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"Garrick was followed to the Abbey by a long extended train of friends, illustrious for their rank and genius. I saw old Samuel Johnson standing beside his grave, at the foot of Shakspeare's monument, and bathed in tears. succeeding years laid him in earth; and though the marble shall preserve for ages the exact resemblance of his form and features, his own strong pen has pictured out a transcript of his mind, that shall outlive that and the very language which he laboured to perpetuate. Johnson's best days were dark; and only when his life was far in the decline, he enjoyed a gleam of fortune long withheld. Compare him with his countryman and contemporary last mentioned, and it will be one instance among many, that the man who only brings the muse's bantlings into the world has a better lot in it than he who has the credit of begetting them.
"Shortly after Garrick's death, Dr. Johnson was told in a large company, 'You are recent from your Lives of the Poets: why not add your friend Garrick to the number?' Johnson's answer was, I do not like to be officious; but if Mrs. Garrick will desire me to do it, I shall be very willing to pay that last tribute to the memory of the man I loved.' This sentiment was conveyed to Mrs. G. but no answer was ever received,
"The expanse of matter which Johnson had found room for in his intellectual storehouse, the correctness with which he had assorted it, and the readiness with which he could turn to any article that he wanted to make present use of, were the properties in him which I contemplated with the most admiration. Some have called him a savage; they were only so far right in the resemblance, as that, like the savage, he never came into suspicious company without his spear in his hand and his bow and quiver at his back. *!.
"As a poet, his translations of Juvenal gave him a name in the world, and gained him the applause of Pope. He was a writer of tragedy, but his Irene gives him no conspicuous rank in that department. As an essayist he merits more consideration his Ramblers are in every body's hands; about them opinions vary, and I rather believe the style of these essays is not now considered as a good model; this he corrected in his more advanced age, as may be seen in his Lives of the Poets, where his diction, though occasionally elaborate and highly metaphorical, is not nearly so inflated and ponderous as in the Ramblers. He was an acute and able critic; the enthusiastic adı rers of Milton and the friends of Gray will have something to complain of, but criticism is a task which no man executes to all men's satisfaction. His selection of a certain
passage in the Mourning Bride of Congreve, which he extols so rapturously, is certainly a most unfortunate sample; but unless the oversights of a critic are less pardonable than those of other men, we may pass this over in a work of merit, which abounds in beauties far more prominent than its defects, and much more pleasing to contemplate. In works professedly of fancy he is not very co
1 [Here followed the passage introduced ante, p. 429, n.-ED.]
pious; yet in his Rasselas we have much to admire, and enough to make us wish for more. It is the work of an illuminated mind, and offers many wise and deep reflections, clothed in beautiful and harmonious diction. We are not indeed familiar with such personages as Johnson had imagined for the characters of his fable, but if we are not exceedingly interested in their story, we are infinitely gratified with their conversation and remarks. In conclusion, Johnson's era was not wanting in men to be distinguished for their talents, yet if one was to be selected out as the first great literary character of the time, I believe all voices would concur in naming him. Let me here insert the following lines, descriptive of his character, though not long since written by me, and to be found in a public print:
"ON SAMUEL JOHNSON
Of wit a fund, of words a countless choice:
A trembling form and a distorted sight,
Lord Chedworth, in his Letters to the Rev. Mr. Crompton, (p. 222.) relates the following Anecdote.
"When I was last in town I dined in company with the eminent Mr. C. of whom I did not form a high opinion. He asserted that Dr. Johnson originally intended to abuse Paradise Lost, but being informed that the nation would not bear it, he produced the critique which now stands in the Life of Milton, and which he admitted to be excellent. I contended that Dr. Johnson had there expressed his real opinion, which no man was less afraid of delivering than Dr. Johnson, that the critique was written con amore, and that the work was praised with such a glow of fondness, and the grounds of that praise were so fally and satisfactorily unfolded, that it was impossible Dr. Johnson should not have felt the value of the work, which he had so liberally and rationally commended. It came out afterwards that Dr. Johnson had disgusted Mr. C[oxe]. He had supped at Thrale's one night, when he sat near the upper end of the table, and Dr. Johnson near the lower end; and having related a long story which ad very much delighted the company, in the pleasure resulting from which relation Dr. Johnson had not (from his deafness and the distance at which he sat) participated, Mrs. Tarale desired him to retell it to the Doctor. C[oxe] complied, and going down to the bottom of the table, bawled it over again in Dr. Johnson's ear: when he had finished, Johnson replied,So, siz, and this you relate as a good thing: at which C[oxe] fired. He added to us, 'Now it was a good thing, because it was about the King of Po
2 [Mr. Crompton informs the Editor, that this was the Rev. William Coxe, who had recently published his travels.-ED.]
Walking one day with him in my garden at Lichfield, we entered a small meandering shrubbery, whose Vista not lengthened to the sight,' gave promise of a larger extent. I observed that he might perhaps conceive that he was entering an extensive labyrinth, but that it would prove a deception, though I hoped not an unpardonable one. Sir,' said he, don't tell me of deception; a lie, sir, is a lie, whether it be a lie to the eye or a lie to the ear.'
"Passing on we came to an urn which I had erected to the memory of a deceased friend. asked him how he liked that urn-it was of the true Tuscan order. Sir,' said he, 'I hate them; they are nothing, they mean nothing, convey no ideas but ideas of horror-would they were beaten to pieces to pave our streets!"
We then came to a cold bath. I expatiated upon its salu 'Sir,' said he, how do you do? Very well, I thank you, Doctor.' Then, sir, let well enough alone, and be content. hate immersion.' Truly, as Falstaff says, the Doctor would have a sort of alacrity at sinking.' Upon the margin stood the Venus de Medicis.
So stands the statue that enchants the world.'
• Throw her,' said he, into the pond to hide her nakedness, and to cool her lasciviousness.'
He then, with some difficulty, squeezed himself into a root house, when his eye caught the ollowing lines from Parnell :
'Go search among your idle dreams, Your busy, or your vain extremes, And find a life of equal bliss,
Or own the next began in this.'
"The Doctor, however, not possessing any ilvan ideas, seemed not to admit that heaven ould be an Arcadia.
"I then observed him with Herculean strength gging at a nail which he was endeavouring to tract from the bark of a plum tree; and having complished it, he exclaimed, There, sir, I
have done some good to-day; the tree might have festered. I make a rule, sir, to do some good every day of my life.'
"Returning through the house, he stepped into a small study or book-room. The first book he laid his hands upon was Harwood's 3 Liberal Translation of the New Testament.' The passage which first caught his eye was from that sublime apostrophe in St. John, upon the St. John, raising of Lazarus, Jesus wept ;' which xi. 35. Harwood had conceitedly rendered and Jesus, the Saviour of the world, burst into a flood of tears.' He contemptuously threw the book aside, exclaiming, Puppy!' I then showed him Sterne's Sermons. Sir,' said he, do you ever read any others?' 'Yes, Doctor; I read Sherlock, Tillotson, Beveridge, and others.' Ay, sir, there you drink the cup of salvation to the bottom; here you have merely the froth from
[See a similar sentiment on the occasion of Mr. - Mydton's urn to himself, ante, p. 113.-ED.]
[A mistake; he was a good swimmer. See ante, p. -ED.]
"In Boswell's Life of Dr. John- G. W. L. son," says another correspondent of Gent. Mag. v. the Gentleman's Magazine," he 4 xciv. p. 386. relates, that Garrick being asked by Johnson what people said of his Dictionary, told him, that among other animadversions, it was objected that he cited authorities which were beneath the dignity of such a work, and mentioned Richardson. Nay,' said Johnson, I have done worse than that; I have cited thee, David.' This anecdote induced me to turn over the leaves of his Dictionary, that I might note the citations from each writer. Two only I found from Garrick, viz.
indeed, a sad unscholar-like performance. I could not have believed that that man would have written so ill.'
"He then said, Dr. Brocklesby, do you think there is a possibility that I should recover?' 'What nature may do I cannot say, but art has done her utmost.' How long do you think I may live?' 'I cannot precisely say, perhaps a few days.' That is honest and friendly. Do you think I can live a week?' 'No.' Do you think I can live six days?' ' Perhaps so.' Then I will take no more physic; and now you will say I have killed myself'.'
Being desired to call in Dr. Warren, he said, they might call in any body they pleased; ' and Warren was called. At his going away, You have come in,' said Dr. Johnson, at the eleventh hour; but you shall be paid the same with your fellow-labourers. Francis, put into Dr. Warren's coach a copy of the English Poets.'
"Some years before, some person in a company at Salisbury, of which Dr. Johnson was one, vouched for the company, that there was nobody in it afraid of death.-Speak for yourself, sir; for indeed I am.' I did not say of dying,' replied the other; but of death, meaning its consequences.' And so I mean,' rejoined the Doctor; I am very seriously afraid of the consequences.
"Mr. Nichols was present when Gent. Mag. Mr. Henderson, the actor, had the v. lxi. p. 500. honour of being introduced to Dr. Johnson, and was highly entertained by the interview. The conversation turning on the merits of a certain dramatic writer, Johnson said, 'I never did the man an injury; but he would persist in reading his tragedy to me.' When Henderson was taking his leave, he invited him with much earnestness to come again frequently. The oftener you call on me, sir, the more welcome will your visits be.' "'
"A literary lady, expressing to Dr. Johnson her approbation of his Dictionary, and, in particular, her satisfaction at his not having admitted into it any improper words- No, madam,' replied he; I hope I have not daubed my fingers. I find, however, that you have been looking for them.'
"Boswell, in his minute and entertaining account of Johnson's Life, has omitted to mention, that, when the Doctor first came to London with his pupil, Garrick, they borrowed five pounds on their joint note of Mr. Wilcocks, the bookseller in the Strand."
sity, some young men approached him with a view to entertainment. They knew the subject of Scotch poetry and Scotch literature would call him forth. They talked of Ossian, and Home's tragedy of Douglas; and one of them repeated some verses from the latter; after which he cailed out, There's imagery for you, Dr. Johnson! There 's description! Did you ever know any man write like that?' Johnson replied, with that tone of voice and motion of head and body for which he was remarkable, and which Garrick used to mimick inimitably, 'Yes, sir, many a man, many a woman, and many a child 2."
"The first visit Goldsmith ever received from Dr. Johnson was on May 31, 1761; Golds when he gave an invitation to him and much other company, many of them literary men, to a supper in his lodgings. Dr. Percy, bishop of Dromore, one of the company then invited, being intimate with the great lexicographer, was desired to call upon him and take him with him. As they went together, the former was much struck with the studied neatness of Johnson's dress. He had on a new suit of clothes, a new wig nicely powdered, and every thing about him so perfectly dissimilar from his usual habits and appearance, that his companion could not help inquiring the cause of this singular transformation. 'Why, sir,' said Johnson, I hear that Goldsmith, who is a very great sloven, justifies his disregard of cleanliness and decency by quoting my practice, and I am desirous this night to show him a better example.' '
“Dr. Johnson's friendship for Mrs. Rev. Mr. Elizabeth Aston commenced at the palace in Lichfield, the residence of Mr. Walmesley: with Mrs. Gastrel he became acquainted in London, at the house of her brother-in-law, Mt. Hervey. During the Doctor's annual visits to his daughter-in-law, Lucy Porter, he spent much of his time at Stow-hill, where Mrs. Gastrel and Mrs. Elizabeth Aston resided. They were the daughters of Sir Thomas Aston, of Aston-hail in Cheshire, of whom it is said, that being applied to for some account of his family, to illustrate the History of Cheshire, he replied, that the title and
2 [I have quoted this anecdote solely with the view of showing to how little credit hearsay anecdotes are in Mawbey, a member of the house of commons, and a pergeneral entitled. Here is a story published by Sir Joseph
son every way worthy of credit, who says he had it from Garrick. Now mark-Johnson's “visit to Oxford shout the time of his doctor's degree" was in 1754, the first time he had been there since he left the university; but Douglas was not acted till 1756, and Ossian pet pothaed till 1760. Every one knows that Dr. Johnson said of Ossian that "many men, many women, and many children
might have written it." All therefore that is new in Š
Joseph Mawbey's story is false. Mr. Tyers related the same story, Gentleman's Magazine, 1785, p. 96; but and
not lay the scene with such minute inaccuracy as Sirda seph did.-ED.]
3 It was also in this year, 1761, that Goldsmith published the "Vicar of Wakefield." (See ante, vol. 1. p 188. n.) This leads the Editor to observe a more seriouZA inaccuracy of Mrs. Piozzi than Mr. Boswell notices, whe
she says Johnson left her table to go and sell the Vicar of Wakefield" for Goldsmith. Now Dr. Johnson was not acquainted with the Thrales till 1765, four years after the book had been published.-ED.].
4 The following anecdotes are told by Mr. Parker from the relation of Mrs. Aston and her sister.-ED.]
estate had descended from father to son for thirty" He had long promised to write Mr. Walmesgenerations, and that he believed they were ley's epitaph, and Mrs. W. waited for it, in order neither much richer nor much poorer than they to erect a monument to her husband's memory; were at first.' procrastination, however, one of the Doctor's few failings, prevented its being finished; he was engaged upon it in his last illness, and when the physicians, at his own request, informed him of his danger, he pushed the papers from before him, saying, 'It was too late to write the epitaph of another when he should so soon want one himself.'"'
"He used to say of Dr. Hunter, master of the free grammar school, Lichfield, that he never taught a boy in his life-he whipped and they learned. Hunter was a pompous man, and never entered the school without his gown and cassock, and his wig full dressed. He had a remarkably stern look, and Dr. Johnson said he could tremble at the sight of Miss Seward, she was so like her grandfather.
"Mrs. Gastrel was on a visit at Mr. Hervey's, in London, at the time that Johnson was writing the Rambler; the printer's boy would often come after him to their house, and wait while he wrote off a paper for the press in a room full of company. A great portion of the Lives of the Poets was written at Stow-hill; he had a table by one of the windows, which was frequently surrounded by five or six ladies engaged in work or conversation. Mrs. Gastrel had a very valuable edition of Bailey's Dictionary, to which he often referred. She told him that Miss Seward said that he had made poetry of no value by his criticism. Why, my dear lady,' replied he, if silver is dirty, it is not the less valuable for a good scouring.'
"A large party had one day been invited to meet the Doctor at Stow-hill; the dinner waited far beyond the usual hour, and the company were about to sit down, when Johnson appeared at the great gate; he stood for some time in deep contemplation, and at length began to climb it, and, having succeeded in clearing it, advanced with hasty strides towards the house. On his arrival Mrs. Gastrel asked him, If he had forgotten that there was a small gate for foot passengers by the side of the carriage entrance.'No, my dear lady, by no means,' replied the Doctor; but I had a mind to try whether I could climb a gate now as I used to do when I was a lad.'
“One day Mrs. Gastrel set a little girl to repeat to him Cato's soliloquy, which she went through very correctly. The Doctor, after a pause, asked the child What was to bring Cato to an end?' She said it was a knife. No, my dear, it was not so.'' My aunt Polly said it was a knife.' 'Why, aunt Polly's knife may do, but it was a dagger, my dear.' He then asked her the meaning ofbane and antidote,' which she was unable to give. Mrs. Gastrel said, 'You cannot expect so young a child to know the meaning of such words. He then said, My dear, how many pence are there in sixpence?' 'I cannot tell, sir,' was the half terrified reply. On this, addressing himself to Mrs. Gastrel, he said, Now, my dear lady, can any thing be more ridiculous than to teach a child Cato's soliloquy, who does not know how many pence there are in sixpence?' "The ladies at Stow-hill would occasionally rebuke Dr. Johnson for the indiscriminate exercise of his charity to all who applied for it. There was that woman,' said one of them, to whom you yesterday gave half-a-crown, why she was at church to-day in long sleeves and ribbons.' 'Well, my dear,' replied Johnson, and if it gave the woman pleasure, why should she not wear them?'
"The late Mr. Crauford, of Hyde-Parkcorner, being engaged to dinner, where Dr. Johnson was to be, resolved to pay his court to him, and having heard that he preferred Donne's Satires to Pope's version of them, said, Do you know, Dr. Johnson, that I like Dr. Donne's original Satires better than Pope's.' Johnson said, Well, sir, I can't help that.'
"Miss Johnson, one of Sir Joshua's nieces (afterwards Mrs. Deane), was dining one day at her uncle's with Dr. Johnson and a large party: the conversation happening to turn on music, Johnson spoke very contemptuously of that art, and added, that no man of talent, or whose mind was capable of better things, ever would or could devote his time and attention to so idle and frivolous a pursuit.' The young lady, who was very fond of music, whispered her next neighbour, ‘I wonder what Dr. Johnson thinks of King David.' Johnson overheard her, and, with great good humour and complacency, said, ‘Madam, I thank you; I stand rebuked before you, and promise that, on one subject at least, you shall never hear me talk nonsense again.'
"The honours of the University of Cambridge were once performed, to Dr. Johnson, by Dr. Watson, the late Bishop of Llandaff, and then Professor of Chemistry, &c. After having spent the morning in seeing all that was worthy of notice, the sage dined at his conductor's table, which was surrounded by various persons, all anxious to see so remarkable a character, but the moment was not favourable; he had been wearied by his previous exertions, and would not talk. After the party had dispersed he said, I was tired, and would not take the trouble, or I could have set them right upon several subjects, sir; for instance, the gentleman who said he could not imagine how any pleasure could be derived from hunting, the reason is, because man feels his own vacuity less in action than when at rest.'
"Mr. Williams, the Rector of Wellesbourne, in Warwickshire, mentioned having once, when a young man, performed a stage-coach journey with Dr. Johnson, who took his place in the vehicle, provided with a little book, which his companion soon discovered to be Lucian; he occasionally threw it aside, if struck by any remark made by his fellow travellers, and poured forth his knowledge and eloquence in a full stream, to the delight and astonishment of his auditors. Accidentally the first subject which attracted him was the digestive faculties of dogs, from whence he
1 [Commonly called Fish Crauford.—ED.]
i. p. 216, un account of this visit to Cambridge, which ocDr. Watson was a fellow of Trinity see ante, vol.
curred in Feb. 1765.—Ep.
branched off as to the powers of digestion in various species of animals, discovering such stores of information, that this particular point might have been supposed to have formed his especial study, and so it was with every other subject started: the strength of his memory was not less astonishing than his eloquence; he quoted from various authours, either in support of his own argument or to confute those of his companions, as readily and, apparently, as accurately as if the works had been in his hands. The coach halted, as usual, for dinner, which seemed to be a deeply interesting business to Johnson, who vehemently attacked a dish of stewed carp, using his fingers only in feeding himself'.
"Bishop Percy was at one time on a very intimate footing with Dr. Johnson, and the Doctor one day took Percy's little daughter upon his knee, and asked her what she thought of Pilgrim's Progress?' The child answered that she had not read it. No,' replied the Doctor, then I would not give one farthing for you,' and he set her down and took no further notice of her."
on the occasion, but said, turning to Dr. Farr, Sir, I am very glad to hear this. I hope the day will never arrive when I shall neither be the object of calumny or ridicule, for then I shall be neglected and forgotten ››
"It was near the close of his life that two young ladies, who were warm admirers of his works, but had never seen himself, went to Boltcourt, and, asking if he was at home, were shown up stairs, where he was writing. He laid down his pen on their entrance, and, as they stood be fore him, one of the females repeated a speech of some length, previously prepared for the occasion. It was an enthusiastic effusion, which, when the speaker had finished, she panted for her idol's reply. What was her mortification when all he said was Fiddle-de-dee, my dear.'
"Much pains were taken by Mr. Hayley's friends to prevail on Dr. Johnson to read The Triumphs of Temper,' when it was in its zenith; at last he consented, but never got beyond the two first pages, of which he uttered a few words of contempt that I have now forgotten. They were, however, carried to the authour, who revenged himself by pourtraying Johnson as Ru ble in his comedy of The Mausoleum,' and subDr.sequently he published, without his name, a‘[ alogue in the Shades between Lord Chestertied and Dr. Johnson,' more distinguished for malg ty than wit. Being anonymous, and possessing very little merit, it fell still-born from the press
"Dr. Mudge used to relate, as a proof Rose 3. of Dr. Johnson's quick discernment into character:-When he was on a visit to Mudge at Plymouth, the inhabitants of the Dock (now Devonport) were very desirous of their town being supplied with water, to effect which it was necessary to obtain the consent of the corporation of Plymouth; this was obstinately refused, "Dr. Johnson sent his Life of Lord Litet the Dock being considered as an upstart. And a in MSS. to Mrs. Montague, who was much de rival, Alderman Tolcher, who took a very strong satisfied with it, and thought her friend every way part, called one morning, and immediately opened underrated, but the Doctor made no alterates on the subject to Dr. Johnson, who appeared to When he subsequently made one of a party give great attention, and, when the alderman had Mrs. Montague's, he addressed his hostess two of ceased speaking, replied, You are perfectly three times after dinner, with a view to eng right, sir; I would let the rogues die of thirst, for her in conversation: receiving only cold and bre I hate a Docker from my heart.' The old man answers, he said, in a low voice, to General Pho went away quite delighted, and told all his ac- who sat next him, and who told me the story. quaintances how completely the great Dr. John-You see, sir, I am no longer the man for Mis son was on his side of the question.'
"It was after the publication of the Lives of the Poets that Dr. Farr, being engaged to dine with Sir Joshua Reynolds, mentioned, on coming in, that, in his way, he had seen a caricature, which he thought clever, of the nine muses flogging Dr. Johnson round Parnassus. The admirers of Gray and others, who thought their favourites hardly treated in the Lives, were laughing at Dr. Farr's account of the print, when Dr. Johnson was himself announced: Dr. Farr being the only stranger, Sir Joshua introduced him, and, to Farr's infinite embarrassment, repeated what he had just been telling them. Johnson was not at all surly
1 [Mr. Boswell, ante, p. 381, mentions another instance, in which Dr. Johnson surprised his accidental companions in a stage-coach with the force of his conversation and the goodness of his appetite.-ED.]
2 [Afterwards Mrs. Isted, of Ecton, Northamptonshire. -Ev.]
3 [Mrs. Rose, who has obligingly communicated these anecdotes, is the daughter of Dr. Farr, of Plymouth, and the daughter-in-law of Dr. Johnson's old friend, Dr. Rose, of Chiswick.-ED.]
4 [This story is told by Mr. Boswell, and commented upon by Mr. Blakeway (ante, vol. i. p. 164), as if Dr. Johnson had seriously entered into the spirit of the contest; whereas Dr. Mudge, more naturally, represents him as flattering, with an ironical vehenience, the prejudices of the worthy alderman, who is known, from other circumstances, to have been of a very zealous disposi tion.-ED.]
Mrs. Piozzi related to me, that when Dr Johnson one day observed, that poets in genera preferred some one couplet they had written any other, she replied, that she did not suppose he had a favourite; he told her she was mistaken
he thought his best lines were :
'The encumber'd oar scarce leaves the hostile coast, Through purple billows and a floating host 7.'"
"Dr. Johnson 8, in his conversation with Dr. Parr, repeatedly and earnestly avowed
If Johnson had been an amateur authour, abuse and re
5 [This was his usual declaration on all such occas
criticism would no doubt have given him pain, but, that authour by profession, and one who, for so many ye had lived by his pen, the greatest misfortune want neglect; for his daily bread depended on the sensa his works might create (see ante, p. 204). This se vation will be found applicable to many other cases-o
6 See ante, p. 402-5, where it will be seen that, sides the character of Rumble and the Dead Dialog Hayley vented his spleen in a correspondence with Seward, which that lady, or some of her confidants, chase to publish, and which, instead of affecting the reputab of Dr. Johnson, only cover the names of the two write with indelible ridicule.-ED.]
7 [These lines are in the Vanity of Human Wishes. line 192.-ED.]
8 [These three anecdotes, or rather memoranda of Dr. Purr's, were communicated by his biographer, Dr. Jobs stone, of Birmingham.—Es.]