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prevail upon myself to write. I would not, however, gratify my own indolence by the omission of any important duty, or any office of real kindness. “To tell you that I am or am not well, that I have or have not been in the country, that I drank your health in the room in which we sat last together, and that your acquaintance continue to speak of you with their former kindness, topicks with which those letters are commonly filled which are written only for the sake of writing, I seldom shall think worth communicating; but if I can have it in my power to calm any harrassing disquiet, to excite any virtuous desire, to rectify any important opinion, or fortify any generous resolution, you need not doubt but I shall at least wish to prefer the pleasure of gratifying a friend much less esteemed than yourself, before the gloomy calm of idle vacancy. Whether I shall easily arrive at an exact punctuality of correspondence, I cannot tell. I shall, at present, expect that you will receive this in return for two which I have had from you. The first, indeed, gave me an account so hopeless of the state of your mind, that it hardly admitted or deserved an answer; by the second I was much better pleased : and the pleasure will still be increased by such a narrative of the progress of your studies, as may evince the continuance of an equal and rational application of your mind to some useful enquiry. “You will, perhaps, wish to ask what study I would recommend. I shall not speak of theology, because it ought not to be considered as a question whether you shall endeavour to know the will of GoD. “I shall, therefore, consider only such studies as we are at liberty to pursue or to neglect; and of these I know not how you will make a better choice than by studying the civil law, as your father advises, and the ancient languages, as you had determined for yourself; at least resolve, while you remain in any settled residence, to spend a certain number of hours every day amongst your books. The dissipation of thought, of which you complain, is nothing more than the vacillation of a mind suspended between different motives, and changing its direction as any motive gains or loses strength. If you can but kindle in your mind any strong desire, if you can but keep predominant any wish for some particular excellence or attainment, the gusts of imagination will break away, without any effect upon your conduct, and commonly without any traces left upon the memory. “There lurks, perhaps, in every human heart a desire of distinction, which inclines every man first to hope, and then to believe, that Nature has given him something peculiar to himself. This
vanity makes one mind nurse aversions, and another actuate desires, till they rise by art much above their original state of power; and as affectation, in time, improves to habit, they at last tyrannise over him who at first encouraged them only for show. Every desire is a viper in the bosom, who, while he was chill, was harmless; but when warmth gave him strength, exerted it in poison. You know a gentleman, who, when first he set his foot in the gay world, as he prepared himself to whirl in the vortex of pleasure, imagined a total indifference and universal negligence to be the most agreeable concomitants of youth, and the strongest indication of an airy temper and a quick apprehension. Vacant to every object, and sensible of every impulse, he thought that all appearance of diligence would deduct something from the reputation of genius; and hoped that he should appear to attain, amidst all the ease of carelessness and all the tumult of diversion, that knowledge and those accomplishments which mortals of the common fabrick obtain only by mute abstraction and solitary drudgery. He tried this scheme of life awhile, was made weary of it by his sense and his virtue, he then wished to return to his studies; and finding long habits of idleness and pleasure harder to be cured than he expected, still willing to retain his claim to some extraordinary prerogatives, resolved the common consequences of irregularity into an unalterable decree of destiny, and concluded that Nature had originally formed him incapable of rational employment. “Let all such fancies, illusive and destructive, be banished henceforward from your thoughts for ever. Resolve, and keep your resolution; choose and pursue your choice. If you spend this day in study, you will find yourself still more able to study to-morrow; not that you are to expect that you shall at once obtain a complete victory. Depravity is not very easily overcome. Resolution will sometimes relax, and diligence will sometimes be interrupted; but let no accidental surprize or deviation, whether short or long, dispose you to despondency. Consider these failings as incident to all mankind. Begin again where you left off, and endeavour to avoid the seducements that prevailed over you before. “This, my dear Boswell, is advice which, perhaps, has been often given you, and given you without effect. But this advice, if you will not take from others, you must take from your own reflections, if you purpose to do the duties of the station to which the bounty of Providence has called you. “Let me have a long letter from you as soon as you can. I hope you continue your journal, and enrich it with many observations upcn the country in which you reside. It will be a favour if you
can get me any books in the Frisick language, and can enquire how the poor are maintained in the Seven Provinces. I am, dear Sir,
6. Your most affectionate servant, “ London, Dec. 8, 1763."
“ SAM. JOHNSON. I am sorry to observe, that neither in my own minutes, nor in my letters to Johnson which have been preserved by him, can I find any information how the poor are maintained in the Seven Provinces. But I shall extract from one of my letters what I learnt concerning the other subject of his curiosity.
“I have made all possible enquiry with respect to the Frisick language, and find that it has been less cultivated than any other of the northern dialects; a certain proof of which is their deficiency of books. Of the old Frisick there are no remains, except some ancient laws preserved by Schotanus in his · Beschryvinge van die Heerly. kheid van Friesland;' and his . Historia Frisica.' I have not yet been able to find these books. Professor Trotz, who formerly was of the University of Vranyken, in Friesland, and is at present preparing an edition of all the Frisick laws, gave me this information. Of the modern Frisick, or what is spoken by the boors at this day, I have procured a specimen. It is "Gisbert Fapix's Rymelerie,' which is the only book that they have. It is amazing, that they have no translation of the bible, no treatises of devotion, nor even any of the ballads and story-books which are so agreeable to country people. You shall have Japix by the first convenient opportunity. I doubt not to pick up Schotanus. Mynheer Trotz has promised me his assistance."
Early in 1764 Johnson paid a visit to the Langton family, at their seat of Langton, in Lincolnshire, where he passed some time, much to his satisfaction. His friend Bennet Langton, it will not be doubted, did every thing in his power to make the place agreeable to so illustrious a guest; and the elder Mr. Langton and his lady, being fully capable of understanding his value, were not wanting in attention. He, however, told me, that old Mr. Langton, though a man of considerable learning, had so little allowance to make for his occasional “laxity of talk," that because in the course of discussion he sometimes mentioned what might be said in favour of the peculiar tenets of the Romish church, he went to his grave believing him to be of that communion.
Johnson, during his stay at Langton, had the advantage of a good library, and saw several gentlemen of the neighbourhood. I have obtained from Mr. Langton the following particulars of this period.
He was now fully convinced that he could not have been satisfied with a country living; for, talking of a respectable clergyman in Lincolnshire, he observed, “ This man, Sir, fills up the duties of his life well. I approve of him, but could not imitate him.”
To a lady who endeavoured to vindicate herself from blame for neglecting social attention to worthy neighbours, by saying, “I would go to them if it would do them any good ;" he said, “What good, Madam, do you expect to have in your power to do them? It is shewing them respect, and that is doing them good.”
So socially accommodating was he, that once when Mr. Langton and he were driving together in a coach, and Mr. Langton complained of being sick, he insisted that they should go out, and sit on the back of it in the open air, which they did. And being sensible how strange the appearance must be, observed, that a countryman whom they saw in a field would probably be thinking, “ If these two madmen should come down, what would become of me?"
Soon after his return to London, which was in February, was founded that club which existed long without a name, but at Mr. Garrick's funeral became distinguished by the title of The LITERARY CLUB.' Sir Joshua Reynolds had the merit of being the first proposer of it, to which Johnson acceded, and the original members were, Sir Joshua Reynolds, Dr. Johnson, Mr. Edmund Burke, Dr. Nugent, Mr. Beauclerk, Mr. Langton, Dr. Goldsmith, Mr. Chamier, and Sir John Hawkins. They met at the Turk's Head, in Gerard-street, Soho, one evening in every week, at seven, and generally continued their conversation till a pretty late hour. This club has been gradually increased, and instead of assembling in the evening, they now dine together at a tavern in Dover-street,
1“I found lately," writes Dr. Percy, in answer to Boswell's inquiries, Feb. 28, 1788, “a meinorandum about the club at the Turk's Head in Gerard-street, which is at your service. ... Neither Sir J. Hawkins nor Mrs. Piozzi have noticed what I have heard Johnson mention as the principal or avowed reason for the small number of members to which, for many years, it was limited ; viz., at first to eight and afterwards to twelve. It was intended the club should consist of such men as that if only two of them chanced to meet they should be able to entertain each other sufficiently without wishing for more company with whom to pass an evening. When the club was first instituted I was not resi
dent in London, and it being at first limited to eight members, no vacancy offered till about 1768, when, in consequence of Sir John (then Mr.) Hawkins's having withdrawn from the club, it was agreed by the remaining members to extend their numbers to twelve, and then Mr. Chambers, now Sir Robert, Mr. Colman, and myself were elected.” Dr. Percy then gives the list as it stood in the year 1768. “The deaths, first of Mr. Dyer and afterwards of Mr. Chamier, breaking in upon this set, opened (though not till some years after), the door to the admission of an enlarged number of members."'-(Nich. Illus. vii. 311.) For more about the club see Mr. Forster's “ Lite of Goldsmith," edir. 18;1.
once a fortnight, during the meeting of Parliament. Between the time of its formation, and the time at which this work is passing through the press, (1790,) the following persons, now dead, were members of it: Mr. Dunning, (afterwards Lord Ashburton,) Mr. Dyer, Mr. Garrick, Dr. Shipley, Bishop of St. Asaph, Mr. Vesey, and Mr. Thomas Warton. The present members are, Sir Joshua Reynolds, Mr. Burke, Mr. Langton, Dr. Percy Bishop of Dromore, Dr. Barnard Bishop of Killaloe, Dr. Marlay Bishop of Clonfert, Mr. Fox, Dr. George Fordyce, Sir William Scott, Sir Joseph Banks, Sir Charles Bunbury, Mr. Windham of Norfolk, Mr. Sheridan, Mr. Gibbon, Dr. Adam Smith, Lord Charlemont, Sir Robert Chambers, Sir William Jones, Mr. Colman, Mr. Steevens, Dr. Burney, Dr. Joseph Warton, Mr. Malone, Lord Ossory, Lord Spencer, Lord Lucan, Lord Palmerston, Lord Elliot, Lord Macartney, Mr. Richard Burke, junior, Sir William Hamilton, Dr. Warren, Mr. Courtenay, and the writer of this account.
Sir John Hawkins represents himself as a " seceder" from this society, and assigns as the reason of his “ withdrawing ” himself from it, that its late hours were inconsistent with his domestick arrangements. In this he is not accurate; for the fact was, that he one evening attacked Mr. Burke in so rude a manner, that all the company testified their displeasure; and at their next meeting his reception was such, that he never came again."
He is equally inaccurate with respect to Mr. Garrick, of whom he says, “he trusted that the least intimation of a desire to come among us, would procure him a ready admission; but in this he was mistaken. Johnson consulted me upon it; and when I could find no objection to receiving him, exclaimed,—He will disturb us by his buffoonery;'-and afterwards so managed matters, that
· Life of Johnson, p. 425.
From Sir Joshua Reynolds.
* It is something to the credit of Sir J. Hawkins that, when Reynolds and Johnson were selecting seven names to form the club, they should have chosen his in company with those of Burke, Gold. smith, Beauclerk, and Langton. He seems to have had the art of exciting dislike to an extraordinary degree. Bishop Douglas thought him "a detestable fellow,” while Dyer declared " he was a man of the most mischievous, unchari. table, and malignant disposition, and that he knew instances of his setting a husband against a wife, and a brother against a brother, by means of anonymous
letters." Sir Joshua said that though he assumed great outward sanctity, he was not only mean and grovelling in disposition, but absolutely dishonest.-(Malo. niana, “Life of Malone,” 426.) He was no doubt baited out of the club. In the Maloniana it is also stated that Dyer would not speak to him there, which was, perhaps, what Boswell alluded to. His own statement that he was not able to attend is almost supported by Johnson in a letter to Langton (Mayio, 1766): “Dyer is constant at our club; Hawkins is rémiss." The account of the club has been altered in later editions.