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for that?” BOSWELL. “It hurts people of weaker nerves." JOHNSON. “I know no such weak-nerved people.” Mr. Burke, to whom I related this conference, said, “ It is well if, when a man comes to die, he has nothing heavier upon his conscience than having been a little rough in conversation.”
Johnson, at the time when the paper was presented to him, though at first pleased with the attention of his. friend, whom he thanked in an earnest manner, soon exclaimed in a loud angry tone, “What is your drift, Sir?” Sir Joshua Reynolds pleasantly observed, that it was a. scene for a comedy, to see a penitent get into a violent passion and belabour his confessor.?
I have preserved no more of his conversation at the times when I saw him during the rest of this month, till Sunday, the 30th of May, when I met him in the evening at Mr. Hoole's, where there was a large company both of ladies and gentlemen. Sir James Johnston happened to say that he paid no regard to the arguments of counsel at the bar of the House of Commons, because they were paid for speaking. Johnson. “ Nay, Sir, argument is argument. You cannot help paying regard to their arguments if they are good. If it were testimony, you might disregard it, if you knew that it were purchased. There is a beautiful image in Bacon? upon this subject. Testimony
| After all, I cannot but be of opinion, that as Mr. Langton was seriously requested by Dr. Johnson to mention what appeared to him erroneous in the character of his friend, he was bound as an honest man to intimate what he really thought, which he certainly did in the most delicate manner; so that Johnson himself, when in a quiet frame of mind, was pleased with it. The texts suggested are now before me, and I shall quote a few of them. “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”—Matt. v. 5. “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering forbearing one another in love.”—Ephes. v. 1, 2. “And above all these things, put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.”—Col. iii. 14. « Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, does not behave itself unseemly, is not easily provoked.”—1 Cor. xiii. 4, 5. * 2 Dr. Johnson's memory deceived him. The passage referred to is not Bacon's, but Boyle's, and may be found, with a slight variation, in Johnson's Dictionary, under the word Crossbow.-So happily selected are the greater part of the examples in that incomparable work, that if
is like an arrow shot from a long-bow; the force of it depends on the strength of the hand that draws it. Argument is like an arrow from a cross-bow, which has equal force though shot by a child.”
He had dined that day at Mr. Hoole's, and Miss Helen Maria Williams being expected in the evening, Mr. Hoole put into his hands her beautiful “Ode on the Peace.”? Johnson read it over, and when this elegant and accom. plished ? young lady was presented to him, he took her by the hand in the most courteous manner, and repeated the finest stanza of her poem. This was the most delicate and pleasing compliment he could pay. Her respectable friend, Dr. Kippis, from whom I had this anecdote, was standing by, and was not a little gratified.
Miss Williams told me, that the only other time she was fortunate enough to be in Dr. Johnson's company, he asked her to sit down by him, which she did ; and upon her inquiring how he was, he answered, “I am very ill indeed, Madam. I am very ill even when you are near me; what should I be were you at a distance ?”
He had now a great desire to go to Oxford, as his first jaunt after his illness. We talked of it for some days, and I had promised to accompany him. He was impatient and fretful to-night, because I did not at once agree to go with
the most striking passages found in it were collected by one of our modern bookmakers, under the title of “ The Beauties of Johnson's Dictionary,” they would form a very pleasing and popular volume.Malone.
? The peace made by that very able statesman the Earl of Shelburne, now Marquis of Lansdowne, which may fairly be considered as the foundation of all the prosperity of Great Britain since that time.
2 In the first edition of my work, the epithet amiable was given. I was sorry to be obliged to strike it out; but I could not in justice suffer it to remain, after this young lady had not only written in favour of the savage anarchy with which France has been visited, but had (as I have been informed by good authority) walked, without horror, over the ground at the Thuilleries when it was strewed with the naked bodies of the faithful Swiss Guards, who were barbarously massacred for having bravely de. fended, against a crew of ruffians, the monarch whom they had taken an oath to defend. From Dr. Johnson she could now expect not endearment, but repulsion. Note in Second Edition. Vol. iii. p. 543.
Miss Williams, like many other early enthusiasts of the French revo. dution, had latterly altered her opinion very considerably. She died in 1828, æt. 65.-Croker.
BOSWELL'S LIFE OF JOHNSON.
him on Thursday. When I considered how ill he had been, and what allowance should be made for the influence of sickness upon his temper, I resolved to indulge him, though with some inconvenience to myself, as I wished to attend the musical meeting in honour of Handel, in Westminster Abbey, on the following Saturday.
In the midst of his own diseases and pains, he was ever compassionate to the distresses of others, and actively earnest in procuring them aid, as appears from a note to Sir Joshua Reynolds, of June, in these words :
"I am ashamed to ask for some relief for a poor man, to whom I hope I have given what I can be expected to spare. The man importunes me, and the blow goes round. I am going to try another air on Thursday.” 1
On Thursday, June 3, the Oxford post coach took us up in the morning at Bolt Court. The cther two passengers were Mrs. Beresford and her daughter, two very agreeable ladies from America ; they were going to Worcestershire, where they then resided. Frank had been sent by his master the day before to take places for us; and I found from the way-bill that Dr. Johnson had made our names be put down. Mrs. Beresford, who had read it, whispered me, “Is this the great Dr. Johnson?” I told her it was; 80 she was then prepared to listen. As she soon happened to mention, in a voice so low that Johnson did not hear it, that her husband had been a member of the American Congress, I cautioned her to beware of introducing that subject, as she must know how very violent Johnson was
? The following note from Miss Reynolds shows that he was not a solicitor for the poor of his own acquaintance only. It seems to have been given to some poor woman as an introduction to Dr. Johnson :
“Dover Street, July 9. “MY GOOD SIR,
“I could not forbear to communicate to the poor woman the hope you had given me of using your interest with your friends to raise her a little sum to enable her to see her native country again ; nor could I refuse to write a line to procure her the pleasure of the confirmation of
“I am, and always have been, very troublesome to you; but you are, and always have been, very good to your obliged humble servant,
“ FRANCES REYNOLDS."
against the people of that country. He talked a great deal; but I am sorry I have preserved little of the conversation. Miss Beresford was so much charmed, that she said to me aside, “ How he does talk! Every sentence is an essay." She amused herself in the coach with knotting. He would scarcely allow this species of employment any merit. “Next to mere idleness,” said he, “I think knotting is to be reckoned in the scale of insignificance; though I once attempted to learn knotting: Dempster's sister (looking to me) endeavoured to teach me it, but I made no progress.”
I was surprised at his talking without reserve in the public post coach of the state of his affairs : “I have,” said he, “about the world, I think, above a thousand pounds, which I intend shall afford Frank an annuity of seventy pounds a year.” Indeed, his openness with people at a first interview was remarkable. He said once to Mr. Langton, “I think I am like Squire Richard' in The Journey to London,' I'm never strange in a strange place." He was truly social. He strongly censured what is much too common in England among persons of condition,maintaining an absolute silence when unknown to each other; as, for instance, when occasionally brought together in a room before the master or mistress of the house has appeared. “Sir, that is being so uncivilised as not to understand the common rights of humanity.”
At the inn where we stopped he was exceedingly dissatisfied with some roast mutton which we had for dinner. The ladies, I saw, wondered to see the great philosopher, whose wisdom and wit they had been admiring all the way, get into ill-humour from such a cause. He scolded the waiter, saying, “It is as bad as bad can be: it is ill-fed, ill-killed, ill-kept, and ill-drest.”
He bore the journey very well, and seemed to feel himself elevated as he approached Oxford, that magnificent and venerable seat of learning, orthodoxy, and Toryism. Frank came in the heavy coach, in readiness to attend him; and we were received with the most polite hospitality at the house of his old friend Dr. Adams, Master of Pem
i The remark is made by Miss Jenny, and not by her brother. From its smartness it would have been ill suited to one who was originally described in the dramatis personæ as “a mere whelp.”-Markland.
broke College, who had given us a kind invitation. Before we were set down, I communicated to Johnson my having engaged to return to London directly for the reason I have mentioned, but that I would hasten back to him again. He was pleased that I had made this journey merely to keep him company. He was easy and placid with Dr. Adams, Mrs. and Miss Adams, and Mrs. Kennicott, widow of the learned Hebræan, who was here on a visit. He soon despatched the inquiries that were made about his illness and recovery by a short and distinct narrative, and then assuming a gay air, repeated from Swift,
“Nor think on our approaching ills,
Ard talk of spectacles and pills.” Dr. Newton, the Bishop of Bristol, having been mentioned, Johnson, recollecting the manner in which he had been censured by that prelate, thus retaliated :-“ Tom knew he should be dead before what he has said of me
Dr. Newton, in his account of his own Life, after animadverting upon Mr. Gibbon's History, says,
“Dr. Johnson's Lives of the Poets afforded more amusement; but can. dour was much hurt and offended at the malevolence that predominates in every part. Some passages, it must be allowed, are judicious and well written, but make not sufficient compensation for so much spleen and ill-humour. Never was any biographer more sparing of his praise, or more abundant in his censures. He seemingly delights more in exposing blemishes, than in recommending beauties; slightly passes over excel. lences, enlarges upon imperfections, and, not content with his own severe reflections, revives old scandal, and produces large quotations from the forgotten works of former critics. His reputation was so high in the republic of letters, that it wanted not to be raised upon the ruins of others. But these essays, instead of raising a higher idea than was before entertained of his understanding, have certainly given the world a worse opinion of his temper. The bishop was therefore the more surprised and concerned for his townsman, for he respected him not only for his genius and learning, but valued him much for the more amiable part of his character-his humanity and charity, his morality and religion.”
L'he last sentence we may consider as the general and permanent opinion of Bishop Newton; the remarks which precede it must, by all who have read Johnson's admirable work, be imputed to the disgust and peevishness of old age. I wish they had not appeared, and that Dr. Johnson had not been provoked by thein to express himself not in respectiul terms of a prelate whose labours were certainly of considerable advantage both to literature and religion.