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JOHNSON'S RELATIONS WITH THE LOWES.'
On Saturday night, April 3, 1779, Boswell found Johnson “ sitting in Mrs. Williams's room, with her and one who, he afterwards told me, was a natural son of the second Lord Southwell.” 2 This was Mauritius Lowe, whose ill-starred birth—the natural son of one whom the Rev. Mr. Chetwood, in a letter to Malone (“Life of Malone," p. 21), calls that right dishonourable and ignoble peer -was succeeded by a life which, from first to last, seems to have been steeped in misery and distress. Of his father, the second Lord Southwell, Johnson said that he was “the highest bred man without insolence that I ever was in company with: the most qualiticd I ever saw." 3 The brother of this Lord Southwell, Mr. Edmund Southwell—a man of wonderful parts, of lively and entertaining conversation, and well acquainted with the world, according to Sir John Hawkins (“Life of Johnson,” p. 405-6)—the same authority enrols among the distressed friends of Johnson. On the death of the second Lord, 1766, through the recommendation of Johnson, a small quarterly allowance of £10 had been granted and paid by the third Lord Southwell to Mauritius Lowe; for on the death of this peer in 1780, Johnson wrote to his widow the letter which Malone published in the sixth edition of Boswell's “Life,” 4 and is here reproduced.
" TO THE RIGHT HONOURABLE LADY
SOUTHWELL, DUBLIN.5 .“ MADAM,
“ Among the numerous addresses of condolence which your great loss must have occasioned, be pleased to receive this from one whose name perhaps you have never heard, and to whom
i See antè, p. 309. 2 See vol, iii., p. 373. • See antè, p. 118. 4 See antè, p. 309.
5 This letter is printed from the original in the Forster Library, South Kensington Museum.-Editor. IV.
your Ladyship is known only by the reputation of your virtue, and to whom your Lord was known only by his kindness and beneficence.
“Your Ladyship is now again summoned to exert that piety of which you once gave, in a state of pain and danger, so illustrious an example, and your Lord's beneficence may be still continued by those who, with his fortune, inherit his virtues.
“ I hope to be forgiven the liberty which I shall take of informing your Ladyship, that Mr. Mauritius Lowe, a son of your late Lord's father, had by my recommendation to your Lord, a quarterly allowance of ten pounds, the last of which, due July 26th, he has not received; he was in hourly hope of his remittance, and flattered himself that on October 26 he should have received the whole half year's bounty, when he was struck with the dreadful news of his benefactor's death.
“May I presume to hope that his want, his relation, and his merit, which excited his Lordship's charity, will continue to have the same effect upon those whom he has left behind, and that, though he has lost one friend, he may not yet be destitute. Your Ladyship's charity cannot easily be exerted where it is wanted more ; and to a mind like yours, distress is a sufficient recommendation. “I hope to be allowed the honour of being,
“Madam, your Ladyship's
“Sam. Johnson. “ Bolt Court, Fleet Street, London,
Sept. 9, 1780."
Nothing is known of the date of the birth of Mauritius Lowe. The first authentic information regarding him, is that he was one of the earliest students who entered the Royal Academy, that he was a pupil of Cipriani, and obtained at the first distribution of prizes to the pupils of the Royal Academy, Dec. 11, 1770, the gold medal for the best historical picture. It is not necessary to accept the spiteful statement of Northcote” that he owed this gold medal to the partiality of the Italian gentlemen, members of the Academy, who voted for him in order to gratify Baretti, at whose trial for murder Lowe had been a favourable witness.
i Taylor's Life of Reynolds, vol. i., p. 370.
This auspicious commencement of a young artist's career was not the prelude of happy achievements. No success such as marked the career of his two fellow medallists of the same year, Bacon and Flaxman, attended Lowe's. Though he was the first student sent to Rome by the Royal Academy with its travelling allowance, he lost the pension through the non-fulfilment of the conditions. Not only want of genius, then, but lack of conduct lay at the root of his failures. Through the whole course of his life, however, he enjoyed the steady, unfailing friendship of Johnson who, with his usual tenderness of heart, seemed to be drawn towards him as the tide of distress rose higher and higher. Frequently Boswell met him at Bolt Court, and within the sacred precincts of Mrs. Williams's room, where he poured out his sorrows to Johnson.
On Tuesday, April 28, 1778, Boswell, accompanying Johnson in a hackney coach to dine with General Paoli, tells us, that “we stopped first at the bottom of Hedge Lane to leave a letter with good news for a poor man in distress," probably to tell Lowe, who lived at No. 3, Hedge Lane, that a picture of his had been admitted to the Exhibition of the Academy. The picture is mentioned in the catalogue of 1778 as “an Allegorical Design.” And in April, 1783, a very large canvas of high art of poor Lowe's, an ambitious scene from the Deluge, having been positively rejected, Johnson wrote the letters to Sir Joshua and to Barry which Boswell printed in his Life, entreating the re-consideration of his case. His intercession so far prevailed that the picture, though not catalogued with the other pictures of that year, was exhibited by itself in the Antique-Academy room,' to the high satisfaction of Lowe. But though Johnson commended it as both noble and probable, the execution of it was, as Northcote asserts, execrable beyond belief, and reports that when exhibited it met with universal condemnation. Iu 1782 he exhibited the “Death of Abel,” and in 1784, “ Joseph's Coat brought to Jacob.” The catalogues of the Academy show that in 1785 he exhibited St. John, and 1786 Dædalus and Icarus. He seems to have attempted portraits at the rate of three guineas a head; but with what success we know not. It was generally at Johnson's
? Taylor's Life of Reynolds, vol. i., p. 337 (n.).
recommendation that he was thus employed. “There is a certain poor wretch of a villanous painter," so Madame D'Arblay records in her most flippant manner, “one Mr. Lowe, who is in some measure under Dr. Johnson's protection, and whom, therefore, he recommends to all the people he thinks can afford to sit for their pictures. Among these he made Mr. Seward very readily do so, and then applied to Mr. Crutchley, who, after sundry grimaces, consented to go to the painter's; where he found him in a room with brats squalling and wrangling, and so full of dirt and filth as to be utterly beyond the endurance of the exquisite Mr. Crutchley, who, poking three guineas into the painter's hands, fled out of the house, promising to come again some other time.” Soon after this Lowe lost his protector, and going from bad to worse, as the lot of the miserable too often is, he died in a poor lodging-house in Westminster, in September, 1793.
Another mention of him, and the curtain falls on Mauritius Lowe and the troubled drama of his life. In Johnson's Will we find this bequest: “I give and bequeath to my godchildren, the son and daughter of Mauritius Lowe, painter, each of them one hundred pounds .... to be applied and disposed of by and at the discretion of my executors, in the education or settlement in the world of them my said legatees."
More than seventy years after the death of Johnson there appeared in the columns of “ The Times," November 1, 1855, a most remarkable letter signed by Thomas Carlyle, Charles Dickens, and John Forster, appealing impressively to the nation on behalf of two aged daughters of Mauritius Lowe, then stricken with penury and threatened with absolute destitution. One of these was the god-daughter and legatee of Johnson. This interesting document is not, we believe, included as it well might be, in any of the editions of Carlyle's works; but it richly deserves to be rescued from the oblivion that often befalls much of the matter which fills the columns of a newspaper. It is here printed at full length.
TO THE EDITOR OF THE TIMES.
The following document, and the proposal or appeal now grounded on it, require to be made known to the British public,
Diary, vol. ii., p. 41. Colburn, 1842.
for which object we, as the course is, apply to the Editor of “The Times."
In the month of May last there was presented to Lord Palmerston, as head of Her Majesty's Government, a memorial on behalf of a certain aged Miss Lowe and her sister, which memorial will sufficiently explain itself, and indicate who the Misses Lowe are, to those who read it here :
“The undersigned beg respectfully to submit to Lord Palmerston a statement of reasons which appear to them to constitute, on behalf of the two aged surviving daughters of Mauritius Lowe, therein described, a claim to such small yearly pension as in his Lordship's judgment may consist with other claims and demands for the ensuing year, upon the fund appropriate to literature.
“ In Dr. Samuel Johnson's last Will is this passage,
“I also give and bequeath to my godchildren, the son and daughter of Mauritius Lowe, painter, each of them £100 of my stock in the Three per Cent. Consolidated Annuities, to be disposed of by and at the discretion of my executors in the education or settlement in the world of them my said legatees.'
- The Mauritius Lowe mentioned here, who was once a man of great promise in his art, favourably known in the Royal Academy and in the world as a man of refined manners and real talent and worth (though probably with something of morbid or over-sensitive in his character), died ten years after Johnson without fulfilling the high hopes entertained of him. The godson, or younger Lowe, mentioned in the will, who at one time (1810-13) appears to have held some small appointment in Barbadoes, creditably to himself, but with loss of health—the crown and consummation of various other losses he had met with—is also long since dead. Of these Lowes and their hopes and struggles there is now nothing to be said. They are sunk under the horizon. Nor can they pretend to have any hold of the world's memory except what is derived from the father's intimacy with Johnson, of which and of Johnson's helpfulness and real esteem and affection for the man there are still abundant proofs, printed and not printed, besides this of the Will.
“But the goddaughter mentioned in the will has not yet sunk under the horizon. She still survives among us, a highly respectable old person, now in her 78th year, with all her faculties about