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find reason to hate him ; you hate the other till you find reason to love him."
The wife of one of his acquaintance had fraudulently made a purse for herself out of her husband's fortune. Feeling a proper compunction in her last moments, she confessed how much she had secreted; but before she could tell where it was placed, she was seized with a convulsive fit and expired. Her husband said, he was more hurt by her want of confidence in him, than by the loss of his money. “I told him,” said Johnson, “that he should console himself; for perhaps the money might be found, and he was sure that his wife was gone."
A foppish physician once reminded Johnson of his having been in company with him on a former occasion: “I do not remember it, Sir.” The physician still insisted ; adding that he that day wore so fine a coat that it must have attracted his notice. “Sir," said Johnson, “had you been dipped in Pactolus, I should not have noticed you.”
He seemed to take a pleasure in speaking in his own style ; for when he had carelessly missed it, he would repeat the thought translated into it. Talking of the comedy of “The Rehearsal," he said, “It has not wit enough to keep it sweet.” This was easy ;-he therefore caught him. self, and pronounced a more round sentence: “ It has not vitality enough to preserve it from putrefaction.”
He censured a writer of entertaining travels for assuming a feigned character, saying in his sense of the word), “He carries out one lie; we know not how many he brings back.” At another time, talking of the same person, he observed, “Sir, your assent to a man whom you have never known to falsify is a debt; but after you have known a man to falsify, your assent to him then is a favour.”
Though he had no taste for painting, he admired much the manner in which Sir Joshua Reynolds treated of his art, in his “ Discourses to the Royal Academy.” He observed one day of a passage in them, “I think I might as well have said this myself ;” and once when Mr. Langton was sitting by him, he read one of them very eagerly, and expressed himself thus: “Very well, Master Reynolds; very well, indeed. But it will not be understood.”
When I observed to him that Painting was so far in
BOSWELL'S LIFE OF JOHNSON.
ferior to Poetry, that the story or even emblem which it communicates must be previously known, and mentioned as a natural and laughable instance of this, that a little miss, on seeing a picture of Justice with the scales, had exclaimed to me, “ See, there's a woman selling sweetmeats ;” he said, “ Painting, Sir, can illustrate, but cannot inform.”
No man was more ready to make an apology when he had censured unjustly than Johnson. When a proof-sheet of one of his works was brought to him, he found fault with the mode in which a part of it was arranged, refused to read it, and in a passion, desired that the compositor might be sent to him. The compositor was Mr. Manning, a decent sensible man, who had composed about one half of his “Dictionary," when in Mr. Strahan's printing-house ; and a great part of his “Lives of the Poets,” when in that of Mr. Nichols; and who in his seventy-seventh year) when in Mr. Baldwin's printing-house, composed a part of the first edition of this work concerning him. By producing the manuscript, he at once satisfied Dr. Johnson that he was not to blame. Upon which Johnson candidly and earnestly said to him, “Mr. Compositor, I ask your pardon; Mr. Compositor, I ask your pardon, again and again.”
His generous humanity to the miserable was almost beyond example. The following instance is well attested : coming home late one night, he found a poor woman lying in the street, so much exhausted that she could not walk; he took her upon his back and carried her to his house, where he discovered that she was one of those wretched females who had fallen into the lowest state of vice, poverty, and disease. Instead of harshly upbraiding her, he had her taken care of with all tenderness for a long time, at a considerable expense, till she was restored to health, and endeavoured to put her into a virtuous way of living."
He thought Mr. Caleb Whitefoord singularly happy in
i Compositor in the printing.house means, the person who adjusts the types in the order in which they are to stand for printing; and arranges what is called the form, from which an impression is taken.
The circumstance therefore alluded to in Mr. Courtenay's Poetical Character of him is strictly true. My informer was Mrs. Desmoulins, who lived many years in Dr. Johnson's house.
hitting on the signature of Papyrius Cursor to his ingenious and diverting Cross Readings of the newspapers ;' it being a real name of an ancient Roman, and clearly expressive of the thing done in this lively conceit.
He once in his life was known to have uttered what is called a bull : Sir Joshua Reynolds, when they were riding together in Devonshire, complained that he had a very bad horse, for that even when going down hill he moved slowly step by step. “Ay,” says Johnson, “and when he goes up hill he stands still.”
He had a great aversion to gesticulating in company. He called once to a gentleman ? who offended him in that point, “Don't attitudinise.” And when another gentleman thought he was giving additional force to what he uttered by expressive movements of his bands, Johnson fairly seized them, and held them down.
An author of considerable eminence having engrossed a good share of the conversation in the company of Johnson, and having said nothing but what was trifling and insigni. ficant, Johnson, when he was gone, observed to us, “ It is wonderful what a difference there sometimes is between a man's powers of writing and of talking. ****** writes with great spirit, but is a poor talker: had he held his tongue, we might have supposed him to have been restrained by modesty ; but he has spoken a great deal to-day, and you have heard what stuff it was.”
A gentleman having said that a congé d'élire has not, perhaps, the force of a command, but may be considered only as a strong recommendation :-“Sir,” replied Johnson, who overheard him, “it is such a recommendation, as if I should throw you out of a two-pair-of-stairs window, and recommend to you to fall soft.” 3
1 He followed his Cross Readings by a still more witty paper on the Errors of the Press. These two laughable essays are preserved in the Foundling Hospital for Wit.-Croker.
2 This was Sir Richard Musgrave, an Irish Baronet, author of a History of the Rebellion of 1798, whom I knew intimately, and who had, it must be confessed, a great eagerness of manner. One day, when Sir Richard was urging him with singular warmth to write the lives of the prose writers, and getting up to enforce his suit, Johnson coldly replied, 5. Sit down, Sir.”—Piozzi, Anecdotes.- Croker. [Johnsoniana, p. 116.)
3 This has been printed in other publications“ fall to the ground.
BOSWELL'S LIFE OF JOHNSON.
Mr. Steevens, who passed many a social hour with him during their long acquaintance, which commenced when they both lived in the Temple, has preserved a good number of particulars concerning him, most of which are to be found in the department of Apophthegms, &c., in the .collection of “Johnson's Works." But he has been pleased to favour me with the following, which are original:
“One evening, previous to the trial of Baretti, a consultation of his friends was held at the house of Mr. Cox, the solicitor, in Southampton Buildings, Chancery Lane. Among others present were Mr. Burke and Dr. Johnson, who differed in sentiments concerning the tendency of some part of the defence the prisoner was to make. When the meeting was over, Mr. Steevens observed that the question between him and his friend had been agitated with rather too much warmth. It may be so, Sir,' replied the doctor, “ for Burke and I should have been of one opinion if we had had no audience.'”.
“Dr. Johnson once assumed a character in which perhaps even Mr. Boswell never saw him. His curiosity having been excited by the praises bestowed on the celebrated Torré's fireworks at Marybone Gardens, he desired Mr. Steevens to accompany him thither. The evening had proved showery, and soon after the few people present were assembled, public notice was given that the conductors of the wheels, suns, stars, &c. were so thoroughly watersoaked that it was impossible any part of the exhibition should be made, This is a mere excuse,' says the doctor, 'to .save their crackers for a more profitable company. Let us both hold up our sticks and threaten to break those coloured lamps that surround the orchestra, and we shall soon have our wishes gratified. The core of the fireworks cannot be injured ; let the different pieces be touched in their respective centres, and they will do their offices as well as ever.' Some young men, who overheard him, immediately began the violence he had recommended, and an attempt was speedily made to fire some of the wheels which appeared to have received the smallest damage; but to little purpose were they lighted, for most of them comBut Johnson himself gave me the true expression, which he had used as above; meaning that the recommendation left as little choice in the one .case as the other.
In the eleventh volume of Hawkins's edition of Johnson's works, pp. 197-216. [Reprinted in the Johnsoniana, pp. 123-137.)- Editor.
pletely failed. The author of "The Rambler,' however, may be considered on this occasion as the ringleader of a successful riot, though not as a skilful pyrotechnist.”.
“ It has been supposed that Dr. Johnson, so far as fashion was concerned, was careless of his appearance in public. But this is not altogether true, as the following slight instance may show:Goldsmith's last comedy was to be represented during some court-mourning, and Mr. Steevens appointed to call on Dr. Johnson, and carry him to the tavern where he was to dine with other of the poet's friends. The doctor was ready dressed, but in coloured clothes ; yet being told that he would find every one else in black, received the intelligence with a profusion of thanks, hastened to change his attire, all the while repeating his gratitude for the information that had saved him from an appearance so improper in the front row of a front box. “I would not,' added he, ‘for ten pounds have seemed so retrograde to any general observance.'”
“He would sometimes found his dislikes on very slender circumstances. Happening one day to mention Mr. Flexman, a dissenting minister, with some compliment to his exact memory in chronological matters ; the doctor replied, “Let me hear no more of him, Sir. That is the fellow who made the index to my Ramblers, and set down the name of Milton thus:-Milton, Mr. John.'”
Mr. Steevens adds this testimony:
“It is unfortunate, however, for Johnson, that his particularities and frailties can be more distinctly traced than his good and amiable exertions. Could the many bounties he studiously concealed, the many acts of humanity he performed in private, be displayed with equal circumstantiality, his defects would be so far lost in the blaze of his virtues, that the latter only would be regarded.”
Though, from my very high admiration of Johnson, I have wondered that he was not courted by all the great and all the eminent persons of his time, it ought fairly to be considered, that no man of humble birth, who lived entirely by literature, in short, no author by profession, ever rose in this country into that personal notice which he did. In the course of this work a numerous variety of names