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chosen to have many compositions of that kind. Johnson. “ Why, Sir, you are to consider, that sermons make a considerable branch of English literature; so that a library must be very imperfect if it has not a numerous collection of sermons (1) •
(1) Mr. Wilkes probably did not know that there is in an English sermon the most comprehensive and lively account of that entertaining faculty for which he himself was so much admired. It is in Dr. Barrow's first volume, and fourteenth sermon, “ Against foolish Talking and Jesting." My old acquaintance, the late Corbyn Morris, in his ingenious“ Essay on Wit, Humour, and Ridicule,” calls it “a profuse description of wit; but I do not see how it could be curtailed, without leaving out some good circumstance of discrimination. As it is not generally known, and may perhaps dispose some to read sermons, from which they may receive real advantage, while looking only for entertainment, I shall here subjoin it.
“But first (says the learned preacher) it may be demanded, what the thing we speak of is? Or what this facetiousness (or wit, as he calls it be. fore) doth import? To which questions I might reply, as Democritus did to him that asked the definition of a man,' 'Tis that which we all see and know.' Any one better apprehends what it is by acquaintance than I can inform him by description. It is, indeed, a thing so versatile and multi. form, appearing in so many shapes, so many postures, so many garbs, so variously apprehended by several eyes and judgments, that it seemeth no less hard to settle a clear and certain notion thereof, than to make a por trait of Proteus, or to define the figure of the fleeting air. Sometimes it lieth in pat allusion to a known story, or in seasonable application of a trivial saying, or in forging an apposite tale; sometimes it playeth in words and phrases, taking advantage from the ambiguity of their sense, or the affinity of their sound: sometimes it is wrapped in a dress of humourous expression : sometimes it lurketh under an odd similitude: sometimes it is lodged in a sly question, in a smart answer, in a quirkish reason, in a shrewd intimation, in cunningly diverting, or cleverly retorting an objec. tion: sometimes it is couched in a bold scheme of speech, in a tart irony, in a lusty hyperbole, in a startling metaphor, in a plausible reconciling, of contradictions, or in acute nonsense : sometimes a scenical representation of persons or things, a counterfeit speech, a mimical look or gesture, passeth for it: sometimes an affected simplicity, sometimes a presumptuous blunt ness giveth it being : sometimes it riseth only from a lucky hitting upon what is strange: sometimes from a crafty wresting obvious matter to the purpose. Often it consisteth in one knows not what, and springeth up one can hardly tell how. Its ways are unaccountable and inexplicable; being answerable to the numberless rovings of tancy and windings of language. It is, in short, a manner of speaking out of the simple and plain way (such as reason teacheth and proveth things by), which, by a pretty surprising uncouthness in conceit or expression, doth affect and amuse the fancy, stirring in it some wonder, and breeding some delight thereto. It raiseth admiration, as signifying a nimble sagacity of apprehension, a special feli. city of invention, a vivacity of spirit, and reach of wit more than vulgar; it seeming to argue a rare quickness of parts, that one can fetch in remote conceits applicable; a notable skill, that he can dexterously accommodate them to the purpose before him : together with a lively briskness of hus
and in al. collections, Sir, the desire of augmenting them grows stronger in proportion to the advance in acquisition; as motion is accelerated by the continuance of the impetus. Besides, Sir,” looking a Mr. Wilkes, with a placid but significant smile, "a man may collect sermons with intention of making himself better by them. I hope Mr. Beauclerk intended that some time or other that should be the Rase with him.”
Mr. Wilkes said to me, loud enough for Dr. Johnson to hear, “Dr Johnson should make me a present of his · Lives of the Poets,' as I am a poor patriot, who cannot afford to buy them.” Johnson seemed to take no notice of this hint; but in a little while he called to Mr. Dilly, “ Pray, Sir, be so good as to send a set of my Lives to Mr. Wilkes, with my compliments." This was accordingly done, and Mr. Wilkes paid Dr. Johnson a visit, was courteously received, and sat with him a long time.
The company gradually dropped away. Mr Dilly himself was called down stairs upon business : I left the room for some time; when I returned, I was struck with observing Dr. Samuel Johnson and John Wilkes, Esq. literally tête-à-tête ; for they were reclined upon their chairs, with their heads leaning
nour, not apt to damp those sportful flashes of imagination. (Whence in Aristotle such persons are termed επιδεξιοι, dexterous men, and ευτροτοι, men of facile or versatile manners, who can easily turn themselves to ali things, or turn all things to themselves.) It also procureth delight, by gratifying curiosity with its rareness, as semblance of difficulty: (as mon sters, not for their beauty, but their rarity; as juggling tricks, not for their use, but their absiruseness, are beheld with pleasure:) by divertirg the mind from its road of serious thoughts; by instilling gayety and airiness of spirit; by provoking to such dispositions of spirit in way of emulation a complaisance: and by seasoning mat‘ors, otherwise distasteful or insipid, with an unusual and thence gratę
almost close to each other, and talking earnestly, in a kind of confidential whisper, of the personal quarrel between George the Second and the King of Prussia. Such a scene of perfectly easy sociality between two such opponents in the war of political controversy, as that which I now beheld, would have been an excellent subject for a picture. It presented to my mind the happy days which are fore. told in the scripture, when the lion shall lie down with the kid. ( )
After this day there was another pretty long interval, during which Dr. Johnson and I did not meet. When I mentioned it to him with regret, he was pleased to say, “ Then, Sir, let us live double.”
About this time it was much the fashion for several ladies to have evening assemblies, where the fair sex might participate in conversation with literary and ingenious men, animated by a desire to please. These societies were denominated Bluestocking Clubs; the origin of which title being little known, it may be worth while to relate it, One of the most eminent members of those societies, when they first commenced was Mr. Stillingfleet (2). whose dress was remarkably grave, and in particu lar it was dbserved that he wore blue stockings. Such was the excellence of his conversation, that
(1) When I mentioned this to the Bishop of Killaloe, (Dr. Barnard,) “ With the goat,” said his lordship. Such, however, was the engaging politeness and pleasantry of Mr. Wilkes, and such the social good humour of the bishop, that when they dined together at Mr. Dilly's, where I also was, they were mutually agreeable.
(2) Mr. Benjamin Stillingfleet, author of tracts relating Datural history, &c.
poem in which
his absence was felt as so great a loss, that it used to be said, “ We can do nothing without the blue stockings;" and thus by degrees the title was established. Miss Hannah More has admirably described a Blue-stocking Club in her “ Bas Bleu," a
who were most conspicuous there are mentioned.
Johnson was prevailed with to come sometimes into these circles, and did not think himself too grave even for the lively Miss Monckton () (now Countess of Corke), who used to have the finest bit of blue at the house of her mother, Lady Galway. Her vivacity enchanted the sage, and they used to talk together with all imaginable ease. A singular instance happened one evening, when she insisted that some of Sterne's writings were very pathetic. Johnson bluntly denied it. “I am sure,” said she, “they have affected me.” “Why,” said Johnson, smiling, and rolling himself about “ that is because, dearest, you 're a dunce.” When she some time afterwards mentioned this to him, he said, with equal truth and politeness, “Madam, if I had thought so, I certainly should not have said it."
Another evening Johnson's kind indulgence towards me had a pretty difficult trial. I had dined at the Duke of Montrose's with a very agreeable party; and his grace, according to his usual custom, har circulated the bottle very freely. Lord Graham a. 1 I went together to Miss Monckton's, where I certainly was in extraordinary spirits, and above all fear or awe. In the midst of a great number of per
(1) See antè, Vol. VII. p. 320.-C.
sons of the first rank, amongst whom I recollect, with confusion, a noble lady of the most stately decorum, I placed myself next to Johnson, and thinking myself now fully his match, talked to him in a loud and boisterous manner, desirous to let the company know how I could contend with Ajax. I particularly remember pressing him upon the value of the pleasures of the imagination, and, as an illustration of my argument, asking him, “What, Sir, supposing I were to fancy that the - (naming the most charming duchess in his majesty's domi. nions) were in love with me, should I not be very happy? My friend with much address evaded my interrogatories, and kept me as quiet as pos
but it may easily be conceived how he must have felt. (1) However, when a few days
(1) Next day I endeavoured to give what had happened the most ingenious turn I could by the following verses :
TO THE HONOORACLE MISS MONCKTON.
I had the happiness to dine;
From Graham's wit, from generous wine.
On sacred manners to encroach;
Johnson's just frown, and self-reproach.
From your bright eyes were shot such rays,
And all my frame was in a blaze!
Of the dull smoke I'm yet ashamed;
And not enlighten'd, though infamech
I hope, Maria, you 'll forgive;
That henceforth I may wiser live