Page images
PDF
EPUB

Johnson had called twice on the Bishop of Killaloe before his lordship set out for Ireland, having missed him the first time. He said, “ It would have hung heavy on my heart if I had not seen him. No man ever paid more attention to another than he has done to me ('); and I have neglected him, not wilfully, but from being otherwise occupied. Always, Sir, set a high value on spontaneous kindness. He whose inclination prompts him to cultivate your friendship of his own accord, will love you more than one whom you have been at pains to attach to you."

Johnson told me, that he was once much pleased to find that a carpenter, who lived near him, was very ready to show him some things in his business which he wished to see: “ It was paying,” said he, respect to literature.”

I asked him if he was not dissatisfied with having so small a share of wealth, and none of those distinctions in the state which are the objects of am

[ocr errors]

(1) This gave me very great pleasure, for there had been once a pretty smart altercation between Dr. Barnard and him, upon a question, whether a man could improve himself after the age of forty-five; when Johnson in a hasty_humour expressed him self in a manner not quite civil. Dr. Barnard made it the subject of a copy of pleasant verses, in which he supposed himself to learn different perfections from different men. They come cluded with delicate irony:

“ Johnson shall teach me how to place
In fairest light each borrow'd grace:

From him I 'll learn to write,
Copy his clear familiar style,
And by the roughness of his file,

Grow, like himself, polite." I know not whether Johnson ever saw the poem, but I had oca casion to find that, as Dr. Barnard and he knew each other better, their mutual regard increased.

bition. he had only a pension of three hundred a year. Why was he not in such circumstances as to keep his coach? Why had he not some considerable office ? Johnson. “ Sir, I have never complained of the world ; nor do I think that I have reason to complain. It is rather to be wondered at that I have so much. My pension is more out of the usual course of things than any instance that I have known. Here, Sir, was a man avowedly no friend to government at the time, who got a pension without asking for it. I never courted the great; they sent for me; but I think they now give me up. They are satisfied: they have seen enough of me." Upon my observing that I could not believe this, for they must certainly be highly pleased by his conversation; conscious of his own superiority, he answered, No, Sir; great lords and great ladies don't love to have their mouths stopped.” This was very expressive of the effect which the force of his understanding and brilliancy of his fancy could not but produce; and, to be sure, they must have found themselves strangely diminished in his company. When I warmly declared how happy I was at all times to hear him, Yes, Sir,” said he ; “but if you were lord chancellor it would not be so: you would then consider your own dignity."

There were much truth and knowledge of human nature in this remark. But certainly one should think that in whatever elevated state of life a man who knew the value of the conversation of Johnson might be placed, though he might prudently avoid a situation in which he might appear lessened by

comparison, yet he would frequently gratify himself in private with the participation of the rich intellectual entertainment which Johnson could furnis'n. Strange, however, is it, to consider how few of the great sought his society; so that if one were disposed to take occasion for satire on that account, very conspicuous objects present themselves. His noble friend, Lord Elibank, well observed, that if a great man procured an interview with Johnson, and did not wish to see him more, it showed a mere idle curiosity, and wretched want of relish for extraordinary powers of mind. Mrs. Thrale justly and wittily accounted for such conduct by saying, that Johnson's conversation was by much too strong for a person accustomed to obsequiousness and flattery ; it was mustard in a young child's mouth!

One day, when I told him that I was a zealous Tory, but not enough “ according to knowledge," and should be obliged to him for “ a reason," he was so candid, and expressed himself so well, that I begged of him to repeat what he had said, and I wrote down as follows:

" Of Tory and Whig. A wise Tory and a wise Whig, I believe, will agree. Their principles are the same, though their modes of thinking are different. A high Tory makes government unintelligible; it is lost in the clouds. A violent Whig makes it impracticable : he is for allowing so much liberty to every man, that there is not power enough to govern any man. The prejudice of the Tory is for establishment, the prejudice of the Whig is for innovatior. A Tory does.not wish to give more real power

reverence,

and your

to government; but that government should have inure

Then they differ as to the church. The l'ory is not for giving more legal power to the clergy, but wishes they should have a considerable influence, Counded on the opinion of mankind : the Whig is for limiting and watching them with a narrow jealousy." LETTER 400. TO MR. PERKINS.

“ June 2. 1781. Sir, However often I have seen you, I have hitherto forgotten the note ; but I have now sent it, with my good wishes for the prosperity of you partner (), of whom, from our short conversation, I could not judge otherwise than favourably. I am, Sir, your most humble servant,

Sam. JOHNSON." On Saturday, June 2., I set out for Scotland, and had promised to pay a visit, in my way, as I sometimes did, at Southill, in Bedfordshire, at the hospitable mansion of Squire Dilly, the elder brother of my worthy friends, the booksellers, in the Poultry. Dr. Johnson agreed to be of the party this year, with Mr. Charles Dilly and me, and to go and see Lord Bute's seat at Luton Hoe. He talked little to us in the carriage, being chiefly occupied in reading Dr. Watson's (2) second volume of “ Chemical

(1) Mr. Barclay, a descendant of Robert Barclay, of Ury, the celebrated apologist of the people called Quakers, and remarkable for maintaining the principles of his venerable progenitor, with as much of the elegance of moderg manners as is consistent with primitive simplicity.

(2) Now Bishop of Llandaff, one of the poorest bishoprics in this kingdom. His lordship has written with much zeal to show the propiety of equalising the revenues of bishops. He has informed us that he has burnt all his chemical papers. The friends of our excellent constitution, now assailed on every side by innovators and levellers, would have less regretted the suppres sion of some of his lordship's other writings.

66

Essays," which he liked very well, and his own

Prince of Abyssinia," on which he seemed to be intensely fixed; having told us, that he had not looked at it since it was first finished. I happened to take it out of my pocket this day, and he seized upon it with avidity. He pointed out to me the following remarkable passage : By what means (said the prince) are the Europeans thus powerful ? or why, since they can so easily visit Asia and Africa for trade or conquest, cannot the Asiatics and Africans invade their coasts, plant colonies (') in their ports, and give laws to their natural princes ? The same wind that carried them back would bring us thither.”

They are more powerful, Sir, than we (answered Imlac), because they are wiser. Knowledge will always predominate over ignorance, as man governs the other animals. But why their knowledge is more than ours, I know not what reason can be given but the unsearchable will of the Supreme Being." He said, “ This, Sir, no man can explain otherwise."

We stopped at Welwin, where I wished much to see,

in

company with Johnson, the residence of the author of " Night Thoughts,” which was then possessed by his son, Mr. Young. Here some address was requisite, for I was not acquainted with Mr. Young, and had I proposed to Dr. Johnson that we should send to him, he would have checked my wish, and perhaps been offended. I therefore concerted with Mr. Dilly, that I should steal away

from (1) The Phoenicians and Carthaginians did plant colonies in Europe. - KEARNEY.

VO. VIII.

H

« PreviousContinue »