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Sir William Browne the physician, who lived to a very extraordinary age', and was in other respects an odd mortal, with more genius than understanding, and more self-sufficiency than wit, was the only person who ventured to oppose Mr. Johnson, when he had a mind to shine by exalting his favourite university, and to express his contempt of the whiggish notions which prevail at Cambridge. He did it once, however, with surprising felicity: his antagonist having repeated with an air of triumph the famous epigram written by Dr. Trapp,
“Our royal master saw, with heedful eyes,
That that right loyal body wanted learning.” Which, says Sir William, might well be answered thus :
“ The king to Oxford sent his troop of horse,
For Tories own no argument but force ;
For Whigs allow no force but argument.” Mr. Johnson did him the justice to say, it was one of the happiest extemporaneous productions he ever met with ; though he once comically confessed, that he hated to repeat the wit of a Whig urged in support of whiggism.
12. Toryism and Garrick. Of Mr. Johnson's toryism the world has long been witness, and the political pamphlets written by him in defence of his party are vigorous and elegant. Says Garrick to him one day, Why did not you make me a Tory, when we lived so much together; you love to make people Tories ?”
“ Why,” says Johnson, pulling a heap of halfpence from his pocket, “ did not the king make these guineas ?”
1 He died in March, 1774, at the age of eighty-two. It is nowhere stated, that I know of, that this epigram was made extemporaneously on a provocation from Dr. Johnson. See an account of Sir William Browne, and a more accurate version of the two epigrams, in the Biographical Dictionary. - CROKER.
13. Burke. - Boswell. . It was in the year 1775 that Mr. Edmund Burke made the famous speech in parliament', that struck even foes with admiration, and friends with delight. Among the nameless thousands who are contented to echo those praises they have not skill to invent, I ventured, before Dr. Johnson himself, to applaud, with rapture, the beautiful passage in it concerning Lord Bathurst and the angel”; which, said our Doctor, had I been in the house, I would have answered thus :
“ Suppose, Mr. Speaker, that to Wharton, or to Marlborough, or to any of the eminent Whigs of the last age, the devil had, not with any great impropriety, con
i On the 22d of March, 1775, upon moving his resolutions for conciliation with America.
2 [“ Mr. Speaker, I cannot prevail on myself to hurry over this great consideration. It is good for us to be here. We stand where we have an immense view of what is, and what is past. Clouds indeed, and darkness, rest upon the future. Let us, however, before we descend from this noble eminence, reflect that this growth of our national prosperity has happened within the short period of the life of man. It has happened within sixty-eight years. There are those alive whose memory might touch the two extremities. For instance, my Lord Bathurst might remember all the stages of the progress. He was in 1704 of an age at least to be made to comprehend such things. He was then old enough acta parentum jam legere, et quæ sit poterit cognoscere virtus. — Suppose, Sir, that the angel of this auspicious youth, foreseeing the many virtues, which made him one of the most amiable, as he is one of the most fortunate, men of his age, had opened to him in vision, that, when, in the fourth generation, the third prince of the House of Brunswick had sat twelve years on the throne of that nation, which (by the happy issue of moderate and healing councils) was to be made Great Britain, he should see his son, Lord Chancellor of England, turn back the current of hereditary dignity to its fountain, and raise him to a higher rank of peerage, whilst he enriched the family with a new one — - If, amidst these bright and happy scenes of domestic honour and prosperity, that angel should have drawn up the curtain, and unfolded the rising glories of his country, and whilst he was gazing with admiration on the then commercial grandeur of England, the genius should point out to him a little speck, scarce visible in the mass of the national interest, a small seminal principle, rather than a formed body, and should tell hiin, - Young man, there is America — which at this day serves for little more than to amuse you with stories of savage men and uncouth manners; yet shall, before you taste of death, show itself equal to the whole of that commerce which now attracts the envy of the world. Whatever England has been growing to by a progressive increase of improvement, brought in by varieties of people, by succession of civilising conquests and civilising settle. ments, in a series of seventeen hundred years, you shall see as much added to her by America in the course of a single life! - if this state of his country had been foretold to him, would it not require all the sanguine credulity of youth, and all the fervid glow of enthusiasm, to make him believe it ? Fortu. nate man, he has lived to see it! Fortunate, indeed, if he lives to see nothing that shall vary the prospect, and cloud the setting of his day!” Parl. Hisi. vol. xviii. p. 487.]
sented to appear; he would perhaps in somewhat like these words have commenced the conversation :
“ • You seem, my Lord, to be concerned at the judicious apprehension, that while you are sapping the foundations of royalty at home, and propagating here the dangerous doctrine of resistance, the distance of America may secure its inhabitants from your arts, though active : but I will unfold to you the gay prospects of futurity. This people, now so innocent and harmless, shall draw the sword against their mother country, and bathe its point in the blood of their benefactors : this people, now contented with a little, shall then refuse to spare what they themselves confess they could not miss; and these men, now so honest and so grateful, shall, in return for peace and for protection, see their vile agents in the house of parliament, there to sow the seeds of sedition, and propagate confusion, perplexity, and pain. Be not dispirited, then, at the contemplation, of their present happy state : I promise you that anarchy, poverty, and death shall, by my care, be carried even across the spacious Atlantic, and settle in America itself, the sure consequences of our beloved whiggism." ”
This I thought a thing so very particular, that I begged his leave to write it down directly, before any thing could intervene that might make me forget the force of the expressions : a trick, which I have however seen played on common occasions, of sitting steadily down at the other end of the room to write at the moment what should be said in company, either by Dr. Johnson or to him, I never practised myself, nor approved of in another. There is something so ill-bred, and so inclining to treachery in this conduct, that were it commonly adopted, all confidence would soon be exiled from society, and a conversation assembly-room would become tremendous as a court of justice. A set of acquaintance joined in familiar chat may say a thousand things, which, as the phrase is, pass well enough at the time, though they cannot stand the test of critical examination ; and as all talk beyond that which is necessary to the purposes of actual business is a kind of game, there will be ever found ways of playing fairly or
· [This is evidently an allusion to Boswell.]
unfairly at it, which distinguish the gentleman from the juggler.
14. Anacreon's Dove. Dr. Johnson, as well as many of my acquaintance, knew that I kept a commonplace book; and he one day said to me good-humouredly, that he would give me something to write in my repository. “ I warrant,” said he, “there is a great deal about me in it: you shall have at least one thing worth your pains; so if you will get the
and ink, I will repeat to you Anacreon's Dove directly ; but tell at the same time, that as I never was struck with any thing in the Greek language till I read that, so I never read any thing in the same language since that pleased me as much. I hope my translation,” continued he, “ is not worse than that of Frank Fawkes.” Seeing me disposed to laugh, “ Nay, nay,” said he, “ Frank Fawkes has done them very finely:
“ Lovely courier of the sky,
Whence and whither dost thou fly?
“ Soft Anacreon's vows I bear,
Vows to Myrtale the fair ;
Under leaves to hide one's head,
I have chatter'd like a pie.' When I had finished, “ But you must remember to add,” says Mr. Johnson, “ that though these verses were planned, and even begun, when I was sixteen years old, I never could find time to make an end of them before I was sixty-eight."
15. Johnson's Portrait by Himself. He told me that the character of Sober, in “ The Idler,” was by himself intended as his own portrait; and that he had his own outset into life in his eye, when he wrote the eastern story of Gelaleddin.
16. Giving away Literary Productions. Dr. Johnson was liberal enough in granting literary assistance to others, I think ; and innumerable are the prefaces, serions, lectures, and dedications which he used to make for people who begged of him.
Mr. Murphy related in his and my hearing one day, and he did not deny it, that when Murphy joked him the week before for having been so diligent of late between Dodd's sermon and Kelly's prologue, that Dr. Johnson replied, Why, Sir, when they come to me with a dead stay-maker and a dying parson, what can a man do ?” He said, however, that " he hated to give away literary performances, or even to sell them too cheaply: the next generation shall