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selves, Sir, I do not like to give Opposition the satisfaction of knowing how much I disapprove of the ministry." And when I mentioned that Mr. Burke had boasted how quiet the nation was in George the Second's reign, when Whigs were in power, compared with the present reign, when Tories governed ; Why, Sir," said he, "you are to consider that Tories having more reverence for government, will not oppose with the same violence as Whigs, who, being unrestrained by tual vrinciple, will oppose by any means.”
This month he lost not only Mr. Thrale, vut another friend, Mr. William Strahan, junior. printer, the eldest son of his old and constant frien: . printer to his majesty.
LETTER 399. TO MRS. STRAHAN.
6 April 23. 1781. “Dear MADAM, The grief which I feel for the loss of a very kind friend is sufficient to make me know how much you suffer by the death of an amiable son : a man of whom I think it may be truly said, that no one knew him who does not lament him. I look upon myself as having a friend, another friend, taken from
“Comfort, dear Madam, I would give you, if I could ; but I know how little the forms of consolation can avail. Let me, however, counsel you not to waste your health in unprofitable sorrow, but go to Bath, and endeavour to prolong your own life; but when we have all done all that we can, one friend must in time lose the other. I am, dear Madam, your, &c.
" SAM JOHNSON.” On Tuesday, May 8., I had the pleaure of again
dining with him and Mr. Wilkes, at Mr. Dilly's. No negotiation was now required to bring them together; for Johnson was so well satisfied with the former interview, that he was very glad to meet Wilkes again, who was this day seated between Dr. Beattie and Dr. Johnson ; (between Truth ('), and Reason, as General Paoli said, when I told him of it.) WILKES. “I have been thinking, Dr. Johnson, that there should be a bill brought into parliament that the controverted elections for Scotland should be tried in that country, at their own Abbey of Holyrood-house, and not here; for the consequence of trying them here is, that we have an inundation of Scotchmen, who come up and never go back again. Now, here is Boswell, who is come upon the election for his own county, which will not last a fortnight.” Johnson. “Nay, Sir, I see no reason why they should be tried at all; for, you know, one Scotchman is as good as another.” WILKES. “Pray, Boswell, how much may be got in a year by an advocate at the Scotch bar?” Boswell. “I believe, two thousand pounds." WILKES. “How can it be possible to spend that money in Scotland ? ” JOHNSON. “ Why, Sir, the money may be spent in England; but there is a harder question. If one man in Scotland gets possession of two thousand pounds, what remains for all the rest of the nation?” Wilkes. “ You know, in the last war, the immense booty which Thurot carried off by the complete plunder of seven Scotch isles ; he re-embarked with three and six
(1) In allusion to Dr. Beattie's Essay on Truth.. r
pence.” Here again Johnson and Wilkes joined in extravagant sportive raillery upon the supposed poverty of Scotland, which Dr. Beattie and I did not think it worth our while to dispute.
The subject of quotation being introduced, Mr Wilkes censured it as pedantry. Johnson. “ No, Sir, it is a good thing; there is a community of mind in it. Classical quotation is the parole of literary men all over the world.” WILKES. “Upon the continent they all quote the vulgate Bible. Shakspeare is chiefly quoted here: and we quote also Pope, Prior, Butler, Walier, and sometimes Cowley."
We talked of letter-writing. Johnson. “ It is now become so much the fashion to publish letters that, in order to avoid it, I put as little into mine as I can.” BOSWELL. “Do what you will, Sir, you cannot avoid it. Should you even write as ill as you can, your letters would be published as curiosities :
• Behold a miracle ! instead of wit,
See two dull lines with Stanhope's pencil writ.'' He gave us an entertaining account of Bet Flint, a woman of the town, who, with some eccentric talents and much effrontery, forced herself upon his acquaintance. “ Bet,” said he, “wrote her owb Life in verse (1), which she brought to me, wishing
(1) Johnson, whose memory was wonderfully retentive, remembered the first four lines of this curious production, which have been communicated to me by a young lady of his ac. quaintance :
“ When first I drew my vital breath,
A little minikin I came upon earth;
that I would furnish her with a preface to it (laughing). I used to say of her, that she was generally slut and drunkard; occasionally whore and thief. She had, however, genteel lodgings, a spinnet on which she played, and a boy that walked before her chair. Poor Bet was taken up on a charge of stealing a counterpane, and tried at the Old Bailey Chief Justice (Willes, ] who loved a wench, summed up favourably, and she was acquitted. (') After which, Bet said, with a gay and satisfied air, · Now that the counterpane is my own, I shall make a petticoat of it.'
Talking of oratory, Mr. Wilkes described it as accompanied with all the charms of poetical ex. pression. Johnson. “No, Sir; oratory is the power of beating down your adversary's arguments, and putting better in their place." WILKES. “But this does not move the passions.” Johnson. “He must be a weak man who is to be so moved.' WILKES (naming a celebrated orator). “Amidst all the brilliancy of [Burke's] imagination, and the exuberance of his wit, there is a strange want of taste. It was observed of A pelles's Venus (?), that
(1) Bet was tried at the Old Bailey in September, 1758, not by the Chief Justice here alluded to, but before Sir William Moreton, recorder; and she was acquitted, not in consequence of any favourable summing up of the judge, but because the prosecutrix, Mary Walthow, could not prove that the goods charged to have been stolen were her property. — M.
(2) Mr. Wilkes mistook the objection of Euphranor to the Theseus of Parrhasius for a description of the Venus of Apelles. Vide Plutarch. “ Bellone an pace clariores Athenienses." KEARNEY. .“ Euphranor, comparing his own representation of Theseus with that by Parrhasius, said that the latter looked as if the hero had been fed on roses, but that his showed that he had lived on beef." Plut. Xyl. v. ii. p. 346. — C.
hei flesh si-*ned as if she had been nourished by IOSES : his oratory would sometimes make one suspect that he eats potatoes and drinks whiskey.”
Mr. Wilkes observed, how tenacious we are of forms in this country; and gave as an instance, the vote of the house of commons for remitting money to pay the army in America in Portugal pieces, when, in reality, the remittance is made not in Portugal money, but in our specie. Johnson. “Is there not a law, Sir, against exporting the current coin of the realm ?” WILKES. “ Yes, Sir; but might not the house of commons, in case of real evident necessity, order our own current coin to be sent into our own colonies ? ” Here Johnson, with that quickness of recollection which distinguished him so eminently, gave the Middlesex patriot an admirable retort upon his own ground.
“ Sure, Sir, you don't think a resolution of the house of commons equal to the law of the land.” Wilkes (at once perceiving the application). “God forbid, Sir.” To hear what had been treated with such violence in “ The False Alarm” now turned into pleasant repartee, was extremely agreeable. Johnson went
“ Locke observes well, that a prohibition to export the current coin is impolitic; for when the balance of trade happens to be against a state, the current coin must be exported.”
Mr. Beauclerk's great library was this season sold in London by auction. Mr. Wilkes said, he wondered to find in it such a numerous collection of sermons• seeming to think it strange that a gentleman of Mr Beauclerk's character in the gay world should have