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to some, they will be esteemed by the best part of my readers as genuine traits of his character, contributing together to give a full, fair, and distinct view of it. In 1770, he published a political pamphlet, entitled “The False Alarm,” intended to justify the conduct of the ministry and their majority in the House of Commons, for having virtually assumed it as an axiom, that the expulsion of a member of parliament was equivalent to exclusion, and thus having declared Colonel Lutterell to be duly elected for the county of Middlesex, notwithstanding Mr. Wilkes had a great majority of votes. This being justly considered as a gross violation of the right of election, an alarm for the constitution extended itself all over the kingdom. To prove this alarm to be false, was the purpose of Johnson's pamphlet; but even his vast powers were inadequate to cope with constitutional truth and reason, and his argument failed of effect; and the House of Commons have since expunged the offensive resolution from their Journals. That the House of Commons might have expelled Mr. Wilkes repeatedly, and as often as he should be re-chosen, was not denied ; but incapacitation cannot be but by an act of the whole legislature. It was wonderful to see how a prejudice in favour of government in general and an aversion to popular clamour, could blind and contract such an understanding as Johnson's, in this particular case; yet the wit, the sarcasm, the eloquent vivacity which this pamphlet displayed, made it read with great avidity" at the time, and it will ever be read with pleasure, for the sake of its composition. That it endeavoured to infuse a narcotic indifference, as to public concerns, into the minds of the people, and that it broke out sometimes into an extreme coarseness of contemptuous abuse, is but too evident. It must not, however, be omitted, that when the storm of his violence subsides, he takes a fair opportunity to pay a grateful compliment to the King, who had rewarded his merit:-"These low-born rulers have endeavoured, surely
* The False Alarm, was published by T. Cadell, in the Strand, Jan. 16, 1770; a second edition appeared Feb. 6, and a third, March 18.—
without effect, to alienate the affections of the people from the only King who for almost a century has much appeared to desire, or much endeavoured to deserve them." And, “Every honest man must lament, that the faction has been regarded with frigid neutrality by the Tories, who being long accustomed to signalise their principles by opposition to the Court, do not yet consider, that they have at last a King who knows not the name of party, and who wishes to be the common father of all his people.” 1
To this pamphlet, which was at once discovered to be Johnson's, several answers came out, in which care was taken to remind the public of his former attacks upon government, and of his now being a pensioner, without allowing for the honourable terms upon which Johnson's pension was granted and accepted, or the change of system which the British court had undergone upon the accession of his present Majesty. He was, however, soothed in the highest strain of panegyric, in a poem called “The Remonstrance,” by the Rev. Mr. Stockdale,’ to whom he was, upon many occasions, a kind protector.
The following admirable minute made by him, describes so well his own state, and that of numbers to whom selfexamination is habitual, that I cannot omit it:
“ June 1, 1770. Every man naturally persuades himself that he can keep his resolutions, nor is he convinced of his imbecility but by length of time and frequency of experiment. This opinion of our own constancy is so prevalent, that we always despise him who suffers his general and settled purpose to be overpowered by an occasional desire. They, therefore, whom frequent failures have made desperate, cease to form resolutions ; and they who are become cunning, do not tell them. Those who do not make them are very few, but of their effect little is per
i The False Alarm, his first and favourite pamphlet, was written at our house, between eight o'clock on Wednesday night and twelve o'clock on Thursday night : we read it to Mr. Thrale, when he came very late home from the House of Commons. Piozzi's Anecd. p. 41.-Croker.
2 The Rev. Percival Stockdale, whose strange and rambling Autobio. graphy was published in 1808 : he was the author of several bad poems, and died in 1810, at the age of 75. He was Johnson's neighbour for some years, both in Johnson's Court and Bolt Court.-- Croker.
ceived; for scarcely any man persists in a course of life planned by choice, but as he is restrained from deviation by some external power. He who may live as he will, seldom lives long in the observation of his own rules. I never yet saw a regular family, unless it were that of Mrs. Harriot's, nor a regular man, except Mr. , whose exactness I know only by his own report, and Psalmanazer, whose life was, I think, uniform.” "
Of this year I have obtained the following letters:
TO THE REVEREND DR. FARMER, CAMBRIDGE. “Johnson's Court, March 21, 1770. “SIR, “As no man ought to keep wholly to himself any possession that may be useful to the public, I hope you will not think me unreasonably intrusive, if I have recourse to you for such information as you are more able to give me than any other man. “In support of an opinion which you have already placed above the need of any more support, Mr. Steevens, a very ingenious gentleman, lately of King's College, has collected an account of all the translations which Shakspeare might have seen and used. He wishes his catalogue to be perfect, and therefore entreats that you will favour him by the insertion of such additions as the accuracy of your inquiries has enabled you to make. To this request, I take the liberty of adding my own solicitation. “We have no immediate use for this catalogue, and therefore do not desire that it should interrupt or hinder your more important employments. But it will be kind to let us know that you receive it. I am, Sir, &c., “SAM. JoHNson.”
TO THE REVEREND ME. THOMAS WARTON.
“London, June 23, 1770. “DEAR SIR, “The readiness with which you were pleased to promise me some notes on Shakspeare, was a new instance of your friendship. I shall not hurry you; but am desired by Mr. Steevens, who helps me in this edition, to let you know, that we shall print the tragedies first, and shall therefore want first the notes which belong to them. We think not to incommode the readers with a supplement; and therefore, what we cannot put into its proper place, will do us no good. We shall not begin to print before the end of six weeks, perhaps not so soon. I am, &c., “SAM. Johnson.”
* Prayers and Meditations, p. 95.
TO THE REVEREND DR. JOSEPH WARTON.
“Sept. 21, 1770. “DEAR SIR,
“I am revising my edition of Shakspeare, and remember that I formerly misrepresented your opinion of Lear. Be pleased to write the paragraph as you would have it, and send it. If you have any remarks of your own upon that or any other play, I shall gladly receive them. Make my compliments to Mrs. Warton. I sometimes think of wandering for a few days to Winchester, but am apt to delay. I am, Sir, your most humble
servant, “SAM. Johnson.”
TO MR. FRANCIS BARBER.
“London, Sept. 25, 1770. “DEAR FRANCIs, “I am at last sat down to write to you, and should very much blame myself for having neglected you so long, if I did not impute that and many other failings to want of health. I hope not to be so long silent again. I am very well satisfied with your progress, if you can really perform the exercises which you are set; and I hope Mr. Ellis does not suffer you to impose on him, or on yourself. Make my compliments to Mr. Ellis, and to Mrs. Clapp, and Mr. Smith. “Let me know what English books you read for your entertainment. You can never be wise unless you love reading. Do not imagine that I shall forget or forsake you; for if, when I
examine you, I find that you have not lost your time, you shall
want no encouragement from yours affectionately, “SAM. Johnson.”
TO THE SAME.
“December 7, 1770. “DEAR FRANcis,
“I hope you mind your business. I design you shall stay with Mrs. Clapp these holidays. If you are invited out you may go, if Mr. Ellis gives leave. I have ordered you some clothes, which you will receive, I believe, next week. My compliments to Mrs. Clapp, and to Mr. Ellis, and to Mr. Smith, &c.
—I am your affectionate “SAM. Johnson.”
During this year there was a total cessation of all correspondence between Dr. Johnson and me, without any, coldness on either side, but merely from procrastination, continued from day to day; and, as I was not in London, I had no opportunity of enjoying his company and recording his conversation. To supply this blank, I shall present my readers with some Collectanea, obligingly furnished to me by the Rev. Dr. Maxwell," of Falkland, in Ireland, some time assistant preacher at the Temple, and for many years the social friend of Johnson, who spoke of him with a very kind regard.
“My acquaintance with that great and venerable character commenced in the year 1754. I was introduced to him by Mr
* Dr. William Maxwell was the son of Dr. John Maxwell, Archdeacon of Downe, in Ireland, and cousin of the Honourable Henry Maxwell, Bishop of Dromore in 1765, and of Meath in 1766, from whom he obtained preferment; but having a considerable property of his own, he resigned the living when, as it is said, his residence was insisted on; and he fixed himself in Bath, where he died, so late as 1818, at the age of 87. Dr. Maxwell was deservedly proud of his acquaintance with Johnson, and had caught something of his style of conversation. Some of his anecdotes are trifling, others obscure, some misprinted, and several, I suspect, misstated; which is not surprising, as they seem to have been written for Mr. Boswell's publication from memory, a great many years after the events.—Croker.