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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 IIervey, 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.
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 Buckingham 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
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 writteu 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 deal 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.
could have paid a handsomer compliment; and it was fit for a King to pay. It was decisive.” When asked by another friend, at Sir Joshua Reynolds's, whether he made any reply to this high compliment, he answered, “No, Sir. When the King had said it, it was to be so. It was not for me to bandy civilities with my Sovereign." Perhaps no man who had spent his whole life in courts could have shown a more nice and dignified sense of true politeness, than Johnson did in this instance.
His Majesty having observed to him that he supposed he must have read a good deal; Johnson answered, that he thought more than he read ; that he had read a great deal in the early part of his life, but having fallen into ill health, he had not been able to read much, compared with others : for instance, he said he had not read much, compared with Dr. Warburton. Upon which the King said, that he heard Dr. Warburton was a man of such general knowledge, that you could scarce talk with him on any subject on which he was not qualified to speak; and that his learning resembled Garrick's acting, in its universality. His Majesty then talked of the controversy between Warburton and Lowth, which he seemed to have read, and asked Johnson what he thought of it. Johnson answered, “ Warburton has most general, most scholastic learning; Lowth is the more correct scholar. I do not know which of them calls names best.” The King was pleased to say he was of the same
1 Johnson himself imitated it to Paoli (see post, Oct. 10, 1769); and it has indeed become one of the common-places of compliment-regis ad exemplar. Hawkins has preserved a compliment of the same kind by George II., which, of a prince not celebrated for such things, seems worth repeating. Mr. Thornton of Yorkshire raised, at his own expense, a regiment of horse, and though newly married to a beautiful young lady, marched at the head of it with the King's army. After the rebellion, he and his wife went to court, when the King, who had noticed Mrs. Thornton, said to him, “Mr. Thornton, I have been told of your services to your country, and your attachment to my family, and have held myself obliged to you for both; but I was never able to appreciate the degree of the obligation till I had seen the lady you left behind you." -Life of Johnson, p. 459 (note). - Croker.
2 The Rev. Mr. Strahan clearly recollects having been told by Johnson, that the King observed that Pope made Warburton a bishop. “ True, Sir,” said Johnson, “but Warburton did more for Pope ; he made him a Christian : ” alluding, no doubt, to his ingenious comments on the Essay on Man.
opinion; adding, “You do not think then, Dr. Johnson, that there was much argument in the case.” Johnson said, he did not think there was. “Why, truly," said the King, “when once it comes to calling names, argument is pretty well at an end."
His Majesty then asked him what he thought of Lord Lyttelton's History, which was then just published. Johnson said, he thought his style pretty good, but that he had blamed Henry the Second rather too much. “Why,” said the King, “they seldom do these things by halves.”—“No, Sir," answered Johnson, “not to Kings.” But fearing to be misunderstood, he proceeded to explain himself; and immediately subjoined, " That for those who spoke worse of Kings than they deserved, he could find no excuse ; but that he could more easily conceive how some might speak better of them than they deserved, without any
ill intention: for, as Kings had much in their power to give, those who were favoured by them would frequently, from gratitude, exaggerate their praises : and as this proceeded from a good motive, it was certainly excusable, as far as error could be excusable."
The King then asked him what he thought of Dr. Hill.? Johnson answered, that he was an ingenious man, but had no veracity; and immediately mentioned, as an instance of it, an assertion of that writer, that he had seen objects magnified to a much greater degree by using three or four microscopes at a time than by using one. Now," added Johnson, “ every one acquainted with microscopes knows, that the more of them he looks through, the less the object
Why,” replied the King, “ this is not only telling an untruth, but telling it clumsily ; for, if that be the case, every one who can look through a microscope will be able to detect him." ?
John Hill, M.D., who assumed latterly the title of Sir John, on receiving a Swedish order of Knighthood. This literary and medical quack died in 1775. Garrick's Epigram is well known :
“ For physic and farces, his equal there scarce is ;
His farces are physic, his physic a farce is.” -Lockhart.
· Here, Bishop Elrington observed, Dr. Johnson was unjust to Hill, and showed that he did not understand the subject. Hill does not talk