Skip to main content

Full text of "Johnsonian miscellanies"

See other formats



VOL. I. 





*' ~ r D r 














. I 





D.D., F.R.S., F.R.A.S. 







IN the Preface to the Letters of Samuel Johnson I spoke of 
the hope I entertained that I should live to complete the main 
work of my life as a scholar by a new edition of the Lives 
of the Poets. I have been turned away from my purpose, at 
least for a time, by a letter which I received from Mr. Leslie 
Stephen. He asked me to edit all those writings which have 
long been included under the general title of Johnsoniana. 
The task that he proposed seemed pleasant in itself. Even 
had it been irksome, I should have hesitated much before 
I declined such a request, coming as it did from a man to 
whom every student of the literature, biography, and history 
of our country is so deeply indebted. It gratified me greatly 
to know that my labours had been of real service to the first 
editor of the Dictionary of National Biography. 

These two volumes of Johnsonian Miscellanies would have 
been ready for publication three years earlier had I not been 
delayed by illness, and by the necessity I have been under 
of passing all my winters abroad. On the banks of the Lake of 
Geneva, or on the shores of the Mediterranean, an editor, how 
ever much he may be supported by the climate, has to struggle 
against difficulties which might almost overwhelm him. Many 

a day 

viii Preface. 

a day he ' casts a long look ' towards the Bodleian and the British 
Museum. Many a day he thinks with idle regret of his own 
study, where he is surrounded by those books to which he has 
often to refer. The cost of carriage and the time lost in 
transport hinder him from taking backwards and forwards 
more than a few of the most needful works. Last year I sent 
off from London a box of books to Alassio, on the Italian 
Riviera, three weeks before I myself started for that pleasant 
little town. It was not till full five weeks after my arrival that 
they reached me. Fifty-nine days had they spent in traversing 
little more than a thousand miles. They had advanced at the 
rate of about three-quarters of a mile an hour. Towards Clarens, 
on the Lake of Geneva, where I passed three winters, they 
used to creep at a somewhat faster pace, for in every four- 
and-twenty hours they moved at least five-and-twenty miles. 
It is scarcely likely that Gibbon, when he transported his great 
library to Lausanne, had his patience as sorely tried as mine. 
The Kentish carrier, who, leaving Rochester betimes, delivered 
that same day a gammon of bacon and two razes of ginger 
as far as Charing Cross, was certainly more expeditious. 

Had I been in England while the book was passing through 
the press the disadvantages which arose from my earlier absence 
would have been greatly lessened. It has so happened that of 
the eleven months during which it has been in the printer's hands 
I have spent nearly ten abroad. In the six volumes of the 
Life, and in the two volumes of the Letters, there is scarcely 
a quotation or a reference in my notes which I did not verify 
in the proof by a comparison with the original authority. 
I never trusted my own copy. The labour was great, but it 
was not more than a man should be ready to undergo who 


Preface. ix 

ventures to edit an English classic. Tillemont's accuracy may, 
as Gibbon says, be inimitable ; but none the less, inspired by 
the praise which our great historian bestows on mere accuracy, 
a scholar should never lose the hope of imitation. 

In such a variety of material as is comprised in these two 
volumes, where much the same ground is frequently travelled 
over by different writers, I have found it difficult to exclude 
idle repetitions. Wherever there are two original authorities for 
the same anecdote, repetition may not only be justifiable, but 
even necessary. In many cases, however, one writer borrows 
from another without owning the obligation. William Seward, 
for instance, who knew Johnson well, from whose Anecdotes of 
Distinguished Persons and Biographiana I have quoted, had 
taken not a few passages from Mrs. Piozzi's Anecdotes without 
the change of a single word. Some of these thefts I only 
discovered in correcting the proof-sheets. It might be thought 
that plagiarism such as this would be easily detected by one 
who was so familiar with the subject. It was this very 
familiarity which made detection difficult. Every anecdote 
I had long known so well that frequently I could not be 
sure whether I was not for the second time including in my 
selection what had been included before. 

The imperfections of such a piece of work as this are often 
more clearly seen by the editor than even by the most sharp- 
sighted reviewer. They are discovered too late for correction, 
but not for criticism. Were the whole book in type at the 
same time, and were the cost of correction of no moment, what 
improvements could be made! I have never yet finished an 
index without wishing that by the help of it I could at once 
re-edit my own editing. 

I had 


I had at first thought of giving extracts from Madame 
D'Arblay's Diary. Reflection soon convinced me that it is 
too good a piece of work to be hacked in pieces. He who 
wishes to see Johnson's 'fun, and comical humour, and love 
of nonsense, of which,' she says, 'he had about him more 
than almost anybody she ever saw ' ; he who would know 
'Gay Sam, agreeable Sam, pleasant Sam/ must turn to her 
pages. It is a great pity that her Diary has never had 
a competent editor. In its present form it is not altogether 
as she originally wrote it, or even as she left it on her death. 
Some of the alterations, made partly by herself, partly by her 
niece, were unwarrantable. By the help of the manuscript, 
which is still in existence, though not, I believe, in a perfect 
condition, the original entries could in most cases be restored. 
Miss Seward's Letters I have passed over for a different reason : 
they are untrustworthy. 

In the Dicta Philosophi at the end of the book, I have given 
a second concordance of Johnson's sayings. Neither in extent 
nor in quality is this collection quite equal to the first, which 
was gathered from the Life and The Journal of a Tour to the 
Hebrides. ' Boswell's long head,' as Mrs. Thrale said, ' was equal 
to short-hand.' In his tablets the point of his master's wit was 
not blunted, and the strength of his wisdom was not weakened. 
' It is not every man that can carry a bon mot.' Johnson, if 
I am not mistaken, in the frequency with which he is quoted, 
comes next to the Bible and Shakespeare. By the help of my 
concordances he should suffer much less than formerly from 
inaccuracy of quotation. 

In these two volumes I am able to make some additions to 
Johnsonian lore. By collating the text of Prayers and Medita 

Preface. xi 

tions with the original manuscript preserved in the library of 
Pembroke College, Oxford, I have made some corrections in 
the text, and supplied some omissions. On one entry which 
had been suppressed I wish light could be thrown. Who was 
' dying Jenny ' for whose spiritual comfort Johnson provided x ? 
Was she some poor outcast, like the wretched woman he carried 
home and nursed there for thirteen weeks 2 ? 

An interesting collection of manuscripts which had once 
belonged to Miss Reynolds I am allowed to use by the kindness 
of Lady Colomb, of Dronquinna, Kenmare, a descendant of 
Sir Joshua's sister, Mary. Most of them are given in Croker's 
edition, but not all. I have revised his version, and have 
supplied omissions, and corrected the text where it was faulty 3 . 
Some letters which he had not seen or had passed over are now 
printed for the first time 4 , as well as the corrections which 
Johnson made in 'Kenny's' verses when he 'mended some bad 
rhymes 5 .' 

To my friend, Mr. Robert B. Adam, of Buffalo, whose 
Johnsonian collection far surpasses any we have on this side 
of the Atlantic, I am greatly indebted for the liberality with 
which he has placed all his treasures at my service. I wish 
every collector of autographs were like him, free from that 
petty selfishness which makes a man hug some famous author's 
letter as a miser hugs his gold, rejoicing in it all the more as he 
keeps it entirely to himself. 

My kinsman, Mr. Horatio Percy Symonds, of Beaumont 
Street, Oxford, has allowed me to make use of the curious 
manuscript notes on the margin of a copy of the first edition 

1 Vol. i. p. 124. 2 Vol. ii. p. 1 68. 

3 See vol. ii. p. 449, n. 3, for the correction of some curious blunders. 

4 Vol. ii. pp. 455-460. 5 Vol. ii. p. 279, n. 4. 




of the Life, which his father, a Johnsonian collector, purchased 
many years ago. They were written, I have no doubt, by the 
Rev. John Hussey, 'who,' as Boswell tells us, 'had long been 
in habits of intimacy with Johnson V 

Messrs. J. Pearson & Co., of 5 Pall Mall Place, London, 
I have to thank for permission to print some hitherto unpublished 
letters of Johnson which were in their possession. 

To Mr. John Murray, of Albemarle Street, the publisher of 
The Life of Reynolds by C. R. Leslie and Tom Taylor, I am 
indebted for permission to reprint an interesting paper by Sir 
Joshua on Johnson's character. 

Mr. G. K. Fortescue, of the British Museum, has once more 
greatly lessened my labours by the assistance he has so kindly 
given me when I have been working in the Library. His friends 
rejoice in his well-earned promotion, much as they must miss 
him in his old place in the Reading Room. 

It only remains for me to express the hope that the kind 
welcome which was given by scholars on both sides of the 
Atlantic to my editions of the Life and Letters will be extended 
also to these two volumes. 

G. B. H. 

February 7, 1897. 

1 Life, vol. iii. p. 369. 




Prayers and Meditations, composed by Samuel Johnson, LL.D. . . i 

Annals : An Account of the Life of Dr. Samuel Johnson, from his Birth 

to his Eleventh Year, written by himself 125 

Anecdotes of the late Samuel Johnson, LL.D., during the Last Twenty 

Years of his Life, by Hesther Lynch Piozzi 141 

An Essay on the Life and Genius of Samuel Johnson, LL.D., by Arthur 

Murphy 353 


Apophthegms, &c., from Hawkins's Edition of Johnson's Works . . I 
Extracts from James Boswell's Letters to Edmond Malone . . .21 

Anecdotes from the Rev. Dr. Thomas Campbell's Diary of a Visit to 

England in 1775 39 

Anecdotes from Pennington's Memoirs of Mrs. Carter .... 58 

Anecdotes from Joseph Cradock's Memoirs 61 

Anecdotes from Richard Cumberland's Memoirs 72 

Extracts from Sir John Hawkins's Life of Johnson .... 79 

Anecdotes from Miss Hawkins's Memoirs 139 

Narrative by John Hoole of Johnson's end 145 

Anecdotes from the Life of Johnson published by Kearsley . . .161 

Anecdotes by Lady Knight 171 

Anecdotes from Hannah More's Memoirs . . . . . .177 

Anecdotes by Bishop Percy 208 

Sir Joshua Reynolds on Johnson's Character 219 

Sir Joshua Reynolds on Johnson's Influence 229 

xiv Contents. 


Sir Joshua Reynolds's Two Dialogues in Imitation of Johnson s Style of 

Dialogue I 232 

Dialogue II 237 

Recollections of Dr. Johnson by Miss Reynolds 250 

Anecdotes by William Seward 301 

Anecdotes by George Steevens 312 

Anecdotes from the Rev. Percival Stockdale's Memoirs . . . 330 

A Biographical Sketch of Dr. Samuel Johnson by Thomas Tyers . . 335 

Narrative of the Last Week of Dr. Johnson's Life by the Right Hon. 

William Windham 382 


By Robert Barclay 389 

By H. D. Best 390 

By Sir Brooke Boothby . . . 391 

By the Rev. W. Cole 392 

By William Cooke 393 

From the European Magazine 394 

By Richard Green 397 

By T. Green 399 

By Ozias Humphry . 400 

By Dr. Lettsom 402 

From Croker's Edition of Boswell's Life of Johnson . . . 403 

By Dr. John Moore 408 

By John Nichols 409 

By the Rev. Mr. Parker 4 ! 3 

By William Weller Pepys 4l6 

By the Rev. Hastings Robinson 4I7 

By Mrs. Rose 4ig 

From Shaw's History of Staffordshire 422 

Adam Smith on Dr. Johnson 423 

Dugald Stewart on Boswell's Anecdotes 425 

From Gilbert Stuart's History of the Rise of the Arts of Design in 

the United States 42 - 

By the Rev. Richard Warner .... 426 

By Mr. Wickins .'.'.' 427 

Styan Thirlby, by Dr. Johnson '. '. 430 

Contents. xv 


To Samuel Richardson . -435 

To Samuel Richardson 436 

To Samuel Richardson 438 

To Dr. George Hay 439 

To the Rev. Thomas Percy 440 

To the Rev. Thomas Percy 441 

To the Rev. Edward Lye 441 

To William Strahan 442 

To James Macpherson 446 

To 447 

To the Rev. Dr. Taylor 447 

To Miss Reynolds 448 

To Miss Reynolds 449 

To Miss Reynolds 450 

To Miss Porter 450 

To the Rev. Mr. Allen 45 1 

To Miss Thrale 451 

To the Rev. Dr. Taylor 452 

To the Rev. James Compton 453 

To Miss Reynolds 453 

To Francesco Sastres 454 

To Griffith Jones 454 

To Miss Reynolds (enclosing a letter to be sent in her name to 

Sir Joshua Reynolds) 455 

Sir Joshua Reynolds to Miss Reynolds 456 

James Boswell to Sir Joshua Reynolds 457 

James Boswell to Lord Thurlow 459 

Sir Joshua Reynolds to James Boswell 460 

Dr. Adams to Dr. Scott 460 


INDEX 469 



[Composed by SAMUEL JOHNSON, LL.D., and published 
from his manuscripts by GEORGE STRAHAN, D.D., Pre 
bendary of Rochester, and Vicar of Islington in Middlesex. 
The fifth edition. LONDON: printed for T. CADELL, and 
W. DAVIES, in the Strand. 1817.] 

VOL. I. 


[THE title of Prayers and Meditations was not sufficiently 
comprehensive to describe this work, including as it did long 
passages from Johnson's journal. Many of his papers, which 
in no respect differ from those printed in this collection, fell 
into other hands than those of the editor. Some of these were 
printed by Hawkins and Boswell ; others have appeared from 
time to time in various publications. One or two, which had 
remained hidden in the cabinets of collectors, see the light for 
the first time in the present volumes. 

I have collated Strahan's edition with the original manuscripts 
preserved in the Library of Pembroke College, Oxford. John 
son's spelling I have carefully preserved, and some passages 
which had been struck out, but not obliterated, I have restored. 
There are, however, many lines so thoroughly scored out that 
not a single word can be deciphered. This, it can scarcely be 
doubted, was done by Johnson himself. 

That he should have wished his friend to publish all that 
is included in these Prayers and Meditations almost passes 
belief. Most likely, when in the weakness of his last days 
he placed these papers in his hands, he forgot how much they 
contained that was meant for no eye but his own. Nevertheless 
his character gains much more than it loses by this full pub 
lication. If we are grieved by the pettiness of the records 
about the milk that he did, or did not put into his tea on 
Good Friday, on the other hand, our reverence for him is 
increased by the tenderness of heart and the humility which 
are seen in so many passages, and by the patience and courage 
with which he bore his grievous illnesses.] 


THESE Posthumous Devotions of Dr. Johnson will be, no 
doubt, welcomed by the Public, with a distinction similar to 
that which has been already paid to his other Works. 

During many years of his life, he statedly observed certain 
days 1 with a religious solemnity ; on which, and other occasions, 
it was his custom to compose suitable Prayers and Meditations ; 
committing them to writing for his own use, and, as he assured 
me, without any view to their publication. But being last 
summer on a visit to Oxford to the Reverend Dr. Adams 2 , 
and that Gentleman urging him repeatedly to engage in some 
work of this kind, he then first conceived a design to revise 
these pious effusions, and bequeath them, with enlargements, 
to the use and benefit of others. 

Infirmities, however, now growing fast upon him, he at length 
changed this design, and determined to give the Manuscripts, 
without revision, in charge to me, as I had long shared his 
intimacy, and was at this time his daily attendant. Accordingly, 
one morning, on my visiting him by desire at an early hour, 
he put these Papers into my hands, with instructions for com 
mitting them to the Press, and with a promise to prepare 
a sketch of his own life to accompany them. But the performance 
of this promise also was prevented, partly by his hasty de 
struction of some private memoirs, which he afterwards lamented, 
and partly by that incurable sickness, which soon ended in his 

That the authenticity of this Work may never be called in 
question, the original manuscript will be deposited in the library 
of Pembroke College in Oxford 

August 6, 1785. 

1 Viz., New Year's Day; March Friday; Easter Day; and Sep- 
28, the day on which his wife, Mrs. tember the iSth, his own birthday. 
Elizabeth Johnson, died ; Good * Life, iv. 293. 



Oct. 1729. Desidiae valedixi ; syrenis istius cantibus surdam 
posthac aurem obversurus r . 


1729, Dec. S. J. Oxonio rediit 2 . 


1732, Julii 15. Undecim aureos deposui, quo die quicquid 
ante matris funus (quod serum sit precor) de paternis bonis 
sperari licet, viginti scilicet libras, accepi. Usque adeo mihi 
fortuna fingenda est. Interea, ne paupertate vires animi lan- 
guescant, nee in flagitia egestas abigat, cavendum 3 . 

*Z*/>,i.74. 'I bid fare well to Sloth, hart's Scott, ed. 1839, viii. 275,382. 

being resolved henceforth not to ' " Leisure and I," said Wesley, 

listen to her syren strains.' ' Vitanda " have taken leave of one another." ' 

est improba Siren Desidia.' HORACE, Southey's Wesley, ed. 1846, ii. 383. 
2 Satires, iii. 14. Sir Walter Scott, 2 Hawkins's Johnson, p. 16. For 

early in his struggles with his load of Johnson's departure from Oxford, see 

debt, has this saying of Johnson's in Life, i. 78, n. 2. 
mind. On March 2, 1826, he re- 3 Life, i. 80. 'I layed by eleven 

cords : ' I would have given some- guineas on this day, when I received 

thing to have lain still this morning twenty pounds, being all that I have 

and made up for lost time. But reason to hope for out of my father's 

desidiae valedixi ' ; and on July 17: effects, previous to the death of my 

' Desidiae tandem x valedixi.' Lock- mother ; an event which I pray GOD 

1 In the Journal of Sir Walter Scott, ed. 1891, p. 228, not tandem but longutn. 
Lockhart, I have observed, not unfrequently tacitly corrected Scott, especially in his 
misuse of will for shall. 


Prayers and Meditations. 

Julii 1 6 [? 1732]- Bosvortiam pedes petii r . 


Friday, August 27 [1734], i at night. This day I have trifled 
away, except that I have attended the school in the morning. 
I read to-night in Rogers's sermons. To-night I began the 
breakfast law (sic) anew 2 . 


Sept. 7, 1736 3 . I have this day entered upon my a8th 
year. Mayest thou, O God, enable me for Jesus Christ's sake 

may be very remote. I now therefore 
see that I must make my own fortune. 
Meanwhile, let me take care that the 
powers of my mind may not be debili 
tated by poverty, and that indigence 
do not force me into any criminal act.' 
Ib. Johnson left his father's free 
hold house in the possession of his 
mother till her death in 1759. Letters, 
i. 19, n. i, 82. He had been driven 
from Oxford by his poverty ; no public 
maintenance had been provided there 
for the poor scholar, though ' he had 
gained great applause ' by his Latin 
version of Pope's Messiah. Two 
years after he entered upon his in 
heritance of twenty pounds, twenty 
thousand pounds of public money 
were spent on the voyage of the 
Princess Royal to the Hague. Lord 
Hervey's Memoirs, i. 437. 

1 Life, i. 84. Johnson went on foot 
to Market-Bosworth to fill the office 
of usher in the school of that town. 
Jonathan Boucher, who became usher 
in St. Bees' School in 1756, writes: 
' My salary from the head-master was 
^10 a year ; and entrances and cock- 
pennies amounted to as much more. 
The second year I got nearly .30.' 
Letters of Radcliffe and James, Pre 
face, p. vii. 'The cock-penny was 
a customary payment at Shrovetide, 

formerly made to the schoolmaster in 
certain schools in the north of Eng 
land. Originally applied to defray 
the expense of cock-fighting or cock- 
throwing.' New Eng. Diet. ii. 576. 
W. B. Scott, who was born in 1811, 
describing his childhood near Edin 
burgh, says : ' Our uncle still pos 
sessed the Bible his game-cock had 
won at the breaking-up time on the 
floor of the school.' Life of W. B. 
Scott, 1892, i. 30. 

2 Hawkins's /tf^wz, p. 163. John 
son stayed only a few months at 
Market-Bosworth. In 1734 he was 
again living in Lichfield. Rogers's 
sermons were probably Sermons at 
Boyle's Lectures, 1727, by the Rev. 
John Rogers, D.D. 

3 He was born on Sept. 7, Old 
Style Sept. 18, New Style. The 
New Style was introduced on Sept. 
3, 1752, which day was called the 
1 4th. Unless that year he advanced 
his birthday and kept it on the i8th 
he did not observe the anniversary. 
With his dislike of keeping the day, 
he was perhaps glad to have it for 
once disappear. On Jan. I, 1753, 
he notes down that he shall for the 
future use the New Style. Post, 
P. 13- 


Prayers and Meditations. 

to spend this in such a manner that I may receive comfort from 
it at the hour of death and in the day of judgement. Amen. 

I intend to-morrow to review the rules I have at any time laid 
down, in order to practise them x . 


Sept. 7, 1738 2 . 

O God, the Creatour and Preserver of all Mankind, Father of 
all mercies, I thine unworthy servant do give Thee most humble 
thanks, for all thy goodness and lovingkindness to me. I bless 
Thee for my Creation, Preservation, and Redemption, for the 
knowledge of thy Son Jesus Christ, for the means of Grace and 
the Hope of Glory. In the days of Childhood and Youth, in the 
midst of weakness, blindness, and danger, Thou hast protected 
me ; amidst Afflictions of Mind, Body, and Estate, Thou hast 
supported me ; and amidst vanity and Wickedness Thou 
hast spared me. Grant, O merciful Father, that I may have 
a lively sense of thy mercies. Create in me a contrite Heart, 
that I may worthily lament my sins and acknowlege my 
wickedness, and obtain Remission and forgiveness, through the 
satisfaction of Jesus Christ. And, O Lord, enable me, by thy 
Grace, to redeem the time which I have spent in Sloth, Vanity, 
and wickedness ; to make use of thy Gifts to the honour of thy 
Name ; to lead a new life in thy Faith, Fear, and Love ; and 
finally to obtain everlasting Life. Grant this, Almighty Lord, 
for the merits and through the mediation of our most holy 
and blessed Saviour Jesus Christ ; to whom, with Thee and 
the Holy Ghost, Three Persons and one God, be all honour 
and Glory, World without end. Amen. 

Transcribed] June 26, I768 3 . 

This is the first solemn 4 prayer, of which I have a copy. 
Whether I composed any before this, I question. 

1 Hawkins's Johnson, p. 163, and somewhat in the sense of the first 
Life, i. 70. of his definitions of that word in his 

2 This was the first birthday after Dictionary anniversary ; observed 
his settlement in London. ' once a year with religious ceremonies. 

3 Post, under 1768. This paragraph is not in the manu- 

4 He uses solemn, I conjecture, script. 


Prayers and Meditations. 


Jan. i, 174$. 

Almighty and everlasting God, in whose hands are life and 
death, by whose will all things were created, and by whose 
providence they are sustained, I return thee thanks that Thou 
hast given me life, and that thou hast continued it to this time, 
that thou hast hitherto forborn to snatch me away in the midst 
of Sin and Folly, and hast permitted me still to enjoy the means 
of Grace, and vouchsafed to call me yet again to Repentance. 
Grant, O merciful Lord, that thy Call may not be vain, that my 
Life may not be continued to encrease my Guilt, and that thy 
gracious Forbearance may not harden my heart in wickedness. 
Let me remember, O my God, that as Days and Years pass over 
me, I approach nearer to the Grave, where there is no repen 
tance 1 , and grant, that by the assistance of thy Holy Spirit, 
I may so pass through this Life, that I may obtain Life ever 
lasting, for the Sake of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. 


Jan. i, i7 4 |. 

Almighty and most merciful Father, who hast not yet suffered 
me to fall into the Grave, grant that I may so remember my 
past Life, as to repent of the days and years which I have spent 
in forgetful ness of thy mercy, and neglect of my own Salvation, 
and so use the time which thou shalt yet allow me, as that 
I may become every day more diligent in the duties which 
in thy Providence shall be assigned me, and that when at last 
I shall be called to judgement I may be received as a good and 
faithful servant into everlasting happiness, for the sake of Jesus 
Christ our Lord. Amen. 

1 Nevertheless he later on thought benefit from the prayers of the living, 
it possible, and perhaps even prob- Post, pp. 14, 15. 
able, that the dead might receive 


Prayers and Meditations. 


Jan. I, 17^, after 3 in the morning. 

Almighty God, by whose will I was created, and by whose 
Providence I have been sustained, by whose mercy I have been 
called to the knowledge of my Redeemer, and by whose Grace 
whatever I have thought or acted acceptable to thee has been 
inspired and directed, grant, O Lord, that in reviewing my past 
life, I may recollect 1 thy mercies to my preservation 2 , in what 
ever state thou preparest for me, that in affliction I may 
remember how often I have been succoured, and in Prosperity 
may know and confess from whose hand the blessing is received. 
Let me, O Lord, so remember my sins, that I may abolish 
them by true repentance, and so improve the Year to which thou 
hast graciously extended my life, and all the years which 
thou shalt yet allow me, that I may hourly become purer in 
thy sight ; so that I may live in thy fear, and die in thy favour, 
and find mercy at the last day, for the sake of Jesus Christ. 



Almighty God, the giver of all good things, without whose 
help all Labour is ineffectual, and without whose grace all 
wisdom is folly, grant, I beseech Thee, that in this my under 
taking, thy Holy Spirit may not be withheld from me, but that 
I may promote thy glory, and the Salvation both of myself 
and others ; grant this, O Lord, for the sake of Jesus Christ. 

1 improve, scored out. professedly serious, if I have been 

2 support and comfort, scored out. able to execute my own intentions, 

3 Quoted in the Life, i. 202. will be found exactly conformable to 
The first paper of the Rambler was the precepts of Christianity, without 

published on March 20, 1749-50. any accommodation to the licentious- 

In the original manuscript there is ness and levity of the present age. 

written after this prayer: 'Lord I therefore look back on this part 

bless me. So be it.' Through these of my work with pleasure, which no 

words a pen has been drawn. blame or praise of man shall diminish 

In the last paragraph of the last or augment.' 
Rambler, } ohnson says : ' The essays 


io Prayers and Meditations. 



Deus exaudi. Heul 

April 24, 1752. 

Almighty and most merciful Father, who lovest those whom 
Thou punishest, and turnest away thy anger from the penitent, 
look down with pity upon my sorrows, and grant that the 
affliction which it has pleased Thee to bring upon me, may 
awaken my conscience, enforce my resolutions of a better life, 
and impress upon me such conviction of thy power and good 
ness, that I may place in Thee my only felicity, and endeavour 
to please Thee in all my thoughts, words, and actions. Grant, 
O Lord, that I may not languish in fruitless and unavailing 
sorrow 3 , but that I may consider from whose hand all good 
and evil is received, and may remember that I am punished 
for my sins, and hope for comfort only by repentance. Grant, 

merciful God, that by the assistance of thy Holy Spirit 

1 may repent, and be comforted, obtain that peace which the 
world cannot give, pass the residue of my life in humble resig 
nation and cheerful obedience ; and when it shall please Thee 
to call me from this mortal state, resign myself into thy hands 
with faith and confidence, and finally obtain mercy and ever 
lasting happiness, for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord. 


April 25, 1752. 

O Lord, our heavenly Father, almighty and most merciful 
God, in whose hands are life and death, who givest and takest 
away, castest down and raisest up, look with mercy on the 
affliction of thy unworthy servant, turn away thine anger from 
me, and speak peace to my troubled soul. Grant me the 

* She had died on March 17, O. S. broke College MSS. 
(March 28, N. S.) of this year. Life, 3 For his exhortations against un- 

K 2 34- availing sorrow, see Letters, ii. 4, n. 

2 The following prayers to that of I, 215. 
April 22, 1753, are not in the Pem- 


Prayers and Meditations. n 

assistance and comfort of thy Holy Spirit, that I may remember 
with thankfulness the blessings so long enjoyed by me in the 
society of my departed wife ; make me so to think on her 
precepts and example, that I may imitate whatever was in 
her life acceptable in thy sight, and avoid all by which she 
offended Thee. Forgive me, O merciful Lord, all my sins, and 
enable me to begin and perfect that reformation which I promised 
her, and to persevere in that resolution, which she implored 
Thee to continue, in the purposes which I recorded in thy sight, 
when she lay dead before me z , in obedience to thy laws, and 
faith in thy word. And now, O Lord, release me from my 
sorrow, fill me with just hopes, true faith, and holy consolations, 
and enable me to do my duty in that state of life to which 
Thou hast been pleased to call me, without disturbance from 
fruitless grief, or tumultuous imaginations ; that in all my 
thoughts, words, and actions, I may glorify thy Holy Name, 
and finally obtain, what I hope Thou hast granted to thy 
departed servant, everlasting joy and felicity, through our Lord 
Jesus Christ. Amen. 


April 26, 1752, being after 12 at Night of the 25th. 

O Lord ! Governour of heaven and earth, in whose hands 
are embodied and departed Spirits, if thou hast ordained the 
Souls of the Dead to minister to the Living, and appointed 
my departed Wife to have care of me, grant that I may enjoy 
the good effects of her attention and ministration, whether 
exercised by appearance, impulses, dreams or in any other 
manner agreeable to thy Government. Forgive my presumption, 
enlighten my ignorance, and however meaner agents are em 
ployed, grant me the blessed influences of thy holy Spirit, 
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen 2 . 

1 See post, p. 25, for his resolution been paid to dreams in all ages, 
'to consult the resolves on Tetty's proves that the superstition is natu- 
coffin.' 'Tetty or Tetsey is pro- ral ; and I have heard too many 
vincially used as a contraction for well-attested facts (facts to which 
Elisabeth.' Life, i. 98. belief could not be refused upon any 

2 Life, i. 235. known laws of evidence) not to 
* The universal attention which has believe that impressions are some- 

O Lord 

I2 Prayers and Meditations. 


May 6, 1752. 

O Lord, our heavenly Father, without whom all purposes 
are frustrate, all efforts are vain, grant me the assistance of 
thy Holy Spirit, that I may not sorrow as one without hope, 
but may now return to the duties of my present state with 
humble confidence in thy protection, and so govern my thoughts 
and actions, that neither business may withdraw my mind from 
Thee, nor idleness lay me open to vain imaginations ; that 
neither praise may fill me with pride, nor censure with dis 
content ; but that in the changes of this life, I may fix my 
heart upon the reward which Thou hast promised to them 
that serve Thee, and that whatever things are true, whatever 
things are honest, whatever things are just, whatever are 
pure, whatever are lovely, whatever are of good report, wherein 
there is virtue, wherein there is praise, I may think upon and 
do 1 , and obtain mercy and everlasting happiness. Grant this, 
O Lord, for the sake of Jesus Christ. Amen. 

Our Father, &c. The grace, &c. 

May 6. I used this service, written April 24, 25, May 6, 
as preparatory to my return to life to-morrow. 

Maicapioi oi i'(Kpol ol kv Kupt'u) airoOvrivKOVTts aitdpTi 2 . 

Apoc. xiv. 13. 


Almighty God, in whose hands are all the powers of man ; 
who givest understanding, and takest it away ; who, as it seemeth 

times made in this manner, and things are true, whatsoever things are 

forewarnings communicated, which honest, whatsoever things are just, 

cannot be explained by material whatsoever things are pure, what- 

philosophy or mere metaphysics.' soever things are lovely, whatsoever 

Southey. Life of Wesley, i. 359. things are of good report ; if there 

Coleridge, in his copy of this work, be any virtue and if there be any 

wrote in the margin opposite the last praise, think on these things.' Philip- 

line : ' Would it not have been safer pians, iv. 8. 

to have said, " which have not been, 2 < Blessed are the dead which 

instead of cannot be" ?' die in the Lord from henceforth.' 
'Finally brethren, whatsoever 


Prayers and Meditations. 13 

good unto Thee, enlightenest the thoughts of the simple, and 
darkenest the meditations of the wise, be present with me in my 
studies and enquiries. 

Grant, O Lord, that I may not lavish away the life which 
Thou hast given me on useless trifles, nor waste it in vain 
searches after things which Thou hast hidden from me. 

Enable me, by thy Holy Spirit, so to shun sloth and 
negligence, that every day may discharge part of the task which 
Thou hast allotted me ; and so further with thy help that labour 
which, without thy help ; must be ineffectual, that I may obtain, 
in all my undertakings, such success as will most promote thy 
glory, and the salvation of my own soul, for the sake of Jesus 
Christ. Amen. 



November 19. 

O Lord, in whose hands are life and death, by whose power 
I am sustained, and by whose mercy I am spared, look down 
upon me with pity. Forgive me, that I have this day neglected 
the duty which Thou hast assigned to it, and suffered the hours, 
of which I must give account, to pass away without any endeavour 
to accomplish thy will, or to promote my own salvation. Make 
me to remember, O God, that every day is thy gift, and ought 
to be used according to thy command. Grant me, therefore, so 
to repent of my negligence, that I may obtain mercy from Thee, 
and pass the time which Thou shalt yet allow me, in diligent 
performance of thy commands, through Jesus Christ. Amen. 


Jan. i, 1753, N. S. which I shall use for the future. 
Almighty God, who hast continued my life to this day, grant 
that, by the assistance of thy Holy Spirit, I may improve the 
time which thou shalt grant me, to my eternal salvation. Make 
me to remember, to thy glory, thy judgements and thy mercies. 
Make me so to consider the loss of my wife, whom thou hast 
taken from me, that it may dispose me, by thy grace, to lead 


Prayers and Meditations. 

Grant this, O Lord, for Jesus 

the residue of my life in thy fear. 
Christ's sake. Amen '. 


March 28, 1753. I kept this day as the anniversary of my 
Tetty's death, with prayer and tears in the morning. In the 
evening I prayed for her conditionally, if it were lawful 2 . 


Apr. 3, 1753. I began the second vol. of my Dictionary, 
room being left in the first for Preface, Grammar, and History, 
none of them yet begun. 

O God, who hast hitherto supported me, enable me to proceed 
in this labour, and in the whole task of my present state ; that 
when I shall render up, at the last day, an account of the talent 

1 Life, i. 251. 

Bos well in his Hebrides (Life, v. 
53) says that Johnson, on starting 
from Edinburgh, left behind in an 
open drawer in Boswell's house 
'one volume of a pretty full and 
curious diary of his life of which I 
have a few fragments.' He also 
states (tb. iv. 405) : ' I owned to 
him, that having accidentally seen 
them [two quarto volumes of his Life} 
I had read a great deal in them.' 
It would seem that he had also 
transcribed a portion, for he says 
that the above entry he ' transcribed 
from that part of the diary which 
Johnson burnt a few days before his 

2 Life, \. 236. 

Following the change of style he 
kept the 28th instead of the i7th. 

For prayers for the dead and the 
doctrine of a middle state, see Life, 
i. 240; ii. 104, 162; v. 356. 'John 
Rolland (writes Ramsay of Ochter- 
tyre) showed me an excerpt from one 
of Boswell's settlements, in which he 
requests the prayers of all good 
Christians for his soul after its de 
parture which, he says, may benefit 

it, and cannot possibly do it harm.' 
Scotland and Scotsmen in the Eigh 
teenth Century, i. 175. 

Hume, writing of the articles of 
faith decided by Convocation in 1536, 
says : ' The article with regard to 
purgatory contains the most curious 
jargon, ambiguity, and hesitation, 
arising from the mixture of opposite 
tenets. It was to this purpose : 
"Since according to due order of 
charity and the book of Maccabees 
and divers ancient authors it is a 
very good and charitable deed to 
pray for souls departed, and since 
such a practice has been maintained 
in the Church from the beginning ; 
all bishops and teachers should in 
struct the people not to be grieved 
for the continuance of the same. But 
since the place where departed souls 
are retained before they reach Para 
dise, as well as the nature of their 
pains, is left uncertain by Scripture, 
all such questions are to be sub 
mitted to God, to whose mercy it is 
meet and convenient to commend 
the deceased, trusting that he ac- 
cepteth our prayers for them.' Hist, 
of Eng. ed. 1773, iv. 167. 


Prayers and Meditations. 15 

committed to me, I may receive pardon, for the sake of Jesus 
Christ. Amen x . 


Ap. 22, 1753. 

O Lord, who givest the grace of Repentance, and hearest the 
prayers of the penitent, grant, that by true contrition, I may 
obtain forgiveness of all the sins committed, and of all duties 
neglected, in my union with the Wife whom thou hast taken 
from me, for the neglect of joint devotion, patient exhortation, 
and mild instruction. And, O Lord, who canst change evil to 
good, grant that the loss of my Wife may so mortify all in 
ordinate affections in me, that I may henceforth please thee by 
holiness of Life. 

And, O Lord, so far as it may be lawful for me, I commend 
to thy fatherly goodness the Soul of my departed wife 2 ; 
beseeching thee to grant her whatever is best in her present 
state, and finally to receive her to eternal happiness. All this 
I beg for Jesus Christ's sake, whose death I am now about to 
commemorate. To whom, &c. Amen 3 . 

This I repeated sometimes at church. 


April 23, 1753. I know not whether I do not too much 
indulge the vain longings of affection ; but I hope they in- 
tenerate my heart, and that when I die like my Tetty, this 
affection will be acknowledged in a happy interview, and that in 
the mean time I am incited by it to piety. I will, however, 
not deviate too much from common and received methods of 
devotion 4 . 

1 Life, i. 255. common and received methods of 

2 He had begun to write wife with devotion.' 

a capital letter, but scored it out. A few weeks after Johnson made 

3 Most of this prayer is quoted in this entry Gibbon joined the Church 
the Life, i. 240. of Rome. ' On the eighth of June, 

4 Life, i. 237. It was, no doubt, 1753, I solemnly, though privately, 
in his conditional prayers for his abjured the errors of heresy.' Gib- 
wife that he deviated from ' the bon's Misc. Writ. i. 64. 


1 6 Prayers and Meditations. 


[Undated; probably 1753.] 

I do not remember that since I left Oxford I ever rose early 
by mere choice, but once or twice at Edial, and two or three 
times for the Rambler I . 


Fl. Lacr. 2 March 28, in the Morning. 

God, who on this day wert pleased to take from me my 
dear Wife, sanctify to me my sorrows and reflections. Grant, 
that I may renew and practise the resolutions which I made 
when thy afflicting hand was upon me. Let the remembrance 
of thy judgements by which my wife is taken away awaken me 
to repentance, and the sense of thy mercy by which I am spared, 
strengthen my hope and confidence in Thee, that by the assist 
ance and comfort of thy holy spirit I may so pass through things 
temporal, as finally to gain everlasting happiness, and to pass by 
a holy and happy death, into the joy which thou hast prepared 
for those that love thee. Grant this, O Lord, for the sake of 
Jesus Christ. Amen. 

The melancholy of this day hung long upon me. 

Of the resolutions made this day 3 I, in some measure kept 
that of breaking from indolence. 


March 28, 1754, at Night. 

Almighty God, vouchsafe to sanctify unto me the reflections 
and resolutions of this day 3 , let not my sorrow be unprofitable ; 
let not my resolutions be vain. Grant that my grief may 
produce true repentance, so that I may live to please thee, and 
when the time shall come that I must die like her whom thou 
hast taken from me, grant me eternal happiness in thy presence, 
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. 

1 Life, ii. 143. => < \Ve presume to interpret flenti- 
' Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy, buslacrymis? Gent.Afag.i7%$, ii. 731. 

he said, was the only book that ever 3 He at first wrote : Almighty God, 
took him out of bed two hours sooner by whose grace I have this day 
than he wished to rise.' Ib. ii. 121. endeavoured. 


Prayers and Meditations. 17 


July 13, 1755. Having lived not without an habitual reverence 
for the Sabbath, yet without that attention to its religious duties 
which Christianity requires, [I resolve] 

1. To rise early, and in order to it, to go to sleep early on 

2. To use some extraordinary devotion in the morning. 

3. To examine the tenour of my life, and particularly the 
last week ; and to mark my advances in religion, or recession 
from it. 

4. To read the Scripture methodically with such helps as are 
at hand. 

5. To go to church twice. 

6. To read books of Divinity, either speculative or practical. 

7. To instruct my family. 

8. To wear off by meditation any worldly soil contracted in 
the week x . 




O Lord, who hast ordained labour to be the lot of man, and 
seest the necessities of all thy creatures, bless my studies 
and endeavours ; feed me with food convenient for me ; and if 
it shall be thy good pleasure to intrust me with plenty, give me 

* Life, \. 303. ' Sunday (said John- had been published in the previous 
son) was a heavy day to me when April. He was now casting about 
I was a boy. My mother confined for fresh employment. Though he 
me on that day, and made me read did not, he says, pursue the study of 
The Whole Duty of Man, from a philosophy, nevertheless in the im- 
great part of which I could derive no aginary University which he and 
instruction.' Ib. i. 67. See post, Boswell planned, he was to teach 
under April 16, 1781. For his un- 'logick,metaphysicks,andscholastick 
willingness to attend church see Life, divinity.' Life, v. 109. 
i. 67, n. 2, and for the observance of Hume wrote in 1764: 'Civil em- 
Sunday, ib. ii. 72, 376 ; v. 69. ployments for men of letters can 

2 This prayer is not in the Pern- scarcely be found : all is occupied by 

broke College MSS. See Life, i. 302. men of business or by parliamentary 

The Dictionary on which he had interest.' Burton's Hume, ii. 187. 
been working for nearly eight years 

VOL. I. C a compassionate 

Prayers and Meditations. 

a compassionate heart, that I may be ready to relieve the wants 
of others ; let neither poverty nor riches estrange my heart from 
Thee, but assist me with thy grace so to live as that I may die 
in thy favour, for the sake of Jesus Christ. Amen. 

This study was not persued. 

Transcribed June 26, 1768 '. 


Jan. i, 1756, Afternoon. 

Almighty and everlasting God, in whom we live and move, 
and have our being, glory be to thee, for my recovery from 
sickness, and the continuance of my Life 2 . Grant O my God 
that I may improve the year which I am now begining, and all 
the days which thou shalt add to my life, by serious repentance 
and diligent obedience, that, by the help of thy holy Spirit 
I may use the means of Grace to my own salvation, and at last 
enjoy thy presence in eternal happiness, for Jesus Christ's sake. 




January, 1756. 

Lord God, almighty disposer of all things, in whose hands 
are life and death, who givest comforts and takest them away, 
I return Thee thanks for the good example of Hill Boothby, 
whom Thou hast now taken away, and implore thy grace, that 
I may improve the opportunity of instruction which Thou hast 
afforded me, by the knowledge of her life, and by the sense of 
her death ; that I may consider the uncertainty of my present 
state, and apply myself earnestly to the duties which Thou hast 
set before me, that living in thy fear, I may die in thy favour, 
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. 

1 commend, &c. W. and H. B. 4 

Transcribed June 36. 1768. 

1 See post, under 1768. Piozzi, 'that when this lady died 

2 For his illness see Letters, \. 45- Johnson was almost distracted with 
5 2 - his grief.' Piozzi's Anecdotes, p. 161. 

3 This prayer is not in the Pern- William was a common name in the 
broke College MS S. Boothby family. Perhaps ' W. and 

4 For Hill Boothby see Letters, \. H. B.' stands for William and Hill 
45-53. She died on Jan. 16. ' I Boothby. 

have heard Baretti say,' writes Mrs. 


Prayers and Meditations. 19 



February 15, 1756*. 

Almighty God, who hast restored light to my eye 2 , and 
enabled me to persue again the studies which Thou hast set 
before me ; teach me, by the diminution of my sight, to remem 
ber that whatever I possess is thy gift, and by its recovery, to 
hope for thy mercy : and, O Lord, take not thy Holy Spirit from 
me ; but grant that I may use thy bounties according to thy 
will, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. 



O God who desirest not the death of a Sinner, look down 
with mercy upon me now daring to call upon thee. Let thy 
Holy Spirit so purify my affections, and exalt my desires that 
my prayer may be acceptable in thy sight, through Jesus Christ. 

March 25, 1756. 


March 28, 56, about two in the morning. 

Almighty God, our heavenly father whose judgments ter 
minate in mercy grant, I beseech Thee, that the remembrance 
of my Wife, whom Thou hast taken from me, may not load my 
soul with unprofitable sorrow, but may excite in me true re 
pentance of my sins and negligences, and by the operation of 
thy Grace may produce in me a new life pleasing to thee. 
Grant that the loss of my Wife may teach me the true use of 
the Blessings which are yet left me ; and that, however bereft 
of worldly comforts 3 , 1 may find peace and refuge in thy service 
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. 

1 This prayer is not in the Pern- eye.' Letters, i. 57. See also Life, 
broke College MSS. i. 305. 

2 Four days later he wrote : ' The 3 At first he wrote : ' that however 
inflammation is come again into my solitary.' 

C 2 Almighty 

20 Prayers and Meditations. 


Jan. i, 1757, at two in the Morning. 

Almighty God, who hast brought me to the beginning of 
another year, and by prolonging my life invitest to repentance, 
forgive me that I have mispent the time past, enable me from 
this instant to amend my life according to thy holy Word, 
grant ' me thy Holy Spirit, that I may so pass through things 
temporal as not finally to lose the things eternal. O God, hear 
my prayer for the sake of Jesus Christ. Amen. 


EASTER EVE, 1757. 

Almighty God, heavenly Father, who desirest not the death 
of a sinner, look down with mercy upon me depraved with vain 
imaginations, and entangled in long habits of sin. Grant me 
that grace without which I can neither will nor do what is 
acceptable to thee. Pardon my sins, remove the impediments 
that hinder my obedience. Enable me to shake off sloth, and 
to redeem the time mispent in idleness and sin by a diligent 
application of the days yet remaining to the duties which thy 
Providence shall allot me. O God, grant me thy Holy Spirit 
that I may repent and amend my life, grant me contrition, grant 
me resolution for the sake of Jesus Christ, to whose covenant 
I now implore admission, of the benefits of whose death I im 
plore participation. For his sake have mercy on me, O God ; 
for his sake, O God, pardon and receive me. Amen. 



Sept. 1 8, 1757. 

Almighty and most merciful Father by whose providence my 
life has been prolonged, and who hast granted me now to begin 
another year of probation, vouchsafe me such assistance of thy 
Holy Spirit, that the continuance of my life may not add to the 
measure of my guilt, but that I may so repent of the days and 
years passed in neglect of the duties which thou hast set before 

1 The rest of the prayer he at first scored through, but afterwards 
added ' Stet.' 


Prayers and Meditations. 21 

me, in vain thoughts, in sloth, and in folly, that I may apply my 
heart to true wisdom, by diligence redeem the time lost, and by 
repentance obtain pardon, for the sake of JESUS CHRIST. 

Amen *. 


EASTER DAY, March 26, 1758. 

Almighty and most merciful Father, who hast created me to 
love and to serve thee, enable [me] so to partake of the sacrament 
in which the Death of Jesus Christ is commemorated that I may 
henceforward lead a new life in thy faith and fear. Thou who 
knowest my frailties and infirmities strengthen and support me. 
Grant me thy Holy Spirit, that after all my lapses I may now 
continue stedfast in obedience, that after long habits of neg 
ligence and sin, I may, at last, work out my salvation with 
diligence and constancy, purify my thoughts from pollutions, 
and fix my affections on things eternal. Much of my time past 
has been lost in sloth, let not what remains, O Lord, be given 
me in vain, but let me from this time lead a better life and 
serve thee with a quiet mind through Jesus Christ our Lord. 


March 28, 1758. 

Almighty and eternal God, who givest life and takest it 
away, grant that while thou shalt prolong 2 my continuance on 
earth, I may live with a due sense of thy mercy and forbear 
ance, and let the remembrance of her whom thy hand has 
separated from me, teach me to consider the shortness and 
uncertainty of life, and to use all diligence to obtain eternal 
happiness in thy presence. O God enable me to avoid sloth, 
and to attend needfully and constantly to thy word and worship. 
Whatever was good in the example of my departed wife, teach 
me to follow ; and whatever was amiss give me grace to shun, 
that my affliction may be sanctified, and that remembering how 
much every day brings me nearer to the grave, I may every 
day purify my mind, and amend my life, by the assistance of 

1 At the foot of the page he had Worship.' 

written but scored out : f Idleness 2 He had at first written : ' Make 
intemperate sleep dilatoriness, me to enjoy the time for which thou 
inmethodical life. Negligence of shalt ' c. 


22 Prayers and Meditations. 

thy holy Spirit, till at last I shall be accepted by Thee, for 
Jesus Christ's sake. Amen. 

Sept. 18, 1758, hora prima matutina. 

Almighty and most merciful Father, who yet sparest and yet 
supportest me, who supportest me in my weakness, and sparest 
me in my sins, and hast now granted to me to begin another 
year, enable me to improve the time which is yet before me, to 
thy glory and my own Salvation. Impress upon my Soul such 
repentance of the days rnispent in idleness and folly, that I may 
henceforward diligently attend to the business of my station in this 
world x , and to all the duties which thou hast commanded. Let 
thy Holy Spirit comfort and guide me that in my passage 
through the pains or pleasures of the present state, I may never 
be tempted to forgetfulness of Thee. Let my life be useful, 
and my death be happy 2 ; let me live according to thy laws, and 
dye with just confidence in thy mercy for the sake of Jesus 
Christ our Lord. Amen. 

This year I hope to learn diligence 3 . 


Jan. 23, 1759. 

The day on which my dear Mother was buried. Repeated on 

my fast, with the addition 4 . 

Almighty God, merciful Father, in whose hands are life and 
death, sanctify unto me the sorrow which I now feel. Forgive 
me whatever I have done unkindly to my Mother, and whatever 
I have omitted to do kindly. Make me to remember her good 
precepts, and good example, and to reform my life according to 

1 At first he had written : ' the It is a striking illustration of the 
duties which thou shalt assign me, way in which different generations 
and to the duties by which.' overlap each other that Jeremy Ben- 

2 At first he had written ' useful.' tham's mother died about a fortnight 

3 This line is quoted in the Life, before Johnson's mother. Bentham's 
i. 331. Works, x. 26. Mrs. Johnson was 

4 For the death of his mother see born nine years after the Restora- 
Ltfe, i. 339, and Letters, i. 75-81. tion, and Bentham died the day 
The fast was held on March 24, as before the first Reform Bill was 
the next entry shows. carried. 


Prayers and Meditations. 23 

thy holy word, that I may lose no more opportunities of good ; 
I am sorrowful, O Lord, let not my sorrow be without fruit. 
Let it be followed by holy resolutions, and lasting amendment, 
that when I shall die like my mother, I may be received to ever 
lasting life. 

I commend, O Lord, so far as it may be lawful, into thy hands, 
the soul of my departed Mother, beseeching Thee to grant her 
whatever is most beneficial to Her in her present state. 

Lord, grant me thy Holy Spirit, and have mercy upon me 
for Jesus Christ's sake. Amen. 

And, O Lord, grant unto me that am now about to return to 
the common comforts and business of the world, such moderation 
in all enjoyments, such diligence in honest labour, and such 
purity of mind, that, amidst the changes, miseries, or pleasures 
of life, I may keep my mind fixed upon thee, and improve every 
day in grace, till I shall be received into thy kingdom of eternal 

1 returned thanks for my mother's good example, and im 
plored pardon for neglecting it. 

I returned thanks for the alleviation of my sorrow. 
The dream of my brother z I shall remember. 



March the 24, 1759, rather 25, after 12 at night. 

Almighty God, heavenly Father, who hast graciously pro 
longed my life to this time, and by the change of outward things 
which I am now to make 3 , callest me to a change of inward 
affections, and to a reformation of my thoughts words and 
practices. Vouchsafe merciful Lord that this call may not be 
vain. Forgive me whatever has been amiss in the state which 
I am now leaving, Idleness, and neglect of thy word and worship. 
Grant me the grace of thy Holy Spirit, that the course which 
I am now begining may proceed according to thy laws, and end 

1 His brother died in 1737. Life, 3 He had moved on the 23rd from 
i. 90. Gough Square to Staple Inn. Letters, 

2 Jej. I conjecture is put for Je- i. 86. See also Life, i. 350. 
jumts, fasting. 


24 Prayers and Meditations. 

in the enjoyment of thy favour 1 . Give me, O Lord, pardon and 
peace, that I may serve thee with humble confidence, and after 
this life enjoy thy presence in eternal Happiness. 

And, O Lord, so far as it may be lawful for me, I commend 
to thy Fatherly goodness, my Father, my Brother, my Wife, 
my Mother. I beseech thee to look mercifully upon them, 
and grant them whatever may most promote their present and 
eternal joy. 

O Lord, hear my prayers for Jesus Christs sake, to whom, 
with Thee and the Holy Ghost three persons and one God be 
all honour and glory world without end. Amen 2 . 

O Lord, let the change which I am now making in outward 
things, produce in [me] such a change of manners, as may fit me 
for the great change through which my Wife has passed 3 . 


EASTER DAY, April 15, 1759*. 

Almighty and most merciful Father, look down with pity 
upon my sins. I am a sinner, good Lord ; but let not my sins 
burthen me for ever. Give me thy grace to break the chain of 
evil custom. Enable me to shake off idleness and sloth ; to 
will and to do what thou hast commanded ; grant me chaste 5 
in thoughts, words and actions : to love and frequent thy 
worship, to study and understand thy word ; to be diligent in 
my calling, that I may support myself and relieve others. 

Forgive me, O Lord, whatever my mother has suffered by my 
fault, whatever I have done amiss, and whatever duty I have 
neglected. Let me not sink into useless dejection ; but so 
sanctify my affliction, O Lord, that I may be converted and 

1 This paragraph is quoted in the remember of Easter 17 \sic\. 
Life, i. 350. Use the lines on this page. 

2 Boswell adduces this prayer as On another page is written : 
proof of Johnson's 'orthodox belief Uxbridge, 13.9. 

in the sacred mystery of the Trinity.' Wicombe, 10. 6. 

Life, ii. 254. Tetsworth, 10. 6. 

3 The following words are scored If my mother had lived till March, 
out : she would have been eighty-nine. 

At the place where I commended 4 Croker's Boswell, x. 130. 

ner - 5 Johnson does not give in his 

At the place where she died. Dictionary such a construction as 

As much of the prayer as I can grant me chaste.' 


Prayers and Meditations. 25 

healed ; and that, by the help of thy holy spirit, I may obtain 
everlasting life through Jesus Christ our Lord. 

And, O Lord, so far as it may be lawful, I commend unto thy 
fatherly goodness my father, brother, wife, and mother, beseeching 
thee to make them happy for Jesus Christ's sake. Amen. 


Sept. 18, 1760, resolved D. j. l 

To combat notions of obligation 2 . 

To apply to study. 

To reclaim imagination. 

To consult the resolves on Tetty's coffin 3 . 

To rise early. 

To study Religion. 

To go to Church. 

To drink less strong liquors 4 . 

To keep Journal. 

To oppose laziness, by doing what is to [be] done to morrow. 

Rise as early as I can. 

Send for books for Hist, of war 5 . 

Put books in order 6 . 

Scheme life 7 . 

1 Deo juvante. his long periods of abstinence, see 

2 He had, I conjecture, been Life, i. 103, n. 3. 

tempted to bind himself by a vow in 5 Boswell assumes that he meant 

order to force himself to do what he to write a history of the war that the 

thought he ought to do. Against vows first Pitt was carrying on in a suc- 

he more than once strongly protested, cession of triumphs. It is possible 

' Do not accustom yourself,' he wrote that it was a history of war in gene- 

to Boswell, * to enchain your vola- ral that he had in view. Ib. i. 354. 
tility by vows; they will sometime 6 ' On Wednesday, April 3, [1776], 

leave a thorn in your mind, which in the morning I found him very 

you will perhaps never be able to busy putting his books in order, and 

extract or eject.' Life, ii. 21. 'A vow as they were generally very old ones 

is a horrible thing, it is a snare for clouds of dust were flying around 

sin.' Ib. iii. 357. See also Letters, him. He had on a pair of large 

i. 217. See post, p. 30, where he gloves such as hedgers use. His 

records : ' I resolved in the presence present appearance put me in mind 

of God but without a vow' &c. This of my uncle Dr. Boswell's descrip- 

would seem to show that he had tion of him, " A robust genius, born 

once made vows. to grapple with whole libraries." ' 

3 Ante, p. ii. Life, iii. 7. 

4 For his use of strong liquors and 7< I have,' he said, *from the 

O Almighty 

26 Prayers and Meditations. 

Almighty God, merciful Father, who hast continued my 
life to another year grant that I may spend the time which thou 
shalt yet give me in such obedience to thy word and will that 
finally, I may obtain everlasting life. Grant that I may repent 
and forsake my sins before the miseries of age fall upon me, and 
that while my strength yet remains I may use it to thy glory 
and my own salvation, by the assistance of thy Holy Spirit, for 
Jesus Christ's sake. Amen. 


EASTER EVE, 1761. 

Since the Communion of last Easter I have led a life so 
dissipated and useless, and my terrours and perplexities have 
so much encreased, that I am under great depression and dis 
couragement, yet I purpose to present myself before God to 
morrow with humble hope that he will not break the bruised 

Come unto me all ye that travail. 

1 have resolved, I hope not presumptuously, till I am afraid 
to resolve again. Yet hoping in God I stedfastly purpose to 
lead a new life. O God, enable me, for Jesus Christ's sake. 

My purpose is 

To avoid Idleness. 

To regulate my sleep as to length and choice of hours. 

To set down every day what shall be done the day following. 

To keep a Journal. 

To worship God more diligently. 

To go to Church every Sunday. 

To study the Scriptures. 

To read a certain portion every week. 

Almighty and most merciful Father look down upon my 
misery with pity, strengthen me that I may overcome all sinful 
habits, grant that I may with effectual faith commemorate the 
death of thy Son Jesus Christ, so that all corrupt desires may be 
extinguished, and all vain thoughts may be dispelled. Enlighten 

earliest time almost that I can re- evening before he was struck with 
member been forming schemes of the palsy, he was still 'planning 
a better life.' Post, p. 31. The schemes of life.' Life, iv. 230. 


Prayers and Meditations. 27 

me with true knowledge, animate me with reasonable hope, 
comfort me with a just sense of thy love, and assist me to the 
performance of all holy purposes, that after the sins, errours, and 
miseries of this world, I may obtain everlasting happiness for 
Jesus Christ's sake. To whom, &c. Amen. 

I hope to attend on God in his ordinances to-morrow. 
Trust in God O my soul. O God, let me trust in Thee r . 


March, 28, 1762. 

God grant that I may from this day 
Return to my studies. 
Labour diligently. 
Rise early. 
Live temperately. 
Read the Bible. 
Go to church. 

O God, Giver and Preserver of all life, by whose power I was 
created, and by whose providence I am sustained, look down 
upon me [with] tenderness and mercy, grant that I may not 
have been created to be finally destroyed, that I may not be 
preserved to add wickedness to wickedness 2 , but may so repent 
me of my sins, and so order my life to come, that when I shall 
be called hence like the wife whom Thou hast taken from me, 
I may dye in peace and in thy favour, and be received into 
thine everlasting kingdom through the merits and mediation of 
Jesus Christ thine only Son our Lord and Saviour. Amen. 



Almighty and most merciful Father, who by thy son Jesus 
Christ hast redeemed man from Sin and Death, grant that the 
commemoration of his passion may quicken my repentance, 
encrease my hope, and strengthen my faith and enlarge my 
Charity ; that I may lament and forsake my sins and for the 
time which thou shalt yet grant me, may avoid Idleness, and 
neglect of thy word and worship. Grant me strength to be 

1 The last clause has been added in pencil. 

2 Quoted in the Life, iv. 397. 


28 Prayers and Meditations. 

diligent in the lawful employments which shall be set before me ; 
Grant me purity of thoughts, words, and actions. Grant me to 
love and study thy word, and to frequent thy worship with pure 
affection. Deliver and preserve me from vain terrours, and 
grant that by the Grace of thy Holy Spirit I may so live that 
after this life ended, I may be received to everlasting happiness 
for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. 


April 20, 1764, GOOD FRYDAY. 

I have made no reformation, I have lived totally useless, more 
sensual in thought and more addicted to wine and meat r , grant 
me, O God, to amend my life for the sake of Jesus Christ. 

I hope 

To put my rooms in order *. 

I fasted all day. 

^Disorder I have found one great cause of idleness 2 . 


April 21, i764,-3-m. 

x~ My indolence, since my last reception of the Sacrament 3 , has 

I sunk into grosser sluggishness, and my dissipation spread into 

/ wilder negligence. My thoughts have been clouded with sen- 

< , suality, and, except that from the beginning of this year I have 

I in some measure forborn excess of Strong Drink my appetites 

have predominated over my reason. A kind of strange oblivion 

has overspread me, so that I know not what has become of the 

\ last year, and perceive that incidents and intelligence pass over 

^me without leaving any impression. 

This is not the life to which Heaven is promised 4 . I purpose 

1 Quoted in the Life, i. 482. pulse to action, either corporal or 

2 ' We cannot but reflect on that mental.' Hawkins, p. 205. 
inertness and laxity of mind which 3 In only two or three instances is 
the neglect of order and regularity in mention made of his reception of 
living, and the observance of stated the Sacrament on any other day but 
hours, in short the waste of time, is Easter Sunday. See post, under 
apt to lead men to: this was the April 18, 1779. 

source of Johnson's misery through- 4 The whole of the above passage 
out his life ; all he did was by fits and is quoted in the Life, i. 482. 
starts, and he had no genuine im- 


Prayers and Meditations. 29 

to approach the altar again to morrow. Grant, O Lord, that 
I may receive the Sacrament with such resolutions of a better 
life as may by thy grace be effectual, for the sake of Jesus Christ. 


April 21. I read the whole Gospel of St. John. Then sat 
up till the 22d. 

My Purpose is from this time 
/To reject or expel sensual images, and idle thoughts. 

To provide some useful amusement for leisure time. 

To avoid Idleness. 

To rise early. 

To study a proper portion of every day. 

To Worship God diligently. 

To read the Scriptures. 

To let no week pass without reading some part. 

To write down my observations. 

I will renew my resolutions made at Tetty's death. 

I perceive an insensibility and heaviness upon me. I am less 
than commonly oppressed with the sense of sin, and less affected 
with the shame of Idleness. Yet I will not despair. I will pray 
to God for resolution, and will endeavour to strengthen my faith 
in Christ by commemorating his death. 

I prayed for Tett. 


Ap. 22, EASTER DAY. 

Having before I went to bed composed the foregoing meditation 
and the following prayer, I tried to compose myself but slept 
unquietly. I rose, took tea, and prayed for resolution and 
perseverance. Thought on Tetty, dear poor Tetty, with my 
eyes full. 

I went to church, came in at the first of the Psalms x , and 
endeavoured to attend the service which I went through without 
perturbation. After sermon I recommended Tetty in a prayer 
by herself, and my Father, Mother, Brother, and Bathurst 2 , in 

1 All his resolutions often per- had died of fever in the Havannah, 
haps generally failed to get him to ' of whom he hardly ever spoke with- 
church in time. out tears in his eyes,' see Life, i. 

2 For his friend Dr. Bathurst, who 190, 242, and Letters, i. 32. Accord- 


Prayers and Meditations. 

another. I did it only once, so far as it might be lawful for 

I then prayed for resolution and perseverance to amend my 
Life. I received soon, the communicants were many. At the 
altar it occurred to me that I ought to form some resolutions. 
I resolved, in the presence of God, but without a vow, to repel 
sinful thoughts to study eight hours daily, and, I think, to go to 
church every Sunday z , and read the Scriptures. I gave a shilling, 
and seeing a poor girl at the Sacrament in a bedgown 2 , gave her 
privately a crown, though I saw Hart's hymns 3 in her hand. 
I prayed earnestly for amendment, and repeated my prayer at 
home. Dined with Miss W. 4 went to Prayers at church ; went 
to Davies's, spent the evening not pleasantly. Avoided wine 
and tempered a very few glasses with Sherbet 5 . Came home, 
and prayed. 

I saw at the Sacrament a man meanly dressed whom I have 
always seen there at Easter 6 . 

ing to Chetwood (History of the 
Stage, ed. 1749, p. 41), a company of 
players went to Jamaica in 1733. 
They acted the Beggars' Opera. 
Within the space of two months they 
buried their third Polly. 

1 See post, where he records on 
April 6, 1777: 'I have this year 
omitted church on most Sundays, 
intending to supply the deficience in 
the week. So that I owe twelve 
attendances on worship.' See also 
Life, i. 67, n. 2 ; iii. 401. 

2 Bedgown is not in Johnson's 
Dictionary. Dr. Murray defines it 
as ' I. A woman's night-gown or 
night-dress. 2. A kind of jacket 
worn by women of the working class 
in the north.' 

3 Hymns composed on Various 
Subjects. By J. Hart. London 


In the Preface, Hart describes his 
' Experience ' his sins and * the 
Clouds of Horror with which he was 
overwhelmed till Whitsunday 1757 ; 

when ' he says, ' I happened to go to 
the Moravian Chapel in Fetter Lane, 
where I had been several times 
before ... I was hardly got home, 
when I felt myself melting away into 
a strange Softness of Affection . . . 
Thenceforth I enjoyed sweet Peace 
in my Soul.' In the hymn entitled 
The Author's own Confession (p. 40), 
he says : 

* I strove to make my Flesh decay 
With foul Disease and wasting 


I strove to fling my Life away, 
And damn my Soul but strove 

in vain.' 

This Hymn-book was so popular 
that in 1811 it reached its twentieth 

4 Miss Williams. He often dined 
in a tavern, though he always took 
tea with her. Life, i. 421. 

5 Johnson defines Sherbet as ' the 
juice of lemons or oranges mixed with 
water and sugar.' 

6 Post, p. 35. 


Prayers and Meditations. 31 


EASTER DAY, April 22, 1764, at 3 m. 

Almighty and most merciful Father, who hast created and 
preserved me, have pity on my weakness and corruption. 
Deliver me from habitual wickedness and idleness, enable me 
to purify my thoughts, to use the faculties which Thou hast 
given me with honest diligence, and to regulate my life by thy 
holy word. 

Grant me, O Lord, good purposes and steady resolution, that 
I may repent my sins, and amend my life. Deliver me from the 
distresses of vain terrour, and enable me by thy Grace to will 
and to do what may please thee, that when I shall be called 
away from this present state I may obtain everlasting happiness 
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. 


Sept. 1 8, 1764, about 6 evening. 

THIS is my fifty-sixth birth-day, the day on which I have 
concluded fifty five years. 

I have outlived many friends. I have felt many sorrows. 
I have made few improvements. Since my resolution formed 
last Easter I have made no advancement in knowledge or in 
goodness ; nor do I recollect that I have endeavoured it. I am 
dejected but not hopeless. 

God for Jesus Christ's Christ's sake have mercy upon me. 


7 in the evening. 

1 went to church prayed to be loosed from the chain of my 
sins x . 

I have now spent fifty five years in resolving, having from the 
earliest time almost that I can remember been forming schemes 
of a better life 2 . I have done nothing, the need of doing there- 

1 ' Though we be tied and bound Prescott, the historian, made reso- 
with the chain of our sins, yet let the lutions from one end of his life to 
pitifulness of thy great mercy loose the other. One of his friends writes 
us.' Book of Common Prayer. of him : ' The practice, I apprehend, 

2 Johnson was but fifty-five years must have reached its acme about 
old, so that he began resolving, it the time when he informed me one 
seems, from his birth. day that he had just made a new 


32 Prayers and Meditations. 

fore is pressing, since the time of doing is short. O God grant 
me to resolve aright, and to keep my resolutions for Jesus Christ's 
sake. Amen x . 

Haec limina vitae. STAT. 2 

I resolve 

to study the Scriptures. I hope in the original Languages. 
Six hundred and forty verses every Sunday will nearly comprise 
the Scriptures in a year 3 . 

To read good books. To study Theology. 

to treasure in my mind passages for recollection 4 . 

to rise early. Not later than six if I can I hope sooner, but 
as soon as I can 5 . 

to keep a journal both of employment and of expences. to 
keep accounts 6 . 

to take of my health by such means as I have designed. 

to set down at night some plan for the morrow. 

Last year I prayed on my birth-day by accommodating the 
Morning collect for Grace 7 , putting year for day. This I did 
this day. 


Sept. f, 1764. 

O God, heavenly Father, who desirest not the death of a 
Sinner, grant that I may turn from my Wickedness and live. 

resolution, which was since he found membering and recollecting, see Life, 

he could not keep those which he iv. 127, n. i. 

had made before that he would 5 The next Easter he purposed to 

never make another resolution as long rise at eight. ' I often lye till two,' 

as he lived.' Ticknor's Life of Pres- he adds. Post, p. 33. 

cott, Boston, 1864, p. 17. 6 See Life, iv. 177, where he said 

1 This passage is quoted in the of a lady : ' Sir, it is fit she should 
Life, \. 483. keep an account because her husband 

2 Quis tibi, parve, Deus tarn magni wishes it, but I do not see its use'; 

pondera fati and ib. iv. 362 where he wrote to 

Sorte dedit? tune hoc vix prima Langton : I am a little angry at you 

ad limina vitae for not keeping minutes of your own 

Hoste iaces ? acceptum et expensum, and think 

STATIUS, Thebais, v. 534. a little time might be spared from 

3 For his plans of * a methodical Aristophanes for the resfamiliares! 
course of study according to com- 7 In the Book of Common Prayer. 
potation,' see Life, i. 72. In the margin he has written 

4 For the distinction between re- 'i8 th .' 


Prayers and Meditations. 33 

Enable me to shake off all impediments of lawful action, and so 
to order my life, that increase of days may produce increase of 
grace, of tranquillity of thought, and vigour in duty. Grant that 
my resolves may be effectual to a holy life, and a happy death, 
for Jesus Christs sake. Amen. 

To morrow I purpose to regulate my room. 


EASTER DAY, Apr. 7, 1765, about 3 in the morning. 

I purpose again to partake of the blessed Sacrament, yet when 
I consider how vainly I have hitherto resolved at this annual 
commemoration of my Saviour's deathe, to regulate my life by 
his laws, I am almost afraid to renew my resolutions. Since 
the last Easter I have reformed no evil habits, my time has 
been unprofitably spent, and seems as a dream that has left 
nothing behind. My memory grows confused, and I know not 
how the days pass over me. 

Good Lord deliver me x . 

I will call upon God to morrow for repentance and amendment. 
O heavenly Father, let not my call be vain, but grant me to 
desire what may please thee, and fulfill those desires for Jesus 
Christs sake. Amen. 

My resolutions, which God perfect, are, 

1. to avoid loose thoughts. 

2. to rise at eight every morning. 

I hope to extend these purposes to other duties, but it is 
necessary to combat evil habits singly. I purpose to rise at 
eight because though I shall not yet rise early it will be much 
earlier than I now rise, for I often lye till two, and will gain me 

1 The whole of this entry is quoted happen in the year 1764, or the hypo- 
in the Life, i. 487. chondriacal fit must have been very 

Bos well, under date of 1764, says : short ; for he saw him in the spring, 

' About this time Johnson was summer and winter of that year, and 

afflicted with a very severe return never found him more cheerful or 

of the hypochondriack disorder.' Id. conversible.' Anderson's Johnson, ed. 

i. 483. On this Percy remarks that 1815, p. 300. The year of his attack 

' he cannot believe this could possibly was probably 1766. Life, i. 521. 

VOL. I. D much 

34 Prayers and Meditations. 

much time, and tend to a conquest over idleness, and give time 
for other duties. I hope to rise yet earlier *. 

Almighty and most merciful Father, who hatest nothing that 
thou hast made, nor desirest the Death of a Sinner, look down 
with mercy upon me, and grant that I may turn from my 
wickedness and live. Forgive the days and years which I have 
passed in folly, idleness, and sin. Fill me with such sorrow for 
the time mispent, that I may amend my life according to thy 
holy word ; Strengthen me against habitual idleness, and enable 
me to direct my thoughts to the performance of every duty ; 
that while I live I may serve thee in the state to which thou 
shalt call me, and at last by a holy and happy death be de 
livered from the struggles and sorrows of this life, and obtain 
eternal happiness by thy mercy, for the sake of Jesus Christ our 
Lord. Amen. 

God, have mercy upon me. 
At church I purpose 

before I leave the pew to pray the occasional prayer, and 
read my resolutions 2 . 

To pray for Tetty and the rest 3 

the like after Communion. 

at intervals to use the collects of Fourth after Trinity, and 
First and Fourth after Epiphany and to meditate. 

After church, 3 p.m. 

This was done, as I purposed, but with some distraction. 
I came in at the Psalms 4 , and could not well hear. I renewed 
my resolutions at the altar. God perfect them. When I came 
home I prayed, and have hope, grant O Lord for the sake of 
Jesus Christ that my hope may not be in vain. 

1 * No man (said Johnson) practises Life of W. Wilberforce, ed. 1838, 
so well as he writes. I have all my ii. 179. 

life long been lying till noon; yet 2 Perhaps the resolutions made 

1 ^tell all young men, and tell them when his wife lay dead before him. 

with great sincerity, that nobody who Ante, pp. n, 25. 

does not rise early will ever do any 3 The previous Easter he had 

good.' Ib. y. 210. 'Johnson, Langton joined with her his father, mother, 

told us, did not get up till some one brother, and Bathurst. Ante, p. 29. 

called to rouse him, whether it was 4 Ante, p. 29, n. I. 
ten, eleven, twelve, or one o'clock.' 

I invited 

Prayers and Meditations. 35 

I invited home with me the man whose pious behaviour I had 
for several years observed on this day, and found him a kind of 
Methodist, full of texts, but ill-instructed *. I talked to him 
with temper, and offered him twice wine, which he refused. 
I suffered him to go without the dinner which I had purposed 
to give him. I thought this day that there was something 
irregular and particular 2 in his look and gesture, but having 
intended to invite him to acquaintance, and having a fit oppor 
tunity by rinding him near my own seat after I had missed him, 
I did what I at first designed, and am sorry to have been so 
much disappointed. Let me not be prejudiced hereafter against 
the appearance of piety in mean persons, who, with indeterminate 
notions, and perverse or inelegant conversation perhaps are doing 
all that they can. 

At night I used the occasional prayer with proper collects. 


Jtdy 2. I paid Mr. Simpson ten guineas, which he had formerly 
lent me in my necessity and for which Tetty expressed her 

July 8. I lent Mr. Simpson ten guineas more. 

July 1 6. I received seventy-five pounds. Lent Mr. Davis 

twenty-five 3 . 


Sept. 26, 1765. 

Before the Study of Law 4 . 

Almighty God, the Giver of wisdom, without whose help 
resolutions are vain, without whose blessing study is ineffectual, 
enable me, if it be thy will, to attain such knowledge as may 
qualify me to direct the doubtful, and instruct the ignorant, to 

1 Ante, p. 30. a barrister-at-law, of good parts, but 

2 Johnson defines 'particular' in who fell into a dissipated course of 
one of its significations as 'Odd; life.' Ib. iii. 28. See ib. i. 346, Piozzi's 
having something that eminently dis- Anecdotes, p. 120, and Hayward's 
tinguishes him from others. This is Piozzi, 1.322, for an account of his im- 
commonly used in a sense of con- providence. The money received was 
tempt.' Richardson often uses the one quarter's pension. Life, i. 376. 
word without any sense of contempt. 4 At an earlier time of his life he 

3 Life, i. 488. Joseph Simpson had wished to practise in Doctors' 
was 'a schoolfellow of Dr. Johnson's, Commons. Ib. i. 134. 

D 2, prevent 

36 Prayers and Meditations. 

prevent wrongs, and terminate contentions ; and grant that 
I may use that knowledge which I shall attain, to thy glory and 
my own salvation, for Jesus Christ's sake. Amen. 


Oct. 1765. 

At church, Oct. 65 '. 

To avoid all singularity 2 ; Bonaventura 3 . 

To come in before service, and compose my mind by medita 
tion, or by reading some portions of scripture. Tetty. 

If I can hear the sermon, to attend it, unless attention be 
more troublesome than useful. 

To consider the act of prayer as a reposal of myself upon God, 
and a resignation of all into his holy hand. 


Engaging in Politicks with H n 4 . 

Nov. 1765. 

Almighty God, who art the Giver of all Wisdom, enlighten 
my understanding with knowledge of right, and govern my will 
by thy laws, that no deceit may mislead me, nor temptation 
corrupt me, that I may always endeavour to do good, and to 
hinder evil. Amidst all the hopes and fears of this world, take 
not thy Holy Spirit from me, but grant that my thoughts may 
be fixed on thee, and that I may finally attain everlasting happi 
ness, for Jesus Christs sake. Amen. 

Endorsed. Prayer on Politicks, Nov. 65, No. 5 1 E. 


Jan. i, [1766] after two in the morning. 

Almighty and most merciful Father, I again appear in thy 
presence the wretched mispender of another year which thy 
mercy has allowed me. O Lord let me not sink into total 
depravity, look down upon me, and rescue me at last from 

1 Life, \. 500. person, who for his piety was named 

a For Johnson's dislike of singu- the Seraphic Doctor. 1 BOSWELL. 
larity, see ib. ii. 74. 4 William Gerard Hamilton. For 

'He was probably proposing to my note on the connexion between 
himself the model of this excellent him and Johnson, see Life, i. 518. 


Prayers and Meditations. 37 

the captivity of Sin T . Impart to me good resolutions, and 
give me strength and perseverance to perform them. Take 
not from me thy Holy Spirit, but grant that I may redeem 
the time lost, and that by temperance and diligence, by sincere 
repentance and faithful Obedience I may finally obtain ever 
lasting happiness, for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord. 


March 3. I have never, I thank God, since new year's day 
deviated from the practice of rising. In this practice I persisted 
till I went to Mr. Thrale's some time before Midsummer : the 
irregularity of that family broke my habit of rising. I was 
there till after Michaelmas 2 . 


March 7, 1766. 


Almighty and most merciful Father, who hast graciously 
supplied me with new conveniences for study, grant that I may 
use thy gifts to thy glory. Forgive me the time mispent, 
relieve my perplexities, strengthen my resolution, and enable 
me to do my duty with vigour and constancy ; and when the 
fears and hopes, the pains and pleasures of this life shall have 

1 Quoted in the Life, iv. 397. pp. 40, 48. It was therefore in the 

2 Hawkins's Johnson, p. 458 n. spring of 1 766 that he made the first 
This entry was, I believe, made at part of the entry. His visit to Mr. 
two different times. On March 9, Thrale's was paid in the following 
1766, Johnson wrote to Langton: summer. Post, p. 43. 

' Burke is a great man by nature, and 3 In the letter to Langton, quoted 

is expected soon to attain civil great- in the last note, he says : * I wish 

ness. I am grown greater too, for you were in my new study; I am 

I have maintained the newspapers now writing the first letter in it. 

these many weeks ; and what is I think it looks very pretty about me.' 

greater still, I have risen every Hawkins describes it as 'an upper 

morning since New-year's day, at room, which had the advantages of 

about eight ; when I was up, I have a good light and free air.' Hawkins's 

indeed done but little ; yet it is no Johnson, p. 452. Johnson had moved 

slight advancement to obtain for so into 'a good house in Johnson's Court, 

many hours more, the consciousness Fleet Street,' in the latter part of 

of being.' Life, ii. 16. See also post, 1765. Life, ii. 5 ; iii. 406. 


38 Prayers and Meditations. 

an end, receive me to everlasting happiness, for the sake of 
Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. 

Endorsed Novum Museum, March 7. 66. 

Transcribed, June 26, 68. 

Good Friday, March 28, i'j66 I . On the night before I used 
proper Collects, and prayed when I arose in the morning. I had 
all the week an awe upon me, not thinking on Passion week till 
I looked in the almanack 2 . I have wholly forbone M [? meat] 
and wines, except one glass on Sunday night. 

In the morning I rose, and drank very small tea 3 without 
milk, and had nothing more that day. 

This was the day on which Tetty died. I did not mingle 
much men [? mention] of her with the devotions of this day, 
because it is dedicated to more holy subjects. I mentioned her 
at church, and prayed once solemnly at home. I was twice 
at church, and went through the prayers without perturbation, 
but heard the sermons imperfectly. I came in both times at 
the second lesson, not hearing the bell. 

When I came home I read the Psalms for the day, and one 
sermon in Clark 4 . Scruples distract me, but at church I had 
hopes to conquer them 5 . 

1 From the autograph record by his name in his Dictionary ' ; never- 
Johnson of Good Friday, March 28, theless he recommended them on his 
Easter Sunday, March 30, and May 4, death-bed, 'because he is fullest on 
and the copy of the record of the propitiatory sacrifice.' Life, iii. 
Saturday, March 29, preserved in 248; iv. 416. Clarke's Scripture 
the Bodleian Library (Select Auto- Doctrine of the Trinity had been 
graphs, Montagu). These entries condemned by the Lower House of 
are given in Appendix A to my Convocation. SmottetfsHist.o/Eng. 
edition of the Life, ii. 476. ii. 303. 

2 Apparently he had * omitted 5 Johnson warned Boswell against 
church ' of late. scruples. ' I am afraid of scruples,' 

3 This use of small applied to tea he wrote. Life, ii. 421. 'Let me 
on the analogy of small-beer was, warn you very earnestly against 
I think, uncommon. scruples. 3 Ib. ii. 423. I am no 

4 Dr. Samuel Clarke, of whose friend to scruples.' Ib. v. 62. On 
sermons, though he was ' a con- his death-bed, he said : ' Scruples 
demned heretic as to the doctrine of made many men miserable, but few 
the Trinity/ Johnson thought highly. men good.' Croker's Boswell, p. 844. 
' He had made it a rule not to admit See Post, p. 93. 

I bore 

Prayers and Meditations. 39 

I bore abstinence this day not well, being at night insupport- 
ably heavy, but as fasting does not produce sleepyness, I had 
perhaps rested ill the night before. I prayed in my study for 
the day, and prayed again in my chamber. I went to bed very 
early before eleven. 

After church I selected collects for the Sacraments. 

Finding myself upon recollection very ignorant of religion, 
I formed a purpose of studying it. 

I went down and sat to tea, but was too heavy to converse. 


Saturday, 29. I rose at the time now usual, not fully re 
freshed. Went to tea. A sudden thought of restraint hindered 
me. I drank but one dish. Took a purge for my health. 
Still uneasy. Prayed, and went to dinner. Dined sparingly 
on fish [added in different ink] about four. Went to Simpson x . 
Was driven home by my physick. Drank tea, and am much 
refreshed. I believe that if I had drank tea again yesterday, 
I had escaped the heaviness of the evening. Fasting that 
produces inability is no duty, but I was unwilling to do less 
than formerly. 

I had lived more abstemiously than is usual the whole week, 
and taken physick twice, which together made the fast more 

Thus much I have written medically, to show that he who 
can fast long must have lived plentifully 2 . 


Saturday, March 29, 1766. I was yesterday very heavy. 
I do not feel myself to-day so much impressed with awe of 
the approaching mystery. I had this day a doubt, like Baxter, 
of my state, and found that my faith, though weak, was yet 
faith 3 . O God ! strengthen it. 

1 Ante, p. 35. 3 Baxter describes the doubts of 

2 'He told me,' writes Boswell, his own salvation which exercised 
' that he had fasted two days without him many years. Reliquiae Bax- 
inconvenience.' Life, i. 468 ; iii. terianae, ed. 1696, p. 6. 

306 ; v. 284. 


40 Prayers and Meditations. 

Since the last reception of the sacrament I hope I have no 
otherwise grown worse than as continuance in sin makes the 
sinner's condition more dangerous. 

Since last New Year's Eve I have risen every morning by 
eight, at least not after nine, which is more superiority over 
my habits than I have ever before been able to obtain. Scruples 
still distress me. My resolution, with the blessing of God, is 
to contend with them, and, if I can, to conquer them. 
My resolutions are 

To conquer scruples. 

To read the Bible this year. 

To try to rise more early. 

To study Divinity. 

To live methodically. 

To oppose idleness. 

To frequent Divine worship. 

Almighty and most merciful Father ! before whom I now 
appear laden with the sins of another year, suffer me yet again 
to call upon Thee for pardon and peace. 

God ! grant me repentance, grant me reformation. Grant 
that I may be no longer distracted with doubts, and harassed 
with vain terrors. Grant that I may no longer linger in per 
plexity, nor waste in idleness that life which Thou hast given 
and preserved. Grant that I may serve Thee in firm faith and 
diligent endeavour, and that I may discharge the duties of my 
calling with tranquillity and constancy. Take not, O God, Thy 
holy Spirit from me : but grant that I may so direct my life by 
Thy holy laws, as that, when Thou shalt call me hence, I may 
pass by a holy and happy death to a life of everlasting and 
unchangeable joy, for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord. 

1 went to bed (at) one or later ; but did not sleep, tho' I 
knew not why. 


Easter Day, March 30, 1766. I rose in the morning. Prayed. 
Took my prayer book to tea ; drank tea ; planned my devotion 
for the church. I think prayed again. Went to church, was 


Prayers and Meditations. 41 

early. Went through the prayers with fixed attention. Could 
not hear the sermon. After sermon, applied myself to devotion. 
Troubled with Baxter's scruple, which was quieted as I re 
turned home. It occurred to me that the scruple itself was its 
own confutation x . 

I used the prayer against scruples in the foregoing page in 
the pew, and commended (so far as it was lawful) Tetty, dear 
Tetty, in a prayer by herself, then my other friends. What 
collects I do not exactly remember. I gave a shilling. I then 
went towards the altar that I might hear the service. The 
communicants were more than I ever saw. I kept back ; used 
again the foregoing prayer ; again commended Tetty, and lifted 
up my heart for the rest. I prayed in the collect for the 
fourteen S. after Trinity for encrease of Faith, Hope, and 
Charity, and deliverance from scruples; this deliverance was 
the chief subject of my prayers. O God, hear me. I am now 
to try to conquer them. After reception I repeated my petition, 
and again when I came home. My dinner made me a little 
peevish ; not much 2 . After dinner I retired, and read in an 
hour and a half the seven first chapters of St. Matthew in Greek. 
Glory be to God. God grant me to proceed and improve, for 
Jesus Christ's sake. Amen. 

I went to Evening Prayers, and was undisturbed. At church 
in the morning it occurred to me to consider about example 
of good any of my friends had set me. This is proper, in order 
to the thanks returned for their good examples. 

My attainment of rising 3 gives me comfort and hope. O God, 
for Jesus Christ's sake, bless me. Amen. 

After church, before and after dinner, I read Rotheram on 
Faith 4 . 

1 ' He cou'd raise scruples dark heartily,' recorded one day that he 

and nice, was ' snappish on fasting.' Life, iii. 

And after solve 'em in at rice; 171. 

As if Divinity had catch'd 3 His early rising. Ante, p. 37. 

The itch on purpose to be 4 On the Origin of Faith, A Sermon 

scratch'd.' preached before the University of 

Hudibras, i. I. 164. Oxford in 1761. Nichols's Lit. Anec. 

2 Dr. Rutty, ' at whose self-con- viii. 193. Rotheram was a Fellow of 
demning minutes Johnson laughed University College. In 1767 he was 


Prayers and Meditations. 

After evening prayer I retired, and wrote this account. 

I then repeated the prayer of the day, with collects, and my 
prayer for night, and went down to supper at near ten. 

May 4, 66. I have read since the noon of Easter day the 
Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark in Greek. 

I have read Xenophon's Cyropaedia. 


Sept. 1 8, 1766, at Streatham. 

I have this day completed my fifty seventh year. O Lord, 
for Jesus Christ's sake, have mercy upon me. 

Almighty and most merciful Father, who hast granted me 
to prolong my life to another year, look down upon me with 
pity. Let not my manifold sins and negligences avert from 
me thy fatherly regard. Enlighten my mind that I may know 
my duty that I may perform it, strengthen my resolution. 
Let not another year be lost in vain deliberations ; let me 
remember, that of the short life of man, a great part is already 
past, in sinfulness and sloth. Deliver me, gracious Lord, from 
the bondage of evil customs, and take not from me thy Holy 
Spirit ; but enable me so to spend my remaining days, that, 
by performing thy will I may promote thy glory, and grant 
that after the troubles and disappointments of this mortal state 
I may obtain everlasting happiness for the sake of Jesus Christ 
our Lord. Amen. 

The Fourteenth S. after Tr. 

The Morning collect. 

The beginning of this (day) year x . 

To keep a journal, to begin this day. 

succeeded in his Fellowship by John This latter prayer he ' accommodated' 

Scott, then a youth of sixteen, after- (post, p. 54) by altering day into year 

wards Earl of Eldon. Twiss's Life and us into me. It begins : ' O Lord, 

of Lord Eldon, ed. 1846, i. 40. our heavenly Father, Almighty and 

1 He added the Collect for the everlasting God, who hast safely 

fourteenth Sunday after Trinity, and brought us to the beginning of this 

the third Collect at Morning Prayer day.' 
in the Book of Common Prayer. 


Prayers and Meditations. 43 

To spend four hours every day in study, and as much more as 
I can. 

To read a portion of the Scriptures in Greek every Sunday. 

To rise at eight. 

Oct. 3, 66. Of all this I have done nothing. 

I returned from Streatham, Oct. i, 66, having lived there 
more than three months z . 


Jan. i, 1767, ima mane scripsi. 

Almighty and most merciful Father, in whose hand are life 
and death, as thou hast suffered me to see the beginning of 
another year, grant, I beseech thee, that another year may not 
be lost in Idleness, or squandered in unprofitable employment. 
Let not sin prevail on the remaining part of life, and take not 
from me thy Holy Spirit, but as every day brings me nearer 
to my end, let every day contribute to make my end holy and 
happy. Enable me O Lord, to use all enjoyments with due 
temperance, preserve me from unseasonable and immoderate 
sleep, and enable me to run with diligence the race that is 
set before me, that, after the troubles of this life, I may obtain 
everlasting happiness, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. 


August 2, 1767. 

I have been disturbed and unsettled for a long time, and have 
been without resolution to apply to study or to business, being 
hindered by sudden snatches 2 . 

I have for some days forborn wine and suppers. Abstinence 
is not easily practised in another's house 3 ; but I think it fit 
to try. 

I was extremely perturbed in the night, but have had this 
day (9.24 p.m.) more ease than I expected. D. gr. 4 . Perhaps 

1 For his residence at Streatham, or interrupted action j a short fit. 
see Life, i. 490-6, 520. 3 He was staying at Lichfield in 

2 Quoted in the Life, ii. 44. John- his step-daughter's house. Letters, 
son defines snatch in its second i. 128. 

signification as a short fit of vigorous * Deo gratias. 
action^ and in its fourth as a broken 


44 Prayers and Meditations. 

this may be such a sudden relief as I once had by a good night's 
rest in Fetter lane x . 

The shortness of the time which the common order of nature 
allows me to expect is very frequently upon my mind. God grant 
that it may profit me. 


Ait-gust 17. 

From that time, by abstinence, I have had more ease. I have 
read five books of Homer 2 , and hope to end the sixth to-night. 
I have given Mrs. Le Clerc [?] a guinea. 

By abstinence from wine and suppers I obtained sudden and 
great relief, and had freedom of mind restored to me, which 
I have wanted for all this year, without being able to find any 
means of obtaining it. 


August 17, 1767. 

I am now about to receive with my old friend Kitty 
Chambers 3 the sacrament, preparatory to her death. Grant, 

God, that it may fit me. I purpose temperance for my 
resolution. O God, enable me to keep my purpose to thy 

5.32 p.m. I have communicated with Kitty, and kissed her. 

1 was for some time distracted but at last more composed. 
I commended my friends and Kitty. Lucy and I were much 
affected. Kitty is, I think, going to heaven. 

t, under April 6, 1777, for a sort of contest between our chair- 

two other good nights. He lodged men and some persons who were 

in Fetter Lane some time between coming up Fleet Street, whether they 

1 741 and 1749. Life, Hi. 406 n. Lord should first pass Fleet Street, or we 

Eldon, writing of the year 1766, when in our chair first get out of Fleet 

he came from Newcastle to London Street into Fetter Lane. In the 

on his way to Oxford, says ' my struggle the sedan-chair was overset 

brother, now Lord Stowell, met me with us in it.' Twiss's Life of Eldon, 

at the White Horse in Fetter Lane, ed. 1846, i. 39. 

Holborn, then the great Oxford 2 He never read the Odyssey 

house, as I was told. He took me through in the original. Windham's 

to see the play at Drury Lane. When Diary, p. 17. 

we came out of the house it rained 3 His mother's servant. Johnson 

hard. There were then few hackney had allowed her to stay on in his 

coaches, and we got both into one house at Lichfield. Letters, i. 76, 

sedan-chair. Turning out of Fleet 82-6, 125. 
Street into Fetter Lane there was 

O God, 

Prayers and Meditations. 45 

O God, grant that I may practise such temperance in Meat, 
Drink, and Sleep, and all bodily enjoyments, as may fit me 
for the duties to which thou shalt call me, and by thy blessing 
procure me freedom of thought and quietness of mind, that 
I may so serve Thee in this short and frail life, that I may 
be received by Thee at my death to everlasting happiness. 
Take not O Lord thy Holy Spirit from me, deliver me not 
up to vain fears, but have mercy on me, for the sake of Jesus 
Christ our Lord. Amen. 

O God who desirest not the Death, &c. 

O Lord grant us encrease 

O God, pardon and Peace. 

God who knowest our necessities x . 
Our Father. 


Oct. 1 8, 1767, Sunday. 

Yesterday, Oct. 17, at about ten in the morning I took my 
leave for ever 2 of my dear old friend Catherine Chambers, 
who came to live with my mother about 1724, and has been 
but little parted from us since. She buried my Father, my 
Brother, and my Mother. She is now fifty-eight years old. 

1 desired all to withdraw, then told her that we were to 
part for ever, that as Christians we should part with prayer, 
and that I would, if she was willing say a short prayer beside 
her. She expressed great desire to hear me, held up her poor 
hands, as she lay in bed, with great fervour, while I prayed 
kneeling by her, nearly in the following words : 

Almighty and most merciful Father, whose loving-kindness is 
over all thy works, behold, visit, and relieve this thy Servant, 
who is grieved with sickness. Grant that the sense of her weak 
ness may add strength to her faith, and seriousness to her 
Repentance. And grant that by the help of thy Holy Spirit 
after the pains and labours of this short life, we may all obtain 

1 He has apparently in mind the the Book of Common Prayer. 
Absolution and the Collects for the 2 He was returning to London, 
fourteenth and twenty-first Sundays whence he dates a letter on Oct. 24. 
after Trinity and the last Collect but Life, ii. 30. 
one in the Communion Service in 


46 Prayers and Meditations. 

everlasting happiness through Jesus Christ our Lord, for whose 
sake hear our prayers. Amen. Our Father. 

I then kissed her. She told me that to part was the greatest 
pain that she had ever felt, and that she hoped we should meet 
again in a better place. I expressed with swelled eyes and great 
emotion of tenderness the same hopes. We kissed, and parted. 
I humbly hope, to meet again, and to part no more *. 



Lent 2*, [1768.] 

Almighty God, who seest that I have no power of myself to 
help myself ; keep me both outwardly in my body, and inwardly 
in my soul, that I may be defended from all adversities that may 
happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may 
assault and hurt the soul, through Jesus Christ our Lord. 

This prayer may be said before or after the entrance into bed, 
as a preparative for sleep. 

When I transcribed this Prayer, it was my purpose to have 
made this book 3 a Collection. 



Lord, who wouldst that all men should be saved, and who 
knowest that without thy grace we can do nothing acceptable to 
thee, have mercy upon me. Enable me to break the chain of my 
sins, to reject sensuality in thought, and to overcome and 
suppress vain scruples ; and to use such diligence in lawful 
employment as may enable me to support myself and do good 
to others. O Lord, forgive me the time lost in idleness ; pardon 
the sins which I have committed, and grant that I may redeem 
the time misspent, and be reconciled to thee by true repentance, 
that I may live and die in peace, and be received to everlasting 

1 Quoted in the Life, ii. 43. for the Second Sunday in Lent. 

8 The following prayer, which is 3 A parchment book containing 

not in the Pembroke College MSS., such of these Prayers as are marked 
is an ' accommodation ' of the Collect transcribed. Note by G. Strahan. 


Prayers and Meditations. 47 

happiness. Take not from me, O Lord, thy Holy Spirit, but let 
me have support and comfort for Jesus Christ's sake. Amen. 

Transc. June 26, 1768. Of this prayer there is no date, nor 
can I conjecture when it was composed x . 


Almighty God, giver of all knowledge, enable me so to pursue 
the study of tongues, that I may promote thy glory and my own. 

Bless my endeavours, as shall seem best unto Thee ; and if it 
shall please Thee to grant me the attainment of my purpose, 
preserve me from sinful pride ; take not thy Holy Spirit from 
me, but give me a pure heart and humble mind, through Jesus 
Christ. Amen. 

Of this Prayer there is no date, nor can I tell when it was 
written ; but I think it was in Gough-square, after the Dictionary 
was ended 2 . I did not study what I then intended. 

Transcribed June 26, 1768. 


July 26, 1768. I shaved my nail by accident in whetting the 
knife, about an eighth of an inch from the bottom, and about 
a fourth from the top. This I measure that I may know the 
growth of nails ; the whole is about five eighths of an inch 3 . 


Sept. 1 8, 1768, at night. 

Townmalling, in Kent*. 

I have now begun the sixtieth year of my life. How the last 
year has past I am unwilling to terrify myself with thinking. 

1 Croker's.&me/^ed. i844,x. 130. Brooke, 'an eminent attorney-at- 

2 This prayer is not in the Pern- law.' ' His house,' Johnson wrote, 
broke College MSS. See Ante, ' is one of my favourite places. His 
p. 17, for his prayer ' on the Study water is very commodious, and the 
of Philosophy as an Instrument of whole place has the true appearance 
Living,' made after the Dictionary of a little country town.' Letters, ii. 
was ended. 23. ' His water ' was, no doubt, ' the 

3 Life, iii. 398. square canals which drop into one 

4 He was staying with Mr. Francis another.' Ib. n. 2. 


48 Prayers and Meditations. 

This day has been past in great perturbation, I was distracted at 
church in an uncommon degree, and my distress has had very 
little intermission. I have found myself somewhat relieved by 
reading, which I therefore intend to practise when I am able. 

This day it came into my mind to write the history of my 
melancholy. On this I purpose to deliberate. I know not 
whether it may not too much disturb me- 1 . 

I this day read a great part of Pascal's Life 2 . 

Lord, who hast safely brought me, &c. 3 

Almighty and most merciful Father, Creator and Preserver of 
mankind, look down with pity upon my troubles and maladies. 
Heal my body, strengthen my mind, compose my distraction, 
calm my inquietude, and relieve my terrours, that if it please 
thee, I may run the race that is set before me with peace 
patience constancy and confidence. Grant this O Lord, and 
take not from me thy Holy Spirit, but pardon and bless me for 
the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord. 


Jan. i, 1769, 24 after 12. 

1 am now about to begin another year, how the last has past, 
it would be in my state of weakness 4 perhaps not prudent too 
solicitously to recollect. God will I hope turn my sufferings to 
my benefit, forgive me whatever I have done amiss, and having 
vouchsafed me great relief, will by degrees heal and restore both 
my mind and body, and permit me when the last year of my 
life shall come, to leave the world in holiness and tranquillity. 

I am not yet in a state to form many resolutions ; I purpose 
and hope to rise early in the morning, at eight, and by degrees 
at six ; eight being the latest hour to which Bedtime can be 
properly extended, and six the earliest that the present system 
of life requires 5 . 

1 He wrote to Boswell, twelve years 2 He gave Boswell Les Penstes de 

later : ' Make it an invariable and Pascal. Post, p. 87. 

obligatory law to yourself never to 3 Ante, p. 42, n. i. 

mention your own mental diseases ; 4 On his next birthday he records : 

if you are never to speak of them ' The last year has been wholly 

you will think on them but little, and spent in a slow progress of recovery.' 

if you think little of them they will 5 Six years later, in the month of 

molest you rarely.' Life, iii. 421. June, he wrote to Mrs. Thrale from 


Prayers and Meditations. 49 


Jan. i, 1769. 

Almighty and most merciful Father, who hast continued my 
life from year to year, grant that by longer life I may become 
less desirous of sinful pleasures, and more careful of eternal 
happiness x . As age comes upon me let my mind be more with 
drawn from vanity and folly, more enlightened with the know 
ledge of thy will, and more invigorated with resolution to obey 
it. O Lord, calm my thoughts, direct my desires, and fortify my 
purposes. If it shall please thee give quiet to my latter days, 
and so support me with thy grace that I may dye in thy favour 
for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. 

Safely brought us to the beginning of this year 2 . 


Sept. 1 8, 1769. 

This day completes the sixtieth year of my age. What 
I have done and what I have left undone the unsettled state of 
my mind makes all endeavours to think improper. I hope to 
survey my life with more tranquillity, in some part of the time 
which God shall grant me. 

The last year has been wholly spent in a slow progress of 
recovery. My days are easier, but the perturbation of my nights 
is very distressful. I think to try a lower diet. I have grown 
fat too fast. My lungs seems incumbered, and my breath fails 
me, if my strength is in any unusual degree exerted, or my 
motion accelerated. I seem to myself to bear exercise with 
more difficulty than in the last winter. But though I feel all 
those decays of body, I have made no preparation for the grave. 
What shall I do to be saved ? 

Almighty and most merciful Father, I now appear in thy 
presence, laden with the sins, and accountable for the mercies of 
another year. Glory be to thee, O God, for the mitigation of 
my troubles, and for the hope of health both of mind and body 

Oxford : ' Don't suppose that I live x This passage is quoted in the 
here as we live at Streatham. I went Life, iv. 397. 
this morning to the chapel at six.' 2 Ante, p. 42, n. I. 
Letters, i. 323. 
VOL. I. E which 

50 Prayers and Meditations. 

which thou hast vouchsafed me. Most merciful Lord, if it seem 
good unto thee, compose my mind, and relieve my diseases ; 
enable me to perform the duties of my station, and so to serve 
thee, as that, when my hour of departure from this painful life 
shall be delayed no longer, I may be received to everlasting 
happiness, for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. 

O Lord, without whose help all the purposes of man are vain, 
enable me to use such temperance as may heal my body, and 
strengthen my mind, and enable me to serve Thee. Grant this, 

Lord, for the sake of Jesus Christ our Saviour. Amen. 
Who hast safely brought me to, &c. 


Sept. 19. 

Yesterday, having risen from a disturbed and wearisome night, 

1 was not much at rest the whole day. I prayed with the collect, 
to the beginning*) in the night and in the morning. At night 
I composed my prayer and wrote my reflection. Reviewing 
them I found them both weakly conceived and imperfectly ex 
pressed, and corrected the prayer this morning. I am glad that 
I have not omitted my annual practice. I hope that by rigid 
temperance, and moderate exercise I may yet recover. I used 
the prayer again at night, and am now to begin, by the per 
mission of God, my sixty first year. 


November 5, 1769. 

Almighty God, merciful Father, whose providence is over all 
thy works, look down with pity upon the diseases of my body, 
and the perturbations of my mind. Give thy Blessing, O Lord, 
to the means which I shall use for my relief, and restore ease to 
my body, and quiet to my thoughts. Let not my remaining life 
be made useless by infirmities, neither let health, if thou shalt 
grant it, be employed by me in disobedience to thy laws ; but 
give me such a sense of my pains, as may humble me before 
thee ; and such remembrance of thy mercy as may produce 
honest industry, and holy confidence. And, O Lord, whether 

1 Ante, p. 42, n. I. 


Prayers and Meditations. 51 

Thou ordainest my days to be past in ease or anguish, take not 
from me thy Holy Spirit ; but grant that I may attain ever 
lasting life, for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. 

This I found Jan. n, 72; and believe it written when 
I began to live on milk. I grew worse with forbearance of 
solid food. 


Prima mane, fan. i, 1770. 

Almighty God by whose mercy I am permitted to behold the 
beginning of another year, succour with thy help and bless with 
thy favour, the creature whom Thou vouchsafest to preserve. 
Mitigate, if it shall seem best unto thee, the diseases of my 
body, and compose the disorders of my mind. Dispel my 
terrours ; and grant that the time which thou shalt yet allow 
me, may not pass unprofitably away. Let not pleasure seduce 
me, Idleness lull me, or misery depress me J . Let me perform 
to thy glory, and the good of my fellow creatures the work 
which thou shalt yet appoint me. And grant that as I draw 
nearer to my dissolution, I may, by the help of thy Holy Spirit 
feel my knowledge of Thee encreased, my hope exalted, and my 
Faith strengthened, that, when the hour which is coming shall 
come, I may pass by a holy death to everlasting happiness, for 
the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. 


1770, March 28, Wednesday. 

This is the day on which in 52, I was deprived of poor dear 
Tetty. Having left off the practice of thinking on her with some 
particular combinations, I have recalled her to my mind of late 
less frequently, but when I recollect the time in which we lived 
together, my grief for her departure is not abated, and I have 
less pleasure in any good that befals me, because she does not 
partake it 2 . On many occasions I think what she would have 
said or done. When I saw the sea at Brighthelmston, I wished 

1 The following words he had corded in his Journal : * As I entered 
struck out : 'Let my remaining days my wife was in my mind ; she would 
be innocent and useful.' have been pleased. Having now 

2 When five years later he entered nobody to please I am little pleased.' 
the Palais Bourbon at Paris, he re- Life, ii. 393. 

E 3 for 

52 Prayers and Meditations. 

for her to have seen it with me 1 . But with respect to her no 
rational wish is now left, but that we may meet at last where 
the mercy of God shall make us happy, and perhaps make us 
instrumental to the happiness of each other. It is now eighteen 

1 770, April 1 1 . Cupped 2 . 


1770, April \. 

This week is Passion week. 

I have for some weeks past been much afflicted with the 
Lumbago, or Rheumatism in the Loins, which often passes to 
the muscles of the belly, where it causes equal, if not greater 
pain. In the day the sunshine mitigates it, and in cold or cloudy 
weather such as has for some time past remarkably prevailed the 
heat of a strong fire suspends it. In the night it is so trouble 
some, as not very easily to be borne. I lye wrapped in Flannel 
with a very great fire near my bed, but whether it be that 
a recumbent posture encreases the pain, or that expansion by 
moderate warmth excites what a great heat dissipates, I can 
seldom remain in bed two hours at a time without the necessity 
of rising to heat the parts affected at the fire. 

One night, between the pain and the spasms in my stomach 
I was insupportably distressed. On the next night, I think, 
I laid a blister to my back, and took opium ; my night was 
tolerable, and from that time the spasms in my stomach which 
disturbed me for many years, and for two past harassed me 
almost to distraction, have nearly ceased ; I suppose the breast 
is relaxed by the opium. 

Having passed Thursday in Passion Week at Mr. Thrales 3 , 

1 Johnson visited Brighton in 1765 Goethe was thirty-seven years old 

(Letters, i. 120) when he was fifty- six when he first saw the sea. It was at 

years old. This seems to have been Venice. Lewes's Life of Goethe, ed. 

his first sight of the sea. His wife 1890, p. 297. 

had never seen it. ' George III had 2 For his recourse to bleeding, see 

never seen the sea, nor ever been Life, iii. 152, n. 3. 

thirty miles from London at the age 3 At Mr. Thrale's house in South- 

of thirty-four.' Walpole's Memoirs wark. 
of the Reign of George III, iv. 327. 

I came 

Prayers and Meditations. 53 

I came home on Fryday morning, that I might pass the day 
unobserved. I had nothing but water once in the morning and 
once at bed-time. I refused tea after some deliberation in the 
afternoon. They did not press it. I came home late, and was 
unwilling to carry my Rheumatism to the cold church in the 
morning, unless that were rather an excuse made to myself. In 
the afternoon I went to Church but came late, I think at the 
Creed. I read Clarkes Sermon on the Death of Christ, and the 
Second Epistle to Timothy in Greek, but rather hastily. I then 
went to Thrale's, and had a very tedious and painful night. But 
the Spasms in my Throat are gone and if either the pain or the 
opiate which the pain enforced has stopped them the relief is 
very cheaply purchased. The pain harasses me much, yet many 
have the disease perhaps in a much higher degree with want of 
food, fire, and covering, which I find thus grievous with all the 
succours that riches and kindness can buy and give. 

On Saturday I was not hungry and did not eat much breakfast. 
There was a dinner and company at which I was persuaded, or 
tempted to stay J . At night I came home sat up, and composed 
the prayer, and having ordered the maid to make the fire in my 
chamber at eight went to rest, and had a tolerable night. 


EASTER DAY, Apr. 15 [1770], in the morning. 

Almighty and everlasting God, who hast preserved me by 
thy fatherly care through all the years of my past Life, and now 
permittest me again to commemorate the sufferings and the 
merits of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ grant me so to 
partake of this holy Rite, that the disquiet of my mind may be 
appeased, that my Faith may be encreased, my hope strengthened, 
and my Life regulated by thy Will. Make me truly thankful for 
that portion of health which thy mercy has restored, and enable 
me to use the remains of Life to thy glory and my own salvation. 
Take not from me O Lord thy Holy Spirit. Extinguish in my 
mind all sinful and inordinate desires. Let me resolve to do 

1 Two years later, he wrote to Dr. Lent I do not willingly go out, and 
Taylor who had asked him to dinner shall be glad to change to-morrow 
on Easter Eve : ' On the last day of for Monday,' &c. Letters, i. 188. 


54 Prayers and Meditations. 

that which is right, and let me by thy help keep my resolutions. 
Let me, if it be best for me, at last know peace and comfort, but 
whatever state of life Thou shalt appoint me let me end it by 
a happy death, and enjoy eternal happiness in thy presence, for 
the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. 


i in the afternoon, EASTER DAY. 

I am just returned from the communion having been very little 
interrupted in my duty by bodily pain. 

I was very early at church and used this prayer, I think, before 
service with proper collects. I was composed during the service. 
I went to the table to hear the prefatory part of the office, then 
returned to my pew, and tried to settle some resolutions. 

I resolved to form this day, some plan for reading the 

To rise by eight, or earlier. 

To form a plan for the regulation of my daily life. 

To excite in myself such a fervent desire of pleasing God as 
should suppress all other passions. 

I prayed through all the collects of meditation 1 , with some 
extemporary prayers ; recommended my friends living and dead 2 . 
When I returned to the table I staid till most had communicated, 
and in the mean time tried to settle my mind prayed against bad 
and troublesome thoughts, resolved to oppose sudden incursions 

of them, and, I think had thrown into my mind at the 

general confession. When I went first to the table, the particular 
series of my thoughts I cannot recollect. 

When I came home I returned thanks by accommodating the 
general thanksgiving 3 , and used this prayer again, with the 
collects, after receiving. I hope God has heard me. 

1 Johnson, Post, p. 66, mentions in his time, in which the Com- 

these ' collects of meditation.' See munion Service is printed with ap- 

ante, p. 34, where he resolves 'at propriate prayers and meditations, 

church to use the collects of Fourth Such meditations Jeremy Taylor 

after Trinity, and First and Fourth gives in his Worthy Communicant. 

after Epiphany, and to meditate.' It 2 Ante, p. 29. 

may be the case, though it is not 3 For his 'accommodative 'prayers, 

likely, that he made use of one of the see Ante, p. 42. 
books of private devotion common 


Prayers and Meditations. 55 

Shall I ever receive the Sacrament with tranquillity ? Surely 
the time will come. 

Some vain thoughts stole upon me while I stood near the 
table, I hope I ejected them effectually so as not to be hurt 
by them. 

I went to prayers at seven having fasted ; read the two 
morning lessons in Greek. At night I read Clarke's Sermon of 
the Humiliation of our Saviour. 


i Sunday after Easter. 

I have been recovering from my rheumatism slowly yet 
sensibly. But the last week has produced little good. Uneasy 
nights have tempted me to lye long in the morning. But when 
I wake in the night the release which still continues from the 
spasms in my throat, gives me great comfort. 

The plan which I formed for reading the Scriptures was to read 
600 verses in [the] Old Testament, and 200 in the New every 
week z . The Old Testament in any language, the New in Greek. 

This day I began to read the Septuagint but read only 230 
verses the nine first chapters of Genesis. 

On this evening I repeated the prayer for Easter day 2 , changing 
the future tense to the past. 


177 Q.June i. 

Every man naturally persuades himself that he can keep his 
resolutions, nor is he convinced of his imbecillity but by length 
of time and frequency of experiment. This opinion of our own 
constancy is so prevalent that we always despise him who suffers 
his general and settled purpose to be overpowered by an occa 
sional desire. They therefore whom frequent failures have made 
desperate cease to form resolutions, and they who are become 
cunning do not tell them. Those who do not make them, are 
very few, but of their effect little is perceived, for scarcely any 
man persists in a course of life planned by choice, but as he is 
restrained from deviation by some external power. He who 
may live as he will, seldom lives long in the observation of his 

1 Ante, p. 32. 2 His Prayer. Ante, p. 53. 


56 Prayers and Meditations. 

own rules J . I never yet saw a regular family unless it were that 
of Mrs. Harriots 2 , nor a regular man except Mr. Campbel 3 , 
whose exactness I know only by his own report, and Psalmanazar 4 , 
whose life was I think, uniform. 


EASTER DAY, March 31, 71. 

Almighty and most merciful Father, I am now about to com 
memorate once more in thy presence, the redemption of the world 
by our Lord and Saviour thy Son Jesus Christ. Grant, O most 
merciful God, that the benefit of his sufferings may be extended 
to me. Grant me Faith, grant me Repentance. Illuminate me 
with thy Holy Spirit. Enable me to form good purposes, and 
to bring these purposes to good effect. Let me so dispose my 
time, that I may discharge the duties to which thou shalt vouch 
safe to call me, and let that degree of health, to which thy mercy 
has restored me be employed to thy Glory. O God, invigorate 
my understanding, compose my perturbations, recal my wander 
ings, and calm my thoughts, that having lived while thou shalt 
grant me life, to do good and to praise Thee, I may when thy 
call shall summon me to another state, receive mercy from thee, 
for Jesus Christ's sake. Amen. 


1771, September 18, 9 at night. 

I am now come to my sixty-third year. For the last year 
I have been slowly recovering both from the violence of my last 
illness, and, I think, from the general disease of my life. My 
Breath is less obstructed, and I am more capable of motion and 
exercise. My mind is less encumbered, and I am less interrupted 
in mental employment. Some advances I hope have been made 
towards regularity. I have missed Church since Easter only two 
Sundays, both which I hope I have endeavoured to supply by 
attendance on Divine Worship in the following week 5 . Since 
Easter, my Evening devotions have been lengthened. But 

1 Quoted in the Life, ii. 113. But see Life, iii. 243, for his drink- 

? Mrs. Harriots was a relation of ing. 
Johnson's mother. 4 Ib. iii. 443. 

3 Perhaps Dr. John Campbell. 5 Post, pi 81. 


Prayers and Meditations. 57 

Indolence and indifference has been neither conquered nor op 
posed. No plan of Study has been pursued or formed, except 
that I have commonly read every week, if not on Sunday, 
a stated portion of the New Testament in greek. But what is 
most to be considered I have neither attempted nor formed any 
scheme of Life by which I may do good, and please God. 

One great hindrance is want of rest, my nocturnal complaints 
grow less troublesome towards morning, and I am tempted [to] 
repair the deficiencies of the night x . I think however to try to 
rise every day by eight, and to combat indolence as I shall 
obtain strength. Perhaps Providence has yet some use for the 
remnant of my life 2 . 

Almighty and everlasting God, whose mercy is over all thy 
works, and who hast no pleasure in the Death of a Sinner, look 
with pity upon me, succour and preserve me ; enable me to 
conquer evil habits, and surmount temptations. Give me Grace 
so to use the degree of health which Thou hast restored to my 
Mind and Body, that I may perform the task thou shalt yet 
appoint me. Look down, O gracious Lord upon my remaining 
part of Life ; grant, if it please thee, that the days few or many 
which thou shalt yet allow me, may pass in reasonable confidence, 
and holy tranquillity. Withhold not thy Holy Spirit from me, 
but strengthen all good purposes till they shall produce a life 
pleasing to Thee. And when thou shalt call me to another 
state, forgive me my sins, and receive me to Happiness, for the 
Sake of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. 

Safely brought us, &c. 3 


Sept. 23, 1771. 

On the 1 8th, in the morning, before I went to Bed, I used the 
general prayer [beginning of this year]. When I rose, I came 
home from Mr. Thrale's that I might be more master of my 
hours 4 . I went to Church in the Morning, but came in to the 

1 Quoted in the Life, ii. 143. Jan. I, 1770, he uttered his New 

2 The Lives of the Poets had yet Year's Day prayer ' prima mane ' 
to be written. in the first hour after midnight. 

3 Ante, p. 42, n. I. ' The general prayer ' was, I con- 

4 He sat up on the eve of his jecture, his ' accommodation ' of the 
birthday till after midnight. On Third Collect. Ante, p. 42, n. I. 


58 Prayers and Meditations. 

Litany. I have gone voluntarily to Church on the week day 
but few times in my Life. I think to mend. 

At night I composed and used the prayer, which I have used 
since in my devotions one morning. Having been somewhat 
disturbed, I have not yet settled in any plan, except that 
yesterday I began to learn some verses in the Greek Testament 
for a Sundays recital. I hope by Trust in God to amend my 


Jan. i, 1772, 2 in the morning. 

Almighty God, who hast permitted me to see the beginning 
of another year, enable me so to receive thy mercy, as that it 
may raise in me stronger desires of pleasing thee by purity of 
mind and holiness of Life. Strengthen me, O Lord, in good 
purposes, and reasonable meditations. Look with pity upon all 
my disorders of mind, and infirmities of body. Grant that the 
residue of my life may enjoy such degrees of health as may 
permit me to be useful, and that I may live to thy Glory; and 
O merciful Lord when it shall please thee to call me from the 
present state, enable me to dye in confidence of thy mercy, and 
receive me to everlasting happiness, for the sake of Jesus Christ 
our Lord. Amen. 

To rise in the morning. 


EASTER EVE, Apr. 18, 1772. 

I am now again preparing by Divine Mercy to commemorate 
the Death of my gracious Redeemer, and to form, as God shall 
enable me, resolutions and purposes of a better life. 

When I review the last year, I am able to recollect so little 
done, that shame and sorrow, though perhaps too weakly, come 
upon me x . Yet I have been generally free from local pain, and 
my strength has seemed gradually to increase. But my sleep 
has generally been unquiet, and I have not been able to rise 
early. My mind is unsettled, and my memory confused. I have 
of late turned my thoughts, with a very useless earnestness, upon 
past incidents. I have yet got no command over my thoughts ; 

1 Quoted in the Life, ii. 143. 


Prayers 'and Meditations. 59 

an unpleasing incident is almost certain to hinder my rest 1 . 
This is the remainder of my last illness. By sleepless or 
unquiet nights and short days, made short by late rising the 
time passes away uncounted and unheeded. Life so spent is 

I hope to cast my time into some stated method. 

To let no hour pass unemployed. 

To rise by degrees more early in the morning. 

To keep a Journal. 

I have, I think, been less guilty of neglecting public worship 
than formerly. I have commonly on Sunday gone once to 
church, and if I have missed, have reproached myself. 

I have exerted rather more activity of body. These dis 
positions I desire to improve. 

I resolved, last Easter, to read within the year, the whole 
Bible, a very great part of which I had never looked upon. 
I read the Greek Testament without construing, and this day 
concluded the Apocalypse 2 . I think that no part was missed. 

My purpose of reading the rest of the Bible was forgotten, till 
I took by chance the resolutions of last Easter in my hand. 
I began it the first day of lent ; and, for a time read with some 
regularity. I was then disturbed or seduced, but finished the 
old Testament last Thursday. 

I hope to read the whole Bible once a year as long as I live. 

Yesterday I fasted, as I have always, or commonly done, since 
the death of Tetty. The Fast was more painful than it has 
formerly been, which I imputed to some medicinal evacuations 

1 Quoted in the Life, ii. 190. He which I am not indifferent, lest some- 
wrote to Dr. Taylor on August 31 of thing, which I know to be nothing, 
this year : ' I had formerly great should fasten upon my imagination, 
command of my attention, and what and hinder me from sleep.' Letters, 
I did not like could forbear to think i. 190. 

on. But of this power, which is of 2 Boswell writes of this Easter : 

the highest importance to the tran- ' I paid him short visits both on 

quillity of life, I have been some [sic] Friday and Saturday, and seeing his 

much exhausted, that I do not go large folio Greek Testament before 

into a company towards night, in him beheld him with a reverential 

which I foresee any thing disagree- awe, and would not intrude upon his 

able, nor enquire after any thing to time.' Life, ii. 189. 


60 Prayers and Meditations. 

in the beginning of the week, and to a meal of cakes on the 
forgoing day. I cannot now fast as formerly. 

I devoted this week to the perusal of the Bible, and have done 
little secular business. I am this night easier than is customary 
on this anniversary, but am not sensibly enlightened. 


EASTER DAY, after 1 2 at night. 

The Day is now begun, on which I hope to begin a new course 

My hopes are from this time, 
To rise early. 
To waste less time. 
To appropriate something to charity 2 . 

Almighty God, merciful Father, who hatest nothing that thou 
hast made, look down with pity on my sinfulness and weakness. 
Strengthen, O Lord, my mind, deliver me from needless terrours. 
Enable me to correct all inordinate desires, to eject all evil 
thoughts, to reform all sinful habits, and so to amend my life 3 , 
that when at the end of my days thou shalt call me hence, 
I may depart in peace, and be received into everlasting happi 
ness, for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. 


9 in the morning. 

Glory be to Thee, O Lord God, for the deliverance which 
Thou hast granted me from diseases of mind and body 4 . Grant, 
O gracious God, that I may employ the powers which thou 
vouchsafest me to thy Glory, and the Salvation of my soul, for 
the sake of Jesus Christ. Amen. 

1 As if from the starting-place. eject all wicked thoughts, to break off 

2 'Johnson's charity to the poor all sinful habits, and so to regulate 
was uniform and extensive, both from my life that,' &c. 

inclination and principle.' Life, iv. 4 On March 15 of this year he 

132. 'His liberality in giving his wrote to Boswell:' My health grows 

money to persons in distress was better, yet I am not fully recovered. 

extraordinary.' ft. p. 191. I believe it is held that men do not 

3 In another version of this prayer recover very fast after threescore.' 
he thus varies these words : ' to Life, ii. 145. 

I was 

Prayers and Meditations. 61 


April 26. 

I was some way hinderd from continuing this contemplation 
in the usual manner, and therefore try at the distance of a week 
to review the last Sunday. 

I went to Church early having first, I think, used my prayer. 
When I was there I had very little perturbation of mind. During 
the usual time of Meditation, I considered the Christian Duties 
under the three principles of Soberness ; Righteousness ; and 
Godliness ; and purposed to forward Godliness by the annual 
perusal of the Bible ; Righteousness by settling something for 
Charity^ and Soberness by early hours. I commended as usual 
with preface of permission, and, I think, mentioned Bathurst x . 
I came home, and found Paoli and Boswel waiting for me 2 . 
What devotions I used after my return home I do not distinctly 
remember. I went to prayers in the evening; and, I think, 
entred late. 

I have this week endeavoured every day but one to rise early, 
and have tried to be diligent, but have not performed what 
I required from myself. 

On Good Fryday, I paid Peyton 3 without requiring work. 

Since Easter 71 I have added a collect to my Evening 

I have been less indulgent to corporal inactivity. But I have 
done little with my mind. 

It is a comfort to me, that at last, in my sixty-third year, 
I have attained to know, even thus hastily, confusedly, and 
imperfectly, what my Bible contains. 

May the good God encrease and sanctify my knowledge. 

I have never yet read the apocrypha. When I was a boy 
I have read or heard Bel and the dragon, Susannah, some of 
Tobit, perhaps all. Some at least of Judith, and some of 
Ecclesiasticus ; and I suppose, the Benedicite. I have some 

1 Ante, p. 29. 2 Life, ii. 190. edition. Life, ii. 155. 'Peyton and 
3 Peyton, who had been one of his Macbean are both starving,' he wrote 
amanuenses when he was writing the in 1775, 'and I cannot keep them.' 
Dictionary, was now assisting him Letters, i. 319. For Peyton's melan 
in the preparation of the fourth choly end, see ib. i. 385. 


62 Prayers and Meditations. 

time looked into the Maccabees, and read a chapter containing 
the question, Which is the strongest ? x I think in Esdras. 

In the afternoon of Easter day, I read Pococke's commentary 2 . 

I have this last week scarcely tried to read, nor have I read 
any thing this day. 

I have had my mind weak and disturbed for some weeks past. 

Having missed Church in the morning I went this evening, 
and afterwards sat with Southwel 3 . 

Having not used the prayer 4 , except on the day of com 
munion ; I will offer it this night, and hope to find mercy. On 
this day little has been done and this is now the last hour. In 
life little has been done, and life is very far advanced. Lord, 
have mercy upon me. 


I 773>/^- !> mane i. 33. 

Almighty God, by whose mercy my life has been yet prolonged 
to another year, grant that thy mercy may not be vain. Let 
not my years be multiplied to encrease my guilt, but as age 
advances, let me become more pure in my thoughts, more regular 
in my desires, & more obedient to thy laws 5 . Let not the cares 
of the world distract me, nor the evils of age overwhelm me. 
But continue and encrease thy loving kindness towards me, and 
when thou shalt call me hence, receive me to everlasting happi 
ness, for the sake of Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen. 


GOOD FRIDAY, April g, 1773. 

On this day I went twice to Church and Boswel was with me 6 . 
I had forborn to attend Divine Service for some time in the 

1 'The first [of three young men 1677-91. 'At the time when John- 
that were of the guard that kept son's pension was granted to him he 
the king's body] wrote, Wine is the said, with a noble literary ambition, 
strongest. "Had this happened twenty years 

The second wrote, The king is the ago I should have gone to Constan- 

strongest. tinople to learn Arabick as Pococke 

The third wrote, Women are did." ' Life, iv. 27. 

strongest : but above all things 3 Letters, i. 205, n. 3. 

Truth beareth away the victory.' 4 Ante, p. 53. 

I Esdras iii. 10. 5 Quoted in the Life, iv. 397. 

2 Edward Pococke's Commentary 6 ' On the 9th of April, being Good 
on Micah, Malachi, Hosea and Joel, Friday, I breakfasted with him on 


Prayers and Meditations. 63 

winter, having a cough which would have interrupted both my 
own attention and that of others, and when the cough grew less 
troublesome I did not regain the habit of going to church, though 
I did not wholly omit it. I found the service not burthensome 
nor tedious, though I could not hear the lessons. I hope in time 
to take pleasure in public Worship x . 

On this whole day I took nothing of nourishment but one cup 
of tea without milk, but the fast was very inconvenient. Towards 
night I grew fretful, and impatient, unable to fix my mind, or 
govern my thoughts, and felt a very uneasy sensation both in 
my stomach and head, compounded as it seemed of laxity and 

From this uneasiness, of which when I was not asleep I was 
sensible all night, I was relieved in the morning by drinking tea, 
and eating the soft part of a penny loaf. 

This I have set down for future observation. 


Saturday Apr. 10, I dined on cakes and found myself filled 
and satisfied. 

Saturday 10. Having offered my prayers to God, I will now 
review the last year. 

Of the Spring and Summer, I remember that I was able in 
those seasons to examine and improve my dictionary 2 , and was 

tea and cross-buns He carried tion.' Wesley's Journal, ed. 1830, 

me with him to the church of iv. 241. 

St. Clement Danes, where he had his 1 For ' his great reluctance to go 
seat ; and his behaviour was, as to church,' see Life, \. 67. 
I had imaged to myself, solemnly 2 On Aug. 29, 1771, he wrote to 
devout. 1 never shall forget the Boswell : ' I am engaging in a very 
tremulous earnestness with which great work, the revision of my Dic- 
he pronounced the awful petition in tionary? Life, ii. 142. On March 
the Litany : " In the hour of death, 23, 1772, Eoswell found him busy on 
and in the day of judgement, good the work. Ib. p. 155. On Oct. 6 
Lord deliver us." ' Life, ii. 214. he wrote to Dr. Taylor : 'I am now 
* Nov. 24, 1782. I preached at within a few hours of being able to 
St. Clement's in the Strand (the send the whole dictionary to the 
largest church I ever preached in at press, and though I often went slug- 
London, except perhaps St. Sepul- gishly to the work I am not much 
chre's) to an immense congrega- delighted at the completion.' Letters, 


64 Prayers and Meditations. 

seldom withheld from the work but by my own unwillingness. 
Of my Nights I have no distinct remembrance but believe that 
as in many foregoing years they were painful and restless. 

A little before Christmas I had caught cold, of which at first, 
as is my custom, I took little notice, but which harrassed me as 
it grew more violent, with a cough almost incessant, both night 
and day. I was let blood three times, and after about ten 
weeks, with the help of warm weather I recovered. From this 
time I have been much less troubled with nocturnal flatulencies, 
and have had some nights of that quiet and continual sleep, 
which I had wanted till I had almost forgotten it. 

O God, grant that I may not mispend or lose the time which 
thou shalt yet allow me. For Jesus Christs sake have mercy 
upon me. 

My purpose is to attain in the remaining part of the year as 
much knowledge as can easily be had of the Gospels and 
Pentateuch. Concerning the Hebrew I am in doubt. I hope 
likewise to enlarge my knowledge of Divinity, by reading at 
least once a week some sermon or small theological tract, or 
some portion of a larger work. 

To this important and extensive study, my purpose is to 
appropriate (libere) part of every Sunday, Holyday, Wednesday, 
and Friday, and to begin with the Gospels. Perhaps I may not 
be able to study the Pentateuch before next year. 

My general resolution to which I humbly implore the help of 
God is to methodise my life ; to resist sloth. I hope from this 
time to keep a Journal \ 

i. 191. On Feb. 24, 1773, he wrote often better, as worse, than I ex- 

to Boswell : 'A new edition of my pected.' Life, ii. 205. 

great Dictionary is printed, from x ' On his thirty-eighth birthday, 

a copy which I was persuaded to being February 18, 1597, Casaubon 

revise ; but having made no pre- resolved, as many literary men have 

paration, I was able to do very little, resolved, to keep a diary. But he 

Some superfluities I have expunged, continued to keep it with the same 

and some faults I have corrected, perseverance which he carried into 

and here and there have scattered everything, daily, till within a fort- 

a remark; but the main fabrick of night of his death in 1614. It is 

the work remains as it was. I had literally " nulla dies sine linea" I 

looked very little into it since I wrote recollect but one other example of 

it, and, I think, I found it full as such regularity, that of Joseph 

N. B. 

Prayers and Meditations. 65 

N. B. On Friday I read the first of Mark, and Clarks sermon 
on Faith. 

On Saturday I read little, but wrote the foregoing account, 
and the following prayer. 

Almighty God, by whose mercy I am now about to com 
memorate the death of my Redeemer, grant that from this time 
I may so live as that his death may be efficacious to my eternal 
happiness. Enable me to conquer all evil customs. Deliver me 
from evil and vexatious thoughts. Grant me light to discover 
my duty, and Grace to perform it. As my life advances, let me 
become more pure, and more holy. Take not from me thy 
Holy Spirit, but grant that I may serve thee with diligence and 
confidence ; and when thou shalt call me hence, receive me to 
everlasting happiness, for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord. 

Apr. 10, near midnight. 



I had more disturbance in the night than has been customary 
for some weeks past. I rose before nine in the morning, and 
prayed and drank tea. I came, I think, to church in the begin 
ning of the prayers. I did not distinctly hear the Psalms, and 
found that I had been reading the Psalms for Good Friday. 
I went through the Litany, after a short disturbance with toler 
able attention. 

After sermon I perused my prayer in the pew, then went 
nearer the altar x and being introduced into another pew, used 
my prayer again, and recommended my relations with Bathurst 
and Boothby 2 , then my Wife again by herself. Then I went 

Priestley, who began to keep a diary &c., in the Gentleman's Maga- 

of his studies, act. 22, and continued zine for 1785, p. 731, objects to 

it till within three or four days of the use of the word altar by ' so 

his death, aet. 7 1 Priestley's diary exact a philologist and so rational 

shared the fate of all his collections, a protestant.' Johnson in his Dic- 

and became the victim of the savages tionary gives as the second meaning 

of one of our great cities.' Patti- of altar, 'the table in Christian 

son's Casaubon, 2nd ed., p. 89. churches where the communion is 

1 Johnson's pew was in the gal- administered.' 

lery. The reviewer of his Prayers, * Miss Hill Boothby. Ante, p. 18. 

VOL. I. F nearer 

66 Prayers and Meditations. 

nearer the altar, and read the collects chosen for meditation. 
I prayed for Salusbury x and I think the Thrales. I then com 
municated with calmness, used the collect for Easter day, and 
returning to the first pew, prayed my prayer the third time. 
I came home, again used my prayer and the Easter Collect. 
Then went into the study to Boswel 2 , and read the Greek 
Testament. Then dined, and when Boswel went away ended 
the four first chapters of St. Matthew, and the Beatitudes of 
the fifth. 

I then went to Evening prayers, and was composed. 

I gave the Pewkeepers each $s. $d. z 

Apr. i 2 near one in the morning. I used my prayer with my 
ordinary devotions, and hope to lead henceforward a better life. 


June 1 8, 1773, Friday. 

This day after dinner died Mrs Salusbury, she had for some 
days almost lost the power of speaking. Yesterday as I touched 
her hand and kissed it, she pressed my hand between her two 
hands, which she probably intended as the parting caress 4 . At 
night her speech returned a little ; and she said among other 
things to her daughter, I have had much time, and I hope I have 
used it. This morning being called about nine to feel her pulse 
I said at parting God bless you, for Jesus Christs sake. She 
smiled, as pleased. She had her senses perhaps to the dying 


July 22, 73. 

This day I found this book 5 with the resolutions, some of 
which I had forgotten, but remembered my design of reading 
the Pentateuch and Gospels, though I have not perused it. 

1 Mrs. Salusbury, Mrs. Thrale's entertained at his table.' Life, ii. 215. 

mother, who was dying of cancer. 3 The fourth part of a guinea. 

Letters, i. 196, n. 5. 4 Writing of her a few weeks 

3 'To my great surprise,' writes earlier he said: 'Part we must at 

Boswell, * he asked me to dine with last, but the last parting is very 

him on Easter-day. I never sup- afflictive. When I see her I shall 

posed that he had a dinner at his torment her with caressing her.' 

house ; for I had not then heard of Letters^ i. 213. 

any one of his friends having been 5 A book in which this, and the 


Prayers and Meditations. 67 

Of the time past since these resolutions were made I can give 
no very laudable account. Between Easter and Whitsuntide, 
having always considered that time as propitious to study x , 
I attempted to learn the low Dutch Language 2 , my application 
was very slight, and my memory very fallacious, though whether 
more than in my earlier years, I am not very certain. My 
progress was interrupted by a fever, which, by the imprudent use 
of a small print, left an inflammation in my useful eye 3 , which 
was not removed but by two copious bleedings, and the daily 
use of catharticks for a long time. The effect yet remains. 

My memory has been for a long time very much confused. 
Names, and Persons, and Events, slide away strangely from me. 
But I grow easier. 

The other day looking over old papers, I perceived a resolution 
to rise early always occurring. I think I was ashamed, or grieved, 
to find how long and how often I had resolved, what yet except 
for about one half year I have never done 4 . My Nights are now 
such as give me no quiet rest, whether I have not lived resolving 
till the possibility of performance is past, I know not. God help 
me, I will yet try. 


Talisker 5 in Skie, Sept. 24, 1773. 

On last Saturday was my sixty fourth birthday. I might 
perhaps have forgotten it had not Boswel told me of it, and, 
what pleased me less, told the family at Dunvegan 6 . 

preceding Meditations on Good troublesome kindness, has informed 

Friday and Easter Sunday are writ- this family and reminded me that 

ten. Note by G. Strahan. the i8th of September is my birth- 

1 For the influence that weather day. The return of my birth-day, 
and seasons have on study, see Life, if I remember it, fills me with 
i. 332. thoughts which it seems to be the 

2 Quoted in Life, ii. 263. He general care of humanity to escape, 
seems to have twice taken up the I can now look back upon threescore 
study of Dutch. Ib. iv. 21, n. 3. and four years, in which little has 

3 Letters, i. 57, n. 5, 220. been done, and little has been en- 

4 Ante, p. 37. joyed ; a life diversified by misery, 

5 Life, v. 250-6 ; Letters, i. 268 ; spent part in the sluggishness of 
Footsteps of Dr. Johnson in Scot- penury, and part under the violence 
land, pp. 206-11. of pain, in gloomy discontent or 

6 On Sept. 21 Johnson wrote to Mrs. importunate distress. But perhaps 
Thrale : ' Boswell, with some of his I am better than I should have been 

F 2, The 

68 Prayers and Meditations. 

The last year is added to those of which little use has been 
made. I tried in the summer to learn Dutch, and was interrupted 
by an inflammation in my eye. I set out in August on this 
Journey to Skie. I find my memory uncertain, but hope it is 
only by a life immethodical and scattered J . Of my body I do 
not perceive that exercise, or change of air has yet either en- 
creased the strength or activity. My Nights are still disturbed 
by flatulencies. 

My hope is, for resolution I dare no longer call it, to divide 
my time regularly, and to keep such a journal of my time, as 
may give me comfort in reviewing it. But when I consider my 
age, and the broken state of my body, I have great reason to 
fear lest Death should lay hold upon me, while I am yet only 
designing to live 2 . But I have yet hope. 

Almighty God, most merciful Father, look down upon me with 
pity ; Thou hast protected me in childhood and youth, support 
me, Lord, in my declining years. Preserve me from the dangers 
of sinful presumption. Give me, if it be best for me, stability of 
purposes, and tranquillity of mind. Let the year which I have 
now begun, be spent to thy glory, and to the furtherance of my 
salvation. Take not from me thy holy Spirit, but as Death 
approaches, prepare me to appear joyfully in thy presence for the 
sake of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. 

if I had been less afflicted. With I often try, and find it as good as 

this I will try to be content.' Letters, ever ; and memory is the faculty 

i. 249. See also Life, v. 222, and which it is most easy to bring to 

Post, p. 92. He was staying at decisive tests, and also the faculty 

Dun vegan in Sky with the Laird which gives way first.' Trevelyan's 

of Macleod. Macaulay^ ed. 1877, ii. 386. 

1 Four years later he said : 2 * Those that lie here stretched 

* There must be a diseased mind before us,' said Rasselas/ the wise and 

where there is a failure of memory at the powerful of ancient times, warn 

seventy. A man's head, Sir, must us to remember the shortness of our 

be morbid if he fails so soon.' Life, present state, they were perhaps 

iii. 191. snatched away while they were busy 

Macaulay ifi his fifty-fifth year like us in the choice of life.' Ras- 

entered in his journal : ' My memory selas, chap. 48. 


Prayers and Meditations. 69 


1773 x . Inchoavi lectionem Pentateuch! Finivi lectionem 
Conf. Fab. Burdonum 2 . Legi primum actum Troadum 3 . Legi 
Dissertationem Clerici postremam de Pent. 4 2 of Clark's 
Sermons. L. Appolonii pugnam Betriciam 5 . L. centum versus 


1774, Jan. I, near 2 in the morning. 

Almighty God, merciful Father, who hatest nothing that thou 
hast made, but wouldest that all should be saved, have mercy 
upon me. As thou hast extended my Life, encrease my strength, 
direct my purposes, and confirm my resolution, that I may truly 
serve Thee, and perform the duties which Thou shalt allot me. 

Relieve, O gracious Lord, according to thy mercy the pains 
and distempers of my Body, and appease the tumults of my 
Mind. Let my Faith and Obedience encrease as my life ad 
vances, and let the approach of Death incite my desire to please 
Thee, and invigorate my diligence in good works, till at last, when 
Thou shalt call me to another state, I shall lie down in humble 
hope, supported by thy Holy Spirit, and be received to everlasting 
happiness, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. 

The beginning, &c. 6 
I hope 

To read the Gospels before Easter. 

1 'These notes of his studies ap- where he was not orthodox, which was 
pear on different days in his manu- upon the doctrine of the Trinity, as 
script diary of this year.' Life, ii. to which he is a condemned heretik.' 
263. Ib. iii. 248, and ante, p. 38, n. 4. 

2 Accurata Burdonum [i. e. Scali- 5 The Rev. H. E. D. Blakiston of 
gerorum] Fabulae Confutatio. Brit. Trinity College, Oxford, informs me 
Mus. Catalogue (auctore I. R.). that in the second book of Apollo- 
Lugduni Batavorum. Apud Ludo- nius's Argonautica there is the fight 
vicum Elzevirium MDCXVII. of Polydeuces with Amycus, King of 

3 For Johnson's study of Euri- the Bebryces, which. Johnson might 
pides, see Life, i. 70, 72 ; iv. 311. have latinised as pugna Bebryda or 

4 'JOHNSON. I should recommend Bebricia, misprinted Betricia. 
Dr. Clarke's sermons, were he ortho- 6 Ante, p. 42, n. i. 

dox. However it is very well known 


70 Prayers and Meditations. 

To rise at eight. 

To be temperate in Food. 

This year has past with so little improvement, that I doubt 
whether I have not [rather] impaired than encreased my Learn 
ing *. To this omission some external causes have contributed. 
In the Winter I was distressed by a cough, in the Summer an 
inflammation fell upon my useful eye from which it has not yet, 
I fear, recovered. In the Autumn I took a journey to the 
Hebrides, but my mind was not free from perturbation 2 . Yet 
the chief cause of my deficiency has been a life immethodical and 
unsettled, which breaks all purposes, confounds and suppresses 
memory, and perhaps leaves too much leisure to imagination 3 . 
O Lord, have mercy upon me. 

Jan. 9, 1774. 

Nov. 27. Advent Sunday. I considered that this day, being 
the beginning of the ecclesiastical year, was a proper time for 
a new course of life. I began to read the Greek Testament 
regularly at 160 verses every Sunday. This day I began the 

In this week I read Virgil's Pastorals. I learned to repeat the 
Pollio and Gallus. I read carelessly the first Georgick 4 . 


Apr. 13 [1775], MAUNDY THURSDAY s . 

Of the use of time or of my commendation of myself I thought 
no more, but lost life in restless nights and broken days, till this 
week awakened my attention. 

1 Quoted in the Life, ii. 271. self, but I have suffered much for 

2 ' He said to me often,' writes want of it.' Ib. iii. 94. 
Boswell, ' that the time he spent in 4 Life, ii. 288. 

this tour was the pleasantest part of 5 The day before Good Friday, 

his life.' Ib. v. 405. Johnson in his Dictionary gives 

3 He wrote to Boswell on Nov. 16, Maundy as the spelling, and quotes 
1776: 'I believe it is best to throw Spelman's derivation 'from mande, 
life into a method, that every hour a hand-basket, in which the king 
may bring its employment, and every was accustomed to give alms to the 
employment have its hour ... I have poor.' Mr. Skeat, in his Etymo- 
not practised all this prudence my- logical Dictionary ^ deriving the word 


Prayers and Meditations. 71 

This year has passed with very little improvement perhaps 
with diminution of knowledge. Much time I have not left. 
Infirmities oppress me. But much remains to be done. I hope 
to rise at eight or sooner in the morning. 


Apr. 14, GOOD FRIDAY. 

Boswel came in before I was up. We breakfasted, I only 
drank tea without milk or bread z . We went to Church, saw 
Dr. Wetherel 2 in the pew, and by his desire took him home 
with us. He did not go very soon, and Boswel staid. Dilly and 
Millar called 3 . Boswel and I went to Church, but came very 
late. We then took tea, by Boswel's desire, and I eat one bun, 
I think, that I might not seem to fast ostentatiously. Boswel 
sat with me till night ; we had some serious talk 4 . When he 
went I gave Francis 5 some directions for preparation to com 
municate. Thus has passed hitherto this awful day. 


10 30' p.m. 

hen I look back upon resolutions of improvement and 
i-\ amendments, which have year after year been made and broken, 
Jeither by negligence, forgetfulness, vicious idleness, casual inter- 
/ ruption, or morbid infirmity, when I find that so much of my life 
has stolen unprofitably away, and that I can descry by retro 
spection scarcely a few single days properly and vigorously em 
ployed 6 , why do I yet try to resolve again? I try because 

from mandatum, says, ' Spelman's Dean of Hereford. Ib. ii. 356. 

guess is as false as it is readily be- 3 This passage is scored out in the 

lieved.' original. Dilly and Millar were the 

1 ' On Friday, April 14, being two publishers. Boswell mentions 
Good-Friday, I repaired to him in two gentlemen calling, one of whom 
the morning, according to my usual uttered a ' common-place complaint ' 
custom on that day, and breakfasted which Johnson ridiculed. Ib. ii-357. 
with him. I observed that he fasted 4 Ib. 

so very strictly, that he did not even 5 His black servant. Ib. ii. 359. 
taste bread, and took no milk with 6 Grotius at the end of life ex- 

his tea ; I suppose because it is a claimed : ' Heu ! vitam perdidi ; 

kind of animal food.' Life, ii. 352. operose nihil agendo.' Chalmers's 

2 Nathan Wetherell, D.D., Master Brit. Essayists, vol. xvi. p. lix. 
of University College, Oxford, and 


72 Prayers and Meditations. 

^Reformation is necessary and despair is criminal. I try in 

^ humble hope of the help of God. 

~~ As my life has from my earliest years been wasted in a morn 
ing bed my purpose is from Easter day to rise early, not later 

than eight. 

11 15' p.m. D.j. 


Apr. 15, EASTER EVE. 

I rose more early than is common after a night disturbed by 
flatulencies though I had taken so little. I prayed, but my mind 
was unsettled, and I did not fix upon the book. After the bread 
and tea I trifled, and about three ordered coffee and bunns for 
my dinner. I find more faintness and uneasiness in fasting than 
I did formerly. 

While coffee was preparing, Collier 1 came in, a man whom 
I had not seen for more than twenty years, but whom I consulted 
about Macky's books. We talked of old friends and past occur 
rences and eat and drank together. 

I then read a little in the Testament, and tried Fiddes's B. of 
Divinity 2 , but did not settle. 

I then went to Evening prayer, and was tolerably composed. 
At my return I sat awhile, then retired, but found reading un 

ii p.m. 

These two days in which I fasted, I have not been sleepy, 
though I rested ill. 

1 According to the Gentleman's tica, 1718-20. He was presented 
Magazine, 1785, p. 731, Dr. Collier with the living of Halsham in York- 
of Doctors' Commons ; but he did shire. ' Here he was so unhappy as 
not die till May 23, 1777 (Letters, ii. to be deprived in a great measure of 
69), whereas Johnson records on his speech, till which misfortune he 
April 7, 1776 (post, p. 73), 'Collier had been admired for the sweetness 
is dead.' Joseph Collyer, an author, of his voice and the gracefulness of 
died on Feb. 20, 1776. Gent. Mag. his delivery.' He thereupon *re- 
1776, p. 95. solved to apply himself entirely to 

2 Richard Fiddes, 1671-1725. His writing.' Bayle's General Dictionary ', 
Body of Divinity is in two volumes 1737, v. 238. See also Hearne's 
folio; vol. i is entitled Theologia Remains, ed. 1869, ii. 223. 
Speculativa ; vol. ii, Theologia Prac- 


Prayers and Meditations. 73 


EASTER DAY, Apr. 16, 12 3'. 

Almighty God, heavenly Father, whose mercy is over all thy 
works, look with pity on my miseries and sins. Suffer me to 
commemorate in thy presence my redemption by thy Son Jesus 
Christ. Enable me so to repent of my mispent time that I may 
pass the residue of my life in thy fear and to thy glory. Relieve, 
O Lord, as seemeth best unto thee, the infirmities of my body, 
and the perturbations of my mind. Fill my thoughts with awful 
love of thy Goodness, with just fear of thine Anger, and with 
humble confidence in thy Mercy. Let me study thy laws, and 
labour in the duties which thou shalt set before me. Take not 
from me thy Holy Spirit, but incite in me such good desires as 
may produce diligent endeavours after thy Glory and my own 
salvation ; and when, after hopes and fears, and joys and sorrows 
thou shalt call me hence, receive me to eternal happiness, for the 
Sake of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. 

Collier is dead 1 . April 7, 1776. 

Transcribed from a former book with a slight emendation or 
two. With that book I parted perhaps unnecessarily by a 
Catch 2 . 


Sept. 18, 1775. 

God by whom all things were created and are sustained, 
who givest and takest away, in whose hands are life and death, 
accept my imperfect thanks for the length of days which thou 
hast vouchsafed to grant me, impress upon my mind such repent 
ance of the time mispent in sinfulness and negligence, that I may 
obtain forgiveness of all my offences, and so calm my mind and 
strengthen my resolutions that I may live the remaining part of 
my life in thy fear, and with thy favour. Take not thy Holy 
Spirit from me, but let me so love thy laws, and so obey them, 
that I may finally be received to eternal happiness, through 
Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. 

1 Ante, p. 72. that caught hold of him. Dr. Murray 

2 I do not know in what sense he in the New English Dictionary gives 
uses this word. Perhaps he means by as one of its significations, * a catch- 
a sudden impulse, or by some scruple ing or entangling question.' 


74 Prayers and Meditations. 

Composed at Calais in a sleepless night, and used before the 
morn at Notre Dame T , written at St. Omers. 


Jan. i, 1776. 

Almighty God, merciful Father, who hast permitted me to see 
the beginning of another year, grant that the time which thou 
shalt yet afford me may be spent to thy glory, and the salvation 
of my own Soul. Strengthen all good resolutions. Take not 
from me thy Holy Spirit, but have mercy upon me, and shed 
thy Blessing both on my soul and body, for the sake of Jesus 
Christ our Lord. Amen. 


1776, Apr. 7, EASTER DAY. 

The time is again at which, since the death of my poor dear 
Tetty, on whom God have mercy, I have annually commemo 
rated the mystery of Redemption, and annually purposed to 
nd my life. My reigning sin, to which perhaps many others 
/ are appendant, is waste of time, and general sluggishness, to 
L which I was always inclined, and in part of my life have been 
1 almost compelled by morbid melancholy and disturbance of 
/ mind. Melancholy has had in me its paroxisms and remissions, 
I but I have not improved the intervals, nor sufficiently resisted 
\my natural inclination, or sickly habits. I will resolve hence 
forth to rise at eight in the morning, so far as resolution is 
proper 2 , and will pray that God will strengthen me. I have 
begun this morning. 

Though for the past week I have had an anxious design of 
communicating to-day, I performed no particular act of devotion, 
till on Friday I went to Church. My design was to pass part 
of the day in exercises of piety, but Mr. Boswel interrupted me ; 

1 For his journey to Paris see She describes the start from the inn 

Life, ii. 384-404. He wrote to Levett for Paris : ' Postillions with greasy 

from Paris : ' We are here in France night-caps and vast jack-boots, driv- 

after a very pleasing passage of no ing your carriage harnessed with 

more than six hours.' Ib. p. 385. ropes, and adorned with sheep-skins.' 

Mrs. Piozzi, when she crossed to Journey through France, i. i, 5. 

Calais nineteen years later, took 2 Ante, p. 67. 
twenty-six hours on the passage. 


Prayers and Meditations. 75 

of him, however, I could have rid myself, but poor Thrale, orbus 
et exspes, came for comfort and sat till seven when we all went 
to Church *. 

In the morning I had at Church some radiations of comfort. 

I fasted though less rigorously than at other times. I by 
negligence poured milk into the tea, and, in the afternoon drank 
one dish of coffee with Thrale 2 ; yet at night, after a fit of 
drowsiness I felt myself very much disordered by emptiness, 
and called for tea with peevish and impatient eagerness. My 
distress was very great. 

Yesterday I do not recollect that to go to Church came into 
my thoughts, but I sat in my chamber, preparing for pre 
paration ; interrupted, I know not how. I was near two hours 
at dinner. 

I go now with hope 

To rise in the morning at eight. 

To use my remaining time with diligence. 

To study more accurately the Christian Religion. 

Almighty and most merciful Father, who hast preserved me 
by thy tender forbearance, once more to commemorate thy Love 
in the Redemption of the world, grant that I may so live the 
residue of my days, as to obtain thy mercy when thou shalt call 
me from the present state. Illuminate my thoughts with know 
ledge, and inflame my heart with holy desires. Grant me to 
resolve well, and keep my resolutions. Take not from me thy 

1 Thrale had lost his only surviving composure. There was no affecta- 

son on March 23 of this year. Life, tion about him, and he talked, as 

ii. 468; Letters, i. 381. Baretti usual, upon indifferent subjects.' 

shows how he was both orbus et Life, iii. 18. 

exspes. ' Having now lost the strong 2 ' We sat together till it was too 
hope of being one day succeeded in late for the afternoon service. Thrale 
the profitable Brewery by the only said he had come with intention to 
son he had left, he gave himself go to church with us. We went at 
silently up to his grief and fell in seven to evening prayers at St. Cle- 
a few years a victim to it.' Id. i. ment's church, after having drank 
384, n. 2. Boswell records on this coffee; an indulgence, which I under- 
Good Friday : ' Mr. Thrale called stood Johnson yielded to on this 
upon Dr. Johnson, and appeared to occasion, in compliment to Thrale.' 
bear the loss of his son with a manly Ib. iii. 24. 


76 Prayers and Meditations. 

Holy Spirit, but in life and in death have mercy on me for Jesus 
Christs sake. Amen. 

acts of forgiveness *. 

p. m. In the pew I read my prayer and commended my 
friends, and those that 2 this year. At the Altar I was generally 
attentive, some thoughts of vanity came into my mind while 
others were communicating, but I found when I considered 
them, that they did not tend to irreverence of God. At the 
altar I renewed my resolutions. When I received, some tender 
images struck me. I was so mollified by the concluding address 
to our Saviour that I could not utter it 3 . The Communicants 
were mostly women. At intervals I read collects, and recol 
lected, as I could, my prayer. Since my return I have said it. 
2 p.m. 

May 21. 

These resolutions I have not practised nor recollected. O God 
grant me to begin now for Jesus Christ's Sake. Amen. 


July 25, 1776. 

God who hast ordained that whatever is to be desired, 
should be sought by labour, and who, by thy Blessing, bringest 

1 In Jeremy Taylor's Holy Living, takest away the sins of the world, 
under the heading of A prayer of receive our prayer. Thou that sittest 
preparation or address to the holy at the right hand of God the Father, 
sacrament, we find An act of love; have mercy upon us. 

An act of desire ; An act of con- For thou only art holy ; Thou only 

tritionj An act of faith. I do not art the Lord ; Thou only, O Christ, 

find in the Dictionaries any defini- with the Holy Ghost, art most high 

tion of act as here used. in the glory of God the Father.' 

2 Strahan prints 'died,' though Johnson defines to mollify ' to ap- 
' died' it certainly is not. What John- pease; to pacify; to quiet.' Here 
son wrote was the Greek letter 6. he must use mollified in the sense of 
For an explanation of this see post, affected or touched. 

p. 89. Boswell, who, 'according to his 

3 ' O Lord, the only begotten Son usual custom ' on Easter Sunday, 
Jesu Christ ; O Lord God, Lamb visited him after morning service, 
of God, Son of the Father, that records :' It seemed to me that there 
takest away the sins of the world, was always something peculiarly mild 
have mercy upon us. Thou that and placid in his manner upon this 
takest away the sins of the world, holy festival.' Life, iii. 25. 

have mercy upon us. Thou that 


Prayers and Meditations. 77 

honest labour to good effect ; look with mercy upon my studies 
and endeavours. Grant me, O Lord, to design only what is 
lawful and right, and afford me calmness of mind, and steadiness 
of purpose, that I may so do thy will in this short life, as to 
obtain happiness in the world to come, for the sake of Jesus 
Christ our Lord. Amen. 

When I purposed to apply vigorously to study particularly of 
the Greek and Italian tongues x . 

Repeated July 3, 77 about 12 at night. 


2 p.m., fan. I, 1777. 

Almighty Lord, merciful Father vouchsafe to accept the 
thanks which I now presume to offer thee for the prolongation 
of my life. Grant, O Lord, that as my days are multiplied, my 
good resolutions may be strengthened, my power of resisting 
temptations encreased, and my struggles with snares and ob 
structions invigorated. Relieve the infirmities both of my mind 
and body. Grant me such strength as my duties may require 
and such diligence as may improve those opportunities of good 
that shall be offered me. Deliver me from the intrusion of evil 
thoughts. Grant me true repentance of my past life, and as 
I draw nearer and nearer to the grave, strengthen my Faith, 
enliven my Hope, extend my Charity, and purify my desires, 
and so help me by thy Holy Spirit that when it shall be thy 
pleasure to call me hence, I may be received to everlasting 
happiness, for the sake of thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. 

Our Father. 


1777, March 28. 

This day is Good Friday. It is likewise the day on which my 
poor Tetty was taken from me. 

My thoughts were disturbed in bed. I remembered that it was 

1 Quoted in the Life, iii. 90. and of seeing you and of reading 

Not four months before his death Petrarch at Bolt Court.' Letters, ii. 

he wrote to Mr. Sastres: 'I have 417. 

hope of standing the English winter, 


78 Prayers and Meditations. 

my Wife's dying day, and begged pardon for all our sins, and 
commended her ; but resolved to mix little of my own sorrows 
or cares with the great Solemnity. Having taken only tea 
without milk, I went to church, had time before service to 
commend my wife, and wished to join quietly in the service, but 
I did not hear well, and my mind grew unsettled and perplexed. 
Having rested ill in the night 1 , I slumbered at the sermon, 
which, I think, I could not as I sat, perfectly hear. 

I returned home, but could not settle my mind. At last 
I read a Chapter. Then went down, about six or seven and 
eat two cross buns 2 , and drank tea. Fasting for some time has 
been uneasy and I have taken but little. 

At night I had some ease. L. D. 3 I had prayed for pardon 
and peace. 

I slept in the afternoon. 



I rose and again prayed with reference to my departed Wife. 
I neither read nor went to Church, yet can scarcely tell how 
I have been hindered. I treated with booksellers on a bargain, 
but the time was not long 4 . 


30, EASTER DAY, ima mane. 

The day is now come again in which, by a custom which since 
the death of my wife I have by the Divine assistance always 
observed, I am to renew the great covenant with my Maker and 
my Judge. I humbly hope to perform it better. I hope for 
more efficacy of resolution, and more diligence of endeavour. 
When I survey my past life, I discover nothing but a barren 
waste of time with some disorders of body, and disturbances 
of the mind very near to madness, which I hope he that made 
me, will suffer to extenuate many faults, and excuse many 

1 On March 19 he had written to Johnson's Dictionary. 
Mrs. Thrale : * You are all young 3 Laus Deo. 

and gay and easy ; but I have miser- 4 Quoted in the Life, iii. 109. 

able nights and know not how to The treaty was about the Lives of 

make them better.' Letters, ii. 5. the Poets. Id. 

2 Neither cross-bun nor bun is in 


Prayers and Meditations. 79 

deficiencies x . Yet much remains to be repented and reformed. 
I hope that I refer more to God than in former times, and 
consider more what submission is due to his dispensations. But 
I have very little reformed my practical life, and the time in 
which I can struggle with habits cannot be now expected to be 
long. Grant O God, that I may no longer resolve in vain, or 
dream away the life which thy indulgence gives me, in vacancy 
and uselessness. 

9na mane. 

I went to bed about two, had a disturbed night, though not so 
distressful as at some other times. 

Almighty and most merciful Father, who seest all our miseries, 
and knowest all our necessities, Look down upon me. and pity 
me. Defend me from the violent incursions of evil thoughts, 
and enable me to form and keep such resolutions as may conduce 
to the discharge of the duties which thy Providence shall appoint 
me, and so help me by thy Holy Spirit, that my heart may 
surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found, and that 
I may serve Thee with pure affection and a cheerful mind. 
Have mercy upon me, O God, have mercy upon me ; years and 
infirmities oppress me, terrour and anxiety beset me. Have 
mercy upon me, my Creatour and my Judge. In all dangers 
protect me, in all perplexities relieve and free me, and so help 
me by thy Holy Spirit, that I may now so commemorate the 
death of thy Son our Saviour Jesus Christ as that when this 
short and painful life shall have an end, I may for his sake be 
received to everlasting happiness. Amen 2 . 


April 6 [177 7]. 

By one strange hindrance or another, I have been withheld 
from the continuation of my thoughts to this day, the Sunday 
following Easter day. 

1 Quoted in the Life, iii. 99. common name to all.' Anatomy of 

For * the disturbances of the mind ' Melancholy, ed. 1660, Introduction, 

see Life, i. 65 ; v. 215 ; and Letters^ p. 18. 

i. 39. ' Folly, melancholy, madness 2 Quoted in the Life, iii. 99. 

are but one disease. Delirium is a 


8o Prayers and Meditations. 

On Easter day I was at Church early, and there prayed over 
my Prayer, and commended Tetty and my other Friends. I was 
for some time much distressed, but at last obtained, I hope from 
the God of peace, more quiet than I have enjoyed for a long 
time. I had made no resolution, but as my heart grew lighter, 
my hopes revived and my courage increased, and I wrote with 
my pencil in my common prayer book, 
Vita ordinanda. 
Biblia legenda. 
Theologiae opera danda. 
Serviendum et laetandum x . 
Scrupulis obsistendum. 

I then went to the altar, having I believe, again read my 
prayer. I then went to the table and communicated, praying 
for some time afterwards, but the particular matter of my prayer 
I do not remember. 

I dined by an appointment with Mrs. Gardiner 2 , and passed 
the afternoon with such calm gladness of Mind as it is very long 
since I felt before. I came home and began to read the Bible. 
I passed the night in such sweet uninterrupted sleep, as I have 
not known since I slept at Fort Augustus 3 . 

On Monday I dined with Sheward 4 , on Tuesday with Para 
dise 5 ; the mornings have been devoured by company, and one 
intrusion has through the whole week succeeded to another. 

At the beginning of the year I proposed to myself a scheme of 
life, and a plan of study, but neither life has been rectified nor 
study followed. Days and months pass in a dream, and I am 
afraid that my memory grows less tenacious, and my observation 
less attentive. If I am decaying, it is time to make haste. My 
nights are restless and tedious, and my days drowsy. The 
flatulence which torments me, has sometimes so obstructed my 

1 Quoted in the Life, iii. 99. Ib. v. 134. For another good night's 

2 ' The wife of a tallow-chandler rest see ante, p. 44. 

on Snow Hill, not in the learned 4 Mentioned/^/, p. 102. Johnson 

way, but a worthy good woman.' twice mentions a Mrs. Sheward in 

Ib. \. 242. his Letters, ii. 310, 314. 

3 Where he arrived after a ride of 5 Life, iv. 364, and Letters^ i. 314. 
thirty-two miles on Aug. 30, 1773. 


Prayers and Meditations. 81 

breath, that the act of respiration became not only voluntary 
but laborious in a decumbent posture 1 . By copious bleeding 
I was relieved, but not cured 2 . 

I have this year omitted church on most Sundays, intending 
to supply the deficience in the week. So that I owe twelve 
attendances on worship 3 . I will make no more such super 
stitious stipulations, which entangle the mind with unbidden 
obligations 4 . 

My purpose once more, O Thou merciful Creatour that 
governest all our hearts and actions, /3iorrjs 0117*0 Kvpepv&v 5 , let 
not my purpose be vain My purpose once more is 

To rise at eight. 

i. To keep a journal. 

a. To read the whole Bible in some language before Easter. 

3. To gather the arguments for Christianity 6 . 

4. To worship God more frequently in publick. 


Sept. 1 8, 1777, Ashbourn 7 . 

Almighty and most merciful Father, who hast brought me to 
the beginning of another year, grant me so to remember thy 

1 Voluntary is a strange term to man ! one would think that to pray 

use of breathing. Decumbent is not for his dead wife and to pinch him- 

in Johnson's Dictionary. self with church fasts had been 

a Life, iii. 104 ; Letters, ii. 1-2 ; almost the whole of his religion.' 

and ante, p. 64. Cowper's Works, ed. 1836, v. 157. 

3 There had been but fourteen 5 Steering the helm of life. 
Sundays so far in this year. See 6 Boswell on the Sunday evening 
ante, p. 56. which he and Johnson spent in 

4 Ante, p. 25. Cowper wrote on Aberdeen in August, 1773, records : 
Aug. 27, 1785: 'If it be fair to 'I said he should write expressly in 
judge of a book by an extract I do support of Christianity ; for that, 
not wonder that you were so little although a reverence for it shines 
edified by Johnson's journal. It is through his works in several places, 
even more ridiculous than was poor that is not enough. " You know (said 

sof flatulent memory [Dr. Rutty, I) what Grotius has done, and what 

Life, iii. 171]. The portion of it Addison has done. You should do 

given us in this day's paper con- also." He replied, " I hope I shall." ' 

tains not one sentiment worth one Life, v. 89. 

farthing ; except the last, in which 7 He spent his birthday with Bos- 
he resolves to bind himself with no well at Dr. Taylor's. Ib. iii. 157; 
more unbidden obligations. Poor Letters, ii. 33. 

VOL. I. G gifts, 

82 Prayers and Meditations. 

gifts, and so to acknowledge thy goodness, as that every year 
and day which thou shalt yet grant me, may be employed in the 
amendment of my life, and in the diligent discharge of such 
duties, as thy Providence shall allot me. Grant me, by thy 
Grace, to know and to do what Thou requirest. Give me good 
desires, and remove those impediments which may hinder them 
from effect. Forgive me my sins, negligences, and ignorances, 
and when at last thou shalt call me to another life, receive me 
to everlasting happiness, for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord. 



'77 Sept. 31, Concio pro Tayloro 1 . 


1778, Apr. 17, GOOD FRIDAY. 

It has happened this week, as it never happened in Passion 
Week before, that I have never dined at home 2 , and I have 
therefore neither practised abstinence nor peculiar devotion. 

This Morning before I went to bed I enlarged my prayers, 
by adding some collects with reference to the day. I rested 
moderately and rose about nine, which is more early than is 

2. p. 392. Bos- my expressing some surprise that 

well, under date of Sunday, Sept. 21, the preachers of them should hazard 

says : ' I have no doubt that a good such an imposition, he replied, " Nay, 

many sermons were composed for Sir, there was no hazard, if they kept 

Taylor by Johnson. At this time their own counsel; they might be 

I found upon his table a part of one very sure I should not claim them ; 

which he had newly begun to write.' indeed I had no right to them after 

Life, iii. 181. See also Ib. vi ; Ad- I had been paid for them." He also 

denda, p. 66. In an interleaved added that they were generally 

copy of the first edition of the Life copied in his own study by those 

in the possession of Mr. Horatio that employed him, and when 

Symonds of Beaumont Street, Ox- finished he always destroyed the 

ford, I have found the following note original in their presence.' 

made (with many others) I have no 2 In Passion Week three years 

doubt by the Rev. John Hussey, later he dined on Wednesday at one 

* who had long been in habits of in- Bishop's, and on Thursday at an- 

timacy with Johnson.' (Life, iii. other Bishop's. Boswell describes 

369). * Johnson not only told me ' the admirable sophistry ' with which 

that he had written, he believed, he defended his conduct. Life, iv. 

forty sermons, but that several of 89. 
them had been published. Upon 


Prayers and Meditations. 83 

usual. I think I added something to my morning prayers. 
Boswel came in to go to church I ; we had tea, but I did not eat. 
Talk lost our time, and we came to Church late, at the second 
lesson. My mind has been for some time feeble and impressible, 
and some trouble it gave me in the morning, but I went with 
some confidence and calmness through the prayers. 

In my return from Church, I was accosted by Edwards, an 
old fellow Collegian, who had not seen me since 29. He 
knew me, and asked if I remembered one Edwards, I did not 
at first recollect the name, but gradually as we walked along 
recovered it, and told him a conversation that had passed at an 
alehouse between us 2 . My purpose is to continue our acquaint 

We sat till the time of worship in the afternoon, and then 
came again late at the Psalms. Not easily, I think, hearing the 
sermon, or not being attentive, I fell asleep. When we came 
home we had tea and I eat two buns, being somewhat uneasy 
with fasting, and not being alone. If I had not been observed 
I should probably have fasted. 


April 19, EASTER DAY, after 12 at night. 

Lord have mercy upon me. 

Yesterday (18) I rose late having not slept ill. Having 
promised. a Dedication, I thought it necessary to write, but for 
some time neither wrote nor read. Langton came in and talked. 
After dinner I wrote. At tea Boswel came in and wrote to 
^lacaulay about his son 3 . He staid till nearly twelve 4 . 

1 ' It was a delightful day : as we to get a servitorship at Oxford for 
walked to St. Clement's church, the son of the Rev. Kenneth Macau- 
I again remarked that Fleet-street lay. Life, ii. 380; v. 122. 

was the most cheerful scene in the 4 He stayed so late in spite of 

world. " Fleet-street (said I,) is in * the horrible shock ' which Johnson 

my mind more delightful than Tern- gave him. ' We talked of a gentle- 

pe." JOHNSON. "Ay, Sir; but let it man who was running out his for- 

be compared with Mull." ' Life, iii. tune in London ; and I said, " We 

302. must get him out of it. All his 

2 If), iii. 304. friends must quarrel with him, and 

3 These words are scored out in that will soon drive him away." 
the original. Johnson had promised JOHNSON. " Nay, Sir ; we'll send 

G 2 I purposed 

84 Prayers and Meditations. 

I purposed to have gone in the evening to Church but missed 
the hour. 

Edwards observed how many we have outlived '. I hope, yet 
hope, that my future life shall be better than my past. 

From the year 1752, the year in which my poor dear Tetty 
died, upon whose soul may God have had mercy for the sake of 
Jesus Christ, I have received the sacrament every year at Easter. 
My purpose is to receive it now. O Lord God, for the sake of 
Jesus Christ, make it effectual to my salvation. 
My purposes are 

To study Divinity, particularly the Evidences of Christianity. 

To read the New Testament over in the year with more use 
than hitherto of Commentators. 

To be diligent in my undertakings. 

To serve and trust God, and be cheerful 2 . 

Almighty and most merciful Father, suffer me once more to 
commemorate the death of thy Son Jesus Christ, my Saviour 
and Redeemer, and make the memorial of his death profitable 
to my salvation, by strengthening my Faith in his merits, and 
quickening my obedience to his laws. Remove from me, O God, 
all inordinate desires, all corrupt passions, & all vain terrours ; 
and fill me with zeal for thy glory, and with confidence in thy 
mercy. Make me to love all men, and enable me to use thy 
gifts, whatever thou shalt bestow, to the benefit of my fellow 
creatures. So lighten the weight of years, and so mitigate the 

you to him. If your company does but shook his head with impatience.' 

not drive a man out of his house, Ib. p. 306. 

nothing will."' Life, iii. 316. 2 Inservi Deo et laetare Serve 

1 'EDWARDS. "Ah, Sir! we are God and be cheerful is the motto 

old men now." JOHNSON (who round the picture of Hacket, Bishop 

never liked to think of being old), of Lichfield and Coventry. Life, i. 

" Don't let us discourage one an- 344, n. 4. 

other." ' Ib. p. 302. ' Mr. Edwards, Perhaps Johnson was reminded 

when going away, again recurred to of the duty of cheerfulness by Ed- 

his consciousness of senility, and wards who had said : ' You are a 

looking full in Johnson's face said philosopher, Dr. Johnson. I have 

to him, "You'll find in Dr. Young, tried too in my time to be a philo- 

O my coevals ! remnants of your- sopher ; but, I don't know how, 

selves." cheerfulness was always breaking in.' 

Johnson did not relish this at all ; Ib. p. 305. 


Prayers and Meditations. 

afflictions of disease that I may continue fit for thy service, and 
useful in my station. And so let me pass through this life by 
the guidance of thy Holy Spirit, that at last I may enter into 
eternal joy, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. 


Having gone to bed about two I rose about nine, and, having 
prayed, went to Church. I came early and used this prayer. 
After sermon I again used my Prayer ; the collect for the day 
I repeated several times, at least the petitions. I recommended 
my friends. At the altar I prayed earnestly, and when I came 
home prayed for pardon and peace ; repeated my own prayer, 
and added the petitions of the Collect. 

God have mercy upon me, for the sake of Jesus Christ. 

At my return home, I returned thanks for the opportunity of 

1 was called down to Mrs. Nollikens x . Boswel came in 2 ; 
then Dinner. After dinner which I believe was late, I read 
the First Epistle to Thess. ; then went to Evening prayers ; 
then came to tea, and afterwards tried Vossius de Baptismo 3 . 
I was sleepy. 


Monday, Apr. 20 [1778]. 

After a good night, as I am forced to reckon, I rose season 
ably, and prayed, using the collect for yesterday. 

In reviewing my time from Easter 77, I find a very 
melancholy and shameful blank. So little has been done that 

1 Mrs. Nollekens, the wife of Jo 
seph Nollekens, ' the statuary,' who 
made a bust of Johnson. Letters, 
ii. 59, 62. She was the daughter of 
Johnson's friend, Saunders Welch, 
the magistrate. Life, iii. 216. "I 
have heard Mr. Nollekens say that 
Dr. Johnson, when joked about Mary 
Welch, observed, ** Yes, I think Mary 
would have been mine, if little Joe 

had not stepped in."' Nollekens 
and his Times, by J. T. Smith, i. 126. 
Smith gives many instances of her 

2 Life, iii. 316. 

3 The 443rd lot in the sale cata 
logue of Johnson's library was ' Vos- 
sii dissertationes, Amst. 1642,' in six 


86 Prayers and Meditations. 

days and months are without any trace x . My health has indeed 
been very much interrupted. My nights have been commonly 
not only restless but painful and fatiguing. My respiration was 
once so difficult, that an asthma was suspected 2 . I could not 
walk but with great difficulty, from Stowhill to Greenhill 3 . 
Some relaxation of my breast has been procured, I think, by 
opium, which, though it never gives me sleep, frees my breast 
from spasms 4 . 

I have written a little of the Lives of the poets, I think with all 
my usual vigour 5 . I have made sermons, perhaps as readily as 
formerly 6 . My memory is less faithful in retaining names, and, 
I am afraid, in retaining occurrences. Of this vacillation and 
vagrancy of mind I impute a great part to a fortuitous and un 
settled life, and therefore purpose to spend my time with more 

This year, the a8th of March passed away without memorial. 
Poor Tetty, whatever were our faults and failings, we loved each 
other. I did not forget thee yesterday. Couldest thou have 
lived ! 

I am now, with the help of God, to begin a new life. 

1 Macaulay recorded in his Jour- less Hawkins says that ' he had a 
nal in 1857: 'How the days steal strong propensity to the use of 
away and nothing done! I think opium, which increased as he ad- 
often of Johnson's lamentations re- vanced in years ... It was the means 
peated every Easter over his own of positive pleasure, and as such was 
idleness. But the cases differ. Often resorted to by him whenever any 
I have felt this morbid incapacity to depression of spirits made it neces- 
work ; but never so long and so sary.' Life of Johnson, p. 320. 
strong as of late ; the natural effect s He had a proof-sheet of his Life 
of age and ease.' Trevelyan's Ma- of Waller on Good Friday, though 
caulay, ed. 1877, ii. 447. It was much he would not look at it on that day. 
more the effect of ill-health. Life, iii. 313. He seems to have 

2 In the last year of his life he finished first the Lives of Denham, 
suffered greatly from spasmodic Butler and Waller. Cowley he had 
asthma. Life, iv. 255. sent to the printer by the end of the 

3 Two gentle eminences on the following July. Milton was not yet 
outskirts of Lichfield. Letters, i. begun by that time, though ' in Dry- 
160, 363. den he was very far advanced.' 

4 For his ' horror of opiates ' see Letters, ii. 68. 
Letters, ii. 367, 376, 383. Neverthe- 6 Life, v. 67. 


Prayers and Meditations. 87 


Jan. I, 1779, before one in the morning. 

Almighty God, merciful Father, who hast granted to me the 
beginning of another year, grant that I may employ thy gifts to 
thy glory, and my own salvation. Excite me to amend my life. 
Give me good resolutions, and enable me to perform them. 
As I approach the Grave let my Faith be invigorated, my Hope 
exalted, and my Charity enlarged. Take not from me thy 
Holy Spirit, but in the course of my life protect me, in the 
hour of death sustain me, and finally receive me to everlasting 
happiness, for the sake of Jesus Christ. Amen. 


1779, GOOD FRIDAY, Apr. 2. 

After a night restless and oppressive, I rose this morning 
somewhat earlier than is usual, and having taken tea which 
was very necessary to compose the disorder in my breast, 
having eaten nothing I went to church with Boswel x . We came 
late, I was able to attend the litany with little perturbation. 
When we came home I began the first to the Thess. having 
prayed by the collect for the right use of the Scriptures. I gave 
Boswel Les Pense"es de Pascal that he might not interrupt me. 
I did not, I believe, read very diligently, and before I had read 
far, we went to Church again, I was again attentive. At home 
I read again, then drank tea with a bun and an half, thinking 

1 Boswell records of this visit, that Auchinleck Library by my friend 
4 finding that we insensibly fell into Mr. R. B. Adam of Buffalo : 
a train of ridicule upon the foibles ' James Boswell 
of one of our friends, a very worthy London 1779. 
man, I, by way of a check, quoted Presented to me by my worthy 
some good admonition from The freind Bennet Langton Esq : of 
Government of the Tongue, that very Langton, as a Book by which I might 
pious book.' Life, iii. 379. Worthy be much improved, viz. by the Go- 
is almost always applied to Langton. verment of the Tongue. He gave 
His foibles were a common subject me the Book and hoped I would 
of their talk. Ib. iii. 48. Probably read that treatise ; but said no more, 
the book had been just given to I have expressed in words what I 
Boswell by Langton, as may be in- beleive was his meaning. It was a 
ferred from the following inscription delicate admonition.' 
in a copy bought at the sale of the 


88 Prayers and Meditations. 

myself less able to fast, than at former times ; and then con 
cluded the Epistle. Being much oppressed with drowsiness, 
I slept about an hour by the fire. 

ii p.m. 

I am now to review the last year, and find little but 
dismal vacuity, neither business nor pleasure ; much intended 
and little done. My health is much broken ; my nights afford 
me little rest. I have tried opium, but its help is counter 
balanced with great disturbance ; it prevents the spasms, but 
it hinders sleep I . O God, have mercy on me. 

Last week I published the lives of the poets 2 , written I hope 
in such a manner as may tend to the promotion of Piety 3 . 

In this last year I have made little acquisition, I have scarcely 
read any thing. I maintain Mrs. Desmoulins and her daughter 4 , 
other good of myself I know not where to find, except a little 

But I am now in my seventieth year ; what can be done ought 
not to be delayed. 


EASTER EVE, April 3, [1779], 11 p.m. 

This is the time of my annual review, and annual resolution. 
The review is comfortless. Little done. Part of the life of 
Dryden and the Life of Milton have been written 5 ; but my 
mind has neither been improved nor enlarged. I have read little, 
almost nothing 6 . And I am not conscious that I have gained 
any good, or quitted any evil habits. 

Of resolutions I have made so many with so little effect, that 
I am almost weary, but, by the Help of God, am not yet 

1 Dr. Brocklesby noticed what of Dryden before the previous Easter. 
Johnson had told him, that ' an ' The Life of Milton was begun in 
opiate was never destructive of his January, 1779, and finished in six 
readiness in conversation.' Letters, weeks.' Gentleman's Magazine, 17%^ 
ii. 437. p. 9, . i. 

2 The first four of the ten volumes. 6 For Johnson's use of the phrase 
The last six were published in 1781. almost nothing see Life, ii. 446, 

3 Quoted in the Life, iv. 34. n. 3. Beattie reckoned it as a 

4 Ib. iii. 222. Scotticism. Scotticisms, ed. 1787, 

5 He had written most of the Life p. 9. 


Prayers and Meditations. 

hopeless. Good resolutions must be made and kept x . I am 
almost seventy years old, and have no time to lose. The 
distressful restlessness of my nights, makes it difficult to settle 
the course of my days. Something however let me do. 


EASTER DAY, Apr. 4, 1779. 

I rose about half an hour after nine, transcribed the prayer 
written last night, and by neglecting to count time sat too long 
at Breakfast, so that I came to Church at the first lesson. 
I attended the litany pretty well, but in the pew could not 
hear the communion service, and missed the prayer for the 
Church militant. Before I went to the altar I prayed the 
occasional prayer. At the altar I commended my 0. 4>. 2 and 

1 More than twenty years earlier 
he had written : ' I believe most 
men may review all the lives that 
have passed within their observation 
without remembering one efficacious 
resolution, or being able to tell a 
single instance of a course of practice 
suddenly changed in consequence of 
a change of opinion, or an establish 
ment of determination.' Idler, No. 
27. See ante, p. 31. 

2 A writer in the Gentleman's 
Magazine, 1785, p. 731, deciphered 
these letters as * davovras <pi\ovs, de 
ceased friends ' ; another ridiculously 
as * Thrale friends.' Ib. 1838, ii. 364. 
The following letter by Dr. Henry 
Jackson, published in the Athe 
naeum, June 1 8, 1887, gives, no 
doubt, the true explanation. 

' Trinity College, Cambridge, 

June 14, 1887. 

'"Mr. Croker has favoured us," 
writes Macaulay in his essay on 
Croker's 'Boswell,' " with some 
Greek of his own. ' At the altar/ 
says Dr. Johnson, * I recommended 
my 6 0.' 'These letters,' says the 
editor, ' (which Dr. Strahan seems 
not to have understood) probably 

mean QV^TQI <f>i\oi, "departed 
friends." ' Johnson was not a first- 
rate Greek scholar; but he knew 
more Greek than most boys when 
they leave school ; and no school 
boy could venture to use the word 
dvijToi in the sense which Mr. Croker 
ascribes to it without imminent 
danger of a flogging." 

' Macaulay's criticism of Croker's 
Greek is plainly just ; 6wjr6s never 
means anything except " mortal." 
But the great essayist had no other 
interpretation to offer. Accordingly 
a lively writer [Mr. Andrew Lang] 
in the Daily News of June 6th, 
admitting that "the Greek would 
be bad Greek," asks, " Would it not 
be good enough Greek shorthand 
for Dr. Johnson ?" May I attempt 
another solution of the mystery? 

' From the time of his wife's death 
on Tuesday, March 17, O.S., 1752, 
Johnson was in the habit of keeping 
Easter Day with special solemnity. 
In particular he "commended" in 
his prayers his wife, his father, his 
brother, his mother, and in some 
cases others, e.g. "Bathurst" and 
" Boothby." See Easter Day, 1759, 

9 o 

Prayers and Meditations. 

again prayed the prayer, I then prayed the collects, and again 
my own prayer by memory. I left out a clause. I then re 
ceived, I hope with earnestness, and while others received sat 
down, but thinking that posture, though usual, improper I rose 
and stood. I prayed again in the pew but with what prayer 
I have forgotten. 

When I used the occasional prayer at the altar, I added 
a general purpose 

To avoid Idleness. 

I gave two shillings, to the plate. 

Before I went I used, I think, my prayer and endeavoured to 
calm my mind. After my return I used it again, and the 
collect for the day. Lord have mercy upon me. 

I have for some nights called Francis to prayers, and last 
night discoursed with him on the sacrament. 

1764, 1770 ("friends living and 
dead"), 1773, 1777, 1778 [ante, pp. 
24, 29, 54, 65, 80, 85], in his Prayers 
and Meditations. 

'On Easter Day, April 4, 1779, 
occurs the phrase under discussion : 
"At the altar I commended my 
$." But on Easter Day, 1781, 
he writes : " I commended my 6 
friends, as I have formerly done." 
Strahan notes "sic MS." [Post, 
p. 98.] 

* There can be no doubt, then, that 
< means " dead friends," and very 
little that < stands for (piXoi. 

'Now we know from Galen 
(Kiihn's edition, XVII. i. 527) that 
in the case-book of a physician the 
letters v and 6 stood for vyi'eia and 
Oava-ros respectively : eVi Se 177 reAeu- 
777 TOIS p.ev <rcadcl<riv u irpoaryeypanTai, 
rf/v vyieiav arjp-atvov, rols ' airodavovfri 


cvdetKvvpevov. And Forcellini quotes 
Rufinus, Invect. in Hieron., ii. 36, 
to show that in the muster-roll of a 
Roman army the letter 6 was affixed 

to the names of soldiers who were 
dead : " quod tale esset quale si quis 
accepto breviculo in quo militum no- 
mina continentur nitatur inspicere 
quanti ex militibus supersint, quanti 
in bello ceciderint, et requirens qui 
inspicere missus et propriam notam 
. . . ad uniuscuiusque defuncti 
nomen adscribat, et propria rursus 
nota [sc. v = vivit] superstitem 
signet." "Hinc etiam in vet. lapi- 
dibus," continues the lexicographer, 
" illud videre est ap. Marin. Frat. 
Arv. p. 610." Thus, with the Ro 
mans, as well as with the Greeks, 
& was a symbol, meaning " dead," or 
" died," or " is dead," and as such 
Johnson, I think, used it. In a word, 
it exactly corresponds to the cross 
(t) which is sometimes used in Ger 
man books. 

' Finally, Johnson may have learnt 
the symbol from Casaubon's note on 
Persius, iv. 13, "Nigrum vitio prae- 
figere theta," where the passage 
from Rufinus is quoted. H. ].' 

See ante, p. 76. 


Prayers and Meditations. 91 



Purposes, Apr. 4. 

1. To rise at eight, or as soon as I can. 

2. To read the Scriptures. 

3. To study religion. 

Almighty God, by thy merciful continuance of my life, I come 
once more to commemorate the sufferings and death of thy Son 
Jesus Christ, and to implore that mercy which for his sake thou 
shewest to sinners. Forgive me my sins, O Lord, and enable 
me to forsake them. Ease, if it shall please thee, the anxieties 
of my mind, and relieve the infirmities of my Body. Let me not 
be disturbed by unnecessary terrours, and let not the weakness 
of age make me unable to amend my life. O Lord, take not from 
me thy Holy Spirit, but receive my petitions, succour and 
comfort me, and let me so pass the remainder of my days, 
that when thou shalt call me hence I may enter into eternal 
happiness through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. 


Aug. 7, 1779. Partem brachii dextri carpo proximam et 
cutem pectoris circa mamillam dextram rasi, ut notum fieret 
quanto temporis pili renovarentur *. 


September 18, I779> h-p.m. 12 ma. 

Almighty God, Creator of all things in whose hands are Life 
and death, glory be to thee for thy mercies, and for the pro 
longation of my Life to the common age of Man. Pardon me, 
O gracious God, all the offences which in the course of seventy 
years I have committed against thy holy Laws, and all negli 
gences of those Duties which thou hast required. Look with 
pity upon me, take not from me thy Holy Spirit, but enable me 

1 Life, iii. 398. ' I shaved the part the right breast so that it might be 
of my right arm that is next to the seen how long it would take for the 
wrist and the skin of my chest round hair to grow again.' 


92 Prayers and Meditations. 

to pass the days which thou shalt yet vouchsafe to grant me, in 
thy Fear and to thy Glory ; and accept O Lord, the remains of 
a mispent life, that when Thou shalt call me to another state, 
I may be received to everlasting happiness for the sake of Jesus 
Christ our Lord. Amen. 


Epsom x . 

My Purpose is to communicate at least thrice a year 2 . 

To study the Scriptures. 

To be diligent. 

On the 17th, Mr. Chamier took me away with him from 
Streatham. I left the servants a guinea for my health, and 
was content enough to escape into a house where my Birth-day 
not being known could not be mentioned 3 . I sat up till 
midnight was past, and the day of a new year, a very awful 
day, began. I prayed to God, who had [safely brought me to 
the beginning of another year], but could not perfectly recollect 
the prayer, and supplied it 4 . Such desertions of memory I have 
always had 5 . 

When I rose on the i8th, I think I prayed again, then walked 
with my Friend into his grounds. When I came back after 
some time passed in the library, finding myself oppressed 
by sleepiness I retired to my chamber, where, by lying down, 
and a short imperfect slumber I was refreshed, and prayed as 
the night before. 

1 He was at the house of Andrew that of our friend, Dr. Johnson, the 
Chamier, a member of the Literary i;th and 1 8th of September, we every 
Club, at this time Under- Secretary year made up a little dance and sup- 
of State. Life, i. 478, and Letters, per to divert our servants and their 
ii. 109, n. I. friends.' Piozzi's Anecdotes, p. 211. 

2 Apparently in most years he only See ante, p. 67. 

communicated on Easter Sunday. 4 He could not perfectly recollect 

Two years later he still has ' hope of his ' accommodation ' of the prayer 

participation of the Sacrament at (ante, p. 32) and supplied the defi- 

least three times a year.' Post, p. 100. ciency by other words. 

It would seem that before his wife's 5 'JOHNSON. "Memory will play 

death he had not always communi- strange tricks. One sometimes loses 

cated at Easter. Ante, p. 78, and a single word. I once lo&tjfuguces in 

post, p. 98. the Ode Posthume, Posthume? ' Life, 

3 ' On the birthday of our eldest v. 68. 
daughter/ writes Mrs. Piozzi, 'and 

I then 

Prayers and Meditations. 93 

I then dined and trifled in the parlour and library, and was 
freed from a scruple about Horace 1 . At last I went to Bed, 
having first composed a prayer. 

19. Sunday. I went to Church, and attended the Service. 
I found at church a time to use my prayer, O Lord, have 



i^o,Jan. r, h. I a.m. 2 

Almighty God, my Creator and Preserver by whose mercy 
my life has been continued to the beginning of another year, 
grant me with encrease of days, encrease of Holiness, that as 
I live longer, I may be better prepared to appear before thee, 
when thou shalt call me from my present state. 

Make me, O Lord, truly thankful for the mercy which Thou 
hast vouchsafed to shew me through my whole life ; make me 
thankful for the health which thou hast restored in the last 
year, and let the remains of my strength and life be employed 
to thy glory and my own salvation. 

Take not, O Lord, Thy holy Spirit from me ; enable me to 
avoid or overcome all that may hinder my advancement in 
Godliness ; let me be no longer idle, no longer sinful ; but give 
me rectitude of thought and constancy of action, and bring me 
at last to everlasting happiness for the sake of Jesus Christ, 
our Lord and Saviour. Amen. 


Sunday, y//<? 18, 1780. 

In the morning of this day last year I perceived the remission 
of those convulsions in my breast which had distressed me for 
more than twenty years 3 . I returned thanks at Church for 
the mercy granted me, which has now continued a year. 


Almighty God, our Creatour and Preserver, from whom 
proceedeth all good, enable me to receive with humble acknow- 

1 For his scruples, see ante, p. 41, wrote to Mrs. Thrale, f a great im- 
and post, p. 113. provement was made in the enjoy- 

a Horaprima ante meridiem. One ment of life.' Letters, ii. 181. See 
o'clock in the night. also #., p. 143, n. 3. 

3 * By removing that disorder,' he 


94 Prayers and Meditations. 

ledgment of thy unbounded benignity, and with due conscious 
ness of my own unworthiness, that recovery and continuance 
of health which thou hast granted me, and vouchsafe to accept 
the thanks which I now offer. Glory be to Thee, O Lord, 
for this and all thy mercies. Grant, I beseech Thee, that the 
health and life which thou shalt yet allow me, may conduce 
to my eternal happiness. Take not from me thy Holy Spirit, 
but so help and bless me, that when Thou shalt call me hence 
I may obtain pardon and salvation, for the sake of Jesus Christ 
our Lord. Amen. 


Sept. 1 8, 1780. 

I am now beginning the seventy second year of my life, with 
more strength of body and greater vigour of mind than, I think, 
is common at that age 1 . But though the convulsions in my 
breast are relieved, my sleep is seldom long. My Nights are 
wakeful, and therefore I am sometimes sleepy in the day. 
I have been attentive to my diet, and have diminished the bulk 
of my body 2 . I have not at all studied, nor written diligently. 
I have Swift and Pope yet to write, Swift is just begun 3 . 

I have forgotten or neglected my resolutions or purposes, 
[which] I now humbly and timorously renew. Surely I shall 
not spend my whole life with my own total disapprobation 4 . 
Perhaps God may grant me now to begin a wiser and a better 

Almighty God, my Creator and Preserver, who hast permitted 
me to begin another year, look with mercy upon my wretched 
ness and frailty. Rectify my thoughts, relieve my perplexities, 

1 Quoted in the Life, iii. 440. on May 30 : ' I have been so idle 
Nearly six years earlier he had writ- that I know not when I shall get 
ten to Dr. Taylor : ' You and I have either to you or to any other place ; 
had ill-health, yet in many respects for my resolution is to stay here till 
we bear time better than most of our the work is finished ... I hope how- 
friends.' Letters, i. 305. ever to see standing corn in some 

2 On April 8 he had written : * For part of the earth this summer, but 
some time past I have abated much I shall hardly smell hay or suck clover 
of my diet, and am, I think, the better flowers.' Letters, ii. 163. 

for abstinence.' Ib. ii. 135. 4 Quoted in the Life, iii. 440. 

3 He had written to Mrs. Thrale 


Prayers and Meditations. 95 

strengthen my purposes, and reform my doings. Let encrease 
of years bring encrease of Faith, Hope, and Charity. Grant 
me diligence in whatever work thy Providence shall appoint 
me. Take not from me thy Holy Spirit but let me pass the 
remainder of the days which thou shalt yet allow me, in thy 
fear and to thy Glory ; and when it shall be thy good pleasure 
to call me hence, grant me, O Lord, forgiveness of my sins, and 
receive me to everlasting happiness, for the Sake of Jesus 
Christ, our Lord. Amen. 

10.40 p.m. 



Jan. 2. I was yesterday hindred by my old disease of mind, 
and therefore begin to day. 

Jan. i. Having sat in my chamber till the year began I used 
my accommodation of the morning prayer to the beginning of 
this year^ and slept remarkably well, though I had supped 
liberally *. In the morning I went to Church. Then I wrote 
letters for Mrs. Desmoulins 2 , then went to Streatham, and 
had many stops 3 . At night I took wine, and did not sleep 

Jan. 2. I rose according to my resolution, and am now to 
begin another year. I hope with amendment of life. I will 
not despair. Help me, help me, O my God. My hope is 

1. To rise at eight or sooner. 

2. To read the Bible through this year in some language. 

3. To keep a Journal 4 . 
To study Religion. 
To avoid Idleness. 

Almighty God merciful Father, who hast granted me such 
continuance of Life, that I now see the beginning of another 
year, look with mercy upon me, as thou grantest encrease of 

1 See Letters, ii. 306, for ' a liberal ' matron of the Chartreux.' 
dinner,' and/^ p. 104, for 'I dined 3 I conjecture that he means ob- 
liberally.' structions or impediments in the mind 

2 Of these letters none have been part of what he calls 'my old disease 
published. See Letters, ii. 207, for of mind.' 

one written two days earlier in which 4 Ante, p. 64. 
he recommends her for the post of 


Prayers and Meditations. 

years, grant encrease of Grace. Let me live to repent what 
I have done amiss, and by thy help so to regulate my future 
life, that I may obtain mercy when I appear before thee, through 
the merits of Jesus Christ. Enable me, O Lord, to do my 
duty with a quiet mind ; and take not from me thy Holy 
Spirit, but protect and bless me, for the sake of Jesus Christ. 


Apr. 13, GOOD FRIDAY, 1781. 

I forgot my Prayer and resolutions, till two days ago I found 
this paper. 

Sometime in March I finished the lives of the Poets, which 
I wrote in my usual way, dilatorily and hastily, unwilling to 
work, and working with vigour and haste T . 

On Wednesday n, was buried my dear Friend Thrale who 
died on Wednesday, 4; and with him were buried many of 
my hopes and pleasures. On Sunday ist his Physician warned 
him against full meals, on Monday I pressed him to observance 
of his rules, but without effect, and Tuesday I was absent, 
but his Wife pressed forbearance upon him, again unsuccessfully. 
At night I was called to him, and found him senseless in strong 
convulsions. I staid in the room, except that I visited Mrs. 
Thrale twice 2 . About five(, I think), on Wednesday morning 
he expired ; I felt almost the last flutter of his pulse, and looked 
for the last time upon the face that for fifteen years had never 
been turned upon me but with respect or benignity 3 . Farewel 4 . 
May God that delighteth in mercy, have had mercy on thee. 

I had constantly prayed for him some time before his 

1 Macaulay recorded in his Journal 
in July, 1852 : ' I could write a queer 
Montaignish essay on my morbidities. 
I sometimes lose months, I do not 
know how ; accusing myself daily, 
and yet really incapable of vigorous 
exertion. I seem under a spell of 
laziness. Then I warm, and can go 
on working twelve hours at a stretch.' 
Trevelyan's Macaulay ', ed. 1 877, ii. 3 1 7. 

2 ' His servants (he said) would have 

waited upon him in this awful period, 
and why not his friend ? ' Life, iv. 84, 
n. 4. The advice which Johnson gave 
to Thrale was given by Taylor to 
Johnson three and a half years later. 
* He extremely resented it from me,' 
wrote Taylor. Letters, ii. 426, n. 3. 

3 Quoted in the Life, iv. 84. 

4 Johnson, as I have shown in the 
Preface to his Letters (p. xv), often 
left out the second final consonant. 


Prayers and Meditations. 


The decease of him from whose friendship I had obtained 
many opportunities of amusement, and to whom I turned my 
thoughts as to a refuge from misfortunes, has left me heavy. 
But my business is with myself. 

Sept. 1 8. My first knowledge of Thrale was in 1765. I 
enjoyed his favour for almost a fourth part of my life x . 


EASTER EVE, Apr. 14, 1781. 

On Good Friday I took in the Afternoon some coffee and 
buttered cake, and to-day I had a little bread at breakfast, 
and potatoes and apples in the afternoon, the tea with a little 
toast, but I find myself feeble and unsustained, and suspect 
that I cannot bear to fast so long as formerly 2 . 

This day I read some of Clark's Sermons. I hope that since 
my last Communion I have advanced, by pious reflections in 
my submission to God, and my benevolence to Man, but I have 
corrected no external habits, nor have kept any of the reso 
lutions made in the beginning of the year, yet I hope still to 
be reformed, and not to lose my whole life in idle purposes. 
Many years are already gone, irrevocably past, in useless Misery, 
that what remains may be spent better grant O God. 

By this awful Festival is particularly recommended Newness 
of Life ; and a new Life I will now endeavour to begin by 
more diligent application to useful employment, and more 
frequent attendance on public Worship. 

I again with hope of help from the God of mercy, resolve 

To avoid Idleness. 

To read the Bible. 

To study religion. 

Almighty God, merciful Father, by whose Protection I have 
been preserved, and by whose clemency I have been spared, 

1 See Life, i. 520 ; iv. 85 ; and Let 
ters, i. 142, 388; ii. 47, 100, 209, 211, 

2 On Saturday in Passion Week in 
1766 he recorded : ' I had lived 
more abstemiously than is usual the 
whole week, and taken physick twice, 

VOL. I. H 

which together made the fast more 
uneasy.' Ante, p. 39. The present 
week, however, he had dined twice 
with Bishops, and therefore presum 
ably dined well. He should have 
better borne to fast. See Life, iv. 88. 


98 Prayers and Meditations. 

grant that the life which thou hast so long continued may be 
no longer wasted in idleness or corrupted by wickedness. Let 
my future purposes be good, and let not my good purposes 
be vain. Free me O Lord from vain terrours, and strengthen 
me in diligent obedience to thy laws. Take not from me thy 
Holy Spirit, but enable me so to commemorate the death of 
my Saviour Jesus Christ, that I may be made partaker of 
his merits, and may finally, for his sake obtain everlasting 
happiness. Amen. 



I rose after eight, and breakfasted, then went early to church, 
and before service read the prayer for the Church Militant. 
I commended my z friends as I have formerly done. I was 
one of the last that communicated. When I came home I was 
hindred by Visitants 2 , but found time to pray before dinner. 
God send thy Blessing upon me. 


Monday, Apr. 16. 

Yesterday at dinner was Mrs. Hall, Mr. Levet, Macbean, 
Boswel, Allen 3 . Time passed in talk after dinner. At seven 
I went with Mrs. Hall to Church, and came back to tea. At 
night I had some mental vellications, or revulsions 4 . I prayed 
in my chamber with Frank, and read the first Sunday in the 
Duty of Man, in which I had till then only looked by com 
pulsion or by chance 5 . 

I paid the Pewkeepers. 

This day I repeated my prayer, and hope to be heard. 

I have, I thank God, received the Sacrament every year at 
Easter since the death of my poor dear Tetty. I once felt 

1 Ante, p. 89. ings, stimulation ; and revulsion as 

2 He a second time (post, p. 105) the act of revolving or drawing 
uses visitants where we should use humours from a remote part of the 
visitors. >\\.\.post, p. 107, he speaks body. See ante, p. 95, for his 'old 
of visitors. disease of mind.' 

3 For an account of this dinner, see 5 See ante, p. 17, n. i. The Whole 
Life, iv. 92. Duty of Man is divided into seven- 

4 Vellication he defines as twitch- teen Sundays. 


Prayers and Meditations. 99 

some temptation to omit it, but I was preserved from compliance. 
This was the thirtieth Easter. Sept. 18. 


ifSiyfune 22. 

Almighty God who art the Giver of all good enable me to 
remember with due thankfulness the comforts and advantages 
which I have enjoyed by the friendship of Henry Thrale, for 
whom, so far as is lawful, I humbly implore thy mercy in his 
present state. O Lord, since thou hast been pleased to call 
him from this world, look with mercy on those whom he has 
left, continue to succour me by such means as are best for me, 
and repay to his relations the kindness which I have received 
from him ; protect them in this world from temptations and 
calamities, and grant them happiness in the world to come, 
for Jesus Christs sake. Amen. 


August 9, 3 P.M., aetat. 72, in the summer-house at Streat- 

After innumerable resolutions formed and neglected, I have 
retired hither, to plan a life of greater diligence, in hope that 
I may yet be useful, and be daily better prepared to appear 
before my Creator and my Judge, from whose infinite mercy 
I humbly call for assistance and support. 

My purpose is, 

To pass eight hours every day in some serious employment. 

Having prayed, I purpose to employ the next six weeks upon 
the Italian language, for my settled study x . 


Sept. 2, 1781. 

When Thrales health was broken, for many months, I think 
before his death which happened Apr. 2 , I constantly men- 

1 Life, iv. 134. The original is in ed. 1836, p. 68. 

the possession of Mr. Locker-Lamp- 2 Johnson left a blank, intending 

son of Rowfant. A picture of the no doubt to fill it up. Thrale died 

summer-house by Clarkson Stanfield on April 4, the seventh anniversary 

is given in Murray's Johnsoniana, of Goldsmith's death. 

H 2, tioned 


Prayers and Meditations. 

tioned him in my prayers; and after his death have made 
particular supplication for his surviving family to this day, but 
having now recommended them to God in this particular 
address, which though written x 


Sept. 18, 1781. 

This is my seventy third birth-day an awful day. I said 
a preparatory prayer last night, and waking early made use 
in the dark, as I sat up in bed of the prayer [beginning of 
this year 2 ]. I rose breakfasted, and gave thanks at Church 3 
for my Creation, Preservation, and REDEMPTION. As I 
came home I thought I had never begun any period of life 
so placidly. I read the Second Epistle to the Thessalonians, 
and looked into Hammond's notes 4 . I have always [been] 
accustomed to let this day pass unnoticed, but it came this 
time into my mind that some little festivity was not improper. 
I had a dinner, and invited Allen and Levet 5 . 

What has passed in my thoughts on this anniversary is in 
stitched book K 6 . 

My purposes are the same as on the first day of this year, 
to which I add hope of 

More frequent attendance on publick Worship. 

Participation of the Sacrament at least three times a year 7 . 


Sept. 1 8, Vesp. 10 40', circ. 8 

Almighty and most merciful Father, who hast added another 
year to my life, and yet permittest me to call upon thee, 

1 The rest of the sentence is mis- s For his unwillingness to have the 

sing. day noticed, see ante, p. 67. In 1783 

* Ante, p. 42, n. I. he again gave a dinner on his birth- 

3 It was a week-day. day. Letters, ii. 332. Allen was his 

4 Henry Hammond, D.D. Isaac neighbour and landlord. Life, iii. 141. 
Walton describes the discourse which For Levett, see post, p. 102. 

Dr. Hammond and Dr. Sanderson 6 This book is not in the Editor's 
had 'about those knotty points which possession. Note by G. Strahan. 
are by the learned called the Quin- 7 Ante, p. 92, n. 2. 
quarticuiar Controversy.' Walton's 8 Vesperi 10 40' circiter. About 
Lives, ed. 1838, p. 372. 10.40 at night. 


Prayers and Meditations. 101 

Grant that the remaining days which thou shalt yet allow me 
may be past in thy fear and to thy glory, grant me good 
resolutions and steady perseverance. Relieve the diseases of 
my body and compose the disquiet of my mind. Let me at 
last repent and amend my life, and. O Lord, take not from 
me thy Holy Spirit, but assist my amendment, and accept my 
repentance, for the sake of Jesus Christ. Amen. 


Oct. 14, Sunday, [1781.] 
(properly Monday morning x .) 

I am this day about to go by Oxford and Birmingham to 
Lichfield and Ashbourne. The motives of my journey I hardly 
know. I omitted it last year, and am not willing to miss it 
again. Mrs. Aston 2 will be glad, I think, to see me. We are 
both old, and if I put off my visit, I may see her no more ; 
perhaps she wishes for another interview. She is a very good 

Hector is likewise an old friend, the only companion of my 
childhood that passed through the School with me. We have 
always loved one another 3 . Perhaps we may be made better by 
some serious conversation, of which however I have no distinct 

At Lichfield, my native place, I hope to shew a good example 
by frequent attendance on publick worship 4 . 

At Ashbourne I hope to talk seriously with Taylor 5 . 

1 Part of this entry is quoted in the ' having heard that Johnson had said 
Life, iv. 135. that he would prefer a state of tor- 

2 One of the unmarried daughters ment to that of annihilation, he told 
of Sir Thomas Aston. She lived at him that such a declaration, coming 
Lichfield. Life, ii. 466. from him, might be productive of evil 

3 Hector was a Birmingham sur- consequences. Dr. J. desired him to 
geon. Life, ii. 456 ; Letters, ii. 228. arrange his thoughts on the subject.' 

4 To make up perhaps for his Taylor says that Johnson's entry about 
shirking it in his boyhood. Life, the serious talk refers to this matter. 
i. 67. Gent. Mag. 1787, p. 521. I believe 

5 Taylor published in 1 787 A Letter that Johnson meant to warn Taylor 
to Samuel Johnson on the Subject of about the danger he was running of 
a Future State. He writes that ' entering the state of torment.' 



Prayers and Meditations. 



January 20, Sunday. Robert Levett was buried in the 
church-yard of Bridewell, between one and two in the afternoon. 
He died on Thursday 17, about seven in the morning, by an 
instantaneous death. He was an old and faithful friend ; I have 
known him from about 46. CommendavL May God have 
mercy on him. May he have mercy on me T . 


1782, March 18. 

Having been, from the middle of January, distressed by a cold 
which made my respiration very laborious, and from which 
I was but little relieved by being blooded three times, having 
tried to ease the oppression of my breast by frequent opiates, 
which kept me waking in the night and drowsy the next day, 
and subjected me to the tyranny of vain imaginations ; Having 
to all this added frequent catharticks, sometimes with mercury ; 
I at last persuaded Dr. Laurence on Thursday March 14 to let 
me bleed more copiously. Sixteen ounces were taken away, 
and from that time my breath has been free, and my breast 
easy. On that day I took little food, and no flesh 2 . On 
Thursday night I slept with great tranquillity. On the next 
night (15) I took diacodium 3 and had a most restless night. 
Of the next day I remember nothing but that I rose in the 
afternoon, and saw Mrs. Lennox 4 and Sheward 5 . 

1 Life, iv. 137, where are quoted 
the beautiful lines which Johnson 
wrote on Levett. For Johnson's ' re 
commendation ' of the dead, see ante, 
p. 14. 

2 He wrote to Mrs. Thrale on the 
day on which he was bled : ' I think 
the loss of blood has done no harm ; 
whether it has done good time will 
tell. I am glad that I do not sink 
without resistance.' Letters, ii. 247. 
Miss Burney in the previous Sep 
tember had been alarmed at 'his 
strange discipline starving, mer 
cury, opium. 5 Mme. D'Arblay's 
Diary, ii. 107. 

3 Syrup of poppies. Reconsidered 
diacodium an English word, for he 
gives it in his Dictionary. 

4 Mrs. Lennox he pronounced su 
perior to Mrs. Carter, Hannah More, 
and Fanny Burney. Life, iv. 275. 
Miss Burney looked upon this state 
ment as one of 'those occasional 
sallies of Dr. Johnson, which uttered 
from local causes and circumstances, 
but all retailed verbatim by Mr. Bos- 
well are filling all sort of readers with 
amaze, except the small party to whom 
Dr. Johnson was known.' Mme. D'Ar 
blay's Diary, v. 212. 

5 Mentioned ante, p. 80. 

17 Sunday. 

Prayers and Meditations. 


17 Sunday. I lay late, and had only Palfrey 1 to dinner, 
(d. 2s. 6.) I read part of Waller's Directory, a pious rational 
book, but in any except a very regular life difficult to practise 2 . 

It occurred to me that though my time might pass un 
employed, no more should pass uncounted, and this has been 
written to-day in consequence of that thought. I read a Greek 
Chapter, prayed with Francis, which I now do commonly, and 
explained to him the Lord's Prayer, in which I find connection 
not observed, I think, by the expositors. I made punch 3 for 
Myself and my servants, by which in the night I thought both 
my breast and imagination disordered. 

March 18. I rose late, looked a little into books. Saw 
Miss Reynolds and Miss Thrale, and Nicolaida 4 , afterwards 
Dr. Hunter came for his catalogue 5 . I then dined on tea, &c. ; 
then read over part of Dr. Laurence's book de Temperamentis 6 , 
which seems to have been written with a troubled mind. 

I prayed with Francis. 

My mind has been for some time much disturbed. The 
Peace of God be with me. 

1 Strahan printed palfrey. A critic 
in Notes and Queries, March 2, 1867, 
suggested that Johnson wrote pastry. 
Palfrey, or Palfry (as Johnson writes 
the name, post, p. 106) was some 
poor man, to whom he gave (as *d j 
probably signifies) on this day and on 
the 24th, two shillings and sixpence. 

2 Divine Meditations upon Several 
Occasions with a Doyly Directory. 
By the Excellent Pen of Sir William 
Waller, Kt. London, 1680. Waller 
was the Presbyterian general, the 
'William the Conqueror' of the citi 
zens of London. Clarendon's History, 
ed. 1826, iv. 114. 

The day was strictly divided in 
the Directory, with frequent private 
prayers and meditations, and family 
prayers at noon and supper. ' In 
summer time I would be up by five ; 
in winter by six. At Meals I would 
observe a moderation ; a mean be 

tween eating by the ounce and by the 

3 In his Dictionary he describes 
punch as ' a cant word.' 

4 ' A learned Greek, nephew of the 
Patriarch of Constantinople, who had 
fled from a massacre of the Greeks.' 
Johnstone's Works of Dr. Parr, i. 84. 
See also ib. pp. 87-90, and Life, ii. 379. 

5 A little later was published an 
instalment of the Catalogue of Dr. 
William Hunter's Collection of Coins. 
It was written by Charles Combe. 
Diet, of Nat. Biog. xi. 427 ; xxviii. 

6 Mr. Croker thinks that Lawrence 
had lent Johnson Galen's work De 
Temperamentis et inequali temperie. 
I conjecture that it was a work in 
manuscript by Lawrence, who wrote 
his medical books in Latin. The 
entries of the I9th and 26th support 
this view. 

I hope 


Prayers and Meditations. 

I hope to-morrow to finish Laurence, and to write to Mrs. 
Aston, and to Lucy. 

19. I rose late. I was visited by Mrs. Thrale, Mr. Cotton \ 
and Mr. Crofts 2 . I took Laurence's paper in hand, but was chill, 
having fasted yesterday, I was hungry and dined freely, then 
slept a little, and drank tea, then took candles and wrote to 
Aston and Lucy 3 , then went on with Laurence of which little 
remains. I prayed with Francis. 

Mens sedatior, laus DEO. 

To-morrow Shaw 4 comes, I think to finish Laurence, and 
write to Langton. 

Poor Laurence has almost lost the sense of hearing, and 
I have lost the conversation of a learned, intelligent, and com 
municative companion, and a friend whom long familiarity has 
much endeared. Laurence is one of the best men whom I have 

Nostrum omnium miserere, Deus 5 . 

20. Shaw came ; I finished reading Laurence. Steevens came. 
I dined liberally. Wrote a long letter to Langton 6 , and designed 
to read but was hindered by Strahan 7 . The ministry is dis 
solved. I prayed with Fr. and gave thanks 8 . 

1 Mrs. Thrale had cousins of that 
name. Life, v. 435, n. 2 ; Letters, 
ii. 394, n. 

2 It was not the Rev. Thomas 
Crofts, the owner of a famous library, 
for he had died in 1781. Nichols's 
Literary Anecdotes, viii. 482. See 
Letters, ii. 294, where his name is 
wrongly given as Croft. Perhaps 
Johnson's visitor was the Rev. Her 
bert Croft who had written for him 
the Life of Young. Life, iv. 58. 

3 The letter to Mrs. Aston has never 
been printed; for the letter to Miss 
Porter, see Life, iv. 142. 

4 William Shaw, the Gaelic scholar. 
Life, iii. 106 ; iv. 252. 

5 This passage about Dr. Lawrence 
is quoted in the Life, iv. 143. 

6 Life, iv. 145. 

7 William Strahan, the printer, 
M.P. for Malmesbury. 

8 Quoted by Boswell under date of 
Jan. 20. Life, iv. 139. On the after 
noon of March 20 Lord North an 
nounced in the House of Commons 
' that his Majesty's Ministers were no 
more.' ParL Hist. xxii. 125. For 
Johnson's contempt of this ministry, 
see Life, iii. I ; iv. 139. On March 30 
he wrote : ' The men are got in whom 
I have endeavoured to keep out, but 
I hope they will do better than their 
predecessors ; it will not be easy to 
do worse.' Letters, ii. 248. 

Fifty-one years later Macaulay de 
scribed ' a splendid rout at Lord 
Grey's,' who was then Prime Minister. 
( I mean,' he wrote, ' only to tell you 
one circumstance which struck and 

Prayers and Meditations. 


To-morrow To Mrs. Thrale To write to Hector. To Dr. 

2,1. I went to Mrs. Thrale. Mr. Cox * and Paradise met me 
at the door and went with me in the coach. Paradise's loss 2 . 
In the evening wrote to Hector 3 . At night there were eleven 
visitants. Conversation with Mr. Cox. When I waked I saw 
the penthouses covered with snow. 

22. I spent the time idly. Mens turbata. In the afternoon it 
snowed. At night I wrote to Taylor about the pot 4 , and to 
Hamilton about the Fcedera 5 . 

23. I came home, and found that Desmoulins 6 had while 

even affected me. I was talking to 
Lady Charlotte Lindsay, the daughter 
of Lord North, about the apartments, 
when she said with a good deal of 
emotion, " This is an interesting visit 
to me. I have never been in this 
house for fifty years. It was here 
that I was born ; I left it a child when 
my father fell from power in 1782 ; and 
I have never crossed the threshold 
since.'" Trevelyan's Macaulay, ed. 
1877, i. 299. 

1 Mr. Cox was a solicitor. It was 
at his house in Southampton Build 
ings, Chancery Lane, that Burke and 
Johnson had argued with too much 
warmth over the management of 
the defence of Baretti on his trial 
for murder. ' Burke and I,' said 
Johnson, ' should have been of one 
opinion if we had had no audience.' 
Life, iv. 324. It was at the same 
house about thirteen years earlier that 
had taken place Jeremy Bentham's 
* first conference with Dr. Markham,' 
the Headmaster of Westminster, 
afterwards Archbishop of York. ' It 
was,' said Bentham, ' an awful meet 
ing with three reverend doctors of 
divinity at once, in a large room, to 
whom a trembling lad was introduced, 
who had been talked of as a prodigy.' 
Bentham's Works, x. 27. See also 
ib., p. 29, for the disquiet caused the 

boy by ' a tip ' (to use his own word) 
of five guineas from Cox. 

2 ' John Paradise was born at Salo- 
nichi, brought up at Padua, and by 
far the greatest part of his life resided 
at London ; was passionately fond of 
learned men, and opened his house 
to all descriptions of them.' Annual 
Register, 1795, ii. 49. See Life t iv. 
364. A very large estate belonging 
to him in America ' had been attached 
by an order of the United States, who 
had threatened its confiscation unless 
the owner appeared in person to claim 
it.' Jones, the Orientalist, was on the 
point of sailing with him to America 
as his legal adviser, but the voyage 
was abandoned through Paradise's 
irresolution. Teignmouth's Jones, 
p. 247 ; Johnstone's Parr, i. 84-6. 

3 Life, iv. 147. 

4 This letter is not in print. On 
July 8 he wrote to Taylor : ' Have 
you settled about the silver coffee 
pot ? is it mine or Mrs. Fletcher's ? 
I arn yet afraid of liking it too well.' 
Letters, ii. 262. 

5 William Gerard Hamilton. The 
Foedera was no doubt the copy of 
Rymer's work, which Johnson ' sold 
on the 28th for Davies.' Davies had 
failed as a bookseller. Life, iii. 223. 

6 Ante, p. 88. 

I was 


Prayers and Meditations. 

I was away been in bed. Letters from Langton and Boswel. 
I promised Lowe z six guineas. Corrected proofs for Shaw. 

24. Sunday. I rose not early. Visitors Allen 2 , Davies 3 , 
Windham 4 , Dr. Horseley 5 . Palfry, 2s. 6d. Dinner at Strahan's. 
Came home and chatted with Williams 6 , and read Romans ix. 
in Greek. 

To-morrow begin again to read the Bible put rooms in order ; 
copy Lowe's Letter. 

25. M. I had from Strahan 78. At night of the Bible 
I read up. and something more in 55'. 

26. Tu. I copied Lowe's Letter. Then wrote to Mrs. Thrale 7 . 
Cox visited me. I sent home Dr. Laurence's papers with notes. 
I gave Desmoulins a guinea, and found her a gown. 

27. W. At Harley-street 8 . bad nights in the evening 
Dr. Bromfield 9 and his Family. Merlin's steelyard I0 given me. 

28. Th. I came home. Sold Rymer for Davies : wrote to 
Boswel ". Visitor Dr. Percy I2 . Mr. Crofts. I have in ten days 
written to Aston, Lucy, Hector, Langton, Boswel ; perhaps to 
all by whom my Letters are desired. 

The Weather, which now begins to be warm gives me great 
help. I have hardly been at Church this year, certainly not 
since the 15 of Jan. My Cough and difficulty of Breath would 
not permit it. 

This is the day on which in 1752 dear Tetty died. I have 

1 Life, \v. 202 ; Letters, ii. 66, 274. 
8 Ante, p. 100. 

3 Thomas Davies the bookseller. 

4 Right Hon. William Windham. 
Life, iv. 407 ; Letters, ii. 439. 

5 Afterwards Bishop, first of St. 
David's, and next of Rochester. He 
was a member of Johnson's Essex 
Head Club. Life, iv. 254, 437. Gib 
bon (Misc. Works, i. 232) celebrates 
his 'mighty spear.' According to 
Jeremy Bentham ' he was a man of 
free conversation ; he was proud and 
insolent ... His discourse was such 
as none but an unbeliever could use. 
Wilberforce knew his character ; he 
had a perfect abhorrence of him, and 

I have heard him call him "a dirty 
rascal" and "a dirty scoundrel.'" 
Bentham's Works, x. 41. 

6 Miss Williams. Post, p. 114. 

7 This letter has not been published. 

8 Mrs. Thrale had taken a house 
in this street for three months of this 
year. Hay ward's Piozzi, 2nd ed., 
i. 165. 

9 Letters, i. 178, n. 6. 

10 Mention is made of ' Mr. Merlin, 
the very ingenious mechanic' in the 
Early Diary of Frances Burney, ii. 
58, 300. See also Mme. D'Arblay's 
Diary, ii. 6, 52. 

" Life, iv. 148. 

12 Editor of the Reliques. 


Prayers and Meditations. 107 

now uttered a prayer of repentance and c. J ; perhaps Tetty 
knows that I prayed for her. Perhaps Tetty is now praying 
for me. God help me. Thou, God, art merciful, hear my 
prayers, and enable me to trust in Thee. 

We were married almost seventeen years, and have now been 
parted thirty. 

I then read up. from Ex. 36. to Lev. 7. I prayed with Fr. 
and used the prayer for Good Friday. 

29. Good Friday. After a night of great disturbance and 
solicitude, such as I do not remember, I rose, drank tea, but 
without eating, and went to Church. I was very composed, and 
coming home, read Hammond on one of the Psalms for the 
day 2 . I then read Leviticus. Scot 3 came in which hindred 
me from Church in the afternoon. A kind letter from Gastrel 4 . 
I read on, then went to Evening prayers, and afterwards drank 
tea with bunns ; then read till I finished Leviticus 24 pages 
et sup. 

To write to Gastrel to morrow. 
To look again into Hammond. 

30. Sat. Visitors Paradise and I think Horseley. Read 
ii pages of the Bible. I was faint, dined on herrings and 
potatoes. At Prayers, I think, in the Evening. I wrote to 
Gastrel, and received a kind letter from Hector. At night 
Lowe. Pr. 5 with Francis. 

31. Easter Day. Read 15 pages of the Bible. Caetera alibi 6 . 

1 Contrition. tempers on him at the same time.' 

2 He wrote from Lichfield on July The Spectator, No. 574. Franklin, 
26, 1775: 'When I came I found in a letter written in his old age, 
Lucy at her book. She had Ham- utters the same thanks. 

mond's Commentary on the Psalms 3 Scott had chambers hard by in 
before her. He is very learned, she the Temple, where Johnson and Bos- 
says, but there is enough that any- well dined with him on April 10, 1778. 
body may understand.' Letters, i. 357. Life,m.2,6l. 

Addison, quoting Fell's Life of Ham- 4 Mrs. Gastrell of Lichfield. Life, 

mond, says : ' As this good man was ii. 470. For Johnson's answer to her 

troubled with a complication of dis- letter, see Letters, ii. 248. 

tempers, when he had the gout upon 5 Prayed. 

him, he used to thank God that it was 6 The other book in which he made 

not the stone ; and when he had the the remaining entries is, I fear, lost, 
stone, that he had not both these dis- 


io8 Prayers and Meditations. 


At the Table. 

Almighty God, by whose mercy I am now permitted to com 
memorate my Redemption by our Lord Jesus Christ ; grant that 
this aweful remembrance may strengthen my Faith, enliven my 
Hope, and encrease my Charity ; that I may trust in Thee with 
my whole heart, and do good according to my power. Grant 
me the help of thy Holy Spirit, that I may do thy will with 
diligence, and suffer it with humble patience ; so that when 
Thou shalt call me to Judgement, I may obtain forgiveness and 
acceptance for the sake of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour. 


At departure, or at Jiome. 

Grant, I beseech Thee, merciful Lord, that the designs of a new 
and better life, which by thy Grace I have now formed, may 
not pass away without effect. Incite and enable me by thy 
Holy Spirit, to improve the time which Thou shalt grant me ; 
to avoid all evil thoughts words and actions ; and to do all the 
duties which thou shalt set before me. Hear my prayer, 

Lord, for the Sake of Jesus Christ. Amen. 

These prayers I wrote for Mrs. Lucy Porter in the latter end 
of the year 1782, and transcribed them October 9, 84 x . 


\_On leaving Streatham 2 .] 

October 6, 1782. 

Almighty God, Father of all mercy, help me by thy Grace 
that I may with humble and sincere thankfulness remember the 

1 He was staying in her house at 1790, she wrote: 'We have kept 
Lichfield on that day. our seventh wedding-day and cele- 

2 Mrs.Thrale recorded in her Diary brated our return to this house [Streat- 
on Sept. 20 of this year: 'And now ham] with prodigious splendour and 

1 am going to leave Streatham (I have gaiety. Seventy people to dinner . . . 
let the house and grounds to Lord Never was a pleasanter day seen, and 
Shelburne, the expense of it eats me at night the trees and front of the 
up) for three years.' Hayward's house were illuminated with coloured 
Piozzi, 2nd ed., i. 171. On July 28, lamps, that called forth our neigh- 


Prayers and Meditations. 109 

comforts and conveniences which I have enjoyed at this place, 
and that I may resign them with holy submission, equally 
trusting in thy protection when Thou givest and when Thou 
takest away. Have mercy upon me, O Lord, have mercy 
upon me. 

To thy fatherly protection, O Lord, I commend this family. 
Bless, guide, and defend them, that they may so pass through 
this world as finally to enjoy in thy presence everlasting happi 
ness, for Jesus Christs sake. Amen x . 

O Lord, so far as, &c. Thrale 2 . 

Oct. 7. I was called early 3 . I packed up my bundles 4 , and 
used the foregoing prayer, with my morning devotions somewhat, 
I think, enlarged. Being earlier than the family I read St. Pauls 
farewel in the Acts 5 , and then read fortuitously in the Gospels, 
which was my parting use of the library. 


Sunday, went to church at Streatham. Templo valedixi aim 
osculo . Qct 6j Die Dominica> I782 

Pransus sum Streathamiae agninum crus coctum cum herbis 
(spinach) comminutis, farcimen farinaceum cum uvis passis, 
lumbos bovillos, et pullum gallinae Turcicae; et post carnes 

hours from all the adjacent villages on the walls. Bentham, who had 

to admire and enjoy the diversion.' noticed them, perhaps, by way of 

Ib. p. 304. answer, pointed out to the foolish 

In 1783 Jeremy Bentham visited Viscount the likenesses of Burke, 

Lord Shelburne at Streatham, who Johnson, and Goldsmith. Bentham's 

at that time was negotiating the Works, x. 118, 122 ; Life, iv. 158, n. i. 

Treaty of Peace with France. 'At ' Quoted in the Life, iv. 158. 

one of the dinners Gibraltar was the " Ante, p. 24. 

topic, and Rayneval [one of the 3 He was perhaps going that day 

French negotiators] was very desirous with the Thrales to Brighton. He 

it should be given up by the English, was there on the loth. Letters, ii. 273. 

There were among the guests those ' I came to Brighthelmston in a state 

who thought Gibraltar was not worth of so much weakness that I rested 

keeping.' The Viscount de Vergennes, four times in walking between the inn 

the son of the Prime Minister of and the lodging.' Life, iv. 156. 

France, said to Bentham: 'Are 4 See Letters, ii. 319, where he 

there any such people in England as says : ' I carried my budget myself.' 

authors ? ' The portraits of ' the wits 5 Acts xx. I7~end. 

of the age' whom Reynolds had 6 Life, iv. 159. ' I bade the church 

painted for Thrale were still hanging farewell with a kiss.' 



Prayers and Meditations. 

missas, ficus, uvas, non admodum maturas, ita voluit anni 
intemperies, cum mails Persicis, iis tamen duris. Non laetus 
accubui, cibum modice sumpsi, ne intemperantia ad extremum 
peccaretur. Si recte memini, in mentem venerunt epulae in 
exequiis Hadoni celebratae. Streathamiam quando revisam x ? 

1 Oct. 6, Sunday, 1782. I dined at 
Streatham on a roast leg of lamb with 
spinach chopped fine, the stuffing of 
flour with raisins, a sirloin of beef, 
and a turkey poult ; and after the 
first course figs, grapes not very ripe 
owing to the bad season, with peaches 
hard ones. I took my place in no 
joyful mood, and dined moderately 
that I might not at the last fall into 
the sin of intemperance. If I am not 
mistaken, the banquet at the funeral 
of Hadon came into my mind. When 
shall I see Streatham again ? 

I have looked in vain in an old 
cookery-book for a recipe for 'farci- 
men farinaceum cum uvis passis.' See 
Piozzi's Anec., p. 102, for Johnson's 
liking for * veal-pie with plums and 
sugar.' Perhaps Mrs. Thrale had 
ordered his favourite sauce. It seems 
odd that the lamb, beef and turkey 
were not followed by a pudding or 
sweets. There is a passage in Miss 
Austen's Pride and Prejudice (ch. xx) 
which shows that a dinner, excluding 
the dessert, often consisted of but one 
course. ' Mrs. Bennet,' she writes, 
' had been strongly inclined to ask 
them to stay and dine there that 
day ; but, though she always kept 
a very good table, she did not think 
any thing less than two courses could 
. . . satisfy the appetite and pride of 
one who had ten thousand a year.' 
Johnson defines dessert as 'the last 
course at an entertainment ; the fruit 
or sweetmeats set on the table after 
the meat.' Addison in the Gttardian, 
No. 163, makes the tart and sweet 
meats part of the dessert. It is in 

this sense that the word is still used 
in New England. 

( Hadonus ' is, I conjecture, Walter 
Haddon, who is mentioned in John 
son's Life of Milton ( Works, vii. 68) : 
' Haddon and Ascham, the pride of 
Elizabeth's reign, however they have 
succeeded in prose, no sooner attempt 
verse than they provoke derision.' 

The following description by Susan 
Burney shows what Johnson lost in 
losing Streatham : 

' We arrived at Streatham at a very 
little past eleven. As a place it sur 
passed all my expectations. The 
avenue to the house, plantations, c. 
are beautiful ; worthy of the charming 
inhabitants. It is a little Paradise, 
I think. Cattle, poultry, dogs, all 
running freely about, without annoy 
ing each other. Sam opened the 
chaise door, and told my father break 
fast was not quite over, and I had no 
sooner got out than Mr. Thrale ap 
peared at a window close to the door, 
and, indeed, my dear Fanny, you 
did not tell me anything about him 
which I did not find entirely just. 
With regard to his reception of me, 
it was particularly polite. I followed 
my father into the library, which was 
much such a room as I expected ; 
a most charming one. There sat 
Mrs. Thrale and Dr. Johnson, the 
latter finishing his breakfast upon 
peaches. Mrs. Thrale immediately 
rose to meet me very sweetly, and to 
welcome me to Streatham. Dr. John 
son, too, rose. " How do, dear lady ? " 
My father told him it was not his 
Miss, but another of his own bant- 

Prayers and Meditations. in 


1783, April 5. I took leave of Mrs. Thrale. I was much 
moved. I had some expostulations with her. She said that 
she was likewise affected. I commended the Thrales with great 
good will to God ; may my petition have been heard * ! 


[In the Auction Catalogue of Messrs. Christie and Co., of 
June 5, 1888, Lot 67* is ' a leaf of Dr. Johnson's Memorandum 
Book for the year 1783, containing entries relating to his classical 
studies, &c.'] 


Jime 1 6. I went to bed, and, as I conceive, about 3 in the 
morning I had a stroke of the palsy. 

17. I sent for Dr. Heberden and Dr. Brocklesby. God bless 

25. Dr. Heberden took leave 2 . 


July 10. Dartford, Northfleet. 
n. On the Medway. 

12. Barber. 13. [Entries illegible.] 

13. Church Dryden. 

lings. Dr. Johnson, however, looked palsy, Johnson wrote to her : ' I hope 
at me with great kindness, and not at that what, when I could speak, I spoke 
all in a discouraging manner.' Early of you and to you will be in a sober 
Diary of F. Burney, ii. 256. * Sam ' and serious hour remembered by you ; 
was Samuel Greaves, at whose tavern, and surely it cannot be remembered 
the Essex Head, Johnson started his but with some degree of kindness, 
last Club in 1783. Life, iv. 253; I have loved you with virtuous affec- 
Letters, ii. 390. tion ; I have honoured you with 
1 Hawkins's Johnson, p. 553. The sincere esteem. Let not all our en- 
next day Mrs. Thrale recorded in her dearments be forgotten, but let me 
Diary : ' I have been very busy pre- have in this great distress your pity 
paring to go to Bath and save my and your prayers.' Letters, ii. 302. 
money.' H ay ward's Piozzi, 2nd ed., 2 Hawkins's Johnson^ p. 558. For 
i. 204. See also Life, iv. 198, n. 4. his illness, see Life^ iv. 227, and Let- 
Ten weeks later, after his stroke of ters, ii. 300. 



Prayers and Meditations. 

14. Kad-[?J 

i 6 
o 10 
o 5 

expense of journey 
to Mr. Wright 
to Labourer 


15. Receipt for pension April 5 
Longin 13 and Xenophon. Longin *. 

Salust imitates Plato. 

1 I owe the copy of this entry and 
those of August 28 and 30 and Sep 
tember 17-18 to the kindness of Mr. 
Godfrey Locker- Lamp son of Rowfant, 
where the original is preserved. 

On July 10 Johnson went to Roch 
ester to visit Bennet Langton who 
was quartered there as an officer of 
Militia. Dartford and Northfleet are 
on the road between Rochester and 

Johnson wrote to Mrs. Thrale on 
July 23: 'While I was with Mr. 
Langton we took four little journies 
in a chaise, and made one little voyage 
on the Medway, with four misses and 
their maid, but they were very quiet.' 
Letters, ii. 320. 

His pension was payable quarterly 
on the old quarter days, Jan. 5, April 5, 
July 5, Oct. 10. Life, i. 376, . 2. 
Owing to the distressed state of the 
Treasury, brought about by the Ameri 
can War, payments no doubt were 
often at this time in arrears. Even 
in time of peace there had been great 
delays. Lord Chesterfield, on June I , 
1767, sending some money to his son 
who was envoy at Dresden, wrote : 
' I believe it will come very season 
ably, as all places, both foreign and 
domestic, are so far in arrears. They 
talk of paying you all up to Christmas. 
The King's inferior servants are al 
most starving.' Chesterfield's Letters, 
iv. 262. 

Johnson, I conjecture, had found 
among Langton's books Longinus's 
Treatise on the Sublime. In Section 
13 is quoted a passage from Plato's 

Republic, ix. 586 A. where it is said : > 
Oi apa <j)povT)<rf(i)S Kal aperi}? aireipoi . . . 
jSoove^judrcoi' dtKrjv KOTO) del /3X<7ro?rCf 
jcai KtKwfwrts els yrjv Kal els rpane^as 

'They who have no knowledge of 
wisdom and virtue . . . like beasts 
ever look downwards, and their heads 
are bent to the ground, or rather to 
the table ; they feed full their bellies 
and their lusts ' (Longinus on the 
Sublime, translated by H. L. Ha veil, 
1890, p. 28). This recalled to him 
the opening lines in Sallust's Cati 
line: 'Omnes homines, qui sese 
student praestare ceteris animalibus, 
summa ope niti decet. ne vitam silentio 
transeant veluti pecora, quae natura 
prona atque ventri obedientia finxit.' 

The passage in which Sallust imi 
tated Xenophon was perhaps the 
following quoted in section 28 from 
the Cyropaedia, i. 5. 12: Ilovov 6 
rov fjv ij8e(os ^yf/xofa po/ufcrc* KaX- 
XtOToy 6e ndvTow Kal iro\ep.iKa>Ta.Tov 
KTTJp.a els ras ^v^as avyKeKofjucrde' eirai- 
vovp.fvoi yap p.a\\ov TJ TOIS aXXotf airatri 
Xaipere. [This reading differs some 
what from the accepted text.] 

' Labour you regard as the guide 
to a pleasant life, and you have laid 
up in your souls the fairest and most 
soldier-like of all gifts : in praise is 
your delight more than in anything 
else.' Sallust says: 'Verum enim- 
vero is demum mihi vivere atque frui 
anima videtur, qui aliquo negotio in- 
tentus praeclari facinoris aut artis 
bonae famam quaerit.' Catilina, 
cap. ii. 


Prayers and Meditations. 113 


July 30. 

Almighty God, Creator and Governor of the World, who 
sendest sickness and restorest health, enable me to consider, 
with a just sense of thy mercy, the deliverance which Thou 
hast lately granted me, and assist by thy Blessing, as is best 
for me, the means which I shall use for the cure of the disease 
with which I am now afflicted. Encrease my patience, teach 
me submission to thy will, and so rule my thoughts and direct 
my actions, that I may be finally received to everlasting happi 
ness through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen 1 . 


Aug. 15, 1783. I cut from the vine 41 leaves, which 
weighed five oz. and a half, and eight scruples: I lay them 
upon my book-case, to see what weight they will lose by 
drying 2 . 


August 28. I came to Heale without fatigue. 
30. I am entertained quite to my mind. 

To endeavour to conquer scruples about, 
Books in Garret. 
Books on Shelves. 
Hebrew. Pollution. [?] 
Deus, juva 3 . 

1 G. Strahan inserts this prayer Court. Three years earlier he had 
among those of which it is not known written to Mrs. Thrale : * I have 
in what year they were written. It three bunches of grapes on a vine in 
belongs to 1783, at a time when John- my garden.' Letters, ii. 193. 

son had recovered from the stroke of 3 From the original in the posses- 
the palsy, and ' was troubled with a sion of Mr. Locker- Lampson of Row- 
complaint which threatened him with fant. The first two lines of this entry 
a surgical operation.' Life, iv. 239. are quoted in the Life, iv. 234. 

2 Life, iii. 398, n. 3, where by mis- For Johnson's visit to Heale, near 
take is given the date of Aug. 15, Salisbury, see Life, iv. 234; Letters, 
1773. ii. 328. 

The vine grew up his house in Bolt For his scruples, see ante, pp. 41,93. 


ii4 Prayers and Meditations. 



{August, 1783.] 

Almighty God, who in thy late visitation hast shewn mercy to 
me, and now sendest to my companion disease and decay, grant 
me grace so to employ the life which thou hast prolonged, and 
the faculties which thou hast preserved, and so to receive the 
admonition which the sickness of my friend, by thy appoint 
ment, gives me, that I may be constant in all holy duties, and be 
received at last to eternal happiness. 

Permit, O Lord, thy unworthy creature to offer up this prayer 
for Anna Williams now languishing upon her bed, and about to 
recommend herself to thy infinite mercy. O God, who desirest 
not the death of a sinner, look down with mercy upon her : 
forgive her sins and strengthen her faith. Be merciful, O Father 
of Mercy, to her and to me : guide us by thy holy spirit through 
the remaining part of life ; support us in the hour of death, and 
pardon us in the day of judgement, for Jesus Christ's sake. 


September 6. 

I had just heard of Williams's Death 2 . 

Almighty and most merciful Father, who art the Lord of 
life and death, who givest and who takest away, teach me 
to adore thy providence, whatever Thou shalt allot me ; make 
me to remember, with due thankfulness, the comforts which 
I have received from my friendship with Anna Williams. Look 
upon her, O Lord, with mercy, and prepare me, by thy grace, 

1 From the fly-leaf of a copy of 
the fifth edition of Prayers and Medi 
tations (1817) in the possession of 
Mr. C. E. Doble. There is nothing 
to show who transcribed the prayer 
or whence it was taken. The title is 
not Johnson's, for it begins ' Prayer 
of Dr. Johnson.' Moreover it is not 
correct, for though the prayer is partly 
for her it is still more for him. 

8 This prayer is not in the Pem 

broke College MSS. For Mrs. Wil 
liams's death, see Life, iv. 235, and 
Letters, ii. 331. 

John Hoole wrote to Bishop Percy: 
* We have here suffered great loss 
in the death of poor Mrs. Williams . . . 
Mrs. Hoole and I shall miss her ex 
tremely. She was a very valuable 
woman a hearty, sincere, and most 
intelligent friend.' Nichols, Lit. Hist. 
viii. 218. 


Prayers and Meditations. 115 

to die with hope, and to pass by death to eternal happiness, 
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. 


{September 18.] 





Harford Bridge [Hartford Bridge]. 


[Two entries illegible, ? Staines and Hounslow.] 

Brentford *. 



In Messrs. Sotheby & Go's Auction Catalogue of May 10, 

1875, Lot 119 is c a beautiful and most pious prayer in the 

autograph of Dr. Johnson, dated January I, p.m. u 1784.' It 
was sold for eight guineas. 


EASTER DAY, Apr. n, 1784. 

Almighty God, my Creator and my Judge, who givest life 
and takest it away, enable me to return sincere and humble 
thanks for my late deliverance from imminent death 2 . So 
govern my future life by the Holy Spirit, that every day which 
thou shalt permit to pass over me, may be spent in thy service, 
and leave me less tainted with wickedness, and more submissive 
to thy will. 

1 From the original in the posses- of the night. At Hounslow the coach 

sion of Mr. Locker-Lampson of Row- had halted for breakfast on the out- 

fant. ward journey. Letters, ii. 328, n. 3. 

This is a record of some of the 2 Ten days later he wrote to Mrs. 

places on the road from Salisbury to Thrale : 'After a confinement of one 

London. Johnson reached home on hundred and twenty-nine days, more 

Sept. 1 8 at noon. Life, iv. 239. He than the third part of a year, and no 

had taken about fifteen hours to go inconsiderable part of human life, I 

from London to Salisbury, a distance this day returned thanks to God in 

of eighty-two miles. Ib. p. 234. As St. Clement's Church for my recovery.' 

Andover is sixty-four miles from Lon- Letters, ii. 392. See also Life, iv. 

don, unless he broke his jourrey in 262-4, 271. 
returning he must have travelled most 

I 2, Enable 


Prayers and Meditations. 

Enable me, O Lord, to glorify thee for that knowledge of 
my Corruption, and that sense of thy wrath, which my deasease 
and weakness, and danger awakened in my mind 1 . Give 
me such sorrow as may purify my heart, such indignation as 
may quench all confidence in myself, and such repentance 
as may by the intercession of my Redeemer obtain pardon. 
Let the commemoration of the sufferings and Death of thy 
Son which I am now, by thy favour, once more permitted to 
make 2 , fill me with faith, hope, and charity. Let my purposes 
be good and my resolutions unshaken, and let me not be 
hindred or distracted by vain and useless fears, but through 
the time which yet remains guide me by thy Holy Spirit, 
and finally receive me to everlasting life, for the sake of Jesus 
Christ our Lord and Saviour. Amen. 


June 8, 9, and 10. 

In Messrs. Sotheby & Co's Auction Catalogue of May 10, 
1875, Lot 116 is 'brief autographic memoranda in Latin and 
English of Dr. Johnson's feelings &c. on the 8th, 9th, loth, 
June 1784. "Very breathless and dejected" on the first date/ 

It was sold for half a guinea 3 . 

1 On March 20 he had written to 
Mrs. Thrale : ' Write to me no more 
about dying with a grace ; when you 
feel what I have felt in approaching 
eternity in fear of soon hearing the 
sentence of which there is no revoca 
tion, you will know the folly ; my wish 
is, that you may know it sooner. The 
distance between the grave and the 
remotest point of human longevity, is 
but a very little ; and of that little no 
path is certain. You knew all this, 
and I thought that I knew it too; 
but I know it now with a new con 
viction. May that new conviction not 
be vain ! ' Letters, ii. 384. 

a The next day he wrote to Dr. 
Taylor : ' I could not have the con 
sent of the physicians to go to church 
yesterday; I therefore received the 
holy sacrament at home, in the room 

where I communicated with dear 
Mrs. Williams a little before her 
death.' Life, iv. 270. 

Hannah More says that 'in St. 
Clements she partook of the holy 
sacrament with Johnson, the last time 
he ever received it in public.' Me 
moirs, i. 397. This must have been 
after his return to London less than 
a month before his death. 

3 Johnson was during these days 
the guest of Dr. Adams, Master of 
Pembroke College, Oxford. It was 
on June 10 that he said : ' I would 
be a Papist if I could. I have fear 
enough ; but an obstinate rationality 
prevents me. I shall never be a 
Papist, unless on the near approach 
of death, of which I have a very great 
terrour. I wonder that women are 
not all Papists.' BOSWELL. 'They 

Prayers and Meditations. 117 


Attgust i, 1784, Ashbourn. 

O God, most merciful Father who by many diseases hast 
admonished me of my approach to the end of life, and by this 
gracious addition to my days hast given me an opportunity 
of appearing once more in thy presence to commemorate the 
sacrifice by which thy son Jesus Christ has taken away the 
sins of the world, assist me in this commemoration by thy Holy 
Spirit that I may look back upon the sinfulness of my life 
past with pious sorrow, and efficacious Repentance, J that my 
resolutions of amendment may be rightly formed and diligently 
exerted, that I may be freed from vain and useless scruples, 
and that I may serve thee with Faith, Hope, and Charity for 
the time which Thou shalt yet allow me, and finally be received 
to Everlasting Happiness for the sake of Jesus Christ, our Lord. 

To work as I can. 

To attempt a book of prayers. 

To do good as occasion offers itself. 

To review former resolutions. 

At J may be mentioned /u. x^ awx-vo **-& M 1 . 


Aug. 12, 84. 

Against inquisitive and perplexing thoughts 2 . 

Lord, my Maker and Protector, who hast graciously sent 

are not more afraid of death than abbreviations in Greek he wished to 

men are.' JOHNSON. ' Because they secure secrecy, in case the prayer 

are less wicked.' DR. ADAMS. ' They should fall into a stranger's hands, 

are more pious.' JOHNSON. 'No, My friend Mr.W.R.Morfill, Reader 

hang 'em, they are not more pious, of the Slavonic Languages and Litera- 

A wicked fellow is the most pious ture in the University of Oxford, in- 

when he takes to it. He'll beat you geniously conjectures that the first 

all at piety.' Life, iv. 289. three entries are fu'Aaii/a x^*) > alvxpa 

1 From the original in the posses- vor\\uara ; K( va ou\e v^ara melan- 
sion of Mr. Robert M c Cheane, 90 choly ; shameful thoughts ; vain re- 
Palace Gardens, London. solutions. His melancholy if he had 

By the note which Johnson made indulged it, or if he had not taken the 

at the word Repentance it is clear proper means to subdue it, he would 

that he wished to recall certain have looked upon as sinful, 

faults when he was using the prayer ; 2 Quoted in the Life, iv. 370. 
it is no less clear that in employing 


n8 Prayers and Meditations. 

me into this world, to work out my salvation, enable me to 
drive from me all such unquiet and perplexing thoughts as 
may mislead or hinder me in the practice of those duties which 
thou hast required. When I behold the works of thy hands 
and consider the course of thy providence, give me Grace 
always to remember that thy thoughts are not my thoughts, 
nor thy ways my ways. And while it shall please Thee to 
continue me in this world where much is to be done and 
little to be known, teach me by thy Holy Spirit to withdraw 
my mind from unprofitable and dangerous enquiries, from diffi 
culties vainly curious, and doubts impossible to be solved. Let 
me rejoice in the light which thou hast imparted, let me serve 
thee with active zeal, and humble confidence, and wait with 
patient expectation for the time in which the soul which Thou 
receivest, shall be satisfied with knowledge. Grant this, O Lord, 
for Jesus Christ's sake. Amen x . 


Aug. 28, 1784, Ashbourn. 

Almighty and most merciful Father, who afflictest not 
willingly the children of Men, and by whose holy will 2 
now languishes in sickness and pain, make, I beseech [Thee,] 
this punishment effectual to those gracious purposes for which 
thou sendest it, let it, if I may presume to ask, end not in death, 
but in repentance, let him live to promote thy kingdom on 
earth by the useful example of a better life, but if thy will be 
to call him hence, let his thoughts be so purified by his suffer 
ings, that he may be admitted to eternal Happiness. And, 
O Lord, by praying for him, let me be admonished to consider 
my own sins, and my own danger, to remember the shortness 
of life, and to use the time which thy mercy grants me to thy 
glory and my own salvation, for the sake of Jesus Christ our 
Lord. Amen. 

1 On the day on which he composed 2 The blank must be filled up by 

this prayer he wrote to one of his Taylor's name. Johnson wrote on 

correspondents in London : ' As we Aug. 19 : ' My friend is sick himself, 

cannot now see each other do not and the reciprocation of complaints 

omit to write, for you cannot think with and groans affords not much of either 

what warmth of expectation I reckon pleasure or instruction.' Life, iv. 365. 
the hours of a post-day.' Life, iv. 354. 


Prayers and Meditations. 119 


Sept. 5. 

In Messrs. Christie & Go's Auction Catalogue of June 5, 1888, 
Lot 38 is 'a Prayer in Dr. Johnson's autograph, dated Ash- 
bourne, Sept. 5, 17&4'' It was sold for five guineas. The same 
autograph was sold a few years later by Messrs. Sotheby & Co. 
for eight guineas. The Bookman, Dec. 1893, p. 75. 


Ashbourne, September 18, 1784. 

Almighty God, merciful Father, who art the giver of all 
good enable me to return Thee due thanks for the continuance 
of my life and for the great mercies of the last year, for relief 
from the diseases that afflicted me, and all the comforts and 
alleviations by which they were mitigated ; and O my gracious 
God make me truly thankful for the call by which thou hast 
awakened my conscience, and summoned me to Repentance. 
Let not thy call, O Lord, be forgotten or thy summons neglected, 
but let the residue of my life, whatever it shall be, be passed 
in true contrition, and diligent obedience. Let me repent of 
the sins of my past years and so keep thy laws for the time 
to come, that when it shall be thy good pleasure to call me 
to another state, I may find mercy in thy sight. Let thy 
Holy Spirit support me in the hour of death, and O Lord 
grant me pardon in the day of Judgement, for the sake of 
Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen x . 



Oct. 31, I784 2 . 
Against the incursion of evil thoughts. 

1 From the original in the posses- those in the Book of Common Prayer? 
sion of Mr. Alfred Morrison of Font- DR. ADAMS (in a very earnest man- 
hill House. Published in my edition ner) : " I wish, Sir, you would com- 
of the Letters, ii. 420. pose some family prayers." JOHN- 

2 Croker's Boswell, p. 792. SON. " I will not compose prayers for 
These entries are perhaps the result you, Sir, because you can do it for 

of the following conversation recorded yourself. But I have thought of get- 
by Boswell in the previous June: ting together all the books of prayers 
'On Friday, June II, we talked at which I could, selecting those which 
breakfast, of forms of prayer. JOHN- should appear to me the best, putting 
SON. " I know of no good prayers but out some, inserting others, adding 



Prayers and Meditations. 

Repentance and pardon. Lattd*. 

In disease. 

On the loss of friends by death ; by his own fault or friend's. 

On the unexpected notice of the death of others. 

Prayer generally recommendatory ; 
To understand their prayers ; 
Under dread of death ; 

Prayer commonly considered as a stated and temporary duty 
performed and forgotten without any effect on the following day. 
Prayer a vow. Taylor*. 


1. Indifference about opinions. 

2. Supposition that things disputed are disputable. 

3. Demand of unsuitable evidence. 

4. False judgement of evidence. 

some prayers of my own, and pre 
fixing a discourse on prayer." We 
all now gathered about him, and two 
or three of us at a time joined in 
pressing him to execute this plan. 
He seemed to be a little displeased 
at the manner of our importunity, 
and in great agitation called out, 
" Do not talk thus of what is so 
aweful. I know not what time GOD 
will allow me in this world. There 
are many things which I wish to do." 
Some of us persisted, and Dr. Adams 
said, "I never was more serious about 
any thing in my life." JOHNSON. "Let 
me alone, let me alone ; I am over 
powered." And then he put his hands 
before his face, and reclined for some 
time upon the table.' Life, iv. 293. 

On August i (ante, p. 117) he had 
recorded his wish ' to attempt a book 
of prayers.' In November he passed 
a few days with Dr. Adams. 'We 
had much serious talk together,' wrote 
Adams to Boswell, ' for which I ought 
to be the better as long as I live. You 
will remember some discourse which 

we had in the summer upon the 
subject of prayer, and the difficulty 
of this sort of composition. He re 
minded me of this, and of my having 
wished him to try his hand, and to 
give us a specimen of the style and 
manner that he approved. He added, 
that he was now in a right frame of 
mind, and as he could not possibly 
employ his time better, he would in 
earnest set about it.' Life, iv. 376. 

1 My friend the Rev. W. H. Hutton, 
Fellow of St. John's College, Oxford, 
suggests that Johnson had in mind 
the second and third paragraphs of 
Laud's Officium Quotidianum. Laud's 
Works, ed. 1853, iii. 5. 

2 ' Be careful thou dost not speak 
a lie in thy prayers, which though not 
observed is frequently practised by 
careless persons, especially in the 
forms of confession, affirming things 
which they have not thought, pro 
fessing sorrow which is not, making 
a vow they mean not.' Jeremy 
Taylor's Works, ed. 1865, vii. 622. 

5. Complaint 

Prayers and Meditations. 121 

5. Complaint of the obscurity of Scripture. 

6. Contempt of fathers and of authority. 

7. Absurd method of learning objections first. 

8. Study not for truth, but vanity. 

9. Sensuality and a vicious life. 

10. False honour, false shame. 

11. Omission of prayer and religious exercises. 


[The following Prayer was composed and used by Doctor 
Johnson previous to his receiving the Sacrament of the Lord's 
Supper, on Sunday December 5, 1784. Note by G. Strahan 1 .] 

Almighty and most merciful Father, I am now, as to human 
eyes it seems, about to commemorate, for the last time, the 
death of thy Son Jesus Christ our Saviour and Redeemer. 
Grant, O Lord, that my whole hope and confidence may be 
in his merits, and thy mercy ; enforce and accept my imperfect 
repentance ; make this commemoration available to the con 
firmation of my faith, the establishment of my hope, and the 
enlargement of my charity; and make the death of thy Son 
Jesus Christ effectual to my redemption. Have mercy upon 
me, and pardon the multitude of my offences. Bless my friends; 
have mercy upon all men. Support me, by the grace of thy 
Holy Spirit, in the days of weakness, and at the hour of death ; 
and receive me, at my death, to everlasting happiness, for the 
sake of Jesus Christ. Amen 2 . 


[The following Meditations and Prayers have no dates in the 
MS. Note by G. Strahan.] 

I did not this week labour my preparation so much as I have 
sometimes done. My mind was not very quiet ; and an anxious 
preparation makes the duty of the day formidable and burden 
some. Different methods suit different states of mind, body and 
affairs. I rose this day, and prayed, then went to tea, and 
afterwards composed the Prayer, which I formed with great 

1 This prayer is not in Johnson's 2 Quoted in the Life, iv. 417. He 
handwriting. died on December 13. 



Prayers and Meditations. 

fluency. I went to church ; came in at the Psalms ; could not 
hear the reader in the lessons, but attended the prayers with 

To read the New Testament once a year, in Greek. 


Receiving the Sacrament 

I profess my Faith in Jesus. 
I declare my resolution to obey him. 

I implore in the highest act of worship, Grace to keep these 

I hope to rise to a new life this day. 


Prayer on the study of Religion. 

Almighty God, our heavenly Father, without whose help 
labour is useless, without whose light search is vain, invigorate 
my studies and direct my enquiries, that I may, by due diligence 
and right discernment establish myself and others in thy holy 
Faith. Take not, O Lord, thy Holy Spirit from me, let not 
evil thoughts have dominion in my mind. Let me not linger 
in ignorance, but enlighten and support me, for the sake of 
Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. 


O Lord God, in whose hand are the wills and affections of 
men, kindle in my mind holy desires, and repress sinful and 
corrupt imaginations ; enable me to love thy commandments, 
and to desire thy promises ; let me, by thy protection and 
influence, so pass through things temporal, as finally not to 
lose the things eternal ; and among the hopes and fears, the 
pleasures and sorrows, the dangers and deliverances, and all the 
changes of this life, let my heart be surely fixed, by the help 
of thy Holy Spirit, on the everlasting fruition of thy presence, 
where true joys are to be found. Grant, O Lord, these petitions. 
Forgive, O merciful Lord, whatever I have done contrary to 
thy laws. Give me such a sense of my wickedness as may 
produce true contrition and effectual repentance, so that when 

I shall 

Prayers and Meditations. 123 

I shall be called into another state, I may be received among 
the sinners to whom sorrow and reformation have obtained 
pardon, for Jesus Christ's sake. Amen *. 


Almighty and most merciful Father, whose clemency I now 
presume to implore, after a long life of carelessness and wicked 
ness, have mercy upon me. I have committed many trespasses ; 
I have neglected many duties. I have done what Thou hast 
forbidden, and left undone what Thou hast commanded. For 
give, merciful Lord, my sins, negligences, and ignorances, and 
enable me, by thy Holy Spirit, to amend my life according to 
thy Holy Word, for Jesus Christ's sake. Amen. 


O merciful God, full of compassion, long-suffering, and of great 
pity, who sparest when we deserve punishment, and in thy 
wrath thinkest upon mercy ; make me earnestly to repent, and 
heartily to be sorry for all my misdoings ; make the remem 
brance so burdensome and painful, that I may flee to Thee with 
a troubled spirit and a contrite heart ; and, O merciful Lord, 
visit, comfort, and relieve me ; cast me not out from thy presence, 
and take not thy Holy Spirit from me, but excite in me true 
repentance ; give me in this world knowledge of thy truth, and 
confidence in thy mercy, and in the world to come life ever 
lasting, for the sake of our Lord and Saviour, thy Son Jesus 
Christ. Amen 2 . 


Imploring Diligence. 

O God, make me to remember that the night cometh when 
no man can work 4 . 

1 The last six lines are quoted in the dial-plate of his watch a short 
the Life, iv. 397. Greek inscription, taken from the 

2 This prayer is not in the Pew- New Testament, Nu yap epxerai, 
broke College MSS. being the first words of our SAVIOUR'S 

3 This ejaculation is not in the solemn admonition to the improve- 
Pembroke College MSS. ment of that time which is allowed us 

4 'At this time I observed upon to prepare for eternity: "the night 


I2 4 

Prayers and Meditations. 


[The following passage in the Pembroke College MSS. has 
been scored out. It bears no date, but the paper on which it 
is written follows one dated Easter, 1770. It cannot however 
belong to that year; for on Easter Eve, 1770. Johnson dined 
at Mr. Thrale's (ante, p. 53) and not, as he records below, at 

the Mitre.] 


I rose and breakfasted, eat little ; gave orders that Mr. * 
Stainesby the Clergyman who is to give dying Jenny the 
Sacrament, shall have $s. $d. Steevens was with me. Watson 
paid. Mrs. Otway. About Noon I grew faint by fasting, then 
dined on Fish and eggs at the Mitre. 

I then came home, and read two of Rogers's Sermons. Be 
tween ten and eleven I was very weary, I think, by fasting, 
and a night rather unquiet. I was not much sleepy this day. 
O God for Jesus Christ's sake have mercy upon me. Amen. 

* He came to Jenny very carefully. 

cometh, when no man can work.'" 
Life, ii. 57. 

Sir Walter Scott put the same Greek 
inscription on the dial at Abbotsford. 
Near the close of his life, on a visit 
from home, hearing of the sudden 
death of a friend, who like himself 
had suffered from paralysis, he in 
sisted on returning at once. ' He 

would listen to no persuasions. " No 
William," he said, "this is a sad 
warning. I must home to work while 
it is called day ; for the night cometh 
when no man can work. I put that 
text many a year ago on my dial- 
stone ; but it often preached in vain." ' 
Lockhart's Scott, x. 88. 


[An account of the life of DR. SAMUEL JOHNSON, from his 
birth to his eleventh year, written by himself. From the 
MSS. preserved by the Doctor; and now in Possession of 
RICHARD WRIGHT, Surgeon ; Proprietor of the Museum 
of Antiquities, Natural and Artificial Curiosities, &c. Lichfield. 
LONDON : printed for RICHARD PHILLIPS, No. 6, Bridge- 
Street, Blackfriars ; by NICHOLS and SON, Red Lion Passage, 
Fleet Street. 1805.] 


IT will be expected, that the Editor of the following curious 
and interesting pages should give an account of the manner in 
which the original MSS. came into his possession. 

Mr. Boswell, in his admirable Life of Dr. Johnson x , thus 
observes : 

' The consideration of numerous papers of which he was 
possessed seems to have struck Johnson's mind with a sudden 
anxiety ; and, as they were in great confusion, it is much to be 
lamented that he had not intrusted some faithful and discreet 
person with the care and selection of them ; instead of which, 
he, in a precipitate manner, burnt large masses of them, with 

little regard, as I apprehend, to discrimination Two very 

valuable articles, I am sure, we have lost ; which were two quarto 
volumes, containing a full, fair, and most particular account of his 
own life, from his earliest recollection.' 

It does not appear, that the MS. from which the following 
short account of Dr. Johnson's early life is copied, was one of 
the two volumes to which Boswell alludes ; although it is 
evident, from his enumeration of particular dates in the blank 
pages of the book, that he intended to have finished these 
Annals, according to this plan, with the same minuteness of 
description, in every circumstance and event. 

This Volume was among that mass of papers which were 
ordered to be committed to the flames a few days before his 
death, thirty-two pages of which were torn out by himself, and 
destroyed ; the contents of those which remain are here given 
with fidelity and exactness. Francis Barber, his black servant, 
unwilling that all the MSS. of his illustrious master should 

1 iv. 403. 



Preface to First Edition. 

be utterly lost, preserved these relicks from the flames. By 
purchase from Barber's widow they came into the possession of 
the Editor. 

The original MSS. are deposited in the Museum of Antiquities 
and Natural Curiosities, belonging to the Editor ; which is open 
to the inspection of the publick. 


March 2, 1805. 

A N ' NA LS 


Sept. 7 x , 1709, 1 was born at Lichfield. My mother had a very 
difficult and dangerous labour, and was assisted by George 
Hector, a man-midwife of great reputation 2 . I was born almost 
dead, and could not cry for some time. When he had me in his 
arms, he said, ' Here is a brave boy V 

In a few weeks an inflammation was discovered on my 
buttock, which was at first, I think, taken for a burn ; but soon ap 
peared to be a natural disorder. It swelled, broke, and healed. 

My Father 4 , being that year Sheriff of Lichfield, and to ride the 

1 1 8 of the present style. Note by 
Dr. Johnson. 

Dr. Franklin wrote to his wife on 
Jan. 6, 1773 : ' I feel some regard 
for this 6th of January as my old 
nominal birthday, though the change 
of style has carried the real day for 
ward to the 1 7th.' Franklin's Works, 
ed. 1889, v. 86. 

1709 was a year of great dearth. 
According to the table of the prices 
of wheat in the Wealth of Nations, 
ed. 1811, i. 357, there were only two 
dearer years 1648, 1649 between 
1595 and 1764. 

2 Probably the father of Johnson's 
old schoolfellow Edmund Hector, 
the Birmingham surgeon. Life, ii. 

Accoucheur is not in Johnson's 
Dictionary. The earliest instance in 
the Neiv Eng. Diet, is from Tris 
tram Shandy in 1759: 'Nothing 
will serve you but to carry off the 
man-midwife. Accoucheur^ if you 

VOL. I. K 

please, quoth Dr. Slop.' 

3 This was written in January, 
1765. Note by Wright. 

4 1 have copied the following entry 
from a document in the possession 
of my cousin, Mr. Horatio Symonds, 
of Beaumont Street, Oxford : 

" Michaell the Sonne of William 
Johnson and Catherine his Wife was 
baptized Aprill the 20." 

1 Copied from the Register belong 
ing to the parish of Cubley in Derby 

' This part of the Register is so 
much injured by Time that it is un 
certain whether the Date is Aprill 
the 20 or the 2. I think it is the 20.' 

This extract is endorsed in John 
son's handwriting : ' Father's regis 

Michael Johnson was born in 1656. 
Life, iv. 393, . 2. 

The Rev. Cave Humfrey, Rector 
of Cubley, informs me that the Regis 
ters begin in 1566, but that several 



circuit of the County * next day, which was a ceremony then per 
formed with great pomp ; he was asked by my mother, ' Whom 
he would invite to the Riding?' and answered, * All the town now.' 
He feasted the citizens with uncommon magnificence, and was 
the last but one that maintained the splendour of the Riding 2 . 

I was, by my father's persuasion, put to one Marclew, com 
monly called Bellison 3 , the servant, or wife of a servant of my 
father, to be nursed in George Lane 4 , where I used to call when 
I was a bigger boy, and eat fruit in the garden, which was full of 
trees 5 . Here it was discovered that my eyes were bad ; and an 

pages are illegible. To his kindness 
I owe the following entries : 

'Anno 1579. 

'The dale of August Edith 
Johnson daughter of .' 

' 1657. 

' the Sonne of William Johnson 
and Catherine his wife baptized 
Apriil .' 

' 1658. 

' the Sonne of William Johnson 
was Baptiz: Februarie the I4th.' 


' Andrew. The Sonne of William 
Johnson was baptiz: January 24th.' 

' 1701 Feb: 20 
' Samuel ye Sonn of William John 
son & his wife.' 

' 1701. 

' October 29. Avice Johnson. Wid. 
Buryed. Affid. made. Nov: ye 3d.' 

Johnson's father served his ap 
prenticeship at Leek in Staffordshire. 
Life, i. 37. A writer in Notes and 
Queries, 5th Ser., v. 335, says that in 
the Register of Burials in that town 
are found the names of two Samuel 
Johnsons one who died in 1654 and 
the other in 1712. It is not unlikely 
that they were of Dr. Johnson's 

' I can hardly tell who was my 
grandfather,' said Johnson. Life, ii. 

261. He relates how some boatmen 
in the Hebrides, speaking of him, 
' asked if the Englishman could re 
count a long genealogy. What an 
swer was given them, the conversa 
tion being in Erse, I was not much 
inclined to examine.' Works, ix. 70. 

1 The City of Lichfield is a county 
in itself. Its circuit extends about 
sixteen miles. 

2 The Sheriffs ' Ride,' or peram 
bulation of the City boundary, still 
takes place on September 8. The 
Sheriff, I am informed, on that day 
has about 250 guests to breakfast in 
the Guildhall. ' Various calls are 
made en route for refreshments, 
chiefly at Freeford, where hospi 
tality is dispensed by the owner, 
General Dyott.' For the family of 
Dyott see Letters, i. 342, n. 3. 

3 The name of Marklew, alias 
Bellison, is yet common in Lichfield, 
and is usually so distinguished. 
Note by R. Wright. 

The last of this name in Lichfield, 
as it is believed, a very old innkeeper, 
died twenty years ago. 

4 Letters, i. 154. 

5 Perhaps Johnson had this gar 
den in his mind when he wrote in 
his Life of Swift : ' Almost every 
boy eats as much fruit as he can 
get without any great inconvenience.' 
Works, viii. 194. 



issue was cut in my left arm J ; of which I took no great notice, 
as I think my mother has told me, having my little hand in 
a custard. 

It is observable, that, having been told of this operation, 
I always imagined that I remembered it, but I laid the scene in 
the wrong house. Such confusions of memory I suspect to be 

My mother visited me every day, and used to go different ways, 
that her assiduity might not expose her to ridicule 2 ; and often 
left her fan or glove behind her, that she might have a pretence 
to come back unexpected ; but she never discovered any token 
of neglect. Dr. Swinfen 3 told me, that the scrofulous sores 
which afflicted me proceeded from the bad humours of the 
nurse, whose son had the same distemper, and was likewise 
short-sighted, but both in a less degree. My mother thought 
my diseases derived from her family. 

In ten weeks I was taken home, a poor, diseased infant, almost 

I remember my aunt Nath. Ford 4 told me, when I was about 
. . . years old, that she would not have picked such a poor 
creature up in the street. 

In ... 67, when I was at Lichfield 5 , I went to look for my 

1 How long this issue was con 
tinued I do not remember. I believe it 
was suffered to dry when I was about 
six years old. Note by Johnson. 

2 A curious instance of the bruta 
lity of the age. 

3 His godfather. Life, i. 34, n. 2. 

4 Ib. i. 49, n. 3. 

5 Benjamin West, in a curiously- 
spelt letter to a friend in Philadelphia, 
dated July 20, 1798, speaking of his 
recollections of that town, says : 
* Early habits my friend make lasting 
impressions on our minds, and I am 
prosuaded were I to revisit those 
abodes, I should feel a greater joy 
than those felt by Dr. Johnson (that 
great luminary in the lettered world) 
whom I heard say at his Club, when 

a friend asked the Dr. then just 
returned from visiting the place of 
his Nativity after a space of 40 years 
absence, what gave him the greatest 
delight when there? Why Sir re- 
plyed the Dr. it was to jump over 
that Style when 70 years of age, 
which I had been accustom to jump 
over when I was a Boy going to the 
day school. From my feelings at 
the recollection of my juvinal foot 
steps I am prosuaded the Dr. spoke 
the dictates of his heart.' Pennsyl 
vania Magazine ', July 1894, p. 221. 

Johnson's first visit to Lichfield 
(not counting one of five days in the 
winter of 1761-2) was in 1767, thirty 
years after his removal to London. 
Life, iii. 452 ; Letters, i. 128-130. 
2, nurse's 

132 Annals. 

nurse's house ; and, inquiring somewhat obscurely, was told ' this 
is the house in which you were nursed.' I saw my nurse's son, to 
whose milk I succeeded, reading a large Bible, which my nurse 
had bought, as I was then told, some time before her death 

Dr. Swinfen used to say, that he never knew any child reared 
with so much difficulty. 


In the second year I knew [? know] not what happened to me. 
I believe it was then that my mother carried me to Trysul T , 
to consult Dr. Atwood, an oculist of Worcester. My father 
and Mrs. Harriots 2 , I think, never had much kindness for each 
other. She was my mother's relation ; and he had none so high 
to whom he could send any of his family. He saw her seldom 
himself, and willingly disgusted her, by sending his horses 3 from 
home on Sunday ; which she considered, and with reason, as 
a breach of duty. My father had much vanity, which his ad 
versity hindered from being fully exerted 4 . I remember, that, 
mentioning her legacy in the humility of distress, he called her 
our good Cousin Harriots. My mother had no value for his rela 
tions ; those indeed whom we knew of were much lower than hers 5 . 
This contempt began, I know not on which side, very early : 
but, as my father was little at home, it had not much effect. 

My father and mother had not much happiness from each 
other. They seldom conversed ; for my father could not bear 
to talk of his affairs ; and my mother, being unacquainted with 
books, cared not to talk of any thing else. Had my mother 
been more literate, they had been better companions. She 
might have sometimes introduced her unwelcome topick with 

1 Trysull, near Wolverhampton. 4 'My father,' he said, 'was a 

2 Ante, p. 56. foolish old man ; that is to say, fool- 

3 His business, as his son told ish in talking of his children.' Ib. i. 
Mrs. Thrale, ' led him to be much on 40. For his ' distress ' see ib. i. 78- 
horse-back.' Post, p. 148. The title- 80. 

page of a book published by him 5 They did not rise very high, for 

shows that in 1687 he had shops at in 1773 Johnson wrote: 'Mr. Cor- 

Lichfield, Uttoxeter, and Ashby-de- nelius Harrison was the only one of 

la-Zouch. Life, i. 36, . 3. Besides, my relations who ever rose in fortune 

he attended book-sales in all the above penury, or in character above 

country round. neglect.' Letters, i. 225. 



more success, if she could have diversified her conversation. Of 
business she had no distinct conception; and therefore her 
discourse was composed only of complaint, fear, and suspicion. 
Neither of them ever tried to calculate the profits of trade, 
or the expenses of living. My mother concluded that we were 
poor, because we lost by some of our trades ; but the truth was, 
that my father, having in the early part of his life contracted 
debts, never had trade sufficient to enable him to pay them, and 
maintain his family ; he got something, but not enough. 

It was not till about 1768, that I thought to calculate the 
returns of my father's trade, and by that estimate his probable 
profits. This, I believe, my parents never did. 


This year, in Lent 12, 1 was taken to London, to be touched 
for the evil by Queen Anne r . My mother was at Nicholson's, 

1 Life, i. 43, and post, p. 1 52. 

Evelyn records on July 6, 1660 : 
* His Majesty began first to touch for 
the evil according to custom, thus : 
his Majesty sitting under his state 
[canopy] in the Banqueting- House 
the chirurgeons cause the sick to be 
brought or led, up to the throne, 
where they kneeling, the King strokes 
their faces or cheeks with both his 
hands at once, at which instant a 
chaplain in his formalities [solemn 
dress] says : " He put his hands upon 
them, and he healed them." This 
is said to every one in particular. 
When they have been all touched, 
they come up again in the same 
order, and the other chaplain kneel 
ing, and having angel gold 1 strung 
on white ribbon on his arm, de 
livers them one by one to his Ma 
jesty, who puts them about the necks 
of the touched as they pass, while the 
first chaplain repeats, " That is the 
true light who came into the world." 
Then follows an Epistle (as at first a 

Gospel) with the Liturgy prayers for 
the sick, with some alteration ; lastly 
the blessing ; and then the Lord 
Chamberlain and the Comptroller of 
the Household bring a basin, ewer 
and towel for his Majesty to wash.' 
Evelyn's Diary, ed. 1872, i. 357. 

Pepys, who saw the ceremony nine 
months later, says : ' The King did 
it with great gravity, and it seemed to 
me to be an ugly office and a simple 
one.' Pepys's Diary, ed. 1851, i. 212. 

Hearne records on Aug. 3, 1728 : 
' Yesterday Mr. Gilman of St. Peter's 
parish in the east, Oxford (a lusty, 
heartick, thick, short man) told me 
that he is in the 85th year of his age, 
and that at the restoration of K. 
Charles ii, being much afflicted with 
the king's evil, he rode up to London 
behind his father, was touched on 
a Wednesday by that King, was in 
very good condition by that night, 
and by the Sunday night immediately 
following was perfectly recovered, and 
hath so continued ever since. He 

1 A piece of money impressed with an angel. It was rated at ten shillings. John 
son's Dictionary. 




the famous bookseller, in Little Britain x . I always retained 
some memory of this journey, though I was then but thirty 
months old. I remembered a little dark room behind the 
kitchen, where the jack-weight fell through a hole in the floor, 
into which I once slipped my leg 2 . 

I remember a boy crying at the palace when I went to be 
touched. Being asked 'on which side of the shop was the 
counter?' I answered, 'on the left from the entrance,' many 
years after, and spoke, not by guess, but by memory. We went 
in the stage-coach, and returned in the waggon 3 , as my mother said, 
because my cough was violent. The hope of saving a few shillings 
was no slight motive ; for she, not having been accustomed to 
money, was afraid of such expenses as now seem very small. She 
sewed two guineas in her petticoat, lest she should be robbed. 

hath constantly wore the piece of 
gold about his neck that he received 
of the King, and he had it on yester 
day when I met him.' Remains of 
Hearne, ed. 1869, iii. 12. 

Peter Wentworth wrote on April 
23, 1714 : ' The best news I can tell 
you in this is that the Queen is well, 
and grows better and better every 
day, has touch't twice a week.' 
Wentworth Papers, p. 375. 

H ume says : 'The practice was first 
dropped by the present royal family, 
who observed that it could no longer 
give amazement even to the populace, 
and was attended with ridicule in the 
eyes of all men of understanding.' 
History of England, ed. 1773, i. 178. 

Sully, writing of a letter which he 
had received from Henry IV, says : 
' II me mande, dans celle-ci, d'en- 
voyer deux cents ecus pour chacun 
des malades des ecrouelles, que sa 
maladie avait empeche qu'il ne tou- 
chat, et qu'il n'avait pourtant pas 
voulu qu'on renvoyat.' Mtmoires de 
Sully, ed. 1788, iv. 200. 

1 My mother, then with child, 
concealed her pregnancy, that she 
might not be hindered from the 

journey. Note by Johnson. 

'Little Britain extends from Al- 
dersgate Street to Duck Lane.' Dods- 
ley's London, iii. 316. Roger 
North, writing of Little Britain soon 
after the Restoration, says : ' Then 
Little Britain was a plentiful and 
perpetual emporium of learned au 
thors, and men went thither as to a 
market. This drew to the place a 
mighty trade, the rather because the 
shops were spacious, and the learned 
gladly resorted to them, where they 
seldom failed to meet with agreeable 
conversation. And the booksellers 
themselves were knowing and con- 
versible men.' Lives of the Norths, 
ed. 1826, iii. 294. 

2 I seem to remember, that I 
played with a string and a bell, which 
my cousin Isaac Johnson gave me ; 
and that there was a cat with a 
white collar, and a dog, called Chops, 
that leaped over a stick : but I know 
not whether I remember the thing, 
or the talk of it. Note by Johnson. 

3 In Roderick Random, chaps, xi- 
xiii, an account is given of a journey 
in the London and Newcastle 


Annals. T35 

We were troublesome to the passengers ; but to suffer such 
inconveniences in the stage-coach was common in these days to 
persons in much higher rank *. She bought me a small silver 
cup and spoon, marked SAM. I. lest if they had been marked 
S. I. which was her name, they should, upon her death, have 
been taken from me. She bought me a speckled linen frock, 
which I knew afterwards by the name of my London frock. The 
cup was one of the last pieces of plate which dear Tetty sold in 
our distress 2 . I have now the spoon. She bought at the same 
time two teaspoons, and till my manhood she had no more. 

My father considered tea 3 as very expensive, and discouraged 
my mother from keeping company with the neighbours, and 
from paying visits or receiving them. She lived to say, many 
years after, that, if the time were to pass again, she would 
not comply with such unsocial injunctions. 

I suppose that in this year I was first informed of a future 
state. I remember, that being in bed with my mother one 
morning, I was told by her of the two places to which the 
inhabitants of this world were received after death ; one a fine 
place filled with happiness, called Heaven ; the other a sad 
place, called Hell. That this account much affected my ima 
gination, I do not remember. When I was risen, my mother 
bade me repeat what she had told me to Thomas Jackson 4 . 
When I told this afterwards to my mother, she seemed to 
wonder that she should begin such talk so late as that the 
first time could be remembered. 

1 I was sick ; one woman fondled Societies of the Commonwealth, 1876, 
me, the other was disgusted. Note by p. 498. 

Johnson. ' Lord Bristol [writing in 1728] 

2 Life, i. 163. ascribes Lord Hervey's delicate 

3 In January, 1731, the price of health to the use of " that detestable 
the cheapest tea in London was ioj. and poisonous plant tea, which had 
per pound, of the dearest 35 s. Gentle- once brought him to death's door, 
man's Magazine, 1731, p. 39. and, if persisted in, would carry him 

The Quakers of Aberdeen forbade through it," and he implores him in 

the use of it. ' In 1715 the "fashion- the most pathetic terms to give it 

able using of tea " was ordered to be up.' Lord Hervey's Memoirs, vol. i, 

" avoided," " tea-tables to be laid Preface, p. 27. 

aside as formerly advised." ' R. Bar- 4 Their man-servant. Life, i. 38. 

clay's Inner Life of the Religious See post, p. 164. 


136 Annals. 

[Here there is a chasm of thirty-eight pages. in the manuscript*^ 
examination. We always considered it as a day of 

ease ; for we made no preparation, and indeed were asked 
commonly such questions as we had been asked often before, 
and could regularly answer. But I believe it was of use at first. 

On Thursday night a small portion of JEsop was learned by 
heart, and on Friday morning the lessons in ^Esop were repeated ; 
I believe, not those in Helvicus 2 . On Friday afternoon we 
learned Qua Genus 3 ; I suppose that other boys might say 
their repetition, but of this I have now no distinct remembrance. 
To learn Qua Genus was to me always pleasing ; and As in 
Prasenti was, I know not why, always disgusting. 

When we learned our Accidence we had no parts, but, I think, 
two lessons. The boys that came to school untaught read the 
Accidence twice through before they learned it by heart. 

When we learned Propria qua Maribus, our parts were in 
the Accidence ; when we learned As in Prasenti, our parts were 
in the Accidence and Propria qua Maribus \ when we learned 
Syn taxis, in the former three. Propria qua Maribus I could 
repeat without any effort of recollection. I used to repeat it to 
my mother and Tom Johnson ; and remember, that I once went 
as far as the middle of the paragraph, ' Mascula dicuntur mono- 
syllaba,' in a dream. 

On Saturday, as on Thursday, we were examined. We were 
sometimes, on one of those days, asked our Catechism 4 , but with 
no regularity or constancy. 

The progress of examination was this. When we learned 
Propria qua Maribus^ we were examined in the Accidence ; 
particularly we formed Verbs, that is. went through the same 
person in all the Moods and Tenses. This was very difficult to 

1 What follows is the account of Latin, madam; he is just got into 
his studies at Lichfield School. See Quae Genus? ' Joseph Andrews, 
Life, i. 43. Book iv. ch. 9. 

2 Christopher Helvicus (1581- Quae Genus, As in Praesenti and 
1616) was Professor of Greek and Propria quae Maribus are chapters 
Divinity at Giessen. in the Eton Latin Grammar. 

3 ' Lady Booby, seeing a book in 4 G. Hector never had been taught 
Dick's hand, asked him, if he could his Catechism. Note by Johnson. 
read. " Yes," cried Adams, " a little 


Annals. 137 

me ; and I was once very anxious about the next day, when this 
exercise was to be performed, in which I had failed till I was 
discouraged. My mother encouraged me, and I proceeded better. 
When I told her of my good escape, ' We often,' said she, dear 
mother ! l come off best, when we are most afraid.' She told 
me, that, on.ce when she asked me about forming verbs, I said, 
' I did not form them in an ugly shape.' ' You could not,' said 
she, ' speak plain ; and I was proud that I had a boy who was 
forming verbs.' These little memorials sooth my mind. Of the 
parts of Corderius ' or ^Esop, which we learned to repeat, I have 
not the least recollection, except of a passage in one of the 
Morals, where it is said of some man, that, when he hated 
another, he made him rich ; this I repeated emphatically in 
my mother's hearing, who could never conceive that riches could 
bring any evil. She remarked it, as I expected. 

I had the curiosity, two or three years ago, to look over 
Garretson's Exercises, Willymot's Particles 2 , and Walker's 
Exercises ; and found very few sentences that I should have 
recollected if I had found them in any other books. That 
which is read without pleasure is not often recollected nor 
infixed by conversation, and therefore in a great measure 
drops from the memory 3 . Thus it happens that those who 
are taken early from school, commonly lose all that they had 

When we learned As in Prcesenti, we parsed Propria qua 
Maribus by Hool's Terminations ; and, when we learned Syntaxis, 
we parsed As in Prcesenti ; and afterwards QZKZ Genus, by the 
same book ; sometimes, as I remember, proceeding in order of 
the rules, and sometimes, particularly in As in Prczsenti^ taking 
words as they occurred in the Index. 

1 The ensign in T0m Janes (Bk.v'u, mot, a schoolmaster, was foolish 
c. 12) exclaimed : ' And there's Cor- enough to re-translate these Essays 

derius, another d d son of a whore into English in the beginning of this 

that hath got me many a flogging.' [the eighteenth] century.' Prior's 

2 ' It is not commonly known,' M alone > p. 424. 

writes Malone, ' that the translation 3 ' A man,' said Johnson, * ought 
of Bacon's Essays into Latin, which to read just as inclination leads him ; 
was published in 1619, was done by for what he reads as a task will do 
the famous John Selden. One Willy- him little good.' Life, i. 428. 


138 Annals. 

The whole week before we broke up, and the part of the week 
in which we broke up, were spent wholly, I know not why, in 
examination ; and were therefore easy to both us and the master. 
The two nights before the vacation were free from exercise. 

This was the course of the school, which I remember with 
pleasure ; for I was indulged and caressed by my master, and, 
I think, really excelled the rest. 

I was with Hawkins x but two years, and perhaps four months. 
The time, till I had computed it, appeared much longer by the 
multitude of novelties which it supplied, and of incidents, then 
in my thoughts important, it produced. Perhaps it is not 
possible that any other period can make the same impression on 
the memory. 

4- 1719. 

In the Spring of 1719, our class consisting of eleven, the 
number was always fixed in my memory, but one of the names 
I have forgotten, was removed to the upper school, and put 
under Holbrook 2 , a peevish and ill-tempered man. We were 
removed sooner than had been the custom ; for the head-master, 
intent upon his boarders, left the town-boys long in the lower 
school. Our removal was caused by a reproof from the Town- 
clerk ; and Hawkins complained that he had lost half his profit. 
At this removal I cried. The rest were indifferent. My exercise 
in Garretson was somewhere about the Gerunds. Our places in 
ysop and Helvicus I have totally forgotten. 

At Whitsuntide Mrs. Longworth brought me a 'Hermes Garret- 
soni,' of which I do not remember that I ever could make much 
use. It was afterwards lost, or stolen at school. My exercise 
was then in the end of the Syntax. Hermes furnished me with 
the word inliciturus, which I did not understand, but used it. 

This task was very troublesome to me ; I made all the twenty- 
five exercises, others made but sixteen. I never shewed all 
mine ; five lay long after in a drawer in the shop. I made an 
exercise in a little time, and shewed it my mother ; but the task 
being long upon me, she said, * Though you could make an 

1 'The usher or under-master of Johnson, 'very skilful in his little 
Lichfield School ; ' a man,' said way.' Life, i. 43. 2 Ib. i. 44. 


Annals. 139 

exercise in so short a time, I thought you would find it difficult 
to make them all as soon as you should.' 

This Whitsuntide, I and my brother were sent to pass some 
time at Birmingham I ; I believe, a fortnight. Why such boys 
were sent to trouble other houses, I cannot tell. My mother 
had some opinion that much improvement was to be had by 
changing the mode of life. My uncle Harrison was a widower ; 
and his house was kept by Sally Ford, a young woman of such 
sweetness of temper, that I used to say she had no fault. We 
lived most at uncle Ford's, being much caressed by my aunt, 
a good-natured, coarse woman, easy of converse, but willing to 
find something to censure in the absent. My uncle Harrison 
did not much like us, nor did we like him. He was a very mean 
and vulgar man, drunk every night 2 , but drunk with little drink, 
very peevish, very proud, very ostentatious, but, luckily, not rich. 
At my aunt Ford's I eat so much of a boiled leg of mutton, that 
she used to talk of it. My mother, who had lived in a narrow 
sphere, and was then affected by little things, told me seriously that 
it would hardly ever be forgotten. Her mind, I think, was after 
wards much enlarged, or greater evils wore out the care of less. 

I staid after the vacation was over some days ; and remember, 
when I wrote home, that I desired the horses to come on Thurs 
day of the first school week ; and then, and not till then, they 
should be welcome to go. I was much pleased with a rattle to 
my whip, and wrote of it to my mother. 

When my father came to fetch us home, he told the ostler, 
that he had twelve miles home 3 , and two boys under his care. 
This offended me. He had then a watch, which he returned 
when he was to pay for it 4 . 

In making, I think, the first exercise under Holbrook, I per 
ceived the power of continuity of attention, of application not 
suffered to wander or to pause. I was writing at the kitchen 

1 In 1700 the population of Bir- not thought the worse of.' Life, v. 59. 
mingham was 15,032; in 1731,23,286. 3 Lichfield was sixteen miles from 
Gentleman's Magazine, 1743, p. 539. Birmingham. 

2 * I remember (said Dr. Johnson) 4 Johnson, Hawkins believed, did 
when all the decent people in Lich- not have a watch till he was in his 
field got drunk every night and were fifty-ninth year. Ib. ii. 57, n. 4. 


140 Annals. 

windows, as I thought, alone, and turning my head saw Sally 
dancing. I went on without notice, and had finished almost 
without perceiving that any time had elapsed. This close atten 
tion I have seldom in my whole life obtained. 

In the upper-school, I first began to point my exercise, which 
we made noon's business. Of the method I have not so distinct 
a remembrance as of the foregoing system. On Thursday 
morning we had a lesson, as on other mornings. On Thursday 
afternoon, and on Saturday morning, we commonly made ex 
amples to the Syntax. 

We were soon raised from ^Esop to Phaedrus, and then said 
our repetition on Friday afternoon to Hunter. I remember the 
fable of the wolf and lamb, to my draught that I may drink. 
At what time we began Phaedrus, I know not. It was the only 
book which we learned to the end. In the latter part thirty 
lines were expected for a lesson. What reconciles masters to 
long lessons is the pleasure of tasking. 

Helvicus was very difficult : the dialogue Vestitus, Hawkins 
directed us to omit, as being one of the hardest in the book. As I 
remember, there was another upon food, and another upon fruits, 
which we began, and were ordered not to pursue. In the dialogue 
of Fruits, we perceived that Holbrook did not know the meaning 
of Uv& CrispcB x . That lesson gave us great trouble. I observed 
that we learned Helvicus a long time with very little progress. 
We learned it in the afternoon on Monday and Wednesday. 

Gladiolus Scriptorius. A little lapse 2 , we quitted it. I got 
an English Erasmus. 

In Phaedrus we tried to use the interpretation, but never 
attempted the notes. Nor do I remember that the interpreta 
tion helped us. 

In Phaedrus we were sent up twice to the upper master to be 
punished. The second time w r e complained that we could not 
get the passage. Being told that we should ask, we informed 
him that we had asked, and that the assistant would not tell us. 

1 In the British Museum there are copy of Gladiolus Scriptorius. 
some of Helvicus's works, but not, I = This seems an unusual expres- 
think, this one. Neither is there a sion. 







[The Fourth Edition. LONDON : Printed for T. CADELL 
in the Strand. M DCC LXXXVI] 


[MRS. PlOZZl writing in 1815, says: 'At Rome we received 
letters saying the book was bought with such avidity, that 
Cadell hadnot one copy left when the King sent for it at ten 
o'clock at night, and he was forced to beg one from a friend to 
supply his Majesty's impatience, who sate up all night reading it. 
I received 300, a sum unexampled in those days for so small 
a volume.' Hayward's Piozzi, ed. 1861, ii. 305. 

Horace Walpole wrote on March 28, 1786 (Letters, ix. 46) : 
'Two days ago appeared Madame Piozzi's Anecdotes of Dr. 
Johnson. I am lamentably disappointed in her, I mean ; not 
in him. I had conceived a favourable opinion of her capacity. 
But this new book is wretched ; a high-varnished preface to 
a heap of rubbish, in a very vulgar style, and too void of 
method even for such a farrago.' On April 30 he wrote: 
'As she must have heard that the whole first impression was 
sold the first day, no doubt she expects, on her landing, to 
be received like the Governor of Gibraltar [after the siege], and 
to find the road strewed with branches of palm. She, and 
Boswell, and their Hero are the joke of the public.' Ib. p. 49. 

According to the Gentleman s Magazine for March, 1786, 
p. 244 : ' On the third morning after the book was published 
not a copy of it could be obtained.' At least four editions were 
issued in the first year of publication. 

Hannah More wrote in April, 1786 : ' The Bozzi &c. subjects 
are not yet exhausted though everybody seems heartily sick of 
them. Everybody, however, conspires not to let them drop. 
That, and the Cagliostro and the Cardinal's Necklace spoil all 
conversation ; and destroyed a very good evening at Mr. Pepys's 
last night.' H. More's Memoirs, ii. 16. For the Cagliostro and 
the Cardinal's Necklace see Carlyle's Essays. 

Malone says of these Anecdotes : ' On the whole the public 
is indebted to her for her lively, though very inaccurate and 
artful account of Dr. Johnson.' Prior's Malone, p. 364.] 


I HAVE somewhere heard or read, that the Preface before a book, 
like the portico before a house, should be contrived, so as to 
catch, but not detain the attention of those who desire admission 
to the family within, or leave to look over the collection of 
pictures made by one whose opportunities of obtaining them 
we know to have been not unfrequent. I wish not to keep 
my readers long from such intimacy with the manners of 
Dr. Johnson, or such knowledge of his sentiments as these pages 
can convey. To urge my distance from England as an excuse 
for the book's being ill written, would be ridiculous ; it might 
indeed serve as a just reason for my having written it at all ; 
because, though others may print the same aphorisms and 
stories, I cannot here be sure that they have done so. As the 
Duke says however to the Weaver, in A Midsummer Night's 
Dream, ' Never excuse ; if your play be a bad one, keep at 
least the excuses to yourself 1 .' 

I am aware that many will say, I have not spoken highly 
enough of Dr. Johnson ; but it will be difficult for those who say 
so, to speak more highly, If I have described his manners as 
they were, I have been careful to shew his superiority to the 
common forms of common life. It is surely no dispraise to an 
oak that it does not bear jessamine ; and he who should plant 
honeysuckle round Trajan's column, would not be thought to 
adorn, but to disgrace it. 

When I have said, that he was more a man of genius than of 
learning, I mean not to take from the one part of his character 
that which I willingly give to the other. The erudition of 
Mr. Johnson proved his genius ; for he had not acquired it by 
long or profound study: nor can I think those characters the 
greatest which have most learning driven into their heads, any 

1 ' Never excuse ; for when the players are all dead there need none to be 
blamed.' Act v, sc. I, 1. 363. 



more than I can persuade myself to consider the river Jenisca x 
as superior to the Nile, because the first receives near seventy 
tributary streams in the course of its unmarked progress to the 
sea, while the great parent of African plenty, flowing from an 
almost invisible source, and unenriched by any extraneous waters, 
except eleven nameless rivers 2 , pours his majestic torrent into 
the ocean by seven celebrated mouths. 

But I must conclude my Preface, and begin my book, the first 
I ever presented before the Public ; from whose awful appear 
ance in some measure to defend and conceal myself, I have 
thought fit to retire behind the Telamonian shield 3 , and shew as 
little of myself as possible ; well aware of the exceeding differ 
ence there is, between fencing in the school and fighting in the 

field. Studious however to avoid offending, and careless of 

that offence which can be taken without a cause, I here not 
unwillingly submit my slight performance to the decision of 
that glorious country, which I have the daily delight to hear 
applauded in others, as eminently just, generous, and humane. 

1 The Yenisei. In Brookes's Gazet 
teer (1762) it is called the Jenisa. 

2 Had she read Johnson's transla 
tion of Lobo's Abyssinia she would 
not have made so absurd a state 

3 In this short Preface Johnson is 

an oak, Trajan's column, the Nile, 
and Ajax Telamonius. Mrs. Piozzi 
herself is the archer who retires 
behind his comrade's shield, because 
fencing in the school is so different 
from fighting in the field. 

VOL. I. 


TOO much intelligence is often as pernicious to Biography as 
too little ; the mind remains perplexed by contradiction of 
probabilities, and finds difficulty in separating report from truth. 
If Johnson then lamented that so little had ever been said about 
Butler *, I might with more reason be led to complain that so 
much has been said about himself; for numberless informers but 
distract or cloud information, as glasses which multiply will for 
the most part be found also to obscure. Of a life too, which 
for the last twenty years was passed in the very front of 
literature, every leader of a literary company, whether officer 
or subaltern, naturally becomes either author or critic, so that 
little less than the recollection that it was once the request of 
the deceased 2 , and twice the desire of those whose will I ever 
delighted to comply with, should have engaged me to add my 
little book to the number of those already written on the subject. 
I used to urge another reason for forbearance, and say, that all 
the readers would, on this singular occasion, be the writers of 
his life : like the first representation of the Masque of Comus, 
which, by changing their characters from spectators to per 
formers, was acted by the lords and ladies it was written to 
entertain 3 . This objection is however now at an end, as I have 

1 ' ' In the midst of obscurity passed can be told with certainty is that he 

the life of Butler, a man whose name was poor.' Johnson's Works, vii. 

can only perish with his language. 148. 

The mode and place of his education 2 See/^j-/, p. 166. 

are unknown, the events of his life 3 The Earl of Bridgewater's sons 

are variously related ; and all that and daughter. As she was ' about 

L 2, found 

148 Anecdotes. 

found friends, far remote indeed from literary questions, who 
may yet be diverted from melancholy by my description of 
Johnson's manners, warmed to virtue even by the distant re 
flexion of his glowing excellence, and encouraged by the relation 
of his animated zeal to persist in the profession as well as 
V practice of Christianity. 

SAMUEL JOHNSON was the son of Michael Johnson, a book 
seller at Litchfield, in Staffordshire ; a very pious and worthy 
man, but wrong-headed, positive, and afflicted with melancholy, 
as his son, from whom alone I had the information, once told 
me : his business, however, leading him to be much on horseback, 
contributed to the preservation of his bodily health, and mental 
sanity x ; which, when he staid long at home, would sometimes 
be about to give way ; and Mr. Johnson said, that when his 
work-shop, a detached building, had fallen half down for want 
of money to repair it, his father was not less diligent to lock the 
door every night, though he saw that any body might walk in at 
the back part, and knew that there was no security obtained 
by barring the front door. ' This (says his son) was madness, 
you may see, and would have been discoverable in other 
instances of the prevalence of imagination, but that poverty 
prevented it from playing such tricks as riches and leisure 
encourage.' Michael was a man of still larger size and greater 
strength than his son ; who was reckoned very like him 2 , but 
did not delight in talking much of his family ' one has (says 
he) so little pleasure in reciting the anecdotes of beggary V One 
day, however, hearing me praise a favourite friend with partial 
tenderness as well as true esteem ; ' Why do you like that man's 
acquaintance so?' said he: Because, replied I, he is open and 
confiding, and tells me stories of his uncles and cousins ; I love 
the light parts of a solid character. ' Nay, if you are for family 
history (says Mr. Johnson good-humouredly) / can fit you: 

thirteen years of age and her two written to entertain.' 

brothers were still younger,' it is I Life, i. 35, and ante, p. 132. 

absurd to describe them (even if 2 His likeness is given in Murray's 

there had been more than one lady) Johnsoniana, ed. 1836, p. 464. 

as ' the lords and ladies it was 3 Ante, p. 132. 

I had 



I had an uncle, Cornelius Ford, who, upon a journey, stopped and 
read an inscription written on a stone he saw standing by the 
way-side, set up, as it proved, in honour of a man who had 
leaped a certain leap thereabouts, the extent of which was 
specified upon the stone : Why now, says my uncle, I could leap 
it in my boots ; and he did leap it in his boots. I had likewise 
another uncle, Andrew,' continued he, ' my father's brother, who 
kept the ring in Smithfield (where they wrestled and boxed) for 
a whole year 1 , and never was thrown or conquered. Here now 
are uncles for you, Mistress 2 , if that's the way to your heart.' 
Mr. Johnson was very conversant in the art of attack and 
defence by boxing, which science he had learned from his uncle 
Andrew, I believe ; and I have heard him descant upon the age 
when people were received, and when rejected, in the schools 
once held for that brutal amusement, much to the admiration 
of those who had no expectation of his skill in such matters 3 , 
from the sight of a figure which precluded all possibility of 
personal prowess 4 ; though, because he saw Mr. Thrale one day 

1 By ' kept the ring ' Johnson, no 
doubt, meant 'held it against all 
comers.' Smithfield had fallen in dig 
nity from the days when Richard II 
charged heralds ' to publish in Eng 
land, Scotland, Germany, Flanders, 
Brabant, Hainault and France that 
a great joust should be held in it on 
the Sunday after the Feast of St. 
Michael, which day was called " the 
Sunday of the Feast of Challenge." ' 
Froissart's Chronicles, ed. 1816, iv. 

2 ' He used to mention Mrs. Thrale 
by the epithets Madam or my Mis 
tress' Life, i. 494. 

3 ' I am sorry,' he said, ' that prize 
fighting is gone out ; every art 
should be preserved, and the art of 
defence is surely important.' Ib. v. 

Figg, the prize fighter, told Chet- 
wood that he had not bought a shirt 
for more than twenty years. When 
he fought he sent round to a select 

number of his scholars to borrow one 
for the combat, and seldom failed of 
half a dozen from his prime pupils 
of the nobility and young gentry: each 
one thought that it was in his shirt 
the battle was fought. He informed 
his lenders of linen of the chasms 
their shirts received, and promised 
to send them home. * But/ said he, 
* I seldom received any other an 
swer than " Damn you, keep it." ' 
R. W. Chetwood, General History of 
the Stage, 1749, p. 60. 

Figg died in 1734. Gentleman's 
Magazine, 1734, p. 703. See ib. 
1731, p. 172, for his 'amphitheatre.' 

4 * Johnson told me that one night 
he was attacked in the street by four 
men, to whom he would not yield, 
but kept them all at bay till the 
watch came up, and carried both him 
and them to the Roundhouse.' Life, 
ii. 299. 

Bos well wrote of him in 1773 : 
' Few men have his intrepidity, Her- 



leap over a cabriolet stool r , to shew that he was not tired after 
a chace of fifty miles or more, he suddenly jumped over it too ; 
but in a way so strange and so unwieldy, that our terror lest 
he should break his bones, took from us even the power of 

Michael Johnson was past fifty years old when he married his 
wife, who was upwards of forty ; yet I think her son told me she 
remained three years childless before he was born into the world, 
who so greatly contributed to improve it. In three years more 
she brought another son, Nathaniel, who lived to be twenty- 
seven or twenty-eight years old 2 , and of whose manly spirit 
I have heard his brother speak with pride and pleasure, mention 
ing one circumstance, particular enough, that when the company 
were one day lamenting the badness of the roads, he enquired 
where they could be, as he travelled the country more than most 
people, and had never seen a bad road in his life 3 . The two 
brothers did not, however, much delight in each other's com 
pany 4 , being always rivals for the mother's fondness ; and many 

culean strength, or presence of mind.' 
Ib. v. 329. Mrs. Piozzi says (post, 
p. 224) : ( He had possessed an 
athletic constitution.' Perhaps she is 
now speaking of his state near the 
end of his life. 

1 A cabriolet (cut down into cab) 
was a late invention; the first instance 
of its use in the New Eng. Diet, being 
three years later than the publication 
of these Anecdotes. The stool, I con 
jecture, was used in getting into it. 

2 Michael Johnson was born in 
1656, his wife in 1669 ; they were 
married in 1706. Samuel was born 
in 1709, and Nathanael in 1712. 
Nathanael died in 1737. Life, i. 35, 
n. I ; iv. 393, n. 2. The father was 
born under the Commonwealth, the 
son lived to be kept waiting for his 
dinner by the Prince of Wales who 
was afterwards George IV. Ib. iv. 
270, n. 2. Michael was eighteen 
years old when Milton died ; when 

Samuel died Wordsworth was four 

3 Cave, the proprietor of the Gentle- 
marts Magazine, in the latter part of 
his life travelled a great deal on 
business. ' Time being more an ob 
ject to him than expense, and the 
luxury of turnpike roads being then 
but little known, [he died in 1754] he 
generally used four horses.' Nichols's 
Lit. Anec. v. 43. 

For Arthur Young's account in 
1768 of the 'detestable' and 'in 
fernal' roads see Life, iii. 135, n. I. 
Of the bye-roads in Ireland he writes 
in 1780 : ' They are the finest in the 
world.' Tour in Ireland, ed. 1892, 
i. 116. In 1787 he writes : ' If the 
French have not husbandry to shew 
us, they have roads.' Travels in 
France, ed. 1890, p. 7. 

4 Nathanael complained that his 
brother * scarcely used him with com 
mon civility. 3 Life, i. 90, n. 3. 



of the severe reflections on domestic life in Rasselas, took their 
source from its author's keen recollections of the time passed in 
his early years x . Their father Michael died of an inflammatory 
fever, at the age of seventy-six 2 , as Mr. Johnson told me : their 
mother at eighty-nine, of a gradual decay. She was slight in 
her person, he said, and rather below than above the common 
size. So excellent was her character, and so blameless her life, 
that when an oppressive neighbour once endeavoured to take 
from her a little field she possessed, he could persuade no 
attorney to undertake the cause against a woman so beloved in 
her narrow circle 3 : and it is this incident he alludes to in the 
line of his Vanity of Human Wishes, calling her 

The general favourite as the general friend. 

Nor could any one pay more willing homage to such a character, 
though she had not been related to him, than did Dr. Johnson 
on every occasion that offered : his disquisition on Pope's epitaph 
placed over Mrs. Corbet, is a proof of that preference always 
given by him to a noiseless life over a bustling one 4 ; for however 

No conquest she but o'er herself 

desir'd ; 
No arts essay'd, but not to be 

Passion and pride were to her soul 

Convinc'd that virtue only is our 

So unaffected, so compos'd a 

So firm, yet soft, so strong, yet 

so refin'd, 
Heav'n as its purest gold by 

tortures try'd ; 
The saint sustain'd it, but the 

woman dy'd.' 

Johnson, in his criticism on this 
epitaph, says : ' Domestick virtue, 
as it is exerted without great occa 
sions or conspicuous consequences, 
in an even unnoted tenour, required 
the genius of Pope to display it in 
such a manner as might attract re 
gard and enforce reverence.' Works, 
viii. 354. 


1 'Domestick discord,' answered 
the princess, * is not inevitably and 
fatally necessary; but yet it is not 
easily avoided. We seldom see that a 
whole family is virtuous: the good 
and evil cannot well agree : and the 
evil can yet less agree with one 
another : even the virtuous fall some 
times to variance, when their virtues 
are of different kinds and tending to 
extremes.' Rasselas, ch. xxvi. 

Admiring the harmony in the Bur- 
ney family, Johnson wrote : ' Of this 
consanguineous unanimity I have 
had never much experience ; but 
it appears to me one of the great 
lenitives of life.' Letters, ii. 237. 

2 He was seventy-five. 

3 Nevertheless Johnson never had 
a good word for an attorney. Life, 
ii. 126, . 4. 

4 ' Here rests a woman, good with 

out pretence, 

Blest with plain reason and with 
sober sense : 



taste begins, we almost always see that it ends in simplicity; 
the glutton finishes by losing his relish for any thing highly 
sauced, and calls for his boiled chicken at the close of many 
years spent in the search of dainties ; the connoisseurs are soon 
weary of Rubens x , and the critics of Lucan 2 ; and the refine 
ments of every kind heaped upon civil life, always sicken their 
possessors before the close of it. 

At the age of two years Mr. Johnson was brought up to 
London by his mother, to be touched by Queen Anne for the 
scrophulous evil, which terribly afflicted his childhood, and left 
such marks as greatly disfigured a countenance naturally harsh 
and rugged, beside doing irreparable damage to the auricular 
organs, which never could perform their functions since I knew 
him ; and it was owing to that horrible disorder, too, that one 
eye was perfectly useless to him ; that defect, however, was not 
observable, the eyes looked both alike. As Mr. Johnson had an 
astonishing memory, I asked him, if he could remember Queen 
Anne at all ? ' He had (he said) a confused, but somehow a sort 
of solemn recollection of a lady in diamonds, and a long black 
hood 3 .' 

The christening of his brother he remembered with all its 
circumstances, and said, his mother taught him to spell and 
pronounce the words little Natty, syllable by syllable, making 
him say it over in the evening to her husband and his guests. 
The trick which most parents play with their children, of shewing 
off their newly-acquired accomplishments, disgusted Mr. Johnson 
beyond expression ; he had been treated so himself, he said, till 

1 Sir Joshua Reynolds, writing approving nothing but what comes 

four years earlier than Mrs. Piozzi, from the Italian school.' 

thus finishes }\\s Journey to Flanders 2 'Mrs. Thrale's learning,' said 

and Holland'. ' To conclude, I will Johnson, ' is that of a school- boy in 

repeat in favour of Rubens, what one of the lower forms.' Life, i. 494. 

I have before said in regard to the The judgement passed by the critics 

Dutch school, that those who can- on Lucan she had perhaps learnt 

not see the extraordinary merit of this from Addison in the Guardian, 

great painter either have a narrow Nos. 115, 119. 

conception of the variety of art, or 3 Quoted in the Life, i. 43. 
are led away by the affectation of 



he absolutely loathed his father's caresses, because he knew they 
were sure to precede some unpleasing display of his early abilities ; 
and he used, when neighbours came o'visiting, to run up a tree 
that he might not be found and exhibited, such, as no doubt he 
was, a prodigy of early understanding. His epitaph upon the 
duck he killed by treading on it at five years old, 

Here lies poor duck 

That Samuel Johnson trod on ; 
If it had liv'd it had been good luck, 

For it would have been an odd one; 

is a striking example of early expansion of mind, and knowledge 
of language x ; yet he always seemed more mortified at the recol 
lection of the bustle 2 his parents made with his wit, than pleased 
with the thoughts of possessing it. * That (said he to me one 
day) is the great misery of late marriages 3 , the unhappy produce 
of them becomes the plaything of dotage : an old man's child 

1 Boswell made the following re 
cord in his note-book : ' Miss Por 
ter told me in Johnson's presence 
at Litch field, Monday, 25 March, 
1776, that his mother told her, 
that when he was in petticoats he 
was walking by his father's side & 
carelessly trode upon a duck, one of 
thirteen, & killed it. So then this 
duck, it was said to him, must be 
buried, & he must make an epitaph 
for it. Upon which he made these 
lines : 

" Under this stone lyes Mr. Duck, 
Whom Samuel Johnson trode on; 

He might have liv'd if he had luck, 
But then he'd been an odd one." 

Dr. Johnson said that his father 
made one half of this epitaph. That 
he was a foolish old man, that is to 
say was foolish in talking of his 
children. But I trust to his mother's 
relation of what happened in his child 
hood rather than to his own recollec 
tion ; and Miss Porter assured him, 
in my presence, upon his mother's 
authority, that he had made this 

epitaph himself. But he assures me, 
21 Sept., 1777, that he remembers 
his father making it.' Morrison 
Autographs, second series, i. 367. 
See Life, i. 40. 

Horace Walpole, with the words 
'expansion of mind' in view, 
writes : ' The Signora talks of her 
Doctor's expanded mind, and has 
contributed her mite to show that 
never mind was narrower.' Wai- 
pole's Letters, ix. 48. 

2 Bustle was a favourite word of 
Johnson's. See Letters, i. 196; ii. 
147, 164. 

In his last note on Coriolanus he 
says : ' There is perhaps too much 
bustle in the first act and too little in 
the last.' Reynolds perhaps caught 
the word from him, when he write 
of one of Rubens's pictures : ' The 
bustle, which is in every part of the 
picture, makes a fine contrast to the 
character of resignation in the cruci 
fied Saviour.' Reynolds's Works, 
ed. 1824, ii. 216. 

3 Life, ii. 128. 


154 Anecdotes. 

(continued he) leads much such a life, I think, as a little boy's 
dog, teized with awkward fondness, and forced, perhaps, to sit up 
and beg, as we call it, to divert a company, who at last go away 
complaining of their disagreeable entertainment.' In consequence 
of these maxims, and full of indignation against such parents as 
delight to produce their young ones early into the talking world, 
I have known Mr. Johnson give a good deal of pain, by refusing 
to hear the verses the children could recite, or the songs they 
could sing ; particularly one friend who told him that his two 
sons should repeat Gray's Elegy to him alternately, that he 
might judge who had the happiest cadence. c No, pray Sir (said 
he), let the dears both speak it at once ; more noise will by that 
means be made, and the noise will be sooner over.' He told me 
the story himself, but I have forgot who the father was x . 

Mr. Johnson's mother was daughter to a gentleman in the 
country, such as there were many of in those days, who possessing, 
perhaps, one or two hundred pounds a year in land, lived on the 
profits, and sought not to increase their income 2 : she was there 
fore inclined to think higher of herself than of her husband, 
whose conduct in money matters being but indifferent, she had 
a trick of teizing him about it, and was, by her son's account, 
very importunate with regard to her fears of spending more than 
they could afford, though she never arrived at knowing how 
much that was 3 ; a fault common, as he said, to most women 
who pride themselves on their ceconomy. They did not how 
ever, as I could understand, live ill together on the whole : * my 
father (says he) could always take his horse and ride away for 
orders when things went badly.' The lady's maiden name was 
Ford ; and the parson who sits next to the punch-bowl in 
Hogarth's Modern Midnight Conversation was her brother's 
son. This Ford was a man who chose to be eminent only for 

1 Perhaps Bennet Langton, who, Life, i. 35. (Boswell's use of yeo- 
it was said, would make his son re- manry is incorrect ; he should have 
peat the Hebrew alphabet to a guest. said yeomen.} Johnson describes 
Mme. D'Arblay's Diary, ii. 260. her as ' Antiqua Fordorum gente 

2 ' She was descended of an an- oriunda.' Ib. iv. 393, n. 2. 
cient race of substantial yeomanry.' 3 Ante, p. 133. 


Anecdotes. 155 

vice, with talents that might have made him conspicuous in 
literature, and respectable in any profession he could have 
chosen: his cousin has mentioned him in the lives of Fenton 
and of Broome * ; and when he spoke of him to me, it was 
always with tenderness, praising his acquaintance with life and 
manners, and recollecting one piece of advice that no man surely 
ever followed more exactly : ' Obtain (says Ford) some general 
principles of every science ; he who can talk only on one subject, 
or act only in one department, is seldom wanted, and perhaps 
never wished for ; while the man of general knowledge can often 
benefit, and always please V He used to relate, however, another 
story less to the credit of his cousin's penetration, how Ford on 
some occasion said to him, ' You will make your way the more 
easily in the world, I see, as you are contented to dispute no 
man's claim to conversation excellence ; they will, therefore, 
more willingly allow your pretensions as a writer.' Can one, on 
such an occasion, forbear recollecting the predictions of Boileau's 
father, when streaking the head of the young satirist, Ce petit bon 
homme (says he) ria \sic\ point trop d'esprit, mais il ne dira 
jamais mat de personne 3 . Such are the prognostics formed by 

1 In the Life of Fenton he de- that he understands the art of war, 
scribes Ford as ' a clergyman at that but I have no wish to make war upon 
time [1723] too well known, whose anybody. The world is full of wants, 
abilities, instead of furnishing con- and loves only those who can satisfy 
vivial merriment to the voluptuous them. It is false praise to say of 
and dissolute, might have enabled any one that he is skilled in poetry, 
him to excel among the virtuous and and a bad sign when he is quoted 
the wise.' Works, viii. 57. ' At his solely about verses." ' Quarterly 
college Broome lived for some time Review, No. 206, p. 306. See Les 
in the same chamber with the well- Pensees de Pascal, i. ix. 18. 

known Ford.' Ib. p. 229. See Life, 3 ' II fut e*lev jusqu'a 1'age de sept 

i. 49 ; iii. 348. Broome entered St. a huit ans dans la maison de son 

John's College, Cambridge, in 1708. pere, qui parcourant quelquefois les 

In the Gent. Mag., 1731, p. 354, is differens caracteres de ses enfans, 

recorded the death on August 22 of et surpris de 1'extreme douceur, de 

1 The Rev. Mr. Ford, esteem'd for la simplicite meme qu'il croyait re- 

his polite, agreeable conversation.' marquer en celui-ci, disait ordinaire- 

2 ' Paschal had before enforced ment de lui, par une espece d'opposi T 
the same maxim. " You tell me that tion aux autres, que c'etait un bon 
such a person is a good mathemati- gar$on qui ne dirait jamais mal de 
cian, but I have nothing to do with personne! CEuvres de Boileau, ed. 
mathematics. You assert of another 1747, i. xxxiv. 


156 Anecdotes. 

men of wit and sense, as these two certainly were, concerning 
the future character and conduct of those for whose welfare they 
were honestly and deeply concerned ; and so late do those 
features of peculiarity come to their growth, which mark a 
character to all succeeding generations. 

Dr. Johnson first learned to read of his mother and her old 
maid Catharine, in whose lap he well remembered sitting while 
she explained to him the story of St. George and the Dragon. 
I know not whether this is the proper place to add, that such 
was his tenderness, and such his gratitude, that he took a journey 
to Litchfield fifty-seven years afterwards to support and comfort 
her in her last illness * ; he had enquired for his nurse, and she 
was dead 2 . The recollection of such reading as had delighted 
him in his infancy, made him always persist in fancying that it 
was the only reading which could please an infant ; and he used 
to condemn me for putting Newbery's books into their hands as 
too trifling to engage their attention. ' Babies do not want (said 
he) to hear about babies ; they like to be told of giants and 
castles, and of somewhat which can stretch and stimulate their 
little minds.' When in answer I would urge the numerous 
editions and quick sale of Tommy Prudent or Goody Two 
Shoes 3 : f Remember always (said he) that the parents buy the 

1 Mrs. Piozzi is speaking of Cath- many little books for children : he 

erine Chambers, who died in 1767 called himself their friend, but he was 

(ante, p. 45). She and Johnson were the friend of all mankind.' 

of the same age ; moreover it was Johnson at Rochester maintained 

not till 'about 1724,' when he was 'that Jack the Giant-Killer, Pari- 

fifteen years old, that she came to senus and Parismenus, and The 

live with his mother. Ib. Seven Champions of Christendom 

8 Ante, p. 130. were fitter for children than Mrs. 

3 The author of Caleb Williams Barbauld and Mrs. Trimmer.' Life, 

[William Godwin], who had been a iv. 8. 

child's publisher himself, had always Boswell wrote on the fly-leaf of the 

a strong persuasion that Goldsmith first volume of a collection of Chap 

wrote Goody Two Shoes' Forster's Books which he bought in 1763 : 

Goldsmith, i. 346. Goldsmith intro- ' Having when a Boy been much 

duces Newbery in the Vicar of entertained with Jack the Giant 

Wakefield, ch. xviii, as ' the philan- Killer, I went to the Printing office 

thropic bookseller in St. Paul's in Bow Churchyard and bought this 

Church-yard, who has written so collection. I shall certainly, some 


Anecdotes. 157 

books, and that the children never read them.' Mrs. Barbauld 
however had his best praise, and deserved it ; no man was 
more struck than Mr. Johnson with voluntary descent from 
possible splendour to painful duty x . 

At eight years old he went to school, for his health would not 
permit him to be sent sooner 2 ; and at the age of ten years his 
mind was disturbed by scruples of infidelity, which preyed upon 
his spirits, and made him very uneasy ; the more so, as he 
revealed his uneasiness to no one, being naturally (as he said) 'of 
a sullen temper and reserved disposition.' He searched, however, 
diligently but fruitlessly, for evidences of the truth of revelation ; 
and at length recollecting a book he had once seen in his father's 
shop, intitled, De Veritate Religionis, &c. he began to think 
himself highly culpable for neglecting such a means of informa 
tion, and took himself severely to task for this sin, adding many 
acts of voluntary, and to others unknown, penance. The first 
opportunity which offered (of course) he seized the book with 
avidity ; but on examination, not finding himself scholar enough 
to peruse its contents, set his heart at rest ; and, not thinking to 
enquire whether there were any English books written on the 
subject, followed his usual amusements, and considered his 

time or other, write a little Story bery's hardly deigned to reach them 

Book in the style of these. I shall off an old exploded corner of a shelf, 

be happy to succeed, for he who when Mary asked for them. Mrs. 

pleases children will be remembered Barbauld's and Mrs. Trimmer's non- 

by men.' Sale Catalogue of the sense lay in piles about. . . Science 

Auchinleck Library, Sotheby & Co., has succeeded to poetry no less in 

June 23, 1893, Lot 91. the little walks of children than with 

1 'A voluntary descent from the men.' Lamb's Letters^ ed. 1888, i. 

dignity of science is perhaps the 189. 

hardest lesson that humility can 2 By the spring of 1719, when he 
teach.' Johnson's Works, viii. 385. was nine and a half, he had been in 
See also ib. vii. 99, 1 10 for ' a kind of the Grammar School ' two years and 
humble dignity ' which he praises in perhaps four months.' Ante, p. 138. 
Milton. For his abuse of Mrs. Bar- Before he went to this school he had 
bauld see Life, ii. 408. been under Tom Brown, who ' pub- 
Lamb wrote on Oct. 23, 1802: lished a spelling-book and dedicated 
' Mrs. Barbauld's stuff has ban- it to the Universe,' and earlier still 
ished all the old classics of the he had gone to Dame Oliver's 
nursery ; and the shopman at New- school. Life, i. 43. 


158 Anecdotes. 

conscience as lightened of a crime. He redoubled his diligence 
to learn the language that contained the information he most 
wished for; but from the pain which guilt had given him, he 
now began to deduce the soul's immortality, which was the 
point that belief first stopped at ; and from that moment re 
solving to be a Christian, became one of the most zealous and 
pious ones our nation ever produced x . When he had told me 
Ahis odd anecdote of his childhood ; ' I cannot imagine (said he) 
/ what makes me talk of myself to you so, for I really never 
I mentioned this foolish story to any body except Dr. Taylor, not 
\ , even to my dear dear Bathurst, whom I loved better than ever 
1 loved any human creature ; but poor Bathurst is dead ! ! ! 2 ' 
Here a long pause and a few tears ensued. Why Sir, said I, 
how like is all this to Jean Jaques Rousseau ! 3 as like, I mean, 
as the sensations of frost and fire, when my child complained 
yesterday that the ice she was eating burned her mouth. 
Mr. Johnson laughed at the incongruous ideas ; but the first 
thing which presented itself to the mind of an ingenious and 
learned friend whom I had the pleasure to pass some time with 
here at Florence, was the same resemblance, though I think the 
two characters had little in common, further than an early 
attention to things beyond the capacity of other babies, a keen 
sensibility of right and wrong, and a warmth of imagination 
little consistent with sound and perfect health. I have heard 
him relate another odd thing of himself too, but it is one which 
every body has heard as well as I : how, when he was about nine 
years old, having got the play of Hamlet in his hand, and reading 
it quietly in his father's kitchen, he kept on steadily enough, till 
coming to the Ghost scene, he suddenly hurried up stairs to the 
street door that he might see people about him 4 : such an 
incident, as he was not unwilling to relate it, is probably in 

1 For Boswell's criticism of 'this 4 He told Boswell also of this 
strange fantastical account ' see Life, terror that came upon him. Life^ 
i. 68, . 3. i. 70. In his Observations on Mac- 

The book entitled De Veritate beth he says : ' He that peruses 

Religionis was, no doubt, Grotius's Shakespeare looks round alarmed, 

work. and starts to find himself alone.' 

2 Ante, p. 29. Works, v. 71. 

3 In his Confessions. 


Anecdotes. 159 

every one's possession now ; he told it as a testimony to the 
merits of Shakespeare : but one day when my son was going to 
school, and dear Dr. Johnson followed as far as the garden gate, 
praying for his salvation x , in a voice which those who listened 
attentively could hear plain enough, he said to me suddenly, 
' Make your boy tell you his dreams : the first corruption that 
entered into my heart was communicated in a dream.' What 
was it, Sir? said I. 'Do not ask me/ replied he with much 
violence, and walked away in apparent agitation. I never durst 
make any further enquiries. He retained a strong aversion for 
the memory of Hunter, one of his schoolmasters, who, he said 
once, was a brutal fellow : so brutal (added he), that no man 
who had been educated by him ever sent his son to the same 
school.' I have however heard him acknowledge his scholarship 
to be very great 2 . His next master he despised, as knowing less 
than himself, I found ; but the name of that gentleman has 
slipped my memory 3 . Mr. Johnson was himself exceedingly 
disposed to the general indulgence of children, and was even 
scrupulously and ceremoniously attentive not to offend them 4 : 
he had strongly persuaded himself of the difficulty people always 
find to erase early impressions either of kindness or resentment, 
and said, ' he should never have so loved his mother when a man, 
had she not given him coffee s she could ill afford, to gratify his 
appetite when a boy.' If you had had children Sir, said I, would 
you have taught them any thing? 'I hope (replied he), that 
I should have willingly lived on bread and water to obtain 

1 For Johnson's love for the boy, a very able man, but an idle man, 
who died early, see Life, ii. 468, and and to me very severe. . . . Yet 
Letters, i. 383. he taught me a great deal.' Life, 

2 Johnson said of him : 'Abating i. 50. 

his brutality he was a very good 4 Boswell mentions ' Johnson's 

master.' Life, ii. 146. See also ib. love of little children, which he dis- 

i. 44. covered upon all occasions, calling 

3 Wentworth, master of Stour- them "pretty dears" and giving 
bridge school. According to Haw- them sweetmeats.' Ib. iv. 126. 
kins (p. 9) his real-name was Wink- 5 In the list of prices given in the 
worth, 'but affecting to be thought early numbers of the Gentleman's 
allied to the Strafford family, he Magazine, though six or seven quali- 
assumed the name of Wentworth.' ties of tea are included, I can find no 
Johnson told Boswell that ' he was mention of coffee. 


160 Anecdotes. 

instruction for them ; but I would not have set their future 
friendship to hazard for the sake of thrusting into their heads 
knowledge of things for which they might not perhaps have 
either taste or necessity. You teach your daughters the dia 
meters of the planets, and wonder when you have done that they 
do not delight in your company. No science can be communi 
cated by mortal creatures without attention from the scholar; 
no attention can be obtained from children without the infliction 
of pain x , and pain is never remembered without resentment.' 
That something should be learned, was however so certainly his 
opinion, that I have heard him say, how education had been often 
compared to agriculture, yet that it resembled it chiefly in this : 
' that if nothing is sown, no crop (says he) can be obtained.' His 
contempt of the lady who fancied her son could be eminent 
without study, because Shakespeare was found wanting in 
scholastic learning, was expressed in terms so gross and so 
well known, I will not repeat them here. 

To recollect, however, and to repeat the sayings of Dr. John 
son, is almost all that can be done by the writers of his life ; as 
his life, at least since my acquaintance with him, consisted in 
little else than talking, when he was not absolutely employed in 
some serious piece of work ; and whatever work he did, seemed 
so much below his powers of performance, that he appeared the 
idlest of all human beings ; ever musing till he was called out to 
converse, and conversing till the fatigue of his friends, or the 
promptitude of his own temper to take offence, consigned him 
back again to silent meditation 2 . 

1 ' Johnson upon all occasions ex- a book from the shelves ' and began, 
pressed his approbation of enforcing without further ceremony, to read to 
instruction by means of the rod.' himself, all the time standing at a 
Life, i. 46. distance from the company. We 

2 Most of this paragraph is quoted were all very much provoked, as we 
in the Life, iv. 343, 346. perfectly languished to hear him 

For his musing see ib. v. 73 and talk ; but it seems he is the most 
Letters, i. 359, n. 2, 388, n. 2, and silent creature, when not particularly 
Piozzi's Anecdotes, p. 208. drawn out, in the world.' Early 

Miss Burney describes how at a Diary of F. Burney, ii. 156. 
party at her father's house he took 




The remembrance of what had passed in his own childhood, 
made Mr. Johnson very solicitous to preserve the felicity of 
children ; and when he had persuaded Dr. Sumner to remit the 
tasks usually given to fill up boys' time during the holidays, he 
rejoiced exceedingly in the success of his negociation, and told 
me that he had never ceased representing to all the eminent 
schoolmasters in England, the absurd tyranny of poisoning the 
hour of permitted pleasure, by keeping future misery before the 
children's eyes, and tempting them by bribery or falsehood to 
evade it. 'Bob Sumner (said he), however, I have at length 
prevailed upon : I know not indeed whether his tenderness was 
persuaded, or his reason convinced, but the effect will always be 
the same.' Poor Dr. Sumner died, however, before the next 
vacation x . 

Mr. Johnson was of opinion, too, that young people should 
have positive not general rules given for their direction. ' My 
mother (said he) was always telling me that I did not behave 
myself properly ; that I should endeavour to learn behaviour , 
and such cant 2 : but when I replied, that she ought to tell me 
what to do, and what to avoid, her admonitions were commonly, 
for that time at least, at an end.' 

This, I fear, was however at best a momentary refuge, found 
out by perverseness. No man knew better than Johnson in how 
many nameless and numberless actions behavioiir consists : actions 
which can scarcely be reduced to rule, and which come under no 
description. Of these he retained so many very strange ones, 

1 Sumner was Head Master of 
Harrow School. He died of apo 
plexy in 1771 at the age of forty-one. 
Among his pupils were Dr. Parr, 
Sir William Jones, and R. B. Sheri 
dan. Field's Life of Parr, i. 16, 5 1, 58. 

2 See Life, iv. 221, n. I, for in 
stances of Johnson's use of the word 
cant. To these I would add the fol 
lowing : ' It is pleasant to remark 
how soon Pope learnt the cant of an 

VOL. I. M 

author.' Works, viii. 238. * Addison 
was not a man on whom such cant of 
sensibility could make much impres 
sion.' Ib. p. 248. ' The Persons of 
the Drama were first enumerated 
with all the cant of the modern stage 
by Mr. Rowe.' Johnson's Shake 
speare, ii. 352. 'When he calls the 
girl his only heaven on earth he 
utters the common cant of lovers.' 
Ib. iii. 133. 


162 Anecdotes. 

that I suppose no one who saw his odd manner of gesticulating, 
much blamed or wondered at the good lady's solicitude con 
cerning her son's behaviour. 

Though he was attentive to the peace of children in general, 
no man had a stronger contempt than he for such parents as 
openly profess that they cannot govern their children. * How 
(says he) is an army governed ? Such people, for the most part, 
multiply prohibitions till obedience becomes impossible, and 
authority appears absurd ; and never suspect that they tease 
their family, their friends, and themselves, only because con 
versation runs low, and something must be said.' 

Of parental authority, indeed, few people thought with a lower 
degree of estimation z . I one day mentioned the resignation of 
Cyrus to his father's will, as related by Xenophon, when, after 
all his conquests, he requested the consent of Cambyses to his 
marriage with a neighbouring princess ; and I added Rollin's 
applause and recommendation of the example. 'Do you .not 
perceive then (says Johnson), that Xenophon on this occasion 
commends like a pedant, and Pere \sic\ Rollin applauds like 
a slave ? If Cyrus by his conquests had not purchased emanci 
pation, he had conquered to little purpose indeed. Can you 
bear to see the folly of a fellow who has in his care the lives of 
thousands, when he begs his papa permission to be married, and 
confesses his inability to decide in a matter which concerns no 
man's happiness but his own 2 ? ' Mr. Johnson caught me another 

1 It was parental tyranny that might marry but by his father's and 
Johnson condemned. Life, i. 346, mother's also consent. Cyrus the 
n. 2 ; iii. 377. For his lament over Great, after he had conquered Baby- 
' the general relaxation of reverence ' Ion and subdued rich King Croesus, 
see ib. iii. 262. with whole Asia Minor, coming 

2 Ascham, before Rollin, * had ap- triumphantly home, his uncle Cyax- 
plauded like a slave.' In his School- ares offered him his daughter to 
master (Works, 1864, iii. 121) he wife. Cyrus thanked his uncle and 
writes : ' And see the great obedi- praised the maid ; but for marriage, 
ence that was used in old time to he answered him with these wise and 
fathers and governors. No son, were sweet words, as they be uttered by 
he never so old of years, never so great Xenophon, &c.' See Cyropaedia, 
of birth, though he were a king's son, viii. 5. 20. 



time reprimanding the daughter of my housekeeper for havin 
sat down unpermitted in her mother's presence x . * Why, sKe 
gets her living, does she not (said he), without her mother's^elp ? 
Let the wench alone/ continued he. And when we Y,^re again 
out of the women's sight who were concerned ir* the dispute: 
' Poor people's children, dear Lady (saiH L^j, never respect them : 
I did not respect my own mother, though I loved her : and one 
day, when in anger she called me a puppy, I asked her if she 
knew what they called a puppy's mother.' We were talking of 
a young fellow who used to come often to the house ; he was 
about fifteen years old, or less, if I remember right, and had 
a manner at once sullen and sheepish. ' That lad (says Mr. John 
son) looks like the son of a schoolmaster ; which (added he) is 
one of the very worst conditions of childhood : such a boy has no 
father, or worse than none ; he never can reflect on his parent 
but the reflection brings to his mind some idea of pain inflicted, 
or of sorrow suffered 2 .' 

I. will relate one thing more that Dr. Johnson said about 
babyhood before I quit the subject ; it was this : ' That little 
people should be encouraged always to tell whatever they hear 
particularly striking, to some brother, sister, or servant, im 
mediately before the impression is erased by the intervention 
of newer occurrences. He perfectly remembered the first time 
he ever heard of Heaven and Hell (he said), because when his 
mother had made out such a description of both places as she 

1 The following story is told of the 2 See Life, i. 44, n. 2 ; ii. 144, n. 2, 

' proud' Duke of Somerset who died for the brutality of the masters of 

in 1748 : ' His two youngest daugh- old. One of the characters in Tom 

ters were alternately obliged to stand Jones (bk. xi, ch. 7) represents her 

and watch him during his afternoon husband as asking her ' with the 

siesta. On one occasion, Lady Char- voice of a schoolmaster, or, what is 

lotte, being fatigued, sat down, when often much the same, of a tyrant.' 

the Duke awaking unexpectedly ex- A happy change has taken place, 

pressed his surprise at her disobe- I, at all events, the son of a school- 

dience, and declared he should re- master, can honestly say that the 

member her want of decorum in his reflection on my father does not 

will. He left this daughter ^20,000 bring to my mind a single idea of 

less than the other.' Addison's pain inflicted or of sorrow suffered. 
Works, v. 340, n. 3. 

M 2, thought 

164 Anecdotes. 

thought likely to seize the attention of her infant auditor, who 
was then in bed with her, she got up, and dressing him before 
the u\s.ual time, sent him directly to call a favourite workman in 
the houstTj to whom she knew he would communicate the con 
versation whils it was yet impressed upon his mind. The event 
was what she wished *', apd it was to that method chiefly that he 
owed his uncommon felicity of remembering distant occurrences, 
and long past conversations.' 

At the age of eighteen Dr. Johnson quitted school 2 , and 
escaped from the tuition of those he hated or those he despised. 
I have heard him relate very few college adventures. He used 
to say that our best accounts of his behaviour there would be 
gathered from Dr. Adams 3 and Dr. Taylor 4 , and that he was 
sure they would always tell the truth. He told me however one 
day, how, when he was first entered at the university, he passed 
a morning, in compliance with the customs of the place, at his 
tutor's chambers ; but finding him no scholar, went no more. 
In about ten days after, meeting the same gentleman, Mr. Jordan, 
in the street, he offered to pass by without saluting him ; but the 

^tutor stopped, and enquired, not roughly neither, What he had 
been doing ? * Sliding on the ice,' was the reply ; and so turned 

Vaway with disdain 5 . He laughed very heartily at the recollection 

1 Boswell, who had also heard this Master. Ib. i. 59. A copy of his 
story from Johnson, thus concludes : portrait has been lately hung in the 
' She sent him to repeat it to Hall of the College. 

Thomas Jackson, their man-servant ; 4 Johnson's schoolfellow and cor- 

he not being in the way, this was not respondent. Ib. i. 44. 

done.' Life, i. 38; ante, p. 135. 3 The tutor's name was Jorden. 

2 According to Boswell he went to Johnson, in telling this story to Bos- 
Stourbridge School at the age of well, added : ' 1 had no notion that 
fifteen, remained there little more I was wrong or irreverent to my 
than a year, and then spent two tutor.' Ib. i. 60. See also i. 272. 
years at home before he entered According to Hawkins (Lifeofjohn- 
college.' Ib. i. 49, 50, 56. This son, p. 9) Johnson once said to the 
would make him in his nineteenth same tutor : ' Sir, you have sconced 
year when he entered ; he was, how- [fined] me twopence for non-attend- 
ever, in his twentieth. Ib. i. 58, ance at a lecture not worth a penny. 3 
n. 3. Mr. Falconer Madan, one of the 

3 At that time one of the Fellows Sub- Librarians of the Bodleian, in- 
of Pembroke College ; afterwards the forms me that twopence was the 



of his own insolence, and said they endured it from him with 
wonderful acquiescence, and a gentleness that, whenever he 
thought of it, astonished himself. He told me too, that when 
he made his first declamation, he wrote over but one copy, and 
that coarsely; and having given it into the hand of the tutor 
who stood to receive it as he passed, was obliged to begin by 
chance and continue on how he could, for he had got but little of 
it by heart ; so fairly trusting to his present powers for immediate 
supply, he finished by adding astonishment to the applause of all 
who knew how little was owing to study x . A prodigious risque, 
however, said some one : ' Not at all (exclaims Johnson), no man 
I suppose leaps at once into deep water who does not know how 
to swim.' 

I doubt not but this story will be told by many of his 
biographers, and said so to him when he told it me on the 
j8th of July 1773 2 . ' And who will be my biographer (said he), 

sconce in the middle ages. Johnson, 
in his Dictionary, calls sconce ' a low 
word which ought not to be retained.' 

Adam Smith, who entered Oxford 
eleven years after Johnson left it, 
says : ' If the teacher happens to be 
a man of sense, it must be an un 
pleasant thing to him to be conscious, 
while he is lecturing his students, 
that he is either speaking or reading 
nonsense, or what is very little better 
than nonsense. It must, too, be un 
pleasant to him to observe that the 
greater part of his students desert 
his lectures ; or, perhaps, attend 
upon them with plain enough marks 
of neglect, contempt, and derision.' 
Wealth of Nations, ed. 1811, iii. 
171. 'No discipline,' he adds, 'is 
ever requisite to force attendance 
upon lectures which are really worth 
the attending, as is well known 
wherever any such lectures are 
given.' Ib. p. 172. 

1 He told Windham the same 
story. Letters, ii. 440. He was 
more careful with ' his first exercise 

at College,' for a ' certain apprehen 
sion arising from novelty made him 
write it twice over.' Life, i. 71 ; iv. 


2 Even so early as this he knew 
that Boswell intended to write his 
life. On April 1 1 of this year Bos- 
well records : ' I again solicited him 
to communicate to me the particulars 
of his early life. He said, " You 
shall have them all for two-pence. I 
hope you shall know a great deal 
more of me before you write my life." ' 
Ib. ii. 217. See also ib. i. 25 ; ii. 166. 
In the autumn of the same year he 
read the following passage in Bos- 
well's Journal : ' The Sunday even 
ing that we sat by ourselves at Aber 
deen, I asked him several particulars 
of his life, from his early years, which 
he readily told me ; and I wrote 
them down before him. This day 
I proceeded in my inquiries, also 
writing them in his presence. I have 
them on detached sheets. I shall 
collect authentick materials for THE 


1 66 Anecdotes. 

do you think ? ' Goldsmith, no doubt, replied I, and he will do 
it the best among us. ' The dog would write it best to be sure, 
replied he ; but his particular malice towards me, and general 
disregard for truth, would make the book useless to all, and 
injurious to my character.' Oh ! as to that, said I, we should all 
fasten upon him, and force him to do you justice x ; but the worst 
is, the Doctor does not know your life ; nor can I tell indeed 
who does, except Dr. Taylor of Ashbourne. * Why Taylor (said 
he) is better acquainted with my heart than any man or woman 
now alive ; and the history of my Oxford exploits lies all between 
him and Adams ; but Dr. James 2 knows my very early days 
better than he. After my coming to London to drive the world 
about a little, you must all go to Jack Hawkesworth for anec 
dotes 3 : I lived in great familiarity with him (though I think 
there was not much affection) from the year 1753 till the time 
Mr. Thrale and you took me up 4 . I intend, however, to dis 
appoint the rogues, and either make you write the life, with 
Taylor's intelligence ; or, which is better, do it myself, after out 
living you all. I am now (added he), keeping a diary, in hopes 
of using it for that purpose some time V Here the conversation 
stopped, from my accidentally looking in an old magazine of the 
year I768 6 , where I saw the following lines with his name to 
them, and asked if they were his. 

and, if I survive him, I shall be one 3 For the sense in which Johnson 

who will most faithfully do honour used the word anecdote see ib. ii. u, 

to his memory.' Life, v. 312. n. i. 

' Johnson found in James Boswell 4 The Adventurer, which Hawkes- 
such a biographer as no man but worth edited and to which Johnson 
himself ever had, or ever deserved contributed, was published in the 
to have. ... His Life of Johnson years 1753-4. In the Life of Swift 
may be termed without exception Johnson, mentioning Hawkesworth, 
the best parlour-window book that speaks of ' the intimacy of our friend- 
was ever written.' Scott's Misc. ship.' Works, viii. 192. TheThrales 
Works, ed. 1834, iii. 260. 'took Johnson up' in 1765. Life, 

1 See Forster's Goldsmith, ii. 380, i. 490, 520. 

for Forster's criticism of this pas- 5 The greater part of this 'was 

sage. consigned by him to the flames a 

2 The inventor of the powder few days before his death.' Ib. i. 25 ; 
which bears his name. He had iv. 405. 

been at school with Johnson. Life, 6 Gentleman's Magazine, 1768, p. 
i. 8 1 ; iii. 4. 439- 


Anecdotes. 167 

Verses said to be written by Dr. Samuel Johnson, at the 
request of a Gentleman to whom a Lady had given a Sprig 
of Myrtle. 

What hopes, what terrors, does thy gift create, 
Ambiguous emblem of uncertain fate : 
The Myrtle, ensign of supreme command, 
Consign'd by Venus to Melissa's hand, 
Not less capricious than a reigning fair, 
Now grants, and now rejects a lover's prayer 1 . 
In myrtle shades oft sings the happy swain, 
In myrtle shades despairing ghosts complain: 
The myrtle crowns the happy lovers' heads, 
Th' unhappy lover's grave the myrtle spreads: 
O then the meaning of thy gift impart, 
And ease the throbbings of an anxious heart ! 
Soon must this bough, as you shall fix his doom, 
Adorn Philanders head, or grace his tomb. 

* Why now, do but see how the world is gaping for a wonder ! 
(cries Mr. Johnson;) I think it is now just forty years ago 3 that 
a young fellow had a sprig of myrtle given him by a girl he 
courted, and asked me to write him some verses that he might 
present her in return. I promised, but forgot ; and when he 
called for his lines at the time agreed on Sit still a moment 
(says I), dear Mund 4 , and I'll fetch them thee so stepped aside 
for five minutes, and wrote the nonsense you now keep such 
a stir about V 

Upon revising these Anecdotes, it is impossible not to be 
struck with shame and regret that one treasured no more of 

1 In the Gentlemaris Magazine this 5 Johnson told Nichols also that 
line is given : he had written these verses in five 

'Oft favours, oft rejects a lover's minutes. Works, i. 128 n. 
prayer.' Boswell, who in his first edition, on 

2 ' Th' unhappy lovers graves.' Ib. ; the authority of the mendacious Miss 
but Boswell, who had seen the ori- Seward, ' was induced to doubt the 
ginal manuscript, gives it ' Th' un- authenticity ' of Mrs. Piozzi's anec- 
happy lovers' grave.' Life, i. 92. dote, says in a note to the second : 

3 It was in 1731. Ib. i. 93 n. 'I am obliged in so many instances 

4 It was Edmund Hector at whose to notice Mrs. Piozzi's incorrectness 
request these verses were written. of relation, that I gladly seize this 
For Johnson's habit of contracting opportunity of acknowledging, that 
the names of his friends, see ib. ii. however often, she is not always in- 
258. accurate.' Life, i. 93 . 


i68 Anecdotes. 

them up ; but no experience is sufficient to cure the vice of 
negligence: whatever one sees constantly, or might see con 
stantly, becomes uninteresting ; and we suffer every trivial occu 
pation, every slight amusement, to hinder us from writing down, 
what indeed we cannot chuse but remember ; but what we should 
wish to recollect with pleasure, unpoisoned by remorse for not 
remembering more. While I write this, I neglect impressing my 
mind with the wonders of art, and beauties of nature, that now 
surround me ; and shall one day, perhaps, think on the hours 
I might have profitably passed in the Florentine Gallery, and 
reflecting on Raphael's St. John at that time, as upon Johnson's 
conversation in this moment, may justly exclaim of the months 
spent by me most delightfully in Italy 

That I priz'd every hour that pass'd by, 

Beyond all that had pleas'd me before; 
But now they are past, and I sigh, 

And I grieve that I priz'd them no more. 


Dr. Johnson delighted in his own partiality for Oxford ; and 
one day, at my house, entertained five members of the other 
university with various instances of the superiority of Oxford, 
enumerating the gigantic names of many men whom it had 
produced, with apparent triumph 2 . At last I said to him, Why 
there happens to be no less than five Cambridge men in the 
room now. ' I did not (said he) think of that till you told me ; 
but the wolf don't count the sheep.' When the company were 
retired, we happened to be talking of Dr. Barnard, the Provost 
of Eton, who died about that time 3 ; and after a long and just 
eulogium on his wit, his learning, and his goodness of heart : 
' He was the only man too (says Mr. Johnson quite seriously) 

1 From A Pastoral Ballad in four have been overwhelmed. 

Parts. Shenstone's Poems, ed. 1854, 3 He died in Dec. 1781. Nichols's 

p. 150. Johnson quotes this verse in Lit, Anec. viii. 543. For the evening 

his Life of Shenstone. Mrs. Piozzi at Mrs. Vesey's when the company 

spoils the metre of the first line by collected round him and Johnson 

adding ' that.' four, if not five, deep,' see Life> iii. 

2 With the names of Bacon, Milton, 425. 
and Newton even Johnson would 




that did justice to my good breeding ; and you may observe that 
I am well-bred to a degree of needless scrupulosity *. No man, 
(continued he, not observing the amazement of his hearers) no 
man is so cautious not to interrupt another; no man thinks it 
so necessary to appear attentive when others are speaking 2 ; no 
man so steadily refuses preference to himself, or so willingly 
bestows it on another, as I do ; no body holds so strongly as I do 
the necessity of ceremony, and the ill effects which follow the 
breach of it : yet people think me rude ; but Barnard did me 
justice 3 .' Tis pity, said I, laughing, that he had not heard you 
compliment the Cambridge men after dinner to-day. 'Why 
(replied he) I was inclined to down 4 them sure enough ; but 
then a fellow deserves to be of Oxford that talks so.' I have 
heard him at other times relate how he used to sit in some 

coffee-house there, and turn M 's C-r-ct-u-s into ridicule for 

the diversion of himself and of chance comers-in. ' The Elf da 
(says he) was too exquisitely pretty ; I could make no fun out of 
that V When upon some occasions he would express his astonish- 

1 ' Every one,' says Lord Shaftes- 
bury, * thinks himself well-bred.' 
Characteristicks , ed. 1714, i. 65. 

For instances of scrupulosity, see 
Life, iv. 5, n, 2, and Letters, ii. 144, n. I. 
Richardson in Sir Charles Grandison, 
ed. 1754, v. 85, 90, puts it into the 
mouth of Mr. Selby who was remark 
able for ' peculiarities of words.' 

2 ' He encouraged others, particu 
larly young men, to speak, and paid 
a due attention to what they said.' 
Hawkins, p. 164. 

' Bien e"couter et bien re"pondre est 
une des plus grandes choses qu'on 
puisse avoir dans la conversation.' 
La Rochefoucauld, Maximes, No. 


3 See post, p. 3 1 8. ' Every man of 
any education,' said Johnson, ' would 
rather be called a rascal than accused 
of deficiency in the graces.' Life, 
iii. 54. ' Sir,' said Johnson to Bos- 
well, ' I look upon myself as a very 
polite man.' 'And he was right,' 

is Boswell's comment, ' in a proper 
manly sense of the word.' Ib. v. 363. 
'Theoretically,' writes Sir Walter 
Scott, * no man understood the rules 
of good breeding better than Dr. 
Johnson, or could act more exactly 
in conformity with them, when the 
high rank of those with whom he 
was in company for the time re 
quired that he should put the neces 
sary constraint upon himself.' Scott's 
Misc. Prose Works, ed. 1834, iii. 

4 See Life, iii. 335, where Johnson 
says : ' Robertson was in a mighty 
romantick humour, he talked of one 
whom he did not know; but I 
downed him with the King of 

Percy says that Johnson's habit of 
depreciating Cambridge men 'was 
more affected than real.' Anderson's 
Johnson, ed. 1815, p. 486. 

5 Boswell, who 'ever entertained 
a warm admiration' for Mason's 


170 Anecdotes. 

ment that he should have an enemy in the world *, while he had 
been doing nothing but good to his neighbours, I used to make 
him recollect these circumstances : ' Why child (said he), what 
harm could that do the fellow 2 ? I always thought very well of 
M n for a Cambridge man ; he is, I believe, a mighty blame 
less character.' Such tricks were, however, the more unpardon 
able in Mr. Johnson, because no one could harangue like him 
about the difficulty always found in forgiving petty injuries, or in 
provoking by needless offence. Mr. Jordan, his tutor, had much 
of his affection, though he despised his want of scholastic learning. 
' That creature would (said he) defend his pupils to the last : no 
young lad under his care should suffer for committing slight 
improprieties, while he had breath to defend, or power to protect 
them. If I had had sons to send to college (added he), Jordan 
should have been their tutor V 

Sir William Browne the physician, who lived to a very extra 
ordinary age, and was in other respects an odd mortal, with more 
genius than understanding, and more self-sufficiency than wit, 
was the only person who ventured to oppose Mr. Johnson, when 
he had a mind to shine by exalting his favourite university, and 
to express his contempt of the whiggish notions which prevail at 
Cambridge 4 . He did it once, however, with surprising felicity : 

Caractacus and Elfrida, ' often 3 When Johnson visited Oxford in 

wondered at Johnson's low estimation 1754, 'he much regretted that his 

of his writings.' Life, ii. 335. Mason first tutor [Jorden] was dead, for 

was a Cambridge man. whom he seemed to retain the 

Johnson in his Dictionary calls greatest regard.' Ib. i. 272. 

fun ' a low cant [slang] word.' In 4 Miss Burney records in May, 

Sir Charles Grandison, ed. 1754, i. 1772 : ' I have just left the famous 

96-7, it is used by an illiterate gentle- Sir William Browne in the parlour, 

man. a most extraordinary old man, who 

1 From a sick room he wrote to lives in the Square [Queen Square], 
Mrs. Thrale in the last year but one and is here on a visit. He has been 
of his life : ' I have in this still a very renowned physician ; whether 
scene of life great comfort in reflect- for saving or killing I cannot say. 
ing that I have given very few reason He is near eighty, and enjoys pro- 
to hate me.' Letter s> ii. 314. digious health and spirits, and is 

2 See Life t iv. 280, where he asks, gallant to the ladies to a most ridicu- 
* What harm does it do to any man lous degree. He never comes with- 
to be contradicted ? ' out repeating some of his verses.' 




his antagonist having repeated with an air of triumph the famous 
epigram written by Dr. Trapp r , 

Our royal master saw, with heedful eyes, 

The wants of his two universities : 

Troops he to Oxford sent, as knowing why 

That learned body wanted loyalty: 

But books to Cambridge gave, as, well discerning, 

That that right loyal body wanted learning. 

Which, says Sir William, might well be answered thus : 

The king to Oxford sent his troop of horse, 
For Tories own no argument but force ; 
With equal care to Cambridge books he sent, 
For Whigs allow no force but argument 2 . 

Early Diary of Frances Burney, i. 
177. He died on March 10, 1774, 
aged 82. Gentleman's Magazine, 
1774, p. 142. See ib. i775 P- 44 for 
the prizes of three gold medals which 
he founded at Cambridge for Greek 
and Latin verse. 

1 For a memoir of Dr. Joseph 
Trapp (1679-1747) see Gentleman's 
Magazine, 1786, pp. 381, 660. He 
was the first Professor of Poetry at 
Oxford. It is said that he was the 
original of Swift's 'little parson 
Dapper, who is the common relief 
to all the lazy pulpits in town. This 
smart youth has a very good memory, 
a quick eye, and a clean handker 
chief. Thus equipped, he opens his 
text, shuts his book fairly, shows he 
has no notes in his Bible, opens both 
palms and shews all is fair there 
too.' The Tatter, No. 66. Swift's 
Works, viii. 163. I cannot find any 
evidence besides Mrs. Piozzi's that 
he wrote this epigram. 

2 In Nichols's Lit. Anec. iii. 330 
the following versions are given : 

' The King, observing with judicious 

The state of his two universities ; 

To Oxford sent a troop of horse ; 

and why ? 

That learned body wanted loyalty ; 
To Cambridge books, as very well 

How much that loyal body wanted 


' The King to Oxford sent a troop of 

For Tories own no argument but 

force ; 
With equal skill to Cambridge books 

he sent, 

For Whigs admit no force but argu 

George I, in September, 1715, gave 
6,000 guineas for the library (30,000 
volumes) of John Moore, Bishop of 
Ely, who had died the previous year, 
and presented it to the University of 
Cambridge. Willis and Clark's 
Architectural History of Cambridge, 
iii. 29. A little later * an intercepted 
letter from an Oxford undergraduate 
to his friend in London boasts that 
" Here we fear nothing, but drink 
James's health every day." Colonel 
Owen and several other broken 
officers had taken shelter at the Uni 
versity, and were concerting measures 




Mr. Johnson did him the justice to say, it was one of the 
happiest extemporaneous productions he ever met with ; though 
he once comically confessed, that he hated to repeat the wit of 
a whig urged in support of whiggism. Says Garrick to him one 
day, Why did not you make me a tory, when we lived so much 
together x , you love to make people tories? ' Why (says Johnson, 
pulling a heap of halfpence from his pocket) did not the king 
make these guineas ? ' 

Of Mr. Johnson's toryism the world has long been witness, 
and the political pamphlets written by him in defence of his 
party, are vigorous and elegant. He often delighted his ima 
gination with the thoughts of having destroyed Junius, an 
anonymous writer who flourished in the years 1769, and 1770, 
and who kept himself so ingeniously concealed from every 
endeavour to detect him, that no probable guess was, I believe, 
ever formed concerning the author's name, though at that time 
the subject of general conversation 2 . Mr. Johnson made us all 

with the Heads of Houses, and pro 
jecting an insurrection . . . ; but 
Stanhope sent thither General Pepper 
with a squadron of dragoons. March 
ing all night, Pepper entered Oxford 
at day-break on the 6th of October, 
1715.' M ahon' s History of England, 
ed. 1839, i. 235. 

1 * True to his King and the Con 
stitution Garrick declined all disputes 
about Whig and Tory. Mr. Pelham 
was the minister whom he admired, 
as may be seen in his Ode on the 
death of that great man.' Murphy's 
Garrick, p. 379. For this Ode see 
Life, i. 269. 

2 Johnson attacked Junius in his 
pamphlet on Falkland^ Islands, pub 
lished in the early spring of 1771. 
Life, ii. 134; Works, vi. 198. The 
signature ' Junius ' first appeared on 
Nov. 21, 1768. The first Junius of 
the collected edition appeared on 
Jan. 21, 1769; the last on Jan. 21, 
1772. Diet. Nat. Biog., xx. 173. 

' Three men,' writes Horace Wai- 
pole, 'were especially suspected, 
Wilkes, Edmund Burke and W. G. 
Hamilton. Hamilton was most gene 
rally suspected.' Memoirs oj George 
III, iii. 401. Johnson said, ' I should 
have believed Burke to be Junius, 
because I know no man but Burke 
who is capable of writing these letters, 
but Burke spontaneously denied it to 
me.' Life, iii. 376. Burke, writing 
on this subject to Charles Townshend 
on Oct. 17, 1771, says : ' My friends 
I have satisfied ; my enemies shall 
never have any direct satisfaction 
from me.' Burke's Correspondence, 
i. 268. When Wilkes was charged 
with being the author ' Utinam scrip- 
sissem!' he replied, 'Would to 
Heaven I could have written them.' 
Wraxall's Memoirs, ed. 1815, i. 460. 
Mrs. Piozzi, in a marginal note on 
Wraxall, says : ' I well remember 
when they [Junius's Letter s\ were 
most talked of and N. [W] Seward 

Anecdotes. 173 

laugh one day, because I had received a remarkably fine Stilton 
cheese as a present from some person who had packed and 
directed it carefully, but without mentioning whence it came. 
Mr. Thrale, desirous to know who we were obliged to, asked 
every friend as they came in, but no body owned it : * Depend 
upon it, Sir (says Johnson), it was sent by Junius? 

The False Alarm, his first and favourite pamphlet 1 , was 
written at our house between eight o'clock on Wednesday night 
and twelve o'clock on Thursday night ; we read it to Mr. Thrale 
when he came very late home from the House of Commons 2 : 
the other political tracts followed in their order. I have for 
gotten which contains the stroke at Junius ; but shall for ever 
remember the pleasure it gave him to have written it. It was 
however in the year 1775 that Mr. Edmund Burke made the 
famous speech in parliament, that struck even foes with admira 
tion, and friends with delight 3 . Among the nameless thousands 
who are contented to echo those praises they have not skill to 
invent, / ventured, before Dr. Johnson himself, to applaud, with 
rapture, the beautiful passage in it concerning Lord Bathurst and 
the Angel 4 ; which, said our Doctor, had I been in the house, 
I would have answered thus : 

said, " How the arrows of Junius of them did you think the best ? " 

were sure to wound and likely to BOSWELL. " I liked the second best." 

stick." " Yes, sir," replied Dr. John- JOHNSON. " Why, Sir, I liked the first 

son ; " yet let us distinguish between best ; and Beattie liked the first best, 

the venom of the shaft and the vigour Sir, there is a subtlety of disquisition 

of the bow." At which expression in the first, that is worth all the fire 

Mr. Hamilton's countenance fell in of the second." ' Life, ii. 147. 

a manner that to me betrayed the 2 He was member for South wark 

author. Johnson repeated the ex- from December, 1765, till the disso- 

pression in his next pamphlet and lution in 1780. Par/. Hist. xv. 1089 ; 

Junius wrote no more.' Hayward's Life, iii. 442. 

Piczzi, 2nd ed., ii. 106. For John- 3 On Conciliation with America, 

son's repetition of this expression see March 22, 1775. 

Works, vi. 205. Junius, however, 4 Burke, describing ' the growth of 

continued to write. our national prosperity ' through our 

1 ' We talked of his two political trade with America, continues : ' It 

pamphlets, The False Alarm, and hashappened within sixty-eight years. 

Thoiights concerning Falkland's There are those alive whose memory 

Islands. JOHNSON. "Well, Sir, which might touch the two extremities. 

* Suppose 

174 Anecdotes. 

1 Suppose, Mr. Speaker, that to Wharton, or to Marlborough, or 
to any of the eminent whigs of the last age, the devil x had, not 
with any great impropriety, consented to appear ; he would 
perhaps in somewhat like these words have commenced the con 
versation : 

' You seem, my Lord, to be concerned at the judicious appre 
hension, that while you are sapping the foundations of royalty 
at home, and propagating here the dangerous doctrine of resis 
tance ; the distance of America may secure its inhabitants from 
your arts, though active: but I will unfold to you the gay 
prospects of futurity. This people, now so innocent and 
harmless, shall draw the sword against their mother country, 
and bathe its point in the blood of their benefactors ; this 
people, now contented with a little, shall then refuse to spare 
what they themselves confess they could not miss 2 ; and these 
men, now so honest and so grateful, shall, in return for peace 
and for protection, see 3 their vile agents in the house of par 
liament, there to sow the seeds of sedition, and propagate 
confusion, perplexity, and pain. Be not dispirited then at the 
contemplation of their present happy state : I promise you that 
anarchy, poverty, and death shall, by my care, be carried even 

For instance, my Lord Bathurst couth manners ; yet shall, before you 

might remember all the stages of the taste of death, show itself equal to 

progress. . . . Suppose, Sir, that the the whole of that commerce which 

angel of this auspicious youth . . . now attracts the envy of the world," ' 

If amidst these bright and happy &c. Payne's Burke, i. 172. 

scenes of domestic honour and pros- W. W. Pepys wrote to Hannah 

perity, that angel should have drawn More : ( I once heard a man say of 

up the curtain and unfolded the Burke, while he was pouring forth 

rising glories of his country, and, torrents of eloquence in the House of 

whilst he was gazing with admiration Commons, " How closely that fellow 

on the then commercial grandeur of reasons in metaphor ! " ' M ore's 

England, the Genius should point Memoirs, iii. 377. 

out to him a' little speck scarcely x ' I have always said the first 

visible in the mass of the national Whig was the Devil.' Life, iii. 326. 

interest, a small seminal principle, 2 What they refused to spare was 

rather than a formed body, and a contribution towards the expenses 

should tell him " Young man, there of the last French war. 

is America which at this day serves 3 See I have little doubt is a mis- 

for little more than to amuse you print for fee. 
with stories of savage men and un- 



across the spacious Atlantic, and settle in America itself, the 
sure consequences of our beloved whiggism.' 

This I thought a thing so very particular, that I begged his 
leave to write it down directly, before any thing could intervene 
that might make me forget the force of the expressions 1 : 
a trick, which I have however seen played on common occasions, 
"of sitting steadily 2 down at the other end of the room to write 
at the moment what should be said in company, either by 
Dr. Johnson or to him, I never practised myself, nor approved 
of in another. There is something so ill-bred, and so inclining 
to treachery in this conduct, that were it commonly adopted, 
all confidence would soon be exiled from society, and a con- 
versation assembly-room would become tremendous as a court 
)f justice 3 . A set of acquaintance joined in familiar chat may 
say a thousand things, which (as the phrase is) pass well 
enough at the time, though they cannot stand the test of critical 
examination ; and as all talk beyond that which is necessary to 
the purposes of actual business is a kind of game 4 , there will be 
ever found ways of playing fairly or unfairly at it, which distin- 

x ' Mrs. Thrale,' writes Boswell, 
' has published as Johnson's a kind 
of parody or counterpart of a fine 
poetical passage in one of Mr. Burke's 
speeches on American Taxation. It 
is vigorously but somewhat coarsely 
executed ; and I am inclined to sup 
pose, is not quite correctly exhibited. 
I hope he did not use the words 
" vile agents " for the Americans in 
the House of Parliament ; and if he 
did so, in an extempore effusion, I 
wish the lady had not committed it 
to writing.' Life, iv. 317. 

2 Perhaps Mrs. Piozzi wrote 
stealthily. Mr. Barclay said that 
'he had seen Boswell lay down 
his knife and fork, and take out his 
tablets in order to register a good 
anecdote.' Post in Mr. Barclay's 

3 Bishop Percy in a note on Ander- 
sor^s Johnson^. 6, says of Boswell : 
' It is surely an exception more than 

venial to violate one of the first and 
most sacred laws of society by pub 
lishing private and unguarded con 
versation of unsuspecting company 
into which he was accidentally ad 
mitted.' Percy had more than once 
suffered from this publication. Life, 
ii. 64; iii. 271. 

4 ' Sir, a game of jokes is composed 
partly of skill, partly of chance, a 
man may be beat at times by one 
who has not the tenth part of his 
wit.' Ib. ii. 231. 'And then also 
for men's reputation ; and that either 
in point of wisdom or of wit. There 
is hardly anything which (for the 
most part) falls under a greater 
chance. . . . Nay, even where there 
is a real stock of wit, yet the wittiest 
sayings and sentences will be found 
in a great measure the issues of 
chance, and nothing else but so many 
lucky hits of a roving fancy.' South's 
Sermons, ed. 1823, i. 218-220. 




guish the gentleman from the juggler. Dr. Johnson, as well as 
many of my acquaintance, knew that I kept a common-place 
book I ; and he one day said to me good-humouredly, that he 
would give me something to write in my repository. * I warrant 
(said he) there is a great deal about me in it : you shall have at 
least one thing worth your pains ; so if you will get the pen and 
ink, I will repeat to you Anacreon's Dove directly ; but tell at 
the same time, that as I never was struck with any thing in 
the Greek language till I read that, so I never read any thing 
in the same language since, that pleased me as much. I hope 
my translation (continued he) is not worse than that of Frank 
Fawkes V Seeing me disposed to laugh, ' Nay, nay (said he), 
Frank Fawkes had done them very finely.' 

Lovely courier of the sky, 
Whence and whither dost thou fly? 
Scatt'ring, as thy pinions play, 
Liquid fragrance all the way: 
Is it business? is it love? 
Tell me, tell me, gentle Dove. 

1 Boswell in his Tour to the He 
brides, which was published before 
the Anecdotes, had not attacked Mrs. 
Piozzi, so that her attack on him 
would seem unprovoked. She sus 
pected him, however, of being the 
author of anonymous attacks in the 
newspapers. In the Life, iv. 343, he 
replies : 

* I have had occasion several times, 
in the course of this work, to point out 
the incorrectness of Mrs. Thrale, as to 
particulars which consisted with my 
own knowledge. But indeed she has, 
in flippant terms enough, expressed 
her disapprobation of that anxious 
desire of authenticity which prompts 
a person who is to record conversa 
tions, to write them down at the 
moment. Unquestionably, if they 
are to be recorded at all, the sooner 
it is done the better. . . . She boasts 
of her having kept a common-place 
book ; and we find she noted, at one 
time or other, in a very lively manner, 

specimens of the conversation of 
Dr. Johnson, and of those who talked 
with him; but had she done it re 
cently, they probably would have 
been less erroneous ; and we should 
have been relieved from those dis 
agreeable doubts of their authenticity, 
with which we must now peruse 
them. 3 

' From 1776 to 1809 Mrs. Piozzi 
kept a copious diary and note-book 
called Thraliana? Hay ward's Pi 
ozzi, i. 6. 

2 Francis Fawkes was the author 
of The Brown Jug. Campbell's 
British Poets, ed. 1845, p. 544. In 
1761 he published Original Poems 
and Translations, for a copy of 
which on superfine paper Johnson 
subscribed. In conjunction with 
Woty, Fawkes published in 1763 The 
Poetical Calendar, to which Johnson 
contributed a character of Collins. 
Life, i. 382. 


Anecdotes. 177 

'Soft Anacreon's vows I bear, 
Vows to Myrtale the fair ; 
Grac'd with all that charms the heart, 
Blushing nature, smiling art. 
Venus, courted by an ode, 
On the bard her Dove bestow'd. 
Vested with a master's right 
Now Anacreon rules my flight: 
His the letters that you see, 
Weighty charge consign'd to me : 
Think not yet my service hard, 
Joyless task without reward : 
Smiling at my master's gates, 
Freedom my return awaits ; 
But the liberal grant in vain 
Tempts me to be wild again : 
Can a prudent Dove decline 
Blissful bondage such as mine? 
Over hills and fields to roam, 
Fortune's guest without a home; 
Under leaves to hide one's head, 
Slightly shelter'd, coarsely fed ; 
Now my better lot bestows 
Sweet repast, and soft repose ; 
Now the generous bowl I sip 
As it leaves Anacreon's lip; 
Void of care, and free from dread, 
From his fingers snatch his bread, 
Then with luscious plenty gay, 
Round his chamber dance and play ; 
Or from wine as courage springs, 
O'er his face extend my wings ; 
And when feast and frolick tire, 
Drop asleep upon his lyre. 
This is all, be quick and go, 
More than all thou canst not know ; 
Let me now my pinions ply, 
I have chatter'd like a pye.' 

When I had finished, * But you must remember to add (says 
Mr. Johnson) that though these verses were planned, and even 
begun, when I was sixteen years old, I never could find time to 
make an end of them before I was sixty-eight V 

1 He had perhaps shown these finished, to Miss Boothby in 1755 > 

verses, or as many of them as were for writing to him in that year she 

VOL. I. N This 



This facility of writing, and this dilatoriness ever to write, 
Mr. Johnson always retained, from the days that he lay a-bed 
and dictated his first publication l to Mr. Hector, who acted as 
his amanuensis, to the moment he made me copy out those 
variations in Pope's Homer which are printed in the Poets' 
Lives 2 : ' And now (said he, when I had finished it for him) 
I fear not Mr. Nichols 3 of a pin.' The fine Rambler on the 
subject of Procrastination was hastily composed, as I have 
heard, in Sir Joshua Reynolds's parlour, while the boy waited 
to carry it to press 4 : and numberless are the instances of 
his writing under immediate pressure of importunity or dis 
tress. He told me that the character of Sober s in the Idler, 
was by himself intended as his own portrait ; and that he had 
his own outset into life in his eye when he wrote the eastern 
story of Gelaleddin 6 . Of the allegorical papers in the Rambler, 
Labour and Rest 7 was his favourite ; but Serotinus, the man 

says : * I will tell you some time 
what I think of Anacreon.' An 
Account of the Life of Dr. Johnson, 
&c., 1805, p. 109. 

1 His translation of Lobo's Abys 
sinia. Life, i. 86. 

2 Works, viii. 256. 

3 The printer of the Lives. Life, 
iv. 36. The Life of Pope was one of 
the last to be written. Letters, ii. 
196, n. 5. In the proof of the Life 
of Johnson I found 'the following 
sentence in one of Johnson's letters 
to Mrs. Thrale, "I have finished 
Prior ; so a fig for Mr. Nichols." ' 
Boswell struck it out. 

4 The Rambler on Procrastination, 
No. 134, was published on June 29, 
1751. Reynolds left England for 
Italy in May, 1749, an ^ returned in 
October, 1752 (Taylor's Reynolds, i. 
35, 87), seven months after the last 
Rambler had appeared. 

For Johnson's hasty composition, 
see Life, i. 203, 331 ; iii. 42. He 
wrote part of the Lives of the Poets 
in the parlour at Stow Hill, 'sur 
rounded by five or six ladies engaged 

in work or conversation.' Letters, 
ii. 46 n. Miss Boothby wrote to him 
in 1754 : ' You can write amidst the 
tattle of women, because your atten 
tion is so strong to sense that you 
are deaf to sound.' An Account of 
the Life of Dr. Johnson, &c., 1805, 
i. 80. 

5 Idler, No. 31. Life, iii. 398, n. 3. 

6 Ib. No. 75. Gelaleddin is a 
Persian student ' amiable in his 
manners and beautiful in his form, 
of boundless curiosity, incessant dili 
gence, and irresistible genius, of quick 
apprehension and tenacious memory, 
accurate without narrowness and 
eager for novelty without inconstancy. 
..." I will instruct the modest," he 
said, " with easy gentleness, and re 
press the ostentatious by seasonable 
superciliousness." . . . He was some 
times admitted to the tables of the 
viziers, where he exerted his wit and 
diffused his knowledge; but he ob 
served that where by endeavour or 
accident he had remarkably excelled 
he was seldom invited a second time.' 

7 No. 33. It contains a passage 



who returns late in life to receive honours in his native country, 
and meets with mortification instead of respect, was by him 
considered as a masterpiece in the science of life and manners r . 
The character of Prospero in the fourth volume, Garrick took to 
be his 2 ; and I have heard the author say, that he never forgave 
the offence. Sophron was likewise a picture drawn from 
reality 3 ; and by Gelid us the philosopher, he meant to represent 
Mr. Coulsori, a mathematician, who formerly lived at Rochester 4 . 
The man immortalised for purring like a cat was, as he told me, 
one Busby, a proctor in the Commons 5 . He who barked so 
ingeniously, and then called the drawer to drive away the dog, 
was father to Dr. Salter of the Charterhouse 6 . He who sung 
a song and by correspondent motions of his arm chalked out 
a giant on the wall, was one Richardson, an attorney 7 . The 
letter signed Sunday, was written by Miss Talbot 8 ; and he 

which being, I suspect, borrowed by 
Rogers suggested to Dickens, as he 
confessed, in his Old Curiosity Shop, 
1 the beautiful thought of Nell's grand 
father wandering about after her 
death as if looking for her.' Johnson 
describes how where Rest came, 
* Nothing was seen on every side but 
multitudes wandering about they 
knew not whither, in quest they knew 
not of what.' Rogers writes in his 
Italy ', Ginevra : 

' And long was to be seen 
An old man wandering as in quest 

of something, 
Something he could not find he 

knew not what.' 

1 No. 165. The rich man describ 
ing his deliberations about his return 
to his native town says : ' The ac 
clamations of the populace I purposed 
to reward with six hogsheads of ale 
and a roasted ox, and then recom 
mend to them to return to their 

2 No. 200. Life, i. 216. 

3 Idler, No. 57. 

4 Rambler, No. 24 ; Life, i. 101. 


5 Doctors' Commons, the College 
of Civilians in London who practised 
in the Ecclesiastical Courts and the 
Court of Admiralty. 

6 Dr. Salter's father belonged to 
Johnson's Ivy Lane Club. Life, i. 
191, n. 5. Hawkins describes him as 
' a dignitary of the Church ; he was 
well-bred, courteous and affable.' 
Hawkins's Johnson, p. 220. 

7 ' One I have known for fifteen 
years the darling of a weekly club 
because every night, precisely at 
eleven, he begins his favourite song, 
and during the vocal performance 
by corresponding motions of his hand 
chalks out a giant upon the wall. 
Another has endeared himself to a 
long succession of acquaintances by 
purring like a cat and then pretend 
ing to be frighted ; and another by 
yelping like a hound and calling to 
the drawers to drive out the dog.' 
Rambler, No. 188. 

8 No. 30. For Miss Talbot, see 
Carter and Talbot Correspondence, 
vol. i. Preface, p. 6. 

2, fancied 

180 Anecdotes. 

fancied the billets in the first volume of the Rambler, were sent 
him by Miss Mulso, now Mrs. Chapone *. The papers contributed 
by Mrs. Carter 2 , had much of his esteem, though he always 
blamed me for preferring the letter signed Chariessa to the 
allegory, where religion and superstition are indeed most 
masterly delineated. 

When Dr. Johnson read his own satire, in which the life of 
a scholar is painted, with the various obstructions thrown in his 
way to fortune and to fame, he burst into a passion of tears one 
day 3 : the family and Mr, Scott only were present, who, in 
a jocose way, clapped him on the back, and said, What's all this 
my dear Sir ? Why you, and I, and Hercules, you know, were all 
troubled with melancholy. As there are many gentlemen of the 
same name, I should say, perhaps, that it was a Mr. Scott who 
married Miss Robinson, and that I think I have heard Mr. Thrale 
call him George Lewis, or George Augustus 4 , I have forgot 
which. He was a very large man, however, and made out the 
trumvirate with Johnson and Hercules comically enough. The 
Doctor was so delighted at his odd sally, that he suddenly 
embraced him, and the subject was immediately changed. 
I never saw Mr. Scott but that once in my life. 

Dr. Johnson was liberal enough in granting literary assistance 
to others, I think ; and innumerable are the prefaces, sermons, 
lectures, and dedications which he used to make for people who 
begged of him 5 . Mr. Murphy related in his and my hearing 

1 No. 10. For Mrs. Chapone see . 4. Horace Wai pole wrote on Nov. 
Life, iv. 246. 19, 1750 (Letters, ii. 232) : 'There 

2 Nos. 44 and 100. For Mrs. is a new preceptor, one Scott, recom- 
Carter see Life, i. 122. mended by Lord Bolingbroke.' See 

3 Vanity of Human Wishes, 11. also ib. p. 316. 

135-164. 'The deep and pathetic Miss Robinson was Mrs. Mon- 

morality of the Vanity of Human tagu's sister. See post in Anecdotes 

Wishes' says Sir Walter Scott, ' has of Hannah More. 

often extracted tears from those s Boswell quotes this in the Life, 

whose eyes wander dry over pages iv. 344, in contrast with Mrs. Piozzi's 

professedly sentimental.' Scott's Misc. assertion (post, p. 279) that ' Johnson 

Works, ed. 1834, iii. 264. would not stir a finger for the assis- 

4 George Lewis Scott, who had tanceof those to whom he was willing 
been sub-preceptor to George III, enough to give advice,' c. 

when Prince of Wales. Life, iii. 117, 


Anecdotes. 181 

one day, and he did not deny it, that when Murphy joked him 
the week before for having been so diligent of late between 
Dodd's sermon and Kelly's prologue, that Dr. Johnson replied, 
' Why, Sir, when they come to me with a dead stay-maker and 
a dying parson, what can a man do 1 ?' He said, however, that 
' he hated to give away literary performances, or even to sell 
them too cheaply 2 : the next generation shall not accuse me 
(added he) of beating down the price of literature : one hates, 
besides, ever to give that which one has been accustomed to sell ; 
would not you, Sir (turning to Mr. Thrale), rather give away 
money than porter ? ' 

Mr. Johnson had never, by his own account, been a close 
student 3 , and used to advise young people never to be without 
a book in their pocket, to be read at bye-times when they had 
nothing else to do. ' It has been by that means (said he to 
a boy at our house one day) that all my knowledge has been 
gained, except what I have picked up by running about the 
world with my wits ready to observe, and my tongue ready 
to talk 4 . A man is seldom in a humour to unlock his book-case, 

1 In 1777 he wrote a Prologue to given it.' Ib. iii. in, n. i. See also 
A Word to the Wise by Hugh Kelly ib. i. 341, n. 3. 

a play which had been damned in 3 ' Sir, in my early years I read 

1770, but was revived for one night very hard. It is a sad reflection, but 

for the benefit of the author's widow a true one, that I knew almost as 

and children. Life, iii. 113. Kelly much at eighteen as I do now.' Ib. 

served his apprenticeship to a Dublin i. 445. * I never knew a man who 

stay-maker. Chalmers's Biog. Diet. studied hard. I conclude indeed 

xix. 292. from the effects that some men have 

The same summer Johnson wrote studied hard, as Bentley and Clarke.' 

The Convict's Address to his tmhappy Ib. i. 71. He told the King that 'he 

Brethren for Dr. Dodd, who was had read a great deal in the early 

under sentence of death. Life,\\\. 141. part of his life, but having fallen into 

2 'No man but a blockhead,' he ill-health he had not been able to 
said, ' ever wrote except for money.' read much compared with others.' 
Ib. iii. 19. He often sold his own Ib. ii. 36. Nevertheless Adam Smith 
works far too cheaply. For the told Boswell that ' Johnson knew 
Lives of the Poets he asked only two more books than any man alive.' 
hundred guineas. 'Had he asked Ib. i. 71. 

one thousand, or even fifteen hundred 4 'He said to me,' writes Boswell, 
guineas,' writes Malone, ' the book- ' that before he wrote the Rambler 
sellers would doubtless have readily he had been " running about the 




set his desk in order, and betake himself to serious study ; but 
a retentive memory will do something, and a fellow shall have 
strange credit given him, if he can but recollect striking passages 
from different books, keep the authors separate in his head, and 
bring his stock of knowledge artfully into play * : How else 
(added he) do the gamesters 2 manage when they play for more 
money than they are worth?' His Dictionary, however, could 
not, one would think, have been written by running up and 
down ; but he really did not consider it as a great performance ; 
and used to say, ' that he might have done it easily in two years, 
had not his health received several shocks during the time V 

When Mr. Thrale, in consequence of this declaration, teized 
him in the year 1 768 to give a new edition of it, because (said 
he) there are four or five gross faults 4 : 'Alas, Sir (replied 

world," as he expressed it, more 
almost than any body.' Life, i. 215. 
A writer in the Monthly Review, 
N. S. xx. p. 21, who had known 
Johnson, says : ' He always pre 
ferred conversation to reading, though 
it were with the lowest mechanics ; 
and he constantly listened to pro 
fessional men with respect. His dis 
putes were chiefly with those pre 
tenders to that knowledge and science 
of which he was himself at least 
equally qualified to judge.' Quoted 
in Anderson's Johnson, ed. 1815, p. 


1 It was by this method that at 
Fort George he talked with the 
officers of granulating gunpowder, 
* and made a very good figure upon 
these topicks.' Life, v. 124. 

2 Gamester has been long sup 
planted by gambler, under which 
word Johnson writes in his Dictionary, 
' a cant word (I suppose) for game 
and gamester! 

3 He told Dr. Adams that he ex 
pected to do it in three years. Ib. i. 
1 86. He took seven or eight. We 

have no account of his ill-health 
during that time. His wife's long 
illness and death came in the midst, 
and so too did all his Ramblers. 

4 In the Scots Magazine for 1761, 
p. 693, is a short list of words with 
the following heading : * A Scotch 
gentleman caused a friend wait of 
[sic] Mr. Johnson with a list of words 
suspected to be wrong accented in 
his dictionary ; and was favoured 
with the following corrections marked 
by Mr. Johnson's own hand.' The 
errors seem to have been most, if 
not all, those of the printer. 

When Reynolds asked him why 
he had not in his second edition 
corrected a certain error, he replied, 
' No, they made so much of it that 
I would not flatter them by altering 
it.' Life, i. 293, n. 2. In the Abridge 
ment which he made himself the 
erroneous definition of pastern re 
mains, and leeward and windward 
are still both defined as towards the 
wind. In Murray's Johnsoniana, 
1836, p. 467, an error in a reference 
is pointed out which has not been 


Johnson), there are four or five hundred faults, instead of four or 
five ; but you do not consider that it would take me up three 
whole months labour, and when the time was expired, the work 
would not be done.' When the booksellers set him about it 
however some years after, he went cheerfully to the business, 
said he was well paid, and that they deserved to have it done 
carefully x . His reply to the person who complimented him on 
its coming out first 2 , mentioning the ill success of the French in 
a similar attempt, is well known ; and, I trust, has been often 
recorded: 'Why, what would you expect, dear Sir (said he), 
from fellows that eat frogs 3 ?' I have however often thought 
Dr. Johnson more free than prudent in professing so loudly his 
little skill in the Greek language 4 : for though he considered it 
as a proof of a narrow mind to be too careful of literary reputa 
tion, yet no man could be more enraged than he, if an enemy, 
taking advantage of this confession, twitted him with his 
ignorance ; and I remember when the king of Denmark was in 
England 5 , one of his noblemen was brought by Mr. Colman 6 

corrected even in Todd's edition. 
1 It occurs in definition 13 of the 
verb To sit * Asses are ye that sit 
in judgment,' Judges, v. 10. The 
verse is : " Speak, ye that ride on 
white asses, ye that sit in judgment, 
and walk by the way." ' 

1 It was published in 1773. Life, 
ii. 203. On March 4 of that year he 
wrote of it : ' I have mended some 
faults, but added little to its useful 
ness.' Ib. p. 209. I cannot account 
for the following advertisement which 
I found in the London Chronicle for 
Feb. 13-15, 1776. 'A New edition 
revised by the Author. This day 
was published in 2 vols. folio, price 
^4. 10, bound, the fourth edition of 
Mr. Samuel Johnson's Dictionary! 

2 Mrs. Piozzi means of course ' who 
complimented him when it first came 

3 When, on Johnson's undertaking 
to finish the Dictionary in three 

years, Dr. Adams pointed out that 
'the French Academy, which con 
sists of forty members, took forty 
years to compile their Dictionary? 
he replied : Sir, thus it is. This is 
the proportion. Let me see ; forty 
times forty is sixteen hundred. As 
three to sixteen hundred, so is the 
proportion of an Englishman to a 
Frenchman.' Life, i. 186. 

4 Ib. iv. 384. 

5 In August, 1768. Horace Wai- 
pole wrote on the l6th of that 
month : ' This great King is a very 
little one; not ugly, nor ill-made. 
He has the sublime strut of his 
grandfather [George II] or of a cock- 
sparrow ; and the divine white eyes 
of all his family by the mother's side.' 
Walpole's Letters, v. 122. 

6 George Colman was to be Pro 
fessor of Latin in the College which 
the Literary Club was to set up in 
St. Andrews. Life, v. 108. 


184 Anecdotes. 

to see Dr. Johnson at our country-house ; and having heard, he 
said, that he was not famous for Greek literature, attacked him 
on the weak side ; politely adding, that he chose that conversa 
tion on purpose to favour himself. Our Doctor, however, dis 
played so copious, so compendious a knowledge of authors, 
books, and every branch of learning in that language, that the 
gentleman appeared astonished. When he was gone home (says 
Johnson), ' Now for all this triumph, I may thank Thrale's 
Xenophon here, as, I think, excepting that one> I have not 
looked in a Greek book these ten years ; but see what haste my 
dear friends were all in (continued he) to tell this poor innocent 
foreigner that I knew nothing of Greek ! Oh, no, he knows 
nothing of Greek ! ' with a loud burst of laughing. 

When Davies printed the Fugitive Pieces without his know 
ledge or consent ' ; How, said I, would Pope have raved, had he 
been served so ? * We should never (replied he) have heard the 
last on't, to be sure ; but then Pope was a narrow man : I will 
however (added he) storm and bluster myself a little this time ' ; 
so went to London in all the wrath he could muster up. At 
his return I asked how the affair ended : ' Why (said he), I was 
a fierce fellow, and pretended to be very angry, and Thomas was 
a good-natured fellow, and pretended to be very sorry : so there 
the matter ended : I believe the dog loves me dearly. Mr. Thrale 
(turning to my husband), what shall you and I do that is good 
for Tom Davies ? We will do something for him, to be sure V 

Of Pope as a writer he had the highest opinion, and once 
when a lady at our house talked of his preface to Shakespeare 

1 In Johnson's absence in Scotland Ib. iii. 223. The Rev. John Hussey 
Davies ' published two volumes, en- has the following manuscript mar- 
titled Miscellaneous and Fugitive ginal note on this passage : ' About 
Pieces ', which he advertised in the this time I met poor Davies in the 
newspapers " By the Authour of the street, and enquiring earnestly after 
Rambler." ' Life, ii. 270. our common friend, Doctor Johnson 

2 ' Tom Davies had now unfortun- (for I had been absent from Town 
ately failed in his circumstances, four months), Davies burst into tears 
and was much indebted to Dr. John- and replied, " God for ever bless him. 
son's kindness for obtaining for him I am beholden to that good man for 
many alleviations of his distress.' the bread I eat and the bed I lie on." ' 


Anecdotes. 185 

as superior to Pope's : 1 1 fear not, Madam (said he), the little 
fellow has done wonders V His superior reverence of Dryden 
notwithstanding still appeared in his talk as in his writings 2 ; 
and when some one mentioned the ridicule thrown on him in 
the Rehearsal, as having hurt his general character as an author : 
' On the contrary (says Mr. Johnson), the greatness of Dryden's 
reputation is now the only principle of vitality which keeps the 
duke of Buckingham's play from putrefaction 3 .' 

It was not very easy however for people not quite intimate 
with Dr. Johnson, to get exactly his opinion of a writer's merit, 
as he would now and then divert himself by confounding those 
who thought themselves obliged to say to-morrow what he had 
said yesterday ; and even Garrick, who ought to have been better 
acquainted with his tricks, professed himself mortified, that one 
time when he was extolling Dryden in a rapture that I suppose 
disgusted his friend 4 , Mr. Johnson suddenly challenged him to 
produce twenty lines in a series that would not disgrace the poet 
and his admirer 5 . Garrick produced a passage that he had once 
heard the Doctor commend, in which he now found, if I re 
member rightly, sixteen faults, and made Garrick look silly at 
his own table. When I told Mr. Johnson the story, ' Why, what 

1 ' Pope's preface,' Johnson says, For The Rehearsal see Johnson's 
' every editor has an interest to sup- Works, vii. 272, and Life, ii. 168. 
press but that every reader would 4 * I do not know for certain,' said 
demand its insertion.' Works, v. 137. Mrs. Thrale, 'what will please Dr. 
also ib. viii. 272. Johnson ; but I know for certain that 

2 For his estimate of Pope and it will displease him to praise any- 
Dryden see Life, ii. 5, 85, and Works, thing, even what he likes, extrava- 
viii. 325. gantly.' Life, iii. 225. One day he 

3 ' Talking of the Comedy of The said to her : ' I know nobody who 
Rehearsal, he said : " It has not wit blasts by praise as you do ; for when- 
enough to keep it sweet." This was ever there is exaggerated praise 
easy ; he therefore caught himself, everybody is set against a character.' 
and pronounced a more round sen- Ib. iv. 81. 

tence; "It has not vitality enough to 5 'Dryden's faults of negligence 

preserve it from putrefaction." ' Life, are beyond recital. Such is the un- 

iv. 320. evenness of his compositions that ten 

South says in his Sermons, iii. lines are seldom found together with- 

398 : 'They have souls so dull and out something of which the reader is 

stupid as to serve for little else but to ashamed.' Works, vii. 344. 
keep their bodies from putrefaction.' 

a monkey 



a monkey was David now (says he), to tell of his own disgrace ! ' 
And in the course of that hour's chat he told me, how he used to 
teize Garrick by commendations of the tomb scene in Congreve's 
Mourning Bride, protesting that Shakespeare had in the same 
line of excellence nothing as good : ' All which is strictly true 
(said he) ; but that is no reason for supposing Congreve is to 
stand in competition with Shakespeare I : these fellows know not 
how to blame, nor how to commend.' I forced him one day, in 
a similar humour, to prefer Young's description of Night to the 
so much admired ones of Dryden and Shakespeare, as more 
forcible, and more general. Every reader is not either a lover 
or a tyrant, but every reader is interested when he hears that 

Creation sleeps ; 'tis as the general pulse 
Of life stood still, and nature made a pause ; 
An awful pause prophetic of its end 2 . 

1 Life, ii. 85, 96. * The noble pas 
sage which Johnson, both in writing 
and in conversation, extolled above 
any other in the English drama has 
suffered greatly in the public estima 
tion from the extravagance of his 
praise.' Macaulay's Essays, ed. 1843, 
iii. 294. 

2 ' her end.' Night Thoughts, i. 23. 
1 All things are hush'd, as Nature's 

self lay dead, 
The Mountains seem to nod their 

drowsy head ; 
The little Birds in dreams their 

Songs repeat, 
And sleeping Flowers beneath the 

night- dew sweat ; 
Ev'n Lust and Envy sleep, yet Love 

Rest to my Soul and slumber to my 


Dryden, The Indian Emperoiir, Act 
iii. sc. 2. 

' Now o'er the one half-world 
Nature seems dead, and wicked 

dreams abuse 
The curtain'd sleep ; now witchcraft 


Pale Hecate's offerings, and wither'd 


Alarum'd by his sentinel, the wolf. 
Whose howl 's his watch, thus with 

his stealthy pace, 
With Tarquin's ravishing strides, 

towards his design 
Moves like a ghost.' 

Macbeth, ii. i. 49. 

Johnson in a note on this last passage 
says: 'Night is described by two 
great poets, but one describes a 
night of quiet, the other of perturba 
tion. In the night of Dryden all the 
disturbers of the world are laid 
asleep ; in that of Shakespeare no 
thing but sorcery, lust and murder is 
awake. He that reads Dryden finds 
himself lull'd with serenity, and dis 
posed to solitude and contemplation. 
He that peruses Shakespeare looks 
round alarmed, and starts to find 
himself alone. One is the night of a 
lover, the other of a murderer.' 

In his Life of Dryden he says of 
that poet's description of night that 
' Rymer has made it famous by pre 
ferring it to those of all other poets.' 


Anecdotes. 187 

* This (said he) is true ; but remember that taking the com 
positions of Young in general, they are but like bright stepping- 
stones over a miry road : Young froths, and foams, and bubbles 
sometimes very vigorously ; but we must not compare the noise 
made by your tea-kettle here with the roaring of the ocean V 

Somebody was praising Corneille one day in opposition to 
Shakespeare : * Corneille is to Shakespeare (replied Mr. Johnson) 
as a clipped hedge is to a forest.' When we talked of Steele's 
Essays, ' They are too thin (says our Critic) for an Englishman's 
taste : mere superficial observations on life and manners, without 
erudition enough to make them keep, like the light French wines, 
which turn sour with standing a while for want of body, as we 
call it.' 

Of a much admired poem, when extolled as beautiful (he 
replied), 'That it had indeed the beauty of a bubble: the 
colours are gay (said he), but the substance slight.' Of James 
Harris's Dedication to his Hermes I have heard him observe, 
that, though but fourteen lines long, there were six grammatical 
faults in it 2 . A friend was praising the style of Dr. Swift ; 
Mr. Johnson did not find himself in the humour to agree with 

Works, vii. 249. 'Rymer at that to guide him, are throughout false 

time [1694],' says Dr. Warton, 'gave and contradictory. The verses of 

the Law to all writers, and was ap- Uryden, once highly celebrated, are 

pealed to as a supreme judge of all forgotten ; those of Pope still retain 

works of Taste and Genius.' Pope's their hold upon public estimation.' 

Works, ed. 1822, v. 173. Wordsworth's Works, ed. 1857, vi. 

Wordsworth, writing of ' the poetry 370. 

of the period intervening between x 'Dr. Johnson said that there 

the publication of the Paradise Lost were very fine things in Young's 

and the Seasons,' says : * To what Night Thoughts, though you could 

a low state knowledge of the most not find twenty lines together without 

obvious and important phenomena some extravagance.' Life, v. 269. 

had sunk is evident from the style in 2 ' I looked into Harris's book,' 

which Dryden has executed a de- said Johnson, 'and thought he did 

scription of Night in one of his not understand his own system.' Id. 

tragedies, and Pope his translation iii. 245. The Dedication as given in 

of the celebrated moonlight scene in the second edition is more than thirty 

the Iliad. . . . Dryden's lines are lines long. The chief fault in it 

vague, bombastic and senseless ; seems to be the mixed use of ' Your 

those of Pope, though he had Homer Lordship ' and ' you.' 




him x : the critic was driven from one of his performances to the 
other. At length you must allow me, said the gentleman, that 
there are strong facts in the account of the Four last Years of 
Queen Anne : ' Yes surely Sir (replies Johnson), and so there are 
in the Ordinary of Newgate's account 2 .' This was like the story 
which Mr. Murphy tells, and Johnson always acknowledged: 
How Dr. Rose of Chiswick, contending for the preference of 
Scotch writers over the English, after having set up his authors 
like nine-pins, while the Doctor kept bowling them down again ; 
at last, to make sure of victory, he named Ferguson upon Civil 
Society, and praised the book for being written in a new manner 3 . 
* I do not (says Johnson) perceive the value of this new manner ; 
it is only like Buckinger, who had no hands, and so wrote with 
his feet V Of a modern Martial 5 when it came out : ' There are 
in these verses (says Dr. Johnson) too much folly for madness, 
I think, and too much madness for folly.' If, however, Mr. John 
son lamented, that the nearer he approached to his own times, 
the more enemies he should make, by telling biographical truths 

1 For Johnson's opinion of Swift's 
style see Life, ii. 191, and Works, 
viii. 220. 

a ' " Surely, Sir, (said Dr. Douglas,) 
you must allow it has strong facts." 
JOHNSON : ** Why yes, Sir ; but what 
is that to the merit of the composi 
tion ? In the Sessions-paper of the 
Old Bailey there are strong facts. 
Housebreaking is a strong fact; 
robbery is a strong fact ; and murder 
is a mighty strong fact ; but is great 
praise due to the historian of those 
strong facts ? No, Sir. Swift has 
told what he had to tell distinctly 
enough, but that is all. He had 
to count ten, and he has counted it 
right." ' Life, ii. 65. 

3 For Dr. Rose see Letters, ii. 325, 
n. 4, and for ' an imaginary victory ' 
obtained by him over Johnson, Life, 
iv. 1 68 . 

Of Dr. Adam Fergusson's Essay 
on the History of Civil Society Gray 

says : ' His love of Montesquieu and 
Tacitus has led him into a manner 
of writing too short-winded and sen 
tentious.' Mason's Gray, 1807, ii. 
223. See also Life, v. 42, n. I, and 
Bentham's Works, x. 64. 

4 Horace Walpole describes a 
paper as being ' written in a hand as 
small as Buckinger's, who used to 
write the Lord's Prayer in the com 
pass of a silver penny.' P. Cun 
ningham, in a note on this, says : 
' Matthew Buckinger, born 1674, 
without hands or feet, died 1722. 
There is a print of him drawn and 
written by himself, with the book of 
Psalms engraved on the curls of his 
large flowing periwig.' Walpole's 
Letters, iv. 159. 

5 By James Elphinston. * His 
brother-in-law, Strahan, sent him a 
subscription of fifty pounds, and said 
he would send him fifty more, if he 
would not publish.' Life, iii. 258. 


Anecdotes. 189 

in his Lives of the later Poets *, what may I not apprehend, who, 
if I relate anecdotes of Mr. Johnson, am obliged to repeat ex 
pressions of severity, and sentences of contempt ? Let me at 
least soften them a little, by saying, that he did not hate the 
persons he treated with roughness, or despise them whom he 
drove from him by apparent scorn. He really loved and re 
spected many whom he would not suffer to love him. And 
when he related to me a short dialogue that passed between 
himself and a writer of the first eminence in the world, when he 
was in Scotland, I was shocked to think how he must have 

disgusted him. Dr. asked me (said he) why I did not join 

in their public worship when among them ? for (said he) I went 
to your churches often when in England. * So (replied Johnson) 
I have read that the Siamese sent ambassadors to Louis Quatorze, 
but I never heard that the king of France thought it worth his 
while to send ambassadors from his court to that of Stam 2 .' 
He was no gentler with myself, or those for whom I had the 
greatest regard. When I one day lamented the loss of a first 
cousin killed in America ' Prithee, my dear (said he), have done 
with canting : how would the world be worse for it, I may ask, if 
all your relations were at once spitted like larks, and roasted for 
Presto's supper 3 ? ' Presto was the dog that lay under the table 

1 ' The necessity of complying with Life, iii. 336. For the King of Siam 
times, and of sparing persons, is the see Voltaire's Sihle de Louis XIV, 
great impediment of biography. . . . ch. xiv. 

What is known can seldom be im- 3 For Baretti's account of what 

mediately told ; and when it might was said see Life, iv. 347 ; also 

be told, it is no longer known. . . . Prior's Malone, p. 398. For the 

As the process of these narratives is name Presto see Letters, i. 151, n. 2. 

now bringing me among my con- The dog is mentioned in the follow- 

temporaries, I begin to feel myself ing anecdote told by Baretti of ' poor 

walking upon ashes under which little Harry Thrale, some months be- 

the fire is not extinguished," and fore the boy died.' ' " Harry," said 

coming to the time of which it will his father to him on entering the 

be proper rather to say " nothing that room, " are you listening to what the 

is false, than all that is true." ' Doctor and mamma are about ? " 

Works, vii. 444. " Yes, papa," answered the boy. 

2 It was at Allan Ramsay's house "And," quoth Mr. Thrale, "what 
in London, more than four years are they saying ? " " They are dis- 
after Johnson's tour in Scotland, that puting," replied Harry; "but mamma 
this ' short dialogue passed.' The has just such a chance against Dr. 
eminent writer was Dr. Robertson. Johnson as Presto would have if he 




while we talked. When we went into Wales together, and spent 
some time at Sir Robert Cotton's at Lleweny x , one day at dinner 
I meant to please Mr. Johnson particularly with a dish of very 
young peas. Are not they charming ? said I to him, while he 
was eating them. ' Perhaps (said he) they would be so to 
a pig 2 .' I only instance these replies, to excuse my mentioning 
those he made to others. 

When a well-known author 3 published his poems in the year 
1777.* Such a one's verses are come out, said I: 'Yes (replied 
Johnson), and this frost has struck them in again. Here are 
some lines I have written to ridicule them : but remember that 
I love the fellow dearly, now for all I laugh at him 4 . 

Wheresoe'er I turn my view, 
All is strange, yet nothing new: 
Endless labour all along, 
Endless labour to be wrong; 
Phrase that Time has flung away; 
Uncouth words in disarray, 
Trick'd in antique ruff and bonnet, 
Ode, and elegy, and sonnet.' 

were to fight Dash." Dash was a 
large dog, and Presto but a little 
one. The laugh this innocent obser 
vation produced was so very loud 
and hearty that Madam, unable to 
stand it, quitted the room in such 
a mood as was still more laughable 
than the boy's pertinent remark, 
though she muttered, " it was very 
impertinent." ' Croker's fioswell, 
ed. 1844, x. 37. 

1 Life, v. 435. 

2 In a marginal note on this Mrs. 
Piozzi writes : 'meaning because 
they were too little boiled.' Hay- 
ward's Piozzi, ii. 295. 

3 Thomas Warton, who published 
a volume of poems in 1777. On 
Sept. 1 8 of that year Boswell re 
cords : ' Dr. Johnson observed, that 
a gentleman of eminence in literature 
had got into a bad style of poetry of 

late. " He puts," said he, "a very 
common thing in a strange dress, 
till he does not know it himself, and 
thinks other people do not know 
it.'" Life, iii. 158. 

Hume in his History of England 
(ed. 1773, v. 492, vi. 195) says : 
* Several writers of late have amused 
themselves in copying the style of 
Spenser; and no imitation has been 
so indifferent as not to bear a great 
resemblance to the original : His 
manner is so peculiar that it is almost 
impossible not to transfer some of it 
into the copy . . . Raleigh is the best 
model of that ancient style which 
some writers would affect to revive 
at present.' See also Beattie's Essays 
on Poetry and Music, ed. 1 779, p. 226. 

4 For Warton's estrangement, 
which 'Johnson lamented with tears 
in his eyes,' see Life, i. 270, n. i. 




When he parodied the verses of another eminent writer x , it 
was done with more provocation, I believe, and with some merry 
malice. A serious translation of the same lines, which I think 
are from Euripides, may be found in Burney's History of Music 2 . 
Here are the burlesque ones : 

Err shall they not, who resolute explore 
Times gloomy backward with judicious eyes ; 
And scanning right the practices of yore, 
Shall deem our hoar progenitors unwise. 

They to the dome where smoke with curling play 
Announc'd the dinner to the regions round, 
Summon'd the singer blythe, and harper gay, 
And aided wine with dulcet-streaming sound. 

The better use of notes, or sweet or shrill, 
By quiv'ring string, or modulated wind; 
Trumpet or lyre to their harsh bosoms chill, 
Admission ne'er had sought, or could not find. 

1 Thomas Gray. Gray's friend 
Bonstetten was walking with him 
about the year 1 769, ' when he ex 
claimed with bitterness, " Look, look, 
Bonstetten ! the great bear ! There 
goes Ursa Major?" This was 
Johnson. Gray could not abide him.' 
Sir Egerton Brydges's Autobio 
graphy, ii. 394. 

2 Medea, 11. 193-206. 

The translation in Burney's History 
of Music, 1782, ii. 340, is also by 
Johnson. See Works, i. 142 n. It 
is as follows : 

' The rites deriv'd from ancient days 
With thoughtless reverence we 


The rites that taught us to combine 
The joys of music and of wine, 
And bad the feast and song and bowl 
O'erfill the saturated soul ; 
But n'er the Flute or Lyre apply'd 
To cheer despair or soften pride, 
Nor calFd them to the gloomy cells 
Where Want repines and Vengeance 

Where Hate sits musing to betray 

And Murder meditates his prey. 

To dens of guilt and shades of care 

Ye sons of Melody repair, 

Nor deign the festive dome to cloy 

With superfluities of joy. 

Ah, little needs the Minstrel's pow'r 

To speed the light convivial hour, 

The board with varied plenty 

May spare the luxuries of sound.' 

A General History of Music, by 
Charles Burney. 

' Mr. Norgate, the publisher, has a 
specimen of Porson's minute writing, 
comprising in a circle of an inch and 
a half in diameter the Greek verses 
on music from the Medea, with John 
son's translation of them, in all more 
than 220 words, with a considerable 
space left blank in the centre. It is 
written on vellum, a portion of a leaf 
which fell from the Photius which 
he copied.' J. S. Watson's Porson, 
p. 422. 


I 9 2 


Oh! send them to the sullen mansions dun, 
Her baleful eyes where Sorrow rolls around ; 
Where gloom-enamour'd Mischief loves to dwell, 
And Murder, all blood-bolter'd, schemes the wound. 
When cates luxuriant pile the spacious dish, 
And purple nectar glads the festive hour; 
The guest, without a want, without a wish, 
Can yield no room to Music's soothing pow'r. 

Some of the old legendary stories put in verse by modern 
writers provoked him to caricature x them thus one day at 
Streatham ; but they are already well-known, I am sure. 

The tender infant, meek and mild, 

Fell down upon the stone; 
The nurse took up the squealing child, 

But still the child squeal'd on 2 . 

A famous ballad also, beginning Rio verde, Rio verde, when 
I commended the translation of it, he said he could do it better 
himself as thus : 

Glassy water, glassy water, 
Down whose current clear and strong, 
Chiefs confus'd in mutual slaughter, 
Moor and Christian roll along 3 . 

1 Caricature is not in Johnson's 

2 Wordsworth says of the imitators 
of the Reliques, and of Johnson's 
attack on the old ballads : ' The 
critic triumphed, the legendary imi 
tators were deservedly disregarded, 
and as undeservedly, their ill-imitated 
models sank in this country into 
temporary neglect ... Dr. Percy was 
so abashed by the ridicule flung upon 
his labours . . . that, though while 
he was writing under a mask he had 
not wanted resolution to follow his 
genius into the regions of true sim- 
p.icity and genuine pathos . . . yet 
when he appeared in his own person 
and character as a poetical writer, 
he adopted, as in the tale of the 
Hermit of Warkworth, a diction 
scarcely in any one of its features 
distinguishable from the vague, the 

glossy, and unfeeling language of 
his day.' Wordsworth's Works, ed. 
1857, vi. 372. 

Percy himself described his Re- 
liques as ' such a strange collection 
of trash.' Nichols's Literary History, 
vii. 577. 

Johnson had helped Percy in the 
publication of the Reliques. Life, 
iii. 276, n. 2 ; Letters, i. 89. 
3 ' Rio verde, rio verde, 

Quanto cuerpo en ti se bana 
De Cristianos y de Moros 

Muertos por la dura espada.' 
* Gentle river, gentle river, 
Lo, thy streams are stain 'd 

with gore ! 

Many a brave and noble captain 
Floats along thy willow'd 


Reliques of Ancient English Poetry, 
vol. i. Bk. iii. No. 16. 


Anecdotes. 193 

But Sir, said I, this is not ridiculous at all. ' Why no (replied 
he), why should I always write ridiculously? perhaps because 
I made these verses to imitate such a one, naming him : 

Hermit hoar, in solemn cell, 
Wearing out life's evening gray; 
Strike thy bosom, sage! and tell 
What is bliss, and which the way? 
Thus I spoke, and speaking sigh'd, 
Scarce repress'd the starting tear, 
When the hoary Sage reply'd, 
Come, my lad, and drink some beer 1 .' 

I could give another comical instance of caricatura imitation. 
Recollecting some day, when praising these verses of Lopez de 

Se a quien los leones vence 
Vence una muger hermosa 
O el de flaco averguenqe 
O ella di ser mas furiosa, 

more than he thought they deserved, Mr. Johnson instantly 
observed * that they were founded on a trivial conceit ; and that 

conceit ill-explained, and ill-expressed beside. The lady, we 

all know, does not conquer in the same manner as the lion does : 
'Tis a mere play of words (added he), and you might as well say, 

If the man who turnips cries, 

Cry not when his father dies, 

'Tis a proof that he had rather 

Have a turnip than his father.' 

And this humour is of the same sort with which he answered the 
friend who commended the following line 2 : 

Who rules o'er freemen should himself be free. 
' To be sure (said Dr. Johnson), 

Who drives fat oxen should himself be fat.' 

1 Boswell records the making of smiling, ' both to avoid a sameness 

these verses. The third line runs: with the epithet in the first line and 

' Smite thy bosom,' &c. * BOSWELL. to describe the hermit in his plea- 

"But why smite his bosom, Sir?" santry.' Life, iii. 159. See ib. ii. 

JOHNSON. "Why to shew he was in 136, n. 4, for another parody, 
earnest" (smiling).' Hoary, on Bos- 2 In Brooke's Earl of Essex. Life, 

well's suggestion, he changed into iv. 312, n. 5. 

VOL. I. O This 

194 Anecdotes. 

This readiness of finding a parallel, or making one, was shewn by 
him perpetually in the course of conversation. When the French 
verses of a certain pantomime were quoted thus, 

Je suis Cassandre descendue des cieux, 

Pour vous fair [sic] entendre, mesdames et messieurs, 

Que je suis Cassandre descendue des cieux j 

he cried out gaily and suddenly, almost in a moment, 

' I am Cassandra come down from the sky, 
To tell each by-stander what none can deny, 
That I am Cassandra come down from the sky.' 

The pretty Italian verses too. at the end of Baretti's book, called 
' Easy Phraseology,' he did all' improvise, in the same manner : 

Viva ! viva la padrona ! 
Tutta bella, e tutta buona, 
La padrona e itn angiolella 
Tutta buona e tutta bella; 
Tutta bella e tutta buona; 
Viva ! viva la padrona / 

Long may live my lovely Hetty 1 ! 
Always young and always pretty, 
Always pretty, always young, 
Live my lovely Hetty long ! 
Always young and always pretty ; 
Long may live my lovely Hetty ! 

The famous distich too, of an Italian improvisator e, who, when 
the duke of Modena ran away from the comet in the year 1742 
or 1743 2 , 

Se al venir vestro \vostro\ i principi sen 1 vanno 
Deh venga ogni dl durate urf anno ; 

' which (said he) would do just as well in our language thus : 

If at your coming princes disappear, 
Comets ! come every day and stay a year.' 

1 Mrs. Thrale, whose name was Johnson wrote to Mrs. Thrale in 
Hester. 1783: 'Mr. Mudge tells me that 

2 A comet was seen in February the gout will secure me from every- 
and March, 1742. Gentleman' sMaga- thing paralytick: if this be true, 
zine, 1742, pp. 106, 210. In May of I am ready to say to the arthritick 
that year the Duke of Modena with- pains, Deh! venite ogni d\, durate 
drew from his dominions before the un anno' Letters, ii. 338. 

attack of the Sardinians. Id. p. 334. 


A necdotes. 195 

When some one in company commended the verses of M. de 
Benserade x a son Lit ; 

Theatre des ris et des pleurs, 
Lit ! ou je nais, et ou je meurs, 
Tu nous fais voir comment -voisins, 
Sont nos plaisirs, et nos chagrins. 

To which he replied without hesitating, 

4 In bed we laugh, in bed we cry, 
And born in bed, in bed we die ; 
The near approach a bed may shew, 
Of human bliss to human woe.' 

The inscription on the collar of Sir Joseph Banks's goat which 
had been on two of his adventurous expeditions with him, and 
was then, by the humanity of her amiable master, turned out to 
graze in Kent, as a recompence for her utility and faithful ser 
vice, was given me by Johnson in the year 1777 I think, and 
I have never yet seen it printed. 

Perpetui, \Perpettia^\ ambitd bis terra, premia lactis, 
HCEC habet altrici Capra secunda Jo-vis 2 . 

The epigram written on Lord Anson's house many years ag<p, 
'where (says Mr. Johnson) I was well received and kindly 
treated 3 , and with the true gratitude of a wit ridiculed the master 
of the house before I had left it an hour,' has been falsely printed 
in many papers since his death. I wrote it down from his own 
lips one evening in August 1772, not neglecting the little preface, 
accusing himself of making so graceless a return for the civilities 
shewn him. He had, among other elegancies about the park and 
gardens, been made to observe a temple to the winds, when this 
thought naturally presented itself to a wit. 

1 ' Isaac de Benserade, 1612-1691. these lines. Life, ii. 144. 

Sa petite maison de Gentilli, ou il 3 Lord Anson died suddenly at his 

se retira stir la fin de sa vie, dtalt seat at Moor Park in Hertford- 

remplie d'inscriptions en vers, qui shire on June 6, 1762. Gentlemaris 

valaient bien ses autres ouvrages ; Magazine, 1762, p. 264. His elder 

c'est dommage qu'on ne les ait pas brother had been member for Lich- 

recueillies.' CEuvres de Voltaire, field. Burke's Peerage, under EARL 

ed. 1819, xvii. 49. OF LICHFIELD. 

2 It was in 1772 that Johnson made 

O 2 Gratum 



Gratum animum laudo; Qui debuit omnia ventis, 
Quant bene ventorum surgere templet jubet x / 

A translation of Dryden's epigram too, I used to fancy I had to 


Quos laudet vates, Grains, Romanus, et Anglus, 
Tres tria temporibus secla dedere suis : 
Sublime ingenium Graiusj Romanus habebat 
Carmen grande so nans ; Anglus utrumque tulit. 
Nil majus natura capit; clarare priores 
Quae potuere duos tertius units habet 2 . 

from the famous lines written under Milton's picture : 

Three poets in three distant ages born, 
Greece, Italy, and England did adorn; 
The first in loftiness of thought surpast, 
The next in majesty; in both the last. 
The force of Nature could no further go, 
To make a third she join'd the former two. 

One evening in the oratorio 3 season of the year 1771, Mr. John 
son went with me to Covent-Garden theatre ; and though he was 
for the most part an exceedingly bad playhouse companion, as 
his person drew people's eyes upon the box, and the loudness of 
his voice made it difficult for me to hear any body but himself; 
he sat surprisingly quiet, and I flattered myself he was listening 
to the music 4 . When we were got home however he repeated 

1 A grateful mind I praise ! All to 

the winds he owed ; 
And so upon the winds a temple 

he bestowed. 

Horace Walpole wrote on June 18, 
1744 (Letters, i. 306): 'Anson is 
returned with vast fortune, sub 
stantial and lucky. He has brought 
the Acapulca ship into Portsmouth, 
and its treasure is at least computed 
at five hundred thousand pounds. 
He escaped the Brest squadron by 
a rnist.' 

A photograph of the Temple is 
given in R. Bayne's Moor Park, 
1871, p. 99. 

2 This translation Johnson made 
at Oxford, I suppose in his under 

graduate days. Life, v. 86. 

3 Oratorio is not in Johnson's 
Dictionary. In the Gentleman's 
Magazine for 1733, p. 173, mention 
is made of a man 'who had contrived 
a thing that was better than an 
opera called an oratorio.' 

4 Boswell thus describes Johnson 
at Mrs. Abington's benefit at Drury 
Lane in 1775 : 'He sat on the seat 
directly behind me ; and as he could 
neither see nor hear at such a dis 
tance from the stage, he was wrapped 
up in grave abstraction, and seemed 
quite a cloud, amidst all the sun 
shine of glitter and gaiety.' Life, ii. 


Anecdotes. 197 

these verses, which he said he had made at the oratorio, and he 
bid me translate them. 


Tertii verso quater orbe lustri 
Quid theatrales tibi Crispe pompa ! 
Quam decet canos male literates 

Sera voluptas ! 
Tene mulceri fidibus canoris? 
Tene cantorum modulis stupere? 
Tene per pictas oculo elegante 

Currere formas ? 
Inter cequales sine fe lie liber, 
Codices veri studiosus inter 
Rectius vives ; sua quisque carpat 

Gaudia gratus. 
Lusibus gaudet puer otiosis, 
Luxus oblectat juvenem theatri, 
At sent fluxo sapient er uti 

Tempora [Tempore] res tat. 

I gave him the following lines in imitation, which he liked well 
enough, I think : 

When threescore years have chill'd thee quite, 

Still can theatric scenes delight ? 

Ill suits this place with learned wight, 

May Bates 1 or Coulson cry. 

The scholar's pride can Brent 2 disarm ? 
His heart can soft Guadagni 3 warm ? 
Or scenes with sweet delusion charm 

The climacteric 4 eye? 

1 Bates was perhaps Joah Bates, 3 Guadagni, in 1771, was engaged 
a musician, in whose orchestra to sing in an unlicensed opera in 
Herschel the astronomer played first Soho Square. Horace Walpole wrote 
violin. See Diet. Nat. Biog. under on Feb. 22 (Letters, v. 283) : 'Gua- 
Bates. I do not know who Coulson dagni, who governed so haughtily at 
was. It is possible that he was Vienna that, to pique some man of 
Johnson's friend, the Rev. John Coul- quality there, he named a minister 
son, Fellow of University College, to Venice, is not only fined, but was 
Oxford (Letters, i. 323), and that threatened to be sent to Bridewell, 
Bates was another scholar. which chilled the blood of all the 

2 Charlotte Brent (d. 1802), after- Caesars and Alexanders he had ever 
wards Mrs. Pinto, 'was a favourite represented.' 

pupil of Dr. Arne, and for her he 4 Johnson did not reach his grand 
composed much of his later and climacteric till the next year when he 
more florid music.' Diet. Nat. Biog. was sixty-three years old. 


198 Anecdotes. 

The social dub, the lonely tower, 
Far better suit thy midnight hour z ; 
Let each according to his power 

In worth or wisdom shine ! 

And while play pleases idle boys, 
And wanton mirth fond youth employs, 
To fix the soul, and free from toys, 

That useful task be thine. 

The copy of verses in Latin hexameters, as well as I remember, 
which he wrote to Dr. Lawrence 2 , I forgot to keep a copy of; 
and he obliged me to resign his translation of the song beginning, 
Busy, curious, thirsty fly, for him to give Mr. Langton 3 , with 
a promise not to retain a copy. I concluded he knew why, so 
never enquired the reason. He had the greatest possible value 
for Mr. Langton, of whose virtue and learning he delighted to 
talk in very exalted terms 4 ; and poor Dr. Lawrence had long 
been his friend and confident 5 . The conversation I saw them 
hold together in Essex-street one day in the year 1781 or 1782, 
was a melancholy one, and made a singular impression on my 
mind. He was himself exceedingly ill, and I accompanied him 
thither for advice. The physician was however, in some respects, 
more to be pitied than the patient : Johnson was panting under 
an asthma and dropsy ; but Lawrence had been brought home 
that very morning struck with the palsy 6 , from which he had, 
two hours before we came, strove to awaken himself by blisters : 
they were both deaf, and scarce able to speak besides ; one from 

1 ' Or let my lamp at midnight go to Heaven, if Langton does not. 

hour Sir, I could almost say, Sit anima 

Be seen in some high lonely mea cum Langtono" ' Life, iv. 280. 

tower.' ' It is to be feared that Averroes had 

// Penseroso, 1. 85. not the right way of blessing himself, 

2 'Ad Thomam Laurence, Medi- when in defiance of Christianity he 
cum Doctissimum,cumfiliumperegre wished, Sit anima mea cum philo- 
agentem desiderio nimis tristi pro- sophis! South's Sermons, ii. 75. See 
sequeretur.' Works, i. 165. also ib. iii. 203. 

3 Rewrote to Langton on July 5, 5 ' Lawrence,' he wrote, ' is a friend 
1774 : * If you have the Latin ver- whom long familiarity has much en- 
sion of Busy, curious, thirsty fly, be deared. He is one of the best men 
so kind as to transcribe and send it.' whom I have known.' Ante, p. 104. 
Life, ii. 281. See Works, i. 172. 6 Life, iv. 144, n. 3. 

4 ' He said, " I know not who will 


Anecdotes. 199 

difficulty of breathing, the other from paralytic debility. To 
give and receive medical counsel therefore, they fairly sate down 
on each side a table in the Doctor's gloomy apartment, adorned 
with skeletons, preserved monsters, &c. and agreed to write Latin 
billets to each other J . Such a scene did I never see ! ' You 
(said Johnson) are timidb a.ndgelid* ;' finding that his friend had 
prescribed palliative not drastic remedies. It is not me, replies 
poor Lawrence in an interrupted voice ; 'tis nature that is gelidt 
and timid. In fact he lived but few months after I believe, and 
retained his faculties still a shorter time. He was a man of strict 
piety and profound learning, but little skilled in the knowledge 
of life or manners, and died without having ever enjoyed the 
reputation he so justly deserved 3 . 

Mr. Johnson's health had been always extremely bad since 
/ 1 first knew him, and his over-anxious care to retain without 
\ blemish the perfect sanity of his mind, contributed much to dis 
turb it 4 . He had studied medicine diligently in all its branches 5 ; 
but had given particular attention to the diseases of the imagina- 
; tion, which he watched in himself with a solicitude destructive 
vof his own peace, and intolerable to those he trusted 6 . Dr. Law 
rence told him one day, that if he would come and beat him 
once a week he would bear it ; but to hear his complaints was 
more than man could support 7 . 'Twas therefore that he tried, 

1 See Life, iv. 143 for one of these See also ib. iii. 22, and Letters, \. 49. 
letters. 6 See ante, p. 48, where he re- 

2 Johnson could not have said, cords: 'This day it came into my 
' You are timide and gelide! On his mind to write the history of my 
death-bed he reproached Heberden melancholy.' I believe that there is 
with being timidorum timidissimus. great exaggeration in Mrs. Piozzi's 
Ib, iv. 400,* n. statement. 

3 Hawkins, who speaks highly of 7 ' I never knew any man who was 
his skill, says that 'a vacuity of less disposed to be querulous than 
countenance very unfavourable to an Johnson. Whether the subject was 
opinion of his learning or sagacity his own situation, or the state of the 
stood in his way.' Hawkins's John- publick, or the state of human nature 
son, p. 402. in general, though he saw the evils, 

4 Ante, p. 78, and post, p. 234. his mind was turned to resolution, 

5 ' He was a great dabbler in and never to whining or complaint.' 
physic,' writes Boswell. Life, iii. 152. Life, ii. 357. 

I suppose, 

200 Anecdotes. 

I suppose, and in eighteen years contrived to weary the patience of 
a woman x . When Mr. Johnson felt his fancy, or fancied he felt 
it, disordered, his constant recurrence was to the study of arith 
metic 2 ; and one day that he was totally confined to his chamber, 
and I enquired what he had been doing to divert himself; he 
shewed me a calculation which I could scarce be made to under 
stand, so vast was the plan of it, and so very intricate were the 
figures : no other indeed than that the national debt, computing 
it at one hundred and eighty millions sterling, would, if con 
verted into silver, serve to make a meridian of that rnetal, I for 
get how broad, for the globe of the whole earth, the real globe. 
On a similar occasion I asked him (knowing what subject he 
would like best to talk upon), How his opinion stood towards the 
question between Paschal and Soame Jennings 3 about number 
and numeration ? as the French philosopher observes that infinity, 
though on all sides astonishing, appears most so when the idea is 
connected with the idea of number ; for the notions of infinite 
number, and infinite number we know there is, stretches one's 
capacity still more than the idea of infinite space ; ' Such 
a notion indeed (adds he) can scarcely find room in the human 
mind V Our English author on the other hand exclaims, let no 
man give himself leave to talk about infinite number, for infinite 
number is a contradiction in terms ; whatever is once numbered, 
we all see cannot be infinite 5 . ' I think (said Mr. Johnson after 
a pause) we must settle the matter thus : numeration is certainly 
infinite, for eternity might be employed in adding unit to unit ; 
but every number is in itself finite, as the possibility of doubling 

1 See /<?.$/, pp. 331, 341. the second article of the first part of 

2 Boswell tells how 'Johnson de- Pascal's Penstes. In that case she 
lighted in exercising his mind on the does not give his meaning correctly, 
science of numbers.' Life^ iii. 207. 5 ' An infinite number is a contra- 
The only book which he took with diction in terms, and therefore every- 
him on his tour to the Hebrides was thing that is infinite or eternal must 
Cocker's Arithmetic. Ib. v. 138, n. 2. exist in some manner which bears 
See/^/, p. 301. no manner of relation to Space or 

3 Soame Jenyns. Johnson reviewed Time, and which must therefore be to 
his Free Enquiry into the Nature us totally incomprehensible.' Jenyns's 
and Origin of Evil. Life, i. 315; Miscellaneous Pieces, ed. 1761, ii. 
Works, vi. 47. 209. 

4 Mrs. Piozzi refers, I suppose, to 

it easily 



it easily proves : besides, stop at what point you will, you find 
yourself as far from infinitude as ever.' These passages I wrote 
down as soon as I had heard them, and repent that I did not 
take the same method with a dissertation he made one other 
day that he was very ill, concerning the peculiar properties of 
the number Sixteen, which I afterwards tried, but in vain, to 
make him repeat. 

As ethics or figures, or metaphysical reasoning *, was the sort 
of talk he most delighted in, so no kind of conversation pleased 
him less I think, than when the subject was historical fact or 
general polity. * What shall we learn from that stuff (said he) 2 ? 

1 He told Boswell that ' at Oxford 
the study of which he was the most 
fond was Metaphysicks, but he had 
not read much even in that way.' 
Life, i. 70. See ante, p. 17, for his 
prayer on the study of philosophy. 

Mackintosh believed that he was 
withheld from metaphysics ' partly 
by a secret dread that it might dis 
turb those prejudices in which his 
mind had found repose from the 
agitations of doubt.' Life of Mackin 
tosh, ii. 171. 

2 In a note on the Life, iii. 206, 
I have stated that ' he was no doubt 
sick of the constant reference made 
by writers and public speakers to 
Rome/ It was the cant of the age. 
Voltaire says : * Les membres du 
parlement d'Angleterre aiment a se 
comparer aux anciens Remains au- 
tant qu'ils le peuvent.' (Euvres, ed. 
1819, xxiv. 33. Chesterfield writes 
to his son : ' Bring no precedents 
from the virtuous Spartans, the 
polite Athenians, and the brave 
Romans. Leave all that to futile 
pedants.' Letters, iii. 236. 

Horace Walpole thus ridicules such 
talk as this (Letters, v. 235):'! 
entertain myself with the idea of a 
future senate in Carolina and Vir 

ginia, where their future patriots will 
harangue on the austere and in 
corruptible virtue of the ancient 
English ! will tell their auditors of 
our disinterestedness and scorn of 
bribes and pensions, and make us 
blush in our graves at their ridiculous 

Thomson's Liberty has a great 
deal of this cant about ' old virtuous 
Rome' (Part v. 1. 229), and so has 
B olingbroke' s Dissertation upon Par 

Johnson seriously thought of trans 
lating De Thou's Historia sui Tem- 
poris, ' which contains the history of 
only sixty-four years, yet, it has 
been calculated, would require twelve 
months, at four hours a day, for its 
perusal.' Patti son's Isaac Casaubon, 
ed. 1892, p. 59. In a list of books 
proper for a young man to study, 
drawn up by Johnson, many histories 
are included. Life, iv. 311. In the 
talk between him and Lord Mon- 
boddo on Aug. 21, 1773, Monboddo 
said : ' The history of manners is 
the most valuable. I never set a 
high value on any other history.' 
Johnson replied : * Nor I ; and 
therefore I esteem biography as 
giving us what comes near to our- 


202 Anecdotes. 

let us not fancy like Swift that we are exalting a woman's 
character by telling how she 

Could name the ancient heroes round, 
Explain for what they were renown'd, c. x ' 

I must not however lead my readers to suppose that he meant 
to reserve such talk for men's company as a proof of pre-eminence. 
' He never (as he expressed it) desired to hear of the Punic war 2 
while he lived : such conversation was lost time (he said), and 
carried one away from common life, leaving no ideas behind 
which could serve living wight 1 " as warning or direction.' 

How I should act is not the case, 
But how would Brutus in my place ? 

' And now (cries Mr. Johnson, laughing with obstreperous vio 
lence), if these two foolish lines can be equalled in folly, except 
by the two succeeding ones 4 shew them me/ 

I asked him once concerning the conversation powers of 
a gentleman with whom I was myself unacquainted 5 * He 

selves, what we can turn to use.' leteer in the Garret to the Patriot in 

Life, v. 79. the Senate as extremely worthy of the 

All this shows little of ' the fierce Imitation of Britons' Four Tracts 

and boisterous contempt of ignor- by Josiah Tucker, D.D., 1774, p. 60. 

ance' with which, according to Lord 3 Paradise Lost, ii. 613. 

Macaulay, Johnson spoke of history. 4 How shall I act is not the 

Macaulay's Essays, ed. 1843, i. 403. case ; 

1 'She nam'd the ancient heroes But how would Brutus in my 

round, place ? 

Explain'd for what they were In such a case would Cato 

renown'd ; bleed ? 

Then spoke with censure or And how would Socrates pro- 
applause ceed ? ' 
Of foreign customs, rites and To Stella, 1720. Swift's Works, x. 

laws.' 187. 

Cademis and Vanessa. Swift's 5 Mrs. Piozzi, in a marginal note, 

Works, ed. 1803, x. 128. says it was Charles James Fox. 

2 Writing to Mrs. Thrale in July, Hayward's Piozzi, i. 292. 

1775, he says : ' Therefore wherever ' I have heard Mr. Gibbon remark,' 

you are and whatever you see talk writes Boswell, ' that Mr. Fox could 

not of the Punick War.' Letters, not be afraid of Dr. Johnson ; yet 

i. 343. he certainly was very shy of saying 

' The example of the Romans is anything in Dr. Johnson's presence.' 

eternally quoted from the Pamph- Life, iii. 267. See also ib. iv. 167. 


Anecdotes. 203 

talked to me at club one day (replies our Doctor) concerning 
Catiline's conspiracy so I withdrew my attention, and thought 
about Tom Thumb.' 

Modern politics fared no better. I was one time extolling the 
character of a statesman, and expatiating on the skill required 
to direct the different currents, reconcile the jarring interests, &c. 
' Thus (replies he) a mill is a complicated piece of mechanism 

enough, but the water is no part of the workmanship.' On 

another occasion, when some one lamented the weakness of 
a then present minister 1 , and complained that he was dull 
and tardy, and knew little of affairs, ' You may as well com 
plain, Sir (says Johnson), that the accounts of time are kept 
by the clock ; for he certainly does stand still upon the stair 
head and we all know that he is no great chronologer.' In 

the year 1777, or thereabouts, when all the talk was of an 
invasion, he said most pathetically one afternoon, ' Alas ! alas ! 
how this unmeaning stuff spoils all my comfort in my friends' 
conversation ! Will the people never have done with it ; and 
shall I never hear a sentence again without the French in it ? 
Here is no invasion coming, and you knoiv there is none 2 . Let 
the vexatious and frivolous talk alone, or suffer it at least 
to teach you one truth ; and learn by this perpetual echo of 
even unapprehended distress, how historians magnify events 
expected, or calamities endured ; when you know they are at 
this very moment collecting all the big words they can find, 
in which to describe a consternation never felt, for a misfortune 
which never happened. Among all your lamentations, who 
eats the less 3 ? Who sleeps the worse, for one general's ill 

1 She means I suppose ' a minister without spirit.' 

of that time.' Perhaps it was the 2 It was in 1778 and 1779 that 

Duke of Grafton. Horace Walpole there was a great panic about an 

wrote of him on June 16, 1768: invasion. Life, iii. 326; Letters, ii. 

' Because we are not in confusion 109. 

enough he makes everything as bad 3 ' We are told that on the arrival 

as possible, neglecting on one hand, of the news of the unfortunate battle 

and taking no precaution on the of Fontenoy every heart beat and 

other.' Letters, v. 106. Junius, in every eye was in tears. Now we 

his Letter of April 10, 1769, described know that no man eat his dinner the 

him as ' a singular instance of youth worse.' Life, i. 355. 


204 Anecdotes. 

success, or another's capitulation ? Ok, pray let us hear no more 

of it ! ' No man however was more zealously attached to his 

party ; he not only loved a tory himself, but he loved a man the 
better if he heard he hated a whig. * Dear Bathurst x (said he to 
me one day) was a man to my very heart's content : he hated 
a fool, and he hated a rogue, and he hated a whig; he was 
a very good hater? 

Some one mentioned a gentleman of that party for having 
behaved oddly on an occasion where faction was not concerned : 
'Is he not a citizen of London, a native of North America, 
and a whig 2 ? (says Johnson) Let him be absurd, I beg of 
you : when a monkey is too like a man, it shocks one.' 

Severity towards the poor was, in Dr. Johnson's opinion 
(as is visible in his Life of Addison 3 particularly), an undoubted 
and constant attendant or consequence upon whiggism ; and 
he was not contented with giving them relief, he wished to 
add also indulgence. He loved the poor as I never yet saw 
any one else do, with an earnest desire to make them happy. 
What signifies, says some one, giving halfpence to common 
beggars ? they only lay it out in gin or tobacco. ' And why 
should they be denied such sweeteners of their existence (says 
Johnson) 4 ? it is surely very savage to refuse them every 

1 Ante, p. 29. One evening at Mr. Thrale's John- 

2 Alderman Lee {Life, iii. 78 ; son said : * Addison had made his 
Letters, i. 397) was all three. Sir Andrew Freeport a true Whig, 

3 'Steele had made Sir Andrew arguing against giving charity to 
Freeport, in the true spirit of un- beggars, and throwing out other such 
feeling commerce, declare that he ungracious sentiments ; but that he 
" would not build an hospital for idle had thought better, and made amends 
people.'" Works, vii. 432. Johnson by making him found an hospital 
quoted from memory and quoted for decayed farmers.' Life, ii. 212. 
wrongly ; for, ' Sir Andrew, after The Spectator, No. 232, was written 
giving money to some importunate neither by Addison nor Steele ; who 
beggars, says : ' I ought to give to wrote it is uncertain. 

an hospital of invalids, to recover 4 ' He frequently gave all the silver 
as many useful subjects as I can, in his pocket to the poor, who 
but I shall bestow none of my watched him between his house and 
bounties upon an almshouse of idle the tavern where he dined.' Ib. ii. 
people.' Spectator, No. 232. 119. ' You are much surer,' he said, 


Anecdotes. 205 

possible avenue to pleasure, reckoned too coarse for our own 
acceptance. Life is a pill which none of us can bear to swallow 
without gilding; yet for the poor we delight in stripping it 
still barer, and are not ashamed to shew even visible dis 
pleasure, if ever the bitter taste is taken from their mouths.' 
In consequence of these principles he nursed whole nests of 
people in his house, where the lame, the blind, the sick, and 
the sorrowful found a sure retreat from all the evils whence 
his little income could secure them r : and commonly spending 
the middle of the week at our house, he kept his numerous 
family in Fleet-street upon a settled allowance 2 ; but returned 
to them every Saturday, to give them three good dinners, 
and his company, before he came back to us on the Monday 
night treating them with the same, or perhaps more cere 
monious civility, than he would have done by as many people 

of fashion making the holy scriptures thus the rule of his 

conduct, and only expecting salvation as he was able to obey 
its precepts. 

While Dr. Johnson possessed however the strongest com 
passion for poverty or illness, he did not even pretend to feel 
for those who lamented the loss of a child, a parent, or a friend 3 . 

' that you are doing good when you ii. 336. To Mrs. Desmoulins and 

pay money to those who work, as her daughter and Miss Carmichael 

the recompense of their labour, than he gave a room ; but they did not 

when you give money merely in come to live with him till about the 

charity.' Life, iii. 56. * It is an un- year 1777. To Mrs. Desmoulins he 

happy circumstance,' he said, 'that allowed also half-a-guinea a week, 

one might give away five hundred Life, iii. 222. 

pounds in a year to those that im- 3 ' The death of my mother/ he 

portune in the streets, and not do wrote, is one of the few calamities on 

any good.' Ib. iv. 3. which I think with terror.' Letters, 

1 There is great exaggeration in i. 20. 'Of his friend Bathurst he 
this passage. For some of the in- hardly ever spoke without tears in 
mates of his house see Ib. iii. 222, his eyes.' Murphy's Johnson, p. 56. 
368, 461. To Mr. Elphinston, who had lost his 

2 To Levett he gave house-room mother, he wrote : ' I read the letters 
and breakfast, and now and then in which you relate your mother's 
a dinner on Sunday. Ib. i. 243, n. 3. death to Mrs. Strahan, and I think 
Miss Williams was not wholly depen- I do myself honour when I tell you 
dent on him. Ib. i. 393, n. i ; Letters, that I read them with tears.' Life, 

' These 



' These are the distresses of sentiment (he would reply) 

which a man who is really to be pitied has no leisure to feel. 
The sight of people who want food and raiment is so common in 
great cities, that a surly fellow like me has no compassion to 
spare for wounds given only to vanity or softness V No man, 
therefore, who smarted from the ingratitude of his friends, found 
any sympathy from our philosopher : ' Let him do good on 
higher motives next time,' would be the answer ; * he will then 

be sure of his reward.' It is easy to observe, that the justice 

of such sentences made them offensive ; but we must be careful 
how we condemn a man for saying what we know to be true, 
only because it is so. I hope that the reason our hearts rebelled 
a little against his severity, was chiefly because it came from 
a living mouth. Books were invented to take off the odium of 
immediate superiority, and soften the rigour of duties prescribed 
by the teachers and censors of human kind setting at least 
those who are acknowledged wiser than ourselves at a distance 2 . 
When we recollect however, that for this very reason they are 

i. 212. Over the dying bed of Mrs. 
Thrale's mother 'he hung with the 
affection of a parent and the rever 
ence of a son.' Post, p. 235. On 
the death of young Harry Thrale he 
wrote to his mother : ' Poor dear 
sweet little boy! When I read the 
letter this day to Mrs. Aston she 
said, " Such a death is the next to 
translation." Yet however I may con 
vince myself of this the tears are in 
my eyes, and yet I could not love 
him as you loved him, nor reckon 
upon him for a future comfort as you 
and his father reckoned upon him.' 
Letters, i. 381. On the death of the 
boy's father he wrote to the widow : 
' I am not without my part of the 
calamity. No death since that of 
my wife has ever oppressed me like 
this.' Letters, ii. 209. With Miss 
Burney he often had 'long and 
melancholy discourses about our dear 
deceased master, whom indeed he re 
grets incessantly.' Mme. D'Arblay's 

Diary, ii. 63. 

Mrs. Piozzi says (post, p. 230) : 
' The truth is nobody suffered more 
from pungent sorrow at a friend's 
death than Dr. Johnson, though he 
would suffer no one else to complain 
of their losses in the same way.' 

1 It was the exaggeration of feeling 
that Johnson attacked. 'You will 
find these very feeling people,' he 
said, 'are not very ready to do you 
good. They pay you by feeling! 
Ib. ii. 95. 

2 Johnson, in the Rambler, No. 87, 
entitled, ' The reasons why advice is 
generally ineffectual,' says : ' By the 
consultation of books, whether of 
dead or living authors, many tempta 
tions to petulance and opposition, 
which occur in oral conferences, are 
avoided . . . Books are seldom read 
with complete impartiality but by 
those from whom the writer is placed 
at such a distance that his life or 
death is indifferent.' 


Anecdotes. 207 

seldom consulted and little obeyed, how much cause shall his 
contemporaries have to rejoice that their living Johnson forced 
them to feel the reproofs due to vice and folly while Seneca 
and Tillotson were no longer able to make impression except 
on our shelves. Few things indeed which pass well enough with 
others would do with him: he had been a great reader of 
Mandeville J , and was ever on the watch to spy out those stains 
of original corruption, so easily discovered by a penetrating 
observer even in the purest minds. I mentioned an event, which 
if it had happened would greatly have injured Mr. Thrale and 

his family and then, dear Sir, said I, how sorry you would 

have been ! ' I hope (replied he after a long pause) I should have 

been very sorry ; but remember Rochefoucault's maxim 2 .' 

1 would rather (answered I) remember Prior's verses, 

and ask. 

What need of books these truths to tell, 

Which folks perceive that [who] cannot spell ? 

And must we spectacles apply, 

To see [view] what hurts our naked eye 3 ? 

Will any body's mind bear this eternal microscope that you 
place upon your own so ? 'I never (replied he) saw one that 
would, except that of my dear Miss Reynolds and her's is very 

near to purity itself 4 .' Of slighter evils, and friends less 

distant than our own household, he spoke less cautiously. An 
acquaintance lost the almost certain hope of a good estate that 
had been long expected 5 . Such a one will grieve (said I) at her 
friend's disappointment. ' She will suffer as much perhaps (said 

he) as your horse did when your cow miscarried.' 1 professed 

myself sincerely grieved when accumulated distresses crushed 
Sir George Colebrook's family ; and I was so. ' Your own 

1 'I read Mandeville,' he said, pas.' See Letters, ii. 421, n. 2. 

' forty, or, I believe, fifty years ago. For the strong interest which 

He did not puzzle me ; he opened Johnson took in Mr. Thrale's affairs 

my views into life very much.' Life, see ib. i. 194, n. 

iii. 292. Dr. Franklin describes 3 Alma, 1. 1660. 

Mandeville as ' a most facetious, en- 4 Boswell complained that 'her 

tertaining companion.' Franklin's too nice delicacy would not permit 

Works, ed. 1887, i. 89. Johnson's letters to her to be pub- 

2 'Dans 1'adversite de nos meil- lished.' Life, i. 486, n. i. 

leurs amis nous trouvons toujours 5 Mrs. Thrale herself suffered such 

quelque chose qui ne nous deplait a loss. Letters, i. 292, n. 5. 


208 Anecdotes. 

prosperity (said he) may possibly have so far increased the 
natural tenderness of your heart, that for aught I know you 
may be a little sorry ; but it is sufficient for a plain man if he 
does not laugh when he sees a fine new house tumble down all 
on a sudden, and a snug cottage stand by ready to receive the 
owner, whose birth entitled him to do nothing better, and whose 
limbs are left him to go to work again with V 

I used to tell him in jest, that his morality was easily 
contented ; and when I have said something as if the wicked 
ness of the world gave me concern, he would cry out aloud 
against canting, and protest that he thought there was very little 
gross wickedness in the world 2 , and still less of extraordinary 
virtue. Nothing indeed more surely disgusted Dr. Johnson than 
hyperbole 3 ; he loved not to be told of sallies of excellence, 
which he said were seldom valuable, and seldom true. ' Heroic 
virtues (said he) are the bans mots of life ; they do not appear 
often, and when they do appear are too much prized I think; 
like the aloe-tree, which shoots and flowers once in a hundred 
years. But life is made up of little things 4 ; and that character 
is the best which does little but repeated acts of beneficence ; 
as that conversation is the best which consists in elegant and 
pleasing thoughts expressed in natural and pleasing terms 5 . 
With regard to my own notions of moral virtue (continued he), 
I hope I have not lost my sensibility of wrong ; but I hope 
likewise that I have lived long enough in the world, to prevent 

1 'May i, 1 774. Sir George Cole- human nature.' Works, viii. 188. 
brook, a citizen and martyr to what See post, p. 262. 

is called speculation, had his pictures 3 Life, i. 309, n. 3. 

sold by auction last week.' Walpole's 4 ' There is nothing, Sir, too little 

Letters, vi. 81. As ,80,000 had been for so little a creature as man. It is 

settled on Lady Colebrook and her by studying little things that we 

family the cottage was likely to be attain the great art of having as 

snug enough. Gentleman's Maga- little misery and as much happiness 

zine, 1773, P- 2 4& as possible.' Ib. i. 433. 

2 Writing of Savage he says : 5 ' That is the happiest conversa- 
* The knowledge of life was his chief tion/ he said, ' where there is no 
attainment ; and it is not without competition, no vanity, but a calm 
some satisfaction that I can produce quiet interchange of sentiments.' Ib. 
the suffrage of Savage in favour of ii. 359. See also Letters, ii. 19. 




me from expecting to find any action of which both the original 
motive and all the parts were good V 

The piety of Dr. Johnson was exemplary and edifying: he 
was punctiliously exact to perform every public duty enjoined 
by the church 2 , and his spirit of devotion had an energy that 
affected all who ever saw him pray in private. The coldest and 
most languid hearers of the word must have felt themselves 
animated by his manner of reading the holy scriptures 3 ; and to 
pray by his sick bed, required strength of body as well as of 
mind, so vehement were his manners, and his tones of voice so 
pathetic 4 . I have many times made it my request to heaven that 
I might be spared the sight of his death ; and I was spared it 5 ! 

Mr. Johnson, though in general a gross feeder, kept fast in 
Lent 6 , particularly the holy week, with a rigour very dangerous 
to his general health ; but though he had left off wine (for religious 
motives as I always believed, though he did not own it 7 ), yet he 
did not hold the commutation of offences by voluntary penance, 
or encourage others to practise severity upon themselves 8 . He 

1 Perhaps Mrs. Piozzi has in mind 
the following saying of Johnson's at 
Bath, where he was staying with 
her and Mr. Thrale : ' To act from 
pure benevolence is not possible for 
finite beings. Human benevolence 
is mingled with vanity, interest, or 
some other motive.' Life, iii. 48. 

2 Except the duty of going regu 
larly to church and of receiving the 
sacrament at least three times a year. 
Ante, pp. 8 1, 92. It is likely however 
that on the Sundays that he passed 
at Streatham he was made regular 
by the regularity of the family. 

3 ' His recitation was grand and 
affecting.' Life, v. 115. 

4 Ib. iv. 409. 

5 She was spared it by deserting 
him. Eighteen months before his 
death, when attacked by palsy, he 
wrote to her : ' Let not all our en 
dearments be forgotten, but let me 

VOL. I. 

have in this great distress your pity 
and your prayers. You see I yet 
turn to you with my complaints as 
a settled and unalienable friend ; do 
not, do not drive me from you, for I 
have not deserved either neglect or 
hatred.' Letters, ii. 303. 

6 There is nothing besides this 
statement to show that he fasted in 
any part of Lent but Passion Week. 

7 ' I can't drink a little,' he said to 
Hannah More, 'and therefore I never 
touch it.' Hannah More's Memoirs, 
i. 251. He gave the same account 
to Boswell. Life, ii. 435. Religious 
motives had nothing to do with it. 
He did not disapprove of the use of 
wine by those who could be moderate. 
Ib. i. 103, n. 3. 'I hope you per 
severe in drinking,' he wrote to Dr. 
Taylor. Letters, i. 408. 

8 ' Austerities and mortifications 
are means by which the mind is 

P even 



even once said, 'that he thought it an error to endeavour at 
pleasing God by taking the rod of reproof out of his hands.' 
And when we talked of convents, and the hardships suffered in 
them ' Remember always (said he) that a convent is an idle 
place, and where there is nothing to be done something must be 
endured x : mustard has a bad taste per se you may observe, but 
very insipid food cannot be eaten without it.' 

His respect however for places of religious retirement was 
carried to the greatest degree of earthly veneration 2 : the Bene 
dictine convent at Paris paid him all possible honours in return, 
and the Prior and he parted with tears of tenderness 3 . Two of 
that college sent to England on the mission some years after, 
spent much of their time with him at Bolt Court I know, and he was 
ever earnest to retain their friendship 4 ; but though beloved by 
all his Roman Catholic acquaintance, particularly Dr. Nugent 5 , 
for whose esteem he had a singular value, yet was Mr. Johnson 
a most unshaken church of England man 6 ; and I think, or at 

invigorated and roused, by which the 
attractions of pleasure are inter 
rupted, and the claims of sensuality 

are broken Austerity is the proper 

antidote to indulgence ; the diseases 
of mind as well as body are cured 
by contraries, and to contraries we 
should readily have recourse, if we 
dreaded guilt as we dread pain.' 
Rambler, No. no. 

For his penance in Uttoxeter 
market see Life, iv. 373. 

1 In the Benedictine convent in 
Paris he recorded : ' Benedictines 
may sleep eight hours. Bodily la 
bour wanted in monasteries.' Ib. ii. 


2 Amidst the ruins at St. Andrews 
he said : ' I never read of a hermit, 
but in imagination I kiss his feet ; 
never of a monastery, but I could fall 
on my knees, and kiss the pavement. 
But I think putting young people 
there, who know nothing of life, 
nothing of retirement, is dangerous 

and wicked.' Ib. v. 62. See also 
ib. i. 365. 

' Goldsmith, who hated the prudery 
of Johnson's morals and the fop 
pery of Hawkes worth's manners, yet 
warmly admired the genius of both, 
was in use to say among his acquain 
tance that Johnson would have made 
a decent monk, and Hawkes worth 
a good dancing master? Memoirs of 
the Life, &c., of Dr. Johnson, 1785, 
p. 194. 

3 ' I was very kindly treated by 
the English Benedictines, and have 
a cell appropriated to me in their con 
vent.' Life, ii. 402. 

4 Letters, i. 401, 406 ; ii. 39. 

5 Burke's father-in-law. Post, p. 
230, and Life, i. 477. 

6 ' Of the Roman Catholic religion 
he said : ' ... I would be a Papist 
if I could. I have fear enough ; but 
an obstinate rationality prevents me.' 
Ib. iv. 289. 




least I once did think, that a letter written by him to Mr. Barnard 
the King's librarian, when he was in Italy collecting books, 
contained some very particular advice to his friend to be on his 
guard against the seductions of the church of Rome x . 

The settled aversion Dr. Johnson felt towards an infidel he 
expressed to all ranks, and at all times, without the smallest 
reserve 2 ; for though on common occasions he paid great 
deference to birth or title 3 , yet his regard for truth and virtue 
never gave way to meaner considerations. We talked of a dead 
wit one evening, and somebody praised him 'Let us never 
praise talents so ill employed. Sir ; we foul our mouths by com 
mending such infidels' (said he). Allow him the lumitres at 
least, intreated one of the company ' I do allow him, Sir (replied 

Johnson), just enough to light him to hell.' Of a Jamaica 

gentleman, then lately dead 4 'He will not, whither he is now 
gone (said Johnson), find much difference, I believe, either in the 
climate or the company.' The Abbe Reynal probably re 
members that, being at the house of a common friend in London, 
the master of it approached Johnson with that gentleman so 
much celebrated in his hand, and this speech in his mouth : 
Will you permit me, Sir, to present to you the Abbe Reynal ? 
'N0, Sir,' (replied the Doctor very loud) and suddenly turned 
away from them both 5 . 

1 ' You are going into a part of the infidel.' Of Hume he said something 
world divided, as it is said, between so rough that Boswell suppresses it. 
bigotry and atheism : such repre- Ib. v. 30. 'He talked with some dis- 
sentations are always hyperbolical, gust of Gibbon's ugliness.' Ib. iv. 
but there is certainly enough of both 73. 

to alarm any mind solicitous for 3 ' I have great merit,' he said, 

piety and truth ; let not the con- ' in being zealous for subordination 

tempt of superstition precipitate you and the honours of birth, for I can 

into infidelity, or the horror of in- hardly tell who was my grandfather.' 

fidelity ensnare you in superstition.' Ib. ii. 261. 
Letters, i. 147. 4 Perhaps Lord Mayor Beckford. 

2 See Life, i. 268 for his attack on Ib. iii. 76, 201. 

that ' scoundrel and coward' Boling- 5 Hannah More (Memoirs, \. 394), 

broke, and that ' beggarly Scotch- records the same story, adding that 
man' Mallet; and ii. 95 for his at- Johnson put his hands behind his 
tack on Foote, who, * if he be an back. Romilly, who had formed the 
infidel, is an infidel as a dog is an highest expectations of Raynal from 

p 2 Though 



Though Mr. Johnson had but little reverence either for talents 
or fortune, when he found them unsupported by virtue ; yet it 
was sufficient to tell him a man was very pious, or very charit 
able, and he would at least begin with him on good terms, 
however the conversation might end *. He would, sometimes 
too, good-naturedly enter into a long chat for the instruction or 
entertainment of people he despised. I perfectly recollect his 
condescending to delight my daughter's dancing-master with 
a long argument about his art ; which the man protested, at the 
close of the discourse, the Doctor knew more of than himself; 
who remained astonished, enlightened, and amused by the talk 
of a person little likely to make a good disquisition upon 
dancing 2 . I have sometimes indeed been rather pleased than 
vexed when Mr. Johnson has given a rough answer to a man 
who perhaps deserved one only half as rough, because I knew he 
would repent of his hasty reproof 3 , and make us all amends by 
some conversation at once instructive and entertaining, as in the 
following cases: A young fellow asked him abruptly one day, 
Pray, Sir, what and where is Palmira ? I heard somebody talk 
last night of the ruins of Palmira. ' 'Tis a hill in Ireland (replies 
Johnson), with palms growing on the top, and a bog at the 

his works, was greatly disappointed 
when he met him. 'I was filled at 
this time with horror at slavery and 
the slave-trade, and his history of 
the two Indies had served to en 
lighten these sentiments ; but when 
I came to talk on these subjects with 
him he appeared to me so cold and 
so indifferent about them that I con 
ceived a very unfavourable opinion of 
him.' Memoirs of Romilly, ed. 1840, 

In Grimm's Correspondance, ed. 
1814, v. 390, under date of Sept. 
1782, is the following entry: 'J'ai 
vu,' ecrivit dernierement le Roi de 
Prusse a M. d'Alembert, 'j'ai vu 
l'Abb Raynal. A la maniere dont 
il m'a parl de la puissance, des 
ressources et des richesses de tous 

les peuples du globe, j'ai cru m'entre- 
tenir avec la Providence. . . . Je me 
suis bien gardd de revoquer en doute 
1'exactitude du moindre de ses cal- 
culs ; j'ai compris qu'il n'entendrait 
pas raillerie, meme sur un e"cu.' 

1 See ante, p. 35, where he invited 
' a kind of Methodist ' to his house 
on Easter Sunday, but did not keep 
him, as he had purposed, to dinner. 

2 He had had, he said, one or two 
lessons in dancing. Life, iv. 80, n. 2. 

3 Reynolds remarked that 'when 
upon any occasion Johnson had been 
rough to any person in company, he 
took the first opportunity of recon 
ciliation by drinking to him, or 
addressing his discourse to him.' 
Ib. ii. 109. See also ib. ii. 256, and 
post) p. 269. 


Anecdotes. 213 

bottom and so they call it Palm-mira' Seeing however that 
the lad thought him serious, and thanked him for the informa 
tion, he undeceived him very gently indeed ; told him the history, 
geography, and chronology of Tadmor in the wilderness, with 
every incident that literature could furnish I think, or eloquence 
express, from the building of Solomon's palace to the voyage of 
Dawkins and Wood z . 

On another occasion, when he was musing over the fire in our 
drawing-room at Streatham, a young gentleman called to him 
suddenly, and I suppose he thought disrespectfully, in these 
words : Mr. Johnson, Would you advise me to marry ? ' I would 
advise no man to marry, Sir (returns for answer in a very angry 
tone Dr. Johnson), who is not likely to propagate under 
standing ; ' and so left the room 2 . Our companion looked 
confounded, and I believe had scarce recovered the consciousness 
of his own existence, when Johnson came back, and drawing his 
chair among us, with altered looks and a softened voice, joined 
in the general chat, insensibly led the conversation to the subject 
of marriage, where he laid himself out in a dissertation so 
useful, so elegant, so founded on the true knowledge of human 
life, and so adorned with beauty of sentiment, that no one ever 

1 Horace Walpole makes the fol- 2 The young gentleman was Mr. 
lowing use of this anecdote (Letters, Thrale's nephew, Sir John Lade, 
ix. 48) : ' In fact the poor man is to on whom Johnson wrote some lines 
be pitied : he was mad, and his on his coming of age. Ib. iv. 413 ; 
disciples did not find it out, but have Letters, ii. 190. According to Mr. 
unveiled all his defects; nay, have Hayward 'he married a woman of 
exhibited all his brutalities as wit, and the town, and contrived to waste the 
his lowest conundrums as humour. whole of a fine fortune before he 
Judge ! The Piozzi relates that, a died.' Hayward's Piozzi, i. 78. 
young man asking him where Pal- In the Sporting Magazine for 1796, 
myra was, he replied, " In Ireland ; p. 162, is the following entry : ' An- 
it was a bog planted with palm- other of Sir John Lade's estates is 
trees." . . . What will posterity think under the hammer j the money arising 
of us when it reads what an idol we from which has been long appro- 
adored?' priated; .200,000 have indiscreetly 

For 'Jamaica Dawkins' and the slipped through this baronet's fingers 

troop of Turkish horse which he since he became possessed of his 

hired to guard him and Wood on property.' He became of age in 

their way to Palmyra see Life, iv. 1780. Letters, ii. 191, . I. See also 

126. post, p. 281. 


214 Anecdotes. 

recollected the offence, except to rejoice in its consequences. He 
repented just as certainly however, if he had been led to praise 
any person or thing by accident more than he thought it 
deserved ; and was on such occasions comically earnest to 
destroy the praise or pleasure he had unintentionally given T . 

Sir Joshua Reynolds mentioned some picture as excellent. 
' It has often grieved me, Sir (said Mr. Johnson), to see so much 
mind as the science of painting requires, laid out upon such 
perishable materials: why do not you oftener make use of 
copper ? I could wish your superiority in the art you profess, 
to be preserved in stuff more durable than canvas/ Sir Joshua 
urged the difficulty of procuring a plate large enough for his 
torical subjects, and was going to raise further objections : ' What 
foppish 2 obstacles are these ! (exclaims on a sudden Dr. John 
son :) Here is Thrale has a thousand tun of copper ; you may 
paint it all round if you will, I suppose ; it will serve him to 
brew in afterwards : Will it not, Sir ? ' (to my husband who sat 
by). Indeed Dr. Johnson's utter scorn of painting was such, 
that I have heard him say, that he should sit very quietly 
in a room hung round with the works of the greatest masters, 
and never feel the slightest disposition to turn them if their 
backs were outermost, unless it might be for the sake of telling 
Sir Joshua that he had turned them 3 . Such speeches may 

1 ' It may be alleged that ... as and Dr. Goldsmith, as you know 
a false satire ought to be recanted good impressions. If any of your 
for the sake of him whose reputation own pictures are engraved buy them 
may be injured, false praise ought for me. I am fitting up a little room 
likewise to be obviated, lest the with prints.' Letters, ii. 107. Among 
distinction between vice and virtue his effects that were sold after his 
should be lost,' &c. Works, viii. 126. death were 146 portraits, of which 
See also Life, iv. 82, andante, p. 185. 61 were framed and glazed. Life, 

2 Johnson defines /0//wA as iv. 441. See also ib. i. 363, n. 3. 

(1) Foolish, idle, vain. Horace Walpole wrote on May 6, 

(2) Vain in show j foolishly osten- 1770 (Letters, v. 236): 'Another 
tatious; vain of dress. rage is for prints of English por- 

See /<?.?/, p. 2 19 for 'foppish lamen- traits; I have been collecting them 

tations.' above thirty years, and originally 

3 He wrote to Miss Reynolds on never gave for a mezzotinto above 
Oct. 19, 1779: 'You will do me one or two shillings. The lowest 
a great favour if you will buy for me are now a crown ; most from half 
the prints of Mr. Burke, Mr. Dyer, a guinea to a guinea.' 


Anecdotes. 215 

appear offensive to many, but those who knew he was too blind 
to discern the perfections of an art which applies itself imme 
diately to our eye-sight, must acknowledge he was not in the 

He delighted no more in music than painting x ; he was 
almost as deaf as he was blind : travelling with Dr. Johnson 
was for these reasons tiresome enough. Mr. Thrale loved 
prospects, and was mortified that his friend could not enjoy the 
sight of those different dispositions of wood and water, hill and 
valley, that travelling through England and France affords 
a man. But when he wished to point them out to his com 
panion 2 : ' Never heed such nonsense,' would be the reply : 
a blade of grass is always a blade of grass, whether in one 
country or another : let us if we do talk, talk about something ; 
men and women are my subjects of enquiry; let us see how 
these differ from those we have left behind.' 

When we were at Rouen together 3 , he took a great fancy 
to the Abbe Roffette, with whom he conversed about the 
destruction of the order of Jesuits, and condemned it loudly, 
as a blow to the general power of the church, and likely to 
be followed with many and dangerous innovations, which might 
at length become fatal to religion itself, and shake even the 
foundation of Christianity 4 . The gentleman seemed to wonder 
and delight in his conversation : the talk was all in Latin, which 

1 He said of music, ' it excites in sibility to nature, and/tfj-/, p. 323. 
my mind no ideas, and hinders 3 In September, 1775. Life, ii. 
me from contemplating my own.' 385. 

Hawkins's /0/bw0w, p. 319. See also 4 The order was suppressed in 

Life, ii. 409. France in 1 764, and generally in 1773. 

2 The more a man likes scenery Penny Cyclopaedia, ed. 1839, xiii. 
the more he dislikes to have it pointed 113. 

out to him. Johnson was not wholly Gibbon, during the alarm caused 

insensible to scenery. In his Tour by the Reign of Terror, argued in 

to Wales he describes how 'the way favour of the Inquisition at Lisbon, 

lay through pleasant lanes, and over- and said he would not, at the present 

looked a region beautifully diversified moment, give up even that old estab- 

with trees and grass.' Ib. v. 439. lishment.' Gibbon's Misc. Works, 

See ib. n. 2 for my note on his insen- i. 328. 




both spoke fluently x , and Mr. Johnson pronounced a long eulo- 
gium upon Milton 2 with so much ardour, eloquence, and 
ingenuity, that the Abbe rose from his seat and embraced him. 
My husband seeing them apparently so charmed with the com 
pany of each other, politely invited the Abbe to England, 
intending to oblige his friend ; who, instead of thanking, repri 
manded him severely before the man, for such a sudden burst of 
tenderness towards a person he could know nothing at all of; 
and thus put a sudden finish to all his own and Mr. Thrale's 
entertainment from the company of the Abbe Roffette. 

When at Versailles the people shewed us the theatre. As we 
stood on the stage looking at some machinery for playhouse 
purposes : Now we are here, what shall we act, Mr. Johnson, 
The Englishman at Paris 3 ? ' No, no (replied he), we will try to 
act Harry the Fifth.' His dislike of the French 4 was well 
known to both nations, I believe ; but he applauded the number 
of their books and the graces of their style 5 . * They have few 
sentiments (said he), but they express them neatly ; they 
have little meat too, but they dress it well 6 .' Johnson's own 

1 'While Johnson was in France, 
he was generally very resolute in 
speaking Latin. It was a maxim 
with him that a man should not let 
himself down, by speaking a lan 
guage which he speaks imperfectly.' 
Life, ii. 404. For instances of his 
colloquial Latin see ib. ii. 125, n. 5, 

2 For Johnson's lofty praise of 
Milton see ib. i. 230. 

3 A comedy by Foote. 

4 In a note on The Merry Wives 
of Windsor he says : ' To be a 
foreigner was always in England, 
and I suppose everywhere else, a 
reason of dislike.' Johnson's Shake 
speare^ ii. 479. But according to 
Reynolds 'the prejudices he had to 
countries did not extend to indi 
viduals.' Life, iv. 169, n. i. See also 
ib. iv. 15. 

5 'He admitted that the French, 
though not the highest perhaps in 
any department of literature, yet in 
every department were very high.' 
Ib. ii. 125. ' He spoke often in praise 
of French literature. " The French 
are excellent in this, (he would say,) 
they have a book on every subject." ' 
Ib. iv. 237. 'There is,' he said, 
' perhaps, more knowledge circulated 
in the French literature than in any 
other. There is more original know 
ledge in English.' Ib. v. 310. In 
Macaulay's Essay on Horace Wai- 
pole (Essays, ed. 1843, ii. 107), there 
is an interesting expansion of the last 

6 During his visit to Paris he 
says : ' Mr. Thrale keeps us a very 
fine table; but I think our cookery 
very bad.' Life, ii. 385. 'Their 
meals are gross.' Ib. p. 389. ' Mr. 




notions about eating however was nothing less than delicate ; 
a leg of pork boiled till it dropped from the bone, a veal-pye 
with plums and sugar, or the outside cut of a salt buttock of 
beef, were his favourite dainties x : with regard to drink, his 
liking was for the strongest, as it was not the flavour, but the 
effect he sought for, and professed to desire 2 ; and when I first 
knew him, he used to pour capillaire into his Port wine. For the 
last twelve years however, he left off all fermented liquors 3 . To 
make himself some amends indeed, he took his chocolate liber 
ally, pouring in large quantities of cream, or even melted butter ; 
and was so fond of fruit, that though he usually eat seven or 
eight large peaches of a morning before breakfast began 4 , and 
treated them with proportionate attention after dinner again, 
yet I have heard him protest that he never had quite as much as 
he wished of wall-fruit, except once in his life, and that was 
when we were all together at Ombersley, the seat of my Lord 
Sandys 5 . I was saying to a friend one day, that I did not like 

Thrale justly observed that the 
cookery of the French was forced 
upon them by necessity; for they 
could not eat their meat unless they 
added some taste to it.' Life, ii. 403. 
Arthur Young wrote : ' There is not 
better beef in the world than at 
Paris.' Travels in France (1792-4), 
1890, p. 306. In 1769 there was a 
tax of fifty shillings upon every ox 
sold in Paris. Burke's Works, ed. 
1808, ii. 88. 

1 By plums Mrs. Piozzi probably 
meant raisins. In Johnson's Dic 
tionary the second definition of plum 
is raisin ; grape dried in the sun. 
In the Art of Cookery, by a Lady, ed. 
1748, p. 134, among the ingredients 
of a veal-pie are included ' some 
stoned raisins and currants washed 
clean, and some sugar.' Opposite 
the passage in the Life (i. 470) where 
Johnson says, 'This was a good 
dinner enough, to be sure; but it 
was not a dinner to ask a man to,' 
Mr. Hussey wrote on the margin of 

his copy : ' I have more than once 
allowed him to dine with me on a 
Buttock of Beef; but he could not 
expect more at my house.' For his 
gross feeding see Life, i. 467. For 
the plums with the veal pie see ante, 
p. 109, where he has 'farcimen fari- 
naceum cum uvis passis.' 

2 * Brandy,' he said, ' will do soonest 
for a man what drinking can do for 
him.' Ib. iii. 381. 

3 Three years before his death he 
was drinking wine at Mr. Thrale's 
house. Ib. iv. 72. 

4 Susan Burney, describing her visit 
to Streatham in 1779, says : ' There 
sat Mrs. Thrale and Dr. Johnson, the 
latter finishing his breakfast upon 
peaches. ... He insisted upon my 
eating one of his peaches, and, when 
I had eat it, took a great deal of 
pains to persuade me to take another.' 
Early Diary of F. Burney, ii. 256. 

5 Life, v. 455. Johnson, a few 
months before his death, wrote to Dr. 
Brocklesby : ' What I consider as a 


2i8 Anecdotes. 

goose ; one smells it so while it is roasting, said I : ' But you, 
Madam (replies the Doctor), have been at all times a for 
tunate woman, having always had your hunger so forestalled by 
indulgence, that you never experienced the delight of smelling 
your dinner beforehand.' Which pleasure, answered I pertly, 
is to be enjoyed in perfection by such as have the happiness to 
pass through Porridge-Island I of a morning. ' Come, come 
(says he gravely), let's have no sneering at what is so serious 
to so many : hundreds of your fellow-creatures, dear Lady, turn 
another way, that they may not be tempted by the luxuries of 
Porridge-Island to wish for gratifications they are not able to 
obtain : you are certainly not better than all of them ; give God 
thanks that you are happier.' 

I received on another occasion as just a rebuke from Mr. John 
son, for an offence of the same nature, and hope I took care 
never to provoke a third ; for after a very long summer parti 
cularly hot and dry, I was wishing naturally but thoughtlessly for 
some rain to lay the dust as we drove along the Surry roads. 

symptom of radical health, I have a Quality of Brentford.' The World, 

voracious delight in raw summer fruit, Nov. 29, 1753, No. 48. 
of which I was less eager a few years Charles Knight, describing a walk 

ago.' Life^ iv. 353. in 1812 from Co vent Garden to Pim- 

1 Porridge-Island is a mean street lico, says : ' We make our way to 

in London, filled with cook-shops for Charing Cross, deviating a little from 

the convenience of the poorer in- the usual route, that I may see how 

habitants ; the real name of it I know some of the worthy electors of West- 

not, but suspect that it is generally minster are lodged and fed. We are 

known by, to have been originally a in the alleys known in the time of 

term of derision. Note by Mrs. Piozzi. Ben Jonson as the Bermudas but 

'The fine gentleman whose lodgings since called the Caribbee Islands . . . 

no one is acquainted with ; whose Close at hand is Porridge Island, 

dinner is served up under cover of a then famous for cook-shops, as in the 

pewter plate from the cook's shop in middle of the previous century . . . 

Porridge Island, and whose annuity We are out of the labyrinth, and are 

of a hundred pounds is made to sup- in a neglected open space, on the 

ply a laced suit every year, and a north of which stands the King's 

chair every evening to a rout, returns Mews. Trafalgar Square and the 

to his bedroom on foot, and goes National Gallery have swept away 

shivering and supperless to bed, for these relics of the pride of the Crown 

the pleasure of appearing among and the low estate of the people.' 

people of equal importance with the Passages of a Working Life, i. 117. 

' I cannot 

Anecdotes. 219 

' I cannot bear (replied he, with much asperity and an altered 
look), when I know how many poor families will perish next 
winter for want of that bread which the present drought will 
deny them, to hear ladies sighing for rain, only that their com 
plexions may not suffer from the heat, or their clothes be 
incommoded by the dust ; for shame! leave off such foppish 
lamentations, and study to relieve those whose distresses are 

With advising others to be charitable however, Dr. Johnson 
did not content himself. He gave away all he had, and all 
he ever had gotten, except the two thousand pounds he left 
behind z ; and the very small portion of his income which he 
spent on himself, with all our calculation, we never could make 
more than seventy, or at most fourscore pounds a year, and he 
pretended to allow himself a hundred. He had numberless 
dependents out of doors as well as in, ' who, as he expressed it, 
did not like to see him latterly unless he brought 'em money.' 
For those people he used frequently to raise contributions on 
his richer friends 2 ; 'and this (says he) is one of the thousand 
reasons which ought to restrain a man from drony 3 solitude and 
useless retirement. Solitude (added he one day) is dangerous to 
reason, without being favourable to virtue : pleasures of some 
sort are necessary to the intellectual as to the corporeal health ; 
and those who resist gaiety, will be likely for the most part 
to fall a sacrifice to appetite ; for the solicitations of sense are 
always at hand, and a dram to a vacant and solitary person 
is a speedy and seducing relief. Remember (continued he) that 
the solitary mortal is certainly luxurious, probably superstitious, 
and possibly mad : the mind stagnates for want of employment, 
grows morbid, and is extinguished like a candle in foul air V 

1 'The amount of his property given what I can be expected to 
proved to be considerably more than spare. The man importunes me, and 
he had supposed it to be.' Life, iv. the blow goes round.' Ib. iv. 283. 
404. 3 Dronish is in Johnson's Diction- 

2 As for instance he wrote to ary but not drony. 

Reynolds in June, 1784: 'I am 4 * Solitude to Johnson,' wrote 
ashamed to ask for some relief for a Reynolds, * was horror ; nor would 
poor man, to whom, I hope, I have he ever trust himself alone but when 


220 Anecdotes. 

It was on this principle that Johnson encouraged parents to 
carry their daughters early and much into company : * for what 
harm can be done before so many witnesses ? Solitude is the 
surest nurse of all prurient passions, and a girl in the hurry 
of preparation, or tumult of gaiety, has neither inclination nor 
leisure to let tender expressions soften or sink into her heart. 
The ball, the show, are not the dangerous places T : no, 'tis the 
private friend, the kind consoler, the companion of the easy 
vacant hour, whose compliance with her opinions can flatter her 
vanity, and whose conversation can just sooth, without ever 
stretching her mind, that is the lover to be feared : he who 
buzzes in her ear at court, or at the opera, must be contented to 
buzz in vain.' These notions Dr. Johnson carried so very far, 
that I have heard him say, ' if you would shut up any man with 
any woman, so as to make them derive their whole pleasure 
from each other, they would inevitably fall in love, as it is 
called, with each other; but at six months' end if you would 
throw them both into public life where they might change 
partners at pleasure, each would soon forget that fondness which 
mutual dependance, and the paucity of general amusement 
alone, had caused, and each would separately feel delighted by 
their release.' 

In these opinions Rousseau apparently concurs with him 
exactly ; and Mr. Whitehead's poem called Variety 2 , is written 
solely to elucidate this simple proposition. Prior likewise 
advises the husband to send his wife abroad, and let her see the 

world as it really stands 

Powder, and pocket-glass, and beau 3 . 

employed in writing or reading.' Life, public pleasures are generally less 

i. 144, n. 2. See also ib. iii. 27, guilty than solitary ones.' Gold- 

415. smith's Present State of Polite Learn- 

1 To Sir Adam Fergusson, 'who ex- ing, ch. xii. 

pressed some apprehension that the 2 This poem by William White- 
Pantheon would encourage luxury, head is given in Campbell's British 
" Sir (said Johnson), I am a great Poets, ed. 1845, p. 585. 
friend to public amusements, for they 3 ' Dear angry friend, what must 
keep people from vice." ' Ib. ii. 169. be done ? 

' But whatever be the incentives to Is there no way? there is but 

vice which are found at the theatre, one ; 




Mr. Johnson was indeed unjustly supposed to be a lover of 
singularity. Few people had a more settled reverence for the 
world than he, or was less captivated by new modes of behaviour 
introduced, or innovations on the long-received customs of com 
mon life T . He hated the way of leaving a company without 
taking notice to the lady of the house that he was going ; and 
did not much like any of the contrivances by which ease has 
been lately introduced into society instead of ceremony, which 
had more of his approbation. Cards 2 , dress 3 , and dancing 
however, all found their advocates in Dr. Johnson, who incul 
cated, upon principle, the cultivation of those arts, which many 
a moralist thinks himself bound to reject, and many a Christian 
holds unfit to be practised. ' No person (said he one day) goes 
under-dressed till he thinks himself of consequence enough to 
forbear carrying the badge of his rank upon his back V And in 

Send her abroad, and let her see 
That all this mingled mass which 


Being forbidden, longs to know, 
Is a dull farce, an empty show, 
Powder, and pocket-glass and 


An English Padlock, 1. 55. Prior's 
Works, ed. 1858, p. 85. 

1 See Life, ii. 75 for instances of 
Johnson's censure of singularity. In 
the Tatler, No. 103, it is thus at 
tacked : ' The bearing to be laughed 
at for singularities teaches us in 
sensibly an impertinent fortitude, and 
enables us to bear public censure for 
things which more substantially de 
serve it.' 

Miss Byron says of Sir Charles 
Grandison's dress : ' He scruples 
not to modernize a little ; but then 
you see that it is in compliance with 
the fashion, and to avoid singularity; 
a fault to which great minds are per 
haps too often subject, tho' he is so 
much above it.' Sir C. Grandison, 
i. 324. ' Singularity is only pardon 
able in old age and retirement ; I 
may now be as singular as I please, 

but you may not.' Chesterfield's 
Letters to his Son, iv. 78. 

2 ' He said, " I am sorry I have 
not learnt to play at cards. It is very 
useful in life ; it generates kindness 
and consolidates society." ' Life, v. 
404. See ib. iii. 23. 

3 ' It is yet remembered of the 
learned and pious Nelson [the author 
of Fasts and Festivals} that he was 
remarkably elegant in his manners 
and splendid in his dress. He knew, 
that the eminence of his character 
drew many eyes upon him ; and he 
was careful not to drive the young or 
the gay away from religion, by repre 
senting it as an enemy to any dis 
tinction or enjoyment in which human 
nature may innocently delight.' 
Works, iv. 138. 

The portrait of Nelson, at the top 
of the staircase in the Bodleian, is of 
a splendidly-dressed man. 

4 'You find the King of Prussia 
dresses plain because the dignity of his 
character is sufficient.' Life, ii. 475. 
' Whoever differs from any general 
custom is supposed both to think and 
to proclaim himself wiser than the 




answer to the arguments urged by Puritans, Quakers, &c. against 
showy decorations of the human figure, I once heard him 
exclaim, * Oh, let us not be found when our Master calls us, 
ripping the lace off our waistcoats, but the spirit of contention 
from our souls and tongues ! Let us all conform in outward 
customs, which are of no consequence, to the manners of those 
whom we live among, and despise such paltry distinctions *. Alas, 
Sir (continued he), a man who cannot get to heaven in a green 
coat, will not find his way thither the sooner in a grey one.' On 
an occasion of less consequence, when he turned his back on 
Lord Bolingbroke in the rooms at Brighthelmstone, he made 
this excuse : * I am not obliged, Sir (said he to Mr. Thrale, who 
stood fretting), to find reasons for respecting the rank of him who 
will not condescend to declare it by his dress or some other visible 
mark : what are stars and other signs of superiority made for ? ' 

The next evening however he made us comical amends, by 
sitting by the same nobleman, and haranguing very loudly about 
the nature and use and abuse of divorces. Many people 
gathered round them to hear what was said, and when my 
husband called him away, and told him to whom he had been 
talking received an answer which I will not write down 2 . 

rest of the world. ... A young fellow Bolingbroke. He had been divorced 

is always forgiven, and often ap- from his wife, who thereupon married 

plauded, when he carries a fashion Topham Beauclerk. Life, ii. 246. 
to an excess ; but never if he stops Johnson in a note on the last scene 

short of it. The first is ascribed to in the third act of The Merry Wives 

youth and fire ; but the latter is im- of Windsor says : ' There is no 

puted to an affectation of singularity image which our author appears so 

or superiority.' Chesterfield's Letters fond of as that of a cuckold's horns. 

to his Son, iv. 23. Scarcely a light character is intro- 

1 * He repeated his observation duced that does not endeavour to 
that the differences among Christians produce merriment by some allusion 
are really of no consequence.' Life, to horned husbands.' 

iii. 1 88. Chesterfield wrote to his son on 

2 Mrs. Piozzi has noted in the Feb. n, 1766: 'Lord , having 
margin : * He said, " Why, Sir, I parted with his wife, now keeps an- 
did not know the man. If he will other w e at a great expense. I 
put on no other mark of distinction fear he is totally undone.' Letters, 
let us make him wear his horns." ' iv. 238. ' Bolingbroke ' is the name 
Hayward's Piozzi, i. 293. He was suppressed. See Mahon's edition, 
the nephew of the famous Lord v. 472. 


Anecdotes. 223 

Though no man perhaps made such rough replies as Dr. John 
son, yet nobody had a more just aversion to general satire I ; he 
always hated and censured Swift for his unprovoked bitterness 
against the professors of medicine 2 ; and used to challenge his 
friends, when they lamented the exorbitancy of physicians fees, 
to produce him one instance of an estate raised by physic in 
England 3 . When an acquaintance too was one day exclaiming 
against the tediousness of the law and its partiality ; ' Let 
us hear, Sir (said Johnson), no general abuse ; the law is the last 
result of human wisdom acting upon human experience for 
the benefit of the public.' 

As the mind of Dr. Johnson was greatly expanded, so his first 
care was for general, not particular or petty morality ; and those 
teachers had more of his blame than praise, I think, who seek 
to oppress life with unnecessary scruples 4 : ' Scruples would (as 
he observed) certainly make men miserable, and seldom make 
them good. Let us ever (he said) studiously fly from those 
instructors against whom our Saviour denounces heavy judg 
ments, for having bound up burdens grievous to be borne, 
and laid them on the shoulders of mortal men.' No one had 
however higher notions of the hard task of true Christianity 
than Johnson, whose daily terror lest he had not done enough, 
originated in piety, but ended in little less than disease. Reason- 

1 Life, iv. 313. Post) p. 327. the Observatory at Oxford, which 

2 Of Dr. Arbuthnot, Swift wrote : bear Dr. Radcliffe's name, as well as 
' O if the world had but a dozen his foundations at University College, 
Arbuthnots in it I would burn my are a proof that one doctor at all 
travels.' Swift's Works, xvii. 212. events raised an estate by physic. 

In a poem entitled In Sickness, 'Johnson,' says Boswell, 'had in 

Written in Ireland, 1714, he laments general a peculiar pleasure in the 

that he is company of physicians.' Ib. iv. 292. 

' Remov'd from kind Arbuthnot's In the Life of Garth he says : ' I 

aid, believe every man has found in phy- 

Who knows his art but not his sicians great liberality and dignity 

trade.' Ib. x. 157. of sentiment, very prompt effusion of 

Johnson, in his Life of Swift, says beneficence, and willingness to exert 

nothing of this * unprovoked bitter- a lucrative art where there is no hope 

ness.' P'or his attacks on Swift see of lucre.' Works, vii. 402. 
Life, ii. 65, 318 ; iv. 61 ; v. 44. 4 Ante, p. 38. 

3 The Library, the Infirmary and 




able with regard to others, he had formed vain hopes of perform 
ing impossibilities himself; and finding his good works ever 
below his desires and intent, filled his imagination with fears 
that he should never obtain forgiveness for omissions of duty and 
criminal waste of time 1 . These ideas kept him in constant 
anxiety concerning his salvation ; and the vehement petitions 
he perpetually made for a longer continuance on earth, were 
doubtless the cause of his so prolonged existence ; for when 
I carried Dr. Pepys to him in the year 1782, it appeared wholly 
impossible for any skill of the physician or any strength of the 
patient to save him. He was saved that time however by Sir 
Lucas's prescriptions ; and less skill on one side, or less strength 
on the other, I am morally certain, would not have been enough 2 . 
He had however possessed an athletic constitution, as he said 
the man who dipped people in the sea at Brighthelmstone 
acknowledged; for seeing Mr. Johnson swim 3 in the year 1766, 
Why Sir (says the dipper), you must have been a stout-hearted 
gentleman forty years ago. 

Mr. Thrale and he used to laugh about that story very often : 
but Garrick told a better, for he said that in their young days, 
when some strolling players came to Litchfield, our friend had 
fixed his place upon the stage, and got himself a chair accord 
ingly ; which leaving for a few minutes, he found a man in it at 
his return, who refused to give it back at the first intreaty : 
Mr. Johnson however, who did not think it worth his while to 
make a second, took chair and man and all together, and threw 
them all at once into the pit. I asked the Doctor if this was 
a fact ? ' Garrick has not spoiled it in the telling (said he), it is 
very near true to be sure V 

Mr. Beauclerc too related one day, how on some occasion he 
ordered two large mastiffs into his parlour, to shew a friend who 

1 Life, iv. 299. 

2 According to Mrs. Piozzi, it was 
only by his petitions to heaven 
that his life was prolonged, for no 
thing but Sir Lucas Pepys's skill and 

his own strength saved his life in 

3 Life, ii. 299 ; iii. 92, n. i. 

4 Garrick gave much the same ac 
count to Boswell. Ib. ii. 299. 


Anecdotes. 225 

was conversant in canine beauty and excellence, how the dogs 
quarrelled, and fastening on each other, alarmed all the company 
except Johnson, who seizing one in one hand by the cuff of the 
neck, the other in the other hand, said gravely, ' Come, gentle 
men ! where's your difficulty ? put one dog out at the door, and 
I will shew this fierce gentleman the way out of the window : ' 
which, lifting up the mastiff and the sash, he contrived to 
do very expeditiously, and much to the satisfaction of the 
affrighted company. We inquired as to the truth of this curious 
recital. ' The dogs have been somewhat magnified, I believe 
Sir (was the reply) : they were, as I remember, two stout young 
pointers ; but the story has gained but little V 

One reason why Mr. Johnson's memory was so particularly 
exact, might be derived from his rigid attention to veracity ; 
being always resolved to relate every fact as it stood 2 , he looked 
even on the smaller parts of life with minute attention, and 
remembered such passages as escape cursory and common 
observers. ' A story (says he) is a specimen of human manners, 
and derives its sole value from its truth. When Foote 3 has 
told me something, I dismiss it from my mind like a passing 
shadow : when Reynolds tells me something, I consider myself 
as possessed of an idea the more.' 

Mr. Johnson liked a frolic or a jest well enough ; though he 
had strange serious rules about it too : and very angry was he if 
any body offered to be merry when he was disposed to be grave. 
'You have an ill-founded notion (said he) that it is clever to 
turn matters off with a joke (as the phrase is) ; whereas nothing 

1 'Topham Beauclerk told me,' 2 7^.iii.228and/^/,p. 297. 'Some 

writes Boswell, ' that at his house in indulgence, however, to lying or fic- 

the country, two large ferocious dogs tion is given in humorous stories, 

were righting. Dr. Johnson looked because it is there really agreeable 

steadily at them for a little while ; and and entertaining, and truth is not of 

then, as one would separate two little any importance.' Hume's Essays, 

boys, who were foolishly hurting each ed. 1770, iv. 138. 

other, he ran up to them, and cuffed 3 ' Foote,' said Johnson, ' is quite 

their heads till he drove them impartial, for he tells lies of every- 

asunder.' Life, v. 329. body.' Life, ii. 434. See post, p. 265. 

VOL. I. Q produces 

226 Anecdotes. 

produces enmity so certain, as one person's shewing a disposition 
to be merry when another is inclined to be either serious or 

One may gather from this how he felt, when his Irish friend 
Grierson I , hearing him enumerate the qualities necessary to the 
formation of a poet, began a comical parody upon his ornamented 
harangue in praise of a cook, concluding with this observation, 
that he who dressed a good dinner was a more excellent and 
a more useful member of society than he who wrote a good 
poem. ' And in this opinion (said Mr. Johnson in reply) all the 
dogs in the town will join you/ 

Of this Mr. Grierson I have heard him relate many droll stories, 
much to his advantage as a wit, together with some facts more 
difficult to be accounted for ; as avarice never was reckoned 
among the vices of the laughing world. But Johnson's various 
life, and spirit of vigilance to learn and treasure up every 
peculiarity of manner, sentiment, or general conduct, made his 
company, when he chose to relate anecdotes of people he had 
formerly known, exquisitely amusing and comical. It is indeed 
inconceivable what strange occurrences he had seen, and what 
surprising things he could tell when in a communicative humour 2 . 
It is by no means my business to relate memoirs of his acquaint 
ance ; but it will serve to shew the character of Johnson himself, 
when I inform those who never knew him, that no man told 
a story with so good a grace, or knew so well what would make 
an effect upon his auditors 3 . When he raised contributions for 
some distressed author, or wit in want, he often made us all more 
than amends by diverting descriptions of the lives they were then 

1 ' His Majesty's printer at Dublin, madam. She was habitually a slut and 
a gentleman of uncommon learning a drunkard, and occasionally a thief 
and great wit and vivacity.' Life, and a harlot." ' Mme. U'Arblay's 
ii. 116. Diary, i. 88. 

2 ' " I have known all the wits," 3 Hawkins (Life, p. 258) says, that 
Dr. Johnson said, "from Mrs. Mon- 'in the talent of humour there hardly 
tagu down to Bet Flint." " Bet ever was Johnson's equal, except 
Flint ! " cried Mrs. Thrale. " Pray, perhaps among the old comedians.' 
who is she ? " " Oh, a fine character, 


Anecdotes. 227 

passing in corners unseen by any body but himself and that odd 
old surgeon whom he kept in his house to tend the out-pensioners J , 
and of whom he said most truly and sublimely, that 

In misery's darkest caverns known, 

His useful care was ever nigh, 
Where hopeless anguish pours her groan, 

And lonely want retires to die 2 . 

I have forgotten the year, but it could scarcely I think be 
later than 1765 or 1766, that he was called abruptly from our 
house after dinner, and returning in about three hours, said, 
he had been with an enraged author, whose landlady pressed 
him for payment within doors, while the bailiffs beset him with 
out ; that he was drinking himself drunk with Madeira to drown 
care, and fretting over a novel which when finished was to be his 
whole fortune ; but he could not get it done for distraction, nor 
could he step out of doors to offer it to sale. Mr. Johnson there 
fore set away the bottle, and went to the bookseller, recommend 
ing the performance, and desiring some immediate relief; which 
when he brought back to the writer, he called the woman of 
the house directly to partake of punch, and pass their time in 

It was not till ten years after, I dare say, that something 
in Dr. Goldsmith's behaviour struck me with an idea that he was 
the very man, and then Johnson confessed that he was so ; the 
novel was the charming Vicar of Wakefield 3 . 

1 Robert Levett. There is no 3 The 'extreme inaccuracy' of this 
reason to believe that Johnson kept anecdote is shown by Boswell. Ib. 
him for that purpose. Levett mainly i. 416. Of one fact he was ignorant, 
supported himself by his practice. Goldsmith sold the Vicar of Wake- 
Ante, p. 205, n. 2. As Johnson says field in 1762 (ib. i. 415, n. i), two or 
in his lines on him : three years before Johnson knew the 

' The modest wants of every day Thrales. The price paid for it was 

The toil of every day supplied.' ;6o. Ib. i. 416. 'A fine first edition 

Life, iv. 138. in two vols. bound in red morocco, 

2 'In Misery's darkest caverns published in Salisbury in 1766* was 

known, sold in June, 1892, for ^96. Daily 

His ready help was ever nigh, News, July I, 1892. An autograph 

Where hopeless Anguish pour'd letter of Goldsmith to Garrick refer- 

his groan, ring to She Stoops to Conquer was 

And lonely want retir'd to die.' sold by auction in 1885 for ^34. 

Q a There 



There was a Mr. Boyce too, who wrote some very elegant 
verses printed in the Magazines of five-and -twenty years ago x , 
of whose ingenuity and distress I have heard Dr. Johnson tell 
some curious anecdotes ; particularly, that when he was almost 
perishing with hunger, and some money was produced to 
purchase him a dinner, he got a bit of roast beef, but could 
not eat it without ketchup, and laid out the last half-guinea 
he possessed in truffles and mushrooms, eating them in bed 
too, for want of clothes, or even a shirt to sit up in. 

Another man for whom he often begged, made as wild use of 
his friend's beneficence as these, spending in punch the solitary 
guinea which had been brought him one morning ; when re 
solving to add another claimant to a share of the bowl, besides 
a woman who always lived with him, and a footman who used to 
carry out petitions for charity, he borrowed a chairman's watch, 
and pawning it for half a crown, paid a clergyman to marry him 
to a fellow-lodger in the wretched house they all inhabited, and 
got so drunk over the guinea bowl of punch the evening of his 
wedding-day, that having many years lost the use of one leg, he 
now contrived to fall from the top of the stairs to the bottom, 

1 Mrs. Piozzi places the publication 
of Samuel Boyse's verses about 1761 ; 
he died in 1749. In the Annual 
Register, 1764, ii. 54, a memoir of him 
is given. Having once pawned his 
clothes * he sat up in bed with the 
blanket wrapt about him, through 
which he had cut a hole large enough 
to admit his arm, and placing the 
paper upon his knee scribbled in the 
best manner he could the verses he 
was obliged to make.' When he got 
some of his clothes out of pawn, to 
supply the want of a shirt, ' he cut 
some white paper to slips, which he 
tied round his wrists, and in the same 
manner supplied his neck. In this 
plight he frequently appeared abroad 
with the additional inconvenience of 
the want of breeches.' 

Fielding, in Tom Jones (bk. vii. 
ch. i), which was published three or 
four months before Boyse's death, 
makes ' a very noble quotation ' from 
his poem of The Deity. 

Johnson told Nichols that ' Boyse 
translated well from the French, but 
if any one employed him, by the 
time one sheet of the work was done 
he pawned the original. If the em 
ployer redeemed it, a second sheet 
would be completed, and the book 
again be pawned, and this perpetu 
ally. He had very little learning, 
but wrote verse with great facility, as 
fast as most men write prose.' Lit. 
Anec. ix. 777. See also Life, iv. 408, 
442, and post in John Nichols's 




and break his arm, in which condition his companions left him 
to call Mr. Johnson, who relating the series of his tragicomical 
distresses, obtained from the Literary Club x a seasonable relief 2 , 

Of that respectable society I have heard him speak in the 
highest terms, and with a magnificent panegyric on each mem 
ber, when it consisted only of a dozen or fourteen friends 3 ; but 
as soon as the necessity of enlarging it brought in new faces, and 
took off from his confidence in the company, he grew less fond 
of the meeting, and loudly proclaimed his carelessness ivho 
might be admitted, when it was become a mere dmner club 4 . 

1 Steevens, in the Gent. Mag. for 
1785, P. 98, under the signature 
of Aldebaran (see Nichols's Lit. Hist. 
v. 443) says: ' Since Mr. Garrick's 
funeral this association has been 
called (what I am told it has never 
called itself) THE LITERARY CLUB.' 
Boswell apparently was pleased with 
the name. Life, i. 477 ; iv. 326 ; 
v. 109, >*. 5. 

Literary is not in Johnson's Dic 

2 Mrs. Piozzi says this man was 
Joseph Simpson. Hayvvard's Piozzi, 
ii. 84. According to the account 
given of Simpson by Murphy, he was 
'a schoolfellow of Dr. Johnson's, a 
barrister, of good parts, but who fell 
into a dissipated course of life. . . . 
Yet he still preserved a dignity in 
his deportment.' Life, iii. 28. See 
ib. i. 346 for Johnson's letter to him 
about his father's inexorability on his 

3 See ib. v. 108, where he and 
Boswell filled the chairs of an im 
aginary 'very capital University' 
with members of their Club. 

4 He wrote to Boswell on March 1 1, 
1777 : ' It is proposed to augment 
our club from twenty to thirty, of 
which I am glad ; for as we have 
several in it whom I do not much 

like to consort with, I am for re 
ducing it to a mere miscellaneous 
collection of conspicuous men, with 
out any determinate character.' Ib. 
iii. 106. 

Malone, writing about his attempt 
to get into the Literary club, says : 
' I am not quite so anxious as 
Agmondesham Vesey was, who, I 
am told, had couriers stationed to 
bring him the quickest intelligence 
of his success.' Hist. MSS. Com. 
Twelfth Report, x. App. 344. Vesey 
was elected on April 2, 1773. Cro- 
ker's Boswell, ed. 1844, ii. 326. 

Reynolds wrote to Bishop Percy 
on Feb. 12, 1783 : 'The Club seems 
to flourish this year; we have had 
Mr. Fox, Burke and Johnson very 
often. I mention those because they 
are, or have been, the greatest truants.' 
Nichols's Lit. Hist. viii. 205, 

Macaulay wrote on March 20, 
1839 : ' I have this instant a note 
from Lord Lansdowne, who was in 
the chair of the Club yesterday night, 
to say that I am unanimously elected.' 
On April 9 he entered in his Diary : 
' I went to the Thatched House, and 
was well pleased to meet the Club 
for the first time. ... I was amused, 
in turning over the records of the 
Club, to come upon poor Bozzy's 
I think 



I think the original names, when I first heard him talk 
with fervor of every member's peculiar powers of instructing 
or delighting mankind, were Sir John Hawkins, Mr. Burke, 
Mr. Langton, Mr. Beauclerc, Dr. Percy, Dr. Nugent, Dr. Gold 
smith, Sir Robert Chambers, Mr. Dyer, and Sir Joshua Rey 
nolds, whom he called their Romulus x , or said somebody else of 
the company called him so, which was more likely : but this 
was, I believe, in the year 1775 or 1776. It was a supper meet 
ing then, and I fancy Dr. Nugent ordered an omelet sometimes 
on a Friday or Saturday night 2 ; for I remember Mr. Johnson 
felt very painful sensations at the sight of that dish soon after 
his death, and cried, ' Ah, my poor dear friend ! I shall never eat 
omelet with thce again ! ' quite in an agony. The truth is, nobody 
suffered more from pungent sorrow at a friend's death than 
Johnson, though he would suffer no one else to complain of their 
losses in the same way 3 ; 'for (says he) we must either outlive 

signature, evidently affixed when he 
was too drunk to guide his pen.' 
Trevelyan's Macaulay, ed. 1877,1!. 52. 

In the winter of 1857-1858 Grote 
was invited to join the Club, but he 
refused. When Lord Overstone, 
after in vain urging him, was taking 
his leave, Mrs. Grote ' whispered to 
him, " Slip a shilling into his hand, 
and enlist him in the name of the 
Club." ' ' Lord O. (ever alive to a 
joke) accomplished this " legerde 
main " on shaking hands, and hurry 
ing down the stairs left Grote laugh 
ing over this " impromptu " trick, 
and exclaiming, as he looked down 
at the coin, " How very absurd ! " 
He surrendered at discretion and 
frequented the meetings of "The 
Club" with more and more relish 
as years rolled on, confessing that 
"it certainly was the best literary 
talk to be had in London." ' Life 
of George Grote, 1873, p. 240. 

1 Percy, Chambers, and Dyer were 
not among the original members. 
Johnson and Chamier are omitted. 

According to Malone Reynolds 
'started the first thought of the 
Club to Johnson at his own fireside.' 
Life, i. 477 ; Prior's Malone, p. 434. 
In the Malone MSS. in the British 
Museum, No. 36, is an account of 
a resolution of the Club to raise 
a subscription for a monument in 
St. Paul's to * Sir J. Reynolds, one of 
the founders of the Club;' Johnson 
is mentioned as ' our other founder.' 

2 In 1766 Monday was the night 
of meeting. In 1772 it was changed 
to Friday. Life, i. 478, n. 3. It was 
no doubt at the Friday meetings 
that Nugent, who was a Roman 
Catholic, ordered an omelet. He 
died on Nov. 12, 1775. Gentleman's 
Magazine, 1775, p. 551. 

The Friday Club instituted in 
Edinburgh, in June 1 803, was founded, 
Lockhart believed, on the model of 
the Club. Among its original mem 
bers were Sydney Smith, Scott, 
Brougham, and Jeffrey. Lockhart's 
Scott, iii. 240. 

3 Ante, p. 205. 


Anecdotes. 231 

our friends you know, or our friends must outlive us ; and I see 
no man that would hesitate about the choice V 

Mr. Johnson loved late hours extremely, or more properly 
hated early ones 2 . Nothing was more terrifying to him than the 
idea of retiring to bed, which he never would call going to rest, 
or suffer another to call so. ' I lie down (said he) that my 
acquaintance may sleep ; but I lie down to endure oppressive 
misery, and soon rise again to pass the night in anxiety and pain.' 
By this pathetic manner, which no one ever possessed in so 
eminent a degree, he used to shock me from quitting his com 
pany, till I hurt my own health not a little by sitting up with 
him when I was myself far from well : nor was it an easy matter 
to oblige him even by compliance, for he always maintained 
that no one forbore their own gratifications for the sake of 
pleasing another, and if one did sit up it was probably to 
amuse one's self. Some right however he certainly had to say 
so, as he made his company exceedingly entertaining when he 
had once forced one, by his vehement lamentations and piercing 
reproofs, not to quit the room, but to sit quietly and make tea 
for him, as I often did in London till four o'clock in the morn 
ing 3 . At Streatham indeed I managed better, having always 

1 ' He that lives must grow old ; into which the King breaks imme- 
and he that would rather grow old diately as soon as he is left alone, 
than die has God to thank for the in- Something like this on less occasions 
firmities of old age.' Life, iv. 156. every breast has felt. Reflection 
Horace Walpole writes (Letters, vi. and seriousness rush upon the mind 
475) ; ' How often do our griefs upon the separation of a gay corn- 
become our comforts ! I know what pany, and especially after forced and 
I wish to-day ; not at all what I shall unwilling merriment.' 

wish to-morrow. Sixty says, You did Hawkins records how Johnson, 

not wish for me, yet you would like little more than a year before his 

to keep me. Sixty is in the right ; death, when his three friends of the 

and 1 have not a wordmore to say.' old Ivy Lane Club, who had met to 

2 ' Whoever thinks of going to dine at half an hour after three, 
bed before twelve o'clock,' he said, could not be prevailed upon to stay 
'is a scoundrel.' Life, iii. i, n. 2. beyond ten o'clock, 'left them with a 

3 In a note on the King's solilo- sigh that seemed to come from his 
quy in Henry V, Act iv. sc. 1. 1. 247, heart, lamenting that he was retiring 
he says : ' There is something very to solitude and cheerless medita- 
striking and solemn in this soliloquy, tion.' Life, iv. 435. 




some friend who was kind enough to engage him in talk, and 
favour my retreat x . 

The first time I ever saw this extraordinary man was in the 
year J764 2 , when Mr. Murphy, who had been long the friend 
and confidential intimate of Mr. Thrale 3 , persuaded him to wish 
for Johnson's conversation, extolling it in terms which that of no 
other person could have deserved, till we were only in doubt how 
to obtain his company, and find an excuse for the invitation. 
The celebrity of Mr. Woodhouse a shoemaker, whose verses 
were at that time the subject of common discourse 4 , soon 


1 Dr. Burney told Boswell that in 
the year 1775, 'he very frequently 
met Dr. Johnson at Mr. Thrale's, at 
Streatham, where they had many 
long conversations, often sitting up 
as long as the fire and candles lasted, 
and much longer than the patience 
of the servants subsisted.' Life, ii. 

2 In her Thraliana she had re 
corded : ' It was on the second 
Thursday of the month of January, 
1765 that I first saw Mr. Johnson in 
a room. Murphy ... so whetted our 
desire of seeing him soon that we 
were only disputing how he should 
be invited, when he should be in 
vited, and what should be the pre 
tence. At last it was resolved that 
one Woodhouse, a shoemaker, who 
had written some verses and been 
asked to some tables, should like 
wise be asked to ours, and made a 
temptation to Mr. Johnson to meet 
him : accordingly he came [to our 
house in Southwark] and Mr. Mur 
phy at four o'clock brought Mr. John 
son to dinner. We liked each other 
so well that the next Thursday was 
appointed for the same company to 
meet, exclusive of the shoemaker, 
and since then Johnson has re 
mained till this day our constant 
acquaintance, visitor, companion, 

and friend.' Hayward's Piozzi, 2nd 
ed. i. 13. 

Had this passage been published 
in the first edition I might have 
spared my readers a note on John 
son's first acquaintance with the 
Thrales. Life, i. 520. 

3 'They are very old friends,' 
wrote Miss Burney in 1779, 'and 
I question if Mr. Thrale loves any 
man so well.' Mme. D'Arblay's 
Diary, i. 210. For Murphy's intro 
duction to Johnson, see post, p. 306. 

4 Mr. R. B. Adam of Buffalo has 
sent me a copy of the following letter 
of Woodhouse, dated July 28, 1809. 
To whom it was written is not ap 
parent : ' I shall now answer your 
Request concerning the Anecdote 
relating to Dr. Johnson and myself, 
which is simply this I was informed, 
at the Time, that Dr. Johnson's 
Curiosity was excited, by what was 
said of me in the literary World, as 
a kind of wild Beast from the 
Country, and express'd a Wish to 
Mr. Murphy, who was his intimate 
Friend, to see me. In consequence 
of which, Mr. Murphy, being ac 
quainted with Mrs. Thrale, intimated 
to her that both might be invited to 
dine there, at the same Time ; for, 
until then, Dr. Johnson had never 
seen Mrs. Thrale, who, no Doubt 


Anecdotes. 233 

afforded a pretence, and Mr. Murphy brought Johnson to meet 
him, giving me general cautions not to be surprised at his figure, 
dress, or behaviour. What I recollect best of the day's talk, 
was his earnestly recommending Addison's works to Mr. Wood- 
house as a model for imitation. * Give nights and days, Sir 
(said he), to the study of Addison, if you mean either to be 
a good writer, or what is more worth, an honest man.' When 
I saw something like the same expression in his criticism on that 
author, lately published z , I put him in mind of his past in 
junctions to the young poet, to which he replied, ' That he 
wished the shoemaker might have remembered them as well.' 
Mr. Johnson liked his new acquaintance so much however, that 
from that time he dined with us every Thursday through the 
winter, and in the autumn of the next year he followed us to 
Brighthelmstone 2 , whence we were gone before his arrival ; 
so he was disappointed and enraged, and wrote us a letter 
expressive of anger 3 , which we were very desirous to pacify, 
and to obtain his company again if possible. Mr. Murphy 
brought him back to us again very kindly, and from that time 
his visits grew more frequent, till in the year 1766 his health, 

he also much desir'd to see. As sons of Crispin have, to balance 
a confirmation of this Statement, their account, a not less dispro- 
this Anecdote is related in the In- portionate catalogue of poets.' Lock- 
troduction to one of the Folio Edi- hart's Scoff, iii. 90. 
tions of the Drs. Dictionary; where I 'Whoever wishes to attain an 
I have seen it, or my Memory English style, familiar but not coarse, 
greatly deceives me. A close In- and elegant but not ostentatious, 
timacy having grown up betwixt must give his days and nights to the 
the Dr. and Mrs. Thrale, I was volumes of Addison.' Works, vii. 
a second Time invited to dine at her 473. Dr. Beattie wrote to Sir W. 
Table with the Dr. at which Time Forbes on Sept. 10, 1776, more than 
the Circumstances took Place which five years before the Life of Addison 
are recorded in your Remarks on was published, ' If I were to give 
the Drs. Works.' advice to a young man on the 
For Johnson's 'contempt of the subject of English style I would 
notice taken of Woodhouse ' see desire him to read Addison day and 
Life, ii. 127. 'It is said that the night.' Yorbes'sjBeattte, ed. 1824, p. 
solitary and meditative generation 237. 
of cobblers have produced a larger 2 Letters, i. 120. 
list of murders and other domestic 3 This letter has not been pub- 
crimes than any other mechanical lished. 
trade except the butchers ; but the 




which he had always complained of, grew so exceedingly bad, 
that he could not stir out of his room in the court x he inhabited 
for many weeks together, I think months. 

Mr. Thrale's attentions and my own now became so acceptable 
to him, that he often lamented to us the horrible condition of his 
mind, which he said was nearly distracted ; and though he 
charged us to make him odd solemn promises of secrecy on 
so strange a subject, yet when we waited on him one morning, 
and heard him, in the most pathetic terms, beg the prayers 
of Dr. Delap 2 , who had left him as we came in, I felt excessively 
affected with grief, and well remember my husband involuntarily 
lifted up one hand to shut his mouth, from provocation at hear 
ing a man so wildly proclaim what he could at last persuade no 
one to believe ; and what, if true, would have been so very unfit 
to reveal. 

Mr. Thrale went away soon after, leaving me with him, and 
bidding me prevail on him to quit his close habitation in the 
court and come with us to Streatham, where I undertook 
the care of his health, and had the honour and happiness of 
contributing to its restoration 3 . This task, though distressing 
enough sometimes, would have been less so had not my mother 
and he disliked one another extremely, and teized me often with 

1 Johnson's Court, Fleet-Street, 
into which he moved from Inner 
Temple Lane between July 15 and 
Oct. 2, 1765. Letters, i. 119, n. 2. 

2 Murphy calls Dr. Delap ' Rector 
of Lewes.' Murphy's Johnson, p. 99. 
In the Gentleman's Magazine for 
1765, p. 592, is his preferment to the 
' united vicarages of I ford and Kings 
ton.' Both parishes are close to 

He was a poet and a play-wright. 
Kemble, writing about one of his 
pieces which was brought out at 
Drury Lane in 1786, says: 'The 
Captives were set at liberty last 
night amidst roars of laughter [It 

was a tragedy.] Cadell bought this 
sublime piece before it appeared for 
fifty pounds, agreeing to make it 
a hundred on its third representa 
tion. It has been played three 
times, and I dare say old Sancti 
mony will have no remorse in taking 
the other fifty.' Prior's Malone, p. 

3 See ante, p. 43, where he re 
cords : ' I returned from Streatham, 
Oct. i, 66, having lived there more 
than three months.' In his last 
letter to her he speaks of ' that kind 
ness which soothed twenty years of 
a life radically wretched.' Letters, 
ii. 407. 


Anecdotes. 235 

perverse opposition, petty contentions, and mutual complaints. 
Her superfluous attention to such accounts of the foreign politics 
as are transmitted to us by the daily prints and her willingness 
to talk on subjects he could not endure, began the aversion ; and 
when, by the peculiarity of his style, she found out that he 
teized her by writing in the newspapers concerning battles and 
plots which had no existence, only to feed her with new accounts 
of the division of Poland perhaps, or the disputes between the 
states of Russia and Turkey, she was exceedingly angry to be 
sure, and scarcely I think forgave the offence till the domestic 
distresses of the year 1772 I reconciled them to and taught them 
the true value of each other ; excellent as they both were, far 
beyond the excellence of any other man and woman I ever yet 
saw. As her conduct too extorted his truest esteem, her cruel 
illness excited all his tenderness 2 ; nor was the sight of beauty, 
scarce to be subdued by disease 3 , and wit, flashing through the 
apprehension of evil, a scene which Dr. Johnson could see with 
out sensibility. He acknowledged himself improved by her 
piety, and astonished at her fortitude, and hung over her bed 
with the affection of a parent, and the reverence of a son 4 . Nor 
did it give me less pleasure to see her sweet mind cleared of all 
its latent prejudices, and left at liberty to admire and applaud 
that force of thought and versatility of genius, that comprehen 
sive soul and benevolent heart which attracted and commanded 
veneration from all, but inspired peculiar sensations of delight 
mixed with reverence in those who, like her, had the opportunity 
to observe these qualities, stimulated by gratitude, and actuated 

1 See post, in Sir B. Brookby's that year. Ib. i. 192, n. 3. 

Anecdotes, for Johnson's fabrication 2 Baretti, in a MS. Note on Piozzi 

of a battle between the Russians and Letters, i. 81, says that 'Johnson 

Turks. The first mention in the could not much bear Mrs. Salus- 

Gentlemarfs Magazine of the divi- bury, nor Mrs. Salusbury him, 

sion of Poland is in the number for when they first knew each other. 

July, 1772, p. 337, by which time But her cancer moved his compas- 

Mrs. Salusbury had been at least sion, and made them friends.' 

a year dangerously ill. Letters, i. 3 It must have been a good deal 

172, 1 80. 'The domestic distresses subdued by age, for she was sixty- 

of 1772' were money difficulties six when she died, 

caused by the commercial panic of 4 Ante, p. 66, 


236 Anecdotes. 

by friendship 1 . When Mr. Thrale's perplexities disturbed his 
peace, dear Dr. Johnson left him scarce a moment, and tried 
every artifice to amuse as well as every argument to console 
him : nor is it more possible to describe than to forget his pru 
dent, his pious attentions towards the man who had some years 
before certainly saved his valuable life, perhaps his reason, by 
half obliging him to change the foul air of Fleet-street for the 
wholesome breezes of the Sussex downs 2 . 

The epitaph engraved on my mother's monument 3 shews how 
deserving she was of general applause. I asked Johnson why he 
named her person before her mind : he said it was, ' because every 
body could judge of the one, and but few of the other.' 

Juxta sepulta est HESTERA MARIA 

Thomce Cotton de Combermere baronetti Cestrien sis filia, 
Johannis Salusbury armigeri Flintiensis uxor*. 

Forma fell X) felix ingenio ; 

Omnibus jucunda, suorum amantissima. 

Linguis artibusque ita exculta 

Ut loquenti nunquam deessent 

Sermonis nitor> sententiarum flosculi, 

SapienticB gravitas, leporum gratia :. 

Modum servandi adeo perita, 

Ut dcmestica inter negotia literis oblectaretur, 

Literarum inter delicias, rem familiarem sedulo curaret. 

Multis illi multos annos precantibus 

dirt carcinomatis veneno contabuit, 

nexibusque vita paulatim resolutis, 

e terrismeliora sperans emigramt. 

Nata 1707. Nupta 1739. Obiit 1773. 

Mr. Murphy, who admired her talents and delighted in her 
company, did me the favour to paraphrase this elegant inscrip 
tion in verses which I fancy have never yet been published. His 

1 He wrote to Mrs. Thrale shortly indifference, and far happier still 

before Mrs. Salusbury's death : than with counterfeited sympathy.' 

'Is it a good or an evil to me that Letter -s, i. 216. 

she now loves me? It is surely a 2 It was to Brighton that the 

good ; for you will love me better, Thrales frequently took him. 

and we shall have a new principle 3 In Streatharn Church, 

of concord ; and I shall be happier 4 For Mrs. Piozzi's pedigree see 

with honest sorrow than with sullen Hayward's Piozzi, ii. 6. 


Anecdotes. 237 

fame has long been out of my power to increase as a poet I ; as 
a man of sensibility perhaps these lines may set him higher than 
he now stands. I remember with gratitude the friendly tears 
which prevented him from speaking as he put them into my 

Near this place 
Are deposited the remains of 


The daughter of Sir Thomas Cotton of Comber- 
mere, in the county of Cheshire, Bart, the wife of 

John Salusbury, 

of the county of Flint, Esquire. She was 

born in the year 1707, married in 1739, and died 

in 1773. 

A pleasing form, where every grace combin'd, 
With genius blest, a pure enlighten'd mind; 
Benevolence on all that smiles bestow'd, 
A heart that for her friends with love o'erflow'd : 
In language skill'd, by 'science form'd to please, 
Her mirth was wit, her gravity was ease. 
Graceful in all, the happy mien [sic] she knew, 
Which even to virtue gives the limits due ; 
Whate'er employ'd her, that she seem'd to chuse, 
Her house, her friends, her business, or the muse. 
Admir'd and lov'd, the theme of general praise, 
All to such virtue wish'd a length of days ; 
But sad reverse ! with slow-consuming pains, 
Th' envenom'd cancer revell'd in her veins ; 
Prey'd on her spirits stole each power away ; 
Gradual she sunk, yet smiling in decay ; 
She smil'd in hope, by sore afflictions try'd, 
And in that hope the pious Christian died. 

The following epitaph on Mr. Thrale, who has now a monu 
ment close by her's in Streatham church, I have seen printed 
and commended in Maty's Review for April 1784 2 ; and a friend 
has favoured me with a translation. 

1 'Speaking of Arthur Murphy, It is probable that this was said 
whom he very much loved, " I don't before Goldsmith's plays were writ- 
know (said Johnson) that Arthur can ten, for Dr. Maxwell who reports it 
be classed with the very first drama- made Johnson's acquaintance in 1754. 
tick writers ; yet at present I doubt Ib. p. 116. 

much whether we have any thing 2 A New Review. By Henry 

superiour to Arthur.'" Life, ii. 127. Maty, A.M., 1784, p. 269. 


238 Anecdotes. 

Hie conditur quod reliquum est 


Qui res seu civiles, seu domesticas, ita egit, 
Ut vitam illi longiorem multi optarent j 

Ita sacras, 

Ut quam brevem esset habiturus prascire videretur; 
Simplex, apertus, sibique semper similis, 
Nihil ostentavit aut arte fictum aut cura 

In senatu x , regi patriceque 

Fideliter studuit; 
Vulgi obstrepentis contemptor animosus^ 

Domi inter mille mercaturcE negotia 

Literarum elegantiam minimi neglexit*. 

Amicis quocunque modo laborantibus, 

Const Ins, auctoritate, muneribus adfuit. 

Inter familiares, comites, convivas, hospiles, 

Tarn facili fuit morum suavitate 
Ut omnium animos ad se alliceretj 

Tarn felici sermonis libertate 
Ut nulli adulatus, omnibus placeret. 

Natus 1724. Ob. 1781. 

Consorfes tumuli habet Rodolphum patrem 3 , strenuum 

fortemque virum, et Henricum filium unicum, 

quern spei parentttm mors inopina decennem 



Domus felix et opulenta, quam erexit 
Avus, auxitque pater, cum nepote decidit. 

Abi viator* / 

Et vicibus rerum humanarum perspectis, 
dLternitatem cogita ! 

1 He was member for Southwark given in the Life, i. 490. He died 
for more than fourteen years. on April 8, 1758, aged 60. Man- 

2 ' On Mr. Barclay becoming a ning and Bray's History of Sussex, 
partner in the brewery Johnson ad- vol. xxiii. p. 392. 

vised him not to allow his commer- 4 Life, ii. 468. Another son, 

cial pursuits to divert his attention Ralph, had died in infancy. Letters, 

from his studies. "A mere literary i. 353. 

man," said the Doctor, "is a dull 5 In his Essay on Epitaphs (Works, 

man ; a man who is solely a man of v. 263), Johnson says : ' It is im- 

business is a selfish man ; but when proper to address the epitaph to the 

literature and commerce are united passenger, a custom which an inju- 

they make a respectable man."' dicious veneration for antiquity intro- 

Croker's Boswell, ed. 1835, x. 122. duced again at the revival of letters/ 

For respectable see Life, iii. 241, n. 2. He defines passenger as ' a traveller ; 

3 An account of Ralph Thrale is one who is upon the road.' 


A necdotes. 239 

Here are deposited the remains of 


Who managed all his concerns in the present 
world, public and private, in such a manner 
as to leave many wishing he had continued 

longer in it ; 

And all that related to a future world, 
' as if he had been sensible how short a time he 

was to continue in this. 

Simple, open, and uniform in his manners, 

his conduct was without either art or affectation. 

In the senate steadily attentive to the true interests 

of his king and country, 
He looked down with contempt on the clamours 

of the multitude : 

Though engaged in a very extensive business, 

He found some time to apply to polite literature : 

And was ever ready to assist his friends 

labouring under any difficulties, 
with his advice, his influence, and his purse. 

To his friends, acquaintance, and guests, 
he behaved with such sweetness of manners 

as to attach them all to his person : 

So happy in his conversation with them, 

as to please all, though he flattered none. 

He was born in the year 1724, and died in 1781. 

In the same tomb lie interred his father 

Ralph Thrale, a man of vigour and activity, 

And his only son Henry, who died before his father, 

Aged ten years. 

Thus a happy and opulent family, 

Raised by the grandfather, and augmented by the 

father, became extinguished with the grandson. 

Go, Reader, 
And reflecting on the vicissitudes of 

all human affairs, 
Meditate on eternity. 

I never recollect to have heard that Dr. Johnson wrote in 
scriptions for any sepulchral stones, except Dr. Goldsmith's 
in Westminster abbey, and these two in Streatham church 1 . 
He made four lines once, on the death of poor Hogarth, which 

1 For his Latin epitaph on Gold- parents and brother, ib. iv. 393. For 
smith see Life, iii. 82 ; on his wife, his English epitaph on Mrs. Jane 
ib. i. 241, n.) and for those on his Bell see Works, i. 151. 



A necdotes. 

were equally true and pleasing : I know not why Garrick's were 
preferred to them. 

The hand of him here torpid lies, 
That drew th' essential form of grace ; 
Here clos'd in death th' attentive eyes, 
That saw the manners in the face x . 

Mr. Hogarth, among the variety of kindnesses shewn to me 
when I was too young to have a proper sense of them, was used 
to be very earnest that I should obtain the acquaintance, and if 
possible the friendship of Dr. Johnson, whose conversation was 
to the talk of other men, like Titian's painting compared to 
Hudson's 2 , he said : but don't you tell people now, that I say so 
(continued he), for the connoisseurs and I are at war you know ; 
and because I hate them, they think I hate Titian and let 
them 3 ! Many were indeed the lectures I used to have in my 

1 Garrick consulted Johnson about 
an epitaph in three stanzas which he 
had made for Hogarth. Johnson 
replied : ' Suppose you worked upon 
something like this : 
'The Hand of Art here torpid 

That traced the essential form 

of Grace : 
Here death has closed the curious 

That saw the manners in the 

If Genius warm thee, Reader, 

If Merit touch thee, shed a 

tear ; 

Be Vice and Dulness far away ! 
Great Hogarth's honour'd dust 

is here.' 

Garrick cut down his own copy to 
two stanzas, which finally stood as 
follows : 

' Farewel ! great Painter of man 
kind ! 

Who reach'd the noblest point 
of Art, 

Whose pictur'd Morals charm the 

And thro' the eye correct the 


If thou hast Genius, Reader, stay, 
If Nature touch thee, drop a 


If neither move thee, turn away, 

For Hogarth's honour'd dust 

lies here.' Letters, \. 186. 

2 For Hogarth's mistaking John 
son for an idiot see Life, i. 146. 

Hudson was for a time, 'for want 
of a better, the principal portrait 
painter in England.' Reynolds was 
apprenticed to him. Leslie and Tay 
lor's Reynolds, i. 20. 

3 Horace Walpole wrote on May 5, 
1761 (Letters, iii. 399) : 'I went 
t'other morning to see a portrait Ho 
garth is painting of Mr. Fox. He told 
me he had promised, if Mr. Fox 
would sit as he liked, to make as good 
a picture as Vandyke or Rubens 
could. I was silent " Why now," 
said he, "you think this very vain, 
but why should not one speak truth ? " 




very early days from dear Mr. Hogarth, whose regard for my 
father induced him perhaps to take notice of his little girl, and 
give her some odd particular directions about dress, dancing, and 
many other matters interesting now only because they were his. 
As he made all his talents, however, subservient to the great 
purposes of morality, and the earnest desire he had to mend 
mankind, his discourse commonly ended in an ethical disserta 
tion, and a serious charge to me, never to forget his picture of 
the Lady's last Stake' 1 . Of Dr. Johnson, when my father and 
he were talking together about him one day : That man (says 
Hogarth) is not contented with believing the Bible, but he fairly 
resolves, I think, to believe nothing but the Bible. Johnson 
(added he), though so wise a fellow, is more like king David 
than king Solomon ; for he says in his haste that all men are liars. 
This charge, as I afterwards came to know, was but too well 
founded : Mr. Johnson's incredulity amounted almost to disease 2 , 
and I have seen it mortify his companions exceedingly. But 
the truth is, Mr. Thrale had a very powerful influence over the 
Doctor, and could make him suppress many rough answers : he 
could likewise prevail on him to change his shirt, his coat, or 
his plate, almost before it came indispensably necessary to the 
comfortable feelings of his friends 3 : But as I never had any 

This truth was uttered in the face of Hayward's Piozzi, i. 44 ; ii. 309. 
his own Sigismonda, which is ex- 2 ' He was indeed so much im- 
actly a maudlin w , tearing off the pressed with the prevalence of false- 
trinkets that her keeper had given hood, voluntary or unintentional, that 
her, to fling at his head.' I never knew any person who upon 

1 The picture was founded on hearing an extraordinary circum- 
Colley Gibber's play. Mrs. Thrale, stance told, discovered more of the 
according to Mr. Hay ward, when a incredulus odi. He would say, with 
girl of fourteen, sat to Hogarth for a significant look and decisive tone, 
the Lady in this picture. According " It is not so. Do not tell this 
to her account he said to her : ' You again." ' Life, iii. 229. 
are not fourteen years old yet, I 3 According to Boswell, ' by asso- 
think, but you will be twenty-four, ciating with Mrs. Thrale Johnson's 
and this portrait will then be like external appearance was much im- 
you. 'Tis the lady's last stake ; see proved.' Jb. iii. 325. Her state- 
how she hesitates between her money ment that it was her husband who 
and her honour. Take you care ; I brought about the change is con- 
see an ardour for play in your eyes firmed by the two following passages 
and in your heart ; don't indulge it.' in Johnson's letters to her : * My 

VOL. I. R ascendency 


A necdotes. 

ascendency at all over Mr. Johnson, except just in the things that 
concerned his health, it grew extremely perplexing and difficult 
to live in the house with him when the master of it was no more x ; 
the worse indeed, because his dislikes grew capricious ; and he 
could scarce bear to have any body come to the house whom it 
was absolutely necessary for me to see 2 . Two gentlemen, I per 
fectly well remember, dining with us at Streatham in the Sum 
mer 1782, when Elliot's brave defence of Gibraltar was a subject 
of common discourse, one of these men naturally enough begun 
some talk about red-hot balls thrown with surprizing dexterity 
and effect 3 : which Dr. Johnson having listened some time to, 
4 1 would advise you, Sir (said he with a cold sneer) never to 
relate this story again : you really can scarce imagine how very 
poor a figure you make in the telling of it.' Our guest being 
bred a Quaker 4 , and I believe a man of an extremely gentle dis 
position, needed no more reproofs for the same folly ; so if he 
ever did speak again, it was in a low voice to the friend who 
came with him. The check was given before dinner 5 , and after 

cloaths, Mr. Thrale says, must be 
made like other people's, and they 
are gone to the taylor.' Letters, i. 
322. 'I will send directions to the 
taylor to make me some cloaths ac 
cording to Mr. Thrale's direction.' 
Ib. ii. 39. 

1 ' I know no man (said Johnson) 
who is more master of his wife and 
family than Thrale. If he but holds 
up his finger he is obeyed.' Life, i. 

2 Miss Burney writing of his con 
duct at Brighton in the late autumn 
of 1782 says: 'He has been in 
a terrible severe humour of late, and 
has really frightened all the people, 
till they almost ran from him. To 
me only I think he is now kind, 
for Mrs. Thrale fares worse than 
anybody.' Mme. D'Arblay's Diary, 
ii. 177. See also Life, iv. 159, n. 3. 

3 It was in the autumn of 1782 that 
the news of the defence reached Eng 
land. Horace Walpole wrote on Oct. I 

(Letters, viii. 286) : ' I have this 
minute received a letter from General 
Conway with these words : " I have 
a piece of good news to tell you, 
which is the complete and entire 
defeat of the long-meditated attack 
on Gibraltar, which began on the 
1 3th [of September] at 3 p.m., and 
before midnight all the famous bat 
teries were either burnt or sunk by 
our red-hot balls." ' 

4 This Quaker cannot have been 
Mr. Barclay the purchaser of the 
brewery, for ' he had never observed 
any rudeness or violence on the part 
of Johnson.' Croker's Bos-well, ed. 
1844, x. 123. Johnson told Boswell 
'that he liked individuals among 
the Quakers, but not the sect.' Life, 
ii. 458. 

5 According to Barclay, ' Johnson, 
like many other men, was always in 
much better humour after dinner 
than before.' Croker's Eoswett t x. 


Anecdotes. 243 

coffee I left the room. When in the evening however our com 
panions were returned to London, and Mr. Johnson and myself 
were left alone, with only our usual family about us, ' I did not 
quarrel with those Quaker fellows,' (said he, very seriously.) You 
did perfectly right, replied I ; for they gave you no cause of 
offence. .' No offence ! (returned he with an altered voice ;) and 
is it nothing then to sit whispering together when / am present, 
without ever directing their discourse towards me, or offering me 
a share in the conversation ? ' That was, because you frighted 
him who spoke first about those hot balls. * Why, Madam, if 
a creature is neither capable of giving dignity to falsehood, nor 
willing to remain contented with the truth, he deserves no better 

Mr. Johnson's fixed incredulity of every thing he heard, and 
his little care to conceal that incredulity, was teizing enough 
to be sure x : and I saw Mr. Sharp 2 was pained exceedingly, 
when relating the history of a hurricane that happened about 
that time in the West Indies 3 , where, for aught I know, he had 

1 ' Talking of Dr. Johnson's un- and human ; to 4ubt the second ; 
willingness to believe extraordinary and when obliged by unquestionable 
things, I ventured to say, " Sir, you testimony, ... to admit of something 
come near Hume's argument against extraordinary, to receive as little of it 
miracles, ' That it is more probable as is consistent with the known facts 
witnesses should lie, or be mistaken, and circumstances.' Hume's His- 
than that they should happen.'" tory of England, ed. 1773, iii. 143. 
Life, iii. 188. For Hume's argument 2 Perhaps Richard Sharpe, corn- 
see ib. i. 444, n. 3. monly known as ' Conversation 

* The wisest and most experienced Sharpe.' H. C. Robinson (Diary, ii. 

are generally the least credulous. 412) wrote of him in 1829: * In his 

But the man scarce lives who is not room were five most interesting por- 

more credulous than he ought to be. traits, all of men he knew Johnson, 

. . . The natural disposition is always Burke and Reynolds, by Reynolds, 

to believe. It is acquired wisdom Henderson by Gainsborough, and 

and experience only that teach in- Mackintosh by Opie.' Among those 

credulity, and they very seldom teach present at Johnson's Funeral was 

it enough.' Adam Smith's Moral a Mr. Sharp. Letters, ii. 434. Samuel 

Sentiments, ed. 1801, ii. 326. Sharp, the author of Letters from 

'It is the business of history to Italy (Life, iii. 55), died in 1778. 

distinguish between the miraculous 3 Probably the hurricane of Oct. 3, 

and the marvellous', to reject the 1780, described in the Annual Regis- 

first in all narrations merely profane ter, 1780, i. 292. 

R a himself 

244 Anecdotes. 

himself lost some friends too, he observed Dr. Johnson believed 
not a syllable of the account : ' For 'tis so easy (says he) for 
a man to fill his mouth with a wonder, and run about telling the 
lie before it can be detected, that I have no heart to believe 
hurricanes easily raised by the first inventor, and blown forwards 
by thousands more.' I asked him once if he believed the story 
of the destruction of Lisbon by an earthquake when it first hap 
pened : ' Oh ! not for six months (said he) at least : I did think 
that story too dreadful to be credited, and can hardly yet per 
suade myself that it was true to the full extent we all of us have 
heard '.' 

Among the numberless people however whom I heard him 
grossly and flatly contradict, I never yet saw any one who did 
not take it patiently excepting Dr. Burney, from whose habitual 
softness of manners I little expected such an exertion of spirit : 
the event was as little to be expected. Mr. Johnson asked his 
pardon generously and genteelly, and when he left the room rose 
up to shake hands with him, that they might part in peace 2 . 
On another occasion, when he had violently provoked Mr. Pepys 3 , 
in a different but perhaps not a less offensive manner, till some 
thing much too like a quarrel was grown up between them, the 
moment he was gone, ' Now (says Dr. Johnson) is Pepys gone 
home hating me, who love him better than I did before ; he 
spoke in defence of his dead friend 4 ; but though I hope 7 spoke 
better who -spoke against him, yet all my eloquence will gain me 
nothing but an honest man for an enemy ! ' He did not how- 

1 He wrote, I have no doubt, 2 Ib. iv. 49, n. 3. 

the review in the Literary Magazine 3 William Weller Pepys, a Master 

for 1756 (p. 22), of A True Account in Chancery, brother of Sir Lucas 

of Lisbon since the Earthquake, in Pepys (Life, iv. 169), and father of 

which it is stated that the destruc- Lord Chancellor Cottenham. Samuel 

tion was grossly exaggerated. After Pepys, the author of the Diary, was 

quoting the writer at lengt/h, he con- of the same family. Letters, ii. 136, 

eludes : ' Such then is the actual, n. i. 

real situation of that place which 4 The ( dead friend ' was Lord 

once was Lisbon, and has been since Lyttelton. For Miss Burney's account 

gazetically and pamphletically quite of this quarrel see Mme. D'Arblay's 

destroyed, consumed, annihilated ! ' Diary, ii. 45, 82, 290, and Life, iv. 

See Life, i. 309, n. 3. 65, n. I. 


Anecdotes. 245 

ever cordially love Mr. Pepys, though he respected -his abilities. 
* I knew the dog T was a scholar (said he, when they had been 
disputing about the classics for three hours together one morning 
at Streatham) ; but that he had so much taste and so much 
knowledge I did not believe : I might have taken Barnard's word 
though, for Barnard 2 would not lie.' 

We had got a little French print among us at Brighthelm- 
stone, in November 1782, of some people skaiting, with these 
lines written under : 

Sur un mince cristal fhiver conduit leurs pas, 

Le precipice est sous la glace / 
Telle est de nos \vos\ plaisirs la tegere surf ate j 

Glissez, mortels, rtappuyez pas 3 . 

And I begged translations from every body : Dr. Johnson gave 

me this ; 

O'er ice the rapid skaiter flies, 

With sport above and death below; 
Where mischief lurks in gay disguise, 
Thus lightly touch and quickly go. 

He was however most exceedingly enraged when he knew that 
in the course of the season I had asked half a dozen acquaint 
ance to do the same thing, and said, it was a piece of treachery, 
and done to make every body else look little when compared to 
my favourite friends the Pepyses, whose translations were un 
questionably the best. I will insert them, because he did say so. 
This is the distich given me by Sir Lucas, to whom I owe mere 
solid obligations, no less than the power of thanking him for the 
life he saved 4 , and whose least valuable praise is the correctness 
of his taste : 

O'er the ice as o'er pleasure you lightly should glide; 

Both have gulphs which their flattering surfaces hide. 

1 For instances of Johnson's use word. The reproach is often mixed 

of dog see Life, vi. 298, to which I with good humour, 

must add ' the dog was never good 2 Ante, p. 168. 

for much ' (said of his imperfect eye), 3 * Un charmant quatrain e'crit par 

ib. i. 41, n. 2. The definition in his le poete Roy au has d'une gravure 

Dictionary of dog, in its third sense, de Larmessin.' Grammaire Lit- 

as a reproachful name for a man, ttraire par P. Larousse, 1880, p. 101. 

does not cover all his uses of the 4 Pepys knew that her illness in 


246 Anecdotes. 

This other more serious one was written by his brother : 

Swift o'er the level how the skaiters slide, 

And skim the glitt'ring surface as they go : 
Thus o'er life's specious pleasures lightly glide, 

But pause not, press not on the gulph below. 

Dr. Johnson seeing this last, and thinking a moment, repeated, 

O'er crackling ice, o'er gulphs profound, 

With nimble glide the skaiters play; 
O'er treacherous pleasure's flow'ry ground 

Thus lightly skim, and haste away. 

Though thus uncommonly ready both to give and take offence, 
Mr. Johnson had many rigid maxims concerning the necessity 
of continued softness and compliance of disposition z : and when 
I once mentioned Shenstone's idea, that some little quarrel 
among lovers, relations, and friends was useful, and contributed 
to their general happiness upon the whole, by making the soul 
feel her elastic force, and return to the beloved object with 
renewed delight 2 : ' Why, what a pernicious maxim is this now 
(cries Johnson), all quarrels ought to be avoided studiously, par 
ticularly conjugal ones, as no one can possibly tell where they 
may end ; besides that lasting dislike is often the consequence of 
occasional disgust, and that the cup of life is surely bitter enough, 
without squeezing in the hateful rind of resentment.' It was 
upon something like the same principle, and from his general 
hatred of refinement, that when I told him how Dr. Collier 3 , in 
order to keep the servants in humour with his favourite dog, by 

1783-4 was caused by her love for art in procuring the affection of his 

Piozzi. Hay ward's Piozzi, i. 220, mistress it were perhaps his most 

ii. 53, and Mme. D'Arblay's Diary, effectual method to contrive a slight 

ii. 284. estrangement, and then, as it were 

1 * Were I to write the Life of Dr. imperceptibly, bring on a reconcilia- 
Johnson,' said Reynolds, * I would tion. The soul here discovers a 
labour this point, to separate his kind of elasticity ; and being forced 
conduct that proceeded from his back returns with an additional vio- 
passions, and what proceeded from lence.' Shenstone's Works, ed. 1791, 
his reason, from his natural disposi- ii. 213. 

tion seen in his quiet hours.' Leslie 3 Dr. Arthur Collier. Letters, ii. 
and Taylor's Reynolds, ii. 462. 69, n. 5, and Hay ward's Piozzi, ii. 

2 'Were a person to make use of 18, 35. 


Anecdotes. 247 

seeming rough with the animal himself on many occasions, and 
crying out, Why will nobody knock this cur's brains out ? meant 
to conciliate their tenderness towards Pompey ; he returned me 
for answer, ' that the maxim was evidently false, and founded on 
ignorance of human life : that the servants would kick the dog 
the sooner for having obtained such a sanction to their severity : 
and I once (added he) chid my wife for beating the cat before 
the maid, who will now (said I) treat puss with cruelty perhaps, 
and plead her mistress's example V 

I asked him upon this, if he ever disputed with his wife? 
(I had heard that he loved her passionately.) ' Perpetually (said 
he) : my wife had a particular reverence for cleanliness, and 
desired the praise of neatness in her dress and furniture, as many 
ladies do, till they become troublesome to their best friends, 
slaves to their own besoms, and only sigh for the hour of sweep 
ing their husbands out of the house as dirt and useless lumber : 
a clean floor is so comfortable, she would say sometimes, by way 
of twitting ; till at last I told her, that I thought we had had 
talk enough about the floor, we would now have a touch at the 

On another occasion I have heard him blame her for a fault 
many people have, of setting the miseries of their neighbours 
half unintentionally, half wantonly before their eyes, shewing 
them the bad side of their profession, situation, &c. 2 He said, 
'she would lament the dependence of pupillage to a young 
heir, &c., and once told a waterman who rowed her along the 
Thames in a wherry, that he was no happier than a galley-slave, 

1 ' I never shall forget the indul- does not complain, and which there 
gence with which he treated Hodge, are no means proposed of alleviating.' 
his cat : for whom he himself used Rambler, No. 75. ' Unnecessarily to 
to go out and buy oysters, lest the obtrude unpleasing ideas is a species 
servants having that trouble should of oppression.' Ib. No. 98. See Life, 
take a dislike to the poor creature/ iii. 310, iv. 171 for occasions where 
Life, iv. 197. Bos well angered Johnson by making 

2 'No one ought to remind another him think of some great dignity to 
of misfortunes of which the sufferer which he might have attained. 




one being chained to the oar by authority, the other by want *. 
I had however (said he, laughing), the wit to get her daughter on 
my side always before we began the dispute 2 . She read comedy 
better than any body he ever heard (he said) ; in tragedy she 
mouthed too much.' 

Garrick told Mr. Thrale however, that she was a little painted 
puppet, of no value at all, and quite disguised with affectation, 
full of odd airs of rural elegance ; and he made out some comical 
scenes, by mimicking her in a dialogue he pretended to have 
overheard : I do not know whether he meant such stuff to 
be believed or no, it was so comical ; nor did I indeed ever see 
him represent her ridiculously, though my husband did 3 . The 
f intelligence I gained of her from old Levett, was only perpetual 
illness and perpetual opium. The picture I found of her at 
s Litchfield was very pretty, and her daughter Mrs. Lucy Porter 
said it was like 4 . Mr. Johnson has told me, that her hair 
was eminently beautiful, quite blonde like that of a baby ; 

1 * Un jour, en me promenant sur 
la Tamise, Tun de mes rameurs, 
voyant que j'etais Fran^ais, se mit k 
m'exalter, d'un air fier, la liberte de 
son pays, et me dit, en jurant Dieu, 
qu'il aimait mieux etre batelier sur 
la Tamise qu'archeveque en France.' 
(Euvres de Voltaire, ed. 1821, xliii. 


2 The daughter, Lucy Porter, only 
lived with them for about two years. 
She never visited London. Life, ii. 

3 Boswell, after giving the descrip 
tion of her which he received from 
Garrick, continues : ' He probably, 
as is the case in all such represen 
tations, considerably aggravated the 
picture.' /. i. 99. Seepost in Percy's 

4 This portrait is in the possession 
of Colonel G. F. Pearson, of Nantlys, 
St. Asaph, who had it from his 
grandfather, the Rev. J. B. Pearson, 
the husband of the lady who was 

Lucy Porter's heir. In an inter 
leaved copy of Harwood's Lichfield, 
in the Bodleian, at p. 450, is a pic 
ture of Mrs. Johnson, as well as an 
engraving by T. Cook (1807) of 
Hogarth's picture of Joseph Porter. 

The author of the Memoirs of the 
Life and Writings of Dr. Johnson, 
(ed. 1785, p. 25), who had some of 
his information from Mrs. Desmoulins 
the daughter of Johnson's godfather, 
says that Mrs. Porter was still hand 
some at the time of her second mar 
riage. He adds (p. 1 1 1) : ' She was 
a lady of great sensibility and worth ; 
so shrewd and cultivated that in the 
earlier part of their connection he 
was fond of consulting her in all his 
literary pursuits, and so handsome 
that his associates in letters and wit 
were often very pleasant with him 
on the strange disparity which, in 
this respect, subsisted between hus 
band and wife.' 


Anecdotes. 249 

but that she fretted about the colour, and was always desirous 
to dye it black, which he very judiciously hindered her from 
doing. His account of their wedding we used to think ludicrous 
enough ' I was riding to church (says Johnson), and she follow 
ing on another single horse : she hung back however, and I turned 
about to see whether she could get her steed along, or what was 
the matter. I had however soon occasion to see it was only 
coquetry, and that I despised, so quickening my pace a little, she 

mended hers; but I believe there was a tear or two pretty 

dear creature x ! ' 

Johnson loved his dinner exceedingly, and has often said in my 
hearing, perhaps for my edification, ' that wherever the dinner is 
ill got there is poverty, or there is avarice, or there is stupidity ; 
in short, the family is somehow grossly wrong : for (continued he) 
a man seldom thinks with more earnestness of any thing than he 
does of his dinner 2 ; and if he cannot get that well dressed, he 
should be suspected of inaccuracy in other things.' One day 
when he was speaking upon the subject, I asked him, if he ever 
huffed his wife about his dinner? ' So often (replied he), that at 
last she called to me, and said, Nay, hold Mr. Johnson, and do 

1 See Life, i. 96, for the account of faction. " Some people (said he,) 
the ride which Boswell had from have a foolish way of not minding, 
Johnson. They rode from Birming- or pretending not to mind, what they 
ham to Derby, a distance of forty eat. For my part, I mind my belly 
miles. They would pass through very studiously, and very carefully ; 
Lichfield. Faujas Saint-Fond, who for I look upon it, that he who does 
went over the same road more than not mind his belly will hardly mind 
forty years later, thus describes it : anything else." ' Life, \. 467. 
'Nous partimes k midi de Derby, et ' He who makes his belly hisbusi- 
comme les chemins sont encore fort ness will quickly come to have a 
mauvais sur toute cette route, nous conscience of as large a swallow as 
eumes beaucoup de peine k arriver his throat.' South's Sermons, ii. 283. 
ce jour-Ik a Birmingham : iletait plus 'He wrote to Mrs. Thrale on 
de neuf heures du soir lorsque nous April 15, 1784. at a time when after 
entrames dans 1'auberge, apres avoir a long illness his appetite was in- 
traverse des bruyeres noires et arides ordinate : ' I have now an incli- 
et un pays extremement sauvage.' nation to luxury which even your 
Voyage en Angleterre, ii. 393. table did not excite ; for till now my 

2 ' At supper this night he talked talk was more about the dishes than 
of good eating with uncommon satis- my thoughts.' Letters, ii. 389. 


250 Anecdotes. 

not make a farce of thanking God for a dinner which in a few 
minutes you will protest not eatable.' 

When any disputes arose between our married acquaintance 
however, Mr. Johnson always sided with the husband, * whom (he 
said) the woman had probably provoked so often, she scarce 
knew when or how she had disobliged him first. Women (says 
Dr. Johnson) give great offence by a contemptuous spirit of non- 
compliance on petty occasions. The man calls his wife to walk 
with him in the shade, and she feels a strange desire just at that 
moment to sit in the sun : he offers to read her a play, or sing 
her a song, and she calls the children in to disturb them, or 
advises him to seize that opportunity of settling the family 
accounts. Twenty such tricks will the faithfullest wife in 
the world not refuse to play, and then look astonished when 
the fellow fetches in a mistress 1 . Boarding-schools were estab 
lished (continued he) for the conjugal quiet of the parents: the 
two partners cannot agree which child to fondle, nor how to 
fondle them, so they put the young ones to school, and remove 
the cause of contention. The little girl pokes her head 2 , the 
mother reproves her sharply : Do not mind your mamma, says the 
father, my dear, but do your own way. The mother complains to 
me of this: Madam (said I), your husband is right all the while ; he 
is with you but two hours of the day perhaps, and then you teize 
him by making the child cry. Are not ten hours enough for 
tuition ? And are the hours of pleasure so frequent in life, that 

1 'Johnson used to say that in not been negligent of pleasing.' Life, 

all family disputes the odds were ii. 56. 

in favour of the husband from his ' Sae, whensoe'er they slight their 

superior knowledge of life and man- maiks * at hame, 

ners.' Johnson's Works (1787), xi. 'Tis ten to ane their wives are 

210. maist to blame.' 

Talking to Boswell he said : Allan Ramsay's Gentle Shepherd, 

( A wife should study to reclaim her Act i. sc. 2. 

husband by more attention to please 2 The only definition given by 

him. Sir, a man will not, once in Johnson of poke is 'to feel in the 

a hundred instances, leave his wife dark ; to search anything with a 

and go to a harlot, if his wife has long instrument.' 

1 Mates. 


Anecdotes. 251 

when a man gets a couple of quiet ones to spend in familiar chat 
with his wife, they must be poisoned by petty mortifications ? 
Put missey to school ; she will learn to hold her head like her 
neighbours, and you will no longer torment your family for want 
of other talk.' 

The vacuity of life had at some early period of his life struck 
so forcibly on the mind of Mr. Johnson, that it became by 
repeated impression his favourite hypothesis, and the general 
tenor of his reasonings commonly ended there, wherever they 
might begin. Such things therefore as other philosophers often 
attribute to various and contradictory causes, appeared to him 
uniform enough ; all was done to fill up the time, upon his 
principle 1 . I used to tell him, that it was like the Clown's 
answer in All's well that ends well 2 , of * Oh Lord, Sir ! ' for that 
it suited every occasion. One man, for example, was profligate 
and wild, as we call it, followed the girls, or sat still at the gaming 
table. 'Why, life must be filled up (says Johnson), and the man 
who is not capable of intellectual pleasures must content himself 
with such as his senses can afford.' Another was a hoarder : 
* Why, a fellow must do something ; and what so easy to a 
narrow mind as hoarding halfpence till they turn into sixpences.' 
Avarice was a vice against which, however, I never much heard 
Mr. Johnson disclaim 3 , till one represented it to him connected 
with cruelty, or some such disgraceful companion. * Do not (said 
he) discourage your children from hoarding, if they have a taste 
to it : whoever lays up his penny rather than part with it for 
a cake, at least is not the slave of gross appetite ; and shews 

1 'When I, in a low-spirited fit, must resolve to avoid it; and it 
was talking to him with indifference must be avoided generally by the 
of the pursuits which generally en- science of sparing.' Rambler, No. 
gage us in a course of action, and 57. 

inquiring a reason for taking so To Boswell, who had come into 

much trouble ; " Sir (said he, in an his inheritance, he wrote :--* Do not 

animated tone) it is driving on the think your estate your own, while 

system of life.'" Life, iv. 112. any man can call upon you for 

2 Act ii. sc. 2. money which you cannot pay ; there- 

3 ' The prospect of penury in age fore begin with timorous parsimony, 
is so gloomy and terrifying, that Let it be your first care not to be in 
every man who looks before him any man's debt.' Lz/e, iv. 1 54. 




besides a preference always to be esteemed, of the future to the 
present moment *. Such a mind may be made a good one ; but 
the natural spendthrift, who grasps his pleasures greedily and 
coarsely, and cares for nothing but immediate indulgence, is very 
little to be valued above a negro.' We talked of Lady Tavi- 
stock, who grieved herself to death for the loss of her husband 2 
* She was rich and wanted employment (says Johnson), so she 
cried till she lost all power of restraining her tears : other women 
are forced to outlive their husbands, who were just as much 
beloved, depend on it; but they have no time for grief: and 
I doubt not, if we had put my Lady Tavistock into a small 
chandler's shop, and given her a nurse-child to tend, her life 
would have been saved. The poor and the busy have no leisure 
for sentimental sorrow 3 .' We were speaking of a gentleman 
who loved his friend ' make him prime minister (says Johnson), 
and see how long his friend will be remembered V But he had 
a rougher answer for me, when I commended a sermon preached 
by an intimate acquaintance of our own at the trading end of the 

1 * Whatever withdraws us from 
the power of our senses, whatever 
makes the past, the distant, or the 
future predominate over the present, 
advances us in the dignity of think 
ing beings.' Life, v.334; Works, \x. 


2 Horace Walpole wrote on March 
19, 1767: 'Lord Tavistock, the 
Duke of Bedford's only son, has 
killed himself by a fall and kick of 
his horse, as he was hunting. . . . No 
man was ever more regretted ; the 
honesty, generosity, humility, and 
moderation of his character endeared 
him to all the world. The desola 
tion of his family is extreme. Lady 
Tavistock, passionately in love with 
him, is six months gone with child.' 
Walpole's Letters, v. 43. She died 
at Lisbon on Nov. I, 1768. Gentle 
man's Magazine, 1768, p. 542. The 
child was Lord William Russell, who, 
on May 6, 1840, was murdered by 

his Swiss valet, Courvoisier. Burke's 

3 ' Dr. Johnson told me the other 
day he hated to hear people whine 
about metaphysical distresses, when 
there was so much want and hunger 
in the world. I told him I supposed 
then he never wept at any tragedy 
but Jane Shore, who had died for 
want of a loaf. He called me a 
saucy girl, but did not deny the 
inference.' Hannah M ore's Memoirs, 
i. 249. Jane Shore is by Nicholas 
Rowe. Johnson's Works, vii. 410, 
and /0.r/, p. 284. 

4 See Life, iii. 2, where Johnson 
' shewed that a man who has risen 
in the world, must not be condemned 
too harshly for being distant to former 
acquaintance, even though he may 
have been much obliged to them.' 

For prime minister see Life, ii. 
355, n. 2, and Letters, i. 92, n. 2. 




town. * What was the subject, Madam (says Dr. Johnson) ? ' 
Friendship, Sir (replied I). 'Why now, is it not strange that 
a wise man, like our dear little Evans J , should take it in his 
head to preach on such a subject, in a place where no one can be 
thinking of it ? ' Why, what are they thinking upon, Sir (said I) ? 
* Why, the. men are thinking on their money I suppose, and the 
women are thinking of their mops.' 

Dr. Johnson's knowledge and esteem of what we call low or 
coarse life was indeed prodigious ; and he did not like that the 
upper ranks should be dignified with the name of the world. 
Sir Joshua Reynolds said one day, that nobody wore laced coats 
now 2 ; and that once every body wore them. * See now (says 
Johnson) how absurd that is ; as if the bulk of mankind consisted 
of fine gentlemen that came to him to sit for their pictures. 
If every man who wears a laced coat (that he can pay for) was 
extirpated, who would miss them ? ' With all this haughty con 
tempt of gentility, no praise was more welcome to Dr. Johnson 

1 Miss Hawkins (Memoirs, i. 65), 
mentions ' the Rev. Mr. Evans, who 
having the living of St. Olave's, 
Tooley Street, was frequently a guest 
at Mrs. Thrale's table.' 

2 ' Greek, Sir (said Johnson), is 
like lace ; every man gets as much 
of it as he can.' Life, iv. 23. When, 
in 1 749, his Irene was acted ' he 
appeared in one of the side boxes in 
a scarlet waistcoat, with rich gold 
lace, and a gold-laced hat.' Ib. i. 
200. Ruddiman, the Scotch gram 
marian and Librarian of the Faculty 
of Advocates, is thus described in 
1747: 'His coat was of cloth and 
of a mixed orange colour ; his waist 
coat of scarlet-cloth and decorated 
with broad gold lace. His shirt was 
ornamented with very deep ruffles.' 
Chalmers's Life of Ruddiman, p. 274. 

Lord Chesterfield, writing in 1747 
to his son, a boy of about fifteen or 
sixteen, says: 'If I am rightly in 

formed, I am now writing to a fine 
Gentleman in a scarlet coat laced 
with gold, a brocade waistcoat, and 
all other suitable ornaments.' Letters 
to his Son, i. 261. 

When Joseph Andrews had to 
choose a dress from the wardrobe 
of his new brother-in-law, Squire 
Booby, 'the plainest he could find 
was a blue coat and breeches, with 
a gold edging, and a red waistcoat 
with the same.' Joseph Andrews, 
Bk. iv. ch. 4. 

Bentham, writing of about the 
year 1756, says : 'At dinner [at the 
Duke of Leeds'] my attention was 
excited by a Mr. Trimmer, an humble 
dependant of the family, who sat at 
the bottom of the table and wore 
gold lace like the rest ; for every 
body wore gold lace then ; but 
narrow was the gold lace worn by 
Mr. Trimmer.' Bentham's Works, 
x. 31. 



A necdotes. 

than that which he said had the notions or manners of a 
gentleman I : which character I have heard him define with 
accuracy, and describe with elegance. ' Officers (he said) were 
falsely supposed to have the carriage of gentlemen ; whereas no 
profession left a stronger brand behind it than that of a soldier ; 
and it was the essence of a gentleman's character to bear the visible 
mark of no profession whatever 2 .' He once named Mr. Beren- 
ger 3 as the standard of true elegance ; but some one objecting 
that he too much resembled the gentleman in Congreve's come 
dies, Mr. Johnson said, ' We must fix them upon the famous 
Thomas Hervey 4 , whose manners were polished even to acuteness 
and brilliancy, though he lost but little in solid power of reasoning, 
and in genuine force of mind.' Mr. Johnson had however an 
avowed and scarcely limited partiality for all who bore the name 
or boasted the alliance of an Aston or a Hervey 5 ; and when 

1 Mrs. Piozzi, I conjecture, meant 
to say, ' that which said he had,' &c. 

2 ' Dr. Johnson denied that mili 
tary men were always the best bred 
men. " Perfect good breeding, he 
observed, consists in having no par 
ticular mark of any profession, but 
a general elegance of manners ; 
whereas, in a military man, you can 
commonly distinguish the brand of 
a soldier, Fhomme (Tepee"' Life, 
ii. 82. 

In a note on Airs Well that Ends 
Wells, Act ii. sc. I, he says : ' Every 
man has observed something peculiar 
in the strut of a soldier.' 

3 ' Richard Berrenger, Esq., many 
years Gentleman of the Horse, and 
first Equerry to his present Majesty.' 
Life, iv. 90. His salary as Gentle 
man of the Horse was ^256. Court 
and City Calendar, 1766, p. 91. His 
History and Art of Horsemanship is 
reviewed in the Annual Register for 
1771,1!. 260. In Dodsley's Collection 
of Poems, ed. 1758, vi. 271, are some 
verses of his To Mr. Grenville on his 
intended Resignation. He compares 

Grenville to a man intending to 
drown himself, who hears a voice 
exclaiming : 

' Consider well, pray, what you do, 
And think what numbers live in 


If you go drown, your woes to ease, 
Pray who will keep your lice and 


The poem ends : 
' Oh, Grenville, then this tale apply, 
Nor drown yourself lest I should die ; 
Compassionate your louse's case, 
And keep your own to save his 


He seems a strange ' standard of 
true elegance.' 

4 ' Tom Hervey,' said Johnson, 
'though a vicious man, was one of 
the genteelest men that ever lived.' 
Life, ii. 341. See also ib. ii. 32. 

5 Thomas Hervey 's brother Henry 
had married Catherine Aston. Ib. 
i. 83, n. 4. Of him Johnson said : 
' He was a vicious man, but very 
kind to me. If you call a dog 
Hervey I shall love him.' Ib. i. 
1 06. 


Anecdotes. 255 

Mr. Thrale once asked him which had been the happiest period 
of his past life ? he replied, ' it was that year in which he spent 
one whole evening with M y As n \ That indeed (said he) 
was not happiness, it was rapture ; but the thoughts of it 
sweetened the whole year.' I must add, that the evening 
alluded to was not passed tete-a-Ute, but in a select company, 
of which the present Lord Killmorey 2 was one. ' Molly (says 
Dr. Johnson) was a beauty and a scholar, and a wit and whig ; 
and she talked all in praise of liberty : and so I made this 
epigram upon her She was the loveliest creature I ever saw ! ! ! 

Liber ut esse velim, suasisti finlchra Maria, 
Ut maneam liber pulchra Maria, vale f 

Will it do this way in English, Sir (said I) ? 

Persuasions to freedom fall oddly from you ; 
If freedom we seek fair Maria, adieu ! 

* It will do well enough (replied he) ; but it is translated by 
a lady, and the ladies never loved M y As n.' I asked 
him what his wife thought of this attachment ? * She was 
jealous to be sure (said he), and teized me sometimes when 
I would let her ; and one day, as a fortune-telling gipsey passed 
us when we were walking out in company with two or three 
friends in the country, she made the wench look at my hand, but 
soon repented her curiosity ; for (says the gipsey) Your heart 
is divided, Sir, between a Betty and a Molly : Betty loves you 
best, but you take most delight in Molly's company: when 
I turned about to laugh, I saw my wife was crying. Pretty 
charmer ! she had no reason ! ' 

It was, I believe, long after the currents of life had driven him 
to a great distance from this lady, that he spent much of his 
time with Mrs. F zh b t 3 , of whom he always spoke with 

1 Molly Aston. She was the 2 Johnson, with the Thrales, visited 
daughter of Sir Thomas Aston, and his house in 1774. 'Lord Kilmorey,' 
wife of Captain Brodie of the navy. he wrote, ' shewed the place with 
Life, i. 83 ; ii. 466. She explained too much exultation.' 16. v. 433. 
to Johnson a question in political 3 Fitzherbert. ' Of her Dr. John- 
economy which puzzled him and son said that she had the best under- 
Lord Kames. Ib. iii. 340. standing he ever met with in any 


256 Anecdotes. 

esteem and tenderness, and with a veneration very difficult 
to deserve. { That woman (said he) loved her husband as we 
hope and desire to be loved by our guardian angel. F tz- 
h b t was a gay good-humoured fellow, generous of his money 
and of his meat, and desirous of nothing but cheerful society 
among people distinguished in some way, in any way, I think ; 
for Rousseau and St. Austin would have been equally welcome to 
his table and to his kindness I : the lady however was of another 
way of thinking ; her first care was to preserve her husband's 
soul from corruption ; her second, to keep his estate entire for 
their children : and I owed my good reception in the family to 
the idea she had entertained, that I was fit company for F tz- 
h b t, whom I loved extremely 2 . They dare not (said she) 
swear, and take other conversation-liberties before you' I asked 
if her husband returned her regard ? ' He felt her influence too 
powerfully (replied Mr. Johnson) : no man will be fond of what 
forces him daily to feel himself inferior. She stood at the door 
of her Paradise in Derbyshire, like the angel with the flaming 
sword, to keep the devil at a distance 3 . But she was not 
immortal, poor dear! she died, and her husband felt at once 
afflicted and released.' I enquired if she was handsome ? * She 

human being.' Life, i. 83. See also sparkle, no brilliancy in Fitzherbert ; 

ib. iv. 33, and Letters, i. 45, n. 6. In but I never knew a man who was 

the Gentleman 1 s Magazine for 1753, so generally acceptable. He made 

p. 148, is a notice of her death, every body quite easy, overpowered 

written perhapsby Johnson: 'March nobody by the superiority of his 

12. Wife of Wm. Fitzherbert of talents, made no man think worse of 

Derby, Esq., in the flower of her himself by being his rival, seemed 

age, distinguished for her piety and always to listen, did not oblige you 

fine accomplishments.' to hear much from him, and did not 

1 Miss Hill Boothby wrote of him oppose what you said.' Life, iii. 148. 
to Johnson on Aug. 20, 1755: 'What eminence he had was by a 
' Mr. Fitzherbert and his company felicity of manner ; he had no more 
arrived here [at Tissington] on learning than what he could not 
Thursday last, all at a loss what to help.' Ib. iii. 386. He hanged him- 
do with themselves in still life. self in a fit of insanity, after going to 
They set out yesterday to Derby see some convicts executed in the 
race, and return on Friday with morning. Ib. ii. 228, n. 3. 

some forty more people, to eat a 3 It is not said either in the Bible 

turtle." An Account of the Life of or in Paradise Lost that it was the 

Dr. Johnson, &c., 1805, p. 113. devil who was kept at a distance by 

2 ' There was (said Johnson) no the flaming sword. 


Anecdotes. 257 

would have been handsome for a queen (replied the panegyrist) ; 
her beauty had more in it of majesty than of attraction, more of 
the dignity of virtue than the vivacity of wit.' The friend of this 
lady, Miss B thby 1 , succeeded her in the management of 
Mr. F tzh b t's family, and in the esteem of Dr. Johnson ; 
though he told me she pushed her piety to bigotry, her devotion 
to enthusiasm ; that she somewhat disqualified herself for the 
duties of this life, by her perpetual aspirations after the next : 
such was however the purity of her mind, he said, and such the 
graces of her manner, that Lord Lyttelton and he used to strive 
for her preference with an emulation that occasioned hourly dis 
gust, and ended in lasting animosity 2 . * You may see (said he 
to me, when the Poets Lives were printed), that dear B thby is 
at my heart still. She would delight in that fellow Lyttelton's 
company though, all that I could do ; and I cannot forgive even 
his memory the preference given by a mind like her's V I have 
heard Baretti say, that when this lady died, Dr. Johnson was 
almost distracted with his grief; and that the friends about him 
had much ado to calm the violence of his emotion 4 . Dr. Taylor 
too related once to Mr. Thrale and me, that when he lost his 
wife, the negro Francis ran away, though in the middle of the 
night, to Westminster, to fetch Dr. Taylor to his master, who 

1 Miss Hill Boothby. Her mother resentment so long 1 . He was un- 
was a Fitzherbert. Letters, i. 45, willing to write the Life, and tried 
n. 6. For Johnson's letters to her to get it done by Lyttelton's bro- 
see ib. i. 45-53. ther. On his refusal he wrote to 

2 Boswell carelessly says that him : ' I shall certainly not wan- 
' Mrs. Thrale suggests that Johnson tonly nor willingly offend.' Letters, 
was offended by Molly Aston 's pre- ii. 188. 

ference of his Lordship to him.' The Rev. John Hussey says in 

Life, iv. 57. a marginal note on the Life, iv. 57 : 

3 Miss Boothby died in 1756 at 'Johnson said to me many years 
the age of forty-seven. An Account before he published his Preface 1 , 
of the Life of Dr. Johnson, &c., " Lord Lyttelton was a worthy, good 
p. 143. The Life of Lyttelton was man, but so ungracious that he did 
published in 1781. It is incredible not know how to be a Gentle- 
that Johnson, in whom malice never man."' 

dwelt, should have nursed a petty 4 Ante, p. 18, and Letters, i. 52. 

1 The ' Preface ' was the Life of Lyttelton. Johnson wrote * a Preface, biographical 
and critical, to each Authour.' Life, iii. 108. 

VOL. I. S was 



was all but wild with excess of sorrow, and scarce knew him 
when he arrived x : after some minutes however, the doctor pro 
posed their going to prayers 2 , as the only rational method of 
calming the disorder this misfortune had occasioned in both 
their spirits. Time, and resignation to the will of God, cured 
every breach in his heart before I made acquaintance with him 3 , 
though he always persisted in saying he never rightly recovered 
the loss of his wife. It is in allusion to her that he records the 
observation of a female critic, as he calls her, in Gay's Life 4 ; 
and the lady of great beauty and elegance, mentioned in the 
criticisms upon Pope's epitaphs, was Miss Molly Aston 5 . The 
person spoken of in his strictures upon Young's poetry 6 . is the 
writer of these Anecdotes, to whom he likewise addressed 
the following verses when he was in the Isle of Sky with 
Mr. Boswell 7 . The letters written in his journey, I used to tell 
him, were better than the printed book ; and he was not dis 
pleased at my having taken the pains to copy them all over 8 . 

1 Life, i. 238. It was not Francis 
who took the message, for he did not 
enter Johnson's service till about a 
fortnight after Mrs. Johnson's death. 
Id. i. 239. 

2 According to the account given 
by Taylor to Boswell, 'Johnson re 
quested him to join with him in 
prayer.' Ib. i. 238. 

3 Five years after he made ac 
quaintance with Mrs. Thrale he 
recorded of his wife : ' When I 
recollect the time in which we lived 
together my grief for her departure 
is not abated.' Ante, p. 51. 

4 'As a poet he cannot be rated 
very high. He was, as I once heard 
a female critick remark, " of a lower 
order." ' Works, viii. 70. 

5 ' I once heard a lady of great 
beauty and excellence object to the 
fourth line, that it contained an un 
natural and incredible panegyrick. Of 
this let the ladies judge.' Ib. viii. 355. 
The fourth line is in the epitaph on 
Mrs. Corbet : 

' No arts essay'd, but not to be ad- 

6 * When he lays hold of an illus 
tration he pursues it beyond expecta 
tion, sometimes happily, as in his 
parallel of Quicksilver with Pleasure, 
which I have heard repeated with 
approbation by a lady of whose 
praise he would have been justly 
proud, and which is very ingenious, 
very subtle and almost exact.' Ib. viii. 

' Pleasures are few, and fewer we 

enjoy ; 
Pleasure, like quicksilver, is bright 

and coy ; 
We strive to grasp it with our 

utmost skill ; 

Still it eludes us, and it glitters still ; 
If seiz'd at last, compute your mighty 

gains ; 
What is it but rank poison in your 

The Universal Passion, Satire v. 

7 Life, v. 158; Letters, i. 284. 

8 'Do you keep my letters?' he 


Anecdotes. 259 

Here is the Latin ode : 

Permeo terras, ubi nuda rupes 
Saxeas miscet nebulis ruinas, 
Torva ubi rident steriles coloni 

Rura labores. 

Pervagor gentes hominum ferorum, 
Vita ubi nullo decorata cultu 
Squallet informis, tugurique fumis 

Fceda latescit. 

Inter erroris salebrosa longi, 

Inter ignotce strepitus loquela, 

Quot modis mecum, quid agat, requiro 

Thralia dulcis? 

Seu viri curas pia nupta mulcet, 
Seu fovet mater sobolem benigna, 
Sive cum libris novitate pascit 

Sedula mentem : 

Sit memor nostri, fideique merces 
Stet fides constans, meritoque blandum 
ThralicB discant resonare nomen 

Littora Skice 1 . 

On another occasion I can boast verses from Dr. Johnson. 
As I went into his room the morning of my birth-day once, and 
said to him, Nobody sends me any verses now, because I am 
five-and-thirty years old 2 ; and Stella was fed with them till 
forty-six 3 , I remember. My being just recovered from illness 
and confinement will account for the manner in which he 
burst out suddenly, for so he did without the least previous 
hesitation whatsoever, and without having entertained the 
smallest intention towards it half a minute before : 

wrote to her two years later. ' I am possession of Mr. Salusbury, she was 

not of your opinion that I shall not baptized on January 16, 1740, O. S. 

like to read them hereafter.' Letters, (January 27, 1741 , N. S.). Hay ward's 

i. 361. Ptozzi, i. 40. 

1 For Lord Houghton's version of 3 Stella was not quite forty-six 
these lines see Life, v. 424. when she died. Swift wrote verses 

2 In one of her memorandum on her last birth-day, March 13, 
books she gives 1776 as the date 1726-7. Swift's Works, ed. 1803, 
of these verses, and in Thraliana, xi. 21. 

1777. According to an entry in the 

S 2 Oft 

260 Anecdotes. 

Oft in danger, yet alive, 

We are come to thirty-five; 

Long may better years arrive, 

Better years than thirty-five. 

Could philosophers contrive 

Life to stop at thirty-five, 

Time his hours should never drive 

O'er the bounds of thirty-five. 

High to soar, and deep to dive, 

Nature gives at thirty-five. 

Ladies, stock and tend your hive, 

Trifle not at thirty-five: 

For howe'er we boast and strive, 

Life declines from thirty-five I : 

He that ever hopes to thrive 

Must begin by thirty-five ; 
And all who wisely wish to wive 
Must look on Thrale at thirty-five. 

6 And now (said he, as I was writing them down), you may see 
what it is to come for poetry to a Dictionary-maker ; you may 

observe that the rhymes run in alphabetical order exactly.' 

And so they do. 

Mr. Johnson did indeed possess an almost Tuscan power of 
improvisation 2 : when he called to my daughter, who was con 
sulting with a friend about a new gown and dressed 3 hat she 
thought of wearing to an assembly, thus suddenly, while she 
hoped he was not listening to their conversation, 

Wear the gown, and wear the hat, 
Snatch thy pleasures while they last; 

Hadst thou nine lives like a cat, 
Soon those nine lives would be past. 

1 Johnson wrote to Mrs. Thrale on fifth year in men of perfect consti- 

August 14, 1780: 'If you try to tution."' 

plague me I shall tell you that, ac- 2 This word is not in Johnson's 

cording to Galen, life begins to Dictionary. 

decline from thirty-five? Letters^ 3 'Your father intends you six 

ii. 192. Dr. John Carlyle, in a note suits (three of them dressed suits) at 

on the first line of Dante's Inferno, his own expense.' Clarissa, ed. 1810, 

says : ' Dante speaks of our life i. 35- * conjecture that ' dress 

as an arch, which we ascend and clothes ' was originally ' dressed 

descend ; and in which the highest, clothes.' 
or middle point, "is at the thirty- 


Anecdotes. 261 

It is impossible to deny to such little sallies the power 
of the Florentines, who do not permit their verses to be ever 
written down though they often deserve it, because, as they 
express it, cosi se perderebbe la poca gloria x . 

As for translations, we used to make him sometimes run off 
with one or two in a good humour. He was praising this song 
of Metastasio, 

Deh, se placer mi vuoi, 

Lascia i sospetti tuoij 

No-," 1 - mi turbar conquesto 

Molesto dubitar* : 

Chi ciecamente crede, 

Impegna a serbar fedej 

Chi sempre inganno aspetta, 

Alletta ad ingannar. 

Should you like it in English (said he) thus?' 

Would you hope to gain my heart, 
Bid your teizing doubts depart ; 
He who blindly trusts, will find 
Faith from every generous mind: 
He who still expects deceit, 
Only teaches how to cheat. 

Mr. Baretti coaxed him likewise one day at Streatham 
out of a translation of Emirena's speech to the false courtier 
Aquileius 3 , and it is probably printed before now, as I think 
two or three people took copies ; but perhaps it has slipt their 

Ah! tu in corte invecchiasti, e giurerei 
Che fra i pochi non set tenace ancora 

1 Mrs. Piozzi says in her Journey they were once registered by the pen.' 

through Italy, i. 239 : * The whole 2 ' Non mi stancar con questo 

secret of improvisation seems to Molesto-dubitar.' 

consist in this that extempore verses La Clemenza di Tito, Act I. sc. 2. 

are never written down, and one 3 Aquilio. The speech is in Meta- 

may easily conceive that much may stasio's Adrtano, Act ii. sc. i. It 

go off well with a good voice in was first inserted in a later edition 

singing which no one would read if than that of 1748. 


262 Anecdotes. 

antica onesta* Quando bisogna, 
Saprai sereno in volto 
Vezzeggiare un nemico; accib m cada, 
Aprirgli innanzi un \it\ precipizio, e poi 
Piangerne la caduta. Offrirti a tutti, 
E non esser che tuo; di false lodi 
Vestir le accuse, ed aggravar le coipe 
Nel fame la difesa; ognor dal trono 

I buoni allontanar; d'ogni castigo 
Lasciar Fodio allo scettro, e d'ogni dono 

II merito usurpar : tener nascosto 
Sotto un zelo apparente un empio fine; 
Ne fabbricar che sulle altrui rouine 2 . 

Grown old in courts, thou art not surely one 

Who keeps the rigid rules of ancient honour; 

Well skilFd to sooth a foe with looks of kindness, 

To sink the fatal precipice before Jjiim, 

And then lament his fall with seaming friendship : 

Open to all, true only to thyself, 

Thou know'st those arts which blast with envious praise, 

Which aggravate a fault with feign'd excuses, 

And drive discountenanc'd virtue from the throne : 

That leave the blame of rigour to the prince, 

And of his every gift usurp the merit ; 

That hide in seeming zeal a wicked purpose, 

And only build upon another's ruin. 

These characters Dr. Johnson however did not delight in 
reading, or in hearing of: he always maintained that the world 
was not half as wicked as it was represented 3 ; and he might 
very well continue in that opinion, as he resolutely drove from 
him every story that could make him change it ; and when 
Mr. BickerstafFs flight confirmed the report of his guilt 4 , and my 
husband said in answer to Johnson's astonishment, that he 

1 ' Tu che in corte invecchiasti, ably spelt that she had better have 

Non dovresti invidiarne. lo studied her own language before 

giurerei she floundered into other tongues.' 

Che fra 'pochi non sei tenaci Walpole's Letters, ix. 179. 

ancora 2 < Ne fabbricar que su 1'altrui 

Dell' antica onesta.' ruine.' 

Horace Walpole says of Mrs. 3 Ante, p. 208. 

Piozzi's Journey : Her Latin, 4 Life, ii. 82, n. 3. 
French and Italian too are so miser- 

Anecdotes. 263 

had long been a suspected man : ' By those who look close to 
the ground, dirt will be seen, Sir (was the lofty reply) : I hope 
I see things from a greater distance.' 

His desire to go abroad, particularly to see Italy, was very 
great ' ; and he had a longing wish too to leave some Latin 
verses at the Grand Chartreux 2 . He loved indeed the very act 
of travelling 3 , and I cannot tell how far one might have taken him 
in a carriage before he would have wished for refreshment. He 
was therefore in some respects an admirable companion on the 
road, as he piqued himself upon feeling no inconvenience, and on 
despising no accommodations 4 . On the other hand however, he 
expected no one else to feel any, and felt exceeding inflamed 
with anger if any one complained of the rain, the sun, or the 
dust. 'How (said he) do other people bear them 5 ?' As for 
general uneasiness, or complaints of long confinement in a car 
riage, he considered all lamentations on their account as proofs 
of an empty head, and a tongue desirous to talk without mate 
rials of conversation 6 . * A mill that goes without grist (said he) 
is as good a companion as such creatures.' 

I pitied a friend before him, who had a whining wife that 
found every thing painful to her and nothing pleasing ' He 

1 In the Life, iii. 453, I have ex- Johnson was calm. I said, he was 
amined Lord Macaulay's wild asser- so from vanity. JOHNSON. " No, 
tion that 'of foreign travel . . . Sir, it is from philosophy." It 
Johnson spoke with the fierce and pleased me to see that the Rambler 
boisterous contempt of ignorance.' could practise so well his own les- 

2 He was perhaps stirred by the sons.' Ib. v. 146. See, however, 
Alcaic Ode which Gray, in August, ib. iv. 284 for his ill-humour over an 
1741, had written in the Album of inn-dinner. 

the Grande Chartreuse. Mason's 5 Ante, p. 218. 

Gray, ed. 1807, i. 275. 6 Of the drive from Monboddo to 

3 'In the afternoon, as we were Aberdeen Boswell says: 'We had 
driven rapidly along in the post-chaise, tedious driving this afternoon, and 
he said to me, " Life has not many were somewhat drowsy.' Life, v. 83. 
things better than this."' Life, ii. Of the same drive Johnson writes : 
453. See also ib. iii. 162. ' We did not affect the impatience 

4 Boswell wrote of the hovel in we did not feel, but were satisfied 
which they lodged at Glenelg : with the company of each other, 
' Our bad accommodation here made as well riding in the chaise as sitting 
me uneasy, and almost fretful. Dr. at an inn.' Works, ix. 10. 


264 Anecdotes. 

does not know that she whimpers (says Johnson) ; when a door 
has creaked for a fortnight together, you may observe the 
master will scarcely give sixpence to get it oiled.' 

Of another lady, more insipid than offensive, I once heard him 
say, ' She has some softness indeed, but so has a pillow.' And 
when one observed in reply, that her husband's fidelity and 
attachment were exemplary, notwithstanding this low account at 
which her perfections were rated * Why, Sir (cries the Doctor), 
being married to those sleepy-souled women, is just like playing 
at cards for nothing : no passion is excited, and the time is filled 
up. I do not however envy a fellow one of those honey-suckle 
wives for my part, as they are but creepers at best, and commonly 
destroy the tree they so tenderly cling about.' 

For a lady of quality, since dead, who received us at her 
husband's seat in Wales with less attention than he had long 
been accustomed to, he had a rougher denunciation : ' That 
woman (cries Johnson) is like sour small-beer, the beverage 
of her table, and produce of the wretched country she lives 
in : like that, she could never have been a good thing, and 
even that bad thing is spoiled V This was in the same vein 
of asperity, and I believe with something like the same pro 
vocation, that he observed of a Scotch lady, ' that she resembled 
a dead nettle ; were she alive (said he), she would sting.' 

Mr. Johnson's hatred of the Scotch is so well known 2 , and 
so many of his bans mots expressive of that hatred have been 

1 This lady, according to Mrs. dice against both the country and the 
Piozzi's marginal note, was Lady people of Scotland must be allowed. 
Catherine Wynne. Hay ward' sPiozzi, But it was a prejudice of the head, and 
1.293. Johnson recorded in his Tour not of the heart.' Ib. ii. 301. See 
to Wales on Aug. 21, 1774: 'We ib. ii. 306 for his justification of his 
went to dinner at Sir Thomas feelings. Reynolds says of him : 
Wynne's, the dinner mean, Sir 'The chief prejudice in which he 
Thomas civil, his Lady nothing.' indulged himself was against Scot- 
Life, v. 449. land, though he had the most cordial 

2 ' That he was to some degree of friendship with individuals of that 
excess a true-born Englishman, so as country.' Taylor's Reynolds, ii. 460. 
to have entertained an undue preju- 


Anecdotes. 265 

already repeated in so many books and pamphlets, that 'tis 
perhaps scarcely worth while to write down the conversation 
between him and a friend of that nation who always resides 
in London, and who at his return from the Hebrides asked him, 
with a firm tone of voice, What he thought of his country? 
' That it is a very vile country to be sure, Sir V (returned for 
answer Dr. Johnson.) Well, Sir ! replies the other somewhat 
mortified, God made it. ' Certainly he did (answers Mr. John 
son again) ; but we must always remember that he made it for 

Scotchmen, and comparisons are odious, Mr. S 2 ; but God 

made hell.' 

Dr. Johnson did not I think much delight in that kind of 
conversation which consists in telling stories : ' every body (said 
he) tells stories of me, and I tell stories of nobody 3 . I do 
not recollect (added he), that I have ever told you, that have 
been always favourites, above three stories ; but I hope I do 
not play the Old Fool, and force people to hear uninteresting 
narratives, only because I once was diverted with them myself.' 
He was [not] however an enemy to that sort of talk from the 
famous Mr. Foote, 'whose happiness of manner in relating was 
such (he said) as subdued arrogance and roused stupidity 4 : His 
stories were truly like those of Biron in Love's Labour Lost 5 , 
so very attractive. 

That aged ears play'd truant with [at] his tales, 
And younger hearings were quite ravish'd ; 
So sweet and voluble was his discourse. 

1 ' Seeing Scotland/ said Johnson, tween him and a jest, and he is 
' is only seeing a worse England. It sometimes mighty coarse.' Ib. iii. 
is seeing the flower gradually fade 69. See ib. for the way in which he 
away to the naked stalk.' Life, iii. pleased Johnson against his will ; 
248. Letters, ii. 55, where Johnson wishes 

2 Perhaps Mr. Strahan. for a Footeana, and ante, p. 225. 

3 Ante, p. 226. 5 Love's Labour's Lost, Act ii. sc. I. 

4 ' Foote,' he said, ' is very enter- 1. 74. 

taining, with a kind of conversation These lines with the preceding 

between wit and buffoonery.' Life, ones were inscribed by Beauclerk 

ii. 155. 'He has a great range for under Garrick's portrait. Life, iv. 

wit ; he never lets truth stand be- 96. 


266 Anecdotes. 

' Of all conversers however (added he), the late Hawkins 
Browne was the most delightful with whom I ever was in com 
pany : his talk was at once so elegant, so apparently artless, so 
pure, and so pleasing, it seemed a perpetual stream of sentiment, 
enlivened by gaiety, and sparkling with images V When I 
asked Dr. Johnson, who was the best man he had ever known? 
' Psalmanazar,' was the unexpected reply : he said, likewise, 
'that though a native of France, as his friend imagined, he 
possessed more of the English language than any one of the 
other foreigners who had separately fallen in his way. Though 
there was much esteem however, there was I believe but little 
confidence between them ; they conversed merely about general 
topics, religion and learning, of which both were undoubtedly 
stupendous examples ; and, with regard to true Christian per 
fection, I have heard Johnson say, * that George Psalmanazar's 
piety, penitence, and virtue exceeded almost what we read as 
wonderful even in the lives of saints 2 .' 

I forget in what year it was that this extraordinary person 
lived and died at a house in Old-street 3 , where Mr. Johnson was 
witness to his talents and virtues, and to his final preference of 
the church of England, after having studied, disgraced, and 
adorned so many forms of worship 4 . The name he went by, was 

1 ' Isaac Hawkins Browne,' said 2 ' Once talking of George Psal- 

Johnson, ' one of the first wits of this manazar, whom he reverenced for his 

country, got into Parliament and piety, he said : " I should as soon 

never opened his mouth.' Life, ii. 339. think of contradicting a Bishop.'" 

* Dr. Johnson told us that Browne Life, iv. 274. 

drank freely for thirty years, and I have examined Psalmanazar's 

that he wrote his poem De Animi penitence in Appendix A to vol. iii. 

Immortalilate in some of the last of the Life. 

of these years.' Ib. v. 156. 'The 3 He died in Ironmonger Row, 

pretty Mrs. Cholmondely said she Old Street, on May 3, 1763'. Gentle- 

was soon tired of him, because the man's Magazine, 1763, p. 257. 

first hour he was so dull there was no 4 He belonged only to the Church 

bearing him ; the second he was so of Rome and the Church of England, 

witty there was no bearing him ; though * he invented an awkward 

the third he was so drunk there was show of worship, turning his face to 

no bearing him.' Hayward's Piozzi, the rising or setting sun, and pleased 

i. 294. See Letters, ii. 324, n. I, for to be taken notice of for so doing.' 

his gluttony, and Campbell's British Life, iii. 447. 
Poets for specimens of his verses. 


Anecdotes. 267 

not supposed by his friend to be that of his family, but all 
enquiries were vain ; his reasons for concealing his original were 
penitentiary J ; he deserved no other name than that of the 
impostor, he said. That portion of the Universal History 3 
which was written by him, does not seem to me to be composed 
with peculiar spirit, but all traces of the wit and the wanderer 
were probably worn out before he undertook the work. His 
pious and patient endurance of a tedious illness, ending in an 
exemplary death, confirmed the strong impression his merit had 
made upon the mind of Mr. Johnson. ' It is so very difficult (said 
he. always) for a sick man not to be a scoundrel 3 . Oh ! set the 
pillows soft, here is Mr. Grumbler o'coming : Ah ! let no air in 
for the world, Mr. Grumbler will be here presently.' 

This perpetual preference is so offensive where the privileges 
of sickness are besides supported by wealth, and nourished by 
dependence, that one cannot much wonder that a rough mind is 
revolted by them. It was however at once comical and touchant* 
(as the French call it), to observe Mr. Johnson so habitually 
watchful against this sort of behaviour, that he was often ready 
to suspect himself of it ; and when one asked him gently, how 
he did ? ' Ready to become a scoundrel, Madam (would com 
monly be the answer): with a little more spoiling you will, 
I think, make me a complete rascal V 

His desire of doing good was not however lessened by his 
aversion to a sick chamber : he would have made an ill man well 

1 Mrs. Piozzi means, I suppose, have been dead very many years by 

' penitential.' To his concealment he the time his Memoirs were given to 

thought himself obliged, he says, ' out the world. Life, iii. 446. 

of respect to his country and family.' 2 Letters, ii. 432. 

The excuse seems unsatisfactory, for 3 ' He that contents a sick man,' 

he tells enough to shew that he he wrote, * a man whom it is impos- 

came from the South of France, sible to please, has surely done his 

while for his family there was no part well.' Ib. ii. 400. 

need of care. It was, he writes, 4 This use of touchant seems to 

'ancient but decayed,' and he was show that touching was not yet in 

the only surviving child. Of his common use. Johnson gives it in 

father and mother he had heard his Dictionary, but without any au- 

nothing since he started on the thority. 

career of a pious rogue. They must 5 Quoted in the Life, iii. i. 


268 Anecdotes. 

by any expence or fatigue of his own, sooner than any of the 
canters. Canter indeed was he none : he would forget to ask 
people after the health of their nearest relations, and say in 
excuse, ' That he knew they did not care : why should they ? 
(says he ;) every one in this world has as much as they can 
do in caring for themselves, and few have leisure really to think 
of their neighbours distresses, however they may delight their 
tongues with talking of them I .' 

The natural depravity of mankind and remains of original sin 
were so fixed in Mr. Johnson's opinion 2 , that he was indeed 
a most acute observer of their effects ; and used to say some 
times, half in jest half in earnest, that they were the remains 
of his old tutor Mandeville's instructions 3 . As a book how 
ever, he took care always loudly to condemn the Fable of 
the Bees, but not without adding, 'that it was the work of 
a thinking man.' 

I have in former days heard Dr. Collier of the Commons 4 
loudly condemned for uttering sentiments, which twenty years 
after I have heard as loudly applauded from the lips of 
Dr. Johnson, concerning the well-known writer of that celebrated 
work : but if people will live long enough in this capricious 
world, such instances of partiality will shock them less and less, 
by frequent repetition. Mr. Johnson knew mankind, and wished 
to mend them : he therefore, to the piety and pure religion, the 
untainted integrity, and scrupulous morals of my earliest and 
most disinterested friend, judiciously contrived to join a cautious 

1 On April 28, 1768, he wrote to of another.' Letters, i. 141. 
Mrs. Thrale : * Yet when any man 2 ' Lady Macleod asked if no man 
finds himself disposed to complain was naturally good. JOHNSON. "No, 
with how little care he is regarded, Madam, no more than a wolf." 
let him reflect how little he contri- BOSWELL. "Nor no woman, Sir?" 
butes to the happiness of others, and JOHNSON. " No, Sir." Lady Mac- 
how little, for the most part, he leod started at this, saying in a low 
suffers from their pains . . . Nor can voice, " This is worse than Swift." ' 
we wonder that, in a state in which Life, v. 211. 
all have so much to feel of their own 3 Ante, p. 207. 
evils, very few have leisure for those 4 Ante, p. 246. 


Anecdotes. 269 

attention to the capacity of his hearers, and a prudent resolution 
not to lessen the influence of his learning and virtue, by casual 
freaks of humour, and irregular starts of ill-managed merriment. 
He did not wish to confound, but to inform his auditors x ; and 
though he did not appear to solicit benevolence, he always 
wished to retain authority, and leave his company impressed 
with the idea, that it was his to teach in this world, and theirs 
to learn. What wonder then that all should receive with 
docility from Johnson those doctrines, which propagated by 
Collier they drove away from them with shouts ! Dr. Johnson 
was not grave however because he knew not how to be merry. 
No man loved laughing better, and his vein of humour was rich, 
and apparently inexhaustible 2 ; Though Dr. Goldsmith said 
once to him, We should change companions oftener, we exhaust 
one another, and shall soon be both of us worn out 3 . Poor 
Goldsmith was to him indeed like the earthen pot to the iron 
one in Fontaine's fables ; it had been better for him perhaps, that 
they had changed companions oftener ; yet no experience of his 
antagonist's strength hindered him from continuing the contest 4 . 
He used to remind me always of that verse in Berni, 

// pover uomo che non sen' Zra accorto, 
Andava combattendo ed era morto. 

Mr. Johnson made him a comical answer one day, when seem 
ing to repine at the success of Beattie's Essay on Truth 5 ' Here's 
such a stir (said he) about a fellow that has written one book, 

1 Ante, p. 213. Johnson seemed a little angry, and 

2 ' In the talent of humour,' writes said, " Sir, you have not travelled 
Hawkins, 'there hardly ever was over my mind, I promise you."' 
Johnson's equal, except perhaps Life, iv. 183. 

among the old comedians.' Haw- 4 Boswell speaks of that 'vanity 

kins's Johnson, p. 139. See post, which often excited Goldsmith to oc- 

pp. 287, 345. casional competition ' with Johnson. 

3 'Dr. Goldsmith said once to Dr. Ib. i. 417 ; ii. 216, 257. He admits, 
Johnson, that he wished for some however, that 'he was often very 
additional members to the LITERARY fortunate in his witty contests, even 
CLUB, to give it an agreeable variety; when he entered the lists with John- 
for (said he,) there can now be son himself.' Ib. ii. 231. 

nothing new among us ; we have 5 Ib. ii. 201 ; Letters of Hume to 
travelled over one another's minds. Strahan, p. 269. 


270 Anecdotes. 

and I have written many.' Ah, Doctor (says his friend), there 
go two-and-forty sixpences you know to one guinea '. 

They had spent an evening with Eaton Graham 2 too, I re 
member hearing it was at some tavern ; his heart was open, and 
he began inviting away ; told what he could do to make his 
college agreeable, and begged the visit might not be delayed. 
Goldsmith thanked him, and proposed setting out with Mr. John 
son for Buckinghamshire in a fortnight ; ' Nay hold, Dr. Minor 
(says the other), I did not invite you V 

Many such mortifications arose in the course of their intimacy 
to be sure, but few more laughable than when the newspapers 
had tacked them together as the pedant and his flatterer in 
Love's Labour lost 4 . Dr. Goldsmith came to his friend, fretting 
and foaming, and vowing vengeance against the printer, &c. 
till Mr. Johnson, tired of the bustle, and desirous to think of 
something else, cried out at last, 'Why, what would'st thou have, 
dear Doctor ! who the plague is hurt with all this nonsense ? 
and how is a man the worse I wonder in his health, purse, 
or character, for being called Holofernesl' I do not know 
(replies the other) how you may relish being called Holofernes, 
but I do not like at least to play Goodman Dull 5 . 

Dr. Johnson was indeed famous for disregarding public abuse. 
When the people criticised and answered his pamphlets, papers, 
&c. ' Why now, these fellows are only advertising my book (he 
would say) ; it is surely better a man should be abused than 

1 'Le marechal de Rochefort, capi- 2 Rev. George Graham of Eton 

taine des gardes-du-corps, mourut. College. 

II dtait le favori de M. de Lou- 3 See Life, v. 97, for Johnson's 

vois, qui a la mort de M. de account of this incident. 

Turenne 1'avait fait faire marechal 4 Love's Laboitr's Lost. 

de France avec les autres, dont le s Prior in his Life of Goldsmith, ii. 

Frangais, fertile en bons mots, disait 283, quotes the article in which the 

que le roi avait change une piece two men had been thus ridiculed. It 

d'or en monnaie.' Mtmoires du is found, he says, in the St. James's 

Due de Saint -Simon, ed. 1829, Chronicle, June 14, 1770. This num- 

iii. 386. ber is not in the British Museum. 




forgotten V When Churchill nettled him however, it is certain 
he felt the sting, or that poet's works would hardly have been 
left out of the edition. Of that however I have no right to 

1 Life, \\. 335 ; iii. 375 ; v. 273, 

Johnson, as Boswell believed, only 
once in his life replied to an attack. 
Ib. i. 314. To the instances of au 
thors who laid down this rule, given 
ib. ii. 61, n. 4, 1 would add the follow 
ing : * Silence or a negligent in 
difference has a deeper way of 
wounding than opposition ; because 
opposition proceeds from an anger 
that has a sort of generous sentiment 
for the adversary mingling along 
with it, while it shows that there is 
some esteem in your mind for him ; 
in short that you think him worth 
while to contest with : but silence, 
or a negligent indifference, proceeds 
from anger, mixed with a scorn that 
shows another he is thought by you 
too contemptible to be regarded.' 
The Spectator, No. 538. 

' De quelque source que partent 
ces outrages, il est sur qu'un homme 
qui n'est attaque" que dans ses ecrits 
ne doit jamais r^pondre aux cri 
tiques ; car si elles sont bonnes, il 
n'a autre chose a faire qu'k se cor- 
riger ; et si elles sont mauvaises, 
elles meurent en naissant. Souve- 
nous-nous de la fable du Boccalini, 
"Un voyageur, dit-il, e"tait impor 
tune, dans son chemin, du bruit des 
cigales ; il s'arreta pour les tuer ; 
il n'en vint pas k bout, et ne fit que 
s'ecarter de sa route : il n'avait qu'k 
continuer paisiblement son voyage ; 
les cigales seraient mortes d'elles- 
memes au bout de huit jours.'" 
CEuvres de Voltaire, ed. 1819, ii. 


' Addison knew the policy of litera 
ture too well to make his enemy 
important by drawing the attention 

of the public upon a criticism which, 
though sometimes intemperate, was 
often irrefragable.' Johnson's Works, 
vii. 436. * If we can suppose Dryden 
vexed [by Prior and Montague's at 
tack] it would be hard to deny him 
sense enough to conceal his uneasi 
ness.' Ib. viii. 2. 

Hume wrote in 1762 : - -' As I had 
fixed a resolution, in the beginning of 
my life, always to leave the public to 
judge between my adversaries and 
me, without making any reply, I 
must adhere inviolably to this reso 
lution.' Burton's Hume, ii. 118. 

Sir Walter Scott wrote on Jan. 31, 
1817: 'I considered always that, 
by subjecting myself to the irritability 
which much greater authors have 
felt on occasions of literary dispute, 
I should be laying in a plentiful stock 
of unhappiness for the rest of my life. 
I therefore made it a rule never to 
read the attacks made upon me.' 
Lockhart's Scott, ed. 1839, v. 187. 
A year later he wrote : ' I am so 
deeply fixed in the opinion that a 
man lowers his estimation in the 
public eye by engaging in such 
controversy, that since I have been 
dipped in ink I have suffered no 
personal attacks to provoke me to 
reply.' Ib. v. 301. 

' I rejoice,' wrote Charles Darwin, 
' that I have avoided controversies, 
and this I owe to Lyell, who many 
years ago strongly advised me never 
to get entangled in a controversy, 
as it rarely did any good and caused 
a miserable loss of time and temper.' 
Life of Charles Darwin, ed. 1887, 
i. 89. He only twice departed from 
his rule, and in one of the cases he 
afterwards regretted it. Ib. i. j 59, n. 
decide ; 

272 Anecdotes. 

decide T ; the booksellers perhaps did not put Churchill on their 
list. I know Mr. Johnson was exceedingly zealous to declare 
how very little he had to do with the selection 2 . Churchill's 
works too might possibly be rejected by him upon a higher 
principle ; the highest indeed, if he was inspired by the same 
laudable motive which made him reject every authority for 
a word in his dictionary that could only be gleaned from writers 
dangerous to religion or morality 3 * I would not (said he) send 
people to look for words in a book, that by such a casual seizure 
of the mind might chance to mislead it for ever.' In consequence 
of this delicacy, Mrs. Montague 4 once observed, That were an 
angel to give the imprimatur , Dr. Johnson's works were among 
those very few which would not be lessened by a line. That 
such praise from such a lady should delight him, is not strange ; 
insensibility in a case like that, must have been the result alone 
of arrogance acting on stupidity. Mr. Johnson had indeed no 
dislike to the commendations which he knew he deserved : 
'What signifies protesting so against flattery (would he cry)! 
when a person speaks well of one, it must be either true or false, 
you know ; if true, let us rejoice in his good opinion ; if he lies, 
it is a proof at least that he loves more to please me, than to sit 
silent when he need say nothing V 

1 Nevertheless she has decided it 419, n. i ; iii. i, n. 2. 

by her certainty. 3 Boswell makes the same state- 

2 ' I was somewhat disappointed ment, borrowing it, no doubt, from 
in finding that the edition of The Mrs. Piozzi. Ib. i. 189. I have there 
English Poets for which he was to shown that it is not true. 

write Prefaces and Lives, was not an 4 Post, p. 287. 
undertaking directed by him ; but 5 ' JOHNSON. " Nay, Sir, flattery 
that he was to furnish a Preface and pleases very generally. In the first 
Life to any poet the booksellers place, the flatterer may think what 
pleased. I asked him if he would he says to be true : but, in the second 
do this to any dunce's works, if they place, whether he thinks so or not, 
should ask him. JOHNSON. "Yes, he certainly thinks those whom he 
Sir; and say he was a dunce.'" flatters of consequence enough to be 
Life, iii. 137. Johnson was charged flattered."' Life, ii. 364. 
with not including Goldsmith in the ' Tu m' adult, ma tu mi piaci (you 
Lives, whereas his exclusion was due flatter me but you please me) is a 
to the bookseller who had the copy- very true Italian saying, which self- 
right of She Stoops to Conquer. love, if sincere, would confess.' Ches- 
Ib. iii. 100, n. i. For Churchill's terfield's Misc. Works, iv. 366. 
attack on Johnson see ib. i. 319, 406, 


Anecdotes. 273 

That natural roughness of his manner, so often mentioned, 
would, notwithstanding the regularity of his notions, burst 
through them all from time to time ; and he once bade a very 
celebrated lady, who praised him with too much zeal perhaps, or 
perhaps too strong an emphasis (which always offended him), 'con 
sider what her flattery was worth before she choaked him with 
it I / A few more winters passed in the talking world shewed 
him the value of that friend's commendations however, and he 
was very sorry for the disgusting speech he made her. 

I used to think Mr. Johnson's determined preference of a cold 
monotonous talker over an emphatical and violent one, would 
make him quite a favourite among the men of ton, whose in 
sensibility, or affectation of perpetual calmness, certainly did not 
give to him the offence it does to many. He loved * con 
versation without effort (he said) ; ' and the encomiums I have 
heard him so often pronounce on the manners of Topham Beau- 
clerc in society, constantly ended in that peculiar praise, that * it 
was without effort" 2 ! 

We were talking of Richardson who wrote Clarissa : ' You 
think I love flattery (says Dr. Johnson), and so I do ; but a little 
too much always disgusts me : that fellow Richardson, on the 
contrary, could not be contented to sail quietly down the stream 

1 For ' the genuine anecdote ' see it is not an effort of mind." ' Ib. v. 
Life, iv. 341. The lady was Hannah 76. 

More. Macaulay wrote of Talleyrand : 

2 He disliked a man to be in his ' There is a poignancy without effort 
talk ' a rapturist,' ' an enthusiast by in all that he says which reminded 
rule.' Ib. ii. 41, . ; iv. 33. 'The me a little of the character which the 
happiest conversation,' he said, 'is wits of Johnson's circle give of Beau- 
that of which nothing is distinctly clerk.' Trevelyan's Macaulay, ed. 
remembered but a general effect of 1877, i. 235. 

pleasing impression.' Ib. iv. 50. Beauclerk, through Charles II, was 

' BOSWELL. " Beauclerk has a descended from Henry IV of France, 

keenness of mind which is very un- of whom ' Matthieu dit qu'aucun 

common." JOHNSON. " Yes, Sir ; de ses courtisans n'entendait aussi 

and everything comes from him so bien que lui a rendre un conte d'une 

easily. It appears to me that I maniere plaisante.' Mtmoires de 

labour, when I say a good thing." Sully, ed. 1788, viii. u, n. 
BOSWELL. " You are loud, Sir ; but 

VOL. I. T of 


A necdotes. 

of reputation, without longing to taste the froth from every 
stroke of the oar V 

With regard to slight insults from newspaper abuse, I have 
already declared his notions 2 : ' They sting one (says he) but as 
a fly stings a horse 3 ; and the eagle will not catch flies.' He 
once told me however, that Cummyns the famous Quaker, 
whose friendship he valued very highly, fell a sacrifice to their 
insults, having declared on his death-bed to Dr. Johnson, that 
the pain of an anonymous letter, written in some of the common 
prints of the day, fastened on his heart, and threw him into the 
slow fever of which he died 4 . 

Nor was Cummyns the only valuable member so lost to 
society : Hawkesworth, the pious, the virtuous, and the wise, for 
want of that fortitude which casts a shield before the merits of 
his friend, fell a lamented sacrifice to wanton malice and cruelty, 
I know not how provoked 5 ; but all in turn feel the lash of 

1 Mrs. Piozzi says, in a marginal 
note on one of Johnson's letters : 
* Dr. Johnson said, that if Mr. Rich 
ardson had lived till / came out, my 
praises would have added two or 
three years to his life. " For," says 
Dr. Johnson, "that fellow died merely 
for want of change among his flat 
terers ; he perished for want of more, 
like a man obliged to breathe the 
same air till it is exhausted." ' Hay- 
ward's Piozzi, ii. 77. 

2 Ante, p. 270. 

3 Speaking of the attack made by 
Edwards in his Canons of Criticism 
on Warburton, Johnson said : ' A 
fly, Sir, may sting a stately horse 
and make him wince ; but one is but 
an insect, and the other is a horse 
still.' Life, i. 263, n. 3. 

4 'In 1745 m Y fnend Tom Gum 
ming the Quaker, said he would not 
fight, but he would drive an ammuni 
tion cart.' Id. iv. 212. See also ib. 
v. 98, 230. 

5 Hawkesworth was charged with 
impiety in doubting the efficacy of 
prayer. According to Malone the 
attacks made on him ' affected him 
so much that from low spirits he 
was seized with a nervous fever, 
which on account of the high living 
he had indulged in had the more 
power on him ; and he is supposed 
to have put an end to his life by 
intentionally taking an immoderate 
dose of opium.' Prior's Malone, 
p. 441- 

' But what, we are told, completed 
his chagrin was the notice frequently 
given in an infamous magazine pub 
lished at that time, that "All the 
amorous passages and descriptions 
in Dr. Hawk th's Collection of 
Voyages should be selected and il 
lustrated with a suitable plate." And 
this, in defiance of public decency, 
was actually done ; and he, whose 
fame had been raised on his labours 
in the cause of piety and morals was 

Anecdotes. 275 

censure in a country where, as every baby is allowed to carry 
a whip, no person can escape except by chance. The unpub 
lished crimes, unknown distresses, and even death itself, how 
ever, daily occurring in less liberal governments and less free 
nations, soon teach one to content one's self with such petty 
grievances, .and make one acknowledge that the undistinguishing 
severity of newspaper abuse may in some measure diminish the 
diffusion of vice and folly in Great Britain, and while they fright 
delicate minds into forced refinements and affected insipidity, 
they are useful to the great causes of virtue in the soul, and 
liberty in the state ; and though sensibility often sinks under the 
roughness of their prescriptions, it would be no good policy to 
take away their licence \ 

Knowing the state of Mr. Johnson's nerves, and how easily 
they were affected, I forbore reading in a new Magazine one day, 
the death of a Samuel Johnson who expired that month ; but 
my companion snatching up the book, saw it himself, and con 
trary to my expectation ' Oh (said he) ! I hope that Death 
will now be glutted with Sam. Johnsons 2 , and let me alone for 

thus dragged into a partnership in of gaining popular applause, which 

the most detestable depravity that to noble minds is the highest of all 

the human mind can invent.' Chal- rewards, seemed now to be totally 

Tiers' s British Essayists, -x.\x. Preface, cut off, and no longer to be hoped 

p. 25. for.' Annual Register, 1771, i. 60. 

A man who had received, as he A young German, travelling in Eng- 
had, ^6,000 for a mere compilation land in 1782, recorded: 'It is shock- 
was scarcely justified in putting an ing to a foreigner to see what violent 
end to his life. He should have left satires on men, rather than on things, 
suicide to his publishers, who were daily appear in the newspapers, of 
great losers by him. See Hume's which they tell me there are at least 
Letters to Strahan, p. 283. a dozen, if not more, published every 

1 Horace Walpole wrote on Dec. day.' Moritz's Travels in Eng- 

31, 1769 (Letters, v. 211): 'The land, p. 184. See also Life, i. 116, 

licentiousness of abuse surpasses all n. i. 

example. The most savage mas- 2 Among the contemporaries of 
sacre of private characters passes for Johnson bearing the same name are 
sport.' Burke wrote two years the following : 
later: 'Distinction of character i. Rev. Samuel Johnson, Libra- 
seemed at an end ; and that power- rian of St. Martin's in the Fields, 
ful incentive to all public and private Life, i. 135. 

virtue of establishing a fair fame and 2. and 3. Rev. William Samuel 

T 2 some 

276 Anecdotes. 

some time to come : I read of another namesake's departure last 
week.' Though Mr. Johnson was commonly affected even to 
agony at the thoughts of a friend's dying, he troubled himself 
very little with the complaints they might make to him about ill 
health '. ' Dear Doctor 2 (said he one day to a common acquaint 
ance, who lamented the tender state of his inside), do not be like 
the spider, man ; and spin conversation thus incessantly out of 
thy own bowels.' I told him of another friend who suffered 
grievously with the gout ' He will live a vast many years for 
that (replied he), and then what signifies how much he suffers? 
but he will die at last, poor fellow, there's the misery ; gout 
seldom takes the fort by a coup-de-main, but turning the siege 
into a blockade, obliges it to surrender at discretion.' 

A lady he thought well of, was disordered in her health 
' What help has she called in (enquired Johnson) ? ' Dr. James 3 , 
Sir ; was the reply. ' What is her disease ? ' Oh, nothing posi 
tive, rather a gradual and gentle decline. ' She will die, then, 
pretty dear (answered he) ! When Death's pale horse 4 runs 
away with persons on full speed, an active physician may pos 
sibly give them a turn ; but if he carries them on an even slow 
pace, down hill too ! no care nor skill can save them ! ' 

When Garrick was on his last sick-bed, no arguments, or 
recitals of such facts as I had heard, would persuade Mr. Johnson 
of his danger 5 : he had prepossessed himself with a notion, that 

Johnson of Connecticut, with whom ginal note Dr. Delap (ante, p. 234). 

Johnson corresponded (Letters, i. Hayward's Piozzi, i. 294. 

209), and his son Samuel. G. M. 3 Ante, p. 166. 

Berkeley's Poems, Introduction, p. 4 ' And I looked, and behold a pale 

452. horse : and his name that sat on him 

4. Samuel Johnson, author of Hurlo was Death.' Rev. vi. 8. 
Thrumbo. Croker's Boswell, p. 366, 5 Johnson wrote a few weeks after 
n. 6. Garrick's death : ' Poor David had 

5. Samuel Johnson of the Secre- doubtless many futurities in his head, 
tary's Office of the India House. which death has intercepted, a death, 
Anecdotes of John Hoole, by Samuel I believe, totally unexpected ; he did 
Hoole, 1803, p. 12. not in his last hour seem to think 

1 Ante, p. 267. his life in danger.' Letters, ii. 86. 

2 According to Mrs. Piozzi's mar- 


Anecdotes. 277 

to say a man was sick, was very near wishing him so ; and few 
things offended him more, than prognosticating even the death 
of an ordinary acquaintance. 'Ay, ay (said he), Swift knew the 
world pretty well, when he said, that 

Some dire misfortune to portend, 
No enemy can match a friend *.' 

The danger then of Mr. Garrick, or of Mr. Thrale, whom he 
loved better, was an image which no one durst present before his 
view 2 ; he always persisted in the possibility and hope of their 
recovering [from] disorders from which no human creatures by 
human means alone ever did recover. His distress for their loss 
was for that very reason poignant to excess 3 ; but his fears of 
"his own salvation were excessive : his truly tolerant spirit, and 
Christian charity, which hopeth all things, and believe th all things, 
made him rely securely on the safety of his friends, while his 
earnest aspiration after a blessed immortality made him cautious 
of his own steps, and timorous concerning their consequences. 
He knew how much had been given, and filled his mind with 
fancies of how much would be required, till his impressed 
imagination was often disturbed by them, and his health suffered 
from the sensibility of his too tender conscience : a real Christian 
is so apt to find his task above his power of performance 4 ! 

1 'Some great misfortune to por- phy' 's Johnson, p. 145. For his grief 

tend, for Mr. Thrale see ante, p. 205, n. 3. 

No enemy can match a friend.' 4 In the last year of his life he wrote 

Swift's Works, ed. 1803, xi. 243. to Mrs. Thrale :' March 10, 1784 

2 He wrote to Mrs. Thrale the au- . . . Goodness, always wishing to be 
tumn before Mr. Thrale's death : better, and imputing every deficience 
' The chief wish that I form is, that to criminal indulgence and every 
Mr. Thrale could be made to under- fault to voluntary corruption, never 
stand his true state ; to know that he dares to suppose the condition of 
is tottering upon a point, &c.' Letters, forgiveness fulfilled, nor what is 
ii. 200. See ante, p. 96, where he wanting in the crime supplied by the 
records: 'I had constantly prayed penitence.' Letters, ii. 380. 'March 
for him some time before his death,' 20, 1784 . . . Write to me no more 
and ib. for the warnings he had given about dying with a grace ; when you 
him. feel what I have felt in approaching 

3 Murphy says, though certainly eternity in fear of soon hearing the 
with exaggeration, that 'after Gar- sentence of which there is no revo- 
rick's death Johnson never talked of cation, you will know the folly.' Id. 
him without a tear in his eye.' Mur- p. 384. 


278 Anecdotes. 

Mr. Johnson did not however give in to ridiculous refinements 
either of speculation or practice, or suffer himself to be deluded 
by specious appearances. * I have had dust thrown in my eyes 
too often (would he say), to be blinded so. Let us never con 
found matters of belief with matters of opinion.' Some one 
urged in his presence the preference of hope to possession ; and 
as I remember, produced an Italian sonnet on the subject. * Let 
us not (cries Johnson) amuse ourselves with subtleties and son 
nets, when speaking about hope, which is the follower of faith 
and the precursor of eternity x ; but if you only mean those air- 
built hopes which to-day excites and to-morrow will destroy, let 
us talk away, and remember that we only talk of the pleasures 
of hope ; we feel those of possession, and no man in his senses 
would change the last for the first : such hope is a mere bubble, 
that by a gentle breath may be blown to what size you will 
almost, but a rough blast bursts it at once. Hope is an amuse 
ment rather than a good, and adapted to none but very tranquil 
minds V The truth is, Mr. Johnson hated what we call unprofit 
able chat ; and to a gentleman who had disserted some time 
about the natural history of the mouse ' I wonder what such 
a one would have said (cried Johnson), if he had ever had the 
luck to see a lion 3 ! ' 

I well remember that at Brighthelmstone once, when he was 
not present, Mr. Beauclerc asserted that he was afraid of spirits ; 
and I, who was secretly offended at the charge, asked him, the 
first opportunity I could find, What ground he had ever given to 
the world for such a report ? ' I can (replied he) recollect 
nothing nearer it, than my telling Dr. Lawrence many years ago, 
that a long time after my poor mother's death, I heard her 

x * BOSWELL. " But may not a man 2 ' Hope,' he wrote, * is itself a 

attain to such a degree of hope as species of happiness, and perhaps 

not to be uneasy from the fear of the chief happiness which this world 

death ?" JOHNSON. " A man may affords.' Ib. i. 368. See also ib. ii. 

have such a degree of hope as to 350. 

keep him quiet. You see I am not 3 Mrs. Piozzi, who had this anec- 

quiet, from the vehemence with dote from Boswell, spoilt it in the 

which I talk; but I do not despair." ' telling. Ib. ii. 194. 
Life, iv. 299. 


Anecdotes. 279 

voice call Sam T ! ' What answer did the doctor make to your 
story, Sir, said I ? ' None in the world,' ( replied he ;) and suddenly 
changed the conversation. Now as Mr. Johnson had a most un 
shaken faith, without any mixture of credulity, this story must 
either have been strictly true, or his persuasion of its truth the 
effect of disordered spirits. I relate the anecdote precisely as 
he told it me ; but could not prevail on him to draw out the 
talk into length for further satisfaction of my curiosity. 

As Johnson was the firmest of believers without being credu 
lous 2 , so he was the most charitable of mortals without being 
what we call an active friend. Admirable at giving counsel, no 
man saw his way so clearly ; but he would not stir a finger for 
the assistance of those to whom he was willing enough to give 
advice : besides that, he had principles of laziness, and could be 
indolent by rule. To hinder your death, or procure you a 
dinner, I mean if really in want of one ; his earnestness, his 
exertions could not be prevented, though health and purse and 
ease were all destroyed by their violence. If you wanted 
a slight favour, you must apply to people of other dispositions ; 
for not a step would Johnson move to obtain a man a vote in 
a society, to repay a compliment which might be useful or 
pleasing, to write a letter of request, or to obtain a hundred 
pounds a year more for a friend, who perhaps had already 
two or three. No force could urge him to diligence, no 
importunity could conquer his resolution of standing still 3 . 

1 This is most likely an inaccurate had to admit that 'it is still un- 
report of the following incident which decided whether or not there has 
happened a long time before his ever been an instance of the spirit 
mother's death : ' Dr. Johnson said, of any person appearing after death, 
that one day at Oxford, as he was All argument is against it; but all 
turning the key of his chamber, he belief is for it.' Ib. iii. 230. He was 
heard his mother distinctly call Sam. ' willing to believe in second sight ; 
She was then at Lichfield ; but no- but I never could,' he said, ' advance 
thing ensued.' Life, iv. 94. my curiosity to conviction.' Jb. ii. 

2 * I would be a Papist if I could 10, n. 3. 

(he said) ; but an obstinate ratio- 3 Boswell quotes most of this para- 
nality prevents me.' Ib. iv. 289. He graph and refers to Mrs. Piozzi's 
longed for more evidence of the own contradiction of her assertion 
spiritual world (ib. iv. 299); but he (ante, p. 180). He continues: 'I 


280 Anecdotes. 

* What good are we doing with all this ado (would he say) ? 
dearest Lady, let's hear no more of it ! ' I have however more 
than once in my life forced him on such services, but with 
extreme difficulty. 

We parted at his door one evening when I had teized him for 
many weeks to write a recommendatory letter of a little boy to 
his school-master ; and after he had faithfully promised to do 
this prodigious feat before we met again Do not forget dear 
Dick, Sir, said I, as he went out of the coach : he turned back, 
stood still two minutes on the carriage-step 'When I have 
written my letter for Dick, I may hang myself, mayn't I ? ' and 
turned away in a very ill humour indeed x . 

Though apt enough to take sudden likings or aversions to 
people he occasionally met, he would never hastily pronounce 
upon their character ; and when seeing him justly delighted with 
Solander's 2 conversation, I observed once that he was a man of 
great parts who talked from a full mind * It may be so (said 
Mr. Johnson), but you cannot know it yet, nor I neither : the 
pump works well, to be sure! but how, I wonder, are we to 
decide in so very short an acquaintance, whether it is supplied by 
a spring or a reservoir ? ' He always made a great difference in 

am certain that a more active friend Captain Cook in his first voyage 

has rarely been found in any age.' round the world. Life, v. 328. Pro- 

Life, iv. 344. ' Johnson,' says Murphy fessor Siidenberg of the University 

(Essay, &., p. 96), ' felt not only of Lunde tells me that Solander is 

kindness but zeal and ardour for his an artificially formed name after a 

friends.' fashion still common in Sweden, 

1 ' Dick ' was no doubt Richard when a man of humble origin rises 
Burney. Boswell says that in 1778, to a learned profession. Probably 
' Dr. Johnson not only wrote to Solander or his father had a name 
Dr. Joseph Warton in favour of which began with Sol, to which was 
Dr. Burney's youngest son, who was added the Greek termination ander. 
to be placed in the college of Win- Professor Siidenberg gave me the 
Chester, but accompanied him when following instance of this usage. A 
he went thither.' Life, iii. 367. See clergyman whom he knows is named 
also Early Diary of Frances Burney, Evander. He came from the parish 
ii. 284. of Efocslof. /"he changed into Ev, 

2 Dr. Solander was a Swede who, and added ander. 
with Joseph Banks, accompanied 


Anecdotes. 281 

his esteem between talents and erudition ; and when he saw 
a person eminent for literature, though wholly unconversable, it 
fretted him z . * Teaching such tonies 2 (said he to me one day), is 
like setting a lady's diamonds in lead, which only obscures the 
lustre of the stone, and makes the possessor ashamed on't.' 
Useful and what we call every-day knowledge had the most of his 
just praise. ' Let your boy learn arithmetic 3 , dear Madam,' was 
his advice to the mother of a rich young heir : ' he will not then 
be a prey to every rascal which this town swarms with : teach 
him the value of money, and how to reckon it ; ignorance to 
a wealthy lad of one-and-twenty, is only so much fat to a sick 
sheep : it just serves to call the rooks about him.' 

And all that prey in' [on] vice or folly 

Joy to see their quarry fly ; 
Here the gamester light and jolly. 

There the lender grave and sly. 

These improvise lines, making part of a long copy of verses 
which my regard for the youth on whose birth-day they were 
written obliges me to suppress lest they should give him pain 4 , 
shew a mind of surprising activity and warmth ; the more so 
as he was past seventy years of age when he composed them : 
but nothing more certainly offended Mr. Johnson, than the idea 
of a man's faculties (mental ones I mean) decaying by time ; ' It 
is not true, Sir (would he say) ; what a man could once do, he 
would always do, unless indeed by dint of vicious indolence, and 
compliance with the nephews and nieces who crowd round an 

1 Post, p. 289. 4 The youth was Sir John Lade. 

2 Webster defines Tony as a sim- Ante, p. 213, n. 2, and Hayward's 
pleton. Piozzi, i. 78. Eight years later Mrs. 

' In short, a Pattern and com- Piozzi published these lines in her 

panion fit British Synonomy, i. 359, whence 

For all the keeping Tonyes of Boswell copied them for the third 

the Pit.' edition of the Life, iv. 412, n. 2. She 

Dryden. Prologue to All For adds to the wonder by making them 

Love, 1. 15. 'improvise.' Johnson wrote to her on 

3 Writing to one of Mrs. Thrale's Aug. 8, 1780:' You have heard in 
daughters he says : 'Nothingamuses the papers how ... is come to age ; 
more harmlessly than computation, I have enclosed a short song of con- 
and nothing is oftener applicable to gratulation, which you must not 
real business or speculative enquiries.' show to anybody.' Letters, ii. 190. 
Letters, ii. 321. Szzpost, p. 295. See/^/, in Mr. Hoole's Anecdotes. 


282 Anecdotes. 

old fellow, and help to tuck him in, till he, contented with the 
exchange of fame for ease, e'en resolves to let them set the 
pillows at his back, and gives no further proof of his existence 
than just to suck the jelly that prolongs it V 

For such a life or such a death Dr. Johnson was indeed never 
intended by Providence : his mind was like a warm climate, 
which brings every thing to perfection suddenly and vigorously, 
not like the alembicated 2 productions of artificial fire, which 
always betray the difficulty of bringing them forth when their 
size is disproportionate to their flavour. Je ferois un Roman 
tout comme un atttre, mais la vie nest point un Roman, says 
a famous French writer ; and this was so certainly the opinion of 
the Author of the Rambler, that all his conversation precepts 
tended towards the dispersion of romantic ideas, and were chiefly 
intended to promote the cultivation of 

That which before thee [us] lies in daily life. 


And when he talked of authors, his praise went spontaneously 
to such passages as are sure in his own phrase to leave something 
behind them useful on common occasions, or observant of 
common manners. For example, it was not the two last, but 
the two first, volumes of Clarissa that he prized ; * For give me 
a sick bed, and a dying lady (said he), and I'll be pathetic my 
self: but Richardson had picked the kernel of life (he said), 
while Fielding was contented with the husk 4 .' It was not King 

1 ' There is nothing,' said Johnson, love of ease against diligence and 
' against which an old man should be perseverance.' Letters, i. 401. 
so much upon his guard as putting 2 This word apparently is of Mrs. 
himself out to nurse.' Life, ii. 474. Piozzi's coining. She seems to be 
Writing to Mrs. Thrale of her hus- speaking of fruit grown in a hot- 
band he says: 'Every man has house. It is a pity that she forgot to 
those about him who wish to soothe include alembicated in her British 
him into inactivity and delitescence, Synonymy. 
nor is there any semblance of kind- 3 Paradise Lost, viii. 193. 
ness more vigorously to be repelled 4 ' In comparing those two writers, 
than that which voluntarily offers he used this expression : * that there 
a vicarious performance of the tasks was as great a difference between 
of life, and conspires with the natural them as between a man who knew 




Lear cursing his daughters, or deprecating the storm, that I re 
member his commendations of; but lago's ingenious malice, and 
subtle revenge I ; or prince Hal's gay compliance with the vices 
of Falstaff, whom he all along despised. Those plays had indeed 
no rivals in Johnson's favour : ' No man but Shakespeare (he 
said) could have drawn Sir John V 

His manner of criticising and commending Addison's prose, 
was the same in conversation as we read it in the printed stric 
tures, and many of the expressions used have been heard to fall 
from him on common occasions 3 . It was notwithstanding 
observable enough (or I fancied so), that he did never like, 
though he always thought fit to praise it ; and his praises re 
sembled those of a man who extols the superior elegance of high 
painted porcelain, while he himself always chuses to eat off plate. 
I told him so one day, and he neither denied it nor appeared 

Of the pathetic in poetry he never liked to speak, and the 
only passage I ever heard him applaud as particularly tender 

how a watch was made, and a man 
who could tell the hour by looking 
on the dial-plate.' Life, ii. 49. See 
also ib. ii. 174. Smollett speaks of 
' an amazing knowledge and com 
mand of human nature ' found in 
Richardson. Hist, of England, v. 382. 
1 ' The fiery openness of Othello, 
magnanimous, artless, and credulous, 
boundless in his confidence, ardent 
in his affection, inflexible in his 
resolution, and obdurate in his re 
venge ; the cool malignity of lago, 
silent in his resentment, subtle in 
his designs, and studious at once 
of his interest and his vengeance ; 
the soft simplicity of Desdemona, 
confident of merit, and conscious of 
innocence, her artless perseverance 
in her suit, and her slowness to 
suspect that she can be suspected, 
are such proofs of Shakespeare's 
skill in human nature as, I suppose, 
it is vain to seek in any modern 

writer.' Johnson's Shakespeare, viii. 

2 'But Falstaff, unimitated, un- 
imitable Falstaff, how shall I de 
scribe thee ? Thou compound of 
sense and vice ; of sense which may 
be admired, but not esteemed, of 
vice which may be despised, but 
hardly detested. Falstaff is a char 
acter loaded with faults, and with 
those faults which naturally pro 
duce contempt. He is a thief, and 
a glutton, a coward, and a boaster, 
always ready to cheat the weak 
and prey upon the poor ; to terrify 
the timorous and insult the de 
fenceless. . . . Yet the man thus 
corrupt, thus despicable, makes him- 

.self necessary to the Prince that de 
spises him by the most pleasing of all 
qualities, perpetual gaiety, by an un 
failing power of exciting laughter . . .' 
Ib. iv. 356. 

3 Ante, p. 233. 



A necdotes. 

in any common book, was Jane Shore's exclamation in the 

last act, 

Forgive me ! but forgive me T ! 

It was not however from the want of a susceptible heart that 
he hated to cite tender expressions, for he was more strongly 
and more violently affected by' the force of words representing 
ideas capable of affecting him at all, than any other man in the 
world I believe ; and when he would try to repeat the celebrated 
Prosa Ecclesiastica pro Morttti-s*, as it is called, beginning Dies 
irce, Dies ilia, he could never pass the stanza ending thus, Tanttis 
labor non sit cassus 3 , without bursting into a flood of tears ; 
which sensibility I used to quote against him when he would 
inveigh against devotional poetry, and protest that all religious 
verses were cold and feeble, and unworthy the subject, which 
ought to be treated with higher reverence, he said, than either 
poets or painters could presume to excite or bestow 4 . Nor can 
any thing be a stronger proof of Dr. Johnson's piety than such 
an expression ; for his idea of poetfy was magnificent indeed, 

3 'Quaerens me sedisti lassus. 

Redemisti crucem passus : 
Tantus labor non sit cassus.' 

4 ' Watts's devotional poetry is, like 
that of others, unsatisfactory. The 
paucity of its topics enforces per 
petual repetition, and the sanctity 
of the matter rejects the ornaments 
of figurative diction. It is sufficient 
for Watts to have done better than 
others what no man has done well.' 
Works, viii. 386. See also ib. vii. 

1 ' What she answers to her hus 
band when he asks her movingly, 

" Why dost thou fix thy dying eyes 

upon me 
With such an earnest, such a 

piteous look, 
As if thy heart was full of some 

sad meaning 

Thou couldst not speak!" 
is pathetic to a great degree. 

" Forgive me ! but forgive me ! " 
These few words far exceed the 
most pompous declamations of Cato.' 
J. Warton's Essay on Pope, ed. 1762, 
i. 273. 

' Johnson says of Rowe's Jane 
Shore : " This play, consisting 
chiefly of domestic scenes and pri 
vate distress, lays hold upon the 
heart."' Works, vii. 410. See ante, 
p. 252, n. 3. 

2 In Daniel's Thesaurus, ii. 103, 
the Dies Irae is called Prosa de 

213 (The Life of Waller], where 
Johnson explains why ' poetical de 
votion cannot often please.' 

' Moses Browne published in verse 
a series of devout contemplations 
called Sunday Thoughts. Johnson, 
who for the purpose of religious me 
ditation seemed to think one day 
as proper as another, read them with 
cold approbation, and said he had 
a great mind to write and publish 
Monday Thoughts. 1 Nichols's Lit. 
Anec. v. 51. 


Anecdotes. 285 

and very fully was he persuaded of its superiority over every 
other talent bestowed by heaven on man. His chapter upon 
that particular subject in his Rasselas x , is really written from 
the fulness of his heart, and quite in his best manner I think. 
I am not so sure that this is the proper place to mention his 
writing that surprising little volume in a week or ten days' time, 
in order to obtain money for his journey to Lichfield when his 
mother lay upon her last sickbed 2 . 

Promptitude of thought indeed, and quickness of expression, 
were among the peculiar felicities of Johnson : his notions rose 
up like the dragon's teeth sowed by Cadmus all ready clothed, 
and in bright armour too, fit for immediate battle 3 . He was 
therefore (as somebody is said to have expressed it) a tremendous 
converser 4 , and few people ventured to try their skill against 
an antagonist with whom contention was so hopeless. One 
gentleman however, who dined at a nobleman's house in his 
company and that of Mr. Thrale, to whom I was obliged for the 
anecdote, was willing to enter the lists in defence of King 
William's character 5 , and having opposed and contradicted 
Johnson two or three times petulantly enough ; the master of 
the house began to feel uneasy, and expected disagreeable con 
sequences : to avoid which he said, loud enough for the Doctor 
to hear, Our friend here has no meaning now in all this, except 
just to relate at club to-morrow how he teized Johnson at dinner 
to-day this is all to do himself honour. No, upon my word, 
replied the other, I see no honour in it, whatever you may do. 
( Well, Sir ! (returned Mr. Johnson sternly) if you do not see the 
honour, I am sure I feel the disgrace' 

1 Chapter x. formal preparation, no flourishing 

2 Johnson probably began Rasselas with his sword ; he is through your 
in order to obtain money for his body in an instant." ' Life, ii. 365. 
journey to Lichfield, but he did not 4 George Garrick called him ' a 
get it finished in time. Life, \. 341 ; tremendous companion.' Id. i. 496, 
Letters, i. 79. n. I ; iii. 139. 

3 'Sir Joshua observed to me 5 Johnson called William III ' one 
the extraordinary promptitude with of the most worthless scoundrels that 
which Johnson flew upon an argu- ever existed.' Ib. ii. 342. See also 
ment. " Yes, (said I,) he has no ib. v. 255. 

A young 

286 A necdotes. 

A young fellow, less confident of his own abilities, lamenting 
one day that he had lost all his Greek ' I believe it happened 
at the same time, Sir (said Johnson), that I lost all my large 
estate in Yorkshire.' 

But however roughly he might be suddenly provoked to treat 
a harmless exertion of vanity, he did not wish to inflict the pain 
he gave, and was sometimes very sorry when he perceived the 
people to smart more than they deserved x . How harshly you 
treated that man to-day, said I once, who harangued us so about 
gardening ' I am sorry (said he) if I vexed the creature, for 
there certainly is no harm in a fellow's rattling a rattle-box, 
only don't let him think that he thunders.' The Lincolnshire 
lady 2 who shewed him a grotto she had been making, came 
off no better as I remember : Would it not be a pretty cool 
habitation in summer ? said she, Mr. Johnson ! ' I think it 
would, Madam (replied he), for a toad.' 

All desire of distinction indeed had a sure enemy in Mr. John 
son. We met a friend driving six very small ponies, and stopt 
to admire them. ' Why does nobody (said our doctor) begin the 
fashion of driving six spavined 3 horses, all spavined of the same 
leg ? it would have a mighty pretty effect, and produce the dis 
tinction of doing something worse than the common way.' 

When Mr. Johnson had a mind to compliment any one, he did 
it with more dignity to himself, and better effect upon the 
company, than any man. I can recollect but few instances 
indeed, though perhaps that may be more my fault than his. 
When Sir Joshua Reynolds left the room one day, he said, 
' There goes a man not to be spoiled by prosperity V And 

1 He wrote to Dr. Taylor on ton in Lincolnshire. Life, i. 476. 
Nov. 18,1756: 'When I am musing In the Taylor Gallery in Oxford 
alone I feel a pang for every mo- there is a water-colour drawing of 
ment that any human being has by the house. 

my peevishness or obstinacy spent 3 Spavined is not in Johnson's 

in uneasiness.' Letters, i. 72. Dictionary. He only gives Spavin. 

2 In 1764 he paid a visit to the 4 'Sir Joshua Reynolds, Sir, is the 
Langton family at their seat of Lang- most invulnerable man I know ; the 




when Mrs. Montague shewed him some China plates which had 
once belonged to Queen Elizabeth, he told her, ' that they had 
no reason to be ashamed of their present possessor, who was so 
little inferior to the first V I likewise remember that he pro 
nounced one day at my house a most lofty panegyric upon Jones 
the Orientalist, who seemed little pleased with the praise, for 
what cause I know not 2 . He was not at all offended, when 
comparing all our acquaintance to some animal or other, we 
pitched upon the elephant for his resemblance, adding that the 
proboscis of that creature was like his mind most exactly, strong 
to buffet even the tyger, and pliable to pick up even the pin. 
/The truth is, Mr. Johnson was often good-humouredly willing to 
/ join in childish amusements, and hated to be left out of any 
I innocent merriment that was going forward. Mr. Murphy always 
I said, he was incomparable at buffoonery ; and I verily think, if 
he had had good eyes, and a form less inflexible, he would have 
made an admirable mimic 3 . 

He certainly rode on Mr. Thrale's old hunter with a good 

man with whom if you should quar- 
rel, you would find the most dif- 
ficulty how to abuse.' Life, v. 102. 

1 Mrs. Montagu's name was Eliza- 
beth. For Johnson's praise of her 
conversation see ib. iv. 275, and 
for her pretence to learning, ib. iii. 
244. It was mainly by reason of her 
wealth that she was famous for her 
wit and writings. Johnson said of 
her : ' Mrs. Montagu has dropped 
me. Now, Sir, there are people 
whom one should like very well to 
drop, but would not wish to be 
dropped by.' Ib. iv. 73. 

To her might be applied what 
Macaulay wrote of Rogers, far in- 
ferior to him though she was as 
a writer. ' That such men as Lord 
Granville, Lord Holland, Hob house, 
Lord Byron, and others of high 
rank in intellect, should place Rogers, 
as they do, above Southey, Moore, 
and even Scott himself, is what I 

cannot conceive. But this comes of 
being in the highest society of Lon- 
don. What Lady Jane Granville [in 
Miss Edgeworth's Patronage\ called 
the Patronage of Fashion can do as 
much for a middling poet as for 
a plain girl like Miss Arabella Fal- 
coner.' Trevelyan's Macaulay, ed. 
1877, i. 219. 

2 Sir William Jones was famous 
for his modesty, if we can trust Dean 
Barnard's line : 

* Jones teach me modesty and 
Greek.' Life, iv. 433. 

3 ' Dr. Johnson has more fun, and 
comical humour, and love of non- 
sense about him than almost any- 
body I ever saw.' Mme. D'Arblay's 
Diary, i. 204. ' Gesticular mimicry 
and buffoonery Johnson hated, and 
would often huff Garrick for exercis- 
ing it in his presence.' Hawkins's 
Johnson, p. 386. See ante, p. 269, 
post, p. 345. 




firmness, and though he would follow the hounds fifty miles an 
end sometimes, would never own himself either tired or amused x . 
* I have now learned (said he), by hunting, to perceive, that it is 
no diversion at all, nor ever takes a man out of himself for 
a moment : the dogs have less sagacity than I could have pre 
vailed on myself to suppose ; and the gentlemen often call to me 
not to ride over them. It is very strange, and very melancholy, 
that the paucity of human pleasures should persuade us ever to 
call hunting one of them 2 .' He was however proud to be 
amongst the sportsmen ; and I think no praise ever went so close 
to his heart, as when Mr. Hamilton 3 called out one day upon 
Brighthelmstone Downs, Why Johnson rides as well, for aught 
I see, as the most illiterate fellow in England. 

Though Dr. Johnson owed his very life to air and exercise, 
given him when his organs of respiration could scarcely play, in 
the year ij66 4 , yet he ever persisted in the notion, that neither 
of them had any thing to do with health 5 . ' People live as long 

1 ' Dr. Johnson told us at break 
fast that he rode harder at a fox 
chace than anybody.' Life, v. 253. 
Writing to Mrs. Thrale on August 27, 
1777, in the midst of an abundant 
harvest, he says: 'Barley, malt, 
beer, and money. There is the se 
ries of ideas. The deep logicians call 
it a sorites. I hope my master will 
no longer endure the reproach of not 
keeping me a horse.' Letters, ii. 25. 

' Riding had no tendency to raise 
Johnson's spirits ; and he once told 
me that in a journey on horseback 
he fell asleep.' Hawkins's Johnson, 
p. 458. 

a ' The public pleasures of far the 
greater part of mankind are coun- 
feit.' The Idler, No. 18. 

3 William Gerard Hamilton. 

4 Ante, p. 234. 

5 In \h& Rambler, No. 85, he points 
out * how much happiness is gained, 
and how much misery escaped, by 
frequent and violent agitation of the 

body. . . . Exercise cannot secure us 
from that dissolution to which we are 
decreed : but while the soul and body 
continue united, it can make the as 
sociation pleasing, and give probable 
hopes that they shall be disjoined by 
an easy separation.' 

He wrote to Dr. Taylor : ' I hope 
you are diligent to take as much 
exercise as you can bear. ... I take 
the true definition of exercise to be 
labour without weariness.' Letters, ii. 
102. ' Exercise short of great fatigue 
must be your great medicine.' Ib. 
ii. 355. He urged Mr. Thrale to 
ride. Ib. ii. 73, 106. 

He recommended to Boswell as a 
remedy against melancholy ' a great 
deal of exercise.' Life, i. 446. 

Though in his strength he ridiculed 
the notion that weather much affects 
us (Ib. i. 332, 452 ; ii. 358), neverthe 
less when ill he owned the effect of 
change of air. In 1773 he wrote : 
' My cold was once so bad that I 


Anecdotes. 289 

(said he) in Pepper-alley x as on Salisbury-plain ; and they live 
so much happier, that an inhabitant of the first would, if he 
turned cottager, starve his understanding for want of conversation, 
and perish in a state of mental inferiority 2 .' 

Mr. Johnson indeed, as he was .a very talking man himself, 
had an idea that nothing promoted happiness so much as con 
versation. A friend's erudition was commended one day as 
equally deep and strong ' He will not talk, Sir (was the reply), 
so his learning does no good, and his wit, if he has it, gives us no 
pleasure : out of all his boasted stores I never heard him force 
but one word, and that word was Richard*' With a contempt 
not inferior he received the praises of a pretty lady's face and 
behaviour : ' She says nothing, Sir (answers Johnson) ; a talking 
blackamoor were better than a white creature who adds nothing 
to life, and by sitting down before one thus desperately silent, 
takes away the confidence one should have in the company of 
her chair if she were once out of it.' No one was however 
less willing to begin any discourse than himself: his friend 

began to think of country air.' country, are fit for the country." ' 

Letters, i. 208. In 1782 : ' I am now Ib. iv. 338. 

harassed by a catarrhous cough, from 3 ' Demosthenes Taylor, as he was 

which my purpose is to seek relief called, (that is, the Editor of Demos- 

by change of air.' Life, iv. 151. thenes) was the most silent man, 

See also ib. iv. 336, 348. the merest statue of a man that I 

1 Three alleys of this name are have ever seen. I once dined in 
mentioned in Dodsley's London and company with him, and all he said 
its Environs. during the whole time was no more 

'JOHNSON. " I'll take you five chil- than Richard. How a man should 
dren from London, who shall cuff say only Richard, it is not easy to 
five Highland children. Sir, a man imagine. But it was thus: Dr. 
bred in London will carry a burthen, Douglas was talking of Dr. Zachary 
or run, or wrestle, as well as a man Grey, and ascribing to him some- 
brought up in the hardiest manner thing that was written by Dr. Richard 
in the country." ' Ltfe,\i. 101. Grey. So, to correct him, Taylor 

2 "'Yet Sir (said I) there are many said, (imitating his affected senten- 
people who are content to live in tious emphasis and nod,) "Richard"' 
the country." JOHNSON. "Sir, it Ib. iii. 318. 

is in the intellectual world as in the It was Taylor who said that 'to 

physical world : we are told by be one of the Trustees of the British 

natural philosophers that a body is Museum should be the blue ribband 

at rest in the place that is fit for it ; of literary men.' Nichols's Lit. Hist. 

they who are content to live in the vi. 304. See ante, p. 281. 

VOL. I. U Mr. 

290 A necdotes. 

Mr. Thomas Tyers said, he was like the ghosts, who never speak 
till they are spoken to : and he liked the expression so well, 
that he often repeated it x . He had indeed no necessity to lead 
the stream of chat to a favourite channel, that his fulness on the 
subject might be shewn more clearly, whatever was the topic ; 
and he usually left the choice to others. His information best 
enlightened, his argument strengthened, and his wit made it ever 
remembered. Of him it might have been said, as he often 
delighted to say of Edmund Burke, ' that you could not stand 
five minutes with that man beneath a shed while it rained, but 
you must be convinced you had been standing with the greatest 
man you had ever yet seen V 

As we had been saying one day that no subject failed of 
receiving dignity from the manner in which Mr. Johnson treated 
it, a lady at my house said, she would make him talk about 
love ; and took her measures accordingly, deriding the novels of 
the day because they treated about love. ' It is not (replied our 
philosopher) because they treat, as you call it, about love, but 
because they treat of nothing, that they are despicable : we must 
not ridicule a passion which he who never felt never was happy, 
and he who laughs at never deserves to feel a passion which 
has caused the change of empires, and the loss of worlds a 
passion which has inspired heroism and subdued avarice V He 
thought he had already said too much. ' A passion, in short 
(added he, with an altered tone), that consumes me away for my 
pretty Fanny here, and she is very cruel (speaking of another 
lady in the room).' He told us however in the course of the 
same chat, how his negro Francis had been eminent for his 
success among the girls. Seeing us all laugh, ' I must have you 

1 Life, iii. 307 ; v. 73, and ante, p. extraordinary man here." ' Ib. iv. 
160. For Tyers see Life, iii. 308. 275. See also v. 34, and^j^, p. 309. 

2 'Yes, Sir; if a man were to go by 3 'Of the passion of love Dr. John- 
chance at the same time with Burke son remarked, that its violence and 
under a shed to shun a shower, he ill effects were much exaggerated ; 
would say, " this is an extraordinary for who knows any real sufferings 
man." If Burke should go into a on that head, more than from the 
stable to see his horse dressed, the exorbitancy of any other passion ? ' 
ostler would say, " we have had an Life, ii. 122. 


Anecdotes. 291 

know, ladies (said he), that Frank has carried the empire of 
Cupid further than most men. When I was in Lincolnshire so 
many years ago, he attended me thither ; and when we returned 
home together, I found that a female haymaker x had followed 
him to London for love.' Francis was indeed no small favourite 
with his master, who retained however a prodigious influence 
over his most violent passions. 

On the birth-day of our eldest daughter, and that of our 
friend Dr. Johnson, the iyth and i8th of September 2 , we every 
year made up a little dance and supper, to divert our servants 
and their friends, putting the summer-house 3 into their hands 
for the two evenings, to fill with acquaintance and merriment. 
Francis and his white wife were invited of course. She was 
eminently pretty, and he was jealous, as my maids told me. On 
the first of these days amusements (I know not what year) Frank 
took offence at some attentions paid his Desdemona, and walked 
away next morning to London in wrath. His master and I 
driving the same road an hour after, overtook him. ' What is 
the matter, child (says Dr. Johnson), that you leave Streatham 
to-day? Art sick?' He is jealous (whispered I). 'Are you 
jealous of your wife, you stupid blockhead (cries out his master 
in another tone) ? ' The fellow hesitated ; and, To be sure Sir, 
I dorit quite approve Sir, was the stammering reply. ' Why, 
what do they do to her, man ? do the footmen kiss her ? ' No 
Sir, no! Kiss my wife Sir ! I hope not Sir. ' Why, what do 
they do to her, my lad ? ' Why nothing Sir, I'm sure Sir. 
1 Why then go back directly and dance you dog, do ; and let's 
hear no more of such empty lamentations.' I believe however 
that Francis was scarcely as much the object of Mr. Johnson's 
personal kindness, as the representative of Dr. Bathurst 4 , for 
whose sake he would have loved any body, or any thing. 

1 The 'haymaker* must be due to 3 It was to the summer-house that 
Mrs. Piozzi's lively invention. John- Johnson on August 9, 1781 'retired, 
son visited Langton in the winter of to plan a life of greater diligence.' 
1764 and was back in London in Ante, p. 99. 

February. Life, i. 477. 4 Life, i. 239, n. I. 

2 Ante, p. 92. 

U 2 When 

292 Anecdotes. 

When he spoke of negroes 1 , he always appeared to think 
them of a race naturally inferior, and made few exceptions in 
favour of his own ; yet whenever disputes arose in his household 
among the many odd inhabitants of which it consisted, he always 
sided with Francis against the others, whom he suspected (not 
unjustly, I believe) of greater malignity. It seems at once 
vexatious and comical to reflect, that the dissentions those people 
chose to live constantly in, distressed and mortified him exceed 
ingly. He really was oftentimes afraid of going home, because 
he was so sure to be met at the door with numberless com 
plaints 2 ; and he used to lament pathetically to me, and to 
Mr. Sastres 3 the Italian master, who was much his favourite, 
that they made his life miserable from the impossibility he found 
of making theirs happy, when every favour he bestowed on one 
was wormwood to the rest. If, however, I ventured to blame 
their ingratitude, and condemn their conduct, he would instantly 
set about softening the one and justifying the other ; and finished 
commonly by telling me, that I knew not how to make allow 
ances for situations I never experienced. 

To thee no reason who know'st only good, 
But evil hast not try'd. MILTON*. 

Dr. Johnson knew how to be merry with mean people too, as 
well as to be sad with them; he loved the lower ranks of 
humanity with a real affection : and though his talents and 
learning kept him always in the sphere of upper life, yet he 
never lost sight of the time when he and they shared pain and 
pleasure in common 5 . A borough election 6 once shewed me 

1 Life, ii. 478. as I to be fastidious, bear it better, 

2 Ib. iii. 461 ; Letters, ii. 74-5, by having mixed more with different 
77, 122, 128; ante, p. 205 ; post, in sorts of men. You would think that 
Percy's Anecdotes. I have mixed pretty well too." ' Life, 

3 Letters^ ii. 414. v. 307. 

4 Paradise Lost, iv. 895. 6 Mrs. Piozzi means no doubt an 

5 ' In our Tour, I observed that election in the Borough of Southwark 
he was disgusted whenever he met for which Mr. Thrale was member 
with coarse manners. He said to from Dec. 1765, to the dissolution 
me, "I know not how it is, but I of 1780. Mr. Matthews, stationer, of 
cannot bear low life : and I find St. Giles', Oxford, showed me a frag- 
others, who have as good a right ment of a MS. with the following 




his toleration of boisterous mirth, and his content in the company 
of people whom one would have thought at first sight little 
calculated for his society. A rough fellow one day on such an 
occasion, a hatter by trade, seeing Mr. Johnson s beaver in a state 
of decay, seized it suddenly with one hand, and clapping him on 
the back with the other ; Ah, Master Johnson (says he), this is 
no time to be thinking about hats. ' No, no, Sir (replies our 
Doctor in a cheerful tone), hats are of no use now, as you say, 
except to throw up in the air and huzza with ; ' accompanying 
his words with the true election halloo x . 

But it was never against people of coarse life that his contempt 
was expressed, while poverty of sentiment in men who con 
sidered themselves to be company for the parlour 2 , as he called 
it, was what he would not bear. A very ignorant young fellow, 
who had plagued us all for nine or ten months, died at last con- 

entry:' 1754, April 15. Mr. Morton 
was chosen for Abingdon, after a long 
opposition of first Collington Esq. 
who left ye town and his Debts un 
paid. Next Thrale Esq., who not 
withstanding ye Superfluity of his 
money was rejected to ye Honour 
of Abingdon.' 

1 Johnson wrote to Mrs. Thrale 
in 1780: 'The voters of the Borough 
are too proud and too little dependant 
to be solicited by deputies ; they 
expect the gratification of seeing the 
candidate bowing or curtseying be 
fore them. If you are proud they 
can be sullen.' Letters, ii. 153. 

2 Johnson defines Drawingroom 
as the room in which company as 
sembles at court and Parlour as a 
room in houses on the first floor, 
elegantly furnished for reception or 

Mrs. Raine Ellis in a note on 
Miss Burney's Early Diary (ii. 157) 
says that ' Fanny does not seem to 
have said " drawing-room " until she 
went to Court, as she writes in her 

Windsor diary, "the drawing-room" 
as they call it here" Mrs. Delany, 
in 1755, speaks of her "dining-room, 
vulgarly so called" The old words 
were parlour for any sitting-room ; 
eating- or dining-parlour and cham 
ber or bed-chamber for rooms distinct 
from those of reception.' In New 
England parlour has not been sup 
planted by drawing-room. 

' Upon a visit to me at a country 
lodging near Twickenham,' writes 
Dr. Maxwell, 'Johnson asked what 
sort of society I had there. I told 
him, but indifferent ; as they chiefly 
consisted of opulent traders, retired 
from business. He said, he never 
much liked that class of people ; 
"For, Sir (said he,) they have lost 
the civility of tradesmen, without 
acquiring the manners of gentle 
men.'" Life, ii. 120. 

* The lower class of the gentry and 
the higher of the mercantile world are 
in reality the worst-bred part of man 
kind.' Joseph Andrews, Bk. iii. 
ch. 3. 

sumptive : 

294 Anecdotes. 

sumptive : * I think (said Mr. Johnson when he heard the news), 
I am afraid, I should have been more concerned for the death of 

the dog : but (hesitating a while) I am not wrong now in all 

this, for the dog acted up to his character on every occasion that 
we know ; but that dunce of a fellow helped forward the general 
disgrace of humanity.' Why dear Sir (said I), how odd you are ! 
you have often said the lad was not capable of receiving further 
instruction. * He was (replied the Doctor) like a corked bottle, 
with a drop of dirty water in it, to be sure ; one might pump 
upon it for ever without the smallest effect ; but when every 
method to open and clean it had been tried, you would not have 
me grieve that the bottle was broke at last.' 

This was the same youth who told us he had been reading 
Lucius Florus ; Flortis Delphini was the phrase ; and my mother 
(said he) thought it had something to do with Delphos : but of 
that I know nothing x . Who founded Rome then (enquired 
Mr. Thrale) ? The lad replied, Romulus. And who succeeded 
Romulus (said I) ? A long pause, and apparently distressful 
hesitation, followed the difficult question. * Why will you ask 
him in terms that he does not comprehend (said Mr. Johnson 
enraged) ? You might as well bid him tell you who phlebotom 
ised Romulus. This fellow's dulness is elastic (continued he), 
and all we do is but like kicking at a woolsack.' 

The pains he took however to obtain the young man more 
patient instructors, were many, and oftentimes repeated. He 
was put under the care of a clergyman in a distant province 2 ; 
and Mr. Johnson used both to write and talk to his friend con 
cerning his education. It was on that occasion that I remember 
his saying, ' A boy should never be sent to Eton or Westminster 
school before he is twelve years old at least ; for if in his years 
of babyhood he 'scapes that general and transcendent 3 know- 

1 The youth had been reading the Letters, i. 157. 

edition of Florus ' In Usum Serenis- 3 Perhaps he said transcendental, 

simi Delphini.' of which in his Dictionary he gives 

2 He was perhaps the pupil about as the first definition: General, 
whom Johnson wrote to the Master pervading many particulars. 

of Abingdon Grammar School. 




ledge without which life is perpetually put to a stand, he will 
never get it at a public school, where if he does not learn Latin 
and Greek, he learns nothing V Mr. Johnson often said, ' that 
there was too much stress laid upon literature as indispensably 
necessary : there is surely no need that every body should be 
a scholar, no call that every one should square the circle. Our 
manner of teaching (said he) cramps and warps many a mind, 
which if left more at liberty would have been respectable in 
some way, though perhaps not in that. We lop our trees, and 
prune them, and pinch them about (he would say), and nail 
them tight up to the wall, while a good standard is at last the 
only thing for bearing healthy fruit, though it commonly begins 
later. Let the people learn necessary knowledge ; let them 
learn to count their ringers, and to count their money, before 
they are caring for the classics 2 ; for (says Mr. Johnson) though 
I do not quite agree with the proverb, that Nullum numen abest 
si sit prudentia, yet we may very well say, that Nulhim numen 
adest ni sit prudentia V 

We had been visiting at a lady's house, whom as we returned 
some of the company ridiculed for her ignorance : ' She is not 
ignorant (said he), I believe, of any thing she has been taught, or 
of any thing she is desirous to know ; and I suppose if one 
wanted a little run tea, she might be a proper person enough to 
apply to V 

1 'We must own,' said Johnson, So that the question of publick or 

' that neither a dull boy, nor an idle private education is not properly a 

boy, will do so well at a great school general one ; but whether one or the 

as at a private one. For at a great other is best for my son.' Life, v. 

school there are always boys enough 85. See also ib. iii. 12 ; iv. 312. 

to do well easily, who are sufficient 3 Ante, p. 281. 

to keep up the credit of the school ; 3 ' I heard Johnson once say, 

and after whipping being tried to ' 'Though the proverb Nullum numen 

no purpose, the dull or idle boys are abest, si sit prudentia, does not 

left at the end of a class, having the always prove true, we may be certain 

appearance of going through the of the converse of it, Nullum numen 

course, but learning nothing at all. adest, si sit imprudentia" ' Life, 

Such boys may do good at a private iv. 180. See Juvenal, Satires, x. 

school, where constant attention is 365. 

paid to them, and they are watched. 4 Life, v. 449, n. i. 




When I relate these various instances of contemptuous beha 
viour shewn to a variety of people, I am aware that those who 
till now have heard little of Mr. Johnson will here cry out against 
his pride and his severity ; yet I have been as careful as I could 
to tell them, that all he did was gentle, if all he said was 
rough. Had I given anecdotes of his actions instead of his 
words, we should I am sure have nothing on record but acts 
of virtue differently modified, as different occasions called that 
virtue forth : and among all the nine biographical essays or per 
formances which I have heard will at last be written about dear 
Dr. Johnson x , no mean or wretched, no wicked or even slightly 
culpable action will I trust be found % to produce and put in the 
scale against a life of seventy years, spent in the uniform prac 
tice of every moral excellence and every Christian perfection ; 
save humility alone, says a critic, but that I think must be 
excepted. He was not however wanting even in that to a degree 
seldom attained by man, when the duties of piety or charity 
called it forth 3 . 

1 l. A Biographical Sketch of Dr. 
Samuel Joh son, by Thomas Tyers, 
Esq. Gentleman's Magazine, De 
cember, 1784. 

2. The Life of Samuel Johnson, 
LL.D. G. Kearsley, 1785. 

3. Memoirs of the Life and Wri 
tings of the late Dr. Samuel Johnson. 
J. Walker, 1785. 

4. Anecdotes of the late Samuel 
Johnson, LL.D., by H. L. Piozzi. 
T. Cadell, 1786. 

5. An Essay on the Life, Char 
acter, and Writings of Dr. Samuel 
Johnson, by Joseph Towers, 1786. 

6. The Life of Dr. Samuel John 
son, by Sir John Hawkins, Knight, 

7. The Life of Samuel Johnson, 
LL.D., by James Boswell. C. Dilly, 


8. An Essay on the Life and 
Genius of Samuel Johnson, LL.D., 
by Arthur Murphy. T. Longman, 
c., 1792. 

9. The Life of Samuel Johnson, 
LL.D., with critical Observations on 
his Works, by Robert Anderson, 
M.D., Edinburgh, 1795. 

Dr. Parr projected a Life of John 
son. Life, iv. 444. 

2 ' Whatever record leap to light 

He never shall be shamed.' 
Tennyson. Ode on the Death of the 
Duke of Wellington. 

3 'The solemn text, "of him to 
whom much is given, much will be 
required," seems to have been ever 
present to his mind, in a rigorous 
sense, and to have made him dis 
satisfied with his labours and acts 
of goodness, however comparatively 
great ; so that the unavoidable con 
sciousness of his superiority was, in 
that respect, a cause of disquiet.' 
Life, iv. 427. 

On his death-bed he said to one 

present : 'Live well, I conjure you; 

and you will not feel the compunction 

at the last, which I now feel.' ' So 


A necdotes. 297 

Lowly towards God, and docile towards the church ; implicit 
in his belief of the gospel, and ever respectful towards the people 
appointed to preach it ; tender of the unhappy, and affectionate 
to the poor, let no one hastily condemn as proud, a character 
which may perhaps somewhat justly be censured as arrogant. 
It must however be remembered again, that even this arrogance 
was never shewn without some intention, immediate or remote, 
of mending some fault or conveying some instruction. Had 
I meant to make a panegyric on Mr. Johnson's well-known 
excellencies, I should have told his deeds only, not his words 
sincerely protesting, that as I never saw him once do a wrong 
thing, so we had accustomed ourselves to look upon him almost 
as an excepted x being ; and I should as much have expected 
injustice from Socrates or impiety from Paschal, as the slightest 
deviation from truth and goodness in any transaction one might 
be engaged in with Samuel Johnson. His attention to veracity 
was without equal or example 2 : and when I mentioned 
Clarissa as a perfect character ; ' On the contrary (said he), you 
may observe there is always something which she prefers to 
truth. Fielding's Amelia was the most pleasing heroine of all 
4he romances (he said) ; but that vile broken nose never cured 3 , 
ruined the sale of perhaps the only book, which being printed 
off betimes one morning, a new edition was called for before 
night V 

truly humble,' adds Nichols, 'were the charms of her person deserved 

the thoughts which this great and a much higher adoration to be paid 

good man entertained of his own to her mind.' Amelia, Bk. ii. c. i. 
approaches to religious perfection.' 4 Mrs. Piozzi must mean 'which 

Life, iv. 410. being published betimes,' &c. 

1 I do not find any instances of Wraxhall (Memoirs, i. 54), says 
excepted as here used. A writer of that Cadell told him that his pre- 
the present day would perhaps have decessor Andrew Millar, who gave 
said exceptional a word not in Fielding ,800 for the copyright of 
Johnson's Dictionary. Amelia, was advised 'to get rid of 

2 Ante, p. 225. it as soon as he could. At the first 

3 ' The injury done to her beauty sale which he made to the Trade he 
by the overturning of a chaise, by said, "Gentlemen, I have several 
which, as you may well remember, works to put up for which I shall 
her lovely nose was beat all to pieces, be glad if you will bid ; but as 
gave me an assurance that the woman to Amelia every copy is already 
who had been so much adored for bespoke." This manoeuvre had 


298 Anecdotes. 

Mr. Johnson's knowledge of literary history was extensive and 
surprising : he knew every adventure of every book you could 
name almost, and was exceedingly pleased with the opportunity 
which writing the Poets' Lives gave him to display it. He 
loved to be set at work, and was sorry when he came to the end 
of the business he was about x . I do not feel so myself with 
regard to these sheets : a fever which has preyed on me while 
I wrote them over for the press, will perhaps lessen my power of 
doing well the first, and probably the last work I should ever 
have thought of presenting to the Public. I could doubtless 
wish so to conclude it, as at least to shew my zeal for my friend, 
whose life, as I once had the honour and happiness of being 
useful to, I should wish to record a few particular traits of, that 
those who read should emulate his goodness ; but seeing the 
necessity of making even virtue and learning such as his agree 
able, that all should be warned against such coarseness of 
\ manners, as drove even from him those who loved, honoured, and 
"esteemed him. His wife's daughter, Mrs. Lucy Porter of Litch- 
field, whose veneration for his person and character has ever been 
the greatest possible 2 , being opposed one day in conversation 
by a clergyman who came often to her house, and feeling some 
what offended, cried out suddenly, Why, Mr. Pearson 3 , said she, 
you are just like Dr. Johnson, I think : I do not mean that you 
are a man of the greatest capacity in all the world like 

its effect. All the booksellers were as the following in his letters must 

anxious to get their names put down have shown Mrs. Thrale that the 

for copies of it, and the edition, veneration was sometimes veiled, 

though very large, was immediately 'July 20, 1767. Miss Lucy is more 

sold.' kind and civil than I expected.' 

1 About a revised edition of his Letters, i. 129. 'Lucy is a philo- 
Dictionary he wrote : ' I am now sopher, and considers me as one of 
within a few hours of being able to the external and accidental things 
send the whole dictionary to the that are to be taken and left without 
press, and though I often went slug- emotion.' Ib. i. 180. 'Aug. i, 1775. 
gishly to the work I am not much Fits of tenderness with Mrs. Lucy 
delighted at the completion.' Letters, are not common ; but she seems 
i. 191. now to have a little paroxysm, and 

2 Boswell says of her: 'she re- I was not willing to counteract it.' 
verenced Johnson, and he had a /. 1.359. ' Oct. 31, 1781. She never 
parental tenderness for her.' Life, was so civil to me before.' Ib. ii. 232. 
ii. 462. Nevertheless such passages 3 Letters, i. 85, n. 2 ; ii. 86, n. 4. 


Anecdotes. 299 

Dr. Johnson, but that you contradict one every word one speaks, 
just like him. 

Mr. Johnson told me the story : he was present at the giving 
of the reproof. It was however observable that with all his odd 
severity, he could not keep even indifferent people from teizing 
him with unaccountable confession of silly conduct which one 
would think they would scarcely have had inclination to reveal 
even to their tenderest and most intimate companions ; and it 
was from these unaccountable volunteers in sincerity that he 
learned to warn the world against follies little known, and seldom 
thought on by other moralists. 

Much of his eloquence, and much of his logic have I heard 
him use to prevent men from making vows on trivial occasions I ; 
and when he saw a person oddly perplexed about a slight diffi 
culty, ' Let the man alone (he would say), and torment him no 
more about it ; there is a vow in the case. I am convinced ; but 
is it not very strange that people should be neither afraid nor 
ashamed of bringing in God Almighty thus at every turn 
between themselves and their dinner ? ' When I asked what 
ground he had for such imaginations, he informed me, ' That 
a young lady once told him in confidence, that she could never 
persuade herself to be dressed against the bell rung for dinner, 
till she had made a vow to heaven that she would never more be 
absent from the family meals.' 

1 ' BOSWELL. " But you would broken by some unforeseen necessity, 

not have me to bind myself by They proceed commonly from a pre- 

a solemn obligation?" JOHNSON. sumptuous confidence and a false 

(much agitated) " What ! a vow estimate of human power.' John- 

0, no, Sir, a vow is a horrible thing, son's Shakespeare, ed. 1765, ii. 118. 
it is a snare for sin." ' Life, iii. ' Lear, who is characterized as hot, 
357. See also ib. ii. 21, and Letters, heady, and violent, is, with very just 

1. 217. observation of life, made to entangle 
' Biron amidst his extravagancies himself with vows, upon any sudden 

speaks with great justness against provocation to vow revenge, and 

the folly of vows. They are made then to plead the obligation of a 

without sufficient regard to the va- vow in defence of implacability.' Ib. 

nations of life, and are therefore vi. 12. 


300 Anecdotes. 

The strangest applications in the world were certainly made 
from time to time towards Mr. Johnson, who by that means had 
an inexhaustible fund of anecdote, and could, if he pleased, tell 
the most astonishing stones of human folly and human weak 
ness that ever were confided to any man not a confessor by 

One day when he was in a humour to record some of them, 
he told us the following tale : ' A person (said he) had for these 
last five weeks often called at my door, but would not leave his 
name, or other message ; but that he wished to speak with me. 
At last we met, and he told me that he was oppressed by 
scruples of conscience : I blamed him gently for not applying, as 
the rules of our church direct, to his parish priest or other discreet 
clergyman ' ; when, after some compliments on his part, he told 
me, that he was clerk to a very eminent 2 trader, at whose ware 
houses much business consisted in packing goods in order to go 
abroad : that he was often tempted to take paper and pack 
thread enough for his own use, and that he had indeed done so 
so often, that he could recollect no time when he ever had 
bought any for himself. But probably (said I), your master was 
wholly indifferent with regard to such trivial emoluments ; you 

1 * If there be any of you who by Rev. and eminent Mr. Warburton to 
this means cannot quiet his own Miss Tucker of Bath.' Ib. p. 502. 
conscience herein, but requireth ' An eminent personage, however, 
further comfort or counsel, let him he [Cromwell] was in many respects, 
come to me, or to some other dis- and even a superior genius.' Hume's 
creet and learned Minister of God's History of England, ed. 1773, vii. 
Word, and open his grief.' Book of 290. 

Common Prayer. The Communion. ' The son of Mr. Galliard, an 

2 Eminent was a favourite word eminent Turkey merchant, is the 
last century ; the following instances man with whom she has made this 
show its use. exchange.' Sir Charles Grandison, 

' What would a stranger say of the ed. 1754, ii. 239. 

English nation, in which on the day ' He had been an eminent man for 

of marriage all the men are emi- many years for cursing, swearing. 

nentV Johnson's Works , iv. 1 86. drinking,' &c. Wesley's Journal, 

' Mr. Samuel Vandewall, an emi- ed. 1830, ii. 133. 'One of the most 

nent merchant, was married to the eminent drunkards in all the town.' 

relict of Mr. Harris Neate.' Gentle- Ib. ii. 226. 
man's Magazine, 1*745, p. 51. ' The 


Anecdotes. 301 

had better ask for it at once, and so take your trifles with con 
sent. Oh, Sir ! replies the visitor, my master bid me have as 
much as I pleased, and was half angry when I talked to him 
about it. Then pray Sir (said I), teize me no more about such 
airy nothings I and was going on to be very angry, when 
I recollected that the fellow might be mad perhaps ; so I asked 
him, When he left the counting-house of an evening ? At seven 
o'clock, Sir. And when do you go to-bed, Sir? At twelve 
o'clock. Then (replied I) I have at least learned thus much by 
my new acquaintance ; that five hours of the four-and-twenty 
unemployed are enough for a man to go mad in ; so I would 
advise you Sir, to study algebra, if you are not an adept already 
in it 2 : your head would get less muddy 3 , and you will leave off 
tormenting your neighbours about paper and packthread, while 
we all live together in a world that is bursting with sin and 
sorrow. It is perhaps needless to add, that this visitor came 
no more.' 

Mr. Johnson had indeed a real abhorrence of a person that 
had ever before him treated a little thing like a great one : and 
he quoted this scrupulous person with his packthread very often, 
~m ridicule of a friend who, looking out on Streatham Common 
from our windows one day. lamented the enormous wickedness 
of the times, because some bird-catchers were busy there one fine 
Sunday morning. ' While half the Christian world is permitted 
(said he) to dance and sing, and celebrate Sunday as a day 
of festivity, how comes your puritanical spirit so offended with 
frivolous and empty deviations from exactness 4 ? Whoever 

1 ' And as imagination bodies forth no doubt had arithmetic enough in 

The forms of things unknown, the counting-house, and so was ad- 

the poet's pen vised not to have recourse to it, but 

Turns them to shape, and gives to algebra. 

to airy nothing 3 ' Dost think I am so muddy, so 

A local habitation and a name.' unsettled, 

A Midsummer Nights Dream, To appoint myself in this vexa- 

Act v. sc. I. tion?' 

* 'When Mr. Johnson felt his fancy, The Winter's Tale, Act i. sc. 2. 

or fancied he felt it, disordered, his See Life, ii. 362, n. 3. 

constant recurrence was to the study 4 ' Dr. Johnson enforced the strict 

of arithmetic.' Ante,p.2oo. The clerk observance of Sunday. "It should 


302 Anecdotes. 

loads life with unnecessary scruples x , Sir (continued he), pro 
vokes the attention of others on his conduct, and incurs the 
censure of singularity without reaping the reward of superior 

I must not, among the anecdotes of Dr. Johnson's life, omit to 
relate a thing that happened to him one day, which he told me 
of himself. As he was walking along the Strand a gentleman 
stepped out of some neighbouring tavern, with his napkin 2 in his 
hand and no hat, and stopping him as civilly as he could 
I beg your pardon, Sir ; but you are Dr. Johnson, I believe. 
* Yes, Sir.' We have a wager depending on your reply : Pray, 
Sir, is it irreparable or irrepairable that one should say ? The 
last I think, Sir (answered Dr. Johnson), for the adjective ought 
to follow the verb ; but you had better consult my dictionary 
than me 3 , for that was the result of more thought than you will 
now give me time for.' No, no, replied the gentleman gaily, the 
book I have no certainty at all of; but here is the author, to 
whom I referred : Is he not, Sir ? to a friend with him : I have 
won my twenty guineas quite fairly, and am much obliged 
to you, Sir; so shaking Mr. Johnson kindly by the hand, he 
went back to finish his dinner or desert. 

Another strange thing he told me once which there was no 
danger of forgetting : how a young gentleman called on him one 
morning, and told him that his father having, just before his 
death, dropped suddenly into the enjoyment of an ample fortune, 
he, the son, was willing to qualify himself for genteel society by 
adding some literature to his other endowments, and wished to 

be different (he observed) from an- a napkin seems ridiculous to a 

other day. People may walk, but Frenchman, but in England we dine 

not throw stones at birds. There at the tables of people of tolerable 

may be relaxation, but there should fortune without them.' Travels in 

be no levity.'" Life, v. 69. France, ed. 1890, p. 307. 

1 Ante, p. 38, n. 5. 3 Irreparable in the Dictionary. 

2 A napkin in a London tavern Mrs. Piozzi seems to have thought 
must have been a rare thing in those that the syllable pa in paro was 
days. Arthur Young, writing in 1790, long. 

says : ' The idea of dining without 


Anecdotes. 303 

be put in an easy way of obtaining it. Johnson recommended 
the university : ' for you read Latin, Sir, with facility V I read 
it a little to be sure, Sir. 'But do you read it with facility, 
I say ? ' Upon my word, Sir, I do not very well know, but 
I rather believe not. Mr. Johnson now began to recommend 
other branches of science, when he found languages at such 
an immeasurable distance, and advising him to study natural 
history, there arose some talk about animals, and their divisions 
into oviparous and viviparous ; And the cat here, Sir, said the 
youth who wished for instruction, pray in which class is she ? 
Our doctor's patience and desire of doing good began now to 
give way to the natural roughness of his temper. ' You would 
do well (said he) to look for some person to be always about 
you, Sir, who is capable of explaining such matters, and not 
come to us (there were some literary friends present as I recol 
lect) to know whether the cat lays eggs or not : get a discreet 
man to keep you company, there are so many who would be 
glad of your table and fifty pounds a year.' The young gentle 
man retired, and in less than a week informed his friends that he 
had fixed on a preceptor to whom no objections could be made ; 
but when he named as such one of the most distinguished 
characters in our age or nation, Mr. Johnson fairly gave himself 
up to an honest burst of laughter; and seeing this youth at 
such a surprising distance from common knowledge of the world, 
or of any thing in it, desired to see his visitor no more. 

He had not much better luck with two boys that he used 
to tell of, to whom he had taught the classics, * so that (he saidj 
they were no incompetent or mean scholars : ' it was necessary 
however that something more familiar should be known, and he 
bid them read the history of England. After a few months had 
elapsed he asked them, ' If they could recollect who first 
destroyed the monasteries in our island ? ' One modestly 
replied, that he did not know ; the other said, Jesus Christ*. 

1 Windham records ' Johnson's make it pleasurable.' Letters, ii. 

opinion that I could not name above 440. 

five of my college acquaintance who 2 Hawkins (p. 471) tells a similar 

read Latin with sufficient ease to story. 




Of the truth of stories which ran currently about the town 
concerning Dr. Johnson, it was impossible to be certain, unless 
one asked him himself ; and what he told, or suffered to be told 
before his face without contradicting, has every possible mark 
I think of real and genuine authenticity *. I made one day very 
minute enquiries about the tale of his knocking down the famous 
Tom Osborne with his own Dictionary in the man's own house. 
And how was that affair, in earnest ? do tell me, Mr. Johnson ? 
* There is nothing to tell, dearest Lady, but that he was insolent 
and I beat him, and that he was a blockhead and told of it, 
which I should never have done ; so the blows have been multi 
plying, and the wonder thickening for all these years, as Thomas 
was never a favourite with the Public. I have beat many a fel 
low, but the rest had the wit to hold their tongues V 

1 ' I once got from one of his 
friends a list, [of his works] which 
there was pretty good reason to sup 
pose was accurate, for it was written 
down in his presence by this friend, 
who enumerated each article aloud, 
and had some of them mentioned to 
him by Mr. Levett, in concert with 
whom it was made out ; and John 
son, who heard all this, did not 
contradict it. But when I shewed 
a copy of this list to him, and men 
tioned the evidence for its exactness, 
he laughed, and said, " I was willing 
to let them go on as they pleased, 
and never interfered." ' Life, iii. 

8 ' It has been confidently related, 
with many embellishments, that John 
son one day knocked Osborne down 
in his shop, with a folio, and put his 
foot upon his neck. The simple 
truth I had from Johnson himself. 
"Sir, he was impertinent to me, 
and I beat him. But it was not in his 
shop : it was in my own chamber." ' 
Life, i. 154. 

' The identical book with which 
Johnson knocked down Osborne 
(Biblia Graeca Septuaginta, fol. 1594, 

Frankfort; the note written by the 
Rev. Mills) I saw in February, 
1812, at Cambridge, in the posses 
sion of J. Thorpe, bookseller ; whose 
Catalogue, since published, contains 
particulars authenticating this asser 
tion.' Nichols's Lit. Anec. viii. 446. 
This folio is not mentioned in the 
Sale Catalogue of Johnson's Library. 
It is scarcely likely that Osborne 
brought it to Johnson's chamber, 
as schoolboys used to provide the 
birch rods with which they were 

In Sir Henry Irving's collection 
is a copy of The Shakespeare Folio 
(The Second Impression) in which 
are the following three inscription : 

(1) 'Bo* at Dr. Johnson's Sale 
Feb. 18,1785. S. J.' 

(2) 'This book at the death [in 
1744] of Theobald the editor of 
Shakespear came into the hands of 
Osbourn ye bookseller of Gray's Inn 
who soon after presented it to the 
late Dr. Johnson. 

S. J. Feb. 25, 1785.' 

(3) [This is a printed cutting 
pasted in.] ' In the late sale of Dr. 
Johnson's books there were several 

I have 

Anecdotes. 305 

I have heard Mr. Murphy x relate a very singular story, while 
he was present, greatly to the credit of his uncommon skill and 
knowledge of life and manners : When first the Ramblers came 
out in separate numbers, as they were the objects of attention to 
multitudes of people, they happened, as it seems, particularly to 
attract the notice of a society who met every Saturday evening 
during the summer at Rumford in Essex, and were known by the 
name of The Bowling-green club. These men seeing one day 
the character of Leviculus the fortune-hunter, or Tetrica the old 
maid : another day some account of a person who spent his life 
in hoping for a legacy, or of him who is always prying into other 
folks affairs 2 , began sure enough to think they were betrayed ; 
and that some of the coterie sate down to divert himself by 
giving to the Public the portrait of all the rest. Filled with 
wrath against the traitor of Rumford, one of them resolved to 
write to the printer and enquire the author's name ; Samuel 
Johnson, was the reply. No more was necessary ; Samuel John 
son was the name of the curate 3 , and soon did each begin to load 
him with reproaches for turning his friends into ridicule in 
a manner so cruel and unprovoked. In vain did the guiltless 
curate protest his innocence ; one was sure that Aliger meant 
Mr. Twigg, and that Cupidus was but another name for neigh 
bour Baggs 4 : till the poor parson, unable to contend any 
longer, rode to London, and brought them full satisfaction con 
cerning the writer, who from his own knowledge of general 

articles which sold wonderfully cheap, Sir Henry Irving informs me that 

particularly the following a folio he paid a hundred pounds for it. 

edition of Shakespeare, the second, Lort, the antiquary, sending a 

with a large number of notes, MS., pamphlet to Bishop Percy, says : 

in the margin, Johnson's own hand- ' You will observe it, in Tom Os- 

writing. The book has the further borne's phrase, paululum spoliatum 

incidental circumstances enhancing in margined Nichols's Lit. Hist. vii. 

its value, that it had been the pro- 458. 

perty of Theobald, and had many " Life, i. 215. 

notes also written by him. The title a These characters are in Nos. 74, 

and part of another leaf were wanting. 103, 182, and 197. 

These were the only articles on the 3 A curate of that name is men- 

per contra side ; and the book, thus tioned in the Life, i. 135. 

extremely curious, sold for only a 4 Aliger is in No. 201, and Cupidus 

guinea ! ' in No. 73. 

VOL. I. X manners, 



manners, quickened by a vigorous and warm imagination, had 
happily delineated, though unknown to himself, the members of 
the Bowling-green Club. 

Mr. Murphy likewise used to tell before Dr. Johnson, of the 
first time they met, and the occasion of their meeting, which he 
related thus : That being in those days engaged in a periodical 
paper, he found himself at a friend's house out of town ; and 
not being disposed to lose pleasure for the sake of business, 
wished rather to content his bookseller by sending some un 
studied essay to London by the servant, than deny himself the 
company of his acquaintance, and drive away to his chambers 
for the purpose of writing something more correct. He there 
fore took up a French Journal Liter air e that lay about the 
room, and translating something he liked from it, sent it away 
without further examination. Time however discovered that he 
had translated from the French a Rambler of Johnson's, which 
had been but a month before taken from the English x ; and 
thinking it right to make him his personal excuses, he went 
next day, and found our friend all covered with soot like a 
chimney-sweeper, in a little room, with an intolerable heat 
and strange smell, as if he had been acting Lungs in the Al- 
chymist, making cether 2 . ' Come, come (says Dr. Johnson), 

1 Life, i. 356. It was in the 
Gray's Inn Journal for June 15, 
1754, that the Rambler, No. 190, 
appeared in its retranslation. John 
son's opening paragraph is as fol 
lows : ' Among the emirs and visiers, 
the sons of valour and of wisdom, 
that stand at the corners of the 
Indian throne, to assist the counsels 
or conduct the wars of the posterity 
of Timur, the first place was long 
held by Morad the son of Hanuth.' 
This is given by Murphy : ' Among 
the Visiers and Ministers who figured 
round the Indian throne, and sup 
ported by their Prudence and Valour 
the Lustre and Dignity of the illus 
trious Race of Timur, Morad, the 

son of Hanuth, held the most con 
spicuous rank.' 

2 It was not aether but elixir that 
was made. ' Lungs was a term of art 
for the under-operators in chemistry, 
whose business principally was to 
take care of the fire. So Cowley, in 
his sketch of a philosophic college, 
in the number of its members 
reckons two lungs or chemical ser 
vants ; and afterwards, assigning their 
salaries, " To each of the lungs twelve 
pounds." ' Note on The Alchemist, 
Ben Jonson's Works, ed. 1756, iii. 31. 
'As to alchymy Johnson was not 
a positive unbeliever.' Life, ii. 376. 
' Philosophy, with the aid of experi 
ence, has at length banished the 


Anecdotes. 307 

dear Mur x , the story is black enough now ; and it was a very 
happy day for me that brought you first to my house, and a 
very happy mistake about the Ramblers.' 

Dr. Johnson was always exceeding fond of chemistry ; and we 
made up a sort of laboratory at Streatham one summer, and 
diverted ourselves with drawing essences and colouring liquors 2 . 
But the danger Mr. Thrale found his friend in one day when I 
was driven to London, and he had got the children and servants 
round him to see some experiments performed, put an end to all 
our entertainment ; so well was the master of the house per 
suaded, that his short sight would have been his destruction 
in a moment, by bringing him close to a fierce and violent 
flame. Indeed it was a perpetual miracle that he did not set 
himself on fire reading a-bed, as was his constant custom, when 
exceedingly unable even to keep clear of mischief with our best 
help ; and accordingly the fore-top of all his wigs were [sic] 
burned by the candle down to the very net-work. Mr. Thrale's 
valet-de-chambre, for that reason, kept one always in his own 
hands, with which he met him at the parlour-door when the bell 
had called him down to dinner, and as he went up stairs to 

study of alchymy.' Gibbon's Decline sophy became a general study ; and 

and Fall, ed. 1802, ii. 138. the new doctrine of electricity grew 

1 ' Johnson had a way of contract- into fashion . . . The art of chemistry 
ing the names of his friends, as was perfectly understood and as- 
Beauclerk, Beau ; Boswell, Bozzy ; siduously applied to the purposes of 
Langton, Lanky : Murphy, Mur ; sophistication.' History of England, 
Sheridan, Sherry.' Life, ii. 258. ed. 1800, v. 375. (Johnson defines 

2 He wrote to Mrs. Thrale on Sophistication ; adulteration?) 

July 24, 1771: ' Be pleased to make Watson, at his chemical lectures 

my compliments to Mr. Thrale, and at Cambridge (1766-9), had very 

desire that his builders will leave crowded audiences ' of persons of all 

about a hundred loose bricks. I can ages and degrees in the University.' 

at present think of no better place Life of Bishop Watson, i. 46, 53. 

for chymistry in fair weather than Gibbon, after the publication of 

the pump-side in the kitchen-garden.' the first volume of his History, at- 

Letters, i. 183. For his love of tended a course of anatomy and 

chemistry see Life, i. 140, 436; iii. some lessons on chemistry. 'The 

398 ; iv. 237. He defines chymist as anatomist and chemist,' he says, 

a philosopher by fire. 'may sometimes track me in their 

Smollett, writing of the reign of own snow.' Misc. Works, i. 229. 
George II, says :' Natural philo- 

x a sleep 

308 Anecdotes. 

sleep in the afternoon, the same man constantly followed him 
with another. 

Future experiments in chemistry however were too dangerous, 
and Mr. Thrale insisted that we should do no more towards 
finding the philosopher's stone. 

Mr. Johnson's amusements were thus reduced to the pleasures 
of conversation merely I : and what wonder that he should have 
an avidity for the sole delight he was able to enjoy ? No man 
conversed so well as he on every subject ; no man so acutely 
discerned the reason of every fact, the motive of every action, the 
end of every design. He was indeed often pained by the igno 
rance or causeless wonder of those who knew less than himself, 
though he seldom drove them away with apparent scorn, unless 
he thought they added presumption to stupidity : And it was 
impossible not to laugh at the patience he shewed, when a Welch 
parson of mean abilities, though a good heart, struck with rever 
ence at the sight of Dr. Johnson, whom he had heard of as the 
greatest man living, could not find any words to answer his 
inquiries concerning a motto round somebody's arms which 
adorned a tomb-stone in Ruabon church-yard. If I remember 
right the words were, 

Heb Dw, Heb Dym, 

Dw 0' diggon 2 . 

And though of no very difficult construction, the gentleman 
seemed wholly confounded, and unable to explain them ; till 
Mr. Johnson having picked out the meaning by little and little, 
said to the man, ' Heb is a preposition, I believe Sir, is it not ?' 
My countryman recovering some spirits upon the sudden ques 
tion, cried out, So I humbly presume Sir, very comically. 

Stories of humour do not tell well in books ; and what made 
impression on the friends who heard a jest, will seldom much 
delight the distant acquaintance or sullen critic who reads it. 
The cork model of Paris is not more despicable as a resemblance 
of a great city, than this book, levior cortice 3 , as a specimen of 

1 Post, p, 324. God, without all. God is all-suf- 

* ' The Welsh words, which are the ficient." ' Life, v. 450, n. 2. 
Myddelton motto, mean, " Without 3 Horace, Cdes, iii. 9. 22. 


Anecdotes. 309 

Johnson's character. Yet every body naturally likes to gather 
little specimens of the rarities found in a great country ; and 
could I carry home from Italy square pieces of all the curious 
marbles which are the just glory of this surprising part of the 
world, I could scarcely contrive perhaps to arrange them so 
meanly as not to gain some attention from the respect due to 

the places they once belonged to. Such a piece of motley 

NLosaiz-ymrk will these Anecdotes inevitably make : but leTThe 
reader remember that he was promised nothing better, and so be 
as contented as he can. 

An Irish trader at our house one day heard Dr. Johnson launch 
out into very great and greatly deserved praises of Mr. Edmund 
Burke x : delighted to find his countryman stood so high in the 
opinion of a man he had been told so much of, Sir (said he), give 
me leave to tell something of Mr. Burke now. We were all 
silent, and the honest Hibernian began to relate how Mr. Burke 
went to see the collieries in a distant province ; and he would go 
down into the bowels of the earth (in a bag), and he would 
examine every thing: he went in a bag Sir, and ventured his 
health and his life for knowledge ; but he took care of his 
clothes, that they should not be spoiled, for he went down in 
a bag 2 . 'Well Sir (says Mr. Johnson good-humouredly), if our 
friend Mund should die in any of these hazardous exploits, you 
and I would write his life and panegyric together ; and your 
chapter of it should be entitled thus : Burke in a Bag! 

He had always a very great personal regard and particular 
affection for Mr. Edmund Burke, as well as an esteem difficult 
for me to repeat, though for him only easy to express. And 
when at the end of the year 1774 the general election called us 
all different ways, and broke up the delightful society in which 
we had spent some time at Beconsfield, Dr. Johnson shook the 
hospitable master of the house kindly by the hand, and said, 
' Farewell my dear Sir, and remember that I wish you all the 

1 Ante, p. 290. a covering for his clothes. Sack was 

2 The bag apparently was not the used of ' a woman's loose robe.' 
vehicle in which he went down, but Johnson's Dictionary. 


3io Anecdotes. 

success which ought to be wished you, which can possibly be 
wished you indeed by an honest man V 

I must here take leave to observe, that in giving little memoirs 
of Mr. Johnson's behaviour and conversation, such as I saw and 
heard it, my book lies under manifest disadvantages, compared 
with theirs, who having seen him in various situations, and ob 
served his conduct in numberless cases, are able to throw stronger 
and more brilliant lights upon his character. Virtues are like 
shrubs, which yield their sweets in different manners according 
to the circumstances which surround them : and while generosity 
^of soul scatters its fragrance like the honeysuckle, and delights 
the senses of many occasional passengers, who feel the pleasure, 
and half wonder how the breeze has blown it from so far, the 
more sullen but not less valuable myrtle waits like fortitude to 
discover its excellence, till the hand arrives that will crush it, and 
force out that perfume whose durability well compensates the 
difficulty of production. 

I saw Mr. Johnson in none but a tranquil uniform state 2 , 
passing the evening of his life among friends, who loved, honoured, 

k and admired him : I saw none of the things he did, except such 
acts of charity as have been often mentioned in this book, and 

^such writings as are universally known. What he said is all 
I can relate ; and from what he said, those who think it worth 
while to read these Anecdotes, must be contented to gather his 
character. Mine is a mere candle-light picture of his latter days, 
where every thing falls in dark shadow except the face, the index 
of the mind ; but even that is seen unfavourably, and with a pale 
ness beyond what nature gave it. 

When I have told how many follies Dr. Johnson knew of 
others, I must not omit to mention with how much fidelity he 

1 Johnson and the Thrales on their 2 This is not true. After Mr. 

return from a trip to Wales stayed at Thrale's death the tranquillity was 

Beconsfield. Johnson, as his Journal more and more disturbed. Life,\v. 

shows, had arrived there on Sep- 158, n. 4; 159,72.3. It was partly 

tember 24. Life, v. 460. Parliament disturbed by her neglect of him. 

was dissolved on September 30. Letters, ii. 300, 303. 


Anecdotes. 311 

would always have kept them concealed, could they of whom he 
knew the absurdities have been contented, in the common phrase, 
to keep their own counsel. But returning home one day from 
dining at the chaplain's * table, he told me, that Dr. Goldsmith 
had given a very comical and unnecessarily exact recital there, 
of his own feelings when his play was hissed 2 ; telling the 
company how he went indeed to the Literary Club at night, and 
chatted gaily among his friends, as if nothing had happened 
amiss ; that to impress them still more forcibly with an idea of 
his magnanimity, he even sung his favourite song about an old 
woman tossed in a blanket seventeen times as high as the moon ; 
but all this while I was suffering horrid tortures (said he), and 
verily believe that if I had put a bit into my mouth it would 
have strangled me on the spot, I was so excessively ill ; but 
I made more noise than usual to cover all that, and so they 
never perceived my not eating, nor I believe at all imaged to 
themselves the anguish of my heart: but when all were gone 
except Johnson here, I burst out a-crying, and even swore by 

that I would never write again. ' All which, Doctor (says 

Mr. Johnson, amazed at his odd frankness), I thought had been 
a secret between you and me ! and I am sure I would not have 
said any thing about it for the world. Now see (repeated he 
when he told the story) what a figure a man makes who thus 
unaccountably chuses to be the frigid narrator of his own dis 
grace 3 . // volto sciolto, ed i pensieri stretti*, was a proverb made 

1 No doubt Percy, who was chap- could not come till he had been 
lain to George III. Letters, i. 414, n. refitted by a barber.' Johnson's 

2 The Good Natured Man. Though Works, viii. 372. 

there was a good deal of hissing, 3 * A man (said Johnson) should be 

especially at the ' uncommonly low careful never to tell tales of himself 

language ' of the scene of the bailiffs, to his own disadvantage. People 

yet 'it was played ten consecutive may be amused and laugh at the 

nights.' Forster's Goldsmith, ii. 98. time, but they will be remembered, 

* It [the tragedy of Agamemnon] and brought out against him upon 

struggled with such difficulty through some subsequent occasion.' Life, 

the first night that Thomson, coming ii. 472. 

late to his friends with whom he was 4 'At Sienna I was tabled in the 

to sup, excused his delay by telling house of one Alberto Scipioni, an 

them how the sweat of his distress old Roman courtier in dangerous 

had so disordered his wig that he times ... At my departure towards 




on purpose for such mortals, to keep people, if possible, from 
being thus the heralds of their own shame : for what compassion 
can they gain by such silly narratives ? No man should be 
expected to sympathise with the sorrows of vanity. If then you 
are mortified by any ill usage, whether real or supposed, keep at 
least the account of such mortifications to yourself, and forbear 
to proclaim how meanly you are thought on by others, unless 
you desire to be meanly thought of by all.' 

The little history of another friend's superfluous ingenuity will 
contribute to introduce a similar remark. He had a daughter of 
about fourteen years old, as I remember, fat and clumsy : and 
though the father adored, and desired others to adore her, yet 
being aware perhaps that she was not what the French call 
paitrie des graces *, and thinking I suppose that the old maxim, 
of beginning to laugh at yourself first where you have any thing 
ridiculous about you, was a good one 2 , he comically enough 
called his girl Trundle when he spoke of her; and many who 
bore neither of them any ill-will felt disposed to laugh at the 
happiness of the appellation 3 . * See now (says Dr. Johnson) 
what haste people are in to be hooted. Nobody ever thought of 
this fellow nor of his daughter, could he but have been quiet 
himself, and forborne to call the eyes of the world on his dowdy 
and her deformity. But it teaches one to see at least, that if 

Rome I had won confidence enough 
to beg his advice how I might carry 
myself securely there, without offence 
of others, or of mine own conscience. 
" Signer Arrigo mio," says he, " i 
pensieri stretti ed il viso sciolto," 
that is, " your thoughts close and 
your countenance loose," will go 
safely over the whole world.' Milton's 
Prose Works, ed. 1806, vii. 88. See 
Johnson's Works, vii. 72. 

' The height of abilities is to have 
volto sciolto and pensieri stretti; 
that is a frank, open and ingenuous 
exterior, with a prudent and re 
served interior.' Chesterfield's Let- 

ters to his Son, ii. 90. 

1 Petrie des graces. 

2 ' If it be a natural impediment, 
as a red nose, squint eyes, crooked 
legs, or any such imperfection, in 
firmity, disgrace, reproach, the best 
way is to speak of it first thyself, 
and so thou shalt surely take away 
all occasions from others to jest at 
or contemn, that they may perceive 
thee to be careless of it.' Burton's 
Anatomy of Melancholy, ed. 1660, 

P- 359- 

3 Johnson defines Trundle as 'any 
round rolling thing.' 


Anecdotes. 313 

nobody else will nickname one's children, the parents will e'en 
do it themselves.' 

All this held true in matters to Mr. Johnson of more serious 
consequence. When Sir Joshua Reynolds had painted his 
portrait looking into the slit of his pen, and holding it almost 
close to his eye, as was his general custom, he felt displeased, 
and told me ' he would not be known by posterity for his defects 
only, let Sir Joshua do his worst *.' I said in reply, that Reynolds 
had no such difficulties about himself, and that he might observe 
the picture which hung up in the room where we were talking 2 , 
represented Sir Joshua holding his ear in his hand to catch the 
sound. ' He may paint himself as deaf if he chuses (replied 
Johnson) ; but I will not be blinking Sam V 

It is chiefly for the sake of evincing the regularity and steadi 
ness of Mr. Johnson's mind that I have given these trifling 
memoirs, to show that his soul was not different from that of 
another person, but, as it was, greater ; and to give those who 
did not know him a just idea of his acquiescence in what we call 
vulgar prejudices, and of his extreme distance from those notions 
which the world has agreed, I know not very well why, to call 
romantic. It is indeed observable in his preface to Shakespeare, 
that while other critics expatiate on the creative powers and 
vivid imagination of that matchless poet, Dr. Johnson commends 
him for giving so just a representation of human manners, ' that 
from his scenes a hermit might estimate the value of society, and 
a confessor predict the progress of the passions V I have not 
the book with me here, but am pretty sure that such is his 

1 Northcote (Life of Reynolds, ii. was hung with Reynolds's portraits 
3) and Leslie and Taylor (Life, ii. of Mr. Thrale's friends.' Life, iv. 
143) assign this anecdote to the por- 158, n. I ; Letters, i. 232, n. i; post^ 
trait of Johnson reading. According p. 342. 

to Northcote, Johnson said to Sir 3 Post, in Miss Reynolds's Recol- 

Joshua : ' It is not friendly to hand lections. 

down to posterity the imperfections 4 ' This therefore is the praise 

of any man.' of Shakespeare, that his drama is 

2 The Library at Streatham which the mirrour of life ; that he who 




The general and constant advice he gave too, when consulted 
about the choice of a wife, a profession, or whatever influences 
a man's particular and immediate happiness, was always to reject 
no positive good from fears of its contrary consequences. ' Do 
not (said he) forbear to marry a beautiful woman if you can find 
such, out of a fancy that she will be less constant than an ugly 
one ; or condemn yourself to the society of coarseness and 
vulgarity for fear of the expences or other dangers of elegance 
and personal charms, which have been always acknowledged as 
a positive good, and for the want of which there should be always 
given some weighty compensation. I have however (continued 
Mr. Johnson) seen some prudent fellows who forbore to connect 
themselves with beauty lest coquetry should be near, and with 
wit 1 or birth lest insolence should lurk behind them, till they 
have been forced by their discretion to linger life away in taste 
less stupidity, and chuse to count the moments by remembrance 
of pain instead of enjoyment of pleasure.' 

When professions were talked of, ' Scorn (said Mr. Johnson) 
to put your behaviour under the dominion of canters 2 ; never 
think it clever to call physic a mean study, or law a dry one ; 
or ask a baby of seven years old which way his genius leads him, 
when we all know that a boy of seven years old has no genius 3 
for any thing except a peg-top and an apple-pye ; but fix on 
some business where much money may be got and little virtue 
risqued : follow that business steadily, and do not live as Roger 

has mazed his imagination in fol 
lowing the phantoms which other 
writers raise up before him may here 
be cured of his delirious extasies by 
reading human sentiments in human 
language ; by scenes from which a 
hermit may estimate the transactions 
of the world, and a confessor predict 
the progress of the passions.' Shake 
speare's Works, ed. 1765, Preface, 
p. xii. 

1 ' Some cunning men choose fools 
for their wives, thinking to manage 
them, but they always fail. . . . De 
pend upon it no woman is the worse 

for sense and knowledge.' Life, v. 

2 Canter Johnson here uses in a 
different sense from that given in his 
Dictionary ' a term of reproach for 
hypocrites, who talk formally of re 
ligion without obeying it.' He talks 
of * the cant of an author,' and ' the 
cant of sensibility.' Works, viii. 238, 
248. For other instances of cant 
see Life, iv. 221, n. I. 

3 Ib. ii. 437, n. 2. ' Genius,' said 
Johnson, ' is in fact knowing the use 
of tools.' Memoirs of Dr. Burney, 
iii. 5. 


Anecdotes. 315 

Ascham says the wits do, Men know not how ; and at last die 
obscurely, men mark not where 1 -' 

Dr. Johnson had indeed a veneration for the voice of mankind 
beyond what most people will own ; and as he liberally confessed 
that all his own disappointments proceeded from himself, he 
hated to hear others complain of general injustice 2 . I remember 
when lamentation was made of the neglect shewed to Jeremiah 
Markland 3 , a great philologist as some one ventured to call 
him ' He is a scholar undoubtedly Sir (replied Dr. Johnson), 
but remember that he would run from the world, and that it is 
not the world's business to run after him. I hate a fellow whom 
pride, or cowardice, or laziness drives into a corner, and [who] 
does nothing when he is there but sit and growl ; let him come 
out as I do, and bark 4 . The world (added he) is chiefly unjust 
and ungenerous in this, that all are ready to encourage a man 
who once talks of leaving it, and few things do really provoke 
me more, than to hear people prate of retirement, when they 
have neither skill to discern their own motives, or penetration to 
estimate the consequences : but while a fellow is active to gain 

1 Ascham is not writing of 'the when.' Ascham's Works, ed. 1864, 
wits ' in the eighteenth century sense iii. 99. 
of the term, but of 'quick wits,' 2 Ltfe,\v. 172. 
those who at school ' take their les- 3 Jb. iv. 161 ; Letters, ii. 276. 
son readily;' who 'commonly be 4 Markland is perhaps alluded to 
apt to take, unapt to keep ; soon in the following passage : * All the 
hot, and desirous of this and that, complaints which are made of the 
as cold, and soon weary of the same world are unjust. I never knew a 
again ; ' who are ' ever quick, hasty, man of merit neglected : it was 
rash, heady and brain-sick.' Of generally by his own fault that he 
them he says : ' In youth also they failed of success. A man may hide 
be ready scoffers, privy mockers, and his head in a hole : he may go into 
ever over-light and merry ; in age, the country, and publish a book now 
soon testy, very waspish and always and then, which nobody reads, and 
over-miserable. And yet few of then complain he is neglected. There 
them come to any great age by is no reason why any person should 
reason of their misordered life when exert himself for a man who has 
they were young ; but a great deal written a good book : he has not 
fewer of them come to show any written it for any individual. I may 
great countenance, or bear any great as well make a present to the post- 
authority abroad in the world, but man who brings me a letter.' Life, 
either live obscurely, men know not iv. 172. 
how, or die obscurely, men mark not 


3 i6 


either power or wealth (continued he), every body produces some 
hindrance to his advancement, some sage remark, or some un 
favourable prediction ; but let him once say slightly, I have had 
enough of this troublesome bustling world, 'tis time to leave it 
now : Ah, dear Sir ! cries the first old acquaintance he meets, 
I am glad to find you in this happy disposition : yes, dear friend ! 
do retire and think of nothing but your own ease : there's 
Mr. William will find it a pleasure to settle all your accounts and 
relieve you from the fatigue ; Miss Dolly makes the charmingest 
chicken broth in the world, and the cheesecakes we eat of her's 
once, how good they were : I will be coming every two or three 
days myself to chat with you in a quiet way; so snug ! and tell 
you how matters go upon 'Change, or in the House, or according 
to the blockhead's first pursuits, whether lucrative or politic, 
which thus he leaves ; and lays himself down a voluntary prey to 
his own sensuality and sloth, while the ambition and avarice of 
the nephews and nieces, with their rascally adherents, and co 
adjutors, reap the advantage, while they fatten their fool V 

As the votaries of retirement had little of Mr. Johnson's ap 
plause, unless that he knew that the motives were merely devo 
tional, and unless he was convinced that their rituals were 
accompanied by a mortified state of the body, the sole proof of 
their sincerity which he would admit, as a compensation for such 
fatigue as a worldly life of care and activity requires 2 ; so of the 
various states and conditions of humanity, he despised none more 
I think than the man who marries for a maintenance : and of 
a friend who made his alliance on no higher principles, he said 
once, ' Now has that fellow (it was a nobleman of whom we were 
speaking) at length obtained a certainty of three meals a day, 
and for that certainty, like his brother dog in the fable, he will 
get his neck galled for life with a collar 3 .' 

1 ' Every man has those about him 
who wish to soothe him into inactivity 
and delitescence, nor is there any 
semblance of kindness more vigor 
ously to be repelled than that which 
voluntarily offers a vicarious per 
formance of the tasks of life, and 

conspires with the natural love of 
ease against diligence and perseve 
rance.' Letters, i. 401. See Life, ii. 
337 ; iii. 176, n. i. 

2 Ib. v. 62 ; ante, p. 209. 

3 This nobleman was Lord Sandys. 
Hay ward's Piozzi, i. 296. ' He mar- 

Anecdotes. 317 

That poverty was an evil to be avoided by all honest means 
however, no man was more ready to avow : concealed poverty 
particularly, which he said was the general corrosive that de 
stroyed the peace of almost every family ; to which no evening 
perhaps ever returned without some new project for hiding the 
sorrows and dangers of the next day x . ' Want of money (says 
Dr. Johnson) is sometimes concealed under pretended avarice, 
and sly hints of aversion to part with it ; sometimes under stormy 
anger, and affectation of boundless rage ; but oftener still under 
a shew of thoughtless extravagance and gay neglect while to 
a penetrating eye, none of these wretched veils suffice to keep 
the cruel truth from being seen. Poverty is hie et ubique (says 
he), and if you do shut the jade out of the door, she will always 
contrive in some manner to poke her pale lean face in at the 

I have mentioned before, that old age had very little of 
Mr. Johnson's reverence : * a man commonly grew wickeder as 
he grew older (he said), at least he but changed the vices of 
youth ; headstrong passion and wild temerity, for treacherous 
caution, and desire to circumvent. I am always (said he) on the 
young people's side, when there is a dispute between them and 
the old ones : for you have at least a chance for virtue till age 
has withered its very root 2 .' While we were talking, my 
mother's spaniel, whom he never loved, stole our toast and 
butter; Fye Belle! said I, you used to be upon honour: 'Yes 

ried the widow of W. P. King, Esq., so much inability to resist evil, both 

who left his whole estate to her, by natural and moral, that it is by all 

which means she brought a large virtuous means to be avoided.' Id. p. 

fortune to her second husband.' 152. ' Resolve not to be poor: what- 

Burke's Peerage. Johnson visited ever you have, spend less. Poverty 

him with the Thrales in 1 774. Life, is a great enemy to human happiness ; 

v. 455. it certainly destroys liberty, and it 

1 ' Poverty, my dear friend, is so makes some virtues impracticable, 

great an evil, and pregnant with so and others extremely difficult.' Id. 

much temptation, and so much p. 157. 

misery, that I cannot but earnestly 3 ' I believe men may be generally 

enjoin you to avoid it.' Ib. iv. observed to grow less tender as they 

149. * Poverty takes away so many advance in age.' Rambler, No. 78. 
means of doing good, and produces 




Madam (replies Johnson), but Belle grows old' His reason for 
hating the dog was, ' because she was a professed favourite (he 
said), and because her Lady ordered her from time to time to be 
washed and combed : a foolish trick (said he) and an assumption 
of superiority that every one's nature revolts at ; so because one 
must not wish ill to the Lady in such cases (continued he), one 
curses the cur.' The truth is, Belle was not well behaved, and 
being a large spaniel, was troublesome enough at dinner with 
frequent solicitations to be fed. ' This animal (said Dr. Johnson 
one day) would have been of extraordinary merit and value in 
the state of Lycurgus ; for she condemns one to the exertion of 
perpetual vigilance.' 

He had indeed that strong aversion felt by all the lower ranks 
of people towards four-footed companions very completely % not 
withstanding he had for many years a cat which he called 
Hodge, that kept always in his room at Fleet-street ; but so 
exact was he not to offend the human species by superfluous 
attention to brutes, that when the creature was grown sick and 
old, and could eat nothing but oysters, Mr. Johnson always went 
out himself to buy Hodge's dinner, that Francis the Black's 
delicacy might not be hurt, at seeing himself employed for the 
convenience of a quadruped 2 . 

No one was indeed so attentive not to offend in all such sort of 
things as Dr. Johnson ; nor so careful to maintain the ceremonies 
of life : and though he told Mr. Thrale once, that he had never 
sought to please till past thirty years old, considering the matter 

\ as hopeless, he had been always studious not to make enemies, 

by apparent preference of himself 3 . It happened very comically, 
that the moment this curious conversation past, of which I was 
a silent auditress, was in the coach, in some distant province, 
either Shropshire or Derbyshire I believe 4 ; and as soon as 
it was over, Mr. Johnson took out of his pocket a little book and 

1 If this was once true how great 
a change came over 'the lower ranks ' 
in the next hundred years. 

a Life, iv. 197. 

3 Ante, p. 169. 

4 They passed through these coun 
ties on their tour to Wales in 1774. 
Life, v. 427-460. 


Anecdotes. 319 

read, while a gentleman of no small distinction for his birth and 
elegance, suddenly rode up to the carriage, and paying us all his 
proper compliments, was desirous not to neglect Dr. Johnson ; 
but observing that he did not see him, tapt him gently on the 
shoulder "Pis Mr. Ch 1m ley, says my husband; 'Well, Sir ! 
and what if it is Mr. Ch 1m ley ! ' says the other sternly, 
just lifting his eyes a moment from his book, and returning to it 
again with renewed avidity x . 

He had sometimes fits of reading very violent ; and when he 
was in earnest about getting through some particular pages, 
for I have heard him say he never read but one book, which he 
did not consider as obligatory, through in his whole life 2 (and 
Lady Mary Wortley's Letters 3 was the book) ; he would be quite 
lost to company, and withdraw all his attention to what he was 
reading, without the smallest knowledge or care about the noise 
made round him. His deafness made such conduct less odd 
and less difficult to him than it would have been to another 
man ; but his advising others to take the same method, and pull 
a little book out when they were not entertained with what was 
going forward in society, seemed more likely to advance the 
growth of science than of polished manners, for which he always 
pretended extreme veneration 4 . 

'.For BoswelPs comment on this the Memoirs of Captain Carleton sent 

story see Life, iv. 345. to him when ' he was going to bed, 

2 * Mr. Elphinston talked of a new he sat up till he had read it through.' 

book that was much admired, and Zz/<?, iv. 334. A year earlier he said : 

asked Dr. Johnson if he had read it. ' I have this year read all Virgil 

JOHNSON. "I have looked into it." through. I readabookofthey#/V/ 

" What (said Elphinston,) have you every night, so it was done in twelve 

not read it through ?" Johnson, nights, and I had great delight in it.' 

offended at being thus pressed, and Ib. iv. 218. 
so obliged to own his cursory mode 3 First published in 1763. 

of reading, answered tartly, "No, 4 'Before dinner Dr. Johnson seized 

Sir, do you read books throitght"' upon Mr. Charles Sheridan's Account 

Ib. ii. 226. of the late Revolution in Sweden, 

He read Amelia through without and seemed to read it ravenously, as 

stopping (Ib. iii. 43), and rejoiced at if he devoured it, which was to all 

finding that Clarissa was not to be appearance his method of studying.' 

curtailed. Letters, i. 21. A few Ib. iii. 284. 
months before his death, having had 




Mr. Johnson indeed always measured other people's notions of 
every thing by his own, and nothing could persuade him to 
believe, that the books which he disliked were agreeable to 
thousands, or that air and exercise which he despised were bene 
ficial to the health of other mortals *. When poor Smart, so 
well known for his wit and misfortunes, was first obliged to be 
put in private lodgings 2 , a common friend of both lamented in 
tender terms the necessity which had torn so pleasing a com 
panion from their acquaintance ' A madman must be confined, 
Sir 3 , (replies Dr. Johnson ;) but, says the other, I am now appre 
hensive for his general health, he will lose the benefit of exercise. 
* Exercise ! ' (returns the Doctor) I never heard that he used any : 
he might, for aught I know, walk to the alehouse ; but I believe 
he was always carried home again.' 

It was however unlucky for those who delighted to echo 
Johnson's sentiments, that he would not endure from them 
to-day what perhaps he had yesterday, by his own manner of 
treating the subject, made them fond of repeating ; and I fancy 

1 Ante, p. 288. 

a ' On the first attack of lunacy it 
is usual to confine the unhappy 
objects in private custody under the 
direction of their nearest friends and 
relations ; but when the disorder is 
grown permanent, and the circum 
stances of the party will bear such 
additional expense, it is thought pro 
per to apply to the royal authority 
to warrant a lasting confinement.' 
Blackstone's Commentaries, ed. 1775, 
i. 305. ' By the vagrant acts a me 
thod is chalked out for imprisoning, 
chaining and sending them to their 
proper homes.' Ib. iv. 25. 

3 Johnson said of his confine 
ment : ' I did not think he ought to 
be shut up. His infirmities were 
not noxious to society. He insisted 
on people praying with him ; and 
I'd as lief pray with Kit Smart as 
any one else. Another charge was, 

that he did not love clean linen ; and 
I have no passion for it.' Life, i. 397. 

One of Kit Smart's infirmities was 
like that of Mrs. Quickly's man. 
' His worst fault is that he is given 
to prayer ; he is something peevish 
that way; but nobody but has his 
fault ; but let that pass.' Merry 
Wives of Windsor, Act i. sc. 4. 

Smart died in the King's Bench 
Prison in 1770. Miss Burney says 
that not long before his death he 
wrote to her father to ask his as 
sistance for a fellow-sufferer, adding 
'that he had himself assisted him 
according to his willing poverty.' In 
another letter to Dr. Burney, who 
had raised a fund for his relief, he 
wrote : ' I bless God for your good 
nature, which please take as a re 
ceipt.' Early Diary of F. Burney, 
i. 127. 


Anecdotes. 321 

Mr. B has not forgotten, that though his friend one evening 

in a gay humour talked in praise of wine as one of the blessings 
permitted by heaven, when used with moderation, to lighten the 
load of life, and give men strength to endure it ; yet, when in 
consequence of such talk he thought fit to make a Baccha 
nalian discourse in its favour, Mr. Johnson contradicted him 
somewhat roughly as I remember ; and when to assure himself 
of conquest he added these words, You must allow me, Sir, at 
least that it produces truth; in vino veritas^ you know, Sir 
' That (replied Mr. Johnson) would be useless to a man who 
knew he was not a liar when he was sober V 

When one talks of giving and taking the lie familiarly, it is 
impossible to forbear recollecting the transactions between the 
editor of Ossian and the author of the Journey to the Hebrides. 
It was most observable to me however, that Mr. Johnson never 
bore his antagonist the slightest degree of ill-will. He always 
kept those quarrels which belonged to him as a writer, separate 
from those which he had to do with as a man ; but I never did 
hear him say in private one malicious word of a public enemy ; 
and of Mr. Macpherson I once heard him speak respectfully 2 , 
though his reply to the friend who asked him if any man living 
could have written such a book, is well known, and has been 
often repeated : ' Yes, Sir ; many men, many women, and many 
children V 

I enquired of him myself if this story was authentic, and he 
said it was. I made the same enquiry concerning his account of 
the state of literature in Scotland, which was repeated up and 
down at one time by every body ' How knowledge was divided 

1 Bos well, after relating the genu- has represented it as a personality, 

ine anecdote, adds in a note: and the true point has escaped her.' 

'Mrs. Piozzi, in her Anecdotes, has Life, ii. 188. 

given an erroneous account of this 2 He had written to him : ' I will 

incident, as of many others. She not desist from detecting what I 

pretends to relate it from recollec- think a cheat from any fear of the 

tion, as if she herself had been pre- menaces of a ruffian.' Ib. ii. 297, 

sent ; when the fact is that it was n. 2. 

communicated to her by me. She 3 Ib. i. 396. 

VOL. I. Y among 

322 Anecdotes. 

among the Scots, like bread in a besieged town, to every man 
a mouthful, to no man a bellyful V This story he likewise 
acknowledged, and said besides, ' that some officious friend had 
carried it to Lord Bute, who only answered ' Well, well ! never 
mind what he says he will have the pension all one.' 

Another famous reply to a Scotsman who commended the 
beauty and dignity of Glasgow, till Mr. Johnson stopped him by 
observing, ' that he probably had never yet seen Brentford Y was 
one of the jokes he owned : and said himself, ' that when 
a gentleman of that country once mentioned the lovely prospects 
common in his nation, he could not help telling him, that the 
view of the London road was the prospect in which every 
Scotsman most naturally and most rationally delighted V 

Mrs. Brook received an answer not unlike this, when expa 
tiating on the accumulation of sublime and beautiful objects, 
which form the fine prospect UP the river St. Lawrence in North 
America ; * Come Madam (says Dr. Johnson), confess that 
nothing ever equalled your pleasure in seeing that sight reversed ; 
and finding yourself looking at the happy prospect DOWN the 
river St. Lawrence 4 .' The truth is, he hated to hear about 

1 ' Their learning is like bread in went soon after their marriage, about 
a besieged town : every man gets 1756. Diet. Nat. Biog. 

a little, but no man gets a full meal.' ' The evening before her departure 

Life, ii. 363. to Canada some friends met at her 

2 ' I once reminded him that when apartments to take their farewell, 
Dr. Adam Smith was expatiating on Miss Hannah More, Miss Seward, 
the beauty of Glasgow, he had cut Mr. Keate, Dr. Johnson and Mr. 
him short by saying, " Pray, Sir, Boswell were among her visitors. 
have you ever seen Brentford ? " and As Dr. Johnson was obliged to leave 
I took the liberty to add, " My dear the company early he rose, and wish- 
Sir, surely that was shocking" "Why ing her health and happiness went 
then, Sir (he replied), you have never seemingly away. In a few minutes 
seen Brentford."' Ib. iv. 186; v. a servant came to acquaint her that 
369. a gentleman in the parlour wished 

3 For the correct version of this to speak with her. She accordingly 
story see ib. i. 425. went down stairs, where she found 

4 Frances Brooke. Life,\\\. 259, the Doctor, who said to her, " Madam, 
n. I. Her husband, Rev. John I sent for you down stairs that I 
Brooke, D.D., was chaplain to the might kiss you, which I did not 
garrison at Quebec, whither they choose to do before so much com- 


Anecdotes. 323 

prospects and views, and laying out ground and taste in garden 
ing x : ' That was the best garden (he said) which produced most 
roots and fruits ; and that water was most to be prized which 
contained most fish.' He used to laugh at Shenstone most 
unmercifully for not caring whether there was any thing good to 
eat in the streams he was so fond of, * as if (says Johnson) one 
could fill one's belly with hearing soft murmurs, or looking at 
rough cascades 2 ! ' 

He loved the sight of fine forest trees however, and detested 
Brighthelmstone Downs, 'because it was a country so truly 
desolate (he said), that if one had a mind to hang one's self 
for desperation at being obliged to live there, it would be 
difficult to find a tree on which to fasten the rope.' Walking in 
a wood when it rained, was, I think, the only rural image he 
pleased his fancy with 3 ; 'for (says he) after one has gathered 
the apples in an orchard, one wishes them well baked, and 
removed to a London eating-house for enjoyment.' 

With such notions, who can wonder he passed his time uncom 
fortably enough with us, whom he often complained of for living 
so much in the country ; ' feeding the chickens (as he said I did) 
till I starved my own understanding. Get however (said he) 
a book about gardening, and study it hard, since you will pass 
your life with birds and flowers, and learn to raise the largest 

pany." ' European Magazine, xv. ' a layer-out of land ' Johnson con- 

loo. tinues : ' Perhaps a surly and a sul- 

If there is any truth in this story len speculator may think such per- 

it is wrong in its particulars, for at formances rather the sport than the 

this time Boswell and Hannah More business of human reason.' Works, 

did not know Johnson. viii. 409. ' Nothing raised Shen- 

1 * I have a notion,' writes Bos- stone's indignation more than to ask 
well, ' that he at no time has had if there were any fishes in his water.' 
much taste for rural beauties. I have Ib. p. 410. 

myself very little.' Ltfe,\. 112. See 3 When he was kept in town by 

ante, p. 215. his Lives of the Poets he wrote to 

2 ' We talked of Shenstone. Dr. Mr. Thrale : ' I hope to see stand- 
Johnson said he was a good layer- ing corn in some part of the earth 
out of land, but would not allow him this summer, but I shall hardly smell 
to approach excellence as a poet.' hay or suck clover-flowers.' Letters, 
Life, v. 267. After describing him as ii. 163. 

Y 2, turnips, 

324 Anecdotes. 

turnips, and to breed the biggest fowls.' It was vain to assure 
him that the goodness of such dishes did not depend upon their 
size ; he laughed at the people who covered their canals x with 
foreign fowls, ' when (says he) our own geese and ganders are 
twice as large : if we fetched better animals from distant nations, 
there might be some sense in the preference ; but to get cows 
from Alderney, or water-fowl from China, only to see nature 
degenerating round one, is a poor ambition indeed.' 

Nor was Mr. Johnson more merciful with regard to the 
amusements people are contented to call such : * You hunt in the 
morning (says he), and crowd to the public rooms at night, and 
call it diversion 2 ; when your heart knows it is perishing with 
poverty of pleasures, and your wits get blunted for want of some 
other mind to sharpen them upon. There is in this world no 
real delight (excepting those of sensuality), but exchange of 
ideas in conversation 3 ; and whoever has once experienced the 
full flow of London talk, when he retires to country friendships 
and rural sports, must either be contented to turn baby again 
and play with the rattle, or he will pine away like a great fish in 
a little pond, and die for want of his usual food V ' Books with 
out the knowledge of life are useless (I have heard him say) ; for 
what should books teach but the art of living ? To study man 
ners however only in coffee-houses, is more than equally imper 
fect ; the minds of men who acquire no solid learning, and only 

1 Johnson's first definition of Canal than in all the rest of the kingdom." ' 

is a bason of water in a garden. Life, ii. 75. 

" ' Diversion seems to be some- * I observed to Dr. Johnson, that 

thing lighter than amusement and I had a most disagreeable notion 

less forcible than pleasure? John- of the life of country gentlemen ; 

son's Dictionary. ' The publick plea- that I left Mr. Fraser just now, as 

sures of far the greater part of man- one leaves a prisoner in a jail. Dr. 

kind are counterfeit.' Idler, No. 18. Johnson said, that I was right in 

3 Ante, p. 308. thinking them unhappy ; for that 

4 'Talking of a London life, he they had not enough to keep their 
said, " The happiness of London is minds in motion.' Ib. v. 108. Mrs. 
not to be conceived but by those Thrale writing to him in 1777, says: 
who have been in it. I will venture ' You would rather be sick in Lon- 
to say, there is more learning and don than well in the country.' Piozzi 
science within the circumference Letters, i. 394. 

of ten miles from where we now sit, 


Anecdotes. 325 

exist on the daily forage that they pick up by running about, 
and snatching what drops from their neighbours as ignorant as 
themselves, will never ferment into any knowledge valuable or 
durable x ; but like the light wines we drink in hot countries, 
please for the moment though incapable of keeping. In the 
study of mankind much will be found to swim as froth, and 
much must sink as feculence, before the wine can have its effect, 
and become that noblest liquor which rejoices the heart, and 
gives vigour to the imagination.' 

I am well aware that I do not, and cannot give each expres 
sion of Dr. Johnson with all its force or all its neatness ; but 
I have done my best to record such of his maxims, and repeat 
such of his sentiments, as may give to those who knew him not, 
a just idea of his character and manner of thinking. To endea 
vour at adorning, or adding, or softening, or meliorating such 
anecdotes, by any tricks my inexperienced pen could play, 
would be weakness indeed 2 ; worse than the Frenchman who 
presides over the porcelain manufactory at Seve 3 ; to whom 
when some Greek vases were given him as models, he lamented 
la tristesse de telles formes ; and endeavoured to assist them by 
clusters of flowers, while flying Cupids served for the handles of 
urns originally intended to contain the ashes of the dead. The 
misery is, that I can recollect so few anecdotes, and that I have 
recorded no more axioms of a man whose every word merited 
attention, and whose every sentiment did honour to human 
nature. Remote from affectation as from error or falsehood, the 
comfort a reader has in looking over these papers, is the cer 
tainty that those were really the opinions of Johnson, which are 
related as such. 

Fear of what others may think, is the great cause of affecta 
tion ; and he was not likely to disguise his notions out of 

1 See Life, iii. 308, n. 3, for Tom said roughly : "He would not 
Restless. cut off his claws, nor make a tiger 

2 * I besought Boswell's tenderness a cat, to please anybody." ' H. More's 
for our virtuous and most revered Memoirs, i. 403. 

departed friend, and begged he would 3 The Thrales and Johnson visited 
mitigate some of his asperities. He Sevres in 1775. Life, ii. 397. 


326 Anecdotes. 

cowardice. He hated disguise, and nobody penetrated it so 
readily 1 . I shewed him a letter written to a common friend, 
who was at some loss for the explanation of it : ' Whoever wrote 
it (says our Doctor) could, if he chose it, make himself under 
stood ; but 'tis the letter of an embarrassed man> Sir ; ' and so 
the event proved it to be. 

Mysteriousness in trifles offended him on every side 2 : ' it 
commonly ended in guilt (he said) ; for those who begin by 
concealment of innocent things, will soon have something to hide 
which they dare not bring to light.' He therefore encouraged 
an openness of conduct, in women particularly, ' who (he ob 
served) were often led away when children, by their delight 
and power of surprising.' He recommended, on something like 
the same principle, that when one person meant to serve 
another, he should not go about it slily, or as we say under 
hand, out of a false idea of delicacy, to surprise one's friend with 
an unexpected favour, * which, ten to one (says he), fails to 
oblige your acquaintance, who had some reasons against such 
a mode of obligation, which you might have known but for that 
superfluous cunning which you think an elegance. Oh ! never 
be seduced by such silly pretences (continued he) ; if a wench 
wants a good gown, do not give her a fine smelling-bottle, 
because that is more delicate : as I once knew a lady 3 lend the 
key of her library to a poor scribbling dependant, as if she took 
the woman for an ostrich that could digest iron.' He said 
indeed, ' that women were very difficult to be taught the proper 

1 ' Dr. Johnson talked of that imposture.' Shaftesbury's Character- 

studied behaviour which many have isticks, ed. 1714, i. n. 

recommended and practised. He * Ciceron laissait aux petits esprits 

disapproved of it; and said, " I never leur constante gravite, qui n'est que 

considered whether I should be a la masque de la mediocriteV VOL- 

grave man, or a merry man, but just TAIRE : quoted in Warton's Pope's 

let inclination, for the time, have its Works, iv. 222. 

course." ' Life^ i. 470. 2 Horace Walpole (Letters, iii. 

'La gravit^ est un mystere du 371) calls mystery 'the wisdom of 

corps, invent^ pour cacher les de- blockheads.' 

fauts de 1'esprit.' LA ROCHEFOU- 3 ' This lady was Mrs. Montagu.' 

CAULD, Maximes, No. 265. Hay ward's Piozzi, i. 296. 

' Gravity is of the very essence of 


Anecdotes. 327 

manner of conferring pecuniary favours ; that they always gave 
too much money or too little; for that they had an idea of 
delicacy accompanying their gifts, so that they generally rendered 
them either useless or ridiculous.' 

He did indeed say very contemptuous things of our sex ; but 
was exceedingly angry when I told Miss Reynolds that he said, 
' It was well managed of some one to leave his affairs in the 
hands of his wife, because, in matters of business (said he), no 
woman stops at integrity V This was, I think, the only sen 
tence I ever observed him solicitous to explain away after he 
had uttered it 2 . He was not at all displeased at the recollection 
of a sarcasm thrown on a whole profession at once; when 
a gentleman leaving the company, somebody who sate next 
Dr. Johnson, asked him, who he was ? . c I cannot exactly tell 
you Sir (replied he), and I would be loth to speak ill of any 
person who I do not know deserves it, but I am afraid he is an 
attorney V He did not however encourage general satire 4 , and 
for the most part professed himself to feel directly contrary 
to Dr. Swift ; ' who (says he) hates the world, though he loves 
John and Robert, and certain individuals.' 

Johnson said always, ' that the world was well constructed, 
but that the particular people disgraced the elegance and beauty 
of the general fabric.' In the same manner I was relating once 

1 His anger at this being told to 3 ' Much enquiry having been made 

Miss Reynolds was probably due to concerning a gentleman, who had 

his high opinion of her virtue. See quitted a company where Johnson 

ante, p. 207. was, and no information being ob- 

a ' JOHNSON (who, from drinking tained ; at last Johnson observed, 

only water, supposed every body who that " he did not care to speak ill of 

drank wine to be elevated,) " I won't any man behind his back, but he 

argue any more with you, Sir. You believed the gentleman was an at- 

are too far gone." SIR JOSHUA. "I torney"' Life, ii. 126. When we 

should have thought so indeed, Sir, see how this sarcasm has been spoilt 

had I made such a speech as you in the telling by Mrs. Piozzi, we may 

have now done." " JOHNSON (draw- quote Mr. Fitzherbert's saying, 'It is 

ing himself in, and, I really thought, not every man that can carry a bon- 

blushing,) " Nay, don't be angry. mot.' Ib. ii. 350. 
I did not mean to offend you." ' 4 See ante, p. 223 for his ' aversion 

Life, iii. 329. to general satire.' 


328 Anecdotes. 

to him, how Dr. Collier T observed, that the love one bore to 
children was from the anticipation one's mind made while one 
contemplated them : * We hope (says he) that they will some 
time make wise men, or amiable women ; and we suffer 'em to 
take up our affection beforehand. One cannot love lumps of flesh, 
and little infants are nothing more. On the contrary (says 
Johnson), one can scarcely help wishing, while one fondles 
a baby, that it may never live to become a man ; for it is 
so probable that when he becomes a man, he should be sure to 
end in a scoundrel 2 .' Girls were less displeasing to him ; ' for 
as their temptations were fewer (he said), their virtue in this life, 
and happiness in the next, were less improbable 3 ; and he loved 
(he said) to see a knot of little misses dearly.' 

Needle-work had a strenuous approver in Dr. Johnson, who 
said, ' that one of the great felicities of female life, was the 
general consent of the world, that they might amuse themselves 
with petty occupations, which contributed to the lengthening 
their lives, and preserving their minds in a state of sanity.' 
A man cannot hem a pocket-handkerchief (said a lady of quality 
to him one day), and so he runs mad, and torments his family 
and friends. The expression struck him exceedingly, and when 
one acquaintance grew troublesome, and another unhealthy, he 
used to quote Lady Frances's observation, ' That a man cannot 
hem a pocket-handkerchief 4 .' 

The nice people 5 found no mercy from Mr. Johnson ; such 
I mean as can dine only at four o'clock, who cannot bear to be 
waked at an unusual hour, or miss a stated meal without incon- 

1 Ante, p. 246. 4 ' Women have a great advantage 

2 Johnson could never have said that they may take up with little 
' it is so probable that he should be things, without disgracing them- 
sure.' For his use of the word selves : a man cannot, except with 
scoundrel see Life, iii. i. fiddling. Had I learnt to fiddle, I 

3 ' Women,' said Johnson, ' have should have done nothing else.' Ib. 
not the same temptations that we iii. 242. 

have : they may always live in vir- 5 Nice in the sense in which it 
tuous company ; men must mix in is commonly used at the present 
the world indiscriminately.' Ib. iii. time is not given in Johnson's Die- 
287. tionary. 


Anecdotes. 329 

venience. He had no such prejudices himself 1 , and with difficulty 
forgave them in another. ' Delicacy does not surely consist (says 
he) in impossibility to be pleased, and that is false dignity indeed 
which is content to depend upon others.' 

The saying of the old philosopher, who observes, That he who 
wants least is most like the gods, who want nothing 2 ; was a 
favourite sentence with Dr. Johnson, who on his own part required 
less attendance, sick or well, than ever I saw any human creature 3 . 
Conversation was all he required to make him happy; and when 
he would have tea made at two o'clock in the morning, it was 
only that there might be a certainty of detaining his companions 
round him 4 . On that principle it was that he preferred winter 
to summer, when the heat of the weather gave people an excuse 
to stroll about, and walk for pleasure in the shade, while he 
wished to sit still on a chair, and chat day after day, till some 
body proposed a drive in the coach ; and that was the most 
delicious moment of his life s . * But the carriage must stop 
sometime (as he said), and the people would come home at 
last ; ' so his pleasure was of short duration. 

I asked him why he doated on a coach so ? and received for 
answer, * That in the first place, the company was shut in with 
him there ; and could not escape, as out of a room : in the next 
place, he heard all that was said in a carriage, where it was my 
turn to be deaf:' and very impatient was he at my occasional 

1 ' JOHNSON. I never felt any dif- p*v fnjSei/oy 5et<r0<u Oelov to/at, TO 5' 

ference upon myself from eating one o>y fXaxio-rwv, eyyt>raro> rov Geiov. 

thing rather than another . . . There Memorabilia, i. 6. 10. 

are people, I believe, who feel a dif- ' Deum quern a teneris coluit cum 

ference ; but I am not one of them. primis imitatus est paucis egendo.' 

And as to regular meals, I have fasted Epitaph on Dr. Barrow. Life of 

from the Sunday's dinner to the Seth Ward, p. 168. 

Tuesday's dinner without any in- 3 ' There is nothing,' he said, 

convenience. I believe it is best * against which an old man should be 

to eat just as one is hungry ; but so much upon his guard as putting 

a man who is in business, or a man himself to nurse.' Life, ii. 474. 

who has a family, must have stated 4 Ante, p. 231. 

meals.' Life, iii. 305. 5 Life, iii. 5, 162. 

a Socrates. 'Eyd!> de vopifa TO 




difficulty of hearing. On this account he wished to travel all 
over the world x ; for the very act of going forward was delightful 
to him, and he gave himself no concern about accidents, which 
he said never happened : nor did the running-away of the horses 
on the edge of a precipice between Vernon and St. Denys in 
France 2 convince him to the contrary ; ' for nothing came of it 
(he said), except that Mr. Thrale leaped out of the carriage into 
a chalk-pit, and then came up again, looking as white ! ' When 
the truth was, all their lives were saved by the greatest providence 
ever exerted in favour of three human creatures ; and the part 
Mr. Thrale took from desperation was the likeliest thing in the 
world to produce broken limbs and death. 

Fear was indeed a sensation to which Mr. Johnson was an 
utter stranger, excepting when some sudden apprehensions seized 
him that he was going to die 3 ; and even then he kept all his 
wits about him, to express the most humble and pathetic petitions 
to the Almighty: and when the first paralytic stroke 4 took his 
speech from him, he instantly set about composing a prayer in 
Latin, at once to deprecate God's mercy, to satisfy himself that 
his mental powers remained unimpaired, and to keep them in 
exercise, that they might not perish by permitted stagnation. 
This was after we parted ; but he wrote me an account of it, and 
I intend to publish that letter 5 , with many more. 

1 For his love of travelling see 
Life, iii. 449. 

2 Johnson's Journal for this part 
of his tour is missing. 

3 'JOHNSON. "Fear is one of the 
passions of human nature of which 
it is impossible to divest it. You re 
member that the Emperour Charles V, 
when he read upon the tomb-stone of 
a Spanish nobleman, ' Here lies one 
who never knew fear,' wittily said, 
' Then he never snuffed a candle 
with his fingers.'" 3 Life, ii. 81. 
' Johnson feared death, but he feared 
nothing else, not even what might 
occasion death.' Ib. ii. 298. 

' It was the saying of one of the 

bravest men in this age, to one who 
told him he feared nothing, " Shew 
me but a certain danger, and I shall 
be as much afraid as any of you.'" 
Pope's Iliad, ed. 1760, vi. 19, n. 

' Daniel Webster, the day he died, 
said, " No man who is not a brute 
can say that he is not afraid of 
death." ' Curtis's Webster, ii. 697. 

4 It does not seem that he had 
more than one stroke. For his 
prayer in Latin see Life, iv. 230, n. I. 

5 His letter begins : ' I am sitting 
down in no cheerful solitude to write 
a narrative which would once have 
affected you with tenderness and 
sorrow, but which you will perhaps 


Anecdotes. 331 

When one day he had at my house taken tincture of antimony 
instead of emetic wine, for a vomit, he was himself the person to 
direct us what to do for him, and managed with as much coolness 
and deliberation as if he had been prescribing for an indifferent 
person. Though on another occasion, when he had lamented in 
the most piercing terms his approaching dissolution, and con 
jured me solemnly to tell him what I thought, while Sir Richard 
Jebb x was perpetually on the road to Streatham, and Mr. Johnson 
seemed to think himself neglected if the physician left him for an 
hour only, I made him a steady, but as I thought a very gentle 
harangue, in which I confirmed all that the Doctor had been 
saying, how no present danger could be expected ; but that his 
age and continued ill health must naturally accelerate the arrival 
of that hour which can be escaped by none 2 : ' And this (says 
Johnson, rising in great anger) is the voice of female friendship 
I suppose, when the hand of the hangman would be softer.' 

Another day, when he was ill, and exceedingly low-spirited, 
and persuaded that death was not far distant, I appeared before 
him in a dark-coloured gown, which his bad sight, and worse 
apprehensions, made him mistake for an iron-grey. * Why do 
you delight (said he) thus to thicken the gloom of misery that 
surrounds me ? is not here sufficient accumulation of horror with 
out anticipated mourning?' This is not mourning Sir (said I), 
drawing the curtain, that the light might fall upon the silk, and 
shew it was a purple mixed with green. * Well, well (replied 
he, changing his voice), you little creatures should never wear 
those sort of clothes however ; they are unsuitable in every 
way. What ! have not all insects gay colours 3 ! ' I relate these 

pass over now with the careless she was sixty-two years old], de- 
glance of frigid indifference.' Letters, scribes her as "skipping about like 
ii. 300. a kid, quite a figure of fun, in a tiger 
1 Ib. ii. 148, n. 2. skin shawl, lined with scarlet, and 
3 Another time, when he was very only five colours upon her head- 
ill, she had written to him 'about dress -on the top of a flaxen wig 
dying with a grace.' Ib. ii. 384. a bandeau of blue velvet, a bit of 
3 Quoted in the Life, i. 495. tiger ribbon, a white beaver hat and 
' A lady who met her on her way plume of black feathers as gay as 
to Wynnstay in January, 1803 [when a lark." ' Hayward's Ptozzi, i. 346. 


332 A necdotes. 

instances chiefly to shew that the fears of death itself could 
not suppress his wit, his sagacity, or his temptation to sudden 

Mr. Johnson did not like that his friends should bring their 
manuscripts for him to read, and he liked still less to read them 
when they were brought : sometimes however when he could not 
refuse he would take the play or poem, or whatever it was, and 
give the people his opinion from some one page that he had 
peeped into. A gentleman carried him his tragedy, which, 
because he loved the author x , Johnson took, and it lay about our 
rooms some time. What answer did you give your friend, Sir ? 
said I, after the book had been called for. ' I told him (replied 
he), that there was too much Tig and Tirry in it.' Seeing me 
laugh most violently, ' Why what would'st have, child ? ' (said 
he.) I looked at nothing but the dramatis [personse], and there 
was Tz^ranes and TVr/dates, or Teribazus, or such stuff 2 . A man 
can tell but what he knows, and I never got any further than the 
first page. Alas, Madam ! (continued he) how few books are 
there of which one ever can possibly arrive at the last page ! 
Was there ever yet any thing written by mere man that was 
wished longer by its readers, excepting Don Quixote, Robinson 
Crusoe 3 , and the Pilgrim's Progress 4 ? ' After Homer's Iliad, 

1 Arthur Murphy, whom Johnson through several editions, and please 
* very much loved.' Life, ii. 127. as many readers as Dryden and 

2 In Murphy's tragedy of Zenobia Tillotson.' The Whig Examiner, 
two of the characters are Teribazus No. 2. 

and Tigranes. 1720. Swift. ' I have been better 

3 Smollett describes the author entertained and more informed by 
' as one Daniel de Foe, a scurrilous a few pages in the Pilgrim 's Pro- 
party-writer, in very little estima- gress than by a long discourse upon 
tion.' History of England ', ed. 1800, the will and the intellect and simple 
i. 420. or complex ideas.' A Letter to a 

4 Ante, p. 319. For Johnson's Young Clergyman. Works, ed. 1 803, 
admiration of Bunyan see Life, ii. viii. 20. 

238. I have collected the following 1741. Gentleman's Magazine, p. 

instances of the estimate set on the 488. ' Take it all together there 

Pilgrim's Progress last century. never was an Allegory better de- 

1710. Addison. ' I never yet knew signed or better supported.' 

an author that had not his admirers. 1758. Mrs. Montagu. ' Bunyan and 

Bunyan and Quarles have passed Ouarles, those classics of the artificers 




Mr. Johnson confessed that the work of Cervantes was the 
greatest in the world, speaking of it I mean as a book of enter 
tainment ; and when we consider that every other author's 
admirers are confined to his countrymen, and perhaps to the 
literary classes among them, while Don Quixote is a sort of 
common property, an universal classic, equally tasted by the 
court and the cottage, equally applauded in France and England 
as in Spain, quoted by every servant, the amusement of every 
age from infancy to decrepitude ; the first book you see on 
every shelf, in every shop, where books are sold, through all the 
states of Italy; who can refuse his consent to an avowal of the 

in leather.' Letters of Mrs. Montagu, 
iv. 78. 

1759. Burke. 'The admirer of 
Don Bellianis perhaps does not un 
derstand the refined language of the 
Eneid, who, if it was degraded into 
the style of the Pilgriirfs Progress, 
might feel it in all its energy on the 
same principle which made him an 
admirer of Don Bellianis? On the 
Sublime and Beautiful, ed. 1759, 
p. 25. 

1765. Gentleman's Magazine, p. 
1 68. ' The Pilgrim's Progress is 
certainly a work of original and un 
common genius.' 

1776. Beattie. ' Certain it is that 
fables in which there is neither love 
nor gallantry may be made highly 
interesting even to the fancy and 
affections of a modern reader. This 
appears not only from the writings 
of Shakespeare and other great 
authors, but from the Pilgrints 
Progress of Bunyan, and the His 
tory of Robinson Crusoe? Essays 
on Poetry and Music, ed. 1779, p. 

1782. Horace Walpole. 'Dante 
was extravagant, absurd, disgusting, 
in short a Methodist Parson in Bed 
lam. Ariosto was a more agreeable 
Amadis de Gaul, and Spenser, John 

Bunyan in rhyme.' Walpole's Letters, 
viii. 235. 

1785. Cowper: 
'I name thee not, lest so de 
spised a name 

Should move a sneer at thy de 
served fame, 
Yet ev'n in transitory life's late 

That mingles all my brown with 

sober grey, 
Revere the man whose Pilgrim 

marks the road 
And guides the Progress of the 

soul to God.' 

Tirocinium. Poems, 1786, ii, 298. 
Macaulay, in 1830, wrote : ' Cow 
per said forty or fifty years ago that 
he dared not name John Bunyan in 
his verse for fear of moving a sneer. 
To our refined forefathers, we sup 
pose, Lord Roscommon's Essay on 
Translated Verse, and the Duke of 
Buckinghamshire's Essay on Poetry, 
appeared to be compositions infi 
nitely superior to the allegory of the 
preaching tinker. We live in better 
times,' &c. Essays, ed. 1843, i- 4 2 4- 
Not six years after Macaulay wrote 
this, the Pilgrim's Progress was 
described in the Penny Cyclopaedia, 
vi. 20, as a ' coarse allegory . . . mean, 
jejune and wearisome.' 


334 Anecdotes. 

superiority of Cervantes to all other modern writers? Shake 
speare himself has, till lately, been worshipped only at home, 
though his plays are now the favourite amusements of Vienna ; 
and when I was at Padua some months ago, Romeo and Juliet 
was acted there under the name of Tragedia Veronese ; while en 
gravers and translators live by the Hero of La Mancha in every 
nation, and the sides of miserable inns all over England and 
France, and I have heard Germany too, are adorned with the 
exploits of Don Quixote. May his celebrity procure my pardon 
for a digression in praise of a writer who, through four volumes 
of the most exquisite pleasantry and genuine humour, has never 
been seduced to overstep the limits of propriety, has never called 
in the wretched auxiliaries of obscenity or profaneness ; who 
trusts to nature and sentiment alone, and never misses of that 
applause which Voltaire and Sterne labour to produce T , while 
honest merriment bestows her unfading crown upon Cervantes. 

Dr. Johnson was a great reader of French literature, and 
delighted exceedingly in Boileau's works 3 . Moliere I think he 
had hardly sufficient taste of; and he used to condemn me for 
preferring La Bruyere to the Due de Rochefoucault, * who (he 
said) was the only gentleman writer who wrote like a professed 
author. 1 The asperity of his harsh sentences, each of them 
a sentence of condemnation, used to disgust me however ; though 
it must be owned, that, among the necessaries of Tiuman life, 
a rasp is reckoned one as well as a razor. 

Mr. Johnson did not like any one who said they were happy, 
or who said any one else was so. ' It is all cant (he would cry), 
the dog knows he is miserable all the time V A friend whom 

1 Goldsmith called Sterne 'a 2 ' S'il m'est permis de parler pour 

bawdy blockhead.' Citizen of the moi-meme, Boileau est un des 

World, Letter 74 ; Life, ii. 173, n. 2. hommes qui m'ont le plus occup 

When he said that he was ' a very depuis que je fais de la critique, et 

dull fellow ' Johnson replied, ' Why avec qui j'ai le plus vdcu en idee.' 

no Sir.' Ib. ii. 222. Later on how- Sainte-Beuve, Causeries de Lundi, 

ever, Johnson said : ' Nothing odd vi. 495. 

will do long. Tristram Shandy did 3 ' The world in its best state is 

not last.' Ib. ii. 449. nothing more than a larger assembly 


Anecdotes. 335 

he loved exceedingly, told him on some occasion notwithstanding, 
that his wife's sister was really happy, and called upon the lady 
to confirm his assertion, which she did somewhat roundly as 
we say. and with an accent and manner capable of offending 
Mr. Johnson, if her position had not been sufficient, without any 
thing more, to put him in very ill humour. ' If your sister-in- 
law is really the contented being she professes herself Sir (said 
he), her life gives the lie to every research of humanity ; for she 
is happy without health, without beauty, without money, and 
without understanding.' This story he told me himself; and 
when I expressed something of the horror I felt, 'The same 
stupidity (said he) which prompted her to extol felicity she 
never felt, hindered her from feeling what shocks you on repe 
tition. I tell you, the woman is ugly, and sickly, and foolish, 
and poor ; and would it not make a man hang himself to hear 
such a creature say, it was happy ? ' 

' The life of a sailor was also a continued scene of danger and 
exertion (he said) ; and the manner in which time was spent on 
shipboard would make all who saw a cabin envy a gaol V The 
roughness of the language used on board a man of war, where 
he passed a week on a visit to Capt. Knight, disgusted him 
terribly. He asked an officer what some place was called, and 
received for answer, that it was where the loplolly man kept his 
loplolly 2 : a reply he considered, not unjustly, as disrespectful, 

of beings, combining to counterfeit lin's Works, ed. 1889, iv. 73. Yet 

happiness which they do not feel.' even their lot was better than the 

Works, iv. 120. See Life, ii. 350; soldiers'. 'The son of a creditable 

Hi. 53. labourer or artificer may frequently 

1 'He said, "No man will be a go to sea with his father's consent; 

sailor who has contrivance enough but if he inlists as a soldier it is 

to get himself into a jail ; for being always without it.' Wealth of Na- 

in a ship is being in a jail, with the tions, ed. 1811, i. 148. 

chance of being drowned." And at 2 Johnson and Reynolds visited 

another time, "A man in a jail has Plymouth in 1762. Life, i. 378. Mr. 

more room, better food, and com- Croker says that Captain Knight of 

monly better company."' Life, i. the Belleisle lay for a couple of 

348. months in 1762 in Plymouth Sound. 

'There is no slavery worse than Croker's Bosiuell, p. 480. It seems 

that sailors are subjected to.' Frank- unlikely that Johnson passed a whole 




gross, and ignorant ; for though in the course of these Memoirs 
I have been led to mention Dr. Johnson's tenderness towards 
poor people, I do not wish to mislead my readers, and make 
them think he had any delight in mean manners or coarse ex 
pressions x . Even dress itself, when it resembled that of the 
vulgar, offended him exceedingly; and when he had condemned 
me many times for not adorning my children with more show 
than I thought useful or elegant, I presented a little girl to 
him who came o' visiting one evening covered with shining 
ornaments, to see if he would approve of the appearance 
she made. When they were gone home, Well Sir, said I, how 
did you like little miss ? I hope she was fine enough. * It 
was the finery of a beggar (said he), and you know it was; 
she looked like a native of Cow-lane dressed up to be carried 
to Bartholomew-fair 2 .' 

His reprimand to another lady for crossing her little child's 
handkerchief before, and by that operation dragging down its 
head oddly and unintentionally, was on the same principle. ' It 
is the beggar's fear of cold (said he) that prevails over such 
parents, and so they pull the poor thing's head down, and give it 
the look of a baby that plays about Westminster-Bridge, while 
the mother sits shivering in a niche V 

I commended a young lady for her beauty and pretty be 
haviour one day however, to whom I thought no objections could 
have been made. ' I saw her (says Dr. Johnson) take a pair of 
scissars in her left hand though ; and for all her father is now 

week on ship-board. Loplolly, or 
Loblolly, is explained in Roderick 
Random, chap.xxvii. Roderick, when 
acting as the surgeon's assistant 
on a man of war, 'suffered,' he 
says, 'from the rude insults of the 
sailors and petty officers, among 
whom I was known by the name of 
Loblolly oy.' 

1 Ante, p. 292, n 5. 

2 Five Cow Lanes are mentioned 
in Dodsley's London, 1761, ii. 197. 

The fair was held in Smithfield 'at 
Bartholomew-tide.' Ib. vi. 29. 

3 Johnson defines niche ' a hollow 
in which a statue may be placed.' 
In many of the recesses on the 
Bridge were * pedestals on which 
was intended \sic\ a group of figures.' 
Ib. vi. 286. 


Anecdotes. 337 

become a nobleman, and as you say excessively rich *, I should, 
were I a youth of quality ten years hence, hesitate between a girl 
so neglected, and a negro! 

It was indeed astonishing how he could remark such minute 
nesses with a sight so miserably imperfect ; but no accidental 
position of a ribband escaped him, so nice was his observation, 
and so rigorous his demands of propriety 2 . When I went with him 
to Litchfield and came down stairs to breakfast at the inn 3 , my 
dress did not please him, and he made me alter it entirely before 
he would stir a step with us about the town, saying most satirical 
things concerning the appearance I made in a riding-habit ; and 
adding, * 'Tis very strange that such eyes as yours cannot discern 
propriety of dress: if I had a sight only half as good, I think 
I should see to the centre.' 

My compliances however were of little worth : what really 
surprised me was the victory he gained over a Lady little ac 
customed to contradiction, who had dressed herself for church at 
Streatham one Sunday morning, in a manner he did not approve, 
and to whom he said such sharp and pungent things concerning 
her hat, her gown, &c. that she hastened to change them, and 
returning quite another figure received his applause, and thanked 
him for his reproofs, much to the amazement of her husband, 
who could scarcely believe his own ears. 

1 Perhaps Lord Sandys (ante, p. the elegance of female dress.' Life, 
316, n. 3), who became a nobleman a i. 41. 

year after his marriage. ' His blindness,' wrote Miss Bur- 

2 ' I supposed him,' writes Boswell, ney, ' is as much the effect of absence 
' to be only near-sighted ; and indeed [of mind] as of infirmity, for he sees 
I must observe, that in no other wonderfully at times. He can see 
respect could I discern any defect the colour of a lady's top-knot, for 
in his vision; on the contrary, the he very often finds fault with it.' 
force of his attention and perceptive Mme. D'Arblay's Diary, ii. 174. 
quickness made him see and dis- 3 The Swan. Life, v. 428. Bos- 
tinguish all manner of objects, well and Johnson in 1776 stayed at 
whether of nature or of art, with a the Three Crowns. Ib. ii. 461. In 
nicety that is rarely to be found. . . . 1779 Boswell passed a night at the 
The ladies with whom he was ac- George. Ib. iii. 411. All three inns 
quainted agree, that no man was still exist. 

more nicely and minutely critical in 

VOL. I. Z Another 

338 A necdotes. 

Another lady, whose accomplishments he never denied, came 
to our house one day covered with diamonds, feathers, &C. 1 and 
he did not seem inclined to chat with her as usual. I asked 
him why? when the company was gone. 'Why; her head 
looked so like that of a woman who shews puppets (said he), 
and her voice so confirmed the fancy, that I could not bear her 
to-day ; when she wears a large cap, I can talk to her.' 

When the ladies wore lace trimmings to their clothes, he 
expressed his contempt of the reigning fashion in these terms: 
' A Brussels trimming is like bread sauce (said he), it takes 
away the glow of colour from the gown, and gives you nothing 
instead of it ; but sauce was invented to heighten the flavour 
of our food, and trimming is an ornament to the manteau 2 , 
or it is nothing. Learn (said he) that there is propriety or 
impropriety in every thing how slight soever, and get at 
the general principles of dress and of behaviour ; if you then 
transgress them, you will at least know that they are not 

All these exactnesses in a man who was nothing less than 
exact himself, made him extremely impracticable as an inmate, 
though most instructive as a companion, and useful as a friend. 
Mr. Thrale too could sometimes over-rule his rigidity, by saying 

1 Most likely Mrs. Montagu. ' The shewed me of hers formerly, so full 

Queenofihe&asMetts, Mrs. Montagu, of affectation, refinement, attempts 

crowned her toupet, and circled her to philosophize, talking metaphysics 

neck with diamonds, when she re- in all which particulars she so 

ceived an assembly of foreigners, bewildered and puzzled herself and 

literati, and maccaronis, in her dress- her readers, and showed herself so 

ing-room, the walls of which were superficial, nay, really ignorant in 

newly painted with " bowers of roses the subjects she paraded on - that in 

and jessamines, entirely inhabited my own private mind's pocket-book 

by little cupids." ' Early Diary of I set her down for a vain, empty, 

F. Burney, i. Preface, p. 85. Miss conceited pretender, and little else.' 

Burney speaks of her 'parade and os- Early Diary, i. Preface, p. 34, . 2. 

tentation.' Mme. D'Arblay's Diary, For her pretentious Essay on Shake- 

i. 325. speare, see Life, ii. 88. See also 

' Daddy' Crisp wrote of Mrs. Mon- ante, p. 287. 

tagu to Miss Burney in 1780: 'I 2 Manteau is not in Johnson's 

believe I have told you of several Dictionary. 
letters the Duchess of Portland 


Anecdotes. 339 

coldly, There, there, now we have had enough for one lecture, 
Dr. Johnson ; we will not be upon education any more till after 
dinner, if you please or some such speech x : but when there 
was nobody to restrain his dislikes, it was extremely difficult to 
find any body with whom he could converse, without living 
always on the verge of a quarrel, or of something too like 
a quarrel to be pleasing 2 . I came into the room, for example, 
one evening, where he and a gentleman, whose abilities we all 
respect exceedingly, were sitting ; a lady who walked in two 
minutes before me had blown 'em both into a flame, by whisper 
ing something to Mr. S d, which he endeavoured to explain 

away, so as not to affront the Doctor, whose suspicions were all 
alive. ' And have a care, Sir (said he), just as I came in ; the 
Old Lion will not bear to be tickled.' The other was pale with 
rage, the Lady wept at the confusion she had caused 3 , and 
I could only say with Lady Macbeth, 

Soh ! you've displac'd the mirth, broke the good meeting 
With most admir'd disorder 4 . 

Such accidents however occurred too often, and I was forced 
to take advantage of my lost lawsuit 5 , and plead inability of 

1 'I know no man (said Johnson) '"For Seward?" cried Sir Philip 
who is more master of his wife and [Clerk]; "did she cry for Seward?" 
family than Thrale. If he but holds ' " Seward," said Mrs. Thrale, " had 
up a finger he is obeyed.' Life, affronted Johnson, and then John- 
i. 494. He was, it seems, master son affronted Seward, and then the 
also of his guest, even when his S. S. cried." 

guest was Johnson. ' SIR PHILIP. " But what did 

2 See ante, p. 310, where she Seward do ? was he not melted ?" 
writes : ' I saw Mr. Johnson in none 'MRS. THRALE. " Not he ; he was 
but a tranquil uniform state, passing thinking only of his own affront and 
the evening of his life among friends taking fire at that." ' Mme. D'Ar- 
who loved, honoured, and admired blay's Diary, i. 227. 

him.' 4 ' You have displaced ' &c. Mac- 

3 Mr. S d was no doubt William beth, Act iii. sc. 5. ' Soh ! ' is Mrs. 
Seward (Life, iii. 123), and the lady Thrale's addition. 

who wept was most probably Sophy 5 Mrs. Piozzi seems to have thought 

Streat field, that her lost lawsuit was known 

"Tin sure," said Mrs. Thrale, to all the world. What it was is 
" when she cried for Seward I never shown by the following entries. ' My 
saw her louk half so lovely." uncle's widow, Lady Salusbury, had 

z 2 purse 



purse to remain longer in London or its vicinage. I had been 
crossed in my intentions of going abroad T , and found it con 
venient, for every reason of health, peace, and pecuniary circum 
stances, to retire to Bath, where I knew Mr. Johnson would not 
follow me, and where I could for that reason command some little 
portion of time for my own use ; a thing impossible while I re 
mained at Streatham or at London, as my hours, carriage, and 
servants had long been at his command, who would not rise in 
the morning till twelve o'clock perhaps 2 , and oblige me to make 

threatened to seize upon my Welsh 
estate if I did not repay her money 
lent by Sir Thomas Salusbury to my 
father; money in effect which poor 
papa had borrowed to give him 
when he was a student at Cambridge, 
and your little friend just born. This 
debt, however, not having been can 
celled, stood against me as heiress.' 
Hayward's Ptozzi, ii. 57. ' Aug. 22, 
1782. My lawsuit with Lady Salus 
bury turns out worse in the event 
and infinitely more costly than I 
could have dreamed on ; ^8,000 is 
supposed necessary to the payment 
of it.' Ib. \. 169. 'Jan. 29, 1783. 
I told Dr. Johnson and Mr. Crutchley 
three days ago . . . that I would go 
and live in a little way at Bath till 
I had paid all my debts and cleared 
my income. ... I may in six or 
seven years be freed from all in- 
cumbrances, and carry a clear income 
of ,2500 a year and an estate of 
^500 in land to the man of my 
heart.' Ib. i. 195. 

1 'Dec. i. 1782. The guardians 
have met upon the scheme of putting 
our girls in Chancery. I was frighted 
at the project, not doubting but the 
Lord Chancellor would stop us from 
leaving England, as he would cer 
tainly see no joke in three young 
heiresses, his ward, quitting the king 
dom to frisk away with their mother 
into Italy. . . . Nobody much ap 

plauded my resolution in going, but 
Johnson and Cator said they would 
not concur in stopping me by violence. 
. . . Jan. 29, 1783. I told Dr. John 
son and Mr. Crutchley three days 
ago that I had determined seeing 
them so averse to it that I would 
not go abroad.' Ib. i. 192-195. 

2 See ante, p. 37, where he re 
corded in 1766 that he had that year 
persisted in the habit of early rising, 
till 'I went to Mr. Thrale's ; the 
irregularity of that family broke my 
habit of rising.' As for his call on 
her servants she herself has said, 
'Dr. Johnson on his own part re 
quired less attendance, sick or well, 
than ever I saw any human crea 
ture.' Ante, p. 329. 

According to Baretti : ' he wanted 
nothing else from her servants than 
to be shaved once in three days, as 
he was almost beardless ; and as for 
her carriage never once during the 
whole time of their acquaintance 
did he borrow, much less command 
it, for any purpose of his own. . . . 
During his acquaintance with the 
Thrale family he got the habit of 
rising as early as other folks, nor 
ever made Mr. Thrale stay a single 
moment for his breakfast, knowing 
that his business called him away 
about ten o'clock every morning.' 
Croker's Boswell, ed. 1844, x. 36. 
Baretti left Streatham in June, I77^> 

A necdotes. 341 

breakfast for him till the bell rung for dinner, though much dis 
pleased if the toilet was neglected, and though much of the time 
we passed together was spent in blaming or deriding, very justly, 
my neglect of ceconomy, and waste of that money which might 
eiake many families happy. The original reason of our connec 
tion, his particularly disordered health and spirits, had been long 
at an end r , and he had no other ailments than old age and 
general infirmity 2 , which every professor of medicine was ardently 
zealous and generally attentive to palliate, and to contribute 
all in their power for the prolongation of a life so valuable. 
Veneration for his virtue, reverence for his talents, delight in his 
conversation, and habitual endurance of a yoke my husband first 
put upon me, and of which he contentedly bore his share for 
sixteen or seventeen years, made me go on so long with Mr. 
Johnson ; but the perpetual confinement I will own to have been 
terrifying in the first years of our friendship, and irksome in the 
V last ; nor could I pretend to support it without help, when my 
coadjutor was no more 3 . To the assistance we gave him, the 
shelter our house afforded to his uneasy fancies, and to the 
pains we took to sooth or repress them, the world perhaps is 
indebted for the three political pamphlets 4 , the new edition and 
correction of his Dictionary, and for the Poets' Lives, which he 
would scarce have lived, I think, and kept his faculties entire, to 
have written, had not incessant care been exerted at the time of 

having lived with the Thrales five 2 Her readers would hardly infer 

years and a half. Letters, \. 403, that he had had a stroke of palsy, 

n.6. He cannot therefore speak of the a dangerous sarcocele, asthma, and 

time after Mr. Thrale's death. The dropsy. 

cheerfulness of the Streatham life 3 Boswell, quoting this passage, 

during the life-time of its master is continues :' Alas! how different is 

shown in Miss Burney's Diaries. this from the declarations which I 

1 Ante, p. 234. What had come have heard Mrs. Thrale make in 

to an end was the life of Mr. Thrale his life-time, without a single mur- 

who, perhaps chiefly from compas- mur against any peculiarities, or 

sion, had at first made Johnson an against any one circumstance which 

inmate of his house, but who came attended their intimacy.' Jb. iv. 

to take so much delight in his com- 340. 

pany that, as his wife said, ' he would 4 He wrote four political pam- 

go no -where that he could help with- phlets. 
out him.' Life, iii. 28, n. 


342 Anecdotes. 

his first coming to be our constant guest in the country; and 
several times after that, when he found himself particularly op 
pressed with diseases incident to the most vivid and fervent 
imaginations. I shall for ever consider it as the greatest honour 
which could be conferred on any one, to have been the con 
fidential friend of Dr. Johnson's health ; and to have in some 
measure, with Mr. Thrale's assistance, saved from distress at 
least, if not from worse, a mind great beyond the comprehension 
of common mortals, and good beyond all hope of imitation from 
perishable beings *. 

Many of our friends were earnest that he should write the lives 
of our famous prose authors ; but he never made any answer 
that I can recollect to the proposal, excepting when Sir Richard 
Musgrave once was singularly warm about it, getting up and 
intreating him to set about the work immediately; he coldly 
replied, ' Sit down. Sir 2 / ' 

When Mr. Thrale built the hew library at Streatham, and hung 
up over the books the portraits of his favourite friends, that of 
Dr. Johnson was last finished, and closed the number 3 . It was 

1 Writing of him and her mother 3 'The whole of them were sold by 
she says: 'excellent as they both auction in the spring of 1816. Ac- 
were, far beyond the excellence of cording to Mrs. Piozzi's marked 
any other man and woman I ever catalogue they fetched the following 
yet saw.' A nte, p. 235. prices: Lord Sandys, ^36. 15 ; Lord 

2 Miss Burney describes Musgrave Lyttelton [W. H. Lyttelton, after- 
as ' a caricature of Mr. Boswell, who is wards Lord Westcote], ^43. I ; Mrs, 
a caricature of all others of Dr. John- Piozzi and her daughter, ^81. 18; 
son's admirers. . . . The incense he Goldsmith (duplicate of the original), 
paid Dr. Johnson by his solemn ^133. 7; Sir J. Reynolds, ^128. 2; 
manner of listening, by the earnest Sir R. Chambers, ^84 ; David Gar- 
reverence with which he eyed him, rick, .183. 15; Baretti, ^31. 10; 
and by a theatric start of admiration Dr. Burney, ^84 ; Edmund Burke, 
every time he spoke, joined to the ^252 ; Dr. Johnson, ^378 ; " Mr. 
Doctor's utter insensibility to all Murphy was offered .102. 18, but I 
these tokens, made me find infinite bought it in." ' Hayvvard's Piozzi, 
difficulty in keeping my counte- ii. 171. 'In 1780,' continues Mr. 
nance.' Mme. D'Arblay's Diary, Hay ward, ' Reynolds raised the price 
ii. 84. of his portraits (three-quarter size) 

He published in 1802 Memoirs of from thirty-five to fifty guineas, which, 
the Rebellions in Ireland. Mrs. Piozzi complains, made the 


Anecdotes. 343 

almost impossible not to make verses on such an accidental 
combination of circumstances, so I made the following ones : but 
as a character written in verse will for the most part be found 
imperfect as a character, I have therefore written a prose one, 
with which I mean, not to complete, but to conclude these 
Anecdotes of the best and wisest man that ever came within the 
reach of my personal acquaintance, and I think I might venture 
to add, that of all or any of my readers : 

Gigantic in knowledge, in virtue, in strength, 

Our company closes with JOHNSON at length; 

So the Greeks from the cavern of Polypheme past, 

When wisest, and greatest, Ulysses came last. 

To his comrades contemptuous, we see him look down, 

On their wit and their worth with a general frown. 

Since from Science' proud tree the rich fruit he receives, 

Who could shake the whole trunk while they turn'd a few leaves. 

His piety pure, his morality nice 

Protector of virtue, and terror of vice ; 

In these features Religion's firm champion display'd, 

Shall make infidels fear for a modern crusade. 

While th' inflammable temper, the positive tongue, 

Too conscious of right for endurance of wrong, 

We suffer from JOHNSON, contented to find, 

That some notice we gain from so noble a mind ; 

And pardon our hurts, since so often we've found 

The balm of instruction pour'd into the wound. 

'Tis thus for its virtues the chemists extol 

Pure rectified spirit, sublime alcohol; 

From noxious putrescence, preservative pure, 

A cordial in health, and in sickness a cure; 

But expos'd to the sun, taking fire at his rays, 

Burns bright to the bottom, and ends in a blaze. 

It is usual, I know not why, when a character is given, to 
begin with a description of the person ; that which contained the 

Streatham portraits in many instances in 1773 (Leslie, and Taylor's Rey- 

cost more than they fetched, as she nolds, i. 507, 523), and Baretti in 

had to pay for them after Mr. Thrale's 1774 (ib. ii. 76). Leslie says that 

death at the increased price.' ' the portrait of Baretti is among the 

Only three of the portraits fetched finest Reynolds ever painted.' 
less than fifty guineas those of For the library at Streatham see 

W. H. Lyttelton, Sandys and Baretti. ante, p. 109, and Life, iv. 158. 
Lyttelton was painted in 1772, Sandys 




soul of Mr. Johnson deserves to be particularly described x . His 
stature was remarkably high, and his limbs exceedingly large : 
his strength was more than common I believe, and his activity 
had been greater I have heard than such a form gave one 
reason to expect : his features were strongly marked, and his 
countenance particularly rugged ; though the original complexion 
had certainly been fair, a circumstance somewhat unusual : his 
sight was near, and otherwise imperfect ; yet his eyes, though of 
a light-grey colour, were so wild, so piercing, and at times so 
fierce, that fear was I believe the first emotion in the hearts of 
all his beholders. His mind was so comprehensive, that no 
language but that he used could have expressed its contents ; 
and so ponderous was his language, that sentiments less lofty 
and less solid than his were, would have been encumbered, not 
adorned by it. 

Mr. Johnson was not intentionally however a pompous con- 
verser ; and though he was accused of using big words as they 
are called, it was only when little ones would not express his 
meaning as clearly, or when perhaps the elevation of the thought 
would have been disgraced by a dress less superb 2 . He used to 

1 In her Thraliana she records : 
* One evening as I was giving my 
tongue liberty to praise Mr. John 
son to his face, a favour he would not 
often allow me, he said, in high good 
humour, " Come, you shall draw up 
my character your own way, and 
shew it me, that I may see what you 
will say of me when I am gone." 
At night I wrote as follows : (Here 
follows the character in the text). 
When I shewed him his Character 
next day, for he would see it, he 
said, " It was a very fine piece of 
writing, and that I had improved 
upon Young" who he saw was my 
model, he said, " for my flattery was 
still stronger than his, and yet, some 
how or other, less hyperbolical." ' 
Hay ward's Piozzi, ist ed. ii. 345. 

For her flattery of him see Life, 

ii. 349, and Letters, i. 200, 220, 221 ; 
ii. 308, and for Johnson's person, 
Life, i. 94 ; iv. 425 ; v. 18. How far 
Young could go in flattery is shown 
in the lines where, addressing the 
Deity, he says : 
' 'Tis Thou that lead'st our pow'rful 

armies forth, 
And giv'st Great Anne Thy sceptre 

o'er the north.' 

The Last Day, Book ii. 
2 Boswell told Johnson that ' Lord 
Monboddo disapproved of the rich 
ness of his language, and of his 
frequent use of metaphorical ex 
pressions. JOHNSON. "Why, Sir, 
this criticism would be just, if in my 
style, superfluous words, or words too 
big for the 'thoughts, could be pointed 
out ; but this I do not believe can 
be done.'" Life, iii. 173. 'Johnson 


Anecdotes. 345 

xsay, 'that the size of a man's understanding might always be 
justly measured by his mirth ; ' and his own was never con 
temptible. He would laugh at a stroke of genuine humour, or 
"sudden sally of odd absurdity, as heartily and freely as I ever 
yet saw any man ; and though the jest was often such as few 
felt besides himself, yet his laugh was irresistible, and was ob 
served immediately to produce that of the company, not merely 
from the notion that it was proper to laugh when he did, but 
purely out of want of power to forbear it l . He was no enemy 
to splendour of apparel or pomp of equipage ' Life (he would 
say) is barren enough surely with all her trappings ; let us there 
fore be cautious how we strip her 2 .' In matters of still higher 
moment he once observed, when speaking on the subject of 
sudden innovation, * He who plants a forest may doubtless cut 
down a hedge ; yet I could wish methinks that even he would 
wait till he sees his young plants grow.' 

With regard to common occurrences Mr. Johnson had, when 
I first knew him, looked on the still-shifting scenes of life 3 till 
he was weary ; for as a mind slow in its own nature, or unen 
lightened by information, will contentedly read in the same 

once said to me, in a pleasant in the silence of the night seemed 

humour, "Sir, if Robertson's style be to resound from Temple Bar to Fleet 

faulty, he owes it to me ; that is, Ditch.' See also ante, p. 269. 

having too many words, and those 2 At Inverary Castle he said: 

too big ones." ' Life, Hi. 173. 'What I admire here is the total 

1 ' Garrick remarked to me of him, defiance of expense.' Life, v. 355. 

"Rabelais and all other wits are 'Sir' (he said), 'were I to have any 

nothing compared with him. You thing fine, it should be very fine, 

may be diverted by them ; but John- Were I to wear a ring, it should not 

son gives you a forcible hug, and be a bauble, but a stone of great 

shakes laughter out of you whether value. Were I to wear a laced or 

you will or no."' Ib. ii. 231. 'I embroidered waistcoat, it should be 

passed many hours with him on the very rich. I had once a very rich 

1 7th, of which I find all my me- laced waistcoat, which I wore the 

morial is "much laughing." It first night of my tragedy.' Ib. v. 

should seem he had that day been 364. 

in a humour for jocularity and merri- 3 ' Remark each anxious toil, each 

ment, and upon such occasions I eager strife, 

never knew a man laugh more And watch the busy scenes of 

heartily.' Ib. ii. 378. See also ib. crowded life.' 

ii. 262, for his peals of laughter ' that The Vanity of Human Wishes, 1. 3. 


346 A necdotes. 

book for twenty times perhaps, the very act of reading it being 
more than half the business, and every period being at every 
reading better understood ; while a mind more active or more 
skilful to comprehend its meaning is made sincerely z sick at the 
second perusal ; so a soul like his, acute to discern the truth, 
vigorous to embrace, and powerful to retain it, soon sees enough 
of the world's dull prospect, which at first, like that of the sea, 
pleases by its extent, but soon, like that too, fatigues from its 
uniformity ; a calm and a storm being the only variations that 
the nature of either will admit. 

Of Mr. Johnson's erudition the world has been the judge, and 
we who produce each a score of his sayings, as proofs of that wit 
which in him was inexhaustible, resemble travellers who having 
visited Delhi or Golconda, bring home each a handful of Oriental 
pearl to evince the riches of the Great Mogul. May the Public 
condescend to accept my ill-strung selection with patience at 
least, remembering only that they are relics of him who was 
great on all occasions, and, like a cube in architecture, you beheld 
him on each side, and his size still appeared undiminished. 

As his purse was ever open to almsgiving 2 , so was his heart 
tender to those who wanted relief, and his soul susceptible of 
gratitude, and of every kind impression; yet though he had 
refined his sensibility, he had not endangered his quiet, by 
encouraging in himself a solicitude about trifles, which he treated 
with the contempt they deserve. 

It was well enough known before these sheets were published, 
that Mr. Johnson had a roughness in his manner which subdued 
the saucy, and terrified the meek 3 : this was, when I knew him, 
the prominent part of a character which few durst venture 
to approach so nearly; and which was for that reason in 
many respects grossly and frequently mistaken ; and it was 
perhaps peculiar to him, that the lofty consciousness of his own 

1 I know no other instance of this young, he never attacked the un- 
strange use of sincerely. assuming, nor meant to terrify the 

2 Ante, p. 204. diffident.' iMme. D'Arblay's Diary t 

3 ' He was always indulgent to the ii. 343. 


Anecdotes. 347 

superiority, which animated his looks, and raised his voice in con 
versation r , cast likewise an impenetrable veil over him when he 
said nothing. His talk therefore had commonly the complexion 
of arrogance, his silence 2 of superciliousness. He was however 
seldom inclined to be silent when any moral or literary question 
was started : and it was on such occasions, that, like the sage in 
Rasselas, he spoke, and attention watched his lips ; he reasoned, 
and conviction closed his periods 3 : if poetry was talked of, his 
quotations were the readiest ; and had he not been eminent for 
more solid and brilliant qualities, mankind would have united 
to extol his extraordinary memory 4 . His manner of repeating 
deserves to be described, though at the same time it defeats all 
power of description ; but whoever once heard him repeat an ode 
of Horace, would be long before they could endure to hear it 
repeated by another 5 . 

His equity in giving the character of living acquaintance 6 
ought not undoubtedly to be omitted in his own, whence par 
tiality and prejudice were totally excluded, and truth alone 
presided in his tongue : a steadiness of conduct the more to be 
commended, as no man had stronger likings or aversions. His 

1 Miss Hawkins (Memoirs, i. 79), dotes] descriptive of Johnson's con- 
says that * Mrs. Piozzi [Mrs. Thrale, versation Mrs. Piozzi has written : 
she should have said], when living " We used to say to one another 
much with Johnson, had his tones, familiarly at Streatham Park, Come, 
which sat very ill on her little French let us go into the library, and make 
person.' Johnson speak Ramblers.'" Hay- 

3 * Having taken the liberty, this ward's Piozzi, i. 297. 

evening, to remark to Dr. Johnson, 4 Life, i. 39; Hi. 318, n. I. 

that he very often sat quite silent for 5 ' His recitation was grand and 

a long time, even when in company affecting, and, as Sir Joshua Reynolds 

with only a single friend, which I has observed to me, had no more 

myself had sometimes sadly ex- tone than it should have.' Ib. v. 115. 

perienced, he smiled and said, "It is ' His manner of reciting verses was 

true, Sir. Tom Tyers described me wonderfully impressive.' Murphy's 

the best. He once said to me, ' Sir, Johnson, p. 145. See post in Anec- 

you are like a ghost : you never speak dotes of W. Cooke. 

till you are spoken to.' " ' Life, v. 73. 6 * The person with whom we are 

See also ib. iii. 307, and ante, p. 290. acquainted. In this sense the plural 

3 Rasselas, chap. xvii. This pas- is in some authours acquaintance, 

sage is quoted in the Life, iv. 346. in others acquaintances' Johnson's 

' Opposite a passage [in the Ante- Dictionary. 



A necdotes. 

veracity was indeed, from the most trivial to the most solemn 
occasions, strict, even to seventy; he scorned to embellish 
a story with fictitious circumstances, which (he used to say) took 
off from its real value. 'A story (says Johnson) should be 
a specimen of life and manners ; but if the surrounding circum 
stances are false, as it is no more a representation of reality, it is 
no longer worthy our attention '.' 

For the rest That beneficence which during his life increased 
the comforts of so many, may after his death be perhaps 
ungratefully forgotten ; but that piety which dictated the serious 
papers in the Rambler, will be for ever remembered ; for ever, 
I think, revered. That ample repository of religious truth, 
moral wisdom, and accurate criticism, breathes indeed the 
genuine emanations of its great Author's mind, expressed too in 
a style so natural to him, and so much like his common mode of 
conversing 2 , that I was myself but little astonished when he told 
me, that he had scarcely read over one of those inimitable 
essays before they went to the press 3 . 

I will add one or two peculiarities more, before I lay down my 
pen. Though at an immeasurable distance from content in 

1 'Johnson said, "The value of 
every story depends on its being 
true. A story is a picture either of 
an individual or of human nature 
in general ; if it be false, it is a pic 
ture of nothing. For instance : 
suppose a man should tell that 
Johnson, before setting out for Italy, 
as he had to cross the Alps, sat 
down to make himself wings. This 
many people would believe ; but it 
would be a picture of nothing. 
******* used to think a story, 
a story, till I shewed him that truth 
was essential to it.' Life, ii. 433. 
See ante, p. 225. 

2 ' I could not help remarking how 
very like Dr. Johnson is to his writing, 
and how much the same thing it was 
to hear or to read him ; but that no 
body could tell that without coming 

to Streatham, for his language was 
generally imagined to be laboured 
and studied, instead of the mere 
common flow of his thoughts. " Very 
true," said Mrs. Thrale, " he writes 
and talks with the same ease, and in 
the same manner." ' Mme. D'Ar- 
blay's Diary, i. 120. 

3 'He told us, "almost all his 
Ramblers were written just as they 
were wanted for the press ; that 
he sent a certain portion of the 
copy of an essay, and wrote the 
remainder, while the former part of it 
was printing. When it was wanted, 
and he had fairly sat down to it, he 
was sure it would be done." ' Life, 
iii. 42. He carefully revised them 
for the collected edition. Ib. i. 203, 
n. 6. 




the contemplation of his own uncouth form and figure, he did 
not like another man much the less for being a coxcomb x . 
I mentioned two friends who were particularly fond of looking 
at themselves in a glass ' They do not surprise me at all by so 
doing (said Johnson) : they see, reflected in that glass, men who 
have risen from almost the lowest situations in life ; one to 
enormous riches, the other to every thing this world can give 
rank, fame, and fortune. They see likewise, men who have 
merited their advancement by the exertion and improvement of 
those talents which God had given them ; and I see not why 
they should avoid the mirror 2 . J 

The other singularity I promised to record, is this : That 
though a man of obscure birth himself, his partiality to people of 
family was visible on every occasion ; his zeal for subordination 
warm even to bigotry 3 ; his hatred to innovation 4 , and reverence 

1 * Johnson said foppery was never 
cured ; it was the bad stamina of 
the mind, which like those of the 
body were never rectified, once a 
coxcomb, and always a coxcomb.' 
Life, ii. 128. 

2 The first of these men, Mrs. 
Piozzi says, was John Cator, one 
of her husband's executors, and the 
second Alexander Wedderburne, Lord 
Loughborough and Earl of Rosslyn. 
Hayward's Piozzi, i. 296. Cator, 
likely enough, was the man men 
tioned in the following passage: 
1 Mrs. Thrale mentioned a gentleman 
who had acquired a fortune of four 
thousand a year in trade, but was 
absolutely miserable, because he 
could not talk in company ; so 
miserable, that he was impelled to 
lament his situation in the street to 
****** [? Seward], whom he hates, 
and who he knows despises him. 
" I am a most unhappy man (said 
he). I am invited to conversations. 
I go to conversations ; but, alas ! I 
have no conversation." JOHNSON. 
" Man commonly cannot be suc 

cessful in different ways. This 
gentleman has spent, in getting four 
thousand pounds a year, the time in 
which he might have learnt to talk ; 
and now he cannot talk." Mr. Per 
kins made a shrewd and droll re 
mark : " If he had got his four 
thousand a year as a mountebank, he 
might have learnt to talk at the same 
time that he was getting his fortune." ' 
Life, iv. 83. For a specimen of his 
talk see Letters, ii. 217, n. i. 

Of Wedderburne's rise Boswell 
says: 'When 1 look back on this 
noble person at Edinburgh, in situa 
tions so unworthy of his brilliant 
powers, and behold LORD LOUGH- 
BOROUGH at London, the change 
seems almost like one of the meta 
morphoses in (.. vid? Life, i. 387. 

3 ' I heard Dr. Johnson once say, 
" I have great merit in being zealous 
for subordination and the honours of 
birth ; for I can hardly tell who was 
my grandfather." ' Ib. ii. 261. 

4 ' He said to Sir William Scott, 
" The age is running mad after inno 
vation ; all the business of the world 




for the old feudal times *, apparent, whenever any possible 
manner of shewing them occurred. I have spoken of his piety, 
his charity, and his truth, the enlargement of his heart, and 
the delicacy of his sentiments ; and when I search for shadow 
to my portrait, none can I find but what was formed by pride, 
differently modified as different occasions shewed it ; yet never was 
pride so purified as Johnson's, at once from meanness and from 
vanity. The mind of this man was indeed expanded beyond the 
common limits of human nature, and stored with such variety of 
knowledge, that I used to think it resembled a royal pleasure- 
ground, where every plant, of every name and nation, flourished 
in the full perfection of their powers, and where, though lofty 
woods and falling cataracts first caught the eye, and fixed the 
earliest attention of beholders, yet neither the trim parterre nor 
the pleasing shrubbery, nor even the antiquated ever-greens, were 
denied a place in some fit corner of the happy valley. 

is to be done in a new way ; men are 
to be hanged in a new way ; Tyburn 
itself is not safe from the fury of 
innovation.'" Life, iv. 188. 

1 Johnson, had he read this, might 
have reproached Mrs. Piozzi, as he 
reproached the Earl of Chatham, 
with 'feudal gabble.' Ib. ii. 134, n. 
1 1 said,' writes Boswell, ' I believed 
mankind were happier in the ancient 
feudal state of subordination, than 
they are in the modern state of 

independency. JOHNSON. "To be 
sure, the Chief was : but we must 
think of the number of individuals. 
That they were less happy, seems 
plain ; for that state from which all 
escape as soon as they can, and to 
which none return after they have 
left it, must be less happy ; and this 
is the case with the state of depen- 
dance on a chief or great man." ' 
Ib. v. 106. See also ib. ii. 177; iii. 3. 


Naples, Feb. 10, 1786. 

SINCE the foregoing went to the press, having seen a passage 
from Mr. BoswelPs Tour to the Hebrides, in which it is said, that 
/ could not get through Mrs. Montagu's Essay on Shakespeare, 
I do not delay a moment to declare, that, on the contrary, 
I have always commended it myself, and heard it commended 
by every one else ; and few things would give me more concern 
than to be thought incapable of tasting, or unwilling to testify 
my opinion of its excellence 1 . 

1 ' I spoke of Mrs. Montague's very it ; for neither I, nor Beauclerk, nor 

high praises of Garrick. JOHNSON. Mrs. Thrale could get through it." ' 

" Sir, it is fit she should say so much, Life, v. 245. 

and I should say nothing. Reynolds For BoswelPs reply to Mrs. Piozzi's 

is fond of her book, and I wonder at Postscript see ib. n. 2. 








1 ' For this slight Essay the Booksellers paid Mr. Murphy ,300.' Nichols's 
Literary Anecdotes, ix. 159. 

VOL I. A a 




WHEN the works of a great Writer, who has bequeathed to 
posterity a lasting legacy, are presented to the world, it is 
naturally expected, that some account of his life should ac 
company the edition z . The Reader wishes to know as much as 
possible of the Author. The circumstances that attended him, 
the features of his private character, his conversation, and the 
means by which he rose to eminence, become the favourite 
objects of enquiry. Curiosity is excited ; and the admirer of his 
works is eager to know his private opinions, his course of study, 
the particularities of his conduct, and, above all, whether he 
pursued the wisdom which he recommends, and practised the 
virtue which his writings inspire. A principle of gratitude is 
awakened in every generous mind. For the entertainment and 
instruction which genius and diligence have provided for the 
world, men of refined and sensible tempers are ready to pay 
their tribute of praise, and even to form a posthumous friendship 
with the author. 

In reviewing the life of such a writer, there is, besides, a rule 
of justice to which the publick have an undoubted claim. Fond 
admiration and partial friendship should not be suffered to 
represent his virtues with exaggeration ; nor should malignity be 
C allowed, under a specious disguise, to magnify mere defects, the 
\ usual failings of human nature, into vice or gross deformity. 

1 Published in 1792 in 12 volumes octavo. 

A a 3 The 


Essay on 

The lights and shades of the character should be given ; and, if 
this be done with a strict regard to truth, a just estimate of 
Dr. Johnson will afford a lesson perhaps as valuable as the moral 

v doctrine that speaks with energy in every page of his works. 

The present writer enjoyed the conversation and friendship of 
that excellent man more than thirty years. He thought it an 
honour to be so connected, and to this hour he reflects on his 
loss with regret : but regret, he knows, has secret bribes, by 
which the judgement may be influenced, and partial affection 
may be carried beyond the bounds of truth. In the present 
case, however, nothing needs to be disguised, and exaggerated 
praise is unnecessary. It is an observation of the younger Pliny, 
in his Epistle to his Friend of Tacitus [sic], that history ought 
never to magnify matters of fact, because worthy actions require 
nothing but the truth. Nam nee historia debet egredi veritatem, 
et hones te factis veritas stifficit z . This rule the present bio 
grapher promises shall guide his pen throughout the following 

It may be said, the death of Dr. Johnson kept the public 
mind in agitation beyond all former example 2 . No literary 
character ever excited so much attention ; and, when the press 
has teemed with anecdotes, apophthegms, essays, and publications 
of every kind, what occasion now for a new tract on the same 
threadbare subject 3 ? The plain truth shall be the answer. The 

1 Efiistolae^ vii. 33. 10. 

2 ' His death,' writes Hannah 
More, ' made a kind of era in 
literature.' Memoirs, i. 394. 

Miss Martineau (Autobiography ', 
i. 438) records that Miss Berry, who 
died in 1852, used to tell 'how the 
world of literature was perplexed 
and distressed as a swarm of bees 
that have lost their queen when 
Dr. Johnson died.' 

3 The Rev. Dr. W. Barrow, <a 
coarse north-countryman but a very 
good scholar,' as Boswell described 

him, to whose academy in Soho 
Square he sent his son James (Letters 
to Temple, p. 315), wrote on Jan. 26, 
1786 :' The reviews and papers will 
tell you better than I can that the 
booksellers are engaged in a contest 
who shall publish the first and best 
edition of Johnson's Dictionary, and 
that his friends are running a race 
who shall be foremost in giving, or 
rather selling, to the world some 
scrap or fragment of our literary 
Leviathan an anecdote, a letter, or 
a character, a sermon, a prayer, or 

Johnson's Life and Genius. 


proprietors of Johnson's Works thought the life, which they 
prefixed to their former edition, too unwieldy for republication T . 
/The prodigious variety of foreign matter, introduced into that 
| performance, seemed to overload the memory of Dr. Johnson, 
x^and in the account of his own life to leave him hardly visible 2 . 
They wished to have a more concise, and, for that reason, per 
haps a more satisfactory account, such as may exhibit a just 
picture of the man, and keep him the principal figure in the fore 
ground of his own picture. To comply with that request is the 
design of this essay, which the writer undertakes with a trembling 
hand. He has no discoveries, no secret anecdotes, no occasional 
controversy, no sudden flashes of wit and humour, no private 
conversation, and no new facts to embellish his work. Every 
thing has been gleaned. Dr. Johnson said of himself, * I am not 
uncandid, nor severe: I sometimes say more than I mean, in 
jest, and people are apt to think me serious V The exercise of 

a bon-mot.' Letters of Radcliffe and 
James, p. 266. 

Romilly wrote from London on \ 
Aug. 20, 1790: 'I have been sur-\ 
prised, and I own a little indignant, ] 
to observe how little impression / 
Adam Smith's death has made here./ 
Scarce any notice has been taken ofV 
it, while for above a year together, 
after the death of Dr. Johnson, no 
thing was to be heard of but pane 
gyrics of him. Lives, Letters, and 
Anecdotes, and even at this moment 
there are two more Lives of him about 
to start into existence.' Romilly's 
Memoirs, i. 404. The two Lives 
were Boswell's and Murphy's. 

1 By Sir John Hawkins. It was 
prefixed to an edition of Johnson's 
Works in eleven volumes, published 
in 1787 at ^3 6s. 

2 Boswell, who in his text attacks 
Hawkins's Life, says in a note: 

Let me add, that though I doubt 
I should not have been very prompt 
K to gratify Sir John Hawkins with 
I ) any compliment in his life-time, I do 

how frankly acknowledge, that, in 
my opinion, his volume, however in 
adequate and improper as a life of 
Dr. Johnson, and however discredited 
by unpardonable inaccuracies in 
other respects, contains a collection 
of curious anecdotes and obser 
vations, which few men but its 
author could have brought together.' 
Life, i. 27. 

3 ' A friend was one day, about 
two years before his death, struck 
with some instance of Dr. Johnson's 
great candour. "Well, Sir, (said 
he,) I will always say that you are 
a very candid man." "Will you, 
(replied the Doctor,) I doubt then 
you will be very singular. But, in 
deed, Sir, (continued he,) I look upon 
myself to be a man very much mis 
understood. I am not an uncandid, 
nor am I a severe man. I sometimes 
say more than I mean, in jest ; and 
people are apt to believe me serious : 
however, I am more candid than 
I was when I was younger." ' Life, 
iv. 239. 


358 Essay on 

that privilege, which is enjoyed by every man in society, has 
not been allowed to him. His fame has given importance even 
to trifles, and the zeal of his friends has brought every thing to 
light. What should be related, and what should not, has been 
published without distinction. Dicenda tacenda locuti * ! Every 
thing that fell from him has been caught with eagerness by his 
admirers, who, as he says in one of his letters, have acted with 
the diligence of spies upon his conduct 2 . To some of them the 
following lines, in Mallet's Poem on Verbal Criticism, are not 
inapplicable : 

Such that grave bird in Northern seas is found, 
Whose name a Dutchman only knows to sound 3 , 
Where-e'er the king of fish moves on before, 
This humble friend attends from shore to shore; 
With eye still earnest, and with bill inclin'd [declin'd], 
He picks up what his patron drops behind, 
With those choice cates his palate to regale, 
And is the careful TlBBALD of A WHALE 4 . 

After so many essays and volumes of Johnsonian a, what remains 
for the present writer ? Perhaps, what has not been attempted ; 
a short, yet full, a faithful, yet temperate history of Dr. Johnson. 

SAMUEL JOHNSON was born at Lichfield, September 7, 1709, 
O.S. 5 His father, Michael Johnson, was a bookseller in that 
city ; a man of large athletic make, and violent passions ; 
wrongheaded, positive, and at times afflicted with a degree of 

1 * Ut ventum ad caenam est, di- the Strundt Jager. See a Collection 

cenda tacenda locutus, of Voyages in the North! Note by 

Tandem dormitum dimittitur.' MALLET. ' Struntjager ; Stercorarius 

' Behold him now at supper, Crepidatus ; Richardson's Strua.' 

where he said, Dresser's Birds of Europe, vol. 

Or right or wrong, what came viii. 

into his head/ 4 Poems on Several Occasions, by 

Francis's Horace, Epis. i. 7. 72. David Mallet. London, 1743, p. 184. 

2 'You never told me, and I Lewis Theobald, or Tibbald as his 
omitted to enquire, how you were name was pronounced, was the in- 
entertained by Boswell's Journal. genious editor of Shakespeare, most 
One would think the man had been unjustly libelled by a far inferior 
hired to be a spy upon me.' Letters, editor Pope. 

i. 330. 5 September 18, N. S. Ante, p. 

3 'This remarkable bird is called 129. 


Johnson's Life and Genius. 359 

melancholy, little short of madness x . His mother was sister to 
Dr. Ford, a practising physician, and father of Cornelius Ford, 
generally known by the name of PARSON FORD, the same who 
is represented near the punch-bowl in Hogarth's Modern Mid 
night Conversation 2 . In the Life of Fenton, Johnson says, that 
'his abilities, instead of furnishing convivial merriment to the 
voluptuous and dissolute, might have enabled him to excel 
among the virtuous and the wise.' Being chaplain to the Earl 
of Chesterfield, he wished to attend that nobleman on his embassy 
to the Hague. Colley Cibber has recorded the anecdote 3 . 
'You should go,' said the witty peer, 'if to your many vices 
you would add one more.' ' Pray, my Lord, what is that ? ' 
' Hypocrisy, my dear Doctor/ Johnson had a younger brother 
named Nathaniel, who died at the age of twenty-seven or twenty- 
eight 4 . Michael Johnson, the father, was chosen in the year 
1718 Under Bailiff of Lichfield, and in the year 1725 he served 
the office of the Senior Bailiff 5 . He had a brother of the name 
of Andrew, who, for some years, kept the ring at Smithfield, 
appropriated to wrestlers and boxers. Our author used to say, 
that he was never thrown or conquered 6 . Michael, the father, 
died December 1731, at the age of seventy-six 7 ; his mother at 
eighty-nine, of a gradual decay, in the year 1759. Of the family 
nothing more can be related worthy of notice. Johnson did not 

1 Ante, p. 148. reproached for my deficiency that 

2 Ante, p. 154. way." "True," replied the earl, "but 

3 Murphy probably got this anec- if you had still one more, almost 
dote from the Monthly Review, 1787, worse than all the rest put together, 
p. 275, where it is assigned to Colley it would hinder these from giving 
Cibber. I do not think that it is in scandal." ' Jonathan Richardson's 
his Apology. Richardsoniana, p. 225. 

' When parson Ford, an infamous Chesterfield was minister at the 
fellow, but of much off-hand and Hague from 172810 1732. His chap- 
conversation wit, besought Lord lain, Richard Chenevix, was after - 
Chesterfield to carry him over with wards Bishop of Waterford. Chester- 
him as his chaplain, when he went field's Misc. Works, i. 91. 
ambassador to Holland, he said to 4 He was born in 1712, and died 
him, " I would certainly take you, if in 1737. Life, iv. 393, n. 2. 
you had one vice more than you 5 Ib. i. 36, n. 4. 
already have." "My lord," said 6 Ante, p. 149. 
Fordj " I thought I should never be 7 Seventy-five. Life, iv. 393, n. 2. 



Essay on 

delight in talking of his relations. ' There is little pleasure,' he 
said to Mrs. Piozzi, ' in relating the anecdotes of beggary V 

Johnson derived from his parents, or from an unwholesome 
nurse, the distemper called the King's Evil. The Jacobites at 
that time believed in the efficacy of the royal touch ; and ac 
cordingly Mrs. Johnson presented her son, when two years old, 
before Queen Anne, who, for the first time, performed that office, 
and communicated to her young patient all the healing virtue 
in her power 2 . He was afterwards cut for that scrophulous 
humour, and the under part of his face was seamed and disfigured 
by the operation. It is supposed, that this disease deprived him 
of the sight of his left eye, and also impaired his hearing. At 
eight years old, he was placed under Mr. Hawkins, at the Free- 
school at Lichfield, w r here he was not remarkable for diligence 
or regular application 3 . Whatever he read, his tenacious memory 
made his own 4 . In the fields with his school-fellows he talked 
more to himself than with his companions 5 . In 1725, when he 
was about sixteen years old, he went on a visit to his cousin 
Cornelius Ford, who detained him for some months, and in 
the mean time assisted him in the classics. The general direction 
for his studies, which he then received, he related to Mrs. Piozzi. 

) p. 148. 

2 Ante, pp. 133, 152. 

3 Ante, p. 138. 

4 In theZz/<? of Johnson published 
by Kearsley, said to be written by 
' Conversation ' Cooke (Nichols's Lit. 
Hist. vii. 467), it is stated (p. 107) 
that Hawkesworth read his Ode on 
Life to Johnson, ' and asked him for 
his opinion, " Why, Sir, (says John 
son,) I can't well determine on a 
first reading, second thoughts are 
best." Hawkesworth complied, after 
which Johnson read it himself and 
returned it. Next morning at break 
fast Johnson said he had but one 
objection to make to it, which was 
that he doubted its originality. 
Hawkesworth alarmed at this chal 

lenged him to the proof; when the 
Doctor repeated the whole of the 
poem with only the omission of a 
very few lines. " What do you say 
now, Hawkey?" says the Doctor. 
" Only this," replied the other, "that 
I shall never repeat anything I write 
before you again, for you have a 
memory that would convict any 
author of plagiarism in any court of 
literature in the world." The poem 
contains 68 lines.' 

5 ' Mr. Hector relates that " he 
could not oblige him more than by 
sauntering away the hours of vacation 
in the fields, during which he was 
more engaged in talking to himself 
than to his companion." ' Life, i. 
48, and Hawkins's/^^, p. 7. 

' Obtain/ 

Johnson's Life and Genius. 361 

' Obtain/ says Ford, ' some general principles of every science : 
he who can talk only on one subject, or act only in one de 
partment, is seldom wanted, and, perhaps, never wished for ; 
while the man of general knbwledge can often benefit, and 
always please 1 .' This advice Johnson seems to have pursued 
with a good inclination. His reading was always desultory, 
seldom resting on any particular author, but rambling from one 
book to another, and, by hasty snatches, hoarding up a variety 
of knowledge. It may be proper in this place to mention another 
general rule laid down by Ford for Johnson's future conduct :. 
' You will make your way the more easily in the world, as you 
are contented to dispute no man's claim to conversation-excel 
lence : they will, therefore, more willingly allow your pretensions 
as a writer 2 .' ' But/ says Mrs. Piozzi, ' the features of peculiarity, 
which mark a character to all succeeding generations, are slow 
in coming to their growth.' That ingenious lady adds, with her 
usual vivacity, ' Can one, on such an occasion, forbear recollecting 
the predictions of Boileau's father, who said, stroking the head 
of the young satirist, " this little man has too much wit, but he 
will never speak ill of any one " 3 ? ' 

On Johnson's return from Cornelius Ford, Mr. Hunter, then 
Master of the Free-school at Lichfield, refused to receive him 
again on that foundation 4 . At this distance of time, what his 
reasons were, it is vain to enquire : but to refuse assistance to 
a lad of promising genius must be pronounced harsh and illiberal. 
It did not, however, stop the progress of the young student's 
education. He was placed at another school, at Stourbridge in 
Worcestershire, under the care of Mr. Wentworth 5 . Having gone 
through the rudiments of classic literature, he returned to his 
father's house, and was probably intended for the trade of 
a bookseller. He has been heard to say that he could bind 

1 Ante, p. 155. 3 According to Mrs. Piozzi, Boi- 

2 It was not a general rule laid leau's father said : ' Ce petit bon 
down by Ford, but his observa- homme n'a point trop d'esprit/ &c. 
tion of Johnson's character. He Ante, p. 155. 

said : ' You will make your way the 4 Hawkins's Johnson, p. 8. 
more easily in the world, / see,' &c. 5 Ante, p. 159, n. 3. 
Ante, ib. 

a book. 


Essay on 

a book I . At the end of two years, being then about nineteen, he 
went to assist the studies of a young gentleman, of the name of 
Corbet, to the University of Oxford ; and on the 3ist of October, 
1728, both were entered of Pembroke College; Corbet as 
a gentleman-commoner, and Johnson as a commoner 2 . The 
college tutor, Mr. Jordan, was a man of no genius ; and Johnson, 
it seems, shewed an early contempt of mean abilities, in one or 
two instances behaving with insolence to that gentleman 3 . Of 
his general conduct at the university there are no particulars 
that merit attention, except the translation of Pope's Messiah, 
which was a college exercise imposed upon him as a task by 
Mr. Jordan 4 . Corbet left the university in about two years, and 
Johnson's salary ceased 5 . He was, by consequence, straitened 
in his circumstances ; but he still remained at college. Mr. Jor 
dan, the tutor, went off to a living ; and was succeeded by 
Dr. Adams, who afterwards became head of the college, and was 
esteemed through life for his learning, his talents, and his amiable 
character. Johnson grew more regular in his attendance. Ethics, 
theology, and classic literature were his favourite studies 6 . He 

1 Life, i. 56, n. 2 ; Letters, ii. 89. 

2 Corbet had entered the year 
before. Life, i. 58, n. i. 

3 Ante, p. 164. ' He had a love 
and respect for Jorden, not for his 
literature, but for his worth. " When 
ever (said he) a young man becomes 
Jorden's pupil, he becomes his son.'" 
Life, i. 61. 

4 Boswell recorded in his note 
book in March 1776: 'Mr. Hector 
told me that the Master of Pem 
broke used to see him idling away 
his time in the quadrangle, and 
that he set him a task to turn 
Pope's Messiah into Latin (wrong, 
he was asked very civilly by Jorden 
to do it) upon which Mr. Johnson 
produced his admirable version of 
that poem.' Morrison Allographs, 
2nd Series, i. 368. See Life, i. 61. 

5 Murphy gets this statement from 
Hawkins, p. 9. Dr. Taylor told 

Boswell that though Corbet's father 
had promised to support Johnson 
at Oxford ' in the character of his 
son's companion, in fact he never 
received any assistance whatever 
from that gentleman.' Life, i. 58. 

Corbet, as the books of the College 
show, entered in 1727. In October, 
1728, his charges became irregular, 
and ceased altogether in the following 
December, when no doubt he left 
College. Johnson, as I have shown, 
was only fourteen months in Col 
lege, leaving in December, 1729. 
Ib. i. 78, n. 2. Adams was only ' his 
nominal tutor.' Ib. p. 79. 

6 Hawkins, p. II. 'He told me 
what he read solidly at Oxford was 
Greek . . . that the study of which 
he was the most fond was Meta- 
physicks, but he had not read much 
even in that way.' Life, i. 70. 


Johnson's Life and Genius. 363 

discovered, notwithstanding, early symptoms of that wandering 
disposition of mind which adhered to him to the end of his life. 
His reading was by fits and starts, undirected to any particular 
science x . General philology, agreeably to his cousin Ford's 
advice, was the object of his ambition. He received, at that 
time, an early impression of piety 2 , and a taste for the best 
authors ancient and modern. It may, notwithstanding, be ques 
tioned whether, except his Bible, he ever read a book entirely 
through. Late in life, if any man praised a book in his pre 
sence, he was sure to ask, ' Did you read it through ? ' If the 
answer was in the affirmative, he did not seem willing to believe 
it 3 . He continued at the university till the want of pecuniary 
supplies obliged him to quit the place. He obtained, however, 
the assistance of a friend, and returning in a short time was able 
to complete a residence of three years 4 . The history of his 
exploits at Oxford, he used to say, was best known to Dr. Taylor 
and Dr. Adams 5 . Wonders are told of his memory, and, 
indeed, all who knew him late in life can witness that he 
retained that faculty in the greatest vigour 6 . 

From the university Johnson returned to Lichfield. His father 
died soon after, December 1731 ; and the whole receipt out of his 
effects, as appeared by a memorandum in the son's hand-writing, 
dated i5th June, 1732, was no more than twenty pounds 7 . In 

1 Hawkins, p. 12. which never took place, attributes 

2 Hawkins (p. 18) fathers these Johnson's maintenance at college to 
' sentiments of piety ' on ' the order ' the bounty, as it is supposed, of 
and discipline of a college life . . . some one or more of the members 
the early calls to prayers, the fre- of the Cathedral [of Lichfield].' 
quent instructions from the pulpit, Murphy goes a step further and 
with all the other means of religious speaks positively of a friend. 

and moral improvement.' Johnson 5 Ante, p. 166. 

told Boswell that it was reading 6 See Life, v. 368, for a singular 

Law's Serious Call to a Holy Life proof of his memory at the age of 

which { was the first occasion of his sixty-four, and ante, p. 437. 

thinking in earnest of religion after 7 The entry of this is remarkable 

he became capable of rational in- for his early resolution to preserve 

quiry.' Life, i. 68. through life a fair and upright char- 

3 Ante, p. 319. acter : '1732, Junii 15. Undecim 

4 Hawkins (p. 16), in accounting aureos deposui, quo die, quidquid 
for this second period of residence, ante matris funus (quod serum sit 


3 6 4 

Essay on 

this exigence, determined that poverty should neither depress 
his spirit nor warp his integrity, he became under-master of 
a Grammar-school at Market Bosworth in Leicestershire. That 
resource, however, did not last long. Disgusted by the pride of 
Sir Wolstan Dixie, the patron of that little seminary, he left the 
place in discontent, and ever after spoke of it with abhorrence *. 
In 1733 he went on a visit to Mr. Hector, who had been his 
school-fellow, and was then a surgeon at Birmingham, lodging at 
the house of Warren, a bookseller 2 . At that place Johnson 

precor) de paternis bonis sperare 
licet, viginti scilicet libras, accepi. 
Usque adeo mihi mea fortuna fin- 
genda est interea, et ne paupertate 
vires animi languescant. ne in flagitia 
egestas adigat, cavendum.' Note by 
Murphy. Bos well gives the date 
Julii 15 ; for sperare he has sperari, 
and he thus gives the last para 
graph : ' Usque adeo mihi fortuna 
fingenda est. Interea, ne paupertate 
vires animi languescant, nee in fla 
gitia egestas abigat, cavendum.' Life, 
i. 80. Hawkins (p. 21) differs both 
from Murphy and Boswell. 

1 Life, i. 84 ; Letters, i. 2. 

Boswell recorded in his note-book 
at Lichfield in March, 1776 :' After 
leaving Oxford Mr. Johnson lived at 
home. Then, as Miss Porter in 
formed me, he got the school of 
Bosworth. He was very unhappy 
there, with Sir Woolston Dixey, an 
abandoned brutal rascal. Dr. Taylor 
told me this, and said Dr. Johnson 
did not like to recollect that diss- 
agreeable [sic] period of his life, that 
he said to him that it was uneasy to 
him to see that side of the town (I 
suppose of Ashburn) which leads to 
Bosworth ; that he could not bear 
the horrid disgust of that state, and 
threw up the school. He then was 
tutor to the son of Mr. Whitby. His 
pupil did not live to inherit the 
estate.' Morrison Autographs, 2nd 

Series, i. 369. In Dixey's house 
Johnson is said ' to have officiated as 
a kind of domestick chaplain, so far, 
at least, as to say grace at table.' 
Life, i. 84. Addison, in the Guardian, 
No. 163, gives a letter from a young 
nobleman's chaplain, who writes : 
' I have, with much ado, maintained 
my post hitherto at the dessert, and 
every day eat tart in the face of my 
patron, but how long I shall be in 
vested with this privilege I do not 
know. For the servants, who do not 
see me supported as I was in my 
old lord's time, begin to brush very 
familiarly by me, and thrust aside 
my chair when they set the sweet 
meats on the table.' South (Sermons, 
iv. 136) describes how ' some keep 
chaplains, not out of any concern 
for religion, but as it is a piece of 
grandeur something above keeping 
a coach ; though in such cases he 
who serves at the altar has gene 
rally as much contempt and disdain 
passed upon him as he who serves 
in the kitchen.' 

2 Life, i. 85. 

' Miss Porter told me the Birming 
ham people could not bear Mr. 
Johnson, and he did not say why. 
I suppose from envy of his parts, 
though I do not see how traders 
could envy such qualities.' Morrison 
Allographs, 2nd Series, i. 369. 


Johnson's Life and Genius. 365 

translated a Voyage to Abyssinia, written by Jerome Lobo, 
a Portugueze missionary. This was the first literary work from 
the pen of Dr. Johnson. His friend Hector was occasionally his 
amanuensis. The work was, probably, undertaken at the desire 
of Warren, the bookseller, and was printed at Birmingham ; but 
it appears in the Literary Magazine, or History of the Works of 
the Learned, for March, 1735, that it was published by Bettes- 
worth and Hitch, Pate r-noster- row *. . . 

Having finished this work, Johnson returned in February, 
1734, to his native city, and, in the month of August following, 
published Proposals for printing by subscription, the Latin 
Poems of Politian, with the History of Latin Poetry, from the 
^Era of Petrarch to the time of Politian ; and also the Life of 
Politian, to be added by the Editor, Samuel Johnson 2 . The 
book to be printed in thirty octavo sheets price five shillings. 
It is to be regretted that this project failed for want of encourage 
ment. Johnson, it seems, differed from Boileau, Voltaire, and 
D'Alembert, who have taken upon them to proscribe all modern 
efforts to write with elegance in a dead language 3 . For a 
decision, pronounced in so high a tone, no good reason can be 
assigned. The interests of learning require, that the diction of 

1 Life, i. 87. scholar of the present age would 

Major (afterwards Sir Francis) dream of writing the history of this 

Head accused Johnson of having late period of Latin poetry ? 
translated Lobo to injure the sale of 3 Johnson in his last work shows 

Bruce's Travels. Gentleman's Maga- his fondness for modern Latin poetry. 

sine, 1830, ii. 482. These Travels He says :' Pope had sought for 

were published six years after John- images and sentiments in a region 

son's death. not known to have been explored by 

1 omit ten pages containing an many other of the English writers ; 
extract from the preface given in he had consulted the modern writers 
the Life, i. 88, and an abstract of the of Latin poetry, a class of authors 
book. whom Boileau endeavoured to bring 

2 ' Angeli Politiani Poemata Lati- into contempt, and who are too 
na,quibus,NotascumhistoridLatin(E generally neglected.' Works, viii. 
poeseos, d Petrarchce <zvo ad Poli- 299. 

Hani tempora deditctd, et vitd Poli- Boileau ridicules them in a Frag- 

tiani fusius qitam antehac enarratd, nient de Dialogue, where the Inter- 
addidit SAM. JOHNSON.' Life, i. 90. locideurs are 'Apollon, Horace, des 
Petrarch was born in 1304; Poli- Muses, des Poetes.' CEuvres, ed. 
tian died in 1494. What young 1747, iii. 55. 


3 66 

Essay on 

Greece and Rome should be cultivated with care ; and he who 
can write a language with correctness, will be most likely to 
understand its idiom, its grammar, and its peculiar graces of 
style. What man of taste would willingly forego the pleasure 
of reading Vida, Fracastorius, Sannazaro, Strada x , and others, 
down to the late elegant productions of Bishop Lowth 2 ? The 
history which Johnson proposed to himself would, beyond all 
question, have been a valuable addition to the history of letters ; 
but his project failed. His next expedient was to offer his 
assistance to Cave, the original projector of the Gentleman's 
Magazine. For this purpose he sent his proposals in a letter, 
offering, on reasonable terms, occasionally to fill some pages 
with poems and inscriptions never printed before ; with fugitive 
pieces that deserved to be revived, and critical remarks on 
authors ancient and modern. Cave agreed to retain him as 
a correspondent and contributor to the Magazine 3 . What the 
conditions were cannot now be known ; but, certainly, they were 
not sufficient to hinder Johnson from casting his eyes about him 
in quest of other employment. Accordingly, in 1735, he made 
overtures to the reverend Mr. Budworth, Master of a Grammar- 

1 'Upon the whole Erasmus is 
rather a versifier than a poet, and is 
not to be ranked amongst the Italian 
poets of those days, Sannazarius, 
Fracastorius, Vida, &c., many of 
whom wrote better than any of the 
ancients, except Lucretius, Virgil, 
Horace and a few more.' Jortin's 
Erasmus, i. 60 1. 

Addison, in the Guardian, Nos. 
115, 119, writes about Strada's Pro 
lusion, describing it as ' one of the 
most entertaining as well as the most 
just pieces of criticism that I have 
ever read.' 

The Earl of Aberdeen (the Prime- 
minister), when a Cambridge under 
graduate of eighteen years old, wrote 
to a friend in 1802 : ' I will in some 
sort defend Vida when we meet, but 
meanwhile do you read Sannazarius. 
You will be pleased with him and 

also with Fracastorius.' The Earl 
of Aberdeen, 1893, p. 8. 

For a charge brought against Sir 
Walter Scott of stealing from one of 
Vida's poems see Life, i. 230, n. I. 

2 Lowth's ' incomparable Praelec- 
tiones on the Poetry of the Hebrews ' 
(Gibbon's Misc. Works, ed. 1814, 
i. 51) were published in 1753. 'All 
Scotland,' said Johnson, ' could not 
muster learning enough for Lowth's 
Prelections' Life, v. 57, n. 3. 

3 Murphy follows Hawkins (p. 29) 
in this statement. The letter was 
written on Nov. 25, 1734, and was 
answered on Dec. 2. ' But whether,' 
says Boswell, ' anything was done 
in consequence of it we are not in 
formed.' Jo. i. 92. 'His first per 
formance in the Gentleman's Maga 
zine was a copy of Latin verses in 
March, 1738.' Ib. p. 113. 


Johnson's Life and Genius. 367 

school at Brerewood, in Staffordshire, to become his assistant. 
This proposition did not succeed. Mr. Budworth apprehended, 
that the involuntary motions, to which Johnson's nerves were 
subject, might make him an object of ridicule with his scholars, 
and, by consequence, lessen their respect for their master *. 
Another mode of advancing himself presented itself about this 
time. Mrs. Porter, the widow of a mercer in Birmingham, 
admired his talents. It is said that she had about eight hundred 
pounds ; and that sum to a person in Johnson's circumstances 
was an affluent fortune 2 . A marriage took place ; and, to turn 
his wife's money to the best advantage, he projected the scheme 
of an academy for education 3 . Gilbert Walmsley, at that time 
Register of the Ecclesiastical Court of the Bishop of Lichfield, 
was distinguished by his erudition and the politeness of his 
manners. He was the friend of Johnson, and, by his weight and 
influence, endeavoured to promote his interest 4 . The celebrated 
Garrick, whose father, Captain Garrick, lived at Lichfield, was 
placed in the new seminary of education by that gentleman's 
advice. Garrick was then about eighteen years old. An acces 
sion of seven or eight pupils was the most that could be obtained 5 , 
though notice was given by a public advertisement 6 , that at 

1 Hawkins, p. 32 ; Life, iv. 407, i. 95. There is no doubt that she 
n. 4. had some property. Ib. n. 3. 

In the same year he applied for 3 By the fineness of his language 
the mastership of Solihull Grammar Murphy, like Milton's biographers, 
School in Warwickshire. The ' Fceo- seems to shrink from stating that 
fees ' did not approve of him, as ' he Johnson thought of starting a board- 
has the character of being a very ing-school. A few lines lower down 
haughty, ill-natured gent, and y* he he calls it ' a seminary of educa- 
has such a way of distorting his tion.' Johnson defines Academy as 
Face (w h though he can't help) y e 'a place of education, in contradis- 
gent. think it may affect some young tinction to the universities or public 
ladds.' Ib. vi. Addenda, p. 44. schools.' 

2 Murphy here follows Hawkins 4 Hawkins, p. 35 ; Life, i. 81. 

(p. 33), who, in his turn, followed the s Hawkins, p. 36. According to 

anonymous author of Memoirs of the Boswell (Life, i. 97) there were only 

Life &>c. of Dr. Johnson, ed. 1785, three pupils. 

p. 25. Boswell speaks of the mar- 6 Gent. Mag., 1736, pp. 360, 428. 

riage as 'a very imprudent scheme Pembroke College has lately acquired 

both on account of their disparity of a desk which belonged to Johnson 

years and her want of fortune.' Life, at Edial. 


Essay on 

Edial, near Lichfield, in Staffordshire, young Gentlemen are 
boarded and taught the Latin and Greek Languages, by Samuel 

The undertaking proved abortive. Johnson, having now 
abandoned all hopes of promoting his fortune in the country, 
determined to become an adventurer in the world at large. 
His young pupil, Garrick, had formed the same resolution 1 ; 
and, accordingly, in March, 1737, they arrived in London 
together. Two such candidates for fame perhaps never, before 
that day, entered the metropolis together. Their stock of 
money was soon exhausted 2 . In his visionary project of an 
academy Johnson had probably wasted his wife's substance ; 
and Garrick's father had little more than his half-pay. The 
two fellow-travellers had the world before them, and each was 
to chuse his road to fortune and to fame. They brought with 
them genius, and powers of mind, peculiarly formed by nature 
for the different vocations to which each of them felt himself 
inclined. They acted from the impulse of young minds, even 
then meditating great things, and with courage anticipating 
success. Their friend Mr. Walmsley, by a letter to the Rev. 
Mr. Colson, who, it seems, was a great mathematician, exerted 
his good offices in their favour. He gave notice of their in 
tended journey 3 . ' Davy Garrick,' he said, ' will be with you 
next week ; and Johnson, to try his fate with a tragedy, and 
to get himself employed in some translation either from the 
Latin or French. Johnson is a very good scholar and a poet, 
and, I have great hopes, will turn out a fine tragedy-writer. 
If it should be in your way, I doubt not but you will be ready 
to recommend and assist your countrymen.' Of Mr. Walmsley 's 
merits and the excellence of his character, Johnson has left 
a beautiful testimonial at the end of the Life of Edward Smith 4 . 
It is reasonable to conclude, that a mathematician, absorbed 
in abstract speculations, was not able to find a sphere of 

1 Garrick's intention was ' to com 
plete his education and follow the 
profession of the law.' Life, i. 101. 

f Ib. n. i. 

3 Ib. i. 102. Murphy does not 
quote the letter accurately. 

4 Edmund Smith. Works, vii. 
380; Life, i. 81. 


Johnson's Life and Genius. 


action for two men who were to be the architects of their own 
fortune. In three or four years afterwards Garrick came forth 
with talents that astonished the publick. He began his career 
at Goodman's-fields z , and there, monstratus fatis Vespasianus" 2 ! 
he chose a lucrative profession, and consequently soon emerged 
from all his difficulties. Johnson was left to toil in the humble 
walks of literature. A tragedy, as appears by Walmsley's letter, 
was the whole of his stock. This, most probably, was IRENE 3 ; 
but, if then finished, it was doomed to wait for a more happy 
period. It was offered to Fleetwood, and rejected. Johnson 
looked round him for employment. Having, while he remained 
in the country, corresponded with Cave under a feigned name, 
he now thought it time to make himself known to a man whom 
he considered as a patron of literature 4 . Cave had announced, 
by public advertisement, a prize of fifty pounds for the best 

1 On Oct. 19, 1741. Murphy's 
Garrick, pp. 13, 16. 

2 Tacitus, Agricola, c. 13. ' Des 
tiny learnt to know its favourite.' 
Church and Brodribb's Translation. 

3 It was Irene. Life, i. 100. 

Boswell recorded in his note 
book : ' Peter Garrick told me that 
Mr. Johnson went first to London, 
to see what could be made of his 
tragedy of Irene ; that he remembers 
his borrowing the Turkish History 
(I think Peter said of htm] in order 
to take the story of his play out of 
it ; that he and Mr. Johnson went to 
the Fountain Tavern by themselves, 
and Mr. Johnson read it to him. 
This, Mr. Peter Garrick told me at 
Lichfield, Sunday, 24 March, 1778. 
Mr. Porter, son to Mrs. Johnson, was 
by, and objected that the Fountain 
was a notorious bawdy-house. Peter 
said it might be so, but that people 
might be decently there, as well as 
anywhere else ; that he belonged to 
a West India club kept there, at 
which a dozen of Madeira used to be 
set before the fire to toast, and that 

VOL. I. B 

they never had women with them.' 
Morrison Autographs, i. 369. 

For the Fountain Tavern see Life, 
i. ill, and for the rejection of Irene 
by Fleetwood, the patentee of Drury 
Lane Theatre, see ib. i. m, 153, and 
Letters, i. 5. 

In the advertisement at the end of 
Theatrical Records, 1756, are eight 
tragedies published by Dodsley, 
Irene among them each at eighteen- 
pence. On p. 103 is mentioned Irene 
or the Fair Greek, a Tragedy by 
Charles Goring, 1708. 

Gilbert Swinhoe, in 1658, pub 
lished The Tragedy of the imhappy 
fair Irene. Lowndes's Biblio. Man. 
p. 2562. 

4 Murphy in this is following 
Hawkins. Johnson had not written 
* under a feigned name.' He had 
said : ' Your letter by being directed 
to S. Smith, to be left at the Castle 
Inn, Birmingham will reach your 
humble servant.' Life, i. 92. His 
letter, to which Murphy now refers 
(Ib. i. 107), clearly shows that the 
first had had no result. 
b Poem 

370 Essay on 

Poem on Life, Death, Judgement, Heaven, and Hell x ; and this 
circumstance diffused an idea of his liberality. Johnson became 
connected with him in business, and in a close and intimate 
acquaintance. Of Cave's character it is unnecessary to say any 
thing in this place, as Johnson was afterwards the biographer 
of his first and most useful patron 2 . To be engaged in the 
translation of some important book was still the object which 
Johnson had in view. For this purpose he proposed to give 
the History of the Council of Trent, with copious notes then 
lately added to a French edition. Twelve sheets of this work 
were printed 3 , for which Johnson received forty-nine pounds, 
as appears by his receipt in the possession of Mr. Nichols, the 
compiler of that entertaining and useful work, the Gentleman's 
Magazine. Johnson's translation was never completed ; a like 
design was offered to the publick, under the patronage of 
Dr. Zachary Pearce ; and by that contention both attempts 
were frustrated 4 . Johnson had been commended by Pope for 
the translation of the. Messiah into Latin verse; but he knew 
no approach to so eminent a man 5 . With one, however, who 
was connected with Pope, he became acquainted at St. John's 
Gate ; and that person was no other than the well-known 
Richard Savage, whose life was afterwards written by Johnson 
with great elegance, and a depth of moral reflection. Savage 
was a man of considerable talents. His address, his various 

1 'Cave sometimes offered subjects 2 Ib. i. 256. 

for poems, and proposed prizes for 3 Only six sheets. ' A few copies 
the best performers. The first prize were intended to be reserved ; but 
was fifty pounds, for which, being they were so carefully put by as to 
but newly acquainted with wealth, be lost in the mass of Mr. Cave's 
and thinking the influence of fifty papers deposited in St. John's Gate.' 
pounds extremely great, he expected Gentleman's Magazine, 1787, p. 345. 
the first authors of the kingdom to 4 Life, i. 107, 135. 
appear as competitors ; and offered 5 ' It was shown to Pope by a son 
the allotment of the prize to the of Dr. Arbuthnot, then a gentleman- 
universities. But when the time commoner of Christ Church. He 
came, no name was seen among the returned it with this encomium : 
writers that had ever been seen be- " The writer of this poem will leave 
fore ; the universities and several it a question for posterity whether 
private men rejected the province his or mine be the original." ' Haw- 
of assigning the prize.' Johnson's kins, p. 13. 
Works, vi. 432 ; Life, i. 91. 


Johnson's Life and Genius. 371 

accomplishments, and, above all, the peculiarity of his mis 
fortunes recommended him to Johnson's notice. They became 
united in the closest intimacy. Both had great parts, and they 
were equally under the pressure of want. Sympathy joined 
them in a league of friendship. Johnson has been often heard 
to relate, that he and Savage walked round Grosvenor-square 
till four in the morning ; in the course of their conversation 
reforming the world, dethroning princes, establishing new forms 
of government, and giving laws to the several states of Europe, 
till, fatigued at length with their legislative office, they began 
to feel the want of refreshment ; but could not muster up more 
than four pence halfpenny x . Savage, it is true, had many vices ; 
but vice could never strike its roots in a mind like Johnson's, 
seasoned early with religion, and the principles of moral recti 
tude. His first prayer was composed in the year I738 2 . He 
had not at that time renounced the use of wine 3 ; and, no doubt, 
occasionally enjoyed his friend and his bottle. The love of late 
hours, which followed him through life, was, perhaps, originally 

1 ' Johnson told Sir Joshua Key- said : ' It used to cost the rest a 
nolds, that one night in particular, shilling, for they drank wine ; but 
when Savage and he walked round I had a cut of meat for six-pence, 
St. James's-square for want of a and bread for a penny, and gave the 
lodging, they were not at all de- waiter a penny ; so that I was quite 
pressed by their situation ; but in well served, nay, better than the rest, 
high spirits and brimful of patriotism, for they gave the waiter nothing.' 
traversed the square for several Ib. i. 103. 

hours, inveighed against the minister, In a marginal note Leigh Hunt 

and " resolved they would stand by says : ' Lord Byron, in repeating 

their country"* Life, i. 164. In this story, of which he was fond, 

Grosvenor Square, when the Thrales used to dwell upon these particular 

were living there, he had his own words, "a cut of meat," with great and 

room (Ib. iv. 72, n. i), and recalling pleasant gusto.' A Shelf of Old Books > 

the old days, thought perhaps how by Mrs. James T. Fields, p. 174. The 

' the whirligig of time brings in his price of wine is shown in the follow- 

revenge.' ing quotation : ' Her spirits grew 

2 Ante, p. 7. very low ; and she was once or twice 

3 Boswell, writing of Johnson's going to ring the bell, to send her 
first visit to London in 1737, says: maid for half a pint of white wine ; 
4 He at this time, I beiieve, ab- but checked her inclination, in order 
stained entirely from fermented to save the little sum of sixpence.' 
liquors.' Life, i. 103. Amelia, Bk. x. ch. v. 'White wine' 

Johnson describing his dinner at is sherry, 
the Pine Apple, in New Street, 

B b 2 contracted 


Essay on 

contracted in company with Savage. However that may be, 
their connection was not of long duration. In the year 1738, 
Savage was reduced to the last distress. Mr. Pope, in a letter 
to him, expressed his concern for ' the miserable withdrawing of 
his pension after the death of the Queen * ; ' and gave him hopes 
that, 'in a short time, he should find himself supplied with 
a competence, without any dependance on those little creatures, 
whom we are pleased to call the Great 2 .' The scheme proposed 
to him was, that he should retire to Swansea in Wales, and 
receive an allowance of fifty pounds a year, to be raised by 
subscription ; Pope was to pay twenty pounds 3 . This plan, 
though finally established, took more than a year before it was 
carried into execution. In the mean time, the intended retreat 
of Savage called to Johnson's mind the third satire of Juvenal, in 
which that poet takes leave of a friend, who was withdrawing 
himself from all the vices of Rome. Struck with this idea, he 
wrote that well-known Poem, called London. The first lines 
manifestly point to Savage 4 . 

Though grief and fondness in my breast rebel, 

When injured Thales bids the town farewell ; 

Yet still my calmer thoughts his choice commend; 

I praise the hermit, but regret the friend. 

Resolv'd at length from Vice and London far, 

To breathe in distant fields a purer air ; 

And, fix'd on Cambria's solitary shore, 

Give to St. David one true Briton more. 

1 ' Savage,' said Adam Smith, 
'was but a worthless fellow; his 
pension of fifty pounds never lasted 
him above a few days. As a sample of 
his economy you may take a circum 
stance that Johnson himself told me. 
It was, at that period, fashionable to 
wear scarlet cloaks trimmed with 
gold lace : the Doctor met him one 
day, just after he had received his 
pension, with one of these cloaks 
upon his back, while, at the same 
time, his naked toes were peeping 
through his shoes.' Buchan MSS. 
quoted in Croker's Boswell, x. 122. 

2 This letter, I think, is not extant. 
The passages quoted in the text are 

given, without Pope's name, in John 
son's Works, viii. 169. 

3 Ib. viii. 318. 

4 Boswell denies this. In a note 
I have examined the question. Life, 
i. 125, n. 4. 

Mr. Hussey (Life, iii. 369), in a 
MS. note in the Life, says : ' John 
son told me that London was written 
many years before he was acquainted 
with Savage, and that it was even 
published before he knew him of 
which I informed Mr. Boswell, who 
did not think proper to believe me. 
Johnson also said that by Thales he 
did not mean any particular person.' 


Johnson's Life and Genius. 373 

Johnson at that time lodged at Greenwich x . He there fixes 
the scene, and takes leave of his friend ; who. he says in his Life, 
parted from him with tears in his eyes 2 . The poem, when 
finished, was offered to Cave 3 . It happened, however, that the 
late Mr. Do.dsley was the purchaser at the price often guineas 4 . 
It was published in 7 738 ; and Pope, we are told, said, ' The 
author, whoever he is, will not be long concealed ; ' alluding to 
the passage in Terence, Ubi, ubi est, diu celari non potest 5 . 
Notwithstanding that prediction, it does not appear that, besides 
the copy-money, any advantage accrued to the author of a poem, 
written with the elegance and energy of Pope. Johnson, in 
August I738 6 , went, with all the fame of his poetry, to offer 
himself a candidate for the mastership of the school at Appleby, 
in Leicestershire. The statutes of the place required, that the 
person chosen should be a master of arts. To remove this 
objection, the late Lord Gower was induced to write to a friend, 
in order to obtain for Johnson a master's degree in the Univer 
sity of Dublin, by the recommendation of Dr. Swift 7 . 

This scheme miscarried. There is reason to think, that Swift 
declined to meddle in the business ; and to that circumstance 
Johnson's known dislike of Swift has been often imputed 8 . 

1 He had lodged at Greenwich a art, thou canst not long be con- 
year earlier. Life, i. 107. He was cealed." ' Hawkins, p. 60. Per- 
living in Castle Street, Cavendish haps he recollected the line in Le 
Square, when he wrote London. Ib. Misanthrope, Act iii. sc. 8 : 

p. 1 20. * Un merite e*clatant se de'terre 

2 'Savage left London in July, lui-meme.' 

1739, having taken leave with great Johnson never saw Pope, as the fol- 

tenderness of his friends, and parted lowing note by Mr. Hussey shows : 

from the author of this narrative with ' Asking Johnson if he had ever been 

tears in his eyes.' Works, viii. 173. in Mr. Pope's company he replied, 

3 Life, i. 120. " No, Sir, I never saw Pope." ' Yet 

4 Id. p. 124. Pope lived seven years after John- 

5 Eunuchus, ii. 3, 4. * Pope said, son's first visit to London. 

" he will soon be de"terreV' ' Life, i. 6 It was in 1739 that Johnson went 

129. ' Pope recollected perhaps a pas- to Appleby. Life, i. 132, n. I ; Let- 

sage recorded of Milton, who, seeing a ters, i. 3, n. I . 

beautiful young lady pass him whom 7 For Lord Gower's letter, which 

he never had seen before, turned to I omit, see Life, i. 133. 

look at her and said, " Whoever thou 8 ' I once took the liberty to ask 



Essay on 

It is mortifying to pursue a man of merit through all his 
difficulties ; and yet this narrative must be, through many 
following years, the history of Genius and Virtue struggling with 
Adversity. Having lost the school at Appleby, Johnson was 
thrown back on the metropolis. Bred to no profession, without 
relations, friends, or interest, he was condemned to drudgery in 
the service of Cave, his only patron. In November 1738 was 
published a translation of Crousaz's Examen of Pope's Essay 
on Man ; ( containing a succinct View of the System of the 
Fatalists, and a Confutation of their Opinions ; with an Illustra 
tion of the Doctrine of Free Will ; and an Enquiry, what view 
Mr. Pope might have in touching upon the Leibnitzian Philo 
sophy, and Fatalism. By Mr. Crousaz, Professor of Philosophy 
and Mathematics at Lausanne.' This translation has been 
generally thought a production of Johnson's pen ; but it is now 
known, that Mrs. Elizabeth Carter has acknowledged it to be 
one of her early performances 1 . It is certain, however, that 
Johnson was eager to promote the publication. He considered 
the foreign philosopher as a man zealous in the cause of 
religion ; and with him he was willing to join against the 
system of the Fatalists, and the doctrine of Leibnitz 2 . It is 
well known that Warburton wrote a vindication of Mr. Pope 3 ; 
but there is reason to think, that Johnson conceived an early 
prejudice against the Essay on Man ; and what once took root 
in a mind like his, was not easily eradicated. His letter to 

Johnson if Swift had personally of 
fended him, and he told me he had 
not.' Life, v. 44. 

'Johnson attributed the Tale of 
a Tub to Arbuthnot. He thought 
Swift not equal to it.' MS. note 
by Mr. Hussey. See post in Percy's 

1 Life, i. 137. 

Her father wrote to her on June 
25, 1738 : ' You mention Johnson ; 
but that is a name with which I 
am utterly unacquainted. Neither 
his scholastic, critical, or poetical 
character ever reached my ears. I a 

little suspect his judgment if he is 
very fond of Martial.' Memoirs of 
Mrs. Carter^ i. 39. 

2 ' No, Sir ; Leibnitz was as paltry 
a fellow as I know.' Life, v. 287. 

3 'The Rev. Mr. Strahan clearly 
recollects having been told by John 
son, that the King observed that 
Pope made Warburton a Bishop. 
" True, Sir, (said Johnson,) but War- 
burton did more for Pope ; he made 
him a Christian : " alluding, no doubt, 
to his ingenious Comments on the 
Essay on Man? Ib. ii. 37, n. I ; 
Works, viii. 289. 


Johnson's Life and Genius. 375 

Cave on this subject is still extant, and may well justify 
Sir John Hawkins, who inferred that Johnson was the translator 
of Crousaz J . The conclusion of the letter is remarkable. ' I am 
yours, IMPRANSUS.' If by that Latin word was meant that he 
had not dined, because he wanted the means, who can read it, 
even at this hour, without an aching heart 2 ? 

With a mind naturally vigorous, ang 1 quickened by necessity, 
Johnson formed a multiplicity of "projects ;* but most of them 
proved abortive. A number of small tracts issued from his pen 
with wonderful rapidity ; such as ' MARMOR NORFOLCIENSE ; 
or an Essay on an ancient prophetical Inscription, in Monkish 
Rhyme, [lately] discovered at Lynn [near Lynne] in Norfolk. 
By Probus Britannicus! This was a pamphlet against Sir 
Robert Walpole. According to Sir John Hawkins, a warrant 
was issued to apprehend the Author, who retired with his wife 
to an obscure lodging near Lambeth Marsh, and there eluded 
the search of the messengers 3 . But this story has no foundation 
in truth. Johnson was never known to mention such an incident 
in his life ; and Mr. Steele (late of the Treasury) caused diligent 
search to be made at the proper offices, and no trace of such 
a proceeding could be found 4 . In the same year (1739) the 
Lord Chamberlain prohibited the representation of a tragedy, 
called GUSTAVUS VASA, by Henry Brooke. Under the mask 
of irony Johnson published, 'A Vindication of the Licencer 
from the malicious and scandalous Aspersions of Mr. Brooke V 
Of these two pieces Sir John Hawkins says, ' they have neither 
learning nor wit ; not a single ray of that genius which has 
since blazed forth 6 ;' but as they have been lately re-printed, 

1 Hawkins, p. 67. once a dreary marsh, and still in 

2 Life, i. 137. The original of parts called Lambeth Marsh. . . . 
this letter, owing to this one word Most of this tract is become firm 
impransus^ was sold in 1888 for 46. land, and covered with most useful 
Letters, i. 3. buildings, even to the edge of the 

3 Hawkins, p. 72. river.' 
Pennant, in his London (1790, p. 4 Life, i. 141. 

30), writes: 'From Lambeth I re- 5 Ib. i. 140. 

turned by the water-side, near the end 6 Hawkins, p. 78. Murphy's quo- 

of Westminster Bridge, along a tract tation is inaccurate. 


37 6 

Essay on 

the reader, who wishes to gratify his curiosity, is referred to the 
fourteenth volume of Johnson's works, published by Stockdale \ 
The lives of Boerhaave, Blake, Barratier, Father Paul, and 
others, were, about that time, printed in the Gentleman's 
Magazine 2 . The subscription of fifty pounds a year for Savage 
was completed 3 ; and in July, 1739, Johnson parted with the 
companion of his midnight-hours, never to see him more. The 
separation was, perhaps, an advantage to him, who wanted to 
make a right use of his time, and even then beheld, with 
self-reproach, the waste occasioned by dissipation. His absti 
nence from wine and strong liquors began soon after the 
departure of Savage 4 . What habits he contracted in the course 
of that acquaintance cannot now be known. The ambition 
of excelling in conversation, and that pride of victory, which, 
at times, disgraced a man of Johnson's genius, were, perhaps, 
native blemishes 5 . A fierce spirit of independence, even in 
the midst of poverty, may be seen in Savage ; and, if not thence 
transfused by Johnson into his own manners, it may, at least, 
be supposed to have gained strength from the example before 
him. During that connection there was, if we believe Sir John 
Hawkins, a short separation between our author and his wife 6 ; 
but a reconciliation soon took place. Johnson loved her, and 
shewed his affection in various modes of gallantry, which Garrick 
used to render ridiculous by his mimicry. The affectation of 
soft and fashionable airs did not become an unwieldy figure : 
his admiration was received by the wife with the flutter of an 
antiquated coquette ; and both, it is well known, furnished matter 
for the lively genius of Garrick 7 . 

1 Works, v. 329 ; vi. 89. 

2 Life, i. 139, 140, 147, 153. 

3 Johnson, in his Life of Savage, 
says, ' the subscription did not 
amount to fifty pounds a year ; ' in 
his Life of Pope he states that Pope 
raised for him forty pounds. Works, 
viii. 173, 318. 

4 It had begun before, though it 
might have been interrupted. Ante, 
P-37i,- 3- 

5 Murphy makes ' the ambition of 
excelling in conversation' a blemish. 

6 ' While he was in a lodging in 
Fleet Street she was harboured by 
a friend near the Tower.' Hawkins, 
p. 89. See Life, i. 163, n. 2. In 
' the exact list of his places of resi 
dence' which he gave to Boswell 
(Ib. iii. 405, n. 6) he does not men 
tion Fleet Street. 

7 Ib. i. 99. 


Johnson's Life and Genius. 


It is a mortifying reflection, that Johnson, with a store of 
learning and extraordinary talents, was not able, at the age 
of thirty, to force his way to the favour of the publick. Slow 
rises worth by poverty depressed*. 'He was still,' as he says 
himself, ' to provide for the day that was passing over him 2 .' 
He saw Cave involved in a state of warfare with the numerous 
competitors 3 , at that time struggling with the Gentleman's 
Magazine ; and gratitude for such supplies as Johnson received, 
dictated a Latin Ode on the subject of that contention 4 . The 

Urbane, nullis fesse laboribus, 
Urbane, nullis victe calumniis, 

put one in mind of Casimir's Ode to Pope Urban : 

Urbane, regum maxime, maxime 
Urbane vatum. 

The Polish poet was, probably, at that time in the hands of 
a man who had meditated the history of the Latin poets 5 . 

1 'This mournful truth is every 

where confess'd ; 
Slow rises worth by poverty 


Johnson parodied the first line in 
the following verse : 
* Yet hear, alas ! this mournful truth, 

Nor hear it with a frown ; 
Thou canst not make the tea so 

As I can gulp it down.' 

Letters, ii. 113, n. 3. 

2 ' Much of my life has been lost 
under the pressures of disease ; much 
has been trifled away ; and much has 
always been spent in provision for 
the day that was passing over me.' 
Works, v. 49. 

3 The chief rivals, according to 
Hawkins (p. 90), were 'a knot of 
booksellers, the proprietors of the 
London Magazine' He adds (p. 92) 
that ' the check which the increasing 
demand for the Gentleman's Maga 
zine gave to the sale of its rival was 

so great as to throw back no fewer 
than 70,000 copies on the hands of 
the proprietors.' To make up this 
vast number he must have added 
together the surplus copies of many 
months, if not years. Cave was 
libelled as a madman. By way of 
reply he merely reprinted in his own 
Magazine the most scurrilous of the 

4 Life, i. 113. 

5 Ante, p. 365. 

'Casimir Sarbiewski, whose name 
has been Latinised into Sarbievius 
(1646). His contemporaries con 
sidered him as the greatest rival of 
Horace that had appeared, and he 
received a gold medal from the Pope, 
who made him his laureate. Many 
of his works were translated into 
English by Dr. Watts.' Morfill's 
Poland, p. 278. 

Johnson describes him as 'a writer 
who has many of the beauties and 
faults of Cowley.' Works, vii. 39. 


378 Essay on 

Guthrie, the historian 1 , had from July 1736 composed the 
parliamentary speeches for the Magazines ; but, from the begin 
ning of the session which opened on the I9th of November 1740, 
Johnson succeeded to that department, and continued it from 
that time to the debate on spirituous liquors, which happened in 
the House of Lords in February, 1742-3 2 . The eloquence, the 
force of argument, and the splendor of language, displayed in 
the several speeches, are well known, and universally admired. 
The whole has been collected in two volumes by Mr. Stockdale, 
and may form a proper supplement to this edition. ' That 
Johnson was the author of the debates during that period was 
not generally known ; but the secret transpired several years 
afterwards, and was avowed by himself on the following occa 
sion. Mr. Wedderburne (now Lord Loughborough), Dr. Johnson, 
Dr. Francis (the translator of Horace) 3 , the present writer, and 
others, dined with the late Mr. Foote. An important debate 
towards the end of Sir Robert Walpole's administration being 
mentioned, Dr. Francis observed, ' That Mr. Pitt's speech, on 
that occasion, was the best he had ever read.' He added, 
' That he had employed eight years of his life in the study of 
Demosthenes, and finished a translation of that celebrated orator, 
with all the decorations of style and language within the reach 
of his capacity; but he had met with nothing equal to the 
speech above-mentioned.' Many of the company remembered 
the debate ; and some passages were cited, with the approbation 
and applause of all present. During the ardour of conversation 
Johnson remained silent. As soon as the warmth of praise 
subsided, he opened with these words : ' That speech I wrote in 
a garret in Exeter-street.' The company was struck with 
astonishment. After staring at each other in silent amaze, 
Dr. Francis asked, ' How that speech could be written by him?' 

^ i. 116; ii. 52; iv. 30. in a few weeks that he preferred 

2 Ib. i. 150, 501-512. the pleasures of London to the in- 

3 Gibbon, who at the age of four- struction of his pupils.' It was this 
teen was Francis's pupil, says: discovery which carried Gibbon at 
' The translator of Horace might so early an age to Oxford. Misc. 
have taught me to relish the Latin Works, i. 40. 

poets, had not my friends discovered 

' Sir,' 

Johnson's Life and Genius. 


' Sir/ said Johnson, ' I wrote it in Exeter-street. I never had 
been in the gallery of the House of Commons but once. Cave 
had interest with the door-keepers T . He, and the persons 
employed under him, gained admittance: they brought away 
the subject of discussion, the names of the speakers, the side 
they took, and the order in which they rose, together with notes 
of the arguments advanced in the course of the debate. The 
whole was afterwards communicated to rne, and I composed the 
speeches in the form which they now have in the Parliamentary 
debates V To this discovery Dr. Francis made answer : * Then, 
Sir, you have exceeded Demosthenes himself; for to say, that 
you have exceeded Francis's Demosthenes, would be saying 
nothing.' The rest of the company bestowed lavish encomiums 
on Johnson : one, in particular, praised his impartiality ; observ 
ing, that he dealt out reason and eloquence with an equal hand 
to both parties. ' That is not quite true,' said Johnson ; ' I saved 
appearances tolerably well ; but I took care that the WHIG DOGS 
should not have the best of it V The sale of the Magazine was 

1 Some of the speeches had been 
previously given in the Political Stale 
of Great Britain. ' These for the 
most part were taken by stealth, and 
were compiled from the information 
of listeners and the under-officers 
and door-keepers of either house ; 
but Cave had an interest with some 
of the members of both, arising from 
an employment he held in the post- 
office, that of inspector of the franks. 
... I have been informed by some 
who were much about him that, 
taking with him a friend or two, he 
found means to procure admission 
into the gallery of the House of 
Commons, or to some concealed 
station in the other, and that then 
they privately took down notes of 
the several speeches. Thus furnished 
they would adjourn to a neighbouring 
tavern, and compare and adjust their 
notes.' Hawkins, p. 94. 

2 In Appendix A to vol. i. of the 
Lt/e, I have examined the whole 

question of Johnson's Debates. On 
the above passage I say : ' Murphy 
wrote from memory. This dinner 
with Foote must have taken place 
at least nineteen years before this 
account was published, for so many 
years had Dr. Francis been dead. 
At the time when Johnson was living 
in Exeter-street he was not engaged 
on the magazine. Nevertheless, the 
main facts may be true enough. 
Johnson himself told Boswell (Life, 
iii. 351) that in Lord Chesterfield's 
Miscellaneous Works (ii. 319) there 
were two speeches ascribed to Chester 
field which he had himself entirely 
written. Horace Walpole (Letters, 
i. 147) complained that the published 
report of his own first speech " did 
not contain one sentence of the true 
one." ' 

3 Sir Robert Walpole, speaking in 

the House on January 24, 1738 

(before Johnson had begun to write 

the Debates), said : ' I have read 


3 8o 

Essay on 

greatly increased by the Parliamentary debates J , which were 
continued by Johnson till the month of March, 1742-3. From 
that time the Magazine was conducted by Dr. Hawkesworth 2 . 

In 1743-4, Osborne, the bookseller, who kept a shop in 
Gray's-Inn, purchased the Earl of Oxford's library, at the price 
of thirteen thousand pounds. He projected a catalogue in 
five octavo volumes, at five shillings each. Johnson was em 
ployed in that painful drudgery 3 . He was likewise to collect 
all such small tracts, as were in any degree worth preserving, 
in order to reprint and publish the whole in a collection, called 
'The Harleian Miscellany 4 .' The catalogue was completed; 
and the Miscellany in 1749 was published in eight quarto 
volumes. In this business Johnson was a day-labourer for im 
mediate subsistence, not unlike Gustavus Vasa working in the 
mines of Dalecarlia. What Wilcox, a bookseller of eminence in 
the Strand, said to Johnson, on his first arrival in town, was now 
almost confirmed. He lent our author five guineas, and then 
asked him, ' How do you mean to earn your livelihood in 
this town?' ' By my literary labours,' was the answer. Wilcox, 
staring at him, shook his head : ' By your literary labours ! You 
had better buy a porter's knot.' Johnson used to tell this 
anecdote to Mr. Nichols ; but he said, 'Wilcox was one of my best 
friends, and he meant well V In fact, Johnson, while employed 

debates wherein all the wit, learning, 
and argument have been thrown into 
one side, and on the other nothing but 
what was low, mean, and ridiculous 
... If any gentleman will take the 
trouble, which, I own, I very seldom 
do, to look into these magazines, he 
will find four pages wrote against the 
government for one that is in its 
favour.' Coxe's Walpole, i. 570-2. 

1 The sale, according to Hawkins 
(p. 123), rose from ten to fifteen 
thousand copies a month. 

The Private Journal of Dr. John 
Byrom mentions that, in 1739, 10,000 
copies were printed; and of the 
London Magazine, 7,000 copies. 
Gentleman's Magazine, 1857, i. 149. 

2 The Magazine was, I believe, 
still conducted by Cave. Hawkes 
worth wrote the Debates. Hawkins, 
p. 132. He probably in other ways 
supplied Johnson's place, who, after 
1743, wrote very little in it. 

3 Life,\. 153. 

4 Ib. i. 175 ; Hawkins, pp. 132-150. 

5 Life, i. 1 02, n. 2. 

'Any porter has the liberty of 
bringing goods into London ; but 
may not carry any out of the city, 
or from one part of it to another, 
unless he be a freeman ; otherwise 
he is liable to be arrested.' Dodsley's 
London, 1761, v. 206. See also W. C. 
Hazlitt's Livery Companies, 1892, 
p. 154. 


Johnson's Life and Genius. 381 

in Gray's- Inn, may be said to have carried a porter's knot. 
He paused occasionally, to peruse the book that came to his 
hand. Osborne thought that such curiosity tended to nothing 
but delay, and objected to it with all the pride and insolence 
of a man, who knew that he paid daily wages. In the dispute 
that of course ensued, Osborne, with that roughness which was 
natural to him, enforced his argument by giving the lie. 
Johnson seized a folio, and knocked the bookseller down 1 . 
This story has been related as an instance of Johnson's ferocity ; 
but merit cannot always take the spurns of the unworthy with 
a patient spirit. 

That the history of an author must be found in his works is, 
in general, a true observation 2 ; and was never more apparent 
than in the present narrative. Every sera of Johnson's life is 
fixed by his writings. In 1744, he published the Life of 
Savage ; and then projected a new edition of Shakspeare. As 
a prelude to this design, he published, in 1745, Miscellaneous 
Observations on the Tragedy of Macbeth, with Remarks on 
Sir Thomas Hanmers Edition ; to which were prefixed, Pro 
posals for a new Edition of Shakspeare, with a Specimen. Of 
this pamphlet Warburton, in the Preface to Shakspeare, has 
given his opinion: 'As to all those things, which have been 
published under the title of Essays, Remarks, Observations, &c. 
on Shakspeare, if you except some critical notes on Macbeth^ 
given as a specimen of a projected edition, and written, 
as appears, by a man of parts and genius, the rest are 
absolutely below a serious notice 3 .' But the attention of 

1 Murphy gets the story from (1745) when, as Macaulay says, to 
Hawkins, who places the scene in be praised by Warburton was no 
Osborne's shop. ' The simple truth,' light thing. And he did not know 
says Boswell, 'I had from Johnson the contemptuous and brutal language 
himself. " Sir, he was impertinent to in which Warburton had written of 
me, and I beat him. But it was not in him to Kurd only two years after 
his shop ; it was in my own chamber.' the " praise." " Of this Johnson you 
Life,\. 154. See also ante, p. 304. and I, I believe, think much alike. 

2 Life, iv. 98. His remarks have in them as much 

3 ' Johnson always remembered folly as malignity." ' Pattison's Es- 
with gratitude that he had been says, ed. 1889, ii. 158. 

praised by Warburton at a time Warburton's letter was written on 


3 82 

Essay on 

the publick was not excited ; there was no friend to promote 
a subscription; and the project died, to revive at a future 
day 1 . A new undertaking, however, was soon after pro 
posed; namely, an English Dictionary, upon an enlarged 
plan. Several of the most opulent booksellers had meditated 
a work of this kind ; and the agreement was soon adjusted 
between the parties 2 . Emboldened by this connection, Johnson 
thought of a better habitation than he had hitherto known. 
He had lodged with his wife in courts and alleys about the 
Strand 3 ; but now, for the purpose of carrying on his arduous 

Oct. 31, 1765, not two, but twenty 
years after this 'praise.' It was pro 
voked by the severe criticisms of 
his Shakespeare by Johnson in the 
edition which he had just published. 
Letters from a Late Eminent Pre 
late, ist ed., p. 272. 

1 Dr. Anderson, in his Life of 
Johnson, 1815, p. 106, gives a letter 
dated April u, 1745, in which Ton- 
son threatens Cave with a Chancery 
suit if he prints Shakespeare. That, 
he says, 'will be the method we 
shall take with any one who shall 
attack our property in this or any 
other copy that we have fairly bought 
and paid for.' The University of 
Oxford, it was true, had lately pub 
lished Hanmer's edition ; but, ' if 
you call on me,' Tonson continues, 
' I will give my reasons why we 
rather chuse to proceed with the 
University by way of reprisal for 
their scandalous invasion of our rights 
than by law.' 

Lord Camden, in the judgment 
which he gave in the House of Lords 
on Feb. 22, 1774, on the great copy 
right case says : ' Shakespeare's 
works, which he left carelessly be 
hind him in town when he retired 
from it, were surely given to the 
public if ever author's were ; but 
two prompters, or players behind the 
scenes, laid hold of them, and the 

present proprietors pretend to derive 
that copy from them, for which the 
author himself never received a far 
thing.' Par/. Hist., xvii. 1000. 

For the booksellers' claim of copy 
right see Life, i. 437, and Letters of 
Hume to Strahan, p. 275, where I 
have examined it at some length. 

They had undertaken to publish 
Warburton's Shakespeare which ap 
peared in 1747, and so would not 
in 1745 suffer a rival edition. In 
1756 they themselves engaged John 
son as editor. Life, i. 175, 318; 
Hawkins, p. 361. 

'Warburton (said Quin the player) 
ought to have stuck to his own Bible, 
and not to have meddled with ours.' 
Nichols, Lit. Hist., ii. 840. 

2 Life, i. 182. Hawkins, who had 
seen the original contract, says that 
it was dated June 18, 1746. Hawkins, 
p. 345. I had not noticed this fact 
when I wrote my note 2 on vol. i. 
p. 176 of the Life, where 1774 is a 
misprint for 1747. It adds to the 
absurdity of Croker's suspicion that 
Johnson was at this time absent or 
concealed on account of some dif 
ficulties which had arisen through 
the rebellion of 1745. 

3 For a list of his lodgings, which 
had not all been about the Strand, 
see Life, iii. 405, n. 6. 


Johnson's Life and Genius. 383 

undertaking, and to be near his printer and friend Mr. Strahan, 
he ventured to take a house in Gough-square, Fleet-street x . 
He was told that the Earl of Chesterfield was a friend to his 
undertaking ; and, in consequence of that intelligence, he pub 
lished, in 1747, The Plan of a Dictionary of the English 
Language., addressed to the Right Honourable Philip Dormer, 
Earl of Chesterfield, one of his Majesty s principal Secretaries 
of State 2 . Mr. Whitehead, afterwards Poet Laureat, undertook 
to convey the manuscript to his Lordship : the consequence was 
an invitation from Lord Chesterfield to the author 3 . A stronger 
contrast of characters could not be brought together ; the 
Nobleman, celebrated for his wit, and all the graces of polite 
behaviour; the Author, conscious of his own merit, towering 
in idea above all competition, versed in scholastic logic, but 
a stranger to the arts of polite conversation, uncouth, vehement, 
and vociferous. The coalition was too unnatural 4 . Johnson 
expected a Maecenas, and was disappointed 5 . No patronage, 
no assistance followed. Visits were repeated ; but the reception 
was not cordial. Johnson one day was left a full hour, waiting 
in an anti-chamber, till a gentleman should retire, and leave his 
Lordship at leisure. This was the famous Colley Cibber. 
Johnson saw him go, and, fired with indignation, rushed out 
of the house 6 . What Lord Chesterfield thought of his visitor 

1 Life, i. 1 88. Strahan lived at who carried it to Lord Chesterfield.' 

No. 10, Little New Street, Shoe Id. i. 184. 

Lane. Napier's Boswell, iii. 560. 4 ' In a short time the moral, pious 

3 For the 'casual excuse for lazi- Johnson and the gay, dissipated 

ness ' which led Johnson to address Beauclerk were companions. "What 

his Plan to the Earl of Chesterfield, a coalition ! " said Garrick when he 

see Life, i. 183. heard of this.' Ib. i. 249. 

3 ' Dr. Taylor told me, that John- * Of Andrew Millar, the printer, 
son sent his Plan to him in manu- Johnson said 'he is the Maecenas of 
script, for his perusal ; and that when the age.' Ib. i. 287, n. 3. 
it was lying upon his table, Mr. 6 Hawkins (p. 189) tells the same 
William Whitehead happened to pay story, which had long been current, 
him a visit, and being shewn it, was 'But,' writes Boswell, 'Johnson him- 
highly pleased with such parts of it self assured me, that there was not 
as he had time to read, and begged the least foundation for it. He told 
to take it home with him, which he me, that there never was any par- 
was allowed to do ; that from him ticular incident which produced a 
it got into the hands of a noble Lord, quarrel between Lord Chesterfield 



Essay on 

may be seen in a passage in one of that Nobleman's letters 
to his son (Letter CCXli). * There is a man, whose moral 
character, deep learning, and superior parts, I acknowledge, 
admire, and respect ; but whom it is so impossible for me to 
love, that I am almost in a fever whenever I am in his company. 
His figure (without being deformed) seems made to disgrace or 
ridicule the common structure of the human body. His legs 
and arms are never in the position which, according to the 
situation of his body, they ought to be in, but constantly 
employed in committing acts of hostility upon the Graces. He 
throws any where, but down his throat, whatever he means to 
drink ; and only mangles what he means .to carve. Inattentive 
to all the regards of social life, he mistimes or misplaces every 
thing. He disputes with heat and indiscriminately, mindless 
of the rank, character, and situation of those with whom he 
disputes ; absolutely ignorant of the several gradations of 
familiarity and respect, he is exactly the same to his superiors, 
his equals, and his inferiors ; and therefore, by a necessary 
consequence, absurd to two of the three. Is it possible to love 
such a man ? No. The utmost I can do for him is, to consider 
him a respectable Hottentot V Such was the idea entertained 

and him ; but that his Lordship's 
continued neglect was the reason 
why he resolved to have no con 
nection with him.' Life, i. 257. 

1 I have shewn that it was not of 
Johnson but of George Lyttelton that 
Chesterfield was writing. Life, i. 
267 ; Dr. Johnson, His Friends and 
his Critics, p. 214. 

'Johnson said to me many years 
before he published his Preface [to 
Lyttelton's Poems], " Lord Lyttelton 
was a worthy good man, but so un 
gracious that he did not know how 
to be a Gentleman."' MS. note by 
Mr. Hussey, in Mr. H. Symonds's 
copy of the Life. 

I do not know when Hottentot first 
came into common use. Addison, in 
the Freeholder for Jan. 6, 1716, de 
scribes how a Hottentot, who had 

been brought to England, and 'in 
a great measure polished out of his 
natural barbarity, upon being carried 
back to the Cape of Good Hope, 
mixed in a kind of transport with 
his countrymen, brutalized with them 
in their habits and manners, and 
would never again return to his 
foreign acquaintance.' 

Dr. Watts, in the first page of his 
Logick, published in 1724, says that 
'the improvement of reason hath 
raised the learned and the prudent 
in the European world almost as 
much above the Hottentots, and other 
savages of Africa, as those savages 
are by nature superior to the birds, 
the beasts, and the fishes. 

Fielding, in Tom Jones (Bk. xvi. 
ch. 8), describes Lady Bellaston as 
being ' much better pleased with the 


Johnson s Life and Genius. 


by Lord Chesterfield. After the incident of Colley Gibber, 
Johnson never repeated his visits. In his high and decisive tone, 
he has been often heard to say, ' Lord Chesterfield is a Wit 
among Lords, and a Lord among Wits V 

In the course of the year 1747, Garrick, in conjunction with 
Lacy, became patentee of Drury-lane Playhouse 2 . For the 
opening of the theatre, at the usual time, Johnson wrote for his 
friend the well-known prologue 3 , which, to say no more of it, 
may at least be placed on a level with Pope's to the tragedy of 
Cato. The play-house being now under Garrick's direction, 

prospect of making the proposals to 
a woman of sense, and who knew 
the world, than to a gentleman whom 
she honoured with the appellation of 

Horace Walpole, writing of 'the 
atric genius,' says : ' In Southern it 
seemed a genuine ray of nature and 
Shakspeare, but falling on an age 
still more Hottentot was stifled in 
those gross and barbarous productions, 
tragi-comedies.' Quoted in Warton's 
Pope's Works, iv. 198. 

' The young men of this day are 
quite Hottentots,' wrote in 1797 the 
author of the Life of G. M. Berkeley. 
Berkeley's Poems ; p. 313. 

A Hottentot was a good deal lower 
than a Goth. 

1 'This man (said he) I thought 
had been a Lord among wits ; but, 
I find, he is only a wit among Lords !' 
Life, i. 266. 

2 The partnership lasted till 1773. 
Davies's Life of Garrick, i. 100 ; 
ii. 289. 

3 Life, i. 181 ; Works, i. 23. 

In this Prologue Johnson, speaking 
of ' the wits of Charles,' says : 
' Themselves they studied, as they 

felt they writ, 

Intrigue was plot, obscenity was 

VOL. I. 

Yet bards like these aspir'd to 
lasting praise, 

And proudly hoped to pimp in future 


He concludes : 
'Bid scenick virtue form the rising age, 

And truth diffuse her radiance from 

the stage.' 

This contrasts oddly with an at 
tempt made by Garrick only two 
years later. Johnson says that Ot- 
way's Friendship in Fashion ' was, 
upon its revival at Drury Lane in 
1749, hissed off the stage for immo 
rality and obscenity.' Works, vii. 174. 
'The wits of Charles' is perhaps 
borrowed from The Spectator, No. 5, 
where Addison writes of ' the wits of 
King Charles's time.' 

The Prologue, writes Hawkins (p. 
198), 'failed in a great measure of 
its effect ; the town, it is true, sub 
mitted to the revival of Shakespeare's 
plays, recommended, as they were, 
by the exquisite acting of Mr. Garrick ; 
but in a few winters they discovered 
an impatience for pantomimes and 
ballad-farces. Mr. Garrick gave up 
the hope of correcting the public 
taste, and became so indifferent 
about it, that he once told me that, 
if the town required him to exhibit 
the Pilgrim's Progress in a drama, 
he would do it.' 
c c Johnson 

386 Essay on 

Johnson thought the opportunity fair to think of his tragedy of 
Irene, which was his whole stock on his first arrival in town, 
in the year 1737. That play was accordingly put into rehearsal 
in January 1749. As a precursor to prepare the way, and 
awaken the public attention, The Vanity of Human Wishes, 
a Poem in Imitation of the Tenth Satire of Juvenal, by the 
Author of London, was published in the same month T . In the 
Gentleman's Magazine, for February, 1749, we find that the 
tragedy of Irene was acted at Drury-lane, on Monday, February 
the 6th, and from that time, without interruption, to Monday, 
February the 2oth, being in all thirteen nights 2 . Since that time 
it has not been exhibited on any stage. Irene may be added to 
some other plays in our language, which have lost their place 
in the theatre, but continue to please in the closet. During 
the representation of this piece, Johnson attended every night 
behind the scenes. Conceiving that his character, as an author, 
required some ornament for his person, he chose, upon that 
occasion, to decorate himself with a handsome waistcoat, and 
a gold-laced hat. The late Mr. Topham Beauclerc, who had 
had a great deal of that humour which pleases the more for 
seeming undesigned 3 , used to give a pleasant description of this 
Green-room finery, as related by the author himself ; * But,' said 

1 Life, i. 192. Gibber's Lives of the Poets, v. 339, 
Irene &&& Tom Jones are announced where it is stated that 'George Lillo 

in the Gentleman's Magazine for rather chose George Barnwell should 

February, p. 96. take its fate in the summer than run 

2 In the Gentleman's Magazine for the more hazardous fate of encounter- 
1749, p. 76, it is stated that 'Irene ing the winter criticks.' 

was acted from Monday, Feb. 6, to 3 Johnson, speaking of Beauclerk, 

Monday, Feb. 20, inclusive.' Accord- said, that ' no man ever was so free 

ing to Boswell and Hawkins, it was when he was going to say a good 

only acted nine nights. Life, i. 197 ; thing, from a look that expressed 

Hawkins, p. 199. that it was coming ; or, when he 

Gibbon, in a note to the Decline had said it, from a look that ex- 

and Fall, ed. 1802, xii. 223, attacks pressed that it had come.' Life, "> 

'the extravagance of the rant' in 425. 

one of Mahomet's speeches. ' His Another time he said : ' Every- 

passion soars above sense and thing comes from him so easily. It 

reason.' appears to me that I labour when 

The winter season was a trying I say a good thing.' Ib. v. 76. 
time for a new play, as is shown in 


Johnson's Life and Genius. 387 

Johnson, with great gravity, ' I soon laid aside my gold-laced 
hat, lest it should make me proud V The amount of the three 
benefit nights for the tragedy of Irene, it is to be feared, was not 
very considerable, as the profit, that stimulating motive, never 
invited the author to another dramatic attempt 2 . Some years 
afterwards, when the present writer was intimate with Garrick, 
and knew Johnson to be in distress, he asked the manager why 
he did not produce another tragedy for his Lichfield friend? 
Garrick's answer was remarkable : ' When Johnson writes 
tragedy, declamation roars, and passion sleeps*: when Shakspeare 
wrote, he dipped his pen in his own heart.' 

There may, perhaps, be a degree of(sameness)in this regular 
way of tracing an author from one work to another, and the 
reader may feel the effect of a tedious monotony; but in the 
life of Johnson there are no other landmarks. He was now 
forty years old, and had mixed but little with the world 4 . He 
followed no profession, transacted no business, and was a stranger 
to what is called a town-life. We are now arrived at the 
brightest period he had hitherto known. His name broke out 
upon mankind with a degree of lustre that promised a triumph 
over all his difficulties. The Life of Savage was admired as 

1 ' He humourously observed to Till declamation roared whilst 
Mr. Langton, " that when in that passion slept.' 

dress he could not treat people with Johnson's Prologue on the Opening 

the same ease as when in his usual of Drury Lane Theatre. 

plain clothes." ' Life, i. 200. 4 Boswell, writing of this time, 

2 Mr. Croker says that ' it appears says : ' Nothing can be more erro- 
by a MS. note in Isaac Reed's copy neous than the notion which some 
of Murphy's Life, that the receipts persons have entertained, that John- 
of the third, sixth, and ninth nights, son was then a retired authour, igno- 
after deducting sixty guineas a night rant of the world ; and, of conse- 
for the expenses of the house, quence, that he wrote only from his 
amounted to ^195 i"js.: Johnson imagination when he described 
cleared therefore, with the copy- characters and manners. He said 
right, very nearly ^300.' to me, that before he wrote that 

By his London and Vanity of work [The Rambler}, he had been 

Human Wishes he only made twenty- " running about the world," as he 

five guineas. Life, i. 124, 193, n. expressed it, more than almost any 

3 'From bard to bard the frigid body.' Life,\. 215. 

caution crept, 

C c 2 a beautiful 

3 88 

Essay on 

a beautiful and instructive piece of biography. The two Imita 
tions of Juvenal were thought to rival even the excellence of 
Pope ; and the tragedy of Irene, though uninteresting on the 
stage, was universally admired in the closet, for the propriety 
of the sentiments, the richness of the language, and the general 
harmony of the whole composition. His fame was widely 
diffused ; and he had made his agreement with the booksellers 
for his English Dictionary at the sum of fifteen hundred guineas ; 
part of which was to be, from time to time, advanced in proportion 
to the progress of the work x . This was a certain fund for his 
support, without being obliged to write fugitive pieces for the 
petty supplies of the day. Accordingly we find that, in 1749, 
he established a club, consisting of ten in number, at Horseman's, 
in Ivy-lane, on every Tuesday evening 2 . This is the first scene 
of social life to which Johnson can be traced out of his own 
house. The members of this little society were, Samuel John 
son ; Dr. Salter 3 (father of the late Master of the Charter-house) ; 
Dr. Hawkesworth 4 ; Mr. Ryland 5 . a merchant; Mr. Payne 6 , 

1 Post, p. 406 ; Life, i. 183, 304 ; 
Letters, i. 25, 27. 

2 Life, i. 190 ; Letters, ii. 359, 
363-4; 388, 390; Hawkins, pp. 
219-235, 250-259. 'Thither,' says 
Hawkins (p. 219), ' he constantly 
resorted, and with a disposition to 
please and be pleased would pass 
those hours in a free and unrestrained 
interchange of sentiments which 
otherwise had been spent at home 
in painful reflection.' * It required,' 
Hawkins adds (p. 250), ' on the 
part of us who considered ourselves 
as his disciples some degree of 
compliance with his political pre 
judices ; the greater part of our 
company were Whigs, and I was not 
a Tory, and we all saw the prudence 
of avoiding to call the then late 
adventurer in Scotland, or his ad 
herents, by those names which others 
hesitated not to give them, or to bring 
to remembrance what had passed 
a few years before on Tower Hill.' 

Bathurst, who was ' a very good 
hater,' and who ' hated a Whig,' must 
have had here to veil his hate. 

3 ' Dr. Samuel Salter was a Cam 
bridge divine. He could carry his 
recollection back to the time when 
Dr. Samuel Clarke was yet a mem 
ber of that University, and would 
frequently entertain us with parti 
culars respecting him.' Hawkins, 

p. 220. 

4 Life, i. 190, n. 3 ; Letters, i. 412 ; 
ii. 7; Hawkins, pp. 220, 252, 310. 
Ante, p. 1 66. 

5 John Ryland was Hawkesworth's 
brother-in-law, and one of John 
son's correspondents. Letters, i. 56, 
n. 3. 

6 John Payne, afterwards chief 
accountant of the Bank of England. 
Hawkins, p. 220; Letters, ii. 363, 
n. i. Johnson, when he himself was 
rapidly sinking, wrote to Ryland : 
' To hear that dear Payne is better 
gives me great delight.' Ib. ii. 428. 

a bookseller, 

Johnson's Life and Genius. 


a bookseller, in Paternoster row ; Mr. Samuel Dyer, a learned 
young man ; Dr. William M'Ghie x , a Scotch physician ; 
Dr. Edmund Barker 2 , a young physician ; Dr. Bathurst, another 
young physician ; and Sir John Hawkins. This list is given by 
Sir John, as it should seem, with no other view than to draw 
a spiteful and malevolent character of almost every one of them. 
Mr. Dyer, whom Sir John says he loved with the affection of 
a brother 3 , meets with the harshest treatment, because it was his 
maxim, that to live in peace with mankind, and in a temper to do 
good offices, was the most essential part of our duty*. That 
notion of moral goodness gave umbrage to Sir John Hawkins, 
and drew down upon the memory of his friend the bitterest 

Ryland and Payne were among the 
four survivors of the old Club who 
dined together a few times in 1783-4. 
Letters, ii. 358, 363, 388, 390. 

1 M'Ghie had served as a volunteer 
on the side of government in 1745. 
' He was a learned, ingenious and 
modest man, and one of those few 
of his country whom Johnson could 
endure. To say the truth, he treated 
him with great civility, and may 
almost be said to have loved him.' 
Hawkins, p. 233. 

2 Barker, like Dyer, had studied 
at Leyden. * He was an excellent 
classical scholar, a deep metaphy 
sician, and had read the Italian 
poets ; but he was a thoughtless 
young man, and in all his habits of 
dress and appearance so slovenly as 
made him the jest of all his com 
panions. Physicians in his time were 
used to be full dressed ; and in his 
garb of a full suit, a brown tye-wig 
with a knot over one shoulder, and a 
long yellow-hilted sword, and his hat 
under his arm he was a caricature. 
In his religious principles he pro 
fessed himself an Unitarian, for which 
Johnson so often snubbed him, that 
his visits to us became less and less 
frequent.' Ib. p. 233. 

3 Hawkins writes (p. 230), * whom 
I once loved with the affection of 
a brother.' 

4 Hawkins is malignant enough, 
but Murphy does not quote him 
fairly. He had described how Dyer, 
who had been brought up for the 
dissenting ministry, had sunk into 
sloth and materialism. He came 
at last to think ' that those mistook 
their interest and shewed their igno 
rance of human life who abstained 
from any pleasure that disturbed not 
the quiet of families or the order of 
society ; that natural appetites re 
quired gratification ; that the in 
dulgence of the irascible passions 
alone was vice ; and that to live in 
peace with all mankind, &c.,' p. 230. 

Hawkins, in this character of Dyer, 
according to M alone (Prior's Life of 
M alone, p. 419) aims a stab at the 
two Burkes. Dyer, he says, lost 
his fortune ' by contracting a fatal 
intimacy with some persons of des 
perate fortunes who were dealers in 
India stock.' These persons, says 
Malone, were Edmund Burke and 
his cousin. Dyer met Edmund 
Burke at the Literary Club, of which 
they were both members. Life, i. 



Essay on 

imputations. Mr. Dyer, however, was admired and loved 
through life. He was a man of literature *. Johnson loved to 
enter with him into a discussion of metaphysical, moral, and 
critical subjects ; in those conflicts, exercising his talents, and, 
according to his custom, always contending for victory 2 . 
Dr. Bathurst was the person on whom Johnson fixed his 
affection. He hardly ever spoke of him without tears in his 
eyes 3 . It was from him, who was a native of Jamaica, that 

1 On a point of Latinity Johnson 
once said to him: 'Sir, I beg to 
have your judgement, for I know your 
nicety.' Life, iv. 1 1. Burke described 
him as 'a man of profound and 
general erudition.' Ib. n. i. 

2 Ante, p. 376. ' He owned he 
sometimes talked for victory.' Life, 
v. 17. ' Care must be taken to dis 
tinguish between Johnson when he 
"talked for victory," and Johnson 
when he had no desire but to inform 
and illustrate.' Ib. iv. in. 

Dyer was little likely to have 
entered into such a contest. Accord 
ing to Malone 'he was so modest 
and reserved, that he frequently sat 
silent in company for an hour, and 
seldom spoke unless appealed to.' 
Ib. iv. n, n. i. 

3 Ib. i. 190, 242, n. i ; Letters, 
i. 32 ; ante, p. 158. ' Bathurst thought 
of becoming an eminent London 
physician, and omitted no means 
to attain that character : he studied 
hard, dressed well, and associated 
with those who were likely to bring 
him forward, but he failed in his 
endeavours, and shortly before his 
leaving England [for the Havannah] 
confessed to Johnson that in the 
course of ten years' exercise of his 
faculty he had never opened his hand 
to more than one guinea.' Hawkins, 

P- 235- 

Johnson, who 'had in general 
a peculiar pleasure in the company 

of physicians' (Life, iv. 293), had 
three of them in his Club. Of these, 
' M'Ghie, failing in his hope of getting 
forward in his profession, died of 
a broken heart, and was buried by 
a contribution of his friends ' (Haw 
kins, p. 233) ; Barker ' died in ob 
scurity' (Ib. p. 234), and Bathurst, 
' missing of success,' went as ' phy 
sician to the army that was sent on 
the expedition against the Havan 
nah,' where he died of fever (ib. 
p. 235). According to Hawkins, 
Bathurst's failure drew from John 
son the following reflection which 
many years later he inserted in his 
Life of Akenside : ' A physician 
in a great city seems to be the 
mere plaything of fortune ; his 
degree of reputation is for the most 
part totally casual ; they that em 
ploy him know not his excellence ; 
they that reject him know not his 
deficience. By any acute observer, 
who had looked on the transactions 
of the medical world for half a cen 
tury, a very curious book might be 
written on the Fortune of Physicians! 
Works, viii. 471. 

' Hawkins, remarking on ' the very 
many ignorant men who have been 
known to succeed in the profession,' 
adds in a note, 'so ignorant as to 
request of the College [of Physicians] 
the indulgence of an examination in 


Johnson's Life and Genius. 

Johnson received into his service Frank, the black servant, 
whom, on account of his master, he valued to the end of his 
life x . At the time of instituting the club in Ivy-lane, Johnson 
had projected the Rambler" 2 . The title was most probably 
suggested by the Wanderer ; a poem which he mentions, with 
the warmest praise, in the Life of Savage 3 . With the same 
spirit of independence with which he wished to live, it was now 
his pride to write. He communicated his plan to none of his 
friends 4 : he desired no assistance, relying entirely on his own 
fund, and the protection of the Divine Being, which he implored 
in a solemn form of prayer, composed by himself for the 
occasion 5 . Having formed a resolution to undertake a work 
that might be of use and honour to his country, he thought, 
with Milton, that this was not to be obtained ' but by devout 
prayer to that Eternal Spirit that [who] can enrich with all 
utterance and knowledge, and send [sends] out his seraphim 
with the hallowed fire of his altar, to touch and purify the lips 
of whom he pleases 6 .' 

1 Life, i. 239 ; iv. 401 ; ante, p. 291. 
f Soon after the decease of Mrs. John 
son the father of Dr. Bathurst ar 
rived in England from Jamaica, and 
brought with him a negro-servant, 
a native of that island, whom he 
caused to be baptised and named 
Francis Barber, and sent for instruc 
tion to Barton upon Tees in York 
shire ; upon the decease of Captain 
Bathurst, for so he was called, Francis 
went to live with his son, who wil 
lingly parted with him to Johnson. 
The uses for which he was intended 
to serve this his last master were not 
very apparent, for Diogenes himself 
never wanted a servant less than he 
seemed to do ... He placed him at 
a school at Bishop Stortford, and 
kept him there five years; and, as 
Mrs. Williams was used to say, who 
would frequently reproach him with 
his indiscretion in this instance, ex 
pended .300 in an endeavour to 
have him taught Latin and Greek.' 

Hawkins, pp. 326-8. Francis en 
tered Johnson's service a fortnight 
after Mrs. Johnson's death. Life, 
i. 239. 

2 According to Nichols (Lit. Anec. 
ix. 501) the Club was known as the 
Ramblers' Club. If so the name 
must have been given some time 
after its foundation. 

See Life, i. 202 for the origin of 
the name of The Rambler. In the 
list of Periodical Publications in 
Nichols's Lit. Anec.\\\\.^^ is a paper 
under this name published in 1712. 

3 ' From a poem so diligently 
laboured, and so successfully finished, 
it might be reasonably expected that 
he should have gained considerable 
advantage ; nor can it without some 
degree of indignation and concern 
be told, that he sold the copy for ten 
guineas.' Works, viii. 131. 

4 Hawkins, p. 265. 

5 Ante, p. 9. 

6 The Reason of Church Govern- 


392 Essay on 

Having invoked the special protection of Heaven, and by that 
act of piety fortified his mind, he began the great work of the 
Rambler. The first number was published on Tuesday, March 
the aoth, 1750; and from that time was continued regularly 
every Tuesday and Saturday for the space of two years, when it 
was finally closed on Saturday, March 14, 1752*. As it began 
with motives of piety, so it appears, that the same religious spirit 
glowed with unabating ardour to the last. His conclusion is : 
* The Essays professedly serious, if I have been able to execute 
my own intentions, will be found exactly conformable to 
the precepts of Christianity, without any accommodation to the 
licentiousness and levity of the present age. I therefore look 
back on this part of my work with pleasure, which no [blame 
or praise of] man shall diminish or augment. I shall never envy 
the honours which wit and learning obtain in any other cause, 
if I can be numbered among the writers who have given ardour 
to virtue, and confidence to truth.' The whole number of 
Essays amounted to two hundred and eight 2 . Addison's, in 
the Spectator, are more in number, but not half in point of 
quantity 3 . Addison was not bound to publish on stated days ; 
he could watch the ebb and flow of his genius, and send his 
paper to the press when his own taste was satisfied. Johnson's 
case was very different. He wrote singly and alone. In the 
whole progress of the work he did not receive more than ten 
essays. This was a scanty contribution. For the rest, the 
author has described his situation : ' He that condemns himself 
to compose on a stated day, will often bring to his task an 
attention dissipated, a memory embarrassed, an imagination 
overwhelmed, a mind distracted with anxieties, a body languish 
ing with disease : he will labour on a barren topic, till it is too 
late to change it ; or, in the ardour of invention, diffuse his 

ment, &C., Book II. Introduction. 3 Addison wrote about 240 Spec- 

Milton's Works, ed. 1806, i. 122. tators, of about 1 1 2 lines to a num- 

Quoted in Johnson's Life of Milton, her. In ninety-two weeks he wrote, 

Works, vii. 78. roughly speaking, 26,680 lines, or 

1 Life, i. 203, n. I. 292 lines a week. Johnson wrote 

2 Of these, four whole numbers 203 Ramblers in 103 weeks, which, at 
and part of a fifth were by other 167 lines to a number, give 33,901 
hands. Ib. i. 203. lines, or 329 a week. 


Johnson's Life and Genius. 


thoughts into wild exuberance, which the pressing hour of 
publication cannot suffer judgement to examine or reduce V 
Of this excellent production the number sold on each day did 
not amount to five hundred : of course the bookseller, who paid 
the author four guineas a week, did not carry on a successful 
trade. His generosity and perseverance deserve to be com 
mended ; and happily, when the collection appeared in volumes, 
were amply rewarded. Johnson lived to see his labours flourish 
in a tenth edition 2 . His posterity, as an ingenious French 
writer has said on a similar occasion, began in his lifetime. 

In the beginning of 1750, soon after the Rambler was set on 
foot, Johnson was induced by the arts of a vile impostor to lend 
his assistance, during a temporary delusion, to a fraud not to be 
paralleled in the annals of literature. One LADDER, a native of 
Scotland, who had been a teacher in the University of EDIN 
BURGH, had conceived a mortal antipathy to the name and 
character of Milton 3 . His reason was, because the prayer of 

1 Rambler, No. 208. In this num 
ber he says : ' I have never com 
plied with temporary curiosity, nor 
enabled my readers to discuss the 
topick of the day.' There is a curious 
instance of this in his passing over 
in silence the great earthquake scare 
of April 8, 1750, when 'the open 
fields that skirt the metropolis were 
filled with an incredible number of 
people assembled in chairs, in chaises 
and coaches, as well as on foot, who 
waited in the most fearful suspense 
until morning.' Smollett's History 
of England ', iii. 293. See also Wai- 
pole's Letters, ii. 201. Johnson's next 
number was on ' Retirement natural 
to a great mind.' 

2 In the closing number Johnson 
says : ' 1 have never been much a 
favourite with the public.' The book 
seller was Cave. Life, i. 203, n. 6. 
It is stated in Chalmers's British 
Essayists, vol. xvi. Preface, p. 14, 
that 'the only number which had 

a prosperous sale' was 97 con 
tributed by Richardson. A second 
impression however was required of 
the first numbers, as I have shown 
in the Introduction to Select Essays 
of Johnson (Dent Co., 1889), p. 

Each edition, according to Haw 
kins (p. 269), consisted of 1,250 
copies. Johnson soon parted with 
the copyright. Letters, i. 29, n. i. 

3 Lauder had scarcely left college 
when he was struck on the knee by 
a golf-ball on Bruntsfield Links; 
through neglect of the wound he had 
to have the leg amputated. In spite 
of considerable merit he failed to get 
one or two appointments which he 
sought. This soured his temper, and 
' at length drove him in an unlucky 
hour from Edinburgh to London. 
Here his folly working on his ne 
cessities induced him to detract from 
the fame of Milton by publishing 
forgeries. The public indignation 

394 Essay on 

Pamela, in Sir Philip Sidney's Arcadia, was, as he supposed, 
maliciously inserted by the great poet in an edition of the Eikon 
Basilike, in order to fix an imputation of impiety on the memory 
of the murdered king r . Fired with resentment, and willing to 
reap the profits of a gross imposition, this man collected from 
several Latin poets, such as Masenius the Jesuit, Staphorstius 
a Dutch divine, Beza, and others, all such passages as bore any 
kind of resemblance to different places in the Paradise Lost ; 
and these he published, from time to time, in the Gentleman's 
Magazine, with occasional interpolations of lines, which he him 
self translated from Milton. The public credulity swallowed 
all with eagerness ; and Milton was supposed to be guilty of 
plagiarism from inferior modern writers. The fraud succeeded 
so well, that Lauder collected the whole into a volume, and 
advertised it under the title of 'An Essay on Milton s Use and 
Imitation of the Moderns, in his Paradise Lost ; dedicated to the 
Universities of Oxford and Cambridge' While the book was 
in the press, the proof-sheets were shewn to Johnson at the 
Ivy-lane Club, by Payne, the bookseller, who was one of 
the members. No man in that society was in possession of the 
authors from whom Lauder professed to make his extracts. The 

at length forced him to look for refuge about the Eikon Basilike, under the 

and subsistence in Barbadoes, where title of The General Impostor de- 

he died in poverty and neglect about tected, or Milton convicted of forgery 

1771. He had a sallow complexion, against King Charles I. Gent. Mag. 

large rolling fiery eyes, a stentorian 1754, p. 97. There is no reason to 

voice and a sanguine temper.' Rud- believe that, as Murphy says, ' he 

diman, who had given him some supposed' that Milton was guilty, 

help in his Poetarum Scotorum Johnson repeated the charge in his 

Musae Sacrae, says in a manuscript Life of Milton. Works, vii. 84. 'A 

note, ' I was so sensible of the weak- century after Milton's death it was 

ness and folly of that man that I safe for the most popular writer of 

shunned his company as far as the day to say that the prayer from 

I decently could.' Life of Ruddiman, the Arcadia had been interpolated 

by G. Chalmers, 1794, p. 146. in the Eikon by Milton himself, and 

1 It was in 1747 that Lauder then by him charged upon the King 

began his forgeries ; in 1750 he col- as a plagiarism.' Pattison's Milton, 

lected them into a pamphlet. Life, p. 103. 

i. 230. It was not till 1754, three For Pamela's prayer see Milton's 

years after his detection and retrac- Works, ed. 1806, ii. 408. 
tation,that he published his pamphlet 


Johnson's Life and Genius. 395 

charge was believed, and the contriver of it found his way to 
Johnson, who is represented by Sir John Hawkins, not indeed as 
an accomplice in the fraud, but, through motives of malignity to 
Milton, delighting in the detection, and exulting that the poet's 
reputation would suffer by the discovery x . More malice to a 
deceased friend cannot well be imagined. Hawkins adds, * that 
he wished well to the argument, must be inferred from the preface, 
which indubitably was written by him* The preface, it is well 
known, was written by Johnson, and for that reason is inserted 
in this edition 2 . But if Johnson approved of the argument, it 
was no longer than while he believed it founded in truth. Let 
us advert to his own words in that very preface. * Among the 
enquiries to which the [this] ardour of criticism has naturally 
given occasion, none is more obscure in itself, or more worthy of 
rational curiosity, than a retrospection of the progress of this 
mighty genius in the construction of his work ; a view of the 
fabric gradually rising, perhaps from small beginnings, till its 
foundation rests in the centre, and its turrets sparkle in the 
skies ; to trace back the structure, through all its varieties, to 
the simplicity of the [its] first plan ; to find what was [first] 
projected, whence the scheme was taken, how it was improved, 
by what assistance it was executed, and from what stores the 
materials were collected ; whether its founder dug them from 
the quarries of nature, or demolished other buildings to embellish 
his own.' These were the motives that induced Johnson to assist 
Lauder with a preface : and are not these the motives of a critic 
and a scholar ? What reader of taste, what man of real know 
ledge, would not think his time well employed in an enquiry so 
curious, so interesting, and instructive ? If Lauder's facts were 
really true, who would not be glad, without the smallest tincture 
of malevolence, to receive real information ? It is painful to be 
thus obliged to vindicate a man who, in his heart, towered above 

1 ' I could all along observe that Hawkins, p. 276. See Life, i. 230. 

Johnson seemed to approve not only The Whig members of the Club, 

of the design but of the argument, some of them sound scholars, do 

and seemed to exult in a persuasion not seem to have suspected the 

that the reputation of Milton was fraud, 

likely to suffer by this discovery.' 2 Works, v. 267. 


396 Essay on 

the petty arts of fraud and imposition, against an injudicious 
biographer, who undertook to be his editor, and the protector of 
his memory. Another writer, Dr. Towers, in an Essay on the 
Life and Character of Dr. Johnson, seems to countenance this 
calumny. He says, It can hardly be doubted, but that Johnsons 
aversion to Milton s politics was the cause of that alacrity with 
which he joined with Lander in his infamous attack on oiir 
great epic poet, and which induced him to assist in that trans 
action *. These words would seem to describe an accomplice, 
were they not immediately followed by an express declaration, 
that Johnson was unacquainted with the imposture. Dr. Towers 
adds. It seems to have been by way of making some compensation 
to the memory of Milton, for the share he had in the attack of 
Laiider, that Johnson wrote the prologue, spoken by Garrick, at 
Drury-lane Theatre, in 1750, on the performance of the Masque 
of Comus, for the benefit of Milton s grand-daughter 2 . Dr. Towers 
is not free from prejudice ; but, as Shakspeare has it, ' he begets 
a temperance, to give it smoothness V He is, therefore, entitled 
to a dispassionate answer. When Johnson wrote the prologue, 
it does [? not] appear that he was aware of the malignant artifices 
practised by Lauder. In the postscript to Johnson's preface, 
a subscription is proposed, for relieving the grand-daughter of 
the author of Paradise Lost 4 . Dr. Towers will agree that this 
shews Johnson's alacrity in doing good. That alacrity shewed 

1 P. 57. This Essay was pub- 4 * It is yet in the power of a great 
lished in 1786. See Life, iv. 41, people to reward the poet whose 
n. i. name they boast, and from their 

2 Life, \. 228; Works, i. 115. alliance to whose genius they claim 
Johnson, in his Life of Milton, some kind of superiority to everyother 
says: ' The profits of the night were nation of the earth; that poet, whose 
only ^130. . . . This was the greatest works may possibly be read when 
benefaction that Paradise Lost ever every other monument of British 
procured the author's descendants ; greatness shall be obliterated ; to 
and to this he who has now at- reward him, not with pictures or 
tempted to relate his life had the with medals, which, if he sees, he 
honour of contributing a Prologue.' sees with contempt, but with tokens 
Works, vii. 118. of gratitude, which he, perhaps, may 

3 ' You must acquire and beget even now consider as not unworthy 
a temperance that may give it the regard of an immortal' spirit.' 
smoothness.' Hamlet, iii. 2. 8. Life, i. 230. 


Johnson's Life and Genius. 397 

itself again in the letter printed in the European Magazine, 
January, 1785, and there said to have appeared originally in 
the General Advertiser, 4th April, 1750, by which the publick 
were invited to embrace the opportunity of paying a just regard 
to the illustrious dead, united with the pleasure of doing good 
to the living- 1 . The letter adds, * To assist industrious indigence, 
struggling with distress, and debilitated by age, is a display of 
virtue, and an acquisition of happiness and honour. Whoever, 
therefore [then], would be thought capable of pleasure in read 
ing the works of our incomparable Milton, and not so destitute 
of gratitude as to refuse to lay out a trifle, in a rational and 
elegant entertainment, for the benefit of his living remains, for 
the exercise of their own virtue, the increase of their reputa 
tion, and the [pleasing] consciousness of doing good, should 
appear at Drury-lane Theatre, to-morrow, April 5, when 
COMUS will be performed for the benefit of Mrs. Elizabeth 
Foster, grand-daughter to the author, and the only surviving 
branch of his family. Nota bene, there will be a new prologue 
on the occasion written by the author of Irene, and spoken by 
Mr. Garrick.' The man, who had thus exerted himself to serve 
the grand-daughter, cannot be supposed to have entertained 
personal malice to the grand-father. It is true, that the ma 
levolence of Lauder, as well as the impostures of Archibald 
Bower, were fully detected by the labours, in the cause of truth, 
of the Rev. Dr. Douglas, now Lord Bishop of Salisbury 2 . 

'Diram qui contudit Hydram, 
Notaque fatali portenta labore subegitV 

But the pamphlet, entituled, Milton vindicated from the Charge 
of Plagiarism brotight against him by Mr. Lauder, and Lauder 
himself convicted of several Forgeries and gross Impositions on 
the Publick. By John Douglas, M.A. Rector of Eaton Con- 
stantine, Salop, was not published till the year 1751. In that 
work, p. 77, Dr. Douglas says: ' It is to be hoped, nay, it is 
expected, that the elegant and nervous writer, whose judicious 

1 Life, i. 227. 2 Ib. i. 228. And monsters dire with fated toil 

3 'Who crush'd the Hydra when subdu'd.' 

to life renew'd, Francis, Hor., Ep. ii. i. 10. 


398 Essay on 

sentiments and inimitable style point out the author of Lauder's 
preface and postscript, will no longer allow A MAN [one] to plume 
himself with his feather s^ who appears so little to have deserved 
his assistance ; an assistance which I am persuaded would never 
have been communicated, had there been the least suspicion of 
those facts, which I have been the instrument of conveying to the 
world.' We have here a contemporary testimony to the integrity 
of Dr. Johnson throughout the whole of that vile transaction *. 
What was the consequence of the requisition made by Dr. 
Douglas? Johnson, whose ruling passion may be said to be the 
love of truth, convinced Lauder. that it would be more for his 
interest to make a full confession of his guilt, than to stand 
forth the convicted champion of a lye ; and for this purpose 
he drew up, in the strongest terms, a recantation in a Letter 
to the Rev. Mr. Douglas, which Lauder signed, and published 
in the year 1751 2 . That piece will remain a lasting memorial of 
the abhorrence with which Johnson beheld a violation of truth. 
Mr. Nichols, whose attachment to his illustrious friend was un 
wearied, shewed him in 1780 a book, called Remarks on Johnsoris 
Life of Milton, in which the affair of Lauder was renewed with 
virulence 3 , and a poetical scale in the Literary Magazine 1758 
(when Johnson had ceased to write in that collection) was urged 
as an additional proof of deliberate malice. He read the libellous 
passage with attention, and instantly wrote on the margin : ' " In 
the business of Lauder I was deceived, partly by thinking the 
man too frantic to be fraudulent." Of \h& poetical scale quoted 
from the Magazine I am not the author. I fancy it was put in 
after I had quitted that work ; for I not only did not write it, 
but I do not remember it V As a critic and a scholar, Johnson 

1 Life, i. 229, n. I. 2 Ib. 4 In this Poetical Scale little in- 

3 Post, p. 486. justice is done to Milton: 'The 

Remarks on Johnson's Life of point of perfection is supposed to be 

Milton, 1780, formed a part of The twenty degrees. Shakespeare is 

M emoirs of Thomas Hollis, published estimated to be in genius 19, judg- 

anonymously, but written by Arch- ment 14, learning 14, versification 

deacon Blackburne. Nichols, Lit. 19. Milton, in genius 1 8, judgment 

Anec. viii. 57. The passage referred 16, learning 17, versification 18.' But 

to is on vol. ii. p. 537, of those in the ' remarks ' it is said ...' Shake- 

Memoirs. speare's faults were those of a great 


Johnson's Life and Genius. 


was willing to receive what numbers at the time believed to be 
true information : when he found that the whole was a forgery, 
he renounced all connection with the author *. 

In March 1752, he felt a severe stroke of affliction in the death 
of his wife. The last number of the Rambler, as already men 
tioned, was on the I4th of that month. The loss of Mrs. Johnson 
was then approaching, and, probably, was the cause that put an 
end to those admirable periodical essays. It appears that she 
died on the 28th of March : in a memorandum, at the foot of 
the Prayers and Meditations, that is called her Dying Day 2 . 
She was buried at Bromley, under the care of Dr. Hawkesworth 3 . 
Johnson placed a Latin inscription on her tomb, in which he 
celebrated her beauty 4 . With the singularity of his prayers for 

poet; those of Milton of a little 
pedant.' Prior's Goldsmith, i. 233. 
The Literary Magazine for 1758 is 
not in the British Museum. John 
son did not write for it after 1757. 
Life, i. 307. 

1 Person says that it was his 
* opinion that the writer of the preface, 
postscript and letter of contrition for 
W. Lauder was neither willingly un- 
deluded, nor forward in exposing the 
atrocity of those hideous interpola 
tions by which it had been vainly 
contrived to obscure the splendor of 
Milton's PARADISE LOST.' Person's 
Tracts, p. 379. 

Mark Pattison went far beyond 
Person. ' Dr. Johnson,' he writes, 
'conspired with one William Lauder 
to stamp out Milton's credit by prov 
ing him to be a wholesale plagiarist.' 
He calls them 'this pair of literary 
bandits.' On the next page he 
writes : ' Johnson, who was not 
concerned in the cheat, and was only 
guilty of indolence and party spirit, 
saved himself by sacrificing his com 
rade. He afterwards took ample 
revenge for the mortification of this 
exposure, in his Lives of the Poets, in 

which he employed all his vigorous 
powers and consummate skill to 
write down Milton.' Milton, by 
Mark Pattison, pp. 217-219. Both 
Person and Pattison must have 
known that Johnson in the postscript 
to Lander's pamphlet spoke of Mil 
ton as 'that poet whose works may 
possibly be read when every other 
monument of British greatness shall 
be obliterated,' and that he ends his 
Life of him by saying that 'his great 
works were performed under dis 
countenance and in blindness : but 
difficulties vanished at his touch ; 
he was born for whatever is arduous; 
and his work is not the greatest of 
heroick poems only because it is 
not the first.' Works, v. 271 ; vii. 

2 She died three days after the 
publication of the last Rambler, on 
March 17 O. S., 28 N. S. I do not 
know to what memorandum Murphy 

3 Hawkesworth lived at Bromley. 
Life, i. 241. 

4 It was not till a few months 
before his death that he placed this 
inscription. ' Shall I ever be able 


400 Essay on 

his deceased wife, from that time to the end of his days, the 
world is sufficiently acquainted. On Easter-day. 22d April, 
1764, his memorandum says: 'Thought on Tetty, poor dear 
Tetty T ! with my eyes full. Went to Church. After sermon 
I recommended Tetty in a prayer by herself; and my father, 
mother, brother, and Bathurst, in another. I did it only once, 
so far as it might be lawful for me.' In a prayer, January 23, 
1759, the day on which his mother was buried, he commends, as 
far as may be lawful, her soul to God, imploring for her whatever 
is most beneficial to her in her present state 2 . In this habit he 
persevered to the end of his days. The Rev. Mr. Strahan, the 
editor of the Prayers and Meditations, observes, ' That Johnson, 
on some occasions, prays that the Almighty may have had mercy 
on his wife and Mr. Thrale : evidently supposing their sentence 
to have been already passed in the Divine Mind ; and, by conse 
quence, proving, that he had no belief in a state of purgatory, 
and no reason for praying for the dead that could impeach the 
sincerity of his profession as a Protestant.' Mr. Strahan adds, 
' That, in praying for the regretted tenants of the grave, Johnson 
conformed to a practice which has been retained by many learned 
members of the Established Church, though the Liturgy no 
longer admits it. If where the tree falleth, there it shall be'* ; if 
our state, at the close of life, is to be the measure of our final 
sentence, then prayers for the dead, being visibly fruitless, can 
be regarded only as the vain oblations of superstition. But of 
all superstitions this, perhaps, is one of the least unamiable, and 
most incident to a good mind. If our sensations of kindness be 
intense, those, whom we have revered and loved, death cannot 
wholly seclude from our concern. It is true, for the reason just 
mentioned, such evidences of our surviving affection may be 
thought ill-judged ; but surely they are generous, and some 
natural tenderness is due even to a superstition, which thus 

to bear the sight of this stone ? ' he her death. Letters, ii. 429. 

wrote to his friend Ryland. 'In x Ante, p. n, n. i. 

your company I hope I shall.' Let- 2 Ante, pp. 23, 29 ; Life, i. 240. 

ters, ii. 429. See also ib. ii. 411; 3 Ecclesiastes xi. 3 ; for Johnson's 

Life, i. 241, n. ; iv. 351, 394. He explanation of the text, see Life, iv. 

gave the wrong date of the year of 225. 


Johnson's Life and Genius. 401 

originates in piety and benevolence V These sentences, extracted 
from the Rev. Mr. Strahan's preface, if they are not a full justifi 
cation, are, at least, a beautiful apology. It will not be improper 
to add what Johnson himself has said on the subject. Being 
asked by Mr. BoswelL what he thought of purgatory, as believed 
by the Roman Catholics? His answer was, ' It is a very harm 
less doctrine. They are of opinion, that the generality of man 
kind are neither so obstinately wicked as to deserve everlasting 
punishment ; nor so good as to merit being admitted into the 
society of blessed spirits ; and, therefore, that God is graciously 
pleased to allow a middle state, where they may be purified by 
certain degrees of suffering. You see [Sir] there is nothing un 
reasonable in this ' ; [BOSWELL. * But then, Sir, their masses for 
the dead ? ' JOHNSON. ' Why, Sir] if it be once established 
that there are souls in purgatory, it is as proper to pray for 
them, as for our brethren of mankind, who are yet in this life V 
This was Dr. Johnson's guess into futurity ; and to guess is the 
utmost that man can do. Shadozvs, clouds, and darkness, rest 
iipon it*. 

Mrs. Johnson left a daughter, Lucy Porter, by her first 
husband. She had contracted a friendship with Mrs. Anne 
Williams, the daughter of Zachary Williams, a physician of 
eminence in South Wales, who had devoted more than thirty 
years of a long life to the study of the longitude, and was 
thought to have made great advances towards that important 
discovery. His letters to Lord Halifax, and the Lords of the 
Admiralty, partly corrected and partly written by Dr. Johnson, 
are still extant in the hands of Mr. Nichols 4 . We there find 
Dr. Williams, in the eighty-third year of his age, stating, that he 

1 Prayers and Meditations, Pre- an immense view of what is and 

face, pp. 10-13. Murphy's extracts what is past. Clouds, indeed, and 

are not accurately made. darkness rest upon the future: 

3 Life, ii. 104. Burke's Speech on Conciliation. 

3 Addison, Cato, Act v. sc. I. Payne's Burke, i. 172. 

'Mr. Speaker, I cannot prevail 4 Published in the Gentleman's 

upon myself to hurry over this great Magazine, 1787, pp. 757, 1041. Life, 

consideration. // is good for us to i. 274, 11. 2, 301. 
be here. We stand where we have 

VOL. I. D d 


Essay on 

had prepared an instrument, which might be called an epitome 
or miniature of the terraqueous globe, shewing, with the assist 
ance of tables constructed by himself, the variations of the 
magnetic needle, and ascertaining the longitude for the safety of 
navigation z . It appears that this scheme had been referred to 
Sir Isaac Newton 2 ; but that great philosopher excusing himself 
on account of his advanced age, all applications were useless till 
1751, when the subject was referred, by order of Lord Anson 3 , 
to Dr. Bradley, the celebrated professor of Astronomy 4 . His 
report was unfavourable, though it allows that a considerable 
progress had been made. Dr. Williams, after all his labour and 
expence, died in a short time after, a melancholy instance of un 
rewarded merit 5 . His daughter possessed uncommon talents, 

1 ' It was no new thing then when 
Columbus, as he sailed westward, 
marked the variation [of the needle] 
proceeding from the north-east more 
and more westerly; but it was a 
revelation when he came to a posi 
tion where the magnetic north and 
the north star stood in conjunction, 
as they did on this I3th of Sep 
tember, 1492. As he still moved 
westerly the magnetic line was found 
to move farther and farther away 
from the pole, as it had before the 
1 3th approached it. To an observer 
of Columbus' s quick perceptions, 
there was a ready guess to possess 
his mind. This inference was that 
this line of no variation was a meri 
dian line, and that divergences from 
it east and west might have a regu 
larity which would be found to fur 
nish a method of ascertaining longi 
tude far easier and surer than tables 
or water-clocks.' Justin Winsor's 
Christopher Columbus, 1891, p. 200. 

' According to the Gentleman's 
Magazine, p. 1042, in 1729; but 
Newton died in 1727. 

3 First Commissioner of the Ad 
miralty ; ante, p. 195. 

4 James Bradley, Savilian Profes 

sor of Astronomy at Oxford, and 
third Astronomer Royal. 

5 His merit was not great, as 
Bradley reported that in some cases 
the difference between his tables 
and the best observations amounted 
to ten, fifteen, or twenty degrees ! 
Gentleman's Magazine, 1787, p. 

Johnson, no doubt, had him in 
mind in the Rambler, No. 67, when 
in the Garden of Hope he placed 
one ' who was on the point of dis 
covering the longitude.' Addison, 
nearly forty years earlier, in a letter 
from a member of the Tall Club, 
said : ' I must add, to the honour 
of our Club, that it is one of our 
society who is now finding out the 
longitude.' The Guardian, No. 108. 

Williams had first taken orders, 
and later on 'was a surgeon, phy 
sician, and projector.' Some of his 
projects are given in the Gentleman's 
Magazine, 1787, p. 1157. He was 
admitted to the Charter-House, but 
he was expelled in 1749, at the age 
of seventy-eight, in consequence of 
attacks on the management of that 
Institution. In a letter to General 
Oglethorpe he describes how 'this 


Johnson's Life and Genius. 403 

and, though blind, had an alacrity of mind that made her con 
versation agreeable, and even desirable. To relieve and appease 
melancholy reflections, Johnson took her home to his house in 
Gough-square x . In 1755, Garrick gave her a benefit-play, which 
produced two hundred pounds 2 . In 1766, she published, by 
subscription, a quarto volume of Miscellanies, and increased 
her little stock to three hundred pounds 3 . That fund, with 
Johnson's protection, supported her through the remainder of 
her life 4 . 

During the two years in which the Rambler was carried on, 
the Dictionary proceeded by slow degrees. In May 1752, 
having composed a prayer preparatory to his return from tears 
and sorrow to the duties of life 5 , he resumed his grand design, 
and went on with vigour, giving, however, occasional assistance 
to his friend Dr. Hawkesworth in the Adventurer, which began 
soon after the Rambler was laid aside. Some of the most 
valuable essays in that collection were from the pen of Johnson 6 . 
The Dictionary was completed towards the end of 17545 anc ^ 
Cave being then no more 7 , it was a mortification to the author 

great and goodly hospital is become and follies of men.' Warton's Pope's 

a den of thieves ! the master a tyran- Works, ix. 345. 

nical oppressor; the servants fraud- According to Percy, ' Hawkesworth 

ulent managers, and the poor gentle- usually sent Johnson each paper to 

men-pensioners great sufferers from prefix a motto before it was printed.' 

their first entrance even to their Anderson's fohnson, ed. 1815, p. 190. 

graves.' Gent. Mag., 1787, p. 1 158. Chalmers (British Essayists, vol. xix. 

1 Murphy misrepresents the mo- Preface, p. 38) states that ' Johnson 
live of Johnson's kindness. Life, i. revised his Adventurers for the 
232. second edition with the same at- 

2 Life, i. 393, . I ; Letters, i. 53-6. tention he bestowed on the Rambler? 

3 Life, ii. 26 ; Letters, ii. 334, This is untrue ; scarcely a change 
n. 3. can be found. 

4 For many years she had a small 7 Cave died on January 10, 1754. 
pension from Mrs. Montagu. Letters, Letters, i. 56, n. 2. According to 
ii. 336. the Life of Johnson, published by 

5 Ante, p. 12. Kearsley in 1785, p. 47, Cave was 

6 Life, i. 252. Dr. Warton says the husband of the woman ' who 
that 'the title The Adventurer, it fraudulently made a purse for her- 
seems, alluded to its being a kind of self ' (Life, iv. 319). The money she 
Knight Errantry to attack the vices had laid out in India bonds. 

D d 2, Of 

404 Essay on 

of that noble addition to our language, that his old friend did 
not live to see the triumph of his labours. In May 1755, that 
great work was published T . Johnson was desirous that it should 
come from one who had obtained academical honours ; and for 
that purpose, his friend the Rev. Thomas Warton obtained for 
him, in the preceding month of February, a diploma for a master's 
degree from the University of Oxford 2 . Garrick, on the publi 
cation of the Dictionary, wrote the following lines. 

' Talk of war with a Briton, he '11 boldly advance, 
That one English soldier can [will] beat ten of France. 
Would we alter the boast from the sword to the pen, 
Our odds are still greater, still greater our men. 
In the deep mines of science though Frenchmen may toil, 
Can their strength be compar'd to Locke, Newton, or [and] Boyle ? 
Let them rally their heroes, send forth all their pow'rs, 
Their versemen and prosemen, then match them with ours. 
First Shakspeare and Milton [Milton and Shakspeare], like Gods 

in the fight, 

Have put their whole drama and epic to flight. 
In satires, epistles, and odes, would they cope ? 
Their numbers retreat before Dry den and Pope. 
And Johnson well arm'd, like a hero of yore, 
Has beat Forty French, and will beat Forty more *. 

It is, perhaps, needless to mention, that Forty was the number 
of the French Academy, at the time when their Dictionary was 
published to settle their language 4 . 

1 Life, i. 290, n. i. I have seen a ment to the London Evening Post. 
letter from Mr. John P. Anderson of Some authorities give the date of the 
the British Museum, the author of second edition as 1755, others 1756, 
the Bibliography at the end of but they are all wrong. The ad- 
Colonel F. Grant's Johnson, to Mr. vertisement of the first edition gives 
J. Dewitt Miller, of Philadelphia, a the date " This day is published " 
great Johnsonian collector, in which April 17, not as usually accepted, 
it is stated: 'The first edition ap- April 15.' 
peared on April 17, 1755. What My edition of the Dictionary, called 
I called a second edition was a the second, is dated 1755 in the first 
weekly re-issue, same type, &c., volume, and 1756 in the second, 
which began on June 17 of the same The sheets are numbered from i to 
year. The second edition appeared clxv. 
in 1760, in 2 vols. octavo. I have 2 Life, i. 275, 283. 
discovered this from the advertise- 3 Ib. i. 300. 4 Ib. i. 186. 


Johnson's Life and Genius. 405 

In the course of the winter preceding this grand publication, 
the late Earl of Chesterfield gave two essays in the periodical 
Paper, called THE WORLD, dated November 28, and December 5, 
1754, to prepare the publick for so important a work. The 
original plan, addressed to his Lordship in the year 1747, is 
there mentioned in terms of the highest praise x ; and this was 
understood, at the time, to be a courtly way of soliciting a dedi 
cation of the Dictionary to himself. Johnson treated this civility 
with disdain. He said to Garrick and others, ' I have sailed 
a long and painful voyage round the world of the English 
language ; and does he now send out two cock-boats to tow me 
into harbour 2 ? ' He had said, in the last number of the Rambler, 
' that, having laboured to maintain the dignity of virtue, I will 
not now degrade it by the meanness of dedication 3 .' Such a 
man, when he had finished his ' Dictionary, not/ as he says him 
self, * in the soft obscurities of retirement, or under the shelter of 
academic bowers, but amidst inconvenience and distraction, in 
sickness and in sorrow, and without the patronage of the great Y 
was not likely to be caught by the lure thrown out by Lord 
Chesterfield. He had in vain sought the patronage of that 

1 ' Perfection is not to be expected prevented him from ever dedicating 
from man ; but if we are to judge in his own person.' Ib. ii. I. 

by the various works of Mr. John- Dr. Franklin wrote in June, 

son already published, we have good 1782 : ' I never made a dedication 

reason to believe that he will bring and I never desired that one should 

this as near to perfection as any man be made to me.' Franklin's Works, 

could do.' Life, i. 258. ed. 1888, vii. 475. Gibbon, in the 

2 Murphy perhaps gets this story Preface to vol. vii. of the Decline 
from the Memoirs of the Life and and Fall, artfully dedicates without 
Writings of Dr. Johnson, ed. 1785, a dedication. Were I ambitious of 
p. 120, where it is also stated that to any other Patron than the Public, 
Edward Moore, the editor of The I would inscribe this work to a 
World, and the creature of Lord Statesman,' &c. 

Chesterfield,' who had come from his 4 * The English Dictionary was 

Lordship, Johnson replied: 'I am written with little assistance of the 

under obligations to no great man, learned, and without any patronage 

and of all others Chesterfield ought of the great ; not in the soft ob- 

to know me better than to think me scurities,' &c. Works,v. 51. Murphy 

capable of contracting myself into mars that passage which Home 

a dwarf that he may be thought a Tooke said he could never read 

giant.' See also Life, i. 259. without shedding a tear.' Life, i. 

3 ' The loftiness of Johnson's mind 297, n. 2. 

nobleman ; 


Essay on 

nobleman ; and his pride, exasperated by disappointment, drew 
from him the following letter, dated in the month of February, 
1755 ' 

It is said, upon good authority, that Johnson once received from 
Lord Chesterfield the sum of ten pounds. It were to be wished 
that the secret had never transpired. It was mean to receive it 2 , 
and meaner to give it. It may be imagined, that for Johnson's 
ferocity, as it has been called, there was some foundation in his 
finances; and, as his Dictionary was brought to a conclusion, 
that money was now to flow in upon him. The reverse was the 
case. For his subsistence, during the progress of the work, he 
had received at different times the amount of his contract ; and 
when his receipts were produced to him at a tavern-dinner, 
given by the booksellers, it appeared, that he had been paid 
a hundred pounds and upwards more than his due 3 . The 

1 For this letter, which I omit, see 
Life, 1.261. 

Mr. Hussey says : ' Enquiring of 
Dr. Johnson if it were true that 
Lord Chesterfield had been much 
offended at the receipt of his letter, 
the Doctor replied, " so far from 
it his Lordship expressed himself 
obliged to me for it, and did me the 
honour to say it was the letter of 
a Scholar and a Gentleman." ' ' Dr. 
Johnson once spoke to me very 
warmly in recommendation of Lord 
Chesterfield, and said that he was 
the politest man he ever knew ; but 
added " Indeed he did not think it 
worth his while to treat me like a 
Gentleman." ' 

* On telling him Voltaire's opinion, 
that " if ever Lord Chesterfield pub 
lished anything he would expose his 
ignorance," Johnson replied, " His 
Letters betray no want of abilities, 
but the bad use he has made of 
them." ' Marginal notes in Mr. 
H. P. Symonds's copy of the Life. 

Voltaire said of the Letters : 

4 Je ne sais si ce n'est pas le meilleur 
livre d'education qu'on ait jamais 
fait.' (Euvres de Voltaire, ed. 1821, 
Ivi. 399. 

Davies, in his Life of Garrick, i. 
92, shows how at Dublin Chester 
field did not think it worth his while 
to treat Garrick like a gentleman. 

2 Life, i. 261, n. 3. 

Murphy, if we can trust Rogers's 
account of him, was not entitled to 
pass so harsh a judgment. Towards 
the close of his life, till he received 
a pension of ^200 from the King, he 
was in great pecuniary difficulties. 
He had eaten himself out of every 
tavern from the other side of Temple- 
Bar to the west end of the town.' 
He owed Rogers a large sum of 
money, which he never repaid. ' He 
assigned over to me the whole of his 
works ; and I soon found that he had 
already disposed of them to a book 
seller.' Rogers's Table-Talk, p. 106. 

3 Hawkins, p. 345 ; Life, i. 304 ; 
ante, p. 388. 

In 1781 one-eightieth share of the 

Johnson's Life and Genius. 


author of a book, called Lexiphanes, written by a Mr. Campbell, 
a Scotchman, and purser of a man of war, endeavoured 
to blast his laurels, but in vain 1 . The world applauded, 
and Johnson never replied. ' Abuse,' he said, ' is often of 
service : there is nothing so dangerous to an author as silence ; 
his name, like a shuttlecock, must be beat backward and forward, 
or it falls to the ground 2 .' Lexiphanes professed to be an 
imitation of the pleasant manner of Lucian ; but humour was 
not the talent of the writer of Lexiphanes 3 . As Dryden says, 
* He has too much horse-play in his raillery V 

It was in the summer 1754, that the present writer became 
acquainted with Dr. Johnson. The cause of his first visit is 

folio edition sold for ^n. Mr. H. 
P. Symonds's MSS. 

Boswell recorded in his note-book 
on Sept. 22, 1777 : ' Dr. Johnson told 
me in the forenoon that he had six 
amanuenses when he composed his 
Dictionary, that eighty paper books 
of two quires each, 160 quires, were 
first used, and as they were written 
on both sides, it afterwards cost him 
twenty pounds for paper to have 
them transcribed, to be written only 
on one page. (This must be a mis 
take were it only is. a quire) ... He 
said it was remarkable that, when 
he revised and improved the last 
edition of his Dict r y, the printer was 
never kept waiting.' Morrison Auto 
graphs, 2nd Series, i. 367. 

See Life, i. 189. It is strange that 
Johnson, who was now an author of 
some years standing, should have 
had the paper written on both sides. 

1 This mention of Lexiphanes is 
premature as it was not published 
till 1767. Life, ii. 44. 

' As well as for the malignancy of 
his heart as his terrific countenance 
he was called horrible Campbell.' 
Hawkins, p. 347. Another Scotch 
man, Dr. Robertson the historian, 

'told Johnson that he had fairly 
perused his Dictionary twice over.' 
Ib. p. 346. Macaulay says that 'it 
was hailed with an enthusiasm such 
as no similar work has ever excited. 
It was indeed the first dictionary 
which could be read with pleasure. 
The definitions show so much acute- 
ness of thought and command of 
language, and the passages quoted 
from poets, divines, and philosophers 
are so skilfully selected, that a leisure 
hour may always be very agreeably 
spent in turning over the pages.' 
Macaulay's Misc. Works, ed. 1871, 
p. 382. 

2 'Dr. Johnson said, "It is ad 
vantageous to an authour, that his 
book should be attacked as well as 
praised. Fame is a shuttlecock. If 
it be struck only at one end of the 
room, it will soon fall to the ground. 
To keep it up, it must be struck at 
both ends.'" Life, v. 400. 

3 The book is as dull as it is 

4 * He is too much given to horse 
play in his raillery, and comes to 
battle like a dictator from the plough.' 
Preface to the Fables, Dry den's 
Poems, Aldine ed. iii. 198. 


408 Essay on 

related by Mrs. Piozzi nearly in the following manner 1 . 
' Mr. Murphy being engaged in a periodical paper, the Gray'sr 
Inn Journal, was at a friend's house in the country, and, not 
being disposed to lose pleasure for business, wished to content 
his bookseller by some unstudied essay. He therefore took up 
a French Journal Litiraire, and translating something he liked, 
sent it away to town. Time, however, discovered that he 
translated from the French a Rambler, which had been taken 
from the English without acknowledgement. Upon this discovery 
Mr. Murphy thought it right to make his excuses to Dr. Johnson. 
He went next day, and found him covered with soot, like 
a chimney-sweeper, in a little room, as if he had been acting 
Lungs in the Alchymist, making czther. This being told by 
Mr. Murphy in company, "Come, come," [dear Mur.] said 
Dr. Johnson, <: the story is black enough ; but it was a happy 
day that brought you first to my house." ' After this first visit, 
the author of this narrative by degrees grew intimate with 
Dr. Johnson. The first striking sentence, that he heard from 
him, was in a few days after the publication of Lord Bolingbroke's 
posthumous works. Mr. Garrick asked him, ' If he had seen 
them ? ' * Yes, I have seen them.' ' What do you think of them ?' 
'Think of them!' He made a long pause, and then replied: 
' Think of them ! A scoundrel and a coward ! A scoundrel, 
who spent his life in charging a gun against Christianity ; and 
a coward, who was afraid of hearing the report of his own gun ; 
but left half a crown to a hungry Scotchman to draw the trigger 
after his death 2 / His mind, at this time strained and over 
laboured by constant exertion, called for an interval of repose 

1 Ante> p. 306. pectations that he rejected the offer 

2 The 'hungry' or 'beggarly of ^3,000 which Millar offered him 
Scotchman ' as he is in the Life, i. for the copyright, although he was 
268, was David Mallet. Bolingbroke at this time so distressed for money 
left him the copyright of all his pub- that he was forced to borrow some 
lished works, ' and all the books of Millar to pay the stationer and 
which, at the time of my decease, printer. He had reason to repent 
shall be in the room called my his refusal as the edition was not 
library.' Bolingbroke's Works, ed. sold off in twenty years.' Chalmers's 
1809, i. Introduction, p. 219. Biog. Diet., xxi. 196. 

' So sanguine was Mallet in his ex- 


Johnson's Life and Genius. 409 

and indolence. But indolence was the time of danger : it was 
then that his spirits, not employed abroad, turned with inward 
hostility against himself 1 . His reflections on his own life and 
conduct were always severe ; and, wishing to be immaculate, he 
destroyed his own peace by unnecessary scruples. He tells us, 
that when he surveyed his past life, he discovered nothing but 
a barren waste of time, with some disorders of body, and 
disturbances of mind, very near to madness 2 . His life, he says, 
from his earliest years, was wasted in a morning bed 3 ; and his 
reigning sin was a general sluggishness, to which he was always 
inclined, and, in part of his life, almost compelled, by morbid 
melancholy, and weariness of mind. This was his constitutional 
malady, derived, perhaps, from his father, who was, at times, 
overcast with a gloom that bordered on insanity 4 . When to 
this it is added, that Johnson, about the age of twenty, drew up 
a description of his infirmities, for Dr. Swinfen, at that time an 
eminent physician in Staffordshire ; and received an answer to 
his letter, importing, that the symptoms indicated a future 
privation of reason 5 ; who can wonder that he was troubled 
with melancholy and dejection of spirit? An apprehension of 
the worst calamity that can befal human nature hung over him 
all the rest of his life, like the sword of the tyrant suspended 
over his guest. In his sixtieth year he had a mind to write the 
history of his melancholy ; but he desisted, not knowing whether 
it would not too much disturb him 6 . In a Latin poem, however, 
to which he has prefixed as a title, TiNil! 2EATTON, he has 
left a picture, of himself, drawn with as much truth, and as firm 
a hand, as can be seen in the portraits of Hogarth or Sir Joshua 
Reynolds. The learned reader will find the original poem in 

1 Hawkins, p. 350. men."' Life, v. 215. 

2 Ante, p. 78. 5 Murphy improves on Hawkins, 

3 Ante, p. 72. who says (p. 288) that the physician 

4 '"1 inherited, (said he,) a vile said that 'he could think nothing 
melancholy from my father, which better of his disorder than that it 
has made me mad all my life, at had a tendency to insanity; and 
least not sober." Lady M'Leod won- without great care might possibly 
dered he should tell this. " Madam, terminate in the deprivation of his 
(said I,) he knows that with that rational faculties.' See Life, i. 64. 
madness he is superior to other 6 Ante, p. 48. 


410 Essay on 

this volume, p. I78 1 ; and it is hoped, that a translation, or 
rather imitation, of so curious a piece will not be improper in 
this place. 



When Scaliger, whole years of labour past, 
Beheld his Lexicon complete at last, 
And weary of his task, with wond'ring eyes, 
Saw from words pil'd on words a fabric rise, 
He curs'd the industry, inertly strong, 
In creeping toil that could persist so long, 
And if, enrag'd he cried, Heav'n meant to shed 
Its keenest vengeance on the guilty head, 
The drudgery of words the damn'd would know, 
Doom'd to write Lexicons in endless woe 2 . 

Yes, you had cause, great Genius! to repent; 
* You lost good days, that might be better spent ; ' 
You well might grudge the hours of ling'ring pain, 
And view your learned labours with disdain. 
" To you were giv'n the large expanded mind, 
The flame of genius, and the taste refin'd. 
'Twas yours on eagle wings aloft to soar, 
And amidst rolling worlds the Great First Cause explore ; 
To fix the aeras of recorded time, 
And live in ev'ry age and ev'ry clime; 
Record the Chiefs, who propt their Country's cause ; 
Who founded Empires, and establish' d Laws ; 
To learn whate'er the Sage with virtue fraught, 
Whate'er the Muse of moral wisdom taught. 
These were your quarry; these to you were known, 
And the world's ample volume was your own. 

Yet warn'd by me, ye pigmy Wits, beware, 
Nor with immortal Scaliger compare. 

1 Works, i. 164 ; Life, i. 298, n. 4. Nee rigidas vexent fossa me- 

2 'JOSEPHiSCALiGERiEPiGRAMMA. talla manus : 

Si quern dura manet sententia Lexica contexat, nam caetera 

judicis, olim quid moror ? 

Damnatum aerumnis suppli- Paenarum facies hie labor unus 

ciisque caput, habet.' 

Hunc neque fabrili lassent er- Gentleman' s Magazine, \ 748, p. 8. 
gastula massa, 


Johnson's Life and Genius. 


For me, though his example strike my view, 
Oh ! not for me his footsteps to pursue. 
Whether first Nature, unpropitious, cold, 
This clay compounded in a ruder mould ; 
Or the slow current, loit'ring at my heart, 
No gleam of wit or fancy can impart ; 
Whate'er the cause, from me no numbers flow, 
No visions warm me, and no raptures glow. 

A mind like Scaliger's, superior still, 
No grief could conquer, no misfortune chill. 
Though for the maze of words his native skies 
He seem'd to quit, 'twas but again to rise ; 
To mount once more to the bright source of day, 
And view the wonders of th' setherial way. 
The love of Fame his gen'rous bosom fir'd ; 
Each Science hail'd him, and each Muse inspir'd, 
For him the Sons of Learning trimm'd the bays, 
And Nations grew harmonious in his praise. 

My task perform'd, and all my labours o'er, 
For me what lot has Fortune now in store? 
The listless will succeeds, that worst disease, 
The rack of indolence, the sluggish ease. 
Care grows on care, and o'er my aching brain 
Black Melancholy pours her morbid train. 
No kind relief, no lenitive at hand, 
I seek at midnight clubs, the social Band; 
But midnight clubs, where wit with noise conspires, 
Where Comus revels, and where wine inspires, 
Delight no more ; I seek my lonely bed, 
And call on Sleep to sooth my languid head. 
But Sleep from these sad lids flies far away ; 
I mourn all night, and dread the coming day, 
Exhausted, tir'd, I throw my eyes around, 
To find some vacant spot on classic ground; 
And soon, vain hope ! I form a grand design ; 
Languor succeeds, and all my pow'rs decline. 
If Science open not her richest vein, 
Without materials all our toil is vain. 
A form to rugged stone when Phidias gives, 
Beneath his touch a new creation lives. 
Remove his marble, and his genius dies ; 
With Nature then no breathing statue vies. 

Whate'er I plan, I feel my pow'rs confin'd 
By Fortune's frown and penury of mind. 

I boast 


Essay on 

I boast no knowledge glean 'd with toil and strife, 

That bright reward of a well-acted life. 

I view myself, while Reason's feeble light 

Shoots a pale glimmer through the gloom of night, 

While passions, error, phantoms of the brain, 

And vain opinions, fill the dark domain; 

A dreary void, where fears with grief combin'd 

Waste all within, and desolate the mind. 

What then remains? Must I in slow decline 
To mute inglorious ease old age resign ? 
Or, bold ambition kindling in my breast, 
Attempt some arduous task? Or, were it best 
Brooding o'er Lexicons to pass the day, 
And in that labour drudge my life away ? 

Such is the picture for which Dr. Johnson sat to himself. He 
gives the prominent features of his character ; his lassitude, his 
morbid melancholy, his love of fame, his dejection, his tavern- 
parties, and his wandering reveries, Vacua mala somnia mentis r , 
about which so much has been written ; all are painted in 
miniature, but in vivid colours, by his own hand. His idea of 
writing more Dictionaries was not merely said in verse. 
Mr. Hamilton, who was at that time an eminent printer 2 , and 
well acquainted with Dr. Johnson, remembers that he engaged 
in a Commercial Dictionary, and, as appears by the receipts 
in his possession, was paid his price for several sheets ; but he 
soon relinquished the undertaking 3 . It is probable, that he 
found himself not sufficiently versed in that branch of know 

1 ' Nascuntur curis curae, vexatque 


Importuna cohors, vacuae mala 
somnia mentis.' 

From Johnson's- Poem. 

2 * On Monday, April 19, Dr. John 
son called on me with Mrs. Williams, 
in Mr. Strahan's coach. ... A printer 
having acquired a fortune sufficient 
to keep his coach, was a good topick 
for the credit of literature. Mrs. Wil 
liams said, that another printer, Mr. 

Hamilton, had not waited so long as 
Mr. Strahan, but had kept his coach 
several years sooner. JOHNSON. 
" He was in the right. Life is short. 
The sooner that a man begins to 
enjoy his wealth the better." ' Life, 
ii. 226. 

3 Johnson in 1761 contributed the 
Preface to Rolt's Dictionary of Trade 
and Commerce. Life, i. 358. It is 
possible that he at first had under 
taken the whole work. 


Johnson's Life and Gennis. 413 

He was again reduced to the expedient of short compositions 
for the supply of the day. The writer of this narrative has 
now before him a letter in Dr. Johnson's hand-writing, which 
shews the distress and melancholy situation of the man, who 
had written the Rambler, and finished the great work of his 
Dictionary. The letter is directed to Mr. Richardson (the 
author of Clarissa), and is as follows : 


I am obliged to entreat your assistance. I am now under 
an arrest for five pounds eighteen shillings. Mr. Strahan, from 
whom I should have received the necessary help in this case, is 
not at home; and I am afraid of not finding Mr. Millar. If you 
will be so good as to send me this sum, I will very gratefully 
repay you, and add it to all former obligations. I am Sir, 
Your most obedient 

and most humble servant, 


Gough Square, 16 March V 

In the margin of this letter there is a memorandum in these 
words: 'March 16, 1756. Sent six guineas. Witness, Wm. 
Richardson. 5 For the honour of an admired writer it is to be 
regretted, that we do not find a more liberal entry. To his 
friend in distress he sent eight shillings more than was wanted. 
Had an incident of this kind occurred in one of his Romances, 
Richardson would have known how to grace his hero ; but in 
fictitious scenes generosity costs the writer nothing. 

About this time Johnson contributed several papers to 
a periodical Miscellany, called The VISITOR, from motives 
which are highly honourable to him, a compassionate regard for 
the late Mr. Christopher Smart 2 . The criticism on Pope's 
Epitaphs appeared in that work 3 . In a short time after, he 
became a reviewer in the Literary Magazine 4 , under the auspices 

1 Life, i. 303, n. I ; Letters, i. 61. 3 They were afterwards added first 
Strahan was the printer and Millar to his Idler and later on to his Life 
one of the publishers of the Dictionary, of Pope. 
Life, i. 287 ; iv. 321. 4 Life, i. 307. 

a Ib. ii. 345. See ante, p. 320. 



Essay on 

of the late Mr. Newbery, a man of a projecting head, good taste, 
and great industry 1 . This employment engrossed but little of 
Johnson's time. He resigned himself to indolence, took no 
exercise, rose about two, and then received the visits of his 
friends. Authors, long since forgotten, waited on him as their 
oracle, and he gave responses in the chair of criticism. He 
listened to the complaints, the schemes, and the hopes and fears 
of a crowd of inferior writers, 'who,' he said, in the words of 
Roger Ascham, ' lived, men knew not how, and died obscure, men 
'marked not when*? He believed, that he could give a better 
history of Grub-street than any man living 3 . His house was 
filled with a succession of visitors till four or five in the evening. 
During the whole time he presided at his tea-table 4 . Tea was 
his favourite beverage; and, when the late Jonas Hanway 5 
pronounced his anathema against the use of tea, Johnson rose 
in defence of his habitual practice, declaring himself ' in that 
article a hardened sinner, who had for years diluted his meals 
with the infusion of that fascinating plant ; whose tea-kettle had 
no time to cool ; who with tea solaced the midnight hour, and 
with tea welcomed the morning V 

1 Murphy borrows from Hawkins, 
p. 364, who describes Newbery as 
' a man of a projecting head, a good 
understanding, and great integrity, 
who by a fortunate connexion with 
Dr. James, the physician, and the 
honest exertions of his own industry, 
became the founder of a family.' He 
was the vendor of James's powder. 
Life, iii. 4, n. 2. See also Letters, 

i. 22. 

2 Ante, p. 315. 

3 Grub Street he defined in his 
Dictionary as * the name of a street 
in London, much inhabited by writers 
of small histories, dictionaries, and 
temporary poems ; whence any mean 
production is called Grub-street? 
Life, \. 296. He told Miss Burney 
that he had never visited it. Mme. 
D'Arblay's Diary, i. 415. 

There were two streets of this name, 

one by Fore Street, Cripplegate, the 
other by Market Street, Westminster. 
Dodsley's London, iii. 100. It was 
to the former street that the name 
was given. A writer in the Gentle 
man 's Magazine for 1735, p. 2 6> says 
that John Fox of the Book of Martyrs 
lived there. ' The Papists often called 
him by way of contempt the Grub- 
street Author.' 

4 Life, i. 247. 

5 /*.i. 313. 

6 ' A hardened and shameless tea- 
drinker, who has for twenty years 
diluted his meals with only the in 
fusion of this fascinating plant ; whose 
kettle has scarcely time to cool ; who 
with tea amuses the evening, with 
tea solaces the midnight, and with 
tea welcomes the morning.' Works, 
vi. 21. 

Hawkins (p. 561) blames Johnson's 

Johnson's Life and Genius. 415 

The proposal for a new edition of Shakspeare, which had 
formerly miscarried 1 , was resumed in the year 1756. The 
bookseller readily agreed to his terms, and subscription-tickets 
were issued out 2 . For undertaking this work, money, he con 
fessed, was the inciting motive 3 . His friends exerted themselves 
to promote his interest ; and, in the mean time, he engaged in 
a new periodical production called THE IDLER 4 . The first 
number appeared on Saturday, April 15, 1758 ; and the last, 
Apri 5, 1760. The profits of this work, and the subscrip 
tions for the new edition of Shakspeare, were the means by 
which he supported himself for four or five years. In 1759 
was published Rasselas, Prince of Abyssinia. His translation 
of Lobo's Voyage to Abyssinia seems to have pointed out that 
country for the scene of action ; and Rassila Christos 5 , the 
General of Sultan Segiied, mentioned in that work, most prob 
ably suggested the name of the prince. The author wanted to 
set out on a journey to Lichfield, in order to pay the last offices 
of filial piety to his mother, who, at the age of ninety, was then 
near her dissolution ; but money was necessary. Mr. Johnston, 
a bookseller who has long since left off business, gave one 
hundred pounds for the copy 6 . With this supply Johnson set 
out for Lichfield ; but did not arrive in time to close the eyes 
of a parent whom he loved. He attended the funeral, which, as 

1 unmanly thirst for tea.' He men- sellers who ' found out for him ' this 

tions however without dispraise the piece of work. 

fact that 'Bishop Burnet for many 4 Johnson had 'promised his Shake- 
years drank sixteen large cups of it speare should be published before 
every morning.' Hawkins, p. 355. Christmas, 1757' four months before 
Bentham in his old age described he began The Idler. Life, i. 319. 
tea as ' that fountain of faculties.' 5 Rassela Christos. 
Bentham's Works, x. 506. 6 According to Boswell, ' Mr. Stra- 
1 Ante, p. 381. han, Mr. Johnston, and Mr. Dodsley, 
" Life, i. 318. One of these tickets purchased it for ^100, but afterwards 
I give in a note on the Letters, i. paid him ^25 more when it came to 
68. a second edition.' Life, i. 341. But 
3 On finishing it he wrote to Dr. Johnson wrote to Strahan : ' The 
Warton : ' To tell the truth as I felt bargain which I made with Mr. John- 
no solicitude about this work I re- son \sic\ was seventy-pounds (or 
ceive no great comfort from its guineas) a volume, and twenty-five 
conclusion.' Ib. i. 123. According pounds for the second edition/ 
to Hawkins (p. 361) it was the book- Letters, i. 80. 


416 Essay on 

appears among his memorandums, was on the 23d of January, 
I 759 I - 

Johnson now found it necessary to retrench his expences. 
He gave up his house in Gough-square. Mrs. Williams went 
into lodgings. He retired to Gray's-Inn 2 , and soon removed to 
chambers in the Inner Temple-lane, where he lived in poverty, 
total idleness, and the pride of literature 3 . Magni stat nominis 
umbra*. Mr. Fitzherbert (the father of Lord St. Helen's, the 
present minister at Madrid) a man distinguished through life for 
his benevolence and other amiable qualities 5 , used to say, that 
he paid a morning visit to Johnson, intending from his chambers 
to send a letter into the city ; but, to his great surprise, he found 
an author by profession without pen, ink, or paper. The present 
Bishop of Salisbury 6 was also among those who endeavoured, 
by constant attention, to sooth the cares of a mind which he 
knew to be afflicted with gloomy apprehensions. At one of the 
parties made at his house, Boscovich 7 , the Jesuit, who had then 
lately introduced the Newtonian philosophy at Rome, and, after 
publishing an elegant Latin poem on the subject, was made 
a Fellow of the Royal Society, was one of the company invited 
to meet Dr. Johnson. The conversation at first was mostly in 
French. Johnson, though thoroughly versed in that language, 
and a professed admirer of Boileau and La Bruyere 8 , did not 

1 He did not go to Lichfield. He the inhabitants put together of both 

was on the point of setting out the Inner and Middle Temple.' 

when the news came of her death. 4 ' Stat magni nominis umbra.' 

Life, i. 514; Letters, i. 81 ; ante, Pharsalia, i. 135. Windham (Diary, 

p. 22. p. 1 8) jotting down Johnson's talk 

* He moved first to Staple Inn, at Ashbourne, writes : ' Stat magni 

on March 23, 1759. Letters, i. 86. nominis umbra would construe as 

He was in Gray's Inn in the follow- Umbra quae est magni nom. h. e. 

ing December (ib. p. 88) and in Inner celebrata? 

Temple Lane in June, 1760. Life, 5 Life, i. 82; iii. 148; Letters, i. 

i. 350. In neither of the two Inns 45, n. 6 ; ante, p. 256. 

are his rooms known. 6 Dr. Douglas. Ante, p. 397. 

3 'I have been told,' says Hawkins 7 Boscovitch. Life, ii. 125, n. 5. 
(P- 383)> 'by his neighbour at the 8 See ante, p. 334, where he con- 
corner, that during the time he dwelt demned Mrs. Thrale for preferring 
there more inquiries were made at La Bruyere to the Duke of Roche- 
his shop for Mr. Johnson than for all foucault. 


Johnson's Life and Genius. 

understand its pronunciation, nor could he speak it himself with 
propriety. For the rest of the evening the talk was in Latin. 
Boscovich had a ready current flow of that flimsy phraseology 
with which a priest may travel through Italy, Spain, and 
Germany. Johnson scorned what he called colloquial bar 
barisms. It was his pride to speak his best. He went on, 
after a little practice, with as much facility as if it was his native 
tongue. One sentence this writer well remembers. Observing 
that Fontinelle at first opposed the Newtonian philosophy, and 
embraced it afterwards, his words were : Fontinellus, nifallor, in 
extremd senectnte fuit transfuga ad castra Newtoniana 1 . 

We have now travelled through that part of Dr. Johnson's life 
which was a perpetual struggle with difficulties. Halcyon days 2 
are now to open upon him. In the month of May 1762, his 
Majesty, to reward literary merit, signified his pleasure to grant 
to Johnson a pension of three hundred pounds a year. The Earl 
of Bute was minister 3 . Lord Loughborough, who, perhaps, 
was originally a mover in the business 4 , had authority to 

1 In a note on the fourteenth of 
Voltaire's Lettres sur les Anglais we 
read: 'Lorsque cet article a 6t6 
e"crit (1728) plus de quarante ans 
apres la publication du livre des 
Principes, toute la France dtait encore 
cartesienne.' On Newton's death in 
1727 Fontenelle spoke the 'Eloge' 
on him in the Academy of Sciences. 
' On attendait en Angleterre son juge- 
ment comme une declaration solen- 
nelle de la superiority dela philosophie 
anglaise ; mais quand on a vu que 
non seulement il s'e"tait tromp en 
rendant compte de cette philosophie, 
mais qu'il comparait Descartes a 
Newton, toute la Socie^ royale de 
Londres s'est souleve'e.' CEuvres 
de Voltaire, ed. 1819, xxiv. 67. In 
1738 Voltaire was refused in France 
the imprimatur for his Eltmens de 
Newton. He printed it in Holland. 
Ib. xlvii. pp. 141, 165. 

' In a Latin conversation with the 
VOL. I. E 

Pere Boscovitch,' writes Dr. Maxwell, 
' at the house of Mrs. Cholmondeley, 
I heard Johnson maintain the su 
periority of Sir Isaac Newton over 
all foreign philosophers, with a dignity 
and eloquence that surprized that 
learned foreigner.' Life, ii. 125. 

2 ' When great Augustus made 

war's tempests cease, 
His halcyon days brought forth 

the arts of peace.' 
Denham; quoted in John 
son's Dictionary. 

3 It was in the month of July. On 
July 24, Johnson wrote to Miss 
Porter: 'Last Monday I was sent 
for by the Chief Minister the Earl 
of Bute, who told me that the King 
had empowered him to do something 
for me,' &c. Letters, i. 92. See also 
Life, i. 376. 

4 Lord Bute told me,' writes Bos- 
well, ' that Mr. Wedderburne, now 
Lord Loughborough, was the person 

e mention 


Essay on 

mention it. He was well acquainted with Johnson ; but, having 
heard much of his independent spirit, and of the downfall of 
Osborne the bookseller, he did not know but his benevolence might 
be rewarded with a folio on his head x . He desired the author of 
these memoirs to undertake the task 2 . This writer thought the 
opportunity of doing so much good the most happy incident in 
his life. He went, without delay, to the chambers in the Inner 
Temple-lane, which, in fact, were the abode of wretchedness. 
By slow and studied approaches the message was disclosed. 
Johnson made a long pause : he asked if it was seriously 
intended ? He fell into a profound meditation, and his own 
definition of a pensioner occurred to him 3 . He was told, 'That 
he, at least, did not come within the definition.' He desired to 
meet next day, and dine at the Mitre Tavern 4 . At that meeting 
he gave up all his scruples. On the following day Lord Lough- 
borough conducted him to the Earl of Bute. The conversation 
that passed was in the evening related to this writer by 
Dr. Johnson. He expressed his sense of his Majesty's bounty, 
and thought himself the more highly honoured, as the favour 
was not bestowed on him for having dipped his pen in faction. 
' No, Sir,' said Lord Bute, ' it is not offered to you for having 
dipped your pen in faction, nor with a design that you ever 
should 5 .' Sir John Hawkins will have it, that, after this interview, 

who first mentioned this subject to 
him.' Life, i. 373. For Wedderburne's 
going on errands for Lord Bute, see 
ii>. ii. 354- 

1 Ante, p. 381. 

2 * Mr. Murphy and the late Mr. 
Sheridan severally contended for the 
distinction of having been the first 
who mentioned to Mr. Wedderburne 
that Johnson ought to have a pension.' 
Life, i. 374. 

3 Pension. ' An allowance made to 
any one without an equivalent. In 
England it is generally understood 
to mean pay given to a state hireling 
for treason to his country.' Pensioner. 
( One who is supported by an allow 
ance paid at the will of another; 

a dependant.' These definitions re 
main in the fourth edition, corrected 
by Johnson in 1773. 

4 ' I had learnt that his place of 
frequent resort was the Mitre tavern 
in Fleet-street, where he loved to sit 
up late, and I begged I might be 
allowed to pass an evening with him 
there soon, which he promised I 
should.' Ib. i. 399. 

5 In the review of Hawkins's John 
son in the Monthly Review, Ixxvi. 
375, no doubt written by Murphy, 
it is not design but desire. Murphy 
adds : ' On the next day Mr. Murphy 
was in the Temple soon after nine ; 
he got Johnson ^lp and dressed in due 
time ; and saw him set off at eleven.' 


Johnson's Life and Genius. 419 

Johnson was often pressed to wait on Lord Bute, but with 
a sullen spirit refused to comply '. However that be, Johnson 
was never heard to utter a disrespectful word of that nobleman 2 . 
The writer of this essay remembers a circumstance which may 
throw some light on this subject. The late Dr. Rose, of 
Chiswick, whom Johnson loved and respected, contended for 
the pre-eminence of the Scotch writers ; and Ferguson's book on 
Civil Society, then on the eve of publication, he said, would give 
the laurel to North Britain. ' Alas ! what can he do upon that 
subject?" said Johnson: 'Aristotle, Polybius, Grotius, Puffen- 
dorf, and Burlamaqui, have reaped in that field before him.' 
' He will treat it,' said Dr. Rose, ' in a new manner.' ' A new 
manner ! Buckinger had no hands, and he wrote his name with 
his toes at Charing-cross, fo