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In this poem there was the following portrait of Johnson.
“Here Johnson comes, unblest with outward grace,
The Hon. Thomas Hervey' and his lady having unhappily disagreed, and being about to separate, Johnson interfered as their friend, and wrote him a letter of expostulation, which I have not been able to find ; but the substance of it is ascertained by a letter to Johnson in answer to it, which Mr. Hervey printed. The occasion of this correspondence between Dr. Johnson and Mr. Hervey was thus related to me by Mr. Beauclerk. “Tom Hervey had a great liking for Johnson, and in his will had left him a legacy of fifty pounds. One day he said to me, “Johnson may want this money now, more than afterwards. I have a mind to give it him directly. Will you be so good as to carry a fifty pound note from me to him?” This I positively refused to do, as he might, perhaps, have knocked me down for insulting him, and have afterwards put the note in his pocket. But I said, if Hervey would write him a letter, and enclose a fifty pound note, I should take care to deliver it. He accordingly did write him a letter, mentioning that he was only paying a legacy a little sooner. To his letter he added, “P.S.. I am going to part with my wife.” Johnson then wrote to him, saying nothing of the note, but remonstrating with him against parting with his wife.” When I mentioned to Johnson this story, in as delicate terms as I could, he told me that the fifty pound note was given to him by Mr. Hervey in consideration of his having
* The Hon. Thomas Hervey, whose “Letter to Sir Thomas Hanmer.” in 1742, was much read at that time. He was the second son of John, first Earl of Bristol, and one of the brothers of Johnson's early friend, Henry Hervey. He [was born in 1698), married, in 1744, Anne, daughter of Francis Coughlan, Esq., and died Jan. 20, 1775.-Malone.
* This is not inconsistent with Mr. Beauclerk's account. It may have been in consideration of this pamphlet that Hervey left Johnson the fifty pounds in his will, and on second thoughts he may have determined to send it to him. It were, however, to be wished that the story had stood on its original ground. The acceptance of an anticipated legacy from a friend would have had nothing objectionable in it; but can so much be said for the employment of one's pen for hire, in the disgusting squabbles of so mischievous and profligate a madman as Mr. Thomas Hervey “He was well known,” says the gentle biographer of the Peerage (Sir Egerton Brydges), “for his genius and eccentricities.” The Letter to Sir Thomas Hanmer, above mentioned, was the first (1741), it is believed, of the many appeals which Mr. Hervey made to the public, relative to his private concerns. The subject is astonishing. Lady Hanmer eloped from her husband with Mr. Hervey, and made, it seems, a will in his favour, of certain estates, of which Sir Thomas had a life possession. Hervey’s letter avows the adultery, and assigns very strange reasons for the lady's leaving her husband, and then goes on to complain, that Sir Thomas was cutting timber on the estate which had belonged to “our wife,” so he calls her, and of which the reversion was Hervey's, and begging that, if Hanmer did sell any more timber, he would give him, Hervey, the refusal of it. All this is garnished and set off by extravagant flights of fine writing, the most cutting sarcasms, the most indecent details, and the most serious expressions of the writer's conviction, that his conduct was natural and delicate, and such as every body must approve; and that, finally, in Heaven, Lady Hanmer, in the distribution of wives (suam cuique), would be considered as hus. Twenty years did not cool his brain. Just at the close of the reign he addressed a letter to King George the Second, which still more clearly explains the state of his intellect. He talks, amidst a great deal of scandalous extravagance, of “the hideous subject of his mental excruciation,” and complains that his doctor mistook his case, by calling that a nervous disorder which was clearly inflammatory, and, in consequence of that fatal error, Hervey “passed eleven years without any more account of time, or other notice of things, than a person asleep, under the influence of some horrid dream,” and so on. It is this letter which Horace Walpole thus characterises: “Have you seen Tom Hervey’s letter to the king 7 full of
written for him a pamphlet against Sir Charles Hanbury Williams, who, Mr. Hervey imagined, was the author of an attack upon him ; but that it was afterwards discovered to be the work of a garreteer,' who wrote “ The Fool;” the pamphlet therefore against Sir Charles was not printed.
In February, 1767, there happened one of the most remarkable incidents of Johnson's life, which gratified his monarchical enthusiasm, and which he loved to relate with all its circumstances, when requested by his friends. This was his being honoured by a private conversation with his Majesty, in the library at the Queen's house. He had frequently visited those splendid rooms and noble collection of books, which he used to say was more numerous and curious than he supposed any person could have made in
absurdity and madness, but with here and there gleams of genius and happy expressions that are wonderfully fine.”- Letter to Conway, Dec., 1766. His quarrel with his second wife in 1767, referred to in the text, he, according to his custom, blazoned to the public by the following advertisement : « Whereas Mrs. Hervey has been three times from home last year, and at least as many the year before, without my leave or privity, and hath encouraged her son to persist in the like rebellious practices, I hereby declare, that I neither am nor will be accountable for any future debts of hers whatsoever. She is now keeping forcible possession of my house, to which I never did invite or thought of inviting her in all my life. - Thomas Hervey.” He afterwards proceeded further, and commenced a suit against his lady for jactitation of marriage, which finally ended in his discomfiture. Johnson, as we shall see hereafter (6th April, 1775), characterised his friend, Tom Hervey, as he had already done his brother Henry, as very vicious. Alas! it is but too probable, that both were disordered in mind, and that what was called vice was, in truth, disease, and required a madhouse rather than a prison. - Croker.
1 Some curiosity would naturally be felt as to who the garreteer was who wrote a pamphlet, which was attributed to Sir C. H. Williams, the most celebrated wit of the day, and to answer which, the wild and sarcastic genius of Hervey required the assistance of Dr. Johnson. His name was William Horsley, but his acknowledged works are poor productions.-Croker.
2 Buckingham House in St. James's Park, built in 1703, for Sheffield, Duke of Buckingham, bought in 1761 by George III. for 21,0001., and settled on Queen Charlotte in lieu of Somerset House, All their children (George IV. excepted) were born in this house. The present Bucking, ham Palace occupies the site.-P. Cunningham.
3 Dr. Johnson had the honour of contributing his assistance towards the formation of this library; for I have read a long letter from him to Mr. Barnard, giving the most masterly instructions on the subject. I wished much to have gratified my readers with the perusal of this letter, the time which the King had employed. Mr. Barnard, the librarian, took care that he should have every accommodation that could contribute to his ease and convenience, while indulging his literary taste in that place; so that he had here a very agreeable resource at leisure hours.
His Majesty having been informed of his occasional visits, was pleased to signify a desire that he should be told when Dr. Johnson came next to the library. Accord. ingly, the next time that Johnson did come, as soon as he was fairly engaged with a book, on which, while he sat by the fire, he seemed quite intent, Mr. Barnard stole round to the apartment where the King was, and in obedience to his Majesty's commands, mentioned that Dr. Johnson was then in the library. His Majesty said he was at leisure, and would go to him ; upon which Mr. Barnard took one of the candles that stood upon the King's table, and lighted his Majesty through a suite of rooms, till they came to a private door into the library, of which his Majesty had the key. Being entered, Mr. Barnard stepped forward hastily to Dr. Johnson, who was still in a profound study, and whispered him, “Sir, here is the King." Johnson started up, and stood still. His Majesty approached him, and at once was courteously easy."
His Majesty began by observing, that he understood he came sometimes to the library; and then mentioning his
and have reason to think that his Majesty would have been graciously pleased to permit its publication ; but Mr. Barnard, to whom I applied, declined it " on his own account.”
The letter to Mr. Barnard, the recovery of which is due to Mr. Croker, will be found in the appendix to this volume.-Editor.
The particulars of this conversation I have been at great pains to collect with the utmost authenticity, from Dr. Johnson's own detail to myself; from Mr. Langton, who was present when he gave an account of it to Dr. Joseph Warton and several other friends at Sir Joshua Rey. nolds's; from Mr. Barnard; from the copy of a letter written by the late Mr. Strahan the printer, to Bishop Warburton; and from a minute, the original of which is among the papers of the late Sir James Caldwell, and a copy of which was most obligingly obtained for me from his son Sir John Caldwell, by Sir Francis Lumm. To all these gentlemen I beg leave to make my grateful acknowledgments, and particularly to Sir Francis Lumm, who was pleased to take a great deul of trouble, and even had the minute laid before the King by Lord Caermarthen, now Duke of Leeds, then one of his Majesty's Principal Secretaries of State, who announced to Sir Francis the royal pleasure concerning it by a
having heard that the Doctor had been lately at Oxford, asked him if he was not fond of going thither. To which Johnson answered, that he was indeed fond of going to Oxford sometimes, but was likewise glad to come back again. The King then asked him what they were doing at Oxford. Johnson answered, he could not much commend their diligence, but that in some respects they were mended, for they had put their press under better regulations, and were at that time printing Polybius. He was then asked whether there were better libraries at Oxford or Cambridge. He answered, he believed the Bodleian was larger than any they had at Cambridge; at the same time adding, “I hope, whether we have more books or not than they have at Cambridge, we shall make as good use of them as they do." Being asked whether All-Souls or Christ-Church library was the largest, he answered, “ All Souls library is the largest we have, except the Bodleian.” “ Ay," said the King, “ that is the public library.”
His Majesty inquired if he was then writing any thing. He answered, he was not, for he had pretty well told the world what he knew, and must now read to acquire more knowledge. The King, as it should seem with a view to urge him to rely on his own stores as an original writer, and to continue his labours, then said, “I do not think you borrow much from any body.” Johnson said, he thought he had already done his part as a writer. “I should have thought so too,” said the King, “ if you had not written so well.” Johnson observed to me, upon this, that “No man letter, in these words :-“ I have the King's commands to assure you, Sir, how sensible his Majesty is of your attention in communicating the minute of the conversation previous to its publication. As there appears no objection to your complying with Mr. Boswell's wishes on the subject, you are at full liberty to deliver it to that gentleman, to make such use of in his Life of Dr. Johnson, as he may think proper.”
The account of this conversation Boswell honoured with a separate publication under the title :-"A Conversation between his Most Sacred Majesty George III, and Samuel Johnson, LL.D., illustrated with Observations by James Boswell, Esq. London: Printed by Henry Baldwin for Charles Dilly, in the Poultry, 1790. (Price half a guinea.) ” And with the same publisher and in the same year, 1790, he gave :-" The Celebrated Letter from Samuel Johnson, LL.D., to Philip Dormer Stan. hope, Earl of Chesterfield, now first published with notes by JAMES Bos. WELL, ESQ. Price half a guinea." The former consists of two leaves; the latter of one leaf.-Editor.