "their provision of food was scanty, or their dinners ill-dressed;" all which he chose to endure, rather than put an end to their clamours by ridding his home of such thankless and troublesome guests. Nay, so insensible was he of the ingratitude of those whom he suffered thus to hang upon him, and among whom he may be said to have divided an income which was little more than sufficient for his own support, that he would submit to reproach and personal affront from some of them; even
TO JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ.
"Nov. 21, 1778.
"DEAR SIR,-It is indeed a long time since I wrote, and I think you must have some reason to complain; however, you must not let small things disturb you, when you have such a fine addition to your happiness as a new boy, and I hope your lady's health restored by bringing him. It seems very probable that a little care will now restore her, if any remains of her complaints are left.
"You seem, if I understand your letter, to be gaining ground at Auchinleck, an incident that would give me great delight.
"When any fit of anxiety, or gloominess, or perversion of mind lays hold upon you, make it a rule not to publish it by complaints, but exert your whole care to hide it; by endeavouring to hide it you will drive it away. Be always busy.
"The Club is to meet with the parliament; we talk of electing Banks, the traveller; he will be a reputable member. Langton has been encamped with his company of militia on Warley-common; I spent five days amongst them; he signalized himself as a diligent officer, and has very high respect in the regiment. He presided when I was there at a court-martial; he is now quartered in Hertfordshire; his lady and little ones are in Scotland. Paoli came to the camp, and commended the soldiers.
"Of myself I have no great matters to say; my health is not restored; my nights are restless and tedious. The best night that I have had these twenty years was at Fort Augustus.
"I hope soon to send you a few Lives to read. affectionate,
About this time the Reverend Mr. John Hussey, who had been some time in trade, and was then a clergyman of the church of England, being about to undertake a journey to Aleppo, and other parts of the East, which he accomplished, Dr. Johnson (who had long been in habits of intimacy with him) honoured him with the following letter :
TO MR. JOHN HUSSEY.
am, dear Sir, your most
"Dec. 29, 1778.
"DEAR SIR, I have sent you the 'Grammar,' and have left you two books more, by which I hope to be remembered; write my name in them; we may, perhaps, see each other no more: you part with my good wishes, nor do I despair of seeing you return. Let no opportunities of vice corrupt you; let
Levett would sometimes insult him, and Mrs. Williams, her paroxysms of rage, has been known to drive him from her presence.-HAWKINS.
no bad example seduce you; let the blindness of Mahometans confirm you in Christianity. God bless you. I am, dear Sir, your affectionate humble servant, SAM. JOHNSON."
Johnson this year expressed great satisfaction at the publication of the first volume of "Discourses to the Royal Academy," by Sir Joshua Reynolds, whom he always considered as one of his literary school. Much praise indeed is due to those excellent Discourses, which are so universally admired, and for which the author received from the Empress of Russia a gold snuff-box, adorned with her profile in bas relief, set in diamonds and containing what is infinitely more valuable, a slip of paper, on which are written, with her imperial majesty's own hand, the following words :-"Pour le Chevalier Reynolds, en témoignage du contentement que j'ai ressentie à la lecture de ses excellens Discours sur la Peinture."
This year, Johnson gave the world a luminous proof that the vigour of his mind in all its faculties, whether memory, judgment, or imagination, was not in the least abated; for this year came out the first four volumes, of his "Prefaces, biographical and critical, to the most eminent of the English Poets,"* published by the booksellers of London. The remaining volumes came out in the year 1780. The poets were selected by the several booksellers who had the honorary copyright, which is still preserved among them by mutual compact, notwithstanding the decision of the House of Lords against the perpetuity of literary property. We have his own authority,' that by his recommendation the poems of Blackmore, Watts, Pomfret, and Yalden, were added to the collection. Of this work I shall speak more particularly hereafter.
TO MRS. ASTON.
"Bolt Court, Fleet Street, Jan. 2, 1779. "DEAR MADAM,-Now the new year is come, of which I wish you and dear Mrs. Gastrel many and many returns, it is fit that I give you some account of the year past. In the beginning of it I had a difficulty of breathing, and other illness, from which, however, I by degrees recovered, and from which I am now tolerably free. In the spring and summer I flattered myself that I should come to Lichfield, and forbore to write till I could tell of my intentions with
1 Life of Watts.