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v. x 



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 

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 

vi Contents. 


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 413 

By William Weller Pepys 416 

By the Rev. Hastings Robinson 417 

By Mrs. Rose 419 

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 425 

By the Rev. Richard Warner 426 

By Mr. Wickins 427 

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


To Samuel Richardson -435 

To Samuel Richardson 436 

To Samuel Richardson . . . . . . . . 438 

To Dr. George Hay 439 

To the Rev. Thomas Percy 440 

Contents. vii 


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 451 

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 



DR. JOHNSON used to say, that where secrecy or mystery 
began, vice or roguery was not far off; and that he leads in 
general an ill life, who stands in fear of no man's observation 2 . 

When a friend of his who had not been very lucky in his first 
wife, married a second, he said Alas ! another instance of the 
triumph of hope over experience 3 . 

Of Sheridan's writings on Elocution, he said, they were 
a continual renovation of hope, and an unvaried succession of 
disappointments 4 . 

1 From the eleventh volume of Sir 
John Hawkins's edition of Johnson's 

Works (pp. 195-216), published in 
1787-9, in 13 vols. 8vo. Many of 
the 'Apophthegms,' c., there in 
cluded, which had been copied from 
Steevens's Collection in the Euro 
pean Magazine for January, 1875, 
will be found post, under Anecdotes 
by George Steevens. One or two, 
moreover, which in like manner were 
borrowed from Seward, will be found 
post, under his name. 

2 See ante, i. 326, for his dislike 
of * mysteriousness in trifles,' and 
post, p. 8, for ' the vices of retire 
ment. 3 Boswell, recounting how 
Johnson in the Oxford post-coach 
* talked without reserve of the state of 
his affairs,' continues : * Indeed his 


openness with people at a first inter 
view was remarkable.' Life, iv. 284. 
See/0j/, in Seward's Anecdotes. 

3 Life, ii. 128. The Lord Chan 
cellor Audley, in his speech in par 
liament on Henry VIII's troubles in 
his two first marriages, said : ' What 
man of middle condition would not 
this deter from marrying a third 
time ? Yet this our most excellent 
prince again condescends to contract 
matrimony.' Part. Hist. i. 528. 

4 For Johnson's contempt of Sheri 
dan's oratory see Life, i. 453, iv. 


In the Life, ii. 122, this anecdote 
is thus recorded on the authority of 
Dr. Maxwell : * Of a certain player 
he remarked, that his conversation 
usually threatened and announced 
B He 

Apophthegms, Sentiments 

He used to say, that no man read long together with a folio 
on his table : Books, said he, that you may carry to the fire, 
and hold readily in your hand, are the most useful after all. 
He would say, such books form the man of general and easy 
reading z . 

He was a great friend to books like the French E sprits d'un 
tel; for example, Beauties of Watts 2 , &c., &c., at which, said he, 
a man will often look and be tempted to go on, when he would 
have been frightened at books of a larger size and of a more 
erudite appearance. 

C Being once asked if he ever embellished a story No, said 
A! he; a story is to lead either to the knowledge of a fact or 
f character, and is good for nothing if it be not strictly and 
L. literally true 3 . 

Round numbers, said he, are always false 4 . 
Watts's Improvement of the Mind was a very favourite book 
with him 5 ; he used to recommend it, as he also did Le Diction- 
AbbeL'Avocat 6 . 

he distinguished himself by the vio 
lence of his attacks, first on Washing 
ton and John Adams, and next on 
Jefferson. Diet, of Nat. Biog. It 
was a long step from The Beauties 
of Johnson. 

Lamb wrote on Feb. 26, 1808: 
'We have Specimens of Ancient Eng 
lish Poets, Specimens of Modern 
English Poets, Specimens of Ancient 
English Prose Writers without end. 
They used to be called Beauties. 
You have seen Beauties of Shake 
speare; so have many people that 
never saw any beauties in Shake 
speare.' Ainger's Letters of Lamb, 
i. 244. 

3 Ante, i. 225. 

4 Life, iii. 226, n. 4. 

5 In his Life of Watts he says : 
' Few books have been perused by 
me with greater pleasure than his 
Improvement of the Mind? Works, 
viii. 385. 

6 This work is not in the British 


more than it performed ; that he fed 
you with a continual renovation of 
hope, to end in a constant succes 
sion of disappointment.' 

According to the Edinburgh Cou- 
rant, June 16, 1792, this player was 
Macklin. Foote accused him ' of 
reading in the morning for the pur 
pose of shewing off at night.' Cooke's 
Memoirs of Macklin, p. 246. See 
post, in Steevens's Anecdotes. 

1 'Johnson advised me to read 
just as inclination prompted me, 
which alone, he said, would do me 
any good ; for I had better go into 
company than read a set task.' Let 
ters of Boswell, p. 28. 

2 In 1781 The Beauties of Johnson 
was published. Life,'\v. 148. Accord 
ing to Dr. Anderson (Life of Johnson, 
ed. 1815, p. 231) the selection was 
made by Thomson Callender, the 
nephew of the poet Thomson, who 
eleven years later fled to America to 
escape a prosecution for his Political 
Progress of Great B?itain. There 

Opinions, and Occasional Reflections. 3 

He has been accused of treating Lord Lyttelton roughly in 
his life of him ; he assured a friend, however, that he kept back 
a very ridiculous anecdote of him, relative to a question he put 
to a great divine of his time *. 

Johnson's account of Lord Lyttelton's envy to Shenstone for 
his improvements in his grounds, &c. 8 , was confirmed by an in 
genious writer. Spence was in the house for a fortnight with the 
Lytteltons, before they offered to shew him Shenstone's place. 

When accused of mentioning ridiculous anecdotes in the lives 
of the poets, he said, he should not have been an exact bio 
grapher if he had omitted them. The business of such a one, 
( said he, is to give a complete account of the person whose life 
is writing, and to discriminate him from all other persons 
any peculiarities of character or sentiment he may happen 
to have 3 . 

He spoke Latin with great fluency and elegance. He said, 
indeed, he had taken great pains about it 4 . 

A very famous schoolmaster said, he had rather take Johnson's 

1 'Dr. Johnson, in \\\<=>Lifeof Lyttel- of a walk to detect a deception ; in 
to;*, suppressed an anecdote which juries of which Shenstone would 
would have made his memory ridi- heavily complain.' Works, viii. 410. 
culous. He was a man rather melan- 3 Malone, recording a conversa- 
choly in his disposition, and used to tion with Johnson about the account 
declare to his friends, that when he he gave of Addison's reclaiming his 
went to Vauxhall he always supposed loan to Steele by an execution, con- 
pleasure to be in the next box to his tinues : ' I then mentioned to him 
at least, that he himself was so that some people thought that Mr. 
unhappily situated as always to be Addison's character was so pure, that 
in the wrong box for it.' European the fact, though trtte, ought to have 
Magazine, 1798, p. 376. been suppressed. He saw no reason 

For the Life of Lyttelton see Life, for this. " If nothing but the bright 

iv. 57, 64. side of characters should be shewn, 

2 * For a while the inhabitants of we should sit down in despondency, 

Hagley affected to tell their ac- and think it utterly impossible to 

quaintance of the little fellow that imitate them in any thing."' Life, 

was trying to make himself admired; iv. 53. ' M'Leod asked, if it was not 

but when by degrees the Leasowes wrong in Orrery to expose the defects 

forced themselves into notice, they of a man with whom he lived in 

took care to defeat the curiosity intimacy. JOHNSON. "Why no, Sir, 

which they could not suppress, by after the man is dead ; for then it is 

conducting their visitants perversely done historically." ' Ib. v. 238. 

to inconvenient points of view, and See also ib. i. 9, 30, 32. 

introducing them at the wrong end 4 Ib. ii. 125, 404. Ante, \. 417. 

B 2 opinion 

Apophthegms, Sentiments 

opinion about any Latin composition, than that of any other 
person in England. 

Dr. Sumner, of Harrow x , used to tell this story of Johnson : 
they were dining one day, with many other persons, at 
Mrs. Macaulay's ; she had talked a long time at dinner about 
the natural equality of mankind ; Johnson, when she had finished 
her harangue, rose up from the table, and with great solemnity 
of countenance, and a bow to the ground, said to the servant, 
who was waiting behind his chair, Mr. John, pray be seated in 
my place, and permit me to wait upon you in my turn : your 
mistress says, you hear, that we are all equal 2 . 

When some one was lamenting Foote's unlucky fate in being 
kicked in Dublin, Johnson said he was glad of it ; he is rising in 
the world, said he : when he was in England, no one thought it 
worth while to kick him 3 . 

He was much pleased with the following repartee: Fiat 
experimental* in corpore vili, said a French physician to his 
colleague, in speaking of the disorder of a poor man that 
understood Latin, and who was brought into an hospital ; corpus 
non tarn vile est, says the patient, pro quo Chris tus ipse non 
dedignatus est mori 4 . 

Johnson used to say, a man was a scoundrel that was afraid of 
any thing 5 . 

After having disused swimming for many years, he went into 
the river at Oxford, and swam away to a part of it that he had 
been told of as a dangerous place, and where some one had been 
drowned 6 . 

He waited on Lord Marchmont 7 to make some inquiries after 
particulars of Mr. Pope's life ; his first question was, What 
kind of a man was Mr. Pope in his conversation ? his lordship 
answered, that if the conversation did not take something 

1 Ante, i. 161. 5 For Johnson's one dread see 

2 Life, i. 447 ; iii. 77. post, p. 16 ; for his use of the word 

3 Ante, i. 424. scoundrel see Life, iii. i. 

4 * Let the experiment be tried 6 Ib. ii. 299. 

on a worthless body.' Not so 7 Ib. iii. 392. Lord Marchmont's 
worthless is the body for which daughter gave Sir Walter Scott 'per- 
Christ himself thought it no scorn sonal reminiscences of Pope.' Lock- 
to die.' hart's Scott, ed. 1839, i. 343. 


Opinions, and Occasional Reflections. 5 

of a lively or epigrammatick turn, he fell asleep, or perhaps 
pretended to do so x . 

Talking one day of the patronage the great sometimes affect 
to give to literature, and literary men : ' Andrew Millar,' says 
he, ' is the Maecenas of the age V 

Of the state of learning among the Scots, he said : ' It is with 
their learning as with provisions in a besieged town, every one 
has a mouthful, and no one a bellyful! 3 . 1 

Of Sir Joshua Reynolds he requested three things ; that he 
would not work on a Sunday ; that he would read a portion of 
Scripture on that day; and that he would forgive him a debt 
which he had incurred for some benevolent purpose 4 . 

When he first felt the stroke of palsy, he prayed to God 
that he would spare his mind, whatever he thought fit to do with 
his body 5 . 

To some lady who was praising Shenstone's poems very much, 
and who had an Italian greyhound lying by the fire, he said, 
e Shenstone holds amongst poets the same rank your dog holds 
amongst dogs ; he has not the sagacity of the hound, the docility 
of the spaniel, nor the courage of the bull-dog, yet he is still 
a pretty fellow 6 .' 

1 'When he wanted to sleep he 4 In these requests Reynolds 
" nodded in company " ; and once ' readily acquiesced.' However, after 
slumbered at his own table while the a time he resumed his Sunday work. 
Prince of Wales was talking of poetry.' Ib. iv. 414, n. i. 'Sir Godfrey 
Works, viii. 309. Kneller,' according to Pope, ' called 

2 For Andrew Millar, the book- employing the pencil the prayer of a 
seller, see Life, i. 287, n. 3. painter.' Warton's Pope's Works, 

3 Ib. ii. 363. ed. 1822, viii. 213. Szt post, p. 203. 
Sir Walter Scott, in his Address 5 Describing the stroke to Mrs. 

at the opening of the Edinburgh Thrale, he wrote : ' I was alarmed 
Academy, quoting Johnson's saying, and prayed God that however he 
continued : ' Sturdy Scotsman as might afflict my body he would spare 
he was, he was not more attached to my understanding. This prayer that 
Scotland than to truth ; and it must I might try the integrity of my facul- 
be admitted that there was some ties I made in Latin verse.' Letters, 
foundation for the Doctor's remark.' ii. 301 ; Life, iv. 230 ; ante, i. in. 
Lockhart's Scott, ed. 1839, vii. 271. 6 'We talked of Shenstone. Dr. 
' A Scotchman must be a very sturdy Johnson said he was a good layer- 
moralist who does not love Scot- out of land, but would not allow him 
land better than truth.' Life, ii. to approach excellence as a poet.' 
311, #. 4. Ib. v. 267. 


Apophthegms, Sentiments 

Johnson said he was better pleased with the commendations 
bestowed on his account of the Hebrides than on any book he 
had ever written. Burke, says he, thought well of the philosophy 
of it ; Sir William Jones of the observations on language ; and 
Mr. Jackson of those on trade x . 

Of Foote's wit and readiness of repartee he thought very 
highly ; * He was/ says he, * the readiest dog at an escape I ever 
knew ; if you thought you had him on the ground fairly down, 
he was upon his legs and over your shoulders again in an 
instant V 

When some one asked him, whether they should introduce 
Hugh Kelly, the author, to him ; ' No, Sir,' says he, ' I never 
desire to converse with a man who has written more than he has 
read.' Yet when his play was acted for the benefit of his 
widow, Johnson furnished a prologue 3 . 

He repeated poetry with wonderful energy and feeling. He 
was seen to weep whilst he repeated Goldsmith's character of 
the English in his Traveller , beginning thus : 

' Stern o'er each bosom,' &c. 4 

1 ' Dr. Johnson observed, that every 
body commended such parts of his 
Journey to the Western Islands, as 
were in their own way. "For in 
stance, (said he,) Mr. Jackson (the 
all-knowing) told me there was more 
good sense upon trade in it, than he 
should hear in the House of Com 
mons in a year, except from Burke. 
Jones commended the part which 
treats of language ; Burke that which 
describes the inhabitants of moun 
tainous countries." ' Life, iii. 137. It 
was in the reflections on the life and 
economy of the Highlanders, and on 
the changes rapidly taking place in 
the clan system, that 'the philosophy' 
was found. 

For Jackson see ib. iii. 19; Let- 
ters, ii. 349. 

' One species of wit Foote has in 
an eminent degree, that of escape. 
You drive him into a corner with 

both hands ; but he's gone, Sir, when 
you think you have got him like an 
animal that jumps over your head. 3 
Life, iii. 69. * Foote is the most in 
compressible fellow that I ever knew ; 
when you have driven him into a 
corner, and think you are sure of 
him, he runs through between your 
legs, or jumps over your head, and 
makes his escape.' Ib. v. 391. 

3 Id. iii. 113 ; ante, i. 181, 432. 

' On reading over this Prologue to 
Dr. Johnson the morning after it was 
spoken, the Doctor told me that 
instead of renewed hostilities he 
wrote revengeful petulance, and did 
not seem pleased with the alteration.' 
MS. note by Rev. J. Hussey. 

The couplet as altered, stands : 
'Let no renewed hostilities invade 
Th' oblivious grave's inviolable 

4 It was at Oban that this hap- 


Opinions, and Occasional Reflections. 7 

He was supposed to have assisted Goldsmith very much in that 
poem, but has been heard to say, that he might have contributed 
three or four lines, taking together all he had done r . 

He held all authors very cheap, that were not satisfied with 
the opinion of the publick about them. He used to say, that 
every man who writes, thinks he can amuse or inform mankind, 
and they must be the best judges of his pretensions 2 . 

Of Warburton he always spoke well. He gave me, says he, 
his good word when it was of use to me. Warburton, in the 
Preface to his Shakespeare, has commended Johnson's Observa 
tions on Macbeth 3 . 

Two days before he died, he said, with some pleasantry, Poor 
Johnson is dying; **** will say, he dies of taking a few grains 
more of squills than were ordered him ; **** will say, he dies of 
the scarifications made by the surgeon in his leg 4 . His last act 
of understanding is said to have been exerted in giving his 
blessing to a young lady that requested it of him 5 . 

He was always ready to assist any authors in correcting their 
works, and selling them to booksellers. I have done writing, 
said he, myself, and should assist those that do write 6 . 

pened. 'We talked of Goldsmith's prose?"' Warton's Pope's Works, 

Traveller, of which Dr. Johnson iv. 199, n. 

spoke highly; and, while I was help- 3 Life, i. 175; jv. 288. Johnson, 

ing him on with his great coat, he in his Shakespeare, often ridicules 

repeated from it the character of the Warburton. See ante, i. 381, and 

British nation, which he did with post, in Steevens's Anecdotes. 

such energy, that the tear started 4 The supposed speakers were 

into his eye.' Life, v. 344. Brocklesby and Heberden. The wit 

1 Ib. ii. 5. has been lost in the narration ; for 

2 Ib. iv. 172 ; post, p. 19. Smollett, what Johnson said see/tfj/, in Wind- 
writing of the Age of George II, ham's Anecdotes. 

says : ' Genius in writing spon- 3 Life, iv. 418 ; ante, i. 447, n. 5. 
taneously arose; and, though neg- 6 Ib. ii. 195 ; iii. 373; iv. 121. 
lected by the great, flourished under The Rev. John Hussey wrote on 
the culture of a public which had his copy of the first edition of Bos- 
pretensions to taste, and piqued it- well, opposite a passage about profits 
self on encouraging literary merit.' of authors (Ib. iv. 121) : ' Mem. 
History of England, ed. 1800, v. Mr. Townshend's manuscripts. I 
379- think it was Mr. Allen, the late 
' When somebody was highly prais- Minister of Wandsworth, who told 
ing Milton George II asked, "Why me that Mr.Townshend (if that were 
did he not write his Paradise Lost in his name, he was afterwards either 



Apophthegms, Sentiments 

When some one asked him for what he should marry, he 
replied, first, for virtue ; secondly, for wit ; thirdly, for beauty ; 
and fourthly, for money 1 . 

He thought worse of the vices of retirement than of those 
of society 2 . 

He attended Mr. Thrale in his last moments, and stayed in 
the room praying, as is imagined, till he had drawn his last 
breath. His servants, said he, would have waited upon him in 
this awful period, and why not his friend 3 ? 

He was extremely fond of reading the lives of great and 
learned persons 4 . Two or three years before he died, he applied 
to a friend of his to give him a list of those in the French 
language that were well written and genuine. He said, that 
Bolingbroke had declared he could not read Middleton's life 
of Cicero 5 . 

He was a great enemy to the present fashionable way of 
supposing worthless and infamous persons mad. 

He was not apt to judge ill of persons without good reasons ; 

Printer or Stationer to .the East India 
Company) in the early part of his 
life was seized with the cacotthes 
scribendi, and having finished a Pam 
phlet wished much to have Mr. John 
son's opinion of it, before he offered 
it to the Publick. So without any 
previous knowledge or introduction, 
he called on Johnson, and humbly 
requested him to peruse the Manu 
script of his first production ; which 
was with great good nature im 
mediately acquiesced in : when he 
had finished it he said to Mr. Towns- 
hend, " Pray, Sir, are you of any 
profession?" "A Printer, at your 
service." "Then, Sir, I would recom 
mend you to print any work rather 
than your own ; it will turn out more 
to your advantage if you get paid for 
it, and if it be worth printing, in 
finitely more to your credit." This 
interview Townshend spoke of in his 
latter days with grateful remem 

brance ; a different reception, he said, 
would have flattered his vanity and 
allured him to poverty and con 

1 Life, ii. 128 ; iv. 131. 

2 Ib. v. 62. 

3 Ib. iv. 84 ; ante, i. 96. 

* Ib. \. 425 ; v. 79. 

5 Johnson would not read Boling- 
broke's works at all events his 
Philosophical works. Ib. i. 330. 

* My Lord Bolingbroke has lost 
his wife. . . . Dr. Middleton told me 
a compliment she made him two 
years ago which I thought pretty. 
She said she was persuaded that he 
was a very great writer, for she un 
derstood his works better than any 
other English book, and that she 
had observed that the best writers 
were always the most intelligible.' 
[She was a Frenchwoman.] Wai- 
pole's Letters, ii. 202. 


Opinions, and Occasional Reflections. 9 

an old friend of his used to say, that in general he thought too 
well of mankind J . 

One day, on seeing an old terrier lie asleep by the fire-side at 
Streatham, he said. Presto, you are, if possible, a more lazy dog 
than I am 2 . 

Being told that Churchill had abused him under the character 
of Pomposo, in his Ghost, I always thought, said he, he was 
a shallow fellow and I think so still 3 . 

When some one asked him how he felt at the indifferent 
reception of his tragedy at Drury-lane ; Like the Monument, 
said he, and as unshaken as that fabrick 4 . 

Being asked by Dr. Lawrence what he thought the best 
system of education, he replied, School in school-hours, and 
home-instruction in the intervals 5 . 

I would never, said he, desire a young man to neglect his 
business for the purpose of pursuing his studies, because it is 
unreasonable ; I would only desire him to read at those hours 
when he would otherwise be unemployed. I will not promise 
that he will be a Bentley ; but if he be a lad of any parts, he 
will certainly make a sensible man 6 . 

The picture of him by Sir Joshua Reynolds, which was painted 
for Mr. Beauclerk, and is now Mr. Langton's, and scraped in 

1 f As he was ever one of the most had ; for he has shewn more fertility 
quick-sighted men I ever knew in than I expected. To be sure, he is 
discovering the good and amiable a tree that cannot produce good fruit : 
qualities of others, so was he ever he only bears crabs. But, Sir, a 
inclined to palliate their defects.' tree that produces a great many 
Hawkins, p. 50. crabs is better than a tree which 

'Reynolds said of Johnson: produces only a few.' Life, 1.418. See 

" He was not easily imposed upon also ib. i. 406. 

by professions to honesty and can- 4 Ib. i. 199. 

dour ; but he appeared to have little 5 See ante, i. 1 6 1, where he op- 
suspicion of hypocrisy in religion." ' posed the imposition of holiday tasks 
Taylor's Reynolds, ii. 459. See also by the schoolmaster. For Dr. Law- 
Life, ii. 236. rence see Life, ii. 296. 

2 Ante, i. 189. 6 ' Snatches of reading (said John- 

3 'No, Sir, I called the fellow a son) will not make a Bentley or 
blockhead at first, and I will call a Clarke. They are however in a 
him a blockhead still. However, I certain degree advantageous.' Ib. 
will acknowledge that I have a better iv. 21. 

opinion of him now, than I once 


io Apophthegms, Sentiments 

mezzotinto by Doughty, is extremely like him ; there is in it 
that appearance of a labouring working mind, of an indolent 
reposing body, which he had to a very great degree. Beauclerk 
wrote under his picture, 

l ingenium ingens 

Inculto habet hoc sub corpore*.' 

Indeed, the common operations of dressing, shaving, &c., were 
a toil to him ; he held the care of the body very cheap 2 . He 
used to say, that a man who rode out for an appetite consulted 
but little the dignity of human nature. 

He was much pleased with an Italian improvvisatore, whom he 
saw at Streatham, and with whom he talked much in Latin. 
He told him, if he had not been a witness to his faculty himself, 
he should not have thought it possible. He said, Isaac Hawkins 
Browne 3 had endeavoured at it in English, but could not get 
beyond thirty verses. 

When a Scotsman was one day talking to him of the great 
writers of that country that were then existing, he said : * We 
have taught that nation to write 4 , and do they pretend to be our 
teachers ? let me hear no more of the tinsel of Robertson, and 
the foppery of Dalrymple V He said, Hume has taken his style 
from Voltaire 6 . He would never hear Hume mentioned with 
any temper: 'A man,' said he, 'who endeavoured to persuade 
his friend who had the stone to shoot himself 7 .' 

1 Ante, i. 458; Life, iv. 180. rymple.' Life, ii. 236. 

2 Ante, i. 241 ; Life, i. 396 ; ii. 406. 6 'When I talked of our advance- 

3 Ante, i. 266. ment in literature, " Sir, (said he,) 

4 Dr. Beattie wrote on Jan. 5, you have learnt a little from us, and 
1778: 'We who live in Scotland you think yourselves very great men. 
are obliged to study English from Hume would never have written 
books, like a dead language, which History, had not Voltaire written it 
we understand, but cannot speak.' before him. He is an echo of Vol- 
He adds : ' I have spent some years taire." ' Ib. ii. 53. 

in labouring to acquire the art of Wordsworth said : 'the Scotch hi s- 

giving a vernacular cast to the Eng- torians did infinite mischief to style, 

lish we write.' Forbes's Beattie, with the exception of Smollett, who 

P- 243. wrote good pure English.' Words- 

5 * Doubtless Goldsmith's His- worth's Life, ii. 459. See Life, i. 439, 
tory is better than the verbiage of for Hume's style. 

Robertson or the foppery of Dal- 7 Seven years after Hume's death 


Opinions, and Occasional Reflections. n 

Upon hearing a lady of his acquaintance commended for her 
learning, he said : * A man is in general better pleased when he 
has a good dinner upon his table, than when his wife talks Greek. 
My old friend, Mrs. Carter x , said he, could make a pudding, as 
well as translate Epictetus from the Greek, and work a handker 
chief as well as compose a poem.' He thought she was too 
reserved in conversation upon subjects she was so eminently able 
to converse upon, which was occasioned by her modesty and fear 
of giving offence 2 . 

Being asked whether he had read Mrs. Macaulay's second 
volume of the History of England ; ' No, Sir,' says he, 'nor her 

' a work was published in London 
called Essays on Suicide and the 
Immortality of the Sou/, ascribed to 
the late David Hume, Esq. That 
Hume wrote these Essays, and in 
tended to publish them, is an inci 
dent in his life which ought not to 
be passed over; but it is also part 
of his history that he repented of 
the act at the last available mo 
ment, and suppressed the publication.' 
J. H. Burton's Hume, ii. 13. See 
also Letters of Hume to Strahan, 
pp. 230-3, 355, 362. The work was 
published not seven years, but one 
year after his death. In the Essay 
on Suicide he says : ' Let us here 
endeavour to restore men to their 
native liberty by examining all the 
common arguments against suicide, 
and shewing that that action may 
be free from every imputation 
of guilt or blame, according to the 
sentiments of all the ancient phi 
losophers.' Ed. 1777, p. 5. On 
p. 15 he says : ' When the horror of 
pain prevails over the love of life ; 
when a voluntary action anticipates 
the effects of blind causes, 'tis only 
in consequence of those powers and 
principles which he [the supreme 
creator] has implanted in his 

I cannot find any account of his 

endeavouring to persuade his friend 
to shoot himself. Perhaps it was as 
sumed that the Essay was written for 
some one man. 

1 Life, i. 122, n. 4. * Dr. Johnson 
maintained to me, contrary to the 
common notion, that a woman would 
not be the worse wife for being 
learned.' Ib. ii. 76. See also ib. v. 

* It is, indeed, an unhappy circum 
stance in a family, where the wife 
has more knowledge than the hus 
band ; but it is better it should be 
so than that there should be no know 
ledge in the whole house.' Addison's 
Works, ed. 1864, iv. 319. ' If I 
had a daughter,' wrote Lord Chester 
field, ' I would give her as much 
learning as a boy.' Chesterfield's 
Letters to A. C. Stanhope, ed. 1817, 
p. 151. 

2 She is, no doubt, the Lady meant 
in the following passage in Sir 
Charles Grandison (ed. 1754, i. 63), 
where Miss Byron says : ' Who, I, 
a woman know anything of Latin and 
Greek ! I know but one Lady who 
is mistress of both ; and she finds 
herself so much an owl among the 
birds, that she wants of all things 
to be thought to have unlearned 



Apophthegms, Sentiments 

first neither 1 .' He would not be introduced to the Abbe 
Raynal, when he was in England 2 . 

He said, that when he first conversed with Mr. Bruce, the 
Abyssinian traveller, he was very much inclined to believe he 
had been there ; but that he had afterwards altered his opinion 3 . 

He was much pleased with Dr. Jortin's Sermons, the language 
of which he thought very elegant 4 ; but thought his life of 
Erasmus a dull book. 

He was very well acquainted with Psalmanaazar, the pretended 
Formosan, and said, he had never seen the close of the life of 
any one that he wished so much his own to resemble, as that 
of him, for its purity and devotion. He told many anecdotes of 
him; and said he was supposed by his accent to have been 
a Gascon. He said, that Psalmanaazar spoke English with the 
city accent, and coarsely enough. He for some years spent his 
evenings at a publick house near Old-Street 5 , where many 
persons went to talk with him ; Johnson was asked whether he 
ever contradicted Psalmanaazar ; ' I should as soon,' said he, 
'have thought of contradicting a bishop 6 ;' so high did he hold 

1 Of her he said : < She is better 
employed at her toilet, than using 
her pen. It is better she should be 
reddening her own cheeks, than 
blackening other people's characters.' 
Life, iii. 46. In the Sale Catalogue of 
his Library, Lot 68 is ' Macaulay's 
History of England, 2 v. 1763-5.' 

2 Mrs. Chapone wrote to Mrs. 
Carter on June 15, 1777 : ' I sup 
pose you have heard a great deal of 
the Abbe' Raynal, who is in London. 
I fancy you would have served him 
as Dr. Johnson did, to whom when 
Mrs. Vesey introduced him, he turned 
from him, and said he had read his 
book, and would have nothing to say 
to him.' Mrs. Chapone's Posthumous 
Works, i. 172. His book was burnt 
by the common hangman in Paris. 
C<tf\y\&s French Revolution,^. 1857, 
i. 45. Carlyle wrote to his future 
wife in 1824 : ' If you are for fiery- 

spirited men, I recommend you to 
the Abbe* Raynal, whose History, at 
least the edition of 1781, is, to use 
the words of my tailor respecting 
Africa, " wan coll (one coal) of burn 
ing sulphur." ' Early Letters of T. 
Carlyle, ii. 268. See ante, i. 211. 

3 Ante, i. 365, n. I ; Life, ii. 333 ; 
Letters, i. 313, n. i. 

Southey, reviewing Lord Valen- 
tia's Travels, agreed with his lord 
ship in questioning Bruce's state 
ments. * I think Lord Valentia is 
rather unfair to Bruce ; (wrote Scott) 
I know that surly Patagonian.' He 
adds that he must have been in 
Abyssinia. Letters of Sir Walter 
Scott, Boston, U.S.A. i. 148. 

4 Life, iii. 248 ; iv. 161 ; Letters, 
ii. 276, n. i. 

5 Life, iv. 187. 

6 Ib. iv. 274. See id. iii. 443-9 for my 
note on Psalmanazar, and ante, i. 266. 


Opinions, and Occasional Reflections. 13 

his character in the latter part of his life. When he was asked 
whether he had ever mentioned Formosa before him, he said, he 
was afraid to mention even China. 

He thought Cato the best model of tragedy we had z ; yet he 
used to say, of all things, the most ridiculous would be, to see 
a girl cry at the representation of it 2 . 

He thought the happiest life was that of a man of business, 
with some literary pursuits for his amusement ; and that in 
general no one could be virtuous or happy, that was not com 
pletely employed 3 . 

Johnson had read much in the works of Bishop Taylor ; in his 
Dutch Thomas a Kempis he has quoted him occasionally in the 
margin 4 . 

1 See ante, i. 185, for Johnson's 
random talk about authors, and Life, 
i. 199, n. 2, and Works, vii. 456, for 
his criticism of Cato in his Life of 
Addison. In the Preface to his 
Shakespeare he says (ed. 1765, p. 
35) : ' Voltaire expresses his wonder 
that our authour's extravagancies are 
endured by a nation which has seen 
the tragedy of Cato. Let him be 
answered, that Addison speaks the 
language of poets and Shakespeare 
of men. We find in Cato innumerable 
beauties which enamour us of its 
authour, but we see nothing that 
acquaints us with human sentiments 
or human actions. . . . We pronounce 
the name of Cato, but we think on 

' I have always thought that those 
pompous Roman sentiments are not 
so difficult to be produced, as is 
vulgarly imagined. A stroke of nature 
is worth a hundred such thoughts as 
"When vice prevails, and impious 
men bear sway, 

The post of honour is a private 


Cato is a fine dialogue on liberty and 
the love of one's country.' J. War- 
ton's Essay on Pope, 2nd ed., i. 259 ; 

Warton published this Essay four 
teen years before Wordsworth was 

2 ' A lady observing to one of her 
maid-servants, when she came in 
from the play [Hannah More's Fatal 
Falsehood}, that her eyes looked red, 
as if she had been crying, the girl, 
by way of apology, said, "Well, 
Ma'am, if I did, it was no harm ; a 
great many respectable people cried 
too." ' H. More's Memoirs, i. 164. 

3 ' That accurate judge of human 
life, Dr. Johnson, has often been heard 
by me to observe, that it was the 
greatest misfortune which could be 
fall a man to have been bred to no 
profession, and pathetically to regret 
that this misfortune was his own.' 
More's Practical Piety, p. 313. See 
Life, iii. 309. See ante, i. 238, n. 2, 
and fast in S e ward's A necdotes. 

4 ' In the latter part of his life, in 
order to satisfy himself whether his 
mental faculties were impaired, he 
resolved that he would try to learn 
a new language, and fixed upon the 
Low Dutch, for that purpose, and 
this he continued till he had read 
about one half of Thomas a Kempis? 
Life, iv. 21. 


Apophthegms, Sentiments 

He is said to have very frequently made sermons for clergy 
men at a guinea a-piece z ; that delivered by Dr. Dodd, in the 
chapel of Newgate, was written by him, as was also his Defence, 
spoken at the bar of the Old Bailey 2 . 

Of a certain lady's entertainments, he said, What signifies 
going thither ? there is neither meat, drink, nor talk 3 . 

He advised Mrs. Siddons to play the part of Queen Catherine 
in Henry VIII. 4 and said of her, that she appeared to him to be 
one of the few persons that the great corruptors of mankind, 
money and reputation, had not spoiled s . 

He had a great opinion of the knowledge procured by 

1 'Johnson was never greedy of 
money, but without money could not 
be stimulated to write. I have been 
told by a clergyman with whom he 
had been long acquainted, that, being 
to preach on a particular occasion, 
he applied to him for help. " I will 
write a sermon for thee," said John 
son, " but thou must pay me for it." ' 
Hawkins, p. 84. See ante, i. 82, and 
Life, v. 67. 

2 Ib. iii. 141 ; ante, i. 432. 

3 ' I advised Mrs. Thrale, who has 
no card-parties at her house, to give 
sweet-meats, and such good things, 
in an evening, as are not commonly 
given, and she would find company 
fcnough come to her ; for every body 
loves to have things which please the 
palate put in their way, without 
trouble or preparation.'. Life, iii. 186. 

4 ' He asked her which of Shake 
speare's characters she was most 
pleased with. Upon her answering 
that she thought the character of 
Queen Catherine in Henry the Eighth 
the most natural : " I think so too, 
Madam, (said he,) and whenever you 
perform it I will once more hobble 
out to the theatre myself." ' Ib. iv. 

'The meek sorrows and virtuous 
distress of Catherine have furnished 
some scenes which may be justly 

numbered among the greatest efforts 
of tragedy. But the genius of Shake 
speare [in Henry VIII} comes in and 
goes out with Catherine. Every other 
part may be easily conceived and 
easily written.' Johnson's Shake 
speare, ed. 1765, v. 491. Of the 
second scene of the fourth act he 
writes : ' This scene is above any 
other part of Shakespeare's tragedies, 
and perhaps above any scene of any 
other poet, tender and pathetick, 
without gods, or furies, or poisons, or 
precipices, without the help of ro- 
mantick circumstances, without im 
probable sallies of poetical lamenta 
tion, and without any throes of 
tumultuous misery.' Ib. p. 462. The 
piety of the sentiments perhaps in 
fluenced his judgement. 

5 He wrote of Mrs. Siddons to 
Mrs. Thrale : ' Neither praise nor 
money, the two powerful corrupters 
of mankind, seem to have depraved 
her.' Letters, ii. 345. ' Being asked 
if he could not wish to compose a 
part in a new tragedy to display her 
powers, he replied, "Mrs. Siddons 
excels in the pathetic, for which I 
have no talent." Then says his 
friend, " Imperial tragedy must be 
long to you " (alluding to his Irene). 
Johnson smiled.' Gentleman's Maga 
zine, 1785, p. 86. 


Opinions, and Occasional Reflections. 15 

conversation with intelligent and ingenious persons 1 . His first 
question concerning such as had that character, was ever, What 
is his conversation 2 ? 

Johnson said of the Chattertonian controversy, It is a sword 
that cuts both ways. It is as wonderful to suppose that a boy of 
sixteen years old had stored his mind with such a train of 
images and ideas as he had acquired, as to suppose the poems, 
with their ease of versification and elegance of language, to have 
been written by Rowlie in the time of Edward the Fourth 3 . 

Talking with some persons about allegorical painting, he said, 
1 1 had rather see the portrait of a dog that I know, than all the 
allegorical paintings they can shew me in the world V 

When a Scotsman was talking against Warburton 5 , Johnson 
said he had more literature than had been imported from 
Scotland since the days of Buchanan. Upon his mentioning 
other eminent writers of the Scots, ' These will not do,' said 
Johnson, * let us have some more of your northern lights, these 
are mere farthing candles V 

A Scotsman upon his introduction to Johnson said : ' I am 
afraid, Sir, you will not like me, I have the misfortune to come 
from Scotland.' ' Sir,' answered he, * that is a misfortune ; but 
such a one as you and the rest of your countrymen cannot help V 

1 Life, ii. 361 ; iii. 22. On this saying Mr. Pattison re- 

2 Ib. iv. 19. marks: * A modest admission, yet 

3 ' Johnson said of Chatterton, strictly true, even understood of bare 
"This is the most extraordinary quantity. But Johnson was not 
young man that has encountered my thinking of volumes by number. He 
knowledge. It is wonderful how the knew that Warburton's readings 
whelp has written such things." ' ranged over whole classes of books 
Ib. iii. 51. into which he himself had barely 

4 For his feelings towards art see dipped.' Mark Pattison's Essays, 
ib. i. 363, n. 3, and ante, i. 214. ed. 1889, ii. 122. On p. 131 Pattison 

5 Fielding, addressing Learning, says that Bishop Newton, in his 
says : ' Give me a while that key to parallel between Jortin and War- 
all thy treasures which to thy War- burton, ' adds that Jortin " was per- 
burton thou hast entrusted.' Tom haps the better Greek and Latin 
Jones, Bk. xiii. ch. i. (Warburton scholar." "Better" implies corn- 
was the nephew by marriage of parison. The fact was that Jortin 
Fielding's patron, Allen.) Johnson was a scholar in every sense of the 
told George III that 'he had not word; Warburton in none.' 

read much compared with Dr. War- 6 Life, v. 57, 80. 
burton.' Life, ii. 36. 7 The Scotsman was Boswell ; for 


16 Apophthegms, Sentiments 

To one who wished him to drink some wine and be jolly, 
adding, ; You know Sir, in vino veritas! ' Sir,' answered he, 
' this is a good recommendation to a man who is apt to lie when 
sober 1 / 

When he was first introduced to General Paoli, he was much 
struck with his reception of him ; he said he had very much the 
air of a man who had been at the head of a nation : he was par 
ticularly pleased with his manner of receiving a stranger at his 
own house, and said it had dignity and affability joined together 2 . 

Johnson said, he had once seen Mr. Stanhope, Lord Chester 
field's son. at Dodsley's shop, and was so much struck with his 
awkward manners and appearance, that he could not help asking 
Mr. Dodsley who he was 3 . 

Speaking one day of tea, he said, What a delightful beverage 
must that be, that pleases all palates, at a time when they can 
take nothing else at breakfast 4 1 

To his censure of fear in general, he made however one 
exception, with respect to the fear of death, timorum maximus ; 
he thought that the best of us were but unprofitable servants, 
and had much reason to fear 5 . 

Johnson thought very well of Lord Kames's Elements of 
Criticism ; of other of his writings he thought very indifferently, 
and laughed much at his opinion, that war was a good thing 
occasionally, as so much valour and virtue were exhibited in it 6 . 
A fire, says Johnson, might as well be thought a good thing ; 
there is the bravery and address of the firemen employed in 

what was really said see Life, i. 392, rosity and disinterestedness, which 

and ante, i. 427. are always attended with conscious- 

1 Ante, i. 321 ; Life, ii. 188. ness of merit and dignity.' Sketches 

2 ' General Paoli (he said) had the of the History of Man, ed. 1819, ii. 
loftiest port of any man he had ever 74. Tennyson, when he wrote Maud, 
seen.' Ib. ii. 82. thought with him. For Johnson's 

3 Ib. iv. 333. See my Introduction estimate of The Elements of Criti- 
(p. 43) to the Worldly Wisdom of cism see Life, i. 393 ; ii. 89. ' Adam 
Lord Chesterfield. Smith, on being complimented on 

4 Ante, i. 414. the group of great writers who were 

5 Ante, i. 330, 445 ; Life, iv. 299. then reflecting glory on Scotland, 

6 Kames, speaking of the 'less said, "Yes, but we must every one 
savage aspect ' of modern wars, of us acknowledge Kames for our 
says :' Such wars give exercise to master."' Life of Adam Smith by 
the elevated virtues of courage, gene- John Rae, p. 31. 


Opinions, and Occasional Reflections. 17 

extinguishing it ; there is much humanity exerted in saving the 
lives and properties of the poor sufferers ; yet, says he, after all 
this, who can say a fire is a good thing ? 

Speaking of schoolmasters, he used to say, they were worse 
than the Egyptian task-masters of old. No boy, says he, is 
sure any day he goes to school to escape a whipping : how can 
the schoolmaster tell what the boy has really forgotten, and 
what he has neglected to learn ; what he has had no oppor 
tunities of learning, and what he has taken no pains to get 
at the knowledge of? yet for any of these, however difficult 
they may be, the boy is obnoxious to punishment x . 

He used to say something tantamount to this : When a woman 
affects learning, she makes a rivalry between the two sexes for 
the same accomplishments, which ought not to be, their provinces 
being different 2 . Milton said before him, 

' For contemplation he and valour form'd, 
For softness she and sweet attractive grace 3 .' 

He used to say, that in all family-disputes the odds were in 
favour of the husband, from his superior knowledge of life and 
manners: he was, nevertheless, extremely fond of the company 
and conversation of women, and was early in life much attached 
to a most beautiful woman at Lichfield, of a rank superior to 
his own 4 . 

He never suffered any one to swear before him. When 

, a libertine, but a man of some note, was talking before 

him, and interlarding his stories with oaths, Johnson said, 
' Sir, all this swearing will do nothing for our story, I beg you 
will not swear.' The narrator went on swearing: Johnson said, 
* I must again intreat you not to swear.' He swore again : 
Johnson quitted the room 5 . 

1 For the brutality of schoolmasters not the learning itself. 

of old see Life, i. 44, n. 2 ; ii. 144, n. 2 ; 3 Paradise Lost, iv. 297. 

146,157. ' There is now less flogging 4 Molly Aston. Ante, i. 255. 

in our great schools than formerly, 5 * Davies reminded Dr. Johnson of 

but then less is learned there ; so Mr. Murphy's having paid him the 

that what the boys get at one end highest compliment that ever was 

they lose at the other.' Life, ii. 407. paid to a layman, by asking his par- 

2 Ante, ii. n. It was the affecta- don for repeating some oaths in the 
tion of learning that he disliked, course of telling a story.' Life, iii.4O. 

VOL. ii. c He 


Apophthegms, Sentiments 

He was no great friend to puns, though he once by accident 
made a singular one. A person who affected to live after the 
Greek manner, and to anoint himself with oil, was one day 
mentioned before him. Johnson, in the course of conversation 
on the singularity of his practice, gave him the denomination of, 
This man of Greece, or grease, as you please to take it x . 

Of a member of parliament, who, after having harangued for 
some hours in the house of commons, came into a company 
where Johnson was, and endeavoured to talk him down, he said, 
This man has a pulse in his tongue. 

He was not displeased with a kind of pun made by a person, 
who (after having been tired to death by two ladies who talked 

' Obscenity and impiety (he said) 
have always been repressed in my 
company/ Life, iv. 295. See also 
ib. iii. 189. 

Susan Burney, sending her sister 
a report of a conversation at Streat- 
ham when Johnson was present, re 
ports Mrs. Thrale as crying out : 
' Good G-d ! why somebody else 
mentioned that book to me.' Mrs. 
Raine Ellis, who has edited Fanny 
Burney's Early Diary with great 
skill, says in a footnote: ' The care 
less old ejaculations have, in almost 
every case, been modified, or effaced 
in the manuscripts of the diaries, old 
and new; in many cases by Mme. 
D'Arblay herself, in more by her 
niece, who was the editor of her 
later diaries. These almost unmean 
ing expletives seem to have passed 
unrebuked by Dr. Johnson in the 
case of Mrs. Thrale, although he 
would not suffer Boswell to write 
"by my soul." [ My illustrious 
friend said, " It is very well, Sir ; but 
you should not swear." ' Life, ii. 
in.] His ear had become used to 
them, or she was incorrigible.' Early 
Diary of F. Burney r , ii. 234. 

1 'Johnson had a great contempt 
for that species of wit.' Life, ii. 241. 
Boswell, recording a pun by John 

son, says: 'It was the first time 
that I knew him stoop to such sport.' 
Ib. iii. 325. In his Dictionary, he 
defines punster as a low wit, who 
endeavours at reputation by double 

Dryden, after quoting Horace's 
pun on ' Mr. King' (Satires, i. 7. 35), 
continues : ' But it may be puns 
were then in fashion, as they were 
wit in the sermons of the last age 
and in the Court of King Charles II.' 
Scott's Dryden 's Works, xiii. 97. 

' A great Critic formerly held these 
clenches in such abhorrence that he 
declared " he that would pun would 
pick a pocket." Yet Mr. Dennis's 
works afford us notable examples in 
this kind.' The Dunciad, 2nd ed. i. 
6i,. Shaftesbury wrote in 1714: 
'All Humour had something of the 
Quibble. The very Language of the 
Court was Punning. But 'tis now 
banish'd the Town and all Good 
Company. There are only some few 
Footsteps of it in the Country ; and it 
seems at last confin'd to the Nurserys 
of Youth, as the chief Entertain 
ment of Pedants and their Pupils.' 
Char act eri sticks, ed. 1714, i. 64. 

* I never knew an enemy to puns 
who was not an ill-natured man.' 
Lamb's Letters, ed. 1888, ii. 148. 


Opinions, and Occasional Reflections. 19 

of the antiquity and illustriousness of their families, himself being 
quite a new man) cried out, with the ghost in Hamlet, 

' This eternal blazon 

Must not be to ears of flesh and blood 1 .' 

One who had long known Johnson, said of him, In general you 
may tell what the man to whom you are speaking will say next : 
this you can never do of Johnson : his images, his allusions, his 
great powers of ridicule throw the appearance of novelty upon 
the most common conversation 2 . 

He was extremely fond of Dr. Hammond's Works 3 , and some 
times gave them as a present to young men going into orders : 
he also bought them for the library at Streatham. 
1 Whoever thinks of going to bed before twelve o'clock, said 
Johnson, is a scoundrel : having nothing in particular to do 
himself, and having none of his time appropriated, he was 
a troublesome guest to persons who had much to do 4 . 

He rose as unwillingly as he went to bed s . 

He said, he was always hurt when he found himself ignorant 
of any thing 6 . 

He was extremely accurate in his computation of time 7 . He 
could tell how many heroick Latin verses could be repeated in 
such a given portion of it ; and was anxious that his friends 
should take pains to form in their minds some measure for 
estimating the lapse of it. 

Of authors he used to say, that as they think themselves wiser 
or wittier than the rest of the world, the world, after all, must 
be the judge of their pretensions to superiority over them 8 . 

1 Hamlet, Act i. sc. 5. 1. 21. nothing so minute or inconsiderable, 

2 W. G. Hamilton said of him : that I would not rather know it than 
* He has made a chasm which not not." ' Life, ii. 357. Reynolds wrote 
only nothing can fill up, but which of him : ' He sometimes, it must be 
nothing has a tendency to fill up. confessed, covered his ignorance by 
Johnson is dead. Let us go to the generals rather than appear ignorant. 5 
next best : there is nobody ; no Taylor's Reynolds, ii. 457. 

man can be said to put you in mind 7 Life, i. 72. 

of Johnson.' Life, iv. 420. 8 * He had indeed, upon all occa- 

3 Ante, i. 107, and Life, iii. 58. sions, a great deference for the 

4 Ante, i. 231. 5 Ante, i. 340. general opinion : "A man (said he) 
6 ' He observed, " All knowledge who writes a book, thinks himself 

is of itself of some value. There is wiser or wittier than the rest of man- 

C 2 Complainers 

20 Apophthegms, Sentiments, Opinions, &c. 

Complainers, said he, are always loud and clamorous x . 

He thought highly of Mandeville's Treatise on the Hypochron- 
driacal Disease 2 . 

He would not allow the verb derange, a word at present much 
in use, to be an English word. Sir, said a gentleman who had 
some pretensions to literature, I have seen it in a book. Not in 
a bound book, said Johnson ; disarrange is the word we ought to 
use instead of it 3 . 

He thought very favourably of the profession of the law 4 , and 
said, that the sages thereof, for a long series backward, had 
been friends to religion. Fortescue says, that their afternoon's 
employment was the study* of the Scriptures 5 . 

kind ; he supposes that he can in 
struct or amuse them, and the pub- 
lick to whom he appeals must, after 
all, be the judges of his pretensions.' 
Life, i. 200. See ante, ii. 7. 

1 Ante, i. 315. 

2 Treatise of Hypochondriack and 
Hysterick Passions, vulgarly called 
Hypo in Men, and Vapours in 
Women, 1711. 

Of Mandeville's Fable of the Bees 
he said : ' I read Mandeville forty, 
or I believe, fifty years ago. He did 
not puzzle me ; he opened my views 
into life very much.' Life, iii. 292. 
See also Hawkins' s Johnson, p. 263. 

3 Neither derange nor disarrange 
is in Johnson's Dictionary. Of de 
range he might have said that it was 
a word ' lately innovated from 
France without necessity.' Life, 

iii. 343- 

In a note on ' the wide arch of the 
rang'd empire,' in Antony and Cleo 
patra, Act i. sc. i, he says : * It is 
not easy to guess how Dr. Warbur- 
ton missed this opportunity of in 
serting a French word by reading 

" And the wide arch 
Of derang'd empire fall ! " 
Which, \iderange4wtt an English 

word, would be preferable both to 
raised and. ranged? Johnson's Shake 
speare, ed. 1765, vii. 107. 

4 Attorneys apparently he did not 
include in the profession of the law. 
Life, ii. 126. He had himself wished 
to become a lawyer. ' Sir (he said) 
it would have been better that I had 
been of a profession. I ought to 
have been a lawyer.' Ib. iii. 309. 
See ib. i. 134, for his wish to practise 
in Doctors' Commons. 

5 * Quare Justiciarii, postquam se 
refecerint, totum Diei residuum per- 
transeunt studendo in Legibus, sa- 
cram legendo Scripturam, et aliter 
ad eorum Libitum contemplando, ut 
Vita ipsorum plus contemplativa vi- 
deatur quam activa. Sicque quietam 
illi Vitam agunt ab omni Sollici- 
tudine et Mundi Turbinibus semo- 
tam.' Fortescue, De Laudibus, cap. 

'When a lawyer, a warm partisan 
of Lord Chancellor Eldon, called 
him one of the pillars of the Church ; 
" No," said another lawyer, " he may 
be one of its buttresses ; but certain 
ly not one of its pillars, for he is 
never found within it." ' Twiss's 
Life of Eldon, ed. 1844, iii. 488. 



DEC. 4. 1790. Let me begin with myself. On the day after 
your departure, that most friendly fellow Courtenay 2 (begging 
the pardon of an M.P. for so free an epithet) called on me, 
and took my word and honour that, till the ist of March, my 
allowance of wine per diem should not exceed four good glasses 
at dinner, and a pint after it 3 : and this I have kept, though 
I have dined with Jack Wilkes 4 ; at the London Tavern, after 
the launch of an Indiaman ; with dear Edwards ; Dilly 5 ; at 
home with Courtenay ; Dr. Barrow 6 ; at the mess of the Cold- 

1 Published in Croker's Boswell, 
x. 209, from the MSS. in Mr. Upcott's 

2 John Courtenay. In the new 
Parliament which met on Nov. 25 he 
sat for Tamworth. For his Moral 
and Literary Character of Dr. John 
son see Life, i. 222. 

3 ' Under the solemn yew,' fifteen 
years earlier, he had promised his 
friend Temple not to exceed a bottle 
of old Hock a day. The following 
year he wrote : ' General Paoli has 
taken my word of honour that I shall 
not taste fermented liquor for a year.' 
Life, ii. 436, n. I. 

4 Boswell complacently recorded 
in his Journal : ' When Wilkes and 
I sat together, each glass of wine 
produced a flash of wit, like gun 
powder thrown into the fire. Puff ! 
puff ! ' Rogers's Boswelliana, p. 322. 

5 Charles Dilly, Boswell's pub 
lisher, at whose house * Johnson 
owned that he always found a good 
dinner.' Life, iii. 285. 

6 Boswell wrote to Temple on 
Nov. 28, 1789 : ' My second son is 
an extraordinary boy ; he is much of 
his father (vanity of vanities). . . . 
He is still in the house with me ; 
indeed he is quite my companion, 
though only eleven in September. 
He goes in the day to the academy 
in Soho Square, kept by the Rev. 
Dr. Barrow, formerly of Queen's, 
Oxford, a coarse north-countryman, 
but a very good scholar.' Letters of 
Boswell, p. 315. 

Barrow wrote to John James 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 
stream ; 

22 Extracts from James Boswell's Letters 

stream x ; at the Club ; at Warren Hastings's 2 ; at Hawkins 
the Cornish member's 3 ; and at home with a colonel of the 
guards, &c. This regulation I assure you is of essential 
advantage in many respects. The Magnum Opus advances. 
I have revised p. 2i6 4 . The additions which I have received 
are a Spanish quotation from Mr. Cambridge 5 ; an account of 
Johnson at Warley Camp from Mr. Langton 6 ; and Johnson's 
letters to Mr. Hastings three in all 7 one of them long and 
admirable; but what sets the diamonds in pure gold of Ophir 
is a letter from Mr. Hastings to me, illustrating them and 
their writer. I had this day the honour of a long visit from 
the late governor-general of India. There is to be no more 
impeachment 8 . But you will see his character nobly vindicated 9 . 
Depend upon this. 

and best edition of Johnson's Dic 
tionary, 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 a bon-mot.' Letters of 
Radcliffe and James, p. 266. * I do 
not quite affect John's friend Barrow,' 
wrote J. Boucher ; ' he seems too 
rough and rugged a northern. He 
would overawe me.' Ib. p. 267. 

1 The Coldstream Guards. Bos- 
well nearly thirty years earlier had 
described his 'fondness for the 
Guards.' Life, i. 400. 

2 For Hastings's letter to Bos well 
dated the 2nd of this month see ib. 
iv. 66. 

3 Sir Christopher Hawkins, mem 
ber for Michell. W. P. Courtney's 
Parl. Repres. of Cornwall, p. 319. 

4 Of the second volume. 

5 Life, iii. 25 1. In another passage 
(ib. iv. 195) Boswell records a con 
versation between Cambridge and 
Johnson about a Spanish translation 
of Sallust. Dr. Franklin wrote to 
W. Strahan from Passy, on Dec. 4, 

1781 : 'A strong Emulation exists 
at present between Paris and Madrid 
with regard to beautiful Printing. 
Here a M. Didot 1'aine has a Passion 
for the Art, and besides having pro 
cured the best Types, he has much 
improv'd the Press. The utmost 
Care is taken of his Press-work ; his 
Ink is black, and his Paper fine and 
white. He has executed several 
charming Editions. But the Salust 
[sic] and the Don Quixote of Madrid 
are thought to excel them.' 

6 Life, iii. 360. 

1 Ib. iv. 68. 

8 BoswelPs hope was from the new 
Parliament. ' The friends of Hastings 
entertained a hope that the new 
House of Commons might not be 
disposed to go on with the impeach 
ment.' Macaulay's Essays, ed. 1843, 
iii. 455. Their hope was disappointed. 
Dr. Burney wrote to his daughter on 
May 7, 1795: 'And so dear Mr. 
Hastings is honourably acquitted ; 
and I visited him the next morning, 
and we cordially shook hands.' 
Mme. D'Arblay's Diary, vi. 36. 

9 In the Life of Johnson, that is to 
say. See Life, iv. 66. 


to Edmond Malone. 

And now for my friend. The appearance of Malone's Shake 
speare on the 29th November was not attended with any 
external noise ; but I suppose no publication seized more 
speedily and surely on the attention of those for whose critical 
taste it was chiefly intended r . At the Club on Tuesday, where 
I met Sir Joshua, Dr. Warren, Lord Ossory 2 , Lord Palmerston 3 , 
Windham, and Burke in the chair, Burke was so full of his 
anti-French revolution rage, and poured it out so copiously, 
that we had almost nothing else 4 . He, however, found time 

1 It was published in ten volumes ; 
' in fifteen months a large edition was 
nearly sold.' Unfortunately the type 
and paper were bad. Prior's Malone, 
p. 168. 

Horace Walpole describes it as 
' the heaviest of all books, in ten 
thick octavos, with notes that are an 
extract of all the opium that is 
spread through the works of all the 
bad play-wrights of that age : mercy 
on the poor gentleman's patience.' 
Letters, ix. 326. 

2 It was to Lord Ossory's wife that 
Horace Walpole wrote so many of 
his letters. In a note to the letter of 
Feb. i, 1779 (vii. 169), the following 
quotation is given from Lord Ossory's 
Memoranda : 'In Italy I became 
acquainted with Garrick, and from 
my earliest youth having admired 
him on the stage, was happy to be 
familiarly acquainted with him, culti 
vated his society from that time till 
his death, and then accompanied 
him to his grave as one of his pall 
bearers. He and Mrs. Garrick (I 
think it was in 1777) have been with 
us in the country; Gibbon and 
Reynolds at the same time, all three 
delightful in society. The vivacity 
of the great actor, the keen sarcastic 
wit of the great historian, and the 
genuine pleasantry of the great 
painter, mixed up well together, and 
made a charming party. Garrick's 

mimicry of the mighty Johnson was 

Reynolds, by his will, left Lord 
Ossory the first choice of any picture 
of his own painting. Taylor's Rey 
nolds, ii. 636. 

3 Lord Palmerston, the father of 
the Prime Minister, when proposed 
at the Club in 1783 was, writes 
Johnson, * against my opinion re 
jected.' Life, iv. 232. He was elected 
a few months later. 

4 Burke, acknowledging Malone's 
gift of his Shakespeare, sent him his 
Reflections on the Revolution in 
France. ' You have sent me gold,' 
he wrote, ' which I can only repay 
you in my brass.' Prior's Malone, 
p. 170. 

Horace Walpole wrote of Burke's 
book (Letters, ix. 268) : ' Every page 
shows how sincerely he is in earnest 
a wondrous merit in a political 
pamphlet. All other party writers 
act zeal for the public, but it never 
seems to flow from the heart.' 

Burke told Malone, in Sept. 1791, 
that 18,000 copies had been sold, and 
12,000 in Paris of the French trans 
lation. Prior's Malone, p. 183. 

Bennet Langton told H. D. Best 
that ' Burke was rude and violent in 
dispute ; instancing, " if any one as 
serted that the United States were 
in the wrong in their quarrel with 
the mother country, or that England 


2 4 

Extracts from James Boswell's Letters 

to praise the clearness and accuracy of your dramatic history ; 
and Windham found fault with you for not taking the profits 
of so laborious a work. Sir Joshua is pleased, though he 
would gladly have seen more disquisition you understand me ! 
Mr. Daines Barrington J is exceedingly gratified. He regrets 
that there should be a dryness between you and Steevens 2 , as 
you have treated him with great respect. I understand that, 
in a short time, there will not be one of your books to be had 
for love or money. 

Dec. 7. I dined last Saturday at Sir Joshua's with Mr. Burke, 
his lady, son, and niece, Lord Palmerston, Windham, Dr. 
Lawrence 3 , Dr. Blagden 4 , Dr. Burney, Sir Abraham Hume, 
Sir William Scott 5 . I sat next to young Burke at dinner, 

had a right to tax America, Burke, 
instead of answering his arguments, 
would, if seated next to him, turn 
away in such a manner as to throw 
the end of his own tail into the face 
of the arguer."' Personal and 
Literary Memorials, p. 63. Burke 
no doubt wore his hair tied up in a 

1 Barrington was not a member of 
the Literary Club. He had belonged 
to Johnson's Essex Head Club. Life, 
iv. 254. 

2 Steevens, five years earlier, had 
taken offence at some notes on 
Shakespeare which Malone furnished 
to Isaac Reid. Prior's Malone, p. 122. 
Malone wrote to Lord Charlemont 
on Nov. 15, 1793, about Steevens's 
last edition of Shakespeare : * In 
my new edition I mean to throw 
down the gauntlet, not by the hints 
and hesitations of oblique deprecia 
tion, as he has on all occasions served 
me in his late book, but by a fair and 
direct attack.' Hist. MSS. Com., 
Thirteenth Report, App. viii. 221. 

3 Not Johnson's friend, the physi 
cian, who had been dead some 
years, but Dr. French Lawrence, the 

Civilian, whose correspondence with 
Burke was published in 1827. 

4 'Talking of Dr. Blagden's co 
piousness and precision of communi 
cation, Dr. Johnson said: "Blagden, 
Sir, is a delightful fellow." ' Life, iv. 
30. Charlotte Burney describes him 
at a Twelfth Night Ball in 1784 as 
' too elegant to undergo the fatigue 
of dancing.' Early Diary of F. 
Burney, ii. 316. Hannah More 
{Memoirs, ii. 98) met him at Mrs. 
Montagu's in 1788: 'He is (she 
wrote) a new blue-stocking and a 
very agreeable one. He is Secretary 
to the Royal Society.' Later on he 
became Sir Charles Blagden. 

5 To many of these guests Sir 
Joshua, who died on Feb. 23, 1792, 
left bequests to Burke, ^2000, with 
the cancelling of a bond for the same 
amount borrowed ; to young Burke, 
a miniature of Oliver Cromwell ; to 
Lord Palmerston, the second choice 
of any picture of his own painting ; 
to Sir Abraham Hume, the choice of 
his Claude Lorraines ; and to Boswell 
^200 to be expended in the purchase 
of one of his pictures. 

Malone too, and Burke, as executors, 


to Edmond Malone. 25 

who said to me, that you had paid his father a very fine 
compliment \ I mentioned Johnson, to sound if there was any 
objection. He made none. In the evening Burke told me he 
had read your Henry VI., with all its accompaniment, and it 
was exceedingly well done. He left us for some time ; I suppose 
on some of his cursed politics ; but he returned I at him again, 
and heard from his lips what, believe me, I delighted to hear, 
and took care to write down soon after. ' I have read his History 
of the Stage, which is a very capital piece of criticism and 
anti-agrarianism 2 . I shall now read all Shakspeare through, 
in a very different manner from what I have yet done, when 
I have got such a commentator.' Will not this do for you 
my friend ? Burke was admirable company all that day. He 
never once, I think, mentioned the French revolution 3 , and was 
easy with me, as in days of old*. 

Dec. 1 6. I was sadly mortified at the Club on Tuesday, 
where I was in the chair, and on opening the box found three 

had each the same sum left for the 2 Bos well, I suppose, wrote anti- 

same object. Taylor's Reynolds, ii. quarianism. 

636. 3 Burke this day never 'thought 

Sir William Scott was Dr. Scott of convincing, while they thought of 

(Lord Stowell), who with Reynolds dining.' 

and Hawkins had been Johnson's 4 In 1783 Boswell visited Burke 

executor. He outlived this dinner at Beaconsfield. Life, iv. 210. A 

forty-five years. few weeks later he wrote : ' I men- 

1 * At length the task of revising tioned my expectations from the 

these plays was undertaken by interest of an eminent person then in 

one [Johnson] whose extraordinary power ' (no doubt Burke). Ib. p. 223. 

powers of mind, as they rendered On May 28, 1794, Malone wrote of 

him the admiration of his contempo- the Club : 'We are now so distracted 

raries, will transmit his name to pos- by party there, in consequence of 

terity as the brightest ornament of Windham and Burke, and I might 

the eighteenth century ; and will add the whole nation, being on one 

transmit it without competition, if we side, and Fox and his little phalanx 

except a great orator, philosopher on the other, that we in general keep 

and statesman x now living, whose as clear of politics as we can, and 

talents and virtues are an honour to did so yesterday.' Hist. MSS. 

human nature.' Malone's Shake- Com., Thirteenth Report, App. viii. 

speare, ed. 1790, i. Preface, p. 68. 239. 

1 The Right Honourable Edmund Burke. Note by Malone. 


26 Extracts from James BoswelVs Letters 

balls against General Burgoyne 1 . Present, besides moi^ Lord 
Ossory, Sir Joshua Reynolds, Sir Joseph Banks, Dr. Fordyce, 
Dr. Burney, young Burke, Courtenay, Steevens. One of the 
balls, I do believe, was put into the no side by Fordyce by 
mistake 2 . You may guess who put in the other two. The 
Bishop of Carlisle and Dr. Blagden are put up 3 . I doubt if 
the latter will be admitted, till Burgoyne gets in first 4 . My 
work has met with a delay for a little while not a whole day, 
however by an unaccountable neglect in having paper enough 
in readiness. I have now before me p. 256. My utmost wish 
is to come forth on Shrove Tuesday (8th March) 5 . ' Wits are 
game cocks,' &c. Langton is in town, and dines with me 
to-morrow quietly, and revises his Collectanea 6 . 

Jan. 1 8. 1791. I have been so disturbed by sad money- 
matters, that my mind has been quite fretful : 5oo/. which I 

1 For his defeat at Saratoga, see 
Life, iii. 355. My friend, Mr. E. L. 
Bigelow, of Maryborough, Mass., 
U.S.A., has Burgoyne's folio Greek 
dictionary, one of the spoils of that 
battle. Richard Tickell celebrates 
his * manly sense.' Ib. iii. 388 n. 
According to Horace Walpole 'he 
had written the best modern comedy.' 
Letters, ix. 96. 

2 Dr. George Fordyce. For an anec 
dote of his drinking see Life, ii. 274. 

3 The Bishop (Dr. John Douglas, 
* the detector of quacks ') was elected 
on May 22, 1792 (he was at that 
time Bishop of Salisbury), and Dr. 
Blagden on March 18, 1794. Croker's 
Boswell, ii. 327. 

4 It was no easy matter to get into 
the Club. ' When Bishops and Chan 
cellors,' wrote William Jones in 1780, 
' honour us by offering to dine with 
us at a tavern, it seems very extra 
ordinary that we should ever reject 
such an offer.' Life of Sir W.Jones, 
p. 240. 

Malone wrote to Lord Charlemont 

on April 5, 1779 : ' I have lately 
made two or three attempts to get 
into your club, but have not yet been 
able to succeed though I have 
some friends there Johnson, Burke, 
Steevens,Sir J. Reynolds and Marlay. 
At first they said, I think, they 
thought it a respect to Garrick's 
memory [see Life, i. 481, n. 3] not 
to elect any one for some time in 
his room.' Hist. MS S. Com., Twelfth 
Report, App. x. 344. He was elected 
on Feb. 5, 1782. Croker's Bosivell, 
ed. 1844, ii. 327. 

'In the height of revolutionary 
proceedings in France, Rogers, not 
at all reserved in giving full swing 
to Whig opinions of the day, came 
forward as candidate for the Club, 
and was black-balled. This he at 
tributed to Malone.' Prior's Malone, 
p. 204. 

5 Reynolds wrote to Malone on 
this day : ' To-day is Shrove Tues 
day, and no Johnson.' Prior's Malone, 
p. 174. 

6 Life, iv. I. 


to Edmond Malone. 27 

borrowed and lent to a first cousin, an unlucky captain of an 
Indiaman, were due on the I5th to a merchant in the city. 
I could not possibly raise that sum, and was apprehensive of 
being hardly used. He, however, indulged me with an allowance 
to make partial payments ; i5o/. in two months, i$ol. in eight 
months, and the remainder, with the interests, in eighteen 
months. How I am to manage I am at a loss, and I know 
you cannot help me. So this, upon my honour, is no hint. 
I am really tempted to accept of the iooc/. for my Life of 
Johnson. Yet it would go to my heart to sell it at a price 
\ which I think much too low. Let me struggle and hope. 
I cannot be out on Shrove Tuesday, as I flattered myself. P. 376. 
] of Vol. II. is ordered for press, and I expect another proof 
to-night. But I have yet near 200 pages of copy besides letters, 
i and the death, which is not yet written. My second volume 
\ will, I see, be forty or fifty pages more than my first. Your 
absence is a woful want in all respects. You will, I dare say, 
perceive a difference in the part which is revised only by myself, 
and in which many insertions will appear. My spirits are at 
present bad : but I will mention all I can recollect. 

Jan. 29. 1791. You will find this a most desponding and 
disagreeable letter, for whidi I ask your pardon. But your 
vigour of mind and warmth of heart make your friendship of 
such consequence, that it is drawn upon like a bank. I have, 
for some weeks, had the most woful return of melancholy, 
insomuch that I have not only had no relish of any thing, but 
a continual uneasiness, and all the prospect before me for the 
rest of life has seemed gloomy and hopeless. The state of my 
affairs is exceedingly embarrassed. I mentioned to you that 
the 5oo/. which I borrowed several years ago, and lent to a first 
cousin, an unfortunate India captain, must now be paid ; i5o/. 
on the 1 8th of March, i5o/. on the i8th of October, and 
2 57^ I 5 S - &d. on the i8th of July, 1792. This debt presses 
upon my mind, and it is uncertain if I shall ever get a shilling 
of it again. The clear money on which I can reckon out of 
my estate is scarcely 9OO/. a year. What can I do ? My grave 
brother urges me to quit London, and live at my seat in the 

country ; 

28 Extracts from James Boswell's Letters 

country; where he thinks that I might be able to save so as 
gradually to relieve myself. But, alas ! I should be absolutely 
miserable. In the mean time, such are my projects and sanguine 
expectations, that you know I purchased an estate which was 
given long ago to a younger son of our family, and came to 
be sold last autumn, and paid for it 25007. i$ool. of which 
I borrow upon itself by a mortgage. But the remaining iooo/. 
I cannot conceive a possibility of raising, but by the mode of 
annuity ; which is, I believe, a very heavy disadvantage. I own 
it was imprudent in me to make a clear purchase at a time 
I was sadly straitened ; but if I had missed the opportunity, 
it never again would have occurred, and I should have been 
vexed to see an ancient appanage, a piece of, as it were, the 
flesh and blood of the family, in the hands of a stranger. And 
now that I have made the purchase, I should feel myself quite 
despicable should I give it up. 

f In this situation, then, my dear Sir, would it not be wise in 
me to accept of iooo guineas for my Life of Johnson, supposing 
the person who made the offer should now stand to it, which 
I fear may not be the case ; for two volumes may be considered 
as a disadvantageous circumstance ? Could I indeed raise iooo/. 
' upon the credit of the work, I should incline to game, as Sir 
Joshua says x ; because it may produce double the money, though 
Steevens kindly tells me that I have over-printed, and that the 
curiosity about Johnson is now only in our own circle 2 . Pray 
decide for me ; and if, as I suppose, you are for my taking 
the offer, inform me with whom I am to treat. In my present 
state of spirits, I am all timidity. Your absence has been 
a severe stroke to me. I am at present quite at a loss what 
to do. Last week they gave me six sheets 3 . I have now 
before me in proof p. 456 4 : yet I have above 100 pages of 
my copy remaining, besides his death, which is yet to be written, 

1 Perhaps gamble, a word not in 2 For Steevens's malignancy see 

Johnson's Dictionary (where gam- Life, iii. 281. 

bier, though given, is called ' a cant 3 48 pages, as the first edition was 

word '), was in common use, and in quarto. 

Reynolds was singular in sticking to 4 Vol. iii. p. 223 of my edition, 
an old-fashioned word. 


to Edmond Malone. 


and many insertions, were there room, as also seven-and-thirty 
letters, exclusive of twenty to Dr. Brocklesby, most of which 
will furnish only extracts. I am advised to extract several of 
those to others, and leave out some ; for my first volume makes 
only 516 pages, and to have 600 in the second will seem 
awkward, besides increasing the expense considerably z . The coun 
sellor, indeed, has devised an ingenious way to thicken the first 
volume, by prefixing the index. I have now desired to have but 
one compositor. Indeed, I go sluggishly and comfortlessly about 
my work. As I pass your door I cast many a longing look. 

I am to cancel a leaf of the first volume, having found that 
though Sir Joshua certainly assured me he had no objection 
to my mentioning that Johnson wrote a dedication for him, he 
now thinks otherwise. In that leaf occurs the mention of 
Johnson having written to Dr. Leland, thanking the University 
of Dublin for their diploma 2 . What shall I say as to it? 

shall see afterwards accepted of the 
same kind of assistance, well observed 
to me, " Writing a dedication is a 
knack. It is like writing an advertise 

'In this art no man excelled Dr. 
Johnson. Though the loftiness of 
his mind prevented him from ever 
dedicating in his own person, he 
wrote a great number of Dedications 
for others. After all the diligence I 
have bestowed, some of them have 
escaped my inquiries. He told me 
he believed he had dedicated to all 
the Royal Family round.' 

Advertisement in the above passage 
is not used in its modern sense. What 
we should call the Prefaces to the 
first and second edition of the Life, 
Boswell calls the Advertisements. 
For the Advertisements which John 
son had intended for the English 
Poets, see Life, iv. 35 n. 

Percy, in later editions of the 
Reliques, suppressed the Dedication. 
He wrote to Dr. Anderson : * Though 
not wholly written by Dr. Johnson, it 
owed its finest strokes to his pen, and 

I have 

1 It contained 588 pages. 

2 The cancel came on vol. i. p. 272 
of the first edition. In the second 
edition a change was made in the 
order of the paragraphs, by which 
Dr. Leland and the Dedications were 
separated by ten pages. In my 
edition Dr. Leland is found on vol. i. 
p. 489, and the Dedications on vol. ii. 
p. I. By the kindness of my friend, 
Mr. R. B. Adam, of Buffalo, who has 
in his collection the proof-sheets of 
the Life, with Boswell's autograph 
corrections, I am able to give the 
passage as it first stood. It ran as 
follows: 'He furnished his friend, 
Dr. Percy, now Bishop of Dromore, 
with a Dedication to the Countess of 
Northumberland, which was prefixed 
to his collection of " Reliques of 
ancient English Poetry," in which 
he pays compliments to that most 
illustrious family in the most courtly 
style. It should not be wondered at, 
that one who can himself write so 
well as Dr. Percy should accept of 
a Dedication from Johnson's pen ; 
for as Sir Joshua Reynolds, who we 

30 Extracts from James Boswell's Letters 

I have also room to state shortly the anecdote of the college 
cook 1 , which I beg you may get for me. I shall be very 
anxious till I hear from you. 

Having harassed you with so much about myself, I have 
left no room for any thing else. We had a numerous club 
on Tuesday : Fox in the chair, quoting Homer and Fielding, 
&c. to the astonishment of Jo. Warton 2 ; who, with Langton 
and Seward, eat a plain bit with me, in my new house, last 
Saturday. Sir Joshua has put up Dr. Lawrence, who will be 
blackballed as sure as he exists 3 . 

We dined on Wednesday at Sir Joshua's ; thirteen without 
Miss P. 4 Himself, Blagden, Batt 5 , [Lawrence 6 ,] Erskine 7 , 
Langton, Dr. Warton, Metcalfe 8 , Dr. Lawrence, his brother, 
a clergyman, Sir Charles Bunbury 9 , myself. 

I could not any longer allow myself 
to strut in borrowed feathers.' Ander 
son's Johnson, ed. 1815, p. 309. 

1 This, no doubt, is explained by 
the following correspondence between 
Malone and Lord Charlemont. Ma- 
lone wrote on Nov. 7, 1787 : ' Dr. 
Johnson very kindly wrote to some 
man who was employed in the College 
kitchen [Trinity College, Dublin] who 
had a mind to breed his son a scholar, 
and wrote to Johnson for advice. 
Perhaps Dr. J. Kearney could recover 
this/ Charlemont replied : ' The 
letter to an officer in the College 
kitchen is well remembered, and 
John Kearney has promised, if pos 
sible, to find it, though he seems 
almost to despair.' Two days later 
he wrote : ' The other letter is, I 
fear, absolutely irrecoverable, as no 
trace can be found of any papers be 
longing to the College steward, who 
has long since been dead.' Hist. 
MSS. Com., Thirteenth Report, App. 
viii. 62, 3, 5. 

2 Why Warton should have been 
astonished is not clear. He had been 
a member of the Club for nearly 
fourteen years, and so was likely to 

have met Fox and learnt that he was 
a scholar. 

3 Dr. Lawrence was black-balled, 
and did not become a member of the 
Club till December, 1802. CHOKER. 

4 Sir Joshua's niece, Miss Palmer. 
For the dinners which he gave, see 
Life, Hi. 375 n. ; iv. 312 n. 

5 Thomas Batt, who in 1789 was 
one of the Commissioners for audit 
ing the Public Accounts. Walpole's 
Letters, ix. 181 n. 

When Miss Burney escaped from 
her Court servitude she met him at 
a party. ' " How I rejoice," he cried, 
" to see you at length out of thral 
dom!" "Thraldom?" quoth I, 
" that's rather a strong word ! " ' 
Mme. D'Arblay's Diary, v. 270. 

6 Croker inserts this name, appa 
rently to complete the thirteen, but 
Dr. Lawrence's brother is included 
in BoswelFs list. 

7 Afterwards Lord Chancellor. 
Life, ii. 173. 

8 Philip Metcalfe, one of Reynolds's 
executors. Ib. iv. 159, n. 2. 

9 The brother of H. W. Bunbury, 
the caricaturist. Ib. ii. 274. Sir 
Charles was the only man of heredi- 


to Edmond Malone. 31 

Feb. 10. 1791. Yours of the 5th reached me yesterday. 
I instantly went to the Don, who purchased for you at the 
office of Hazard and Co. a half, stamped by government and 
warranted undrawn, of No. 43 m 152. in the English State 
Lottery. I have marked on the back of it Edward, Henrietta, 
and Catherine Malone, and if Fortune will not favour those 
three united, I shall blame her. This half shall lie in my 
bureau with my own whole one, till you desire it to be placed 
elsewhere. The cost with registration is 8/. 12.?. 6d. A half is 
always proportionally dearer than a whole. I bought my ticket 
at Nicholson's the day before, and paid i6/. 8s. for it 1 . I did 
not look at the number, but sealed it up. In the evening 
a handbill was circulated by Nicholson, that a ticket the day 
before sold at his office for i6/. 8s. was drawn a prize for 5ooo/. 
The number was mentioned in the handbill. I had resolved 
not to know what mine was till after the drawing of the lottery 
was finished, that I might not receive a sudden shock of blank ; 
but this unexpected circumstance, which elated me by calculating 
that mine must certainly be one of 100, or at most 200 sold 
by Nicholson the day before, made me look at the two last 
figures of it ; which, alas ! were 48, whereas those of the fortunate 
one were 33. I have remanded my ticket to its secrecy. O ! 
could I but get a few thousands, what a difference would it 
make upon my state of mind, which is harassed by thinking 
of my debts 2 . I am anxious to hear your determination as 

tary rank who attended Johnson's for 1791 is entered on May 19, 

funeral. He married Lady Sarah * Profit in 50,000 lottery-tickets at 

Lennox, with whom George III had 16. 2. 6 .306,250.' Annual 

been in love. Being divorced, she Register, 1791, Appendix, i. 116. 

married the Hon. George Napier, by The difference bet ween 16. 2. 6 and 

whom she was the mother of Sir 16. 8 was, I suppose, the dealer's 

Charles Napier, the conqueror of profit. The total sum paid at this 

Scinde, and Sir William Napier, the rate for the tickets was ,820,000, of 

historian. Walpole's Letters, iii. which little more than 500,000 

373 n. She died in 1826 a great was returned in prizes, while over 

grand-daughter of Charles II. Top- 13,000 went to the dealers, 

ham Beauclerk and Charles James 2 I learnt on good authority at 

Fox, both of whom Johnson called Auchinleck that Boswell left his 

his friends, were descended from estates nearly clear of debt, but that 

Charles II. they became encumbered by his 

1 In the Table of Way sand Means son, Sir Alexander, and his grand- 


32 Extracts from James Boswell* s Letters 

to my magnum opus. I am very unwilling to part with the 
property of it, and certainly would not, if I could but get 
credit for iooc/. for three or four years. Could you not assist 
me in that way, on the security of the book, and of an assign 
ment to one half of my rents, 7oo/. which, upon my honour, 
are always due, and would be forthcoming in case of my decease ? 
I will not sell, till I have your answer as to this. 

On Tuesday we had a Club of eleven. Lords Lucan x (in the 
chair), Ossory, Macartney 2 , Eliot 3 , Bishop of Clonfert 4 , young 
Burke, myself, Courtenay, Windham, Sir Joshua, and Charles 
Fox, who takes to us exceedingly, and asked to have dinner 
a little later ; so it was to be at \ past five. Burke had made 
a great interest for his drum-major 5 , and, would you believe 
it ? had not Courtenay and I been there, he would have been 
chosen. Banks was quite indignant, but had company at home. 
Lord Ossory ventured to put up the Bishop of Peterborough, 
and I really hope he will get in. Courtenay and I will not 
be there, and probably not again till you come. It was poor 
work last week, the whelp 6 would not let us hear Fox .... I am 
strangely ill, and doubt if even you could dispel the demoniac 

son, Sir James Boswell. The popu 
lation of Auchinleck had risen, be 
tween 1834 and 1889, from 1,600 to 
nearly 7,000. This rapid increase 
was due to the coal mines which 
were opened about 1854, and at one 
time added ,5,000 a year to the 
Boswell rental. 

1 Life, iv. 326. 

2 ' Lord Macartney (wrote Boswell 
in the Advertisement to the second 
edition of the Life, i. 13) favoured me 
with his own copy of my book, with 
a number of notes, of which I have 
availed myself. On the first leaf I 
found in his Lordship's hand-writing, 
an inscription of such high commen 
dation, that even I, vain as I am, 
cannot prevail on myself to publish 
it.' I hope that this volume will find 
its way into a public library. 

3 It was he of whom Johnson said, 

' I did not think a young Lord could 
have mentioned to me a book in the 
English history that was not known 
to me.' Life, iv. 333. 

4 Richard Marlay, once Dean of 
Ferns and afterwards Bishop of 
Waterford. Life, iv. 73. On Jan. 
27, 1782, he wrote to Lord Charle- 
mont : ' Our club black-balled lord 
Camden. This conduct should dis 
grace the society. The bishop of St. 
Asaph was once black-balled, but is 
now elected. The club must have 
some wretched members belonging 
to it, or the two greatest and most 
virtuous characters in the kingdom 
could not be treated with such dis 
respect.' Hist. MSS. Com., Twelfth 
Report, App. x. 396. 

5 Dr. Lawrence. 

6 Perhaps young Burke. 


to Edmond Malone. 33 

influence. I have now before me p. 488. in print: the 923 
pages of the copy only is exhausted, and there remains 80, 
besides the death ; as to which I shall be concise, though 
solemn ; also many letters. Pray how shall I wind up ? Shall 
I give the character in my Tour, somewhat enlarged * ? 

London, Feb. 25. 1791. I have not seen Sir Joshua I think 
for a fortnight. I have been worse than you can possibly 
imagine, or I hope ever shall be able to imagine ; which no 
man can do without experiencing the malady. It has been 
for some time painful to me to be in company. I, however, 
am a little better, and to meet Sir Joshua to-day at dinner 
at Mr. Dance's 2 , and shall tell him that he is to have good 
Irish claret. 

I am in a distressing perplexity how to decide as to the 
property of my book. You must know, that I am certainly 
informed that a certain person who delights in mischief has 
been depreciating it 3 , so that I fear the sale of it may be very 
dubious. Two quartos and two guineas sound in an alarming 
manner. I believe, in my present frame, I should accept even 
of 5oc/. ; for I suspect that were I now to talk to Robinson 4 , 
I should find him not disposed to give iooo/. Did he abso 
lutely offer it, or did he only express himself so as that you 
concluded he would give it ? The pressing circumstance is, that 
I must lay down iooo/. by the 1st of May, on account of the 
purchase of land, which my old family enthusiasm urged me 
to make. You, I doubt not, have full confidence in my honesty. 
May I then ask you if you could venture to join with me in 

1 In the entry of Feb. 10, 1791, In consequence of his political 
I have followed the reprint of the phrenzy, he at this moment is appre- 
original in Mr. A. Morrison's Auto- hensive of judgment being pro- 
graphs, 2nd series, i. 375. nounced against him by the King's 

2 There were two painters of this Bench for selling Paine's pamphlet, 
name, George and Nathaniel. Tay- and may probably be punished for 
lor's Reynolds, i. 260 ; ii. 609. his zeal in the " good old cause," as 

3 George Steevens, no doubt. they called it in the last century, by 

4 Malone, writing on Nov. 15, 1793, six months imprisonment. I shall 
about Mr. George Robinson, who had not have the smallest pity for him.' 
undertaken to publish a new edition Hist. MSS. Com., Thirteenth Report, 
of his Shakespeare, says : ' He is App. viii. 222. 

unluckily a determined republican. 

VOL. ii. D a bond 

34 Extracts from James Boswell's Letters 

a bond for that sum, as then I would take my chance, and, as 
Sir Joshua says, game with my book ? Upon my honour, your 
telling me that you cannot comply with what I propose will 
not in the least surprise me, or make any manner of difference 
as to my opinion of your friendship. I mean to ask Sir Joshua 
if he will join ; for indeed I should be vexed to sell my Magnum 
Opus for a great deal less than its intrinsic value. I meant 
to publish on Shrove Tuesday ; but if I can get out within 
the month of March I shall be satisfied. I have now, I think, 
four or five sheets to print, which will make my second volume 
about 575 pages. But I shall have more cancels. That nervous 
mortal W. G. H. is not satisfied with my report of some 
particulars which I wrote down from his own mouth, and is 
so much agitated, that Courtenay has persuaded me to allow 
a new edition of them by H. himself to be made at H/s 
expense x . Besides, it has occurred to me, that when I mention 
a literary fraud, by Rolt the historian, in going to Dublin, 
and publishing Akenside's Pleasures of the Imagination, with 
his own name 2 , I may not be able to authenticate it, as Johnson 

1 W. G. H. was William Gerard 
Hamilton. The cancel occurs at 
vol. ii. 396 of the first edition ; vol. iv. 
1 1 1 of mine ; where, instead of the 
paragraph which now begins, ' One 
of Johnson's principal talents,' the 
following had stood: 'His friend, 
Mr. Hamilton, when dining at my 
house one day expressed this so well 
that I wrote down his words : 
" Johnson's great excellence in main 
taining the wrong side of an argu 
ment was a splendid perversion. If 
you could contrive it so as to have 
his fair opinion upon a subject, 
without any bias from personal pre 
judice, or from a wish to con 
quer it was wisdom, it was justice, 
it was convincing, it was over 
powering." ' 

The blank on the next page was 
filled by Hamilton. ' Mr. Hamilton,' 
wrote Malone, ' has all his life been 
distinguished for political timidity 

and indecision.' Prior's Malone, p. 

On Feb. 10 Boswell wrote to Ma- 
lone : ' I must have a cancelled leaf 
in vol. ii. [p. 302] of that passage 
where there is a conversation as to 
conjugal infidelity on the husband's 
side, and his wife saying she did not 
care how many women he went to, 
if he loved her alone, with my pro 
posing to mark in a pocket-book, 
every time a wife refuses, &c., &c. 
I wonder how you and I admitted 
this to the public eye, for Windham, 
&c. were struck with its indelicacy, 
and it might hurt the book much. 
It is however mighty good stuff.' 

The passage occurs in vol. iii. p. 
406 of my edition, where Johnson 
says : ' Wise married women don't 
trouble themselves about the infi 
delity in their husbands.' 

2 Life ,i. 359. No change was made; 
' literary fraud ' remains in the text. 


to Edmond Malone. 


is dead, and he may have relations who may take it up as 
an offence, perhaps a libel 1 . Courtenay suggests, that you may 
perhaps get intelligence whether it was true. The Bishop of 
Dromore 2 can probably tell, as he knows a great deal about 
Rolt. In case of doubt, should I not cancel the leaf, and either 
omit the curious anecdote or give it as a story which Johnson 
laughingly told as having circulated ? 

March 8. I have before me your volunteer letter of February 
, and one of 5th current, which, if you have dated it right, 
has come with wonderful expedition. You may be perfectly 
sure that I have not the smallest fault to find with your dis 
inclination to come again under any pecuniary engagements for 
others, after having suffered so much. Dilly proposes that he 
and Baldwin 3 should each advance 2oo/. on the credit of my 
book ; and if they do so, I shall manage well enough, for 
I now find I can have 6oo/. in Scotland on the credit of my 
rents ; and thus I shall get the iooo/. paid in May. 

1 See Life, iii. 15 for the agitation 
of ' the question, whether legal re- 
dress could be obtained, even when 
a man's deceased relation was calum- 
niated in a publication.' Johnson 
said, 'the law does not regard that 
uneasiness which a man feels on 
having his ancestor calumniated.' 

Boswell, in a note on this, says : 
* It is held in the books, that an 
attack on the reputation even of a 
dead man may be punished as 
a libel, because tending to a breach 
of the peace. There is, however, 
I believe, no modern decided case 
to that effect.' 

' Chief Justice Mansfield laid down 
for law that satires even on dead 
kings were punishable.' Walpole's 
Memoirs of the Reign of George 77, 
iii. 153. See also his Letters, viii. 
533. Blackstone makes no mention 
of libels on the dead. 

Antony a Wood was expelled from 

the University of Oxford, and fined 
^34, for libelling the memory of the 
first Earl of Clarendon. With this 
fine the statues at the entrance of 
the Physic Garden were set up. 
Bliss's Antony a Wood, pp. 381-2. 

A friend of mine travelling lately 
in the East of Europe, found that 
a number of a Vienna newspaper was 
confiscated, as it contained an attack 
on Maria Theresa, who, like Socrates, 
'has been dead a hundred years 

2 Dr. Percy. 

3 Boswell, in the ' Advertisement 
to the Second Edition,' says : ' May 
I be permitted to say that the typo- 
graphy of both editions does honour 
to the press of Mr. Henry Baldwin, 
now Master of the Worshipful Com- 
pany of Stationers, whom I have 
long known as a worthy man and an 
obliging friend.' Life, \. 10. 

2 You 

36 Extracts from James Boswell's Letters 

You would observe some stupid lines on Mr. Burke in the 
'Oracle' by Mr. Boswelll I instantly wrote to Mr. Burke, 
expressing my indignation at such impertinence, and had next 
morning a most obliging answer. Sir William Scott told me 
I could have no legal redress. So I went civilly to Bell, and he 
promised to mention handsomely that James Boswell, Esq. was 
not the author of the lines z . The note, however, on the subject 
was a second impertinence. But I can do nothing. I wish Fox, 
in his bill upon libels 2 , would make a heavy penalty the con 
sequence of forging any person's name to any composition, 
which, in reality, such a trick amounts to. 

In the night between the last of February and first of this 
month, I had a sudden relief from the inexplicable disorder, 
which occasionally clouds my mind and makes me miserable 3 , 
and it is amazing how well I have been since. Your friendly 
admonition as to excess in wine has been often too applicable ; 
but upon this late occasion I erred on the other side. However, 
as I am now free from my restriction to Courtenay 4 , I shall be 
much upon my guard ; for, to tell the truth, I did go too deep 
the day before yesterday; having dined with Michael Angelo 
Taylor 5 , and then supped at the London Tavern with the 
stewards of the Humane Society, and continued till I know not 
what hour in the morning. John Nichols was joyous to a pitch 
of bacchanalian vivacity. I am to dine with him next Monday ; 
an excellent city party, Alderman Curtis, Deputy Birch 6 , &c. 
&c. I rated him gently on his saying so little of your Shake 
speare 7 . He is ready to receive more ample notice. You may 

1 Life, i. 190, n. 4. [ed. 1799, p. 247. See also ib. p. 

2 On Feb. 21 Fox had given notice 295]. Windham replied : ' Mr. 
that he intended to bring before the Taylor is fair game enough, and 
House ' the conduct of the Court of likes that or any other way whatever 
King's Bench in giving judgment of obtaining notice.' Mme. D'Ar- 
and sentence upon libels.' Parl. blay's Diary, iv. 139. 

Hist, xxviii. 1261. 6 < Every Alderman has his Deputy, 

3 Life, i. 343 ; iii. 421. chosen out of the Common Council, 
Ante, ii. 21. and in some of the wards that are 

5 Miss Burney complained to very large the Alderman has two 
Windham that her father and M. A. Deputies.' Dodsley's London, i. 147. 
Taylor ' had been most impertinently 7 In the Gentleman's Magazine, of 
coupled ' in the Probationary Odes which Nichols was editor. 


to Edmond Malone. 37 

depend on your having whatever reviews that mention you sent 
directly. Have I told you that Murphy has written An Essay 
on the Life and Writings of Dr. Johnson, to be prefixed to the 
new edition of his works? He wrote it in a month, and has 
received 2OO/. for it 1 . I am quite resolved now to keep the 
property of my Magnum Opus ; and I flatter myself I shall not 
repent it. 

My title, as we settled it, is 'The Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D., 
comprehending an account of his studies and various works, in 
chronological order, his conversations with many eminent persons, 
a series of his letters to celebrated men, and several original 
pieces of his composition: the whole exhibiting a view of 
literature and literary men in Great Britain, for near half 
a century, during which he flourished 2 .' It will be very kind 
if you will suggest what yet occurs. I hoped to have published 
to-day ; but it will be about a month yet before I launch. 

March 12. Being the depositary of your chance in the lottery, 
I am under the disagreeable necessity of communicating the bad 
news that it has been drawn a blank. I am very sorry, both on 
your account and that of your sisters, and my own ; for had 
your share of good fortune been 31667. 13^. 4^. I should have 
hoped for a loan to accommodate me. As it is, I shall, as I wrote 
to you, be enabled to weather my difficulties for some time : but 
I am still in great anxiety about the sale of my book, I find 
so many people shake their heads at the two quartos and two 
guineas. Courtenay is clear that I should sound Robinson, and 
accept of a thousand guineas, if he will give that sum. Mean 
time, the title-page must be made as good as may be. It 
appears to me that mentioning his studies, works, conversations, 
and letters is not sufficient ; and I would suggest comprehending 
an account, in chronological order, of his studies, works, friend 
ships, acquaintance, and other particulars ; his conversation with 
eminent men ; a series of his letters to various persons ; also 
several original pieces of his composition never before published. 

1 He received ,300 for it. Nichols, 2 This title Bos well somewhat 
Lit. Anec.j ix. 159. modified. 


38 Extracts from BosweWs Letters to Malone. 

The whole, &c. You will, probably, be able to assist me in ex 
pressing my idea, and arranging the parts. In the advertisement 
I intend to mention the letter to Lord Chesterfield, and perhaps 
the interview with the King, and the names of the correspondents 
in alphabetical order z . How should chronological order stand in 
the order of the members of my title? I had at first 'celebrated 
correspondents', which I don't like. How would it do to say 
' his conversations and epistolary correspondence with eminent 
(or celebrated) persons ? ' Shall it be ' different works,' and 
' various particulars ' ? In short, it is difficult to decide. 

Courtenay was with me this morning. What a mystery is 
his going on at all ! Yet he looks well, talks well, dresses well, 
keeps his mare in short is in all respects like a parliament 
man. Do you know that my bad spirits are returned upon 
me to a certain degree ; and such is the sickly fondness for 
change of place, and imagination of relief, that I sometimes 
think you are happier by being in Dublin, than one is in this 
great metropolis, where hardly any man cares for another. 
I am persuaded I should relish your Irish dinners very much. 
I have at last got chambers in the Temple, in the very staircase 
where Johnson lived 2 ; and when my Magnum Opus is fairly 
launched, there shall I make a trial 3 . 

1 The advertisement is the pre 
face. In it he does not make this 

2 Letters, i. 90, n. 3. 

3 Boswell wrote to Temple on 
April 6 : ' My Life of Johnson is at 
last drawing to a close. I am cor 
recting the last sheet, and have only 
to write an advertisement, to make 
out a note of Errata, and to correct 
a second sheet of Contents, one 
being done. I am at present in such 
bad spirits that I have every fear 
concerning it, that I may get no 

profit, nay, may lose, that the 
Public may be disappointed, and 
think that I have done it poorly, 
that I may make many enemies, and 
even have quarrels. Yet perhaps 
the very reverse of all this may hap 
pen.' Letters to Temple, p. 335. 

On Aug. 22 he wrote : * My 
magnum opus sells wonderfully ; 
twelve hundred are now gone, and 
we hope the whole seventeen hundred 
may be gone before Christmas.' Ib. 
p. 342. 




MARCH nth [1775]. It rained incessantly from the hour 
I awoke, that is, eight, till near twelve, that I went to bed, and 
how much further that night, I know not. This day I dined 
with the Club at the British Coffee [house] 2 , introduced by my 
old College friend Day. The President was a Scotch Member 
of Parliament, Mayne, and the prevalent interest Scottish. They 
did nothing but praise Macpherson's new history 3 , and decry 
Johnson and Burke. Day humorously gave money to the 
waiter, to bring him Johnson's Taxation no Tyranny. One of 
them desired him to save himself the expense, for that he 
should have it from him, and glad that he would take it away, 
as it was worse than nothing. Another said it was written in 
Johnson's manner, but worse than usual, for that there was 
nothing new in it. 

1 From A Diary of a Visit to 3 ( The History of Great Britain 
England in 1775. By an Irishman from the Restoration to the Acces- 
(The Reverend Dr. Thomas Camp- sion of the House of Hanover. 2 vols. 
bell), with Notes by Samuel Ray- quarto, 2. is' Gent. Mag. 1775, 
mond, M.A., Prothonotary of the p. 192. Hume, writing to Strahan, 
Supreme Court of New South Wales. described it as ' one of the most 
Sydney: Waugh & Cox, 1854. For wretched Productions that ever came 
the question of the authenticity of from your Press.' Letters of Hume to 
this Diary see Life, ii. 338, n. 2. * In Strahan, p. 308. ' For Macpherson,' 
a marginal note Mrs. Thrale says of wrote Horace Walpole, * I stopped 
Dr. Campbell: " He was a fine showy dead short in the first volume; 
talking man, Johnson liked him of never was such a heap of insignifi- 
all things in a year or two." ' Hay- cant trash and lies.' Walpole's Let- 
ward's Piozzi, 2nd ed., i. 99. ters, vi. 202. 

2 Life, ii. 195 ; iv. 179, n. I. 


40 Anecdotes by 

1 4th. The first entire fair day, since I came to London. This 
day I called at Mr. Thrale's, where I was received with all 
respect by Mr. and Mrs. Thrale. She is a very learned lady *, 
and joyns to the charms of her own sex, the manly understanding 
of ours. The immensity of the Brewery astonished me. One 
large house contains, and cannot contain more, only four store 
vessels, each of which contains fifteen hundred barrels ; and in 
one of which one hundred persons have dined with ease 2 . There 
are besides in other houses, thirty six of the same construction, 
but of one half the contents. 

1 5th. A fair day. Dined with Archdeacon Congreve, to whom 
Dr. S. Johnson was schoolfellow at Litchfield 3 . The Doctor had 
visited the Archdeacon yesterday, by which accident I learned 
this circumstance. 

i6th. A fair day. Dined with Mr. Thrale along with Dr. John 
son, and Baretti. Baretti is a plain sensible man, who seems to 
know the world well. He talked to me of the invitation given 
him by the College of Dublin, but said it (one hundred pounds 
a year, and rooms,) was not worth his acceptance ; and if it had 
been, he said, in point of profit, still he would not have accepted 
it, for that now he could not live out of London. He had 
returned a few years ago to his own country 4 , but he could 
not enjoy it; and he was obliged to return to London, to those 
connections he had been making for near thirty years past. He 
told me he had several families, with whom, both in town and 
country, he could go at any time, and spend' a month : he is at 
this time on these terms at Mr. Thrale's, and he knows how to 
keep his ground. Talking as we were at tea of the magnitude 
of the beer vessels, he said there was one thing in Mr. Thrale's 
house, still more extraordinary ; meaning his wife. She gulped 

' Her learning,' said Johnson, him to brew in afterwards.' Ante, 

' is that of a school-boy in one of the i. 214. 

lower forms.' Life, i. 494. 3 Life, i. 45. Johnson described 

' Here is Thrale has a thousand him as 'a very pious man, but always 

tun of copper (said Johnson to Rey- muddy.' Ib. ii. 460. See also ib. ii. 

nolds) ; you may paint it all round 474 ; Letters, i. 304, 378, 9. 

if you will, I suppose; it will serve 4 Life, i. 361. 


the Rev. Dr. Thomas Campbell. 41 

the pill very prettily so much for Baretti x ! Johnson, you 
are the very man Lord Chesterfield describes : a Hottentot 
indeed 2 , and tho' your abilities are respectable, you never can 
be respected yourself. He has the aspect of an Idiot, without 
the faintest ray of sense gleaming from any one feature with the 
most awkward garb, and unpowdered grey wig, on one side only 
of his head he is for ever dancing the devil's jig, and sometimes 
he makes the most driveling effort to whistle some thought in 
his absent paroxisms 3 . He came up to me and took me by the 
hand, then sat down on a sofa, and mumbled out that he had 
heard two papers had appeared against him in the course of this 
week one of which was that he was to go to Ireland next 
.summer in order to abuse the hospitality of that place also 4 . 
His awkwardness at table is just what Chesterfield described, 
and his roughness of manners kept pace with that. When 
Mrs. Thrale quoted something from Foster's Sermons, he flew 
in a passion and said that Foster was a man of mean ability, 
and of no original thinking 5 . All which tho' I took to be most 
true, yet I held it not meet to have it so set down. He said 
that he looked upon Burke to be the author of Junius, and that 
though he would not take him contra mundum, yet he would 
take him against any man 6 . Baretti was of the same mind, 

1 Mrs. Thrale thus ends- some lines 4 He was charged with having 
she wrote on Baretti : abused the hospitality of the Scotch 

' While tenderness, temper and in \i\sjourney to the Western Islands 

truth he despises, just published. Life, ii. 305. Of 

And only the triumph of victory Ireland he said : ' It is the last 

prizes, place where I should wish to travel 

Yet let us be candid, and where . . . Yet he had a kindness for the 

shall we find Irish nation.' Ib. iii. 410. 

So active, so able, so ardent a 5 ' Mr. Beauclerk one day repeated 

mind ? to Dr. Johnson Pope's lines, 

To your children more soft, more " Let modest Foster, if he will, 

polite with your servant, excel 

More firm in distress, or in friend- Ten metropolitans in preaching 

ship more fervent ? ' well " ; 

Hayward's Piozzi, 2nd ed. ii. 177. then asked the Doctor, "Why did 

2 It was not Johnson that Chester- Pope say this?" JOHNSON. "Sir, 
field described. Ante, i. 384, 451; he hoped it would vex somebody." ' 
Life, i. 267, n. 2. Ib. iv. 9. 

3 Life, iii. 357. 6 * JOHNSON. " I should have be- 


42 Anecdotes by 

tho' he mentioned a fact which made against the opinion, which 
was that a paper having appeared against Junius, on this day, 
a Junius came out in answer to that the very next, when 
(every body knew) Burke was in Yorkshire. But all the Juniuses 
were evidently not written by the same hand. Burke's brother 
is a good writer, tho' nothing like Edward \sic\. The Doctor as 
he drinks no wine, retired soon after dinner, and Baretti, who I see 
is a sort of literary toad-eater to Johnson, told me that he was 
a man nowise affected by praise or dispraise 1 , and that the 
journey to the Hebrides would never have been published but 
for himself. The Doctor however returned again, and with all 
the fond anxiety of an author, I saw him cast out all his nets to 
know the sense of the town about his last pamphlet, Taxation 
no Tyranny, which he said did not sell 2 . Mr. Thrale told him 
such and such members of both houses admired it, and why did 
you not tell me this, quoth Johnson 3 . Thrale asked him what 
Sir Joshua Reynolds said of it. Sir Joshua, quoth the Doctor, 
has not read it. I suppose, quoth Thrale, he has been very busy 
of late ; no, says the Doctor, but I never look at his pictures, so 
he won't read my writings. Was this like a man insensible 
to glory ! Thrale then asked him if he had got Miss Reynolds' 
opinion, for she it seems is a politician ; as to that, quoth the 
Doctor, it is no great matter, for she could not tell after she had 
read it, on which side of the question Mr. Burke's speech was. 
N.B. We had a great deal of conversation about Archdeacon 
Congreve, who was his class-fellow at Litchfield School. He 
talked of him as a man of great coldness of mind, who could 
be two years in London without letting him know it till a 
few weeks ago, and then apologising by saying, that he did 
not know where to enquire for him 4 . This plainly raised his 

lieved Burke to be Junius, because 2 On April 2, 'his Taxation no 

I know no man but Burke who is Tyranny being mentioned, he said, 

capable of writing these letters ; but " I think I have not been attacked 

Burke spontaneously denied it to enough for it." ' Ib. ii.335- Six days 

me."' Life, iii. 376. See ante, i. 172. later he wrote : 'The patriots pelt 

1 'He loved praise when it was me with answers.' Letters, i. 314. 
brought to him ; but was too proud 3 See Life, iv. 32. 

to seek for it. He was somewhat 4 Johnson wrote to Dr. Taylor on 

susceptible of flattery.' Life, iv. 427. Dec. 22, 1774 : ' How long Charles 


the Rev. Dr. Thomas Campbell. 43 

indignation, for he swelled to think that his celebrity should not 
be notorious to every porter in the street. The Archdeacon, he 
told me, has a sermon upon the nature of moral good and evil, 
preparing for the press, and should he die before publication, 
he leaves fifty pounds for that purpose. He said he read some 
of it to him, but that as he had interrupted him to make some 
remarks, he hopes never to be troubled with another rehearsal I . 

25th. Eddying winds in the forenoon rendered the streets 
very disagreeable with dust, which was laid in the evening by 
rain from three. Dined at Mr. Thrale's, where there were ten or 
more gentlemen, and but one lady besides Mrs. Thrale. The 
dinner was excellent 2 : first course, soups at head and foot 
removed by fish and a saddle of mutton ; second course, a fowl 
they call Galena at head, and a capon larger than some of our 
Irish turkeys at foot ; third course, four different sorts of Ices, 
Pineapple, Grape, Raspberry and a fourth ; in each remove, there 
were I think fourteen dishes. The two first courses were served 
in massy plate. I sat beside Baretti, which was to me the 
richest part of the entertainment. He and Mr. and Mrs. Thrale 
joyn'd in expressing to me Dr. Johnson's concern that he could 
not give me the meeting that day, but desired that I should go 
and see him. Baretti was very humourous about his new 
publication 3 , which he expects to put out next month. He 
there introduces a dialogue about Ossian, wherein he ridicules 
the idea of its double translation into Italian, in hopes, he said, of 
having it abused by the Scots, which would give it an im 
primatur for a second edition, and he had stipulated for twenty 
five guineas additional if the first should sell in a given time. 
He repeated to me upon memory the substance of the letters 
which passed between Dr. Johnson and Mr. McPherson. The 
latter tells the Doctor, that neither his age nor infirmity's should 
protect him if he came in his way. The Doctor responds that 

Congreve has been here, I know not. Letters, i. 304. The sermon prob- 

He told me he knew not how to find ably was not published ; it is not 

me.' Letters^ i. 304. in the British Museum. 

1 'He is going to print a sermon, 2 Life, iii. 423, n. I. 

but I thought he appeared neither 3 Ib. ii. 449. 
very acute nor very knowing.' 


44 Anecdotes by 

no menaces of any rascal should intimidate him from detecting 
imposture wherever he met it x . 

APRIL i st. A fair day, dined at Mr. Thrale's, whom in proof 
of the magnitude of London, I cannot help remarking, no coach 
man, and this is the third I have called, could find without 
enquiry 2 . But of this by the way. There was Murphy, Boswell, 
and Baretti, the two last, as I learned just before I entered, 
are mortal foes, so much so that Murphy and Mrs. Thrale 
agreed that Boswell expressed a desire that Baretti should be 
hanged upon that unfortunate affair of his killing, &c. 3 Upon 
this hint I went, and without any sagacity it was easily dis- 
cernable, for upon Baretti's entering, Boswell did not rise, and 
upon Baretti's descry of Boswell, he grinned a perturbed glance. 
Politeness however smooths the most hostile brows, and theirs 
were smoothed. Johnson was the subject, both before and after 
dinner, for it was the boast of all but myself, that under that 
roof were the Doctor's first friends. His bon mots were retailed 
in such plenty, that they, like a surfeit, could not lye upon my 
memory. Boswell arguing in favour of a cheerful glass, adduced 
the maxim in vino veritas^ 'well,' says Johnson, 'and what then 
unless a man has lived a lye 4 .' B. then urged that it made 
a man forget all his cares, 'that, to be sure' says Johnson 'might 
be of use if a man sat by such a' person as you V Boswell 
confessed that he liked a glass of whiskey in the Highland 
tour, and used to take it ; at length says Johnson, ' let me try 
wherein the pleasure of a Scotsman consists/ and so tips off 
a brimmer of whiskey 6 . But Johnson's abstemiousness is new to 
him, for within a few years he would swallow two bottles of Port 

1 Life, ii. 298. some note in London ' who wondered 

2 His town - house was in the who was the author of the Pater 
Borough, on the southern side of Noster. Ib. v. 121. Boswell's ac- 
the Thames. count of his trial for murder is not 

3 Boswell coldly describes him as such an account as a friend would 
'an Italian of considerable literature.' have written. Ib. ii. 97. 

Life, i. 302. He most likely was 4 Ib. ii. 188; ante, i. 321. 

'the foreign friend of Johnson's, so 5 Life, ii. 193. 

wretchedly perverted to infidelity 6 ' Come (said he) let me know 

that he treated the hopes of im- what it is that makes a Scotchman 

mortality with a brutal levity.' Ib. happy.' Ib. v. 346. 

ii. 8. He also was the * Italian of 


the Rev. Dr. Thomas Campbell. 45 

without any apparent alteration, and once in the company with 
whom I dined this day, he said, pray Mr. Thrale give us another 

>ttle V It is ridiculous to pry so nearly into the movements 
of such men, yet Boswell carrys it to a degree of superstition. 
The Doctor it appears has a custom of putting the peel of 
oranges into his pocket, and he asked the Doctor what use he 
made of them, the Doctor's reply was, that his dearest friend 
should not know that 2 . This has made poor Boswell unhappy, 
and I verily think he is as anxious to know the secret as a green 
sick girl. N.B. The book wherewith Johnson presented the 
highland lady was Cocker's Arithmetic 3 . 

Murphy gave it (on Garrick's authority) that when it was asked 
what was the greatest pleasure, Johnson answered * * But Garrick 
is his most intimate friend, they came to London together and 
he 4 is very correct both in his conduct and language ; as a proof 
of this, they all agreed in a story of him and Dr. James 5 , who is, 
it seems, a very lewd fellow, both verbo et facto. James, it seems, 
in a coach with his whoor, took up Johnson, and set him down 
at a given place Johnson hearing afterwards what the lady was 
attacked James, when next he met him, for carrying him about 
in such company. James apologised by saying * * . ' Damn the 
rascal 6 ,' says Johnson, * he is past sixty the * .' 

Boswell desirous of setting his native country off to the best 
advantage expatiated upon the beauty of a certain prospect, 
particularly upon a view of the sea. * O Sir,' says Johnson, * the 
sea is the same everywhere V 

1 * Talking of drinking wine John- were neither uttered by Johnson, nor 
son said, " I did not leave off wine reported of him at a table where his 
because I could not bear it; I have a version to profanity was known; nor 
drunk three bottles of port without is it at all likely that he uttered any- 
being the worse for it. University thing which the editor of Dr. Camp- 
College has witnessed this." ' Life, bell's Diary could not have printed, 
iii. 245. Reynolds, who knew him so well, 

3 It was on the morning of this said that ' he would never suffer the 
same day that Boswell received this least immorality or indecency of con- 
reply. Id. ii. 330. See also Letters, versation to proceed without a severe 
i. 49. check.' Post in Sir J. Reynolds's 

3 Life, v. 138. Anecdotes ; ante, ii. 17. 

4 Johnson, not Garrick, is meant. 7 Life, v. 54. 

5 Ib. i. 8l, 159; iii. 389, n. 2. Johnson, in a letter as printed by 

6 These words, we may be sure, Mrs. Piozzi, wrote : ' I am glad that 


Anecdotes by 

Dr. Johnson calls the act in Braganza x with the monk, para- 
lytick on one side ; i. e. the monk is introduced without any 
notification of his character, so that any monk, or any other 
person might as well be introduced in the same place, and for 
the same purpose. And I myself say, that Velasquez quitting his 
hold of the Dutchess, upon sight of the monk, is an effect without 
a sufficient cause. The cool, intrepid character of Velasquez 
required that he should either have dispatched, or attempted to 
dispatch the monk, and then there would have been a pretext for 
losing hold of the Dutchess. The Duke is a poor, tame animal, 
and by no means equal to his historic character. A whimsical 
incident I was witness to there. Murphy told a very comical 
story of a Scotchman's interview with Dr. Johnson, upon his 
earnest desire of being known to the Doctor. This was Boswell 
himself 2 . N.B. The Tour to the Western Isles was written in 
twenty days 3 , and the Patriot in three 4 . Taxation no Tyranny 
within a week 5 , and not one of them would have yet seen the 
light, had it not been for Mrs. Thrale and Baretti, who stirred 
him up by laying wagers 6 . 

the ladies find so much novelty at 
Weymouth. Ovid says that the sun 
is undelightfully uniform.' I con 
jectured in a note that he wrote not 
sun but sea. Letters, ii. 325. I could 
not however find the reference to 
Ovid. I have no doubt however 
that he was referring to the line 
which he quoted to Boswell at 
Leith : 

'Una est injusti caerula forma 

Ovid, Amor. L. ii. El. xi. 

1 A tragedy by Robert Jephson, 
acted at Drury Lane 1775. Post, 
p. 182. 

2 Ante, \. 428. 

3 He ' conceived the thought of it ' 
on Sept. I, 1773. Life, v. 141. For 
part of his material he used his letters 
to Mrs. Thrale. In the following 
winter he was collecting information. 
Ib. ii. 269, 271. In March he wrote 
to Boswell : ' I think I shall be very 

diligent next week about our travels, 
which I have too long neglected.' 
Ib. ii. 277. On June 20 he 'put the 
first sheets to the press.' Ib. p. 278. 
On July 4 he had still two sheets to 
write. Ib. p. 288. Owing to the 
delay of the printer the last sheet was 
not corrected till Nov. 25. Ib. p. 288. 

4 < The Patriot was called for by 
my political friends on Friday, was 
written on Saturday.' Ib. ii. 288. 

5 On Jan. 21, 1775, he wrote to 
Boswell : ' I am going to write about 
the Americans.' Ib. ii. 292. On Feb. 3 
he wrote to Mrs. Thrale : ' My 
pamphlet has not gone on at all.' 
Letters, i. 308. By March i it had 
been not only written, but altered by 
some one in the Ministry. Ib. i. 309. 
' The False Alarm was written be 
tween eight o'clock on Wednesday 
night and twelve o'clock on Thurs 
day night.' Ante, i. 173. 

6 According to Hawkins, 'it was 


the Rev. Dr. Thomas Campbell. 47 

APRIL 5th. Dined with Dilly in the Poultry 1 , as guest to 
Mr. Boswell, where I met Dr. Johnson, (and a Mr. Miller, who 
lives near Bath 2 , who is a dilletanti man, keeps a weekly day 
for the Litterati, and is himself so litterate, that he gathereth 
all the flowers that ladies write, and bindeth into a garland, 
but enough of him) with several others, particularly a Mr. Scott 3 , 
who seems to be a very sensible plain man. The Doctor, when 
I came in, had an answer titled Taxation and Tyranny to his 
last pamphlet, in his hand. He laughed at it, and said he 
would read no more of it, for that it paid him compliments, 
but gave him no information. He asked if there were any 
more of them. I told him I had seen another, and that the 
Monthly Review had handled it in what I believed he called 
the way of information. ' Well,' says he, ' I should be glad to 
see it/ Then Boswell (who understands his temper well 4 ) 
asked him somewhat, for I was not attending, relative to the 
Provincial Assemblies 5 . The Doctor, in process of discourse 
with him, argued with great vehemence that the Assemblies 
were nothing more than our Vestries. I asked him, was there 
not this difference, that an Act of the Assemblies required 
the King's assent to pass into a law : his answer had more of 
wit than of argument. 'Well Sir,' says he, 'that only gives 
it more weight.' I thought I had gone too far, but dinner 
was then announced, and Dilly, who paid all attention to him, 
in placing him next to the fire, said, * Doctor, perhaps you will 
be too warm 6 .' ' No Sir,' says the Doctor, ' I am neither hot 

by a wager, or some other pecuniary to talk, for which it was often neces- 

engagement ' that he was moved to sary to employ some address.' 

finish his Shakespeare. Life, i. 319, s The assemblies of the thirteen 

n. 4. American colonies. 

1 At Billy's table 'Johnson, who 6 'Johnson told Sir Joshua Rey- 
boasted of the niceness of his palate, nolds, that once when he dined in 
owned that " he always found a good a numerous company of booksellers, 
dinner.'" Life, iii. 285. For this where, the room being small, the 
particular dinner see id. ii. 338. head of the table at which he sat 

2 Ib. ii. 336. was almost close to the fire, he 

3 John Scott of Amwell, the Quaker persevered in suffering a great deal 
poet. Ib. ii. 338, 351. of inconvenience from the heat, 

4 See ib. iii. 39, where Boswell rather than quit his place, and let 
asked him a question 'with an as- one of them sit above him.' Ib. 
sumed air of ignorance, to incite him iii. 311. 


48 Anecdotes by 

nor cold.' ' And yet,' said I ; Doctor, you are not a lukewarm 
man/ This I thought pleased him, and as I sat next him, I had 
a fine opportunity of attending to his phiz ; and I could clearly 
see he was fond of having his quaint things laughed at, and they 
(without any force) gratified my propensity to affuse grinning. 
Mr. Dilly led him to give his opinion of men and things, of 
which he is very free, and Dilly will probably retail them all. 
Talking of the Scotch, (after Boswell was gone) he said, though 
they were not a learned nation, yet they were far removed from 
ignorance. Learning was new among them, and he doubted 
not but they would in time be a learned people, for they were 
a fine, bold enterprising people. He compared England and 
Scotland to two lions, the one saturated with his belly full, 
and the other prowling for prey. But the test he offered to 
prove that Scotland, tho' it had learning enough for common 
life, yet had not sufficient for the dignity of literature, was, 
that he defied any one to produce a classical book, written in 
Scotland since Buchanan x . Robertson, he said, used pretty 
words, but he liked Hume better 2 , and neither of them would 
he allow to be more to Clarendon 3 , than a rat to a cat. ' A 
Scotch surgeon,' says he ' may have more learning than an 
English one. and all Scotland could not muster learning enough 
for Louth's prelections 4 .' Turning to me, he said, 'you have 
produced classical writers and scholars ; I don't know,' says 
he, ( that any man is before Usher 5 , as a scholar, unless it may 
be Seldon [stc], and you have a philosopher, Boyle, and you 
have Swift and Congreve, but the latter,' says he, c denied you 6 ' ; 
and he might have added the former too 7 . He then said, you 

1 Ante, ii. 5, 15. and a greater, he added, no church 

2 In 1773 Johnson said: 'I have could boast of, at least in modern 
not read Hume.' Life, ii. 236 ; ante, times. 3 Ib. ii. 132. 

ii. 10. 6 ' Southern mentioned Congreve 

3 ' Clarendon (said Johnson) is with sharp censure as a man that 
supported by his matter. It is in- meanly disowned his native coun- 
deed owing to a plethory of matter try.' Works, viii. 23. 

that his style is so faulty.' Life, iii. 7 * Swift was contented to be called 

258. an Irishman by the Irish, but would 

4 For Lowth see ib. ii. 37. occasionally call himself an English- 

5 'Usher (Johnson said) was the man.' Ib. viii. 192. 
great luminary of the Irish church ; 


the Rev. Dr. Thomas Campbell. 49 

certainly have a turn for the drama, for you have Southerne and 
Farquhar and Congreve *, and many living authors and players. 
Encouraged by this, I went back to assert the genius of Ireland 
in old times, and ventured to say that the first professors of 
Oxford and Paris, &c., were Irish. ' Sir,' says he, ' I believe 
there is something in what you say 2 ; and I am content with 
it, since they are not Scotch V 

APRIL 8th. Very cold, and some rain, but not enough to 
allay the blowing of the dust. Dined with Thrale 4 , where 
Dr. Johnson was, and Boswell, (and Baretti as usual.) The 
Doctor was not in as good spirits as he was at Dilly's. He 

,had supped the night before with Lady Miss JefFry's, one 

of the maids of honour, Sir Joshua Reynolds, &c., at Mrs. 
Abington's 5 . He said Sir C. Thompson, and some others who 
were there, spoke like people who had seen good company, 
and so did Mrs. Abington herself, who could not have seen 
good company 6 . He seems fond of Boswell, and yet he is 
always abusing the Scots before him, by way of joke 7 : talking 
of their nationality, he said they were not singular : the Negros 
and Jews being so too. Boswell lamented there was no good 
map of Scotland. ' There never can be a good (map) of Scot 
land,' says the Doctor sententiously. This excited Boswell to 
ask wherefore. 'Why Sir, to measure land, a man must go 
over it; but who could think of going over Scotland 8 .' When 
Dr. Goldsmith was mentioned, and Dr. Percy's intention of 
writing his life 9 , he expressed his approbation strongly, adding 
that Goldsmith was the best writer he ever knew, upon every 

1 He passes over Goldsmith. know not how much kiss of Mrs. 

2 Johnson described Ireland as Abington, and very good looks from 

having once been ' the school of the Miss , the maid of honour.' 

west, the quiet habitation of sanctity Letters, i. 316. 

and literature.' Life, iii. 112. 6 Northcote described her as 'the 

3 'The Irish (he said) have not Grosvenor Square of Comedy.' Con- 
that extreme nationality which we versations of Northcote, p. 298. 
find in the Scotch.' Ib. ii. 242. 7 Boswell describes ' the good- 

4 Ib. ii. 349. humoured pleasantry with which he 

5 Ib. On March 27 he had gone played off his wit against Scotland.' 
with ' a body of wits ' to her benefit. Life, ii. 77. 

Ib. ii. 324. On May 12 he wrote to 8 Ib. ii. 356. 

Mrs. Thrale :' Yesterday I had I 9 Ib. iii. 100, n. i. 

VOL. ii. E subject 

50 Anecdotes by 

subject he wrote upon x . He said that Kendric 2 had borrowed 
all his dictionary from him. f Why,' says Boswell, e every man 
who writes a dictionary must borrow.' ' No Sir/ says Johnson, 
'that is not necessary.' 'Why/ says Boswell, 'have not you 
a great deal in common with those who wrote before you/ ' Yes 
Sir/ says Johnson, ( I have the words, but my business was not to 
make words but to explain them. 5 Talking of Garrick and Barry 3 , 
he said he always abused Garrick himself, but when anybody else 
did so, he fought for the dog like a tiger 4 ; as to Barry, he said 
he supposed he could not read. ' And how does he get his part ?' 
says one. ' Why, somebody reads it to him, and yet I know/ says 
he, ' that he is very much admired.' Mrs. Thrale then took him 
by repeating a repartee of Murphy, the setting Barry up in com 
petition with Garrick, is what irritates the English Criticks, and 
Murphy standing up for Barry. Johnson said that he was fit for 
nothing but to stand at an auction room door with his pole. 
Murphy said that Garrick would do the business as well, and 
pick the people's pockets at the same time. Johnson admitted 
the fact, but said, Murphy spoke nonsense, for that people's 
pockets were riot picked at the door, but in the room 5 ; then 
said I, he was worse than the pick- pockets, forasmuch as he 
was Pandar to them ; this went off with a laugh. Vive la 
bagatelle 6 . It was a case decided here, that there was no harm, 
and much pleasure in laughing at our absent friends, and I 
own, if the character is not damaged, I can see no injury done. 

APRIL 9th. A fair day, went to St. Clements to hear Mr. 
Burrows 7 , so cried up by Lord Dartrey 8 , preach, but I was 
wofully disappointed ; his matter is cold, his manner hot, his 
voice weak, and his action affected. Indeed I thought he 

1 'JOHNSON. "Whether indeed 6 Swift's 'favourite maxim.' Works ^ 
we take Goldsmith as a poet, as a viii. 217. 

comick writer, or as an historian, he 7 Life, iii. 379. 

stands in the first class.'" Life, 8 Dartrey, Lord. Thomas Daw- 

ii. 236. son, created a peer of Ireland, May 

2 William Kenrick. /<$. i. 497 ; ii. 61. 28, 1770, as Baron Dartrey, of Daw- 

3 Spranger Barry, the actor. son's Grove, and also Viscount 

4 Ib. i. 397, n. I ; iii. 70, 312. Cremorne, June, 1785. B. 1725 ; 

5 Ib. ii. 349. d. 1813. 


the Rev. Dr. Thomas Campbell. 51 

preached from a printed book, a book it certainly was, and it 
seemed at my distance, which was the perpendicular to the 
side of the pulpit, to have a broad margin-like print, and he 
did not seem master of it, yet he affected much emphasis and 
action. Dined with Mr. Combe, and spent the evening with 
Dr. Campbell *. 

APRIL loth. Rain, but not enough to soften the asperity of 
the weather. Dined with General Oglethorpe 2 , who was in lieu 
of Aid-de-Camp, (for he had no such officer about him) to Prince 
Eugene, and celebrated by Mr. Pope 3 . Dr. Johnson pressed 
him to write his life ; adding, that no life in Europe was so well 
worth recording 4 . The old man excused himself, saying the life 
of a private man was not worthy public notice. He however 
desired Boswell to bring him some good Almanack, that he 
might recollect dates, and seemed to excuse himself also on the 
article of incapacity, but Boswell desired him only to furnish the 
skeleton, and that Dr. Johnson would supply bones and sinews. 
* He would be a good Doctor,' says the General, ' who would do 
that.' 'Well/ says I, 'he is a good Doctor,' at which he, 
the Doctor, laughed very heartily. Talking of America, it was 
observed that his works would not be admired there. ' No,' 
says Boswell, ' we shall soon hear of his being hung in effigy.' 
' I should be glad of that,' says the Doctor, ' that would be 
a new source of fame ; ' alluding to some conversation on the 
fulness of his fame which had gone before. And says Boswell, 
' I wonder he has not been hung in effigy from the Hebrides to 
England.' ' I shall suffer them to do it corporeally,' says the 
Doctor, ' if they can find me a tree to do it upon V 

1 Dr. John Campbell. * JOHNSON. Oglethorpe's as he had been taken 
" I used to go pretty often to Camp- to Billy's. Ib. ii. 350. 

bell's on a Sunday evening, till I 3 Ib. i. 127 ; ii. 181. 
began to consider that the shoals of 4 'Dr. Johnson urged General Ogle- 
Scotchmen who flocked about him thorpe to give the world his Life, 
might probably say, when anything He said, " I know no man whose 
of mine was well done, { Ay, ay, he Life would be more interesting. If 
has learnt this of Cawmell.' " ' Life, I were furnished with materials I 
i. 418. should be very glad to write it.'" 

2 It was by Boswell that Dr. Ib. ii. 351. 
Thomas Campbell was taken to 5 Ib. ii. 311, 

E a The 

52 Anecdotes by 

The Poem of the Graces became the topic ; Boswell asked if 
he had never been under the hands of a dancing master x . * Aye, 
and a dancing mistress too/ says the Doctor, ' but I own to you 
I never took a lesson but one or two, my blind eyes showed me 
I could never make a proficiency.' Boswell led him to give his 
opinion of Gray, he said there were but two good stanzas in all 
lis works, viz., the elegy 2 . Boswell desirous of eliciting his 
opinion upon too many subjects, as he thought, he rose up 
and took his hat 3 . This was not noticed by anybody as it 
was nine o'clock, but after we got into Mr. Langton's coach, 
who gave us a set down, he said, ' Boswell's conversation consists 
entirely in asking questions, and it is extremely offensive Y we 

fended it upon Boswell's eagerness to hear the Doctor speak. 

Talking of suicide 5 , Boswell took up the defence for argument's 
sake, and the Doctor said that some cases were more excusable 
than others, but if it were excusable, it should be the last 
resource; 'for instance, 5 says he, 'if a man is distressed in 
circumstances, (as in the case I mentioned of Denny) he ought 
to fly his country.' ' How can he fly,' says Boswell, ' if he 
has wife and children?' 'What Sir/ says the Doctor, shaking 
his head as if to promote the fermentation of his wit, ' doth not 
a man fly from his wife and children if he murders himself?' 

APRIL i6th. Dined with Archdeacon Congreve, my Lord Pri 
mate 6 came there in the evening. He asked me sneeringly if I had 
seen the lions 7 . I told him I had neither seen them nor the crown, 
nor the jewels, nor the whispering-gallery at St. Paul's. The 
conversation turned upon other things, and came round to his 
picture by Reynolds, which led on talk of Sir Joshua and other 
great artists, and without any force, I introduced something of 
Johnson. ' What/ says he, ' do you know him ?' ' Yes my Lord 
I do, and Barretti [sic], and several others, whom I have been 

1 Life, iv. 79. 4 < Questioning (said Johnson) is 

2 This he had said to Boswell not the mode of conversation among 
about a fortnight earlier. Ib. ii. gentlemen.' Ib. ii. 472. See also 
328. For two 'very good lines ' in ib. iii. 57, 268 ; iv. 439. 

the Bard see ib. i. 403. 5 Ib. iv. 225 ; v. 54. 

3 * He was not much in the humour 6 The Archbishop of Armagh, 
of talking.' Ib. ii. 352. 7 In the Tower. 


the Rev. Dr. Thomas Campbell. 53 

fortunate enough to find willing to extend my acquaintance 
among their friends, for these, my Lord, were the lions I came 
to see in London.' 'Aye,' says he, 'these indeed are lions 
worth seeing, and the sight of them may be of use to you.' 

APRIL 2Oth. Fair, and somewhat softened by the fall of hail 
yesterday. Dined at Thrale's x , with Dr. Johnson, Barretti, and 
a Dean Wetherall of Oxford 2 , who is soliciting for a riding house 
at Oxford. When I mentioned to the Doctor another answer, 
entitled Resistance no Rebellion, coming out, he said, 'that is 
the seventh, the author finds the other six will not do, and I 
foresee that the title is the best part of the book.' He desired 
that I should visit him. N.B. Talking after dinner of the 
measures he would pursue with the Americans, he said the first 
thing he would do, would be to quarter the army on the citys, 
and if any refused free quarters, he would pull down that person's 
house, if it was joyned to other houses, but would burn it if it 
stood alone 3 . This and other schemes he proposed in the 
manuscript of Taxation no Tyranny, but these, he said, the 
Ministry expunged 4 . 

34th. Rainy morning. Sat an hour with Dr. Johnson about 
noon. He was at breakfast with a Pindar 5 in his hand, and after 
saluting me with great cordiality, he, after whistling in his way 6 
over Pindar, layed the book down, and then told me he had 
seen my Lord Primate at Sir Joshua's, and ' I believe/ says he, 
' I have not recommended myself much to him, for I differed 
widely in opinions from him, yet I hear he is doing good things 
in Ireland V I mentioned Skelton to him as a man of strong 

1 Boswell was absent from London the Americans ' Rascals Robbers 
from April 1910 May 2. Life, ii. 371. Pirates; exclaiming he'd burn and 

2 Dr. Wetherell was Master of destroy them,' and post, p. 55. 
University College, Oxford, and Dean 4 Life, ii. 313. For Hume's wise 
of Hereford. Johnson had written views see his Letters to Strahan, 
to Mrs. Thrale on April I : ' Dr. p. 288. 

Wetherell is very desirous of seeing 5 Boswell had sent him an ' elegant 

the brewhouse ; I hope Mr. Thrale Pindar.' Life, ii. 204. 

will send him an invitation.' Letters, 6 ' He half-whistled in his usual 

i. 313. For the riding-school see way when pleasant.' Ib. iii. 357. 

Life, ii. 424 ; Letters, i. 309, n. I. 7 For Johnson's views* about Ire- 

3 See Life, iii. 290, where he called land see Life, ii. 121, 130, 255. 


54 Anecdotes by 

imagination, and told him the story of his selling his library 
for the support of the poor z . He seemed much affected by it, 
and then fell a rowling and muttering to himself, and I could 
hear him plainly say after several minutes pause from con 
versation, ' Skelton is a great good man.' He then said, ' I 
purpose reading his Ophiomachis, for I have never seen anything 
of his, but some allegoric pieces which I thought very well of.' 
He told me he had seen Delany when he was in every sense 
gravis annis^ l but he was [an] able man,' says he, * his " Reve 
lation examined with candour" was well received, and I have 
seen an introductory preface to a second edition of one of his 
books, which was the finest thing I ever read in the declamatory 
way 2 .' He asked me whether Clayton was an English or Irish 
man. ' He endeavoured to raise a hissy 3 among you,' says he, 
' but without effect I believe.' I told him one effect in the case 
of the parish clerks. His indignation was prodigious. 'Aye/ 
says he, ' these are the effects of heretical notions upon vulgar 

JUNE nth. 1781. I went to see Dr. Johnson, found him alone, 
Barretti came soon after. Barretti (after some pause in conver 
sation) asked me, if the disturbances were over in Ireland. I told 
him I had not heard of any disturbances there. ' What,' says 
he, ' have you not been up in arms?' ' Yes, and a great number 
of men continue so to be.' ' And dont you call that disturb 
ance?' returned Barretti. 'No,' said I, 'the Irish volunteers 
have demeaned themselves very peaceably, and instead of 
disturbing the peace of the country, have contributed much 
to its preservation 4 .' The Doctor, who had been long silent, 

1 Rev. Philip Skelton, born near came to London to publish his Reve- 
Lisburne, 1707; died in 1787. In lation examined with Candour. He 
1750 he obtained the living of Pel- died at Bath in 1768. Ib. p. 155. 
tigo, in Donegal. Here, in a time of Johnson praised his Observations on 
scarcity, he even sold his library to Swift. Life, iii. 249. 

supply his indigent parishioners with 3 This word is not in Johnson's 

bread. His works are in 7 vols. 8vo. Dictionary. 

Universal Biography, quoted by the 4 Horace Walpole thus describes 

editor of Campbell's Diary, p. 154. public affairs in February, 1779: 

2 Patrick Delany, friend of Dr. 'The navy disgusted, insurrections 
Swift, born about 1686. In 1731 he in Scotland, Wales mutinous, a re 

the Rev. Dr. Thomas Campbell. 55 

turned a sharp ear to what I was saying, and with vehemence 
said, ' What Sir, dont you call it disturbance to oppose legal 
government with arms in your hands, and compel it to make 
laws in your favour ? Sir, I call it rebellion ; rebellion as much 
as the rebellion of Scotland.' ' Doctor,' said I, ' I am sorry to 
hear that fall from you, I must however say that the Irish 
consider themselves as the most loyal of His Majesty's subjects, 
at the same time that they firmly deny any allegiance to a British 
Parliament. They have a separate Legislature, and that they 
have never showed any inclination to resist/ * Sir/ says the Doctor, 
' you do owe allegiance to the British Parliament as a conquered 
nation x , and had I been Minister I would have made you submit 
to it. I would have done as Oliver Cromwell did ; I would 
have burned your cities, and wasted you in the fires (or flames) 
of them 2 / I, after allowing the Doctor to vent his indignation 
upon Ireland, cooly replyed, ' Doctor, the times are altered, and 
I dont find that you have succeeded so well in burning the 
cities, and roasting the inhabitants of America/ ' Sir/ says he 
gravely, and with a less vehement tone, ' what you say is true, 
the times are altered, for power is now nowhere, we live under 
a government of influence, not of power 3 ; but Sir, had we 

bellion ready to break out in Ireland penalties, as rebels, was monstrous 

where 15,000 Protestants were in injustice. King William was not 

arms, without authority, for their their lawful sovereign ; he had not 

own defence, many of them well- been acknowledged by the Parlia- 

wishers to the Americans, and all so ment of Ireland when they appeared 

ruined that they insisted on relief in arms against him." ' Life, ii. 255. 

from Parliament, or were rea4y to 2 'Johnson severely reprobated the 

throw off subjection/ Journal of the barbarous debilitating policy of the 

Reign of George ///, ii. 339. British government [in Ireland], 

1 On May 7, 1773, 'bursting forth which, he said, was the most detest- 

with a generous indignation he said, able method of persecution. To a 

" The Irish are in a most unnatural gentleman who hinted such policy 

state ; for we see there Jhe minority might be necessary to support the 

prevailing over the majority. There authority of the English government 

is no instance, even in the ten perse- he replied by saying, " Let the au- 

cutions, of such severity as that which thority of the English government 

the Protestants of Ireland have exer- perish rather than be maintained by 

cised against the Catholicks. Did we iniquity.'" Ib. ii. 121. 

tell them we have conquered them, 3 Boswell, arguing with Johnson 

it would be above board : to punish on Sept. 23, 1777, says : * I insisted 

them by confiscation and other that America might be very well 


Anecdotes by 

treated the Americans as we ought, and as they deserved, we 

should have at once razed all their towns, and let them 

enjoy their forests .' After this wild rant, argument would 

but have enraged him, I therefore let him vibrate into calmness, 
then turning round to me, he, with a smile, says, * After all Sir, 
though I hold the Irish to be rebels, I dont think they have 
been so very wrong, but you know that you compelled our 
Parliament, by force of arms, to pass an act in your favour. 
That, I call rebellion/ ' But Doctor,' said I, ' did the Irish claim 
anything that ought not to have been granted, though they 
had not made the claim.' { Sir, I wont dispute that matter with 
you, but what I insist upon is that the mode of requisition was 
rebellious.' * Well Doctor, let me ask you but one question, 
and I shall ask you no more on this subject, do you think that 
Ireland would have obtained what it has got by any other 
means?' 'Sir,' says he candidly, 'I believe it would not. 
However, a wise government should not grant even a claim 
of justice r if an attempt is made to extort it by force 1 .' I said 
no more 2 . 

governed, and yield sufficient 
revenue by the means of influence, 
as exemplified in Ireland, while the 
people might be pleased with the 
imagination of their participating of 
the British constitution, by having 
a body of representatives without 
whose consent money could not be 
extracted from them.' Life, iii. 205. 
For influence see Ib. iii. 205, n. 4, 
and Letters, i. 107, n. I. 

When in March, 1782, Lord 
North's government was overthrown, 
Johnson said : ' I am glad the Minis 
try is removed. Such a bunch of 
imbecility never disgraced a country.' 
Life, iv. 139. 

1 Johnson wrote on Aug. 4, 1782 : 
* Perhaps no nation not absolutely 
conquered has declined so much in 
so short a time. We seem to be 
sinking. Suppose the Irish, having 
already gotten a free trade and an 
independent Parliament, should say 

we will have a King and ally our 
selves with the house of Bourbon, 
what could be done to hinder or to 
overthrow them.' Letters, ii. 264. 

2 Campbell published the following 
account of this conversation in his 
Strictures on the History of Ireland, 
ed. 1789, p. 336: 'This considera 
tion was vehemently urged against 
me by Dr. Johnson, in a conversation 
I once held with him respecting the 
affairs of this country (Ireland). The 
conversation appeared to my dear 
friend Dr. Wilkinson (to whom I re 
peated it within an hour or two after 
it passed) so extraordinary that he 
gave me pen, ink and paper to set it 
down immediately. But first let me 
premise a circumstance or two. 
Having spent the winter of the year 
1777 in London, I had been honoured 
(and it is my pride to acknowledge it) 
with his familiarity and friendship. 
I had not seen him from that time 

the Rev. Dr. Thomas Campbell. 


till the nth of June, 1781, when I 
went to pay him a morning visit. 
I found him alone, and nothing but 
mutual enquiries respecting mutual 
friends had passed, when Barretti 
came in. Barretti, more curious than 
the Doctor, soon asked me if the 
Disturbances in Ireland were over. 
The question, I own, surprized me, 
as I had left all things quiet, and was 
not at first altogether aware of the 
tendency of his question. I therefore 
in return asked what disturbances he 
meant, for that I had heard of none. 
"What!" said he, "have you not 
been in arms ?" To which I answered 
< categorically, "Yes ! and many bodies 
of men continue so to be." "And 
don't you call this Disturbance ? " re 
joined Barretti. " No ! " said I, "the 
Irish volunteers have demeaned them 
selves very peaceably," ' &c. 

[Here follows a long explanation 
of the volunteers which I omit.] 

' Dr. Johnson, who all this while sat 

silent, but with a very attentive ear to 
what passed, at length turned to me 
with an apparent indignation which 
I had never before experienced from 

Here follows Johnson's speech in 
much the same words as in the text, 
except that ' wasted in the flames ' is 
' roasted in the flames.' Wasted 
probably is a misprint. Campbell 
continues : * After this explosion I 
perhaps warmly replied' [In the text 
Campbell 'cooly replyed ']. Johnson 
continues as in the text, but adds : 
4 in a jocular way, repeating what he 
before said, " when we should have 
roasted the Americans as rebels we 
only whipped them as children, and 
we did not succeed because my 
advice was not taken." ' The con 
versation ends with his saying: 
1 Why, Sir, I don't know but I might 
have acted as you did, had I been 
an Irishman; but I speak as an 



MRS. CARTER always spoke in high terms of Dr. Johnson's 
constant attendance to religious duties, and the soundness of his 
moral principles. In one of their latest conversations she was 
expressing this opinion of him to himself ; he took her by the 
hand, and said with much eagerness ; ' You know this to be true, 
and testify it to the world when I am gone.' Vol. i. p. 41. 

The following epigram by Dr. Johnson, found among Mrs. 
Carter's poems, in his own hand-writing has never, I believe, 
been published before. 

'Quid mihi cum cultu? Probitas inculta nitescit, 

Et juvat Ingenii vita sine arte rudis. 
Ingenium et mores si pulchra probavit Elisa, 
Quid majus inihi spes ambitiosa dabit 1 ?' 

Vol. i. p. 398. 

To these parties [at Mrs. Montagu's and Mrs. Vesey's] it was 
not difficult for any person of character to be introduced. There 
was no ceremony, no cards and no supper. Even dress was so 
little regarded, that a foreign gentleman, who was to go there with 
an acquaintance, was told in jest that it was so little necessary 
that he might appear there, if he pleased, in blue stockings. This 
he understood in the literal sense ; and when he spoke of it in 
French called it the Bas Bleu meeting. And this was the origin 

1 For his other epigrams to her, see Life, i. 122, 140, and Works, i. 170. 


Anecdotes from Pennington's Memoirs. 59 

of the ludicrous appellation of the Blue Stocking Club, since 
given to these meetings, and so much talked of 1 . 

Nothing could be more agreeable, nor indeed more instructive, 
than these parties. Mrs. Vesey 2 had the almost magic art of 
putting all her company at their ease, without the least appear 
ance of design. Here was no formal circle to petrify an unfor 
tunate stranger on his entrance; no rules of conversation to 
observe; no holding forth of one to his own distress, and the 
stupefying of his audience, no reading of his works by the author. 
The company naturally broke into little groups, perpetually 
varying and changing 3 . They talked or were silent, sat or 
walked about, just as they pleased. Nor was it absolutely 
necessary even to talk sense. There was no bar to harmless 
mirth and gaiety : and while perhaps Dr. Johnson in one corner 
held forth on the moral duties, in another, two or three young 
people might be talking of the fashions and the Opera ; and in 
a third Lord Orford (then Mr. Horace Walpole) might be 
amusing a little group around him with his lively wit and 
intelligent conversation 4 . 

1 For another explanation of the 
name, see Life, iv. 108. 

1 Blue-stocking. Wearing blue 
worsted (instead of black silk) stock 
ings ; hence, not in full dress, in 
homely dress (contemptuous]. Ap 
plied to the " Little Parliament " of 
1653, with reference to the puritani 
cally plain or mean attire of its mem 
bers. Applied depreciatively to the 
assemblies that met at Montagu 
House, and those who frequented 
them or imitated them. Hence of 
women : Having or affecting literary 
tastes. Transferred sneeringly to any 
woman showing a taste for learning. 
Much used by reviewers of the first 
quarter of the nineteenth century ; 
but now, from the general change of 
opinion on the education of women, 
nearly abandoned.' New English 

Wraxall (Memoirs, ed. 1815, i. 140) 

says that the Blue Stockings ' formed 
a very numerous, powerful, compact 
phalanx in the midst of London.' 

* Lord Jeffrey said that there was 
no objection to the blue-stocking, 
provided the petticoat came low 
enough down.' Cockburn's Memoirs, 
ed. 1856, p. 268. 

2 Life, iii. 424-6. Hannah More's 
Bas Bleu is addressed to her. 

3 According to Miss Burney, ' Lord 
Harcourt said, " Mrs. Vesey's fear 
of ceremony is really troublesome ; 
for her eagerness to break a circle is 
such that she insists upon every 
body's sitting with their backs one to 
another ; that is, the chairs are 
drawn into little parties of three 
together in a confused manner all 
over the room." ' Mme. D'Arblay's 
Diary, i. 184. 

4 Life, iii. 425, n. 3. 


60 Anecdotes from Pennington's Memoirs. 

Now and then perhaps Mrs. Vesey might call the attention 
of the company in general to some circumstance of news, politics, 
or literature, of peculiar importance ; or perhaps to an anecdote, 
or interesting account of some person known to the company in 
general. Of this last kind a laughable circumstance occurred 
about the year 1778, when Mrs. Carter was confined to her bed 
with a fever, which was thought to be dangerous. She was 
attended by her brother-in-law, Dr. Douglas, then a physician in 
Town, and he was in the habit of sending bulletins of the state 
of her health to her most intimate friends, with many of 
whom he was well acquainted himself. At one of Mrs. Vesey 's 
parties a note was brought to her, which she immediately saw 
was from Dr. Douglas. 'Oh!' said she, before she opened it, 
'this contains an account of our dear Mrs. Carter. We are all 
interested in her health : Dr. Johnson, pray read it out for the 
information of the company.' There was a profound silence ; 
and the Doctor, with the utmost gravity, read aloud the 
physician's report of the happy effect which Mrs. Carter's 
medicines had produced, with a full and complete account of 
the circumstances attending them. Vol. i. p. 465. 


THE first time I dined in company with Dr. Johnson was at 
T. Davies's 2 , Russell Street, Covent Garden, as mentioned by 
Mr. Boswell, in his Life of Johnson*. On mentioning my 
engagement previously to a friend, he said, ' Do you wish to be 
well with Johnson?' 'To be sure, Sir,' I replied, 'or I should 
not have taken any pains to have been introduced into his 
company. 5 'Why then, Sir,' says he, 'let me offer you some 
advice: you must not leave him soon after dinner to go to 
the play; during dinner he will be rather silent it is a very 

years after this dinner Johnson wrote 
to Mrs. Montagu : ' Poor Davies, 
the bankrupt bookseller, is soliciting 
his friends to collect a small sum for 
the repurchase of part of his house 
hold stuff. 3 Letters, ii. 64. 

3 < On Friday, April 12 [1776], I 
dined with him at our friend Tom 
Davies's, where we met Mr. Cradock, 
of Leicestershire, authour ofZobeide, 
a tragedy ; a very pleasing gentleman ; 
and Dr. Harwood, who has written 
and published various works ; par 
ticularly a fantastical translation of 
the New Testament, in modern 
phrase, and with a Socinian twist.' 
Life, iii. 38. 

* There is a new tragedy at Covent 
Garden, called Zobeide, which, I am 
told, is very indifferent, though 
written by a country-gentleman.' 
Walpole's Letters, v. 356. 


1 * From Mr. Cradock's Memoirs. 
\Literary Memoirs, 4 vols. London, 
1828.] These anecdotes are certainly 
very loose and inaccurate ; but as 
they have been republished in the 
Gentleman's Magazine for January, 
1828, "with some corrections and 
additions from the author's MS.," 
I think it right to notice them ; and, 
as they profess to be there enlarged 
from the MS., I copy this latter ver 
sion, which differs, in some points, 
from the memoirs.' Croker, ix. 236. 
Croker does not always follow the 
version in the Gentlemaris Magazine. 

2 Life, i. 390. 

Dr. Campbell said of Davies : ' he 
was not a bookseller, but a gentleman 
dealing in books.' Nichols's Lit. 
Anec. vi. 429 n. Perhaps he was too 
much of a gentleman, and too little 
of a tradesman, for less than two 

62 Anecdotes by Joseph Cradock. 

serious business with him x ; between six and seven he will look 
about him, and see who remains, and, if he then at all likes the 
party, he will be very civil and communicative. He exactly 
fulfilled what my friend had prophesied. Mrs. Davies 2 did the 
honours of the table : she was a favourite with Johnson, who sat 
betwixt her and Dr. Harwood ; I sat next, below, to Mr. Boswell 
opposite. Nobody could bring Johnson forward more civilly or 
properly than Davies. The subject of conversation turned upon 
the tragedy of CEdipus*. This was particularly interesting to 
me, as I was then employed in endeavouring to make such 
alterations in Dryden's play 4 , as to make it suitable to a revival 
at Drury Lane theatre. Johnson did not seem to think 
favourably of it ; but I ventured to plead, that Sophocles 
wrote it expressly for the theatre, at the public cost, and that 
it was one of the most celebrated dramas of all antiquity. 
Johnson said, * CEdipus was a poor miserable man, subjected to 
the greatest distress, without any degree of culpability of his 
own.' I urged, that Aristotle, as well as most of the Greek 
poets, were [sic] partial to this character ; that Addison considered 
that, as terror and pity were particularly excited, he was the 
properest 5 here Johnson suddenly becoming loud, I paused, 

1 'When at table he was totally him to talk, for which it was often 
absorbed in the business of the necessary to employ some address." ' 
moment ; his looks seemed rivetted Ib. iii. 39. Boswell does not mention 
to his plate ; nor would he, unless any talk about CEdipus. 

when in very high company, say one 4 l CEdipus is a tragedy formed by 

word, or even pay the least attention Dryden and Lee in conjunction, from 

to what was said by others, till he the works of Sophocles, Seneca and 

had satisfied his appetite.' Life, Corneille. Dryden planned the 

i. 468. scenes and composed the first and 

2 Ib. i. 391, n. 2, 484. third acts.' Johnson's Works, vii. 
* I am strongly affected by Mrs. 269. 

Davies's tenderness/ Johnson wrote 5 Addison quotes Aristotle's obser- 

to her husband. Ib. iv. 231. vation 'if we see a man of virtue, 

3 ' I introduced ' (writes Boswell) mixt with infirmities, fall into any 
' Aristotle's doctrine in his Art of misfortune, it does not only raise our 
Poetry, of " the KaOapats T&V iraOr)- pity, but our terror ; because we are 
fidroav, the purging of the passions," afraid that the like misfortune may 
as the purpose of tragedy. " But happen to ourselves, who resemble 
how are the passions to be purged the character of the suffering person.' 
by terrour and pity ? said I, with an The Spectator, No. 273. See also 
assumed air of ignorance, to incite ib. No. 297. 


Anecdotes by Joseph Cradock. 63 

and rather apologized that it might not become me, perhaps, 
too strongly to contradict Dr. Johnson. ' Nay, Sir,' replied he, 
hastily, 'if I had not wished to have heard your arguments, 
I should not have disputed with you at all.' All went on quite 
pleasantly afterwards. We sat late, and something being men 
tioned about my going to Bath, when taking leave, Johnson very 
graciously said, ' I should have a pleasure in meeting you there V 
Either Boswell or Davies immediately whispered to me. 'You're 
landed 2 .' 

The next time I had the pleasure of meeting him was at the 
Literary Club dinner at the coffee-house in St. James's Street 3 , 
to which I was introduced by my partial friend, Dr. Percy. 
Johnson that day was not in very good humour. We rather 
waited for dinner. Garrick came late, and apologized that he 
had been to the House of Lords, and Lord Camden insisted 
on conveying him in his carriage 4 . Johnson said nothing, but 
he looked a volume. The party was numerous. 1 sat next 
Mr. Burke at dinner. There was a beef-steak pie placed just 
before us ; and I remarked to Mr. Burke that something smelt 
very disagreeable, and looked to see if there was not a dog 
under the table. Burke with great good humour said, ' I believe, 
Sir, I can tell you what is the cause ; it is some of my country 

1 Three days later Johnson went to breakfast with Garrick, who was very 
Bath with the Thrales. Letters, i. 391. vain of his intimacy with Lord Cam- 

2 ' My record upon this occasion den, he accosted me thus : " Pray 
does great injustice to Johnson's ex- now, did you did you meet a little 
pression, which was so forcible and lawyer turning the corner, eh?"- 
brilliant, that Mr. Cradock whispered " No, Sir, (said I.) Pray what do 
me, "O that his words were written you mean by the question?" "Why, 
in a book ! " ' Life, iii. 39. (replied Garrick, with an affected in- 

When, thirteen years earlier, Bos- difference, yet as if standing on tip- 
well was introduced to Johnson in the toe,) Lord Camden has this moment 
same parlour, Davies said to him, as left me. We have had a long walk 
he was leaving, 'Don't be uneasy, together." JOHNSON. "Well, Sir, 
I can see he likes you very well.' Garrick talked very properly. Lord 
Ib. i. 395. Camden was a little lawyer to be 

3 Croker says that to this club no associating so familiarly with a 
stranger is ever invited. Croker's player.'" Life, iii. 311. 

Boswell, ix. 237 n. It met for some 'Lord Camden,' Bentham said, 

time at Parsloe's, St. James's Street. ' was a hobbledy-hoy, and had no 

4 ' I told Johnson ' (writes Boswell) polish of manners.' Bentham's 
'that one morning, when I went to Works, x. 118. 


64 Anecdotes by Joseph Cradock. 

butter in the crust that smells so disagreeably.' Dr. Johnson 
just at this time, sitting opposite, desired one of us to send him 
some of the beef-steak pie. We sent but little, which he soon 
dispatched, and then returned his plate for more. Johnson 
particularly disliked that any notice should be taken of what 
he eat 1 , but Burke ventured to say he was glad to find that 
Dr. Johnson was anywise able to relish the beef-steak pie. 
Johnson, not perceiving what he alluded to, hastily exclaimed, 
' Sir, there is a time of life when a man requires the repairs of the 
table ! ' The company rather talked for victory than social 
intercourse. I think it was in consequence of what passed that 
evening, that Dr. Goldsmith wrote his Retaliation 2 . Mr. Richard 
Burke was present, talked most, and seemed to be the most free 
and easy of any of the company 3 . I had never met him 
before. Burke seemed desirous of bringing his relative forward. 
In Mr. Chalmers's account of Goldsmith, different sorts of liquor 
are offered as appropriate to each guest. To the two Burkes 
ale from Wicklow, and wine from Ferney to me : my name is in 
italics, as supposing I am a wine-bibber ; but the author's 
allusion to the wines of Ferney was meant for me, I rather think, 
from my having taken a plan of a tragedy from Voltaire. 

Mrs. Percy, afterwards nurse to the Duke of Kent 4 , at 
Buckingham House, told me that Johnson once stayed near 
a month with them at their dull parsonage at Easton Mauduit 5 ; 
that Dr. Percy looked out all sorts of books to be ready 

x Boswell says that on their tour Richard,' thus described in Retalia 
te the Highlands he contrived ' that tion : 

Dr. Johnson should not be asked * What spirits were his ! what wit 

twice to eat or drink anything and what whim ! 

(which always disgusts him).' Life, Now breaking a jest, and now 

v. 264. breaking a limb ! 

2 Cradock first met Johnson in Now wrangling and grumbling to 
1776, more than two years after keep up the ball ! 
Goldsmith's death. Such a blunder Now teasing and vexing, yet laugh- 
as this shows that not much trust ing at all ! ' 

can be placed in his anecdotes. Ac- 4 Letters, \. 414, n. 2. The Duke of 

cording to Cumberland (Memoirs, i. Kent was the father of Queen Victoria. 

369) it was at the St. James's Coffee s Johnson spent with the Percies 

House that the dinner took place part of June, July, and August of 

which led to Retaliation. 1764. Life, i. 486, and/^J/ in Percy's 

3 Edmund Burke's brother, ' honest Anecdotes. ' The little terrace in the 


Anecdotes by Joseph Cradock. 65 

for his amusement after breakfast, and that Johnson was so 
attentive and polite to her, that, when Dr. Percy mentioned the 
literature proposed in the study, he said, ' No, Sir, I shall first 
wait upon Mrs. Percy to feed the ducks.' But those halcyon 
days were about to change, not as to Mrs. Percy, for to the 
last she remained a favourite with him. 

I happened to be in London once when Dr. Percy returned 
from Northumberland, and found that he was expected to 
preach a charity sermon almost immediately. This had escaped 
his memory, and he said, that, though much fatigued, he had 
been obliged to sit up very late to furnish out something from 
former discourses; but, suddenly recollecting that Johnson's 
fourth Idler was exactly to his purpose, he had freely engrafted 
the greatest part of it. He preached, and his discourse was much 
admired; but being requested to print it, he most strenuously 
opposed the honour intended him. till he was assured by the 
governors, that it was absolutely necessary, as the annual con 
tributions greatly depended on the account that was given in 
the appendix. In this dilemma, he earnestly requested that I 
would call upon Dr. Johnson, and state particulars. I assented, 
and endeavoured to introduce the subject with all due solemnity; 
but Johnson was highly diverted with his recital, and, laughing, 
said, * Pray, Sir, give my kind respects to Dr. Percy, and tell 
him, I desire he will do whatever he pleases in regard to my 
Idler ; it is entirely at his service V 

garden [of the vicarage] is still called Diary, v. 256. It was Miss Percy 

Dr. Johnson's walk.' Wheatley's whom, when a little girl, Johnson set 

Percy's Religues, i. Preface, p. 75. down from his knee, telling her that 

Miss Burney wrote in 1781 or he did not care one farthing for her 

1782 : * Mrs. Percy is a vulgar, fus- as she had not read Pilgrim's Pro- 

socking, proud woman ; but very civil gress. Life, ii. 238, n. 5. 

to us. Miss Percy is among the very * This sermon, I have no doubt, 

well? Early Diary of F. Burney, ii. was the one preached before the Sons 

297. In 1 79 1 she wrote : 'Mrs.Percy of the Clergy on May n, 1769; 

is very uncultivated and ordinary published by J. and F. Rivington, a 

in manners and conversation, but a copy of which is in the Bodleian 

good creature, and much delighted Library. Johnson's thoughts are 

to talk over the Royal Family, to one borrowed, but not his words, 

of whom she was formerly a nurse. This sermon was preached seven 

Miss Percy is a natural and very years before Cradock first met 

pleasing character.' Mme. D'Arblay's Johnson. 

VOL. II. F But 


Anecdotes by Joseph Cradock. 

But these days of friendly communication were, from various 
causes, speedily to pass away, and worse than indifference to 
succeed ; for, one morning Dr. Percy said to Mr. Cradock, 
1 1 have not seen Dr. Johnson for a long time. I believe I must 
just call upon him, and greatly wish that you would accompany 
me. I intend,' said he, 'to tease him a little about Gibbon's 
pamphlet.' ' I hope not, Dr. Percy,' was my reply. ' Indeed 
I shall ; for I have a great pleasure in combating his narrow 
prejudices.' We went together; and Dr. Percy opened with 
some anecdote from Northumberland House x , mentioned some 
rare books that were in the library ; and then threw out that the 
town rang with applause of Gibbon's Reply to Davis]' that 
the latter 'had written before he had read,' and that the two 
* confederate doctors,' as Mr. Gibbon termed them, c had fallen 
into some strange errors 2 .' Johnson said, he knew nothing of 

1 He had an apartment in North 
umberland House, ' in which,' says 
Boswell, ' I have passed many an 
agreeable hour. 3 Life, iii. 420, n. 5. 

2 H. E. Davis, a Bachelor of Arts 
of Oxford, published in 1778 An 
Examination of the \$th and \6th 
Chapters of Mr. Gibbon's History. 
Gibbon, in A Vindication, answered 
at the same time the attacks of two 
Doctors of Divinity Randolph and 
Chelsum. He describes how, 'op 
pressed with the same yoke, covered 
with the same trappings, they heavily 
move along, perhaps not with an 
equal pace, in the same beaten track 
of prejudice and preferment. ... It 
was the misfortune of Mr. Davis that 
he undertook to write before he 
had read. But the two confederate 
doctors appear to be scholars of a 
higher form and longer experience ; 
they enjoy a certain rank in their 
academical world ; and as their zeal 
is enlightened by some rays of know 
ledge, so their desire to ruin the 
credit of their adversary is occasion 
ally checked by the apprehension of 

injuring their own.' Gibbon's Misc. 
Works, iv. 604. 

Gibbon, in his Autobiography (ib. 
i. 231) writes : ' At the distance of 
twelve years I calmly affirm my 
judgment of Davis, Chelsum, &c. 
A victory over such antagonists was 
a sufficient humiliation. They, how 
ever, were rewarded in this world. 
Poor Chelsum was, indeed, neglected 
. . . but I enjoyed the pleasure of 
giving a royal pension to Mr. Davis.' 
Ib. i. 231. 

Horace Walpole wrote to Gibbon 
(Letters, vii. 158): 'Davis and his 
prototypes tell you Middleton, &c. 
have used the same objections, and 
they have been confuted j answering, 
in the theologic dictionary, signifying 

'How utterly,' wrote Macaulay, 
' all the attacks on Gibbon's History 
are forgotten ! this of Whitaker ; 
Randolph's ; Chelsum's ; Davies's ; 
that stupid beast Joseph Milner's ; 
even Watson's.' Trevelyan's Mac 
aulay, ed. 1877, ii. 285. 


Anecdotes by Joseph Cradock. 67 

Davis's pamphlet, nor would he give him any answer as to 
Gibbon ; but, if the ' confederate doctors,' as they were termed, 
had really made such mistakes as he had alluded to, they were 
blockheads. Dr. Percy talked on in the most careless style 
possible, but in a very lofty tone T ; and Johnson appeared to 
be excessively angry. I only wished to get released : for, if 
Dr. Percy had proceeded to inform him that he had lately intro 
duced Mr. Hume to dine at the King's chaplains' table, there 
must have been an explosion 2 . 

Afterwards Percy rather loftily mentioned that he knew that 
the Duke of Northumberland would have a pleasure in lending 
him any books from his library. 'And if the offer is made, 
Sir,' Johnson only coldly replied, ' from a good motive it is very 
well ; ' and some time after, turning to me, said with a sigh : 
' Many offer me crusts now, but I have no teeth to bite them.' 

With all my partiality for Johnson, I freely declare, that 
I think Dr. Percy received very great cause to take real offence 
at one, who, by a ludicrous parody on a stanza in the Hermit of 
Warkwortk, had rendered him contemptible. It was urged, 

1 If this story is true a strange and while Boswell wrote of him : ' He 
sudden change had come over Percy. is an ugly, affected, disgusting fellow, 
It was less than a year earlier that and poisons our Literary Club to 
Boswell's ' friendly scheme ' obtained me.' Life, iv. 73. Malone, writing 
for him from Johnson a letter of ex- on Feb. 20, 1794, about the loss of 
planation of which he said : * I would Gibbon to the club by death, says : 
rather have this than degrees from ' Independent of his literary merit, 
all the Universities in Europe.' In as a companion Gibbon was un 
it Johnson wrote : ' Percy is a man commonly agreeable. He had an 
whom I never knew to offend any immense fund of anecdote and of 
one.' Life, iii. 276, 278. erudition of various kinds, both 

2 Gibbon's Vindication is dated ancient and modern ; and had ac- 
Feb. 3, 1779; Hume died on Aug. quired such a facility and elegance of 
2 5> 1776. Percy, writing to Hume talk that I had always great pleasure 
in 1772, describes himself 'as not in listening to him. The manner and 
unknown to you when you resided voice, though they were peculiar, 
in London.' Letters of Eminent and I believe artificial at first, did 
Persons to David Hume, p. 317. not at all offend, for they had become 

Gibbon, who belonged to the so appropriated as to appear natural.' 
Literary Club, was disliked by John- Hist. MSS. Com., Thirteenth Report, 
son and Boswell. ' Johnson talked App. viii. 230. 
with some disgust of his ugliness ' ; 

F 2 that 

68 Anecdotes by Joseph Cradock. 

that Johnson only meant to attack the metre ; but he certainly 
turned the whole poem into ridicule : 

* I put my hat upon my head, 
And walk'd into the Strand, 
And there I met another man 
With his hat in his hand 1 .' 

Mr. Garrick, in a letter to me, soon afterwards asked me, 
' Whether I had seen Johnson's criticism on the Hermit ; it is 
already,' said he, ' over half the town.' Almost the last time 
that I ever saw Johnson, he said to me, * Notwithstanding all the 
pains that Dr. Farmer and I took to serve Dr. Percy, in regard 
to his Ancient Ballads, he has left town for Ireland 2 , without 
taking leave of either of us.' 

Admiral Walsingham, who sometimes resided at Windsor, 
and sometimes in Portugal Street, frequently boasted that he 
was the only man to bring together miscellaneous parties, and 
make them all agreeable ; and, indeed, there never before was 
so strange an assortment as I have occasionally met there. At 
one of his dinners were the Duke of Cumberland 3 , Dr. Johnson, 

1 The Hermit was published in who took the name of Walsingham ; 
1771. There is no stanza of which but it is hardly possible that Dr. 
this is a close parody, so far as the Johnson should have met the Duke 
words are concerned. The nearest of Cumberland at dinner without 
is the third : Mr. Boswell's having mentioned it.' 

4 With hospitable haste he rose, Croker's Bosivell, ix. 242 n. Mr. 

And wak'd his sleeping fire ; Croker forgets that there are men 

And snatching up a lighted brand who can dine with a Duke and not 

Forth hied the reverend sire.' boast of it. 

2 Percy was made Bishop of Dro- ' Having observed the vain osten- 
more in 1782. According to Dr. tatious importance of many people 
Anderson (Life of Johnson, 3rd ed., in quoting the authority of Dukes 
p. 252), * Percy from a high sense of and Lords, as having been in their 
duty constantly resided there. The company, Dr. Johnson said, he went 
episcopal palace, which none of his to the other extreme, and did not 
predecessors had inhabited, and the mention his authority when he should 
demesne, formerly rude and un- have done it, had it noi been of a 
cultivated, owe to him their magnifi- Duke or a Lord.' Life, iv. 183. 
cence and picturesque beauty.' Boswell accused him of making 'but 

3 ' It is possible,' writes Mr. Croker, an awkward return ' in leaving in his 
'Dr. Johnson may have been ac- Lives of the Poets l an acknowledge- 
quainted with the Hon. Robert Boyle, ment unappropriated to his Grace,' 


Anecdotes by Joseph Cradock. 69 

Mr. Nairn, the optician T , and Mr. Leoni, the singer : at another, 
Dr. Johnson, &c., and a young dashing officer, who determined, 
he whispered, to attack the old bear that we seemed all to stand 
in awe of. There was a good dinner, and during that important 
time Johnson was deaf to all impertinence. However, after the 
wine had passed rather freely, the young gentleman was resolved 
to bait him, and venture out a little further. ' Now, Dr. John 
son, do not look so glum, but be a little gay and lively, like 
others : what would you give, old gentleman, to be as young 
and sprightly as I am ? ' ' Why, Sir,' said he, * I think I would 
almost be content to be as foolish V 

Johnson, it is well known, professed to recruit his acquaintance 
with younger persons 3 , and, in his latter days, I, with a few 
others, were \sic\ more frequently honoured by his notice. At 
times he was very gloomy, and would exclaim, ' Stay with me, 
for it is a comfort to me' a comfort that any feeling mind 
would wish to administer to a man so kind, though at times so 
boisterous, when he seized your hand, and repeated, 'Ay, Sir, but 
to die and go we know not where 4 ,' &c. here his morbid melan 
choly prevailed, and Garrick never spoke so impressively to the 
heart. Yet, to see him in the evening (though he took nothing 
stronger than lemonade 5 ), a stranger would have concluded that 
our morning account was a fabrication. No hour was too late 

the Duke of Newcastle. Life, iv. 63. curious to electricians, are painful to 

Neither Boswell nor any of Johnson's the humane.' 

biographers knew of his second inter- 2 In a book entitled Lord Chester- 

view with the king. Ib. ii. 42, n. 2. field's Witticisms, 1774, p. 53, this 

The Admiral must, indeed, have story is assigned to Quin. 

been happy in his son, for Mr. Croker 3 ' He said to Sir Joshua Reynolds, 

says : ' I have heard George IV " If a man does not make new ac- 

speak most highly of this young quaintance as he advances through 

Boyle Walsingham.' Walpole's Z<?/- life, he will soon find himself left 

ters, viii. 502 n. alone. A man, Sir, should keep his 

1 In the Gentleman's Magazine, friendship in constant repair" ' Life, 

1774, p. 472, is an account of ' Elec- i. 300. 

trical Experiments by Mr. Edward 4 Ante, i 439. 

Nairne, made with a Machine of his 5 See post, p. 100, where 'about five 

own Workmanship.' The writer says, in the morning Johnson's face shone 

'the discharges of an electrical battery with meridian splendour, though his 

at ducks, cocks, and turkeys, however drink had been only lemonade.' 


70 Anecdotes by Joseph Cradock. 

to keep him from the tyranny of his own gloomy thoughts. 
A gentleman venturing to say to Johnson, ' Sir, I wonder some 
times that you condescend so far as to attend a city club.' ' Sir, 
the great chair of a full and pleasant club is, perhaps, the throne 
of human felicity 1 .' 

I had not the honour to be at all intimate with Johnson till 
about the time he began to publish his Lives of the Poets ; and 
how he got through that arduous labour is, in some measure, 
still a mystery to me : he must have been greatly assisted by 
booksellers 2 . I had some time before lent him Euripides with 
Milton's manuscript notes : this, though he did not minutely 
examine (see Joddrel's Euripides), yet he very handsomely re 
turned it, and mentioned it in his Life of Milton 3 . In the 
course of conversation one day I dropped out to him, that Lord 
Harborough (then the Rev. 4 ) was in possession of a very valu 
able collection of manuscript poems, and that amongst them 
there were two or three in the handwriting of King James I ; 
that they were bound up handsomely in folio, and were entitled 
Sackvilles Poems. These he solicited me to borrow for him, 
and Lord Harborough very kindly intrusted them to me for 
his perusal. 

Harris's Hermes was mentioned. I said, ' I think the book 
is too abstruse ; it is heavy.' ' It is ; but a work of that kind 

1 Cradock misquotes Hawkins communication, and must have Ham- 
(post, p. 91) 'A tavern chair is mond again. Mr. Johnson would be 
the throne of human felicity.' See glad of Blackmore's Essays for a few 
also Life, ii. 452. days.' Id. ii. 159. 

2 Cradock, I suppose, means that 3 'HisZswrz^dfons by Mr. Cradock' s 
they lent him books, and supplied kindness now in my hands ; the mar- 
him with facts, and not as Mr. Croker gin is sometimes noted, but I have 
thinks (ix. 243 n.) that they assisted found nothing remarkable.' Works, 
him in his manuscript. Thus he vii. 114. 

writes to John Nichols desiring that 4 When Johnson was writing the 

* some volumes published of Prior's Lives the Rev. Robert Sherard was 

papers in two vols. 8vo. may be pro- Earl of Harborough, for it was in 

cured.' Letters, ii. 130. Another 1770 that he succeeded his brother, 

day he writes: 'Mr. Johnson is who, in spite of marrying four times, 

obliged to Mr. Nicol [sic] for his left no heir. Burke's Peerage. 


Anecdotes by Joseph Cradock. 71 

must be heavy V * A rather dull man of my acquaintance asked 
me,' said I, 'to lend him some book to entertain him, and 
I offered him Harris's Hermes, and as I expected, from the title, 
he took it for a novel ; when he returned it, I asked him how he 
liked it, and, what he thought of it? "Why, to speak the truth," 
says he, " I was not much diverted ; I think all these imitations 
of Tristram Shandy fall far short of the original!'" This had its 
effect, and almost produced from Johnson a rhinocerous laugh 2 . 

One of Dr. Johnson's rudest speeches was to a pompous 

gentleman coming out of Lichfield cathedral, who said, ' Dr. 

Johnson, we have had a most excellent discourse to-day !' 'That 

, may be,' said Johnson ; ' but, it is impossible that you should 

know it.' 

Of his kindness to me during the last years of his most 
valuable life, I could enumerate many instances. One slight 
circumstance, if any were wanting, would give an excellent proof 
of the goodness of his heart, and that to a person whom he 
found in distress. In such a case he was the very last man that 
would have given even the least momentary uneasiness to any 
one, had he been aware of it. The last time I saw him was just 
before I went to France. He said, with a deep sigh, c I wish 
I was going with you.' He had just then been disappointed of 
going to Italy 3 . Of all men I ever knew, Dr. Johnson was the 
most instructive. 

1 Ante, i. 187. described it drolly enough : " He 
' For my own part, I like Harris's laughs like a rhinoceros." ' Life, 

writings much. But Tooke thought ii. 378. 

meanly of them: he would say, "Lord 3 Cradock started for Italy on 

Malmesbury is as great a fool as his Oct. 29, 1783. Johnson was dis- 

father" [Harris was the father of the appointed of going there in 1776. 

first Earl of Malmesbury].' Rogers's Life, iii. 27. There was some project 

Table Talk, p. 128. of his going in 1780 and 1781 (Let- 

2 'Johnson's laugh was a kind of ters, ii. 191), and again in 1784. 
good-humoured growl. Tom Davies Life, iv. 326. 


[FROM Memoirs of Richard Cumberland, written by himself. 
2 vols. London, 1807. 

Johnson, writing to Mrs. Thrale, who was at Brighton, says : 
1 The want of company is an inconvenience, but Mr. Cumberland 
is a million.' Letters, ii. in. There is nothing in Boswell to 
show that Cumberland was much with Johnson. Northcote told 
Hazlitt that Johnson and his friends ' never admitted him as one 
of the set ; Sir Joshua did not invite him to dinner.' Conversations 
of Northcote, p. 385. 

Rogers described him as 'a most agreeable companion, and 
a very entertaining converser. His theatrical anecdotes were 
related with infinite spirit and humour/ Rogers's Table Talk, 
p. 136. 

'I once (says W. Maltby) dined at Billy's with Parr, 
Priestley, Cumberland, and some other distinguished people. 
Cumberland, who belonged to the family of the Blandishes, be- 
praised Priestley to his face, and after he had left the party spoke 
of him very disparagingly. This excited Parr's extremest wrath. 
When I met him a few days after he said : * Only think of 
Mr. Cumberland ! that he should have presumed to talk before 
me, before me, Sir in such terms of my friend Dr. Priestley ! 
Pray, Sir, let Mr. Dilly know my opinion of Mr. Cumberland 
that his ignorance is equalled only by his impertinence, and that 
both are exceeded by his malice.' Ib. p. 314. 

Sir Walter Scott thus writes of Cumberland : * January 12, 
1826.' Mathews last night gave us a very perfect imitation of 


Anecdotes by Richard Cumberland. 73 

old Cumberland, who carried the poetic jealousy and irritability 
farther than any man I ever saw. He was a great flatterer, too, 
the old rogue. ... A very high-bred man in point of manners in 
society.' Lockhart's Scott, ed. 1839, viii. 193. 

In his Biographical Memoirs (ed. 1834, iii. 227) Scott adds : 
* In the little pettish sub-acidify of temper which Cumberland 
sometimes exhibited there was more of humorous sadness than 
of ill-will, either to his critics or his contemporaries. . . . These 
imperfections detract nothing from the character of the man of 
worthj the scholar and the gentleman.' 

For his jealousy see Letters, ii. 112, 115, 122. His grave in 
Westminster Abbey is close to Johnson's. 

His anecdotes must be received with great distrust. His 
account of the dinner before the first night of She Stoops to 
Conquer, at which Johnson took the chair, is so manifestly 
{ a romance' to use Mr. Forster's words that I have not 
quoted it. See Cumberland's Memoirs, i. 367, and Forster's 
Goldsmith, ed. 1871, ii. 339.] 

WHO will say that Johnson himself would have been such 
a champion in literature, such a front-rank soldier in the fields 
of fame, if he had not been pressed into the service, and driven 
on to glory with the bayonet of sharp necessity pointed at his 
back ? If fortune had turned him into a field of clover, he would 
have laid down and rolled in it. The mere manual labour of 
writing would not have allowed his lassitude and love of ease to 
have taken the pen out of the inkhorn 1 , unless the cravings of 

1 c I allow (said Johnson) you may than writing.' Mason's Gray, ii. 25. 

have pleasure from writing, after it ' I am,' wrote Hume to Strahan, 

is over, if you have written well ; ' perhaps the only author you ever 

but you don't go willingly to it knew who gratuitously employed 

again.' Life, iv, 219. great industry in correcting a work 

' There is not a more painful action of which he has fully alienated 

of the mind than invention.' Addison the property.' Letters of Hume to 

in The Spectator, No. 487. Strahan, p. 183. 

'His ditty sweet Of Pope, Johnson wrote: 'To 

He loathed much to write, ne make verses was his first labour, 

cared to repeat.' and to mend them was his last. . . . 

Castle of Indolence, canto i. stanza 68. He was one of those few whose 

' Reading, Mr. Gray has often told labour is their pleasure.' Works, 

me, was much more agreeable to him viii. 32 1. See also post, p. 90. 


74 Anecdotes by Richard Cumberland. 

hunger had reminded him that he must fill the sheet before he 
saw the table cloth. He might indeed have knocked down 
Osbourne for a blockhead, but he would not have knocked him 
down with a folio of his own writing x . He would perhaps have 
been the dictator of a club, and wherever he sat down to con 
versation, there must have been that splash of strong bold 
thought about him, that we. might still have had a collectanea 
after his death ; but of prose I guess not much, of works of labour 
none, of fancy perhaps something more, especially of poetry, 
which, under favour, I consider was not his tower of strength. 
I think we should have had his Rasselas at all events, for he 
was likely enough to have written at Voltaire, and brought 
the question to the test, if infidelity is any aid to wit 2 . 
An orator he must have been; not improbably a parliamen 
tarian, and, if such, certainly an oppositionist, for he preferred 
to talk against the tide. He would indubitably have been no 
member of the Whig Club, no partisan of Wilkes, no friend of 
Hume, no believer in Macpherson ; he would have put up 
prayers for early rising, and laid in bed all day, and with the 
most active resolutions possible been the most indolent mortal 
living. (Volume i. p. 353.) 

Alas ! I am not fit to paint his character : nor is there 
need of it; Etiam mortuus loquitur* \ every man, who can buy 
a book, has bought a Boswell\ Johnson is known to all the 
reading world. I also knew him well, respected him highly, 
loved him sincerely: it was never my chance to see him in 
those moments of moroseness and ill humour, which are im 
puted to him, perhaps with truth, for who would slander him ? 
But I am not warranted by any experience of those humours to 
speak of him otherwise than of a friend, who always met me 
with kindness, and from whom I never separated without regret. 
When I sought his company he had no capricious excuses for 
withholding it, but lent himself to every invitation with cordiality, 
and brought good humour with him, that gave life to the circle 

1 Ante, i. 304, 381. dide. Life, i. 342 ; Letters, i. 79 n. 

2 Cumberland wrongly thought 3 * He being dead yet speaketh.' 
that Rasselas was an answer to Can- Heb. xi. 4. 


Anecdotes by Richard Cumberland. 


he was in. He presented himself always in his fashion of 
apparel ; a brown coat with metal buttons, black waistcoat 
and worsted stockings, with a flowing bob wig T was the style of 
his wardrobe, but they were in perfectly good trim 2 , and with 
the ladies, which he generally met, he had nothing of the 
slovenly philosopher about him ; he fed heartily, but not vora 
ciously 3 , and was extremely courteous in his commendations of 
any dish that pleased his palate ; he suffered his next neigh 
bour to squeeze the China oranges 4 into his wine glass after 
dinner, which else perchance had gone aside, and trickled into 
his shoes, for the good man had neither straight sight nor steady 

At the tea table he had considerable demands upon his 
favourite beverage, and I remember when Sir Joshua Reynolds 
at my house reminded him that he had drank eleven cups, he 
replied e Sir, I did not count your glasses of wine 5 , why should 
you number up my cups of tea ? ' And then laughing in perfect 
good humour he added ' Sir, I should have released the lady 

1 Johnson defines a bobwig as a 
short wig, so \\&& flowing seems an 
inconsistent epithet. 

2 Cumberland could only have 
known him after his dress had been 
improved by associating with the 
Thrales. Life, iii. 325. Johnson 
seems to show how regardless he 
was of dress by his note on King 
John, Act iv. sc. 2, where Hubert 
describes a smith, 

' Standing on slippers, which his 

nimble haste 
Had falsely thrust upon contrary 


On this Johnson remarks : 
' Shakespeare seems to have con 
founded a man's shoes with his 
gloves. He that is frighted or hurried 
may put his hand into the wrong 
glove, but either shoe will equally 
admit either foot. The authour seems 
to be disturbed by the disorder which 
he describes.' Johnson's slippers were 
his old shoes. Life, i. 396 ; ii. 406. 

3 This is at variance with the ac 
counts of Boswell (Life, i. 468 ; iv. 72) 
and Hawkins (post, p. 105). 

'Violent hunger, though upon 
many occasions not only natural, 
but unavoidable, is always indecent, 
and to eat voraciously is universally 
regarded as a piece of ill manners.' 
Adam Smith's Moral Sentiments, 
ed. 1801, i. 45. 

4 Life, ii. 330. 

5 Johnson wrote on Jan. 2 1, 1 775: 
' Reynolds has taken too much to 
strong liquor, and seems to delight 
in his new character.' Life, ii. 292. 
'SiR JOSHUA. "You have sat by 
quite sober, and felt an envy of the 
happiness of those who were drink 
ing." JOHNSON. "Perhaps con 
tempt." ' Ib. iii. 41. ' SIR JOSHUA. 
" At first the taste of wine was dis 
agreeable to me ; but I brought my 
self to drink it, that I might be like 
other people.' Ib. iii. 329. 


76 Anecdotes by Richard Cumberland. 

from any further trouble, if it had not been for your remark ; 
but you have reminded me that I want one of the dozen, and 
I must request Mrs. Cumberland to round up my number " 
When he saw the readiness and complacency with which my 
wife obeyed his call, he turned a kind and cheerful look upon 
her and said 'Madam, I must tell you for your comfort you 
have escaped much better than a certain lady did awhile ago, 
upon whose patience I intruded greatly more than I have done 
on yours ; but the lady asked me for no other purpose but to 
make a Zany of me, and set me gabbling to a parcel of people 
I knew nothing of; so, Madam, I had my revenge of her; for 
I swallowed five and twenty cups of her tea J , and did not treat 
her with as many words.' I can only say my wife would have 
made tea for him as long as the New River could have supplied 
her with water. 

It was on such occasions he was to be seen in his happiest 
moments ; when animated by the cheering attention of friends, 
whom he liked, he would give full scope to those talents for 
narration, in which I verily think he was unrivalled both in the 
brilliancy of his wit, the flow of his humour, and the energy of 
his language. Anecdotes of times past, scenes of his own life, 
and characters of humourists, enthusiasts, crack-brained pro 
jectors and a variety of strange beings, that he had chanced 
upon, when detailed by him at length, and garnished with those 
episodical remarks, sometimes comic, sometimes grave, which 
he would throw in with infinite fertility of fancy, were a treat, 
which though not always to be purchased by five and twenty 
cups of tea. I have often had the happiness to enjoy for less 
than half the number. He was easily led into topics 2 ; it was 

1 The number of the cups no doubt were at school in England wrote to 

grew in the stories about Johnson, a friend in 1759: * At Whitsuntide 

Lord Eldon said that his wife ' had they used to make the housekeeper 

herself helped him one evening to [of the school] the present of a guinea 

fifteen cups.' Twiss's .Zf/*/072, ed. 1846, for a pound of tea.' Eliza Pinckney, 

i. 65. See post, p. 105, n. 4, for by H. H. Ravenel, New York, 1896, 

Lady Macleod's helping him to six- p. 181. 

teen. Cumberland, at one bold leap, 2 For Johnson's not starting a sub- 
raises the number to twenty-five, ject of talk see ante, i. 290 ; Life, iii. 
For the price of tea see ante, i. 135. 307, n. 2 ; iv. 304, n. 4. 
A South Carolinian lady whose sons 


Anecdotes by Richard Cumberland. 77 

not easy to turn him from them ; but who would wish it ? If 
a man wanted to show himself off by getting up and riding upon 
him, he was sure to run restive and kick him off; you might as 
safely have backed Bucephalus, before Alexander had lunged 1 him. 
Neither did he always like to be over-fondled ; when a certain 
gentleman out-acted his part in this way, he is said to have 
demanded of him * What provokes your risibility, Sir ? Have 
I said anything that you understand? Then I ask pardon of 
the rest of the company ' But this is Henderson's anecdote 
of him, and I won't swear he did not make it himself 2 . The 
following apology however I myself drew from him, when speak 
ing of his tour I observed to him upon some passages as rather 
too sharp upon a country and people who had entertained him 
so handsomely 'Do you think so, Cumbey 3 ?' he replied. 
( Then I give you leave to say, and you may quote me for it, 
that there are more gentlemen in Scotland than there are 
shoes V 

The expanse of matter, which Johnson had found room for in 
his intellectual storehouse, the correctness with which he had 
assorted it, and the readiness with which he could turn to any 
article that he wanted to make present use of 5 were the pro 
perties in him which I contemplated with the most admiration. 
Some have called him a savage ; they were only so far right in 
the resemblance, as that, like the savage, he never came into 
suspicious company without his spear in his hand and his bow 
and quiver at his back. In quickness of intellect few ever 
equalled him, in profundity of erudition many have surpassed 
him. I do not think he had a pure and classical taste, nor was 
apt to be best pleased with the best authors 6 , but as a general 

1 To lunge is not in Johnson's great proportion of the people are 
Dictionary. barefoot.' Letters, i. 239. 

2 Cumberland tells it also in his 5 ' Sir Joshua observed to me the 
Observer, No. 25. See Life, iv. 64, extraordinary promptitude with which 
n. 2. John Henderson, the actor, Johnson flew upon an argument.' 
no doubt is meant, who, as a mimic, Life, ii. 365. 

1 did not represent Johnson correctly.' 6 Mrs. Carter's father wrote to her 

Life, ii. 326, n. 5. of Johnson in 1738 : ' 1 a little sus- 

3 For Johnson's abbreviations of pect his judgment if he is very fond 
his friends' names see Life, ii. 258. of Martial.' Pennington's Carter, 

4 At Elgin he noted that ' a very i. 39. 


78 Anecdotes by Richard Cumberland. 

scholar he ranks very high. When I would have consulted him 
upon certain points of literature, whilst I was making my collec 
tions from the Greek dramatists for my essays in The Observer, 
he candidly acknowledged that his studies had not lain amongst 
them, and certain it is there is very little shew of literature in 
his Ramblers, and in the passage, where he quotes Aristotle, he 
has not correctly given the meaning of the original x . (Volume i. 

P- 356.) 

1 Rambler, No. 139. 



, [ACCORDING to Miss Hawkins (Memoirs, i. 158) Strahan and 
Cadell called on her father, in the name of the booksellers, ' who 
meant to collect and publish Johnson's works, and had com 
missioned them to ask him to write the Life, and to oversee the 
whole publication. They offered him 200.' 

For Boswell's account of Hawkins's book see Life, i. 26. 

* Sir John Hawkins was originally bred a lawyer, in which 
profession he did not succeed. Having married a gentlewoman 
who by her brother's death proved a considerable fortune he 
bought a house at Twickenham, intending to give himself up 
to his studies and music, of which he was very fond. He now 
commenced a justice of peace ; and being a very honest moral 
man, but of no brightness, and very obstinate and contentious, 
he grew hated by the lower class and very troublesome to the 
gentry, with whom he went to law both on public and private 
causes ; at the same time collecting materials indefatigably for 
a History of Music.' Horace Walpole's Journal of the Reign 
of George III, i. 421. 

Horace Walpole, writing on Dec. 3, 1776, of Hawkins's History 
of Music, says (Letters, vi. 395) : ' I have been three days at 
Strawberry and have not seen a creature but Sir John Hawkins's 
five volumes, the two last of which, thumping as they are, 
I literally did read in two days. They are old books to all 
intents and purposes, very old books ; and what is new is like 
old books too, that is, full of minute facts that delight anti 
quaries. . . . My friend, Sir John, is a matter-of-fact-man, and 


8o Extracts from 

does now and then stoop very low in quest of game. Then 
he is so exceedingly religious and grave as to abhor mirth, 
except it is printed in the old black letter, and then he calls the 
most vulgar ballad pleasant and full of humour. He thinks 
nothing can be sublime but an anthem, and Handel's choruses 
heaven upon earth. However he writes with great moderation, 
temper and good sense, and the book is a very valuable one. 
I have begged his Austerity to relax in one point, for he ranks 
comedy with farce and pantomime. Now I hold a perfect 
comedy to be the perfection of human composition, and believe 
firmly that fifty Iliads and ^Eneids could be written sooner than 
such a character as FalstafFs.' 

On Feb. 28, 1782, Walpole wrote to Mason (Ib. viii. 169): 
' I am sorry you will fall on my poor friend Sir John, who is 
a most inoffensive and good being. Do not wound harmless 
simpletons, you who can gibbet convicts of magnitude.' Mason 
replied that Hawkins has shown himself petulant and imper 
tinent in several parts of his history, and especially on the 
subject of honest John Gay.' Ib. p. 170. 

Bentham, speaking of about the year 1767, said: ' I liked to 
go to Sir John Hawkins' : he used to talk to me of his quarrels, 
and he was always quarrelling. He had a fierce dispute with 
Dr. Hawkesworth, who wrote the Adventurer and managed the 
Gentleman's Magazine^ which he called his Dragon. He had 
a woman in his house with red hair; and this circumstance, 
of which Hawkins availed himself, gave him much advantage in 
the controversy. Hawkins was alway tormenting me with his 
disputatious correspondence ; always wondering how there could 
be so much depravity in human nature ; yet he was himself 
a good-for-nothing follow, haughty and ignorant, picking up 
little anecdotes and little bits of knowledge. He was a man of 
sapient look.' 

' Dr. Percy (writes Malone) concurred with every other person 
I have heard speak of Hawkins, in saying that he was a most 
detestable fellow. Dyer knew him well at one time, and the Bishop 
heard him give a character of Hawkins once that painted him in 
the blackest colours. Dyer said that he knew instances of his 
setting a husband against a wife, and a brother against a brother ; 


Hawkins's Life of Johnson. 81 

fomenting their animosity by anonymous letters. I had some 
conversation with Sir J. Reynolds relative to both Hawkins and 
Dyer. He observes that Hawkins, though he assumed great 
outward sanctity, was not only mean and grovelling in disposi 
tion, but absolutely dishonest. After the death of Dr. Johnson, 
he, as one of his executors, laid hold of his watch and several 
trinkets, coins, &c., which he said he should take to himself for his 
trouble. Sir Joshua and Sir Wm. Scott, the other executors, 
remonstrated against this, and with great difficulty compelled him 
to give up the watch, which Dr. Johnson's servant, Francis 
Barber, now has ; but the coins and old pieces of money they 
could never get. The executors had several meetings relative 
to the business of their trust. Hawkins was paltry enough to 
bring them in a bill, charging his coach hire for every time 
they met. With all this meanness, if not dishonesty, he was 
a regular churchman, assuming the character of a most rigid 
and sanctimonious censurer of the lightest foibles of others. He 
never lived in any real intimacy with Dr. Johnson, who never 
opened his heart to him, or had in fact any accurate knowledge 
of his character.' Prior's M alone , p. 426. 

Sir Joshua Reynolds perhaps had Hawkins in his mind 
when he said that 'Johnson appeared to have little suspicion of 
hypocrisy in religion.' Life, i. 418, n. 

That the two men were not intimate is confirmed by Boswell's 
statement, who says: 'I never saw Sir John Hawkins in 
Dr. Johnson's company I think but once, and I am sure not 
above twice. Johnson might have esteemed him for his decent, 
religious demeanour and his knowledge of books and literary 
history ; but from the rigid formality of his manners it is evident 
that they never could have lived together with companionable 
ease and familiarity.' Life, i. 27. 

Johnson himself said of him: ' As to Sir John, why really 
I believe him to be an honest man at the bottom ; but to be 
sure he is penurious, and he is mean, and it must be owned he 
has a degree of brutality, and a tendency to savageness, that 
cannot easily be defended.' Mme. D'Arblay's Diary > i. 65. 

The story of the watch got abroad, and was thus sarcastically 
dealt with by Person in the Gentleman s Magazine for Sept. 1787, 

VOL. II. G p. 753 

82 Extracts from 

P- 752 (Person's Tracts, p. 342) : * In the Life [by Hawkins], 
p. 460, 461, we have an ample description of a watch that 
Johnson bought for seventeen guineas ; but, just as we expect 
some important consequence from this solemn introduction, the 
history breaks off, and suddenly opens another subject. Now, 
Mr. Urban, some days ago I picked up a printed octavo leaf, 
seemingly cancelled and rejected. It was so covered with mud 
and dirt that I could only make out part of it, which I here send 
you, submitting it to better judgment, whether this did not 
originally fill the chasm that every reader of taste and feeling 
must at once perceive in the history of the watch. It is more 
difficult to find a reason why it was omitted. But I am per 
suaded that the person who is the object of Sir John's satire was 
so hurt at the home truths contained in it, that he tampered with 
the printers to have it suppressed. 


'And here, touching this watch already by me 

mentioned, I insert a frotable instance of the craft and selfishness 
of the Doctor's Negro servant. A few days after that whereon 
Dr. Johnson died, this artful fellow came to me, and surrendered 
the watch, saying at the same time, that his master had delivered 
it to him a day or two before his demise, with such demeanour 
and gestures that he did verily believe it was his intention that 
he, namely Frank, should keep the same. Myself knowing that 
no sort of credit was due to a black domestic and favourite 
servant, and withal considering that the wearing thereof would 
be more proper for myself, and that I had got nothing by my 
trust of executor save sundry old books, and coach-hire for 
journeys during the discharge of the said office ; and further 
reflecting on what I have occasion elsewhere to mention, viz. 
that, since the abolishing general warrants, temp. Geo. iii l y no 

1 On April 30, 1763, Wilkes had papers.' Such a warrant as this 

been arrested on ' a general warrant Chief Justice Pratt (Lord Camden) 

directed to four messengers to take declared to be ' unconstitutional, il- 

up any persons without naming or legal, and absolutely void.' The 

describing them with any certainty, messengers ' broke open every closet, 

and to bring them, together with their bureau, and drawer in Mr. Wilkes's 


Hawkins's Life of Johnson. 83 

good articles in this branch can be had any longer in England, 
I took the watch from him, intending to have it appraised by 
my own jeweller, a very honest and expert artificer, and, in so 
doing, to have bought it as cheap as I could for myself, let it 
cost what it would. Upon my signifying this my intention to 
Frank, the impudent Negro said, " he plainly saw there was no good 
intended for him x ; " and in anger left me. He then posted to 
my colleagues, the other executors ; and there being in the 
people of this country a general propensity to humanity, notwith 
standing all my exertions to counteract the same both in writing 2 
and otherwise ; this being the case, I say, he had found means to 
prepossess them so entirely in his favour that they snubbed me, 
and insisted with me that I should make restitution. Finally, 
though perhaps I should not have been made amenable to any 
known judicature by keeping the watch, I consented, being com 
pelled thereto, to let this worthless fellow retain that testimony 
of his master's ill-directed benevolence in extremis V 

Malone wrote to Lord Charlemont on Nov. 7, 1787: 'You 
perhaps have not heard of a very curious fact. Sir John wanted 
to cheat poor Frank, Johnson's servant, of a gold watch and cane, 
and Frank, not choosing to lose them, from that time became 
as black again as he was before.' Hist. MSS. Com., Thirteenth 
Report, App. viii. 62.] 

THERE dwelt at Lichfield a gentleman of the name of Butt, 
the father of the reverend Mr. Butt, now a King's Chaplain 4 , to 
whose house on holidays and in school -vacations Johnson was 
ever welcome. The children in the family, perhaps offended 
with the rudeness of his behaviour, would frequently call him 

house.' Person implies that in such 2 ' See Sir John's proofs that every 

a search as this a man's watch might prisoner ought to be convicted, and 

be carried off. See Annual Register, every convict hanged. Ib. pp. 521-3.' 

1763, i. 135; Almon's Memoirs of Note by For son. 

WilkeS)\. 107; Boswell's/0^z.$wz, ii. 3 A quotation from Hawkins, pp. 

72, and Letters of Hume to Strahan, 599, 605. 

p. 207. 4 A Rev. Mr. Butt attended John- 

1 A quotation from Hawkins, p. son's funeral. Letters ii. 434. 
604 n. 

G 2, the 

84 Extracts from 

the great boy, which the father once overhearing, said, 'you 
call him the great boy, but take my word for it, he will one 
day prove a great man V 

A more particular character of him while a schoolboy, and of 
his behaviour at school, I find in a paper now before me, written 
by a person yet living 2 , and of which the following is a copy : 

' Johnson and I were, in early life, school-fellows at Lichfield, 
and for many years in the same class. As his uncommon 
abilities for learning far exceeded us, we endeavoured by every 
boyish piece of flattery to gain his assistance, and three of us, 
by turns, used to call on him in a morning, on one of whose 
backs, supported by the other two, he rode triumphantly to 
school. He never associated with us in any of our diversions, 
except in the winter when the ice was firm, to be drawn along 
by a boy barefooted. His ambition to excel was great, though 
his application to books, as far as it appeared, was very trifling. 
I could not oblige him more than by sauntering away every 
vacation, that occurred, in the fields, during which time he was 
more engaged in talking to himself than his companion. Verses 
or themes he would dictate to his favourites, but he would never 
be at the trouble of writing them. His dislike to business was 
so great, that he would procrastinate his exercises to the last 

1 Percy, writing of Johnson at Stour- has now over men. That he seemed 
bridge School, says : * Here his to learn by intuition the contents of 
genius was so distinguished that, al- any book, that the boys submitted 
though little better than a school-boy, to him, and paid him great respect, 
he was admitted into the best com- . . . That he used to have oatmeal 
pany of the place, and had no common porridge for breakfast. That his 
attention paid to his conversation ; father was a very sensible man, and 
of which remarkable instances were very successful as a bookseller and 
long remembered there.' Anderson's stationer used to open a shop once 
Johnson, ed. 1815, p. 20. a week at Birmingham ; but was a 

2 Edmund Hector. Life, i. 47. loser by a manufacture of parchment 
Boswell recorded in his note-book which he set up. That his mother 

in March, 1776 : * Mr. Hector, was a very remarkable woman for 

surgeon at Birmingham, who was good understanding. I asked him 

at school with him, and used to buy if she was not vain of her son, Mr. 

tarts with him of Dame Reid, told Hector said she had too much good 

me that he had the same extra- sense to be vain, but she knew her 

ordinary superiority over the boys of son's value.' Morrison Autographs > 

the same age with himself that he 2nd Series, i. 368. 


Hawkins's Life of Johnson. 85 

hour. I have known him after a long vacation, in which we were 
rather severely tasked *, return to school an hour earlier in the 
morning, and begin one of his exercises, in which he purposely 
left some faults, in order to gain time to finish the rest. 

I never knew him corrected at school, unless it was for talking ./ 
and diverting other boys from their business, by which, perhaps, 
he might hope to keep his ascendancy. He was uncommonly 
inquisitive, and his memory so tenacious, that whatever he read 
or heard he never forgot. I remember rehearsing to him eighteen 
verses, which after a little pause he repeated verbatim, except 
one epithet, which improved the line. 

After a long absence from Lichfield, when he returned I was 
apprehensive of something wrong in his constitution 2 , which 
might either impair his intellect or endanger his life, but, thanks 
to Almighty God, my fears have proved false.' (Page 6.) 

[When Johnson was at Pembroke College 3 ] the want of that 
assistance, which scholars in general derive from their parents, 
relations, and friends, soon became visible in his garb and appear 
ance, which, though in some degree concealed by a scholar's 
gown, and that we know is never deemed the less honourable 
for being old, was so apparent as to excite pity in some that 
saw and noticed him. He had scarce any change of raiment, 
and, in a short time after Corbet 4 left him, but one pair of / 
shoes, and those so old, that his feet were seen through them : ^ 
a gentleman of his college, the father of an eminent clergyman 
now living, directed a servitor one morning to place a new pair 

1 Ante, i. 161. 2 Life, i. 63. ' Quo die comparuit coram me 

3 Johnson matriculated on Oct. 31, Joshua Ellis e Coll Pembr generosi 

1728, and no doubt received from fil et subscripsit Articulis Fidei, et 

the Vice-Chancellor a document Religionis ; et juramentum suscepit 

similar to the following, which is deagnoscendasupremaRegiseMajes- 

pasted in at the end of a copy of tads potestate ; et de observandis 

Parecbolcs sive Excerpta e corpore Statutis, Privilegiis et Consuetudini- 

Statutorzim Universitatis Oxoniensis. bus hujus Universitatis. 

It was shown me by Mr. Viner * Jo. Mather, Vice-Can.' 

Ellis, a descendant of Johnson's con- wmiam pkt entered 

temporary at Pembroke to whom it lege on Jan f 

had been given. Magazine, 1784, p. 5. 

' Oxonias. Dec. 14. Anno Domini 

Life, i. 58 ; ante, i. 362. 



Extracts from 

at the door of Johnson's chamber, who, seeing them upon his 
first going out, so far forgot himself and the spirit that must 
have actuated his unknown benefactor, that, with all the in 
dignation of an insulted man, he threw them away 1 . (Page 10.) 

In this course of learning, his favourite objects were classical 
literature, ethics, and theology, in the latter whereof he laid the 
foundation by studying the Fathers 2 . If we may judge from 
the magnitude of his Adversaria, which I have now by me 3 , his 

1 Life, \. 77. 

Johnson's difficulties no doubt were 
increased by the general dearness 
during his residence at College. The 
year in which he entered, 1728, wheat 
stood higher than it did in a period 
of more than fifty years. 1729 also 
was a dear year. Wealth of Nations, 
ed. 1811, i. 359. See ante, i. 129, 
n. i. 

2 * He told me what he read solidly 
at Oxford was Greek ; . . . that the 
study of which he was the most fond 
was Metaphysicks, but he had not 
read much even in that way.' Life, 

Boswell recorded in his note 
book :' Ashbourne, 20 Sept. 1777. 
Dr. Johnson told me that he had 
been always idle. That his most 
determinate application had been 
within these ten years in reading 
Greek. That the reading which he 
had loved most was metaphysicks ; 
but that he had not read much even 
in that way. That he very early 
loved to read poetry, but hardly ever 
read any poem to an end. That he 
read in Shakespeare at a very early 
time of life, so early that he remem 
bers being afraid to read the speech 
of the Ghost in Hamlet when 
alone. That Horace's Odes have 
been the composition in which he 
has taken most delight.' Morrison 
Autographs, 2nd Series, i. 372. For 
his Greek see ante, i. 183. 

3 See Life, i. 205, and /AT/, p. 129, 
where Hawkins was detected in 
pocketing two volumes in Johnson's 
handwriting. Some volumes he either 
secreted, or Johnson neglected to 
destroy, when he burnt his private 
papers ; for Hawkins not only had 
these Adversaria, but other volumes 
of a much more private nature, which 
he thus describes: 'To enable him 
at times to review his progress in 
life, and to estimate his improvement 
in religion, he, in the year 1734, be 
gan to note down the transactions of 
each day, recollecting, as well as he 
was able, those of his youth, and 
interspersing such reflections and 
resolutions as, under particular cir 
cumstances, he was induced to make. 
This register, which he intitled 
"Annales," does not form an entire 
volume, but is contained in a variety 
of little books folded and stitched 
together by himself, and which were 
found mixed with his papers. Some 
specimens of these notanda have 
been lately printed with his prayers.' 

' It was my business (writes Miss 
Hawkins, Memoirs, i. 188) to select 
from his little books of self-examina 
tion, which came into my father's 
hands, the passages that should be 
printed as specimens ; and I rejected, 
as subject to wild surmises, those 
which contained marks known only 
in their significations by himself.' 
See also Life, iv. 406, n. i. 


Hawkins's Life of Johnson. 87 

plan for study was a very extensive one. The heads of science, 
to the extent of six folio volumes, are copiously branched 
throughout it ; but, as is generally the case with young students, 
the blank far exceed in number the written leaves. 

To say the truth, the course of his studies was far from 
regular : he read by fits and starts, and, in the intervals, digested 
his reading by meditation, to which he was ever prone. Neither 
did he regard the hours of study, farther than the discipline of 
the college compelled him. It was the practice in his time, for 
a servitor, by order of the Master, to go round to the rooms of 
the young men, and knocking at the -door, to enquire if they 
were within, and, if no answer was returned, to report them ,/ 
absent 1 . Johnson could not endure this intrusion, and would 
frequently be silent, when the utterance of a word would have 
insured him from censure ; and, farther to be revenged for being 
disturbed when he was profitably employed as perhaps he could 
be, would join with others of the young men in the college in 
hunting, as they called it, the servitor, who was thus diligent in 
his duty ; and this they did with the noise of pots and candle 
sticks, singing to the tune of Chevy-chace, the words in that 
old ballad, 

* To drive the deer with hound and horn, 3 &c., 

not seldom to the endangering the life and limbs of the unfor 
tunate victim. (Page 1 2.) 

It was wonderful to see, when he took up a book, with what 
eagerness he perused, and with what haste his eye travelled 
over it : he has been known to read a volume, and that not 
a small one, at a sitting ; nor was he inferior in the power of 
memory to him with whom he is compared [Magliabechi] ; 
whatever he read, became his own for ever, with all the ad 
vantages that a penetrating judgment and deep reflection could 
add to it. I have heard him repeat, with scarce a mistake of 

1 Whitefield, who entered the see who were in their rooms, I 

College soon after Johnson left, re- thought the devil would appear to 

cords : ' It being my duty, as ser- me every stair I went up.' Tyerman's 

vitor, in my turn to knock at the Whitefield^ i. 20. 
gentlemen's rooms by ten at night, to 

a word 

88 Extracts from 

a word, passages from favourite authors, of three or four octavo 
pages in length 1 . (Page 16.) 

He could not, at this early period of his life, divest himself of 
an opinion, that poverty was disgraceful ; and was very severe in 
his censures of ceconomy in both our universities, which exacted 
at meals the attendance of poor scholars, under the several de 
nominations of servitors in the one, and sizers in the other 2 : 
he thought that the scholar's, like the Christian life, levelled all 
distinctions of rank and worldly pre-eminence. (Page 18.) 

Upon his leaving the university, he went home to the house of 
his father, which he found so nearly filled with his relations, that 
is to say, the maiden sisters of his mother and cousin Cornelius 
Ford, whom his father, on the decease of their brother in the 
summer of 1731 3 , had taken in to board, that it would scarce 
receive him. (Page 19.) 

Cave was so incompetent a judge of Johnson's abilities, that, 
meaning at one time to dazzle him with the splendour of some 
of those luminaries in literature who favoured him with their 
correspondence, he told him that, if he would, in the evening, be 
at a certain alehouse in the neighbourhood of Clerkenwell, he 
might have a chance of seeing Mr. Browne 4 and another or two 
of the persons mentioned in the preceding note: Johnson 

1 Life, \. 39, 48. aulay's great uncle, ' he gave an ao 
Lockhart gives the following in- count of the education at Oxford in 

stance of Scott's memory. 'Lord all its gradations. The advantage of 

Corehouse repeating a phrase, re- being a servitor to a youth of little 

markable only for its absurdity, from fortune struck Mrs. Macaulay much.' 

a Magazine poem of the very silliest Life, v. 122. 

feebleness, which they had laughed 3 Nathaniel Ford died in 1731 ; 

at when at College together [nearly Cornelius Ford in 1734. Notes and 

forty years earlier,] Scott began at Queries, 5th S. xiii. 250. Johnson 

the beginning, and gave it us to the left Oxford in 1729. 

end, with apparently no more effort 4 Moses Browne, ' originally a pen- 

than if he himself had composed it cutter, was, so far as concerned the 

the day before.' Lockhart's Scott, poetical part of it, the chief support 

ed. 1839, vii. 194. of the Gentleman's Magazine, which 

2 Servitors in Oxford, sizars in he fed with many a nourishing 
Cambridge. In the manse at Calder, morsel.' Hawkins, p. 46 n. 
where Johnson visited Lord Mac- He became a clergyman and was 


Hawkins's Life of Johnson. 89 

accepted the invitation ; and being introduced by Cave, dressed 
in a loose horseman's coat, and such a great bushy uncombed 
wig as he constantly wore *, to the sight of Mr. Browne, whom he 
found sitting at the upper end of a long table, in a cloud of 
tobacco-smoke, had his curiosity gratified. 

Johnson saw very clearly those offensive particulars that made 
a part of Cave's character ; but, as he was one of the most 
quick-sighted men I ever knew in discovering the good and 
amiable qualities of others, a faculty which he has displayed, as 
well in the life of Cave, as in that of Savage, printed among 
his works, so was he ever inclined to palliate their defects ; and, 
though he was above courting the patronage of a man, whom, in 
respect of his mental endowments he considered as his inferior, 
he disdained not to accept it, when tendered with any degree of 

And this was the general tenor of Johnson's behaviour ; for, 
though his character through life was marked with a rough 
ness that approached to ferocity, it was in the power of almost ^/ 
every one to charm him into mildness, and to 1 render him gentle 
and placid, and even courteous, by such a patient and respectful 
^attention as is due to every one,, who,, in his discourse,, signifies 
a desire either to instruct or delight. Bred to no profession, 
without relations,, friends, or interest, Johnson was an adventurer v 
in the wide world,, and had his fortunes to make : the arts of 
insinuation and address were, in his opinion, too slow in their 
operation to answer his purpose ; and, he rather chose to display 
his parts to all the world, at the risque of being thought arro 
gant, than to wait for the assistance of such friends as he could 
make, or the patronage of some individual that had power or 
influence, and who might have the kindness to take him by the 
hand, and lift him into notice. With all that asperity of manners 

Vicar of Olney twenty-four years. thought he should have been dis- 

He was born in 1704 and died in tracted ; but when he had ten or a 

1787. Gentleman's Magazine, 1787, dozen he was perfectly easy, and 

p. 932. thought no more about the matter.' 

'I remember,' writes Cowper, ' hear- Cowper's Works, ed. 1836, iv. 154. 
ing Moses Browne say, that when ' Hawkins, post, p. 103, describes 

he had only two or three children, he this wig. 


90 Extracts from 

with which he has been charged, and which kept at a distance 
many, who, to my knowledge, would have been glad of an 
, intimacy with him, he possessed the affections of pity and com 
passion in a most eminent degree. In a mixed company, of 
which I was one, the conversation turned on the pestilence 
which raged in London, in the year 1665, and gave occasion to 
Johnson to speak of Dr. Nathanael Hodges, who, in the height 
of that calamity, continued in the city, and was almost the 
only one of his profession that had the courage to oppose the 
endeavours of his art to the spreading of the contagion. It was 
the hard fate of this person, a short time after, to die a prisoner 
for debt, in Ludgate : Johnson related this circumstance to us, 
with the tears ready to start from his eyes ; and, with great 
energy said, c Such a man would not have been suffered to perish 
in these times V (Page 49.) 

Johnson was never greedy of money, but without money could 
not be stimulated to write. I have been told by a clergyman 
of some eminence with whom he had been long acquainted, 
that, being to preach on a particular occasion, he applied, as 
others under a like necessity had frequently done, to Johnson 
for help. ' I will write a sermon for thee/ said Johnson, ' but 
thou must pay me for it 2 .' (Page 84.) 

1 De Foe mentions him in a pas- thorised physician. . . . He became 

sage, where, speaking of the quacks, poor, was imprisoned in Ludgate for 

he says: 'their doors were more debt, and there died June 10, 1688.' 

thronged than those of ... Dr. His book on the plague, which Dr. 

Hodges, or any, though the most Quincy translated in 1720, ' shows 

famous men of the time.' De Foe's him to have been an excellent ob- 

Works, v. 25. On p. 192 he says : server both as to symptoms and the 

' Great was the reproach thrown results of treatment.' DR. NORMAN 

upon those physicians who left their MOORE in the Diet. Nat. Biog. xxvii. 

patients during the sickness; and 60. 

now they came to town again, nobody 2 ' No man but a blockhead ever 

cared to employ them; they were wrote except for money. 3 Life, iii. 19. 

called deserters, and frequently bills Strahan wrote to Hume on April 9, 

were set up on their doors, and written, 1774: 'If your commendations of 

Here is a doctor to be let ! ' Henry's History are well founded, is 

' In recognition of Dr. Hodges's not his work an exception to your 

services to the citizens during the own general rule, that no good book 

plague, the authorities of the City was ever wrote for money ? ' Letters 

granted him a stipend as their au- of Hume to Stratum, p. 285. 


Hawkins's Life of Johnson. 

In contradiction to those, who, having a wife and children, 
prefer domestic enjoyments to those which a tavern affords, 
I have heard him assert, that a tavern-chair was the throne of 
human felicity r . ' As soon,' said he, ' as I enter the door of 
a tavern, I experience an oblivion of care, and a freedom from 
solicitude 2 : when I am seated, I find the master courteous, and 

' We who write, if we want the talent, 
yet have the excuse that we do it for 
a poor subsistence ; but what can be 
urged in their defence, who not having 
the vocation of poverty to scribble, 
out of meer wantonness take pains 
to make themselves ridiculous.' 
Dry den's Preface to All for Love. 

Johnson says of Addison : ' I have 
heard that his avidity did not satisfy 
itself with the air of renown, but that 
with great eagerness he laid hold on 
his proportion of the profits.' Works ; 
vii. 437. See also ante, ii. 14, and 
post, p. 107. 

1 Ante, ii. 70. 

2 ' It is worthy of remark by those 
who are curious in observing customs 
and modes of living, how little these 
houses of entertainment are now 
frequented, and what a diminution in 
their number has been experienced 
in London and Westminster in a 
period of about forty years backward. 
. . . When the frenzy of the times was 
abated [after the Restoration], taverns, 
especially those about the Exchange, 
became places for the transaction of 
almost all manner of business : there 
accounts were settled, conveyances 
executed, and there attornies sat, as 
at inns in the country on market 
days, to receive their clients. In that 
space near the Royal Exchange which 
is encompassed by Lombard, Grace- 
church, part of Bishop's-gate and 
Threadneedle streets, the number of 
taverns was not so few as twenty, 
and on the site of the Bank there 
stood four. At the Crown, which 

was one of them, it was not unusual 
in a morning to draw a butt of 
mountain, a hundred and twenty 
gallons, in gills.' Note by Hawkins. 

In the Old Cheshire Cheese, that 
ancient Fleet Street tavern which 
looks now as it may have looked in 
Johnson's day, his seat is marked by 
an inscription. In no contemporary 
writer is mention made of his fre 
quenting the tavern. Cyrus Jay, in 
1868, dedicated his book The Law : 
( To the Lawyers and Gentlemen with 
whom I have dined for more than 
half a century at the Old Cheshire 
Cheese, Wine Office Court, Fleet 
Street.' In the Preface he says : 
' During the fifty-three years I have 
frequented the Cheshire Cheese there 
have been only three landlords. 
When I first visited it I used to meet 
several old gentlemen who remem 
bered Dr. Johnson nightly at the 
Cheshire Cheese ; and they have 
told me, what is not generally known, 
that the Doctor, whilst living in the 
Temple, always went to the Mitre or 
the Essex Head ; but when he re 
moved to Gough Square or Bolt 
Court he was a constant visitor at 
the Cheshire Cheese, because nothing 
but a hurricane would have induced 
him to cross Fleet Street.' 

There is much loose talk in this. 
It is not likely that many, if indeed 
any, of the old gentlemen remembered 
Johnson in Gough Square, for he 
left it in 1759. It was moreover a 
year later that he removed to the 
Temple. Boswell too records many 


92 Extracts from 

the servants obsequious to my call ; anxious to know and ready 
to supply my wants : wine there exhilarates my spirits, and 
prompts me to free conversation and an interchange of dis 
course with those whom I most love : I dogmatise and am con 
tradicted, and in this conflict of opinions and sentiments I find 
delight 1 / (Page 87.) 

The debates penned by Johnson were not only more methodical 
and better connected than those of Guthrie 2 , but in all the 
ornaments of stile superior : they were written at those seasons 
when he was able to raise his imagination to such a pitch of 
fervour as bordered upon enthusiasm, which, that he might the 
better do, his practice was to shut himself up in a room 
assigned him at St. John's gate, to which he would not suffer 
any one to approach, except the compositor or Cave's boy for 
matter, which, as fast as he composed it, he tumbled out at the 
door 3 . (Page 99.) 

j His discourse, which through life was of the didactic kind, was 

fL replete with original sentiments expressed in the strongest and 

/ most correct terms, and in such language, that whoever could 

(have heard and not seen him would have thought him reading 4 . 

For the pleasure he communicated to his hearers he expected 

v/not the tribute of silence : on the contrary he encouraged others, 

particularly young men, to speak, and paid a due attention to 

what they said 5 ; but his prejudices were so strong and deeply 

rooted, more especially against Scotchmen 6 and Whigs, that 

whoever thwarted him ran the risque of a severe rebuke, or at 

dinners at the Mitre after he had re- 2 Life, i. 1 16. 

moved to the other side of Fleet 3 Ib. iv. 408. 

Street. Nevertheless we may take 4 Ib. i. 204 ; iv. 183 ; post in 

the account as direct evidence of Reynolds's Anecdotes. 

what could scarcely be doubtful that 5 Johnson, speaking of himself, 

Johnson often dined in the tavern. said : ' No man is so cautious not 

1 Quoted by Boswell. Life, ii. 452. to interrupt another ; no man thinks 

When I had the honour of meeting it so necessary to appear attentive 

Mr. Gladstone at Oxford on Feb. 6, when others are speaking.' Ante, 

1890, he quoted this passage in his i. 169. 

strong, deep voice, with deliberate 6 Ante, i. 429; Life, ii. 77, 121, 

utterance, and praised it highly. 306 ; iv. 169. 


Hawkins's Life of Johnson. 93 

best became entangled in an unpleasant altercation 1 . He was 
scarce settled in town before this dogmatical behaviour, and his 
impatience of contradiction, became a part of his character, and 
deterred many persons of learning, who wished to enjoy the 
delight of his conversation, from seeking his acquaintance. 
There were not wanting those among his friends who would 
sometimes hint to him, that the conditions of free conversation 
imply an equality among those engaged in it, which are violated 
whenever superiority is assumed 2 : their reproofs he took kindly, 
and would in excuse for what they called the pride of learning, 
say, that it was of the defensive kind 3 . The repetition of these 
had, however, a great effect on him ; they abated his prejudices, 
>and produced a change in his temper and manners that rendered 
him at length a desirable companion in the most polite circles. 

In the lesser duties of morality he was remiss : he slept when 
he should have studied, and watched when he should have been 
at rest : his habits were slovenly, and the neglect of his person 
and garb so great as to render his appearance disgusting 4 . 
He was an ill husband of his time, and so regardless of the 
hours of refection, that at two he might be found at breakfast, 
and at dinner at eight 5 . In his studies, and I may add, in his 

1 'Sir, I perceive you are a vile Oxford Colleges was 12.30; in some 
Whig.' Life, ii. 170. See also ib. as early as n. Bentham's Works, 
v. 255. x. 61. At Sir Joshua Reynolds's 

2 ' Sir, (said Goldsmith,) you are ' dinner was served precisely at five, 
for making a monarchy of what whether all the company had arrived 
should be a republick.' Ib. ii. 257. or not.' Leslie and Taylor's Reynolds, 

3 They borrowed this from John- i. 384. 

son. ' " Sir, (said Johnson) that is Horace Walpole wrote on Feb. 6, 

not Lord Chesterfield ; he is the 1777 {Letters, vi. 410) : ' Everything 

proudest man this day existing." is changed ; as always must happen 

" No, (said Dr. Adams) there is one when one grows old, and is prejudiced 

person, at least, as proud ; I think, to one's old ways. I do not like 

by your own account, you are the dining at nearly six, nor beginning 

prouder man of the two."" But the evening at ten at night.' 

mine (replied Johnson instantly) was When a few years ago the Prince 

defensive pride." ' Ib. i. 265. of Wales asked General Gordon, 

4 Life, 1.396. For the improvement soon after his return from the Soudan, 
which took place, see ib. iii. 325 ; to dine with him, the general replied, 
ante, i. 241, and Letters, i. 322; that he was sorry he could not accept 
ii. 39. the invitation, as at the hour named 

5 In 1760 the dinner-hour in most he was always in bed. 


94 Extracts from 

devotional exercises, he was both intense and remiss x , and in the 
prosecution of his literary employments, dilatory and hasty, 
unwilling, as himself confessed, to work, and working with vigour 
and haste 2 . 

His indolence, or rather the delight he took in reading and 
v reflection, rendered him averse to bodily exertions. He was ill 
made for riding, and took so little pleasure in it, that, as he once 
told me, he has fallen asleep on his horse 3 . Walking he seldom 
practised, perhaps for no better reason, than that it required the 
previous labour of dressing. In a word, mental occupation was 
his sole pleasure, and the knowledge he acquired in the pursuit 
of it he was ever ready to communicate : in which faculty he 
was not only excellent but expert ; for, as it is related of 
lord Bacon by one who knew him 4 , that * in all companies he 
appeared a good proficient, if not a master, in those arts enter 
tained for the subject of every one's discourse,' and that ' his 
most casual talk deserved to be written,' so it may be said 
of Johnson, that his conversation was ever suited to the 
profession, condition, and capacity of those with whom he 
talked 5 . (Page 164.) 

Johnson, who before this time [1748 or 1749], together with 
\ his wife, had lived in obscurity, lodging at different houses in 
the courts and alleys in and about the Strand and Fleet street 6 , 
had, for the purpose of carrying on this arduous work [the 
Dictionary^ and being near the printers employed in it, taken 
a handsome house in Gough square 7 , and fitted up a room in it 
with desks and other accommodations for amanuenses, who, to 
the number of five or six, he kept constantly under his eye. 

1 For his attendance at church, see 7 Ib. i. 188 ; Letters, i. 1 8. It was 
ante, i. 63, 81 ; Life, i. 67 ; iii. 401. in No. 17 that he lived. 

2 Ante, i. 96. ' There is no city in Europe, I be- 

3 For his fox-hunting, see ante, i. lieve, in which house-rent is dearer 
288. than in London, and yet I know no 

4 Works of Francis Osborn, Esq. ; capital in which a furnished apart- 
8vo, 1673, p. 1 5 1. Note by Hawkins. ment can be hired so cheap.' Wealth 

5 Life, iii. 337. of Nations, Bk. I. ch. 10, ed. 1811, 

6 Also in Holborn. For the list of i. 161. 
his habitations, see ib. iii. 405. 


Hawkins's Life of Johnson. 


An interleaved copy of Bailey's dictionary J in folio he made the 
repository of the several articles, and these he collected by 
incessant reading the best authors in our language, in the 
practice whereof, his method was to score with a black-lead pencil 
the words by him selected, and give them over to his assistants 
to insert in their places 2 . The books he used for this purpose 
were what he had in his own collection, a copious but a miserably 
ragged one, and all such as he could borrow ; which latter, 
if ever they came back to those that lent them, were so defaced 
as to be scarce worth owning, and yet, some of his friends were 
glad to receive and entertain them as curiosities 3 . (Page 175.) 

Further to appease Johnson Lord Chesterfield sent two persons, 
the one a specious but empty man, Sir Thomas Robinson, more 
distinguished by the tallness of his person than for any estimable 
qualities 4 ; the other an eminent painter now living. These 

1 Nathaniel Bailey published his 
English Dictionary in 1721. 

* " What objection can you have to 
the young gentleman ? " says Mrs. 

' " A very solid objection, in my 
opinion,' says Sophia " I hate him/' 

'"Will you never learn a proper 
use of words ? " answered the aunt. 
" Indeed, child, you should consult 
Bailey's Dictionary." ' Tom Jones, 
Bk. vii. ch. 3. 

Dr. Murray, in the New Eng. Diet. 
under Belace says that this word * is 
found only in Dictionaries. It ap 
peared first in Bailey's folio, 1730, 
was retained by Dr. Johnson (who 
used a copy of that as the basis of 
his work), and from him it has been 
perpetuated by later dictionaries.' 
Johnson omitted the word in his 

2 Post in Percy's Anecdotes. 

3 Life, i. 188. 

Mr. Talbot Baines Reid showed 
me a small sheet of paper in Johnson's 
hand in which quotations had been 
written such as the following : 

' But some untaught o'erhear the 

whisp'ring rill, 

In spite of sacred leisure block 
heads still.' 

YOUNG [Satire i., Works, ed. 1813, 
ii. 87]. 

' His well-breath'd beagles sweep 
along the plain.' 

YOUNG \Ib. p. 88]. 
* A gipsy you commit 
' And shake the clumsy bench with 
country wit.' 

YOUNG [/.]. 

' Beauty is no bar to sense.' 

YOUNG {Satire v., ii. 126]. 

These passages are not quoted in 
the Dictionary under the words 
underlined by Johnson. 

4 ' This person, who is now at rest 
in Westminster-abbey, was, when 
living, distinguished by the name of 
long Sir Thomas Robinson. He was 
a man of the world or rather of the 
town, and a great pest to persons of 
high rank or in office. He was very 
troublesome to the earl of Burlington, 
and when in his visits to him he was 
told that his lordship was gone out, 


96 Extracts from 

were instructed to apologize for his lordship's treatment of 
him, and to make him tenders of his future friendship and. 
patronage. Sir Thomas, whose talent was flattery, was profuse 
in his commendations of Johnson and his writings, and declared 
that were his circumstances other than they were, himself would 
settle five hundred pounds a year on him. * And who are you,' 
asked Johnson, < that talk thus liberally ? ' ' I am,' said the 
other, ' Sir Thomas Robinson, a Yorkshire baronet.' ' Sir/ 
replied Johnson, * if the first peer of the realm were to make 
me such an offer, I would shew him the way down stairs V 
(Page 191.) 

In these disputations [at the Ivy Lane Club 2 ] I had oppor 
tunities of observing what others have taken occasion to remark, 
viz. not only that in conversation Johnson made it a rule to talk 
his best 3 , but that on many subjects he was not uniform in his 
opinions, contending as often for victory as for truth 4 : at one 
time good, at another evil was predominant in the moral constitu 
tion of the world. Upon one occasion, he would deplore the 
non-observance of Good-Friday, and on another deny, that 
among us of the present age there is any decline of public 
worship 5 . He would sometimes contradict self-evident pro- 
would desire to be admitted to look with him. Life, i. 434. Dr. Maxwell 
at the clock, or to play with a monkey recorded how Johnson once told the 
that was kept in the hall, in hopes Baronet that * he talked the language 
of being sent for in to the earl. This of a savage.' Ib. ii. 130. 
he had so frequently done, that all Horace Walpole describes Robin- 

in the house were tired of him. At son as* one of those men of temporary 
length it was concerted among the fame who are universally known in 
servants that he should receive a their own age, and rarely by any 
summary answer to his usual ques- other age. He was an indiscriminate 
tions, and accordingly at his next flatterer.' Philobiblon, x. iv. 57. 
coming, the porter as soon as he had 2 Ante, i. 388. 3 Life, iv. 183. 

opened the gate and without waiting 4 Ib. ii. 238 ; iv. in ; ante, i. 452. 
for what he had to say, dismissed 5 'BOSWELL. "Is there not less 
him with these words, " Sir, his lord- religion in the nation now, Sir, than 
ship is gone out, the clock stands, there was formerly ? " JOHNSON. 
and the monkey is dead." ' Note by " I don't know, Sir, that there is." ' 
Hawkins. Life, ii. 96. * He lamented that all 

For the Earl of Burlington, see serious and religious conversation 
Life, iii. 347 ; iv. 50, n. 4. was banished from the society of 

1 He visited Johnson after this, for men.' Ib. ii. 124. 
in 1763 Boswell found him sitting I remarked, that one disadvantage 


Hawkins's Life of Johnson. 


positions, such as, that the luxury of this country has increased 
with its riches x and that the practice of card-playing is more 
general than heretofore 2 . At this versatility of temper, none, 
however, took offence ; as Alexander and Caesar were born for 
conquest, so was Johnson for the office of a symposiarch 3 , to 
preside in all conversations ; and I never yet saw the man who 
would venture to contest his right 4 . 

Let it not, however, be imagined, that the members of this 
our club met together, with the temper of gladiators, or that 
there was wanting among us a disposition to yield to each other 
in all diversities of opinion : and indeed, disputation was not, 
as in many associations of this kind, the purpose of our meeting : 
nor were our conversations, like those of the Rota club 5 , re 
strained to particular topics. On the contrary, it may be said, 
that with our gravest discourses was intermingled 

'Mirth, that after no repenting draws/ 

MILTON (Sonnet to Cyriac Skinner), 

for not only in Johnson's melancholy there were lucid intervals 6 , 

arising from the immensity of London, 
was, that nobody was heeded by his 
neighbour ; there was no fear of cen 
sure for not observing Good Friday, 
as it ought to be kept, and as it is kept 
in country-towns. He said, it was, 
upon the whole, very well observed 
even in London.' Life, ii. 356. 

1 Johnson always opposed attacks 
on luxury. To suppose that it cor 
rupts a people and destroys the spirit 
of liberty was ' all visionary.' Ib. ii. 
170. 'No nation was ever hurt by 
it, for it can reach but to a very few.' 
Ib. ii. 218. 'It produces much good.' 
Ib. iii. 56. ' He laughed at querulous 
declamations against the age on ac 
count of luxury.' Ib. iii. 226. ' De 
pend upon it, Sir, every state of 
society is as luxurious as it can be.' 
Ib. iii. 282. ' Man is not diminished 
in size by it.' Ib. v. 358. 

Luxury, which in most parts of 
life by being well-balanced and dif- 


fused, is only decency and conveni 
ence, has perhaps as many, or more, 
good than evil consequences attend 
ing it. It certainly excites industry, 
nourishes emulation, and inspires 
some sense of personal value into all 
ranks of people.' Burke's Works, ed. 
1808, ii. 203. 

2 Life, iii. 23. 

3 Symposiarch is not in Johnson's 

4 Ante, ii. 93, n. 2. 

5 Hawkins, I suppose, refers to the 
Rota Club in which James Harington, 
' with a few associates as fanatical as 
himself, used to meet, with all the 
gravity of political importance, to 
settle an equal government by rota 
tion.' Johnson's Works, vii. 95. 
They met in New Palace Yard, 
Westminster. Swift's Works, ed. 
1803, ii. 321. 

6 Letters, ii. 377, . i. 


9 8 

Extracts from 

>ut he was a great contributor to the mirth of conversation, by 
the many witty sayings he uttered, and the many excellent 
\stories which his memory had treasured up, and he would on 

>ccasion relate; so that those are greatly mistaken who infer, 
'either from the general tendency of his writings, or that appear 
ance of hebetude which marked his countenance when living, 
and is discernible in the pictures and prints of him, that he 

;ould only reason and discuss, dictate and controul. 
In the talent of humour there hardly ever was his equal 1 , 

1 Ante,i.4$2. The following extract 
is from a letter which I received from 
the late Master of Balliol College, 
dated West Malvern, Dec. 30, 1883 : 
* It is a curious question whether 
Boswell has unconsciously misrepre 
sented Johnson in any respect. I 
think, judging from the materials 
which are supplied chiefly by himself, 

hat in one respect he has : He has 
represented him more as a sage and 

hilosopher in his conduct as well as 

is conversation than he really was, 
and less as a rollicking " King of 
Society." The gravity of Johnson's 
own writings tends to confirm this, 

s, I suspect, erroneous impression. 
His religion was fitful and inter 
mittent, and when once the ice was 
broken he enjoyed Jack Wilkes, 
though he refused to shake hands 
with Hume. I was much struck by 
a remark of Sir John Hawkins (ex 
cuse me if I have mentioned this to 
you before), " He was the most 
humorous man I ever knew." ... I 
shall be most happy to talk about the 
subject when you return to England ; 
e/zot TTfpi ScoKpdrovs flneiv re Km aKovaai 
del fj8i(TTov.' 

Though Boswell does not fully 
bring out in his narrative this hu- 
orous side of Johnson, yet in the 

haracter which he draws of him at 
the end of the Life he does not pass 
over. ' Though usually grave, and 

even aweful in his deportment, he 
possessed uncommon and peculiar 
powers of wit and humour ; he fre 
quently indulged himself in colloquial 
pleasantry ; and the heartiest merri 
ment was often enjoyed in his com 
pany.' Life, iv. 428. 

Boswell asked Miss Burney to give 
him material ' to shew Johnson in a 
new light. Grave Sam, and great 
Sam, and solemn Sam, and learned 
Sam all these he has appeared over 
and over. I want to show him as 
gay Sam, agreeable Sam, pleasant 
Sam.' Mme. D'Arblay's Diary, v. 
[67. It is in her Diary that he is 

ms best shown. It abounds in such 

ssages as the following : 

' At night, Mrs. Thrale asked if I 
would have anything ? I answered, 
" No ; " but Dr. Johnson said, 

1 " Yes : she is used, madam, to 
suppers ; she would like an egg or 
two, and a few slices of ham, or a 
rasher a rasher, I believe, would 
please her better." 

' How ridiculous ! However, nothing 
could persuade Mrs. Thrale not to 
have the cloth laid : and Dr. Johnson 
was so facetious, that he challenged 
Mr. Thrale to get drunk ! 

' " I wish," said he, " my master 
would say to me, Johnson, if you will 
oblige me, you will call for a bottle 
of Toulon, and then we will set to it, 
glass for glass, till it is done; and 


Hawkins's Life of Johnson. 99 

except perhaps among the old comedians, such as Tarleton, and 
a few others mentioned by Gibber. By means of this he was 
enabled to give to any relation that required it, the graces and 
aids of expression, and to discriminate with the nicest exactness 
the characters of those whom it concerned. In aping this faculty 
I have seen Warburton disconcerted, and when he would fain 
have been thought a man of pleasantry, not a little out of 
countenance. (Page 257.) 

To return to Johnson, I have already said that he paid no 
regard to time or the stated hours of refection, or even rest ; and 
of this his inattention I will here relate a notable instance. 
Mrs. Lenox, a lady now well known in the literary world, had 
written a novel intitled, ' The life of Harriot Stuart/ which in 
the spring of 1751 was ready for publication 1 . One evening at 
the club, Johnson proposed to us the celebrating the birth of 
Mrs. Lenox's first literary child, as he called her book, by 
a whole night spent in festivity. Upon his mentioning it to me, 
I told him I had never sat up a whole night in my life ; but he 
continuing to press me, and saying, that I should find great 
delight in it, I, as did all the rest of our company, consented. 
The place appointed was the Devil tavern 2 , and there, about 

after that, I will say, Thrale, if you and deplorable actress/ Letters, ii. 
will oblige me, you will call for another 1 26. Johnson, in a letter dated Dec. 
bottle of Toulon, and then we will set 10, 1751, speaks of ' our Charlotte's 
to it, glass for glass, till that is done : book.' Letters, i. 26. For Miss 
and by the time we should have Burney's criticism of the extravagant 
drunk the two bottles, we should be praise he bestowed on Mrs. Lennox, 
so happy, and such good friends, see ante, i. 102, n. 4. 
that we should fly into each other's Mrs. Lennox was the daughter of 
arms, and both together call for the Colonel James Ramsay, Lieutenant- 
third ! " ' Vol. i. p. 75. Governor of New York. < She died 
* These volumes contain a series in distress' in 1804, at the age of 
of love-affairs from n years of age, eighty-three, ' in Dean's Yard, West- 
attended with a number of her ad- minster, and lies buried with the 
ventures and misfortunes, which were common soldiery in the further bury- 
borne with the patience, and are ing -ground of Broad Chapel.' 
penn'd with the purity of a Clarissa.' Nichols's Lit. Anec. iii. 435. 
Gentleman's Magazine, December, 2 Life, iv. 254, n. 4. 
I75> P- 575- 'Near Temple Bar is the Devil 
Horace Walpole, writing two years Tavern, so called from its sign of 
earlier, describes her as ' a poetess St. Dunstan seizing the evil spirit by 

H 2 the 

ioo Extracts from 

i the hour of eight, Mrs. Lenox and her husband, and a lady of 
her acquaintance, now living, as also the [Ivy Lane] club, and 
J friends to the number of near twenty, assembled. Our supper 
was elegant, and Johnson had directed that a magnificent hot 
apple-pye should make a part of it T , and this he would have 
stuck with bay-leaves, because, forsooth, Mrs. Lenox was an 
authoress, and had written verses ; and further, he had prepared 
for her a crown of laurel, with which, but not till he had 
invoked the muses by some ceremonies of his own invention, 
he encircled her brows. The night passed, as must be imagined, 
in pleasant conversation, and harmless mirth, intermingled at 
different periods with the refreshments of coffee and tea. About 
five, Johnson's face shone with meridian splendour, though his 
drink had been only lemonade 2 ; but the far greater part of us 
had deserted the colours of Bacchus, and were with difficulty 
rallied to partake of a second refreshment of coffee, which was 
scarcely ended when the day began to dawn. This phenomenon 
began to put us in mind of our reckoning 3 ; but the waiters were 
all so overcome with sleep, that it was two hours before we could 
get a bill, and it was not till near eight that the creaking of the 
street-door gave the signal for our departure. 

My mirth had been considerably abated by a severe fit of the 
tooth-ach, which had troubled me the greater part of the night, 
and which Bathurst 4 endeavoured to alleviate by all the topical 
remedies and palliatives he could think of ; and I well remember, 
at the instant of my going out of the tavern-door, the sensation of 
shame that effected me, occasioned not by reflection on any thing 

the nose with a pair of hot tongs. that feeble man who cannot do with- 

Opposite to this noted house is out any thing." ' Life, v. 72. 
Chancery Lane.' Pennant's London, 3 To Hawkins the reckoning must 

1790, p. 154. have been peculiarly painful. Of him 

1 In memory of this festal night an Dr. Burney records as regards the 
apple-pie forms part of the suppers Literary Club : * The Knight having 
of the Johnson Club at its meetings refused to pay his portion of the 
in one of the Fleet Street taverns. reckoning for supper, because he 

2 ' He was angry with me (Bos well usually ate no supper at home, John- 
writes) for proposing to carry lemons son observed, " Sir John, Sir, is a 
with us to Sky, that he might be very undubable man." ' Life, i. 480, 
sure to have his lemonade. " Sir, n. i. 

(said he) I do not wish to be thought 4 Ante, i. 390. 


Hawkins's Life of Johnson. 101 

evil that had passed in the course of the night's entertainment, 
but on the resemblance it bore to a debauch. However, a few 
turns in the Temple, and a breakfast at a neighbouring coffee 
house enabled me to overcome it. (Page 285.) 

Those who were best acquainted with them both [Johnson and 
his wife] wondered that Johnson could derive no comfort [on her 
death] from the usual resources, reflections on the conditions of 
mortality, the instability of human happiness, resignation to the 
divine will, and other topics x ; and the more, when they con 
sidered, that their marriage was not one of those which in 
considerate young people call love-matches, and that she was 
more than old enough to be his mother 2 ; that, as their union 
had not been productive of children, the medium of a new 
relation between them was wanting ; that her inattention to some, 
at least, of the duties of a wife, were [sic] evident in the person 
of her husband, whose negligence of dress seemed never to have 
received the least correction from her, and who, in the sordidness 
of his apparel, and the complexion of his linen, even shamed 
her 3 . For these reasons I have often been inclined to think, that 
if this fondness of Johnson for his wife was not dissembled, 
it was a lesson that he had learned by rote 4 , and that, when 
he practised it, he knew not where to stop till he became 
ridiculous. It is true, he has celebrated her person in the 
word formosce, which he caused to be inscribed on her grave 
stone 5 ; but could he, with that imperfection in his sight 
which made him say, in the words of Milton, he never saw 

1 ' Those common - place topics has little room for useless regret.' 

which have never dried a single Letters, ii. 210. 

tear.' Gibbon's Misc. Works, i. 2 She was forty-six, he two months 

400. short of twenty-six. Life, i. 95, n. 2. 

Johnson wrote to Mrs. Thrale on 3 For her ' particular reverence for 

the death of her husband : * I do cleanliness,' see ante, i. 247. 

not exhort you to reason yourself into 4 Boswell ' cannot conceive ' why 

tranquillity. We must first pray, and Hawkins should make this assertion, 

then labour ; first implore the bless- ' unless it proceeded from a want of 

ing of God, and [then employ] those similar feelings in his own breast.' 

means which he puts into our hands. Life, i. 234. 

Cultivated ground has few weeds ; a s ' Formosae, cultae, ingeniosae, 

mind occupied by lawful business piae.' Ib. 1.241, a. 2. See ante, i. 248. 


102 Extracts from 

the human face divine 1 , have been a witness to her beauty? 
which we may suppose had sustained some loss before he 
married ; her daughter by her former husband being but little 
younger than Johnson himself. As, during her lifetime, he 
invited but few of his friends to his house, I never saw her, 
but I have been told by Mr. Garrick 2 , Dr. Hawkesworth, and 
others, that there was somewhat crazy in the behaviour of them 
both ; profound respect on his part, and the airs of an antiquated 
beauty on her's. Johnson had not then been used to the com 
pany of women 3 , and nothing but his conversation rendered him 
tolerable among them : it was, therefore, necessary that he 
should practise his best manners to one, whom, as she was 
descended from an antient family 4 , and had brought him 
a fortune 5 , he thought his superior. This, after all, must be 
said, that he laboured to raise his opinion of her to the highest, 
by inserting in many of her books of devotion that I have 
seen, such endearing memorials as these: 'This was dear 

Tetty's book.' * This was a prayer which dear Tetty was 

accustomed to say,' not to mention his frequent recollection 
of her in his meditations, and the singularity of his prayers 
respecting her 6 . 

To so high a pitch had he worked his remembrance of her, 
that he requested a divine, of his acquaintance 7 , to preach 
a sermon at her interment, written by himself, but was dissuaded 
from so ostentatious a display of the virtues of a woman, who, 
though she was his wife, was but little known. (Page 313.) 

Of the beauties of painting, notwithstanding the many eulo- 
giums on that art which, after the commencement of his 
friendship with Sir Joshua Reynolds, Johnson inserted in his 
writings, he had not the least conception ; and this leads me to 
mention a fact to the purpose, which I well remember. One 

1 Paradise Lost, iii. 44. Peatlingae, apud Leicestrienses, 

2 Ante, i. 248. ortae.' Life, i. 241, n. 2. 

3 See Life, i. 82, for his intimacy 5 She is said to have brought him 
with some of the first families in and about seven or eight hundred pounds, 
near Lichfield. Ib. i. 95, n. 3. 6 Ante, i. 14. 

4 On her tombstone he describes 7 Dr. Taylor. Ante, i. 476 ; Life, 
her as 'Antiqua Jarvisiorum gente, 1.241. 


Hawkins's Life of Johnson. 103 

evening at the club, I came in with a small roll of prints, which, 
in the afternoon, I had picked up : I think they were landscapes 
of Perelle x , and laying it down with my hat, Johnson's curiosity 
prompted him to take it up and unroll it ; he viewed the prints 
severally with great attention, and asked me what sort of pleasure 
such things could afford me ; I told him, that as representa 
tions of nature, containing an assemblage of such particulars as 
render rural scenes delightful, they presented to my mind the 
objects themselves, and that my imagination realised the pros 
pect before me ; he said, that was more than his would do, for 
that in his whole life he was never capable of discerning the \/ 
least resemblance of any kind between a picture and the subject 
it was intended to represent 2 . 

To the delights of music, he was equally insensible : neither 
voice nor instrument, nor the harmony of concordant sounds, 
had power over his affections, or even to engage his attention. 
Of music in general, he has been heard to say, ' it excites in my 
mind no ideas, and hinders me from contemplating my own;' 
and of a fine singer, or instrumental performer, that ' he had the 
merit of a Canary-bird 3 .' (Page 

The uses for which Francis Barber was intended to serve his 
master were not very apparent, for Diogenes himself never 
wanted a servant less than he seemed to do 4 : the great bushy 
wig, which throughout his life he affected to wear, by that close 
ness of texture which it had contracted and been suffered to 
retain, was ever nearly as impenetrable by a comb as a quickset 

1 There were in the seventeenth rapture which the company expressed 
century three French engravers of upon hearing the compositions and 
the name of Perelle or Perrelle, a performance of Handel did not pro- 
father and two sons. Nouv. Biog. ceed wholly from affectation.' War- 
Gen. ton's Pope's Works, v. 235 n. 

2 This was an exaggeration on the ' Newton, hearing Handel play on 
part of either Johnson or Hawkins. the harpsichord, could find nothing 
Life, i. 363, n. 3. See also ante, worthy to remark but the elasticity 
i. 214. of his fingers. At another time, being 

3 Life, 11.409. asked his opinion of poetry, he quoted 
'Pope was so very insensible to a sentiment of Barrow, that it was 

the charms of music that he once ingenious nonsense.' Id. iii. 176 n. 
asked Dr. Arbuthnot, whether the 4 Ante, i. 329. 


104 Extracts from 

hedge ; and little of the dust that had once settled on his outer 
garments was ever known to have been disturbed by the brush x . 
(Page 327.) 

The proposal for the Dictionary, and other of his writings, 
had exhibited Johnson to view in the character of a poet and 
a philologist: to his moral qualities, and his concern for the 
interests of religion and virtue, the world were for some time 
strangers ; but no sooner were these manifested by the publica 
tion of the Rambler and the Adventurer, than he was looked 
up to as a master of human life, a practical Christian and 
a divine ; his acquaintance was sought by persons of the first 
eminence in literature ; and his house, in respect of the . con 
versations there, became an academy 2 . One person, in par 
ticular, who seems, for a great part of his life, to have affected 
the character of a patron of learned and ingenious men, in 
a letter which I have seen, made him a tender of his friendship 
in terms to this effect : ' That having perused many of his 
writings, and thence conceived a high opinion of his learning, 
his genius, and moral qualities, if Mr. Johnson was inclined to 
enlarge the circle of his acquaintance, he [the letter-writer] 
should be glad to be admitted into the number of his friends, 
and to receive a visit from him.' This person was Mr. Doding- 
ton, afterwards lord Melcombe, the value and honour of whose 
patronage, to speak the truth, may in some degree be estimated 
by his diary lately published 3 . How Johnson received this 

1 Charlotte Burney, writing in 1 777 ' men of letters have here [in London] 
or 1778, says : ' Dr. Johnson was no place of rendezvous ; and are, 
immensely smart, for him for he indeed, sunk and forgotten in the 
had not only a very decent tidy suit general torrent of the world.' Bur- 
of cloathes on, but his hands, face, ton's Hume, ii. 385. For Johnson's 
and linen were clean, and he treated * levee ' see ante, i. 414 ; Life, ii. 118. 
us with his worsted wig, which Mr. 3 Horace Walpole wrote on June 3, 
Thrale made him a present of, be- 1784 (Letter s,v\\\. 479) : 'A nephew 
cause it scarce ever gets out of curl, of Lord Melcombe's heir has pub- 
'and he generally diverts himself with lished that Lord's Diary. Though 
laying [sic] down just after he has drawn by his own hand, and certainly 
got a fresh wig on.' Early Diary of meant to flatter himself, it is a truer 
F. Burney, ii. 287. portrait than any of his hirelings 

2 Hume, in 1767, complained that would have given. Never was such 


Hawkins's Life of Johnson. 105 

invitation, I know not : as it was conveyed in very handsome 
expressions, it required some apology for declining it, and 
I cannot but think he framed one. (Page 328.) 

Invitations to dine with such of those as he liked, he so seldom 
declined, that to a friend of his, he said, ' I never but once, upon 
a resolution to employ myself in study, balked x an invitation out 
to dinner, and then I stayed at home and did nothing V (Page 

Johnson looked upon eating as a very serious business, 
enjoyed the pleasure of a splendid table equally with most men. 
It was, at no time of his life, pleasing to see him at a meal ; the , 
greediness with which he ate, his total inattention to those 
among whom he was seated, and his profound silence in the 
hour of refection, were circumstances that at the instant degraded 
him, and shewed him to be more a sensualist than a philo 
sopher 3 . Moreover, he was a lover of tea to an excess hardly ^ 
credible ; whenever it appeared, he was almost raving, and by 
his impatience to be served, his incessant calls for those in 
gredients which make that liquor palatable, and the haste with 
which he swallowed it down, he seldom failed to make that 
a fatigue to every one else 4 , which was intended as a general 

a composition of vanity, versatility, 3 Percy remarks on the passage in 

and servility. In short, there is but the Life (i. 468) where Boswell de- 

one feature wanting his wit, of which scribes Johnson's voracious eating : 

in his whole book there are not three ' This is extremely exaggerated. He 

sallies. I often said of Lord Hervey ate heartily, having a good appetite, 

and Dodington, that they were the but not with the voraciousness de- 

only two I ever knew who were al- scribed by Mr. Boswell ; all whose 

ways aiming at wit, and yet generally extravagant accounts must be read 

found it.' with caution and abatement.' Ander- 

1 Johnson gives as the third mean- son's Johnson, ed. 1815, p. 471. 

ing of balk 'to omit, or refuse any- 4 In John Knox's Tour through 

thing.' Hawkins uses \\. post, p. 115. the Highlands, ed. 1787, p. 143, it is 

2 * I fancy,' writes Dr. Maxwell, * he stated that at Dunvegan ' Lady Mac- 
must have read and wrote chiefly in leod, who had repeatedly helped 
the night, for I can scarcely recollect Dr. Johnson to sixteen dishes or up* 
that he ever refused going with me wards of tea, asked him if a small 
to a tavern.' Life,\\. 119. For the basin would not save him trouble, 
hours at which he wrote see post in and be more agreeable. " I wonder, 
Steevens's Anecdotes. Madam," answered he roughly, " why 


io6 Extracts from 

refreshment. Such signs of effeminacy as these, suited but ill 
with the appearance of a man, who, for his bodily strength and 
stature, has been compared to Polyphemus. (Page 355.) 

All this while, the booksellers, who by his own confession 
were his best friends 1 , had their eyes upon Johnson, and re 
flected with some concern on what seemed to them a mis 
application of his talents. The furnishing magazines, reviews, 
and even news-papers, with literary intelligence, and the authors 
of books, who could not write them for themselves, with dedica 
tions and prefaces, they looked on as employments beneath him, 
who had attained to such eminence as a writer ; they, therefore, 
in the year 1756, found out for him such a one as seemed to 
afford a prospect both of amusement and profit : this was an 
edition of Shakespeare's dramatic works, which, by a concur 
rence of circumstances, was now become necessary, to answer 
the increasing demand of the public for the writings of that 
author 2 

A stranger to Johnson's character and temper would have 
thought, that the study of an author, whose skill in the science 
of human life was so deep, and whose perfections were so many 
and various as to be above the reach of all praise, must have 
been the most pleasing employment that his imagination could 
suggest, but it was not so : in a visit that he one rnorning made 
to me, I congratulated him on his being now engaged in a work 
that suited his genius, and that, requiring none of that severe 
application which his Dictionary had condemned him to, I 

all the ladies ask me such imperti- Dictionary? His answer was, " I 

nent questions. It is to save your- am sorry too. But it was very well, 

selves trouble, Madam, and not me." The booksellers are generous liberal- 

The lady was silent and went on with minded men." ' Life, i. 304. 

her task.' 2 Ante, i. 415. ' The seventeenth 

Boswell tells nothing of this ; it century had been satisfied with four 

is probable that the number of the editions of his collected plays. In the 

cups and the roughness of the answer first hundred years after his death 

were increased by tradition. Ante, there were but six ; in the next fifty 

ii. 76. years there were three and twenty.' 

1 ' I once said to him, " I am sorry, Writers and Readers, by George 

Sir, you did not get more for your Birkbeck Hill, p. 64. 


Hawkins's Life of Johnson. 107 

doubted not would be executed con amore. His answer was, 
' I look upon this as I did upon the Dictionary : it is all work, 
and my inducement to it is not love or desire of fame, but the 
want of money, which is the only motive to writing that I know 
of V And the event was evidence to me, that in this speech he 
declared his genuine sentiments ; for neither in the first place 
did he set himself to collect early editions of his author 2 , old 
plays, translations of histories, and of the classics, and other 
materials necessary for his purpose, nor could he be prevailed on 
to enter into that course of reading, without which it seemed 
impossible to come at the sense of his author 3 . It was pro 
voking to all his friends to see him waste his days, his weeks, and 
his months so long, that they feared a mental lethargy had 
seized him, out of which he would never recover. In this, 
however, they were happily deceived, for, after two years in 
activity, they found him roused to action, and engaged not in 
the prosecution of the work, for the completion whereof he stood 
doubly bound, but in a new one, the furnishing a series of 
periodical essays, intitled, and it may be thought not improperly, 
* The Idler Y as his motive to the employment was aversion to 
a labour he had undertaken, though in the execution, it must be 
owned, it merited a better name. (Page 361.) 

About this time he had, from a friend who highly esteemed 
him, the offer of a living 5 , of which he might have rendered 
himself capable by entering into holy orders : it was a rectory, 
in a pleasant country, and of such a yearly value as might have 
tempted one in better circumstances than himself to accept it ; 
but he had scruples about the duties of the ministerial function, 
that he could not, after deliberation, overcome. f l have not/ 
said he, ' the requisites for the office, and I cannot, in my 

1 Life, iii. 19 ; ante, ii. 90. When have not found the collectors of these 
he had finished his Shakespeare he rarities very communicative.' Works, 
wrote: 'To tell the truth, as I felt v. 146. 

no solicitude about this work, I re- 3 Ante, i. 473. 

ceive no great comfort from its con- 4 Ante, \, 415 ; Life, i. 330. 

elusion.' Letters, i. 123. 5 It was a living in Lincolnshire, 

2 ' I collated such copies as I could offered him by Bennet Langton's 
procure, and wished for more, but father. Ib. i. 320. 


io8 Extracts from 

conscience, shear that flock which I am unable to feed.' Upon 
conversing with him on that inability which was his reason for 
declining the offer, it was found to be a suspicion of his patience 
to undergo the fatigue of catechising and instructing a great 
number of poor ignorant persons, who, in religious matters, had, 
perhaps, every thing to learn. (Page 365.) 

He had removed, about the beginning of the year 1760, to 
chambers two doors down the Inner-Temple lane ; and I have 
been told by his neighbour at the corner, that during the time 
he dwelt there, more enquiries were made at his shop for 
Mr. Johnson, than for all the inhabitants put together of both 
the Inner and Middle Temple x . (Page 383.) 

Johnson had, early in his life, been a dabbler in physic 2 , 
and laboured under some secret bodily infirmities that gave him 
occasion once to say to me, that he knew not what it was to be 
totally free from pain 3 . He now drew into a closer intimacy 
with him a man, with whom he had been acquainted from the 
year I746 4 , one of the lowest practitioners in the art of healing 
that ever sought a livelihood by it : him he consulted in all that 
related to his health, and made so necessary to him as hardly to 
be able to live without him. 

The name of this person was Robert Levett. An account of 
him is given in the Gentleman's Magazine for February 1785 : 
an earlier than that, I have now lying before me, in a letter 
from a person in the country to Johnson, written in answer to 
one in which he had desired to be informed of some particulars 
respecting his friend Levett, then lately deceased 5 . The sub 
stance of this information is as follows : 

He was born at Kirk Ella, a parish about five miles distant 
from Hull, and lived with his parents till about twenty years of 
age. He had acquired some knowledge of the Latin language, 

1 Life, i. 350, n. 3 ; Letters, i. 90, end of his life : ' My health has 
n. 3 ; ante, i. 416. been from my twentieth year such 

2 Not only early, but through most as has seldom afforded me a single 
of his life, 'he was a great dabbler day of ease.' Ib. iv. 147. 

in physic.' Life, iii. 152. 4 Life, iv. 137. 

3 He wrote to Hector towards the 5 Ib. iv. 143 ; Letters, ii. 243. 


Hawkins's Life of Johnson. 109 

and had a propensity to learning, which his parents not being 
able to gratify, he went to live as a shopman with a woollen- 
draper at Hull : with him he stayed two years, during which 
tirne he learned from a neighbour of his master somewhat of the 
practice of physic : at the end thereof he came to London, with 
a view possibly to improve himself in that profession ; but by 
some strange accident was led to pursue another course, and 
became steward, or some other upper servant, to the then lord 
Cardigan [or Cadogan] ; and having saved some money, he 
took a resolution to travel, and visited France and Italy for the 
purpose, as his letters mention, of gaining experience in physic, 
and, returning to London with a valuable library which he had 
^collected abroad, placed one of his brothers apprentice to a 
mathematical-instrument maker, and provided for the education 
of another. After this he went to Paris, and, for improvement, 
attended the hospitals in that city. At the end of five years he 
returned to England, and taking lodgings in the house of an 
attorney in Northumberland court, near Charing cross, he 
became a practicer of physic. The letter adds, that he was 
about seventy-eight at the time of his death. 

The account of Levett in the Gentleman's Magazine is anony 
mous ; I nevertheless give it verbatim, and mean hereafter to 
insert a letter of Johnson's to Dr. Lawrence, notifying his death, 
and stanzas of his writing on that occasion x . 

' Mr. Levett, though an Englishman by birth, became early 
in life a waiter at a coffee-house in Paris. The surgeons who 
frequented it, finding him of an inquisitive turn, and attentive 
to their conversation, made a purse for him, and gave him some 
instructions in their art. They afterwards furnished him with 
the means of other knowledge, by procuring him free admission 
to such lectures in pharmacy and anatomy as were read by the 
ablest professors of that period. Hence his introduction to 
a business, which afforded him a continual, though slender 
maintenance. Where the middle part of his life was spent, is 
uncertain. He resided, however, above twenty years under the 
roof of Johnson, who never wished him to be regarded as an 

1 Life, iv. 137. 


no Extracts from 

inferior, or treated him like a dependent x . He breakfasted with 
the doctor every morning, and perhaps was seen no more by 
him till mid-night. Much of the day was employed in attend 
ance on his patients, who were chiefly of the lowest rank of 
tradesmen. The remainder of his hours he dedicated to Hunter's 
lectures 2 , and to as many different opportunities of improve 
ment, as he could meet with on the same gratuitous conditions. 
"All his medical knowledge," said Johnson, "and it is not in 
considerable 3 , was obtained through the ear. Though he buys 
books, he seldom looks into them, or discovers any power by 
which he can be supposed to judge of an author's merit." 

' Before he became a constant inmate of the Doctor's house, 
he married, when he was near sixty, a woman of the town, who 
had persuaded him (notwithstanding their place of congress was 
a small-coal shed in Fetter-lane) that she was nearly related to 
a man of fortune, but was injuriously kept by him out of large 
possessions. It is almost needless to add, that both parties were 
disappointed in their views. If Levett took her for an heiress, 
who in time might be rich, she regarded him as a physician 
already in considerable practice. Compared with the marvels 
of this transaction, as Johnson himself declared when relating 
them, the tales in the Arabian Nights' Entertainments seem 
familiar occurrences. Never was infant more completely duped 
than our hero. He had not been married four months, before 
a writ was taken out against him, for debts incurred by his 
wife. He was secreted, and his friend then procured him 
a protection from a foreign minister 4 . In a short time after- 

1 ' Dr. Johnson has frequently ob- 4 'May 13, 1771. A cause was 
served, that Levett was indebted to determined in the King's Bench, in 
him for nothing more than house- favour of a Merchant who had de- 
room, his share in a penny loaf at mands on a person protected by a 
breakfast, and now and then a dinner foreign Ambassador, that person not 
on a Sunday.' Note by Hawkins. being a real servant brought over 

2 Both William Hunter and his with the Ambassador, but having 
brother John lectured. For William since procured his protection. Of 
Hunter, see Letters, ii. 339. all the causes determined in law 

3 ' He had acted for many years in within these twenty years perhaps 
the capacity of surgeon and apothe- no one is of more importance than 
cary to Johnson, under the direction the present.' Gentleman 's Magazine, 
of Dr. Lawrence.' Note by Hawkins. 1771, p. 235. 


Hawkins's Life of Johnson. in 

wards, she ran away from him, and was tried, providentially, in 
his opinion, for picking pockets at the Old Bailey. Her hus 
band was, with difficulty, prevented from attending the court, 
in the hope she would be hanged. She pleaded her own cause, 
and was acquitted ; a separation between this ill-starred couple 
took place ; and Dr. Johnson then took Levett home, where he 
continued till his death, which happened suddenly, without 
pain, Jan. 17, 1782. His vanity in supposing that a young 
woman of family and fortune should be enamoured of him, 
Dr. Johnson thought, deserved some check. As no relations of 
his were known to Johnson, he advertised for them x . In the 
course of a few weeks an heir at law appeared, and ascertained 
his title to what effects the deceased had left behind. 

' Levett's character was rendered valuable by repeated proof 
of honesty, tenderness, and gratitude to his benefactor, as well 
as by an unwearied diligence in his profession 2 . His single 
failing was, an occasional departure from sobriety. Johnson 
would observe, he was, perhaps, the only man who ever became 
intoxicated through motives of prudence. He reflected, that if 
he refused the gin or brandy offered him by some of his patients, 
he could have been no gainer by their cure, as they might have 
had nothing else to bestow on him. This habit of taking a fee, 
in whatever shape it was exhibited, could not be put off by 
advice or admonition of any kind. He would swallow what he 
did not like, nay, what he knew would injure him, rather than 
go home with an idea, that his skill had been exerted without 
recompense. " Had (said Johnson) all his patients maliciously 
combined to reward him with meat and strong liquors instead of 
money, he would either have burst, like the dragon in the 
Apocrypha 3 , through repletion, or been scorched up, like Portia, 
by swallowing fire 4 ." But let not from hence an imputation 
of rapaciousness be fixed upon him. Though he took all that 

1 Life, iv. 143. 3 Bel and the Dragon, verse 27. 

2 'He was an old and faithful 'With this she fell distract, 
friend,' Johnson recorded in his And, her attendants absent, 
Diary. Ante, i. 102. ' He was very swallow'd fire.' 

useful to the poor,' he wrote to Mr. Julius Caesar, Act iv. sc. 3, 1. 155. 
Langton. Life, iv. 145. 


ii2 Extracts from 

was offered him, he demanded nothing from the poor, nor was 
known in any instance to have enforced the payment of even 
what was strictly his due. 

' His person was middle-sized and thin ; his visage swarthy, 
adust and corrugated. His conversation, except on professional 
subjects, barren. When in deshabille, he might have been mis 
taken for an alchemist, whose complexion had been hurt by the 
fumes of the crucible, and whose clothes had suffered from the 
sparks of the furnace. 

* Such was Levett, whose whimsical frailty, if weighed against 
his good and useful qualities, was 

"A floating atom, dust that falls unheeded 
Into the adverse scale, nor "shakes the balance." 

Irene, Act i. sc. 3.' 

To this character I here add as a supplement to it, a dictum 
of Johnson respecting Levett, viz. that his external appearance 
and behaviour were such, that he disgusted the rich, and terrified 
the poor x . 

But notwithstanding all these offensive particulars, Johnson, 
whose credulity in some instances was as great as his incredulity 
in others, conceived of him as a skilful medical professor, and 
thought himself happy in having so near his person one who was 
to him, not solely a physician, a surgeon, or an apothecary, but 
all. In extraordinary cases he, however, availed himself of the 
assistance of his valued friend Dr. Lawrence, a man of whom, in 
respect of his piety, learning, and skill in his profession, it may 
almost be said, the world was not worthy, inasmuch as it suffered 
his talents, for the whole of his life, to remain, in a great 
measure, unemployed, and himself end his days in sorrow and 
obscurity 2 . . . . 

In his [Dr. Lawrence's] endeavours to attain to eminence, it 

1 Percy described Levett as ' a fellow, but I have a good regard 

modest, reserved man ; humble and for him ; for his brutality is in his 

unaffected, ready to execute any manners, not his mind.' Mme. 

commission for Johnson, and grate- D'Arblay's Diary, i. 114. 

ful for his patronage.' Anderson's 2 Ante, i. 104 ; Life, ii. 296, n. I ; 

Johnson, ed. 1815, p. 181. 'Levett, iv. 143. 
Madam, (said Johnson), is a brutal 


Hawkins's Life of Johnson. 113 

was his misfortune to fail: he was above those arts by which 
popularity is acquired, and had besides some personal defects and 
habits which stood in his way; a vacuity of countenance very 
unfavourable to an opinion of his learning or sagacity, and 
certain convulsive motions of the head and features that gave 
pain to the beholders, and drew off attention to all that he 
said. . . . 

The sincere and lasting friendship that subsisted between 
Johnson and Levett, may serve to shew, that although a simi 
larity of dispositions and qualities has a tendency to beget 
affection, or something very nearly resembling it, it may be 
contracted and subsist where this inducement is wanting ; for 
1 hardly were ever two men less like each other, in this respect, 
than were they. Levett had not an understanding capable of 
comprehending the talents of Johnson : the mind of Johnson 
was therefore, as to him, a blank ; and Johnson, had the eye 
of his mind been more penetrating than it was, could not 
discern, what did not exist, any particulars in Levett's character 
that at all resembled his own. He had no learning, and con 
sequently was an unfit companion for a learned man ; and 
though it may be said, that having lived for some years abroad, 
he must have seen and remarked many things that would have 
afforded entertainment in the relation, this advantage was 
counterbalanced by an utter inability for continued conversation, 
taciturnity being one of the most obvious features in his char 
acter x : the consideration of all which particulars almost impels 
me to say, that Levett admired Johnson because others admired 
him, and that Johnson in pity loved Levett, because few others 
could find any thing in him to love. 

And here I cannot forbear remarking, that, almost throughout 
his life, poverty and distressed circumstances seemed to be the 
strongest of all recommendations to his favour. When asked 
by one of his most intimate friends, how he could bear to be 

1 ' He was (says Boswell) of a to Mrs. Thrale : ' My house has lost 

strange grotesque appearance, stiff Levett, a man who took interest in 

and formal in his manner, and seldom everything, and therefore ready at 

said a word while any company was conversation.' Letters, ii. 309. 
present.' Life> 1.243. Johnson wrote 

VOL. II. I surrounded 

ii4 Extracts from 

surrounded by such necessitous and undeserving people as he 
had about him, his answer was, * If I did not assist them no one 
else would, and they must be lost for want.' (Page 396.) 

Johnson was a great lover of penitents x , and of all such men 
as, in their conversation, made professions of piety 2 ; of this 
man 3 he would say, that he was one of the most pious of all his 
acquaintance, but in this, as he frequently was in the judgment 
he formed of others, he was mistaken. It is possible that 
Southwell might, in his conversation, express such sentiments of 
religion and moral obligation, as served to shew that he was not 
an infidel, but he seldom went sober to bed 4 , and as seldom rose 
from it before noon. 

He was also an admirer of such as he thought well-bred men. 
What was his notion of good breeding I could never learn. If 
it was not courtesy and affability, it could to him be nothing ; 
for he was an incompetent judge of graceful attitudes and 
motions, and of the ritual of behaviour. Of lord Southwell 5 , 
the brother of the above person, and of Tom Hervey, a pro 
fligate, worthless man 6 , the author of the letter to Sir Thomas 
Hanmer 7 , and who had nothing in his external appearance that 
could in the least recommend him, he was used to say, they 
were each of them a model for the first man of quality in the 
kingdom 8 . (Page 406.) 

1 Life, iv. 406, n. I. 6 ' Tom Hervey, who died t' other 

2 Reynolds said that Johnson * ap- day, though a vicious man, was one 
peared to have little suspicion of hy- of the genteelest men that ever lived.' 
pocrisy in religion.' Ante, ii. 9, n. I. Ib. ii. 341. See ante, i. 254. 

3 Edmund South well. Letters, \. 205. Horace Walpole wrote on Jan. 24, 

4 Johnson said of his old school- ij J $ (Letters, vi. 182): 'Tom Hervey 
fellow, the Rev. Charles Congreve, is dead ; after sending for his wife, 
' He has an elderly woman . . . who and re -acknowledging her in pathetic 
encourages him in drinking, in which heroics.' 

he is very willing to be encouraged ; 7 Life, ii. 32, n. I ; 33, n. 2. 

not that he gets drunk, for he is 8 ' Garrick used to tell, that John- 

.a very pious man, but he is always son said of an actor, who played Sir 

muddy.' Life, ii. 460. Harry Wildair at Lichfield, " There 

5 ' Lord Southwell,' he said, * was is a courtly vivacity about the fellow"; 
the highest-bred man without in- when, in fact, according to Garrick's 
science that I ever was in company account, " he was the most vulgar 
with ; the most qualitied I ever saw.' ruffian that ever went upon boards" ' 

iv. 173. Ib. ii. 465. 


Hawkins's Life of Johnson. 115 

Johnson was now at ease in his circumstances I : he wanted his 
usual motive to impel him to the exertion of his talents, neces 
sity, and he sunk into indolence. Whoever called in on him at 
about mid-day, found him and Levett at breakfast, Johnson in 
deshabille, as just risen from bed, and Levett filling out tea for 
himself and his patron alternately, no conversation passing 
between them. All that visited him at these hours were 
welcome. A night's rest, and breakfast, seldom failed to refresh 
and fit him for discourse, and whoever withdrew went too 
soon 2 . His invitations to dinners abroad were numerous, and 
he seldom balked them. At evening parties, where were no 
cards, he very often made one; and from these, when once 
engaged, most unwillingly retired. 

In the relaxation of mind, which almost any one might have 
foreseen would follow the grant of his pension 3 , he made little 
account of that lapse of time, on which, in many of his papers, 
he so severely moralizes. And, though he was so exact an 
observer of the passing minutes, as frequently, after his coming 
from church, to note in his diary how many the service took up 
in reading, and the sermon in preaching 4 ; he seemed to forget 
how many years had passed since he had begun to take in sub 
scriptions for his edition of Shakespeare. Such a torpor had 
seized his faculties, as not all the remonstrances of his friends 
were able to cure : applied to some minds, they would have 
burned like caustics, but Johnson felt them not 5 . (Page 435.) 

He removed from the Temple into a house in Johnson's court, 
Fleet-street, and invited thither his friend Mrs. Williams 6 . An 

1 Through his pension. Ante, i. 4 This diary is not in print. 

417 ; Life, i. 372. 2 Id. ii. 1 18. 5 Life, i. 319. 

3 This ' relaxation of mind ' pre- 6 She had lived with him in Gough 

ceded his pension. He had for some Square (Life, i. 232), but had gone 

time been * living in poverty, total into lodgings when he went into 

idleness and the pride of literature.' chambers, first in Staple Inn, then 

Ante, i. 416. He brought the Idler in Gray's Inn, and lastly in Inner 

to an end on April 5, 1760; after that Temple Lane. 7#. i. 350, . 3. In 

he did next to nothing for some years. Scotland, referring to his house in 

His Shakespeare was not published Johnson's Court, he described him- 

till 1765. His pension was granted self as 'Johnson of that Ilk.' Id. ii. 

in the summer of 1762. 427, n. 2. 

I 2 upper 

n6 Extracts from 

upper room, which had the advantages of a good light and free 
air, he fitted up for a study 1 , and furnished with books, chosen 
with so little regard to editions or their external appearance, as 
shewed they were intended for use, and that he disdained the 
ostentation of learning. Here he was in a situation and circum 
stances that enabled him to enjoy the visits of his friends, and 
to receive them in a manner suitable to the rank and condition 
of many of them. A silver standish, and some useful plate, 
which he had been prevailed on to accept as pledges of kindness 
from some who most esteemed him, together with furniture that 
would not have disgraced a better dwelling, banished those 
appearances of squalid indigence, which, in his less happy days, 
disgusted those who came to see him 2 . 

In one of his diaries he noted down a resolution to take a seat 
in the church; this he might possibly do about the time of this 
his removal. The church he frequented was that of St. Clement 
Danes 3 , which, though not his parish-church, he preferred to 
that of the Temple, which I recommended to him, as being free 
from noise, and, in other respects, more commodious. His only 
reason was, that in the former he was best known. He was not 
constant in his attendance on divine worship 4 ; but, from an 
opinion peculiar to himself, and which he once intimated to me, 
seemed to wait for some secret impulse as a motive to it. ... 

The Sundays which he passed at home were, nevertheless, 
spent in private exercises of devotion 5 , and sanctified by acts 
of charity of a singular kind : on that day he accepted of no 

1 Ante, \. 37. 4 Ante, ii. 94, n. I. 

2 Boswell, dining with him in 1781, 5 'He was accustomed on these 
says that ' he produced now for the days to read the Scriptures, and par- 
first time some handsome silver ticularly the Greek Testament, with 
salvers, which, he told me, he had the paraphrase of Erasmus. Very late 
bought fourteen years ago ; so it was in his life he formed a resolution to 
a great day.' Life, iv. 92. See also read the Bible through, which he 
ib. ii. 215, where Boswell, dining with confessed to me he had never done ; 
him for the first time in 1773, 'found at the same time lamenting, that 
every thing in very good order,' and he had so long neglected to peruse, 
ib. ii. 376, where, occupying a room what he called the charter of his 
in his house in 1775, he ' found every- salvation.' Note by Hawkins. See 
thing in excellent order.' ante, i. 59. 

3 Ante, i. 62, n. 6 ; Life, ii. 214. 


Hawkins's Life of Johnson. 117 

invitation abroad, but gave a dinner to such of his poor friends 
as might else have gone without one J . (Page 452.) 

To impress the more strongly on his mind the value of time, 
and the use it behoved every wise man to make of it, he in 
dulged himself in an article of luxury, which, as far as my 
observation and remembrance will serve me, he never enjoyed 
till this late period of his life : it was a watch, which he caused 
to be made for him, in the year 1768, by those eminent artists 
Mudge and Button : it was of metal, and the outer case covered 
with tortoise-shell ; he paid for it seventeen guineas. On the 
dial-plate thereof, which was of enamel, he caused to be inscribed, 
in the original Greek, these words of our blessed Saviour, Ni>f 
yap epx^rai, but with the mistake of a letter /* for v : the meaning 
of them is, ' For the night cometh.' This, though a memento 
of great importance, he, about three years after, thought pedantic ; 
he, therefore, exchanged the dial-plate for one in which the in 
scription was omitted 2 . (Page 460.) 

Novelty, and variety of occupations, were objects that engaged 
his attention, and from these he never failed to extract informa 
tion. Though born and bred in a city 3 , he well understood both 
the theory and practice of agriculture, and even the management 

1 Mrs. Piozzi says that ' Dr. John- son spoke well of \Life, iv. 77]. The 
son, commonly spending the middle watch-maker in gratitude exerted 
of the week at our house, kept his himself in making it. For Thomas 
numerous family in Fleet-street upon Mudge, the watch-maker, see Letters, 
a settled allowance ; but returned to i. 93, n. 2. 

them every Saturday to give them Canon Pailye of Lichfield told Mr. 

three good dinners and his company, Croker that he had purchased the 

before he came back to us on the watch from Barber. Croker's Bos- 

Monday night.' Ante, i. 205. well, x. 106. 

2 Life, ii. 57. For Person's humorous letter about 
In R. Polwhele's Traditions, p. the watch, see ante, ii. 81. 

353, an extract is given from a letter The same Greek inscription Scott 
dated April 29, 1794, in which the put on his dial in his garden at Abbots- 
writer, a Christ Church man, B ford. Ante, i. 123,72.4. 

says that he has bought Johnson's 3 Lichfield was so small a city that 

watch from Francis Barber, ' who is a few minutes' walk would have taken 

now settled at Lichfield, and I am him into the fields. Even so late as 

afraid in great want.' The watch, he 1781 it did not contain 4,000 in- 

says, was made by Mudge, the brother habitants. Harwood's History of 

of Dr. Mudge, whose sermons John- Lichfield, p. 380. 


n8 Extracts from 


of a farm : he could describe, with great accuracy, the process of 
malting ; and, had necessity driven him to it, could have thatched 
a dwelling T . Of field recreations, such as hunting, setting, and 
shooting, he would discourse like a sportsman, though his personal 
defects rendered him, in a great measure, incapable of deriving 
pleasure from any such exercises. 

But he had taken a very comprehensive view of human life 
and manners, and. that he was well acquainted with the views 
and pursuits of all classes and characters of men, his writings 
abundantly shew. This kind of knowledge he was ever desirous 
of increasing, even as he advanced in years : to gratify it, he was 
accessible to all comers, and yielded to the invitations of such of 
his friends as had residences in the country, to vary his course 
of living, and pass the pleasanter months of the year in the 
shades of obscurity. 

In these visits, where there were children in the family, he 
took great delight in examining them as to their progress in 
learning, or, to make use of a term almost obsolete, of apposing 
them 2 . To this purpose, I once heard him say, that in a visit 
to Mrs. Percy, who had the care of one of the young princes, at 
the queen's house 3 , the prince of Wales 4 , being then a child, 
came into the room, and began to play about ; when Johnson, 
with his usual curiosity, took an opportunity of asking him what 
i books he was reading, and, in particular, enquired as to his 
knowledge of the Scriptures : the prince, in his answers, gave 
him great satisfaction ; and, as to the last, said, that part of his 
daily exercises was to read Ostervald 5 . In many families into 

1 In the Isle of Skye he described put grammatical questions to a 
the durability of a roof thatched with boy is called to pose him ; and we 
Lincolnshire reeds. Life, v. 263. In now use pose for puzzle' Johnson's 
his youth he had worked at book- Dictionary. 

binding. Ante, i. 361. For his It is preserved in Apposition Day, 

varied knowledge see Life, v. 215, the term still applied to Speech Day 

246, 263. Much of it he had, no at St. Paul's School, 

doubt, acquired from the books 3 Buckingham House, on the same 

which he read for his Dictionary. site as the present Buckingham 

For his ' talking ostentatiously' about Palace. Life, ii. 33 ; Letters, i. 414, 

granulating gunpowder, see ib. v. 124. n. 2. See also ante, ii. 64. 

2 ' This word is not now in use, 4 Afterwards George IV. 

except that in some schools to 5 Burnet describes Ostervald as 


Hawkins's Life of Johnson. 119 

which he went, the fathers were often desirous of producing their 
sons to him for his opinion of their parts, and of the proficiency 
they had made at school, which, in frequent instances, came out 
to be but small. He once told me, that being at the house of 
a friend, whose son in his school-vacation was come home, the 
father spoke of this child as a lad of pregnant parts, and said, 
that he was well versed in the classics, and acquainted with 
history, in the study whereof he took great delight. Having 
this information, Johnson, as a test of the young scholar's attain 
ments, put this question to him : ' At what time did the 

heathen oracles cease ? '- The boy, not in the least daunted, 

answered : ' At the dissolution of religious houses V (Page 


About this time [1775-6], Dr. Johnson changed his dwelling 
in Johnson's court, for a somewhat larger in Bolt court 2 , Fleet 
street, where he commenced an intimacy with the landlord of it, 
a very worthy and sensible man, some time since deceased, 
Mr. Edmund Allen the printer 3 . Behind it was a garden, which 
he took delight in watering; a room on the ground-floor was 
assigned to Mrs. Williams, and the whole of the two pair of stairs 
floor was made a repository for his books ; one of the rooms 
thereon being his study. Here, in the intervals of his residence 

' the most eminent ecclesiastic ' of the Lord Bishop of Chester.* Gentle- 

State of Neufchatel, and as 'one of man's Magazine, 1771, p. 235. 

the best and most judicious divines Horace Walpole, writing of the 

of the age : he was bringing that Prince at the age of nineteen, says 

Church to a near agreement with our (Journal of the Reign of George III, 

forms of worship.' Burnet's History ii. 503) : ' Nothing was coarser than 

of His Own Time, ed. 1818, iv. his conversation and phrases; and 

165. it made men smile to find that in the 

Many of his works were translated palace of piety and pride his Royal 

into English. Highness had learnt nothing but the 

The Prince of Wales was but eight dialect of footmen and grooms.' 

years old, when ' orders were given x Mrs. Piozzi tells a similar story, 

from the Lord Chamberlain's Office Ante, i. 303. 

for a Chaplain in waiting to attend 2 Life, ii. 427. 

at the Queen's Palace to read prayers, 3 On his death he said : ' I have 

for the first time, to the Prince of lost one of my best and tenderest 

Wales, in the absence of their friends.' Ib. iv. 354. 
Majesties, under the direction of the 


120 Extracts from 

at Streatham x , he received the visits of his friends, and, to the 
most intimate of them, sometimes gave not inelegant dinners. 

Being at ease in his circumstances, and free from that solicitude 
which had embittered the former part of his life, he sunk into 
) indolence, till his faculties seemed to be impaired : deafness grew 
upon him ; long intervals of mental absence interrupted his con 
versation, and it was difficult to engage his attention to any 
subject 2 . His friends, from these symptoms, concluded, that his 
lamp was emitting its last rays, but the lapse of a short period 
gave them ample proofs to the contrary 3 . (Page 531.) 

That this celebrated friendship [between Dr. Johnson and 
Mr. Thrale] subsisted so long as it did, was a subject of wonder 
to most of Johnson's intimates, for such were his habits of living, 
that he was by no means a desirable inmate. His unmanly 

^thirst for tea made him very troublesome. At Streatham, he 
would suffer the mistress of the house to sit up and make it for 

^ him, till two or three hours after midnight 4 . When retired to 
rest, he indulged himself in the dangerous practice of reading in 
bed 5 . It was a very hard matter to get him decently dressed by 
dinner-time, even when select companies were invited ; and no 
one could be sure, that in his table-conversation with strangers, 
he would not, by contradiction, or the general asperity of his 
behaviour, offend them 6 . 

These irregularities were not only borne with by Mr. Thrale, 
but he seemed to think them amply atoned for by the honour he 
derived from such a guest as no table in the three kingdoms 
could produce ; but, he dying, it was not likely that the same 
sentiments and opinions should descend to those of his family 
who were left behind. (Page 561.) 

1 Life, i. 493. 2 Life, iii. 98. 

' My friend bade me welcome, but 3 By the Lives of the Poets. 

struck me quite dumb, 4 This is a gross exaggeration of 

With tidings that Johnson and Burke what Mrs. Piozzi wrote. Ante, i. 329. 

would not come ; Hawkins apparently never visited 

"For I knew it," he cried, "both the Thrales (see Miss Hawkins's 

eternally fail, Memoirs, i. 65 .), so that his account 

The one with his speeches, and is second-hand, 

t'other with Thrale." ' 5 Ante, i. 307. 

Goldsmith's Haunch of Venison. 6 Ante, i. 242. 


Hawkins's Life of Johnson. 


/-The visits of idle, and some of them very worthless persons, 
^ere never unwelcome to Johnson ; and though they interrupted 
feim in his studies and meditations, yet, as they gave him oppor 
tunities of discourse, and furnished him with intelligence, he strove 
K^-ther to protract than shorten or discountenance them ; and, 
when abroad, such was the laxity of his mind, that he consented 
to the doing of many things, otherwise indifferent, for the avowed 
reason that they would drive on time I . (Page 565.) 

In his return to London, he stopped at Lichfield, and from 
thence wrote to me several letters 2 , that served but to prepare 
me for meeting him in a worse state of health than I had ever 
seen him in. The concluding paragraph of the last of them is 
as follows : ' I am relapsing into the dropsy very fast, and shall 
make such haste to town that it will be useless to write to me ; 
but when I come, let me have the benefit of your advice, and the 
consolation of your company.' [Dated Nov. 7, 1784.] After 
about a fortnight's stay there, he took his leave of that city, and 
of Mrs. Porter, whom he never afterwards saw, and arrived in 
town on the sixteenth day of November 3 . 

After the declaration he had made of his intention to provide 
for his servant Frank, and before his going into the country, 
I had frequently pressed him to make a will, and had gone so 
far as to make a draft of one, with blanks for the names of the 
executors and residuary legatee, and directing in what manner it 
was to be executed and attested ; but he was exceedingly averse 
to this business ; and, while he was in Derbyshire, I repeated my 
solicitations, for this purpose, by letters. When he arrived in 
town he had done nothing in it 4 , and, to what I formerly said, 

1 'When I, in a low-spirited fit, 
was talking to him with indifference 
of the pursuits which generally en 
gage us in a course of action, and in 
quiring a reason for taking so much 
trouble ; " Sir." said he, in an ani 
mated tone, "it is driving on the 
system of life." ' Life, iv. 112. 

2 None of these have been pub 

3 Life, iv. 377. 

4 Five years earlier Johnson had 
been urging Thrale to make his will. 
He wrote to Mrs. Thrale : ' Some 
days before our last separation Mr. 
Thrale and I had one evening an 
earnest discourse about the business 
with Mr. Scrase [a solicitor]. . . . Do 
not let those fears prevail which you 
know to be unreasonable ; a will 
brings the end of life no nearer.' 
Letters, ii. 115. 

I now 

122 Extracts from 

\ now added, that he had never mentioned to me the disposal of 
the residue of his estate, which, after the purchase of an annuity 
for Frank, I found would be something considerable, and that he 
would do well to bequeath it to his relations. His answer was, 

* I care not what becomes of the residue.' A few days after, 

it appeared that he had executed the draft, the blanks remaining, 
with all the solemnities of a real will. I could get him no farther, 
and thus, for some time, the matter rested. 

He had scarce arrived in town, before it was found to be too 
true, that he was relapsing into a dropsy ; and farther, that he 
was at times grievously afflicted with an asthma. Under an 
apprehension that his end was approaching, he enquired of 
Dr. Brocklesby, with great earnestness indeed, how long he might 
probably live, but could obtain no other than unsatisfactory 
answers x : and, at the same time, if I remember right, under 
a seeming great pressure of mind, he thus addressed him, in the 
words of Shakespeare : 

* Canst thou not minister to a mind diseas'd ; 
Pluck from the memory a rooted sorrow, 
Raze out the written troubles of the brain, 
And with some sweet oblivious antidote, 
Cleanse the full bosom of that perilous stuff, 

Which weighs upon the heart ? ' 

Macbeth [Act v. sc. 3]. 

To which the doctor, who was nearly as well read in the above 
author as himself, readily replied, 

' Therein the patient 

Must minister to himself.* 

Upon which Johnson exclaimed' Well applied : that's more 
than poetically true 2 .' 

He had, from the month of July in this year, marked the 
progress of his diseases, in a journal which he intitled ' ^Egri 
Ephemeris,' noting therein his many sleepless nights by the 
words, Nox insomnis. This he often contemplated, and, finding 
very little ground for hope that he had much longer to live, he 
set himself to prepare for his dissolution, and betook himself to 

1 Life, iv. 415. 2 Life, iv. 400. 


Hawkins's Life of Johnson. 123 

private prayer and the reading of Erasmus on the New Testa 
ment I , Dr. Clarke's sermons 2 , and such other books as had 
a tendency to calm and comfort him. 

In this state of his body and mind, he seemed to be very 
anxious in the discharge of two offices that he had hitherto 
neglected to perform : one was, the communicating to the world 
the names of the persons concerned in the compilation of the 
Universal History; the other was, the rescuing from oblivion 
the memory of his father and mother, and also, of his brother : 
the former of these he discharged, by delivering to Mr. Nichols 
the printer, in my presence, a paper containing the information 
above-mentioned, and directions to deposit it in the British 
Museum 3 . The other, by composing a memorial of his deceased 
parents and his brother, intended for their tomb-stone, which, 
whether it was ever inscribed thereon or not, is extant in the 
Gentleman's Magazine for January I785 4 . 

He would also have written, in Latin verse, an epitaph for 
Mr. Garrick, but found himself unequal to the task of original 
poetic composition in that language. 

Nevertheless, he succeeded in an attempt to render into Latin 
metre, from the Greek Anthologia, sundry of the epigrams therein 
contained, that had been omitted by other translators, alledging 
as a reason, which he had found in Fabricius 5 , that Henry 
Stephens, Buchanan, Grotius, and others, had paid a like tribute 
to literature. The performance of this task was the employ 
ment of his sleepless nights, and, as he informed me, it afforded 
him great relief 6 . 

1 * The Paraphrase and Notes of 3 Life, iv. 382 ; Letters, ii. 431. 
Erasmus, in my judgment, was the 4 It seems likely that the stone was 
most important Book even of his day. never set up. Life, iv. 393, n. 3. 
We must remember that it was almost 5 In the Sale Catalogue of Johnson's 
legally adopted by the Church of Library, Lot 78 is Fabricii bibliotheca 
England.' Milman's Latin Chris ft- Graeca in 6 vols., and Lot 300 the 
anity, ed. 1855, vi. 624. same work in 8 vols. 

' In the reign of Elizabeth it was 6 On April 19, 1784, he wrote to 

commanded that in every church Mrs. Thrale: ' When I lay sleepless, 

there should be a copy of this book I used to drive the night along by 

on a desk for the use of the congre- turning Greek epigrams into Latin.' 

gation.' Jortin's Erasmus, p. 155. Letters^ ii. 391. See also Life, iv. 

2 Life, iv. 416 ; ante, i. 38. 384. 


124 Extracts from 

His complaints still increasing, I continued pressing him to 
make a will, but he still procrastinated that business. On the 
twenty-seventh of November, in the morning, I went to his 
house, with a purpose still farther to urge him not to give occa 
sion, by dying intestate, for litigation among his relations ; but 
finding that he was gone to pass the day with the Reverend 
Mr. Strahan, at Islington, I followed him thither, and found there 
our old friend Mr. Ryland, and Mr. Hoole *. Upon my sitting 
down, he said, that the prospect of the change he was about to 
undergo, and the thought of meeting his Saviour, troubled him, 
but that he had hope that he would not reject him. I then 
began to discourse with him about his will, and the provision for 
Frank, till he grew angry 2 . He told me, that he had signed and 
sealed the paper I left him ; but that, said I, had blanks in it, 
which, as it seems, you have not filled up with the names of the 

executors. * You should have filled them up yourself,' answered 

he. 1 replied, that such an act would have looked as if I meant 

to prevent his choice of a fitter person. ' Sir,' said he, * these 

minor virtues are not to be exercised in matters of such import 
ance as this.' At length, he said, that on his return home, 

he would send for a clerk, and dictate a will to him.- You 
will then, said I, be inops consilii ; rather do it now. With 
Mr. Strahan's permission, I will be his guest at dinner ; and, if 
Mr. Hoole will please to hold the pen, I will, in a few words, 

make such a disposition of your estate as you shall direct. To 

this he assented ; but such a paroxysm of the asthma seized 
him, as prevented our going on. As the fire burned up, he found 
himself relieved, and grew chearful. ' The fit/ said he, ' was very 
sharp ; but I am now easy.' After I had dictated a few lines, 
I told him, that he being a man of eminence for learning and 
parts, it would afford an illustrious example, and well become 
him, to make such an explicit declaration of his belief, as might 
obviate all suspicions that he was any other than a Christian 3 . 

1 Post in Mr. Hoole's Anecdotes. Johnson (pp. 599, 605) as ' the effects 

2 He grew angry, no doubt, with of ill-directed benevolence,' and as 
Hawkins for protesting against the ' ostentatious bounty/ 

annuity for Frank, which that ' brutal 3 ' A few years ago it was the uni- 
fellow ' described in his Life of form practice to begin wills with the 


Hawkins's Life of Johnson. 125 

He thanked me for the hint, and, calling for paper, wrote on 
a slip, that I had in my hand and gave him, the following words : 
* I humbly commit to the infinite and eternal goodness of 
Almighty God, my soul polluted with many sins ; but, as I hope, 
purified by repentance, and redeemed, as I trust, by the death of 
Jesus Christ ; ' and, returning it to me, said, ' This I commit to 
your custody.' 

Upon my calling on him for directions to proceed, he told 
me, that his father, in the course of his trade as a bookseller, had 
become bankrupt, and that Mr. William Innys had assisted him 
with' money or credit to continue his business ' This,' said 
he, ' I consider as an obligation on me to be grateful to his 
descendants, and I therefore mean to give 2oo/. to his repre 
sentative 1 .' He then meditated a devise of his house at Lichfield 
to the corporation of that city for a charitable use ; but, it being 
freehold, he said 'I cannot live a twelve-month, and the last 
statute of mortmain stands in the way : I must, therefore, think 
of some other disposition of it 2 .' His next consideration was 
a provision for Frank, concerning the amount whereof I found 
he had been consulting Dr. Brocklesby, to whom he had put 

words, "In the name of God, Amen"; a Christian, as I suppose you to be, 

and frequently to insert therein a do write something to make us sure 

declaration of the testator's hope of of it." ' Kenyan MSS. Hist. MSS. 

pardon in the merits of his Saviour ; Comm., I4th Report, iv. 540. 

but, in these more refined times, such T .Life, iv. 402, n. 2, 440. 

forms are deemed superfluous.' Roger North, after describing the 

HAWKINS. degradation among the booksellers 

Mr. Pepys told Hannah More that soon after the Restoration, speaking 
this request was made to Johnson of second-hand books continues : 
' to counteract the poison of Hume's ' One that would go higher must take 
impious declaration of his opinions his fortune at blank walls and corners 
in his last moments.' H. More's of streets, or repair to the sign of 
Memoirs, i. 393. See Life, iii. 153, Bateman, Innys and one or two more, 
and Letters of Hume to Strahan, where are best choice and best penny- 
Preface, p. 38. worths.' Lives of the Norths, ed. 

'The late Mr. Allen of Magdalen 1826, iii. 294. 

Hall [Life, i. 336], who was a privi- 2 In his last will he directed it to 

leged person, and could say what he be sold, the money arising therefrom 

pleased to Johnson, addressed him to be distributed among some distant 

once very freely upon the subject relations. Life, iv. 402, n. 2. It sold 

[of chastising the vanity of scepti- for ^235. Hawkins, p. 599 ; Letters^ 

cism] : "Johnson, if you really are i. 19, n. i. 


126 Extracts from 

this question ' What would be a proper annuity to bequeath to 
a favourite servant?' The doctor answered, that the circum 
stances of the master were the truest measure, and that, in the 
case of a nobleman, 5o/. a year was deemed an adequate reward 
for many years' faithful service. ' Then shall I,' said Johnson, 
* be nobilissimus ; for, I mean to leave Frank 7o/. a year, and 
I desire you to tell him so I .' And now, at the making of the 
will, a devise, equivalent to such a provision, was therein in 
serted. The residue of his estate and effects, which took in, 
though he intended it not, the house at Lichfield, he bequeathed 
to his executors, in trust for a religious association, which it is 
y 'needless to describe 2 . 

Having executed the will with the necessary formalities, he 
would have come home, but being pressed by Mr. and Mrs. 
Strahan to stay, he consented, and we all dined together. 
Towards the evening, he grew chearful, and I having promised 
to take him in my coach, Mr. Strahan and Mr. Ryland would 
accompany him to Bolt-court. In the way thither he appeared 
much at ease, and told stories. At eight I sat him down, and 
Mr. Strahan and Mr. Ryland betook themselves to their re 
spective homes. 

Sunday 28th. I saw him about noon ; he was dozing ; but 
waking, he found himself in a circle of his friends. Upon open 
ing his eyes, he said, that the prospect of his dissolution was 
very terrible to him, and addressed himself to us all, in nearly 
these words : c You see the state in which I am ; conflicting with 
bodily pain and mental distraction : while you are in health and 
strength, labour to do good, and avoid evil, if ever you hope to 

escape the distress that now oppresses me.' A little while 

after, ' I had, very early in my life, the seeds of goodness in 

1 Life, iv. 401. that 'the statute of Mortmain, no 

V 2 Boswell says that ' he had thoughts doubt, would have hindered the be- 

of leaving to Pembroke College his quest to the College.' This was a 

house ; but his friends who were mistake, as the two Universities of 

about him very properly dissuaded Oxford and Cambridge, and the Col- 

him from it, and he bequeathed it to leges within them, were exempted 

some poor relations.' Ib. i. 75. from its operation. Blackstone's 

In a note on this passage I say Commentaries, ed. 1775, ii. 274. 


Hawkins's Life of Johnson. 127 

me : I had a love of virtue, and a reverence for religion J ; and 
these, I trust, have brought forth in me fruits meet for repent 
ance ; and, if I have repented as I ought, I am forgiven. I have, 
at times, entertained a loathing of sin and of myself, particularly 
at the beginning of this year, when I had the prospect of death 
before me 2 ; and this has not abated when my fears of death 
have been less ; and, at these times, I have had such rays of 
hope shot into my soul, as have almost persuaded me, that I am 
in a state of reconciliation with God V 

29th. Mr. Langton, who had spent the evening with him, 
reported, that his hopes were increased, and that he was much 
cheared upon being reminded of the general tendency of his 
writings, and of his example 4 . 

3Oth. I saw him in the evening, and found him chearful. 
Was informed, that he had, for his dinner, eaten heartily of 
a French duck pie and a pheasant. 

Dec. i. He was busied in destroying papers 5 . Gave to 
Mr. Langton and another person, to fair copy, some translations 
of the Greek epigrams, which he had made in the preceding 
nights, and transcribed the next morning, and they began to 
work on them. 

3d. Finding his legs continue to swell, he signified to his 
physicians a strong desire to have them scarified, but they, 
unwilling to put him to pain, and fearing a mortification, de 
clined advising it. He afterwards consulted his surgeon, and he 
performed the operation on one leg. 

4th. I visited him : the scarification, made yesterday in his 
leg, appeared to have had little effect. He said to me, that he 

1 Life, i. 68. 4 Mrs. Carter, in one of her latest 

2 On Feb. 6 he had written to Dr. conversations with Dr. Johnson, 
Heberden: ' My distemper prevails, spoke of 'his constant attention to 
and my hopes sink, and dejection religious duties and the soundness 
oppresses me.' Letters, ii. 376. of his moral principles. He took 

3 On Oct. 6 he wrote : ' My mind her by the hand, and said with 
is calmer than in the beginning of much eagerness, "You know this 
the year, and I comfort myself with to be true ; testify it to the world 
hopes of every kind, neither despair- when I am gone. 3 ' ' Memoirs of 
ing of ease in this world, nor of Mrs. Carter, i. 41. See also post, 
happiness in another.' Letters, ii. p. 203. 

423. 5 Life, iv. 403. 


128 Extracts from 

was easier in his mind, and as fit to die at that instant, as he 
could be a year hence. He requested me to receive the sacra 
ment with him on Sunday, the next day. Complained of great 
weakness, and of phantoms that haunted his imagination. 

5th. Being Sunday, I communicated with him and Mr. Lang- 
ton, and othei of his friends, as many as nearly filled the room. 
Mr. Strahan, who was constant in his attendance on him 
throughout his illness, performed the office 1 . Previous to 
reading the exhortation, Johnson knelt, and with a degree of 
fervour that I had never been witness to before, uttered the 
following most eloquent and energetic prayer 2 : . . . 

Upon rising from his knees, after the office was concluded, he 
said, that he dreaded to meet God in a state of idiocy, or with 
opium in his head 3 ; and, that having now communicated with 
the effects of a dose upon him, he doubted if his exertions were 
the genuine operations of his mind, and repeated from bishop 
Taylor this sentiment, * That little, that has been omitted in 
health, can be done to any purpose in sickness V 

He very much admired, and often in the course of his illness 
recited, from the conclusion of old Isaac Walton's life of bishop 
Sanderson, the following pathetic request : 

' Thus this pattern of meekness and primitive innocence changed this for 
a better life : 'tis now too late to wish, that mine may be like his ; for I am 
in the eighty-fifth year of my age, and God knows it hath not ; but, I most 
humbly beseech Almighty God, that my death may ; and I do as earnestly 
beg, that, if any reader shall receive any satisfaction from this very plain, 
and, as true relation, he will be so charitable as to say, Amen V 

While he was dressing and preparing for this solemnity, an 

1 Life, iv. 416. 5 'Thus this pattern of meek- 

2 For the prayer, see ante, i. 121. ness and primitive innocence chang'd 

3 ' I will take no more physic, not this for a better life. 'Tis now too 
even my opiates ; for I have prayed late to wish that my life may be 
that I may render up my soul to God like his ; for I am in the eighty- 
unclouded.' Life, iv. 415. For the fifth year of my Age; but I humbly 
effect of opium on him see Letters, beseech Almighty God that my 
ii. 437. death may ; and do as earnestly beg 

4 Nevertheless in Holy Dying of every Reader to say Amen.' The 
Jeremy Taylor has a whole section Life of Bishop Sanderson, first ed., 
(ch. iii. sect. 6) on 'the advantages 1678. 

of sickness.' 


Hawkins's Life of Johnson. 129 

accident happened which went very near to disarrange 1 his mind. 
He had mislaid, and was very anxious to find a paper that con 
tained private instructions to his executors ; and myself, 
Mr. Strahan, Mr. Langton, Mr. Hoole, Frank, and I believe 
some others that were about him, went into his bed-chamber 
to seek it. In our search, I laid my hands on a parchment- 
covered book, into which I imagined it might have been slipped. 
Upon opening the book, I found it to be meditations and / / 
reflections, in Johnson's own hand-writing ; and having been 
told a day or two before by Frank, that a person formerly 
intimately connected with his master, a joint proprietor of 
a newspaper, well known among the booksellers, and of whom 
Mrs. Williams once told me she had often cautioned him to 
beware ; I say, having been told that this person had lately 
been very importunate to get access to him, indeed to such 
a degree as that, when he was told that the doctor was not to be 
seen, he would push his way up stairs ; and having stronger 
reasons than I need here mention, to suspect that this man 
might find and make an ill use of the book, I put it, and a less 
of the same kind, into my pocket ; at the same time telling 
those around me, and particularly Mr. Langton and Mr. Strahan, 
that I had got both, with my reasons for thus securing them. 
After the ceremony was over, Johnson took me aside, and told 
me that I had a book of his in my pocket ; I answered that 
I had two, and that to prevent their falling into the hands of 
a person who had attempted to force his way into the house, 
I had done as I conceived a friendly act, but not without telling 
his friends of it, and also my reasons. He then asked me what 
ground I had for my suspicion of the man I mentioned : I told 
him his great importunity to get admittance ; and farther, that 
immediately after a visit which he made me, in the year 1775, 
I missed a paper of a public nature, and of great importance ; 
and that a day or two after, and before it could be put to its 
intended use, I saw it in the news-papers 2 . 

1 For disarrange, see ante, ii. particulars : my reason for it is, that 
20. the transaction which so disturbed 

2 'As I take no pleasure in the him may possibly be better known 
disgrace of others, I regret the neces- than the motives that actuated me 
sity I am under of mentioning these at the time.' Note by Hawkins. 

VOL. II. K At 


Extracts from 

At the mention of this circumstance Johnson paused ; but re 
covering himself, said, ' You should not have laid hands on the 
book ; for had I missed it, and not known you had it, I should 
have roared for my book, as Othello did for his handkerchief 1 , 
and probably have run mad.' 

I gave him time, till the next day, to compose himself, and 
then wrote him a letter, apologizing, and assigning at large the 
reasons for my conduct ; and received a verbal answer by 
Mr. Langton, which, were I to repeat it, would render me 
suspected of inexcusable vanity ; it concluded with these words, 
* If I was not satisfied with this, I must be a savage 2 .' 

1 Johnson refers to the speech 
where Emilia says to Othello : 

' Nay, lay thee down and roar.' 

(Act v. Sc. 2.) 

But it was not for his handkerchief 
that he roared, for he did not as yet 
know the trick that had been played 
on him. 

~ 2 * One of these volumes,' writes 
Boswell, ' Sir John Hawkins informs 
us, he put into his pocket; for which 
the excuse he states is, that he meant 
to preserve it from falling into the 
hands of a person whom he describes 
so as to make it sufficiently clear who 
is meant ; " having strong reasons 
(said he,) to suspect that this man 
might find and make an ill use of 
the book." Why Sir John should 
suppose that the gentleman alluded 
to would act in this manner, he has 
not thought fit to explain. But what 
he did was not approved of by John 
son ; who, upon being acquainted of 
it without delay by a friend, ex 
pressed great indignation, and 
warmly insisted on the book being 
delivered up ; and, afterwards, in 
the supposition of his missing it, 
without knowing by whom it had 
been taken, he said, " Sir, I should 
have gone out of the world distrust 
ing half mankind." Sir John next 
day wrote a letter to Johnson, as 

signing reasons for his conduct ; 
upon which Johnson observed to 
Mr. Langton, " Bishop Sanderson 
could not have dictated a better 
letter. I could almost say, Melius 
est sic penituisse quam non errdsse" 
The agitation into which Johnson 
was thrown by this incident, prob 
ably made him hastily burn those 
precious records which must ever be 
regretted.' Life, iv. 406, n. I. Bishop 
Sanderson, I suppose, was selected 
on account of ' his casuistical learn 
ing ' and of 'the very many cases 
that were resolved by letters,' when 
he was consulted by people of ' rest 
less and wounded consciences.' 
Walton's Lives, ed. 1838, p. 378. 

According to Miss Hawkins the 
' person ' was George Steevens, who 
had a share in the St. James's 
Chronicle. She says that he stole 
from her father's library the copy of 
an Address to the Throne from the 
Magistrates of Middlesex during the 
American war, and published it in 
his newspaper. Memoirs of L. M. 
Hawkins, i. 265. This certainly 
was ' a paper of a public nature,' but 
not ' of great importance ' unless in 
the eyes of a Middlesex Magistrate. 

Of this incident there is no men 
tion in the first edition. ' It is not 
so much to our purpose to enquire, 

7 th. 

Hawkins's Life of Johnson. 

7th *. I again visited him. Before my departure, Dr. Brock- 
lesby came in, and, taking him by the wrist, Johnson gave him 

but the curious reader may perhaps 
be tempted to ask, why this remark 
able circumstantial narrative was 
omitted in the first edition, or how 
it happens that the regular chrono 
logy is now varied to introduce it.' 
Gentleman's Magazine, 1787, p. 522. 
Porson, in his Panegyrical Epistle 
on Hawkins v. Johnson, thus sar 
castically comments on this fact : 

* In this age, which is so sharp- 
sighted in detecting forgery, I may 
perhaps be carried away by the pre 
vailing rage; but I cannot help think 
ing, that the whole addition in pages 
585-6 is spurious, and did not pro 
ceed from the pen of Sir John 
Hawkins. The Knight's style is 
clear and elegant ; this account 
cloudy, inconsistent, and embar 
rassed. But I shall content myself 
with asking a few queries upon this 
important paragraph. 

' Qu. i. Would a writer, confes 
sedly so exact in his choice of words 
as the Knight, talk in this manner : 
While he was preparing an acci 
dent happened ? As if one should 
say of that unfortunate divine, Dr, 
Dodd, an accident proved fatal to 
him ; he happened to write another 
man's name, etc. 

* Qu. ii. Would not Sir John have 
told us the name of the person who 
is so darkly described in this narra 
tion ? He is not usually backward 
in mentioning people's names at full 
length, where anything is to be said 
to their credit. 

' Qu. iii. Would he not have told 
us something more about the im 
portant paper of a public nature, 
which he missed after receiving a 
visit from Mr. Anonymous ; or would 

he not rather have inserted it in the 
Life, as it probably would have filled 
a page or two ? 

' Qu. iv. Where was this parch 
ment-covered book, which Sir John 
happened to lay his fingers upon ? 
Was it lying carelessly about in the 
room, or concealed in a deskl In 
short, was it in such a place that 
a common acquaintance, as I suppose 
Mr. Anonymous is represented, could 
have easily carried it off? 

'Qu. v. How did Johnson learn 
(not surely from his eyesight), before 
the Knight could convey his prize 
away (CONVEY /A* Wise it call), that 
his friend was taking such kind care 
of his property ? You see, Mr. Urban, 
how miserably this story hangs to 

' Qu. vi. If the fact was exactly as 
it is here stated, how came Johnson 
to be so exceedingly provoked, that, 
as we are left to collect from the 
sequel, the Knight durst not approach 
him till he was appeased by a peni 
tential letter ? 

' Qu. vii. What is become of this 
penitential letter ? and how happens 
it to be omitted, if such a letter was 
ever written ? Sir John would cer 
tainly havey^/#.r with so nourishing 
a morsel (Life, p. 46) in a genuine 
account of this accident, partly to 
swell the volume, and partly to fur 
nish the world with a perfect model 
of precatory eloquence (Ib. p. 270). 

( Qu. viii. W T ould not the Knight 
also have favoured us with Johnson's 
answer in detail, without apologizing 
for the omission, by saying, that it 
would render him suspected of in 
excusable vanity? If the answer 
was, as the defenders of the authen- 

1 In the first edition, 6th. 
K 2 

a look 

132 Extracts from 

a look of great contempt, and ridiculed the judging of his dis 
order by the pulse. He complained, that the sarcocele x had 
again made its appearance, and asked, if a puncture would not 
relieve him, as it had done the year before : the doctor an 
swered, that it might, but that his surgeon was the best judge of 
the effect of such an operation. Johnson, upon this, said, ' How 
many men in a year die through the timidity of those whom 
they consult for health ! I want length of life, and you fear 
giving me pain, which I care not for 2 .' 

8th. I visited him with Mr. Langton, and found him dic 
tating to Mr. Strahan another will, the former being, as he had 
said at the time of making it, a temporary one. On our enter 
ing the room, he said, ' God bless you both.' I arrived just 
time enough to direct the execution, and also the attestation of 
it. After he had published it, he desired Mr. Strahan to say 
the Lord's prayer, which he did, all of us joining. Johnson, 
after it, uttered, extempore, a few pious ejaculations. 

9th. I saw him in the evening, and found him dictating, to 
Mr. Strahan, a codicil to the will he had made the evening 
before. I assisted them in it, and received from the testator 
a direction, to insert a devise to his executors of the house at 
Lichfield, to be sold for the benefit of certain of his relations, 
a bequest of sundry pecuniary and specific legacies, a provision 
for the annuity of 7o/. for Francis, and, after all, a devise of all 
the rest, residue, and remainder of his estate and effects, to his 
executors, in trust for the said Francis Barber, his executors and 
administrators ; and, having dictated accordingly, Johnson exe 
cuted and published it as a codicil to his will 3 . 

ticity of this paragraph, I am told, tents (Life, iv. 406 [ante, ii. 114]). 

affirm it was, melius est poenituisse " God put it in thy mind to take it 

quam nunquam peccdsse, it must be hence, 

owned that it is enough to make That thou might'st win the more 

anybody vain. I shall attempt a thy [Johnson's] love, 

translation for the benefit of your Pleading so wisely in excuse of it." 

mere English readers : There is more 2 Hen. IV. 1 

joy over a sinner that repenteth than Gent. Mag. 1787, pp. 751-3, and 

ever a just person that needeth no For son Tracts, p. 341. 

repentance. And we know, from an x Life, iv. 239. 

authority not to be disputed, that 2 Ib. iv. 399, n. 6 ; ante, i. 448. 

Johnson was a great lover of peni- 3 Leigh Hunt, in a marginal note, 


Hawkins's Life of Johnson. 133 

He was now so weak as to be unable to kneel, and lamented, 
that he must pray sitting, but, with an effort, he placed himself 
on his knees, while Mr. Strahan repeated the Lord's Prayer. 
During the whole of the evening, he was much composed and 
resigned. Being become very weak and helpless, it was thought 
necessary that a man should watch with him all night ; and one 
was found in the neighbourhood, who, for half a crown a night, 
undertook to sit up with, and assist him. When the man had 
left the room, he, in the presence and hearing of Mr. Strahan 
and Mr. Langton, asked me, where I meant to bury him. I 
answered, doubtless, in Westminster abbey : * If/ said he, ' my 
executors think it proper to mark the spot of my interment by 
a stone, let it be so placed as to protect my body from injury.' 
I assured him it should be done. Before my departure, he 
desired Mr. Langton to put into my hands, money to the 
amount of upwards of ioo/. with a direction to keep it till called 
for 1 . 

loth. This day at noon I saw him again. He said to me, 
that the male nurse to whose care I had committed him, was 
unfit for the office. ' He is,' said he, e an idiot, as aukward as 
a turnspit just put into the wheel, and as sleepy as a dormouse 2 .' 
Mr. Cruikshank came into the room, and, looking at his scarified 
leg, saw no sign of a mortification. 

nth. At noon, I found him dozing, and would not disturb him. 

1 2th. Saw him again ; found him very weak, and, as he said, 
unable to pray. 

i3th. At noon, I called at the house, but went not into his 
room, being told that he was dozing. I was further informed 

says : * The omission of Boswell's be found that all his bequests of 

name in Johnson's will is remark- friendship were to persons (with the 

able, and I cannot but think, very possible exception of W. G. Hamil- 

damaging.' A Shelf of Old Books, by ton) whom he had seen during the 

Mrs. James T. Fields, 1895, p. 174. last days of his life. He had seen 

Leigh Hunt should have noticed, Dr. Burney; his omission was prob- 

what Boswell points out, that Adams, ably due to the forgetfulness of a 

Burney, Hector and Murphy were dying man. 

also omitted. Life, iv. 404, n. To x Johnson in his will mentions 

these might be added Mrs. Carter, '.100 now lying by me in ready 

Miss Burney, and Hannah More, money.' Life, iv. 402, n. 2. 

and his friends at Lichfield. It will 2 Ib. iv. 411. 


134 Extracts from 

by the servants, that his appetite was totally gone, and that he 
could take no sustenance. At eight in the evening, of the same 
day, word was brought me by Mr. Sastres, to whom, in his 
last moments, he uttered these words ( Jam moriturus V that, at 
a quarter past seven, he had, without a groan, or the least sign 
of pain or uneasiness, yielded his last breath. 

At eleven, the same evening, Mr. Langton came to me, and, 
in an agony of mind, gave me to understand, that our friend had 
wounded himself in several parts of the body 2 . I was shocked 
at the news ; but, upon being told that he had not touched any 
vital part, was easily able to account for an action, which would 
else have given us the deepest concern. The fact was, that 
conceiving himself to be full of water, he had done that, which 
he had often solicited his medical assistants to do, made two or 
three incisions in his lower limbs, vainly hoping for some relief 
from the flux that might follow. 

Early the next morning, Frank came to me; and, being 
desirous of knowing all the particulars of this transaction, I in 
terrogated him very strictly concerning it, and received from 
him answers to the following effect : 

That, at eight in the morning of the preceding day, upon 
going into the bedchamber, his master, being in bed, ordered 
him to open a cabinet, and give him a drawer in it ; that he did 
so, and that out of it his master took a case of lancets, and 
choosing one of them, would have conveyed it into the bed, which 
Frank, a young man 3 that sat up with him, seeing, they seized 
his hand, and intreated him not to do a rash action : he said he 
would not ; but drawing his hand under the bed-clothes, they 
saw his arm move. Upon this they turned down the clothes, 
and saw a great effusion of blood, which soon stopped That 
soon after, he got at a pair of scissars that lay in a drawer by him, 
and plunged them deep in the calf of each leg That im 
mediately they sent for Mr. Cruikshank, and the apothecary, 
and they, or one of them, dressed the wounds That he then 
fell into that dozing which carried him off. That it was con 
jectured he lost eight or ten ounces of blood ; and that this 

1 Life, iv. 418 ; ante, ii. 7, and 2 Ib. iv. 418 n. 

post p. 159. 3 Mr. Windham's man, Ib. iv. 418. 


Hawkins's Life of Johnson. 135 

effusion brought on the dozing, though his pulse continued firm 
till three o'clock. 

That this act was not done to hasten his end, but to dis 
charge the water that he conceived to be in him, I have not the 
least doubt J . A dropsy was his disease ; he looked upon himself 
as a bloated carcase ; and, to attain the power of easy respira 
tion, would have undergone any degree of temporary pain. He 
dreaded neither punctures nor incisions, and, indeed, defied the 
trochar 2 and the lancet ; he had often reproached his physicians 
and surgeon with cowardice ; and, when Mr. Cruikshank scarified 
his leg, he cried out ' Deeper, deeper ; I will abide the con 
sequence : you are afraid of your reputation, but that is nothing 
to me.' To those about him, he said, ' You all pretend to 
love me, but you do not love me so well as I myself do.' 

I have been thus minute in recording the particulars of his 
last moments, because I wished to attract attention to the con 
duct of this great man, under the most trying circumstances 
human nature is subject to. Many persons have appeared pos 
sessed of more serenity of mind in this awful scene : some have 
remained unmoved at the dissolution of the vital union ; and, it 
may be deemed a discouragement from the severe practice of 
religion, that Dr. Johnson, whose whole life was a preparation / 
for his death, and a conflict with natural infirmity, was disturbed / 
with terror at the prospect of the grave. Let not this relax!/ 
the circumspection of any one. It is true, that natural 
firmness of spirit, or the confidence of hope, may buoy up the 
mind to the last ; but, however heroic an undaunted death may 
appear, it is not what we should pray for. As Johnson lived 
the life of the righteous, his end was that of a Christian : he 
strictly fulfilled the injunction of the apostle, to work out his 
salvation with fear and trembling 3 ; and, though his doubts and 

1 ' This bold experiment,' writes thought it necessary to do. It is 

Boswell, ' Sir John Hawkins has re- evident, that what Johnson did in 

lated in such a manner as to suggest hopes of relief indicated an extra- 

a charge against Johnson of inten- ordinary eagerness to retard his dis- 

tionally hastening his end ; a charge solution.' Life, iv. 399, n. 6. 

so very inconsistent with his character 2 Johnson defines trocar as 'a 

in every respect, that it is injurious chirurgical instrument.' 

even to refute it, as Sir John has 3 Philippians ii. 12. 


136 Extracts from 

scruples were certainly very distressing to himself, they give 
his friends a pious hope, that he, who added to almost all the 
virtues of Christianity, that religious humility which its great 
Teacher inculcated, will, in the fullness of time, receive the 
reward promised to a patient continuance in well-doing. 

A few days after his departure, Dr. Brocklesby and Mr. Cruik- 
shank, who, with great assiduity and humanity, (and I must 
add, generosity, for neither they, nor Dr. Heberden, Dr. Warren, 
nor Dr. Butter, would accept any fees 1 ) had attended him, 
signified a wish, that his body might be opened. This was 
done, and the report made was to this effect : 

Two of the valves of the aorta ossified. 

The air-cells of the lungs unusually distended. 

One of the kidneys destroyed by the pressure of the water. 

The liver schirrous. 

A stone in the gall-bladder, of the size of a common goose 

On Monday the soth of December, his funeral was celebrated 
and honoured by a numerous attendance of his friends, and 
among them, by particular invitation, of as many of the literary 
club as were then in town, and not prevented by engagements 2 . 
The dean of Westminster, upon my application, would gladly 
have performed the ceremony of his interment, but, at the time, 
was much indisposed in his health ; the office, therefore, de 
volved upon the senior prebendary, Dr. Taylor, who performed 
it with becoming gravity and seriousness. All the prebendaries, 
except such as were absent in the country, attended in their 
surplices and hoods : they met the corpse at the west door of 

1 Johnson, in his Life of Garth, me every attention, but will never 

says : ' I believe every man has take a fee. This is uniformly the 

found in physicians great liberality case whatever physician I consult, 

and dignity of sentiment, very prompt and I have consulted all that are 

effusion of beneficence, and willing- eminent.' H. More's Afe/TZtfzVs, 11.433. 

ness to exert a lucrative art, where There is no reason to believe that 

there is no hope of lucre.' the physicians of the present age 

' I have been so ill, 3 wrote Hannah fall short of those whose beneficence 

More, 'that my friends have sent Johnson and Hannah More cele- 

Dr. Warren to me. He is a most brated. 

agreeable, as well as able man ; pays 2 For a list of those who attended 


Hawkins's Life of Johnson. 137 

their church, and performed, in the most respectful manner, all 
the honours due to the memory of so great a man z . 

His body, enclosed in a leaden coffin, is deposited in the 
south transept of the abbey, near the foot qf Shakespeare's 
monument, and close to the coffin of his friend Garrick. Agree 
able to his request, a stone of black marble 2 covers his grave, 
thus inscribed : 

Obiit XIII die Decembris, 

Anno Domini 
^Etatis suae LXXV. (Page 594.) 

The truth of the matter is, that his whole life was a conflict 
with his passions and humours, and that few persons bore repre 
hension with more patience than himself. After his decease, 
I found among his papers an anonymous letter, that seemed to 
have been written by a person who had long had his eye on 
him, and remarked the offensive particulars in his behaviour, 
his propensity to contradiction, his want of deference to the 
opinions of others, his contention for victory over those with 
whom he disputed, his local prejudices and aversions, and other 
his evil habits in conversation/ which made his acquaintance 

see post in G. Steevens's Anecdotes, Earl of Upper Ossory. 

and Letters, ii. 434. Of the members' Bishop Marlay. 

of the Literary Club who did not Earl Spencer, 

attend the following is the list in the Bishop Shipley, 

order of their seniority : Lord Eliot. 

Bishop Percy. Thomas Warton. 

Sir Robert Chambers. Earl of Lucan. 

Earl of Charlemont. Sir William Hamilton. 

Sir William Jones (absent in India). Viscount Palmerston. 

Agmondesham Vesey. Dr. Warren was elected a member 

James Boswell. three days after the funeral. 

Charles James Fox. * This is Hawkins's reply to the 

Dr. George Fordyce. charge of neglect brought against 

Edward Gibbon. them and him. Ante, i. 449 n. ; 

Adam Smith. Life, iv. 420 n. 

Bishop Barnard. 2 Boswell correctly describes it as 

Dr. Joseph Warton. a large blue flag-stone.' Life, iv. 

Richard Brinsley Sheridan. 419. 


138 Extracts from Hawkins's Life of Johnson. 

shunned by many, who, as a man of genius and worth, highly 
esteemed him. It was written with great temper, in a spirit of 
charity, and with a due acknowledgment of those great talents 
with which he was endowed, but contained in it several home 
truths. In short, it was such a letter as many a one, on the 
receipt of it, would have destroyed. On the contrary, Johnson 
preserved it, and placed it in his bureau, in a situation so obvious, 
that, whenever he opened that repository of his papers, it might 
look him in the face ; and I have not the least doubt, that he 
frequently perused and reflected on its contents, and endeavoured 
to correct his behaviour by an address which he could not but 
consider as a friendly admonition. (Page 60 1.) 


WHEN first I remember Johnson I used to see him sometimes 
at a little distance from the house, coming to call on my father ; 
his look directed downwards, or rather in such apparent abstrac 
tion as to have no direction. His walk was heavy, but he got 
on at a great rate, his left arm always fixed across his breast, so 
as to bring the hand under his chin ; and he walked wide, as if 
to support his weight 2 . Getting out of a hackney-coach, which 
had set him down in Fleet Street, my brother Henry says he 
made his way up Bolt Court in the zig-zag direction of a flash 
of lightning ; submitting his course only to the deflections im 
posed by the impossibility of going further to right or left. 

His clothes hung loose, and the pocket on the right hand 
swung violently, the lining of his coat being always visible. 
I can now call to mind his brown hand, his metal sleeve-buttons, 
and my surprise at seeing him with plain wristbands, when all 
gentlemen wore ruffles 3 ; his coat-sleeve being very wide showed 
his linen almost to the elbow. His wig in common was cut and 
bushy ; if by chance he had one that had been dressed in separate 
curls, it gave him a disagreeable look, not suited to his years or 
character. I certainly had no idea that this same Dr. Johnson, 

1 From the Memoirs of Letitia which Mrs. Thrale said were old- 
Hawkins, 2 vols. 8vo. 1827. fashioned,' worn by Sir P. J. Clerk, 

2 ' When he walked, it was like see Life, iv. 80. Clerk was a Whig, 
the struggling gait of one in fetters.' * Ah, Sir (said Johnson), ancient 
Life, iv. 425. See/0.y/, p. 165. ruffles and modern principles do not 

3 For * the very rich laced ruffles, agree.' 


140 Anecdotes by Miss Hawkins. 

whom I thought rather a disgraceful visitor at our house, and 
who was never mentioned by ladies but with a smile, was to be 
one day an honour not only to us but to his country. 

I remember a tailor's bringing his pattern-book to my brothers, 
and pointing out a purple, such as no one else wore, as the 
doctor's usual choice 1 . We all shouted with astonishment, at 
hearing that Polypheme, as, shame to say, we had nicknamed 
him, ever had a new coat ; but the tailor assured us he was 
a good customer. (Vol. i. p. 86.) 

On the death of Mr. Thrale it was concluded by some that he 
would marry the widow ; by others that he would entirely take 
up his residence in her house, which, resembling the situation of 
many other learned men 2 , would have been nothing extraordinary 
or censurable. The path he would pursue was not evident, when 
on a sudden he came out again, and sought my father with kind 
eagerness. Calls were exchanged ; he would now take his tea 
with us ; and in one of these evening visits, which were the 
pleasantest periods of my knowledge of him, saying, when taking 
leave, that he was leaving London, Lady H. said, ' I suppose you 
are going to Bath ? ' ' Why should you suppose so ? ' said he. 
' Because/ said my mother, ' I hear Mrs. Thrale is gone there V 
* / know nothing of Mrs. Thrale,' he roared out ; ' good evening 
to you.' The state of affairs was soon made known. (Vol. i. 
p. 96.) 

It is greatly to the honour of Johnson that he never ac 
customed himself ' to descant 4 ' on the ingratitude of mankind, 
or to comment on the many causes he had to think harshly of 
the world. He said once to my youngest brother, ' I hate a 
complainer 5 ; ' this hatred might preserve him from the habit. 
(Vol. i. p. 97.) 

To Warburton's great powers he did full justice. He did not 

1 It was a brown coat that he in Bath. Letters, ii. 404, n. 3. 
usually wore. ' He never deviated 4 ' Descant on mine own infirmity.' 
from a dark colour.' Life, i. 396 ; Richard III, Act i. sc. I. 1. 27. 
iii. 54, n. 2, 325. 5 'Sir, I have never complained of 

2 Dr. Watts, for instance. Works, the world ; nor do I think that I 
viii. 383. have reason to complain.' Life, iv. 

3 She was married to Mr. Piozzi 116. See also ante, i. 263. 


Anecdotes by Miss Hawkins. 141 

always, my brother says, agree with him in his notions ; ' but/ 
said he, ' with all his errors, si non errasset, fecerat ille minus! 
Speaking of Warburton's contemptuous treatment of some one 
who presumed to differ from him, I heard him repeat with such 
glee the coarse expressions in which he had vented this feeling, 
that there could be no doubt of his hearty approbation x . (Vol. i. 
p. 108.) 

Mrs. Anna Williams I remember as long as I can remember any 
one. ... I see her now, a pale shrunken old lady, dressed in 
scarlet 2 made in the handsome French fashion of the time, with 
a lace cap, with two stiffened projecting wings on the temples, 
and a black lace hood over it ; her grey or powdered hair ap 
pearing. Her temper has been recorded as marked with the 
Welsh fire, and this might be excited by some of the meaner 
inmates of the upper floors ; but her gentle kindness to me 
I never shall forget, or think consistent with a bad temper 3 . 
(Vol. i. p. 151.) 

What the economy of Dr. Johnson's house might be under his 
wife's administration, I cannot tell ; but under Miss Williams's 
management, and, indeed, afterwards, when he was even more at 
the mercy of those around him, it always exceeded my expecta 
tion, as far as the condition of the apartment into which I was 
admitted could enable me to judge. It was not, indeed, his 
study : amongst his books he probably might bring Magliabecchi 4 
to recollection ; but I saw him only in a decent drawing-room of 
a house not inferior to others in the same local situation, and 
with stout old-fashioned mahogany chairs and tables 5 . I have 
said that he was a liberal customer to his tailor, and I can 
remember that his linen was often a strong contrast to the colour 
of his hands 6 . (Vol. i. p. 208.) 

I C 

JOHNSON. "When I read War- 2 For Hannah More ' all gorgeous 

burton first, and observed his force in scarlet ' see Life, iv. 325, n. 2. 

and his contempt of mankind, I 3 For Miss Williams's temper see 

thought he had driven the world be- ib. iii. 26, 220. 

fore him ; but I soon found that was 4 Ante, ii. 87. 

not the case ; for Warburton, by ex- 5 Ante, ii. 135. 

tending his abuse, rendered it in- 6 Nevertheless Johnson owned that 

effectual." ' Life, v. 93. See also he ' had no passion for clean linen.' 

ante, i. 381 n. ; ii. 15 n. Ib. i. 397. 


142 Anecdotes by Miss Hawkins. 

In his colloquial intercourse, Johnson's compliments were 
studied, and therefore lost their effect : his head dipped lower ; 
the semicircle in which it revolved was of greater extent ; and 
his roar was deeper in its tone when he meant to be civil. His 
movement in reading, which he did with great rapidity, was 
humorously described after his death, by a lady, who said, that 
* his head swung seconds V 

The usual initial sentences of his conversation led some to 
imagine that to resemble him was as easy as to mimic him, and 
that, if they began with ' Why, Sir/ or ' I know no reason/ or 
f If any man chooses to think/ or ' If you mean to say/ they 
must, of course, * talk Johnson 2 .' That his style might be imi 
tated, is true ; and that its strong features made it easier to lay 
hold on it than on a milder style, no one will dispute. (Vol. i. 

For the following trifling circumstances connected with Dr. 
Johnson I am indebted to my younger brother. ' Speaking of 
reading and study, I heard him say, that he would not ask a man 
to give up his important interests for them, because it would not 
be fair ; but that, if any man would employ in reading that time 
which he would otherwise waste, he would answer for it, if he 
were a man of ordinary endowment, that he would make a 
sensible man. " He might not," said he, " make a Bentley, but 
he would be a sensible man 3 ." 3 

1 ' He commonly held his head to * Imitation is of two sorts ; the 
one side towards his right shoulder, first is when we force to our own 
and shook it in a tremulous manner.' purposes the thoughts of others ; the 
Life, i. 485. second consists in copying the im- 

2 For imitations of him see ib. ii. perfections or blemishes of celebrated 
326, n. 5, and for his ' No, Sir,' ib. iv. authors. I have seen a play pro- 
315. fessedly writ in the style of Shake- 

* We see the eyes and mouth speare, wherein the resemblance lay 

moving with convulsive twitches ; we in one single line, 

see the heavy form rolling ; we hear ' And so good morrow t' ye, good 

it puffing ; and then comes the master lieutenant.' 

"Why, sir ! " and the "What then, Swift's Works, ed. 1803, xxiii. 53. 

sir ? " and the " No, sir ! " and the According to Lamb the writer of 

"You don't see your way through this play was Rowe. Letters of 

the question, sir ! " ' Macaulay's Charles Lamb, ed. 1888, i. 138. 

Essays, ed. 1843, i. 407. 3 ' Snatches of reading (said John- 


Anecdotes by Miss Hawkins. 

1 He was adverse to departing from the common opinions and 
customs of the world, as conceiving them to have been founded 
on experience V 

' He doubted whether there ever was a man who was not 
gratified by being told that he was liked by the women/ 

* He was speaking of surgical operations. I suggested that 
they were now performed with less pain than formerly, owing to 
modern improvements in science. " Yes, Sir," said he, " but if 
you will conceive a wedge placed with the broad end downwards," 
alluding to the drawing of a tooth, " no human power, nor angel, 
as / conceive, can extract that wedge without giving pain 2 ." 

* He spoke contemptuously of the habit of corresponding by 
letter, and of professing to pour out miJs soul upon paper 3 . 
Calling upon him shortly after the death of Lord Mansfield, and 
mentioning the event, he said, " Ah, Sir ! there was little learning 
and less virtue 4 ."' (Vol. i. p. 216.) 

son) will not make a Bentley or 
a Clarke. They are, however, in a 
certain degree advantageous.' Life, 
iv. 21. 

1 See ante, i. 221. 

2 When Johnson was suffering 
from a sarcocele (Life, iv. 239) he 
was attended by Percival Pott, one 
of the first surgeons of the day. 
When in 1749 Pott was appointed 
surgeon of St. Bartholomew's Hos 
pital ' the maxim Dolor medicina 
doloris still remained unrefuted. Mr. 
Pott's tutor treated with supercilious 
contempt the endeavours of his pupil 
to recommend a milder system. Mr. 
Pott lived to see those remains of 
barbarism set aside.' J. Earle's Life 
of Pott. ' Pott directed those who 
tried to bring back Dodd to life after 
his execution.' W 7 heatley's Wraxall's 
Memoirs, iv. 249. 

3 ' It has been so long said as to 
be commonly believed, that the true 
characters of men may be found in 

their letters, and that he who writes 
to his friend lays his heart open 
before him. But the truth is that 
such were the simple friendships of 
the Golden Age, and are now the 
friendships only of children.' Works, 
viii. 314. See Letters, ii. 52, and 
Life, iv. 102. 

4 Lord Mansfield died on March 
20 ) !793> outliving Johnson by more 
than eight years. In spite of this 
gross blunder it is quite possible that 
Johnson thus spoke of him. Boswell 
says that 'Johnson entertained no 
exalted opinion of his Lordship's 
intellectual character. Talking of 
him to me one day he said : " It 
is wonderful, Sir, with how little 
real superiority of mind men can 
make an eminent figure in publick 
life."' Life, \v. 178. Smollett's praise 
of Mansfield perhaps implies that he 
had no great learning; for he says 
that he had ' an innate sagacity that 
saved the trouble of intense applica- 


144 Anecdotes by Miss Hawkins. 

My father and Boswell grew a little acquainted ; and when the 
Life of their friend came out, Boswell showed himself very uneasy 
under an injury, which he was much embarrassed in defining. 
He called on my father, and being admitted, complained of the 
manner in which he was enrolled amongst Johnson's friends, which 
was as Mr. James Boswell of Auchinleck 1 . Where was the 
offence ? It was one of those which a complainant hardly dares 
to embody in words : he would only repeat, * Well, but Mr. James 
Boswell ! surely, surely, Mr. James Boswell //'.... ' I know,' 
said my father, ' Mr. Boswell, what you mean ; you would have 
had me say that Johnson undertook this tour with THE BOSWELL.' 
He could not indeed absolutely covet this mode of proclamation ; 
he would perhaps have been content with 'the celebrated/ or 
* the well-known,' but he could not confess quite so much ; he 
therefore acquiesced in the amendment proposed, but he was 
forced to depart without any promise of correction in a sub 
sequent edition. (Vol. i. p. 235.) 

tion.' History of England, ed. 1800, 'Mr. John Hawkins, an attorney.' 

iii. 239. See Hume's Letters to Life, \. 190. See ante, ii. 36, in Bos- 

Strahan, p. 125, n. 13. well's letter to Malone of March 8, 

1 Hawkins described him as 'Mr. 1791, where he tells how he has got 

James Boswell, a native of Scotland.' the printer of the Oracle to promise 

Hawkins, p. 472. Boswell in return, to mention that some lines by Mr. 

in enumerating the members of the Boswell are not by James Boswell^ 

Ivy Lane Club, described him as Esq. See also Life, ii. 382, n. i. 


[Published in the European Magazine for September, 1779, 

P- J 53- 

For John Hoole, see Life y ii. 289 ; iv. 70. 

Lamb wrote in 1797 : * Fairfax I have been in quest of a long 
time. Johnson in his Life of Waller gives a most delicious 
specimen of him, and adds, in the true manner of that delicate 
critic, as well as amiable man, " It may be presumed that this 
old version will not be much read after the elegant translation 
of my friend, Mr. Hoole." I endeavoured I wished to gain 
some idea of Tasso from this Mr. Hoole, the great boast and 
ornament of the India House, but soon desisted. I found him 
more vapid than small beer '* sun-vinegared." ' 

What Johnson wrote was : * Fairfax's work, after Mr. Hoole's 
translation, will perhaps not be soon reprinted/ Works, vii. 

Lady Louisa Stuart writing to Sir Walter Scott on Feb. 10, 
1817, thus describes Hoole : ' He once fell in my way near thirty 
years ago. He was a clerk in the India House, a man of business 
of that ancient breed, now extinct, which used to be as much 
marked by plaited cambric ruffles, a neat wig, a snuff-coloured 
suit of clothes, and a corresponding sobriety of look, as one race 
of spaniels is by the black nose and silky hair. " When I have 
been long otherwise employed, and out of the habit of writing 
verse," said he, " I find it rather difficult and get on slowly ; but 

VOL. II. L after 

146 Narrative by John Hoole. 

after a little practice I fall into the track again ; then I can easily 
make a hundred lines in a day." : Familiar Letters of Sir 
Walter Scott^ 1894, i. 409.] 

SATURDAY, Nov. 20, 1784. This evening, about eight o'clock, 
I paid a visit to my dear friend Dr. Johnson, whom I found very 
ill and in great dejection of spirits. We had a most affecting 
conversation on the subject of religion, in which he exhorted 
me, with the greatest warmth of kindness, to attend closely to 
every religious duty, and particularly enforced the obligation of 
private prayer and receiving the Sacrament. He desired me to 
stay that night and join in prayer with him ; adding, that he 
always went to prayer every night with his man Francis. He 
conjured me to read and meditate upon the Bible, and not to 
throw it aside for a play or a novel. He said he had himself 
lived in great negligence of religion and worship for forty years ; 
that he had neglected to read his Bible, and had often reflected 
what he could hereafter say when he should be asked why he 
had not read it x . He begged me repeatedly to let his present 
situation have due effect upon me ; and advised me, when I got 
home, to note down in writing what had passed between us, 
adding, that what a man writes in that manner dwells upon 
his mind. He said many things that I cannot now recollect, 
but all delivered with the utmost fervour of religious zeal and 
personal affection. Between nine and ten o'clock his servant 
Francis came upstairs : he then said we would all go to 
prayers, and, desiring me to kneel down by his bedside, he 
repeated several prayers with great devotion. I then took my 
leave. He then pressed me to think of all he had said, and to 
commit it to writing. I assured him I would. He seized my 
hand with much warmth, and repeated, ' Promise me you will 
do it : ' on which we parted, and I engaged to see him the 
next day. 

1 In 1772 he recorded, after read- know, even thus hastily, confusedly, 
ing the Bible through : ' It is a and imperfectly, what my Bible con- 
comfort to me that at last, in my tains.' Ante^ i. 61. 
sixty-third year, I have attained to 


Narrative by John Hook. 147 

Sunday, Nov. 21. About noon I again visited him ; found 
him rather better and easier, his spirits more raised, and his 
conversation more disposed to general subjects. When I came 
in, he asked if I had done what he desired (meaning the noting 
down what passed the night before) ; and upon my saying 
that I had, he pressed my hand and said earnestly, 'Thank 
you.' Our discourse then grew more cheerful. He told me, 
with apparent pleasure, that he heard the Empress of Russia 
had ordered The Rambler to be translated into the Russian lan 
guage, and that a copy would be sent him x . 

Before we parted, he put into my hands a little book, by 
Fleetwood, on the Sacrament 2 , which he told me he had been 
the means of introducing to the University of Oxford by 
recommending it to a young student there. 

Monday, Nov. 22. Visited the Doctor : found him seemingly 
better of his complaints, but extremely low and dejected. I sat 
by him till he fell asleep, and soon after left him, as he seemed 
little disposed to talk; and, on my going away, he said, em 
phatically, ' I am very poorly indeed ! ' 

Tuesday, Nov. 23. Called about eleven : the Doctor not up : 
Mrs. Gardiner 3 in the dining-room : the Doctor soon came to 
us, and seemed more cheerful than the day before. He spoke of 
his design to invite a Mrs. Hall 4 to be with him, and to offer her 

1 He had beeil misinformed. Life, Customs and Ancient Laws of 'Russia, 

iv. 277. An anonymous correspondent p. 222. 

from St. Petersburg informs me that 2 The Reasonable Communicant, 
'a very complete condensation of by W. Fleetwood, D.D., late Lord 
Boswell's Johnson was published in Bishop of Ely, 1704. Fleetwood was 
Russian by a distinguished critic, born in 1656 and died in 1723. The 
Drujinine, in 1851 and 1852. It has following passage in this work is 
been republished in his complete opposed to the common opinion of 
works, 1865, and is included in the the heavy breakfasts of our fore- 
first 245 close - printed pages of fathers : ' I do not suppose that any 
vol. iv.' one makes a full meal in the morn- 

The Wealth of Nations was trans- ing, that is not going to strong 

lated into Russian nineteen years Labour, much less upon Sunday? 

after Johnson's death, and at once l6th ed. 1748, p. 77. 

raised the question of * the relative 3 Ante, i. 80. 

advantages of free and servile labour 4 John Wesley's sister. Life, iv. 

in agriculture.' Kovalevsky's Modern 92. 

L 2 Mrs. 

148 Narrative by John Hook. 

Mrs. Williams's room. Called again about three : found him 
quite oppressed with company that morning, therefore left him 

Wednesday, Nov. 24. Called about seven in the evening : 
found him very ill and very low indeed. He said a thought 
had struck him that his rapid decline of health and strength 
might be partly owing to the town air, and spoke of getting 
a lodging at Islington, I sat with him till past nine, and then 
took my leave. 

Thursday, Nov. 25. About three in the afternoon was told 
that he desired that day to see no company. In the evening, 
about eight, called with Mr. Nicol x , and, to our great surprise, 
we found him then setting out for Islington, to the Rev. Mr. 
Strahan's 2 . He could scarce speak. We went with him down 
the court to the coach. He was accompanied by his servant 
Frank and Mr. Lowe the painter 3 . I offered myself to go with 
him but he declined it. 

Friday, Nov. 26. Called at his house about eleven : heard he 
was much better, and had a better night than he had known 
a great while, and was expected home that day. Called again 
in the afternoon not so well as he was, nor expected home that 

Saturday, Nov. 27. Called again about noon: heard he was 
much worse : went immediately to Islington, where I found him 
extremely bad, and scarce able to speak, with the asthma. Sir 
John Hawkins, the Rev. Mr. Strahan, and Mrs. Strahan, were 
with him. Observing that we said little, he desired that we 
would not constrain ourselves, though he was not able to talk 
with us. Soon after he said he had something to say to Sir 
John Hawkins, on which we immediately went down into the 

1 Mr. George Nicol, of Pall Mall. withdrew from the trammels of busi- 
HOOLE. The King's bookseller. Life, ness to a house in his native village 
iv. 251 ; Letters , ii. 438. [Islington].' Lit. Hist. viii. Preface, 

2 Rev. George Strahan, Vicar of p. 5. Nineteen years earlier Isling- 
Islington. Life, iv. 271,416; Letters, ton, when Johnson visited it for 
ii. 88. change of air, was still less a part of 

John Nichols, writing of himself, London, 
says : ' In the summer of 1803 he 3 Life, iii. 324 ; iv. 202. 


Narrative by John Hoole. 149 

parlour. Sir John soon followed us, and said he had been 
speaking about his will 1 . Sir John started the idea of pro 
posing to him to make it on the spot ; that Sir John should 
dictate it, and that I should write it. He went up to propose it, 
and soon came down with the Doctor's acceptance. The will 
was then begun ; but before we proceeded far, it being necessary, 
on account of some alteration, to begin again, Sir John asked 
the Doctor whether he would choose to make any introductory 
declaration respecting his faith. The Doctor said he would. 
Sir John further asked if he would make any declaration of his 
being of the church of England : to which the Doctor said 
' No ! ' but, taking a pen, he wrote on a paper the following 
words, which he delivered to Sir John, desiring him to keep 
it : ' I commit to the infinite mercies of Almighty God my 
soul, polluted 2 with many sins ; but purified, I trust, with re 
pentance and the death of Jesus Christ.' While he was at 
Mr. Strahan's, Dr. Brocklesby came in, and Dr. Johnson put 
the question to him, whether he thought he could live six 
weeks ? to which Dr. Brocklesby returned a very doubtful 
answer 3 , and soon left us. After dinner the will was finished, 
and about six we came to town in Sir John Hawkins's carriage ; 
Sir John, Dr. Johnson, Mr. Ryland 4 (who came in after dinner), 
and myself. The Doctor appeared much better in the way 
home, and talked pretty cheerfully 5 . Sir John took leave of us 
at the end of Bolt Court, and Mr. Ryland and myself went to 
his house with the Doctor, who began to grow very ill again. 
Mr. Ryland soon left us, and I remained with the Doctor till 
Mr. Sastres 6 came in. We stayed with him about an hour, 
when we left him on his saying he had some business to do. 
Mr. Sastres and myself went together homewards, discoursing 

1 Ante, ii. 124. ' Pope polluted his will with female 

2 Life, iv. 404, 440. To the in- resentment.' Ib. viii. 307. 
stances given there of the use of 3 Ante, ii. 122; Life, iv. 415. 
polluted I would add the following 4 Letters, i. 56. 

by Johnson. '"Pollute his canvas 5 ' In the way thither he appeared 

with deformity.' Ib. i. 330. ' Dryden much at ease, and told stories.' 

seldom pollutes his page with an Ante, ii. 126. 

adverse name.' Works, vii. 294. 6 Ante, i. 292. 


150 Narrative by John Hoole. 

on the dangerous state of our friend, when it was resolved that 
Mr. Sastres should write to Heberden * ; but going to his house 
that night, he fortunately found him at home, and he promised 
to be with Dr. Johnson next morning. 

Sunday, Nov. 28. Went to Dr. Johnson's about two o'clock : 
met Mrs. Hoole coming from thence, as he was asleep : took 
her back with me : found Sir John Hawkins with him. The 
Doctor's conversation tolerably cheerful. Sir John reminded 
him that he had expressed a desire to leave some small memo 
rials to his friends, particularly a Polyglot Bible to Mr. Lang- 
ton 2 ; and asked if they should add the codicil then. The 
Doctor replied, * he had forty things to add, but could not do 
it at that time.' Sir John then took his leave. Mr. Sastres 
came next into the dining-room, where I was with Mrs. Hoole. 
Dr. Johnson hearing that Mrs. Hoole was in the next room, 
desired to see her. He received her with great affection, took 
her by the hand, and said nearly these words : ' I feel great 
tenderness for you : think of the situation in which you see me, 
profit by it, and God Almighty keep you for Jesus Christ's 
sake, Amen.' He then asked if we would both stay and dine 
with him. Mrs. Hoole said she could not ; but I agreed to stay. 
Upon my saying to the Doctor that Dr. Heberden would be 
with him that morning, his answer was, ' God has called me, and 
Dr. Heberden comes too late.' Soon after this Dr. Heberden 
came. While he was there, we heard them, from the other 
room, in earnest discourse, and found that they were talking 

over the affair 3 of the K g and C n 4 . We overheard 

Dr. Heberden say, * All you did was extremely proper.' After 

1 Letters, ii. 95, n. ; Life, iv. 228. Fellow of the College of Physicians. 

' Dr. Heberden (as every physician, A. C. Buller's Life of Heberden, 1879, 

to make himself talked of, will set up p. 17- For his house built on the 

some new hypothesis) pretends that site of Nell Gwynne's, see Letters, ii. 

a damp house, and even damp sheets, 3 O2 > n - * 

which have ever been reckoned fatal, 2 This was bequeathed. Life, iv. 

are wholesome ; to prove his faith 402, n. 2. 

he went into his own new house 3 'This alludes to an application 

totally unaired, and survived it.' made for an increase to his pension, 

Walpole's Letters, vi. 220. He sur- to enable him to go to Italy.' J. 

vived it twenty-six years and died at HOOLE. Life, iv. 326. 

the age of ninety-one the Senior 4 ' Sic ; but probably an error of 


Narrative by John Hoole. 151 

Dr. Heberden was gone, Mr. Sastres and I returned into the 
chamber. Dr. Johnson complained that sleep this day had 
powerful dominion over him, that he waked with great difficulty, 
and that probably he should go off in one of these paroxysms. 
Afterwards he said that he hoped his sleep was the effect of 
opium taken some days before, which might not be worked off. 
We dined together the Doctor, Mr. Sastres, Mrs. Davies z , and 
myself. He ate a pretty good dinner with seeming appetite, 
but appearing rather impatient ; and being asked unnecessary 
and frivolous questions, he said he often thought of Macbeth 
' Question enrages him 2 . J He retired immediately after dinner, 
and we soon went, at his desire (Mr. Sastres and myself), and sat 
with him till tea. He said little, but dozed at times. At six he 
ordered tea for us, and we went out to drink it with Mrs. Davies ; 
but the Doctor drank none. The Rev. Dr. Taylor, of Ash- 
bourne, came soon after ; and Dr. Johnson desired our attend 
ance at prayers, which were read by Dr. Taylor 3 . Mr. Ryland 
came and sat some time with him : he thought him much better. 
Mr. Sastres and I continued with him the remainder of the 
evening, when he exhorted Mr. Sastres in nearly these words : 
* There is no one who has shown me more attention than you 
have done, and it is now right you should claim some attention 
from me. You are a young man, and are to struggle through 
life : you are in a profession that I dare say you will exercise 
with great fidelity and innocence ; but let me exhort you always 
to think of my situation, which must one day be yours : always 
remember that life is short, and that eternity never ends ! I say 
nothing of your religion ; for if you conscientiously keep to it, 
I have little doubt but you may be saved : if you read the con 
troversy, I think we have the right on our side ; but if you do 

the press for C r, meaning the For his dislike of questioning, see 

King and Lord Chancellor.' Croker ; Life, ii. 472 ; iii. 268. 

Life, iv. 336, 348. 3 This shows that Johnson's quarrel 

1 Most probably ' Mrs. Davis that with Dr. Taylor was made up. 
was about Mrs. Williams.' Letters, Ante, i. 96 n ; Letters, ii. 426, n. 3. 
ii. 332. Perhaps however the wife He did not however bequeath any 
of Tom Davies the bookseller. Life^ memorial to him as he did to most 
i. 484. of those whom he saw in his last 

2 Macbeth, Act iii. sc. 4. 1. 118. days. 


152 Narrative by John Hoole. 

not read it, be not persuaded, from any worldly consideration, to 
alter the religion in which you were educated : change not, but 
from conviction of reason V He then most strongly enforced 
the motives of virtue and piety from the consideration of a future 
state of reward and punishment, and concluded with ' Remember 
all this, and God bless you ! Write down what I have said 
I think you are the third person I have bid do this 2 .' At ten 
o'clock he dismissed us, thanking us for a visit which he said 
could not have been very pleasant to us. 

Monday, Nov. 29. Called with my son 3 about eleven : saw 
the Doctor, who said, ' You must not now stay ; ' but, as we 
were going away, he said, * I will get Mr. Hoole to come 
next Wednesday and read the Litany to me, and do you and 
Mrs. Hoole come with him.' He appeared very ill. Returning 
from the city I called again to inquire, and heard that Dr. Butter 4 
was with him. In the evening, about eight, called again and just 
saw him ; but did not stay, as Mr. Langton was with him on 
business. I met Sir Joshua Reynolds going away 5 . 

Tuesday, Nov. 30. Called twice this morning, but did not 
see him : he was much the same. In the evening, between six 
and seven, went to his house : found there Mr. Langton, Mr. 
Sastres, and Mr. Ryland : the Doctor being asleep in the 
chamber, we went all to tea and coffee ; when the Doctor came 
in to us rather cheerful, and entering said, ' Dear gentlemen, how 
do you do ? ' He drank coffee, and, in the course of the con 
versation, said that he recollected a poem of his, made some 
years ago on a young gentleman coming of age. He repeated 
the whole with great spirit : it consisted of about fifteen or 
sixteen stanzas of four lines, in alternate rhyme. He said he 
had only repeated it once since he composed it, and that he 
never gave but one copy 6 . He said several excellent things that 
evening, and among the rest, that * scruples made many men 

1 For conversions ' from Protes- 3 The Rev. Samuel Hoole. Life, 
tantism to Popery,' see Life, ii. iv. 409. 

105. 4 Ib. iii. 154. 5 Ib. iv. 413. 

2 'The other two were Dr. Brockles- 6 It was to Mrs. Thrale that he 
by and myself.' J. HOOLE. Life, gave the copy. Ante, i. 281 ; Letters, 
iv. 414. ii. 190; Life, iv. 411. 


Narrative by John Hoole. 153 

miserable, but few men good J .' He spoke of the affectation 
that men had to accuse themselves of petty faults or weaknesses, 
in order to exalt themselves into notice for any extraordinary 
talents which they might possess ; and instanced Waller, which 
he said he would record if he lived to revise his life. Waller 
was accustomed to say that his memory was so bad he would 
sometimes forget to repeat his grace at table, or the Lord's 
Prayer 2 , perhaps that people might wonder at what he did else 
of great moment ; for the Doctor observed, that no man takes 
upon himself small blemishes without supposing that great 
abilities are attributed to him ; and that, in short, this affectation 
of candour or modesty was but another kind of indirect self- 
praise, and had its foundation in vanity 3 . Frank bringing him 
a note, as he opened it he said an odd thought struck him, that 
'one should receive no letters in the grave 4 . 5 His talk was in 
general very serious and devout, though occasionally cheerful : 
he said, ' You are all serious men, and I will tell you something. 
About two years since I feared that I had neglected God, and 
that then I had not a mind to give him : on which I set about 
to read Thomas a Kempis 5 in Low Dutch, which I accomplished, 

1 Ante, i. 38. 5 ' He was,' says Hawkins (p. 544), 

2 'Tout le monde se plaint de sa 'for some time pleased with Kempis's 
me'moire, et personne ne se plaint de tract De Imitatione Christi, but at 
son jugement.' La Rochefoucauld, length laid it aside, saying, that the 
Maximes, No. 89. main design of it was to promote 

3 'All censure of a man's self is monastic piety, and inculcate eccle- 
oblique praise. It is in order to siastical obedience.' 

show how much he can spare. It Milman in his History of Latin 

has all the invidiousness of self- Christianity, vi. 559, speaks of * the 

praise, and all the reproach of false- sublime selfishness of the Imitation 

hood.' Life, iii. 323. of Christ' See also ib. p. 484. 

' Nous n'avouons de petits deTauts Thackeray wrote of it on Christmas 

que pour persuader que nous n'en Day, 1849 : * The scheme of that 

avons pas de grands.' La Roche- book carried out would make the 

foucauld, Maximes, No. 334. wor ld the most wretched, useless, 

' This note was from Mr. Davies dreary, doting place of sojourn 

the bookseller, and mentioned a there would be no manhood, no love, 

present of some pork ; upon which no tender ties of mother and child, 

the Doctor said, in a manner that no use of intellect, no trade or 

seemed as if he thought it ill-timed, science, a set of selfish beings crawl- 

" Too much of this," or some such ing about avoiding one another 

expression.' J. HOOLE. Life, iv. 413. and howling a perpetual miserere* 


154 Narrative by John Hoole. 

and thence I judged that my mind was not impaired, Low Dutch 
having no affinity with any of the languages which I knew x . 
With respect to his recovery, he seemed to think it hopeless. 
There was to be a consultation of physicians next day : he 
wished to have his legs scarified to let out the water ; but this 
his medical friends opposed, and he submitted to their opinion, 
though he said he was not satisfied 2 . At half-past eight 
he dismissed us all but Mr. Langton. I first asked him if 
my son should attend him next day, to read the Litany, 
as he had desired ; but he declined it on account of the 
expected consultation. We went away, leaving Mr. Langton and 
Mr. De Moulins 3 , a young man who was employed in copying 
his Latin epigrams 4 . 

Wednesday, Dec. i. At his house in the evening : drank tea 
and coffee with Mr. Sastres, Mr. De Moulins, and Mr. Hall 5 : 
went into the Doctor's chamber after tea, when he gave me 
an epitaph to copy, written by him for his father, mother, and 
brother 6 . He continued much the same. 

Thursday, Dec. 2. Called in the morning, and left the epitaph : 
with him in the evening about seven ; found Mr. Langton and 
Mr. De Moulins ; did not see the Doctor ; he was in his chamber, 
and afterwards engaged with Dr. Scott 7 . 

Friday, Dec. 3. Called ; but he wished not to see anybody. 

Letters of W.M.Thackeray. London, when he had expressed fears about 

1887, p. 96. the scarification. Post in Windham's 

1 It is strange that he should not Diary. Heberden, forty-two years 
see its close affinity with English. earlier, had attended Bentley at his 
' Mr. Burke justly observed that this death, and had refused to bleed him, 
was not the most vigorous trial, Low though the aged patient pressed him. 
Dutch being a language so near to Monk's Bentley, ii. 413. 

our own.' Life, iv. 21. ' JOHNSON. 3 Four years earlier he wrote to 

"English and High Dutch have no Mrs. Thrale : 'Young Desmoulins 

similarity to the eye, though radically is taken in an under something of 

the same. Once, when looking into Drury-lane.' Letters, ii. 73. 

Low Dutch, I found in a whole page 4 Ante, \. 445. 

only one word similar to English ; 5 Perhaps a mistake for Mrs. Hall, 

stroem like stream, and it signified Wesley's sister. 

tide" ' Ib. iii. 235. See also ib. ii. 6 He sent it to Lichfield the next 

263, and ante, i. 68. day. Life, iv. 393. 

2 He had reproached Heberden 7 Afterwards Lord Stowell, one of 
with being timidorum timidissimus, his executors. Ib. iv. 402, n. 2. 


Narrative by John Hoole. 155 

Consultations of physicians to be held that day : called again in 
the evening ; found Mr. Langton with him ; Mr. Sastres and 
I went together into his chamber ; he was extremely low. ' I am 
very bad indeed, dear gentlemen,' he said ; ' very bad, very low, 
very cold, and I think I find my life to fail.' In about a quarter 
of an hour he dismissed Mr. Sastres and me ; but called me 
back again, and said that next Sunday, if he lived, he designed 
to take the sacrament, and wished me, my wife, and son to be 
there. We left Mr. Langton with him. 

Saturday, Dec. 4. Called on him about three : he was much 
the same ; did not see him, he had much company that day. 
Called in the evening with Mr. Sastres about eight ; found he 
was not disposed for company ; Mr. Langton with him ; did not 
see him. 

Sunday, Dec. 5. Went to Bolt Court with Mrs. Hoole after 
eleven ; found there Sir John Hawkins, Rev. Mr. Strahan, 
Mrs. Gardiner, and Mr. De Moulins, in the dining-room. After 
some time the Doctor came to us from the chamber, and saluted 
us all, thanking us all for this visit to him. He said he found 
himself very bad, but hoped he should go well through the duty 
which he was about to do. The sacrament was then administered 
to all present, Frank being of the number 1 . The Doctor re 
peatedly desired Mr. Strahan to speak louder; seeming very 
anxious not to lose any part of the service, in which he joined in 
very great fervour of devotion. The service over, he again 
thanked us all for attending him on the occasion ; he said he 
had taken some opium to enable him to support the fatigue : he 
seemed quite spent, and lay in his chair some time in a kind of 
doze : he then got up and retired into his chamber. Mr. Ryland 
then called on him. I was with them : he said to Mr. Ryland, 
' I have taken my viaticum : I hope I shall arrive safe at the 
end of my journey, and be accepted at last.' He spoke very 

1 For the prayer which Johnson a protest against 'ostentatious bounty 

composed see ante^ i. 121. and favour to negroes] must, brutal 

Hawkins, who said that Frank's fellow that he was, with great in- 

' first master had in great humanity dignation have seen the black ser- 

made him a Christian,' and whose vant admitted. See also ante, ii. 

last words in his Life of Johnson are 124 n. ; Life, iv. 441. 


156 Narrative by John Hoole. 

despondingly several times : Mr. Ryland comforted him, observing 
that ' we had great hopes given us.' Yes/ he replied, ' we have 
hopes given us ; but they are conditional, and I know not how 
far I have fulfilled those conditions I .' He afterwards said 
c However, I think that I have now corrected all bad and vicious 
habits.' Sir Joshua Reynolds called on him : we left them to 
gether. Sir Joshua being gone, he called Mr. Ryland and me 
again to him : he continued talking very seriously, and repeated 
a prayer or collect with great fervour, when Mr. Ryland took 
his leave. My son came to us from his church : we were at 
dinner Dr. Johnson, Mrs. Gardiner, myself, Mrs. Hoole, my son? 
and Mr. De Moulins. He ate a tolerable dinner, but retired directly 
after dinner. He had looked out a sermon of Dr. Clarke's 2 , 
' On the Shortness of Life,' for me to read to him after dinner, 
but he was too ill to hear it. After six o'clock he called us 
all into his room, when he dismissed us for that night with 
a prayer, delivered as he sat in his great chair in the most 
fervent and affecting manner, his mind appearing wholly em 
ployed with the thoughts of another life. He told Mr. Ryland 
that he wished not to come to God with opium 3 , but that he 
hoped he had been properly attentive. He said before us all, 
that when he recovered the last spring, he had only called it 
a reprieve, but that he did think it was for a longer time ; how 
ever he hoped the time that had been prolonged to him might 
be the means of bringing forth fruit meet for repentance. 

Monday, Dec. 6. Sent in the morning to make inquiry after 
him ; he was much the same ; called in the evening ; found 
Mr. Cruikshanks 4 the surgeon with him ; he said he had been 
that day quarrelling with all his physicians ; he appeared in 
tolerable spirits. 

Tuesday, Dec. 7. Called at dinner time ; saw him eat a very 
good dinner : he seemed rather better, and in spirits. 

1 Life, iv. 299 ; Letters^ ii. 380. Dictionary/ but on his death-bed 
' Quid sum miser tune dicturus, ' he pressed Dr. Brocklesby to read 

Quern patronum rogaturus, his sermons.' Life, iv. 416 ; ante, 

Quum vix Justus sit securus ? ' i. 38. 

Dies Irae. 3 Ante> ii. 128. 

2 Johnson ' had made it a rule not 4 W. C. Cruikshank. Life, iv. 
to admit Dr. Clarke's name in his 239. 


Narrative by John Hoole. 157 

Wednesday, Dec. 8. Went with Mrs. Hoole and my son, by 
appointment : found him very poorly and low, after a very bad 
night. Mr. Nichols the printer was there 1 . My son read the 
Litany, the Doctor several times urging him to speak louder 2 . 
After prayers Mr. Langton came in : much serious discourse : he 
warned us all to profit by his situation ; and, applying to me, 
who stood next him, exhorted me to lead a better life than he 
had done. ' A better life than you, my dear Sir ! ' I repeated. 
He replied warmly, ' Don't compliment now 3 .' He told Mr. Lang- 
ton that he had the night before enforced on 4 a powerful 

argument to a powerful objection against Christianity. 

He had often thought it might seem strange that the Jews, 
who refused belief to the doctrine supported by the miracles of 
our Saviour, should after his death raise a numerous church ; but 
he said that they expected fully a temporal prince, and with this 
idea the multitude was actuated when they strewed his way with 
palm-branches on his entry into Jerusalem ; but finding their 
expectations afterwards disappointed, rejected him, till in process 
of time, comparing all the circumstances and prophecies of the 
Old Testament, confirmed in the New, many were converted ; 
that the Apostles themselves once believed him to be a temporal 

1 Life, iv. 407 ; for Nichols's par- Sir, louder, I entreat you, or you 
ticulars of his conversation. In the pray in vain." ' Mr. Croker records 
Preface to the Gentleman's Maga- the following communication from 
sine, 1784, are given some verses by Mr. Hoole: 'When I called upon 
Nichols, where Johnson is men- him, the morning after he had pressed 
tioned, with this footnote on his me rather roughly to read louder, he 
name : ' To whom the writer of these said, " I was peevish yesterday ; you 
lines had the pleasure of shewing must forgive me : when you are as 
them in the last interview with which old and as sick as I am, perhaps you 
he was honoured by this illustrious may be peevish too." I have heard 
pattern of true piety. " Take care of him make many apologies of this 
your eternal salvation," and " Re- kind.' Life, iv. 409. 

member to observe the Sabbath ; let 3 * Alas ! when I receive these un 
it never be a day of business, nor due compliments, I am ready to 
wholly a day of dissipation," were answer with my old friend Johnson 
parts of his last solemn farewell. " Sir, I am a miserable sinner." ' 
" Let my words have their due Hannah More's Memoirs, ii. 437. 
weight," he added ; " they are those 4 See post in Mr. Windham's 
of a dying man." ' Diary, where such an argument was 

2 ' He more than once interrupted enforced on Dec. 7. 
Mr. Hoole with, " Louder, my dear 


158 Narrative by John Hook. 

prince. He said that he had always been struck with the resem 
blance of the Jewish passover and the Christian doctrine of 
redemption J . He thanked us all for our attendance, and we left 
him with Mr. Langton. 

Thursday, Dec. 9. Called in the evening ; did not see him, as 
he was engaged. 

Friday, Dec. 10. Called about eleven in the morning; saw 
Mr. La Trobe there 2 : neither of us saw the Doctor, as we under 
stood he wished not to be visited that day. In the evening 
I sent him a letter, recommending Dr. Dalloway (an irregular 
physician 3 ) as an extraordinary person for curing the dropsy. 
He returned me a verbal answer that he was obliged to me, 
but that it was too late. My son read prayers with him this 

Saturday, Dec. n. Went to Bolt Court about twelve; met 
there Dr. Burney, Dr. Taylor, Sir John Hawkins, Mr. Sastres, 
Mr. Paradise 4 , Count Zenobia, and Mr. Langton. Mrs. Hoole 
called for me there : we both went to him ; he received us very 
kindly ; told me he had my letter, but ' it was too late for 
doctors, regular or irregular? His physicians had been with 
him that day, but prescribed nothing. Mr. Cruikshanks came ; 
the Doctor was rather cheerful with him ; he said, ' Come, give 
me your hand,' and shook him by the hand, adding, ' You shall 
make no other use of it now;' meaning he should not examine 
his legs. Mr. Cruikshanks wished to do it, but the Doctor would 
not let him. Mr. Cruikshanks said he would call in the evening. 

Sunday, Dec. 12. Was not at Bolt Court in the forenoon ; at 
St. Sepulchre's school 5 in the evening with Mrs. Hoole, where we 
saw Mrs. Gardiner and Lady Rothes 6 ; heard that Dr. Johnson 
was very bad, and had been something delirious. Went to Bolt 
Court about nine, and found there Mr. Windham and the Rev. 
Mr. Strahan. The Doctor was then very bad in bed, which 

1 See post in Mr. Windham's die by the College.' Ib. ii. 354, n. 2. 
Diary. 4 Ante, i. 105, n. 

2 A Moravian. Life, iv. 410. 5 The Ladies' Charity School, to 

3 Johnson was not the man to which Johnson was a subscriber, 
admit ' an irregular physician 'in Letters, \. 1 56. 

other words, a quack. With George 6 Bennet Langton' s wife. Life, ii. 
Ill he would have said, ' I shall 146. 

I think 

Narrative by John Hoole. 159 

I think he had only taken to that day : he had now refused 
to take any more medicine or food. Mr. Cruikshanks came 
about eleven : he endeavoured to persuade him to take some 
nourishment, but in vain. Mr. Windham then went again to 
him, and, by the advice of Mr. Cruikshanks, put it upon this 
footing that by persisting to refuse all sustenance he might 
probably defeat his own purpose to preserve his mind clear, as 
his weakness might bring on paralytic complaints that might 
affect his mental powers 1 . The Doctor, Mr. Windham said, 
heard him patiently ; but when he had heard all, he desired to 
be troubled no more. He then took a most affectionate leave of 
Mr. Windham 2 , who reported to us the issue of the conversation, 
for only Mr. De Moulins was with them in the chamber. I did 
not see the Doctor that day, being fearful of disturbing him, 
and never conversed with him again. I came away about half- 
past eleven with Mr. Windham. 

Monday, Dec. 13. Went to Bolt Court at eleven o'clock in 
the morning ; met a young lady coming down stairs from the 
Doctor, whom, upon inquiry, I found to be Miss Morris (a sister 
to Miss Morris, formerly on the stage 3 ). Mrs. De Moulins told 
me that she had seen the Doctor ; that by her desire he had been 
told she came to ask his blessing, and that he said, * God bless 
you ! ' I then went up into his chamber, and found him lying 
very composed in a kind of doze : he spoke to nobody. Sir John 
Hawkins, Mr. Langton, Mrs. Gardiner, Rev. Mr. Strahan and 
Mrs. Strahan, Doctors Brocklesby and Butter, Mr. Steevens, and 
Mr. Nichols the printer, came ; but no one chose to disturb him 
by speaking to him, and he seemed to take no notice of any 
person. While Mrs. Gardiner and I were there, before the rest 
came, he took a little warm milk in a cup, when he said some 
thing upon its not being properly given into his hand : he breathed 
very regular, though short, and appeared to be mostly in a calm 
sleep or dozing, I left him in this state, and never more saw 
him alive. In the evening I supped with Mrs. Hoole and my 

1 Life, iv. 415 ; ante, ii. 128. May i, 1769.' HOOLE. Her likeness 

z Life, iv. 415, n. i. as Hope nursing Love was painted 

3 ' She appeared in Juliet at Covent by Reynolds. Northcote's Reynolds, 
Garden, Nov. 26, 1768, and died i. 185. 


160 Narrative by John Hoole. 

son at Mr. Braithwaite's T , and at night my servant brought me 
word that my dearest friend died that evening about seven 
o'clock : and next morning I went to the house, where I met 
Mr. Seward 2 ; we went together into the chamber, and there 
saw the most awful sight of Dr. Johnson laid out in his bed, 
without life ! 

1 ' That amiable and friendly man, of the wits of the age.' Life, iv. 
who, with modest and unassuming 278. 
manners, has associated with many 2 Life, Hi. 123. 



MR. JOHNSON was not unacquainted with Savage's frailties ; 
but. as he has not long since said to a friend on this subject, * he 
knew his heart, and that was never intentionally abandoned ; for 
though he generally mistook the love for the practice of virtue, he 
was at all times a true and sincere believer a .' 

Savage living very intimately with most of the wits of what 
is called our Augustan age, gave Mr. Johnson many anecdotes, 
with which he has since enriched his Biographical Prefaces 3 . 
The following, however, I believe, has never appeared in print 

Sir Richard Steele 4 , Phillips 5 , and Savage, spending the night 
together, at a tavern, in Gerard-street 6 , Soho, they sallied out in 
the morning all very much intoxicated with liquor when they 
were accosted by a tradesman, going to his work, at the top of 

1 This Life is said to be by William of mankind.' Works, viii. 190. 
Cooke, known as ' Conversation For principles and practice see 
Cooke.' Nichols, Lit. Hist. vii. 467. Life, i. 418 ; ii. 341 ; v. 210, 359. 
He derived his name from his poem ' No man's religion ever survives 
On Conversation. Ib. He was a his morals.' South's Sermons, ed. 
member of the Essex Head Club. 1823,1.291. 

Life, iv. 437. 3 The Lives of the Poets. Life, iv. 

2 Johnson in his Life of Savage 35, n. I. 

says that ' in cases indifferent [where 4 For anecdotes of Steele and the 

friends or enemies were not con- bailiffs see Works, viii. 104. 

cerned] he was zealous for virtue, s No doubt Ambrose Philips, who 

truth and justice; he knew very knew Steele. Works, viii. 388. 

well the necessity of goodness to 6 At the Turk's Head in this 

the present and future happiness street the Literary Club met at first. 

VOL. II. M Hedge-lane 

162 Anecdotes of Johnson 

Hedge-lane 1 ; who, after begging their pardon for the liberty of 
addressing them on the subject, told them 'that, at the bottom 
of the lane, he saw two or three suspicious-looking fellows, who 
appeared to be bailiffs, so that, if any of them were apprehensive 
of danger, he had better take a different route.' Not one of 
them waited to thank the man, but flew off, different ways, each 
conscious, from the embarrassments of his own affairs, that such 
a circumstance was very likely to happen to himself. (Page 27.) 

Johnson, soon after the publication of his English Dictionary, 
made a proposal to a number of Booksellers convened for that 
purpose, of writing a Dictionary of Trade and Commerce 2 . This 
proposal went round the room without any answer, when a well- 
known son of the trade 3 since dead, remarkable for the abrupt 
ness of his manners, replied, ' Why, Doctor, what the D 1 do 
you know of trade and commerce 4 ? ' The Doctor very modestly 
answered, ' Why, Sir, not much I confess in the practical line 
but I believe I could glean, from different authors of authority 
on the subject, such materials as would answer the purpose very 
weliV (Page 34.) 

When Cave got into affluence, it was usual with him, upon the 

1 Hedge Lane was near Charing Dr. Smith, who had never been in 
Cross. Dodsley's London, iii. 178. trade, could not expect to write well 
For Johnson's visit to a poor man on that subject any more than a 
there see Life, iii. 324. lawyer upon physick,' he replied : 

2 Johnson contributed the preface * He is mistaken, Sir : a man who 
to Rolt's Dictionary of Trade and has never been engaged in trade 
Commerce. Life, i. 358. See also himself may undoubtedly write well 
ante, i. 412. upon trade, and there is nothing 

^ * As Physicians are called the which requires more to be illustrated 

Faculty and Counsellors at Law the by philosophy than trade does.' 

Profession, the Booksellers of London Life, ii. 430. 

are denominated the Trade. Johnson Of those * in the practical line ' 

disapproved of these denominations.' Smith had a low opinion. ' People 

Life, iii. 285. of the same trade,' he writes, ' seldom 

4 Johnson did not receive a doctor's m eet together, even for merriment 
degree till many years later ; neither and diversion, but the conversation 
is it likely that he would have left ends in a conspiracy against the 
the form of the question unrebuked. public, or in some contrivance to 

5 When Boswell told Johnson of raise prices.' Wealth of Nations, 
Sir John Pringle's observation ' that ed. 1811, i. 177. See also ib. i. 352. 


Published by G. Kearsley. 163 

receipt of any large sum of money, to make his wife the cash- 
keeper. The frequency of this, and the dependence which he 
had on her management of it, tempted her to practice 'the 
little pilfering temper of a wife ; ' she therefore from time to 
time accumulated a considerable sum, which Cave knew nothing 
of. Her last illness was an asthma ; and though she every day 
grew worse, she reserved this secret from her husband till her 
breath grew so short, that she had only time to tell him ' she had 
secreted a part of the money which he occasionally gave her, 
which she laid out in India bonds.' She was immediately after 
taken in convulsions, and died before she had time to say where 
they were hid, or in whose possession they were deposited. 
Cave on her death made every possible enquiry after his property, 
but such is the integrity of some friendships ', the bonds were never 
afterwards found x . (Page 47.) 

At Lichfield he used sometimes to recall the memory of past 
times, and enter into all the boyish sports and gambols of his 
youth, and it is but a very few years back, that he obliged the 
master of the school where he had been educated, to restore to 
the boys, an annual entertainment of Furmenti 2 , which had been 
practised in his days, but had for some time been discontinued. 
(Page 66.) 

On the Sunday night preceding his death, he was obliged to 
be turned in the bed by two strong men employed for that 
purpose. He was at intervals likewise delirious ; and in one of 
those fits, seeing a friend at the bed-side, he exclaimed, * What, 

1 For this anecdote see Life, iv. affected by her death, but in a few 

319, where the wife's name is not days lost his sleep and his appetite, 

mentioned : ' Her husband said, he which he never recovered.' Works, 

was more hurt by her want of con- vi. 433. 

fidence in him, than by the loss of 2 Johnson defines furmenty as 
his money. " I told him," said food made by boiling wheat in milk. 
Johnson, "that he should console In the Gentleman's Magazine, 1783, 
himself ; for perhaps the money p. 578 ; 1785, p. 96, it is stated that 
might be found, and he was sure furmety or frumity is eaten in many 
that his wife was jwz*."' places on Mothering Sunday (Mid- 
Johnson in his Life of Cave says: Lent-Sunday) and on Christmas 
1 Cave seemed not at first much Eve. 

M 2 will 

164 Anecdotes of Johnson 

will that fellow never have done talking poetry to me x ? ' He 
recovered his senses before morning, but spoke little after this. 
His heart, however, was not unemployed, as by his fixed atten 
tion, and the motion of his lips, it was evident he was pouring 
out his soul in prayer. (Page 79.) 

Dr. Johnson's face was composed of large coarse features, 
which, from a studious turn, when composed, looked sluggish, 
yet awful and contemplative. The head at the front of this 
book is esteemed a good likeness ; indeed so much, that when 
the Doctor saw the drawing, he exclaimed, ' Well, thou art an 
ugly fellow, but still, I believe thou art like the original V The 
Doctor sat for this picture to Mr. Trotter 3 , in February 1782, at 
the request of Mr. Kearsley, who had just furnished him with 
a complete list of all his works, for he confessed he had forgot 
more than half what he had written 4 . 

His face, however, was capable of great expression, both in 
respect to intelligence and mildness, as all those can witness who 
have seen him in the flow of conversation, or under the influence 
of grateful feelings. I am the more confirmed in this opinion, 
by the authority of a celebrated French Physiognomist, who has, 
in a late publication on his art 5 , given two different etchings of 
Dr. Johnson's head, to shew the correspondence between the 
countenance and the mind. 

1 Perhaps he was haunted by the * Hayter,' wrote Macaulay, ' has 
thought of the writer of whom he painted me for his picture of the 
said : ' I never did the man an House of Commons. I cannot judge 
injury ; but he would persist in of his performance. I can only say, 
reading his tragedy to me. 3 Life, as Charles the Second did on a 
iv. 244, n. 2. similar occasion, " Odds fish, if I am 

2 Mme. D'Arblay records that like this, I am an ugly fellow." ' Tre- 
Johnson saw her examining ' a small velyan's Macaulay, ed. 1877, ii.i6. 
engraving of his portrait from the 3 Trotter had worked with Blake, 
picture of Reynolds. He began see- Gilchrist's Slake, i. 33, 57. This 
sawing for a moment or two in picture is, I believe, the one in the 
silence, and then, with a ludicrous Library of Pembroke College. 

half laugh, peeping over her shoulder, 4 Life,\. 112; iii. 321. 

he called out : ' Ah ha ! Sam 5 Lavater's Essay on Physiognomy. 

Johnson ! I see thee ! and an Life, iv. 422. In the English transla- 
ugly dog thou art!' Memoirs of tion, published in 1789, a third etching 
Dr. Burney, ii. 180. is given, i. 194. 


Published by G. Kearsley. 165 

In respect to person, he was rather of the heroic stature, being 
above the middle size ; but though strong, broad, and muscular, 
his parts were slovenly put together. When he walked the 
streets, what with the constant roll of his head, and the con 
comitant motion of his body, he appeared to make his way by 
that motion, independent of his feet x . (Page 87.) 

Amongst the poets of his own country, next to Shakespeare, 
he admired Milton 2 ; and though in some parts of the life of this 
great man, he has been rather severe on his political character, 
there are others where he bestows the highest praises on his 
learning and genius. To this I am happy to add another 
eulogium, which I heard from him in conversation a few months 
before his death : ' Milton (says he) had that which rarely fell 
to the lot of any man an unbounded imagination, with a store 
of knowledge equal to all its calls V (Page 99.) 

In his conversation he was learned, various, and instructive, 
oftener in the didactic than in the colloquial line, which might 
have arisen from the encouragement of his friends, who generally 
flattered him with the most profound attention and surely it 
was well bestowed ; for in those moments, the great variety of 
his reading broke in upon his mind, like mountain floods, which 

1 Boswell quoting this description therefore learned.' Works, vii. 130. 
says : ' His peculiar march is de- Edward FitzGerald wrote to Pro 
scribed in a very just and picturesque fessor C. E. Norton on Jan. 23, 
manner.' Life, iv. 71. 1876: *I don't think I've read 

2 For Johnson's estimate of Shake- Milton these forty years ; the whole 
speare see Life, ii. 86, n. I, and of scheme of the poem, and certain 
Milton, ib. i. 230 ; iv. 40 ; ante, i. parts of it, looming as grand as any- 
216. thing in my memory; but I never 

3 ' The thoughts which are occa- could read ten lines together without 
sionally called forth in the progress stumbling at some pedantry that 
[of Paradise Lost} are such as could tipped me at once out of Paradise, 
only be produced by an imagination or even Hell, into the schoolroom, 
in the highest degree fervid and worse than either. . . . Tennyson cer- 
active, to which materials were sup- tainly then thought Milton the sub- 
plied by incessant study and un- limest of all the gang ; his diction 
limited curiosity. . . . Milton had modelled on Virgil, as perhaps 
considered creation in its whole Dante's.' Letters of Edward Fitz- 
extent, and his descriptions are Gerald, 1894. ii. 193. 



i66 Anecdotes of Johnson 

he poured out upon his audience in all the fullness of informa 
tion not but he observed Swift's rule, ' of giving every man time 
to take his share in the conversation x ; ' and when the company 
thought proper to engage him in the general discussion of little 
matters, no man threw back the ball with greater ease and 

He always expressed himself with clearness and precision, and 
seldom made use of an unnecessary word each had its due 
weight, and stood in its proper place. He was sometimes a little 
too tenacious of his own opinion, particularly when it was in 
danger of being wrested from him by any of the company. 
Here he used to collect himself with all his strength and here 
he shewed such skill and dexterity in defence, that he either 
tired out his adversary, or turned the laugh against him, by the 
power of his wit and irony 2 . 

In this place, it would be omitting a very singular quality of 
his, not to speak of the amazing powers of his memory 3 . The 
great stores of learning which he laid in, in his youth, were not 
of that cumbrous and inactive quality, which we meet with in 
many who are called great scholars ; for he could, at all times, 
draw bills upon this capital with the greatest security of being 
paid. When quotations were made against him in conversation, 
either by applying to the context, he gave a different turn to the 
passage, or quoted from other parts of the same author, that 
which was more favourable to his own opinion : if these failed 
him, he would instantly call up a whole phalanx of other 
authorities, by which he bore down his antagonist with all the 
superiority of allied force. 

But it is not the readiness with which he applied to different 
authors, proves so much the greatness of his memory, as the 
extent to which he could carry his recollection upon occasions. 
I remember one day, in a conversation upon the miseries of old 
a g e > a gentleman in company observed, he always thought 
Juvenal's description of them to be rather too highly coloured 

1 Ante, i. 169. give room by a pause for any other 

' Swift did not claim the right of speaker.' Works, viii. 225. 

talking alone ; for it was his rule, 2 Life, ii. 100. 

when he had spoken a minute, to 8 Ib. v. 368 ; ante, ii. 85, 87. 


Published by G. Kearsley. 167 

upon which the Doctor replied ' No, Sir I believe not ; they 
may not all belong to an individual, but they are collectively 
true of old age V Then rolling about his head, as if snuffing up 
his recollection, he suddenly broke out : 

' Ille humero, hie lumbis,' &c 

down to ' et nigra veste senescant.' 

(Satire x. 227-245.) 

Some time previous to Dr. Hawkesworth's publication of his 
beautiful Ode on Life 2 , he carried it down with him to a friend's 
house in the country to retouch. Dr. Johnson was of this party ; 
and as Hawkesworth and the Doctor lived upon the most inti 
mate terms 3 , the former read it to him for his opinion. ' Why, 
Sir,' says Johnson, ' I can't well determine on a first hearing, 
read it again, second thoughts are best'; Dr. Hawkesworth 
complied, after which Dr. Johnson read it himself, approved of 
it very highly, and returned it. 

Next morning at breakfast, the subject of the poem being re 
newed, Dr. Johnson, after again expressing his approbation of 
it, said he had but one objection to make to it, which was, that 
he doubted its originality. Hawkesworth, alarmed at this, 
challenged him to the proof; when the Doctor repeated the 
whole .of the poem, with only the omission of a very few lines ; 
f What do you say now, Hawkey ? ' says the Doctor. ' Only this,' 
replied the other, ' that I shall never repeat any thing 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.' 

I have now the poem before me, and I find it contains no less 
than sixty -eight lines. (Page 100.) 

His life reflected the purity and integrity of his writings. His 
friendships, as they were generally formed on the broad basis of 
virtue, were constant, active, and unshaken. And what rendered 

1 Life, iii. 337. the Life of Swift, speaking of 

* Gentleman's Magazine, 1747, p. Hawkesworth, mentions 'the inti- 
337. macy of our friendship.' See ante, 

3 Johnson at the beginning of i. 166. 


i68 Anecdotes of Johnson 

them still more valuable, he knew and practised that sort which 
was most applicable to the wants of his friends. To those in 
need he liberally opened his purse To others he gave up his 
time, his interest, and his advice x ; and having an honest con 
fidence that this last was of some weight in the world, he scarcely 
let a proper opportunity slip without enforcing it ; particularly 
to young men, whom [sic] he hoped would remember what fell 
from such high authority ; even to children he could be playfully 
instructive. (Page 112.) 

Some years since the Doctor coming up Fleet-street, at about 
two o'clock in the morning, he was alarmed with the cries of 
a person seemingly in great distress. He followed the voice 
for some time, when, by the glimmer of an expiring lamp, he 
perceived an unhappy female, almost naked, and perishing on 
a truss of straw, who had just strength enough to tell him, 
* she was turned out by an inhuman landlord in that condition, 
and to beg his charitable assistance not to let her die in the 
street.' The Doctor melted at her story, desired her to place 
her confidence in God, for that under him he would be her 
protector. He accordingly looked about for a coach to put her 
into ; but there was none to be had : ' his charity, however, 
worked too strong/ to be cooled by such an accident. He 
kneeled down by her side, raised her in his arms, wrapped his 
great coat about her. placed her on his back, and in this condition 
carried her home to his house. 

Next day her disorder appearing to be venereal, he was ad 
vised to abandon her ; but he replied, ' that may be as much her 
misfortune as her fault ; I am determined to give her the chance 
of a reformation'; he accordingly kept her in his house above 
thirteen weeks, where she was regularly attended by a physician, 
who recovered her. 

The Doctor, during this time, learned more of her story ; and 
finding her to be one of those unhappy women who are impelled 
to this miserable life more from necessity than inclination, he set 

1 To Mr. Thrale he wrote : ' The wanted is evidently impertinent.' 
advice that is wanted is commonly Letters, ii. 162. For the assistance 
unwelcome, and that which is not he gave see ante, i. 1 80, 236, 279. 


Published by G. Kearsley. 169 

on foot a subscription, and established her in a milliner's shop in 
the country, where she was living some years ago in very con 
siderable repute *. (Page 24.) 

His last advice to his friends was upon this subject [the re 
ligious duties], and, like a second Socrates, though under the 
sentence of death, from his infirmities, their eternal welfare was 
his principal theme To some he enjoy ned it with tears in his 
eyes, reminding them, 'it was the dying request of a friend, who 
had no other way of paying the large obligations he owed them 
but by this advice 2 .' (Page 1 1 8.) 

[The five following anecdotes, attributed to Kearsley by 
Croker (vol. x. p. 99), are not in my edition of the Life of 
Johnson published by him.] 

The emigration of the Scotch to London being a conversation 
between the Doctor and Foote, the latter said he believed the 
number of Scotch in London were as great in the former as the 
present reign. ' No, Sir ! ' said the Doctor, ' you are certainly 
wrong in your belief : but I see how you're deceived ; you can't 
distinguish them now as formerly, for the fellows all come here 
breeched of late years V 

' Pray, Doctor,' said a gentleman to him, * is Mr. Thrale a man 
of conversation, or is he only wise and silent ? ' ' Why, Sir, his 
conversation does not show the minute hand ; but he strikes the 
hour very correctly V 

On Johnson's return from Scotland, a particular friend of his 
was saying, that now he had had a view of the country, he was 
in hopes it would cure him of many prejudices against that 

1 Life, iv. 321. in the Duke of Cumberland's army 

2 Ante, ii. 146, 151. had been compelled in part to adopt 

3 After the Rebellion of 1745 to the southern garb. When they passed 
wear the Highland dress was for- in review before him he said : 
bidden by law. Any one wearing it, * They look very well ; have breeches, 
1 not being a landed man, or the son and are the better for that.' Foot- 
of a landed man,' was, on conviction, steps of Dr. Johnson in Scotland, 
'to be delivered over to serve as p. 171. 

a soldier.' The loyal Highlanders 4 Ante, i. 423 ; Life, i. 494. 


170 Anecdotes of Johnson published by G. Kearsley. 

nation, particularly in respect to the fruits. ' Why, yes, Sir/ 
said the Doctor ; ' I have found out that gooseberries will grow 
there against a south wall ; but the skins are so tough, that it is 
death to the man who swallows one of them V 

Being asked his opinion of hunting, he said, * It was the labour 
of the savages of North America, but the amusement of the 
gentlemen of England */ 

When Johnson was told of Mrs. Thrale's marriage with Piozzi, 
the Italian singer, he was dumb with surprise for some moments ; 
at last, recovering himself, he exclaimed with great emotion, 
* Varium et mutabile semper fcemina 3 ! ' 

1 * Things which grow wild here the sloe to perfection?' Life, ii. 

must be cultivated with great care 77. 

in Scotland. Pray, now, (throwing 2 For his fox-hunting see ante, i. 

himself back in his chair, and 287. 

laughing) are you ever able to bring 3 Aeneid, iv. 569. 


. WILLIAMS was a person extremely interesting. She 
had uncommon firmness of mind, a boundless curiosity 2 , re 
tentive memory, and strong judgment. She had various powers 
of pleasing. Her personal afflictions and slender fortune she 
seemed to forget, when she had tjhe power of doing an act of 
kindness : she was social, cheerful, and active, in a state of body 
that was truly deplorable. Her regard to Dr. Johnson was 
formed with such strength of judgment and firm esteem, that 
her voice never hesitated when she repeated his maxims, or 
recited his good deeds ; though upon many other occasions her 
want of sight led her to make so much use of her ear, as to 
affect her speech. Mrs. Williams was blind before she was 
acquainted with Dr. Johnson 3 . She had many resources, though 
none very great. With the Miss Wilkinsons she generally 
passed a part of the year, and received from them presents, and 

1 Published by Croker (vols. i. iv. 239. * Had she had good humour 
275 ; iii. 9 ; x. 48) ' from a paper and prompt elocution, her universal 
transmitted by Lady Knight to Rome curiosity and comprehensive know- 
to Mr. Hoole,' and printed in the ledge would have made her the de- 
Eurofiean Magazine, October, 1799. light of all that knew her.' Letters, 

Lady Knight was the widow of ii. 334. ' Her curiosity was universal, 

Admiral Sir Charles Knight and her knowledge was very extensive, 

mother of Cornelia Knight, who had ajfid she sustained forty years of 

the audacity to write a continuation misery with steady fortitude.' Ib. 

of Rasselas, under the name of p. 336. 

Dinarbas. The two stories were 3 According to Boswell, she made 

sometimes printed in one volume. his acquaintance when she came to 

2 Johnson wrote on her death : London ' in hopes of being cured of 
' Her acquisitions were many and a cataract in both her eyes, which 
her curiosity universal ; so that she afterwards ended in total blindness.' 
partook of every conversation.' Life, Life, i. 232. 


172 Anecdotes and Remarks 

from the first who died, a legacy of clothes and money. The 
last of them, Mrs. Jane, left her an annual rent ; but from the 
blundering manner of the will, I fear she never reaped the 
benefit of it. The lady left money to erect a hospital for ancient 
maids ; but the number she had allotted being too great for 
the donation, the Doctor [Johnson] said, it would better to 
expunge the word maintain, and put in to starve such a number 
of old maids. They asked him what name should be given 
it: he replied, 'Let it be called JENNY'S WHIM 1 .' Lady 
Philips 2 made her a small annual allowance, and some other 
Welsh ladies, to all of whom she was related. Mrs. Mon 
tagu, on the death of Mr. Montagu, settled upon her (by 
deed) ten pounds per annum 3 . As near as I can calculate, 
Mrs. Williams had about thirty-five or forty pounds a year. The 
furniture she used [in her apartment in Dr. Johnson's house] 
was her own 4 ; her expenses were small, tea and bread and butter 
being at least half of her nourishment. Sometimes she had a 
servant or charwoman to do the ruder orifices of the house 5 ; but 
she was herself active and industrious. I have frequently seen 
her at work. Upon remarking one day her facility in moving 
about the house, searching into drawers, and finding books, with 
out the help of sight, ' Believe me (said she), persons who cannot 
do these common offices without sight, did but little while they 
enjoyed that blessing.' Scanty circumstances, bad health, and 
blindness, are surely a sufficient apology for her being sometimes 
impatient : her natural disposition was good, friendly, and 

As to her poems, she many years attempted to publish 
them : the half-crowns she had got towards the publication, 
she confessed to me, went for necessaries, and that the greatest 

1 ' Here [at Vauxhall] we picked Life, v. 276. 

up Lord Granby, arrived very drunk 3 Letters, i. 371, n. I ; ii. 190. 

from Jenny's Whim.' Walpole's 4 ' She left her little ' to the Ladies' 

Letters, ii. 212. Jenny's Whim was Charity School. Ib. ii. 334. 

a tavern at the end of the wooden 5 Johnson had his man-servant, 

bridge at Chelsea, where Victoria and a female-servant, to whom he 

Station now stands. Wheatley's bequeathed ^100 stock. Life, iv. 

London, 1891, ii. 305. 402, n. 2. 

2 Lady Philipps of Picton Castle. 


by Lady Knight. 173 

pain she ever felt was from the appearance of defrauding her 
subscribers x : ' but what can I do ? the Doctor [Johnson] always 
puts me off with <; Well, we'll think about it;" and Gold 
smith says : " Leave it to me 2 ." ' However, two of her friends 
under her directions, made a new subscription at a crown, the 
whole price of the work, and in a very little time raised sixty 
pounds. Mrs. Carter was applied to by Mrs. Williams's desire, 
and she, with the utmost activity and kindness procured a long 
list of names. At length the work was published, in which is 
a fine written but gloomy tale of Dr. Johnson 3 . The money 
(i5c/.) Mrs. Williams had various uses for, and a part of it was 
funded 4 . 

Mrs. Williams's account of Johnson's wife was, that she had 
a good understanding and great sensibility, but inclined to be 
satirical. Her first husband died insolvent 5 ; her sons were 
much disgusted with her for her second marriage ; perhaps 
because they, being struggling to get advanced in life, were 
mortified to think she had allied herself to a man who had not 
any visible means of being useful to them. However, she 
always retained her affection for them. While they resided in 
Gough Court 6 , her son, the officer 7 , knocked at the door, and 
asked the maid if her mistress was at home? She answered, 

1 In the Gentleman's Magazine his theatre, by which she got ^200. 
for September, 1750, p. 432, pro- Ib. i. 393, n. I ; Letters, i. 53. 
posals were issued for printing her Miss Hawkins, with a foolish inso- 
Essays in Verse and Prose by sub- lence unrivalled even by her father's, 
scription. The price was to be five writes (Memoirs, i. 152): 'Miss 
shillings, of which half was to be paid Williams being a gentlewoman, con- 
on subscribing. In 1759 Johnson ferred on her protector the character 
was signing ' receipts with her name of gentleman.' See ante, ii. 141, for 
for subscribers.' Letters, i. 87. The Miss Hawkins's description of her 
book was not published till 1766. dress. 

Life, ii. 25. 5 If he died insolvent ' her settle- 

2 In 1763 Goldsmith ' went with ment was secured.' Life, i. 95, 
Johnson, strutting away,' from the n. 3. 

Mitre, and calling out to Boswell, 6 Gough Square. 

'I go to Miss Williams.' Life, i. 7 A captain in the navy, who left 

421. his sister a fortune of ,10,000. Life, 

3 The Fountains. Ib. ii. 26. ii. 462. His name was Jarvis (ib. i. 

4 In 1756 Garrick, at Johnson's 94), given him, no doubt, after his 
desire, gave her a benefit-night at mother's family. 


174 Anecdotes and Remarks 

1 Yes, Sir, but she is sick in bed.' { O ! ' says he, ' if it is so, 
tell her that her son Jervas [sic] called to know how she did;' 
and was going away. The maid begged she might run up to 
tell her mistress, and, without attending his answer, left him. 
Mrs. Johnson, enraptured to hear her son was below, desired the 
maid to tell him she longed to embrace him. When the maid 
descended, the gentleman was gone, and poor Mrs. Johnson 
was much agitated by the adventure: it was the only time 
he ever made an effort to see her. Dr. Johnson did all he 
could to console his wife ; but told Mrs. Williams, Her son 
is uniformly undutiful; so I conclude, like many other sober 
men, he might once in his life be drunk,, and in that fit nature 
got the better of his pride/ 

Mrs. Williams was never otherwise dependent on Dr. Johnson, 
than in that sort of association, which is little known in the 
great world. They both had much to struggle through ; and 
I verily believe, that whichever held the purse, the other partook 
what want required T . She was, in respect to morals, more rigid 
than modern politeness admits; for she abhorred vice, and 
was not sparing of anger against those who threw young folks 
into temptation. Her ideas were very just in respect to the 
improvement of the mind, and her own was well stored. I have 
several of her letters : they are all written with great good sense 
and simplicity, and with a tenderness and affection, that far 
excel all that is called politeness and elegance. I have been 
favoured with her company some weeks at different times, and 
always found her temper equal 2 , and her conversation lively. 
I never passed hours with more pleasure than when I heard 
her and Dr. Johnson talk of the persons they valued, or upon 
subjects in which they were much interested. One night I 
remember Mrs. Williams was giving an account of the Wilkin 
sons being at Paris, and having had consigned to their care 

1 Except during the six years in ever drew on her purse. For the 

which he was living in chambers last twenty-one years he was never 

(1759-65) he gave her an apartment in need, and at the time of his 

(probably two rooms) in his own poverty they were not living in the 

house from 1752 till her death in same house. 

1783. It is most unlikely that he 2 Ante, ii. 141. 


by Lady Knight. 175 

the letters of Lady Wortley Montagu, on which they had 
bestowed great praise. The Doctor said, ' Why, Madam, there 
might be great charms to them in being intrusted with honour 
able letters ; but those who know better of the world, would 
have rather possessed two pages of true history 1 .' One day 
that he came to my house to meet many others, we told him 
that we had arranged our party to go to Westminster Abbey, 
would not he go with us ? ' No,' he replied ; ' not while I can keep 
out 2 .' Upon our saying, that the friends of a lady had been 
in great fear lest she should make a certain match for herself, 
he said, 'We that are his friends have had great fears for him.' 
I talked to Mrs. Thrale much of dear Mrs. Williams. She said 
she was highly born ; that she was very nearly related to 
a Welsh peer ; but that, though Dr. Johnson had always pressed 
her to be acquainted with her, yet she could not ; she was afraid 
of her 3 . I named her virtues ; she seemed to hear me as if 
I had spoken of a newly discovered country 4 . 

I think the character of Dr. Johnson can never be better 
summed up than in his own words in Rasselas, chapter xlii 5 . 

1 Horace Walpole wrote to Lady son's house' (Life, iv. 235, 239), 
Craven on Jan. 2, 1787 (Letters, ix. Macaulay includes her in the ' crowd 
87) : * I am sorry to hear, Madam, of wretched old creatures who could 
that by your account Lady Mary find no other asylum ' than his 
Wortley was not so accurate and house ; whose ' peevishness and 
faithful as modern travellers. ... As ingratitude could not weary out his 
you rival her in poetic talents, I had benevolence.' Essays, ed. 1843, i. 
rather you would employ them to cele- 390. 

brate her for her nostrum [inocula- It was not till 1778 that discord 

tionl than detect her for romancing.' was caused by his taking in three 

2 For his visit to the Abbey with more poor women. Life, iii. 222. 
Goldsmith see Life, ii. 238, and for Towards the end of Miss Williams' 
the satisfaction he felt on being told life her illness increased her peevish- 
that he would be buried there see ness. Ib. iii. 128. 

ib. iv. 419. 5 It is doubtless to chapter xl 

3 Johnson wrote to Mrs. Thrale that she refers, where the astronomer 
from Lichfield in 1775 : c Mrs. is thus described : ' His compre- 
Williams wrote me word that you hension is vast, his memory capa- 
had honoured her with a visit, and cious and retentive, his discourse is 
behaved lovely? Letters, i. 360. methodical, and his expression clear. 

4 In spite of all the evidence of His integrity and benevolence are 
her ' valuable qualities,' and of ' the equal to his learning. His deepest 
blank that her departure left in John- researches and most favourite studies 


176 Anecdotes and Remarks by Lady Knight. 

He was master of an infinite deal of wit, which proceeded from 
depth of thought, and of a humour which he used sometimes 
to take off from the asperity of reproof. Though he did 
frequently utter very sportive things, which might be said to 
be playing upon the folly of some of his companions, and 
though he never said one that could disgrace him, yet I think, 
now that he is no more, the care should be to prove his steady 
uniformity in wisdom, virtue, and religion. His political prin 
ciples ran high, both in church and state : he wished power to 
the king and to the heads of the church, as the laws of England 
have established ; but I know he disliked absolute power J , and 
I am very sure of his disapprobation of the doctrines of the 
church of Rome; because, about three weeks before we came 
abroad, he said to my Cornelia, 'You are going where the 
ostentatious pomp of church ceremonies attracts the imagi 
nation; but, if they want to persuade you to change your 
religion, you must remember, that, by increasing your faith, 
you may be persuaded to become a Turk 2 .' If these were not 
the words, I have kept up to the express meaning. 

are willingly interrupted for any x 'When I say that all govern- 

opportunity of doing good by his ments are alike, I consider that in no 

counsel or his riches. To his closest government power can be abused 

retreat, in his most busy moments, long. Mankind will not bear it. If 

all are admitted that want his assist- a sovereign oppresses his people to 

ance : " For though I exclude idle- a great degree, they will rise and cut 

ness and pleasure, I will never," says off his head. There is a remedy in 

he, " bar my doors against charity. human nature against tyranny, that 

To man is permitted the contempla- will keep us safe under every form of 

tion of the skies, but the practice of government.' Life, ii. 170. 

virtue is commanded."' Johnson 2 See Letters, i. 147, for the advice 

was also likened to Imlac, the man he gave to F. A. Barnard, the King's 

of learning. Life, ii. 119, n. I ; Librarian, when he was going to 

iii. 6. He describes himself also in Italy, and ante> i. 210. 
chapter xlv. 


[' HANNAH MORE visited London in 1773 or 1774, in company 
with two of her sisters ; her introduction to Mr. and Mrs. Garrick 
took place in about a week after her arrival. It was afterwards 
his delight to introduce his new friend to the best and most 
gifted society.' Memoirs, i. 47. 

In her childhood she had been wont 'to make a carriage of 
a chair, and then to call her sisters to ride with her to London to 
see bishops and booksellers.' Ib. i. 14. 

She was born in 1745 ten months before the Young Pretender 
invaded England, and died in 1833, the year after the great 
Reform Bill was passed. 

'Her nurse, a pious old woman, had lived in the family of 
Dryden, whose son she had attended in his last illness, and the 
inquisitive mind of the little Hannah was continually prompting 
her to ask for stories about the poet Dryden.' Ib. i. n. It 
must have been Dryden's third son, Erasmus Henry, whom the 
old woman nursed. He died in 1710, nine years after his father. 
Scott's Life of Dryden, ed. 1834, p. 396. 

When Macaulay was six years old Hannah More wrote to 
him : ' Though you are a little boy now, you will one day, if 
it please God, be a man ; but long before you are a man I hope 
you will be a scholar. I therefore wish you to purchase such 
books as will be useful and agreeable to you then y and that 
you employ this very small sum in laying a little tiny corner 
stone for your future library.' A year or two afterwards she 
wrote : ' You must go to Hatchard's and choose another book. 
I think we have nearly exhausted the Epics. What say you 

1 From Memoirs of the Life and More, by William Roberts, Esq. 
Correspondence of Mrs. Hannah 4 vols. 1834. 

VOL. II. N to 

178 Anecdotes by Hannah More. 

to a little good prose? Johnson's Hebrides or Walton's Lives/ 
&c. Trevelyan's Macaulay, ed. 1877, i. 35. 

Macaulay wrote to the editor of the Edinburgh Review in 
1837 : 'Hannah More was exactly the very last person in the 
world about whom I should choose to write a critique. She 
was a very kind friend to me from childhood. Her notice first 
called out my literary tastes. Her presents laid the foundation 
of my library. She was to me what Ninon was to Voltaire, 
begging her pardon for comparing her to a strumpet, and yours 
for comparing myself to a great man. She really was a 
second mother to me. I have a real affection for her memory. 
I, therefore, could not write about her, unless I wrote in her 
praise ; and all the praise which I could give to her writings, 
even after straining my conscience in her favour, would be far 
indeed from satisfying any of her admirers. I will try my hand 
on Temple and on Lord Clive.' Macvey Napier Corres., p. 192. 

Macaulay's sister (afterwards Lady Trevelyan) was christened 
Hannah More. He wrote to tier when he Was reviewing Croker's 
Boswell\ 'Trie lady whom Johnson abused for flattering him 
was certainly, according to Croker, Hannah More [Life, iii. 293]. 
Another ill-natured sentence about a Bath lady whom Johnson 
called "empty-headed" is also applied to your godmother.' 
Trevelyan's Macaulay, ed. 1877, i. 231. For Croker's assertion 
that the Bath lady (Life, iii. 48) was Hannah More there was no 
foundation. Her Memoirs published three years later than his 
Boswell show that she was in London when this epithet was 
applied by Johnson to ' a lady then in Bath.' ' I find,' she wrote 
to her sister, ' that Mr. Boswell called upon you at Bristol with 
Dr. Johnson.' Post, p. 1 85, n. 

Nearly fifty years after she first met Johnson, De Quihcey 
described her conversation as * brilliant and instructive.' De 
Quincey's Works, ed. 1872, xvi. 504.] 

THE desire Hannah More had long felt to see Dr. Johnson, 
was speedily gratified. Her first introduction to him took place 
at the house of Sir Joshua Reynolds, who prepared her, as he 
handed her upstairs, for the possibility of his being in one of 
his moods of sadness and silenee. 


Anecdotes by Hannah More. 


She was surprised at his coming to meet her as she entered 
the room, with good humour in his countenance, and a macaw 
of Sir Joshua's in his hand * ; and still more, at his accosting 
her with a verse from a Morning Hymn which she had written 
at the desire of Sir James Stonehouse 2 . In the same pleasant 
humour he continued the whole of the evening 3 . An extract 
from the letters of one of her sprightly sisters, to the family 
at home, will afford the best picture of the intercourse and 
scenes in which Hannah was now beginning to bear a part. 
Memoirs, i. 48. 

London, 1774. 

'We have paid another visit to Miss Reynolds. She had 
sent to engage Dr. Percy (Percy's collection 4 now you know 
him,) quite a sprightly modern, instead of a rusty antique, as 

1 Sir Joshua, says Northcote, in 
troduced this macaw into several of 
his pictures. One of the house 
maids, whose portrait Northcote 
painted, was looked upon by the 
bird as his enemy. When he saw 
the likeness ' he quickly spread his 
wings, and in great fury ran to it, 
and stretched himself up to bite at 
the face.' He would do this whenever 
he saw the picture, and did it 'in 
the presence of Edmund Burke, 
Dr. Johnson, and Dr. Goldsmith.' 
Northcote's Reynolds, i. 252. 

2 A physician of Northampton, 
who settled in Bristol and entered 
the church. Memoirs of H. More, 
i. 30. ' My counsellor, physician and 
divine/ ehe calls him ; ' who first 
awakened me to some sense of re 
ligious things.' Ib. iii. 191. 

3 Nevertheless, if we can trust 
Malone's story, it was on this even 
ing that he administered to her a 
most severe rebuke. ' She very soon 
began to pay her court to him in the 
most fulsome strain. " Spare me, 
I beseech you, dear Madam," was 
his reply. She still laid it on. 
" Pray, Madam, let us have no more 

of this," he rejoined. Not paying 
any attention to these warnings, she 
continued still her eulogy. At length, 
provoked by this indelicate and vain 
obtrusion of compliments, he ex 
claimed, "Dearest Lady, consider 
with yourself what your flattery is 
worth, before you bestow it so 
freely." ' Life, iv. 341 ; ante, i. 273. 

That this rebuke was administered 
is beyond a doubt (see Life, iv. 341, 
n. 6) ; that it was administered this 
evening seems unlikely. 

In 1780, describing an evening 
with him at Miss Reynold's, she 
says (post, p. 189): 'As usual, 
he laughed when I flattered him.' 
It was to Miss Reynolds that John 
son, two years earlier, said, ' I was 
obliged to speak, to let her [Miss 
More] know that I desired she would 
not flatter me so much.' Life, iii. 293. 

Nearly forty years later, writing 
of Addison and Johnson, she said : 
' I love and honour those two men 
in a very high degree, though the 
term love rather belongs to Addison, 
honour to Johnson.' Memoirs, iii. 340. 

4 She refers to the Reliques of 
Ancient English Poetry. 

2 I expected 

180 Anecdotes by Hannah More. 

I expected r . He was no sooner gone, than the most amiable 
and obliging of women (Miss Reynolds.) ordered the coach, to 
take us to Dr. Johnson's very own house ; yes, Abyssinia's 
Johnson ! Dictionary Johnson ! Rambler's, Idler's, and Irene's 
Johnson ! Can you picture to yourselves the palpitation of our 
hearts as we approached his mansion. The conversation turned 
upon a new work of his, just going to the press, (the Tour to 
the Hebrides 2 ,) and his old friend Richardson 3 . Mrs. Williams, 
the blind poet 4 , who lives with him, was introduced to us. 
She is engaging in her manners ; her conversation lively and 
entertaining. Miss Reynolds told the doctor of all our rapturous 
exclamations on the road. He shook his scientific head at 
Hannah, and said, " She was a silly thing" When our visit was 
ended, he called for his hat, (as it rained) to attend us down 
a very long entry to our coach, and not Rasselas could have 
acquitted himself more en cavalier 5 . We are engaged with him 
at Sir Joshua's, Wednesday evening. What do you think of us ? 
I forgot to mention, that not finding Johnson in his little 
parlour when we came in, Hannah seated herself in his great 
chair, hoping to catch a little ray of his genius ; when he heard 
it, he laughed heartily, and told her it was a chair on which 
he never sat 6 . He said it reminded him of Boswell and himself 
when they stopt a night at the spot (as they imagined) where 
the Weird Sisters appeared to Macbeth : the idea so worked 
upon their enthusiasm, that it quite deprived them of rest : 
however they learnt, the next morning, to their mortification, 

1 Miss Burney wrote of him ' sought after.' Ib. iii. 314. 
seventeen years later : 'The Bishop 4 She published in 1766 a volume 
is perfectly easy and unassuming, of Miscellanies. Most of her poems 
very communicative, and though not were corrected by Johnson. Ib. ii. 
very entertaining because too prolix, 25 ; ante, i. 403 ; ii. 172. 

he is otherwise intelligent and of 5 He was living in Johnson's 

good conversation.' Mme. D'Ar- Court as late as May, 1775, but by 

blay's Diary, v. 256. March, 1776, had removed to Bolt 

2 Johnson wrote on June 21, Court. Life, ii. 375, 427. For his 
1774: 'Yesterday I put the first conducting Madame de BoufHers to 
sheets of the Journey to the Hebrides her coach and ' showing himself a 
to the press.' Life, ii. 278. man of gallantry,' see ib. ii. 405, and 

3 The author of Clarissa one of post, p. 260. 

the very few men whom Johnson 6 Life, iv. 232, n. I. 


Anecdotes by Hannah More. 


that they had been deceived, and were quite in another part 
of the country V 

Johnson afterwards mentioned to Miss Reynolds how much 
he had been touched with the enthusiasm which was visible 
in the whole manner of the young authoress, which was evidently 
genuine and unaffected. Memoirs, i. 49. 

London, 1775. 

I had yesterday the pleasure of dining in Hill Street, Berkeley 
Square, at a certain Mrs. Montagu's, a name not totally obscure 2 . 
The party consisted of herself, Mrs. Carter 3 , Dr. Johnson, 
Solander 4 , and Matty 5 , Mrs. Boscawen 6 , Miss Reynolds, and 
Sir Joshua, (the idol of every company ;) some other persons of 
high rank and less wit, and your humble servant. . . . 

Mrs. Montagu received me with the most encouraging kindness ; 
she is not only the finest genius, but the finest lady I ever saw : 
she lives in the highest style of magnificence ; her apartments 

1 There seems some mistake in 
her narrative. Boswell recorded in 
his Journal : ' In the afternoon we 
drove over the very heath where 
Macbeth met the witches according 
to tradition. . . . We got to Fores 
at night.' Ib. v. 115. Johnson 
says : ' We went forwards the same 
day to Fores, the town to which 
Macbeth was travelling when he 
met the weird sisters in his way. 
This to an Englishman is classick 
ground. Our imaginations were 
heated, and our thoughts recalled 
to their old amusements.' Works, 
ix. 21. 

2 Mrs. Montagu was not yet in 
her new house in Portman Square, 
from which Johnson and Boswell 
were a few years later excluded on 
account of the offence given by 
the Life of Lyttelton. Life, iv. 64. 
H. More writes of it in 1783 : ' To 
all the magnificence of a very superb 
London house is added the scenery 
of a country retirement.' Memoirs, 
i. 241. In 1784, after spending a 

fortnight with Mrs. Montagu, she 
writes : * One may say of her, what 
Johnson has said of somebody else, 
that " she never opens her mouth 
but to say something" ' Ib. i. 329. 

3 Known as 'the learned Mrs. 
Carter.' Life, i. 122, n. 4. 

' Her calm orderly mind,' wrote H. 
More (Memoirs, iii. 306), ' dreaded 
nothing so much as irregularity ; she 
was therefore most strictly high 
church, and most scrupulously for 
bore reading any book, however 
sound or sober, which proceeded 
from any other quarter. She would 
on no account have read Doddridge 
or Pascal.' 

4 Ante, i. 280. 

5 Either Dr. Matthew Maty (Ltje, 
i. 284), or his son Paul Henry Maty 
(ante, i. 237). 

6 She wrote to Hannah More five 
years later : ' I have claims upon 
Dr. Johnson ; but as he never knows 
me when he meets me, they are all 
stifled in the cradle.' H. More's 
Memoirs,\. 191. See also Life, iii. 331. 


1 82 Anecdotes by Hannah More. 

and table are in the most splendid taste ; but what baubles are 
these when speaking of a Montagu ! her form (for she has no 
body] is delicate even to fragility ; her countenance the most 
animated in the world ; the sprightly vivacity of fifteen, with 
the judgment and experience of a Nestor z . . . . Dr. Johnson 
asked me how I liked the new tragedy of Braganza 2 . I was 
afraid to speak before them all, as I knew a diversity of 
opinion prevailed among the company ; however, as I thought 
it a less evil to dissent from the opinion of a fellow creature, 
than to tell a falsity, I ventured to give my sentiments ; and 
was satisfied with Johnson's answering, * You are right, madam.' 

[From Miss SARAH MORE to one of her sisters.] 

London, 1775. 

Tuesday evening we drank tea at Sir Joshua's with Dr. John 
son. Hannah is certainly a great favourite. She was placed 
next him, and they had the entire conversation to themselves. 
They were both in remarkably high spirits ; it was certainly her 
lucky night ! I never heard her say so many good things. The 
old genius was extremely jocular, and the young one very 
pleasant. You would have imagined we had been at some 
comedy had you heard ; pur peals of laughter. They, indeed, 
tried which could -' pepper the highest V and it is not clear to me 
that the lexicographer was really the highest seasoner. Memoirs, 

[Miss H. MORE to one of her sisters.] 

London, 1776. 

Just returned from spending one of the most agreeable days 
of my life, with the female Maecenas of Hill Street ; she engaged 
me five or six days ago to dine with her, and had assembled 

1 For ' her trying for this same air myself so young again.' Ib. vi. 190 ; 
and manner,' see Life, iii. 244, n. 2. ante, ii. 46. 

2 By Robert Jephson. Horace 3 ' Till his relish grown callous, 
Walpole wrote the Prologue. Wai- almost to disease, 

pole's Letters, i. Preface, p. 77. On Who peppered the highest was 
Feb. 18 of this year he wrote : surest to please.' 
' Braganza was acted last night with Goldsmith's Retaliation. 
prodigious success ... I went to the It seems improbable that this 'pep- 
rehearsal with all the eagerness of pering' could have followed John- 
eighteen, and was delighted to find son's rebuke. 


Anecdotes by Hannah More. 183 

half the wits of the age. The only fault that charming woman 
has, is, that she is fond of collecting too many of them together 
at one time z . There were nineteen persons assembled at dinner, 
but after the repast, she has a method of dividing her guests, or 
rather letting them assort themselves into little groups of five 
or six each. I spent my time in going from one to the other of 
these little societies, as I happened more or less to like the 
subjects they were discussing. Mrs. Scott 2 , Mrs. Montagu's 
sister, a very good writer, Mrs. Carter, Mrs. Barbauld 3 , and 
a man of letters, whose name I have forgotten, made up one of 
these little parties. When we had canvassed two or three sub 
jects, I stole off and joined in with the next group, which was 
composed of Mrs. Montagu, Dr. Johnson, the Provost of Dublin 4 , 
and two other ingenious men. In this party there was a diversity 
of opinions, which produced a great deal of good argument and 
reasoning. There were several other groups less interesting to 
me, as they were more composed of rank than talent, and it was 
amusing to see how the people of sentiment singled out each 
other, and how the fine ladies and pretty gentlemen naturally 
slid into each other's society. 

1 Miss Burney describes 'a very a mean thing to bring thus every 
fine public breakfast 3 Mrs. Mon- idle word into judgment the judg- 
tagu gave, at which there were * not ment of the public/ Barbauld's 
fewer than four or five hundred Works, ed. 1825, ii. 158. In the 
people. It was like a full Ranelagh same year she wrote : ' Mrs. Mon- 
by daylight.' Mme. D'Arblay's tagu, who entertains all the aris- 
Diary, v. 302. tocrats [the French fugitives], had 

For 'public dinners,' see Life, iv. invited a Marchioness of BoufHers and 

367, n. 3. Johnson describes how her daughter to dinner. After making 

Swift * opened his house by a publick her wait till six the marchioness 

table two days a week.' Works, viii. came, and made an apology for her 

208. daughter, that just as she was going 

2 The sister of Mrs. Montagu, to dress she was seized with a degout 
and the wife of that George Lewis momentanee \sic\ du monde, and 
Scott, who once 'with Johnson and could not wait on her.' Ib. p. 139. 
Hercules made out the triumvirate 4 Dr. John Hely Hutchinson. On 
comically enough.' Ante, i. 180. his appointment Topham Beauclerk 

3 Ante, i. 157, and Life, ii. 408. wrote to Lord Charlemont : 'I 
Mrs. Barbauld, reading Boswell's agree with you that there never was 
Life of Johnson the month it came a more scandalous thing than making 
out, writes: 'It is like going to the man provost that is made.' Char- 
Ranelagh ; you meet all your ac- lemont Papers, Hist. MSS. Comm., 
quaintance ; but it is a base and 1891^.231. 

I had 

184 Anecdotes by Hannah More. 

I had the happiness to carry Dr. Johnson home from Hill 
Street, though Mrs. Montagu publicly declared she did not think 
it prudent to trust us together, with such a declared affection on 
both sides. She said she was afraid of a Scotch elopement. He 
has invited himself to drink tea with us to-morrow, that we may 
read Sir Eldred together. I shall not tell you what he said of 
it, but to me the best part of his flattery was, that he repeats all 
the best stanzas by heart, with the energy, though not with the 
grace of a Garrick. Memoirs, i. 63. 

London, 1776. 

Yesterday was another of the few sun-shiny-days with which 
human life is so scantily furnished. We spent it at Garrick's, he 
was in high good humour, and inexpressibly agreeable. Here 
was likely to have been another jostling and intersecting of our 
pleasures ; but as they knew Johnson would be with us at seven, 
Mrs. Garrick was so good as to dine a little after three, and all 
things fell out in comfortable succession. We were at the 
reading of a new tragedy, and insolently and unfeelingly pro 
nounced against it. We got home in time : I hardly ever spent 
an evening more pleasantly or profitably. Johnson, full of 
wisdom and piety, was very communicative. To enjoy Dr. John 
son perfectly, one must have him to oneself, as he seldom cares 
to speak in mixed parties. Our tea was not over till nine, 
we then fell upon Sir Eldred : he read both poems through, 
suggested some little alterations in the first, and did me the 
honour to write one whole stanza * ; but in the Rock, he has not 
altered a word. Though only a tea-visit, he staid with us till 
twelve. I was quite at my ease, and never once asked him to 
eat 2 (drink he never does any thing, but tea). Memoirs, i. 64. 

[From a letter by one of HANNAH MORE'S sisters.] 

London, 1776. 

If a wedding should take place before our return, don't be 
surprised, between the mother of Sir Eldred, and the father of 

1 ' My scorn has oft the dart re- Must every heart subdue.' 

pell'd Hannah More's Works, ed. 1834, 

Which guileful beauty threw, v. 241. 

But goodness heard, and grace 2 For his dislike of being pressed 
beheld, to eat see post, p. 278 n. 


Anecdotes by Hannah More. 185 

my much-loved Irene ; nay, Mrs. Montagu says if tender words 
are the precursors of connubial engagements, we may expect 
great things ; for it is nothing but l child ' ' little fool ' ' love,' 
and ' dearest.' After much critical discourse, he turns round to 
me, and with one of his most amiable looks, which must be seen 
to form the least idea of it, he says, * I have heard that you are 
engaged in the useful and honourable employment of teaching 
young ladies.' Upon which, with all the same ease, familiarity, 
and confidence, we should have done had only our own dear 
Dr. Stonehouse been present, we entered upon the history of our 
birth, parentage, and education ; shewing how we were born with 
more desires than guineas ; and how, as years increased our 
appetites, the cupboard at home began to grow too small to 
gratify them ; and how, with a bottle of water, a * bed, and a 
blanket, we set out to seek our fortunes ; and how we found 
a great house, with nothing in it ; and how it was like to remain 
so, till, looking into our knowledge-boxes, we happened to find 
a little taming, a good thing when land is gone z , or rather none : 
and so at last, by giving a little of this little laming to those 
who had less, we got a good store of gold in return ; but how, 
alas ! we wanted the wit to keep it ' I love you both/ cried the 
inamorato c I love you all five I never was at Bristol I will 
come on purpose to see you 2 what ! five women live happily 
together! I will come and see you I have spent a happy 
evening I am glad I came God for ever bless you; you 
live lives to shame duchesses.' He took his leave with so 
much warmth and tenderness, we were quite affected at his 
manner. ... 

Dr. Johnson and Hannah, last night, had a violent quarrel, till 
at length laughter ran so high on all sides, that argument was 

1 * When land is gone and money we learn from a letter to her sisters, 

spent, in which she says : * I find Mr. 

Then learning is most excel- Boswell called upon you at Bristol 

lent -' with Dr. Johnson ; he told me so this 

2 He visited it with Boswell in the morning when he breakfasted here 
spring of this year. Life, iii. 50. [at the Garricks] with Sir William 
Boswell does not mention their Forbes and Dr. Johnson.' Memoirs, 
calling on the Mores. That they did i. 80. Of this breakfast neither she 
so, when Hannah was in London, nor Boswell gives any account. 


i86 Anecdotes by Hannah More. 

confounded in noise ; the gallant youth, at one in the morning, 
set us down at our lodgings. Memoirs, i. 66. 

[From HANNAH MORE to her family.] 

London, 1776. 

At six, I begged leave to come home [from the Garricks], as 
I expected my petite assembled a little after seven. Mrs. Garrick 
offered me all her fine things, but, as I hate admixtures of finery 
and meanness, I refused every thing except a little cream, and 
a few sorts of cakes. They came at seven. The dramatis 
persona were, Mrs. Boscawen, Mrs. Garrick, and Miss Reynolds ; 
my beaux were Dr. Johnson, Dean Tucker x , and last, but not 
least in our love, David Garrick. You know that wherever 
Johnson is, the confinement to the tea-table is rather a durable 
situation ; and it was an hour and a half before I got my enlarge 
ment. However, my ears were opened, though my tongue was 
locked, and they all stayed till near eleven. 

Garrick was the very soul of the company, and I never saw 
Johnson in such perfect good humour. Sally knows we have 
often heard that one can never properly enjoy the company of 
these two unless they are together 2 . There is great truth in 
this remark ; for after the Dean and Mrs. Boscawen (who were 
the only strangers) were withdrawn, and the rest stood up to go, 
Johnson and Garrick began a close encounter, telling old stories, 
* e'en from their boyish days 3 ,' at Lichfield. We all stood round 
them above an hour, laughing in defiance of every rule of de 
corum and Chesterfield 4 . I believe we should not have thought 

1 Josiah Tucker, Dean of Glou- has a most shrewd and keen old face.' 

cester, who had published Tracts Mme. D'Arblay's Diary, iv. 182. 
about the American Colonies, to 2 Boswell describes how one day 

which Johnson had replied in Taxa- ' Garrick played round Johnson with 

tion no Tyranny ( Works, vi. 259) a fond vivacity, taking hold of the 

and Burke with great severity in his breasts of his coat, and, looking up 

Speech on American Taxation. Burke in his face with a lively archness, 

had said : ' This Dr. Tucker is al- complimented him on the good 

ready a dean, and his earliest labours health which he seemed then to 

in this vineyard will, I suppose, raise enjoy ; while the sage, shaking his 

him to a bishopric.' Burke's Select head, beheld him with a gentle com- 

Works, ed. E. J. Payne, i. 140. placency.' Life, ii. 82. 

Miss Burney writing of him in 3 Othello, Act i. sc. 3, 1. 132. 

1788 says, ' He is past eighty, and 4 Life, ii. 378, n. 2. 


Anecdotes by Hannah More. 187 

of sitting down or of parting, had not an impertinent watchman 
been saucily vociferous. Johnson outstaid them all, and sat with 
me half an hour. Memoirs, j. 69. 

London, 1776. 

Did I ever tell you what Dr. Johnson said to me of my friend 
the Dean of Gloucester ? I asked him what he thought of him. 
His answer was verbatim as follows : ' I look upon the Dean of 
Gloucester to be one of the few excellent writers of this period. 
I differ from him in opinion, and have expressed that difference 
in my writings ; but I hope what I wrote did not indicate what 
I did not feel, for I felt no acrimony. No person, however 
learned, can read his writings without improvement. He is sure 
to find something he did not know before.' I told him the Dean 
did not value himself on elegance of styie. He said he knew 
nobody whose style was more perspicuous, manly, and vigorous, 
or better suited to his subject. I was not a little pleased 
with this tribute to the worthy Dean's merit, from such a judge 
of merit ; that man, too, professedly differing from him in 

Keeping bad company leads to all other bad -things. I have 
got the headache to-day, by raking out so late with that gay 
libertine Johnson. Do you know / did not, that he wrote 
a quarter of the Adventurer I ? I made him tell me all that he 
wrote in the ' fugitive pieces 2 .' Memoirs, i. 70. 

Adelphi 3 , 1776. 

Did I tell you we had a very agreeable day at Mrs. Bosca wen's? 
I like Mr. Berenger 4 prodigiously. I met the Bunbury family 
0*t Sir Joshua's. Mr. Boswell (Corsican Boswell) was here last 
/light 5 ; he is a very agreeable good-natured man ; he perfectly 
Adores Johnson : they have this day set out together for Oxford, 
Lichfield, &c., that the Doctor may take leave of all his old 
friends and acquaintances, previous to his great expedition across 

1 He did not write so much as a eighth was Johnson's. Life, ii. 270 ; 
quarter. and ante, i. 184. 

2 Tom Davies, in Johnson's ab- 3 Mrs. Garrick's house. Lzfe, 
sence in Scotland and without his * Ante, i. 254. 

leave, published two volumes en- 5 Boswell, who keeps his narrative 
titled Miscellaneous and Fugitive so closely to what concerns Johnson, 
Pieces, of which all but about an does not mention this. 


i88 Anecdotes by Hannah More. 

the Alps x . I lament his undertaking such a journey at his time 
of life, with beginning infirmities ; I hope he will not leave his 
bones on classic ground. Memoirs, i. 74. 

[From H. MORE to one of her sisters.] 

London, 1778. 

I dined with the Garricks on Thursday ; he went with me in 
the evening, intending only to set me down at Sir Joshua's, where 
I was engaged to pass the evening. I was not a little proud to 
be the means of bringing such a beau into such a party. We 
found Gibbon 2 , Johnson, Hermes Harris, Burney, Chambers, 
Ramsay, the Bishop of St. Asaph, Boswell, Langton, &c. ; and 
scarce an expletive man or woman among them. Garrick put 
Johnson into such good spirits that I never knew him so enter 
taining or more instructive. He was as brilliant as himself, and 
as good-humoured as any one else 3 . Memoirs, i. 146. 

London, 1780. 

I spent a very comfortable day yesterday with Miss Reynolds ; 
only Dr. Johnson, and Mrs. Williams and myself. He is in but 
poor health, but his mind has lost nothing of its vigour. He 
never opens his mouth but one learns something ; one is sure 
either of hearing a new idea, or an old one expressed in an 

1 Johnson wrote to Boswell on quaintance I have had, that my soul 
March 5 of this year : ' Of my never came into their secret.' Me- 
company you cannot in the next moirs, ii. 415. The same year she 
month have much, for Mr. Thrale recorded : ' It is now, I think, five 
will take me to Italy, he says, on or six years since I have been en- 
the first of April. ... If you will come abled, by the grace of God, in a good 
to me, you must come very quickly; degree, to give up all human studies, 
and even then I know not but we I have not allowed myself to read 
may scour the country together, for any classic or pagan author for 
I have a mind to see Oxford and many years I mean by myself.' Ib. 
Lichfield before I set out on this ii. 420. 

long journey.' Life, ii. 423. The 3 Boswell, after a full account of 

tour was given up on the sudden the dinner, describes ' the rich as- 

death of the Thrales' only son. Ib. semblage ' he found in the drawing- 

p. 468. See also ante, i. 263. room. He continues : ' After wan- 

2 On Jan. 19, 1794, Hannah More dering about in a kind of pleasing 
recorded : ' Heard of the death of distraction for some time, I got into 
Mr. Gibbon. . . . He too was my a corner with Johnson, Garrick, and 
acquaintance. Lord, I bless thee, Harris.' Life, iii. 256. 
considering how much infidel ac- 


Anecdotes by Hannah More. 


original manner. We did not part till eleven. He scolded me 
heartily, as usual, when I differed from him in opinion, and, as 
usual, laughed when I flattered him z . I was very bold in com 
batting some of his darling prejudices : nay, I ventured to defend 
one or two of the Puritans 2 , whom I forced him to allow to be 
good men, and good writers. He said he was not angry with 
me at all for liking Baxter 3 . He liked him himself; ' but then,' 
said he, ' Baxter was bred up in the establishment, and would 
have died in it, if he could have got the living of Kidderminster. 
He was a very good man.' Here he was wrong ; for Baxter was 
offered a bishopric after the Restoration 4 . 

I never saw Johnson really angry with me but once ; and his 

1 Ante, ii. 179, n. 

2 Her grandmother ' used to tell 
her younger relatives, that they would 
have known how to value gospel 
privileges, had they lived, like her, 
in the days of persecution, when, at 
midnight, pious worshippers went 
with stealthy steps through the 
snow, to hear the words of inspira 
tion delivered by a holy man at her 
father's house ; while her father 
with a drawn sword guarded the 
entrance/ Memoirs, i. 7. 

3 ' I asked him (writes Boswell) 
what works of Richard Baxter's I 
should read. He said, "Read any 
of them ; they are all good." ' Life, 
iv. 226. This is a somewhat daring 
assertion, for ' in forty years Baxter 
wrote 1 68 books, 85 of them quarto 
volumes.' Printed uniformly in oc 
tavo they would fill 'nearly 40,000 
closely printed pages.' J. H. Davies's 
Life of Baxter, pp. 443-4. 

His works were ordered by the 
University of Oxford to be publicly 
burnt in the Court of the Schools. 
James \Vildings' Account Book, 
p. 252. Nevertheless not only John 
son praised them, but Barrow said 
that ' Baxter's practical writings were 
never mended, and his controversial 
ones seldom confuted.' Calamy's 

Baxter, ed. 1702, p. 701. 

In a note on the Life, iv. 226, I 
quote Hazlitt's story, that at Kidder 
minster * Baxter was almost pelted 
by the women for maintaining from 
the pulpit that "Hell was paved with 
infants' skulls." ' This story had its 
origin, I conjecture, in the following 
circumstance : * Once all the igno 
rant rout were raging mad against 
him for preaching to them the doc 
trine of original sin, and telling them, 
" That infants before regeneration 
had so much guilt and corruption 
as made them loathsome in the eyes 
of God. Whereupon they vented it 
about in the country, that he preached 
that God hated and loathed infants. 
So that they railed at him as he 
passed through the streets."' Ca 
lamy's Baxter, p. 22. 

For his Humble Advice to Parlia 
ment that officers be authorized to 
whip those that cannot pay the fines 
for the non-observance of the Lord's 
day see Barclay's Inner Life of the 
Religious Societies of the Common 
wealth, 1876, p. 183. 

4 ' Calamy and Baxter refused the 
sees of Lichfield and Hereford.' 
Burnet's History of His Own Time, 
ed. 1818, i. 204. 



Anecdotes by Hannah More. 

displeasure did him so much honour that I loved him the better 
for it. I alluded rather flippantly, I fear, to some witty passage 
in Tom Jones : he replied, c I am shocked to hear you quote 
from so vicious a book. I am sorry to hear you have read it : 
a confession which no modest lady should ever make T . I scarcely 
know a more corrupt work/ I thanked him for his correction ; 
assured him I thought full as ill of it now as he did, and had 
only read it at an age when I was more subject to be caught by 
the wit, than able to discern the mischief. Of Joseph Andrews 
I declared my decided abhorrence 2 . He went so far as to refuse 
to Fielding the great talents which are ascribed to him, and 
broke Out into a noble panegyric on his competitor, Richardson ; 
who, he said, was as superior to him in talents as in virtue ; and 
whom he pronounced to be the greatest genius that had shed its 
lustre on this path of literature 3 . Memoirs, i. 168. 

1 Miss Burney at the age of seven 
teen recorded in her Diary : ' I am 
now going to charm myself for the 
third time, with poor Sterne's Sen 
timental Journey! Early Diary of 
F. Burney ', i. 45. At Streatham she 
recorded a conversation Johnson 
was .not present when ' Candide was 
produced, and Mrs. Thrale read 
aloud the part .concerning Poco 
curante ; and really the cap fitted so 
well that Mr. Seward could not 
attempt to dispute it.' Mme. D'Ar- 
blay's Diary, ed. 1 842, i. 226. 

2 ' I never read Joseph Andrews/ 
said Johnson. Life, ii. 174. 

3 Ib. ii. 48, 173 ; ante, i. 282. 
Smollett describes Richardson's 

novels as ' a species of writing equally 
new and extraordinary, where, min 
gled with much superfluity, we find 
a sublime system of ethics, an amaz 
ing knowledge and command of 
human nature.' History of England, 
ed. 1800, v. 382. 

Hannah More wrote in 1822: 
' I have been really looking for time 
to read one or two of Walter Scott's 

novels. In my youth Clarissa and Sir 
Charles Grandison were the reigning 
entertainment. Whatever objections 
may be made to them in certain 
respects, they contain more maxims 
of virtue, and sound moral principle 
than half the books called moral.' 
Memoirs, iv. 145. 

* Richardson's conversation,' writes 
Hawkins (p. 384), 'was of the 
preceptive kind, but it wanted the 
diversity of Johnson's, and had 
no intermixture of wit and humour. 
Richardson could never relate a 
pleasant story, and hardly relish one 
told by another : he was ever think 
ing of his own writings, and listening 
to the praises which, with an emulous 
profusion, his friends were inces 
santly bestowing on them ; he would 
scarce enter into free conversation 
with any one that he thought had 
not read Clarissa or Sir Charles 
Grandison, and at best, he could not 
be said to be a companionable man.' 
Neither was Hawkins 'a clubable 
man.' Life, i. 27, n. 

4 That Richardson (with all his 


Anecdotes by Hannah More. 191 

Adplphi, 1780. 

The other evening they carried me to Mrs. Ord's assembly x ; 
I was quite dressed for the purpose. Mrs. Garrick gave me 
an elegant cap, and put it on herself; so that I was quite sure 
of being smart : but how short-lived is all human joy ! and see 
what it is to live in the country ! When I came into the draw 
ing-rooms, I found thern full of company, every human creature 
in deep mourning, and I, poor I, all gorgeous in scarlet. I never 
recollected that the mourning for some foreign Wilhelmina 
Jaquelina was not over. However I got over it as well as I 
could, made an apology, lamented the ignorance in which I had 
lately lived, and I hope this false step of mine will be buried in 
oblivion. There was all the old set, the Johnsons, the Burneys, 
the Chapones 2 , the Thrales, the Smelts 3 , the Pepyses 4 , the 
Ramsays 5 , and so on ad infinitum. Even Jacobite Johh'son 6 was 
in deep mourning. Memoir s> i. 170. 

London, 1780. 

I was, the other night, at Mrs. Ord's. Every body was there, 
and in such a crowd I thought myself well off to be wedged in 

twaddle) is better than Fielding, I am the high appellation of the King's 

quite certain. There is nothing at all friend.' This appellation is to be dis- 

comparable to Lovelace in all Field- tinguished from that of the Court 

ing, whose characters are common faction 'the King's friends.' Life, 

and vulgar types of squires, ostlers, iv. 165, n. 3. 

lady's maids, &c., very easily drawn, 4 Ante, i. 244. 

. . . Think of' Clarissa being one of IVtr. Pepys, advising Hannah More 

Alfred de Musset's favourite books. to choose interesting subjects for her 

It reminded me of our Tennyson letters, as they might hereafter be 

... of his once saying to me of published, continues : ' Why don't 

Clarissa, "I love those large still you wear your ring, my dear ?' says 

books." ' Letters of Edward Fitz- a father, in some play, to his daughter. 

gerald, ii. 131, 243. ( Because, papa, it hurts me when 

1 Johnson mentions going to Mrs. anybody squeezes my hand.' ' What 
Ord's in April, 1780. Letters, ii. 146, business have you to have your hand 
X 49- squeezed?' 'Certainly not; but 

2 The ' admirable ' Mrs. Chapone. still you know, papa, one would like 
Life, iv. 246 ; Letters, ii. 141. to keep it in squeezable order' Me- 

3 Ib. ii. 149, n. 4. 'Mr. Smelt,' moirs, iii. 380. 
writes H. More (Memoirs, i. 274*, 5 Life, iii. 331. 

'was preceptor to the Prince of Wales, 6 For Johnson's 'affectation of 
and as he would receive no settled Jacobitism ' see ib. i. 429. 
appointment he is distinguished by 


1 92 Anecdotes by Hannah More. 

with Mr. Smelt, Langton, Ramsay, and Johnson. Johnson told 
me he had been with the king that morning, who enjoined him 
to add Spencer [sic] to his Lives of the Poets x . I seconded the 
motion ; he promised to think of it, but said the booksellers had 
not included him in their list of the poets 2 . . . . 

Instead of going to Audley Street 3 , where I was invited, 
I went to Mrs. Reynolds's 4 , and sat for my picture. Just as 
she began to paint, in came Dr. Johnson, who staid the whole 
time, and said good things by way of making me look well. 
I did not forget to ask him for a page for your memorandum 
book 5 , and he promised to write, but said you ought to be con 
tented with a quotation ; this, however, I told him you would 
not accept. Memoirs, i. 174. 

London, 1781. 

Mrs. B. 6 having recently desired Johnson to look over her 
new play of the ' Siege of Sinope ' before it was acted, he always 
found means to evade it ; at last she pressed him so closely 
that he actually refused to do it, and told her that she herself, 
by carefully looking it over, would be able to see if there was 
any thing amiss as well as he could. 6 But, sir/ said she, ' I have 
no time. I have already so many irons in the fire.' c Why 
then, madam,' said he, (quite out of patience) 'the best thing 
I can advise you to do is, to put your tragedy along with your 
irons.' Memoir 's, i. 200. 

London, 1781. 

c Praise/ says Dr. Johnson, * is the tribute which every man is 
expected to pay for the grant of perusing a manuscript 7 .' . . . 
Think of Johnson's having apartments in Grosvenor Square 8 ! 

1 Life, iv. 410. which, as her brother said, * made 

2 ' The edition of The English other people laugh and him cry,' see 
Poets was not an undertaking directed Northcote's Reynolds, ii. 160. 

by Johnson, but he was to furnish 5 A collection of autographs of 

a Preface and Life to any poet the eminent persons which her sister was 

booksellers pleased.' Ib. iii. 137. making at that time. Note by 

3 Mrs. Boscawen's house. See Roberts. 

Memoirs, i. 162. 6 Frances Brooke. Ante, i. 322. 

4 Hannah More hitherto has 7 For the ' exquisite address ' with 
generally spoken of her as Miss Rey- which he once evaded paying this 
nolds. She was born in 1729 (Tay- tribute, see Life, iii. 373. 

lor's Reynolds, i. 4), and was fifty 8 ' Mr. Thrale (writes Boswell) 
years old. For her oil-paintings, had removed, I suppose by the soli- 


Anecdotes by Hannah More. 

but he says it is not half so convenient as Bolt Court * He has 
just finished the Poets ; Pope is the last x . I am sorry he has lost 
so much credit by Lord Lyttleton's ; he treats him almost 
with contempt ; makes him out a poor writer, and an envious 
man 2 ; speaks well only of his * Conversion of St. Paul/ of which 
he says, ' it is sufficient to say it has never been answered V 
Mrs. Montagu and Mr. Pepys, his two chief surviving friends, 
are very angry 4 . Memoirs, i. 206. 

London, 1781. 

Tuesday we were a small and very choice party at Bishop 
Shipley's 5 . Lord and Lady Spencer 6 , Lord and Lady Al- 

citation of Mrs. Thrale, to a house in 
Grosvenor Square.' Life, iv. 72. 

1 ' Some time in March [1781] 
I finished the Lives of the Poets.' 
Ante, i. 96. On March 5 he wrote 
to Strahan that he had done them. 
Letters, ii. 207. He did not in 
writing them keep to the order in 
which they were published. 

2 Miss More, I suppose, is think 
ing of the passage in which it is said 
that ' Lyttelton's zeal was considered 
by the courtiers not only as violent, 
but as acrimonious and malignant.' 
Perhaps however she had in mind 
a passage in the Life of Shenstone. 
Works, viii. 410; ante, ii. 3, n. 

3 Johnson describes it as ' a trea 
tise to which infidelity has never 
been able to fabricate a specious 
answer.' Works, viii. 490. 

4 Life, iv. 64, 65, n. i ; ante, i. 244. 

5 Boswell records a dinner on 
Thursday, April 12, 'at a Bishop's, 
where were Sir Joshua Reynolds, 
Mr. Berrenger, and some more com 
pany.' He adds, ' I have unfor 
tunately recorded none of Johnson's 
conversation.' Life, iv. 88. If, as 
seems most likely, it was this same 
dinner, his failure to keep a record 
was, no doubt, due to his being 
'much disordered with wine.' His 
journal he had not kept diligently 


for some weeks. I have little doubt 
that it was on Tuesday, as Miss 
More says, that the dinner took 
place. It was in Passion Week, and 
though Johnson made an * ingenious 
defence of his dining twice abroad 
in Passion Week' at the houses of 
Bishops (#.), yet I do not think he 
would have dined on the eve of 
Good Friday. On that day he wrote 
to Mrs. Thrale (who had just lost 
her husband) : * The business of 
Christians is now for a few days 
in their own bosoms.' Letters, 
ii. 214. 

Shipley, Bishop of St. Asaph, 
Johnson described as * knowing and 
conversible ' (Letters, i. 400), and as 
a man * who comes to every place.' 
Ib. ii. 149. 

He and Watson of Llandaff were 
the only Bishops who, at a meeting 
of their body convened by the Arch 
bishop of Canterbury in 1787, at the 
instance of Pitt, voted against the 
maintenance of the Test and Cor 
poration Acts. Life of Watson, i. 

Heber married his grand-daughter. 

6 The first Earl Spencer. He died 
in 1783. ' He succeeded,' writes his 
grandson, * to an enormous property 
in money, as well as land, before he 
was of age ; and he died at forty- 


Anecdotes by Hannah More. 

thorpe 1 , Sir Joshua, Langton, Boswell, Gibbon, and to my 
agreeable surprise, Dr. Johnson, were there. 

Mrs. Garrick and he had never met since her bereavement 2 . 
I was heartily disgusted with Mr. Boswell, who came upstairs 
after dinner, much disordered with wine 3 , and addressed me in 
a manner that drew from me a sharp rebuke, for which I fancy 
he will not easily forgive me. Johnson came to see us the next 
morning, and made us a long visit. On Mrs. Garrick's telling 
him she was always more at ease with persons who had suffered 
the same loss with herself, he said that was a comfort she could 
seldom have, considering the superiority of his merit, and the 
cordiality of their union. He bore his strong testimony to 
the liberality of Garrick 4 . He reproved me with pretended 
sharpness for reading ' Les Pensees de Pascal V or any of the 
Port Royal authors, alleging that as a good Protestant, I ought 
to abstain from books written by Catholics. I was beginning to 
stand upon my defence, when he took me with both hands, and 
with a tear running down his cheeks, * Child,' said he,' with the 
most affecting earnestness, ' I am heartily glad that you read 
pious books, by whomsoever they may be written 6 .' Memoirs^ 
i. 210. 

London, 1781. 

We begin now to be a little cheerful at home 7 , and to have our 
small parties. One such we have just had, and the day and 

nine years old, very much in debt.' 
Memoir of Viscount Althorp, ed. 
1876; Preface, p. 19. 

1 Second Earl and Countess Spen 
cer. Letters, ii. 65, n. 9, in, n. 2. 

2 Garrick died on Jan. 20, 1779. 

3 This same spring he went to the 
Hon. Miss Monckton's, ' certainly in 
extraordinary spirits, and above all 
fear or awe, ; where Johnson, he writes, 
4 kept me as quiet as possible.' Life, 
iv. 109. 

4 Ante, i. 437. 

5 He gave Boswell a copy on Good 
Friday, 1779. Ante, i. 87. 

6 They were a change from Tom 
Jones. Ante, ii. 190. 

7 She was living with Mrs. Gar 
rick, who called her ' her Chaplain.' 
Garrick called her Nine (the Nine 
Muses). ' Nine,' he said, * you are 
a Sunday Woman' Life, iv. 96. 

Of Mrs. Garrick Mrs. Piozzi wrote 
in 1 789:' That woman has lived 
a very wise life, regular and steady 
in her conduct, attentive to every 
word she speaks and every step she 
treads, decorous in her manners and 
graceful in her person.' Hayward's 
Piozzi, ed. 1861, i. 302. 'There is,' 
wrote Miss Burney in 1771, 'some 
thing so peculiarly graceful in her 
motion, and pleasing in her address, 
that the most trifling words have 

Anecdotes by Hannah More. 

evening turned out very pleasant J . Johnson was in* full song, 
and I quarrelled with him sadly. I accused him of not having 
done justice to the * Allegro/ and ' Penseroso.' He spoke dis 
paragingly of both 2 . I praised Lycidas, which he absolutely 
abused 3 , adding, if Milton had not written the Paradise Lost, 
he would have only ranked among the minor poets 4 : he was 
a Phidias that could cut a Colossus out of a rock, but could not 
cut heads out of cherry stones 5 . 

Boswell brought to my mind the whole of a very mirthful 
conversation at dear Mrs. Garrick's, and my being made by Sir 
William Forbes 6 the umpire in a trial of skill between Garrick 
and Boswell, which could most nearly imitate Dr. Johnson's 
manner. I remember I gave it for Boswell in familiar con 
versation, and for Garrick in reciting poetry 7 . Mrs. Boscawen 
shone with her usual mild lustre. Memoirs, i. 212. 

weight and power, when spoken by 
her to oblige and even delight.' 
Early Diary of F. Burney, \. ill. 

1 It was on April 20 the party was 
held. Boswell writes of it, ' I spent 
with Johnson one of the happiest 
days that I remember to have en 
joyed in the whole course of my life.' 
Life, iv. 96. 

2 It must have been by way of 
contradiction, for in the Life of 
Milton he says : ' Every man that 
reads them reads them with plea 
sure. . . . They are two noble efforts 
of imagination.' Works, vii. 121-2. 

Dr. Warton, twenty-five years 
earlier, spoke of them as poems 
' which are now universally known ; 
but which by a strange fatality lay 
in a sort of obscurity, the private 
enjoyment of a few curious readers, 
till they were set to admirable music 
by Mr. Handel.' Essay on Pope, ed. 
1762, i. 39. 

3 Of Lycidas Johnson wrote : 
* Surely no man could have fancied 
that he read it with pleasure, had he 
not known the author.' Works, vii. 1 2 1 . 


4 Paradise Lost Johnson describes 
as * a poem which, considered with 
respect to design, may claim the first 
place, and with respect to perform 
ance the second, among the pro 
ductions of the human mind.' Ib. 
vii. 125. Macaulay thought 'that 
if only the first four books of Para 
dise Lost had been preserved Milton 
would then have been placed above 
Homer.' Trevelyan's Macaulay, ed. 
1877, ii. 200. 

5 Life, iv. 305. 

6 Scott's ' lamented Forbes.' Mar- 
mion, canto iv, Introduction. See 
Life, v. 24. 

7 ' I recollect Garrick's exhibiting 
him to me one day, as if saying, 
"Davy has some convivial pleasantry 
about him, but 'tis a futile fellow " ; 
which he uttered perfectly with the 
tone and air of Johnson.' Ib. ii. 

Charlotte Burney describes how 
one day * Garrick took off Dr. John 
son most admirably; his see-saw, 
his pawing, his very look, and his 
voice. Ke took him off in a speech 
2 Poor 

196 Anecdotes by Hannah More. 

London, 1782. 

Poor Johnson is in a bad state of health x ; I fear his constitu 
tion is broken up : I am quite grieved at it, he will not leave an 
abler defender of religion and virtue behind him, and the 
following little touch of tenderness which I heard of him last 
night from one of the Turk's Head Club 2 , endears him to me 
exceedingly. There are always a great many candidates ready, 
when any vacancy happens in that club, and it requires no small 
interest and reputation to get elected 3 ; but upon Garrick's 
death, when numberless applications were made to succeed him, 
Johnson was deaf to them all ; he said, No, there never could be 
found any successor worthy of such a man ; and he insisted 
upon it there should be a year's widowhood in the club, before 
they thought of a new election 4 . In Dr. Johnson some con- 
trarieties very harmoniously meet ; if he has too little charity 
for the opinions of others, and too little patience with their 
y^faults, he has the greatest tenderness for their persons. He told 
me the other day, he hated to hear people whine about meta 
physical distresses s , 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 6 . He 

that has stuck in his gizzard ever Boswell (Life, i. 477), who was evi- 

since some friendly person was so dently proud of the name. The 

obliging as to repeat it to him : members however cling as much to 

" Yes, yes, Davy has some convivial the title of The Club as the head of 

pleasantries in him ; but 'tis a futile a Scotch clan clings to 7^he before 

Fellow." A little while after he took his name. 

him off in one of his own convivial 3 ' A single black-ball excludes a 

pleasantries. " No, Sir, I'm for the candidate.' Ib. iii. 116. Lord Cam- 

musick of the ancients, it has been den (the ex-Lord Chancellor) and 

corrupted so." ' Early Diary of F. the Bishop of Chester were rejected 

Burney, \\. 282, where the editor has on the same day. Ib. iii. 311, n. 2. 
an interesting note on 'the musick 4 Garrick died on Jan. 20, 1779. 

of the ancients.' The next election was Bishop Ship- 

1 The entry was made about the ley's in Nov. 1780. Croker's /far- 
middle of April. For his Latin letter well, ed. 1844, ii. 327. 

about his health, dated Mails Calen- 5 Ante, i. 252. 

dis f see Life, iv. 143. 6 'Nor does Rowe much interest 

2 ' The Club which existed long or affect the auditor except in Jane 
without a name, but at Mr. Garrick's Shore, who is always seen and heard 
funeral became distinguished by the with pity.' Works, vii. 416. 

title of THE LITERARY CLUB,' writes Charles Burney's little daughter, 


Anecdotes by Hannah More. 197 

called me a saucy girl J , but did not deny the inference. , Memoirs, 
i. 249. 

London, 1782. 

I dined very pleasantly one day last week at the Bishop of 
Chester's 2 . Johnson was there, and the Bishop was very 
desirous to draw him out, as he wished to show him off to some 
of the company who had never seen him. He begged me to sit 
next him at dinner, and to devote myself to making him talk. 
To this end, I consented to talk more than became me, and our 
stratagem succeeded. You would have enjoyed seeing him take 
me by the hand in the middle of dinner, and repeat with no 
small enthusiasm, many passages from the c Fair Penitent Y &c. 
I urged him to take a little wine, he replied, ' I can't drink 
a little, child, therefore I never touch it. Abstinence is as easy 
to me, as temperance would be difficult.' He was very good- 
humoured and gay. One of the company happened to say 
a word about poetry, ' Hush, hush,' said he, ' it is dangerous to 
say a word of poetry before her ; it is talking of the art of war 
before Hannibal.' He continued his jokes, and lamented that 
I had not married Chatterton, that posterity might have seen 
a propagation of poets 4 . Memoirs, i. 251. 

Oxford, June 13, 1782. 

Who do you think is my principal Cicerone at Oxford ? Only 
Dr. Johnson 5 ! and we do so gallant it about ! You cannot 
imagine with what delight he showed me every part of his own 
College (Pembroke), nor how rejoiced Henderson 6 looked, to 

' being in the front of a stage-box at He told Nichols about this time 

a country theatre, and hearing the that ' he had not read one of Rowe's 

wretched Jane in vain supplicating plays for thirty years.' Life, iv. 36,72.3. 

" a morsel to support her famished 4 Chatterton was born in Bristol 

soul," and crying out, " Give me but in 1752, and Hannah More came to 

to eat!" said, "Madame, will you live there about 1756. Memoirs, i. 14. 

have my OLLANGE." ' H. M ore's 5 He was the guest of Dr. Ed- 

Memoirs, iii. 72. wards, Vice-Principal of Jesus 

1 She was thirty-seven years old. College. Letters, ii. 257, n. 4. 

2 On April 23 or 24. Letters, ii. 6 ' A student of Pembroke College, 
250. The Bishop was Beilby Por- celebrated for his wonderful acquire- 
teus. Life, iii. 413. ments in Alchymy, Judicial Astro- 

3 By Nicholas Rowe ; * one of the logy, and other abstruse and curious 
most pleasing tragedies on the stage,' learning.' Life, iv. 298. 

Johnson calls it. Works, vii. 408. Richard Sharp told Francis Homer 



Anecdotes by Hannah More. 

make one in the party. Dr. Adams, the master of Pembroke, 
had contrived a very pretty piece of gallantry. We spent the 
day and evening at his house. After dinner Johnson begged to 
conduct me to see the College, he would let no one show it me 
but himself, ' This was my room ; this Shenstone's x / Then 
after pointing out all the rooms of the poets who had been of his 
college, * In short,' said he, { we were a nest of singing-birds ' 2 

'that though Henderson had much 
quackery before ignorant people to 
astonish them with his eccentricities 
of erudition, which became so much 
a habit that he was generally quackish 
in the selection of his subjects, the 
manner was full of ability ; and that he 
had a very powerful understanding. 3 
Memoirs of F. Homer, i. 241. 

Lamb wrote to Coleridge in June, 
1796 : ' Of the Monody on Hender 
son I will here only notice these 
lines, as superlatively excellent. That 
energetic one, " Shall I not praise 
thee, scholar, Christian, friend," like 
to that beautiful climax of Shake 
speare's " King, Hamlet, Royal Dane, 
Father 1 ;" " yet memory turns from 
little men to thee," "And sported 
careless round their fellow child."' 
Ainger's Letters of Lamb, i. 14. 

De Ouincey tells how ' when Hen 
derson was disputing at a dinner 
party, his opponent being pressed 
by some argument too strong for his 
logic or his temper, replied by 
throwing a glass of wine in his face ; 
upon which Henderson . . . coolly 
wiped it, and said, " This, Sir, is 
a digression ; now, if you please, for 
the argument."' De Quincey's 
Works, xii. 192. 

The Monody was by Joseph Cottle. 

Coleridge in his lines To the 
Aiithor of Poems, &c., says: 
'But lo ! your Henderson awakes 
the Muse 

His Spirit beckoned from the 

Mountain's height, 
You left the plain, and soared mid 

richer views ! 
So Nature mourned, when sunk 

the First Day's light, 
With stars, unseen before, spangling 

her robes of night.' 
Coleridge's Poems, ed. 1859, p. 53. 
1 Johnson's room over the gate 
way is in its fabrick much as it was 
when Hannah More saw it; Shen 
stone's is no longer known. 

2 ' From school Shenstone was sent 
to Pembroke College in Oxford, a 
society which, for half a century, has 
been eminent for English poetry and 
elegant literature.' Works, viii. 408. 
For a list of the eminent men see 
Life, i. 75 ; where Boswell also re 
cords, that 'being himself a poet, 
Johnson was peculiarly happy in 
mentioning how many of the sons of 
Pembroke were poets ; adding, with 
a smile of sportive triumph, " Sir, we 
are a nest of singing-birds." ' 

The College has not been wanting 
in scholars in later years. Among 
my contemporaries were the late 
Dr. Edwin Hatch, the learned theo 
logian ; Dr. Edward Moore, the 
editor of Dante, and Canon Dixon, 
the author of The History of the 
Church of England, and of finer 
poems than were sung by most 
of last-century's nest of singing- 

' I '11 call thee Hamlet, 
King, father, royal Dane.' Act. i. Sc. 4. 


Anecdotes by Hannah More. 


' Here we walked, there we played at cricket V He ran 
over with pleasure the history of the juvenile days he passed 
there. When we came into the common room 2 , we spied 
a fine large print of Johnson, framed and hung up that very 
morning, with this motto : ' And is not Johnson ours, him 
self a host! Under which stared you in the face, ' From Miss 
Mores Sensibility V This little incident amused us ; but alas ! 
Johnson looks very ill indeed spiritless and wan. However, 
he made an effort to be cheerful, and I exerted myself much to 
make him so. 

We are just setting off to spend a day or two at the Bishop of 
Llandaff's 4 , near Wallingford. But first I must tell you I am 
engaged to dine on my return with the learned Dr. Edwards of 
Jesus College, to meet Dr. Johnson, Thomas Warton, and what 
ever else is most learned and famous in this University 5 . 
Memoirs, i. 261. 

1 Johnson must have pointed to 
a field outside the College precincts, 
for within them there was no room 
for cricket. 

2 In the Common Room, which 
then stood in the garden, Johnson, 
in the days when it was open to the 
undergraduates, ' used to play at 
draughts with Phil Jones and Flud- 
yer.' Life, ii. 444. By the year 
1776, in some of the Colleges, the 
students were excluded from the 
Common Room. Ib. ii. 443. The 
Junior Common Room of Pembroke 
College kept its centenary in 1894. 

3 'Though purer flames thy hal- 

low'd zeal inspire 
Than e'er were kindled at the 

Muse's fire ; 
Thee, mitred Chester 1 , all the 

Nine shall boast ; 
And is not Johnson ours ? him 
self an host.' 

In the Senior Common Room 
there now hangs a fine portrait of 
Johnson by Reynolds, the gift of 

1 'Dr. Beilby Porteus, then Bishop of Chester. See his admirable poem on 
" Death." ' Note by //. More. 


the late Mr. Andrew Spottiswoode. 
See Life, iv. 151, n. 2. 

4 Shute Barrington. Dr. Watson 
who succeeded him, settling on the 
banks of Windermere, did not live 
any nearer his diocese, and scarcely 
ever visited it. After he had been 
Bishop twenty-seven years he boasts 
of holding ' a confirmation at a place 
where no Bishop had ever held a 
confirmation before, Merthyr Tid- 
vil ' With perfect complacency he 
writes : ' I have spent above twenty 
years in this delightful country (West 
moreland) ... I have much recovered 
my health, entirely preserved my in 
dependence, set an example of a 
spirited husbandry to the country, 
and honourably provided for my 
family.' Life of Bishop Watson, i. 
389 ; ii. 367- 

5 For the sudden rise this week of 
the ' battels ' of many of the Fellows 
and Scholars of Jesus College see 
Letters, ii. 261, n. I. 

200 Anecdotes by Hannah More. 

London, March 29, 1783. 

Hoole has just sent me his preface to his translation of 
Ariosto, which is coming out ; an expensive present ; since 
I can now do no less than subscribe for the whole work, and 
a guinea and a half for a translation of a book from the original 
is dearish z . Saturday I went to Mrs. Reynolds's to meet Sir 
Joshua and Dr. Johnson ; the latter is vastly recovered. Our 
conversation ran very much upon religious opinions, chiefly 
those of the Roman Catholics. He took the part of the Jesuits, 
and I declared myself a Jansenist. He was very angry because 
I quoted Boileau's bon mot upon the Jesuits, that they had 
lengthened the creed and shortened the decalogue ; but I con 
tinued sturdily to vindicate my old friends of the Port Royal. 
On Tuesday I was at Mrs. Vesey's assembly, which was too full 
to be very pleasant. She dearly loves company ; and as she is 
connected with almost every thing that is great in the good 
sense of the word, she is always sure to have too much. 
I inquired after the Shipleys, who had promised to meet us 
there, and was told they had just sent an excuse ; for that Anna 
Maria and Sir William 2 were at that moment in the act of 
marrying. They will be now completely banished, but as they 
will be banished together, they do not think it a hardship. May 
God bless them, and may his stupendous learning be sanctified ! 
I went and sat the other morning with Dr. Johnson, who is still 
far from well. Our conversation was very interesting, but so 

1 Jeremy Bentham says that even of those with whom he asso- 

' Hoole got money by plays and elated intimately. . . . The opinions 

translations, which he got people to he expressed of people depended 

subscribe for. He even asked me very much upon their personal rela- 

for subscriptions, though he lived in tions to himself.' Macvey Napier 

style asked me who lived in beg- Corres. p. 441. 
gary !' Bentham's Works, x. 184. La Rochefoucauld says (Maximes, 

Bentham's characters must be re- No. 88) : ' L'amour-propre nous 

ceived with caution. Mill wrote augmente ou nous diminue les bonnes 

on Oct. 14, 1843, about Bowring's qualites de nos amis, a proportion de 

Life of Bentham : * Mr. Bentham's la satisfaction que nous avons d'eux ; 

best friends well knew I have heard et nous jugeons de leur me"rite par la 

some of those who were most at- maniere dont ils vivent avec nous.' 
tached to him lament his entire 2 Sir William Jones. Life, iv. 

incapacity to estimate the characters 75, n. 3. 


Anecdotes by Hannah More. 201 

many people came in, that I began to feel foolish, and soon 
I sneaked off. He has written some very pretty verses on his 
friend Levett *, which he gave me, and which I will send you 
when I can. He was all kindness to me. Memoirs, i. 278. 

London, May 5, 1783. 

Saturday we had a dinner at home, Mrs. Carter, Miss Hamilton, 
the Kennicotts 2 , and Dr. Johnson. Poor Johnson exerted him 
self exceedingly ; but he was very ill and looked so dreadfully, 
that it quite grieved me 3 . He is more mild and complacent 
than he used to be. His sickness seems to have softened his 
Vmind, without having at all weakened it. I was struck with the 

radiance of this setting sun. We had but a small party of 
such of his friends as we knew would be most agreeable to him, 
and as we were all very attentive, and paid him the homage 
he both expects and deserves, he was very communicative, and 
of course instructive and delightful in the highest degree. 
Memoirs, i. 280. 

April, 1784. 

I had a very civil note 4 from Johnson about a week since ; it 
was written in good spirits ; and as it was a volunteer, and not 
an answer, it looks as if he were really better. He tells me he 
longs to see me, to praise the Bas Bleu 5 as much as envy can 
praise ; there's for you ! 

1 Life, iv. 137. in 1825, mentioning the death of Sir 

2 Dr. Kennicott was a Canon of W. W. Pepys says :' Our acquaint- 
Christ Church and author of the ance began nearly fifty years ago ; 
Collations. Life, ii. 128 ; Letters, ii. he was the Ltzlius in my little poem 
77> n > 2 - The Bas Bleu. As he was the chief 

3 He had just gone through a ornament, so he was the last sur- 
three days' course of violent physick- vivor of the select society which gave 
ing. Letters, ii. 294. birth to that trifle.' Memoirs, iv. 

4 It has not been published. 238. 

5 On April 19 he wrote to Mrs. 'General Paoli described a Blue- 
Thrale : ' Miss Moore [sic] has stocking meeting very well : Here, 
written a poem called Le Bas Bleu ; four or five old ladies talking formally, 
which is in my opinion a very great and a priest (Dr. Barnard, Provost 
performance. It wanders about in of Eton), with a wig like the globe, 
manuscript.' Letters, ii. 390. See sitting in the middle, as if he were 
ib. n. 4 for some extracts from it, confessing them/ Rogers's Bos- 
and Life, iv. 108. Hannah More, ivelliana, p. 321. 



Anecdotes by Hannah More. 

Did I tell you I went to see Dr. Johnson ? Miss Monckton x 
carried me, and we paid him a very long visit. He received me 
with the greatest kindness and affection, and as to the Bas Bleu, 
all the flattery I ever received from every body together would 
not make up his sum. He said, but I seriously insist you do 
not tell any body, for I am ashamed of writing it even to you ; 
he said there was no name in poetry that might not be glad to 
own it 2 . You cannot imagine how I stared ; all this from John 
son, that parsimonious praiser ! I told him I was delighted at 
his approbation ; he answered quite characteristically, * And so 
you may, for I give you the opinion of a man who does not 
rate his judgment in these things very low, I can tell you.' 
Memoirs, i. 319. 


My appointment at Oxford was to flirt with Dr. Johnson, but 
he was a recreant knight, and had deserted 3 . He had been for 
a fortnight at the house of my friend Dr. Adams, the head of 
Pembroke, with Mr. Boswell ; but the latter being obliged to 
go to town, Johnson was not thought well enough to remain 
behind, and afterwards to travel by himself; so that he left my 
friend's house the very day I got thither, though they told me 
he did me the honour to be very angry and out of humour, that 
I did not come so soon as I had promised. I am grieved to find 
that his mind is still a prey to melancholy, and that the fear of 
death operates on him to the destruction of his peace. It is 
grievous it is unaccountable ! He who has the Christian hope 
upon the best foundation ; whose faith is strong, whose morals 
are irreproachable 4 ! But I am willing to ascribe it to bad 
nerves, and bodily disease. Memoirs, i. 330. 

even what he likes, extravagantly.' 

3 He went to Oxford on June 3, 
1784, and left it on June 19. Life, 
iv. 283, 311. 

4 ' MRS. ADAMS. " You seem, Sir, 
to forget the merits of our Redeemer." 
JOHNSON. " Madam, I do not for 
get the merits of my Redeemer ; but 
my Redeemer has said that he will 
set some on his right hand and some 
on his left." He was in gloomy 


1 Life, iv. 108, n. 4. 

2 Johnson said to Mrs. Thrale : 
' I know nobody who blasts by praise 
as you do; for whenever there is 
exaggerated praise everybody is set 
against a character.' Ib. iv. 81. See 
also ib. iii. 225, where Mrs. Thrale 
said : ' I do not know for cer 
tain what will please Dr. Johnson ; 
but I know for certain that it will 
displease him to praise anything, 

Anecdotes by Hannah More. 203 

Hampton, December, 1784. 

Poor dear Johnson ! he is past all hope. The dropsy has 
brought him to the point of death ; his legs are scarified : but 
nothing will do. I have, however, the comfort to hear that his 
dread of dying is in a great measure subdued ; and now he 
says ' the bitterness of death is past V He sent the other day 
for Sir Joshua ; and after much serious conversation told him 
he had three favours to beg of him, and he hoped he would not 
refuse a dying friend, be they what they would. Sir Joshua 
promised. The first was that he would never paint on a Sunday ; 
the second that he would forgive him thirty pounds that he had 
lent him, as he wanted to leave them to a distressed family; the 
third was that he would read the bible whenever he had an 
opportunity ; and that he would never omit it on a Sunday. 
There was no difficulty but upon the first point ; but at length 
Sir Joshua promised to gratify him in all 2 . How delighted 
should I be to hear the dying discourse of this great and good 
man, especially now that faith has subdued his fears. I wish 
I could see him. 

[As the very interesting particulars contained in the following 
letter, found among Mrs. H. More's papers, may not be generally 
known, we shall perhaps be excused for interrupting the series of 
her letters by its insertion. Note by Roberts.] 


I ought to apologize for delaying so long to gratify your wishes 
and fulfil my promise, by committing to paper a conversation 

agitation, and said, " I '11 have no affecting. I never saw anything so 

more on 't." ' Life, iv. 300. meek and so resigned. But it is 

Mrs. Adams did not outlive him a heavy blow at almost eighty.' 

many months. Early in the summer x * Surely the bitterness of death 

of 1785 Hannah More records (Me- is past.' I Sam. xv. 32. 

moirs, i. 404) : * The wife of Dr. ' The Doctor, from the time that 

Adams is dead, and his friends pre- he was certain his death was near, 

vailed on him to set out for London, appeared to be perfectly resigned.' 

to be out of the way during the last Life, iv. 417 ; ante, i. 448 ; ii. 127. 

sad ceremonies ; so he came to the 2 Boswell says that ' Sir Joshua 

hotel next to us, in order for me to readily acquiesced.' Life, iv. 414. 

devote myself to him as much as The first promise he did not keep, 

possible. Our first meeting was very Ib. n. i. See ante, ii. 5. 


204 Anecdotes by Hannah More. 

which I had with the late Rev. Mr. Storry, of Colchester, re 
specting Dr. Johnson. I will now however proceed at once 
to record, to the best of my recollection, the substance of our 

We were riding together near Colchester, when I asked 
Mr. Storry whether he had ever heard that Dr. Johnson ex 
pressed great dissatisfaction with himself on the approach of 
death, and that in reply to friends, who, in order to comfort him, 
spoke of his writings in defence of virtue and religion, he had 
said, ' admitting all you urge to be true, how can I tell when 
I have done enough *.' 

Mr. S. assured me that what I had just mentioned was perfectly 
correct ; and then added the following interesting particulars. 

Dr. Johnson, said he, did feel as you describe, and was not to 
be comforted by the ordinary topics of consolation which were 
addressed to him. In consequence he desired to see a clergyman, 
and particularly described the views and character of the person 
whom he wished to consult. After some consideration a Mr. 
Winstanley was named, and the Dr. requested Sir John Hawkins 
to write a note in his name, requesting Mr. W.'s attendance as 
a minister 2 . 

Mr. W., who was in a very weak state of health, was quite 
overpowered on receiving the note, and felt appalled by the very 
thought of encountering the talents and learning of Dr. Johnson. 
In his embarrassment he went to his friend Colonel Pownall, and 
told him what had happened, asking, at the same time, for his 
advice how to act. The Colonel, who was a pious man, urged 
him immediately to follow what appeared to be a remarkable 
leading of providence, and for the time argued his friend out of 
his nervous apprehension : but after he had left Colonel Pownall, 
Mr. W.'s fears returned in so great a degree as to prevail upon 
him to abandon the thought of a personal interview with the Dr. 
He determined in consequence to write him a letter : that letter 
I think Mr. Storry said he had seen, at least a copy of it, and 
part of it he repeated to me as follows : 

Sir I beg to acknowledge the honour of your note, and am 

^ ii. 156. 2 Hawkins has no mention of this. 


Anecdotes by Hannah More. 205 

very sorry that the state of my health prevents my compliance 
with your request ; but my nerves are so shattered that I feel 
as if I should be quite confounded by your presence, and instead 
of promoting, should only injure the cause in which you desire 
my aid. Permit me therefore to write what I should wish to 
say were I present. I can easily conceive what would be the 
subjects of your inquiry. I can conceive that the views of your 
self have changed with your condition, and that on the near 
approach of death, what you once considered mere peccadillos 
have risen into mountains of guilt, while your best actions have 
dwindled into nothing. On whichever side you look you see 
only positive transgressions or defective obedience ; and hence, 
in self-despair, are eagerly inquiring 'What shall I do to be 
saved ? ' I say to you, in the language of the Baptist, ' Behold 
the Lamb of God ! ' &c. &c. 

When Sir John Hawkins came to this part of Mr. W.'s letter, 
the Dr. interrupted him, anxiously asking, ' Does he say so ? 
Read it again ! Sir John.' Sir John complied : upon which the 
Dr. said, * I must see that man ; write again to him.' A second 
note was accordingly sent: but even this repeated solicitation 
could not prevail over Mr. Winstanley's fears. He was led, 
however, by it to write again to the Doctor, renewing and en 
larging upon the subject of his first letter ; and these communi 
cations, together with the conversation of the late Mr. Latrobe z , 
who was a particular friend of Dr. Johnson, appear to have been 
blessed by God in bringing this great man to the renunciation of 
self, and a simple reliance on Jesus as his Saviour, thus also 
communicating to him that peace which he had found the world 
could not give, and which when the world was fading from his 
view, was to fill the void, and dissipate the gloom, even of the 
valley of the shadow of death. Memoirs, i. 376. 

H. MORE to her sister. 

Hampton 2 , 1785. 

Mr. Pepys wrote me a very kind letter on the death of Johnson, 
thinking I should be impatient to hear something relating to his 
last hours. Dr. Brocklesby, his physician, was with him; he 

1 A Moravian. Life, iv. 410. 2 At Mrs. Garrick's house. 



Anecdotes by Hannah More. 

said to him a little before he died, Doctor, you are a worthy 
man, and my friend, but I am afraid you are not a Christian ! 
what can I do better for you than offer up in your presence 
a prayer to the great God that you may become a Christian in 
my sense of the word. Instantly he fell on his knees, and put 
up a fervent prayer ; when he got up he caught hold of his hand 
with great earnestness, and cried, Doctor, you do not say Amen. 
The Doctor looked foolishly, but after a pause, cried, Amen! 
Johnson said, My dear doctor, believe a dying man, there is no 
salvation but in the sacrifice of the Lamb of God ; go home, 
write down my prayer, and every word I have said, and bring it 
me to-morrow. Brocklesby did so J . ... 

No action of his life became him like the leaving it. His death 
makes a kind of era in literature 2 ; piety and goodness will not 
easily find a more able defender, and it is delightful to see him 
set, as it were, his dying seal to the professions of his life, and to 
the truth of Christianity. Memoirs, i. 392. 

Adelphi, 1785. 

Boswell tells me he is printing anecdotes of Johnson, not his 
life, but, as he has the vanity to call it, \\ispyramid 3 . I besought 
his tenderness for our virtuous and most revered departed friend, 
and begged he would mitigate some of his asperities. He said, 
roughly, ' He would not cut off his claws, nor make a tiger a cat, 
to please anybody 4 .' It will, I doubt not, be a very amusing 
book, but I hope not an indiscreet one ; he has great enthusiasm, 
and some fire 5 . Memoirs, i. 403. 

1 Life, \v. 414, 416 ; ante, ii. 146, 

2 ' He has made a chasm, which 
not only nothing can fill up, but 
which nothing has a tendency to fill 
up.' Life, iv. 420. 

3 'What Boswell was printing in 
1785 was his Journal of a Tour to 
the Hebrides. 

4 Life, i. 30. 

5 The following is endorsed on 
a letter addressed by Boswell to 
Lord Buchan on Jan. 5, 1767 : 
1 Boswell was my relative by his 

mother. ... In consequence of a letter 
he wrote to me I desired him to call 
at Mr. Pitt's, and took care to be 
with him when he was introduced. 
. . . Boswell came in the Corsican 
dress and presented a letter from 
Paoli. Lord Chatham smiled, but 
received him very graciously in his 
pompous manner. Boswell had 
genius, but wanted ballast to coun 
teract his whim. He preferred being 
a showman to keeping a shop of his 
own.' Buchan MSS. quoted in 
Croker's Boswell, x. 122. 

I remember 

Anecdotes by Hannah More. 207 

I remember that my dear old Dr. Johnson once asked me, 
'What was the greatest compliment you could pay to an 
author ? ' I replied, * To quote him V * Thou art right, my 
child/ said he. Memoirs, iv. 20. 

Dr. Johnson once said to me : ' Never mind whether they 
praise or abuse your writings ; anything is tolerable, except 
oblivion 2 .' Memoirs, ii. 169. 

' I have lost so many of my contemporaries within the last 
year [1824] that I am ready to ask with Dr. Johnson, " where is 
the world into which I was born ? " Memoirs, iv. 203. 

1829 [February or March}. 

Joy, joy, joy to you, to me ! Joy to the individual victorious 
Protestant ! Joy to the great Protestant cause ! That dear valu 
able Sir T. Acland brought the first news of a great majority 3 ; 
and though I could scarcely doubt of our success, yet I applied 
the words once used to me by my old friend, Dr. Johnson, ' My 
dear, I must always doubt of that which has not yet happened.' 
Memoirs, iv. 297. 

1 Perhaps she got this from The a dissenting meeting-house at Bath.' 
Tatler, No. 205, where it is said of The same orthodox Review quotes 
Dr. South : ' The best way to praise (1802, p. 429) from a scurrilous Life 
this author is to quote him.' of Hannah More a foul attack on 

2 Life, iii. 375 ; v. 273. her, in which it is implied that at 
In 1803 writing of the attacks the expense of her chastity * she pur- 
made on her, including ' Three years' chased an annuity of ^200 at a very 
monthly attack from the Anti- easy rate' [the italics are in the 
Jacobin] she says: 'I have to original]. The canting reviewer adds 
lament that through my want of his that ' such loose imputations disgrace 
[Baxter's] faith and piety, they had the biographer.' 

nearly destroyed my life. In one 3 The news was the defeat of Peel 

thing only I had the advantage, at the Oxford University election, 

I never once replied to my calum- when the Duke of Wellington and he 

niators.' Memoirs , iii. 203. To judge brought in their Catholic Relief Bill, 

by the index of the Anti-Jacobin the ' The Convocation,' wrote Greville 

attacks were rather yearly than on Feb. 27, 'presents a most dis- 

monthly. In the volume for 1802, graceful scene of riot and uproar.' 

p. 429, she is charged ' with having C. C. Greville's Journals, ed. 1874, 

received the Sacrament from the 1st Ser. i. 177. 
hands of Mr. Jay, the pastor of 


[THE following anecdotes and remarks are taken from the 
third edition of Dr. Robert Anderson's Life of Johnson, 
published in 1815. They had been recorded by Percy, in 1805, 
in an interleaved copy of the second edition. A few of his 
entries are not worth reprinting ; others I have already in 
corporated as notes, and so do not include here.] 

AT Stourbridge Johnson's genius was so distinguished that, 
although little better than a school-boy, he was admitted into 
the best company of the place, and had no common attention 
paid to his conversation ; of which remarkable instances were 
long remembered there 1 . He had met even with George, 
afterwards Lord Lyttleton ; with whom, having some colloquial 
disputes, he is supposed to have conceived that prejudice which 
so improperly influenced him in the Life of that worthy noble 
man 2 . But this could scarcely have happened when he was 
a boy of fifteen, and, therefore, it is probable he occasionally 

1 Bridgenofth, Percy's birthplace, 
is only a few miles from Stourbridge. 
He was Johnson's junior by nineteen 

2 Life, iv. 57. Ante, i. 257. 
Percy, who was chaplain to the 
King, devoted to the Duke of 
Northumberland, and whose wife 
had been nurse to Prince Edward 
(ante, ii. 64), was naturally shocked 
at Johnson's ridicule of a worthy 

nobleman but a poor writer. John 
son disliked moreover 'the most 
vulgar Whiggism' of Lyttelton's 
History of Henry II. Life, ii. 221. 
Hume wrote to Adam Smith on July 
14, 1767 : ' Have you read Lord 
Lyttelton ? Do you not admire his 
Whiggery and his Piety; Qualities 
so useful both for this world and the 
next?' MSS. Royal Society of 


Anecdotes and Remarks by Bishop Percy. 209 

visited Stourbridge, during his residence at Birmingham, before 
he removed to London x . (Pages 20, 66.) 

Johnson's countenance was not so harsh and rugged as has 
been misrepresented, and no otherwise disfigured by the King's 
Evil than its having a scar under one of his jaws, where some 
humour had been opened, but afterwards healed. And this 
being only a simple scar, attended with no discoloration, excited 
no disgust 2 . (Page 15.) 

His countenance, when in a good humour, was not disagree 
able. His face clear, his complexion good, and his features 
not ill-formed, many ladies have thought they might not be 
unattractive when he was young 3 . Much misrepresentation 
has prevailed on this subject among such as did not personally 
know him. (Page 49.) 

That he had some whimsical peculiarities of the nature 
described [by Boswell, Life, i. 484], is certainly true ; but there 
is no reason to believe they proceeded from any superstitious 
motives, wherein religion was concerned ; they are rather to be 
ascribed to his ' mental distempers.' (Page 487.) 

If Johnson appeared a little unwieldy, it was owing to the 
defect of his sight, and not from corpulency. (Page 468.) 

Johnson was so extremely short-sighted 4 , that he had no 

1 That this is not likely is shown see so well as I do." I wondered at 
by a passage in one of his Letters Dr. Percy's venturing thus. Dr. 
(1.177) where speaking of a proposed Johnson said nothing at the time; 
visit to Mr. Lyttelton at Hagley, but inflammable particles were col- 
near Stourbridge, he says : ' I lecting for a cloud to burst. In a 
should have had the opportunity . . . little while Dr. Percy said something 
of recalling the images of sixteen more in disparagement of Pennant, 
and reviewing my conversations with JOHNSON (pointedly). " This is the 
poor Ford.' See Life, i. 49. He resentment of a narrow mind, be 
seems to have met Lyttelton at Mr. cause he did not find every thing in 
Fitzherbert's. Ante, i. 257. Northumberland." PERCY (feeling 

2 Life, i. 94. the stroke). " Sir, you may be as 

3 Ante, i. 344. rude as you please." JOHNSON. 

4 ' PERCY. " But, my good friend, " Hold, Sir ! Don't talk of rudeness ; 
you are short-sighted, and do not remember, Sir, you told me (puffing 

VOL. II. p conception 

210 Anecdotes and Remarks 

conception of rural beauties ; and, therefore, it is not to be 
wondered, that he should prefer the conversation of the metro 
polis to the silent groves and views of Greenwich * ; which, 
however delightful, he could not see. In his Tour through the 
Highlands of Scotland, he has somewhere observed, that one 
mountain was like another 2 ; so utterly unconscious was he of 
the wonderful variety of sublime and beautiful scenes those 
mountains exhibited. The writer of this remark was once 
present when the case of a gentleman was mentioned, who, 
having with great taste and skill formed the lawns and plan 
tations about his house into most beautiful landscapes, to 
complete one part of the scenery, was obliged to apply for 
leave to a neighbour with whom he was not upon cordial 
terms 3 ; when Johnson made the following remark, which at 
once shews what ideas he had of landscape improvement, and 
how happily he applied the most common incidents to moral 
instruction. * See how inordinate desires enslave man ! No 
desire can be more innocent than to have a pretty garden, yet, 
indulged to excess, it has made this poor man submit to beg 
a favour of his enemy.' (Page 520.) 

This [the statement that 'when Johnson did eat it was 
voraciously '] is extremely exaggerated. He ate heartily, having 
a good appetite, but not with the voraciousness described by 

hard with passion struggling for a men, I answered, " Yes, Sir ; but 

vent) I was short-sighted. We have not equal to Fleet-street." JOHN- 

done with civility. We are to be as SON. " You are right, Sir." ' Ib. i. 

rude as we please." PERCY. " Upon 461. 

my honour, Sir, I did not mean to 2 'The hills exhibit very little 

be uncivil." JOHNSON. " I cannot variety, being almost wholly covered 

say so, Sir ; for I did mean to be with dark heath, and even that seems 

uncivil, thinking you had been un- to be checked in its growth.' Works, 

civil." ' Life, iii. 273. ix. 35. ' The Highlands are very 

1 * We walked in the evening in uniform, for there is little variety 

Greenwich Park. He asked me, in universal barrenness.' Letters, i. 

I suppose, byway of trying my dis- 250. 

position, " Is not this very fine ? " 3 Shenstone perhaps is meant, 

Having no exquisite relish of the who ' was not upon cordial terms J 

beauties of Nature, and being more with his neighbours the Lytteltons. 

delighted with the busy hum of Works, viii. 410; ante t ii. 3. 


by Bishop Percy. 211 

Mr. Boswell x ; all whose extravagant accounts must be read 
with caution and abatement. (Page 471.) 

There was no great cordiality between Garrick and Johnson; 
and as the latter kept him much in awe when present, Garrick, 
when his back was turned, repaid the restraint with ridicule 
of him and his dulcinea, which should be read with great 
abatement ; for, though Garrick, at the moment, to indulge 
a spirit of drollery, and to entertain the company, gave distorted 
caricatures of Mrs. Johnson and her spouse, it would certainly 
have shocked him, had he known that these sportive distor 
tions were to be handed down to posterity as faithful pictures. 
By his caricature mimickry he could turn the most respect 
able characters and unaffected manners into ridicule 2 . (Pages 
50, 9i.) 


The extraordinary prejudice and dislike of Swift, manifested 
on all occasions by Johnson, whose political opinions coincided 
exactly with his 3 , has been difficult to account for ; and is there 
fore attributed to his failing in getting a degree, which Swift 
might not chuse to solicit, for a reason given below. The real 
cause is believed to be as follows : The Rev. Dr. Madden, who 
distinguished himself so laudably by giving premiums to the 
young students of Dublin College, for which he had raised 
a fund by applying for contributions to the nobility and gentry 
of Ireland 4 , had solicited the same from Swift, when he was 

1 'Everything about his character man behind his back.' Early Diary 
and manners was forcible and violent ; of Frances Burney, ii. 283. 

there never was any moderation; 3 Swift, in 1716, described himself 

many a day did he fast, many a year as having been ' always a Whig in 

did he refrain from wine; but when politicks.' Works, ed. 1803, xvi. 156. 

he did eat, it was voraciously; when 4 Dr. Madan, in 1730, 'submitted 

he did drink wine, it was copiously.' to the University of Dublin a scheme 

Life, iv. 72. for the encouragment of learning by 

2 He came one day with Becket the establishment of premiums, for 
the bookseller to Dr. Burney's house. which he proposed to raise a fund 
' Becket walked on a little before amounting at the lowest to ^250 per 
Garrick, and he [Garrick] was im- annum.' In 1732 they were first 
pudent enough to take him off to his granted. Some fourteen years later 

face, I was going to say, but to do Edmund Burke was awarded a pre- 
him justice he did it like a gentle- mium. Diet. Nat. Biog. xxxv. 296. 

P 2 sinking 

2i2 Anecdotes and Remarks 

sinking into that morbid idiocy which only terminated with 
his life, and was saving every shilling to found his hospital 
for lunatics J ; but his application was refused with so little 
delicacy, as left in Dr. Madden a rooted dislike to Swift's 
character, which he communicated to Johnson, whose friendship 
he gained on the following occasion: Dr. Madden wished to 
address some person of high rank, in prose or verse ; and, 
desirous of having his composition examined and corrected by 
some writer of superior talents, had been recommended to 
Johnson, who was at that time in extreme indigence ; and 
having finished his task, would probably have thought himself 
well rewarded with a guinea or two, when, to his great surprise, 
Dr. Madden generously slipped ten guineas into his hand 2 . 
This made such an impression on Johnson, as led him to adopt 
every opinion of Dr. Madden, and to resent, as warmly as 
himself, Swift's rough refusal of the contribution ; after which 
the latter could not decently request any favour from the 
University of Dublin. (Page 81.) 

[' I am to mention (writes Bos well, Life, iv. 395) that Johnson's 
conduct, after he came to London and associated with Savage, 
was not so strictly virtuous in one respect as when he was 
a younger man. ... He owned to many of his friends that he 

J. W. Stubbs's Hist. Univ. Dublin, ' He gave the little wealth he had 

pp. 198, 200. In 1740 Madan set To build a house for fools and mad ; 

afoot a premium scheme for the en- And showed by one satiric touch 

couragement of inventions in Ireland. No nation wanted it so much.' 

Gentleman's Magazine, 1740, p. 94 ; Ib. xi. 255. 

Life, i. 318. It was in 1745 that he 2 'When Dr. Madden came to 

published his Boulter's Monument. London, he submitted that work 

Ib. It was in 1739 that Swift was [Boulter's Monument} to my casti- 

asked to get Johnson the degree of gation ; and I remember I blotted 

Master of Arts of Dublin. Percy a great many lines, and might have 

makes a strange confusion in his blotted many more, without making 

'real cause.' the poem worse. However, the 

1 Swift left the bulk of his pro- Doctor was very thankful, and very 

perty to found a lunatic asylum in generous, for he gave me ten guineas, 

Dublin. Works, ed. 1803, xxiv. 236. which was to me at that time a great 

He ended his Verses on the Death of sum' Life, i. 318. The work was 

Dr. Swift, written fourteen years ' A Panegyrical Poem' in memory of 

before his end, by saying : Archbishop Boulter. See/^r/, p. 267. 


by Bishop Percy. 213 

used to take women of the town to taverns and hear them 
relate their history.] 

This seems to have been suggested by Mr. Boswell, to account 
for Johnson's religious terrors on the approach of death ; as 
if they proceeded from his having been led by Savage to vicious 
indulgences with the women of the town, in his nocturnal 
rambles 1 . This, if true, Johnson was not likely to have con 
fessed to Mr. Boswell, and therefore must be received as a pure 
invention of his own. But if Johnson ever conversed with those 
unfortunate females, it is believed to have been in order to 
reclaim them from their dissolute life, by moral and religious 
impressions ; for to one of his friends he once related a con 
versation of that sort which he had with a young female in the 
street, and that asking her what she thought she was made 
for, 'she supposed to please the gentlemen 2 .' His friend 
intimating his surprise, that he should have had communica 
tions with street-walkers, implying a suspicion that they were 
not of a moral tendency, Johnson expressed the highest 
indignation that any other motive could ever be suspected. 
(Page 90.) 

The account of the manner in which Johnson compiled his 
Dictionary, as given by Mr. Boswell, is confused and erroneous 3 ; 
and a moment's reflection will convince every person of judg 
ment could not be correct ; for, to write down an alphabetical 

1 Life, i. 164. in the Rambler' [Nos. 170 and 171]. 

2 Hawkins, who tells this story Prior's Malone, p. 161. 

(p. 321), says: ''It is too well 3 'The words, partly taken from 
attested for me to omit it? Malorie other dictionaries, and partly sup- 
says that ' Baretti used sometimes plied by himself, having been first 
to walk with Johnson through the written down with spaces left be- 
streets at night, and occasionally tween them, he delivered in writing 
entered into conversation with the their etymologies, definitions, and 
unfortunate women who frequent significations. The authorities were 
them, for the sake of hearing their copied from the books themselves, in 
stories. It was from a history of which he had marked the passages 
one of these, which a girl told under with a black-lead pencil, the traces 
a tree in the King's Bench Walk in of which could easily be effaced.' 
the Temple to Baretti and Johnson, Life, i. 188. See ante, ii. 95. 
that he formed the story of Misella 


214 Anecdotes and Remarks 

arrangement of all the words in the English language, and then 
hunt through the whole compass of English literature for all their 
different significations, would have taken the whole life of any 
individual ; but Johnson, who, among other peculiarities of his 
character, excelled most men in contriving the best means to 
accomplish any end, devised the following mode for completing 
his Dictionary, as he himself expressly described to the writer 
of this account. He began his task by devoting his first care 
to a diligent perusal of all such English writers as were most 
correct in their language z , and under every sentence which he 
meant to quote, he drew a line, and noted in the margin the 
first letter of the word under which it was to occur. He then 
delivered these books to his clerks, who transcribed each sentence 
on a separate slip of paper, and arranged the same under the 
word referred to. By these means he collected the several 
words and their different significations ; and when the whole 
arrangement was alphabetically formed, he gave the definitions 
of their meanings, and collected their etymologies from Skinner, 
Junius 2 , and other writers on the subject. In completing his 
alphabetical arrangement, he, no doubt, would recur to former 
dictionaries 3 , to see if any words had escaped him ; but this, 
which Mr. Boswell makes the first step in the business, was in 
reality the last ; and it was doubtless to this happy arrangement 
that Johnson effected in a few years what employed the foreign 
academies nearly half a century. 

Mr. Boswell objects to the title of Rambler, which he says 
was ill-suited to a series of grave and moral discourses, and is 
translated into Italian // Vagabonds, as also because the same 

1 It was in this work that he ac- in Cambridge has recorded that Bent- 
quired a great part of his extra- ley said he thought himself likely to 
ordinary knowledge of books. ' Dr. live to fourscore, an age long enough 
Adam Smith (writes Boswell) once to read everything which was worth 
observed to me that "Johnson knew reading.' Monk's Bentley, ii. 412. 
more books than any man alive." ' 2 For Francis Junius and Stephen 
Life, i. 71. 'I never knew a man Skinner see Life, i. 186. 
who studied hard (said Johnson). 3 * An interleaved copy of Bailey's 
I conclude, indeed, from the effects, dictionary in folio he made the repo- 
that some men have studied hard, as sitory of the several articles.' Haw- 
Bentley and Clarke.' Ib. ' Tradition kins, p. 175. 


by Bishop Percy. 215 

title was afterwards given to a licentious magazine 1 . These 
are curious reasons. But in the first place, Mr. Boswell assumes, 
that Johnson intended only to write a series of papers on ' grave 
and moral' subjects; whereas, on the contrary, he meant this 
periodical paper should be open for the reception of every 
subject, serious or sprightly, solemn or familiar, moral or 
amusing ; and therefore endeavoured to find a title as general 
and unconfined as possible 2 . He acknowledged, that 'The 
Spectator' was the most happily chosen of all others, and 
' The Tatler ' the next to it ; and after long consideration how 
to fix a third title, equally capacious and suited to his purpose, 
he suddenly thought upon The Rambler , and it would be difficult 
to find any other that so exactly coincided with the motto he 
has adopted in the title-page. 

' Quo me cunque rapit tempestas deferor hospes V 

(Page 142.) 

Johnson's manner of composing has not been rightly under 
stood. He was so extremely short-sighted, from the defect in 
his eyes, that writing was inconvenient to him ; for whenever 
he wrote, he was obliged to hold the paper close to his face. 
He, therefore, never composed what we call a foul draft on 
paper of any thing he published, but used to revolve the subject 
in his mind, and turn and form every period, till he had brought 
the whole to the highest correctness and the most perfect 

1 ' Johnson was, I think, not very peruse them, whose passions left 
happy in the choice of his title, The them leisure for abstracted truth, 
Rambler, which certainly is not suited and whom virtue could please by its 
to a series of grave and moral dis- naked dignity.' 

courses ; which the Italians have 3 The motto was, 

literally, but ludicrously translated f Nullius addictus jurare in verba 

by // Vagabondo ; and which has magistri, 

been lately assumed as the denomi- Q u me cunque rapit tempestas 

nation of a vehicle of licentious tales, deferor hospes.' 

The Rambler's Magazine' Life, i. Horace, Epis. i. I. 14. 

202. For // Vagabondo see ib. iii. ' Sworn to no master, of no sect 

411. am I : 

2 In his last Rambler he says : As drives the storm, at any door 
' I have never complied with tern- I knock.' 

porary curiosity, nor enabled my Percy seems to think that Johnson 

readers to discuss the topic of the chose his motto first and then cast 
day. . . . They only were expected to about for a title to suit it. 



Anecdotes and Remarks 

arrangement x . Then his uncommonly retentive memory enabled 
him to deliver a whole essay, properly finished, whenever it was 
called for. The writer of this note has often heard him humming 
and forming periods, in low whispers to himself, when shallow 
observers thought he was muttering prayers, &c. 2 But Johnson 
is well known to have represented his own practice, in the 
following passage, in his Life of Pope 3 . ' Of composition there 
are different methods. Some employ at once memory and 
invention ; and, with little intermediate use of the pen, form 
and polish large masses by continued meditation, and write 
their productions only when, in their own opinion, they have 
completed them.' (Page 149.) 

Johnson's invectives against Scotland, in common conver 
sation, were more in pleasantry and sport than real and 
malignant ; for no man was more visited by natives of that 
country, nor were there any for whom he had a greater 
esteem 4 . It was to Dr. Grainger 5 , a Scottish physician, that 
the writer of this note owed his first acquaintance with Johnson, 
in 1756. (Page 285.) 

1 'A certain apprehension arising 
from novelty made him write his 
first exercise at College twice over; 
but he never took that trouble with 
any other composition ; and we shall 
see that his most excellent works 
were struck off at a heat, with 
rapid exertion.' Life, i. 71. 

It is clear that he did not always, 
as Percy says, ' turn and form every 
period' before he began to write. 
Much of his poetry was thus written 
(Ib. \. 192 ; ii. 15), .but not all. Thus 
he said, ' I allow, you may have 
pleasure from writing, after it is over, 
if you have written well ; but you 
don't go willingly to it again. I 
know when I have been writing 
verses, I have run my finger down 
the margin, to see how many I had 
made, and how few I had to make.' 
Ib. iv. 219. This shows that he was 
composing at the desk. From his 

account of the way his Ramblers were 
written it is clear that he often com 
posed as he wrote. Ib. iii. 42, n. 2. 

2 Boswell apparently is aimed at 
as one of ' the shallow observers.' 
He says : ' Talking to himself was 
one of his singularities ever since 
I knew him. I was certain that he 
was frequently uttering pious ejacu 
lations, for fragments of the Lord's 
Prayer have been distinctly over 
heard.' Ib. i. 483, v. 307. See also 
post, p. 273. Percy must have been 
offended by Bos well's publication of 
the ' friendly scheme ' mentioned in 
the Life, iii. 276. See ib. iii. 278, 
n. i. 

3 Works, viii. 321. 

4 Life, ii. 121, 306; ante, i. 264, n. 

5 The author of the Sugar-Cane 
(Life, ii. 454) practised as a medical 
man ; perhaps he is meant. He 
knew Percy. Letters, ii. 70, n. 3. 


by Bishop Percy. 217 

This summer [1764] Johnson paid a visit to Dr. Percy 1 , at his 
vicarage house in Easton-Mauduit, near Wellingborough, in 
Northamptonshire, and spent parts of the months of June, July, 
and August with him, accompanied by his friend Miss Williams, 
whom Mrs. Percy found a very agreeable companion 2 . As poor 
Miss Williams, whose history is so connected with that of 
Johnson, has not had common justice dorie her by his biogra 
phers 3 , it may be proper to mention, that, so far from being 
a constant source and disquiet and vexation to him, although 
she was totally blind for the last thirty years of her life, her 
mind was so well cultivated, and her conversation so agreeable, 
that she very much enlivened and diverted his solitary hours ; 
and though there may have happened some slight disagreements 
between her and Mrs. Desmoulins, which, at the moment, dis 
quieted him 4 , the friendship of Miss Williams contributed very 
much to his comfort and happiness. For, having been the 
intimate friend of his wife 5 , who had invited her to his house, 
she continued to reside with him, and in her he had always 
a conversible companion ; who, whether at his dinners, or at his 
tea-table, entertained his friends with her sensible conversation : 
And being extremely clean and neat in her person and habits, 
she never gave the least disgust by her manner of eating 6 ; and 

1 Percy has written this note in the place of a sister ; her knowledge was 
third person. great and her conversation pleasing.' 

2 Life, i. 486 ; Letters, i. 91. Letters, ii. 348. See ante, i. 114. 

3 Macaulay joined these biogra- 4 The disagreements were by no 
phers when he describes Johnson as means slight. They troubled him 
' turning his house into a place of while they lasted (Life, iii. 461 ; 
refuge for a crowd of wretched old Letters, ii. 107, 122, 128), but Mrs. 
creatures who could find no other Desmoulins did not come to live 
asylum,' and when he says that with him till some time after the 
Mrs. Williams' s ' chief recommenda- beginning of 1777, when she occu- 
tions were her blindness and her pied the room assigned to Boswell 
poverty.' Essays, i. 390 ; Biography (Life, iii. 104, 222), and Miss Wil- 
of Johnson, Misc. Writings, p. 388. liams died in September, 1783 (ib. 
See Life, i. 232, n. i, where I show iv. 235). 

how untrue this statement was. In 5 Ib. i. 232. 

addition to the passages cited I 6 This is an answer to Boswell, 

would cite the following : ' Last who had said that Johnson would 
month died Miss Williams, who had ' sometimes incommode many of his 
been to me for thirty years in the friends, by carrying her with him to 


2i8 Anecdotes and Remarks by Bishop Percy. 

when she made tea for Johnson and his friends, conducted it 
with so much delicacy, by gently touching the outside of the 
cup, to feel, by the heat, the tea as it ascended within, that it 
was rather matter of admiration than of dislike to every attentive 
observer z . (Page 298.) 

This most amiable and worthy gentleman [Mr. Thrale] certainly 
deserved every tribute of gratitude from Johnson and his literary 
friends, who were always welcome at his hospitable table ; it 
must therefore give us great concern to see his origin degraded 
by any of them, in a manner that might be extremely injurious 
to his elegant and accomplished daughters, if it could not be 
contradicted ; for his father is represented to have been a common 
drayman 2 ; whereas he is well known to have been a respectable 
citizen, who increased a fortune, originally not contemptible, 
and proved his mind had been always liberal, by giving a 
superior education to his son. (Page 407.) 

Johnson was fond of disputation, and willing to see what could 
be said on each side of the question, when a subject was argued 3 . 
At all other times, no man had a more scrupulous regard for 
truth ; from which, I verily believe, he would not have deviated 
to save his life 4 . (Page 472.) 

their houses, where, from her man 
ner of eating, in consequence of her 
blindness, she could not but offend 
the delicacy of persons of nice sen 
sations.' Life, i\\. 26. 

1 Boswell had not been an atten 
tive observer, for he says : 'I 
fancied she put her finger down a 
certain way till she felt the tea touch 
it.' Ib. 11. 99. 

2 Ib. i. 490. ' The first Independent 
Church was opened in 1616. In 1632 
this flock was pounced upon while 
privately worshipping in the house of 
a brewer's clerk, and while eighteen 
escaped, forty-two were thrown into 
prison. The site of the edifice used 
by this Church when it began to 
worship publicly under the Common 

wealth was afterwards occupied by 
Thrale's brewery. It was there that 
the Austrian marshal, Haynau, was 
mobbed in 1852 for having whipped 
women in the Hungarian rebellion.' 
The Pilgrim Republic ', by John A. 
Goodwin, Boston, 1888, p. 440. 

3 ' He would begin thus : " Why, 
Sir, as to the good or evil of card- 
playing " Now (said Garrick) 
he is thinking which side he shall 
take." ' Life, iii. 23. See ante, ii. 92, 
where in his praise of a tavern he 
says : ' I dogmatise and am contra 
dicted, and in this conflict of opinions 
and sentiments I find delight.' 

4 Ante, i. 225, 297, 458 ; post, p. 




[I HAVE been favoured (writes C. R. Leslie) by Miss Gwatkin 2 
with a sight of the following paper by Sir Joshua on the 
character of Johnson, addressed to some mutual friend 3 , perhaps 
Malone (or Boswell) 4 . Everything Reynolds wrote, like every 
thing he painted, was destined to many alterations and cor 
rections before its appearance in public 5 . I have transcribed 
the paper exactly, except in the matter of punctuation, and in 
the introduction, now and then, of a word, between brackets, to 
complete the sense.] 

FROM thirty years' intimacy with Dr. Johnson 6 I certainly have 
had the means, if I had equally the ability, of giving you a true 
and perfect idea of the character and peculiarities of this extra 
ordinary man. The Jhabits of my profession unluckily extend 
to the consideration of so much only of character as lies on 

1 From Life and Times of Sir Lockhart's Scott, ed. 1839, ii. 63. 
Joshua Reynolds by C. R. Leslie and 4 Boswell says that Reynolds 
Tom Taylor, 1865, ii. 454. ' contributed to improve the second 

2 The daughter of R. L. Gwatkin edition' of the Life, i. 10. He quotes 
and his wife Theophila Palmer, who a paper with which he had been 
was the daughter of Sir Joshua's favoured by him. Ib. i. 144. 

sister Mary. Ib. i. 4, 31 ; ii. 317. 5 Hence the inferiority of his letters 

3 Burke and Goldsmith fell into the to his other writings. LESLIE. 
vulgarism of ' mutual friend.' Life, 6 Reynolds returned from Italy in 
iii. 103, n. i ; also Sir Walter Scott. 1752. Life, i. 245. 



Sir Joshua Reynolds on 

the surface, as is expressed in the lineaments of the countenance. 
An attempt to go deeper, and investigate the peculiar colouring 
of his mind as distinguished from all other minds, nothing but 
your earnest desire can excuse. Such as it is, you may make 
what use of it you please. Of his learning, and so much of his 
character as is discoverable in his writings and is open to the 
inspection of every person, nothing need be said. 

I shall remark such qualities only a's his works cannot convey. 
And among those the most distinguished was his possessing 
a mind which was, as I may say, always ready for use x . Most 
general subjects had undoubtedly been already discussed in the 
course of a studious t'hinking life. In this respect few men ever 
came better prepared into whatever company chance might 
throw him, and the love which he had to society gave him 
a facility in the practice of applying his knowledge of the matter 
in hand in which I Selieve he was never exceeded by any man. 
It has been frequently observed that he was a singular instance 
of a man who had so much distinguished himself by his writings 
that his conversation not only supported his character as an 
author, but, in the opinion of" many, was superior 2 . Those who 
have lived with the wits of the age know how rarely this 
happens. I have had the habit of thinking that this quality, as 
well as others of the same kind, are possessed in consequence of 
accidental circumstances attending his life. What Dr. Johnson 
said a few days before his death of his disposition to insanity 
was no new discovery to those who were intimate with him 3 . 
The character of Imlac 4 in Rasselas, I always considered as 
a comment on his own conduct, which he himself practised, and 

1 ' Sir Joshua observed to me the 
extraordinary promptitude with which 
Johnson flew upon an argument.' 
Life, ii. 365. ' His superiority over 
other learned men consisted chiefly 
in what may be called the art of 
thinking, the art of using his mind.' 
Ib. iv. 427. 

2 ' Burke (said Johnson) is the 
only man whose common conversa 
tion corresponds with the general 

fame which he has in the world.' 
Ib. iv. 19. It was no doubt the 
excellence of Johnson's talk that 
made Burke affirm 'that Boswell's 
Life was a greater monument to 
Johnson's fame than all his writings 
put together.' Life of Mackintosh, 

3 Life, i. 65; iii. 175; v. 215; 
Letters, i. 39 ; ante, i. 78. 

4 Life^ iii. 6. 

Johnson's Character. 221 

as it now appears very successfully, since we know he continued 
to possess his understanding in its full vigour to the last. 
Solitude to him was horror ; nor would he ever trust himself 
alone but when employed in writing or reading x . He has often 
begged me to go home with him to prevent his being alone in 
( the coach 2 . Any company was better than none ; by which he 
connected himself With many mean persons whose presence he 
could command. For this purpose he established a Club at 
a little ale-house in Essex Street, composed of a strange 
mixture of very learned and very ingenious odd people. Of 
the former were Dr. Heberden, Mr. Windham, Mr. Boswell, 
Mr. Stevens, Mr. Paradise. Those of the latter I do not think 
proper to enumerate 3 . By thus living, by necessity, so much in 
company, more perhaps than any other studious man whatever, 
he had acquired by habit, and which habit alone can give, that 
facility, and we may add docility of mind, by which he was so 
much distinguished. Another circumstance likewise contributed 
not a little to the power which he had of expressing himself, 
which was a rule, which he said he always practised on every 
occasion, of speaking his best, whether the person to whom he 
addressed himself was or was not capable of comprehending 

1 ' The great business of his life every breast has felt. Reflection and 

(he told Reynolds) was to escape seriousness rush upon the mind upon 

from himself; this disposition he the separation of a gay company, 

considered as the disease of his and especially after forced and un- 

mind, which nothing cured but com- willing merriment.' 

pany.' Life, i. 144 ; ante, i. 219, 231. 3 < It did not suit Sir Joshua to be 

8 To W. G. Hamilton he said : one of this Club. But when I men- 

* I am very unwilling to be left alone, tion only Mr. Daines Barrington, 
Sir, and therefore I go with my Dr. Brocklesby, Mr. Murphy, Mr. 
company down the first pair of stairs, John Nichols, Mr. Cooke, Mr. Jod- 
in some hopes that they may, per- drel, Mr. Paradise, Dr. [Bishop] 
haps, return again. I go with you, Horsley, Mr. Windham, I shall suffi- 
Sir, as far as the street-door.' Life, ciently obviate the misrepresentation 
i. 490. of it by Sir John Hawkins, as if it 

In a note on King Henry's speech had been a low ale-house association, 

in Henry ' V, Act iv, sc. 5, he says: by which Johnson was degraded.' 

* There is something very striking Life, iv. 254; ante, i. 440. Among 
and solemn in this soliloquy, into 'the very ingenious odd people whom 
which the king breaks immediately Reynolds did not care to enumerate ' 
as soon as he is left alone. Some- was Barry the painter, who had grossly 
thing like this, on less occasions, attacked him. Life, iv. 436. 



Sir Joshua Reynolds on 

him x . { If/ says he, ' I am understood, my labour is not lost. 
If it is above their comprehension, there is some gratification, 
though it is the admiration of ignorance ; ' and he said those 
were the most sincere admirers ; and quoted Baxter, who made 
it a rule never to preach a sermon without saying something 
which he knew was beyond the comprehension of his audience 
in order to inspire their admiration 2 . Dr. Johnson, by this 
continual practice, made that a habit which was at first an 
exertion ; for every person who knew him must have observed 
that the moment he was left out of the conversation, whether 
from his deafness or from whatever cause, but a few minutes 
without speaking or listening, his mind appeared to be pre 
paring itself. He fell into a reverie accompanied with strange 
antic gestures ; but this he never did when his mind was engaged 
by the conversation. [These were] therefore improperly called 
by , as well as by others, convulsions 3 , . which imply in 
voluntary contortions ; whereas, a word addressed to him, his 
attention was recovered. Sometimes, indeed, it would be near 
a minute before he would give an answer, looking as if he 
laboured to bring his mind to bear on the question. 

In arguing he did not trouble himself with much circum- 

1 Ltfe,\v. 183. 

2 ' Sir Joshua once observed to him 
that he had talked above the capacity 
of some people with whom they had 
been in company together. " No 
matter, Sir (said Johnson) ; they 
consider it as a compliment to be 
talked to, as if they were wiser than 
they are. So true is this, Sir, that 
Baxter made it a rule in every sermon 
that he preached to say something 
that was above the capacity of his 
audience.'" Ib. iv. 185. 

' To talk intentionally in a manner 
above the comprehension of those 
whom we address is unquestionable 
pedantry ; but surely complaisance 
requires that no man should without 
proof conclude his company incapable 
of following him to the highest eleva 
tion of his fancy, or the utmost 

extent of his knowledge.' The Ram 
bler, No. 173. 

Mr. Francis Darwin, writing of 
Charles Darwin, says: 'I have 
often heard him say that he got a 
kind of satisfaction in reading articles 
[in Nature] which (according to him 
self) he could not understand. I 
wish I could reproduce the manner 
in which he would laugh at himself 
for it.' Life of Charles Darwin, ed. 
1887, i. 127. 

3 Boswell in his Tour to the He 
brides had called them ' cramps, or 
convulsive contractions, of the nature 
of that distemper called St. Vitus's 
dance' Life, v. 18. In the Life, \. 
144, he inserts Reynolds's contrary 
opinion. Tyers had called Johnson 
' a convulsionary! See post, p. 338. 


Johnson's Character. 223 

locution, but opposed, directly and abruptly, his antagonist. He 
fought with all sorts [of] weapons ; [with] ludicrous comparisons 
and similes ; [and] if all failed, with rudeness and overbearing. 
He thought it necessary never to be worsted in argument x . He 
had one virtue which I hold one of the most difficult to practise. 
After the heat of contest was over, if he had been informed that 
his antagonist resented his rudeness, he was the first to seek 
after a reconciliation 2 ; and of his virtues the most distinguished 
was his love of truth 3 . 

,-He sometimes, it must be confessed, covered his ignorance by 
[generals rather than appear ignorant 4 . You will wonder to hear 
la person who loved him so sincerely speak thus freely of his 
'iend, but, you must recollect I am not writing his panegyrick, 
>ut as if upon oath, not only to give the truth but the whole 

His pride had no meanness in it ; there was nothing little or 
mean about him. 

Truth, whether in great or little matters, he held sacred. 

From the violation of truth, he said, in great things your char 
acter or your interest was affected, in lesser things your pleasure 
is equally destroyed. I remember, on his relating some incident, 
I added something to his relation which I supposed might 
likewise have happened : ' It would have been a better story,' 
says he, ' if it had been so ; but it was not V Our friend 
Dr. Goldsmith was not so scrupulous ; but he said he only 
indulged himself in white lyes, light as feathers, which he threw 
up in the air, and on whomever they fell, nobody was hurt. 
' I wish/ says Dr. Johnson, you would take the trouble of 
moulting your feathers.' 

I once inadvertently put him in a situation from which none 
but a man of perfect integrity could extricate himself. I pointed 
at some lines in the Traveller which I told [him] I was sure he 
wrote. He hesitated a little ; during this hesitation I recollected 
myself, that as I knew he would not lye I put him in a cleft 
stick, and should have had but my due if he had given me 

1 Ante, i. 390. 3 Ante, ii. 218. 

2 Ante, i. 212, 453. 4 Life, v. 124, n. 4. 

5 Ante, i. 225 ; Life, ii. 433. 

a rough 

224 Sir Joshua Reynolds on 

a rough answer ; but he only said, * Sir, I did not write them, 
but that you may not imagine that I have wrote more than 
I really have, the utmost I have wrote in that poem, to the best 
of my recollection, is not more than eighteen lines V It must 
be observed there was then an opinion about town that Dr. John 
son wrote the whole poem for his friend, who was then in 
a manner an unknown writer 2 . This conduct appears to me to 
be in the highest degree correct and refined. If the Dr.'s con 
science would have let him told [sic] a lye, the matter would 
have been soon over. 

As in his writings not a line can be found which a saint would 
wish to blot 3 , so in his life he would never suffer the least 
immorality [or] indecency of conversation, [or any thing] con 
trary to virtue or piety to proceed without a severe check, which 
no elevation of rank exempted them from 4 . . . . 

Custom, or politeness, or courtly manners has authorised 
such an Eastern hyperbolical style of compliment, that part of 
Dr. Johnson's character for rudeness of manners must be put to 
the account of this scrupulous adherence to truth. His obstinate 
silence, whilst all the company were in raptures, vying with each 
other who should pepper highest, was considered as rudeness or 
ill-nature 5 . 

During his last illness, when all hope was at an end, he 

1 There were only nine lines of on my death-bed I should wish 
which he could be sure they were his. blotted.' Lockhart's Scott, ed. 1839, 
Life, ii. 6. x. 196. 

2 Ib. iii. 252. 4 Life, iii. 40; iv. 295; ante, 

3 ' The highest praise which Thorn- i. 453. 

son has received ought not to be 5 To Mrs. Thrale, who was too 
suppressed ; it is said by Lord Lyt- much given to flattery, he wrote : 
telton that his works contained * If you love me, and surely I hope 
" No line which, dying, he could you do, why should you vitiate my 
wish to blot." ' mind with a false opinion of its own 
Works,\\\\. 379. merit?' Letters, i. 221. 'Think as 
Sir Walter Scott said : ' I am well and as kindly of me as you can, 
drawing near to the close of my but do not flatter me. Cool recipro- 
career ; I am fast shuffling off the cations of esteem are the great corn- 
stage. I have been perhaps the forts of life ; hyperbolical praise only 
most voluminous author of the day ; corrupts the tongue of the one and 
and it is a comfort to me to think the ear of the other.' Ib. ii. 308. See 
that ... I have written nothing which ante, ii. 179 n. 


Johnson s Character. 225 

appeared to be quieter and more resigned. His approaching 
dissolution was always present to his mind. A few days before 
he died, Mr. Langton and myself only present, he said he had 
been a great sinner, but he hoped he had given no bad example 
to his friends ; that he had some consolation in reflecting that he 
had never denied Christ, and repeated the text ' Whoever denies 
me, &C. 1 ' We were both very ready to assure him that we were 
conscious that we were better and wiser from his life and con 
versation ; and that, so far from denying Christ, he had been, in 
this age, his great champion 2 . 

Sometimes a flash of wit escaped him as if involuntary. He 
was asked how he liked the new man that was hired to watch by 
him. 'Instead of watching,' says he, e he sleeps like a dormouse; 
and when he helps me to bed he is awkward as a turnspit dog 
the first time he is put into the wheel V 

The Christian religion was with him such a certain and estab 
lished truth, that he considered it as a kind of profanation to hold 
any argument about its truth 4 . 

He was not easily imposed upon by professions to honesty 
and candour ; but he appeared to have little suspicion of hypocrisy 
in religion 5 . 

His passions were like those of other men, the difference only 
lay in his keeping a stricter watch over himself 6 . In petty 
circumstances this wayward disposition appeared, but in greater 
things he thought it worth while to summon his recollection and 
be always on his guard. . . . [To them that loved him not] as 

1 St. Matthew x. 33. acquaintance, led him to talk on the 

2 Hawkins records on Nov. 29 evidences of Christianity. Ib. i. 398, 
(ante, ii. 127): 'Mr. Langton, who 404,428,444,454. See also v. 109, 
had spent the evening with him, re- n. 3. 

ported that his hopes were increased, 5 * For neither man nor angel can 

and that he was much cheered upon discern 

being reminded of the general ten- Hypocrisy, the only evil that 

dency of his writings and of his walks 

example.' Invisible, except to God alone, 

3 Life, iv. 411. By his permissive will, through 

4 Nevertheless he wished to have Heav'n and Earth.' 

more evidence of the spiritual Paradise Lost, iii. 682. 

world.' Ib. ii. 150; iii. 298 ; iv. 298. 6 Life, iv. 396 ; ante, i. 453. 
Boswell, in the beginning of their 

VOL. II. Q rough 


Sir Joshua Reynolds on 

rough as winter ; to those who sought his love, as mild 
summer * many instances will readily occur to those who k 
him intimately, of the guard which he endeavoured always t< 
keep over himself. 

The prejudices he had to countries did not extend to indi 
viduals. The chief prejudice in which he indulged himself w< 
against Scotland, though he had the most cordial friendship with 
individuals [of that country 2 ]. This he used to vindicate as 
a duty. In respect to Frenchmen he rather laughed at himseH 
but it was insurmountable 3 . He considered every foreigner as 
a fool till they had convinced him of the contrary 4 . Against the 
Irish he entertained no prejudice, he thought they united them 
selves very well with us 5 ; but the Scotch, when in England, 
united and made a party by employing only Scotch servants and 
Scotch tradesmen 6 . He held it right for Englishmen to oppose 
a party against them. 

This reasoning would have more weight if the numbers were 
equal. A small body in a larger has such great disadvantages that 
I fear are scarce counterbalanced by whatever little combination 

1 ' Lofty and sour to them that 

lov'd him not, 

But to those men that sought 
him sweet as summer.' 
Henry VIII, Act iv. sc. 2. 

2 Ante, i. 427-30. 

3 ' An eminent foreigner, when he 
was shewn the British Museum, was 
very troublesome with many absurd 
inquiries. " Now there, Sir, (said 
Johnson,) is the difference between 
an Englishman and a Frenchman. 
A Frenchman must be always talk 
ing, whether he knows anything of 
the matter or not ; an Englishman 
is content to say nothing when he 
has nothing to say." ' Life, iv. 14. 

* He said, that once, when he had 
a violent tooth-ach, a Frenchman 
accosted him thus : Ah, Monsieur, 
'vo^ls Studies trop? Ib. iv. 15. 

In a note on the scene between 
Catherine and Alice in Henry V 

(Act iii. sc. 4) he says : ' Through 
out the whole scene there may be 
found French servility and French 
vanity.' In another note on Cataian 
in The Merry Wives of Windsor 
(Act ii. sc. 3) he says : ' To be a 
foreigner was always in England, and 
I suppose everywhere else, a reason 
of dislike.' 

4 ' One evening at old Slaughter's 
coffee-house, when a number of 
foreigners were talking loud about 
little matters, he said, " Does not this 
confirm old Meynell's observation 
For any thing I see, foreigners are 

fools."' Life, iv. 15. 

5 Ante, i. 427 ; ii. 49 ; Life, ii. 242. 

6 You are, to be sure, wonderfully 
free from that nationality,' said Gar- 
rick to Boswell ; ' but so it happens 
that you employ the only Scotch 
shoe-black in London.' Life, ii. 326. 
See also id. ii. 121, 307, n. 3. 


Johnson's Character. 227 

they can make. A general combination against them would be 
little short of annihilation. 

We are both of Dr. Johnson's school T . For my own part, 
I acknowledge the highest obligations to him. He may be said 
to have formed my mind, and to have brushed from it a great 
deal of rubbish. Those very people whom he has brought to 
think rightly will occasionally criticise the opinions of their master 
when he nods. But we should always recollect that it is he him 
self who taught us and enabled us to do it 2 . 

The drawback of his character is entertaining prejudices on 
very slight foundations ; giving an opinion, perhaps, first at 
random, but from its being contradicted he thinks himself obliged 
always to support [it], or, if he cannot support, still not to 
acquiesce [in the opposite opinion]. Of this I remember an 
instance of a defect or forgetfulness in his ' Dictionary.' I asked 
him how he came not to correct it in the second edition. ( No/ 
says he, ' they made so much of it that I would not flatter them 
by altering it 3 ! ' 

From passion, from the prevalence of his disposition for the 
minute, he was constantly acting contrary to his own reason, to 
his principles. It was a frequent subject of animadversion with 
him, how much authors lost of the pleasure and comfort of life 
by their carrying always about them their own consequence and 
celebrity 4 . Yet no man in mixed company, not to his intimates, 
certainly, for that would be an insupportable slavery, ever acted 
with more circumspection to his character than himself. The 
most light and airy dispute was with him a dispute on the arena 5 . 

1 Post, p. 359 ; Life, i. 245, n. 3 ; liberately writing it,' he did his best 
iii- 369- to make it ' permanent.' 'Id. iv. 429. 

2 ' It is not uncommon for those 4 * Milton, in a letter to a learned 
who have grown wise by the labour stranger, by whom he had been 
of others to add a little of their own visited, with great reason congratu- 
and overlook their masters.' Works, lates himself upon the consciousness 
vii- 470- of being found equal to his own 

3 His erroneous definitions of lee- character, and having preserved in 
ward and pastern remain unchanged a private and familiar interview that 
in the fourth edition, the last cor- reputation which his works had pro- 
rected by him. Life, \. 293, n. 2. In cured him.' The Rambler, No. 14. 
retaining these definitions, if he did 5 Speaking of Dr. Campbell, he 
not * make error pernicious by de- told us, that he one day called on 

Q2 He 

228 Sir Joshua Reynolds on Johnson's Character. 

He fought on every occasion as if his whole reputation depended 
upon the victory of the minute, and he fought with all the 
weapons. If he was foiled in argument he had recourse to abuse 
and rudeness *. That he was not thus strenuous for victory with 
his intimates in tete-a-tete conversations when there were no 
witnesses, may be easily believed 2 . Indeed, had his conduct 
been to them the same as he exhibited to the public, his friends 
could never have entertained that love and affection for him 
which they all feel and profess for his memory. 

But what appears extraordinary is that a man who so well 
saw, himself, the folly of this ambition of shining, of speaking, or 
of acting always according to the character [he] imagined [he] 
possessed in the world, should produce himself the greatest 

:ample of a contrary conduct. 

Were I to write the Life of Dr. Johnson I would labour this 
point, to separate his conduct that proceeded from his passions, 
and what proceeded from his reason, from his natural disposition 

jen in his quiet hours 3 . 

him, and they talked of Tail's Hus 
bandry. Dri Campbell said some 
thing. Dr. Johnson began to dis 
pute it. " Come, (said Dr. Camp 
bell,) we do not want to get the 
better of one another: we want to 
encrease each other's ideas." Dr. 
Johnson took it in good part, and 
the conversation then went on coolly 
and instructively.' Life, v. 324. 

Cobbett, on Nov. 20, 1821, went on 
' a sort of pilgrimage to see the Farm 
of Tull at Shalborne in Berkshire . . . 
where Tull wrote that book which 
does so much honour to his memory.' 
Rural Rides, ed. 1893, i. 43, 5. 

1 See ante, i. 327 n., for his 're 
course to abuse and rudeness ' in 
arguing with Reynolds one day at 
dinner about wine. See also ante, 
i- 453- 

2 'When the meeting was over, 
Mr. Steevens observed, that the ques 
tion between him and his friend had 
been agitated with rather too much 
warmth. " It may be so, Sir, (re 
plied the Doctor,) for Burke and 
I should have been of one opinion 
if we had had no audience." ' The 
dispute had been about 'the tendency 
of some part of the defence ' which 
Baretti was to make on his trial for 
his life. Life, iv. 324. 

3 ' If you come to settle here,' he 
said to Bos well, ' we will have one 
day in the week on which we will 
meet by ourselves. That is the hap 
piest conversation where there is no 
competition, no vanity, but a calm 
quiet interchange of sentiments.' 
Ib. ii. 359. 



I REMEMBER Mr. Burke, speaking of the Essays of Sir Francis 
Bacon, said, he thought them the best of his works. Dr. Johnson 
was of opinion, that ' their excellence and their value consisted 
in being the observations of a strong mind operating upon life ; 
and in consequence you find there what you seldom find in other 
books V It is this kind of excellence which gives a value to the 

1 From an unfinished Discourse, 
found by Mr. Malone among Sir 
Joshua's loose papers. Reynolds's 
Works, ed. 1797, vol. i. Preface, 
p. 19. 

2 'He told me that Bacon was a 
favourite authour with him ; but he 
had never read his works till he was 
compiling the English Dictionary, 
in which, he said, I might see Bacon 
very often quoted.' Life, iii. 194. 

' Bacon seems to have pleased 
himself chiefly with his Essays, which 
come home to men's business and 
bosoms, and of which therefore he 
declares his expectation that they 
will live as long as books last' The 
Rambler, No. 106. It was of the 
Latin version that Bacon spoke 
'being in the universal language it 
may last as long as books last.' 
Bacon's Works, ed. 1803, ii. 252. 

In the Adventurer, No. 131, John 
son says that Bacon, 'after having 
surveyed nature as a philosopher, 
had examined " men's business and 
bosoms " as a statesman.' 

Boswell quotes Johnson as say 
ing : ' Bacon observes that a stout 
healthy old man is like a tower 
undermined.' Life, iv. 277. This 
passage I have never found in 
Bacon, though I have often searched 
for it. Huet, Johnson's 'celebrated 
Huetius' (ib. iii. 172), compared 'la 
santd ruineuse des vieillards k une 
tour sape'e.' Sainte-Beuve, Cause- 
ries de Lundi, ii. 182. 

' Dr. Bentley used to compare 
himself to an old trunk, which, if 
you let it alone, will stand in a 
corner a long time ; but if you jumble 
it by moving it will soon fall to 
pieces.' Nichols, Lit. Anec. iv. 351. 

230 Sir Joshua Reynolds on 

performances of artists also. It is the thoughts expressed in the 
works of Michael Angelo, Correggio, Raffaelle, Parmegiano, and 
perhaps some of the old Gothic masters *, and not the inventions 
of Pietro da Cortona, Carlo Marati, Luca Giordano, and others, 
that I might mention, which we seek after with avidity : from 
the former we learn to think originally. 

May I presume to introduce myself on this occasion, and even 
to mention, as an instance of the truth of what I have remarked, 
the very Discourses which I have had the honour of delivering 
from this place ? Whatever merit they have, must be imputed, 
in a great measure, to the education which I may be said to have 
had under Dr. Johnson. I do not mean to say, though it 
certainly would be to the credit of these Discourses, if I could 
say it with truth, that he contributed even a single sentiment to 
them 2 ; but he qualified my mind to think justly. No man had, 
like him, the faculty of teaching inferior minds the art of thinking. 
Perhaps other men might have equal knowledge ; but few were 
/-so communicative. His great pleasure was to talk to those who 
( looked up to him, ft was here "h"e exhibited his wonderful 
powers. In mixed company, and frequently in company that 
ought to have looked up to him, many, thinking they had a 
character for learning to support, considered it as beneath them 
to enlist in the train of his auditors ; and to such persons he 
certainly did not appear to advantage, being often impetuous and 
overbearing 3 . 

1 f Under the rudeness of Gothic 2 He wrote the Dedication. Life, 
essays a skilful painter will find ii. 2, n. i, and ante, ii. 29. 
original, rational, and even sublime 3 ' On Saturday, May 2, I dined 
inventions. The works of Albert with him at Sir Joshua Reynolds's, 
Durer, Lucas Van Leyden, the where there was a very large corn- 
numerous inventions of Tobias Stim- pany, and a great deal of conversa- 
mer and Jost Ammon afford a rich tion ; but owing to some circum- 
mass of genuine materials, which stance which I cannot now recollect, 
wrought up and polished to elegance I have no record of any part of it, 
will add copiousness to what, per- except that there were several people 
haps, without such aid could have there by no means of the Johnsonian 
aspired only to justness and pro- school; so that less attention was 
priety.' Reynolds's Sixth Discourse, paid to him than usual, which put 
Works, 1824, i. 137. For Gothic him out of humour ; and upon 
see also ante, i. 478. some imaginary offence from me he 


Johnson s Influence. 231 

The desire of shining in conversation was in him, v indeed, a 
predominant passion ; and if it must be attributed to vanity, let 
it at the same time be recollected, that it produced that loqua 
ciousness from which his more intimate friends derived consider 
able advantage. The observations which he made on poetry, on 
life, and on every thing about us, I applied to our art ; with 
what success, others must judge. Perhaps an artist in his 
studies should pursue the same conduct ; and, instead of patching 
up a particular work on the narrow plan of imitation, rather en 
deavour to acquire the art and power of thinking. On this 
subject I have often spoken J ; but it cannot be too often repeated, 
that the general power of composition may be acquired ; and 
when acquired, the artist may then lawfully take hints from his 
predecessors. In reality, indeed, it appears to me, that a man 
must begin by the study of others. Thus Bacon became a great 
thinker, by entering into and making himself master of the 
thoughts of other men. 

attacked me with such rudeness that which he probably retained from 

I was vexed and angry.' Life, iii. Johnson's talk : * Some allowance 

337. must be made for what is said in 

1 Reynolds's Sixth Discourse is on the gaiety of rhetoric' Reynolds's 

imitation. In it he has a phrase Works, 1824, i. 118. 





[THE following yVw d' esprit was written by Sir Joshua Reynolds 
to illustrate a remark which he had made, that ' Dr. Johnson 

* These dialogues were printed in 
1816 from the MS. of Sir Joshua, 
by his niece, Lady Thomond : they 
were not published, but distributed 
by her ladyship to some friends of 
Dr. Johnson and Sir Joshua. The 
copy which I have was spontaneously 
transmitted to me by Mrs. Gwynn, 
the friend of Goldsmith and of John 
son, whose early beauty is celebrated 
in the first part of this work (Vol. i. 
p. 414), and who is still distinguished 
for her amiable character and high 
mental accomplishments. Lady Tho 
mond, in the prefatory note, calls 
this a 'jeu d 1 esprit 'J but I was in 
formed by the late Sir George 
Beaumont, who knew all the parties, 
and to whom Reynolds himself gave 
a copy of it, that if the words jeu 
cTesprit were to be understood to 
imply that it was altogether an in 
vention of Sir Joshua's, the term 
would be erroneous. The substance, 
and many of the expressions, of 
the dialogues did really occur; Sir 

Joshua did little more than collect, 
as if into two conversations, what 
had been uttered at many, and 
heighten the effect by the juxta 
position of such discordant opinions.' 

Mary Palmer, the daughter of 
Sir Joshua's sister Mary, inherited 
the bulk of his property, and married 
the first Marquis of Thomond. Les 
lie and Taylor's Reynolds, ii. 635. 
Lady Thomond sent a copy of these 
Dialogues to Hannah More thirty- 
six years after Johnson's death, who 
replied: 'I hear the deep-toned 
and indignant accents of our friend 
Johnson. I hear the affected periods 
of Gibbon ; the natural, the easy, 
the friendly, the elegant language, 
the polished sarcasm, softened with 
the sweet temper of Sir Joshua.' 
Ib. ii. 259. 

Miss Hawkins published the Dia 
logues in her Memoirs, i. 109. 

Reynolds left Sir George Beau 
mont by his will Sebastian Bourdon's 

Two Dialogues by Sir Joshua Reynolds. 233 

considered Garrick as his property, and would never suffer any 
one to praise or abuse him but himself 1 .' In the first of these 
supposed dialogues, Sir Joshua himself, by high encomiums 
upon Garrick, is represented as drawing down upon him John 
son's censure ; in the second, Mr. Gibbon, by taking the opposite 
side, calls forth his praise 2 .] 


Dr. Johnson and Sir Joshua Reynolds. 

REYNOLDS. Let me alone, I'll bring him out 3 . (Aside.} 
I have been thinking, Dr. Johnson, this morning, on a matter 
that has puzzled me very much ; it is a subject that I dare say 
has often passed in your thoughts, and though / cannot, I dare 
say you have made up your mind upon it. 

JOHNSON. Tilly fally 4 ! what is all this preparation, what is 
all this mighty matter ? 

REY. Why, it is a very weighty matter. The subject I have 
been thinking upon is predestination and freewill, two things 
I cannot reconcile together for the life of me ; in my opinion, 
Dr. Johnson, freewill and foreknowledge cannot be reconciled 5 . 

Return of the Ark, now in the tered into such an argument. He 

National Gallery. Lesli'e and Taylor's would not have 'trusted himself with 

Reynolds, ii.636. To him Wordsworth Johnson.' Life, ii. 366. Miss Burney 

addressed an Epistle, though Beau- records his silence when she met 

mont never saw it. Wordsworth's him and Burke. Sir Joshua explained 

Works, ed. 1857, iv. 308. it by saying, ' He's terribly afraid 

1 ' Sir Joshua Reynolds observed, you'll snatch at him for a character 

with great truth, that Johnson con- in your next book.' Memoirs of Dr. 

sidered Garrick to be as it were his Burney, ii. 239. Horace Walpole, 

property. He would allow no man when the first volume of the Decline 

either to blame or to praise Garrick and Fall appeared, wrote (Letters, 

in his presence, without contradicting vi. 311), 'I know Mr. Gibbon a little, 

him.' Life, iii. 312. See also ante, never suspected the extent of his 

i. 456. talents, for he is perfectly modest, or 

' In my conscience I believe the I want penetration, which I know too.' 

baggage loves me ; for she never 3 For instances of this see Letters, 

speaks well of me herself, nor suffers ii. 439, and Life, iii. 70. 

anybody else to rail at me.' Con- 4 Tillyvally. Twelfth Night, Act 

greve, Old Bachelor, Act i. sc. I. ii. sc. 3. 

3 'Gibbon would scarcely have en- 5 Boswell often worried Johnson 


234 Two Dialogues by 

JOHNS. Sir, it is not of very great importance what your 
opinion is upon such a question. 

REY. But I meant only, Dr. Johnson, to know your opinion. 

JOHNS. No, Sir, you meant no such thing ; you meant only 
to show these gentlemen that you are not the man they took 
you to be, but that you think of high matters sometimes, and 
that you may have the credit of having it said that you held an 
argument with Sam Johnson on predestination and freewill J ; 
a subject of that magnitude as to have engaged the attention of 
the world, to have perplexed the wisdom of man for these two 
thousand years 2 ; a subject on which the fallen angels, who had 
yet not lost their original brightness 3 , find themselves in wander 
ing mazes lost* 1 . That such a subject could be discussed in the 
levity of convivial conversation, is a degree of absurdity beyond 
what is easily conceivable 5 . 

REY. It is so, as you say, to be sure ; I talked once to our 
friend Garrick upon this subject, but I remember we could make 
nothing of it. 

JOHNS. O noble pair 6 ! 

REY. Garrick was a clever fellow 7 , Dr. J. ; Garrick, take him 
altogether, was certainly a very great man. 

JOHNS. Garrick, Sir, may be a great man in your opinion, 

about free will, and got such answers ' His form had yet not lost 

as the following : ' Sir, we know our All her original brightness.' 

will is free, and there's an end on't.' Paradise Lost, i. 591. 

Life, ii. 82. ' All theory is against the 4 Ib. ii. 561. 

freedom of the will ; all experience 5 ' I wonder, Sir, how a gentleman 

for it.' Jb. iii. 291. * But, Sir, as to of your piety can introduce this sub- 

the doctrine of Necessity, no man ject in a mixed company.' Life, ii. 

believes it.' Ib. iv. 329. See also 254. 

ib. ii. 104; v. 117 ; and/^/, p. 256. 6 * Par nobile fratrum.' HORACE, 

1 Ante, i. 285. 2 Satires, iii. 243. 

2 'JOHNSON (with solemn vehe- 7 When Reynolds applied the 
mence). " Yes, Madam ; this is a epithet clever to Garrick, as a justifi- 
question [the appearance of ghosts] cation for discussing free-will with 
which after five thousand years is yet him, Johnson might have replied in 
undecided; a question, whether in the words of his Dictionary. 'Clever 
theology or philosophy, one of the is a low word, scarcely ever used but 
most important that can come before in burlesque or conversation ; and 
the human understanding.' Life, applied to anything a man likes, 
iii. 298. without a settled meaning.' 


Sir Joshua Reynolds. 235 

as far as I know, but he was not so in mine ; little things are 
great to little men x . 

REY. I have heard you say, Dr. Johnson 

JOHNS. Sir, you never heard me say that David Garrick 
was a great man 2 ; you may have heard me say that Garrick 
was a good repeater of other men's words words put into 
his mouth by other men ; this makes but a faint approach 
towards being a great man. 

REY. But take Garrick upon the whole, now, in regard to 

JOHNS. Well, Sir, in regard to conversation, I never discovered 
in the conversation of David Garrick any intellectual energy, 
any wide grasp of thought, any extensive comprehension of 
mind, or that he possessed any of those powers to which great 
could, with any degree of propriety, be applied 3 . 

REY. But still 

JOHNS. Hold, Sir, I have not done there are, to be sure, 
in the laxity of colloquial speech, various kinds of greatness ; 
a man may be a great tobacconist, a man may be a great 
painter, he may be likewise a great mimic: now you may be 
the one, and Garrick the other, anxi yet neither of you be 
great men. 

REY. But, Dr. Johnson 

JOHNS. Hold, Sir, I have often lamented how dangerous it 

1 ' These little things are great to things. There is no solid meat in 

little man.' it ; there is a want of sentiment in 

Goldsmith, The Traveller, 1. 42. it." ' fb. ii. 464. Boswell wrote on 

2 'Nay, Sir, a ballad-singer is a March 18, 1775 : ' Mr. Johnson, 
higher man, for he does two things ; when enumerating our Club, observed 
he repeats and he sings ; there is of spme of us, that they talked 
both recitation and music in his per- from books, Langton in particular, 
formance ; the player only recites.' " Garrick," he said, " would talk 
Life, iii. 184. from books, if he talked seriously." 

3 ' Talking of Garrick, Johnspn " /," said he, " do not talk from 
said, "He is the first man in the books : you do not talk from books." 
world for sprightly conversation." ' This was a compliment to my 
Ib. i. 398. originality ; but I am afraid I have 

' JOHNSON. " Garrick's conversa- not read books enough to be able to 

tion is gay and grotesque. It is talk from them.' Letters of Boswell, 

a dish of all sorts, but all good p. 181. 



Two Dialogues by 

is to investigate and to discriminate character, to men who 
have no discriminative powers z . 

REY. But Garrick, as a companion, I heard you say no 
longer ago than last Wednesday, at Mr. Thrale's table 

JOHNS. You tease me, Sir. Whatever you may have heard 
me say, no longer ago than last Wednesday, at Mr. Thrale's 
table, I tell you I do not say so now : besides, as I said before, 
you may not have understood me, you misapprehended me, 
you may not have heard me. 

REY. I am very sure I heard you. 

JOHNS. Besides, besides, Sir, besides, do you not know, are 
you so ignorant as not to know, that it is the highest degree of 
rudeness to quote a man against himself 2 ? 

REY. But if you differ from yourself, and give one opinion 

JOHNS. Have done, Sir ; the company, you see, are tired, 
as well as myself 3 . 

1 'Dr. Johnson (said Reynolds) 
was fond of discrimination, which he 
could not show without pointing out 
the bad as well as the good in every 
character; and as his friends were 
those whose characters he knew best, 
they afforded him the best oppor 
tunity for showing the acuteness of 
his judgment.' Life, ii. 306. 

2 ' One of the company provoked 
him greatly by doing what he could 
least of all bear, which was quoting 
something of his own writing, against 
what he then maintained. "What, 
Sir, (cried the gentleman,) do you 
say to 

( The busy day, the peaceful night, 
Unfelt, uncounted, glided by?"' 

Johnson rinding himself thus pre 
sented as giving an instance of a man 
who had lived without uneasiness, 
was much offended, for he looked 
upon such a quotation as unfair. 

His anger burst out in an unjustifi 
able retort, insinuating that the 
gentleman's remark was a sally of 
ebriety; "Sir, there is one passion 
I would advise you to command : 
when you have drunk out that glass, 
don't drink another.'" Ib. iv. 274. 
The quotation is from the Lines on 
Levett. Ib. iv. 138. 

3 * Johnson could not brook ap 
pearing to be worsted in argument, 
even when he had taken the wrong 
side, to shew the force and dexterity 
of his talents. When, therefore, he 
perceived that his opponent gained 
ground, he had recourse to some 
sudden mode of robust sophistry. 
Once when I was pressing upon him 
with visible advantage, he stopped 
me thus : " My dear Boswell, let's 
have no more of this ; you'll make 
nothing of it. I'd rather have you 
whistle a Scotch tune.'" Ib. iv. 


Sir Joshua Reynolds. 237 

Dr. Johnson and Mr. Gibbon. 

JOHNSON. No, Sir ; Garrick's fame was prodigious, not only 
in England, but over all Europe z . Even in Russia 2 I have been 
told he was a proverb; when any one had repeated well, he 
was called a second Garrick. 

GIBBON. I think he had full as much reputation as he de 

JOHNS. I do not pretend to know, Sir, what your meaning 
may be, by saying he had as much reputation as he deserved ; 
he deserved much, and he had much. 

GIB. Why, surely, Dr. Johnson, his merit was in small things 
only, he had none of those qualities that make a real great 

JOHNS. Sir, I as little understand what your meaning may 
be when you speak of the qualities that make a great man ; it 
is a vague term. Garrick was no common man ; a man above 
the common size of men may surely, without any great impro 
priety, be called a great man. In my opinion he has very 
reasonably fulfilled the prophecy which he once reminded me 
of having made to his mother, when she asked me how little 
David went on at school 3 , that I should say to her, that he 
would come to be hanged, or come to be a great man. No, 
Sir, it is undoubtedly true that the same qualities, united with 
virtue or with vice, make a hero or a rogue, a great general 
or a highwayman. Now Garrick, we are sure, was never hanged, 

1 ' Johnson said of Garrick, " Sir, au Sujet d'une savante Fille en 
a man who has a nation to admire Angleterre ; publiees dans le Sot- 
him every night may well be expected schinenie, ou Melanges de Litte'ra- 
to be somewhat elated.'" Life, iv. 7. ture en Russe, pour le mois de Mai, 
'His death eclipsed the gaiety of 1759^.470.' Ib. ii. 417. A trans - 
nations.' Ib. i. 82. lation of Joseph Andrews was pub- 

2 ' Even in Russia, where, as Mrs. lished in St. Petersburgh in 1772. 
Carter humorously observed, they Strangely enough a railway-station 
were just learning to walk upon their is called in Russian Vauxhall, after 
hind legs, an account was published the famous gardens in Chelsea. 

of her.' Memoirs of Mrs. Carter, 3 Garrick was nineteen when he 
i. 212. It was entitled, ' Anecdotes became Johnson's pupil. 


2 3 8 

Two Dialogues by 

and in regard to his being a great man, you must take the 
whole man together. It must be considered in how many 
things Garrick excelled in which every man desires to excel : 
setting aside his excellence as an actor, in which he is acknow 
ledged to be unrivalled : as a man, as a poet, as a convivial 
companion *, you will find but few his equals, and none his 
superior. As a man, he was kind, friendly, benevolent, and 

GIB. Of Garrick's generosity I never heard ; I understood his 
character to be totally the reverse, and that he was reckoned 
to have loved money. 

JOHNS. That he loved money, nobody will dispute ; who does 
not? but if you mean, by loving money, that he was parsi 
monious to a fault, Sir, you have been misinformed. To Foote 2 , 
and such scoundrels, who circulated those reports, to such 
profligate spendthrifts prudence is meanness, and economy is 
avarice. That Garrick, in early youth, was brought up in strict 
habits of economy, I believe, and that they were necessary, 
I have heard from himself; to suppose that Garrick might 
inadvertently act from this habit, and be saving in small things, 
can be no wonder 3 : but let it be remembered at the same time, 
that if he was frugal by habit, he was liberal from principle 4 ; 

1 ' Garrick was a very good man, 
the cheerfullest man of his age.' Life, 
iii. 387. 'Having expatiated with 
his usual force and eloquence on his 
extraordinary eminence as an actor, 
Johnson concluded : " And after all, 
Madam, I thought him less to be 
envied on the stage than at the head 
of a table." ' Ib. iv. 243. 

2 'Foote used to say of Garrick 
that he walked out with an intention 
to do a generous action ; but, turning 
the corner of a street, he met with 
the ghost of a halfpenny, which 
frightened him.' Ib. iii. 264. ' There 
is a witty satirical story of Foote. 
He had a small bust of Garrick 
placed upon his bureau. " You may 
be surprised (said he) that I allow 
him to be so near my gold ; but 

you will observe he has no hands." ' 
Ib. iv. 224. 

3 ' Garrick (said Johnson) was very 
poor when he began life ; so when 
he came to have money he probably 
was very unskilful in giving away, 
and saved when he should not. But 
Garrick began to be liberal as soon 
as he could.' Ib. iii. 70. ' He began 
the world with a great hunger for 
money ; the son of a half-pay officer, 
bred in a family whose study was to 
make four-pence do as much as 
others made four-pence halfpenny 
do. But when he got money he was 
very liberal.' Ib. iii. 387. 

4 ' Swift was frugal by inclination, 
but liberal by principle.' Works, 
viii. 222. 


Sir Joshua Reynolds. 239 

that when he acted from reflection, he did what his fortune 
enabled him to do, and what was expected from such a fortune. 
I remember no instance of David's parsimony but once, when 
he stopped Mrs. Woffington from replenishing the tea-pot ; it 
was already, he said, as red as blood; and this instance is 
doubtful, and happened many years ago 1 . In the latter part 
of his life I observed no blameable parsimony in David ; his 
table was elegant and even splendid ; his house both in town 
and country, his equipage, and I think all his habits of life, 
were such as might be expected from a man who had acquired 
great riches 2 . In regard to his generosity, which you seem to 
question, I shall only say, there is no man to whom I would 
apply with more confidence of success, for the loan of two 
hundred pounds to assist a common friend, than to David, 
and this too with very little, if any, probability of its being 
repaid 3 . 

GIB. You were going to say something of him as a writer 
you don't rate him very high as a poet. 

JOHNS. Sir, a man may be a respectable poet without being 
a Homer, as a man may be a good player without being 
a Garrick. In the lighter kinds of poetry, in the appendages 
of the drama, he was, if not the first, in the very first class*. 
He had a readiness and facility, a dexterity of mind that 
appeared extraordinary even to men of experience, and who 
are not apt to wonder from ignorance. Writing prologues, 
epilogues, and epigrams, he said he considered as his trade 5 , 
and he was, what a man should be, always, and at all times, 
ready at his trade. He required two hours for a prologue 6 or 

1 Reynolds had the anecdote from ostentatious views.' Ib. iii. 70. See 
Johnson, who had been present at also ib. iii. 264, n. 3. 

the tea party. Life> iii. 264, n. 4. 4 ' As a wit, if not first, in the very 

2 ' Garrick might have been much first line.' 

better attacked for living with more Goldsmith's Retaliation. 

splendour than is suitable to a player.' s Garrick said: 'I am a little 

Ib. iii. 71. of an epigrammatist myself, you 

3 * Yes, Sir, I know that Garrick know.' Life, iii. 258. 

has given away more money than 6 < Dryden (said Johnson) has 
any man in England that I am ac- written prologues superior to any 
quainted with, and that not from that David Garrick has written ; but 


240 Two Dialogues by 

epilogue, and five minutes for an epigram. Once at Burke's 
table the company proposed a subject, and Garrick finished 
his epigram within the time ; the same experiment was repeated 
in the garden, and with the same success. 

GIB. Garrick had some flippancy of parts, to be sure, and 
was brisk and lively in company, and by the help of mimicry 
and story-telling, made himself a pleasant companion ; but here 
the whole world gave the superiority to Foote, and Garrick 
himself appears to have felt as if his genius was rebuked * by 
the superior powers of Foote. It has been often observed, that 
Garrick never dared to enter into competition with him, but 
was content to act an under part to bring Foote out. 

JOHNS. That this conduct of Garrick's might be interpreted 
by the gross minds of Foote and his friends, as if he was afraid 
to encounter him, I can easily imagine. Of the natural supe 
riority of Garrick over Foote, this conduct is an instance : he 
disdained entering into competition with such a fellow, and 
made him the buffoon of the company ; or, as you say, brought 
him out. And what was at last brought out but coarse jests 
and vulgar merriment, indecency and impiety 2 , a relation of 
events which, upon the face of them, could never have happened, 
characters grossly conceived and as coarsely represented ? Foote 
was even no mimic ; he went out of himself, it is true, but 
without going into another man 3 ; he was excelled by Garrick 

David Garrick has written more good ' Under him 

prologues than Dryden has done.' My Genius is rebuked.' 

Life, ii. 325. Macbeth, Act iii. sc. 1, 1. 55. 

Horace Walpole wrote of Garrick 2 Johnson in a letter to Mrs. 

on Oct. 16, 1769 (Letters, v. 197) : Thrale said :' Murphy ought to 

* As that man's writings will be pre- write Foote's life, at least to give the 
served by his name, who will believe world a Footeana? As a marginal 
that he was a tolerable actor. His note on this Baretti wrote : ' One 
prologues and epilogues are as bad half of it had been a string of ob- 
as his Pindarics and Pantomimes.' scenities. 3 Letters, ii. 55. 

A few months earlier J. Sharp 3 ' BOSWELL. " I don't think Foote 

wrote to Garrick from Cambridge : a good mimic, Sir." JOHNSON. " No, 

* I met Mr. Gray here at dinner last Sir ; his imitations are not like. He 
Sunday; he spoke handsomely of gives you something different from 
your happy knack at epilogues.' himself, but not the character which 
Garrick Corres. i. 349. he means to assume. He goes out 


Sir Joshua Reynolds. 


even in this, which is considered as Foote's greatest excellence. 
Garrick. besides his exact imitation of the voice and gesture of 
his original, to a degree of refinement of which Foote had no 
conception, exhibited the mind and mode of thinking of the 
person imitated. Besides, Garrick confined his powers within 
the limits of decency; he had a character to preserve, Foote 
had none x . By Foote's buffoonery and broad-faced merriment 2 , 
private friendship, public decency, and every thing estimable 
amongst men, were trod under foot. We all know the differ 
ence of their reception in the world. No man, however high 
in rank or literature, but was -proud to know Garrick, and was 
glad to have him at his table 3 ; no man ever considered or 
treated Garrick as a player; he may be said to have stepped 
out of his own rank into a higher, and by raising himself, he 
raised the rank of his profession 4 . At a convivial table his 

of himself without going into other 
people.' Life,\\. 154. * Foote being 
mentioned, Johnson said, " He is 
not a good mimic."' /<. iii. 69. 

1 'Then Foote has a great range 
for wit; he never lets truth stand 
between him and a jest, and he is 
sometimes mighty coarse. Garrick 
is under many restraints from which 
Foote is free.' Ib. iii. 69. ' Garrick 
is restrained by some principle, but 
Foote has the advantage of an un 
limited range.' Ib. v. 391. 

2 ' Foote told me (writes Boswell) 
that Johnson said of him : " For 
loud, obstreperous, broad-faced mirth 
I know not his equal." ' Ib. iii. 70, 
n. i. 

( 'A gentleman attacked Garrick 
for being vain. JOHNSON. " No 
wonder, Sir, that he is vain ; a man 
who is perpetually flattered in every 
mode that can be conceived. So 
many bellows have blown the fire, 
that one wonders he is not by this 
time become a cinder." BOSWELL. 
" And such bellows too. Lord Mans 
field with his cheeks like to burst : 


Lord Chatham like an 
have read such notes from them to 
him, as were enough to turn his 
head." ' Ib. ii. 227. 

Among the pall-bearers at his 
funeral were the Duke of Devonshire, 
Earl Spencer, the Earl of Ossory, 
Lord Camden, and Viscount Palmer- 
ston. The service was performed by 
the Bishop of Rochester. The train 
of carriages reached from Charing 
Cross to the Abbey. Murphy's 
Garrick, p. 349. 

4 ' Here is a man who has ad 
vanced the dignity of his profession. 
Garrick has made a player a higher 
character.' Life, iii. 263. 

A great change had taken place 
before Garrick's day. Pope wrote 
in 1725 of the players in Shake 
speare's time : ' They were led into 
the Buttery by the Steward, not 
plac'd at the Lord's table, or Lady's 
toilette ; and consequently were en 
tirely depriv'd of those advantages 
they now enjoy in the familiar con 
versation of our Nobility, and an 
intimacy (not to say dearness) with 
R exhilarating 


Two Dialogues by 

exhilarating powers were unrivalled ; he was lively, entertaining, 
quick in discerning the ridicule of life, and as ready in repre 
senting it ; and on graver subjects there were few topics in 
which he could not bear his part. It is injurious to the character 
of Garrick to be named in the same breath with Foote x . That 
Foote was admitted sometimes into good company (to do the 
man what credit I can) I will allow; but then it was merely 
to play tricks : Foote's merriment was that of a buffoon 2 , and 
Garrick's that of a gentleman 3 . 

GIB. I have been told, on the contrary, that Garrick in 
company had not the easy manners of a gentleman. 

JOHNS. Sir, I don't know what you may have been told, or 
w r hat your ideas may be, of the manners of a gentleman : Garrick 
had no vulgarity in his manners ; it is true Garrick had not 
the airiness of a fop, nor did he assume an affected indifference 
to what was passing ; he did not lounge from the table to the 
window, and from thence to the fire, or, whilst you were 

people of the first condition.' John 
son's Shakespeare, vol. i. Preface, 
p. 90. 

1 On Foote's death Johnson wrote 
to Mrs. Thrale : ' Did you think he 
would so soon be gone ? Life, says 
Falstaff, is a shuttle. He was a fine 
fellow in his way ; and the world is 
really impoverished by his sinking 
glories.' Letters, ii. 55. 

2 ' BOSWELL. " If Betterton and 
Foote were to walk into this rootn, 
you would respect Betterton much 
more than Foote." JOHNSON. " If 
Betterton were to walk into this 
room with Foote, Foote would soon 
drive him out of it. Foote, Sir, 
quatenus Foote^ has powers superior 
to them all." ' Life, iii. 185. 

How great an actor Betterton was 
is shown by a fine paper in the 
Tatler (No. 167) on his funeral in 
Westminster Abbey. ' From his 
action/ writes Steele, * I had received 
more strong impressions of what is 
great and noble in human nature 

than from the arguments of the most 
solid philosophers, or the descrip 
tions of the most charming poets 
I had ever read.' Steele goes on to 
quote the lines beginning 
' To-morrow, and to-morrow, and 


from the text, I suppose, at that 
time in common use 6n the stage. 
* The way to dusty death,' for in 
stance, is changed 'to the eternal 

Dr. Warton says that 'an old 
frequenter of the theatre' told him 
that on Betterton's last performance 
' many spectators got into the play 
house by nine o'clock in the morning, 
and carried with them provisions for 
the day.' Warton's Pope's Works, 
ed. 1882, vii. 119. 

3 ' JOHNSON. " Garrick's great 
distinction is his universality. He 
can represent all modes of life but 
that of an easy fine-bred gentle 
man."' Life,v.i26. 


Sir Joshua Reynolds. 243 

addressing your discourse to him, turn from you anxl talk to 
his next neighbour, or give any indication that he was tired of 
your company x ; if such manners form your ideas of a fine 
gentleman, Garrick certainly had them not. 

GlB. I mean that Garrick was more overawed by the presence 
of the great, and more obsequious to rank, than Foote, who 
considered himself as their equal, and treated them with the 
same familiarity as they treated each other. 

JOHNS. He did so, and what did the fellow get by it? The 
grossness of his mind prevented him from seeing that this 
familiarity was merely suffered as they would play with a dog ; 
he got no ground by affecting to call peers by their surnames ; 
the foolish fellow fancied that lowering them was raising himself 
to their level ; this affectation of familiarity with the great, 
this childish ambition of momentary exaltation obtained by the 
neglect of those ceremonies which custom has established as 
the barriers between one order of society and another, only 
showed his folly and meanness 2 ; he did not see that by 
encroaching on others' dignity, he puts himself in their power 
either to be repelled with helpless indignity, or endured by 
clemency and condescension 3 . Garrick, by paying due respect 
to rank, respected himself; what he gave was returned, and 

1 * There are (said Johnson) ten man and he Sam. Johnson. . . . There 
genteel women for one genteel man, would be a perpetual struggle for 
because they are more restrained. precedence were there no fixed in- 
A man without some degree of re- variable rules for the distinction of 
straint is insufferable; but we are rank, which creates no jealousy as 
all less restrained than women. Were it is allowed to be accidental.' Ib. 
a woman sitting in company to put i. 447. ' No one,' wrote Mrs. Piozzi, 
out her legs before her as most men ' was so careful to maintain the cere- 
do, we should be tempted to kick monies of life as Dr. Johnson.' Ante, 
them in.' Life, iii. 53. i. 318. 

' He again insisted on the duty 3 'A great mind disdains to hold 

of maintaining subordination of rank. any thing by courtesy, and therefore 

" Sir, I would no more deprive a never usurps what a lawful claimant 

nobleman of his respect, than of his may take away. He that encroaches 

money. I consider myself as acting on another's dignity puts himself in 

a part in the great system of society, his power ; he is either repelled with 

and I do to others as I would have helpless indignity, or endured by 

them to do to me. I would behave clemency and condescension.' Works, 

to a nobleman as I should expect he viii. 225. 
would behave to me, were I a noble- 

R 2, what 


Two Dialogues by 

what was returned he kept for ever ; his advancement was on 
firm ground, he was recognised in public as well as respected 
in private, and as no man was ever more courted and better 
received by the public, so no man was ever less spoiled by 
its flattery : Garrick continued advancing to the last, till he had 
acquired every advantage that high birth or title could bestow, 
except the precedence of going into a room ; but when he was 
there, he was treated with as much attention as the first man 
at the table. It is to the credit of Garrick, that he never laid 
any claim to this distinction ; it was as voluntarily allowed as 
if it had been his birthright *. In this, I confess, I looked on 
David with some degree of envy, not so much for the respect 
he received, as for the manner of its being acquired ; what fell 
into his lap unsought, I have been forced to claim. I began 
the world by fighting my way. There was something about 
me that invited insult, or at least a disposition to neglect 2 , 
and I was equally disposed to repel insult and to claim attention, 
and I fear continue too much in this disposition now it is no 
longer necessary ; I receive at present as much favour as I have 
a right to expect. I am not one of the complainers of the 
neglect of merit 3 . 

1 ' I then slily introduced Mr. Gar- 
rick's fame, and his assuming the 
airs of a great man. JOHNSON. 
" Sir, it is wonderful how little 
Garrick assumes. No, Sir, Garrick 
fortunam reverenter habet. Con 
sider, Sir : celebrated men, such as 
you have mentioned, have had their 
applause at a distance ; but Garrick 
had it dashed in his face, sounded in 
his ears, and went home every night 
with the plaudits of a thousand in 
his cranmm. Then, Sir, Garrick 
did not find, but made his way to 
the tables, the levees, and almost 

the bed-chambers of the great If 

all this had happened to me, I should 
have had a couple of fellows with 
long poles walking before me, to 
knock down every body that stood 
in the way. Consider, if all this had 

happened to Gibber or Quin, they'd 
have jumped over the moon. Yet 
Garrick speaks to us" (smiling).' 
Life, iii. 263. 

2 ' Dr. Johnson told Mr. Thrale 
once that he had never sought to 
please till past thirty years old, 
considering the matter as hopeless.' 
Ante, i. 318. 

' Strange, however, it is to consider 
how few of the great sought John 
son's society.' Life, iv. 117. 'I never 
have sought the world (he said ;) the 
world was not to seek me.' Ib. iv. 

3 'JOHNSON. "Sir, I have never 
complained of the world ; nor do 
I think that I have reason to com 
plain. It is rather to be wondered 
at that I have so much.'" Ib. iv. 


Sir Joshua Reynolds. 245 

GlB. Your pretensions, Dr. Johnson, nobody will dispute ; 
I cannot place Garrick on the same footing : your reputation 
will continue increasing after your death, when Garrick will 
be totally forgotten ; you will be for ever considered as a 

JOHNS. Enough, Sir, enough ; the company would be better 
pleased to see us quarrel than bandying compliments 1 . 

GlB. But you must allow, Dr. Johnson, that Garrick was too 
much a slave to fame, or rather to the mean ambition of living 
with the great, terribly afraid of making himself cheap even with 
them ; by which he debarred himself of much pleasant society. 
Employing so much attention, and so much management upon 
such little things, implies, I think, a little mind. It was observed 
by his friend Colman, that he never went into company but with 
a plot how to get out of it 2 ; he was every minute called out, 
and went off or returned as there was or was not a probability of 
his shining. 

JOHNS. In regard to his mean ambition, as you call it, of 
living with the great, what was the boast of Pope 3 , and is every 

1 'It was not for me to bandy escape out of it.' Prior's Malone, 

civilities with my Sovereign.' Life, p. 376. Reynolds described to 

ii. 35. Malone ' the plots Garrick laid for 

1 Come, Sir, let's have no more of merriment,' and how one of them 
it. We offended one another by our so utterly failed that, having -Fox, 
contention ; let us not offend the Burke, Gibbon, Sheridan, Beauclerc, 
company by our compliments.' Ib. and Reynolds as his guests, he made 
iv. 336. it ' one of the most vapid days they 

2 'Malone said that Garrick always had ever spent.' Ib. p. 417. 

took care to leave company with a 'That "artifice" of his has left 

good impression in his favour. After such an impression in the theatre, 

he had told some good story, or that the phrase "as deep as Garrick" 

defeated an antagonist by wit or is still current stage slang.' Leslie 

raillery, he often disappointed people and Taylor's Reynolds, ii. 219. 

who hoped that he would continue 3 Johnson says of Pope : ' Next 

to entertain them. But he was so to the pleasure of contemplating his 

artificial that he could break away possessions, seems to be that of 

in the midst of the highest festivity, enumerating the men of high rank 

merely in order to secure the im- with whom he was acquainted.' 

pression he had made. On this part Works, viii. 313. ' His scorn of the 

of his character it was well said by great is too often repeated to be real ; 

Colman, that he never came into no man thinks much of that which 

company without laying a plot for an he despises.' Ib. p. 316. 


246 Two Dialogues by 

man's wish, can be no reproach to Garrick ; he who says he 
despises it knows he lies x . That Garrick husbanded his fame, 
the fame which he had justly acquired both at the theatre and 
at the table, is not denied ; but where is the blame, either in the 
one or the other, of leaving as little as he could to chance? 
Besides, Sir, consider what you have said ; you first deny 
Garrick's pretensions to fame, and then accuse him of too great 
an attention to preserve what he never possessed. 

GIB. I don't understand 

JOHNS. Sir, I can't help that 2 . 

GlB. Well, but Dr. Johnson, you will not vindicate him in his 
over and above attention to his fame, his inordinate desire to 
exhibit himself to new men, like a coquette, ever seeking 
after new conquests, to the total neglect of old friends and 
admirers ; 

* He threw off his friends like a huntsman his pack V 
always looking out for new game. 

JOHNS. When you quoted the line from Goldsmith, you 
ought, in fairness, to have given what followed : 

' He knew when he pleased he could whistle them back ; ' 

which implies at least that he possessed a power over other 
men's minds approaching to fascination ; but consider, Sir, what 
is to be done : here is a man whom every other man desired to 
know. Garrick could not receive and cultivate all, according to 
each man's conception of his own value : we are all apt enough 
to consider ourselves as possessing a right to be excepted from 
the common crowd ; besides, Sir, I do not see why that should 

1 ' When Johnson thought there Swinburne's Study of Ben Jonson, 
was intentional falsehood in the re- p. 175. 

lator his expression was, " He lies, * A man who speaks audibly and 

and he knows he lies." ' Life, iv. 49. intelligibly is not to be blamed for 

2 ' Sir, I have found you an argu- not being heard ; nobody being 
ment ; but I am not obliged to find bound to find words and ears too.' 
you an understanding.' Ib. iv. 313. South's Sermons, iii. 229. 

* Intelligibilia, non intellectum ad- 3 'He cast off his friends as a 
fero? Preface to Coleridge's Poems, huntsman his pack, 

ed. 1859, p. 19. For he knew when he pleased 

' I must neither find them ears he could whistle them back.' 

nor mind.' Ben Jonson, quoted in Retaliation. 


Sir Joshua Reynolds. 247 

be imputed to him as a crime, which we all so irresistibly feel 
and practise ; we all make a greater exertion in the presence 
of new men than old acquaintance ; it is undoubtedly true that 
Garrick divided his attention among so many, that but little 
was left to the share of any individual x ; like the extension and 
dissipation of water into dew, there was not quantity united 
sufficiently to quench any's thirst ; but this is the inevitable 
state of things : Garrick, no more than another man, could unite 
what, in their natures, are incompatible. 

GIB. But Garrick not only was excluded by this means from 
real friendship, but accused of treating those whom he called 
friends with insincerity and double dealings. 

JOHNS. Sir, it is not true ; his character in that respect is 
misunderstood: Garrick was, to be sure, very ready in promising, 
but he intended at that time to fulfil his promise ; he intended 
no deceit ; his politeness or his good-nature, call it which you 
will, made him unwilling to deny ; he wanted the courage to say 
No, even to unreasonable demands. This was the great error of 
his life : by raising expectations which he did not, perhaps could 
not, gratify, he made many enemies ; at the same time it must 
be remembered, that this error proceeded from the same cause 
which produced many of his virtues. Friendships from want of 
temper too suddenly taken up, and too violent to continue, 
ended as they were like to do, in disappointment ; enmity suc 
ceeded disappointment ; his friends became his enemies ; and 
those having been fostered in his bosom, well knew his sensibility 
to reproach, and they took care that he should be amply sup 
plied with such bitter potions as they were capable of adminis 
tering ; their impotent efforts he ought to have despised, but he 
felt them ; nor did he affect insensibility. 

GIB. And that sensibility probably shortened his life. 

JOHNS. No, Sir, he died of a disorder of which you or any 

1 ' I mentioned that Mr. Wilkes had no man to whom he wished to 

had attacked Garrick to me, as a unbosom himself. He found people 

man who had no friend. JOHNSON, always ready to applaud him, and 

" I believe he is right, Sir w <6i'Aot, that always for the same thing : so 

ou <f>i\os He had friends, but no he saw life with great uniformity." * 

friend. Garrick was so diffused, he Life, iii. 386. 


248 Two Dialogues by 

other man may die x , without being killed by too much sensi 

GIB. But you will allow, however, that this sensibility, those 
fine feelings, made him the great actor he was. 

JOHNS. This is all cant 2 , fit only for kitchen wenches and 
chambermaids : Garrick's trade was to represent passion, not to 
feel it. Ask Reynolds whether he felt the distress of Count 
Hugolino when he drew it 3 . 

GIB. But surely he feels the passion at the moment he is 
representing it. 

JOHNS. About as much as Punch feels 4 . That Garrick him 
self gave into this foppery of feelings I can easily believe ; but 
he knew at the same time that he lied. He might think it 
right, as far as I know, to have what fools imagined he ought to 
have ; but it is amazing that any one should be so ignorant as 
to think that an actor will risk his reputation by depending on 
the feelings that shall be excited in the presence of two hundred 
people, on the repetition of certain words which he has repeated 
two hundred times before in what actors call their study 5 . No, 
Sir, Garrick left nothing to chance ; every gesture, every expres 
sion of countenance, and variation of voice, was settled in his 
closet before he set his foot upon the stage 6 . 

1 He died of a disease of the who believe yourself transformed into 
kidneys. Murphy's Garrick, p. 472. the very character you. represent ? " 

2 Ante, i. 161 n., 314 n. Upon Mr. Kemble's answering that 

3 North cote says that either Burke he had never felt so strong a per- 
or Goldsmith, seeing a head of a man suasion himself; "To be sure not, 
in Reynolds's picture gallery, * ex- Sir, (said Johnson ;) the thing is im- 
claimed that it struck him as being possible. And if Garrick really be- 
the precise person, countenance and lieved himself to be that monster, 
expression of the Count Ugolino as Richard the Third, he deserved to 
described by Dante in his Inferno! be hanged every time he performed 
Reynolds had not had Ugolino in it."' Life, iv. 243. See also ib. v. 
his thoughts when he drew the head. 46. Mrs. Pritchard, who was, said 
Northcote's Reynolds, i. 279. Johnson, ' a very good player ' (Life, 

4 'Punch has no feelings.' Ante, v. 126); 'the surprising versatility 
i. 457. of whose talents ' Gibbon mentions 

5 Study in this sense is not in (Misc. Works, i. 155); 'who was 
Johnson's Dictionary. celebrated in Lady Macbeth, owned 

6 ' " Are you, Sir, (said Johnson to that she knew no more of that play 
Kemble) one of those enthusiasts than what was written for her by the 


Sir Joshua Reynolds. 


prompter.' Prior's M alone, p. 354. 
Goethe speaking of the theatre at 
Weimar said : * An actor's whole 
profession requires continual self- 
denial, and a continual existence in 
a foreign mask. ... If an actor ap 
peared to me of too fiery a nature, 
I gave him phlegmatic characters ; 
if too calm and tedious, I gave him 
fiery and hasty characters, that he 
might thus learn to lay aside him 
self, and assume foreign individuality.' 
Eckermann's Conversations of Goethe, 
i. 228-9. For Diderot's opinion, see 
Life, iv. 244, n. I. 

In the Early Diary of Frances 
Btcrney, ii. 158, we have the follow 
ing instance of the two ways in which 
Johnson spoke of Garrick : * "They 
say," cried Mrs. Thrale, " that Garrick 
was extremely hurt at the coldness 
of the King's applause, and did not 
find his reception such as he ex 
pected." " He has been so long 
accustomed," said Mr. Seward, " to 
the thundering approbation of the 
Theatre, that a mere ' Very well,' 
must necessarily and naturally dis 
appoint him." " Sir," said Dr. John 
son, "he should not, in a Royal 
apartment, expect the hallowing and 
clamour of the One Shilling Gallery. 
The King, I doubt not, gave him as 
much applause, as was rationally his 
due; and, indeed, great and un 
common as is the merit of Mr. 
Garrick, no man will be bold enough 
to assert he has not had his just pro 
portion both of fame and profit. He 
has long reigned the unequalled 
favourite of the public ; and there 
fore nobody will mourn his hard fate, 
if the King and the Royal Family 

were not transported into rapture, 
upon hearing him read Lethe. Yet 
Mr. Garrick will complain to his 
friends, and his friends will lament 
the King's want of feeling and taste ; 
and then Mr. Garrick will kindly 
excuse the King. He will say that 
His Majesty might be thinking of 
something else ; that the affairs of 
America might occur to him ; or 
some subject of more importance 
than Lethe ; but, though he will say 
this himself, he will not forgive his 
friends if they do not contradict " ! 
But, now that I have written this 
satire, it is but just both to Mr. 
Garrick and to Dr. Johnson, to tell 
you what he said of him afterwards, 
when he discriminated his character 
with equal candour and humour. 
" Garrick," he said, " is accused of 
vanity; but few men would have 1 
borne such unremitting prosperity 
with greater, if with equal modera 
tion. He is accused, too, of avarice ; 
but, were he not, he would be ac 
cused of just the contrary ; for he 
now lives rather as a prince than an 
actor ; but the frugality he practised, 
when he first appeared in the world, 
and which even then was perhaps 
beyond his necessity, has marked 
his character ever since ; and now, 
though his table, his equipage, and 
manner of living are all the most 
expensive, and equal to those of a 
nobleman, yet the original stain still 
blots his name ! Though, had he 
not fixed upon himself the charge of 
avarice, he would long since have 
been reproached with luxury, and 
with living beyond his station in 
magnificence and splendour." ' 


[THESE Recollections were published by Mr. Croker from 
some MSS. in Miss Reynolds's handwriting, communicated 
to him by the Rev. John Palmer, grandson of Sir Joshua 
Reynolds's sister Mary, who married John Palmer of Torrington. 
They have been kindly lent me by their present owner, Lady 
Colomb of Dronquinna, Kenmare, the Rev. John Palmer's 
granddaughter. One set is tolerably complete ; the other is 
made up of at least two, and probably three, versions. It was 
clearly with a view to publication that Miss Reynolds revised 
and rewrote her Recollections. On one page, where she gives 
Johnson's poem on Levett, she says : ' I think I may be 
excused for publishing it, tho' it has already appear'd in print, if 
only because Dr. Johnson gave it to me .with his own hand V 
No doubt at the last her courage failed her, as it had failed her 
earlier in the case of the poems and essays which she had 
thought of printing (post, p. 279), and her Recollections were 
confined to her desk. It was all in vain that Boswell had 
tried to get from her the letters which she had received from 
Johnson. ' I am sorry,' he wrote, ' that her too nice delicacy 
will not permit them to be published.' (Life, i. 486, n. i).] 

THE first time I was in company with Dr. Johnson I remember 

1 In this version in the line, she writes, 'No summons shock'd,' 

' No summons mock'd by chill &c. 


Recollections of Dr. Johnson by Miss Reynolds. 251 

the impression I felt in his favour, on his saying that as he 
return'd to his lodgings about one or two o'clock in the 
morning, he often saw poor children asleep on thresholds and 
stalls, and that he used to put pennies I into their hands to buy 
them a breakfast. 

And at the first interview which was at that lady's house to 
whom he address'd his galant [sic] letter 2 was, as I well 
remember, the flattering notice he took of a lady present, on her 
saying that she was inclined to estimate the morality of every 
person according as they liked or disliked Clarissa Harlowe. 
He was a great admirer of Richardson's works in general, but of 
Clarissa he always spoke with the highest enthusiastic praise. 
He used to say, that it was the first Book in the world for the 
knowledge it displays of the human Heart 3 . Yet of the Author 
I never heard him speak with any degree of cordiality, but 
rather as if impress'd with some cause of resentment against 
him 4 ; and this has been imputed to something of jealousy, not 
to say envy, on account of Richardson's having engross'd 
the attentions and affectionate assiduities of several very in 
genious literary ladies, whom he used to call his addopted [sic] 
daughters, and for whom Dr. Johnson had conceived a paternal 
affection (particularly for two of them, Miss Carter 5 and Miss 
Mulso 6 , now Mrs. Chapone), previous to their acquaintance with 

: 'Dr. Johnson's own expression.' to controvert his opinions; and that 

Miss REYNOLDS. his desire of distinction was so great, 

2 ' At the end of the second vol. of that he used to give large vails to the 
Dr. Johnson's Letters to Mrs.Thrale.' Speaker Onslow's servants, that they 
MISS REYNOLDS. 'The lady was might treat him with respect.' Life, 
Miss Cotterell.' Letters, i. 43. v. 395. See also ib. p. 396, n. i, and 

3 ' Sir, there is more knowledge of ante, i. 273. 

the heart in one letter of Richardson's 5 Miss Carter was only eight years 

tha.nma.ll Tom Jones.' Life,\\. 174. See younger than Johnson, so that the 

also ante, ii. 190, and Letters, i. 21. affection was scarcely paternal. For 

4 At Edinburgh he said of Richard- her puddings and her Greek see 
son that * his perpetual study was ante, ii. 1 1 . 

to ward off petty inconveniences and 6 Johnson wrote to Mrs. Thrale : 

procure petty pleasures ; that his * You make verses, and they are read 

love of continual superiority was in publick, and I know nothing about 

such, that he took care to be always them. This very crime, I think, 

surrounded by women, who listened broke the link of amity between 

to him implicitly, and did not venture Richardson and Miss M , after a 


252 Recollections of Dr. Johnson 

Richardson ; and it was said, that he thought himself neglected 
by them on his account. 

Johnson set a higher value upon female friendship than, 
perhaps, most men ; which may reasonably be supposed was 
not a little inhanced \sic\ by his acquaintance with those Ladies, 
if it was not originally derived from them. To their society, 
doubtless, Richardson owed that delicacy of sentiment, that femi 
nine excellence, as I may say, that so peculiarly distinguishes 
his writings from those of his own sex in general, how high soever 
they may soar above the other in the more dignified walks of 
literature, in scientific investigations, and abstruse inquiries. 

Dr. Johnson used to repeat, with very apparent delight, some 
lines of a poem written by one of these ladies J : 

Say, Stella, what is Love, whose cruel power 
Robs virtue of content, and youth of joy ? 

What Nymph or Goddess, in what fatal hour, 
Produced to light the mischief-making Boy? 

Some say, by Idleness and Pleasure bred, 
The smiling babe on beds of roses lay ; 

There with soft-honied dews by Fancy fed, 
His infant Beauties open'd on the Day 2 . 

Dr. Johnson had a [sic] uncommonly retentive memory for 
every thing that appear'd to him worthy of observation. What 
ever he met with in reading, particularly poetry, I believe he 
seldom required a revisal to be able to repeat verbatim 3 . If 
not literally so, it was more honoured in the breach than in the 
observance. And this was the case, in some respects, in Shen- 

tenderness and confidence of many ' Say, Stella, what is love, whose 

years.' Letters, ii. 141. Miss M fatal pow'r 

was, no doubt, Miss Mulso. She Robs virtue of content and youth 

wrote ' four billets ' in the Rambler, of joy ? 

No. 10. Life, i. 203. What nymph or goddess in a luck- 

1 Miss Mulso. Miss REYNOLDS. less hour 

2 ' Johnson paid the first of these Disclos'd to light the mischief- 
stanzas the great and undeserved making boy ? ' 
compliment of quoting it in his Die- Though Miss Mulso was but 
tionary, under the word Quatrain? twenty-eight when the Dictionary 
CROKER. was published, she was already 

The stanza as there quoted is complimented with the title of 
somewhat better; it is likely that Mrs. Mulso. 

Johnson improved it. 3 Ante, i. 360 ; Life, i. 39 ; v. 368. 


by Miss Reynolds. 253 

stone's poem of The Inn, which I learnt from hearing Dr. Johnson 
repeat it ; and I was surprised, on Seeing it lately among the 
Author's works for the first time, to find it so different. The 
alterations are in italics x . 

To thee, fair Freedom, I retire, 

From flattery, feasting*, dice and din ; 
Now art thou found in Domes much* higher 

Than the low Cot or humble Inn. 
'Tis here with boundless power I reign, 

And every Health that I begin, 
Brightens dull Port to gay Champaigne 4 

For Freedom crowns it at an Inn. 
I fly from pomp, I fly from plate, 

I fly from falsehood's specious grin ; 
Freedom I love, and form I hate, 

And chuse my lodgings at an Inn. 

Here, Waiter, take my sordid ore, 

Which lacquays else might hope to win ; 

It buys what Courts have not in store, 
It buys me freedom at an Inn. 

And once again I shape my way. 

Through rain, through shine, through thick and thin, 
Secure to meet at close of Day 

A kind reception at an Inn 5 . 

You who have travell'd Life's dull Round, 
Who through its various Tours have been, 

May sigh to think how oft you 've found 
The warmest welcome at an Inn 6 . 

1 Johnson for the most part quoted which has yet been contrived by 

the poem as it was originally pub- man, by which so much happiness 

lished in Dodsley's Collection, 1758, is produced as by a good tavern or 

v. 51. Miss Reynolds saw it as it inn." He then repeated, with great 

was given in Shenstone's Works, emotion, Shenstone's lines : 

1791,1.218. "Whoe'er has travell'd life's dull 

3 Cards and dice. round, 

3 In mansions higher. Where'er his stages may have 

4 In Shenstone, ' Converts dull been, 

port to bright champagne.' May sigh to think he still has 

5 ' Spoken by Dr. Johnson extern- found 

temporary.' Miss REYNOLDS. This The warmest welcome at an inn." 

verse with slight differences is in the Life, ii. 452. See ib. n. for the stanza 

original poem. as it originally stood. 

6 '"No, Sir; there is nothing 'March 3, 1831. "Those are 


254 Recollections of Dr. Johnson 

Dr. Johnson commonly read with amazing rapidity, glancing 
his eye from the top to the bottom of the page in an instant *. 
If he made any pause, it was a compliment to the work ; and, 
after seesawing over it 2 a few minutes, generally repeated the 
passage, especially if it was poetry. One day, on taking up 
Pope's Essay on Man, a particular passage seem'd more than 
ordinarily to engage his attention ; and so much, indeed, that, 
contrary to his usual custom, after he had left the Book and the 
place where he was sitting, he return'd to revise it, turning over 
the pages with anxiety to find it, and then repeated 

Passions, tho' selfish, if their means be fair 
List under Reason, and deserve her care ; 
Those that, imparted, court a nobler aim, 
Exalt their kind, and take some virtue's name 3 . 

His task, probably, was the whole paragraph, but these lines 
only were audible. 

He seemed much to delight in reciting verses, particularly 
from Pope. Among the many I have had the pleasure of hearing 
him recite, the conclusion of the Dunciad and his Epistle to 
Jervas, seemed to clairn his highest admiration : 

Led by some rule that guides, but not constrains, 
And finish'd more through happiness than pains 4 , 

he used to remark, was a union that constituted the ultimate 
degree of excellence in the fine arts. 

Two lines from Pope's Universal Prayer I have heard him 
quote, in very serious conversation, as his theological creed : 

And binding Nature fast in fate, 
Left free the human will 5 . 

Mr. Baretti used to remark, with a smile, that Dr. Johnson 

most fortunate (said Goethe) who seizing at once what was valuable in 

live in tents, or who, like some Eng- any book without submitting to the 

lishmen, are always going from one labour of perusing it from beginning 

city and one inn to another, and find to end.' Life, i. 71. 

everywhere a good table ready." ' 2 Ante, ii. 142. 

Eckermann's Conversations of 3 Essay on Man, ii. 97. 

Goethe, 1850, ii. 360. 4 Epistle to Mr.Jervas, 1. 67. 

1 ' He had a peculiar facility in 5 Ante, ii. 233. 


by Miss Reynolds. 255 

always talked his best to the ladies. But, indeed, that was his 

usual custom to every person who would furnish him with a 

subject worthy of his discussion J ; for, what was very singular in 

him, he would rarely, if ever, begin any subject himself, but 

/ would sit silent till something was particularly addressed to him 2 , 

l and if that happened to lead to any scientific or moral inquiry, 

\ his benevolence, I believe, more immediately prompted him to 

\ expatiate on it for the edification of the ignorant than from any 

other motive whatever. 

One day, on a lady's telling him that she had read Parnell's 
Hermit with dissatisfaction, for she could not help thinking that 
thieves and murderers, who were such immediate ministers from 
heaven of good to man, did not deserve such punishments as our 
laws inflict 3 , Dr. Johnson made such an eloquent oration, and 
with such energy, as indeed afforded a most striking instance 
of the truth of Baretti's observation, but of which, to my great 
regret, I can give no corroborating proof, my memory furnishing 
me with nothing more than barely the general tendency of his 
arguments, which were to prove, that though it might be said 
that wicked men, as well as the good, were ministers of God, 
because in the moral sphere the good we enjoy and the evil We 
suffer are administered to us by man, yet, as infinite goodness 
could not inspire or influence man to act wickedly, but, on the 
contrary, it was his divine property to produce good out of evil, 
and as man was endowed with free-will to act, or refrain from 

1 Speaking of his talk 'he told . . . 'through all depends 

Sir Joshua that he had early laid it On using second means to work 

down as a fixed rule to do his best his ends,' 

on every occasion.' Life, i. 204. See and shows that out of each one of these 

ib. iii. 193, n. 3, for 'his phrase, 'strange events 'good came. The lady, 

" they talked their best." ' applying this pious fable, said that 

2 Ante, i. 289. thieves and murderers who are but 

3 In Parnell's poem an angel, dis- ' second means ' are hardly dealt with 
guised as a youth, in the hermit's when they were sent to the gallows, 
sight steals a golden goblet from She ought, after seeing them hanged 
a generous but too lavish host ; at Tyburn, to have stifled her doubts, 
gives it to a miser ; strangles a vir- and to have imitated the hermit, who 
tuous man's only child, and drowns . . . ' gladly turning sought his 
a servant who is guiding them ancient place, 

across a river. He explains how And pass'd a life of piety and 
Providence peace.' 



Recollections of Dr. Johnson 

acting wickedly, with knowledge of good and evil, with conscience 
to admonish and to direct him to chuse the one and reject the 
other, he was, therefore, as criminal in the sight of God and oi 
man, and as deserving punishment for his evil deeds, as if no 
good had resulted from them x . 

There was nothing Dr. Johnson used to say of which he was 
so certain as of the freedom of his will, and no man, I believe, 
was ever more attentive to preserve its rectitude, its acquired 
rectitude, I suppose I should say, in conformity with his religious 
tenets respecting original sin, and with his more general and 
common assertions that Man was by Nature much more inclined 
to evil than to good 2 . 

And another Axiom of his of the same gloomy tendency was 
that the pain and miseries of human life far outweighed its 
happiness and good 3 . But on a lady's asking him whether he 
would not permit common ease to be put into the scale of 
happiness and good, he seem'd embarrassed (very unusual with 
him) and answering in the affirmative, instantly rose from his 
seat to avoid the inference. 

But, indeed, much may be said in Dr. Johnson's justification, 
supposing these notions should not meet with universal approba 
tion, having, it is probable, imbibed them in the early part of his 
life, when under the pressure of adverse fortune, and in every 
period of it under the still heavier pressure and more adverse 

1 ' JOHNSON. " Moral evil is oc 
casioned by free will, which implies 
choice between good and evil. With 
all the evil that there is, there is no 
man but would rather be a free 
agent, than a mere machine without 
the evil ; and what is best for each 
individual, must be best for the 
whole. If a man would rather be 
the machine, I cannot argue with 
him. He is a different being from 
me.'" Life, v. 117. See also ib. 
v. 366, and ante, ii. 233. 

2 ' This may appear rather incon 
sistent with his notions of free-will, 
but I will write the truth and nothing 
but the truth.' Miss REYNOLDS. 

See ante, i. 268 n., where Lady 
M'Leod starting at what Johnson 
maintained said, " This is worse than 
Swift." ' 

3 ' From the subject of death we 
passed to discourse of life, whether 
it was upon the whole more happy 
or miserable. Johnson was de 
cidedly for the balance of misery,' 
Life, iv. 300. But see post, p. 360, 
where 'he asserted that no man 
could pronounce he did not feei more 
pleasure than misery.' 

Swift wrote : ' The miseries of 
man are all beaten out on his own 
anvil.' Swift's Works, ed. 1803, 

XV. II. 


by Miss Reynolds. 257 

influence of Nature herself. For I have often heard him lament 
that he inherited from his Father a morbid disposition both of 
Body and Mind x . An oppressive melancholy which robb'd him 
of the common enjoyment of life 2 . 

Indeed, he seemed to struggle almost incessantly with some 
mental evil, and often, by the expression of his countenance and 
the motion of his lips, appeared to be offering up some ejaculation 
to Heaven to remove it. But in Lent, or near the approach of 
any great festival, he would generally retire from the company 
to a corner of the room, but most commonly behind a window- 
curtain, to pray, and with such energy, and in so loud a whisper, 
that every word was heard distinctly, particularly the Lord's 
Prayer and the Apostles' Creed, with which he constantly con 
cluded his devotions. Sometimes some words would emphatically 
escape him in his usual tone of voice 3 . 

At these holy seasons he usually secluded himself more from 
society than at other times, at least from general and mixed 
society, and on a gentleman's sending him an invitation to dinner 
on Easter-eve he was highly offended, and expressed himself so 
in his answer 4 . 

On every occasion that had the least tendency to depreciate 
Religion or morality, he totally disregarded all forms or rules of 
good-breeding, as utterly unworthy of the slightest consideration. 
But it must be confess'd, that he sometimes suffered this noble 
principle to transgress its due bounds, and to degenerate into 
prejudices unworthy of his character, extending even to those who 
were anywise connected with the person who had offended him. 

One day, the Brother of a gentleman 5 for whom Dr. Johnson 

1 'I inherited (said he) a vile self offended. Letters,]., 188. There 
melancholy from my father, which has is nothing to show that he kept any 
made me mad all my life, at least part of Lent but Passion Week, and 
not sober.' Life, v. 215 ; ante, i. 148. even that he did not always keep 

2 This last paragraph was originally strictly. Ante, i. 82. See Life, iv. 
written ' terrifying melancholy, which 89, for the admirable sophistry ' 
he was sometimes apprehensive bor- of his defence for twice dining at 
dered on insanity.' a Bishop's in that week. 

3 Ante, i. 439; Life, i. 483. 5 The two men were Israel and 

4 With the Rev. Dr. Taylor, who John Wilkes. Israel Wilkes settled 
invited him to dinner on the last in New York. Almon's Memoirs of 
day of Lent, he did not show him- John Wilkes, i. 3. 

VOL. II. S had 

258 Recollections of Dr. Johnson 

had conceived some disgust, (chiefly I believe for his political 
principles) happening to meet him at Sir Joshua Reynolds's 
(Mr. Reynolds then) in company with some gentlemen and ladies 
of very distinguished characters (I remember Garrick was one, 
by a remarkable expression of his to a Lady present, that indi 
cated very uneasy apprehensions that the attention of the ladies 
to him would provoke Johnson to say something rude to him). 
As this gentleman was giving his opinion on the subject of their 
discourse, Mr. Johnson stop'd him with ' pray, Sir, what you are 
going to say, let it be better worth the hearing than what you 
have already said.' Which seem'd to give a shock, and to spread 
a gloom over the whole Party, particularly because this gentle 
man was of a most amiable character, a man of refined Taste, 
and a scholar, and what Mr. Johnson little suspected, a very 
loyal subject. 

He afterwards told the Lady of the House J , that he was very 
sorry that he should have snubbed W. as he did, because his wife 
was present. ' Yes, Sir ; and for many reasons/ * No, it is only 
because his wife was present that I am sorry.' 

But this was mild treatment in comparison of what a gentle 
man 2 met with from him one day at Sir Joshua Reynolds's, 
a barrister at law and a man of fashion, who, on discoursing with 
Mr. Johnson on the laws and government of different nations, 
I remember particularly those of Venice, on being inadvertently 
prompted to speak of them in terms of high approbation : ' Yes, 
Sir,' says Johnson, ' all Republican Rascals think as you do V 
How the conversation ended I have forgot, it was so many years 
ago ; I believe he never made any apology for the insult either 
to the gentleman or any other person ; luckily there were but 
two others present. 

1 Miss Reynolds. attracted by the Doctor exclaiming 
a Mr. Eliot. Miss REYNOLDS. in a very loud and peremptory tone 
3 Northcote, who had the anec- of voice, " Yes, Sir, &c." ' North- 
dote from Miss Reynolds, describes cote's Reynolds,, i. 23. 
* the young gentleman ' as ' humbly To his friend Windham Johnson 
making his inquiries to gain all said, ' with a pleasant smile, " Don't 
possible information from the pro- be afraid, Sir, you will soon make 
found knowledge of Dr. Johnson, a very pretty rascal." ' Life, iv. 
when her attention was suddenly 200. 


by Miss Reynolds. 

2 59 

Of latter years he grew much more companionable, anc} I have 
icard him say, that he knew himself to be so. ' In my younger 
days,' he would say, ' it is true I was much inclined to treat man 
kind with asperity and contempt ; but I found it answered no 
good end. I thought it wiser and better to take the world as it 
goes. Besides, as I have advanced in life I have had more reason 
k to be satisfied with it. Mankind have treated me with more 
^ndness, and of course I have more kindness for them I .' 

[n the latter part of his life, indeed, his circumstances were 
:ry different from what they were in the beginning. Before he 
id the Pension, he literally drest like a Beggar ; and from what 
have been told, literally lived as such 2 ; at least respecting 
cor^mon conveniences in his apartments, wanting even a chair to 
sit on 3 , particularly in his study, where a gentleman who fre 
quently visited him whilst writing his Idlers always found him 
at his Desk, sitting on one with three legs ; and on rising from 
it, he remark'd that Mr. Johnson never forgot its defect, but 
would either hold it in his hand or place it with great composure 
against some support, taking no notice of its imperfection to his 
visitor. How he sat, whether on the window-seat, on a chair, or 
on a pile of Folios, or how he sat, I do not remember to have 
heard 4 . 

1 ' I never have sought the world ; 
the world was not to seek me. It 
is rather wonderful that so much has 
been done for me.' Life, iv. 172. 

* The world is not so unjust or un 
kind as it is peevishly represented.' 
Letters, ii. 215. See also ante, ii. 244. 

2 Even for some time after he re 
ceived his pension 'his apartment 
and furniture and morning dress were 
sufficiently uncouth.' Life, i. 396. 
See also ante, ii. 141, for his decent 
drawing-room at a later period. How 
unlike he was in this to Swift, who 

* seems to have wasted life in dis 
content by the rage of neglected 
pride and the languishment of un 
satisfied desire. He is querulous 
and fastidious, arrogant and malig 
nant : he scarcely speaks of himself 

but with indignant lamentations.' 
Works, viii. 225. 

3 In a note in the Life, i. 328, 
I say, 'there can be little question 
that she is describing the same room 
[as that described by Mr. Burney in 
Gough Square] a room in a house 
in which Miss Williams was lodged, 
and most likely Mr. Levet.' I may 
be mistaken ; for when he was writing 
the Idler he was living not only in 
Gough Square, but also in Staple 
Inn and Gray's Inn, and perhaps in 
Inner Temple Lane. In none of 
these places did Miss Williams lodge. 
See Life, i. 350, n. 3, and ante, ii. 
1 1 6. It is absurd to suppose that 
he had no chairs in his sitting-room. 

4 ' After dinner, Mr. Johnson pro 
posed to Mr. Burney to go up with 

2 It 


260 Recollections of Dr. Johnson 

It was remarkable in Dr. Johnson that no external circum 
stances ever prompted him to make any apology, or to seem 
even sensible of their existence. Whether this was the effect of 
Philosophic pride, or of some partial notion respecting high 
breeding is doubtful x . 

It is very certain that he piqued himself much upon his know 
ledge of the rules of true politeness, and particularly on his most 
punctilious observances of them towards the ladies. A remark 
able instance of this was his never suffering any lady to walk 
from his house to her carriage, through Bolt Court, unattended 
by himself to hand her into it (at least I have reason to suppose 
it to be his general custom, from his constant performance of it 
to those with whom he was the most intimately acquainted) ; and 
if any obstacle prevented it from driving off, there he would 
stand by the door of it, and gather a mob around him. Indeed 
they would begin to gather the moment he appear'd handing the 
lady .down the steps into Fleet Street. But to describe his ap 
pearance, his important air (that indeed cannot be described) but 
his morning Habiliments, from head to foot, would excite the 
utmost astonishment in my reader, how a man in his senses could 
think of steping [sic] outside his door in them, or even to be 
seen at home in them. Sometimes he exhibited himself at the 
distance of eight or ten doors distant from Bolt Court, to get at 
the carriage, to the no small diversion of the populace 2 . 

And I am certain to all who love laughing a description of his 
dress from head to foot would be highly acceptable, and in 
general, I believe, be thought the most curious part of my Book. 
But I forbear, merely out of respect to his memory, to give the 

him into his garret, which being she should have found her in a better 
accepted, he there found about five manner." The parson made no apo- 
or six Greek folios, a deal writing- logics, though he was in his half- 
desk, and a chair and a half. Johnson cassock, and a flannel night-cap, 
giving to his guest the entire seat, He said they were heartily welcome 
tottered himself on one with only to his poor cottage.' Joseph An- 
three legs and one arm.' Life, i. 328. drews, Bk. iv. ch. 9. 

1 ' Mrs. Adams said " she was 2 See Life, ii. 405, for Beauclerk's 

ashamed to be seen in such a pickle, account of Johnson's ( doing the 

and that her house was in such a honours of his literary residence to 

litter ; but that if she had expected a foreign lady of quality,' and ante, 

such an honour from her Ladyship, ii. 180. 


by Miss Reynolds. 261 

slightest intimation of it. For having written a minute descrip 
tion of his Figure, from his wig to his slippers, a thought occurred 
that it might probably excite some person to delineate it, and 
I might have the mortification of seeing it hung up at a Print- 
shop as the greatest curiosity ever exhibited. 

His best dress was, at that time, so very mean, that one after 
noon as he was following some ladies up stairs, on a visit to 
a lady of fashion *, the Housemaid, not knowing him, suddenly 
seized him by the shoulder, and exclaimed, ' Where are you 
going ? ' striving at the same time to drag him back ; but a 
gentleman who was a few steps behind prevented her from doing / 
or saying more, and Mr. Johnson growled all the way up stairs, V 
as well he might. He seemed much chagrined and apparently 
disposed to revenge the insult of the maid upon the mistress. 
Unluckily, whilst in this humour, a lady of high rank 2 happening 
to call on Miss Cotterel, he was much offended with her for not 
introducing him to her Ladyship, at least not in the manner he 
liked, and still more for her seeming to shew more attention to 
this Lady than to him. After sitting some time silent, meditating 
how to down 3 Miss C., he address'd himself to Mr. Reynolds, who 
sat next him, and, after a few introductory words, with a loud 
voice said, * I wonder which of us two could get most money by 
his trade in one week, were we to work hard at it from morning 
till night.' I don't remember the answer ; but I know that the 
lady, rising soon after, went away without knowing what trade 
they were of. She might probably suspect Mr. Johnson to be 
a poor author by his dress, and because neither a Porter, a Chair 
man, or a blacksmith, Trades much more suitable to his apparent 
abilities, were not quite so suitable to the place she saw him in. 
This incident Dr. Johnson used to mention with great glee how 
he had downed Miss C., though at the same time he professed 
a great friendship and esteem for that lady. 

1 Miss Cotterell. Life, i. 246. Duchess of Argyle. 

See ib. n. 2 for Northcote's version 3 Johnson talking of Robertson 

of this story. said : ' I downed him with the King 

2 Lady Fitzroy. Miss REYNOLDS. of Prussia.' Ib. iii. 335. He wrote 
According to the account Sir Joshua to Mrs. Thrale : ' Long live Mrs. 
gave to Boswell there were two ladies G that downs my mistress.' Letter s y 
of high rank, one of whom was the ii. 73. See also ante, i. 169. 



Recollections of Dr. Johnson 

It is certain that, for such kind of mortifications, he never ex 
press' d any concern ; but on other occasions he has shewn the 
most amiable sorrow for the offence he has given T , particularly if 
it seemed to involve the slightest disrespect to the church or to 
its ministers 2 . 

I shall never forget with what regret he spoke of the rude 
reply he made to a Rev d Divine, a Dignitary of the Church 3 , 
on his saying that men never improved after the age of forty-five 4 . 
' That is not true, Sir/ said Johnson. ' You, who perhaps are 
forty-eight, may still improve if you will try ; I wish you would 
set about it ; and I am afraid, 5 he added, ' there is great room 
for it 5 ; ' and this was said in rather a large Party of gentlemen 

1 See ante, i. 453, where Murphy 
says that 'when the fray was over 
Johnson generally softened into re 
pentance.' He wrote to Dr. Taylor 
in 1756: ' When I am musing 
alone, I feel a pang for every 
moment that any human being has 
by my peevishness or obstinacy spent 
in uneasiness.' Letters, i. 72. More 
than twenty years later he said in 
Miss Burney's hearing : 'I am 
always sorry when I make bitter 
speeches, and I never do it but when 
I am insufferably vexed.' Mme. 
D'Arblay's Diary , i. 131. 

2 Yet when some clergymen in his 
company ' thought that they should 
appear to advantage by assuming 
the lax jollity of men of the world] 
he said, * by no means in a whisper, 
" This merriment of parsons is mighty 
offensive." ' Life, iv. 76. 

3 Dr. Barnard, Dean of Derry; 
afterwards Bishop of Killaloe. Ib. 
iii. 84; iv. 115. He is 'the good 
Dean ' of Goldsmith's Retaliation, 

'Who mix'd reason with pleasure 
and wisdom with mirth.' 

4 * Of this assertion (writes Miss 
Edge worth) my father always doubted 
the truth, and he opposed the prin 
ciple, as injurious to the cause of 

knowledge and virtue, and tending 
to lessen the energy and happiness 
of a large portion of human exist 
ence.' Memoirs of R. L. Edgeworth, 
ed. 1844, p. 476. 

Swift seems to refer to this belief 
when he makes the spot in the fore 
head of every Struldbrug change 
from time to time till he became five 
and forty, when 'it never admitted 
any further alteration.' Voyage to 
Laputa, ch. x. 

5 Boswell recorded in his note 
book : 'The Dean of Derry, Dr. 
Barnard, was maintaining in 177-, 
that a man never improves after 
five-and-forty. Johnson very justly 
took the opposite side. "Why 
should not a man improve then," 
said he, "if he has the means 
of improvement?" The Dean per 
sisted in his errour. Johnson an 
grily said, " I do not say but there 
are some exceptions ; pray, Sir, how 
old are you ?" The Dean was much 
hurt ; came over it again and again 
at the time, and afterwards wrote 
the verses which ironically intro 
duces [sic] Johnson's politeness. But 
the Dean told me at the dinner of 
the Royal Academicians, 23 April, 
1776, that he had a very great re- 


by Miss Reynolds. 


and ladies at dinner. Soon after the ladies withdrew from the 
table, Dr. Johnson follow'd them, and, sitting down by the Lady 
of the House x , he said, ' I am very sorry for having spoken so 

rudely to the .' ' You very well may, Sir.' ' Yes,' he said, 

' it was highly improper to speak in that style to a minister of 
the Gospel 2 , and I am the more hurt on reflecting with what 

mild dignity he received it.' When the came up into the 

Drawing-Room, Dr. Johnson immediately rose from his seat, 
and made him sit on the sophy [sic] by him, and with such 
a beseeching look for pardon, and with such fond gestures 
literally smoothing down his arms and his knees tokens of 

penitence, which were so graciously received by the as 

to make Dr. Johnson very happy, and not a little added to 
the esteem and respect he had previously entertained for his 
character 3 . 

The next morning the called on Sir Joshua Reynolds 

spect for Johnson. "I love him," 
said he, " but he does not love me," 
and he complained of his rough, 
harsh manners, saying that when he 
smiled he showed the teeth at the 
corner of his mouth, like a dog that 
is going to bite. He said, "Johnson 
is right ninety-nine times but of a 
hundred ; I think with him." " But 
you do not feel with him," said I. 
" No," said the Dean. " In short, 
he is not a gentleman." The Dean 
told me he thought of answering 
Gibbon, and would be glad to talk 
with Johnson of it. When I came 
to Bath Johnson said the Dean was 
mistaken. He loved him very well, 
though he disapproved of his being 
out of place, by living so much 
among wits, and being member of 
a midnight club. (That was ours.) 
He was pleased with his design of 
answering Gibbon, and said he would 
be glad to talk with him.' Morrison 
Autographs, 2nd series, i. 371. 

The ' midnight club ' was the Lite 
rary Club. Barnard joined it in 

December, 1775. I do not think he 
answered Gibbon. 

1 Miss Reynolds, if, as Richard 
Burke says, the scene took place in 
Sir Joshua's house. Burke Corres. 
i. 403. 

2 ' I asked Dr. Johnson if he did 
not think the Dean of Derry a very 
agreeable man, to which he made 
no answer ; and on my repeating 
my question, "Child," said he, "I 
will not speak anything in favour of 
a Sabbath-breaker, to please you, 
nor any one else.' H. More's Me 
moirs, i. 394. 

Bishop Barnard (says Bentham) 
was ' an unbeliever. I met him at 
Owen Cambridge's, who had a house 
of which he was very proud near 
Pope's, at Twickenham. The Bishop 
was much among the aristocracy 
a man of the world and a clever 
man.' Bentham's Works^ x. 285. 

3 Johnson said of him : ' No man 
ever paid more attention to another 
than he has done to me.' Life, iv. 


264 Recollections of Dr. Johnson 

with the following verses x , which I should not have taken the 
liberty to insert, had I not known that they had already appear'd 
in Print : 

I lately thought no man alive 
Could ere improve past forty-five, 

And ventured to assert it. 
The observation was not new, 
But seem'd to me so just and true 

That none could controvert it. 

* No, Sir, 3 says Johnson, ' 'tis not so, 
'Tis your mistake, and I can show 

An instance, if you doubt it. 
You, who perhaps are forty-eight, 
May still improve, 'tis not too late : 

I wish you'd set about it.' 

Encouraged thus to mend my faults, 

I turned his councel \sic\ in my thoughts 

Which way I could apply it; 
Genius I knew was past my reach, 
For who can learn what none can teach ? 

And wit I could not buy it. 

Then come, my friends, and try your skill; 
You may improve me if you will, 

(My Books are at a Distance) ; 
With you I'll live and learn, and then 
Instead of books I shall read men, 

So lend me your assistance. 

Pear knight of Plympton 2 teach me how 
To suffer with unclouded Brow 

And smile serene as thine, 
The jest uncouth and truth severe; 
Like thee to turn my deafest ear, 

And calmly drink my wine. 

Thou say'st not only skill is gain'd, 
But genius, too, may be attain'd, 

By studious application 3 ; 
Thy temper mild, thy genius fine, 
I'll study till I make them mine 

By constant meditation. 

1 See Life, iv. 431, for various read- born at Plympton. 

ings in these lines. 3 See ante, i. 314 n., and Life, ii. 

2 Sir Joshua Reynolds, who was 437, n. 2. 


by Miss Reynolds. 265 

Thy art of pleasing teach me, Garrick, 
Thou who reverest [reversest] odes Pindaric, 

A second time read o'er x ; 
Oh ! could we read thee backwards too, 
Last thirty years thou should st review, 

And charm us thirty more. 

If I have thoughts and can't express 'em, 
Gibbons [sz'f] shall teach me how to dress 'em 

In terms select and terse ; 
Jones teach me modesty and Greek 2 ; 
Smith, how to think 3 ; Burke, how to speak; 

And Beauclerk to converse 4 . 

Let Johnson teach me how to place 
In fairest light each borrow'd Grace 

From him I '11 learn to write : 
Copy his free and easy style, 
And from the roughness of his file 
Grow, like himself, Polite. 

Dr. Johnson's rude repulse given to a gentleman who ask'd 
his leave to introduce the Abbe Raynal 5 to him, is I believe 
too well known to need a repetition. Something similar to that 
was his answer to a gentleman at the literary club, who, on 

presenting his Friend, said, ' This, Sir, is Mr. V y 6 .' ' I see 

him,' said Dr. Johnson, and immediately turn'd away. 

His reply to Dr. Grainger, who was reading his manuscript 
Poem to him of the sugar-cane, will probably be thought more 
excusable. When he came to the line, * Say, shall I sing of 
Rats?' ' No,' cry'd Dr. Johnson with great vehemency. This 

I 4 

Mr. Cumberland has written an mouth's Life of Sir W. Jones, ed. 

Ode, as he modestly calls it, in praise 1815, p. 465. 

of Gray's Odes. . . . Garrick read it 3 Adam Smith. For his talk see 

the other night at Mr. Beauclerk's, Life, iv. 24, n. 2. 

who comprehended so little what it 4 Ante, i. 273, 469. 

was about, that he desired Garrick All the men mentioned in these 

to read it backwards, and try if it verses, as well as Barnard, were 

would not be equally good ; he did, members of the Literary Club, 

and it was.' Walpole's Letters, vi. 298. 5 See ante, i. 211. 

2 Sir William Jones, who dying at 6 ' When Mr. Vesey was proposed 

the age of forty- seven had 'studied as a member of the Literary Club 

eight languages critically, eight less Mr. Burke began by saying that he 

perfectly, but all intelligible with a was a man of gentle manners. "Sir," 

dictionary, and twelve least per- said Johnson, "you need say no 

fectly, but all attainable.' Teign- more. When you have said a man 


266 Recollections of Dr. Johnson 

he related to me himself, laughing heartily at the conceit of 
Dr. Grainger's refractory Muse ! Where it happen'd I do not 
know, but I am certain, very certain, that it was not, as Mr. 
Boswell asserts, at Sir Joshua Reynolds's 1 , for they were not, 
I believe, even personally known to each other. 

But some very beautiful lines out of another Poem, by the 
same Author, I have often heard him repeat, and express great 
admiration of them. 

1 Solitude, romantick maid, 
Whether by nodding towers you tread; 
Or haunt the desert's trackless gloom, 
Or hover o'er the yawning t.omb ; 
Or climb the Andes' clifted side, 
Or by the Nile's coy source abide ; 
Or, starting from your half year's sleep, 
From Hecla view the thawing deep ; 
Or at the purple dawn of day, 
Tadmor's marble waste survey 2 .' 

I shall never forget the concordance of the sound of his 
voice, with the grandeur of those images 3 ; nor indeed for the 
same reason the gothick 4 dignity of his Aspect, his look and 
manner, when repeating sublime passages. 

But what was very remarkable, though his cadence in reading 
poetry was so judiciously emphatical as to give a double force 
to the words he utter'd, yet in reading prose, particularly 
common and familiar subjects, narrations, essays, letters, &c., 
nothing could be more injudicious than his manner, beginning 
every period with a pompous accent, and reading it with a whine, 
or with a kind of spasmodic struggle for utterance ; and this, not 
from any natural infirmity, but from a strange singularity, in 

of gentle manners you have said bourne, and observed : ' This, Sir, is 

enough.'" Life, iv. 28. very noble.' Id. iii. 197. 

1 Life, ii. 453. See ib. ii. 454, n. 2, 3 After 'images' Miss Reynolds 
where Johnson said: 'Percy, Sir, had at first written : ' Nor indeed for 
was angry with me for laughing at The this same reason the sublime pleasure 
Sugar-Cane ; for he had a mind to I have received on hearing him read 
make a great thing of Grainger's some passages out of Homer.' 
rats.' 4 She means, I think, 'the rude 

2 He repeated these lines at Ash- dignity.' See ante, i. 478. 


by Miss Reynolds. 


reading on, in one breath, as if he had made a resolution not to 
respire till he had closed the sentence J . 

Some lines also he used to repeat in his best manner, written 
in memory of Bishop Boulter, which I believe are not much 
known : 

' Some write their wrongs in marble : he, more just, 
Stoop'd down serene and wrote them in the dust; 
Trod under foot, the sport of every wind, 
Swept from the earth, and blotted from his mind. 
There, secret in the grave, he bade them lie, 
And grieved they could not 'scape the Almighty's eye 2 .' 

A lady, who had learnt them from Dr. Johnson, thought she 
had made a mistake, or had forgotten some words, as she could 
not make out a reference to the particle there> and mention'd 

1 The following passage she has 
scored out : ' His sonorous voice, 
so judiciously emphatical, the apost- 
lick [sic] dignity of his aspect, his 
look, his manner, when repeating any 
sublime passages, either of poetry 
or of prose, gave a double force to 
the words he utter'd. But this indeed 
can only be said of him when reading 
grand or solemn subjects, for in read 
ing common prose his manner, or 
rather his tone of voice, was as dis 
gusting as vice versa it was enchant 
ing, proportionally so as the subject 
was common and familiar, which all his 
acquaintance must certainly remem 
ber, especially if they ever heard him 
read an [szc] newspaper, magazine, 
letters,' &c. 

For his reading poetry see ante, 
i. 347, 45 7 , and Life, v. 1 1 5. When he 
read a passage in The Spectator 
Boswell recorded : ' He read so well 
that everything acquired additional 
weight and grace from his utterance.' 
Life, ii. 212. 

2 From Boulter's Monument by 
Samuel Madden. See ante, ii. 212, 
for Johnson's castigation of that work. 
Swift had found 'one comfortable 
circumstance' in the appointment of 

Boulter to the primacy. He would 
be opposed to Wood's half-pence. 
* Money,' he wrote, 'the great divider 
of the world, has by a strange revo 
lution been the great uniter of a most 
divided people. Who would leave 
a hundred pounds a year in England 
(a country of freedom) to be paid 
a thousand in Ireland out of Wood's 
exchequer? The gentleman they 
have lately made primate would never 
quit his seat in an English House of 
Lords and his preferments at Oxford 
and Bristol, worth twelve hundred 
pounds a year, for four times the 
denomination here, but not half 
the value.' Swift's Works, xii. 
162. Hawkins writes : ' Dr. Mad 
den some years afterwards, being 
mindful to republish the poem, sub 
mitted it to Johnson's correction, and 
I found among his books a copy of 
the poem, with a note in a spare leaf 
thereof, purporting that the author 
had made him a visit, and for a very 
few remarks and alterations of it had 
presented him with ten guineas. 
Hawkins, p. 391. In the British 
Museum there are two copies of the 
poem, one printed in Dublin and 
one in London, both published the 


268 Recollections of Dr. Johnson 

it to him. No, he said, she had not, and, after seesawing a few 
minutes, express'd some surprise that the defect should have 
escaped his observation. 

Sometime after he told the Lady that these lines were inserted 
in the last edition of his Dictionary, under the word sport. 
But I had reason to believe that he mistrusted they were not 
a literal copy of the original J , as about this time I well remember 
he express d great solicitude, and made much enquiry among 
the Booksellers, to procure the printed poem ; whether he 
succeeded or not I never heard. 

v Of Goldsmith's Traveller he used to s'peak in terms of the 
highest commendation 2 . A lady 3 I remember, who had the 
pleasure of hearing Dr. Johnson read it from end to end, 
before it was publish'd just as it came out from the press, to 
testify her admiration of it, exclaim'd, ' I never more shall think 
Dr. Goldsmith ugly.' In having thought so, however, she was by 
no means singular ; an instance of which I am rather inclined 
to mention, because it involves a remarkable one of Dr. Johnson's 
ready wit ; for this lady, one evening, being in a large Party, 
was call'd upon after supper for her Toast, and seeming embar 
rass' d, she was desired to give the uglest \sic\ man she knew ; 
and she immediately named Dr. Goldsmith. On which a lady 
on the other side of the Table rose up and reach' d across to 
shake hands with her, expressing some desire of being better 
acquainted with her, it being the first time they had met ; on 
which Dr. Johnson said, ' Thus the Ancients, on the commence- 
J ment of their Friendships, used to sacrifice a Beast betwixt them.' 

same year, 1745. I have not dis- Dictionary Johnson gives it: 'Some 
covered any variations in the text, grave,' &c. He quoted it to Miss 
No second edition is known of in Reynolds : ' Some write.' 
Ireland. If Hawkins's statement is 2 * He said of Goldsmith's Travel- 
true, the poem, as corrected by ler, " There has not been so fine 
Johnson, has never been printed, a poem since Pope's time."' Life, 
In that case the corrected copy may ii. 5. See also ib. iii. 252. In the in 
still be in existence. It seems, how- terval had been published Thomson's 
ever, likely that Hawkins was mis- Castle of Indolence, his own Vanity 
taken. of Human Wishes, and Gray's Elegy. 
1 The first of these lines runs in 3 Mrs. Cholmondely. Miss REY- 
the printed poem (p. 73) : * Men NOLDS. For this lady see Life, iii. 
grave their wrongs,' &c. In the 318, and ante, i. 451. 


by Miss Reynolds. 269 

Sir Joshua, I have often thought, never exhibited i a more 
striking proof of his excellence in portrait-Painting, than in 
giving Dignity to Dr. Goldsmith's countenance, and yet pre 
serving a strong likeness 1 . For on the contrary his Aspect 
from head to foot impress'd every one at first sight with an 
idea of his being a low mechanic; particularly, I believe, a 
journeyman tailor 2 . A little concurring instance of this I well 
remember. One Day at Sir Joshua Reynolds's, in company with 
some gentlemen and Ladies, he was relating how he had been 
insulted by some gentlemen he had accidently met (I think 
at a Coffee- House). l The fellow,' he said 'took me for a tailor!' 
on which all the Party either laugh'd aloud or shew'd they 
suppress'd a laugh 3 . 

This little anecdote of Goldsmith is similar to that which 
Mr. Boswell relates of Johnson's having told him that a gentle- v 
woman had offer'd him a shilling for handing her across a street. 
But I thought it not a little surprising that he should add, 
' No person would have believed this, if Johnson had not said 
it himself 4 .' 

Dr. Johnson seem'd to have much more kindness for Gold- 

1 C. R. Leslie points out 'that the 3 In one of Miss Reynolds's manu- 
ideal drapery of this portrait and the scripts the story is introduced as 
view of the face almost exactly corre- follows : ' Dr. Goldsmith was indeed 
spond to the painter's treatment of very ugly, he had a vulgar mean 
his very early portrait of his own aspect, more the look of a journey- 
father.' Leslie and Taylor's Reynolds, man taylor from head to foot than 
i. 361. any man I ever saw, which created 

* I remember Miss Reynolds said a faugh throughout a pretty large 

of this portrait that it was a very company of gentlemen and ladies, on 

great likeness of the Doctor, but the his saying he had been insulted,' &c. 
most nattered picture she ever knew 4 Miss Reynolds misunderstood 

her brother to have painted.' North- Boswell, who wrote : ' This, if told 

cote's Reynolds, i. 326. by most people, would have been 

2 * His person was short, his coun- thought an invention ; when told by 
tenance coarse and vulgar, his deport- Johnson, it was believed by his friends 
ment that of a scholar awkwardly as much as if they had seen what 
affecting the easy gentleman.' Life, passed. 3 Life, ii. 434. Boswell was 
i. 413. 'His face,' says Dr. Percy, thinking of the improbability of such 
< was marked with strong lines of a thing happening to any one. The 
thinking. His first appearance was gentlewoman, it must be remembered, 
not captivating.' Goldsmith's Misc. < wa s somewhat in liquor.' 

Works, i. 117. 



Recollections of Dr. Johnson 

smith, than Goldsmith had for him x . He always appear'd to be 
overawed by Johnson 2 , particularly when in company with people 
of any consequence, visibly as if impress'd with fear doubtless of 
disgrace ; for I have been witness to many mortifications he has 
suffer'd in his company: one Day in particular, at Sir Joshua 
Reynolds's, a gentleman to whom he was talking his best stop'd 
\sic\ him, in the midst of his discourse, with ' Hush ! hush ! 
Dr. Johnson is going to say something V 

At another time, a gentleman who was sitting between Dr. John 
son and Dr. Goldsmith, and with whom he had been disputing, 
remarked to another, loud enough for Goldsmith to hear him, 
' That he had a fine time of it, between Ursa Major and Ursa 

Dr. Johnson seem'd to delight in drawing characters ; and 
when he [did so] con amore, delighted every one that heard him 5 . 
Indeed, I cannot say I ever heard him draw any con odiare \sic\, 
tho' he professed himself to be, or at least to love, a good 
hater 6 . 

1 See, howeyer, Life, ii. 66, where 
Goldsmith said : ' Johnson, to be 
sure, has a roughness in his manner ; 
but no man alive has a more tender 
heart. He has nothing of the bear 
but his skin ' ; and ii. 256, where, 
on Johnson asking his pardon, 'he 
answered placidly, "It must be much 
from you, Sir, that I take ill." ' 

2 ' Goldsmith could sometimes take 
adventurous liberties with him, and 
escape unpunished.' Ib. iv. 113. 

3 Ib. ii. 257. 

4 Boswell's father and Gray both 
gave Johnson the name of Ursa 
Major. Ib. v. 384. See ib. p. 97, 
and ante, i. 270, where Johnson and 
Goldsmith are distinguished by an 
insolent fellow as Doctor Major and 
Doctor Minor. 

5 'BOSWELL. " His power of reason 
ing is very strong, and he has a pecu 
liar art of drawing characters, which 
is as rare as good portrait painting." 

undoubtedly admirable in this ; but, 
in order to mark the characters which 
he draws, he overcharges them, and 
gives people more than they really 
have, whether of good or bad." ' Life, 
iii. 332. See also ii. 306 ; iii. 20. 

6 Ante, i. 204. Iii one of her 
MSS. Miss Reynolds continues: 
' But I have remarked that his dis 
like of any one seldom prompted 
him to say mucn more than that the 
fellow is a blockhead, a poor creature, 
or some such epithet.' 

Speaking of Churchill he said : 
* No, Sir, I called the fellow a block 
head at first, and I will call him a 
blockhead still.' Life, i. 419. ' Field 
ing being mentioned, Johnson ex 
claimed, " he was a blockhead." ' Ib. 
ii. 173. He told Hector's maid 
servant that she was ' a blockhead,' to 
Boswell's surprise, who ' never heard 
the word applied to a woman before.' 
Ib. ii. 456. Goldsmith called Sterne 
1 a blockhead.' Ib. ii. I73> 2 - 


by Miss Reynolds. 271 

It is much to be wish'd, in justice to Dr. Johnson's character, 
that the many jocular and ironical speeches which have been 
recorded of him had been mark'd as such, for the information 
of those who were unacquainted with him, when not so ap 
parently unlikely as the above is to be taken in a literal 
sense. If he could conceive a hatred for any person, it was 
only for the vicious. 

I shall never forget the exalted character he drew of his 
Friend Mr. Langton, nor with what energy, what fond delight 
he expatiated in his praise, giving him every perfection that 
could adorn humanity. Particularly, I remember, he dwelt on 
his mental acquirements, as a Scholar, a Philosopher, and a 
Divine, to which he added the finishing polish of the fine 
Gentleman x . A literary Lady, Miss H. More, who was present 
seem'd much struck with admiration, no ! t only perhaps of the 
excellence of Mr. Langton's character, but of Dr. Johnson's, 
which appear'd. I thought, with redoubled lustre, reflected from 
his luminous display of the virtues of his Friend. 

This brings to my remembrance the unparallell'd eulogium 
which the late Lord Bath 2 made on 3 (a lady he was 

1 'We talked of Mr. Langton. ' Through Clouds of Passion P .. .'s 
Johnson, with a warm vehemence of views are clear, 
affectionate regard, exclaimed, " The He foams a Patriot to subside a 
earth does not bear a worthier man Peer: 

than Bennet Langton." ' Life, iii. 161. Impatient sees his country bought 
See also ante, i. 182 n. and sold, 

2 William Pulteney ; ' as a paltry Arid damns the market where he 
fellow as could be,' Johnson called takes no gold.' 

him. Life, v. 339. ' The legacies he .Warton's Pope's Works, iv. 347. 

has left are triflihg,' wrote Chester- The eulogium of such a man was 

field; 'for, in truth, he cared for worthless. 

nobody; the words give and bequeath Mrs. Montagu, in her turn, puffed 

were too shocking to him to repeat, him. ' His Lordship's talents,' she 

and so he left all in one word to his wrote, ' like colours in the prism, 

brother.' Chesterfield's Letters, iv. formed of the brightest rays, are so 

210. Smollett said of his later well arranged and so happily mingled 

years that 'he incurred the con- that, though strong and vivid, they 

tempt or detestation of mankind, never pain the sight.' Letters of Mrs. 

and remained a solitary monument Montagu, iv. 346. 

of blasted ambition.' History of 3 ' I omit the initials of this Lady's 

England, iii. 79. name, in compliance to her delicacy 


272 Recollections of Dr. Johnson 

intimately acquainted with.) in speaking of her to Sir Joshua 
Reynolds. His lordship said, that ' he did not believe that 
there was a more perfect human Being created ; or that there 

ever would be created, than Mrs. .' I give the very words 

I heard from Sir Joshua's own mouth, and from whom also 
I heard that he repeated them to Mr. Burke ; and observing 
that Lord Bath could not have said more, and ' I do not think 
that he said too much,' was Mr. Burke's reply. I have also 
heard Dr. Johnson speak of this Lady in terms of high admi 
ration. ' Sir, that Lady exerts more mind in conversation than 
any Person I ever met with : Sir, she displays such powers 
of ratiocination, even radiations of intellectual excellence as 
are amazing V 

On the praises of Mrs. Thrale he used to dwell with a peculiar 
delight, a paternal fondness, expressive of conscious exultation in 
being so intimately acquainted with her 2 . One day, in speaking 
of her to Mr. Harris, Author of Hermes 3 , and expatiating on 
her various perfections, the solidity of her virtues, the brilliancy 
of her wit, and the strength of her understanding, &c. he 
quoted some lines, a stanza, I believe, but from what author I 
know not, with whidn he concluded his most eloquent eulogium, 
and of these I retain' d but the two last lines: 

' Virtues of such a generous kind, 
Good in the last recesses of the mind. 3 

Dr. Johnson had a most sincere and tender regard for Mrs. 
Thr-le, and no wonder ; she would with much apparent affection 

and in compliment to the discerning Horace Walpole wrote on May 27, 

Public. 1775 (Letters, vi. 217): 'The hus- 

This note was written many years band of Mrs. Montagu of Shake- 
before Mrs. Montagu's Decease, but speareshire is dead, and has left her 
left uncancelled out of Respect to an estate of seven thousand pounds 
her memory.' Miss REYNOLDS. a year in own power.' See ante, 

1 For Johnson's high praise of her i. 287, 338, 351. 

see Life, iv. 275. Of her pretentious 2 He wrote to her on her second 

Essay on Shakespeare he said : ' It marriage : ' I who have loved you, 

does her honour, but it would do esteemed you, reverenced you, and 

nobody else honour.' He could not served you, I who long thought you 

get through it. Ib. ii. 88 ; v. 245. the first of womankind,' c. Letters, 

Much of her reputation was no doubt ii. 406. 

due to the splendid house she kept. 3 Ante, ii. 70. 


by Miss Reynolds. 273 

overlook his foibles. One Day at her own Table, before a large 
company, he spoke so very roughly to her, that every person 
present was surprised how she could bear it so placidly ; and 
on the Ladies withdrawing, one of them express'd great astonish 
ment how Dr. Johnson could speak in such harsh terms to herl 
But to this she said no more than * Oh ! Dear good man ! ' 
This short reply appeared so strong a proof of her generous 
virtues that the Lady took the first opportunity of commu 
nicating it to him, repeating her own animadversion that had 
occasion'd it. He seem d much delighted' 1 with this intelligence, 
and sometime after, as he was lying back in his Chair, seeming 
to be half asleep, but more evidently musing on this pleasing 
incident, he repeated in a loud whisper, ' Oh ! Dear good man I ' 
This was a common habit of his, when anything very flattering, 
or very extraordinary ingross'd his thoughts, and I rather 
wonder that none of his Biographers have taken any notice 
of it, or of his praying in the same manner ; at least I do not 
know that they have 2 . 

Nor has any one, I believe, described his extraordinary 
gestures or anticks with his hands and feet, particularly when 
passing over the threshold of a Door, or rather before he would 
venture to pass through any doorway 3 . On entering Sir Joshua's 
house with poor Mrs. Williams, a blind lady who lived with him, 
he would quit her hand, or else whirl her about on the steps 
as he whirled and twisted about to perform his gesticulations ; 
and as soon as he had finish'd, he would give a sudden spring, 
and make such an extensive stride over the threshold, as if he 
was trying for a wager how far he could stride, Mrs. Williams 
standing groping about outside the door, unless the servant or 
the mistress of the House more commonly took hold of her 

1 Miss Reynolds had at first written, on Feb. 14, 1852: ' Macaulay owns 
instead of the words in italics : to the feeling Dr. Johnson had, of 
* Never shall I forget how delighted thinking oneself bound sometimes to 
he seemed.' touch a particular rail or post, and 

2 For his habit of talking to him- to tread always in the middle of the 
self see ante, i. 439; ii. 216. paving stone. I certainly have had 

3 For his touching the posts as he this very strongly.' Treveiyan's 
walked along see Life, i. 485 n. Macaulay, ed. 1877, ii. 199. 

Lord Carlisle recorded in his Diary 

VOL. II. T hand 

274 Recollections of Dr. Johnson 

hand to conduct her in, leaving Dr. Johnson to perform at the 
Parlour Door much the same exercise over again. 

But the strange positions in which he would place his feet 
(generally I think before he began his straddles, as if necessarily 
preparatory) are scarcely credible. Sometimes he would make 
the back part of his heels to touch, sometimes the extremity of 
his toes, as if endeavouring to form a triangle, or some geo 
metrical figure x , and as for his gestures with his hands, they 
were equally as strange ; sometimes he would hold them up with 
some of his fingers bent, as if he had been seized with the cramp, 
and sometimes at his Breast in motion like those of a jockey on 
full speed ; and often would he lift them up as high as he could 
stretch over his head, for some minutes. But the manoeuvre 
that used the most particularly to engage the attention of the 
company was his stretching out his arm with a full cup of tea in 
his hand, in every direction, often to the great annoyance of the 
person who sat next him, indeed to the imminent danger of their 
cloaths, perhaps of a Lady's Court dress ; sometimes he would 
twist himself round with his face close to the back of his chair, 
and finish his cup of tea, breathing very hard, as if making a 
laborious effort to accomplish it. 

What could have induced him to practise such extraordinary 
gestures who can divine ! his head, his hands and his feet often in 
motion at the same time. Many people have supposed that they 
were the natural effects of a nervous disorder, but had that been 
the case he could not have sat still when he chose, which he 
did 2 , and so still indeed when sitting for his picture, as often to 
have been complimented with being a pattern for sitters 3 , no 

1 In one of her manuscripts Miss duty; and what was Very extra- 
Reynolds wrote : ordinary, after he had quitted the 

* Sometimes he would with great place, particularly at the entrance of 

earnestness place his feet in a par- a door, he would return to the same 

ticular position, sometimes making spot, evidently, I thought, from a 

his heels to touch, sometimes his scruple of conscience, and perform it 

toes, as if he was endeavouring to all over again.' 

form a triangle, at least the two sides 2 Ante, ii. 222. 

of one, and after having finish'd he 3 Reynolds's portrait of Johnson, 

would beat his sides, or the skirts of which had belonged to Boswell, and 

his coat, repeatedly with his hands, afterwards to his son James, was 

as if for joy that he had done his sold on June 3, 1825, to Mr. Graves, 


by Miss Reynolds. 275 

slight proof of his complaisance or his good-nature. I remember 
a lady told him he sat like Patience on a monument smiling at 
grief 1 , which made him laugh heartily at the ridiculous coinci 
dence of the idea with his irksome situation ; for irksome it 
doubtless was to him, restraining himself as he did, even from 
his common and most habitual motion of seesawing, the more 
difficult for him to effect because the most habitual. 

It was not only at the entrance of a Door that he exhibited 
his gigantick straddles but often in the middle of a Room, as if 
trying to make the floor to shake ; and often in the street, even 
with company, who would walk on at a little distance till he had 
finished his ludicrous beat, for fear of being surrounded with a 
mob ; and then he would hasten to join them, with an air of 
great satisfaction, seeming totally unconscious of having com- 
mited \stc] any impropriety. 

I remember to have heard Sir Joshua Reynolds relate, that 
being with Dr. Johnson at Dorchester on their way to Devonshire, 
they went to see Corfe Castle. I believe that neither of them 
was sufficiently known to Mr. Banks to introduce themselves as 
visitors to him ; however that might be, he shewed them great 
civility, politely attending them through the apartments, &c., in 
the finest of which Dr. Johnson began to exhibit his Anticks, 
stretching out his legs alternately as far as he could possibly 
stretch ; at the same time pressing his foot on the floor as heavily 
as he could possibly press, as if endeavouring to smooth the carpet, 
or rather perhaps to rumple it, and every now and then collect 
ing all his force, apparently to effect a concussion of the floor. 
Mr. Banks, regarding him for some time with silent astonishment, 
at last said, ' Dr. Johnson, I believe the floor is very firm ;' which 
immediately made him desist, probably without making any 
reply 2 . It would have been difficult indeed to frame an apology 
for such ridiculous manoeuvres. 

It was amazing, so dim-sighted as Dr. Johnson was, how very 
observant he was of appearances in Dress, in behaviour, and 
even of the servants, how they waited at table, &c. ; the more 

a hop-merchant of Southwark, for Twelfth Night, Act ii. Sc. 4, 

,76. 13^. Gentleman's Magazine r , 1. 117. 

1825, i. 607. 2 Life, i. 145. 

T 2 particularly 

276 Recollections of Dr. Johnson 

particularly ', so seeming as he did to be stone-blind to his own 1 . 
One day as his man Frank was waiting at Sir Joshua's table, 
he observed with some emotion that he had the salver under his 
arm. Nor would the behaviour of the company on some occa 
sions escape his animadversions ; particularly for their perversion 
of the idea of refinement in the use of a water-glass, a very 
strange perversion indeed he thought it, as some people use it. 
He had also a great dislike to the use of a pocket-handkerchief 
at meals, when, if he wanted one, I have seen him rise from his 
Chair, and go at some distance with his back towards the 
company, performing the operation as silently as possible. 

Dr. Johnson's sight was so very defective that he could scarcely 
distinguish the Face of his most intimate acquaintance at a half 
yard's distance from him, and, in general, it was observable that 
his critical remarks on dress, &c. were the result of a very close 
inspection of the object 2 ; partly, perhaps, excited by curiosity, 
and partly from a desire of exacting admiration of his perspicacity, 
of which it was remarkable he was not a little ambitious. 

That Dr. Johnson possessed the essential principles of polite 
ness and of good taste, which I suppose are the same, at least 
concomitant, none who knew his virtues and his genius will, I 
imagine, be inclined to dispute 3 . But why they remained with 
him, like gold in the ore, unfashioned and unseen, except in his 
literary capacity, no person that I know of has made any enquiry, 
tho' in general it has been spoken of as an unaccountable incon 
sistency in his character. But a little reflection on the dis- 
< qualifying influence of blindness and deafness would suggest 
many apologies for Dr. Johnson's want of politeness. The 
particular instance I have just mentioned, of his inability to 
discriminate the features of any one's face, deserves perhaps more 

1 The words italicized have been fewest persons uneasy is the best 
scored through. bred in the company.' Swift's Works, 

2 Ante, \. 337. ed. 1803, xiv. 182. ' Courts,' he said, 
* Politeness he one day defined as ' are the worst of all schools to teach 

* fictitious benevolence.' Life, v. 82. good manners.' Ib. p. 189. 'A 
See ante, i. 169. Swift looked upon Court is the best school for manners.* 
good manners as * a sort of artificial Chesterfield's Letters to his Godson, 
good sense.' The Tatler, No. 20. p. 392. 
'Whoever/ he said, 'makes the 


by Miss Reynolds. 277 

any other to be taken into consideration, wanting, as he 
did, the aid of those intelligent signs, or insinuations, which the 
v countenance displays in social converse ; and which, in their 
slightest degree, influence and regulate the manners of the polite, 
t even of the common observer. 

And to his defective hearing, perhaps, his unaccommodating 
manners may be equally ascribed, which not only precluded him 
1 from the perception of the expressive tones of the voice of others, 
V but from hearing the boisterous sound of his own. 

Under such disadvantages, it was not much to be wonder'd at 
that Dr. Johnson should have commited \sic\ many blunders and 
absurdities, and excited surprise and resentment in company ; 
one in particular I remember to have heard related of him many 
years since. Being in company with Mr. Garrick and some 
others, who were unknown to Dr. Johnson, he was saying some 
thing tending to the disparagement of the character or of the 
works of a gentleman present I have forgot the particulars ; on 
which Mr. Garrick touched his foot under the table ; but he still 
went on, and Garrick, much alarmed, touched him a second time, 
and, I believe, the third ; at last Johnson exclaimed, ' David, 
David, is it you ? What makes you tread on my toes so ? ' 
This little anecdote, perhaps, indicates as much the want of 
prudence in Dr. Johnson as the want of sight. But had he at 
first seen Garrick's expressive countenance x , and (probably) the 
embarrassment of the rest of the company on the occasion, it 
doubtless would not have happened. 

Dr. Johnson was very ambitious of excelling in common 
acquirements, as well as the uncommon, and particularly in feats 
of activity 2 . One day, as he was walking in Gunisbury Park (or 
Paddock) 3 with some gentlemen and ladies, who were admiring 
the extraordinary size of some of the trees, one of the gentlemen 
said that, when he was a boy, he made nothing of climbing 

1 See ante, i. 457, where Murphy 2 See ante, i. 224, for his swimming ; 

writes of Johnson's slighting Gar- Life, i. 477, n. I, for his rolling down 

rick : ' The fact was, Johnson could a hill ; and ii. 299, for his courage 

not see the passions as they rose and and strength. 

chased one another in the varied 3 Perhaps the grounds of Gunners- 
features of that expressive face.' bury House. 


278 Recollections of Dr. Johnson 

(swarming x , I think, was the phrase) the largest there. ' Why, 
I can swarm it now,' replied Dr. Johnson, which excited a hearty 
laugh (he was then, I believe, between fifty and sixty) ; on 
which he ran to the tree, clung round the trunk, and ascended to 
the branches, and, I believe, would have gone in amongst them, 
had he not been very earnestly entreated to descend ; and down 
he came with a triumphant air, seeming to make nothing of it. 

At another time, at a gentleman's seat in Devonshire, as he 
and some company were sitting in a saloon, before which was 
a spacious lawn, it was remarked as a very proper place for 
running a Race. A young lady present boasted that she could 
outrun any person ; on which Dr. Johnson rose up and said, 
' Madam, you cannot outrun me ; ' and, going out on the Lawn, 
they started. The lady at first had the advantage ; but Dr. John 
son happening to have slippers on much too small for his feet, 
kick'd them off up into the air, and ran a great length without 
them, leaving the lady far behind him, and, having won the 
victory, he returned, leading Her by the hand, with looks of 
high exultation and delight 2 . 

It was at this place where the lady of the House before a large 
company at Dinner address'd herself to him with a very audible 
voice, ' Pray, Dr. Johnson, what made you say in your Dictionary 
that the Pastern of a Horse was the knee of an \sic\ Horse 3 ? J 
* Ignorance, madam, ignorance,' answered Johnson. And I was 
told that at another time at the same table, when the lady was 
pressing him to eat something 4 , he rose up with his knife in his 
hand, and loudly exclaim'd, ' I vow to God I cannot eat a bit 
more,' to the great terror, it was said, of all the company. I did 
not doubt of the gentleman's veracity who related this. But 
I was rather surprised at this expression from Johnson ; for never 

1 Swarming, in this sense, is not This blunder is the stranger as in 
in Johnson's Dictionary. Miss Rey- Bailey's Dictionary, which he had 
nolds in one of her manuscripts writes before him when writing his own, 
warming. pastern is correctly defined. 

2 From Paris he wrote : ' I ran 4 Bos well records in his Tour : 
a race in the rain this day, and beat ' I must take some merit from my 
Baretti.' Life, ii. 386. See Letters, contriving that he shall not be asked 
ii. 363, n. I, for his race with his friend twice to eat or drink anything (which 
Payne. always disgusts him).' Life, v. 264. 

3 Ante, i. 182 n. ; Life, i. 293, 378. See ante, ii. 184 n. 


by Miss Reynolds. 279 

did I know any person so cautious in mentioning that awful 
name on common occasions, and I have often heard him rebuke 
those who have unawares interjuctionaly [sic] made use of it z . 

It was about this time when a lady was traveling [sic] with 
him in a post-chaise near a village Churchyard 2 , in which she 
had seen a very stricking [sic] object of maternal affection, a little 
verdent [sic] flowery monument, raised by the Widow'd Mother 
over the grave of her only child, and had heard some melancholy 
circumstances concerning them, and as she was relating them to 
Dr. Johnson, she heard him make heavy sighs, indeed sobs, and 
turning round she saw his Dear Face bathed in tears, an incident 
which induced the Lady to describe them in a little poem intitled 
[sic] A melancholy 3 Tale, founded upon true circumstances 4 . 

1 Ante, ii. 18 n., 45 n f much affected. Dr. Johnson honour'd 

2 Wear in Deavonshire (sic)) near two more poems by the same Author 
Torrington. Miss REYNOLDS. with his corrections and inserted 

Johnson went to Devonshire in them in Mrs. Williams's collection of 

1762, and spent two days at Torring- poems, without knowing who was 

ton, with Reynolds's brothers-in- the Author till many years after. In 

law, Palmer and Johnson. Miss the same Book is a most beautiful 

Reynolds, who saw him there, was little composition of his own, a Fairy 

no doubt the lady. Taylor's Rey- tale, which I think shews the most 

nolds, ii. 215, 217 ; Life, i. 377. amiable view of Dr. Johnson's mind 

'Mr. Palmer's house is in its arrange- of any of his works.' See Life, ii. 26. 

ments little altered since Dr. John- He wrote to her on June 16, 

son dined in it in 1762.' Murray's 1780: * Do not, my love, burn your 

Handbook to Devon, ed. 1872, p. 260. papers. I have mended little but 

3 Melancholy is scored through in some bad rhymes. I thought them 
the original. very pretty, and was much moved in 

4 In one of her manuscripts, after reading them.' Letters, ii. 180. 
'bathed in tears,' Miss Reynolds In Lady Colomb's collection is a 
added : * A circumstance he had copy of her verses mended by John- 
probably long forgotten, when he son. The following extract shows the 
wrote at the end of the manuscript badness of her rhymes and the nature 
Poem with his correcting pen in red of his corrections. These last, in 
ink, I know not when I have been so italics, were written above the original. 

* As late disconsolate in pensive mood 
I sat revolving life's vicissitude 
Oft sigh'd to think how youth had pass'd away, 
And saw with sorrow Hope's diminish'd ray, 
View'd the dark scene with melancholy gaze 
In prospect view the dismal scene to come 
Should Fate to helpless age prolong my Days 
Of gloomy age should Fate my Days prolong, 


280 Recollections of Dr. Johnson 

Tho' it cannot be said that Dr. Johnson was ( in manners 
gentle,' yet it justly can, that he was ' in affections mild V bene 
volent and Compassionate, and to this singularity of character, 
inverting the common forms of civilized society, may I believe 
be ascribed in a great measure his extraordinary celebrity, 
sublimated, as one may say, with terror and with love. 

But indeed it is worthy of consideration whether these, or any 
of Dr. Johnson's singularities, would have excited such admira 
tion, had they not been associated with the idea of his moral 
and religious character ; hence, most undoubtedly, that universal 
homage of respect and veneration that has been paid to his 

Much may be said in excuse for Dr. Johnson's asperity of 
manners at times, being, I believe, the natural effects of those 
inherent melancholy infirmities, both mental and corporeal, to 
which he was subject. Very rarely I believe perhaps never 
was he intentionally asperous, unless provoked by something 
said or done that seem'd detrimental to the cause of religion or 
morality, even in the slightest degree 2 . Tho' indeed it must be 
confessed that in his zealous ardour to defend the former he too 
often trespassed on the borders of the latter. 

in the middle way 

Yet whilst I linger on the doubtful steep 
Where Life's high vigour verges to decay 
Where youth declining seems with age to meet 
Sure Nature acts, I cry'd, by wond'rous Laws 
Nature to her own Laws appears averse, 
She yet all hope -withdraws 

Still prompts resistance where there's no redress ; 

The springing grass, the circulating air. 
Chears every sense the common air I breathe 

to praise and prayer. 
Each common bounty prompts to prayer and praise.' 

Johnson seems to have soon grown are not much less than those in the 
weary of correcting; at all events whole poem of about 170 lines, 
the corrections in the first few lines 

1 ' Of manners gentle, of affections mild, 
In wit a man ; simplicity a child. 

Pope, Epitaph on Gay. 

* ' Obscenity and impiety (said in my company.' Life, iv. 295. See 
Johnson) have always been repressed ante, ii. 224. 


by Miss Reynolds. 281 

But what I believe chiefly conduced to fix that general stigma 
on his character for ill-breeding was his naturally loud and im 
perious tone of voice x , which apparently heightened his slightest 
dissenting opinion to a degree of harsh reproof, and, with his 
corresponding Aspect, had in general an intimidating influence 
on those who were not much acquainted with him, and often 
excited a degree of resentment, which his words in their common 
acceptation had no tendency to provoke. I have often on those 
occasions heard him express great surprise that what he had 
said could have given any offence 2 , but rarely, I believe, any 
sorrow 3 , being conscious of the rectitude of his intentions, which 
to preserve seem'd his chief concern, the chief object of his 
meditations, in which not unfrequently he seem'd absorbed even 
when in company. 

It was doubtless very natural for so good a man to keep 
a strict watch over his mind 4 ; but so very strict as Dr. Johnson 
apparently did may perhaps in some measure be attributed to 
his dread of its hereditary tendencies, which, I had reason to 
believe, he was very apprehensive bordered upon insanity 5 . 
Probably his studious attention to repel their prevalency, together 
with his experience of divine assistance, co-operating with his 
reasoning faculties, may have proved in the highest degree 
conducive to the exaltation of his piety, the pre-eminency of his 
wisdom ; and I think it is probable that all his natural defects 
which so peculiarly debard \sic\ him from unprofitable amuse 
ments were also conducive to the same end 6 . 

1 Ante, i. 451. 'no such weak-nerved people' as to 

2 * After musing for some time, he be hurt by being contradicted roughly 
said, " I wonder how I should have and harshly ; and iv. 295. 

any enemies ; for I do harm to no- 3 For his readiness to seek a re- 
body." ' Life, iv. 1 68. conciliation, see ante, ii. 223. 

When he was ill of the palsy, he 4 See ante, ii. 225, where Sir Joshua 

wrote to Mrs. Thrale : 'I have in Reynolds also mentions 'the strict 

this still scene of life great comfort watch Johnson kept over himself.' 
in reflecting that I have given very 5 Ante, i. 409. 
few reason to hate me. I hope 6 In another version of the Recol- 

scarcely any man has known me lections Miss Reynolds writes : 

closely but for his benefit, or cursorily * Being so peculiarly debarred from 

but to his innocent entertainment.' the enjoyment of those amusements 

Letters, ii. 314. See also Life, iv. which the eye and the ear 'afford, 

280, where he says that he knows doubtless he sought more assiduously 



Recollections of Dr. Johnson 

That Dr. Johnson's mind was preserved from insanity by 
his Devotional aspirations may surely be reasonably supposed. 
No man could have a firmer reliance on the efficacy of Prayer, 
and he would often with a solemn earnestness beg of his intimate 
friends to pray for him, and apparently on very slight occasions 
of corporeal indisposition. 

But that he should have desired one prayer from Dr. Dodd, 
who was such an atrocious offender, has I know been very much 
condemn'd, as highly injurious to his character, not considering 
perhaps that Dr. Johnson might have had sufficient reason to 
believe Dodd to be a sincere Penitent, which indeed was the 
case I ; besides his mind was so soften'd with pitty \sic\ and 

for those gratifications which scientific 
pursuits or philosophic meditation be 
stow.' Somewhat the same thought 
is expressed by Baron Grimm : 
* Je ne saurais m'empecher d'avancer, 
en passant, un paradoxe qui me"rite 
cependant d'etre approfondi ; c'est 
que dans Petat ou sont les choses, et 
1'esprit de^socie'te' etouffant continu- 
ellement en nous le genie, rien n'est 
si favorable a sa conservation que des 
sens peu parfaits. Ainsi, la vue ex- 
tremement basse vous empechera de 
remarquer mille petites manieres, 
mille minuties, et vous ne pourrez 
jamais avoir envie de les imiter, parce 
que vous ne les aurez jamais apergues. 
Ainsi, votre oreille peu fine vous em 
pechera de distinguer la difference 
des tons, et vous serez garanti de la 
manie de vous y exercer, parce que 
vous ne les aurez pas sentis. C'est 
ainsi que votre genie concentr^ en lui- 
meme au milieu de la societe" con- 
servera sa force et sa surete, et sera 
a 1'abri des dangers qui 1'entourent.' 
Correspondence de Grimm, ed. 1814, 
i. 187. 

1 ' Atrocious ' is an absurd term to 
apply to Dodd. Johnson in his last 
letter to him said : ' Be comforted ; 
your crime, morally or religiously 
considered, has no very deep dye of 

turpitude. It corrupted no man's 
principles ; it attacked no man's life. 
It involved only a temporary and 
reparable injury. ... In requital of 
those well-intended offices which you 
are pleased so emphatically to ac 
knowledge, let me beg that you make 
in your devotions one petition for my 
eternal welfare/ Life, iii. 147. 

Wesley, who visited Dodd in prison 
two days before his execution, said : 
'Such a prisoner I scarce ever saw 
before; much less such a condemned 
malefactor. I should think none 
could converse with him without ac 
knowledging that God is with him.' 
Wesley's Journal, ed. 1827, i. 378. 

Dodd had forged the signature of 
his late pupil, the fifth Earl of Chester 
field, to a bond for ,4,200, ' flattering 
himself with hopes that he might be 
able to repay its amount without 
being detected.' Life, iii. 140. 

Five years earlier he had published 
a sermon 'intended to have been 
preached in the Chapel-Royal at 
St. James's,' on 'the Frequency of 
Capital Punishments inconsistent 
with Justice, sound Policy and Re 
ligion.' Gentleman's Magazine, 1772, 
p. 182. 

In the Index to the first 56 volumes 

of the Gentleman 's Magazine under 


by Miss Reynolds. 283 

compassion for him, so impress'd with the awful idea of his 
situation, the last evening of his life, he probably did not 
think of his former transgressions, or thought, perhaps, that 
he ought not to remember them, when the offender was so 
soon to appear before the Supreme Judge of Heaven and 

Dr. Johnson gave me a copy of this letter, I believe the Day 
after Dodd's execution, and also of that which he wrote to 
Mr. Jenkinson (now the Earl of Liverpool) in Dodd's behalf, 
which, tho' they have already appear'd in Print, I am tempted 
to insert them, as they seem to have a slight connexion with 
some particulars which Dr. Johnson related to me at the same 
time, concerning Dodd's behaviour, which I believe are not 
much known. [For the letter to Jenkinson see Life, iii. 145, 
and to Dodd, ib. iii. 147.] 

Dr. Johnson wrote his speech at his Tryal [sic], at least the 
best part of it, and also that which he spoke at the Place of 
execution 1 , with the alteration but of one word. It was 
originally, ' My life has been) most dreadfully Hypocritical,' 
which Dodd objected to, and alter' d it for dreadfully erronious 2 

Dr. Johnson told me that on Dodd's reading the letter he 
sent to him the evening before his execution, he gave it into 
the hands of his wife, with a strong injunction never to part 

Executions is entered, ' See Domestic Lord Chesterfield never altogether 
Occurrences at the end of the Month' surmounted the unfavourable im- 
Wraxall met Dodd at a dinner at pression produced by the prominent 
the Messrs. Dilly in Nov. 1776. He share which he took in Dodd's prose- 
describes him as ' a plausible, agree- cution.' Wheatley's WraxaWs Me- 
able man, lively, entertaining, well- moirs, iv. 248. 

informed and communicative in con- T Dodd did not utter this speech, 

versation. . . . The King felt the but left it with the sheriff. Life, iii. 

strongest impulse to save him To 143. 

the firmness of the Lord Chief Justice 8 Dodd objecting to hypocritical 
(Mansfield) his execution was due, said: ' With this he could not charge 
for no sooner had he pronounced his himself.' Ib. He kept up his self- 
decided opinion that no mercy ought deception to the end. As Johnson 
to be extended, than the King, taking said of him : * A man who has been 
up the pen, signed the death warrant. canting all his life may cant to the 
. . . During a pelting shower of rain last.' Ib. iii. 270. 
he was turned off at Tyburn. . . . 


284 Recollections of Dr. Johnson 

with it ; that he had slept during the Night, and when he awoke 
in the morning, he did not immediately recollect what he was 
to suffer, and the moment that he did, he express'd the utmost 
horror and agony of mind outrageously vehement in his speech 
and in his looks till he went into the Chapel, and on his 
coming out of it his face express'd the most angelic peace and 

Dr. Johnson also told me that Dodd probably entertain'd 
some hopes of life even to the last moment 1 , having been flatter'd 
by some of his medical friends that there was a chance of 
suspending its total extinction till he was cut down, by placing 
the knot of the rope in a particular manner behind his ear. 
That then he was to be carried to a convenient Place, where 
they would use their utmost endeavours to recover him. All this 
was done. The hangman observed their injunctions in fixing 
the rope, and as the cart drew off, said in Dodd's ear, you 
must not move an inch 2 ! But he struggled. Being carried 
to the place appointed, his friends endeavoured to restore 
him by bathing his Breast with warm water, which Dr. John 
son said was not so likely to have that effect as cold water. 
That a man wander'd round the Prison some Days before his 
execution, with bank notes in his Pocket to the amount of 
a thousand pounds, to bribe the jailor to let him escape. 

I have been induced to mention all these particulars from 
a supposition (as I observed before) that they are but little 
known, having never heard any person speak of them (excepting 
that of the Bank notes) besides Dr. Johnson, who had his 
intelligence from the best authority, immediately after the 

1 'Dr. Johnson told us that Dodd's * when cut down and put in coffins 
city friends stood by him so, that came both to life; one though he 
a thousand pounds were ready to be had been blooded died about eleven 
given to the gaoler if he would let at night ; the other, continuing alive, 
him escape.' Life, iii. 1 66. See ib. was put in Bridewell, where great 
n. 3 for the convict who ' could not numbers of people resorted to see 
find that any one who had two him. Having been always defective 
hundred pounds was ever hanged.' in his intellects he was not to be 

2 In the Gentleman's Magazine for hanged, but to be taken care of in 
1736, p. 549, it is reported that two a Charity House.' 
house-breakers hanged at Bristol, See also ante, ii. 143 n. 


by Miss Reynolds. 285 

execution. He had no personal acquaintance with Dodd. I 
believe he never was in his company *. 

No man, I believe, was ever more desirous of doing good 
than Dr. Johnson, whether propel'd [sic] by Nature or by 
Reason ; by both I should have thought, had I not so often 
heard him say, That ' Man's chief merit consists in resisting 
the impulses of his nature.' Not what may be call'd his second 
Nature, evil habits, &c., but his Nature originally corrupted from 
the fall. * Nay, nay,' he would say (to a person who thought 
that Nature, Reason, and Virtue were indivisable \sic\ in the 
mind of man, as inherent characteristic principles) 'If man is 
by nature prompted to act virtuously and right, all the divine 
precepts of the Gospel, all its denunciations, all the laws enacted 
by man to restrain man from evil had been needless 2 .' 

It is certain that he was rather apt to doubt the sincerity 
of those who express'd much pity and compassion for the 
distresses of others 3 . How strange in Him, who 'had a tear 
for Pity And a Hand, open as Day for melting Charity 4 .' 

And it has been thought almost equally as strange that he 
should have had no taste for music 5 or for Painting ; but being 
so precluded as he was (I believe even from his infancy) from 

1 He had been once. Ltfe,\\\. 140. very ready to do you good. They 

2 'Whatever (said Johnson) is the pay you by feeling"' Ib. ii. 94. See 
cause of human corruption, men are also ib. ii. 469, 471 ; ante^ i. 205, 268. 
evidently and confessedly so corrupt, 4 2 Henry IV, Act. iv. Sc. 4, 1. 31. 
that all the laws of heaven and earth 5 In one of her manuscripts Miss 
are insufficient to restrain them from Reynolds writes: * Music apparently 
crimes.' Ib. iv. 123. had a power to disgust him, par- 

3 ' Talking of our feeling for the ticularly in Churches, which, I have 
distresses of others: JOHNSON. heard him say, almost tempted him 
" Why, Sir, there is much noise to go out of the Church. How very 
made about it, but it is greatly ex- strange in so good a man, so good 
aggerated. No, Sir, we have a certain a poet, and so deep a philosopher ! ' 
degree of feeling to prompt us to do ' Music (he said) excites in my 
good ; more than that Providence mind no ideas, and hinders me 
does not intend. It would be misery from contemplating my own.' Ante, 
to no purpose." ... BOSWELL. " I have ii. 103. In his seventy-fourth year, 
often blamed myself, Sir, for not feel- he said, on hearing the music of a 
ing for others as sensibly as many say funeral procession : ' This is the 
they do." JOHNSON. " Sir, don't be first time that I have ever been 
duped by them any more. You will affected by musical sounds.' Life, 
find these very feeling people are not iv. 22. 


286 Recollections of Dr. Johnson 

his defects of sight and of hearing, from receiving any grati 
fication from either the one or the other, he could have had 
no taste for them, no acquired Taste, at least for painting, his 
sight being much more defective than his hearing. A natural 
good Taste he certainly possess'd for all the fine Arts, and 
from an observation I remember to have heard him make, 
when expatiating in praise of Dr. Burney's history of music 
' That that work evidently proved that the Author of it under 
stood the Philosophy of music better than any man who had 
ever written on that subject,' it must be supposed that he had 
felt its power, and that he had a taste for music x . 

It is curious to observe the strong proofs that Dr. Burney 
gives throughout his Book almost, of the strict union of music 
with Painting, in using (when describing the excellence or the 
defects of a musical Composition) precisely the same words 
that a Painter must use in describing the excellence or the 
defects of a Picture. 

It is with much regret that I reflect on my stupid negligence 
to write down some of Dr. Johnson's Discourses, his observations, 
precepts, &c. A few short sentences only did I ever take any 
account of in writing, and these I lately found in some old 
memorandum pocket-Books of ancient date, about the time 
of the commencement of my acquaintance with him. Those 
few indeed, relating to the character of the French, were taken 
viva voce the Day after his arrival from France, Novr. 14, -75 2 , 
intending them, I find, for the subject of a letter to a Friend 
in the Country. 

Also from the same motive perhaps I wrote down a long 
narration which Mr. Baretti gave of some Paris inn adventures 

1 He heard the following passage other, with which they seem greatly 

read aloud from the preface to Dr. delighted.' '"Sir," he cried, after 

Burney's History of Music while it a little pause, " this assertion I be- 

was yet in manuscript : ' The love lieve may be right." And then, see- 

of lengthened tones and modulated sawing a minute or two on his 

sounds seems a passion implanted in chair, he forcibly added : " All 

human nature throughout the globe ; animated nature loves music except 

as we hear of no people, however myself ! " ' Dr. Burney's Memoirs^ 

wild and savage in other particulars, ii. 77. 
who have not music of some kind or 2 Life, ii. 401. 


by Miss Reynolds. 287 

&c. related probably the next Day, which is verbatim as he 
spoke it with an intermixture of French phrases. 

JOHNSON. 'The eyes of the mind are like the eyes of the 
Body. They can see but at such a distance. But because 
we cannot see beyond this point, is there nothing beyond it?' 


* No, Sir, it is not true ; in general every person has an equal 
capacity for reminiscence, and for one thing as well as another ; 
otherwise it would be like a person's complaining that he could 
hold silver in his hand, but could not hold copper x .' 

A GENTLEMAN. ' I think when a person laughs when alone 
he supposes himself for the moment with company.' 

JOHNSON. 'Yes, if it be true that laughter is a comparison 
of self-superiority, you must suppose some person with you 2 .' 

' No, Sir,' he once said, * people are not born with a particular 
genius for particular employments or studies, for it would be 
like saying that a man could see a great way east, but could not 
west 3 . It is good sense applied with diligence to what was 
at first a mere accident, and which, by great application, grew 
to be called, by the generality of mankind, a particular 
genius V 

1 ' The true art of memory is the apply to law as to tragick poetry." 
art of attention.' Idler, No. 74. BOSWELL. " Yet, Sir, you did apply 

2 ' Mr. Hobbes in his Discourse of to tragick poetry, not to law." JOHN- 
Human Nature concludes thus : SON. " Because, Sir, I had not money 
" The passion of laughter is nothing to study law. Sir, the man who has 
else but sudden glory arising from vigour, may walk to the east, just as 
some sudden conception of some well as to the west, if he happens to 
eminency in ourselves by comparison turn his head that way.'" Life, v. 35. 
with the infirmity of others, or with Mr. Bryce in his American Com- 
our own formerly ; for men laugh at monvuealth (2nd. ed. ii. 631) mis- 
the follies of themselves past, when quoting this passage says : ' Dr. 
they come suddenly to remembrance, Johnson thought that if he had taken 
except they bring with them any to politics he would have been as 
present dishonour.' The Spectator, distinguished therein as he was in 
No. 47. poetry.' 

3 'JOHNSON. "I could as easily 4 'The true genius is a mind of 



Recollections of Dr. Johnson 

Some person advanced, that a lively imagination disqualified 
the mind from fixing steadily upon objects which required 
serious and minute investigation. JOHNSON. ' It is true, Sir, 
a vivacious quick imagination does sometimes give a confused 
idea of things, and which do not fix deep, though, at the same 
time, he has a capacity to fix them in his memory, if he would 
endeavour at it. It being like a man that, when he is running, 
does not make observations on what he meets with, and con 
sequently Is not impressed by them ; but he has, nevertheless, 
the power of stopping and informing himself.' 

A gentleman was mentioning it as a remark of an acquaintance 
of his, that he never knew but one person that was completely 
wicked x . JOHNSON. ' Sir, I don't know what you mean by 
a person completely wicked/ GENTLEMAN. * Why, any one that 
has entirely got rid of all shame.' JOHNSON. ' How is he, then, 
completely wicked? He must get rid, too, of all conscience/ 
GENTLEMAN. ' I think conscience and shame the same thing.' 
JOHNSON. ' I am surprised to hear you say so ; they spring 
from two different sources, and are distinct perceptions : one 
respects this world, the other the next 2 .' A LADY. ' I think, 
however, that a person who has got rid of shame is in a fair 
way to get rid of conscience.' JOHNSON. 'Yes, 'tis a part of 

large general powers, accidentally 
determined to some particular direc 
tion.' Works,vi\.\. See ante, i. 314 ; 
ii. 264 ; and Life, ii. 436. 

' I know of no such thing as genius,' 
said our Hogarth to Gilbert Cooper 
one day; 'genius is nothing but 
labour and diligence.' Seward's 
Biographiana, p. 293. 

1 * I once knew (said Johnson) an 
old gentleman who was absolutely 
malignant. He really wished evil to 
others, and rejoiced at it.' Life, iii. 

2 Conscience, Johnson defines as 
* nothing more than a conviction felt 
by ourselves of something to be 
done, or something to be avoided.' 
Id. ii. 243. 

In his Dictionary he defines it as 
' the knowledge or faculty by which 
we judge of the goodness or wicked 
ness of ourselves.' Shame he defines 
as * the passion felt when reputation 
is supposed to be lost.' 

According to Northcote (Life of 
Reynolds, i. 230) the * gentleman ' 
was Reynolds, and the 'lady' Miss 
Reynolds. Sir Joshua said that ' he 
thought it was exactly the same ' 
being lost to all sense of shame, 
and being lost to all sense of con 
science. ' " What ! " said Johnson, 
" can you see no difference ? I am 
ashamed to hear you or anybody 
utter such nonsense ; when the one 
relates to men only ; the other to 


by Miss Reynolds. 289 

the way, I grant; but there are degrees at which men stop, 
some for the fear of men, some for the fear of God: shame 
arises from the fear of men, conscience from the fear of God *.' 

JOHNSON. * The French, Sir, are a very silly People, they 
have no common life. Nothing but the two ends, Beggary and 
Nobility 2 .' 

* Sir, they are made up in every thing of two extremes. They 
have no common sense, they have no common manners, no 
common learning, gross ignorance or les belles lettres V 

A LADY. ' Indeed even in their dress, their fripary [sic] finery 
and their beggarly coarse linnen 4 . They had I thought no 
politeness. Their civilities never indicated more good-will than 
the talk of a Parrot, indiscriminately using the same set of super 
lative phrases as a la merveille ! to every one alike. They really 
seem'd to have no expressions for sincerity and truth.' 

JOHNSON. 'They are much behind-hand, stupid, ignorant 
creatures. At Fountainblue [sic] I saw a Horse-race 5 , every 
thing was wrong, the heaviest weight was put upon the weakest 
Horse, and all the jockies wore the same colour coat.' 

1 * It was chiefly respecting the eenth century ' as ' one of the most 
opinion of the Gentleman that this powerful and pervasive intellectual 
dialogue appear'd memorable to the agencies that have ever existed the 
writer.' Miss REYNOLDS. greatest European force of the eight- 

2 ' Johnson observed. " The great eenth century.' Essays in Criticism, 
in France live very magnificently, ed. 1889, p. 54. 

but the rest very miserably. There 4 Mrs. Carter wrote from Calais 

is no happy middle state as in on June 4, 1763 : ' In the market 

England." ' Life, ii. 402. I saw such a mixture of rags and dirt 

3 In another version Miss Reynolds and finery as was entirely new to an 
writes 'or la metaphysique? The English spectator. The women at 
French, in this, were the opposite of the stalls, who looked as if they were 
the Scotch, ' whose learning is like by no means possessed of anything 
bread in a besieged town; every man like a shift, were decorated with long 
gets a little, but no man gets a full dangling earrings. ... I am sorry to 
meal.' Life, ii. 363. 'There is, say it, but it is fact, that the Lion 
perhaps, (said Johnson) more know- d' Argent at Calais is a much better 
ledge circulated in the French Ian- inn than any I saw at Dover.' Mrs. 
guage than in any other. There is Carter's Memoirs, i. 253. 

more original knowledge in English.' 5 He does not mention this in his 
16. v. 310. Matthew Arnold describes journal. Life t ii. 394. 
' the French literature of the eight- 


290 Recollections of Dr. Johnson 

GENTLEMAN. ' Had you any acquaintance in Paris ? ' 

' No, I did not stay long enough to make any x . I spoke only 
latin, and I could not have much conversation. There is no 
good in letting the French have a superiority over you every 
word you speak 2 . 

' Barreti \sic\ was sometimes displeased with us for not liking 
the French/ 

LADY. * Perhaps he had a kind of partiality for that country, 
because it was in the way to Italy, and perhaps their manners 
resembled the Italians.' 

JOHNSON. ' No. He was the showman, and we did not like 
his show ; that was all the reason.' 

From Mr. Barreti [sic] 3 . 

A lady observed that Dr. Johnson had said that Madam De 
Bo age [Du Bocage] was a poor creature. 

BARRETI. ' Yes, because he hated her before he saw her, for 
the lady Mrs. Strickland 4 , who went with us from Diepe 5 to 
Paris, being introduced to Madam D e (by a letter she carried) 
told her, that le grand Johnson, 1'homme le plus savant de toute 
1'Angleterre, was come to Paris, and Mr. Barretti. " Oh Barretti, 
Barretti, that I have heard so much of, and that I have wish'd so 
much to see ; bring me, bring me Baretti, je vous en prie," 
MRS. S D. * Et le grand Johnson aussi ? ' 

M. D. ' Je ne me soucie de qui que ce soit d'autre, pourvu 
que vous m'amenez Barretti. Je lis actuellement son livre, son 
voyage d'Espagne, et je suis variment [sic] impatiente d'en con- 
noitre 1'Auteur 6 . Mais je vous prie de faire mes compliments a 

1 'I was (he said) just beginning land, a high lady.' Life, iii. 118. 
to creep into acquaintance.' Life, ii. He mentions her in a letter to Mrs. 
401. Thrale. Letters, i. 401. 

2 ' It was a maxim with Johnson 5 Johnson crossed from Dover to 
that a man should not let himself Calais, but he visited Rouen on the 
down by speaking a language which way to Paris. I suppose he went 
he speaks imperfectly.' Ib. ii. 404. along the coast to Dieppe. 

3 In the next few lines Miss Rey- 6 Of this book Johnson wrote : 
nolds spells Baretti's name in three ' I know not whether the world has 
different ways. ever seen such Travels before.' Let- 

4 Johnson described her as 'a ters, i. 165. 
Roman Catholick lady in Cumber- 


by Miss Reynolds. 291 

tous, et a Madame Thrale en particulier. Je serai tres aise de 
voir toute cette bonne compagnie.' 

' Mrs. S d on her return (continued Barretti) said something 
of Madame D J s impatience to see me in Johnson's hearing ; 
and finding her quite indifferent about him he took such an 
antipathy to her, that he went with reluctancy to visit her, and 
never could be prevailed upon to go a second time ' ; which 
perhaps was not to be wondered at, for the Ladies and Barretti 
on going one Day to drink tea with her, she happen'd to produce 
an old chaina [sic] teapot, which Mrs. S d, who made the tea, 
could not make pour. ' Soufflez, soufflez, madame, dedans/ cry'd 
Madame D e, * il se rectifie imme'diatement ; essayez, je vous 
en prie.' The servant then thinking that Mrs. S d did not 
understand what his lady said, took up the teapot to le rectifier, 
and Mrs. S d had quite a struggle with him to get it from 
him ; he was going to blow into the spout ! Madame D e all 
this while had not the least idea of its being any impropriety, 
and wonder'd at Mrs. S d's stupidity. She came over to the 
table, caught up the tea-pot, and blew into the spout with all 
her might, then finding it pour, she held it up in tryumph [sic], 
and repeatedly exclaim'd, ' voila, voila, j'ai regagne 1'honneur de 
ma Theiere.' She had no sugar-tongs, and said something that 
shew'd she expected Mrs. S d to use her fingers, to sweeten the 
cups. ' Madame je n'oserois/ ' Oh mon Dieu, quel grand quan 
quan les Anglois font de peu de chose * ! ' 

This however could not have prejudiced Dr. Johnson against 
the lady, for, as I apprehended Barretti, it happen'd a few days 
before they left Paris ! 

On telling Mr. Barretti of the proof that Johnson gave of the 
stupidity of the French, in the management of their Horse- 

1 Miss Reynolds in one of her threw it into my coffee. I was going 

versions writes: 'Madame, Je ne to put it aside; but hearing it was 

ose pas.' 'Oh mon Dieu, quell grand made on purpose for me I e'en tasted 

ca les Anglois faire de peu de chose.' Tom's fingers. The lady would needs 

In another version her French is make tea d PAngloise. The spout of 

corrected in a different hand. the tea-pot did not pour freely ; she 

' JOHNSON. " At Madame 's, bad the footman blow into it.' Life, 

a literary lady of rank, the footman ii. 403. 
took the sugar in his fingers and 

U 2 Races, 

292 Recollections of Dr. Johnson 

Races, that all the Jockies wore the same colour coat dye he 
said ' that was like Johnson's remarks, he could not see.' But it 
was observed that he could enquire. ' Yes, it was by the answers 
he received that he was misled/ for he ask'd, * what did the first 
jockey wear ? ' answer, * Green/ * What the second ? ' * Green. 1 
* What the third ? ' * Green ; ' which was true ; but then the 
greens were all different greens, and very easily distinguished. 
Johnson was perpetually making mistakes; so, on going to 
Fountainblue \sic\ when we were about three-fourths of the way, 
he exclaimed with amazement that now we were between Paris 
and the King of France's Court, and yet we had not mett \sic\ 
one carriage coming from thense \sic\ t or seen one going thither ! 
on which all the company in the coach burst out laughing, and 
immediately cry*d out, look, look, there is a coach gon [sic] by, 
there is a chariot, there is a post-chaise. I dare say we saw 
a hundred carriages at least, that were going to, or coming from, 

It was mention'd with surprise to Mr. Barretti that Dr. Johnson 
should not have seen any Play but that one he saw at Fountain- 
blue x . ' Oh yes, he was at two or three/ ( Indeed, he said he 
had not, and we know that he never tells an untruth.' B. * Yes, 
I very well remember that he straddled over the Benches to 
come near some person, a la Comedie Frangaise.' 

Baretti on his return from France seem'd full of animosity 
against Johnson, merely, I believe, from a false conceit of his 
own importance. 

[Here follows a narrative which has nothing to do with 

I believe there never subsisted any cordial Friendship between 
Dr. Johnson and Barretti after their journey to Paris 2 ; and what 
perhaps intirely extinguished it, was a most mendacious falsehood 
that he told Johnson of his having beaten Omai 3 at Chess, both 
times that he play'd with him at Sir Joshua Reynolds's, for the 
very reverse was true ! 

1 Johnson recorded in his Journal: 2 Johnson wrote sarcastically of 
'At night we went to a comedy. I Baretti a few months before this 
neither saw nor heard.' Life, ii. journey. Letters, i. 350. 
394. 3 Life, iii. 8. 

4 Do 

by Miss Reynolds. 293 

1 Do you think,' said he to Johnson, ' that I should be conquered 
at Chess by a savage ? ' * I know you were/ says Johnson. 
Barretti insisting upon the contrary, Johnson rose from his seat 
in a most violent rage/ ' I'll hear no more.' On which Barretti 
in a fright flew out of his House, and perhaps never entered it 
after. I believe he was never invited. This I was told by 
Mrs. Williams, who was present at their disputation. 

Poor Mrs. Williams ! Dr. Johnson seemed much to lament 
her loss ' as his companion for thirty years V and often express'd 
a very high opinion of her mental accomplishments. She was, 
he said, ' a very great woman.' I rather expected he would have 
honour'd her memory with a few elegiack lines, as he did her 
fellow Inmate, Dr. Levit \sic\ 2 , a copy of which Dr. Johnson 
gave to me soon after he wrote them. 

[Here followed Johnson's Letter to Sir Joseph Banks given 
in the Life, ii. 144.] 

And I have also a desire to say something about the latin 
epitaph that Dr. Johnson composed for Parnel, because Mr. 
Boswell has said too little 3 , no blame to him, I imagine, for 
I suppose Dr. Johnson did not inform him that he produced it 
extempory one evening at Sir Joshua Reynolds's, in compliance 
with Dr. Goldsmith's request 4 . ' Pray, Sir, be so good as to 
write an epitaph for Dr. Parnell/ and almost immediately after, 
to the surprise of all present, he recited with solemn accent : 

Hie requiescit Thomas Parnel, 

Qui Sacerdos pariter et Poeta 

Utrasque partes ita implevit, 

Ut neque sacerdoti suavitas Poetae, 

Nee poetae sacerdotis sanctitas deesset. 

1 He wrote to Miss Reynolds on Goldsmith in this work, lamenting 
Oct. I, 1783 : 'To my other afflic- the obscurity of the lives of men who 
tions is added solitude. Mrs.Williams, become famous after death, finely 
a companion of thirty years, is gone.' says : ' When a poet's fame is in- 
Letters, ii. 337. creased by time, it is then too late to 

2 Life, iv. 137. investigate the peculiarities of his 

3 Ib. iv. 54 ; v. 404. disposition ; the dews of the morn- 

4 Goldsmith wrote a Life of Parnell^ ing are past, and we vainly try to 
of which Johnson said: 'It is poor; continue the chace by the meridian 
not that it is poorly written, but that splendour.' Misc. Works, ed. 1801, 
he had poor materials.' Ib. ii. 166. iv. 3. 


294 Recollections of Dr. Johnson 

Every person that understood latin seem'd much pleased with 
it. But Dr. Goldsmith, for what reason I know not, paid him 
no compliment, and only said on hearing it, ' Ay, but this is in 
latin z .' { 'Tis in latin, to be sure,' reply'd Dr. Johnson. I do 
not remember what follow'd, but I could not forget the striking 
proof that Dr. Johnson gave of his abilities on this occasion, nor 
of Dr. Goldsmith's unwillingness to be pleased with it, apparently 
confused, and not knowing what to say. I did not hear him 
express any desire to have the epitaph in english, either before 
or after Dr. Johnson composed it. However he soon after 
wrote one himself in english, and it is, I believe, inscribed on 
Dr. Parnel's Tomb 2 . 

That Mr. Boswell has sullied his very entertaining and most 
extraordinary work with his many acrimonious animadversions 
^ on the works, the talents, the conduct, &c. of the most respectable 
characters, must, I imagine, be allow'd by all who have read it, 
especially if they have remark'd that the evidence which he 
produces to substantiate his allegations rather prove their futility. 

That many are repetitions of the words of another admits of 
no extenuation of his fault, but on the contrary, I think, doubly 
augment \sic\ its turpitude. 

[I here omit an unimportant passage.] 

He has antidated [sic] the commencement of Sir Joshua 
Reynolds's acquaintance with Dr. Johnson by at least five years 3 , 
and has mistaken the place where they first met, with some other 
immaterial errors, respecting him and place, &c. The other erro 
neous date was March 28 [1776] which engaged my attention in 
consequence of Mr. Boswell's assertion that Mrs. and Miss Thrale 
set out for Bath in that Day, as it reminded me of a letter from 
Doctor Johnson that mention'd that incident ; it is dated April 

1 For Johnson's contempt of English Goldsmith, makes no mention of this 
epitaphs for learned men, see Life, epitaph. 

iii. 84; v. 154, 366. 3 Boswell places it in 1752. Life, 

2 'Parnell was buried in Trinity 1.245, n - I - Reynolds wrote, ante, 
Church in Chester, without any ii. 219, that he had had 'thirty years' 
monument to mark the place of his intimacy with Johnson,' which places 
interment.' Goldsmith's Misc. Works, it not later than 1754. 

iv. 3. Mr. Forster, in his Life of 

by Miss Reynolds. 295 

13, -76, in which he says we are going to Bath this morning. 
Such mistakes indeed are of little, or no importance z ; but it is 
owing to a contrary supposition that I mention the following. 
I read the passage in Mr. Boswell's book relating to the dial 
plate of Dr. Johnson's watch with much surprise, and indeed 
concern. I was surprised to find that the inscription on it was 
in Greek, having heard from Dr. Johnson's own mouth that it 
was in Latin. I will not say that I read the words, it was so 
long since ; but I believe I did, having his watch in my hand, 
when he repeated them to me, which he was shewing me in 
consequence of its being a new and valuable acquisition from 
Mr. Mudge 2 . They were, Nox enim veniet, and I was indeed 
concerned, for the honour of Dr. Johnson's character, which I 
thought not a little degraded by Mr. Boswell's assertion, that he 
had the plate taken out for fear it should be deemed ostentatious 3 . 
How Mr. Boswell could have supposed it to be consistent with 
Dr. Johnson's principles to have divested himself of a holy 
memento from the fear of what any man might think is very 
strange. Nor can I indeed conceive how it could be consistent 
with any man's principles, who at first had chosen such an in 
scription, to have been at all solicitous to discard it, as no one 
could inspect it without the concurrence of the owner, and less 
frequently did Dr. Johnson afford any person an opportunity of 
inspecting even the outside case of his watch than perhaps most 
men, being remarkably remiss in noticing the hour, even the 

1 The mistake is Miss Reynolds's, Miss Reynolds applies the word 
and shows the carelessness with artist to a watchmaker. Her brother 
which she read Boswell, who states she would have called a painter. 
that on March 28 Mrs. and Miss For Thomas Mudge, the watch- 
Thrale and Baretti went to Bath, maker, see ante, ii. 117. 

and that Johnson soon after April 12 3 Boswell quotes Johnson's own 

went there with Mr. and Mrs. Thrale. words. * He sometime afterwards 

Life, iii. 6, 44. Mrs. Thrale had in laid aside this dial-plate ; and when 

the interval returned to London, for I asked him the reason, he said, 

she was at her own house on the loth. " It might do very well upon a clock 

J&' P- 33' which a man keeps in his closet ; 

2 ' An artist of great reputation, not but to have it upon his watch which 
only in England but in foreign he carries about with him, and which 
countries. The King of Spain had is often looked at by others, might 
a watch of his making set in the be censured as ostentatious." ' Life, 
head of his cane.' Miss REYNOLDS, ii. 57. See also ante, i. 123 n. 


296 Recollections of Dr. Johnson 

midnight hour ! Besides its being in Greek heightened the im 
probability of Dr. Johnson's being so afraid of incurring the 
censure Mr. Boswell mentions ; and I am happy to be able to 
contradict it ; for soon after Dr. Johpson had shewn me the 
latin one, he told me that he had it taken out because he found 
that enim was not in the original 1 , which is only The Night 
cometh, a motive perfectly consonant with his character. I do 
not remember to have heard him say that the substitute was in 
the original Greek ; hence my surprise on reading Mr. Boswell's 
assertion that it was. The identical watch to which he alluded 
was some years since in the possession of Mr. Steevens, but since 
his Decease I have never heard what was become of it 2 . 

[The following Recollections by Miss Reynolds, which are 
not in the manuscript copies that I saw, are given by Mr. Croker. 
Croker's Boswell, 8vo. pp. 832-5.] 

It will doubtless appear highly paradoxical to the generality 
of the world to say, that few men, in his ordinary disposition or 
common frame of mind, could be more inoffensive than Dr. 
Johnson ; yet surely those who knew his uniform benevolence, 
and its actuating principles steady virtue, and true holiness 
will readily agree with me, that peace and good -will towards 
man were the natural emanations of his heart 3 . 

1 'Venit nox quando nemo potest whether there are in existence two 
operari.' St. John ix. 4. watches said to be Johnson's. 

2 It was the dial-plate and not 3 'Johnson's roughness was only 
the watch which was in the posses- external, and did not proceed from 
sion of Mr. Steevens. Life, ii. 57. the heart.' Life, ii. 362. ' He has 
For the watch see ante, ii. 81, and nothing of the bear but his skin,' 
ii. 117 ., where it is stated by said Goldsmith. Ib. ii. 66. 'How 
Croker that the watch, which on very false is the notion which has 
Johnson's death came into the pos- gone round the world of the rough, 
session of his black servant, was and passionate, and harsh manners 
sold by him to Canon Pailye. It is of this great and good man. . . . That 
also asserted by R. Polwhele that he was occasionally remarkable for 

B , a Christ Church man, bought violence of temper may be granted ; 

it of the same servant. Unless there but let us ascertain the degree, and 

is some mistake in one of these not let it be supposed that he was in 

accounts, the Canon or the Christ a perpetual rage, and never without 

Church man, it seems, was tricked. a club in his hand, to knock down 

It would be interesting to know every one who approached him. On 


by Miss Reynolds. 297 

He always carried a religious treatise in his pocket on a 
Sunday I , and he used to encourage me to relate to him the 
particular parts of Scripture I did not understand, and to write 
them down as they occurred to me in reading the Bible. 

One Sunday morning, as I was walking with him in Twicken 
ham meadows, he began his antics both with his feet and hands, 
with the latter as if he was holding the reins of a horse like a 
jockey on full speed. But to describe the strange positions of 
his feet is a difficult task ; sometimes he would make the back 
part of his heels to touch, sometimes his toes, as if he was aiming 
at making the form of a triangle, at least the two sides of one 2 . 
Though indeed, whether these were his gestures on this particular 
occasion in Twickenham meadows I do not recollect, it is so 
long since ; but I well remember that they were so extraordinary 
that men, women, and children gathered round him, laughing. 
At last we sat down on some logs of wood by the river side, and 
they nearly dispersed ;. when he pulled out of his pocket Grotius 
De Veritate Religionis 3 , over which he seesawed at such a violent 
rate as to excite the curiosity of some people at a distance to 
come and see what was the matter with him. 

As we were returning from the meadows that day, I remember 
we met Sir John Hawkins r whom Dr. Johnson seemed much 

the contrary, the truth is, that by placent than he used to be. I was 

much the greatest part of his time struck with the mild radiance of this 

he was civil, obliging, nay, polite in setting sun.' Ante, ii. 201. 

the true sense of the word.' Life, x Perhaps he did not always read 

iii. 80. See also ante, i. 189. in it. Boswell records how in the 

He grew milder as he grew older. Sunday he spent in Edinburgh : 

Miss Burney wrote in May : ' He took down Ogden's Sermons on 

' Dr. Johnson was charming, both in Prayer, and retired with them to his 

spirits and humour. I really think room. He did not stay long, but 

he grows gayer and gayer daily, and soon joined us in the drawing-room.' 

more ductile and pleasant. 3 Mme. Life, v. 29. The following Sunday 

D'Arblay's Diary, ii. 23. Beattie, at Aberdeen, ' he borrowed a volume 

a week or two later, wrote : * John- of Massilloris Discourses on the 

son grows in grace as he grows in Psalms-, but I found he read little 

years. He has contracted a gentle- in it. Ogden too he sometimes took 

ness of manner which pleases every up, and glanced at ; but threw it 

body.' Beattie's Life, 1824, p. 289. down again.' Ib. v. 88. 

Hannah More wrote in 1783 : ' Dr. 2 Ante, ii. 274, n. i. 

Johnson is more mild and com- 3 Life, i. 398, 454; ante, i. 157. 


298 Recollections of Dr. Johnson 

rejoiced to see ; and no wonder, for I have often heard him speak 
of Sir John in terms expressive of great esteem and much 
cordiality of friendship x . On his asking Dr. Johnson when he 
had seen Dr. Hawkesworth, he roared out with great vehemency, 
'Hawkesworth is grown a coxcomb, and I have done with him 2 / 

We drank tea that afternoon at Sir John Hawkins's, and on 
our return I was surprised to hear Dr. Johnson's minute criticism 
on Lady Hawkins's dress, with every part of which almost he 
found fault 3 . 

Few people, I have heard him say, understood the art of 
carving better than himself ; but that it would be highly inde 
corous in him to attempt it in company, being so near-sighted, 
that it required a suspension of his breath during the operation 4 . 

It must be owned, indeed, that it was to be regretted that he 
did not practise a little of that delicacy in eating, for he appeared 
to want breath more at that time than usual. It is certain that 
he did not appear to the best advantage at the hour of repast 5 ; 
but of this he was perfectly unconscious, owing probably to his 
being totally ignorant of the characteristic expressions of the 
human countenance 6 , and therefore he could have no conception 
that his own expressed when most pleased any thing displeasing 
to others ; for though, when particularly directing his attention 
towards any object to spy out defects or perfections, he generally 
succeeded better than most men 7 ; partly, perhaps, from a desire 
to excite admiration of his perspicacity, of which he was not a 
little ambitious yet I have heard him say, and I have often 

1 Ante, ii. 81. Hawkins lived at Sept. 24, 1764, quotes the opinion of 
Twickenham. 'my poor little inoffensive friend 

2 Malone says that 'Johnson was Hawkesworth.' Hume MSS., Royal 
fond of him, but latterly owned that Society of Edinburgh. For what Bos- 
Hawkesworth who had set out a well calls his ' provoking effrontery/ 
modest, humble man was one of see Life, i. 253. 

the many whom success in the 3 Ante, i. 337. 

world had spoiled. He was latterly, - 4 According to Baretti Miss- 

as Sir Joshua Reynolds told me, an Williams, though blind, often carved, 

affected insincere man, and a great Life, ii. 99, n. 2. Boswell, who dined 

coxcomb in his dress. He had no with Johnson more than once, does 

literature whatever.' Prior's Malone, not mention who carved, 

p. 441. 5 Ante, ii. 105. 6 Ante, i. 457. 

F. Greville, writing to Hume on 7 Life, i. 41. 


by Miss Reynolds. 


perceived, that he could not distinguish any man's face half a 
yard distant from him, not even his most intimate acquaintance. 

And yet Dr. Johnson's character, singular as it certainly was 
from the contrast of his mental endowments with the roughness 
of his mariners, was, I believe, perfectly natural and consistent 
throughout ; and to those who were intimately acquainted with 
him must, I imagine, have appeared so. For being totally devoid 
of all deceit, free from every tinge of affectation or ostentation x , 
and unwarped by any vice, his singularities, those strong lights 
and shades that so peculiarly distinguish his character, may the 
more easily be traced to their primary and natural causes. 

The luminous parts of his character, his soft affections, and I 
should suppose his strong intellectual powers, at least the dignified 
charm or radiancy of them, must be allowed to owe their origin 
to his strict, his rigid principles of religion and virtue ; and the 
shadowy parts of his character, his rough, unaccommodating 
manners, were in general to be ascribed to those corporeal defects 
that I have already observed naturally tended to darken his 
perceptions of what may be called propriety and impropriety in 
general conversation ; and of course in the ceremonious or 
^artificial sphere of society gave his deportment so contrasting an 
to the apparent softness and general uniformity of culti 
vate manners. 

perhaps the joint influence of these two primeval causes, 
his intellectual excellence and his corporeal defects, mutually 
contributed to give his manners a greater degree of harshness 

in they would have had if only under the influence of one of 
lem ; the imperfect perceptions of the one not unfrequently 
Producing misconceptions in the other. 

Besides these, many other equally natural causes concurred to 
constitute the singularity of Dr. Johnson's character. Doubtless, 

1 ' He had an abhorrence of affec 
tation. Talking of old Mr. Langton, 
of whom he said, " Sir, you will 
seldom see such a gentleman, such 
are his stores of literature, such his 
knowledge in divinity, and such his 
exemplary life ; " he added, " and 

Sir, he has no grimace, no gesticula 
tion, no bursts of admiration on 
trivial occasions ; he never embraces 
you with an overacted cordiality." ' 
Life, iv. 27. See ib. i. 470 for 
Johnson's disapproval of ' studied 


300 Recollections by Miss Reynolds. 

_____ , 


the progress of his education had a double tendency to brighten 
and to obscure it. But I must observe, that this obscurity 
\ (implying only his awkward uncouth appearance, his ignorance 
\ of the rules of politeness, &c.) would have gradually disappeared 
at a more advanced period, at least could have had no manner 
of influence to the prejudice of Dr. Johnson's character, had it 
not been associated with those corporeal defects above mentioned. 
But, unhappily, his untaught, uncivilized manner seemed to render 
every little indecorum or impropriety that he committed doubly 
indecorous and improper. 


OF music Dr. Johnson used to say that it was the only sensual 
pleasure without vice 2 . European Magazine, 1795, P- 82. 

Dr. Johnson was extremely averse to the present foppish 
mode of educating children, so as to make them what foolish 
mothers call ' elegant young men.' He said to some lady who 
asked him what she should teach her son in early life, ' Madam, 
to read, to write, to count ; grammar, writing, and arithmetic ; 
three things which, if not taught in very early life, are seldom 
or ever taught to any purpose, and without the knowledge of 
which no superstructure of learning or of knowledge can be 
built 3 .' Ib. p. 1 86. 

The Doctor used to say that he once knew a man of so 
vagabond a disposition, that he even wished, for the sake of 
change of place, to go to the West Indies. He set off on this 
expedition, and the Doctor saw him in town four months 

1 These anecdotes are collected second definitions, as ' affecting the 
from the European Magazine, senses' or 'pleasing to the senses,' 
Seward's Anecdotes of Distinguished and not in the more limited sense 
Persons, and his Biographiana. which it now bears. For his feelings 

Boswell owns his obligation to him towards music, see ante, ii. 103. 

' for several communications.' Life, 3 ' I hate by-roads in education, 

iii. 123. For an account of him, see Education is as well known, and has 

ib. n. i ; and Letters, i. 346, n. i. long been as well known as ever it 

2 Johnson here uses sensual in the can be.' Life, ii. 407. 

sense that he gives it in his first and For arithmetic, see ante, i. 281, 295. 


302 Anecdotes by William Seward, F.R.S. 

afterwards. Upon asking him, why he had not put his plan 
in execution, he replied, ' I have been returned these ten days 
from the West Indies. The sight of slavery was so horrid to 
me. that I could only stay two days in one of the islands V 
This man, who had been once a man of literature, and a private 
tutor to some young men of consequence, became so extremely 
torpid and careless in point of further information, that the 
Doctor, when he called upon him one day, and asked him to lend 
him a book, was told by him, that he had not one in the house. 

Dr. Johnson, on learning the death of a celebrated West India 
Planter 2 , said, 'He is gone, I believe, to a climate in which he 
will not find the country much warmer and the men much 
blacker than that he has left.' Ib. p. 186. 

Johnson was much pleased with a French expression made 
use of by a lady towards a person whose head was confused 
with a multitude of knowledge, at which he had not arrived 
in a regular and principled way, // a bdti sans fchafaud, 
'he has built without his scaffold.' 

He was once told that a friend of his, who had long lived 
in London, was about to quit it, to retire into the country, as 
being tired of London. ' Say rather, Sir,' said Johnson, ' that 
he is tired of life 3 .' European Magazine > 1797, p. 418. 

Dr. Johnson said that he should be much pleased to write 
the Life of that man [Bacon], from whose writings alone a 
Dictionary of the English Language might be compiled 4 . 

1 Johnson described Jamaica as a Jamaica gentleman, then lately 

'a place of great wealth and dread- dead : " He will not, whither he is 

ful wickedness, a den of tyrants now gone, find much difference, I 

and a dungeon of slaves.' Life, ii. believe, either in the climate or the 

478. company." ' 

' Great merit,' wrote Franklin, ' is 3 ' No, Sir, when a man is tired of 

assumed for the gentlemen of the London, he is tired of life ; for there 

West-Indies, on the score of their is in London all that life can afford.' 

residing and spending their money in Life, iii. 178. Charles Lamb, writing 

England.' Franklin's Works, ed. to Wordsworth, speaks of 'the im- 

1887, iii. 105. possibility of being dull in Fleet 

* Perhaps Alderman Beckford. Street.' Lamb's Letters, i. 165. 

Life,\\\. 76, 201. See ante, i. 211, 4 For my note on this, see Life, iii. 

where he is reported to have said * of 194, n. 2. See also ante, ii. 229. 


Anecdotes by William Seward, F.R.S. 303 

He was one day in company with a very talkative lady, of 
whom he appeared to take very little notice. * Why, Doctor, 
I believe you prefer the company of men to that of the ladies.' 
1 Madam,' replied he, ' I am very fond of the company of ladies ; 
I like their beauty, I like their delicacy, I like their vivacity, 
and I like their silence' European Magazine ', 1798, p. 92. 

Johnson the day before he died was visited by Dr. Burney. 
After having taken an affectionate leave of his old friend he 
said, taking his hands between his, ' My good friend, do all the 
good you can V 

' You are my model, Sir/ said he to Dr. Burney, soon after 
he published his Tour to the Hebrides. ' I had that clever dog 
Burney's Musical Tour 2 in my eye,' said he to many friends 
on the same occasion. /#., p. 241. 

A friend of Johnson, an indolent man, succeeding to a moderate 
sum of money on the death of his father, asked the Doctor 
how he should lay it out. ' Half on mortgage,' said he, ' and 
half in the funds : you have then,' continued he, ' the two best 
securities for it that your country can afford. Take care, how 
ever, of the character of the person to whom you lend it on 
mortgage; see that he is a man of exactness and regularity, 
and lives within his income. The money in the funds you are 
sure of at every emergency ; it is always at hand, and may be 
resorted to on every occasion V /#., p. 302. 

1 For a somewhat different version cheap as stinking mackerel/ Johnson 
of this anecdote, see Life, iv. 410, writes : * In former times the pros- 
n. I. perity of the nation was known by 

2 The Present State of Music in the value of land, as now by the price 
France and Italy, I vol. 1771, and of stocks. Before Henry the Seventh 
The Present State of Music in made it safe to serve the king regnant, 
Germany, &>c. } 2 vols. 1773. Life, it was the practice at every revolution 
iv. 1 86. for the conqueror to confiscate the 

3 Dr. Johnson said : ' It is better estates of those that opposed, and 
to have five/^r cent, out of land than perhaps of those who did not assist 
out of money, because it is more se- him. Those, therefore, that foresaw 
cure ; but the readiness of transfer and a change of Government, and thought 
promptness of interest make many their estates in danger, were desirous 
people rather choose the funds.' Life, to sell them in haste for something 
iv. 164. In a note on Falstaff's that might be carried away.' John- 
words, 'You may buy land now as son's Shakespeare, ed. 1765, iv. 165. 


304 Anecdotes by William Seward, F.R.S. 

Dr. Johnson used to tell his friends that from time imme 
morial a convict of the parish of St. Giles in the Fields had 
the privilege of the right hand in the cart. /#., p. 303. 

Dr. Johnson one day observing a friend of his packing up 
the two volumes of Observations on Man, written by this great 
and good man (Hartley) to take into the country, said, ' Sir, 
you do right to take Dr. Hartley with you/ Dr. Priestley 
said of him, * that he had learned more from Hartley, than from 
any book he had ever read, except the Bible V 

Johnson used to say of the Due de Rochefoucault that he was 
one of the few gentlemen writers of whom authors by profession 
had occasion to be afraid 2 . European Magazine, 1798, p. 

Dr. Johnson said that Busby used to declare that his rod 
was his sieve, and that whoever could not pass through that 
was no boy for him 3 . He early discovered the genius of Dr. 
South, lurking perhaps under idleness and obstinacy. * I see 

1 Hartley is not, I think, men 
tioned in any of Johnson's writings or 
in Boswell. Priestley, in his Auto 
biography, ed. 1810, p. 12, says of 
Hartley's Observations on Man : 
' It produced the greatest, and in my 
opinion, the most favourable effect 
on my general turn of thinking 
through life.' 

If Johnson had heard Seward sup 
porting Hartley's fame by Priestley's 
praise, he would have knit his brows, 
and in a stern manner enquired, 
" Why do we hear so much of Dr. 
Priestley ? " ' Life, iv. 238. 

* It is known to most literary people 
that Coleridge was, in early life, so 
passionate an admirer of the Hart- 
leian philosophy, that "Hartley" 
was the sole baptismal name which 
he gave to his eldest child ; and in 
an early poem entitled Religious 
Musings he has characterized Hart 
ley as 

" Him of mortal kind 
Wisest, him first who marked the 

ideal tribes 
Up the fine fibres through the 

sentient brain 
Pass in fine surges." 
But at present (August, 1807) all 
this was a forgotten thing. Coleridge 
was so profoundly ashamed of the 
shallow Unitarianism of Hartley, and 
so disgusted to think that he could 
at any time have countenanced that 
creed, that he would scarcely allow 
to Hartley the reverence which is 
undoubtedly his due.' De Quincey's 
Works, ed. 1863, ii. 56. 

2 Speaking of the Earl of Carlisle's 
Poems, Johnson said 'that when a 
man of rank appeared in that char 
acter [as a candidate for literary 
fame,] he deserved to have his merit 
handsomely allowed.' Life, iv. 114. 

3 'As we stood before Busby's 
tomb the Knight [Sir Roger de Cover- 

Anecdotes by William Seward, F.R.S. 305 

(said he) great talents in that sulky boy, and I shall endeavour 
to bring them out.' Seward's Anecdotes of Distinguished 
Persons^ ii. 50. 

Dr. Johnson always supposed that Mr. Richardson had Mr. 
Nelson 1 in his thoughts, when he delineated the character of 
Sir Charles Grandison. Ib. ii. 91. 

A friend of Dr. Johnson asked him one day, whose sermons 
were the best in the English language. 'Why, Sir, bating 
a little heresy those of Dr. Samuel Clarke 2 .' This great and 
excellent man had indeed good reason for thus highly praising 
them, as he told a relation of Dr. Clarke they made him a 
Christian 3 . 

In his opinion Clarke was the most complete literary char 
acter that England ever produced. Ib. ii. 313. 

The late Lord North told Dr. Johnson 4 that Sir Robert 
Walpole had once got possession of some treasonable letters 
of Mr. Shippen, and that he sent for him, shewed him the 
letters, and burnt them before his face. Soon afterwards it 

ley] uttered himself again after the almost rushed through, as if it were 

same manner, " Dr. Busby, a great almost only one verse. Well, when 

man ! he whipped my grandfather ; Handel wrote was just the time when 

a very great man ! I should have Queen Caroline, wife of George II, 

gone to him myself, if I had not been was supposed to be countenancing 

a blockhead ; a very great man ! " ' the people who took the wrong side 

The Spectator, No. 329. in the great Trinitarian controversy 

1 Robert Nelson, the author of then raging. It would be curious, if 

Festivals and Fasts. Ante, \. 221 n. that influenced a composition which, 

3 For Clarke's heresy see ante, \. of course, would be talked about in 

38, and for Queen Caroline's wish the court of the hero of Dettingen, 

to make him a bishop see Life, iii. 1743.' Life and Letters of Dean 

248 n. Dean Church, writing of Church, p. 392. 

Handel's Te Deum, as performed in 3 For the effect of Law' s Serious 

St. Paul's at the Queen's Jubilee, Call to a Holy Life on his mind, see 

says : * I noticed one thing which Life, i. 68. 

perhaps is an over-refinement. The 4 ' I had once some business to do 

least striking bit is the rendering of for government, and I went to Lord 

the verses concerning the Three Per- North's. Precaution was taken that 

sons " The Father Thine honour- it should not be known. It was dark 

able, true, and only Son Also the before I went ; yet a few days after 

Holy Ghost, the Comforter." It is I was told, "Well, you have been 

not dwelt on, but run through with Lord North."' Ib. v. 248. 

VOL. II. X was 

306 Anecdotes by William Seward, F.R.S. 

was necessary in a new parliament for Mr. Shippen to take 
the oaths of allegiance to George II, when Sir Robert placed 
himself over against him and smiled whilst he was sworn by 
the Clerk. Mr. Shippen then came up to him and said ' Indeed, 
Robin, this is hardly fair V Ib. ii. 335. 

In a conversation with Dr. Johnson on the subject of the 
Due de Montmorenci he said : ' Had I been Richelieu, I could 
not have found it in my heart to have suffered the first Christian 
baron to die by the hands of the executioner 2 .' Ib. iii. 234. 

Dr. Johnson used to think Voltaire's Life of Charles XII of 
Sweden one of the finest pieces of historical writing in any 
language 3 . Ib. iv. 161. 

Dr. Johnson said that he had been told by an acquaintance 
of Sir Isaac Newton, that in early life he started as a clamorous 
infidel ; but that, as he became more informed on the subject, 
he was converted to Christianity, and became one of its most 
zealous defenders 4 . Supplement to Sewarcfs Anecdotes, p. 98. 

Dr. Johnson used to advise his friends to be upon their guard 
against romantic virtue, as being founded upon no settled prin 
ciple. c A plank,' added he, ' that is tilted up at one end must 
of course fall down on the other.' 

1 ' I love to pour out all myself as 2 ' Son supplice fut juste, si celui 

plain de Marillac ne 1'avait pas dte : mais 

As downright Shippen, or as old la mort d'un homme de si grande 

Montaigne/ esperance, qui avait gagne* des ba- 

Pope, Imitations of Horace, Bk. tallies, et que son extreme valeur, sa 

ii. Sat. i, 1. 51. ge'nerosite, ses graces avaient rendu 

1 Shippen and Sir Robert Walpole cher a toute la France, rendit le 

(writes Coxe) had always a personal Cardinal plus odieux que n'avait fait 

regard for each other. He was fre- la mort de Marillac.' CEuvres de 

quently heard to say, "Robin and Voltaire, ed. 1819, xvi. 101. 

I are two honest men. He is for 3 * I admire no historians much 

King George and I for King James, except Herodotus, Thucydides, and 

but those men with long cravats Tacitus. . . . There is merit, no doubt, 

(meaning Sandys, Sir John Rushout, in Hume, Robertson, Voltaire, and 

Gybbon, and others) only desire Gibbon. Yet it is not the thing.' 

places, either under King George or Macaulay's Life, ed. 1877, ii. 270. 

King James ! " Coxe's Memoirs of 4 Life, i. 455. 
Sir Robert Walpole, ed. 1798. i. 672. 


Anecdotes by William Seward, F.R.S. 307 

In a conversation with the Due de Chaulnes x , the duke said 
to Johnson, ' that the morality of the different religions existing 
in the world was nearly the same.' ' But you must acknowledge, 
my lord,' said the Doctor, 'that the Christian religion alone 
puts it upon its proper basis the fear and love of God.' Ib. 
p. 149. 

Of Mrs. Montagu's elegant 'Essay upon Shakspeare,' he always 
said, ' that it was ad hominem, that it was conclusive against 
Voltaire ; and that she had done what she intended to do 2 .' 

Johnson's Preface to his edition of Shakspeare was styled 
by Dr. Adam Smith, the most manly piece of criticism that was 
ever published in any country 3 . Ib. p. 151. 

Dr. Johnson used to apply to Lord Chatham Corneille's 
celebrated lines to the Cardinal de Richelieu 4 . During the 
American War he used to exclaim, ' Make Lord Chatham 
Dictator for six months, and we shall hear no more of these 
Rebels 5 .' Ib. p. 152. 

1 Letters, ii. 362, n. 5. 

2 ' JOHNSON. "Sir, I will venture 
to say, there is not one sentence of 
true criticism in her book." GARRICK. 
" But, Sir, surely it shews how much 
Voltaire has mistaken Shakspeare, 
which nobody else has done." JOHN 
SON. " Sir, nobody else has thought 
it worth while. And what merit is 
there in that? You may as well 
praise a schoolmaster for whipping 
a boy who has construed ill." ' Life, 
ii. 88. 

3 Adam Smith reviewed the Dic 
tionary in the Edinburgh Review for 
1755, No. i. Life, i. 298, n. 2. See 
post under ADAM SMITH ON DR. 

4 'Qu'on parle mal ou bien du 

fameux Cardinal, 
Ma prose ni mes vers n'en 

diront jamais rien : 
II m'a fait trop de bien pour 

en dire du mal, 


II m'a fait trop de mal pour 
en dire du bien.' 

Johnson wrote of Chatham: 'For 
whom it will be happy if the nation 
shall at last dismiss him to nameless 
obscurity, with that equipoise of 
blame and praise which Corneille 
allows to Richelieu.' Works, vi. 197. 

For his violent attack on Chatham, 
see Life, ii. 314. In 1778 he said 
to Bos well : ' Lord Chatham was 
a Dictator ; he possessed the power 
of putting the State in motion ; now 
there is no power, all order is relaxed.' 
Ib. iii. 356. 

5 ' You talk, my Lords, of conquer 
ing America ; of your numerous 
friends there to annihilate the Con 
gress, and your powerful forces to 
disperse her army. I might as 
well talk of driving them before me 
with this crutch.' Lord Chatham, 
quoted in Seward's Anecdotes^ iii. 
2 Dr. 

308 Anecdotes by William Seward, F.R.S. 

Dr. Johnson was observed by a musical friend of his to be 
extremely inattentive at a concert, whilst a celebrated solo 
player was running up the divisions and subdivisions of notes 
upon his violin. His friend, to induce him to take greater 
notice of what was going on, told him how extremely difficult 
it was. ( Difficult do you call it, Sir?' replied the Doctor; 
* I wish it were impossible V Ib. p. 267. 

Dr. Johnson told Voltaire's antagonist Freron, that vir erat 
acerrimi ingenii ac paucarum literarum 2 ; and Bishop War- 
burton says of him, ' that he writes indifferently well upon every 
thing 3 .' Ib. p. 274. 

To some one who was complaining of his want of memory 
Johnson said, ' Pray, Sir, do you ever forget what money you 
are worth, or who gave you the last kick on your shins that 
you had ? Now, if you would pay the same attention to what you 
read as you do to your temporal concerns and your bodily 
feelings, you would impress it as deeply in your memory 4 .' 
Seward's Biographiana, p. 58. 

Dr. Johnson said one day, in talking of the difference between 
English and Scotch education, ' that if from the first he did not 
come out a scholar, he was fit for nothing at all ; whereas (added 
he) in the last a boy is always taught something that may be of 
use to him ; and he who is not able to read a page of Tully will 

1 Life, ii. 409 ; ante, ii. 103. Spiritual Europe : let him live, love 
' La musique aujourd'hui n'est plus him, as he was and could not but 

que Tart de exe'cuter des choses be ! Pitiable it is, no doubt, that 

difficiles, et ce qui n'est que difficile a Samuel Johnson . . . should see 

ne plait point a la longue.' Candide, nothing in the great Frederick but 

ch. 25. " Voltaire's lackey ; " in Voltaire him- 

2 Life, ii. 406. Johnson recorded self but a man acerrimi ingenii, pau- 
at Paris on Oct. 14, 1775 : 'In the .carwn literarum! Carlyle's Misc. 
afternoon I visited Mr. Freron the Works, n.d. iii. 102. 

journalist. He spoke Latin very 3 In a letter to Kurd, Warburton 

scantily, but seemed to understand says, * Voltaire has fine parts and is 

me.' Ib. p. 392. a real genius.' Letters from a late 

'Johnson's culture is wholly Eng- Eminent Prelate, ist ed. p. 79. 

lish ; that not of a Thinker but of 4 ' The true art of memory is the 

a " Scholar": his interests are wholly art of attention.' The Idler, No. 74. 

English ; he sees and knows nothing See Life, iii. 191 ; v. 68. 
but England ; he is the John Bull of 


Anecdotes by William Seward, F.R.S. 309 

be able to become a surveyor, or to lay out a garden V Ib. 
p. 197. 

Sir Robert Walpole's general principle as a minister was 
' Quieta non mover e y to let well alone.' This made Dr. Johnson 
say of him, ' He was the best minister this country ever had ; 
as if we would have let him (he speaks of his own violent 
faction) he would have kept the country in perpetual peace 2 .' 
Ib. p. 554- 

' What is written without effort (said Dr. Johnson) is in general 
read without pleasure/ Ib. p. 260. 

Dr. Johnson was of opinion that the happiest, as well as the 
most virtuous, persons were to be found amongst those who 
united with a business or profession a love of literature 3 . 

He was constantly earnest with his friends, when they had 
thoughts of marriage, to look out for a religious wife 4 . 
' A principle of honour or fear of the world,' added he, ' will 
many times keep a man in decent order, but when a woman 
loses her religion, she, in general, loses the only tie that will 
restrain her actions. Plautus, in his Amphytrio 5 , makes Alcmena 
say beautifully to her husband 

'Non ego illam mihi dotem duco esse, quae dos dicitur, 
Sed pudicitiam, et pudorem, et sedatum cupidinem, 
Deum metum, parentum amorem, et cognatum concordiam ; 
Tibi morigera, atque Ut munifica sim bonis, prosim probis.' 

Ib. p. 599. 

1 Life, ii. 363 ; ante, ii. 48. 26, 1771 : ' One always prefers the 

2 For Johnson's attacks on Wai- wisdom of one's own age. My 
pole, see Life,\. 129, 141. 'Walpole's father's maxim, Quieta non movere, 
name,' says Smollett describing the was very well in those ignorant days, 
last years of his ministry, 'was seldom The science of government is better 
or never mentioned with decency, understood now so, to be sure, 
except by his own dependents.' Hist, whatever is, is right' Walpole's 
of England, iii. 46. In 1773 'John- Letters, v. 292. 

son called Mr. Pitt a meteor; Sir 3 Ante, i. 238 n.; ii. 13. 
Robert Walpole a fixed star.' Life, 4 Life, ii. 76. 
v. 339. 5 Act ii. sc. 2, 1. 209. 

Horace Walpole wrote on March 


3io Anecdotes by William Seward, F.R.S. 

He was one day asked by Mr. Cator 1 what the Opposition 
meant by their flaming speeches and violent pamphlets against 
Lord North's administration. ' They mean, Sir, rebellion/ said 
he. ' they mean in spite to destroy that country which they are 
not permitted to govern 2 / Ib. p. 600. 

Mrs. Cotterell 3 having one day asked him to introduce her to 
a celebrated writer ; ' Dearest Madam/ replied he, ' you had 
better let it alone ; the best part of every author is in general 
to be found in his book 4 / This idea he has dilated with his 
usual perspicuity and illustrated by one of the most appropriate 
similes in the English language : A transition from an author's 
book to his conversation is too often like an entrance into a large 
city after a distant prospect : remotely, we see nothing but spires 
of temples, and turrets of palaces, and imagine it the residence 
of splendour, grandeur, and magnificence ; but when we have 
passed the gates we find it perplexed with narrow passages, 
disgraced with despicable cottages, embarrassed with obstruc 
tions, and clouded with smoke 5 . Ib. p. 600. 

The learned and excellent Charles Cole 6 having once men 
tioned to him a book lately published on the Sacrament 7 , he 
replied, ' Sir, I look upon the Sacrament as the palladium of 
religion ; I hope that no profane hands will venture to touch 
it.' Ib. p. 60 1. 

On being asked in his last illness what physician he had sent 

1 Ante, i. 349 #. ; Life, iv. 313. Paris, says: 'Ceux qui pensent qu'il 

2 Johnson said to Boswell in suffit de lire les livres qui s'y font se 
1781 : ' Between ourselves, Sir, I do trompent ; on apprend beaucoup plus 
not like to give opposition the satis- dans la conversation des auteurs que 
faction of knowing how much I dis- dans leurs livres.' CEuvres, ed. 1782, 
approve of the ministry.' Life, iv. 100. ix. 238. 

For his contempt of it, see also ib. iii. 5 Rambler, No. 14. 

46, 356; iv. 8 1, 139; ante, i. 104. 6 Perhaps Charles Nalson Cole, 

3 Letters, ii. 393. who edited Soame Jenyns's Works, 

4 ' Admiration begins where ac- 1790. 

quaintance ceases.' Rambler, No. 77. 7 Perhaps the book mentioned in 

Rousseau, in Emile, speaking of Johnson's Letters, ii. 204. 


Anecdotes by William Seward, F.R.S. 311 

for, 'Dr. Heberden,' replied he, 'ultimum Romanorum' 1 ^ the 
last of the learned physicians.' Ib. p. 601. 

[The three following anecdotes attributed to Seward in 
Croker's Boswell, ix. 255, I have failed to trace.] 

Another admonition of his was, never to go out without some 
little book or other in their pocket. 'Much time/ added he 
* is lost by waiting, by travelling, &c., and this may be prevented, 
by making use of every possible opportunity for improvement 2 .' 

' The knowledge of various languages,' said he, * may be kept 
up by occasionally using bibles and prayer-books in them at 

Sir Joshua Reynolds in his picture of the Infant Hercules, 
painted for the Empress of Russia, in the person of Tiresias the 
soothsayer, gave an adumbration of Johnson's manner 3 . 

1 'Thou last of all the Romans, after looking earnestly in his face, 

fare thee well.' said : " I must give more colour to 

Julius Caesar, Act v. sc. 3, 1. 99. my Infant Hercules." ' Leslie and 

See Letters, ii. 95 n. ; ante, ii. 1 54 n. Taylor's Reynolds, ii. 483. 

2 On his way to Harwich ' he had ' Reynolds himself, on taking leave 
in his pocket Pomponius Mela de of it, previous to its departure for 
Situ Orbis, which he read occa- Russia, said : " there were ten pic- 
sionally.' Life, i. 465. tures under it, some better, some 

3 ' The subject he had chosen in worse." ' Northcote's Reynolds, ii. 
allusion to the power of Russia, then 219. 

in its infancy 1 have heard Mr. ' Mr. Walpole suggested to Sir 

Rogers say that Reynolds, who was Joshua [for his picture for the Em- 
always thinking of his art, was one press] the scene Deptford, and the 
day walking near Beaconsfield, when time when the Czar Peter was re- 
he met a fine rosy little peasant ceiving a ship-carpenter's dress, in 
boy a son of Burke's bailiff. Rey- exchange for his own, to work in the 
nolds patted him on the head, and, dock.' H. More's Memoirs, ii. 21. 


[PUBLISHED in the European Magazine^ January, 1785, p. 51, 
under the title of Johnsoniana. The editor says by way of 
introduction : ' Of the various anecdotes of Dr. Johnson which 
have been given to the Public Papers we select the present 
collection, as we have every reason to rely on their authenticity/ 

'These anecdotes were contributed by Steevens himself, and 
if they are not altogether fictitious, their language is coloured by 
their brutality/ W. P. COURTNEY, Diet. Nat. Biog. xi. 371. 
One or two of them which are told by Boswell I have omitted. 
Life, iv. 324. For Steevens's malignancy and untruthfulness see 
ib. iii. 281 ; iv. 178, n. i.] 

I HAVE been told, Dr. Johnson, says a friend, that your 
translation of Pope's Messiah was made either as a common 
exercise, or as an imposition for some negligence you had been 
guilty of at College x . ' No, Sir,' replied the Doctor. ' At Pembroke 
the former were always in prose 2 , and to the latter 3 I would not 
have submitted. I wrote it rather to shew the tutors what 
I could do, than what I was willing should be done. It answered 

1 Hawkins (p. 13) states that it 2 For one of Johnson's exercises in 

was imposed on him on account of prose see ib. i. 60, n. 7. 

his * absenting himself from early 3 ' Johnson never used the phrases 

prayers.' According to Boswell he the former and the latter' Ib. iv. 

was asked by his tutor to do it as 190. 
a Christmas exercise. Life, i. 61. 


Anecdotes by George Steevens. 

my purpose ; for it convinced those who were well enough 
inclined to punish me, that I could wield a scholar's weapon as 
often as I was menaced with arbitrary inflictions. Before the 
frequency of personal satire had weakened its effect, the petty 
Tyrants of Colleges 1 stood in awe of a pointed remark, or 
a vindictive epigram. But since every man in his turn has 
been wounded, no man is ashamed of a scar/ 

1 1 wrote (said Johnson) the first seventy lines in the Vanity of 
Human Wishes in the course of one morning, in that small house 
beyond the church [at Hampstead] 2 . The whole number was 

1 At the end of the Pembroke 
buttery-book of Johnson's time I 
found scribbled, probably by a ser 
vitor : ' Nothing is so imperious as 
a Fellow of a college upon his own 
dunghill, nothing so contemptible 

Bentham entered Queen's College, 
Oxford, at the age of twelve. ' His 
tutor was a morose and gloomy per 
sonage, sour and repulsive a sort of 
Protestant monk. His only anxiety 
about his pupil was to prevent his 
having any amusement.' Bentham's 
Works, x. 37. 

John James, who was at Queen's 
College in 1778, writing of those on 
the Foundation says : * The more 
I see of it, the more do I felicitate 
myself that I did not enter upon it. 
I could not bear to be so brow 
beaten.' 'There is,' he says, 'such 
an uncharitableness in the manners 
of a college, such an unsociable 
reserve, and disregard of each other's 
welfare, that I never can think of 
them without growing out of humour 
with all about me.' Letters of Rad- 
cliffe and James, pp. 56, 85. 

Vicesimus Knox wrote in 1781 : 
* The principal thing required is 
external respect from the juniors. 
However ignorant or unworthy a 
senior fellow may be, yet the slightest 

disrespect is treated as the greatest 
crime of which an academic can be 
guilty.' Knox's Works, iv. 201. 

The gentlemen -commoners, to 
judge from Gibbon's account, were 
not exposed to any of this tyranny. 
The servitors suffered from it most. 
The commoners, among whom was 
Johnson, would have had less to 

An undergraduate of Trinity Col 
lege, Cambridge, of Bentley's time, 
in his Imitation of an Ode of Horace 
(iii. 2), says of the student : 

'With want and rigid College 


Let him inur'd betimes comply.* 
Monk's Bentley, ii. 173. 

2 ' Mrs. Johnson, for the sake of 
country air, had lodgings at Hamp 
stead, to which he resorted occasion 
ally, and there the greatest part,' if 
not the whole, of this Imitation was 
written.' Life, i. 192. 'I wrote (he 
said) a hundred lines of it in a day.' 
Ib. ii. 15. 

' Park says the house at which 
Johnson used to lodge was the last 
house in Frognal, southward, occu 
pied in Park's time by'B. C. Stephen- 
son, E sq.' Hewitt' s Northern Heights 
of London, ed. 1869, p. 243. 

Steevens lived at Hampstead. By 

enclosing 'at Hampstead ' in brackets 


314 Anecdotes by George Steevens. 

composed before I threw a single couplet on paper. The same 
method I pursued in regard to the Prologue on opening Drury- 
Lane Theatre. I did not afterwards change more than a word 
in it, and that was done at the remonstrance of Garrick. I did 
not think his criticism just ; but it was necessary he should be 
satisfied with what he was to utter V 

To a Gentleman who expressed himself in disrespectful terms 
of Blackmore 2 , one of whose poetic bulls he happened just then 
to recollect, Dr. Johnson answered, ' I hope a blunder, after you 
have heard what I shall relate, will not be reckoned decisive 
against a poet's reputation. When I was a young man, I trans 
lated Addison's Latin poem on the Battle of the Cranes and 
Pygmies, and must plead guilty to the following couplet : 

' Down from the guardian boughs the nests they flung, 
And kilVd the yet unanimated young 3 : ' 

And yet, I trust, I am no blockhead. I afterwards changed the 
the word kiltd into crush'd.' 

When Dr. Percy first published his Collection of Ancient 
English Ballads, perhaps he was too lavish in commendation of 
the beautiful simplicity and poetic merit he supposed himself to 
discover in them. This circumstance provoked Johnson to 
observe one evening at Miss Reynolds^ tea table, that he could 
rhyme as well, and as elegantly, in common narrative and con 
versation 4 . For instance, says he, 

he apparently wishes to show that enmity of the wits whom he provoked 

it was there that Johnson told him more by his virtue than his dulness, 

this fact. has been exposed to worse treatment 

1 Life, i. 1 8 1. See ante, ii. 6n. than he deserved.' Works, viii. 49. 

2 ' I defended Blackmore's sup- For Locke's admiration of Blackmore 
posed lines, which have been ridiculed see Warton's Pope's Works, ed. 1822, 
as absolute nonsense : iv. 62 n. 

"A painted vest Prince Voltiger 3 ' Omnia vastaret miles, foetusque 

had on, necaret 

Which from a naked Pict his Immeritos, vitamque abrumperet 

grandsire won.'" imperfectam.' 

Life, ii. 108. Addison's Works, ed. 1862, i. 240. 

'Blackmore, by the unremitted 4 Life, ii. 212 ; Hi. 158. 



Anecdotes by George Steevens. 315 

As with my hat upon my head 
I walk'd along the Strand, 
I there did meet another man 
With his hat in his hand. 

Or to render such poetry subservient to my own immediate use, 

I therefore pray thee, Renny 1 dear, 
That thou wilt give to me, 
With cream and sugar soften'd well, 
Another dish of tea. 

Nor fear that I, my gentle maid, 
Shall long detain the cup, 
When once unto the bottom I 
Have drunk the liquor up. 

Yet hear, alas ! this mournful truth, 
Nor hear it with a frown ; 
Thou canst not make the tea so fast 
As I can gulp it down. 

And thus he proceeded through several more stanzas, till the 
Reverend Critic cried out for quarter. 

'Pray, 1 said Garrick's mother to Johnson, 'What is your 
opinion of my son David ? ' ' Why, Madam,' replied the Doctor, 
' David will either be hanged, or become a great man 2 .' 

When Bolingbroke died, and bequeathed the publication of his 
works to Mallet, Johnson observed : * His Lordship has loaded 
a blunderbuss against Religion, and has left a Scoundrel to pull 
the trigger 3 / Being reminded of this a few years ago, the Doctor 
exclaimed, ' Did I really say so?' 'Yes, Sir.' He replied, ' I am 
heartily glad of it.' 

' You knew Mr. Capel 4 , Dr. Johnson ? ' ' Yes, Sir ; I have seen 

1 For Johnson's abbreviations of as it is, he doth gabble monstrously." ' 
names see Life, ii. 258. Life, iv. 5. 

2 Garrick was a pupil of Johnson's ' Defects of style apart, this preface 
academy at Edial. Ante, ii. 237. was by far the most valuable contri- 

3 Life, i. 268 ; ante, i. 408. bution to Shakespearian criticism 

4 Edward Capell. * Of the Preface that had yet appeared, and the text 
to Capell's Shakespeare, Dr. Johnson was based upon a most searching 
said : " If the man would have come collation of all the Folios and of all 
to me, I would have endeavoured to the Quartos known to exist at that 
endow his purposes with words ; for, time His unequalled zeal and in- 



Anecdotes by George Steevens. 

him at Garrick's.' * And what think you of his abilities?' 'They 
are just sufficient, Sir, to enable him to select the black hairs 
from the white ones, for the use of the periwig-makers. Were 
he and I to count the grains in a bushel of wheat for a wager, he 
would certainly prove the winner.' 

When one Collins, a sleep-compelling divine of Herefordshire, 
with the assistance of Counsellor Hardinge, published a heavy 
half-crown pamphlet against^ Mr. Steevens r , Garrick asked the 
Doctor, what he thought of this attack on his coadjutor. 
* I regard Collins's performance/ replied Johnson, ' as a great gun 
without powder or shot.' When the same Collins afterwards 
appeared as editor of Capel's Posthumous Notes on Shakespeare , 
with a preface of his own, containing the following words, 
' A sudden and most severe stroke of affliction has left my mind 
too much distracted to be capable [at present] of engaging in 
such a task (that of a further attack on Mr. Steevens), though 
I am prompted to it by inclination as well as duty 2 , the Doctor 
asked to what misfortune the foregoing words referred. Being 

dustry have never received from the 
public the recognition they deserved.' 
Cambridge Shakespeare, ed. 1891, i. 
Preface, pp. 37-8. 

1 John Collins was in charge of 
the parish of Ledbury in Hereford 
shire. In 1777, with the assistance 
of George Hardinge, he published 
an anonymous letter in refutation of 
Steevens's criticisms of Capell. Capell 
bequeathed to him a large sum of 
money. Diet. Nat. Biog. xi. 371 ; 
xxiv. 340. 

Hardinge is aimed at in the follow 
ing lines in Don Juan (Canto xiii. 
stanza 88) : 

* There was the waggish Welsh 

Judge, Jefferies Hardsman, 
In his grave office so completely 

That when a culprit came for 


He had his judge's joke for con 

The title of the pamphlet \sA Letter 
to George Hardinge^ Esq., on the sub 
ject of a Passage in Mr. Steevens'' 
Preface to his Impressions of Shake 
speare. London, 1777. 4to, price three 
shillings. Lowndes's BibL Man. p. 

2 Collins, in his Dedication to 
Lord Dacre (not in his Preface), 
accuses Steevens of ' having dressed 
up his volumes [of Shakespeare] 
throughout by appropriating to him 
self, without reserve, whatever suited 
his purpose from the present Author's 
edition, with which he disclaims the 
slightest acquaintance. Without this 
detail the claim of the true owner to 
what has been obtruded upon the 
Public as the property of another is 
left at large undecided and unas- 
serted.' He continues in the words 
quoted by Steevens, though after 
* capable,' 'at present' has been 


Anecdotes by George Steevens. 317 

told that the critic had lost his wife, Johnson added/ ' I believe 
that the loss of teeth may deprave the voice of a singer, and that 
lameness will impede the motions of a dancing master, but 
I have not yet been taught to regard the death of a wife as 
the grave of literary exertions. When my dear Mrs. Johnson 
expired I sought relief in my studies, and strove to lose the 
recollection of her in the toils of literature x . Perhaps, however, 
I wrong the feelings of this poor fellow. His wife might have 
held the pen in his name. Hinc illcz lachrymce" 2 . Nay, I think 
I observe, throughout his two pieces, a woman's irritability, with 
a woman's impotence of revenge.' Yet such were Johnson's 
tender remembrances of his own wife, that after her death, 
though he had a whole house at command, he would study 
nowhere but in a garret. Being asked the reason why he chose 
a situation so incommodious, he answered, ' Because in that room 
only I never saw Mrs. Johnson 3 / 

'What think you, Dr. Johnson, of Mr. M n's 4 conversation?' 

* I think, Sir, it is a constant renovation of hope, and an unvaried 
succession of disappointment/ 

' My dear Sir, don't disturb my feelings (said Garrick to 
Johnson one night behind the scenes); consider the exertions 
I have to go through.' ' As to your feelings, David/ replied 
Johnson, ' Punch has just as many ; and as for your exertions, 
those of a man who cries turnips about the streets are 
greater V 

'Were you ever, Sir, in company with Dr. Warburton?' 
{ I never saw him till one evening about a week ago, at the 
Bishop of St. 's 6 . At first he looked surlily at me ; but 

1 See ante, i. 12, for his prayer 4 Macklin. Ante, ii. 2 n., and Life, 
'as preparatory to his return to life ii. 122. 

to-morrow.' 5 Ante, \. 457 ; ii. 438. 

2 Terence, Andrta, i. I. 99. 6 The Bishop of St. Asaph. Bos- 

3 It was in Gough Square that he well, who had seen this account, 
was living at the time of her death, writes : 'If I am rightly informed, 
It was in an upper room, probably after a careful enquiry, they [John- 
a garret, that his assistants in the son and Warburton] never met but 
Dictionary worked. Life, i. 188. once, which was at the house of 


Anecdotes by George Steevens. 

after we had been jostled into conversation, he took me to 
a window, asked me some questions, and, before we parted, 
was so well pleased with me, that he patted me.' ' You always, 
Sir, preserved a respect for him?' 'Yes, and justly. When 
as yet I was in no favour with the world, he spake well of me, 
and I hope I never forgot the obligation *.' 

'Though you brought a Tragedy, Sir, to Drury-Lane 2 , and 
at one time were so intimate with Garrick, you never appeared 
to have much theatrical acquaintance.' * Sir, while I had, in 
common with other dramatic authors, the liberty of the scenes, 
without considering my admission behind them as a favour, 
I was frequently at the theatre. At that period all the wenches 
knew me, and dropped me a curtsey as they passed on to the 
stage 3 . But since poor Goldsmith's last Comedy, I scarce 
recollect having seen the inside of a playhouse 4 . To speak 
the truth, there is small encouragement there for a man whose 
sight and hearing are become so imperfect as mine. I may 
add, that, Garrick and Henderson 5 excepted, I never met with 

Mrs. French, in London, well known 
for her elegant assemblies, and bring 
ing eminent characters together. The 
interview proved to be mutually 
agreeable.' Life, iv. 48. 

1 In his Shakespeare he praised 
Johnson's Observations on Macbeth. 
Ib. i. 176. For Johnson's criticism 
of him see ante, i. 381. 

2 Ante, i. 386. 

3 See Life, i. 201 for the ' considera 
tions of rigid virtue' which, if Gar- 
rick's story is to be trusted, kept 
him from going any longer behind 
the scenes. 

4 For She Stoops to Conquer see 
ib. iv. 325. Johnson went to Mrs. 
Abington's benefit two years later. 
Ib. ii. 324. 

5 Johnson, speaking to Henderson 
' of a certain dramatic writer, said, 
" I never did the man an injury ; but 
he would persist in reading his 
tragedy to me." ' Life, iv. 244, n. 2. 

The man was Joseph Reed, the 
author of Dido. Nichols, Lit. Anec. 
ix. 1 1 6. 

Henderson died less than a year 
after Johnson (Gentleman's Maga 
zine, 1785, p. 923), and was buried 
in Westminster Abbey close to him. 
See the Plan in Stanley's Westminster 
Abbey, ed. 1868, p. 268. 

' Cumberland said that the three 
finest pieces of acting which he 
had ever witnessed were Garrick's 
Lear, Henderson's Falstaff, and 
Cooke's lago.' Rogers's Table-Talk, 
p. 136. 

Macaulay, recording a voyage to 
Dublin, during which ' he went 
through Paradise Lost in his head,' 
says : ' In the dialogue at the end 
of the fourth book Satan and Gabriel 
became to me quite like two of 
Shakespeare's men. Old Sharp once 
told me that Henderson the actor 
used to say to him that there was no 
a performer 

Anecdotes by George Steevens. 319 

a performer who had studied his art, or could give an intelligible 
reason for what he did V 

Though Dr. Johnson was no enemy to a proper and well- 
timed compliment, he would sometimes express his dislike of 
awkward and hyperbolical adulation. To a literary dame 2 , 
who had persecuted him throughout a whole afternoon with 
coarse and incessant flattery (after making several fruitless efforts 
to stop her career), he said, and loud enough for half the 
company present to hear 'My dear, before you are so lavish 
of your praise, you ought to consider whether it be worth 

* I am convinced (said he to a friend) I ought to be present 
at divine service more frequently than I am ; but the provo 
cations given by ignorant and affected preachers too often 
disturb the mental calm which otherwise would succeed to 
prayer 3 . I am apt to whisper to myself on such occasions 
How can this illiterate fellow dream of fixing attention, after 
we have been listening to the sublimest truths, conveyed in 
the most chaste and exalted language, throughout a Liturgy 
which must be regarded as the genuine offspring of piety 
impregnated by wisdom ? Take notice, however though I 
make this confession respecting myself, I do not mean to 
recommend the fastidiousness that led me to exchange con 
gregational for solitary worship.' Dr. Johnson, notwithstanding, 
was at Streatham church when the unfortunate Dodd's first 
application to him was made. The Doctor went out of his 
pew immediately, wrote a suitable reply to the letter he had 

better acting scene in the English boards, and on the whole has always 

drama than this. I now felt the seemed to me a vain, foolish woman 

truth of the criticism.' Trevelyan's spoiled (and no wonder) by un- 

Macaulay, ed. 1877, ii. 265. bounded adulation to a degree that 

1 ' I should like (wrote Sir Walter deserved praise tasted faint on her 

Scott), if it were possible, to ana- palate.' Familiar Letters, Boston, 

tomize Mrs. Siddons' intellect, that 1894, ii. 42. 

we might discover in what her un- 2 Hannah More. Ante, i. 273 ; 

rivalled art consisted; she has not ii. 179^. 

much sense, and still less sound 3 For his l great reluctance to go 

taste, no reading but in her pro- to Church,' see Life, i. 67, and for his 

fession, and with a view to the irregular attendance, ante, i. 81. 


320 Anecdotes by George Steevens. 

received, and afterwards, when he related this circumstance, 
added, * I hope I shall be pardoned, if for once I deserted 
the service of God for that of man V 

On the night before the publication of the first edition of 
his Shakespeare 2 , he supped with some friends in the Temple, 
who kept him up, ' nothing loth 3 / till past five the next morning. 
Much pleasantry was passing on the subject of commentatorship ; 
when, all on a sudden, the Doctor, looking at his watch, cried 
out ' This is sport to you, gentlemen ; but you do not con 
sider there are at most only four hours between me and 

Previous to this convivial meeting, Mr. Tonson 4 had desired 
a gentleman to ask our Author if he could ascertain the number 
of his subscribers? * No,' replied the Doctor; 'two material 
reasons forbid even a guess of mine on the subject I have lost 
all the names, and spent all the money. It came in small 
portions, and departed in the same manner 5 / There were 
afterwards receipts for near a thousand copies carried in to 
Tonson 6 . 

* I have seldom met with a man whose colloquial ability 
exceeded that of Mallet 7 . I was but once in Sterne's company, 
and then his only attempt at merriment consisted in his display 
of a drawing too indecently gross to have delighted even in 
a brothel 8 . Colman never produced a luckier thing than his 
first Ode in ridicule of Gray. A considerable part of it may 
be numbered among those felicities which no man has twice 

1 He was in church, Boswell says, 7 'His conversation was elegant 
when a later letter of Dodd's reached and easy. The rest of his character 
him. ' He stooped down and read may, without injury to his memory, 
it, and wrote when he went home the sink into silence.' Works, viii. 468 ; 
following letter for Dr. Dodd to the Life, i. 268, n. I. 

King.' Life, iii. 144. 8 In Murray's Johnsoniana, ed. 

2 Life, i. 496. 1836, p. 133, Sterne is changed into 

3 Paradise Lost, ix. 1039. Hume. 'JOHNSON. "The man Sterne, 

4 Life, i. 227, n. 3. I have been told, has had engagements 

* Ib. iv. in. for three months." GOLDSMITH. 
6 For each copy Johnson, I believe, " And a very dull fellow." JOHNSON. 

received a guinea. Letters, i. 68 , " Why no, Sir." ' Life, ii. 222. 
124, n. 2. 


Anecdotes by George Steevens. 


attained 1 . Gray was the very Torre 2 of poetry. He played 
his coruscations so speciously, that his steel-dust is mistaken 
by many for a shower of gold.' 

At one period of the Doctor's life, he was reconciled to the 
bottle 3 . Sweet wines, however, were his chief favourites- 
When none of these were before him, he would sometimes 
drink Port, with a lump of sugar in every glass 4 . The strongest 
liquors, and in very large quantities, produced no other effect 
on him than moderate exhilaration. Once, and but once, he 
is known to have had his dose 5 ; a circumstance which he 
himself discovered, on finding one of his sesquipedalion words 
hang fire. He then started up, and gravely observed ' I think 
it time we should go to bed 6 .' After a ten years' forbearance 

1 ' The Odes to Obscurity and Ob 
livion, in ridicule of "cool Mason 
and warm Gray," being mentioned, 
Johnson said, " They are Colman's 
best things." ' Life, ii. 334. 

Gray wrote of them in July, 1760 : 
* I believe his Odes sell no more than 
mine did, for I saw a heap of them 
lie in a bookseller's window, who 
recommended them to me as a very 
pretty thing.' Gray's Works, ed. 
1858, iii. 250. 

* Gray (to whom nothing is want 
ing to render him, perhaps, the first 
poet in the English language but to 
have written a little more) is said to 
have been so much hurt by a foolish 
and impertinent parody of two of his 
finest odes, that he never afterwards 
attempted any considerable work.' 
Adam Smith's Theory of Moral 
Sentiments, ed. 1801, i. 255. 

2 See Life, iv. 324, for Johnson's 
going to see ' the celebrated Torre's 
fireworks at Marybone Gardens.' 

3 Ib. i. 103, n. 3 ; ante, i. 217. 

4 It is not to be supposed that 
when * University College witnessed 
him drink three bottles of port with 
out being the worse for it' (ib. iii. 


245), he put a lump of sugar into 
every one of his thirty-six glasses. 
No Oxford common-room would have 
stood it. Boswell, who drank port 
with him till either the wine made 
his head ache, or the sense his friend 
put into it (ib. iii. 381), makes no 
mention of this sugar. 

5 ' Dose is often used of the utmost 
quantity of strong liquor that a man 
can swallow. He has his dose, that 
is, he can carry off no more.' John 
son's Dictionary. 

6 ' Sir Joshua informed a friend 
that he had never seen Dr. Johnson 
intoxicated by hard drinking but 
once, and that happened at the time 
that they were together in Devon 
shire, when one night after supper 
Johnson drank three bottles of wine, 
which affected his speech so much 
that he was unable to articulate 
a hard word, which occurred in the 
course of his conversation. He at 
tempted it three times but failed ; yet 
at last accomplished it, and then 
said, " Well, Sir Joshua, I think it is 
now time to go to bed.'" North- 
cote's Life of Reynolds, ii. 161. 

Johnson did not say * Sir Joshua,' 


322 Anecdotes by George Steevens. 

of every fluid, except tea and sherbet, * I drank/ said he, ' one 
glass of wine to the health of Sir Joshua Reynolds, on the 
evening of the day on which he was knighted. I never swallowed 
another drop till old Madeira was prescribed to me as a cordial 
during my present indisposition x , but this liquor did not relish 
as formerly, and I therefore discontinued it.' 

Every change, however, in his habits, had invariable reference 
to that insanity which, from his two-and-twentieth year, he 
had taught himself to apprehend 2 . Whether he had once 
suffered from a temporary alienation of mind, or expected it 
only in consequence of some obscure warning he supposed 
himself to have received, will always remain a secret. To 
dispel the gloom that so constantly oppressed him, he had 
originally recourse to wine. Afterwards, he suspected danger 
from it 3 : 'For (said he) what ferments the spirits may also 
derange the intellects, and the means employed to counteract 
dejection may hasten the approach of madness. Even fixed, 
substantial melancholy is preferable to a state in which we can 
neither amend the future, nor solicit mercy for the past.' 
Impressed as he was with such ideas, each precaution he could 
adopt appeared hazardous in its turn. Even his favourite tea 
had been gradually drunk by him in reduced quantities, and 
at last was totally laid aside. Milk 4 became its substitute ; 
and he looked forward to the spring, when he expected his 
new beverage would prove yet more salutary. ' Perhaps (says 
he) I shall conclude with what I ought to have begun. Milk 
was designed for our nutriment ; tea and similar potations are 
all adscititious.' 

as it was in 1762 that they visited son) should be diverted by every 

Devonshire ; Reynolds was knighted means but drinking.' Life, iii. 5. 

on April 2 1, 1 769. Taylor's Reynolds, See also ib. i. 277, n. i. 

i. 321. * On Nov. 14, 1781, he wrote: 

* I used to slink home (Johnson ' Here is Doctor Taylor, by a reso- 

said) when I had drunk too much.' lute adherence to bread and milk, 

Life, iii. 389. See also ib. i. 94. with a better appearance of health 

1 Ib. iv. 72. than he has had for a long time past.' 

2 Ib. 1.63 ; iii. 175 ; ante, i. 472. Letters^ ii. 236. 

3 ' Melancholy, indeed (said John- 


Anecdotes by George Steevens. 323 

At last, perhaps, his death was accelerated by his own im 
prudence. If 'a little learning is a dangerous thing 1 ' on any 
speculative subject, it is eminently more so in the practical 
science of physic. Johnson was too frequently his own patient 2 . 
In October, [1784,] just before he came to London, he had 
taken an unusual dose of squills, but without effect 3 . He 
swallowed the same quantity on his arrival here, and it pro 
duced a most violent operation. He did not, as he afterwards 
confessed, reflect on the difference between the perished and 
inefficacious vegetable he found in the country, and the fresh 
and potent one of the same kind he was sure to meet with 
in town. 'You find me at present,' says he, * suffering from 
a prescription of my own. When I am recovered from its 
consequences, and not till then, I shall know the true state 
of my natural malady. 1 From this period, he took no medicine 
without the approbation of Heberden. What follows is known 
by all, and by all lamented ere now, perhaps even by the 
prebends of Westminster 4 . 

Dr. Johnson confessed himself to have been sometimes in 
the power of bailiffs. Richardson, the author of Clarissa, was 
his constant friend on such occasions 5 . ' I remember writing to 
him/ said Johnson, ' from a sponging house ; and was so sure 
of my deliverance through his kindness and liberality, that, 
before his reply was brought, I knew I could afford to joke 
with the rascal who had me in custody, and did so, over a pint 
of adulterated wine, for which, at that instant, I had no money 
to pay 6 .' 

1 POPE, Essay on Criticism, 1. 215. 6 Life, i. 304 n. 

* Life, iii. 152; Letters, ii. 165 n. Johnson defines a spunging-house 

3 On August 1 6 he had written to as 'a house to which debtors are 
Dr. Brocklesby: 'The squills I have taken before commitment to prison, 
not neglected ; for I have taken more where the bailiffs sponge upon them, 
than 100 drops a day, and one day or riot at their cost.' Why in all 
took 250.' On the iQth he wrote: likelihood Johnson ordered the wine 
' The squills have every suffrage, and is explained in the following passage 
in the squills we will rest for the in Fielding's Amelia, Bk. viii. ch. 
present.' Life, iv. 355. 10 : '"What say you (said the 

4 Ante, i. 449 n. ; ii. 137 n. bailiff to Booth) to a glass of white 

5 Life, i. 303 ; Letters, i. 61. wine, or a tiff of punch, by way of 

Y 2, It 

3 2 4 

Anecdotes by George Steevens. 

It has been already observed, that Johnson had lost the sight 
of one of his eyes 1 . Mr. Ellis 2 , an ancient gentleman now 

whet ? " " I have told you, Sir, 
I never drink in the morning," cries 
Booth a little peevishly. " No offence, 
I hope, Sir," said the bailiff; " I hope 
I have not treated you with any in 
civility. I don't ask any gentleman 
to call for liquor in my house, if he 
doth not choose it ; nor I don't 
desire anybody to stay here longer 
than they have a mind to. New 
gate, to be sure, is the place for all 
debtors that can't find bail. ... I'd 
have you consider that the twenty- 
four hours appointed by Act of 
Parliament are almost out ; and so 
it is time to think of removing." . . . 
"I did not think (said Booth) to have 
offended you so much by refusing to 
drink in a morning." ' 

In Joseph Andrews, Bk. iii. ch. 3, 
the prison is described to which the 
debtor was transferred ; where ' he 
was crowded in with a great number 
of miserable wretches, in common 
with whom he was destitute of every 
convenience of life, even that which 
all the brutes enjoy, wholesome air.' 
See also Jonathan Wild, Bk. i. ch. 4. 

John Howard describes how 'all 
sorts of prisoners are confined 
together; debtors and felons.' 'One 
cause (he adds) why the rooms in 
some prisons are so close is perhaps 
the window-tax, which the gaolers 
have to pay ; this tempts them to 
stop the windows, and stifle their 
prisoners. In many Gaols, and in 
most Bridewells, there is no allow 
ance of straw for prisoners to sleep 
on. The frequent effect of confine 
ment in prison seems generally under 
stood, and shews how full of em- 
phatical meaning is the curse of a 
severe creditor, who pronounces his 
debtor's doom to ROT IN GAOL.' 

State of the Prisons, ed. 1777, pp. 

In the Annual Register, 1769, i. 
114, is the account of a discharge of 
a debtor after twenty- seven years' 
imprisonment, under an Act for the 
Relief of Insolvent Debtors. He had 
not been guilty of ' fraudulent inten 
tion,' neither had he been 'a debtor 
to the Crown,' otherwise he would 
not have had the benefit of the Act. 
Gentleman's Magazine, 1769, p. 266. 

1 Life. i. 41. 

2 ' It is wonderful, Sir (said John 
son), what is to be found in London. 
The most literary conversation that 
I ever enjoyed was at the table of 
Jack Ellis, a money-scrivener, behind 
the Royal Exchange, with whom I at 
one period used to dine generally 
once a week.' Ib. iii. 21. 

Jeremy Bentham said, ' I supped 
at the Mitre Tavern once, when they 
exhibited a complete service of plate. 
We came to hear Johnson's good 
things. There was Bickerstaff, 
there was Ellis, the last scrivener of 
the City of London, who died at the 
age of ninety-four, a pleasant old 
fellow, there was Hoole, and there 
was Goldsmith. But I was angry 
with Goldsmith for writing the 
Deserted Village. I liked nothing 
gloomy ; besides it was not true, 
for there were no such villages.' 
Bentham's Works, x. 124. Bentham's 
father had been Clerk to the 
Scriveners' Company. Ib. p. 279. 

Milton's father and Gray's father 
were scriveners. Johnson's Works, 
vii. 66 ; viii. 476. 

Johnson defines money scrivener 
as 'one who raises money for others,' 
and quotes a passage from Arbuthnot, 
where it is said : ' Such fellows are 


Anecdotes by George Steevens. 325 

living (author of a very happy burlesque translation of the 
thirteenth book, added to the ^Eneid by Maffei Vegio r ), was 
in the same condition ; but, some years after, while he was at 
Margate, the sight of his eye unexpectedly returned, and that 
of its fellow became as suddenly extinguished. Concerning the 
particulars of this singular but authenticated event, Dr. John 
son was studiously inquisitive, and not without reference to 
his own case. Though he never made use of glasses to assist 
his sight, he said he could recollect no production of art to 
which man has superior obligations 2 . He mentioned the name 
of the original inventor 3 of spectacles with reverence, and ex 
pressed his wonder that not an individual, out of the multitudes 
who had profited by them, had, through gratitude, written the 
life of so great a benefactor to society. 

His knowledge in manufactures was extensive, and his com 
prehension relative to mechanical contrivances was still more 
extraordinary 4 . The well known Mr. Arkwright pronounced 
him to be the only person who, on a first view, understood both 
the principle and powers of his most complicated piece of 
machinery 5 . 

like your wire-drawing mills, if they thing like what are now called 
get hold of a man's finger they will spectacles were in use at least several 
pull in his whole body at last.' years earlier.' Penny Cyclopaedia, 
Scrivener he defines as : ' I. One xxii. 328. See also ib. iii. 244. 
who draws contracts. 2. One whose 4 * Dr. Johnson this morning ex- 
business is to place money at interest.' plained to us all the operation of 
'The Company of Scriveners, being coining, and, at night, all the opera- 
reduced to low circumstances, thought tion of brewing, so very clearly, that 
proper to sell their Hall in Noble Mr. M'Queen said, when he heard 
Street to the Coachmakers' Com- the first, he thought he had been 
pany.' Dodsley's London, 1761, v. bred in the Mint; when he heard 
323. the second, that he had been bred 

1 Life, iii. 21, n. i. a brewer.' Life, v. 215. ' Last night 

2 Swift refused to use them. Post, he gave us an account of the whole 
p. 343 n. process of tanning and of the nature 

3 ' Some writers attribute the in- of milk, and the various operations 
vention to Alexander Spina, a monk upon it, as making whey, &c.' Ib. 
of Pisa, who died about 1299 or v.246. See also ib. v. 124 for his talk 
1300 ; but the invention of magnify- about the manufacture of gunpowder, 
ing-glasses by Roger Bacon, who p. 263 for his talk about threshing 
died some years before that time, and thatching, and ante, ii. 118. 
justifies the supposition that some- 5 Johnson was well acquainted with 


326 Anecdotes by George Steevens. 

Dr. Johnson delighted in the company of women. 'There 
are few things,' he would say, * that we so unwillingly give up, 
even in an advanced age, as the supposition that we have still 
the power of ingratiating ourselves with the Fair Sex.' Among 
his singularities, his love of conversing with the prostitutes 
whom he met with in the streets was not the least. He has 
been known to carry some of these unfortunate creatures into 
a tavern, for the sake of striving to awaken in them a proper 
sense of their condition. His younger friends now and then 
affected to tax him with less chastised intentions. But he would 
answer * No Sir ; we never proceeded to the Opus Magnum. 
On the contrary, I have rather been disconcerted and shocked 
by the replies of these giddy wenches, than flattered or diverted 
by their tricks. I remember asking one of them for what 
purpose she supposed her Maker had bestowed on her so much 
beauty ? Her answer was " To please the gentlemen, to be 
sure ; for what other use could it be given me x ? " 

The Doctor is known to have been, like Savage, a very late 
visitor 2 ; yet at whatever hour he returned, he never went to 
bed without a previous call on Mrs. Williams, the blind lady 
who for so many years had found protection under his roof 2 . 
Coming home one morning between four and five, he said to 
her, ' Take notice, Madam, that for once I am here before others 
are asleep. As I returned into the court, I ran against a knot 
of bricklayers.' ' You forget, my dear Sir,' replied she, ' that 
these people have all been a-bed, and are now preparing for 
their day's work.' ' Is it so, then, Madam ? I confess that 
circumstance had escaped me 3 .' 

* Garrick, I hear, complains that I am the only popular author 

the spinning-machine invented by ing home from Brookes's about day- 
Lewis Paul, which was in many re- break used frequently to pass the 
spects imitated by Arkwright in his stall of a cobbler who had already 
machine. Letters, i. 6, n. 3. commenced his work. As they were 

1 Life, i.223. ; iv. 321, 396; ante, the only persons stirring in that 
ii. 213. quarter, they always saluted each 

2 Life, i. 421. other. "Good night, friend," said 

3 'The Duke of Devonshire [the the Duke. "Good morning, Sir," 
husband of the beautiful Duchess said the cobbler.' Rogers' s Table- 
whom Reynolds painted] when walk- Talk, p. 191. 


Anecdotes by George Steevens. 


of his time, who has exhibited no praise of him in print x ; but he 
is mistaken ; Akenside has forborn to mention him 2 . Some, 
indeed, are lavish in their applause of all who come within the 
compass of their recollection. Yet he who praises everybody 
praises nobody. When both scales are equally loaded, neither 
can preponderate 3 .' 

Perhaps, said a gentleman, a CongJ (PElire has not the force 
of a positive command, but implies only a strong recommenda 
tion. ' Yes (replied Johnson, who overheard him), just such 
a recommendation as if I should throw you out of a three pair of 
stairs window, and recommend you to fall to the ground V 

1 ' I complained that he had not 
mentioned Garrick in his Preface to 
Shakspeare; and asked him if he 
did not admire him. JOHNSON. 
"Yes, as 'a poor player, who frets 
and struts his hour upon the stage ; ' 
as a shadow." BOSWELL. "But 
has he not brought Shakspeare into 
notice?" JOHNSON. "Sir, to allow 
that, would be to lampoon the age.'" 
Life, ii. 92. 

He did worse than not mention 
him in the Preface; he reflected 
upon him, though not by name, as 
' a not very communicative collector ' 
of rare copies of Shakespeare. Id. 
ii. 192. However he cited him in 
his Dictionary. Ib. iv. 4. In the 
Preface he says : ' My purpose was 
to admit no testimony of living 
authors, that I might not be misled 
by partiality, and that none of my 
contemporaries might have reason to 
complain ; nor have I departed from 
this resolution, but when some per 
formance of uncommon excellence 
excited my veneration, when my 
memory supplied me from late books 
with an example that was wanting, 
or when my heart, in the tenderness 
of friendship, solicited admission for 
a favourite name.' Works, v. 39. 

For his mention of Garrick in the 

Lives of the Poets, see Life, i. 8l. 

2 Johnson must have got the know 
ledge of this fact second-hand, for he 
could not read Akenside' s Pleasures 
of Imagination through. Ib. ii. 164. 

3 'Sur quelque pre'fe'rence une 

estime se fonde, 
Et c'est n'estimer rien qu' es- 

timer tout le monde.' 
Moliere, Le Misanthrope, i. I. 

4 * A gentleman having said that 
a conge" oTdire ' has not, perhaps, the 
force of a command, but may be 
considered only as a strong recom 
mendation ; " Sir, (replied Johnson, 
who overheard him,) it is such a re 
commendation, as if I should throw 
you out of a two-pair of stairs window, 
and recommend to you to fall soft." ' 
Life, iv. 323. 

Boswell says in a note: 'This 
has been printed in other publica 
tions, "fall to the ground" But 
Johnson himself gave me the true 
expression which he had used as 
above ; meaning that the recommen 
dation left as little choice in the one 
case as the other.' 

Johnson, in his Dictionary, says 
that: 'Conge* d'Elire signifies, in 
common law, the King's permission 
royal to a dean and chapter, in time 
of vacation, to choose a bishop.' 



Anecdotes by George Steevens. 

[The following anecdote included by Croker in Steevens's 
Collection is not given in the European Magazine for January, 


* Night,' Mr. Tyers has told us, * was Johnson's time for 
composition 1 / But this assertion, if meant for a general one, 
can be refuted by living evidence. Almost the whole Preface to 
Shakespeare, and no inconsiderable part of the Lives of the Poets, 
were composed by daylight, and in a room where a friend 2 was 
employed by him in other investigations. His studies were only 
continued through the night when the day had been preoccupied, 

Blackstone, after citing the statute 
25 Hen. VIII. c. 20, continues : ' If 
such dean and chapter do not elect 
in the manner by this act appointed 
. . . they shall incur all the penalties 
of & praemunire? Commentaries, ed. 

1775. i- 379- 

When, in 1847, the Dean of 
Hereford, holding the opinion of 
1 the gentleman ' of the anecdote, in 
formed the Prime-minister, Lord 
John Russell, that he would not 
comply with the conge d'elire by 
electing Dr. Hampden, Lord John 
replied : ' Sir, I have had the honour 
to receive your letter of the 22nd 
inst., in which you intimate to me 
your intention of violating the law. 
I have, &c., 


Walpole's Life of Lord J. Russell, 
i. 480. 

At the confirmation of Hampden's 
election in Bow Church, ' after the 
judge had told the opposers that he 
could not hear them, the citation for 
opposers to come forward was re 
peated, at which the people present 
laughed out, as at a play.' H. C. 
Robinson's Diary, 1869, iii. 311. 

'The truth of it is, a woman 
seldom asks advice before she has 
bought her wedding-clothes. When 
she has made her own choice, for 

form's sake she sends a conge d'elire 
to her friends.' Addison, The Spec 
tator, No. 475. 

1 Post, p. 346. 

2 Mr. Croker is probably right in 
saying that this friend was Steevens 
himself. Nevertheless there is no 
thing to show what those investiga 
tions were in which he was engaged 
while Johnson was writing the Preface 
to Shakespeare. In 1766, the year 
after it was published, Steevens 
brought out twenty plays of Shake 
speare in four volumes. ' A coalition 
having been effected between him 
and Johnson, another edition made 
its appearance in 1773.' Nichols, 
Lit. Hist. v. 428. A second of these 
joint editions was published in 1778, 
and a third in 1785. Lowndes, BibL 
Man. p. 2270. That in preparing 
his notes for all three editions he 
often worked in Johnson's room is 
very likely. He lived at the top of 
Hampstead Heath, in a house still 
standing. ' He was always an early 
riser, and rarely failed walking to 
London and back.' His custom was 
to call at Isaac Reed's in Staple Inn 
by 7 o'clock in the morning, where 
he found a room ready. Later on in 
the day ' he generally passed some 
time with Dr. Johnson.' When 
carrying his last edition through the 


Anecdotes by George Steevens. 329 

or proved too short for his undertakings. Respecting the fertility 
of his genius, the resources of his learning, and the accuracy of 
his judgment, the darkness and the light were both alike T . 

press, during eighteen months he left Frank, ' took bribes for denying his 
his house at one in the night with master to others, when Mr. Steevens 
the Hampstead patrole. Nichols, wanted his assistance in his Shake- 
Lit. Hist. v. 427. speare? 

Miss Hawkins (Memoirs, i. 153) * * The darkness and light to thee 

says that Johnson's man-servant, are both alike.' Psalms, cxxxix. II. 


[FROM Memoirs of the Life and Writings of Per civ al Stockdale. 
2, vols. 8vo, 1809, (vol. ii. pp. 44, 59, 64, 185, 189). For a brief 
account of Stockdale see Life, ii. 113. 

In 1776 Garrick wrote to Lord Sandwich, the first Lord of the 
Admiralty, to ask for leave of absence for Stockdale, who was 
a sea-chaplain. Sandwich replied : ' I fear the attending in 
London upon a literary business and the duty of a sea-chaplain 
are incompatible. ... If a fortnight's leave of absence would 
enable him to finish his pamphlet, I could strain a point to 
make it easy to him.' Garrick thanked him for having ' bestowed 
a great favour upon a man of letters and talents when he most 
wanted it.' Garrick Corres. ii. 173.] 

ABOUT the year 1770, I was invited by the lively and hos 
pitable Tom Davies to dine with him, to meet some interesting 
characters. Dr. Johnson was of the party, and this was my first 
introduction to him : there were others, with whom every 
intelligent mind would have wished to converse, Dr. Goldsmith 
and Mr. Meyer, the elegant miniature painter x . Swift was one 
of our convivial subjects ; of whom it was Dr. Johnson's invariable 

1 Jeremiah Meyer. It was at the of his presidency and his seat as an 
election of his successor as a Royal Academician. Leslie and Taylor's 
Academician that the dispute arose Reynolds , ii. 570. 
which led to Reynolds's resignation 


Anecdotes by the Rev. Percival Stockdale. 331 

custom to speak in a disparaging and most unworthy manner x . 
We gave our sentiments, and undoubtedly of high panegyric, 
on the Tale of a Tub] of which Dr. Johnson insisted, in his usual 
positive manner, that it was impossible that Swift should have 
been the author, it was so eminently superior to all his other 
works 2 . I expressed my own conviction, that it was written 
by Swift, and that, in many of his productions, he showed 
a genius not unequal to the composition of the Tale of a Tub. 
The Doctor desired me to name one. I replied, that I thought 
Gulliver's Travels 3 not unworthy of the performance he so ex 
clusively admired. He would not admit the instance ; but said, 
that ' if Swift was really the author of the Tale of a Tub, as the 
best of his other performances were of a very inferior merit, 
he should have hanged himself after he had written it.' 

Johnson said on the same day, ' Swift corresponded minutely 
with Stella and Mrs. Dingley 4 , on his importance with the 
ministry, from excessive vanity that the women might exclaim, 
" What a great man Dr. Swift is ! " ' 

Among other topics, Warburton claimed our attention. Gold 
smith took a part against Warburton whom Johnson strenuously 
defended, and, indeed, with many strong arguments, and with 
bright sallies of eloquence 5 . Goldsmith ridiculously asserted, 
that Warburton was a weak writer. This misapplied character 
istic Dr. Johnson refuted. I shall never forget one of the happy 
metaphors with which he strengthened and illustrated his refuta 
tion. ' Warburton/ said he, ' may be absurd, but he will never 
be weak : \\& flounders well/ 

1 Ante, i. 373, 479; ii. 211. 5 Johnson said: 'I treated War- 

2 Ib. 1.452 ; ii. 318 ; v. 44 ; Works, burton with great respect both in my 
viii. 197. Preface and in my Notes ' to Shake- 

3 Life, ii. 319. In his Life of Gay speare. Ib. iv. 288. The notes are 
Johnson says of that writer's ' little often contemptuous and sarcastic : 
poems ' : * Those that please least ' I am well informed (writes Bos- 
are the pieces to which Gulliver well) that Warburton said of John- 
gave occasion ; for who can much son, " I admire him, but cannot bear 
delight in the echo of an unnatural his style;" and that Johnson being 
fiction?' Works, viii. 71. told of this said, "That is exactly 

4 Life, iv. 177. my case as to him." ' Ib. iv. 48. 


332 Anecdotes by the Rev. Per dual Stockdale. 

Lord Lyttelton told me, that on a visit to Mr. Pope, while he 
was translating the Iliad, he took the liberty to express to that 
great poet his surprise, that he had not determined to translate 
Homer's poem into blank verse ; as it was an epic poem, and as 
he had before him the illustrious example of Milton, in the 
Paradise Lost. Mr. Pope's answer to Lord Lyttelton was, that 
' he could translate it more easily into rhyme.' I communicated 
this anecdote to Dr. Johnson ; his remark on it to me was, 
very erroneous in criticism, ' Sir, when Pope said that, he knew 
that he lied 1 / 

When Dr. Johnson and I were talking of Garrick, I observed 
that he was a very moderate, fair, and pleasing companion ; when 
we considered what a constant influx had flowed upon him, both 
of fortune and fame, to throw him off of his bias of moral and social 
self-government. ' Sir,' replied Johnson, in his usual emphatical 
and glowing manner, ' you are very right in your remark ; 
Garrick has undoubtedly the merit of a temperate and unas 
suming behaviour in society ; for more pains have been taken 
to spoil that fellow, than if he had been heir apparent to the 
empire of India 2 ! ' 

When Garrick was one day mentioning to me Dr. Johnson's 
illiberal treatment of him, on different occasions ; ' I question,' 
said he, c whether, in his calmest and most dispassionate moments, 
he would allow me the high theatrical merit which the public 
have been so generous as to attribute to me.' I told him, that 
I would take an early opportunity to make the trial, and that 
I would not fail to inform him of the result of my experiment. 
As I had rather an active curiosity to put Johnson's disinterested 
generosity fairly to the test, on this apposite subject, I took an 
early opportunity of waiting on him, to hear his verdict on 
Garrick's pretensions to his great and universal fame. I found 
him in very good and social humour ; and I began a conversa 
tion which naturally led to the mention of Garrick. I said 
something particular on his excellence as an actor; and I added, 

1 For Johnson's expression ' he verse see ib. iv. 42. 
lies and he knows he lies,' see Life, 2 Ib. iii. 263 ; ante, ii. 244. 
iv. 49, and for his opinion of blank 


Anecdotes by the Rev. Percival Stockdale. 333 

' But pray, Dr. Johnson, do you really think that he deserves 
that illustrious theatrical character, and that prodigious fame, 
which he has acquired ? ' ' Oh, Sir,' said he, ' he deserves every 
thing that he has acquired, for having seized the very soul of 
Shakspeare; for having embodied it in himself; and for having 
expanded its glory over the world V I was not slow in com 
municating to Garrick the answer of the Delphic oracle. The 
tear started in his eye ' Oh ! Stockdale/ said he, * such a praise 
from such a man ! this atones for all that has passed.' 

I called on Dr. Johnson one morning, when Mrs. Williams, 
the blind lady, was conversing with him. She was telling him 
where she had dined the day before. ' There were several 
gentlemen there,' said she, ' and when some of them came to the 
tea-table, I found that there had been a good deal of hard 
drinking/ She closed this observation with a common and trite 
moral reflection ; which, indeed, is very ill-founded, and does 
great injustice to animals ' I wonder what pleasure men can 
take in making beasts of themselves ! ' ' I wonder, Madam/ 
replied the Doctor, ' that you have not penetration enough to see 
the strong inducement to this excess ; for he who makes a beast 
of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man 2 . J 

Mrs. Bruce, an old Scotch lady, the widow of Captain Bruce, 
who had been for many years an officer in the Russian service, 
drank tea with me one afternoon at my lodgings in Bolt Court, 
when Johnson was one of the company. She spoke very broad 
Scotch ; and this alarmed me for her present social situation. 
As we were conversing on a subject in which we were interested, 
she interrupted us by saying that we should give Dr. Johnson an 
opportunity of favouring the company with his sentiments. By 
this absurd interruption the Doctor was naturally far less com 
municative. That undaunted dame was, however, determined to 

* ' BOSWELL. " But has not Gar- vile, quotes the following passage 

rick brought Shakespeare into from one of Shenstone's letters : 

notice ? " JOHNSON. " Sir, to allow ' For a man of high spirits ... to be 

that would be to lampoon the age." ' forced to drink himself into pains of 

Life, ii. 92. the body in order to get rid of the 

2 Johnson, in his Life of Somer- pains of the mind is a misery.' 


334 Anecdotes by the Rev. Percival Stockdale. 

make him speak if it was possible. ' Dr. Johnson,' said she, ' you tell 
us, in your Dictionary, that in England oats are given to horses ; 
but that in Scotland they support the people 1 . Now, Sir, I can 
assure you, that in Scotland we give oats to our horses, as well 
as you do to yours in England.' I almost trembled for the 
widow of the Russian hero ; I never saw a more contemptuous 
leer than that which Johnson threw at Mrs. Bruce : however, he 
deigned her an answer, ' I am very glad, Madam, to find that 
you treat your horses as well as you treat yourselves.' I was 
delivered from my panic, and I wondered that she was so gently 
set down. 

Soon after I had entered on my charge as domestic tutor to 
my Lord Craven's son I called on Dr. Johnson. ' Well (said he) 
how do you like your place ? ' On my hesitating to answer, or 
on my answer which expressed not much love of my situation, 
he added the following words of consolation : ' You must expect 

1 ' Oats. A grain which in Eng- to men and horses.' C. W. Boase's 

land is generally given to horses, Oxford, p. 65. 
but in Scotland supports the people.' Hector told Boswell that Johnson, 

'The sarcastic Jew in Richard of in his boyhood, 'used to have oat- 
Devizes' History of Richard I says meal porridge for breakfast.' Mor- 
Oxford barely keeps its clerks from rison Autographs, 2nd series, j i. 
starving, Exeter gives the same grain 368. 



WHEN Charles the Second was informed of the death of 
Cowley, he pronounced, 'that he had not left a better man 
behind him in England 2 .' It may be affirmed with truth, that 
this was the case when Dr. Johnson breathed his last. Those 
who observed his declining state of health during the last winter, 
and heard his complaints, of painful days and sleepless nights, 
for which he took large quantities of opium 3 , had no reason to 
expect that he could survive another season of frost and snow. 

1 From the Gentlemaris Magazine, 
December, 1784. 'The gentleman 
whom he thus familiarly mentioned 
[as Tom Tyers] was Mr. Thomas 
Tyers, son of Mr. Jonathan Tyers, 
the founder of that excellent place of 
publick amusement, Vauxhall Gar 
dens. Mr. Thomas Tyers was bred to 
the law ; but having a handsome for 
tune, vivacity of temper, and eccen 
tricity of mind, he could not confine 
himself to the regularity of practice. 
He therefore ran about the world 
with a pleasant carelessness, amusing 
everybody by his desultory conver 
sation. He abounded in anecdote, 
but was not sufficiently attentive to 

accuracy. I therefore cannot ven 
ture to avail myself much of a bio 
graphical sketch of Johnson which 
he published, being one among the 
various persons ambitious of append 
ing their names to that of my illus 
trious friend. That sketch is, how 
ever, an entertaining little collection 
of fragments.' Life, iii. 308. 

2 Works, vii. 14. 

3 ' I have such horrour of opiates,' 
he wrote, 'that I do not think of 
them but in extremis? Letters, ii. 
367. See also ib. pp. 376, 383. Dr. 
Brocklesby noticed that ' opiate was 
never destructive of his readiness in 
conversation.' Ib. ii. 437. 


336 A Biographical Sketch of Dr. Johnson 

His constitution was totally broken, and no art of the physician 
or surgeon could protract his existence beyond the i3th of 
December. When he was opened, one of his kidneys was found 
decayed. He never complained of disorder in that region ; and 
probably it was not the immediate cause of his dissolution. It 
might be thought that so strong and muscular a body might 
have lasted many years longer. For Johnson drank nothing 
but water, and lemonade (by way of indulgence), for many 
years, almost uninterruptedly, without the taste of any fermented 
liquor : and he was often abstinent from animal food x , and kept 
down feverish symptoms by dietetic management. Of Addison 
and Pope he used to observe, perhaps to remind himself, that 
they ate and drank too much, and thus shortened their days 2 . 
It was thought by many, who dined at the same table, that he 
had too great an appetite 3 . This might now and then be the 
case, but not till he had subdued his enemy by famine. But his 
bulk seemed to require now and then to be repaired by kitchen 
physic. To great old age not one in a thousand arrives. How 
few were the years of Johnson in comparison of those of Jenkins 
and Parr 4 ! But perhaps Johnson had more of life, by his 
intenseness of living. Most people die of disease. He was all 
his life preparing himself for death : but particularly in the last 
stage of his asthma and dropsy. ' Take care of your soul don't 
live such a life as I have done don't let your business or dissi 
pation make you neglect your sabbath ' were now his constant 
inculcations 5 . Private and publick prayer, when his visitors 
were his audience, were his constant exercises. He cannot be 
said to have been weary of the weight of existence, for he 

1 On July 10, 1780, he wrote to The death of Pope was imputed by 
Mrs. Thrale : ' Last week I saw some of his friends to a silver sauce- 
flesh but twice, and I think fish once, pan, it which it was his delight to 
the rest was pease.' Letters, ii. 184. heat potted lampreys.' Ib. viii. 310. 
See ib. ii. 143. 3 Life, iv. 330. 

2 ' From the coffee-house Addison 4 It was confidently asserted that 
went again to a tavern, where he Henry Jenkins was born in 1501 and 
often sat late, and drank too much died in 1670 and that Thomas Parr 
wine.' Works, vii. 449. ' The death was born in 1483 and died in 1635. 
of great men is not always propor- 5 Life, iv. 410, 413-14, 416 ; ante, 
tioned to the lustre of their lives. ... ii. 157. 


by Thomas Tyers. 337 

declared, that to prolong it only for one year, but not for the 
comfortless sensations he had lately felt, he would suffer the 
amputation of a limb x . He was willing to endure positive pain 
for possible pleasure. But he had no expectation that nature 
could last much longer. And therefore, for his last week, he 
undoubtedly abandoned every hope of his recovery or duration, 
and committed his soul to God. Whether he felt the instant 
stroke of death, and met the king of terrors face to face, cannot 
be known : for ' death and the sun cannot be looked upon,' says 
Rochefoucault 2 . But the writer of this has reason to imagine^ 
that when he thought he had made his peace with his Maker, he 
had nothing to fear 3 . He has talked of submitting to a violent 
death, in a good cause, without apprehensions. On one of the 
last visits from his surgeon, who on performing the puncture on 
his legs, had assured him that he was better, he declared, ' he 
felt himself not so, and that he did not desire to be treated like 
a woman or a child, for that he had made up his mind V He 
had travelled through the vale of this world for more than 
seventy-five years. It probably was a wilderness to him for 
more than half his time. But he was in the possession of rest 
and comfort and plenty, for the last twenty years 5 . Yet the 
blessings of fortune and reputation could not compensate to him 
the want of health, which pursued him through his pilgrimage 
on earth. Post equitem sedet atra cura. 

( For when we mount the flying steed, 
Sits gloomy Care behind 6 .' 

1 Life, iv. 409 ; ante, ii. 132. rence of this, because I believe it has 

2 ' Le soleil ni la mort ne se peu- been frequently practised on myself.' 
vent regarder fixement.' Maximes, Life, iv. 306. 

xxvi. 5 It was in 1762 that his pension 

3 Ante, ii. 203. was given him, and in 1765 that his 

4 ' I deny (said Johnson) the law- friendship with the Thrales began, 
fulness of telling a lie to a sick man His ' rest and comfort ' were greatly 
for fear of alarming him. You have marred by Mr. Thrale's death in 
no business with consequences; you 1781, and by the estrangement from 
are to tell the truth. Besides, you Mrs. Thrale which soon followed, 
are not sure what effect your telling His feeling of solitude was increased 
him that he is in danger may have. by the death of Levett in 1782, and 
It may bring his distemper to a of Miss Williams in 1783. 

crisis, and that may cure him. Of 6 'And when he mounts,' &c. 
all lying, I have the greatest abhor- FRANCIS. HORACE, Odes, iii. i, 36. 
VOL. II. Z Of 

338 A Biographical Sketch of Dr. Johnson 

Of the hundred sublunary things bestowed on mortals, health is 
ninety-nine. He was born with a scrophulous habit, for which he 
was touched, as he acknowledged, by good Queen Anne, whose 
piece of gold he carefully preserved *. But even a Stuart could 
not expel that enemy to his frame, by a touch. For it would 
have been even beyond the stroking power of Greatrix in all his 
glory, to charm it away 2 . Though he seemed to be athletic as 
Milo himself, and in his younger days performed several feats of 
activity, he was to the last a convulsionary 1 \ He has often stept 
aside, to let nature do what she would with him. His gestures, 
which were a degree of St. Vitus's daate, in the street, attracted 
the notice of many : the stare of the vulgar, but the compassion 
of the better sort. This writer has often looked another way, as 
the companions of Peter the Great were used to do, while he 
was under the short paroxysm 4 . He was perpetually taking 
opening medicines 5 . He could only keep his ailments from 
gaining ground. He thought he was worse for the agitation of 
active exercise 6 . He was afraid of his disorders seizing his head, 

1 ' She hung about his neck the 
usual amulet of an angel of gold, 
with the impress of St. Michael the 
archangel on one side and a ship 
under full sail on the other.' Haw 
kins, p. 4 ; ante. \. 133. 

2 * Mr. Gretrakes is said to have 
cured pains and diseases only by 
touching; and the excellent Dr. H. 
More, who gives a particular account 
of him, attributes his great success 
to a certain sanative virtue in his 
hand ; and supposes it might be con 
ferred upon him as a distinguishing 
grace on account of the regenerate 
and confirmed state of piety which 
he seemed to be in.' Gentleman's 
Magazine, 1748, p. 449. 

See Diet. Nat. Biog. under GREAT- 

3 Convulsionary is not in John 
son's Dictionary. The only instance 
Dr. Murray gives of its use is as a 
translation of convulsionnaire ' one 
of a number of fanatics in France in 

the eighteenth century, who fell into 
convulsions and extravagances, sup 
posed to be accompanied by miracu 
lous cures/ &c. All that Tyers 
meant was that Johnson was subject 
to those * motions or tricks ' which 
Reynolds said were in his case ' im 
properly called convulsions.' Ante, 
ii. 222, 273. 

4 ' The Czar while young, and even 
until his death, was subject to fre 
quent fits of a violent spasm of the 
brain. It was a kind of convulsion 
which threw him sometimes for whole 
hours into so dreadful a situation 
that he could not bear the presence 
of any person, not even of his best 
friends.' Original Anecdotes of Peter 
the Great, London, 1788, p. 109. 

5 Letters, ii. 101. 

6 Probably this wa only towards 
the close of his life when he was dis 
tressed with asthma. For his re 
commendation of exercise see Life, i. 
446 ; iv. 150, n. 2 ; Letters, ii. 99. 


by Thomas Tyers. 339 

and took all possible care that his understanding should not be 
deranged 1 . Orandum est, ut sit mens sana in corpore sano 2 . 
When his knowledge from books, and he knew all that books 
could tell him 3 , is considered ; when his compositions in verse 
and prose are enumerated to the reader (and a complete list of 
them wherever dispersed is desirable 4 ) it must appear extra 
ordinary he could abstract himself so much from his feelings, 
and that he could pursue with ardour the plan he laid down of 
establishing a great reputation. Accumulating learning (and the 
example of Barretier, whose life he wrote 5 ) shewed him how to 
arrive at all science. His imagination often appeared to be too 
mighty for the control of his reason. In the preface to his 
Dictionary, he says, that his work was composed * amidst incon 
venience and distraction, in sickness and in sorrow.' * I never 
read this preface,' says Mr. Home 6 , 'but it makes me shed 

If this memoir-writer possessed the pen of a Plutarch, and the 
subject is worthy of that great biographer, he would begin his 
account from his youth, and continue it to the last period of his 
life, in the due order of an historian. What he knows and can 
recollect, he will perform. His father (called ' gentleman ' 7 in 
the parish register) he says himself, and it is also within memory, 
was an old bookseller at Lichfield, and a whig in principle 8 . 
The father of Socrates was not of higher extraction, nor of a more 
honourable profession. Our author was born in that city ; and 
the house of his birth was a few months ago visited by a learned 

1 Life, i. 64; v. 215 ; ante^ i. 199, though now lost in the indiscriminate 

472 ; ii. 322. assumption of Esquire, was commonly 

a Juvenal, Satires, x. 356; Life,\v. taken by those who could not boast 

401. of gentility.' Life, i. 34. 

3 Ante, ii. 214 n. 8 * He was a zealous high-church 

4 Ante, i. 304 n. ; Life, i. 16, 1 12. man and royalist, and retained his 

5 Life, i. 148 ; Works, vi. 376. attachment to the unfortunate house 

6 Better known as Home Tooke. of Stuart, though he reconciled him- 
Life, i. 297, n. 2 ; ante, i. 405 n. self by casuistical arguments of ex- 

7 ' His father is there stiled Gen- pediency and necessity to take the 
tleman, a circumstance of which an oaths imposed by the prevailing 
ignorant panegyrist has praised him power.' Jb. i. 36. For Johnson's 
for not being proud ; when the truth defence of a Jacobite's taking the 
is, that the appellation of Gentleman, oaths see ib. ii. 322. 

z ^ acquaintance 

340 A Biographical Sketch of Dr. Johnson 

acquaintance, the information of which was grateful to the 
Doctor. It may probably be engraved for some monthly re 
pository \ The print and the original dwelling may become as 
eminent as the mansion of Shakspeare at Stratford, or of 
Erasmus at Rotterdam. He certainly must have had a good 
school education. He was entered of Pembroke College, Oxford, 
Oct. 31, 1728, and continued there for several terms. By whose 
bounty he was supported, may be known to enquiry 2 . While 
he was there, he was negligent of the College rules and hours, 
and absented himself from some of the lectures, for which when 
he was reprimanded and interrogated, he replied with great 
rudeness and contempt of the lecturer 3 . Indeed he displayed 
an overbearing disposition that would not brook control, and 
shewed that, like Caesar, he was fitter to command than to obey. 
This dictatorial spirit was the leading feature in his deportment 
to his contemporaries. His college themes and declamations are 
still remembered ; and his elegant translation of Pope's Messiah 
into Latin verse found its way into a volume of poems published 
by one Husbands 4 . In 1735, after having been some time an 
usher to Anthony Blackwall 5 , his friends assisted him to set up 
an academy near Lichfield 6 . Here he formed an acquaintance 
with the late Bishop Green, then an usher at Lichfield 7 , and 

1 In the Gentleman's Magazine and a half.' That he left it a few 

for February, 1785, a view was given days before July 27, 1732, we know 

of Johnson's birthplace. from a letter Malone had seen. Life, 

3 Life, i. 58 ; ante, i. 362. i. 85, n. I. Hawkins (p. 20) says 

3 Ante, i. 164. that it was in March, 1732, that he 

4 Fellow of Pembroke College, went to the school. The entry in 
Life, i. 6i,. 3. See ante, i. 459. his Diary l Julii 16 [1732] Bosvor- 

5 Boswell denies the truth of this tiam pedes petit* probably, as Dr. 
statement, on the ground that ' Black- Westby-Gibson says, refers to his 
wall died on April 8, 1730, more than return after the summer vacation. 
a year before Johnson left the Uni- That he was not there on Oct. 30, 
versity.' As Johnson left it in 1731, is shown by a letter written 
December, 1729, the proof is value- from Lichfield on that day, in which 
less. Life, i. 78, n. 2, 84. Dr.Westby- he says, ' I am yet unemployed.' 
Gibson, in his article on Blackwall Letters, i. i. 

in the Diet. Nat. Biog., argues 6 It was most likely with his wife's 
in favour of the statement, and money that he set up his academy, 
says, ' We may conclude Johnson Ante, i. 367 ; Life, i. 95, n. 3. 
taught in the school for two years 7 Life, i. 45. 


by Thomas Tyers. 341 

with Mr. Hawkins Browne x . As the school probably did not 
answer his expectation (for who does not grow tired of teaching 
others, especially if he wants to teach himself?), he resolved to 
come up to London, where everything is to be had for wit and 
for money (Romce omnia venalia), and to seek his fortune. He 
was accompanied by his pupil Mr. Garrick : and travelled on 
horseback to the metropolis in March, 1737 2 . 

The time and business of this journey are before the public in 
some letters from Mr. Walmsley, who recommends Johnson as 
a writer of tragedy ; as a translator from the French language ; 
and as a good scholar 3 . He brought with him his tragedy of 
Irene -, which afterwards took its chance on Drury-Lane theatre 4 . 
Luckily he did not throw it into the fire, by design or otherwise, 
as Parson Adams did his ALschylus by mistake 5 . He offered 
himself for the service of the booksellers ; ' for he was born for 
nothing but to write 6 ,' 

' And from the jest obscene reclaim our youth, 
And set our passions on the side of truth 7 .' 

The hurry of this pen prevents the recollection of his first per 
formances. But he used to call Dodsley his patron 8 , because he 
made him, if not first, yet best known by printing and publishing, 
upon his own judgment, his Satire, called London 9 , which was 
an imitation of one of Juvenal, whose gravity and severity of 
expression he possessed. He there and then discovered how 
able he was 'to catch the manners living as they rise 10 . The 

1 Ante, i. 266 ; Life, ii. 339. Pope, Prologue to the Satires, 1. 

2 'Both of them used to talk 272. 

pleasantly of this their first journey 7 ' He from the taste obscene re- 

to London. Garrick, evidently mean- claims our youth, 

ing to embellish a little, said one And sets the passions on the 

day in my hearing, " we rode and side of truth.' 

tied.'" Life, i. 101, n. I. Pope, Imitations of Horace, Epis. 

3 Ante, i. 368 ; Life, i. 102. 2. i. 217. 

4 He had written only three acts 8 Writing about the representation 
of Irene on his first coming to Lon- of Dodsley's Cleone Johnson says : 
don ; he continued it at Greenwich ' I went the first night, and supported 
and finished it at Lichfield. Life, i. it as well I might ; for Doddy, you 
106-7. know, is my patron, and I would not 

5 Joseph Andrews, Bk. ii. ch. 12. desert him.' Life, i. 326. 

6 'Heav'ns! was I born for no- 9 Ib. i. 124. 

thing but to write?' I0 Pope, Essay on Man, i. 14. 


342 A Biographical Sketch of Dr. Johnson 

poem had a great sale, was applauded by the public, and praised 
by Mr. Pope, who, not being able to discover the author, said 
* he will soon be deterr^' In 1738 he luckily fell into the hands 
of his other early patron, Cave. His speeches for the Senate of 
Lilliput were begun in 1740, and continued for several sessions. 
They passed for original with many till very lately. But Johnson, 
who detested all injurious imposition, took a great deal of pains 
to acknowledge the innocent deception. He gave Smollett notice 
of their unoriginality, while he was going over his historical 
ground, and to be upon his guard in quoting from the Lilliput 
Debates 2 . It is within recollection, that an animated speech he 
put into the mouth of Pitt, in answer to the Parliamentary 
veteran, Horace Walpole 3 , was much talked of, and considered 
as genuine 4 . Members of parliament acknowledge, that they 
reckon themselves much obliged for the printed accounts of 
debates of both Houses, because they are made to speak better 
than they do in the Senate. Within these few years, a gentle 
man in a high employment under government was at breakfast in 
Gray's-Inn, where Johnson was present, and was commending 
the excellent preservation of the speeches of both houses, in the 
Lilliput Debates 5 . He declared, he knew how to appropriate 
every speech without a signature ; for that every person spoke 
in character, and was as certainly and as easily known as a 
speaker in Homer or in Shakspeare. * Very likely, Sir/ said 

1 Ante, i. 373. ignorant in spite of experience.' 

2 Smollett quoted them as if they Works, x. 355. 

were genuine. History of England, Horace Walpole, Sir Robert Wal- 

iii. 73. See Life, i. 505. pole's son, complained that the 

3 Horace Walpole, first Baron published report of his own first 
Walpole, brother of Sir Robert. speech ' did not contain one sentence 

4 It is the speech which begins : of the true one.' Walpole's Letters, 
' Sir, the atrocious crime of being a i. 147. Forty-nine years later he 
young man, which the honourable wrote: 'I never knew Johnson wrote 
gentleman has with such spirit the speeches in the Gentleman's 
and decency charged upon me, I Magazine till he died.' Ib. ix. 
shall neither attempt to palliate nor 319. 

deny, but content myself with wish- 5 Wedderburne, I think, is meant, 

ing that I may be one of those whose He was one of the party a dinner 

follies may cease with their youth, party given by Foote. Life, i. 504 ; 

and not of that number who are ante, i. 378. 


by Thomas Tyers. 343 

Johnson, ashamed of having deceived him, * but I wrote them in 
the garret where I then lived.' His predecessor in this oratorical 
fabrication was Guthrie T ; his successor in the Magazine was 
Hawkesworth 2 . It is said, that to prove himself equal to this 
employment (but there is not leisure for the adjustment of 
chronology) in the judgment of Cave, he undertook the Life of 
Savage 3 , which he asserted (not incredible of him), and valued 
himself upon it, that he wrote in six and thirty hours 4 . In one 
night he also composed, after finishing an evening in Holborn, 
his Hermit of Teneriff 5 . He sat up a whole night to compose 
the preface to the Preceptor 6 . 

His eye-sight was not good ; but he never wore spectacles, not 
on account of such a ridiculous vow as Swift made not to use 
them 7 , but because he was assured they would be of no service to 
him. He once declared, that he ' never saw the human face 
divine 8 .' He saw better with one eye than the other, which, 
however, was not like that of Camoens, the Portuguese poet, as 
expressed on his medal 9 . Latterly perhaps he meant to save his 
eyes, and did not read so much as he otherwise would. He 
preferred conversation to books ; but when driven to the refuge 
of reading by being left alone, he then attached himself to that 

1 Ante, i. 378 ; ii. 92 ; Life,\. 116. had neither business nor amuse- 

2 Life, i. 512. ment ; for having by some ridiculous 

3 The publication of the last of resolution, or mad vow, determined 
Johnson's Debates was in March, never to wear spectacles he could 
1744; the Life of Sewage had ap- make little use of books in his later 
peared in the previous February. Ib. years.' Johnson's Works, viii. 218. 
i. 165, 511. Perhaps Stella used to urge him to 

4 'I wrote forty-eight of the printed wear them, for in his verses to her 
octavo pages of the Life of Savage he says : 

at a sitting ; but then I sat up all ' Nor think on our approaching 

night. 3 Ib. v. 67. There were 180 ills, 

pages in all. And talk of spectacles and pills.' 

5 The Vision of Theodore the Swift's Works, ed. 1803, xi. 21. 
Hermit of Teneriffe found in his 8 Paradise Lost, iii. 44. For 
Cell. Works, ix. 162. ' The Bishop Johnson's eyesight see ante, i. 337. 
of Dromore heard Dr. Johnson say 9 In the Gentleman's Magazine 
that he thought this was the best for April, 1784 (p. 257), is given an 
thing he ever wrote.' Life, i. 192. engraving of this medal, which shows 

6 Ib. i. 192. Camoens' disfigurement by the loss of 

7 'Having thus excluded conver- an eye. See also ib. p. 415. 
sation and desisted from study Swift 


344 A Biographical Sketch of Dr. Johnson 

amusement x . ' Till this year,' said he to an intimate,- ' I have 
done tolerably well without sleep, for I have been able to read 
like Hercules 2 .' But he picked and culled his companions for 
his midnight hours ; ' and chose his author as he chose his friend 3 .' 
The mind is as fastidious about its intellectual meal as the 
appetite is as to its culinary one ; and it is observable, that the 
dish or the book that palls at one time is a banquet at another 4 . 
By his innumerable quotations you would suppose, with a great 
personage 5 , that he must have read more books than any man in 
England, and have been a mere book-worm : but he acknowledged 
that supposition was a mistake in his favour. He owned he had 
hardly ever read a book through 6 . The posthumous volumes of 
Mr. Harris of Salisbury (which treated of subjects that were 
congenial with his own professional studies) had attractions that 
engaged him to the end 7 . Churchill used to say, having heard 
perhaps of his confession, as a boast, that ( if Johnson had only 
read a few books, he could not be the author of his own works.' 
His opinion, however, was, that he who reads most, has the 
chance of knowing most ; but he declared, that the perpetual 
task of reading was as bad as the slavery in the mine, or the labour 

1 On April 19, 1783, he wrote : Roscommon, Essay on Translated 
' I can apply better to books than Verse, 1. 95. 

I could in some more vigorous parts l> m Life, iii. 193. 

of my life, at least than I did; and 5 Boswell describes George III as 

I have one more reason for reading ; 'A GREAT PERSONAGE.' Ib. i. 219. 

that time has, by taking away my Tyers exaggerates what the king 

companions, left me less opportunity said. Ib. ii. 36. 

of conversation.' Letters, ii. 289. 6 Ib. i. 71; ii. 226; ante, i. 332, 363. 

See also Life, iv. 218, n. i, where he 7 Harris's last work, his Philo- 

said to Malone : ' I have been con- logical Inquiries, was published in 

fined this week past ; and here you 1781, the year after his death. 

find me roasting apples and reading JOHNSON. " Harris is a sound 

the History of Birmingham' sullen scholar; he does not like in- 

2 ' He lamented much his inability terlopers. Harris, however, is a prig, 
to read during his hours of restless- and a bad prig. I looked into his 
ness. " I used formerly (he added) book [Hermes] and thought he did 
when sleepless in bed to read like not understand his own system."' 
a Turk:' ' Life, iv. 409. Life, iii. 245. See ib. v. 377, where 

3 ' Then seek a Poet who your ' he thought Harris " a coxcomb." 

Way does bend This he said of him not as a man but 

And chuse an Author as you as an author.' See also ante, i. 187; 
chuse a Friend' ii. 70. 


by Thomas Tyers. 345 

at the oar. He did not always give his opinion unconditionally 
of the pieces he had even perused, and was competent to decide 
upon x . He did not choose to have his sentiments generally 
known ; for there was a great eagerness, especially in those who 
had not the pole-star of judgment to direct them, to be taught 
what to think or say on literary performances. c What does 
Johnson say of such a book ? ' was the question of every day. 
Besides, he did not want to increase the number of his enemies, 
which his decisions and criticisms had created him ; for he was 
generally willing to retain his friends, to whom, and their works, 
he bestowed sometimes too much praise, and recommended be 
yond their worth, or perhaps his own esteem. But affection knows 
no bounds. Shall this pen find a place in the present page to 
mention, that a shameless Aristophanes had an intention of 
taking him off upon the stage, as the Rehearsal does the great 
Dryden 2 ? When it came to the notice of our exasperated man 
of learning, he conveyed such threats of vengeance and personal 
punishment to the mimic, that he was glad to proceed no farther 3 . 
The reverence of the public for his character afterwards, which 
was increasing every year, would not have suffered him to be the 
object of theatrical ridicule. Like Fame in Virgil, vires acquirit 
eundo 4 . In the year 1738 he wrote the Life of Father Paul, and 
published proposals for a translation of his History of the Council 
of Trent, by subscription : but it did not go on 5 . Mr. Urban 
even yet hopes to recover some sheets of this translation, 
that were in a box under St. John's Gate ; more certainly once 

1 * JOHNSON. " My judgment I Macaulay, after saying that he 

have found is no certain rule as to ' admires no historians much except 

the sale of a book." BOSWELL. Herodotus, Thucydides and Tacitus,' 

" Pray, Sir, have you been much continues ; ' Perhaps, in his way, 

plagued with authors sending you a very peculiar way, I might add 

their works to revise?" JOHNSON. Fra Paolo. ... He is my favourite 

" No, Sir ; I have been thought a modern historian. His subject did 

sour, surly fellow.'" Life, iv. 121. not admit of vivid painting; but, 

See ante, i. 332. what he did, he did better than any- 

2 , Life^ ii. 168 ; Works, vii. 272. body.' Trevelyan's Macaulay, ed. 

3 The mimic was Foote. Ante,\. 1877, ii. 270, 285. 'That incom- 
4 2 4- parable historian,' Gibbon called 

4 Aeneid, iv. 175. him. Misc. Works, iv. 551. 

5 Life, i. 107, 135, 139. 


346 A Biographical Sketch of Dr. Johnson 

placed there, than Rowley's Poems were in the chest in a tower 
of the church of Bristol x . 

Night was his time for composition. Indeed he literally turned 
night into day, nodes vigilabat ad ipsum mane ; but not like 
Tigellius in Horace 2 . Perhaps he never was a good sleeper, and 
(while all the rest of the world was in bed) he chose his lamp, in 

the words of Milton, 

' In midnight hour, 
Were seen in some high lonely tower 3 / 

He wrote and lived perhaps at one time only from day to 
day, and (according to vulgar expression) from sheet to sheet. 
Dr. Cheyne 4 reprobates the practice of turning night into day, 
as pernicious to mind and body. Jortin has something to say 
on the vigils of a learned man, in his Life of Erasmus. ' As he 
would not sleep when he could, nothing but opium could procure 
him repose.' There is cause to believe, he would not have 
written unless under the pressure of necessity. Magister artis 
ingenique largitor venter ', says Persius 5 . He wrote to live, and 
luckily for mankind lived a great many years to write. All his 
pieces are promised for a new edition of his works under the 
inspection of Sir John Hawkins, one of his executors, who has 
undertaken to be his biographer. Johnson's high tory prin 
ciples in church and state were well known. But neither his 
Prophecy of the Hanover Horse, lately maliciously reprinted 6 , 

1 Life, iii. 50. 141) 'resolves itself into an invective 

2 Satires, i. 3. 17. Steevens denies against a standing army, a ridicule of 
that ' night was Johnson's time for the balance of power, complaints of 
composition.' Ante, ii. 328. the inactivity of the British lion, and 

3 ' Or let my lamp at midnight that the Hanover horse was suffered 

hour to suck his blood.' Hawkins, p. 72. 

Be seen in some high lonely It was reprinted in 1775. About a 

tower.' year later Boswell mentioned the 

II Penseroso, 1. 85. republication to Johnson. 'To my 

4 Life, i. 65. Fielding writes his surprise, he had not yet heard of it. 
name Cheney, which shows how it He requested me to go directly and 
was pronounced. ' The learned Dr. get it for him, which I did. He 
Cheney used to call drinking punch looked at it and laughed, and seemed 
pouring liquid fire down your throat.' to be much diverted with the feeble 
Tom Jones, Bk. xi. ch. 8. efforts of his unknown adversary, 

5 Prologus, 1. 10. who, I hope, is alive to read this 

6 M armor Norfolciense (Life, i. account. ''Now (said he) here is 


by Thomas Tyers. 347 

nor his political principles or conversations, got him into any 
personal difficulties, nor prevented the offer of a pension, nor his 
acceptance. Kara temporum felicitas, ubi sentire quce velis, et, 
quce sentias dicer e licet x . The present royal family are winning 
the hearts of all the friends of the house of Stuart 2 . There is 
here neither room nor leisure to ascertain the progress of his 
publications, though, in the idea of Shenstone, it would exhibit 
the history of his mind and thoughts. 

He was employed by Osborne to make a catalogue of the 
Harleian Library. Perhaps, like those who stay too long on an 
errand, he did not make the expedition his employer expected, 
from whom he might deserve a gentle reprimand. The fact was, 
when he opened a book he liked, he could not restrain from 
reading it. The bookseller upbraided him in a gross manner, 
and, as tradition goes, gave him the lie direct, though our 
catalogue-maker offered at an excuse. Johnson turned the 
volume into a weapon, and knocked him down, and told him, 
'not to be in a hurry to rise, for when he did, he proposed 
kicking him down stairs 3 . Perhaps the lie direct may be 
punished ad modum recipients , as the law gives no satisfaction. 
His account of the collection, and the tracts that are printed in 
quarto volumes 4 , were well received by the public. Of his folio 
labours in his English Dictionary 5 a word must be said ; but there 
is not room for much. The delineation of his plan, which was 
esteemed a beautiful composition, was inscribed to Lord Chester 
field, no doubt with permission, whilst he was secretary of state 6 . 
It was at this time, he said, he aimed at elegance of writing, and 

somebody who thinks he has vexed come nearer to me, while his old 

me sadly: yet, if it had not been prejudices seemed to be fermenting 

for you, you rogue, I should prob- in his mind), this Hanoverian family 

ably never have seen it." ' Life, i. is isolde here. They have no friends.' 

142. Ib. iv. 165. 

1 Tacitus, Historiae, i. I. 3 Ante, i. 304; Life, i. 154. 

3 ' Dr. Johnson grew so out- 4 The Harleian Miscellany was 

rageous as to say [in 1777] that if printed in eight quarto volumes. 

England were fairly polled the pre- Johnson wrote the preface. Life, i. 

sent King would be sent away to- 175. 

night, and his adherents hanged 5 His Dictionary was published in 

to-morrow.' Life, iii. 155. ' Sir two folio volumes, 

(said he [1783] in a low voice, having 6 Ib. i. 183. 


348 A Biographical Sketch of Dr. Johnson 

set for his emulation the Preface of Chambers to his Cyclopedia x . 
Johnson undoubtedly expected beneficial patronage. It should 
seem that he was in the acquaintance of his Lordship, and that 
he had dined at his table, by an allusion to him in a letter to his 
son, printed by Mrs. Stanhope, and which he himself would have 
been afraid to publish. While he was ineffectually hallooing the 
Graces in the ear of his son, he set before him the slovenly be 
haviour of our author at his table, whom he acknowledges as a 
great genius, but points him out as a rock to avoid, and considers 
him only as ' a respectable Hottentot V When the book came 
out, Johnson took his revenge, by saying of it, ' that the instruc 
tions to his son inculcated the manners of a dancing master, and 
the morals of a prostitute 3 .' Within this year or two he observed 
(for anger is a short-lived passion), that, bating some impro 
prieties, it contained good directions, and was not a bad system 
of education 4 . But Johnson probably did not think so highly 
of his own appearance as of his morals. For, on being asked if 
Mr. Spence had not paid him a visit 5 ? ' Yes,' says he, ' and 
he probably may think he visited a bear.' ' Johnson,' says the 
author of the Life of Socrates, ' is a literary savage.' ( Very 
likely,' replied Johnson ; ' and Cooper (who was as thick as long) 
is a literary Punchinello 6 .' 

1 'He once told me that he had 4 ' Lord Chesterfield's Letters to his 
formed his style upon that of Sir Son, I think, might be made a very 
William Temple, and upon Cham- pretty book. Take out the im- 
bers's Proposal for his Dictionary. 9 morality, and it should be put into 
Life, i. 218. the hands of every young gentleman.' 

2 I had proved, I thought, beyond Ib. iii. 53. 

a doubt that it was not Johnson, but 5 'I mentioned Pope's friend, 

the first Lord Lyttelton, who was Spence. JOHNSON. "He was a 

Chesterfield's Hottentot. Life, i. 267, weak conceited man." BOSWELL. 

n. 2 ; Lord Chesterfield's Worldly " A good scholar, Sir ? " JOHNSON. 

Wisdom, p. 134. I was disappointed "Why, no, Sir." BOSWELL. " He 

to find that the Professor of English was a pretty scholar." JOHNSON. 

Literature in Glasgow, the late Mr. " You have about reached him." ' 

John Nichol, held to the old opinion in Ib. v. 317. 

his Thomas Carlyle (English Men of 6 Cooper wrote the Life of Socrates. 

Letters Series), p. 44. See ante, i. 384. ' Being told that Gilbert Cowper 

3 ' They teach the morals of a [sic] called him the Caliban of Litera- 
whore, and the manners of a dancing ture ; " Well (said he,) I must dub 
master.' Life, i. 266. him the Punchinello." ' Life, ii. 129. 


by Thomas Tyers. 349 

It does not appear that Lord Chesterfield showed t any sub 
stantial proofs of approbation to our Philologer, for that was the 
professional title he chose z . A small present he would have 
disdained 2 . Johnson was not of a temper to put up with the 
affront of disappointment. He revenged himself in a letter to 
his Lordship, written with great acrimony, and renouncing all 
acceptance of favour 3 . It was handed about, and probably will 
be published, for litera scripta manet. He used to say, 'he was 
mistaken in his choice of a patron, for he had simply been 
endeavouring to gild a rotten post 4 .' 

Lord Chesterfield indeed commends and recommends Mr. 
Johnson's Dictionary in two or three numbers of the World. 
Not words alone pleased him. ' When I had undergone/ says 
the compiler, ' a long and fatiguing voyage, and was just getting 
into port, this Lord sent out a small cock-boat to pilot me in V 
The agreement for this great work was for fifteen hundred pounds. 
This was a large bookseller's venture at that time : and it is in 
many shares 6 . Robertson, Gibbon, and a few more, have raised 
the price of manuscript copies. In the course of fifteen years, 
two and twenty thousand pounds have been paid to four authors 7 . 

1 'Philology and biography were 5 Life, i. 260; ante, i. 405. 

his favourite pursuits.' Life, iv. 34. 6 Boswell mentions seven partners 

'The faults of the book [the Die- in the Dictionary. Life, i. 183. In 

tionary} resolve themselves, for the the title-page of the first edition an 

most part, into one great fault. eighth, L. Hawes, is mentioned. 

Johnson was a wretched etymolo- 7 In 1773 Hawkesworth was paid 

gist.' Macaulay's Misc. Writings, 6,000 for Cook's Voyages. Ib. ii. 

ed. 1871, p. 382. Perhaps he was 247, n. 5. In 1768 Robertson was 

not worse than some of the most paid ^3,400 for the first edition of 

learned of his contemporaries. Phi- his Charles V. For the second edi- 

lology, as a science, did not yet tion he was to receive ^400. Letters 

exist. Johnson defines it as ' criti- of Hume to Strahan, p. 15. Hume, 

cism ; grammatical learning.' for the first two volumes of his His- 

2 He had received ten pounds. iory of England (the Stuart period), 
Life, i. 261. received, it seems, .1,940. At this 

3 Ib. i. 261. rate he would have received nearly 

4 According to Rebecca Warner ,8,000 for the whole work. ' The 
(Original Letters, p. 204), Johnson copy-money given me by the book- 
telling Joseph Fowke about his re- sellers,' he wrote, 'much exceeded 
fusal to dedicate his Dictionary to anything formerly known in Eng- 
Chesterfield, said: 'Sir, I found I land.' Ib. pp. 15, 33. How much 
must have gilded a rotten post.' Gibbon was paid is not, I think, 


350 A Biographical Sketch of Dr. Johnson 

Johnson's world of words demands frequent editions. His titles 
of Doctor of Laws from Dublin and from Oxford J (both of which 
came to him unasked and unknown, and only not unmerited) ; 
his pension from the King, which is to be considered as a reward 
for his pioneering services in the English language, and by no 
means as a bribe 2 ; gave him consequence, and made the 
Dictionary and its author more extensively known. It is a 
royal satisfaction to have made the life of a learned man more 
comfortable to him. 

* These are imperial works, and worthy Kings 3 .' 

Lord Corke, who would have been kinder to him than Stanhope 
(if he could) as soon as it came out, presented the Dictionary to 
the Academy della Crusca at Florence in I755 4 . Even for the 
abridgment in octavo 5 , which puts it into every body's hands, he 
was paid to his satisfaction, by the liberality of his booksellers. 
His reputation is as great for compiling, digesting, and ascertaining 
the English language, as if he had invented it. His Grammar 
in the beginning of the work was the best in our language, in the 
opinion of Goldsmith. During the printing of his Dictionary, 
the Ramblers came out periodically ; for he could do more 
than one thing at a time. He declared that he wrote them by 
way of relief from his application to his Dictionary, and for the 
reward. He has told this writer, that he had no expectation 
they would have met with so much success, and been so much 
read and admired 6 . What was amusement to him, is instruction 

known. Blair was paid for his Ser- His Lordship, he said, behaved in 

mons, ;i,ioo. Life, iii. 98. For his the handsomest manner. He re- 

Lectures on Rhetoric, which came peated the words twice, that he 

later, he, no doubt, received a far might be sure Johnson heard them.' 

larger sum. H is Sermons and Hume's 7^.1.374. 

History do not, however, fall within } ' These are imperial arts and 
' a course of fifteen years.' Boswell worthy thee.' 
was, it seems, offered ^1,000 for his Dryden, quoted in Johnson's Die- 
Life of Johnson, but he resolved to tionary. 
keep the copyright. Ante, ii. 33, 37. 4 Life, i. 298, 443. Stanhope was 

1 Life, i. 488 ; ii. 331. Lord Chesterfield. 

2 ' He told Sir Joshua that Lord 5 Ib. i. 305. 

Bute said to him expressly, "It is 6 'So slowly did this excellent 
not given you for anything you are work, of which twelve editions have 
to do, but for what you have done." now issued from the press, gain upon 


by Thomas Tyers. 

to others. Goldsmith declared, that a system of morals might 
be drawn from these Essays : this idea is taken up and 
executed by a publication in an alphabetical series of moral 
maxims r . 

The Rambler is a great task for one person to accomplish, 
single-handed. For he was assisted only in two Essays by 
Richardson, two by Mrs. Carter, and one by Miss Talbot 2 . His 
Idlers had more hands 3 . The World*, the Connoisseur 5 , 
(the Gray's Inn Journal an exception 6 ,) the Mirror 1 , the 
Adventurer* \ the Old Maid 9 , all had helpmates. The toilet 
as well as the shelf and table have these volumes, lately re- 
published with decorations. Shenstone, his fellow collegian, calls 
his style a learned one 10 . There is indeed too much Latin in his 
English. He seems to have caught the infectious language of Sir 
Thomas Brown, whose works he read, in order to write his life ". 
Though it cannot be said, as Campbell did of his own last work I2 , 

the world at large, that even in the 
closing number the authour says, " I 
have never been much a favourite of 
the publick.' " Life, i. 208. 

1 In The Beauties of the Rambler. 
Ib. i. 214. In note i on this page 
1 have confused this book with The 
Beauties of Johnson. 

2 Ib. i. 203 ; ante, i. 465. 

3 Life, i. 330. 

4 Ib. i. 257, h. 3. 

5 Ib. i. 420, n. 3. 

6 * It was successfully carried on by 
Mr. Murphy alone, when a very young 
man.' Ib. i. 356 ; ante, i. 408. 

7 Life, iv. 390. 

8 Ib. i. 252. 

9 By Frances Brooke, 1755-6* 

10 Shenstone matriculated on May 
25, 1732, more than two years after 
Johnson left. Dr. Johnson: His 
Friends and his Critics, p. 345. 
Writing on Feb. 9, 1760, Shenstone 
says : * I have lately been reading 
one or two volumes of The Rambler ; 
who, excepting against some few 
hardnesses in his manner, and the 

want of more examples to enliven, is 
one of the most nervous, most per 
spicuous, most concise, [and] most 
harmonious prose writers I know. 
A learned diction improves by time.' 
Life, ii. 452. 

11 ' Sir Thomas Brown, whose life 
Johnson wrote, was remarkably fond 
of Anglo-Latian diction ; and to his 
example we are to ascribe Johnson's 
sometimes indulging himself in this 
kind of phraseology.' Ib. i. 221. See 
ib. i. 308 for an example of Johnson's 
Brownism. Nevertheless he con 
demned Brown's style as ' a tissue of 
many languages ; a mixture of hete 
rogeneous words brought together 
from distant regions,' c. Works, 
vi. 500. Murphy traces Johnson's 
learned diction to his work on the 
Dictionary. Ante, i. 466. 

12 A Political Survey of Great 
Britain. 'Johnson said to me, that 
he believed Campbell's disappoint 
ment, on account of the bad success 
of that work, had killed him.' Life, 
ii. 447. 


352 A Biographical Sketch of Dr. Johnson 

that there is not a hard word in it, yet he does not rattle through 
hard words and stalk through polysyllables, to use an expression 
of Addison 1 , as in his earlier productions. His style, as he says 
of Pope, became smoothed by the scythe, and levelled by the 
roller 2 . It pleased him to be told by Dr. Robertson, that he had 
read his Dictionary twice over. If he had some enemies beyond 
and even on this side of the Tweed, he had more friends 3 . Only 
he preferred England to Scotland. As it is cowardly to insult 
a dead lion, it is hoped, that as death extinguishes envy, it also 
does ill-will : ' for British vengeance wars not with the dead V 

He gave himself very much to companionable friends for the 
last years of his life (for he was delivered from the daily labour 
of the pen, and he wanted relaxation), and they were eager for 
the advantage and reputation of his conversation 5 . Therefore he 
frequently left his own home (for his household gods were not 
numerous or splendid enough for the reception of his great 
acquaintance 6 ), and visited them both in town and country. This 
was particularly the case with Mr. and Mrs. Thrale (ex uno disce 
omnes 7 ), who were the most obliging and obliged of all within his 
intimacy, and to whom he was introduced by his friend Murphy 8 . 
He lived with them a great part of every year. He formed at 
Streatham a room for a library, and increased by his recom 
mendation the number of books. Here he was to be found 
(himself a library) when a friend called upon him; and by him the 
friend was sure to be introduced to the dinner-table, which Mrs. 
Thrale knew how to spread with the utmost plenty and elegance 9 ; 

1 'Your high nonsense blusters and Wise. Life, iii. 114; ante, i. 181 ; ii. 6. 
makes a noise; it stalks upon hard 5 Ante, ii. 115. 

words and rattles through poly- 6 Boswell, who dined and slept at 

syllables.' The Whig Examiner, Johnson's house, 'found everything 

No. 4. in excellent order.' Life, ii. 215, 375 ; 

2 'Pope's page is a velvet lawn, iv. 92. Hawkins (ante, ii. 120) says 
shaven by the scythe and levelled by that he 'sometimes gave not inelegant 
the roller.' Works, viii. 324. dinners.' See also ante, ii. 141. 

3 Life, ii. 121, 306 ; ante, i. 429. 'Crimine ab uno 

4 'From zeal or malice now no Disce omnes.' Aeneid, ii. 65. 

more we dread, 8 Ante, i. 232. 

For English vengeance wars 9 For her luxurious table see Life, 

not with the dead.' iii. 423, n. I ; Letters, ii. 389, and 

Johnson's Prologue to A Word to the ante, ii. 43. 


by Thomas Tyers. 353 

and which was often adorned with such guests, that to dine there 
was, epulis accumbere divum x . Of Mrs. Thrale, if mentioned at 
all, less cannot be said, than that in one of the latest opinions of 
Johnson, ' if she was not the wisest woman in the world, she was 
undoubtedly one of the wittiest V She took or caused such care 
to be taken of him, during an illness of continuance, that Gold 
smith told her, 'he owed his recovery to her attention 3 .' She 
taught him to lay up something of his income every year 4 . Be 
sides a natural vivacity in conversation, she had reading enough, 
and the gods had made her poetical. The Three Warnings* 
(the subject she owned not to be original) are highly interesting 
and serious, and literally come home to every body's breast and 
bosom. The writer of this would not be sorry if this mention 
could follow the lady to Venice 6 . At Streatham, where our 
Philologer was also guide, philosopher, and friend 7 , he passed 
much time. His inclinations here were consulted, and his will was 
a law. With this family he made excursions into Wales 8 and 
to Brighthelmstone. Change of air and of place were grateful 
to him, for he loved vicissitude. But he could not long endure 
the illiteracy and rusticity of the country 9 , for woods and groves, 
and hill and dale, were not his scenes : 

1 Aeneid, i. 79. 5 Ib. ii. 26. Hayward's Piozzi, ed. 

* '"I wonder," said Mrs. Thrale, 1861, ii. 165. 

"you bear with my nonsense." "No, According to Lysons 'the first 

Madam, you never talk nonsense; hint of this poem was given to her 

you have as much sense and more by Johnson ; she brought it to him 

wit than any woman I know." ' Mme. very incorrect ; and he not only re- 

D'Arblay's Diary, i. 87. See also vised it throughout, but supplied 

Letters, ii. 153. several new lines.' She denied that 

3 Ante, i. 234. it was suggested by Johnson, but 

4 If this is a fact, which I greatly apparently admitted the rest of the 
doubt, he repaid her lesson by statement. Prior's Malone, p. 413. 
urging economy on her and her 6 After her second marriage, in 
husband. Letters,\. 198-9. See Life, July, 1784, she had gone to Italy. 
v. 442, where he recorded in his Letters, ii. 407, n. 3. 

Diary : ' Mrs. Thrale lost her purse. ^ Pope, Essay on Man, iv. 390. 

She expressed so much uneasiness, Applied also by Boswell to Johnson in 

that I concluded the sum to be very connexion with Mrs. Thrale. Life,\\\.6. 

great ; but when I heard of only 8 Ib. v. 427. He also accompanied 

seven guineas, I was glad to find them to France. Ib. ii. 384. Brighton 

that she had so much sensibility of he frequently visited with them, 

money.' 9 Nevertheless he paid long visits 

VOL. II. A a ' Tower'd 

354 A Biographical Sketch of Dr. Johnson 

' Tower' d cities please us then, 
And the busy hum of men 1 .' 

But the greatest honour of his life was from a visit that he 
received from a Great Personage in the Library of the Queen's 
palace only it was not from a King of his own making 2 . John 
son on his return repeated the conversation, which was much to 
the honour of the great person, and was as well supported as 
Lewis the XlVth could have continued with Voltaire. He said, 
he only wanted to be more known, to be more loved 3 . They 
parted, much pleased with each other. If it is not an impertinent 
stroke of this pen, it were to be wished that one more person 
had conveyed an enquiry about him during his last illness. 
' Every body has left their names, or wanted to know how I do/ 

says he, ' but ' 4 . In his younger days he had a great many 

enemies, of whom he was not afraid. 

'Ask you what provocation I have had? 
The strong antipathy of good to bad V 

Churchill, the puissant satirist, challenged Johnson to combat : 
Satire the weapon 6 . Johnson never took up the gauntlet or 
replied, for he thought it unbecoming him to defend himself 
against an author who might be resolved to have the last word 7 . 
He was content to let his enemies feed upon him as long as they 
could. This writer has heard Churchill declare, that 'he thought 
the poems of London, and The Vanity of Human Wishes, full 
of admirable verses, and that all his compositions were diamonds 
of the first water.' But he wanted a subject for his pen and for 
raillery, and so introduced Pomposo into his descriptions. ' For, 
with other wise folks, he sat up with the ghost V Our author, 

to the country one of * near six 6 For Churchill's attack on John- 
months ' in 1767. Life, iii. 450-3. son see his Works, ed. 1766, i. 216, 

1 L Allegro, 1. 1 17. 261 ; ii. 36, and Life, i. 310, 406, 419 ; 

3 Life, ii. 33. Tyers apparently iii. I, n. 2. Dr. Warton wrote in 

alludes to Johnson's liking for the 1797 : 'We all remember when 

House of Stuart. Churchill was more in vogue than 

3 For Johnson's praise of the King Gray.' Warton's Pope's Works, i. 
as 'the finest gentleman he had ever Introduction, p. 55. 

seen ' see id. ii. 40. 7 For Johnson's silence on attack 

4 I suppose the King is meant. see Life, i. 314 ; ante, i. 270, 407. 

5 Pope, Epilogue to the Satires, 8 ' The gentlemen eminent for their 
ji. 197. rank and character,' among them 


by Thomas Tyers. 


who had too implicit a confidence in human testimony, followed 
the newspaper invitation to Cock-lane, in order to detect the 
imposter, or, if it proved a being of an higher order, and appeared 
in a questionable shape y to talk with it. Posterity must be per 
mitted to smile at the credulity of that period 2 . Johnson had 
otherwise a vulnerable side ; for he was one of the few Nonjurors 
that were left 3 , and it was supposed he would never bow the 
knee to the Baal of Whiggism. This reign, which disdained 
proscription, began with granting pensions (without requiring 
their pens) to learned men 4 . 

Johnson was unconditionally offered one ; but such a turn was 
given to it by the last mentioned satirical poet, that it might 
have made him angry or odious, or both. Says Churchill, 
amongst other passages very entertaining to a neutral reader, 

' He damns the pension that he takes, 
And loves the Stuart he forsakes 5 .' 

Johnson and Douglas, 'the great 
detector of impostures,' who one 
night investigated the story of the 
Cock Lane Ghost, 'sat rather more 
than an hour ' in the chamber where 
the spirit was said to be heard. Life, 
i. 407, n. 3. 

1 ' Thou com'st in such a question 
able shape.' Hamlet, Act i. sc. 4. 
1. 43. Johnson, in a note on this 
passage, says : ' Hamlet, amazed at 
an apparition which, though in all 
ages credited, has in all ages been 
considered as the most wonderful 
and most dreadful operation of super 
natural agency, enquires of the 
spectre in the most emphatick terms 
why he breaks the order of nature by 
returning from the dead.' 

2 Neither Dr. Douglas nor Horace 
Walpole, who both went to Cock 
Lane, had any credulity. Walpole's 
Letters, iii. 481. For Johnson's state 
of mind see Life, ii. 150; iv. 298. 
Posterity, just at present, has enough 
to do in smiling at the credulity of 
its own period. 

A a 

3 ' Many of my readers,' says Bos- 
well, ' will be surprised when I men 
tion that Johnson assured me he had 
never in his life been in a non-juring 
meeting-house.' Ib. iv. 287. For 
Johnson's low opinion of many of 
the Nonjurors and his condemnation 
of their ' perverseness of integrity ' 
see ib. ii. 321. 

4 'The accession of George the 
Third to the throne of these king 
doms, opened a new and brighter 
prospect to men of literary merit, 
who had been honoured with no 
mark of royal favour in the preceding 
reign.' Ib. i. 372. Goldsmith, Smol 
lett and Sterne had no pension. 
Hume had one, but he did not need 
it; and so had Home and Beattie, 
and what was far worse, Shebbeare. 
Later on no pension was found for 

5 'He damns the pension which 

he takes.' 

Churchill's Works, i. 262. 
See Life, i. 429. 

2 Not 

356 A Biographical Sketch of Dr. Johnson 

Not so fast, great satirist for he had now no friends at Rome. 
In the sport of conversation, he would sometimes take the wrong 
side of a question, to try his hearers, or for his own exertions r . 
But this may do mischief sometimes. ' For, 1 without aiming at 
ludicrous quotation, 'he could dispute on both sides, and con 
fute 2 .' Among those he could trust himself with, he would enter 
into imaginary combat with the whigs, and has now and then 
shook the principles of a sturdy revolutionist 3 . All ingenious 
men can find arguments for and against every thing : and if their 
hearts are not good, they may do mischief with their heads. On 
all occasions he pressed his antagonist with so strong a front of 
argument, that he generally prevented his retreat. ' Every 
body/ said an eminent detector of imposters 4 , ' must be cautious 
how they enter the lists with Dr. Johnson.' He wrote many 
political tracts since his pension. Perhaps he would not have 
written at all, unless impelled by gratitude 5 . But he wrote his 
genuine thoughts, and imagined himself contending on the right 
side. A great parliamentary character seems to resolve all his 

1 Ante, i. 390, 452. 

2 ' He could distinguish and divide 

A hair 'twixt south and south 
west side ; 

On either which he would 

Confute, change hands, and 
still confute.' 

Hudibras, i. I. 67. 

3 Revolutionist was one who up 
held the principles of 'the glorious 
Revolution.' The Revolution Society 
was * a Club which had a yearly 
festival [on November 4, the birth 
day of the Prince of Orange] in 
commemoration of the events of 
1688.' Stanhope's Life of Pitt, 
ii. 65. 

In the Scots Magazine, 1773, p. 
613, it is recorded :' On Nov. 15 
there was a general meeting of the 
members of the Revolution club in 
Edinburgh, when several constitu 
tional and patriotic toasts were given, 

suitable to the occasion. His ex 
cellency, Sir Adolphus Oughton [the 
Commander in Chief in Scotland] 
proposed that the members should 
for the future on Nov. 15 meet early, 
and walk in procession to church, 
where a sermon should be preached 
on Revolution principles. The pro 
posal was unanimously agreed to.' 
Nov. 15 was the same as Nov. 4, Old 

4 Dr. Douglas, * the scourge of im 
postors, the terror of quacks,' as 
Goldsmith calls him in Retaliation. 
Life, i. 229. 

5 * He complained to a Right Hon 
ourable friend, that his pension hav 
ing been given to him as a literary 
character, he had been applied to by 
administration to write political pam 
phlets ; and he was even so much 
irritated, that he declared his resolu 
tion to resign his pension.' Ib. ii. 
317. See ante, i. 418. 


by Thomas Tyers. 357 

American notions into the vain expectation of rocking a man in 
the cradle of a child z . Johnson recounted the number of his 
opponents with indifference. He wrote for that government 
which had been generous to him. He was too proud to call 
upon Lord Bute, or leave his name at his house 2 , though he 
was told it would be agreeable to his Lordship, for he said 
he had performed the greater difficulty, for he had taken the 

The last popular work, to him an easy and a pleasing one, was 
the writing the lives of our poets, now reprinted in four octavo 
volumes. He finished this business so much to the satisfaction 
of the booksellers that they presented him a gratuity of one 
hundred pounds, having paid him three hundred pounds as his 
price 3 . The Knaptons made Tindal a large present on the success 
of his translation of Rapin's history 4 . But an unwritten space 
must be found for what Johnson did respecting Shakspeare. 
For the writer and reader observe a disorder of time in this page. 
He took so many years to publish his edition, that his subscribers 
grew displeased and clamorous for their books 5 , which he might 
have prevented. For he was able to do a great deal in a little 
time. Though for collation he was not fit. He could not pore 
long on a text 6 . It was Columbus at the oar. It was on most 

1 ' We may as well think of rock- guineas by this work in the course of 
ing a grown man in the cradle of an 25 years.' 2b. in. in, n. I. 
infant.' Burke's Works, ed. 1808, 4 ' I am credibly informed that the 
iii. 189. Knaptons will get 8 or ; 10,000 by 

2 He called on him to thank him that History.' Gentleman' s Magazine^ 
for the pension. Life, i. 374. See 1734, p. 490. They had a share also 
Hawkins, p. 394, and ante, i. 418. in Johnson's Dictionary. Life, i. 183. 

3 He received 200 guineas by s Ib. 1.319; ante, i. 422. 
agreement, 100 guineas as a present, 6 * The collator's province is safe 
and ^100 for revising a new edition. and easy. ... I collated such copies 
Life, iii. in; iv. 35, n. 3; Letters, as I could procure, but have not 
ii. 275. The booksellers' generosity found the collectors of these rarities 
was not great, for Johnson in his very communicative. By examining 
work had gone far beyond their ex- the old copies I soon found that the 
pectations and his own intention later publishers, with all their boasts 
(Life, iv. 35, n. i), while the sum of diligence, suffered many passages 
which he had asked for was absurdly to stand unauthorised, and contented 
small. He might, says Malone, have themselves with Rowe's regulation 

had 1,500 guineas. The booksellers, of the text These corruptions I 

he adds, ' have probably got 5,000 have often silently rectified. . . . Con- 

358 A Biographical Sketch of Dr. Johnson 

literary points difficult to get himself into a willingness to work. 
He was idle, or unwell, or loth to act upon compulsion. But at 
last he tried to awake his faculties, and, like the lethargic porter 
of the castle of Indolence, ' to rouse himself as much, as rouse 
himself he can V He confessed that the publication of his 
Shakspeare answered to him in every respect. He had a very 
large subscription 2 . 

Dr. Campbell, then alive in Queen-square 3 , who had a volume 
in his hand, pronounced that the preface and notes were worth 
the whole subscription money. You would think the text not 
approved or adjusted by the past or present editions, and re 
quiring to be settled by the future. It is hoped that the next 
editors will have read all the books that Shakspeare read : a pro 
mise our Johnson gave, but was not able to perform 4 . 

The reader is apprized, that this memoir is only a sketch of 
life, manner, and writings 

jecture, though it be sometimes un 
avoidable, I have not wantonly nor 
licentiously indulged. It has been 
my settled principle that the reading 
of the ancient books is probably 
true. ... I have endeavoured to per 
form my task with no slight solici 
tude. Not a single passage in the 
whole work has appeared to me cor 
rupt, which I have not attempted to 
restore; or obscure, which I have 
not endeavoured to illustrate.' John 
son's Shakespeare, Preface, pp. 61, 

' It would be difficult to name a 
more slovenly, a more worthless 
edition of any great classic.' Mac- 
aulay's Misc. Works, ed. 1871, p. 
385. 'Johnson's vigorous and com 
prehensive understanding threw more 
light on his author than all his pre 
decessors had done.' Malone's Shake 
speare, ed. 1821, i. 245. * Johnson's 
preface and notes are distinguished 
by clearness of thought and diction, 
and by masterly common sense.' Cam 
bridge Shakespeare, i. Preface, p. 36. 

'Then taking his black staff 

he call'd his man, 
And rous'd himself as much 

as rouse himself he can.' 
Canto i. 24. 

2 On April 16, 1757, he wrote : 
'The subscription, though it does 
not quite equal perhaps my utmost 
hope, for when was hope not dis 
appointed ? yet goes on tolerably.' 
Letters, i. 73. See also ib. i. 124, 
n. 2, and ante, ii. 320. 

3 ' Queen's Square is an area of a 
peculiar kind, it being left open on 
one side for the sake of the beautiful 
landscape formed by the hills of 
Highgate and Hampstead, together 
with the adjacent fields. A delicacy 
worthy [of imitation].' Dodsley's 
London, 1761, v. 240. See also ante, 
ii. 51 n. 

4 In his Proposals Johnson said : 
' The editor will endeavour to read 
the books which the author read, 
to trace his knowledge to its source, 
and compare his copies with their 
originals.' Works, v. 100. 


by Thomas Tyers. 


* In every work regard the writer's end ; 
For none can compass more than they intend 1 .' 

It looks forwards and backwards almost at the same time. Like 
the nightingale in Strada, 'it hits imperfect accents here and 
there V Hawkesworth, one of the Johnsonian school 3 , upon being 
asked, whether Johnson was a happy man, by a gentleman who 
had been just introduced to him, and wanted to know every thing 
about him, confessed, that he looked upon him as a most miserable 
being. The moment of enquiry was probably about the time 
he lost his wife, and sent for Hawkesworth, in the most earnest 

manner, to come and give him consolation and his company 4 . 

' And skreen me from the ills of life ! ' is the conclusion of his 
sombrous poem on November 5 . In happier moments (for who is 

1 * Since none,' &c. 

Pope, Essay on Criticism, 1. 255. 

2 Addison, in The Giiardian, No. 
119, describes how in Strada's Pro 
lusions ' Claudian had chosen for his 
subject the famous contest between 
the nightingale and the lutanist, 
which every one is acquainted with, 
especially since Mr. Phillips has so 
finely improved that hint in one of 
his Pastorals.' In this Pastoral (No. 
v) is found the line : 

1 And adds in sweetness what she 
wants in strength.' 

3 ' Hawkesworth was Johnson's 
closest imitator.' Life, i. 252, Courte- 
nay, in his Lines on Johnson, says : 

' By nature's gifts ordain'd man 
kind to rule, 

He, like a Titian, form'd his 
brilliant school. 

Ingenious Hawkesworth to this 

school we owe, 
And scarce the pupil from the 

tutor know.' 

In this school he places also Gold 
smith, Reynolds, Burney, Malone, 
Steevens, Jones and Bos well. Life, 
i. 222. All of Johnson's school, ac 

cording to Reynolds, 'were distin 
guished for a love of truth and ac 
curacy, which they would not have 
possessed in the same degree if they 
had not been acquainted with John 
son.' 16. iii. 230. See ante, ii. 227. 

4 ' He deposited the remains of 
Mrs. Johnson in the church of Brom 
ley, in Kent, to which he was probably 
led by the residence of his friend 
Hawkesworth at that place.' Life, 
i. 241 ; ante, i. 399. 

5 The Winter's Walk is the name 
of the poem. ' It is remarkable, that 
in this first edition of The Winter's 
Walk, the concluding line is much 
more Johnsonian than it was after 
wards printed ; for in subsequent 
editions, after praying Stella to 
" snatch him to her arms," he says, 

" And shield me from the ills of 


Whereas in the first edition it is 
" And hide me from the sight of 

life." ' Life, i. 179. 
The Winter's Walk, I feel sure, 
is not by Johnson, though he may 
have supplied Hawkesworth, who 
probably wrote it, with a line or two. 
Ib. p. 178, n. 2. 


360 A Biographical Sketch of Dr. Johnson 

not subject to every skyey influence, and the evil of the hour I ?) 
he would argue, and prove it in a sort of dissertation, that there 
was, generally and individually, more of natural and moral good, 
than of the contrary 2 . He asserted, that no man could pronounce 
he did not feel more pleasure than misery. Every body would 
not answer in the affirmative ; for an ounce of pain outweighs 
a pound of pleasure. There are people who wish they had never 
been born to whom life is a disease and whose apprehensions 
of dying pains and of futurity embitter every thing. The reader 
must not think it impertinent to remark, that Johnson did not 
choose to pass his whole life in celibacy. Perhaps the raising 
up a posterity may be a debt and duty all men owe to those who 
have lived before them. Johnson had a daughter, who died before 
its mother, if this pen is not mistaken 3 . When these were 
gone, he lost his hold on life, for he never married again. He 
has expressed a surprize that Sir Isaac Newton continued totally 
unacquainted with the female sex, which is asserted by Voltaire, 
from the information of Cheselden 4 , and is admitted to be true. 
For curiosity, the first and most durable of the passions, might 
have led him to overcome that inexperience. This pen may as 
well finish this last point in the words of Fontenelle, that Sir 
Isaac never was married, and perhaps never had time to think 
of it 5 . Whether the sun-shine of the world upon our author 
raised his drooping spirits, or that the lenient hand of time re 
moved something from him, or that his health meliorated by 
mingling more with the croud of mankind, or not, he however 
apparently acquired more chearfulness, and became more fit for 

1 ' A breath thou art, 4 (Euvres de Voltaire, ed. 1819, 
Servile to all the skiey influences xxiv. 70. 

That do this habitation where 5 * II ne s'est point marie, et peut- 

thou keep'st etre n'a t-il pas eu le loisir d'y penser 

Hourly afflict.' jamais, abime' d'abord dans des 

Measure for Measure, Act iii. sc. i. etudes profondes et continuelles pen- 

1. 7. For the effect of ' the skiey in- dant la force de Page, occupe ensuite 

fluences' on Johnson see Life, i. d'une charge importante, et meme 

332. de sa grande consideration, qui ne 

2 For his unhappy thoughts on life lui laissait sentir nf vuide dans sa 
see ib. i. 213, 331, n. 6, 343 ; ii. 125 ; vie ni besoin d'une societe domes- 
iv. 300 ; ante, ii. 256. tique.' Eloge de Newton, ed. 1728, 

3 He never had a child. p. 36. 


by Thomas Tyers. 361 

the labours of life and his literary function 1 . But he'certainly 
did not communicate to every intruder every uneasy sensation of 
mind and body 2 . Who, it may be asked, can determine of the 
pleasure and pain of others ? True and solemn are the lines of 
Prior, in his Solomon 3 : 

' Who breathes must suffer, and who thinks must mourn ; 
And he alone is blest, who ne'er was born.' 

Johnson thought he had no right to complain of his lot in life, 
or of having been disappointed : the world had not used him ill : 
it had not broke its word with him : it had promised him 
nothing : he aspired to no elevation : he had fallen from no 
height 4 . Lord Gower endeavoured to obtain for him, by the 
interest of Swift, the mastership of a grammar-school of small 
income, for which Johnson was not qualified by the statutes to 
become a candidate. His lordship's letter, published some years 
ago, is to the honour of the subject : in praise of his abilities 
and integrity, and in commiseration of his distressed situation 5 . 
Johnson wished, for a moment, to fill the chair of a professor, 
at Oxford, then become vacant, but he never applied for it. He 
was offered a good living, by Mr. Langton, if he would accept it, 
and take orders: but he chose not to put off his lay habit 6 . 
He would have made an admirable library-keeper 7 : like 

1 ' It pleased God to grant him 4 ' JOHNSON. " Sir, I have never 
almost thirty years of life, after this complained of the world, nor do I 
time [the death of his wife] ; and think that I have reason to corn- 
once, when he was in a placid frame plain."' Life, iv. 116. 'The world 
of mind, he was obliged to own to is not so unjust or unkind as it is 
me that he had enjoyed happier peevishly represented.' Letters, ii. 
days, and had many more friends, 215. See also ante, i. 315. 

since that gloomy hour than before.' 5 Ante, i. 373 ; Life, i. 133. 

Life, i. 299. 6 Ante, ii. 107 ; Life, i. 320. 

2 Boswell, writing of the year 1769, 7 'Mr. Levet this day shewed me 
says : * His Meditations strongly Dr. Johnson's library, which was 
prove that he suffered much both in contained in two garrets over his 
body and mind. . . . Every generous Chambers. I found a number of 
and grateful heart . . . now that his good books, but very dusty and in 
unhappiness is certainly known, must great confusion. The floor was 
respect that dignity of character strewed with manuscript leaves, in 
which prevented him from complain- Johnson's own hand-writing.' Life, 
ing.' Ib. ii. 66. i. 435. 

3 Bk. iii. 1. 240. 


362 A Biographical Sketch of Dr. Johnson 

Casaubon, Magliabechi, or "Bentley *. But he belonged to the 
world at large. Talking on the topic of what his inclinations or 
faculties might have led him to have been, had he been bred to 
the profession of the law, he has said he should have wished for 
the Office of Master of the Rolls 2 . He gave into this idea in 
table-talk, partly serious and partly jocose, for it was only 
a manner he had of describing himself to his friends without 
vanity of his parts (for he was above being vain) or envy of the 
honourable stations engaged by other men of merit. He would 
correct any compositions of his friends (habes confitentem) 3 , and 
dictate on any subject on which they wanted information 4 . He 
could have been an orator, if he would 5 . On account of his 
intimacy with Dr. Dodd, for whom he made a bargain with the 
booksellers for his edition of the Bible, he wrote a petition to the 
Crown for mercy, after his condemnation 6 . The letter he com 
posed for the translator of Ariosto, that was sent to Mr. Hastings 
in Bengal, is esteemed a master-piece 7 . Dr. Warton, of Win- 

1 Casaubon was King's Librarian 
in Paris, and Bentley in London ; 
Magliabecchi was the Grand Duke's 
Librarian at Florence. 

2 ' Sir William Scott informs me, 
that upon the death of the late Lord 
Lichfield, who was Chancellor of the 
University of Oxford, he said to 
Johnson, " What a pity it is, Sir, that 
you did not follow the profession of 
the law. You might have been Lord 
Chancellor of Great Britain, and 
attained to the dignity of the peer 
age ; and now that the title of Lich 
field, your native city, is extinct you 
might have had it." Johnson, upon 
this, seemed much agitated ; and, in 
an angry tone, exclaimed, "Why 
will you vex me by suggesting this, 
when it is too late ?" ' Life, iii. 


3 Ante, i. 332 ; ii. 7. Tyers was 
the author of two or three books. 
* That great man [Dr. Johnson] has 
acknowledged behind his back that 
1' Tyers always tells him something 

he did not know before." ' Nichols, 
Literary Anecdotes, viii. 88 n. 

4 See Life, ii. 183, 196, 242, 372-3 ; 
iii. 200 ; iv. 74, 129, for legal argu 
ments dictated to Boswell. 

5 ' When Sir Joshua Reynolds told 
him that Mr. Edmund Burke had said, 
that if he had come early into par 
liament, he certainly would have been 
the greatest speaker that ever was 
there, Johnson exclaimed, " I should 
like to try my hand now." . . . Sir 
William Scott mentioned that John 
son had told him that he had several 
times tried to speak in the Society of 
Arts and Sciences, but " had found 
he could not get on." ' Ib. ii. 138. 

6 Dodd published in 1771 a Com 
mentary on the Old and New Testa 
ment. Johnson had been but once 
in Dodd's company, and that was in 
1750. Life, iii. 140. It is most un 
likely that he made any bargain for 
him. For his petition see ib. iii. 
142 ; ante, i. 432 ; ii. 282. 

7 Life, iv. 70. 


by Thomas Tyers. 363 

chester, talked of it as the very best he ever read. He could 
have been eminent, if he chose it, in letter writing, a faculty in 
which, according to Sprat, his Cowley excelled x . His epistolary 
and confidential correspondence would make an agreeable publica 
tion, but the world will never be trusted with it 2 . He wrote as 
well in verse as in prose. Though he composed so harmoniously 
in Latin and English, he had no ear for music 3 : and though he 
lived in such habits of intimacy with Sir Joshua Reynolds, and 
once intended to have written the lives of the painters, he had 
no eye, nor perhaps taste for a picture, nor a landscape 4 . He 
renewed his Greek some years ago, for which he found no occasion 
for twenty years. He owned that many knew more Greek than 
himself; but that his grammar would show he had once taken 
pains. Sir William Jones, one of the most enlightened of the 
sons of men, as Johnson described him, has often said, he knew 
a great deal of Greek 5 . With French authors he was familiar. 
He had lately read over the works of Boileau 6 . He passed 
a judgment on Sherlock's French and English letters, and told 
him there was more French in his English, than English in his 
French 7 . His curiosity would have led him to read Italian, 
even if Baretti had not been his acquaintance 8 . Latin was as 
natural to him as English. He seemed to know the readiest 

1 Johnson says of Sprat's Life of from the French. Horace Walpole 
Cowley that ' his zeal of friendship or wrote of him (Letters, vii. 462) : 
ambition of eloquence has produced ' His Italian is ten times worse than 
a funeral oration rather than a his- his French, and more bald.' 

tory.' Works, vii. I. 8 He had learnt Italian before he 

2 Less than four years later Mrs. knew Baretti. Life,\. 115, 156. He 
Piozzi published more than 300 of studied it also later in life. In 1776 
his letters ; she was followed in three he ' purposed to apply vigorously to 
years by Boswell, who gave nearly study, particularly of the Greek and 
340 more. There are now more than Italian tongues.' Ante, i. 77. In 
a thousand in print. 1781 he recorded : ' Having prayed, 

3 Ante, ii. 103. I purpose to employ the next six 

4 Ante, i. 214. weeks upon the Italian language for 

5 Life, iv. 384; ante, i. 183. my settled study.' Ante, i. 99. Less 

6 Ante, i. 334. than four months before his death he 

7 Martin Sherlock first published wrote to Sastres, the Italian master: 
in Italian and in French the work ' I have hope of standing the Eng- 
which, in 1781, he brought out in lish winter, and of seeing you, and 
English under the title of Letters reading Petrarch at Bolt Court.' 
of an English Traveller translated Letters, ii. 417. 


364 A Biographical Sketch of Dr. Johnson 

road to knowledge, and to languages, their conductors. He 
made such progress in Hebrew, in a few lessons, that surprized 
his guide in that tongue. In company with Dr. Barnard and the 
fellows at Eton, he astonished them all with the display of his 
critical, classical, and prosodical treasures, and also himself, for he 
protested, on his return, he did not know he was so rich x . 

Christopher Smart was at first well received by Johnson 2 . 
This writer owed his acquaintance with our author, which lasted 
thirty years, to the introduction of that bard. Johnson, whose 
hearing was not always good, understood he called him by the 
name of Thy er, 'that eminent scholar, librarian of Manchester, 
and a Nonjuror. This mistake was rather beneficial than other 
wise to the person introduced. Johnson had been much indis 
posed all that day, and repeated a psalm he had just translated, 
during his affliction, into Latin verse, and did not commit to 
paper. For so retentive was the memory of this man, that 
he could always recover whatever he lent to that faculty. 
Smart in return recited some of his own Latin compositions. 
He had translated with success/ and to Mr. Pope's satisfaction, 
his St. Cecilian Ode 3 . Come when you would, early or late, 
for he desired to be called from bed, when a visitor was at 
the door ; the tea-table was sure to be spread', Te veniente die, 
Te decedente*. With tea he cheered himself in the morning, 
with tea he solaced himself in the evening 5 ; for in these, or in 
equivalent words, he exprest himself in a printed letter to Jonas 
Han way, who had just told the public that tea was the ruin of 
the nation, and of the nerves of every one who drank it 6 . The 

1 For Dr. Barnard see ante, i. 168, 3 ' When Smart offered himself as 
and for the invitation given to John- a candidate for a university scholar- 
son to visit Eton, Life, v. 97. Bos- ship he is said to have translated 
well visited the College in 1789. Pope's Ode on St. Cecilia 's Day into 
* I was asked by the Headmaster to Latin.' Chalmers's Biog. Diet, xxviii. 
dine at the Fellows' table, and made 77. 

a creditable figure. ... I had my 4 Virgil, Georgics, iv. 466. 

classical quotations very ready.' Ib. s ( Who with tea amuses the even- 

v. 15, n. 5. ing, with tea solaces the midnight, 

2 Tyers seems to imply that later and with tea welcomes the morning.' 
on Johnson did not receive Smart Life, i. 313, n. 4. 

well. At all events he befriended 6 Ib. i. 313. 
him. Ib. ii. 345. 


by Thomas Tyers. 365 

pun upon his favourite liquor he heard with a smile. v Though 
his time seemed to be bespoke, and quite engrossed, it is certain 
his house was open to all his acquaintance, new and old x . His 
amanuensis has given up his pen, the printer's devil has waited 
on the stairs for a proof sheet, and the press has often stood still. 
His visitors were delighted and instructed. No subject ever 
came amiss to him. He could transfer his thoughts from one 
thing to another with the most accommodating facility. He had 
the art, for which Locke was famous, of leading people to talk 
on their favourite subjects, and on what they knew best 2 . By 
this he acquired a great deal of information. What he once 
heard he rarely forgot. They gave him their best conversation, 
and he generally made them pleased with themselves, for 
endeavouring to please him. Poet Smart used to relate, ' that 
the first conversation with him was of such variety and length, 
that it began with poetry arid ended at fluxions.' He always 
talked as if he was talking upon oath 3 . He was the wisest 
person, and had the most knowledge in ready cash 4 , this writer 
had the honour to be acquainted with Here a little pause must 
be endured. The poor hand that holds the pen is benumbed by 
the frost as much as by a torpedo 5 . It is cold within, by the 

1 'Johnson, during the whole course said of me what flattered me much, 

of his life, had no shyness, real or A clergyman was complaining of 

affected, but was easy of access to want of society in the country where 

all who were properly recommended, he lived ; and said, ' They talk of 

and even wished to see numbers at runts ;' (that is, young cows). 'Sir, 

his levee, as his morning circle of (said Mrs. Salusbury,) Mr. Johnson 

company might, with strict pro- would learn to talk of runts.' " ' Life, 

priety, be called.' Life, i. 247. iii. 337- 

2 ' Locke felt pleasure in conversing Tyers forgets to record his own 

with all sorts of people, and tried to description of Johnson's talk. ' Tom 

profit by their information, which Tyers described me the best : " Sir 

arose . . . from the opinion he enter- (said he) you are like a ghost; you 

tained that there was nobody from never speak till you are spoken to." ' 

whom something useful could not be Ib. iii. 307 ; ante, i. 290. 

got. And indeed by this means he 3 Life, ii. 434 ; ante, i. 458. 

had learned so many things concern- 4 Life, ii. 256. 

ing the arts and trade, that he 5 ' Tom Birch is as brisk as a bee 

seemed to have made them his par- in conversation ; but no sooner does 

ticular study.' King's Life of Locke, he take a pen in his hand, than it 

ed. 1858, p. 271. becomes a torpedo to him, and be- 

' JOHNSON. " Mrs.Thrale's mother numbs all his faculties.' Ib. i. 159. 


366 A Biographical Sketch of Dr. Johnson 

fire-side, and a white world abroad z . His reader has a moment's 
leisure to censure or commend the harvest of anecdote that is 
brought in, for his sake ; and if he has more reading than usual, 
may remark for or against it in the manner of the Cardinal to 
Ariosto : ( All this may be true, extraordinary, and entertaining ; 
but where the deuce did you pick it all up 2 ?' The writer perhaps 
comes within the proverbial observation, that the inquisitive 
person ends often in the character of the tell-tale. Johnson's 
advice was consulted on all occasions. He was known to be 
a good casuist 3 , and therefore had many cases for his judgment 4 . 
It is notorious, that some men had the wickedness to over-reach 
him, and to injure him. till they were found out. Lauder was of 
the number, who made, at the time, all the friends of Milton 
his enemies 5 . There is nobody so likely to be imposed upon as 
a good man. His conversation, in the judgment of several, was 
thought to be equal to his correct writings 6 . Perhaps the tongue 
will throw out more animated expressions than the pen. He said 
the most common things in the newest manner. He always 
commanded attention and regard. His person, though un 
adorned with dress, and even deformed by neglect, made you 
expect something, and you was hardly ever disappointed. His 
manner was interesting ; the tone of his voice and the sincerity 
of his expressions, even when they did not captivate your 
affections, or carry conviction, prevented contempt. It must 
be owned, his countenance, on some occasions, resembled too 
much the medallic likeness of Magliabechi, as exhibited before 
the printed account of him by Mr. Spence 7 . No man dared to 

1 Tyers wrote his narrative directly 4 Ante, i. 300. 
after Johnson's death. For * the 5 Ante, i. 393. 

white world ' see Letters, ii. 433. 6 Life, ii. 95, n. 2 ; iv. 236 ; ante, 

2 ' Je ne sais quel plaisant a fait i. 348. 

courir le premier ce mot pre'tendu 7 * Magliabechi had almost the air 

du Cardinal d'Este : Messer Lodovico, of a savage, and even affected it; 

dove avete pigliato tante coglio- together with a cynical or contemp- 

nerieT (Euvres de Voltaire, ed. tuous smile.' Spence's Parallel. 

1819, xxxv. 434. See Fugitive Pieces on Various Sub- 

3 For his casuistry in the defence jects, ed. 1761, ii. 332, where the 
of duelling see Life, n. 179,226; iv. likeness is given. ' Magliabechi's 
211 ; and of dining with two Bishops nose was aquiline, and his face 
in Passion Week, ib. iv. 88. generally drawn into a kind of cynical 


by Thomas Tyers. 


take liberties with him, nor flatly contradict him ; for fre could 
repell any attack, having always about him the weapons of 
ridicule, of wit, and of argument *. It must be owned, that some 
who had the desire to be admitted to him, thought him too 
dogmatical, and as exacting too much homage to his opinions, 
and came no more. For they said, while he presided in his 
library, surrounded by his admirers, he would, ' like Cato, give 
his little senate laws 2 .' He had great knowledge in the science 
of human nature, and of the fashions and customs of life, and 
knew the world well. He had often in his mouth this line 
of Pope, 

' The proper study of mankind is man V 

He was desirous of surveying life in all its modes and forms, and 
in all climates. Twenty years ago he offered to attend his 
friend Vansittart to India, who was invited there to make 
a fortune ; but it did not take place 4 . He talked much of 
travelling into Poland, to observe the life of the Palatines 5 , the 

grin.' Gentleman's Magazine, 1759, 
p. 52. See also ante, ii. 87, 141. 

1 ' When exasperated by contra 
diction Johnson was apt to treat his 
opponents with too much acrimony, 
as " Sir, you don't see your way 
through that question." " Sir, you 
talk the language of ignorance.'" 
Life, ii. 122. Boswell records how 
Johnson, ' determined to be master 
of the field, had recourse to the de 
vice which Goldsmith imputed to 
him in the witty words of one of 
Gibber's comedies : " There is no 
arguing with Johnson ; for when his 
pistol misses fire, he knocks you 
down with the butt end of it." ' Ib. ii. 
100. See also ib. iv. 274; v. 292. 
Goldsmith referred to the following 
passage in The Refusal, Act i. sc. I 
(Colley Gibber's Plays, ed. 1777, iv. 

* GRANGER. "Pr'ythee, Witling, 
does not thy Assurance sometimes 
meet with a Repartee, that only lights 

upon the Outside of thy Head?" 

' WITLING. " O ! your Servant, Sir. 
What ! now your Fire's gone, you 
would knock me down with the Butt- 
end, would you ? " ' 

2 Pope, Prologue to the Satires, 
1. 209. 

3 Essay on Man, ii. 2. 

4 See Life, iii. 20, where Johnson 
tells a story of a friend who 'got 
a considerable appointment [in the 
East Indies]. I had some intention 
of accompanying him. Had I thought 
then as I do now, I should have 
gone.' In 1769 Mr. Vansittart was 
sent to India with two others as 
Supervisors. Their ship was lost on 
the way and nothing was ever known 
of their fate. Annual Register, 1769, 

i- 53 I 1773, i- 66. 

5 'The Palatines and Castellans 
were governors of the palatinates or 
provinces, and held the office for 
life ; the palatine having the direc 
tion of the whole province, like our 


368 A Biographical Sketch of Dr. Johnson 

account of which struck his curiosity very much. His Rasselas 
it is reported, he wrote to raise a purse of pecuniary assistance to 
his aged mother at Lichfield 1 . The first title of his manuscript, 
was Prince of Ethiopia' 2 . Mr. Bruce is expected to give us 
a history of both these countries 3 . The Happy valley he would 
hardly be able to find in Abyssinia. Dr. Young used to say, 
that ' Rasselas was a lamp of wisdom V He there displays an 
uncommon capacity for remark, and makes the best use of the 
description of travellers. It is an excellent romance. But his 
journey into the Western Islands is an original thing. He hoped, 
as he said, when he came back, that no Scotchman had any right 
to be angry with what he wrote 5 . It is a book written without 
the assistance of books. He said, ' it was his wish and endeavour 
not to make a single quotation 6 .' His curiosity must have been 
excessive, and his strength undecayed to accomplish a journey of 
such length, and subject to such inconvenience. His book was 
eagerly read* One of the first men of the age 7 told Mr. Garrick, 
'that he would forgive Johnson all his wrong notions respecting 
America, on account of his writing that book.' He thought 
himself the hardier for travelling. He took a tour into France 8 , 
and meditated another into Italy 9 or Portugal, for the sake of 
the climate. But Dr. Brocklesby, his friend and physician (and 
who that knows him can wish for more companionable and 
more professional knowledge ?) conjured him, by every argument 

lord-lieutenant, the castellan of a was said in a preface to one of the 

district.' Morfill's Poland, p. 346. Irish editions that Swift had never 

For Johnson's love of travelling been known to take a single thought 

see Life, iii. 449. from any writer, ancient or modern. 

1 Ib. i. 341 ; ante, i. 285,415. This is not literally true; but per- 

2 Johnson wrote to Mr. Strahan : haps no writer can easily be found 
'The title will be "The Choice that has borrowed so little, or that 
of Life or The History of ... Prince in all his excellencies and all his 
of Abissinia." Letters, i. 79. defects has so well maintained his 

3 Though Bruce had returned to claim to be considered as original.' 
England in 1774 he did not publish Works, viii. 228. 

his Travels till 1790. Ante, i. 365 n. ; Johnson's book has the same claim 

ii. 12. to originality. 

4 Young greatly admired the Ram- 7 Perhaps Burke, who praised the 
bier. Life, i. 215. book. Ante, ii. 6. 

5 Ib. ii. 306 ; ante, i. 430. 8 Life, ii. 389. 

6 Of Swift Johnson wrote : < It 9 Ib. ii. 428 ; iv. 326 ; ante, i. 263. 


by Thomas Tyers. 369 

in his power, not to go abroad in the state of his health x ; but 
that if he was resolved on the first, and wished for something 
additional to his income, desired he would permit him to accom 
modate him out of his fortune with one hundred pounds a-year, 
during his travels, to be paid by instalments 2 . 

'Ye little stars hide your diminished heads 3 .' 

The reply to this generosity was to this effect : ' That he would 
not be obliged to any person's liberality, but to his King's 4 / 
The continuance of this design to go abroad, occasioned the 
application for an increase of pension, that is so honourable to 
those who applied for it, and to the Lord Chancellor who gave him 
leave to draw on his banker for any sum 5 . With the courage of 
a man, Johnson demanded to know of Brocklesby if his recovery 
was impossible ? Being answered in the affirmative ; ' then,' says 
he, ' I will take no more opium, and give up my physicians 6 . J 

At last he said, ' if I am worse, I cannot go, if I am better 
I need not go, but if I continue neither better nor worse, I am as 
well where I am.' The writer of this sketch could wish to have 
committed to memory or paper all the wise and sensible things 
that dropped from his lips. If the one could have been Xeno- 
phon, the other was a Socrates. His benevolence to mankind 
was known to all who knew him. Though so declared a friend 
to the Church of England and even a friend to the Convocation 7 , 

1 'My journey to the continent ... 4 Windham says (post, p. 388), 
was never much encouraged by my that when Dr. Brocklesby made this 
physicians.' Life, iv. 349. offer ' Johnson pressed his hands and 

2 'As an instance of extraordinary said, "God bless you through Jesus 
liberality of friendship, he told us, that Christ, but I will take no money 
Dr. Brocklesby had upon this occa- but from my sovereign." This, if 
sion offered him a hundred a year for I mistake not, was told the King 
his life. A grateful tear started into through West.' 

his eye, as he spoke this in a falter- 5 Ante, i. 442. 

ing tone.' Ib. iv. 338. See id. n. 2 6 Life, iv. 415. 

for Brocklesby's ' liberality of friend- This was a few days before his 

ship ' towards Burke, and ante, i. 443. death. Tyers in the next paragraph 

3 ' At whose sight all the stars returns to the project of the visit to 
Hide their diminish'd heads.' Italy formed some months earlier. 

Paradise Lost, iv. 34. 7 Ib. i. 464 ; iv - 2 77- 

' Ye little stars ! hide your Smollett, after describing the meet- 
diminish'd rays.' ing of Convocation in 1717, con- 

Pope, Moral Essays, iii. 282. tinues : ' The Convocation has not 
VOL. II. B b it 

370 A Biographical Sketch of Dr. Johnson 

it assuredly was not in his wish to persecute for speculative 
notions x . He used to say he had no quarrel with any order of 
men, unless they disbelieved in revelation and a future state 2 . 
He would indeed have sided with Sacheverell against Daniel 
Burgess 3 , if he thought the Church was in danger. His hand 
and his heart were always open to charity. The objects under 
his own roof were only a few of the subjects for relief. He was 
at the head of subscription in cases of distress. His guinea, as 
he said of another man of a bountiful disposition, was always 
ready. He wrote an exhortation to public bounty. He drew 
up a paper to recommend the French prisoners, in the last war 
but one, to the English benevolence 4 ; which was of service. He 
implored the hand of benevolence for others 5 ; even when he 
almost seemed a proper object of it himself. 

Like his hero Savage, while in company with him, he is 
supposed to have formerly strolled about the streets almost house 
less 6 , and as if he was obliged to go without the cheerful meal 
of the day, or to wander about for one, as is reported of Homer. 

been permitted to sit and do business 
since that period.' History of Eng 
land, ed. 1800, ii. 358. 

' The practice continues to the 
present day [1837] of summoning 
the clergy to meet in convocation 
whenever a new parliament is called, 
and the forms of election are gone 
through. ... It is the usual practice 
for the King to prorogue the meeting 
when it is about to proceed to any 
business.' Penny Cyclopaedia, 1837, 
vii. 489. 

1 The spirituality at last aroused 
itself from its long repose in 1852. ... 
The first action of Convocation as 
a deliberative body commenced in 
1 86 1.' Encyclopaedia Britannica, 
9th ed., vi. 329. 

1 * In short, Sir, I have got no 
further than this : Every man has 
a right to utter what he thinks truth, 
and every other man has a right to 
knock him down for it. Martyrdom 

is the test.' L : fe, iv. 12. See also 
ib. ii. 250, 254. 

a * Every man who attacks my 
belief, diminishes in some degree my 
confidence in it, and therefore makes 
me uneasy ; and I am angry with 
him who makes me uneasy.' Ib. 
iii. 10. 

3 Ib. i. 39. Hearne recorded on 
March 4, 1709-10: 'The mob are 
so zealous for Dr. Sacheverell that 
they have pulled down several meet 
ing-houses of the dissenters in Lon 
don, amongst which is the meeting 
house of that old presbyterian rogue 
Daniel Burgess.' Reliquiae Her- 
nianae, 1869, i. 187. See The Tatler, 
No. 66 (by Swift), where Burgess is 

4 Life, i. 353. 

5 Ib. ii. 379; iii. 124; iv. 283, 
408 n. ; Letters, ii. 64, 66, 113. 

6 Life, i. 162 ; ante, i. 371. 


by Thomas Tyers. 371 

If this were true, it is no wonder if he was an unknown, or 
uninquired after for a long time : 

' Slow rises worth by poverty depressed V 

When once distinguished, as he observes of Ascham, he gained 
admirers 58 . He was fitted by nature for a critic. His Lives of 
the Poets (like all his biographical pieces) are well written. 
He gives us the pulp without the husks. He has told their 
personal history very well. But every thing is not new. Perhaps 
what Mr. Steevens helped him to, has increased the number 
of the best anecdotes 3 . But his criticisms of their works are of 
the most worth, and the greatest novelty. His perspicacity was 
very extraordinary. He was able to take measure of every 
intellectual object, and to see all round it. If he chose to 
plume himself as an author, he might on account of the gift of 

'The brightest feather in the eagle's wing.' 

He has been censured for want of taste or good nature in what 
he says of Prior 4 , Gray 5 , Lyttelton 6 , Hammond 7 , and others, and 
to have praised some pieces that nobody thought highly of. It 
was a fault in our critic too often to take occasion to show him 
self superior to his subject, and also to trample upon it. There 
is no talking about taste. Perhaps Johnson, who spoke from 
his last feelings, forgot those of his youth. The love verses of 
Waller and others have no charms for old age. Even Prior's 
Henry and Emma, which pleased the old and surly Dennis 8 , 

1 Johnson's London, 1. 121. 4 Cowper wrote soon after the 
Goldsmith wrote to his brother publication of the Lives : ' Prior's 

Henry in 1759: ' The greatest merit reputation as an author, who, with 

in a state of poverty would only serve much labour indeed, but with ad- 

to make the possessor ridiculous mirable success, has embellished all 

may distress but cannot relieve him. his poems with the most charming 

Frugality, and even avarice, in the verse, stood unshaken till Johnson 

lower orders of mankind, are true thrust his head against it.' Cowper's 

ambition.' Prior's Goldsmith, i. 300, Works, ed. 1836, iv. 175. 

2 ' A man once distinguished soon s Ante, i. 479. 

gains admirers.' Works, vi. 512. 6 Ante, i. 257 ; ii. 193. 

3 ' Mr. Steevens appears, from the 7 Life, v. 268. 

papers in my possession, to have 8 Dennis was only seven years 
supplied him with some anecdotes older than Prior, 
and quotations.' Life, iv. 37. ' Mrs. Thrale disputed with Dr. 

B b 2, had 

372 A Biographical Sketch of Dr. Johnson 

had no charms for him. Of Gray he always spoke as he wrote, 
and called his poetry artificial 1 . If word and thought go together 
the odes of Gray were not to the satisfaction of our critic. But 
what composition can stand this sharp-sighted critic ? He made 
some fresh observations on Milton, by placing him in a new point 
of view : and if he has shown more of his excellencies than 
Addison does, he accompanies them with more defects. He 
took no critic from the shelf, neither Aristotle, Bossu, nor 
Boileau. He hardly liked to quote, much more to steal. He 
drew his judgments from the principles of human nature, of 
which the Rambler is full, before the Elements of Criticism, 
by Lord Kames 2 , made their appearance. 

It may be inserted here, that Johnson, soon after his coming 
to London, had thought of writing a History of the revival of 
Learning 3 . The booksellers had other service to offer him 4 . 
But he never undertook it. The proprietors of the Universal 
History 5 wished him to take any part in that voluminous work. 
But he declined their offer. His last employers wanted him to 
undertake the life of Spenser 6 . But he said Warton had left 

Johnson on the merit of Prior. He 
attacked him powerfully; said he 
wrote of love like a man who had 
never felt it: his love verses were 
college verses ; and he repeated the 
song " Alexis shunn'd his fellow 
swains," &c., in so ludicrous a man 
ner, as to make us all wonder how 
any one could have been pleased 
with such fantastical stuff.' Life, ii. 78. 
' The greatest of all Prior's amorous 
essays is Henry and Emma ; a dull 
and tedious dialogue.' Works, viii. 16. 

1 Ante, i. 191 ; ii. 52, 320 ; Life, i. 
402; ii. 164,327, 334; iv. 13. 

2 Life, i. 393 ; ii. 89. 

3 Ib. iv. 381, n. i. 

4 'The booksellers gave it out as 
a piece of literary news, that he had 
an inclination to translate the Lives 
of Plutarch from the Greek. It 
appears from his literary memoran 
dum-book that this was one of the 

tasks he assigned himself.' Gentle 
man's Magazine, 1785, p. 86. 

'Among Johnson's papers was 
found a translation from Sallust of 
the Bellum Catilinarium, so flatly 
and insipidly rendered that the 
suffering it to appear would have 
been an indelible disgrace to his 
memory/ Hawkins, p. 541. 

5 Letters, ii. 432. 

6 His 'last employers' were the 
proprietors of the Lives. 

See ante, ii. 192, where Hannah 
More records : ' Johnson told me 
he had been with the King that 
morning, who enjoined him to add 
Spenser to his Lives of the Poets' 

He told Nichols, who asked him 
' to favour the world, and gratify his 
sovereign, by a Life of Spenser, that 
he would readily have done so had he 
been able to obtain any new mate 
rials for the purpose.' Life, iv. 410. 


by Thomas Tyers. 373 

little or nothing for him to do. A system of morals next was 
proposed \ But perhaps he chose to promise nothing more. He 
thought, as, like the running horse in Horace 2 , he had done his 
best, he should give up the race and the chase. His dependent 
Levett died suddenly under his roof. He preserved his name 
from oblivion, by writing an epitaph for him, which shows that 
his poetical fire was not extinguished, and is so appropriate, that 
it could belong to no other person in the world 3 . Johnson said, 
that the remark of appropriation was just criticism: his friend 
was induced to pronounce, that he would not have so good an 
epitaph written for himself 4 . Pope has nothing to equal it in his 
sepulchral poetry. When he dined with Mr. Wilkes, at a private 
table in the city, their mutual altercations were forgot, at least 
for that day 5 . Johnson did not remember the sharpness of a 
paper against his description or definition of an alphabetical point 
animadverted upon in his dictionary by that man of acuteness 6 ; 
who, in his turn, forgot the severity of a pamphlet of Johnson 7 . 
All was, during this meal, a reciprocation of wit and good 
humour. During the annual contest in the city, Johnson con 
fessed, that Wilkes would make a very good Chamberlain 8 . 
When Johnson (who had said that he would as soon dine with 

1 Johnson had at one time of 4 For Parr's epitaph on Johnson 

his life projected 'A Comparison of see Life, iv. 424; and for his vanity 

Philosophical and Christian Mo- about it, ib. 444. 

rality, by sentences collected from the 5 Ib. iii. 64. Wilkes, a year later, 

moralists and fathers? Life, iv. attacked Johnson in Parliament. Ib. 

381, n. i. iii. 79, n. i. 'Lord Mansfield, we 

3 ' Solve senescentem mature are informed on the unquestionable 

sanus equum.' authority of Mr. Andrew Strahan, 

' Loose from the rapid car your was of opinion that " Mr. Wilkes 

aged horse.' was the pleasantest companion, the 

FRANCIS, HORACE, Epis. i. i. 8. politest gentleman, and the best 

3 Life,\v. 137. scholar he ever knew.'" Nichols's 

* The difficulty in writing epitaphs Lit. Anec. ix. 479 n. See ib. for 

is to give a particular and appro- ' Wilkes's Life of himself. It was 

priate praise. This, however, is not not forthcoming. The covers of the 

always to be performed, whatever be book remained ; but the leaves were 

the diligence or ability of the writer ; all cut out.' 

for the greater part of mankind have 6 Life, i. 300. 

no character at all.' Works, viii. 7 Ib. ii. 135, n. i ; iii. 64. 

355. 8 Ib. iv. 101, n. 2 ; Letters, i. 408. 


374 A Biographical Sketch of Dr. Johnson 

Jack Ketch as with Jack Wilkes x ) could sit at the same table 
with this patriot, it may be concluded he did not write his 
animosities in marble 2 . Johnson was famous for saying what 
are called good things. Mr. Boswell, who listened to him for 
so many years, has probably remembered many. He mentioned 
many of them to Paoli 3 , who paid him the last tribute of a visit 
to his grave. If Johnson had had as good eyes as Boswell 
he might have seen more trees in Scotland, perhaps, than he 
mentions 4 . 

This is not the record-office for his sayings : but a few must be 
recollected here. For Plutarch has not thought it beneath his 
dignity to relate some things of this sort, of some of his heroes 5 . 
* Pray Dr. Johnson ' (said somebody) ' is the master of the 
mansion at Streatham a man of much conversation, or is he only 
wise and silent?' 'He strikes/ says Johnson, 'once an hour, 
and I suppose strikes right 6 / Mr. Thrale left him a legacy 7 , 
and made him an executor. It came to Johnson's ears, that the 
great bookseller in the Strand, on receiving the last manuscript 
sheet of his Dictionary, had said, * Give Johnson his money, for 
I thank God I have done with him.' The philologer took care 
that he should receive his compliments, and be informed, 'he 
was extremely glad he returned thanks to God for any thing 8 .' 

1 ' I was persuaded that if I had the various objects upon the road, 
come upon him with a direct pro- " If I had your eyes, Sir (said he), 
posal, " Sir, will you dine in com- I should count the passengers." ' 
pany with Jack Wilkes?" he would Life, iv. 311. 

have flown into a passion, and would 5 Boswell also shelters himself under 
probably have answered, "Dine with the example of Plutarch. Ib. v. 414. 
Jack Wilkes, Sir! I'd as soon dine 6 Ante, ii. 169. 'Johnson said, he 
with Jack Ketch." 3 Life, iii. 66. Bos- was angry at Thrale, for sitting at 
well adds in a note : ' This has General Oglethorpe's without speak- 
been circulated as if actually said by ing. He censured a man for de- 
Johnson ; when the truth is, it was grading himself to a non-entity.' 
only supposed by me.' Life, v. 277. 

2 ' Some write their wrongs in 7 ^200. Ib. iv. 86. 

marble ; he more just 8 Andrew Millar was the book- 
Stooped down serene and wrote seller. He would not have said, 
them in the dust/ ' Give Johnson his money,' for ' John- 
Ante, ii. 267. son had received all the copy-money 

3 Life, i. 432 n. by different drafts a considerable 

4 ' He expressed some displeasure time before he had finished his task.' 
at me for not observing sufficiently Ib. i. 287. 


by Thomas Tyers. 375 

Well known is the rude reproof he gave to a talker, who 
asserted, that every individual in Scotland had literature. 
(By the by, modern statesmen do not wish that every one 
in the King's dominions should be able to write and read x .) 
' The general learning of the Scotch nation ' (said he, in 
a bad humour) 'resembles the condition of a ship's crew, 
condemned to short allowance of provisions; every one has 
a mouthful, and nobody a belly full V Of this enough. His 
size has been described to be large : his mind and person 
both on a large scale. His face and features are happily 
preserved by Reynolds and by Nollekens 3 . His elocution was 
energetic, and, in the words of a great scholar in the north, who 
did not like him, he spoke in the Lincolnshire dialect 4 . His 
articulation became worse, by some dental losses. But he never 
was silent on that account, nor unwilling to talk. It never was 
said of him. that he was overtaken with liquor 5 , a declaration 
Bishop Hoadly makes of himself. But he owned that he drank 
his bottle at a certain time of life 6 . Lions, and the fiercest of 
the wild creation, drink nothing but water. Like Solomon, who 
tried so many things for curiosity and delight, he renounced 
strong liquors, (strong liquors, according to Fenton, of all kinds 

1 For Johnson's defence of popular they will find me out to be of a par- 
education see Life, ii. 188. ticular county.' Ib. ii. 159. 

2 * He defended his remark upon Boswell remarked at Lichfield that 
the general insufficiency of education 'there was pronounced like fear, in- 
in Scotland ; and confirmed to me stead of like fair ; once was pro- 
the authenticity of his witty saying nounced woonse, instead of wunse or 
on the learning of the Scotch : ivonse. Johnson himself never got 
"Their learning is like bread in a entirely free of those provincial ac- 
besieged town ; every man gets a cents.' Ib. ii. 464. At Aberdeen 
little, but no man gets a full meal." ' Boswell records: 'I was sensible 
Ib. ii. 363 ; ante, i. 321 ; ii. 5. to-day, to an extraordinary degree, 

3 Life, iv. 421, n. 2 ; Letters, ii. of Dr. Johnson's excellent English 
59. pronunciation.' Ib. v. 85. 

4 The * great scholar ' was perhaps 5 See ante, ii. 322 #., where he 
Lord Monboddo ; for his dislike of said : ' I used to slink home when 
Johnson see Life, iv. 273, n. I. John- I had drunk too much.' 

son's accent, such as it was, was of 6 * I have drunk three bottles of 
course that of Staffordshire. ' Sir,' port without being the worse for it. 
he said, ' when people watch me nar- University College has witnessed 
rowly, and I do not watch myself, this.* Life, Hi. 245. 


376 A Biographical Sketch of Dr. Johnson 

were the aversion of Milton z ) ; and he might have said, as that 
King is made to do by Prior, 

1 1 drank, I lik'd it not, 'twas rage, 'twas noise, 
An airy scene of transitory joys 2 .' 

His temper was not naturally smooth, but seldom boiled over 3 . 
It was worth while to find out the mollia tempora /andi*. The 
words nugarum contemptor fell often from him, in a reverie. 
When asked about them, he said, he appropriated them from 
a preface of Dr. Hody. He was desirous of seeing every thing 
that was extraordinary in art or nature 5 ; and to resemble his 
Imlac 6 in his moral romance of Rasselas. It was the fault of 
fortune that he did not animadvert on every thing at home and 
abroad 7 . He had been upon the salt-water, and observed 
something of a sea-life : of the uniformity of the scene, and of 
the sickness and turbulence belonging to that element, he had 
felt enough 8 . He had seen a little of the military life and 

1 ' In his diet he was abstemious ; 
not delicate in the choice of his 
dishes ; and strong liquors of all 
kinds were his aversion,' &c. Milton's 
Poems ; ed. Elijah Fenton, 1725. 
Preface, p. 26. 

' What neat repast shall feast us, 

light and choice, 
Of Attic taste with wine.' 

Milton's Sonnets. 

( What more foul common sin 
among us than drunkenness ? And 
who can be ignorant that if the im 
portation of wine and the use of all 
strong drink were forbid, it would 
both clean rid the possibility of 
committing that odious vice, and 
men might afterwards live happily 
and healthfully without the use of 
those intoxicating liquors.' Milton's 
Tetrachordon, Works, 1806, ii. 163. 

2 Solomon on the Vanity of the 
World, Bk. ii. 1. 106. 

3 ' He was hard to please and 
easily offended ; impetuous and ir 
ritable in his temper, but of a most 

humane and benevolent heart.' Life, 
iv. 426. 

' mollissima fandi 

Aeneid, iv. 293. 

5 Boswell, recording his visit with 
Johnson to a silk-mill at Derby, 
says : ' I had learnt from Dr. John 
son, during this interview, not to 
think with a dejected indifference of 
the works of art, and the pleasures 
of life, because life is uncertain and 
short ; but to consider such indiffer 
ence as a failure of reason, a morbid 
ness of mind.' Life, iii. 164. 

6 Boswell compares him to Imlac. 
Ib. iii. 6. See also ante, ii. 220. 

1 Life, iii. 449. 

8 At Plymouth in 1762, and among 
the Hebrides in 1773. Ib. \. 377 ; 
v. 280-4, 308. He had also crossed 
the Straits of Dover. Ib. ii. 384. 
It was ' a state of life of which 
Dr. Johnson always expressed the 
greatest abhorrence.' Ib. i. 348; ii. 
438 ; iii. 266 ; v. 137 ; ante, \. 335. 


by Thomas Tyers. 


discipline, by having passed whole days and nights in the camp, 
and in the tents, at Warley Common z . He was able to make 
himself entertaining in his description of what he had seen. 
A spark was enough to illuminate him. The Giant and the 
Corsican Fairy were objects of attention to him. The riding- 
horses in Astley's amphitheatre 2 (no new public amusement, for 
Homer alludes to it) he went to see; and on the fireworks of 
Toree he wrote a Latin poem 3 . 

The study of humanity, as was injuriously said of the great 
Bentley, had not made him inhuman 4 . He never wantonly 
brandished his formidable weapon 5 . He meant to keep his 
enemies off. He did not mean, as in the advice of Radcliffe to 
Mead, to ' bully the world, lest the world should bully him 6 .' He 
seemed to be a man of great clemency to all subordinate beings. 

1 Where a camp was formed in 
1778 during the dread of a French 
and Spanish invasion. Life, iii. 

2 ' Of Whitefield he said, "White- 
field never drew as much attention 
as a mountebank does ; he did not 
draw attention by doing better than 
others, but by doing what was 
strange. W 7 ere Astley to preach a 
sermon standing upon his head on 
a horse's back, he would collect a 
multitude to hear him ; but no wise 
man would say he had made a better 
sermon for that." ' Ib. iii. 409. 

3 Ante, ii. 321. This poem is not 
included in Johnson's Works. 

4 ' Bentley having spoken thus, 
Scaliger bestowing him a sour look : 
" Miscreant prater," said he, ". . . 
thy learning makes thee more bar 
barous, thy study of humanity more 
inhuman." ' The Battle of the Books. 
Swift's Works, ed. 1803, iii. 230. 
There is a play on words here, for 
humanity in one of its senses meant 
' philology ; grammatical studies.' 

5 ' I was (wrote Mickle) upwards 
of twelve years acquainted with Dr. 
Johnson, was frequently in his com 

pany, always talked with ease to him, 
and can truly say, that I never re 
ceived from him one rough word.' 
Life, iv. 250. 

1 An eminent critic,' no doubt Ma- 
lone, said : * I have been often in 
his company, and never once heard 
him say a severe thing to any one. 
When he did say a severe thing, it 
was generally extorted by ignorance 
pretending to knowledge, or by ex 
treme vanity or affectation.' Jb. iv. 
341. ' He never attacked the un 
assuming, nor meant to terrify the 
diffident.' Mme. D'Arblay's Diary, 

ii- 343- 

6 < Dr. Radcliffe told Dr. Mead, 
" Mead, I love you, and now I will 
tell you a sure secret to make your 
fortune ; use all mankind ill." As 
for this maxim he was right. The 
generality are bullies, and if you do 
not bully them, they will bully you. 
Yet nobody ever practised this rule 
less than Dr. Mead, who, as I have 
been informed by great physicians, 
got as much again by his practice as 
Dr. Radcliffe did.' J. Richardson's 
Richardsoniana, quoted in Gentle 
man's Magazine, 1776, p. 373. 


378 A Biographical Sketch of Dr. Johnson 

He said, ' he would not sit at table, where a lobster that had 
been roasted alive was one of the dishes V His charities were 
many ; only not so extensive as his pity, for that was universal. 
An evening club, for three nights in every week, was contrived to 
amuse him, in Essex Street, founded, according to his own words, 
* in frequency and parsimony 2 ; ' to which he gave a set of rules, 
as Ben Jonson did his leges convivales at the Devil Tavern 3 
Johnson asked one of his executors, a few days before his death 
(which, according to his will, he expected every day 4 ) 'where 
do you intend to bury me ? ' He answered, ' in Westminster- 
abbey.' ' Then/ continued he, { place a stone over my grave 
(probably to notify the spot) that my remains may not be 
disturbed V Who will come forth with an inscription for him in 
the Poets' corner 6 ? Who should have thought that Garrick and 
Johnson would have their last sleep together 7 ? It were to be 
wished he could have written his own epitaph with propriety. 
None of the lapidary inscriptions by Dr. Freind 8 have more merit 

1 For his kindness to his cat 
Hodge see Life, iv. 197, and for the 
advice he gave to Boswell about old 
horsts unfit for work, ib. iv. 250. 

2 ' We meet thrice a week, and he 
who misses forfeits two-pence.' Ib. 
iv. 254. In the Rules the forfeit is 

3 Ben Jonson wrote Leges Con- 
vivales that were ' engraven in marble 
over the chimney in the Apollo of 
the Old Devil Tavern, Temple Bar ; 
that being his Club Room.' Jon- 
son's Works, ed. 1756, vii. 291. 

4 'I, SAMUEL JOHNSON, being in 
full possession of my faculties, but 
fearing this night may put an end to 
my life, do ordain this my last Will 
and Testament.' Life, iv. 402. 

5 Ante, ii. 133 ; Life, iv. 419. 
For his care that his parents' grave 
should be protected by ' a stone 
deep, massy, and hard' see ib. iv. 393. 

6 His monument with an inscrip 
tion by Parr was placed in St. Paul's. 
Ib. iv. 423. 

7 'Within a few feet of Johnson 
lies (by one of those singular coin 
cidences in which the Abbeyabounds) 
his deadly enemy, James Macpher- 
son.' Stanley's Westminster Abbey, 
p. 298. 

8 Warburton in a note on 

' Sepulchral Lies, our holy walls 
to grace,' 

(Dundad, i. 43), 

says: 'This is a just satire on the 
flatteries and falsehoods admitted to 
be inscribed on the walls of churches 
in epitaphs ; which occasioned the 
following epigram : 
" Freind ! in your epitaphs I'm 


So very much is said : 
One half will never be believ'd, 

The other never read."' 
1 The epigram here inserted (adds 
Warton) alludes to the too long, and 
sometimes fulsome epitaphs written 
by Dr. Freind in pure Latinity, indeed, 
but full of antitheses.' Warton's 
Pope's Works, ed. 1822, v. 84. 


by Thomas Tyers. 379 

than what Johnson wrote on Thrale T , on Goldsmith 2 , and Mrs. 
Salusbury 3 . By the way, one of these was criticised, by some 
men of learning and taste, from the table of Sir Joshua Reynolds, 
and conveyed to him in a round robin 4 . Maty, in his Review 5 , 
praises his Latin epitaphs very highly. This son of study and 
of indigence died worth above seventeen hundred pounds 6 : 
Milton died worth fifteen hundred 7 . His legacy to his black 
servant, Frank, is noble and exemplary 8 . Milton left in his 
hand-writing the titles of some future subjects for his pen 9 : 
so did Johnson I0 . 

Johnson died by a quiet and silent expiration, to use his 
own words on Milton : and his funeral was splendidly and 
numerously attended ". The friends of the Doctor were happy 
on his easy departure, for they apprehended he might have died 
hard. At the end of this sketch, it may be hinted (sooner 
might have been prepossession) that Johnson told this writer, 
for he saw he always had his eye and his ear upon him, that 
at some time or other he might be called upon to assist 
a posthumous account of him I2 . 

A hint was given to our author, a few years ago, by this 
Rhapsodist, to write his own life, lest somebody should write it 
for him. He has reason to believe, he has left a manuscript 
biography behind him l3 . His executors, all honourable men, will 

1 Ante, i. 238 ; Life, iv. 85, n. I. 9 Johnson's Works, vii. 90. 

2 Life, iii. 82. 10 Life, iv. 381, n. I. 

3 Ante, i. 236 ; Life, ii. 263. " These words also are taken from 

4 Life, iii. 83. Round robin is not Johnson's account of Milton. Works, 
in Johnson's Dictionary. vii. 112. Johnson's funeral however 

5 The Neiv Review by Henry was not ' splendidly' attended in the 
Maty, April, 1784. Ante, i. 237. ordinary use of the word not as 

6 He left more than .2,000. The Garrick's was, or Reynolds's, or 
bequest to Frank Barber Hawkins Burke's. There was not a single 
estimated at a sum little short of nobleman present. Life, iv. 419; 
^1,500. The proceeds of his house Letters, ii. 434 ; ante, ii. 136. 

at Lichfield, which sold for ^235, 12 Life, i. 26, n. I ; ante, i. 165. 

were divided among his relations. l3 Boswell, speaking of the papers 

He left besides in legacies ,300 in which Johnson burnt a few days 

money, and 500 in the three per before his death, says : ' Two very 

cents., worth about ,280. valuable articles, I am sure, we have 

7 Johnson's Works, vii. 114. lost, which were two quarto volumes, 

8 Ante, ii. 126. containing a full, fair, and most par- 


380 A Biographical Sketch of Dr. Johnson 

sit in judgment upon his papers x . Thuanus, Buchanan, Huetius, 
and others, have been their own historians. 

The memory of some people, says Mably 2 very lately, * is 
their understanding V This may be thought, by some readers, 
to be the case in point. Whatever anecdotes were furnished by 
memory, this pen did not choose to part with to any compiler. 
His little bit of gold he has worked into as much gold-leaf 
as he could. T. T. 

[The following anecdote, with some others, was given by 
Tyers in the Gentleman 's Magazine y 1785,. p. 85, The rest, 
so far as they were of any value, I have incorporated in my 

Dr. Johnson had a large, but not a splendid library 4 , near 
5,000 volumes. Many authors, not in hostility with him, pre 
sented him with their works. But his study did not contain 
half his books. He possessed the chair that belonged to the 

ticular account of his own life, from 
his earliest recollection.' Life, iv. 405. 
One of these volumes Hawkins car 
ried off, but was forced to bring 
back. Ante, i. 127 ; ii. 129. 

1 His executors were Hawkins, 
Reynolds, and William Scott (Lord 
Stowell). Life> iv. 402, n. 2. 

2 Prescott wrote in 1841 : ' Have 
read for the tenth time Mably sur 
V Etude de VHistoire, full of admirable 
reflections and hints. Pity that his 
love of the ancients made him high 
gravel-blind to the merits of the 
moderns.' Ticknor's Life of Prescott > 
Boston, 1864, p. 91, n. 6. 

3 Tyers probably did not know 
that he had been ' described by 
Johnson in The Idler, No. 48, under 
the name of Tom Restless; "a cir 
cumstance," says Mr. Nichols, 
" pointed out to me by Dr. Johnson 
himself.'" Lit. Anec. viii. 81. 'When 
Tom Restless rises he goes into a 
coffee-house, where he creeps so 
near to men whom he takes to be 

reasoners, as to hear their discourse, 
and endeavours to remember some 
thing which, when it has been strained 
through Tom's head, is so near to 
nothing, that what it once was can 
not be discovered. This he carries 
round from friend to friend through 
a circle of visits, till, hearing what 
each says upon the question, he be 
comes able at dinner to say a little 
himself; and as every great genius 
relaxes himself among his inferiors, 
meets with some who wonder how 
so young a man can talk so wisely.' 

4 ' His library, though by no means 
handsome in its appearance, was 
sold by Mr. Christie for ^247 9.$-. 
Life, iv. 402, n. 2. See also ib. i. 
188, n. 3, 435- 

My friend, Mr. Edward J. Leveson, 
the Scribe of the Johnson Club, re 
printed a facsimile of the sale cata 
logue of Dr. Johnson's Library for 
the meeting of the Johnson Club at 
Oxford, June II, 1892. 


by Thomas Tyers. 381 

Ciceronian Dr. King of Oxford, which was given him by his 
friend Vansittart x . It answers the purposes of reading and 
writing, by night or by day ; and is as valuable in all respects 
as the chair of Ariosto, as delineated in the preface to Hoole's 
liberal translation of that poet. Since the rounding of this 
period intelligence is brought that this literary chair is purchased 
by Mr. Hoole. Relicks are venerable things, and are only not 
to be worshipped. On the reading-chair of Mr. Speaker Onslow 
a part of this historical sketch was written 2 . 

1 Johnson wrote from Oxford in 348. For Dr. King see ib. i. 279, 

1759 : ' I have proposed to Van- n. 5. 

sittart climbing over the wall ; but 2 Speaker Onslow's copy of John- 
he has refused me. And I have son's Dictionary is the one I have 
clapped my hands till they are sore used in writing my notes on Boswell 
at Dr. King's speech.' Life, i. and Johnson. 





[FROM the Diary of the Right Hon. William Windham, i vol. 
8vo. 1866, p. 28. 

For other extracts from this Diary see Letters, ii. 439.] 

TUESDAY, December 7th. Ten minutes past two, P.M. 

After waiting some short time in the adjoining room, I was 
admitted to Dr. Johnson z in his bedchamber, where, after placing 
me next him on the chair, he sitting in his usual place on the 
east side of the room (and I on his right hand), he put into my 
hands two small volumes (an edition of the New Testament), as he 
afterwards told me, saying, 'Extremum hoc munus morientis habeto? 
He then proceeded to observe that I was entering upon a life 
which would lead me deeply into all the business of the world 2 ; 

1 Life, iv. 407,411, 415. lo extreme consequences.' Mackin- 

2 In the Coalition Ministry of 1783 tosh's Life, ii. 59. He eagerly op- 
Windham had been Chief Secretary posed the establishment of parochial 
for Ireland. Ib. iv. 200. schools, the abolition of the slave 

' Windham was a man of a very trade, and the bills for preventing 

high order, spoiled by faults ap- wanton cruelty to animals, and for 

parently small. For the sake of a the abolition of capital punishment 

new subtlety or a forcible phrase he for petty thefts. Romilly's Life, ii. 

was content to utter what loaded 216,288. ' I remember with delight,' 

him with permanent unpopularity ; wrote Parr, 'those happier days when 

his logical propensity led him always his refinements, instead of being 


Extracts from Windham's Diary. 383 

that he did not condemn civil employment, but that it was 
a state of great danger ; and that he had therefore one piece of 
advice earnestly to impress upon me that I would set apart every 
seventh day for the care of my soul ; that one day, the seventh, 
should be employed in repenting what was amiss in the six pre 
ceding, and fortifying my virtue for the six to come ; that such 
a portion of time was surely little enough for the meditation of 
eternity. He then told me that he had a request to make to me ; 
namely, that I would allow his servant Frank to look up to me 
as his friend, adviser, and protector, in all difficulties which his 
own weakness and imprudence, or the force or fraud of others, 
might bring him into. He said that he had left him what he 
considered an ample provision, viz. yc/. per annum x ; but that 
even that sum might not place him above the want of a protector, 
and to me, therefore, he recommended him as to one who had 
will, and power, and activity to protect him. Having obtained 
my assent to this, he proposed that Frank should be called in ; 
and desiring me to take him by the hand in token of the promise, 
repeated before him the recommendation he had just made of 
him, and the promise I had given to attend to it. I then took 
occasion to say how much I felt what I had long foreseen that 
I should feel, regret at having spent so little of my life in his 
company 2 . I stated this as an instance where resolutions are 
deferred till the occasions are past. For some time past I had 
determined that such an occasion of self-reproach should not 
subsist, and had built upon the hope of passing in his society the 
chief part of my time, at the moment when it was to be appre 
hended we were about to lose him for ever.. I had no difficulty 
in speaking to him thus of my apprehensions ; I could not help, 
on the other hand, entertaining hopes ; but with these I did not 
like to trouble him, lest he should conceive that I thought it 
necessary to flatter him. He answered hastily, that he was sure 

dangerous in practice, were in theory days earlier. Ante, ii. 126, 132. 

only amusing.' Field's Life of Parr, * Windham, who had lately paid 

i. 319. him a short visit at Ashbourne, re- 

1 His will is dated Dec. 8, the day corded the day he left, ' Regretted, 

after he spoke to Windham ; but he upon reflection, that I had not staid 

had made 'a temporary one' eleven another day.' Letters, ii. 441. 

I would 

384 Extracts from Windham's Diary. 

I would not ; and proceeded to make a compliment to the 
manliness of my mind, which, whether deserved or not, ought 
to be remembered, that it may be deserved. 

I then stated, that among other neglects was the omission of 
introducing, of all others, the most important [subjects], the con 
sequence of which particularly filled my mind at that moment, 
and on which I had often been desirous to know his opinions. 
The subjects I meant were, I said, ' natural and revealed religion. 1 
The wish thus generally stated, was in part gratified on the 
instant. For revealed religion, he said, there was such historical 
evidence, as, upon any subject not religious, would have left no 
doubt. Had the facts recorded in the New Testament been 
mere civil occurrences, no one would have called in question the 
testimony by which they are established ; but the importance an 
nexed to them, amounting to nothing less than the salvation of 
mankind, raised a cloud in our minds, and created doubts unknown 
upon any other subject. Of proofs to be derived from history, 
one of the most cogent, he seemed to think, was the opinion so 
well authenticated, and so long entertained, of a Deliverer that 
was to appear about that time. Among the typical representa 
tions, the sacrifice of the Paschal Lamb, in which no bone was to 
be broken, had early struck his mind. For the immediate life 
and miracles of Christ, such attestation as that of the apostles, 
who all, except St. John, confirmed their testimony with their 
blood ; such belief as their witness procured from a people best 
furnished with the means of judging, and least disposed to judge 
favourably ; such an extension afterwards of that belief over all 
the nations of the earth, though originating from a nation of all 
others most despised, would leave no doubt that the things 
witnessed were true, and were of a nature more than human. 
With respect to evidence, Dr. Johnson observed that we had not 
such evidence that Caesar died in the Capitol, as that Christ 
died in the manner related x . 

nth. First day of skating; ice fine. Find I have lost nothing 
since last year. 

Between nine and ten went to Sir Joshua, whom I took up by 

1 Life, i. 428, 444, 454 ; v. 340 ; ante, ii. 157. 


Extracts from Windham's Diary. 385 

the way, to see Dr. Johnson. Strachan J and Langton there. No 
hopes ; though a great discharge had taken place from the legs. 

1 2th. Came down about ten; read reviews, wrote to Mrs. 
Siddons, and then went to the ice ; came home only in time to 
dress and go to my mother's to dinner. About half past seven 
went to Dr. Johnson's, where I stayed, chiefly in the outer room, 
till past eleven. Strachan there during the whole time ; during 
part Mr. Hoole ; and latterly Mr. Cruikshank and the apothecary. 
I only went in twice, for a few minutes each time : the first time 
I hinted only what they had before been urging ; namely, that 
he would be prevailed upon to take some sustenance, and desisted 
upon his exclaiming. ' 'Tis all very childish; let us hear no 
more of it V The second time I came in, in consequence of 
a consultation with Mr. Cruikshank and the apothecary, and 
addressed him formally. After premising that I considered what 
I was going to say as a matter of duty ; I said that I hoped he 
would not suspect me of the weakness of importuning him to 
take nourishment for the purpose of prolonging his life for a few 
hours or days. I then stated what the reason was, that it was 
to secure that which I was persuaded he was most anxious 
about ; namely, that he might preserve his faculties entire to 
the last moment. Before I had quite stated my meaning, he 
interrupted me by saying, that he had refused no sustenance but 
inebriating sustenance; and proceeded to give instances where, 
in compliance with the wishes of his physician, he had taken 
even a small quantity of wine. I readily assented to any objec 
tions he might have to nourishment of that kind, and observing 
that milk was the only nourishment I intended, flattered myself 
that I had succeeded in my endeavours, when he recurred to his 
general refusal, and ' begged that there might be an end of it/ 
I then said, that I hoped he would forgive my earnestness or 
something to that effect, when he replied eagerly, that from me 
nothing would be necessary by way of apology ; adding, with 
great fervour, in words which I shall (I hope) never forget, ' God 
bless you, my dear Windham, through Jesus Christ ;' and con 
cluding with a wish 'that we might [share] in some humble 
portion of that happiness which God might finally vouchsafe to 
1 Rev. George Strahan. 2 Ante^ ii. 159. 

VOL. II. C c repentant 

386 Extracts from Windham's Diary. 

repentant sinners.' These were the last words I ever heard him 
speak. I hurried out of the room with tears in my eyes, and 
more affected than I had been on any former occasion. 

December 13. In the morning meant to have met Mr. Cruik- 
shank in Bolt Court ; but while I was deliberating about going, 
was sent for by Mr. Burke. Went to Bolt Court about half-past 
three. Found Dr. Johnson had been almost constantly asleep 
since nine in the morning, and heard from Mr. Des Moulins an 
account of what had passed in the night. He had compelled 
Frank to give him a lancet, and had besides concealed in the 
bed a pair of scissors, and with one or the other of these had 
scarified himself in three places, two in the leg, &c. On 
Mr. Des Moulins making a difficulty of giving him the lancet, 
he said, ' Don't you, if you have any scruples ; but I will compel 
Frank : ' and on Mr. Des Moulins attempting afterwards to 
prevent Frank from giving it to him, and at last to restrain his 
hands, he grew very outrageous, so as to call Frank scoundrel, 
and to threaten Mr. Des Moulins that he would stab him. He 
then made the three incisions above mentioned, of which one in 
the leg, &c. were not unskilfully made ; but the other in the leg 
was a deep and ugly wound from which, with the others, they 
suppose him to have lost nearly eight ounces of blood x . Upon 
Dr. Heberden expressing his fears about the scarification, 
Dr. Johnson told him he was timidorum timidissimus 2 . 

A few days before his death, talking with Dr. Brocklesby, he 
said, ' Now will you ascribe my death to my having taken eight 
grains of squills, when you recommended only three ; Dr. Heberden, 
to my having opened my left foot, when nature was pointing out 
the discharge in the right V The conversation was introduced 
by his quoting some lines to the same purpose, from Swift's 
verses on his own death 4 . 

1 Ante, ii. 134. He might have liv'd these twenty 

2 Ib. i. 199. 3 Ib. ii. 7. years ; 

4 'The doctors, tender of their fame, For, when we open'd him, we found 

Wisely on me lay all the blarne. That all his vital parts were sound." ' 

" We must confess his case was nice ; On the Death of Dr. Swiff. Swift's 

But he would never take advice. Works, ed. 1803, xi. 245. 

Had he been rul'd, for aught appears, Johnson in his last years often 


Extracts from Windham's Diary. 387 

It was within the same period (if I understood Dr. Brocklesby 
rightly) that he enjoined him, as an honest man and a physician, 
to inform him how long he thought he had to live. Dr. Brocklesby 
inquired, in return, whether he had firmness to learn the answer. 
Upon his replying that he had, and Dr. B. limiting the term to 
a few weeks, he said, 'that he then would trouble himself no 
more with medicine or medical advice:' and to this resolution 
he pretty much adhered x . 

In a conversation about what was practicable in medicine or 
surgery, he quoted, to the surprise of his physicians, the opinion 
of Marchetti for an operation (I think) of extracting part of 
the kidney. He recommended for an account of China, Sir John 
Mandeville's Travels. Halliday's Notes on Juvenal he thought 
so highly of as to have employed himself for some time in 
translating them into Latin 2 . 

He insisted on the doctrine of an expiatory sacrifice as the 
condition without which there was no Christianity; and urged in 
support the belief entertained in all ages, and by all nations, 
barbarous as well as polite. He recommended to Dr. Brocklesby, 
also, Clarke's Sermons, and repeated to him the passage which 
he had spoken of to me 3 . 

While airing one day with Dr. B., in passing and returning by 
St. Pancras' church, he fell into prayer, and mentioned, upon 
Dr. B.'s inquiring why the Catholics chose that for their burying 
place, that some Catholics, in Queen Elizabeth's time, had been 
burnt there 4 . Upon Dr. B.'s asking him whether he did not 
feel the warmth of the sun, he quoted from Juvenal 

quoted from this poem. Letters, ii. 4 ' Pancras, a small hamlet in 

147, 192, 302, 404, 421. Middlesex, on the north-west side 

1 Life, iv. 415; ante, ii. 122, 149, of London, in the road to Kentish 

369. town. The churchyard is a general 

3 Barten Holy day, or Holiday, pub- burying-place for persons of the 

lished ini6i6averse translation of Romish religion.' Dodsley's London, 

Persius. 'The posthumous edition ed. 1761, v. 105. General Paoli was 

of 1673 was accompanied by a new buried there. No Catholics were 

translation of Juvenal, and contains burnt by Elizabeth. ' There was 

voluminous notes.' Diet. Nat. Biog. nothing in the creeds of the Puritans 

xxvii. 214. or of the Catholics which, according 

3 Ante, ii. 205 ; Life t iv. 414, 416 ; to law, could subject them to the 

v. 88. pains of heresy ; but the Anabaptists 

C c 2 ' Praeterea 

388 Extracts from Windham's Diary. 

1 Praeterea minimus gelido jam in corpore sanguis 
Febre calet sola 1 .' 

45 minutes past 10 P.M. While I was writing the adjoining 
articles I received the fatal account, so long dreaded, that 
Dr. Johnson was no more ! 

May those prayers which he incessantly poured from a heart 
fraught with the deepest devotion, find that acceptance with 
Him to whom they were addressed, which piety, so humble and 
so fervent, may seem to promise ! 

Dr. Brocklesby made him an offer of TOO/, a year if he should 
determine to go abroad ; he pressed his hands and said, ' God 
bless you through Jesus Christ, but I will take no money but 
from my sovereign 2 .' This, if I mistake not, was told the King 
through West 3 . That Johnson wanted much assistance, and that 
the Chancellor meant to apply for it, His Majesty was told 
through the same channel. 

On dissection of the body, vesicles of wind were found on the 
lungs (which Dr. Heberden said he had never seen, and of which 
Cruikshank professed to have seen only two instances), one of 
the kidneys quite gone, a gall stone in the bladder, I think ; 
no water in the chest, and little in the abdomen, no more than 
might have found its way thither after death. 

2oth. A memorable day the day which saw deposited in 
Westminster Abbey the remains of Johnson. After our return 
from the Abbey I spent some time with Burke on the subject 
of his negociation with the Chancellor. We dined at Sir Joshua 
Reynolds', viz. Burke and R. Burke, Metcalf, Colman, Hoole, 
Scott, Burney and Brocklesby. 

were still doomed to suffer at the 'Add that a fever only warms 

stake under Elizabeth.' Lingard's his veins, 

Hist, of England, ed. 1823, viii. 183. And thaws the little blood that 

Three Anabaptists were burnt, and yet remains.' GIFFORD. 

one, Francis Kett, ' who had uttered * Life, iv. 338; ante, i. 441-3 ; 

blasphemies against the Divinity of ii. 3^9- 

Christ.' 3 Most likely Benjamin West, the 

1 Satires, x. 217: painter. 



[FROM Croker's Boswell, x. 122. For Robert Barclay, who 
with John Perkins bought Thrale's Brewery, see Life> iv. 118, 
n. i ; Letters, ii. 216 n. 

He was the great-grandson of the author of the Apology. He 
must not be confused with his cousin and contemporary Robert 
Barclay, the banker of Lombard Street.] 

Mr. Barclay, from his connexion with Mr. Thrale, had several 
opportunities of meeting and conversing with Dr. Johnson. On 
his becoming a partner in the brewery, Johnson advised him 
not to allow his commercial pursuits to divert his attention 
from his studies. ( A mere literary man/ said the Doctor, ' is 
a dull man ; a man who is solely a man of business is a selfish 
man ; but when literature and commerce are united, they make 
a respectable man V 

Mr. Barclay had never observed any rudeness or violence on 
the part of Johnson. He has seen Boswell lay down his knife 
and fork, and take out his tablets, in order to register a good 
anecdote 2 . When Johnson proceeded to the dining-room, one 
of Mr. Thrale's servants handed him a wig of a smarter de 
scription than the one he wore in the morning ; the exchange 

1 ' Domi inter mille mercaturae Thrale. Ante, i. 238 ; ii. 13, 309. 
negotia literarum elegantiam minime For respectable see Life, iii. 241, n. 2. 
neglexit.' Johnson's epitaph on Mr. 2 Ante, i. 175. 


390 Minor Anecdotes of Dr. Johnson. 

took place in the hall, or passage x . Johnson, like many other 
men, was always in much better humour after dinner than 

Mr. Barclay saw Johnson ten days before he died, when the 
latter observed, ' That they should never meet more. Have 
you any objection to receive an old man's blessing?' Mr. 
Barclay knelt down, and Johnson gave him his blessing with 
great fervency. 


[From Personal and Literary Memorials, i vol., 8vo. London, 
1829, pp. 11,62, 63,65.] 

Mrs. Digby told me that when she lived in London with her 
sister Mrs. Brooke 2 , they were every now and then honoured 
by the visits of Dr. Johnson. He called on them one day 
soon after the publication of his immortal dictionary. The two 
ladies paid him due compliments on the occasion. Amongst 
other topics of praise they very much commended the omission 
of all naughty words. ' What, my dears ! then you have been 
looking for them?' said the moralist. The ladies, confused 
at being thus caught, dropped the subject of the dictionary. 

In early youth I knew Bennet Langton, of that ilk, as the 
Scotch say. With great personal claims to the respect of the 
public, he is known to that public chiefly as a friend of Johnson. 
He was a very tall, meagre, long-visaged man, much resembling, 
according to Richard Paget, a stork standing on one leg, near 
the shore, in Raphael's cartoon of the miraculous draught of 
fishes. His manners were in the highest degree polished; his 
conversation mild, equable, and always pleasing. He had the 
uncommon faculty of being a good reader 3 . I formed an 

1 Ante, i. 307. more, let's go into the slaughter- 

2 Ante, i. 322 ; ii. 192. house again, Lanky. But I am afraid 

3 He read Dodsley's Cleone to there is more blood than brains." ' 
Johnson, who ' at the end of an Life, iv. 20. 

act said, " Come, let's have some 


By Sir Brooke Boothby. 391 

intimacy with his son, and went to pay him a visit at JLangton. 
After breakfast we walked to the top of a very steep hill behind 
the house. When we arrived at the summit, Mr. Langton said, 
' Poor, dear Dr. Johnson, when he came to this spot, turned 
to look down the hill, and said he was determined "to take 
a roll down V When we understood what he meant to do, 
we endeavoured to dissuade him ; but he was resolute, saying, 
he had not had a roll for a long time ; and taking out of his 
lesser pockets whatever might be in them keys, pencil, purse, 
or pen-knife, and laying himself parallel with the edge of the 
hill, he actually descended, turning himself over and over till 
he came to the bottom.' 

The story was told with such gravity, and with an air of 
such affectionate remembrance of a departed friend, that it 
was impossible to suppose this extraordinary freak of the 
great lexicographer to have been a fiction or invention of 
Mr. Langton. 


[The following anecdotes were communicated to Dr. Anderson 
by Sir Brooke Boothby, Bart., ' who had frequent opportunities 
of enjoying the company of Johnson at Lichfield and Ashbourne.' 
Anderson's Life of Johnson, ed. 1815, p. 332. 

Sir Brooke Boothby was the brother of Miss Hill Boothby. 
Ante, i. 18 ; Life, i. 83 ; Letters, i. 45.] 

Johnson spoke as he wrote. He would take up a topic, and 
utter upon it a number of the Rambler 2 . On a question, one 
day, at Miss Porter's, concerning the authority of a newspaper 
for some fact, he related, that a lady of his acquaintance im 
plicitly believed every thing she read in the papers ; and that, 
by way of curing her credulity, he fabricated a story of a battle 
between the Russians and Turks, then at war ; and * that it 

1 Johnson visited Langton in 1764. que ceux qui dcrivent comme ils 
Life, i. 476 ; ante, i. 286, 291. parlent, quoiqu'ils parlent tres-bien, 

2 Ante, i. 348 ; ii. 92. e"crivent mal.' Correspondance de 
*M. de Buffon remarque tres-bien Grimm, ed. 1814, i. 33. 


392 Minor Anecdotes of Dr. Johnson. 

might,' he said, 'bear internal evidence of its futility, I laid 
the scene in an island at the conflux of the Boristhenes and 
the Danube ; rivers which run at the distance of a hundred 
leagues from each other. The lady, however, believed the 
story, and never forgave the deception; the consequence of 
which was, that I lost an agreeable companion, and she was 
deprived of an innocent amusement *.' And he added, as an 
extraordinary circumstance, that the Russian ambassador sent 
in great haste to the printer, to know from whence he had 
received the intelligence. Another time, at Dr. Taylor's, a few 
days after the death of the wife of the Rev. Mr. Kennedy, of 
Bradley 2 , a woman of extraordinary sense, he described the 
eccentricities of the man and the woman, with a nicety of 
discrimination, and a force of language, equal to the best of 
his periodical essays. Now, with such powers, and the full 
confidence he felt in himself before any audience, he must have 
made an able and impressive speaker in Parliament 3 . 


[From Cole's Collection in the British Museum. Croker's 
Boswell, x. 123.] 

I was told by Mr. Farmer, the present Master of Emanuel 
College 4 , that he being in London last year [1774] with Mr. 
Arnold, tutor in St. John's College, was desired to introduce 

1 The lady was Mrs. Salusbury, The following anecdote is recorded 
Mrs. Thrale's mother. She was re- of one branch of the Meynells in 
conciled to Johnson. Ante, i. 235. Button's History of Derby, ed. 1867, 

2 A village in Derbyshire, where p. 267. ' While the Meynell family 
Johnson visited the Meynells. Life, were spending their sober evening 
i. 82 ; Letters, i. 45, n. 6. ' In 1762 by the glow of their own fire, a coach 
he wrote for the Rev. Dr. John and six was heard rolling up to the 
Kennedy, the Rector of Bradley, in door. " Bring candles," says the 
a strain of very courtly elegance a lady of the mansion, with some 
dedication to the King.' Life, i. emotion, while she stept forward to 
366. It is probably the same Dr. receive the guests ; but instantly re- 
Kennedy who wrote a foolish tragedy turning, " Light up a rush," said she, 
which had been shown to Mr. Fitz- "it is only my cousin Curzon." ' 
herbert, and who married Miss Mey- 3 Ante, ii. 362 n. 

nell. Ib. iii. 238. 4 Life, iii. 38. 


From William Cooke's Life of Samuel Foote. 393 

the latter, who had been bred a Whig, to the acquaintance of 
the very learned and sensible Dr. Samuel Johnson. They had 
not been long together, before (the conversation leading to it) 
the Doctor, addressing himself to Mr. Arnold, said, ' Sir, you 
are a young man, but I have seen a great deal of the world, 
and take it upon my word and experience, that where you 
see a Whig you see a rascal V Mr. Farmer said he was startled, 
and rather uneasy that the Doctor had expressed himself so 
bluntly, and was apprehensive that Mr. Arnold might be shocked 
and take it ill. But they laughed it off, and were very good 


Dr. Johnson being asked by a lady why he so constantly 
gave money to beggars, replied with great feeling, * Madam, to 
enable them to beg on 2 .' Vol. ii. p. no. 

Dr. Johnson being asked by a lady what love was, replied, 
* It was the wisdom of a fool and the folly of the wise.' Vol. ii. 
P. 154. 

In the recital of prayers and religious poems Dr. Johnson 
was awfully impressive 3 . One night at the Club 4 , a person 
quoting the nineteenth psalm, the Doctor caught fire ; and 
instantly taking off his hat began with great solemnity : 

'The spacious firmament on high,' 
and went through that beautiful hymn 5 . Those who were 

1 For rascal see ib. iii. I, and for 4 Most likely the Essex Head 
abuse of Whigs and Whiggism, vi. Club, of which Cooke was a member. 
323. The autumn of this same year 5 Thackeray in his English Hu- 
(1774), just before the general elec- mourists (ed. 1858, p. 109) says of 
tion, Johnson said to Burke, ( I wish this hymn of Addison's : ' Listen to 
you all the success which ought to him ; from your childhood you have 
be wished you, which can possibly known the verses : but who can hear 
be wished you indeed by an honest their sacred music without love and 
man. 9 Ante, i. 309. awe ? ... It seems to me that these 

2 Ante^ i. 204. verses shine like the stars. They 

3 Ib. ii. 266. shine out of a great deep calm.' 


394 Minor Anecdotes of Dr. Johnson. 

acquainted with the Doctor knew how harsh his features in 
general were ; but, upon this occasion, to use the language 
of Scripture, 'his face was almost as if it had been the face 
of an angel V 

Soon after Garrick's purchase at Hampton Court 2 he was 
showing Dr. Johnson the grounds, the house, Shakespeare's 
temple &c. ; and concluded by asking him, ' Well, Doctor, how 
do you like all this? 1 'Why, it is pleasant enough,' growled 
the Doctor, ' for the present ; but all these things, David, make 
death very terrible.' 

At the same time on Garrick's showing him a magnificent 
library, full of books in most elegant bindings, the Doctor began 
running over the volumes in his usual coarse and negligent 
manner ; which was by opening the book so wide as almost 
to break the back of it, and then flung them down one by one 
on the floor with contempt 3 . * Zounds ! ' said Garrick, who was 
in torture all this time, ' why, what are you about there ? you'll 
spoil all my books/ ' No, Sir/ cried Johnson, ' I have done 
nothing but treat a pack of silly plays in fops' dresses just as 
they deserve ; but I see no books! 


Boswell was a man of excellent natural parts, on which he 
had engrafted a great deal of general knowledge 5 . His talents 
as a man of company were much heightened by his extreme 

1 Acts, vi. 15. inspires was foreign to his heart/ 

2 'Here he received the visits of Murphy's Life of Garrick, p. 345. 
the nobility, of the ablest scholars, 3 Life, ii. 192. 

and the men of genius in every branch 4 European Magazine, 1798, p. 

of literature. He lived in an elegant 376. 

style, and to the luxuries of the table 5 When he was twenty-five years 

added his wit and the polished old Johnson said to him :' Your 

manner of one who had enjoyed the general mass of knowledge of books 

best company. His behaviour was and men renders you very capable to 

modest and unassuming ; he gave make, yourself master of any science, 

himself no superior airs, and the or fit yourself for any profession.' 

pride which a large fortune often Life, ii. 9. 


From the 'European Magazine' 395 

cheerfulness and good nature. Mr. Burke said of him 1 , that he 
had no merit in possessing that agreeable faculty, and that 
a man might as well assume to himself merit in possessing 
an excellent constitution z . Mr. Boswell professed the Scotch 
and the English law ; but had never taken very great pains 
on the subject. His father, Lord Auchinleck, told him one 
day, that it would cost him more trouble to hide his ignorance 
in these professions, than to show his knowledge. This Mr. Bos- 
well owned he had found to be true 2 . Society was his idol ; 
to that he sacrificed every thing: his eye glistened, and his 
countenance brightened up, when he saw the human face 
divine 3 ; and that person must have been very fastidious indeed, 
who did not return him the same compliment when he came 
into a room. Of his Life of Johnson, who can say too much, 
or praise it too highly ? What is Plutarch's biography to his ? 
so minute, so appropriate, so dramatic 4 . 

A gentleman of Lichfield meeting the Doctor returning from 
a walk, inquired how far he had been? The Doctor replied, 
he had gone round Mr. Levet's field 5 (the place where the 

1 Johnson wrote to Boswell on ignorance of English law, and of ' the 

July 3, 1778: ' If general approba- delusion of Westminster Hall, of 

tion will add anything to your enjoy- brilliant reputation and splendid 

ment, I can tell you that I have fortune,' which, he continues, 'still 

heard you mentioned as a man whom weighs upon my imagination,' see id. 

everybody likes' Life, iii. 362. An- iii. 179 n. 

other time he described him as c the 3 Paradise Lost, Bk. iii. 1. 44. 
best travelling companion in the * ' Boswell is the first of bio- 
world.' Ib. iii. 294. He wrote of graphers. He has no second. He 
him to Mrs. Thrale : ' I shall cele- has distanced all his competitors so 
brate his good- humour and per- decidedly that it is not worth while to 
petual cheerfulness.' Letters, \. 291. place them. Eclipse is first, and the 
It was for him that he invented the rest nowhere.' Macaulay's Essays, 
word clubable. * Boswell (said he) ed. 1843, i. 374. 
is a very clubable man.' Life, iv. * Of all the men distinguished in 
254 n. this or any other age Dr. Johnson 

3 To his friend Temple he wrote : has left upon posterity the strongest 

' I have a kind of impotency of study.' and most vivid impression, so far as 

Letters of Boswell, p. 181. Never- person, manners, disposition and 

theless, in the University which he conversation are concerned.' Scott's 

and Johnson imagined he was 'to Works, ed. 1834,111.260. 

teach Civil and Scotch law.' Life, 5 For John Levett of Lichfield see 

v. 108. For his confession of his Life, i. 160 ; Letters, i. 14. 


396 Minor Anecdotes of Dr. Johnson. 

scholars play) in search of a rail that he used to jump over when 
a boy, ' and/ says the Doctor in a transport of joy, c I have been 
so fortunate as to find it : I stood, said he, ' gazing upon it some 
time with a degree of rapture, for it brought to my mind all 
my juvenile sports and pastimes, and at length I determined 
to try my skill and dexterity ; I laid aside my hat and wig, 
pulled off my coat, and leapt over it twice/ Thus the great 
Dr. Johnson, only three years before his death, was, without 
hat, wig, or coat, jumping over a rail that he had used to fly 
over when a school-boy x . 

Amongst those who were so intimate with Dr. Johnson as to 
have him occasionally an intimate in their families, it is a well 
known fact that he would frequently descend from the con 
templation of subjects the most profound imaginable to the 
most childish playfulness. It was no uncommon thing to see 
him hop, step, and jump 2 ; he would often seat himself on the 
back of his chair, and more than once has been known to 
propose a race on some grassplat adapted to the purpose. He 
was very intimate and much attached to Mr. John Payne 3 , 
once a bookseller in Paternoster Row, and afterwards Chief 
Accountant of the Bank. Mr. Payne was of a very diminutive 
appearance, and once when they were together on a visit with 
a friend at some distance from town, Johnson in a gaiety 
of humour proposed to run a race with Mr. Payne the 
proposal was accepted ; but, before they had proceeded 
more than half of the intended distance, Johnson caught his 
little adversary up in his arms, and without any ceremony 
placed him upon the arm of a tree which was near, and 
then continued running as if he had met with a hard match. 
He afterwards returned with much exultation to release his 
friend from the no very pleasant situation in which he had 
left him 4 . 

1 This is, perhaps, an amplification Addison, The Gitardian, No. 112. 

of the story told,/^/, p. 415. In my schoolboy days we always 

2 ' I flutter about my room two or said * hop, skip and jump.' 
three hours in a morning, and when 3 Ante, i. 388. 

my wings are on can go above an hun- 4 For his race with a young lady 
dred yards at a hop, step and jump.' see ante, ii. 278. 


By Richard Green of Lichfield. 397 

Doctor, afterwards Dean Maxwell x , sitting in company with 
Johnson, they were talking of the violence of parties, and what 
unwarrantable and insolent lengths mobs will sometimes run into. 
' Why, yes, Sir,' says Johnson, ' they'll do any thing, no matter 
how odd, or desperate, to gain their point ; they'll catch hold of 
the red-hot end of a poker, sooner than not get possession of it.' 

Dr. Johnson, in his tour through North Wales, passed two 
days at the seat of Colonel Middleton of Gwynagag 2 . While 
he remained there, the gardener caught a hare amidst some 
potatoe plants, and brought it to his master, then engaged in 
conversation with the Doctor. An order was given to carry it 
to the cook. As soon as Johnson heard this sentence, he begged 
to have the animal placed in his arms ; which was no sooner 
done, than approaching the window then half open, he restored 
the hare to her liberty, shouting after her to accelerate her 
speed. 'What have you done?' cried the Colonel; 'why, 
Doctor, you have robbed my table of a delicacy, perhaps 
deprived us of a dinner.' 'So much the better, Sir,' replied 
the humane champion of a condemned hare ; ' for if your table 
is to be supplied at the expense of the laws of hospitality, I 
envy not the appetite of him who eats it. This, Sir, is not 
a hare ferce naturce, but one which had placed itself under your 
protection ; and savage indeed must be that man who does not 
make his hearth an asylum for the confiding stranger V 


[Richard Green was an apothecary of Lichfield. Of his 
Museum Johnson said to him : ' Sir, I should as soon have 

1 For Dr. Maxwell's Collectanea truly the dinner of a country gentle- 
see Life, ii. 1 1 6. man. Myddelton is the only man who, 

2 We came (writes Johnson) to in Wales, has talked to me of litera- 
Mr. Myddelton's of Gwaynynog, to ture.' Life, v. 443, 452. They passed 
the first place, as my Mistress ob- not two days but eight with him. 
served, where we have been welcome. 3 This story is not in Mrs. Piozzi's 
. . . The table was well supplied, ex- Anecdotes. 

cept that the fruit was bad. It was 4 Croker's Boswell, ix. 248. 



Minor Anecdotes of Dr. Johnson. 

thought of building a man of war as of collecting such a museum/ 
Life, ii. 465. There is a view of it in Shaw's History of 
Staffordshire, p. 332. See also Letters, i. 161, n. 5.] 

Dr. Brocklesby, a few days before the death of Dr. Johnson, 
found on the table Dr. Kippis's account of the Disputes of the 
Royal Society 1 . Dr. Johnson inquired of his physician if he 
had read it, who answered in the negative. c You have sustained 
no loss, Sir. It is poor stuff, indeed, a sad unscholar-like per 
formance. I could not have believed that that man would have 
written so ill.' 

Being desired to call in Dr. Warren 2 , he said they might call 

1 Dr. Andrew Kippis was the editor 
of a new edition of the Biographia 
Britannica. ' My friend, Dr. Kippis,' 
wrote Boswell, 'has hitherto dis 
charged the task with more im 
partiality than might have been ex 
pected from a Separatist.' Life, iii. 
174. In 1784 he published Observa 
tions on the late Contests in the Royal 
Society. The contests had been about 
the Foreign Secretary and the Presi 

2 ' When Dr. Warren, in the usual 
style, hoped that he was better, his 
answer was, " No, Sir ; you cannot 
conceive with what acceleration I 
advance towards death.'" Life, iv. 
411. See also ib. p. 399 ; ante, ii. 136 n. 
Warren was a member of the Literary 
Club. In the debate in the House of 
Commons on the King's illness on 
Jan. 6, 1789, Burke, alluding probably 
to the Club, said : ' He knew Dr. 
Warren, he belonged to a society 
where the Doctor frequently came, 
had always found him an instructive 
companion, and had ever heard him 
considered as a man of learning, 
great integrity and honour.' Parl. 
Hist, xxvii. 919. Miss Burney de 
scribes a curious scene one night, 
where ' the poor Queen in a torrent 
of tears prepared herself for seeing 

Dr. Warren,' after 'he had quitted 
his post of watching ' the King. Mme. 
D'Arblay's Diary, iv. 292. ' He is 
said to have received in the course of 
one day fees to the amount of ninety- 
nine guineas, and to have made .8000 
a year ever since the Regency.' 
Annual Register, 1797, ii. 36. 

Charles Darwin quotes the follow 
ing anecdote in his Life of Erasmus 
Darwin (ed. 1887, p. 105) : ' A 
gentleman in the last stage of con 
sumption came to Dr. Darwin at 
Derby, and expressed himself to this 
effect : " I am come from London 
to consult you as the greatest phy 
sician in the world. ... I know that 
my life hangs upon a thread. ... I 
trust that you will not deceive me, 
but tell me without hesitation your 
candid opinion." Dr. Darwin mi 
nutely examined him, and said he 
was sorry to say there was no hope. 
After a pause of a few minutes the 
gentleman said, "How long can I 
live ? " The answer was, " Perhaps 
a fortnight." The gentleman seized 
his hand and said, " Thank you, 
Doctor ; I thank you ; my mind is 
satisfied ; I now know there is no 
hope for me." Dr. Darwin then 
said, " But as you come from London, 
why did you not consult Dr. Warren ?" 


By T. Green. 399 

in any body they pleased ; and Warren was called/ At his 
going away, 'You have come in,' said Dr. Johnson, 'at the 
eleventh hour; but you shall be paid the same with your 
fellow- labourers. Francis, put into Dr. Warren's coach a copy 
of the English Poets V 

Some years before, some person in a company at Salisbury 2 , 
of which Dr. Johnson was one, vouched for the company that 
there was nobody in it afraid of death. ' Speak for yourself, 
Sir,' said Johnson, ' for indeed I am.' ' I did not say of dying,' 
replied the other ; ' but of death, meaning its consequences.' 
1 And so I mean,' rejoined the Doctor ; ' I am very seriously 
afraid of the consequences V 


[From the Diary of a Lover of Literature by T. Green of 
Ipswich, 4to. 1810; and since continued in the Gentleman s 
Magazine. Croker's Boswell, x. 141.] 

Mr. Monney told me he had often met Johnson, and imitated 
his manner very happily. Johnson came on a visit to the 

"Alas! Doctor, I am Dr. Warren." a physician had common sense when 
He died in a week or two afterwards.' he first settled at Bath, he soon lost 
According to the Annual Register it all in looking out for bile and giving 
Warren ' died of spasms in his in to the medical cant of the place.' 
stomach very unexpectedly, at a mo- European Magazine , 1798, p. 240. 
ment when Sir G. Baker and Dr. * The Rev. C. G. Andrews, Would- 
Pitcairn were most sanguine in their ham Rectory, Rochester, a great- 
hopes of his recovery. His complaint grandson of Dr. Heberden, has the 
had been a violent erysipelas in his copy of the Lives that belonged to 
head.' This is confirmed by Lord Dr. Heberden, inscribed (not in 
Charlemont, who wrote on Aug. 19, Johnson's writing) ' From the author.' 
1797: 'As for Dr. W T arren, death 2 Johnson was twice at Salisbury 
owed him a grudge for the numerous once in 1762, on his way to Devon- 
victims rescued from his dart, and at shire (Taylor's Reynolds, i. 214), and 
length revenged himself by that fatal once in 1783, sixteen months before 
blow on the stomach.' Hist. MSS. his death. Life, iv. 234. 
Com., Thirteenth Report, App. viii. 3 Ante, ii. 202. 
281. 'Dr. Warren used to say that if 'Apres avoir parle de la faussete 


400 Minor Anecdotes of Dr. Johnson. 

President of his College (Jesus) at Oxford, Dr. Bernard r . Dr. Ber 
nard ventured to put a joke upon Johnson ; but being terrified 
by a tremendous snarl, ' Indeed, indeed, Doctor, believe me/ 
said he, * I meant nothing.' * Sir/ said Johnson, ' if you mean 
nothing, say nothing/ and was quiet for the rest of the evening. 


[' In a letter to his brother, the Rev. William Humphry, dated 
September 19, 1764.' Croker's Boswell, ix. 257. 

For Johnson's letters to Humphry see Life, iv. 268, and for 
anecdotes of him see Northcote's Reynolds ', ii. 174, 248.] 

The day after I wrote my last letter to you I was introduced 
to Mr. Johnson by a friend : we passed through three very dirty 
rooms to a little one that looked like an old counting-house, 
where this great man was sat at his breakfast 2 . The furniture 
of this room was a very large deal writing-desk 3 , an old walnut- 
tree table, and five ragged chairs of four different sets. I was 
very much struck with Mr. Johnson's appearance, and could 
hardly help thinking him a madman for some time, as he sat 
waving over his breakfast like a lunatic 4 . 

de tant de vertus apparentes, il est La Rochefoucauld, Maximes, No. 

raisonnable de dire quelque chose de 528. 

la faussete du me'pris de la mort. ... * Johnson was for some days in 

II y a de la difference entre souffrir la June, 1782, the guest of Dr. Edwards, 

mort constamment, et la mepriser. Vice-Principal of Jesus College. 

Le premier est assez ordinaire ; mais Letters, ii. 257, n. 4 ; 261, n. i. No 

je crois que 1'autre n'est jamais sin- Principal [not President] of Jesus 

cere. ... La raison, dans laquelle on bore the name of Bernard. The story 

croit trouver tant de ressources, est which follows resembles one told of 

trop faible en cette rencontre pour the elder Pitt. 

nous persuader de ce que nous vou- 2 Johnson in 1764 was living in 

Ions. C'est elle au contraire qui Inner Temple Lane. Life, i. 350, n. 3, 

nous trahit le plus souvent, et qui, 375, n. I ; iii. 406 n. 

au lieu de nous inspirer le me'pris 3 No doubt the desk in the Library 

de la mort, sert a nous decouvrir of Pembroke College. 

ce qu'elle a d'affreux et de terrible.' 4 Hogarth, eleven years earlier, 


By Ozias Humphry, R.A. 401 

He is a very large man, and was dressed in a dirty brown 
coat and waistcoat, with breeches that were brown also (though 
they had been crimson), and an old black wig : his shirt collar 
and sleeves were unbuttoned ; his stockings were down about 
his feet, which had on them, by way of slippers, an old 
pair of shoes. He had not been up long when we called on 
him, which was near one o'clock : he seldom goes to bed till 
near two in the morning ; and Mr. Reynolds tells me he generally 
drinks tea about an hour after he has supped *. We had been 
some time with him before he began to talk, but at length he 
began, and, faith, to some purpose ! every thing he says is as 
correct as a second edition 2 : 't is almost impossible to argue with 
him, he is so sententious and so knowing. 

I asked him, if he had seen Mr. Reynolds's pictures lately. 
'No, Sir.' * He has painted many fine ones.' { I know he has/ 
he said, * as I hear he has been fully employed.' I told him, 
I imagined Mr. Reynolds was not much pleased to be 
overlooked by the Court 3 , as he must be conscious of his 
superior merit. ' Not at all displeased,' he said, ' Mr. Reynolds 
has too much good sense to be affected by it : when he was younger 
he believed it would have been agreeable ; but now he does 
not want their favour. It has ever been more profitable to 
be popular among the people than favoured by the King: it 
is no reflection on Mr. Reynolds not to be employed by them ; 
but it will be a reflection for ever on the Court not to have 
employed him. The King, perhaps, knows nothing but that 

calling on Richardson, ' while he was knighted, when Johnson, who was at 

talking, perceived a person standing that time an abstainer, ' drank one 

at a window in the room, shaking his glass of wine to the health of Sir 

head, and rolling himself about in a Joshua Reynolds.' Ante, ii. 322. See 

strange ridiculous manner. He con- also Life, iv. 366. 

eluded that he was an ideot, whom ( It has often been remarked that 

his relations had put under the care the King never commissioned Sir 

of Mr. Richardson.' It was Johnson. Joshua for a single picture ; indeed 

Life, i. 146. he never sat to him but once, when 

1 ' With tea solaces the midnight.' his portrait was painted by him for 
Ib. i. 313, n. 4. the Royal Academy. 3 Northcote's 

2 Ante, ii. 391. Reynolds, ii. 80. 

3 Five years later Reynolds was 

VOL. II. D d he 

402 Minor Anecdotes of Dr. Johnson. 

he employs the best painter ; and as for the Queen, I don't 
imagine she has any other idea of a picture but that it is a thing 
composed of many colours.' 

When Mr. Johnson understood that I had lived some time 
in Bath, he asked me many questions that led, indeed, to 
a general description of it. He seemed very well pleased ; but 
remarked that men and women bathing together as they do 
at Bath is an instance of barbarity that he believed could not 
be paralleled in any part of the world x . He entertained us 
about an hour and a half in this manner; then we took our 
leave. I must not omit to add, that I am informed he denies 
himself many conveniences, though he cannot well afford any, 
that he may have more in his power to give in charities. 


[From Memorials of John Coakley Lettsom^ London, 1817, 
2 vols. ; vol i, part a, p. 78.] 

Jan. 13, 1785. 

Dr. Johnson was a pious man ; attached, I confess, to estab 
lished system, but it was from principle. In company I neither 
found him austere nor dogmatical ; he certainly was not polite, 
but he was not rude ; he was familiar with suitable company ; 
but his language in conversation was sententious ; he was 
sometimes jocular, but you felt as if you were playing with 
a lion's paw. His body was large, his features strong, his face 
scarred and furrowed with the scrophula ; he had a heavy look ; 
but when he spoke it was like lightning out of a dark cloud. 

1 Miss Willis in Humphry Clinker in which they fix their handkerchiefs, 
(ed. 1792, i. 77) describes the bath : to wipe the sweat from their faces.' 
4 The ladies wear jackets and petti- See also id. pp. 85, 90. 
coats of brown linen, with chip hats, 


Miscellaneous Anecdotes. 403 

Feb. 8, 1785. 

In social company, when he unbended from critical austerity, 
he afforded the finest dessert to a rational repast. I once dined 
with him, Wilkes, Boswell, and Lee the American x ; what 
a group ! ' It was ungrateful,' said Lee, ' for the Scotch who, 
when emigrants, always found an asylum in America, to be the 
most violent opponents to American independence, and to oppose 
their benefactors in the cabinet and in the field.' 'The obli 
gation,' replied Boswell, 'was not so considerable, when it is 
understood that the Americans sent the Scotch emigrants to 
Cape Fear, and such-like barren regions.' ' I think,' said John 
son, ' they acted like philosophers.' 'Why?' Boswell inquired. 
' Because,' added Johnson, ' if you turn a starved cow into clover, 
it will soon kill itself by the sudden transition; and if the 
Scotch, famished in their own country, had been placed in the 
more fruitful parts of America, they would have burst by 
a bellyful, like the cattle in clover 2 .' Nobody enjoyed a laugh 
at the expense of the Scotch more than Boswell, at least when 
it came from Johnson ; and the latter appeared to do it in 
play; but his play was as rough as that of a bear, and you 
felt fearful of coming within the embraces of so fierce an animal ' 
(p. 84). 


[From Croker's Boswell, vol. x. pp. 131-142.] 

A gentleman once told Dr. Johnson, that a friend of his, 
looking into the Dictionary which the Doctor had lately pub 
lished, could not find the word ocean. ' Not find ocean ! ' 

1 Life, iii. 68 ; Letters, i. 397. is comparative. The Scotch would 

2 ' Mr. Arthur Lee mentioned some not know it to be barren.'" Life, 
Scotch who had taken possession of iii. 76. Boswell's 'long head' (ib. 
a barren part of America, and won- iv. 166), which retained a great deal 
dered why they should choose it. of the conversation, here failed him, 
JOHNSON. " Why, Sir, all barrenness for all that Lettsom reports is new. 

D d ^ exclaimed 

404 Minor Anecdotes of Dr. Johnson. 

exclaimed our Lexicographer ; ' Sir, I doubt the veracity of 
your information!' He instantly stalked into his library; and, 
opening the work in question with the utmost impatience, at 
last triumphantly put his finger upon the subject of research, 
adding, ' There, Sir ; there is ocean ! ' The gentleman was 
preparing to apologise for the mistake ; but Dr. Johnson good- 
naturedly dismissed the subject, with ' Never mind it, Sir ; 
perhaps your friend spells ocean with an s V 

The late Mr. Crauford, of Hyde Park Corner, being engaged 
to dinner, where Dr. Johnson was to be, resolved to pay his 
court to him ; and, having heard that he preferred Donne's 
Satires to Pope's version of them, said, ' Do you know, Dr. 
Johnson, that I like Dr. Donne's original Satires better than 
Pope's.' Johnson said, ' Well, Sir, I can't help that 2 .' 

Miss Johnson, one of Sir Joshua's nieces 3 (afterwards Mrs. 
Deane), was dining one day at her uncle's with Dr. Johnson 
and a large party : the conversation happening to turn on music, 
Johnson spoke very contemptuously of that art, and added, 
1 that no man of talent, or whose mind was capable of better 
things, ever would or could devote his time and attention to 
so idle and frivolous a pursuit.' The young lady, who was 
very fond of music, whispered her next neighbour, 'I wonder 
what Dr. Johnson thinks of King David.' Johnson overheard 
her, and, with great good humour and complacency, said, 
' Madam, I thank you ; I stand rebuked before you, and promise 
that, on one subject at least, you shall never hear me talk 
nonsense again.' 

The honours of the University of Cambridge were once 

1 Johnson, in the Preface to the pressed them while he was yet con- 
Dictionary, writes : ' It is remark- tending to rise in reputation, but 
able that in reviewing my collection ventured them when he thought their 
[of authorities] I found the word SEA deficiencies more likely to be im- 
unexemplified.' Works, v. 45. puted to Donne than to himself.' 

2 ' Pope published a revival in Works, viii. 295. 

smoother numbers of Dr. Donne's 3 Reynolds's sister Elizabeth mar- 
Satires. ... He seems to have known ried William Johnson. Taylor's 
their imbecility, and therefore sup- Reynolds, i. 4. 


Miscellaneous Anecdotes. 405 

performed to Dr. Johnson, by Dr. Watson, afterwards Bishop 
of Llandaff, and then Professor of Chemistry, &c. T After 
having spent the morning in seeing all that was worthy of 
notice, the sage dined at his conductor's table, which was sur 
rounded by various persons, all anxious to see so remarkable 
a character, but the moment was not favourable ; he had been 
wearied by his previous exertions, and would not talk. After 
the party had dispersed, he said, ' I was tired, and would not 
take the trouble, or I could have set them right upon several 
subjects, Sir ; for instance, the gentleman who said he could 
not imagine how any pleasure could be derived from hunting, 
the reason is, because man feels his own vacuity 2 less in action 
than when at rest.' 

Mr. Williams, the rector of Wellesbourne, in Warwickshire, 
mentioned having once, when a young man, performed a stage 
coach journey with Dr. Johnson, who took his place in the 
vehicle, provided with a little book, which his companion soon 
discovered to be Lucian 3 : he occasionally threw it aside, if 
struck by any remark made by his fellow-travellers, and poured 
forth his knowledge and eloquence in a full stream, to the delight 
and astonishment of his auditors. Accidentally, the first subject 
which attracted him was the digestive faculties of dogs, from 
whence he branched off as to the powers of digestion in various 
species of animals, discovering such stores of information, that 
this particular point might have been supposed to have formed 
his especial study, and so it was with every other subject started. 
The strength of his memory was not less astonishing than his 
eloquence ; he quoted from various authors, either in support 
of his own argument or to confute those of his companions, as 
readily, and apparently as accurately, as if the works had been 
in his hands. The coach halted, as usual, for dinner, which 
seemed to be a deeply interesting business to Johnson, who 

1 For Johnson's visit to Cambridge, neither business nor pleasure.' Ante, 
see Life, i. 487, 517 ; Letters, i. 183 n. i. 88. 

Watson was a Fellow of Trinity 3 Johnson in the Harwich stage- 
College. See ante, i. 307 n. coach read Pomponius Mela de Situ 

2 ' I am now to review the last year, Orbis, and in the Oxford stage-coach 
and find little but dismal vacuity, Euripides. Life, i. 465 ; iv. 311. 



Minor Anecdotes of Dr. Johnson. 

vehemently attacked a dish of stewed carp, using his fingers 
only in feeding himself 1 . 

Bishop Percy was at one time on a very intimate footing with 
Dr. Johnson, and the Doctor one day took Percy's little daughter 
upon his knee, and asked her what she thought of Pilgrim's 
Progress' 2 '* The child answered, that she had not read it. 
' No ! ' replied the Doctor ; ' then I would not give one farthing 
for you ; ' and he set her down and took no further notice 
of her. 

My venerable friend, Dr. Fisher, of the Charter-house, now 
in his eighty-fifth year, informs me (says Mr. Croker) that he 
was one of the party who dined with Dr. Johnson at University 
College, Oxford, in March, IJJ6 3 . There were present, he 
says, Dr. Wetherell, Johnson, Boswell, Coulson, Scott, Gwynn, 
Dr. Chandler the traveller, and Fisher, then a young Fellow of the 
College 4 . He recollects one passage of the conversation at 
dinner : Boswell quoted ' Quern Deus vult perdere prius de- 
mentat 3 ,' and asked where it was. After a pause Dr. Chandler 

1 ' I took the liberty to observe to 
Dr. Johnson, that he always eat fish 
with his fingers. " Yes," said he ; 
" but it is because I am short-sighted, 
and afraid of bones, for which reason 
I am not fond of eating many kinds 
of fish, because I must use my 
fingers." ' Life, v. 206. 

2 Ante, i. 332. 

3 Life, ii. 445. 

4 For Dr. Wetherell, the Master of 
the College, see ib. ii. 440, and for 
Coulson, Letters, i. 325. Scott should 
mean William Scott (Lord Stowell) 
who had not yet left Oxford for 
London ; but ' he was gone to the 
country.' Life, ii. 440. John Scott 
(Earl of Eldon), who had been in 
1774-5 Fisher's colleague as a tutor, 
but was married and settled in 
London, says he was at the dinner. 
Twiss's Eldon, ed. 1846, i. 65. For 
Gwynn, seeZz/?,ii. 438. Of Chandler's 

Travels Johnson wrote : ' Do not 
buy them ; they are duller than 
Twiss's.' Letters, i. 321. 

5 The ' learned friend ' mentioned 
in m