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is like an arrow shot from a long bow; the force of it depends on the strength 1784.
He had dined that day at Mr. Hoole's, and Miss Helen Maria Williams
Miss Williams told me, that the only other time she was fortunate enough to be in Dr. Johnson's company, he asked her to sit down by him, which she did, and upon her enquiring how he was, he answered, “ I am very ill indeed, Madam. I am very ill even when you are near me; what should I be were you at a distance,”
He had now a great desire to go to Oxford, as his first jaunt after his illness; we talked of it for some days, and I had promised to accompany him. He was impatient and fretful to-night, because I did not at once agree to go with him on Thursday. When I considered how ill he had been, and what allowance should be made for the influence of sickness upon his temper, I resolved to indulge him, though with some inconvenience to myself, as I wished to attend the musical meeting in honour of Handel, in WettminsterAbbey, on the following Saturday.
In the midst of his own diseases and pains, he was ever compassionate to the distresses of others, and actively earnest in procuring them aid, as appears from a note to Sir Joshua Reynolds, of June 1, in these words: “ I am ashamed to ask for some relief for a poor man, to whom, I hope, I have given what I can be expected to spare. The man importunes me, and the blow goes round. I am going to try another air on Thursday.”
On Thursday, June 3, the Oxford post-coach took us up in the morning at Bolt-court. The other two passengers were Mrs. Beresford and her daughter, two very agreeable ladies from America; they were going to Worcestershire, where they then resided. Frank had been sent by his master the day before to take places for us; and I found from the way-bill, that Dr. Johnson had made our names be put down. Mrs. Beresford, who had read
4 The Peace made by that very able statesman, the Earl of Shelburne, now Marquis of Lansdowne, which may fairly be considered as the foundation of all the prosperity of GreatBritain since that time.
it, whispered me, “ Is this the great Dr. Johnson?” I told her it was; To The was then prepared to listen. As she foon happened to mention in a voice so low that Johnson did not hear it, that her husband had been a member of the American Congress, I cautioned her to beware of introducing that subject, as she must know how very violent Johnson was against the people of that country. He talked a great deal, but I am sorry I have preserved little of the conversation. Miss Beresford was so much charmed, that she said to me aside, “ How he does talk ! Every sentence is an essay.” She amused herself in the coach with knotting; he would scarcely allow this species of employment any merit.
« Next to mere idleness (said he) I think knotting is to be reckoned in the scale of insignificance; though I once attempted to learn knotting.. Dempster's sister (looking to me) endeavoured to teach me it; but I made no progress.”
I was surprised at his talking without reserve in the publick post-coach of the state of his affairs; “ I have (faid he) about the world I think above a thousand pounds, which I intend shall afford Frank an annuity of seventy pounds a year.'
At the inn where we stopped he was exceedingly dissatisfied with some roast mutton which we had for dinner. The ladies I saw wondered to see the great philosopher, whose wisdom and wit they had been admiring all the way, get into ill-humour from such a cause. He scolded the waiter, saying, “ It is as bad as bad can be. It is ill-fed, ill-killed, ill-kept, and ill-drest.”
He bore the journey very well, and seemed to feel himfelf elevated as he approached Oxford, that magnificent and venerable seat of Learning, Orthodoxy, and Toryism. Frank came in the heavy coach, in readiness to attend him; and we were received with the most polite hospitality at the house of his old friend Dr. Adams, Master of Pembroke College, who had given us a kind invitation. Before we were set down, I communicated to Johnson my having engaged to return to London directly, for the reason I have mentioned, but that I would hasten down to him again. He was pleased that I had made this journey merely to keep him company. He was easy and placid, with Dr. Adams, Mrs. and Miss Adams, and Mrs. Kennicot, widow of the learned Hebræan, who was here on a visit. He soon dispatched the inquiries which were made about his illness and recovery, by a short and distinct narrative ; and then assuming a gay air, repeated from Swift,
« Nor think on our approaching ills,
Dr. Newton, the Bishop of Bristol, having been mentioned, Johnson, 1784.
I fulfilled my intention by going to London, and returned to Oxford on
He talked with great regard of the Honourable Archibald Campbell, whose character he had given at the Duke of Argylls table, when we were at Inveraray s; and at this time wrote out for me, in his own hand, a fuller account of that learned and venerable writer, which I have published in its
• Dr. Newton in his Account of his own Life, after animadverting upon Mr. Gibbon's
Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides," 3d edit. p. 371.
proper place. Johnson made a remark this evening which struck me a good deal. “ I never (faid he) knew a nonjuror who could reason.” Surely he did not mean to deny that faculty to many of their writers; to Hickes, Brett, and other eminent divines of that persuasion ; and did not recollect that the seven Bishops, so justly celebrated for their magnanimous resistance of arbitrary power, were yet Nonjurors to the new Government. The nonjuring clergy of Scotland, indeed, who, excepting a few, have lately, by a sudden stroke, cut off all ties of allegiance to the house of Stuart, and resolved to pray for our present lawful Sovereign by name, may be thought to have confirmed this remark; as it may be said, that the divine indefeasible hereditary right which they professed to believe, if ever true, must be equally true still. Many of my readers will be surprized when I mention, that Johnson assured me he had never in his life been in a nonjuring meetinghouse.
Next morning at breakfast, he pointed out a passage in Savage's “Wanderer," faying, “ These are fine verses.”-“If (said he) I had written with hostility of Warburton in my Shakspeare, I should have quoted this couplet :
« Here Learning, blinded first, and then beguild,
You see they'd have fitted him to a T” (smiling). Dr. Adams.“ But you
Mrs. Kennicot spoke of her brother, the Reverend Mr. Chamberlayne, who had given up good preferments in the Church of England on his conversion to the Roman Catholick faith. Johnson, who warmly admired every man who acted from a conscientious regard to principle, erroneous or not,.. exclaimed fervently, « God bless him."
Mrs. Kennicot, in confirmation of Dr. Johnson's opinion, that the present was not worse than, former ages, mentioned that her brother assured her, there was now less infidelity on the Continent than there had been; Voltaire and Rousseau were less read. I asserted, from good authority, that Hume's infidelity was certainly less read. Johnson. “ All infidel writers drop into oblivion, when personal connections and the Apridness of novelty are gone ; though now and then a foolish fellow, who thinks he can be witty upon them, may bring them again into notice. There will sometimes start up a College joker, who does not consider that what is a joke in a College will not do in
the world. To such defenders of Religion I would apply a stanza of a poem which I remember to have seen in some old collection :
« Henceforth be quiet and agree,
Each kiss his empty brother ; • Religion scorns a foe like thee,
( But dreads a friend like t'other.'
The point is well, though the expression is not correct; one, and not thee, should be opposed to t'other 6.”
On the Roman Catholick religion he said, “ If you join the Papists externally, they will not interrogate you strictly as to your belief in their tenets. No reasoning Papist believes every article of their faith. There is one side on which a good man might be persuaded to embrace it. A good man, of a timorous disposition, in great doubt of his acceptance with God, and pretty credulous, might be glad to be of a church where there are so many helps to get to Heaven. I would be a Papist if I could. I have fear enough; but an obstinate rationality prevents me. I shall never be a Papist, unless on the near approach of death, of which I have a very great terrour.
I wonder that women are not all Papists.” Boswell. “ They are not more afraid of death than men are.” Johnson. “Because they are less wicked.” Dr. Adams. “ They are more pious.” Johnson. “ No, hang 'em, they are not more
JOHNS pious. A wicked fellow is the most pious when he takes to it. He'll beat you all at piety.”
He argued in defence of some of the peculiar tenets of the Church of Rome. As to the giving the bread only to the laity, he said, “They may think, that in what is merely ritual, deviations from the primitive mode may be admitted
6 I have inserted the stanza as Johnson repeated it from memory; but I have fince found the poem itself, in “ The Foundling Hospital for Wit,” printed at London, 1749. It is as follows:
“ EPIGRAM, occafioned by a religious Dispute at Bath.
« Two wits harangue the table ;
" N fwears 'tis all a fable.
“ N, kiss thy empty brother ;