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“ Pray let me hear of you from yourself, or from dear Miss Reynolds'. Make my compliments to Mr. Mudge.
“ I am, DEAR SIR,
“ SAM. JOHNSON.” “ At the Rev. Mr. Percy's, at Easton Maudit, Northamptonshire (by Castle Ashby), Aug. 19, 1764.”
Early in the year 1765 he paid a short visit to the University of Cambridge, with his friend Mr. Beauclerk. There is a lively picturesque account of his behaviour on this visit, in the Gentleman's Magazine for March,. 1785, being an extract of a letter from the late Dr. John Sharpe. The two following sentences are very characteristical: “He drank bis large potations of tea with me, interrupted by many an indignant contradiction and many a noble sentiment.”—“Several persons got into his company the last evening at Trinity, where, about twelve, he began to be very great; stripped poor Mrs. Macaulay to the very skin, then gave her for his toast, and drank her in two bumpers.”
The strictness of his self-examination and scrupulous Christian humility appear in his pious meditations on Easter-day this year.-" I purpose again to partake of the blessed sacrament; yet when I consider how vainly I have hitherto resolved, at this annual commemoration of my Saviour's death, to regulate my life by his laws, I am almost afraid to renew my resolutions.”
The concluding words are very remarkable, and show that he laboured under a severe depression of spirits. “Since the last Easter I have reformed no evil habit; my time has been unprofitably spent, and seems as a dream that has left nothing behind. My memory grows confused, and I know not how the days pass over me. Good Lord, deliver me?!”
* Sir Joshua's sister, for whom Johnson had a particular affection, and to whom he wrote many letters which I have seen, and which I am sorry her too nice delicacy will not permit to be published.
No man was more gratefully sensible of any kindness done to him than Johnson. There is a little circumstance in his diary this year, which shows him in a very amiable light.
“July 2. I paid Mr. Simpson ten guineas, which he had formerly lent me in my necessity, and for which Tetty expressed her gratitude."
“July 8. I lent Mr. Simpson ten guineas more."
Here he had a pleasing opportunity of doing the same kindness to an old friend, which he had formerly received from him. Indeed his liberality as to money was very remarkable. The next article in his diary is, “ July 16th, I received seventy-five pounds. Lent Mr. Davies twentyfive."
Trinity College, Dublin, at this time surprised Johnson with a spontaneous compliment of the highest academical honours, by creating him Doctor of Laws. The diploma, which is in my possession, is as follows:
“OMNIBUS ad quos præsentes literæ pervenerint, salutem. Nos Præpositus et Sociï Seniores Collegii sacrosanctæ et individuæ Trinitatis Regina Elizabethæ juxta Dublin, testamur, Samueli Johnson, Armigero, ob egregiam scriptorum elegantium et utilitatem, gratiam concessam fuisse pro gradu Doctoratus in utroque Jure, octavo die Julii, Anno Domini millesimo septingentesimo sexagesimo quinto. In cujus rei testimonium singu
2 Prayers and Meditations, p. 61.
lorum manus et sigillum quo in hisce utimur apposuimus; vicesimo tertio die Julii, Anno Domini millesimo septingentesimo sexagesimo quinto.
GUL. Clement. FRAN. ANDREWS. R. MURRAY.
Rostus Law. Tho. LeLAND.
Mich. Kearney.” This unsolicited mark of distinction, conferred on so great a literary character, did much honour to the judgment and liberal spirit of that learned body. Johnson acknowledged the favour in a letter to Dr. Leland, one of their number; but I have not been able to obtain a copy of it. .
He appears this year to have been seized with a temporary fit of ambition, for he had thoughts both of studying law and of engaging in politicks. His “ Prayer before the Study of Law” is truly admirable:
“Sept. 26, 1765. “ Almighty God, the giver of wisdomn, without whose help resolutions are vain, without whose blessing study is ineffectual; enable me, if it be
3 [Since the publication of the edition in 1804, a copy of this letter has been obligingly communicated to me by John Leland, Esq. son to the learned Historian to whom it is addressed:
66 TO THE REV. DR. LELAND.
" AMONG the names subscribed to the degree wbich I have had the honour of receiving from the university of Dublin, I find none of which I have any personal knowledge but those of Dr. Andrews and yourself.
“Men can be estimated by those who know them not, only as they are represented by those who know them; and therefore I flatter myself that I owe much of the pleasure which this distinction gives me to your concurrence with Dr. Andrews in recommending me to the learned society.
“Having desired the Provost to return my general thanks to the University, I beg that you, sir, will accept my particular and immediate acknowledgments.
“I am, sir,
“Your most obedient and most humble servant, “ Johnson's Court, Fleet Street,
“SAM. JOHNSON." London, Oct. 17, 1765." I have not been able to recover the letter which Johnson wrote to Dr. Andrews on this occasion. M.]
mirefore I go withling to be leigh compliment.
thy will, to attain such knowledge as may qualify me to direct the doubtful, and instruct the ignorant; to prevent wrongs and terminate contentions; and grant that I may use that knowledge which I shall attain to thy glory and my own salvation, for Jesus Christ's sake. Amen."
His prayer in the view of becoming a politician is entiled, “Engaging in Politicks with H- n.” No doubt, his friend, the Right Honourable William Gerard Hamilton, for whom, during a long acquaintance, he had a great esteem, and to whose conversation he once paid this high compliment: “I am very unwilling to be left alone, sir, and therefore I go with my company down the first pair of stairs, in some hopes that they may, perbaps, return again; I go with you, sir, as far as the street-door.” In what particular department he intended to engage does not appear, nor can Mr. Hamilton explain. His prayer is in general terms: “Enlighten my understanding with knowledge of right, and govern my will by thy laws, that no deceit may mislead me, nor temptation corrupt me; that I may always endeavour to do good, and hinder evil 6." There is nothing upon the subject in his diary.
This year was distinguished by his being introduced into the family of Mr. Thrale, one of the most eminent brewers in England, and member of Parliament for the borough of Southwark. Foreigners are not a little amazed when they hear of brewers, distillers, and men in similar departments of trade held forth as persons of considerable consequence. In this great commercial country it is natural that a situation which produces much wealth should be considered as very respectable; and, no doubt, honest industry is entitled to esteem. But, perhaps, the too rapid 4 Prayers and Meditations, p. 66.
s Ibid. p. 67.
advances of men of low extraction tends to lessen the value of that distinction by birth and gentility which has ever been found beneficial to the grand scheme of subordination. Johnson used to give this account of the rise of Mr. Thrale's father: “He worked at six shillings a week for twenty years in the great brewery which afterwards was his own. The proprietor of it had an only daughter, who was married to a nobleman. It was not fit that a peer should continue the business. On the old man's death, therefore, the brewery was to be sold. To find a purchaser for so large a property was a difficult matter; and, after some time, it was suggested that it would be advisable to treat with Thrale, a sensible, active, honest man, who had been employed in the house, and to transfer the whole to him for thirty thousand pounds, security being taken upon the property. This was accordingly settled. In eleven years Thrale paid the purchase money. He acquired a large fortune, and lived to be a member of Parliament for Southwark'. But what was most remarkable was the liberality with which he used his riches. He gave his son and daughters the best education. The esteem which his good conduct procured him from the nobleman
• 6 (The predecessor of old Thrale was Edmund Halsey, Esq. the nobleman who married his daughter was Lord Cobham, great uncle of the Marquis of Buckingham. But I believe, Dr. Johnson was mistaken in assigning so very low an origin to Mr. Thrale. The clerk of St. Albans, a very aged man, told me that he (the elder Tbrale) married a sister of Mr. Halsey. It is at least certain that the family of Thrale was of some consideration in that town: in the abbey church is a handsome monument to the memory of Mr. John Turale, late of London, Merchant, who died in 1704, aged 54, Margaret, bis wife, and three of their children who died young between the years 1676 and 1690. The arms upon this monument are paly of eight, gules and or, impaling, ermine, on a chief indented vert, three wolves' (or gryphons') heads, or, couped at the neck:-Crest on a ducal coronet, a tree, vert. J. B.]
7 [In 1733 he served the office of High Sheriff for Surrey; and died April 9, 1758. A. C.]