« PreviousContinue »
life planned by choice, but as he is restrained from deviation by some exterÆtat. 61. nal power.
may live as he will, seldom lives long in the obfervation of his own rules.
Of this year I have obtained the following letters:
6 » )
To the Reverend Dr. FARMER, Cambridge.
“ AS no man ought to keep wholly to himself any poffesion that may be useful to the publick, I hope you will not think me unreafonably 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 intreats 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. “ Johnson's-court, Fleet-street,
SAM. JOHNSON." March 21, 1770.
To the Reverend Mr. THOMAS WARTON.
" 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,
Prayers and Meditations, p. 95.
will do us no good. We shall not begin to print before the end of six weeks, perhaps not so soon.
« I am, &c. - London, June 23, 1770.
To the Reverend Dr. JOSEPH WARTON. « 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
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, Sept. 27, 1770.
To Mr. Francis Barber, at Mrs. Clapp's, Bishop-Stortford, Hertfordshire. « 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
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, 66 London, Sept 25, 1770.
To the same. « 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 cloaths, which you will receive, I believe, next week. My compliments to Mrs. Clapp and to Mr. Ellis, and Mr. Smith, &c. I am
5. Your affectionate « December 7, 1770.
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 ColleEtanea, obligingly furnished to me by the Reverend 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. Grierson?, his Majesty's printer at Dublin, a gentleman of uncommon learning, and great wit and vivacity. Mr. Grierson died in Germany, at the age of twenty-seven. Dr. Johnson highly respected his abilities, and often observed, that he poffeffed more extensive knowledge than any man of his years he had ever known. His industry was equal to his talents; and he particularly excelled in every fpecies of philological learning, and was, perhaps, the best critick of the age he lived in.
“ I must always remember with gratitude my obligation to Mr. Grierson, for the honour and happiness of Dr. Johnson's acquaintance and friendship, which continued uninterrupted and undiminished to his death: a connection, that was at once the pride and happiness of my
life. “ What pity it is, that so much wit and good sense as he continually exhibited in conversation, should perish unrecorded! Few persons quitted his
Son of the learned Mrs. Grierson, who was patronised by the late Lord Granville, and was the editor of several of the classicks.
company without perceiving themselves wiser and better than they were before. On serious subjects he flashed the most interesting conviction upon Ærat. 71. his auditors; and upon lighter topicks, you might have supposed-Albano mufas de monte locutas.
Though I can hope to add but little to the celebrity of so exalted a character, by any communications I can furnish, yet out of pure respect to his memory, I will venture to transmit to you some anecdotes concerning him, which fell under my own observation. The very minutiæ of such a character must be interesting, and may be compared to the filings of diamonds.
“ In politicks he was deemed a Tory, but certainly was not so in the obnoxious or party sense of the term; for while he asserted the legal and falutary prerogatives of the crown, he no less respected the constitutional liberties of the people. Whiggism, at the time of the Revolution, he said, was accompanied with certain principles; but latterly, as a mere party distinction under Walpole and the Pelhams, was no better than the politicks of stock-jobbers, and the religion of infidels.
“ He detested the idea of governing by parliamentary corruption, and asserted most strenuously, that a prince steadily and conspicuously pursuing the interests of his people, could not fail of parliamentary concurrence. prince of ability, he contended, might and should be the directing soul and 1pirit of his own administration ; in short, his own minister, and not the mere head of a party; and then, and not till then, would the royal dignity be sincerely respected.
“ Johnson seemed to think, that a certain degree of crown influence over the Houses of Parliament, (not meaning a corrupt and shameful dependence,) was very falutary, nay even necessary, in our mixed government. For, (faid he,) if the members were under no crown influence, and disqualified from receiving any gratification from Court, and resembled, as they possibly might, Pym and Haserig, and other stubborn and sturdy members of the long Parliament, the wheels of government would be totally obstructed. Such men would oppose, merely to shew their power, from envy, jealousy, and perversity of disposition; and not gaining themselves, would hate and oppose all who did : not loving the person of the prince, and conceiving they owed him little gratitude, from the mere spirit of insolence and contradiction, they would oppose and thwart him upon all occasions.'
“ The inseparable imperfection annexed to all human governments, consisted, he said, in not being able to create a sufficient fund of virtue and principle to carry the laws into due and effectual execution. Wisdom might plan, but
virtue alone could execute. And where could sufficient virtue be found ? A variety of delegated, and often discretionary powers must be entrusted fomewhere ; which, if not governed by integrity and confcience, would necefsarily be abused, till at last the constable would sell his for a shilling.
“ This excellent person was fometimes charged with abetting Navish and arbitrary principles of government. Nothing in my opinion could be a grosser calumny and misrepresentation; for how can it be rationally supposed, that he should adopt such pernicious and absurd opinions, who supported his philofophical character with so much dignity, was extremely jealous of his personal liberty and independence, and could not brook the finallest appearance of neglect or insult, even from the highest personages ?
« But let us view him in some instances of more familiar life.
“ His general mode of life, during my acquaintance, seemed to be pretty uniform. About twelve o'clock I commonly visited him, and frequently found him in bed, or declaiming over his tea, which he drank very plentifully. He generally had a levee of morning visitors, chiefly men of letters; Hawksworth, Goldsmith, Murphy, Langton, Steevens, Beauclerk, &c. &c. and sometimes learned ladies, particularly I remember a French lady of wit and fashion doing him the honour of a visit. He seemed to me to be considered as a kind of publick oracle, whom every body thought they had a right to visit and consult; and doubtless they were well rewarded. I never could difcover how he found time for his compositions. He declaimed all the morning, then went to dinner at a tavern, where he commonly staid late, and then drank his tea at some friend's house, over which he loitered a great while, but feldom took supper. I fancy he must have read and wrote chiefly in the night, for F can scarely recollect that he ever refused going with me to a tavern, and he often went to Ranelagh, which he deemed a place of innocent recreation.
“ He frequently gave all the silver in his pocket to the poor, who watched him, between his house and the tavern where he dined. He walked the streets at all hours, and said he was never robbed, for the rogues knew he had little money, nor had the appearance of having much.
“ Though the most accessible and communicative man alive, yet when he suspected he was invited to be exhibited, he constantly spurned the invitation.
“ Two young women from Staffordshire visited him when I was present, to consult him on the subject of Methodism, to which they were inclined.
Come, (said he,) you pretty fools, dine with Maxwell and me at the Mitre, and we will talk over that subject;' which they did, and after dinner he took them upon his knee, and fondled her for half an hour together. 4