Part XII.



389. The Dockers. DR. Mudge used to relate as a proof of Dr. Johnson's quick discernment into character :

When he was on a visit to Dr. Mudge at Plymouth, the inhabitants of the Dock (now Devonport) were very desirous of their town being supplied with water, to effect which it was necessary to obtain the consent of the corporation of Plymouth; this was obstinately refused, the Dock being considered as an upstart. And a rival, Alderman Tolcher, who took a very strong part, called one morning, and immediately opened on the subject to Dr. Johnson, who appeared to give great attention, and, when the alderman had ceased speaking, replied, “You are perfectly right, Sir ; I would let the rogues die of thirst, for I hate a Docker from my heart." The old man went away quite delighted, and told all his acquaintances how completely “the great Dr. Johnson was on his side of the question.” (?)

390. Calumny. - Ridicule. It was after the publication of the Lives of the Poets that Dr. Farr, being engaged to dine with Sir Joshua

(1) [Mrs. Rose, who has obligingly communicated these anecdotes, is the daughter of Dr. Farr, of Plymouth, and the daughter-in-law of Dr. Johnson's old friend, Dr. Rose, of Chiswick. C.]

(2) [This story is told by Mr. Boswell, and commented upon by Mr. Blakeway, as if Dr. Johnson had seriously entered into the spirit of the contest; whereas Dr. Mudge, more naturally, represents him as flattering, with an ironical vehemence, the prejudices of the worthy alderman, who is known, from other circumstances, to have been of a very zealous disposition. — C.]

[ocr errors]

Reynolds, mentioned, on coming in, that, in his way, he had seen a caricature, which he thought clever, of the nine muses flogging Dr. Johnson round Parnassus. The admirers of Gray and others, who thought their favourites hardly treated in the Lives, were laughing at Dr. Farr's account of the print, when Dr. Johnson was himself announced. Dr. Farr being the only stranger, Sir Joshua introduced him, and, to Dr. Farr's infinite embarrassment, repeated what he had just been telling them. Johnson was not at all surly on the occasion, but said, turning to Dr. Farr, “Sir, I am very glad to hear this. I hope the day will never arrive when I shall neither be the object of calumny or ridicule, for then I shall be neglected and forgotten." ()

391. Fiddle-de-dee.It was near the close of his life that two young ladies, who were warm admirers of his works, but had never seen himself, went to Bolt Court, and, asking if he was at home, were shown up stairs, where he was writing. He laid down his pen on their entrance; and, as they stood before him, one of the females repeated a speech of some length, previously prepared for the occasion. It was an enthusiastic effusion, which, when the speaker had finished, she panted for her idol's reply. What was her mortification when all he said was, si Fiddle-de-dee,

my dear.”

392. Hayley. Much pains were taken by Mr. Hayley's friends to prevail on Dr. Johnson to read “ The Triumphs of Temper,” when it was in its zenith ; at last he consented, but never got beyond the two first pages, of which he uttered a few words of contempt that I have now forgotten. They were, however, carried to the author, who

(1) [This was his usual declaration on all such occasions. If Johnson had been an amateur author, abuse and even criticism would no doubt have given him pain, but, to an author by profession, and one who, for so many years, had lived by his pen, the greatest misfortune would be neglect : for his daily bread depended on the sensation his works might create. This observation will be found "pplicable to many other cases. — C.]

revenged himself by portraying Johnson as Rumble in his comedy of “The Mausoleum ;” and subsequently he published, without his name, a “Dialogue in the Shades between Lord Chesterfield and Dr. Johnson,” more distinguished for malignity than wit. Being anonymous, and possessing very little merit, it fell still-born from the press.

393. Mrs. Montagu. Lord Lyttelton. Dr. Johnson sent his “Life of Lord Lyttelton” in MS. to Mrs. Montagu, who was much dissatisfied with it, and thought her friend every way underrated; but the Doctor made no alteration. When he subsequently made one of a party at Mrs. Montagu's, he addressed his hostess two or three times after dinner, with a view to engage her in conversation : receiving only cold and brief answers, he said, in a low voice, to General Paoli, who sat next him, and who told me the story,

" You see, Sir, I am no longer the man for Mrs. Montagu.”

394. Favourite Couplet. Mrs. Piozzi related to me, that when Dr. Johnson one day observed, that poets in general preferred some one couplet they had written to any other, she replied, that she did not suppose he had a favourite ; he told her she was mistaken — he thought his best lines were :

-« The encumber'd oar scarce leaves the hostile coast,

Through purple billows and a floating host."




395. Sir Robert Walpole. Dr. Johnson said one day of Sir Robert Walpole, that he was the best minister this country ever had; “ for,” said he, “ he would have kept it in perpetual peace, if we" - meaning the Tories and those in opposition to him

"would have let him."

396. Romantic Virtue. Dr. Johnson used to advise his friends to be upon

their guard against romantic virtue, as being founded upon no settled principle : “a plank,” said he, “ that is tilted up at one end, must of course fall down on the other.”

397. Little Books. 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.”

398. Languages. “ The knowledge of various languages,” said he, “may be kept up by occasionally using bibles and prayer-books in them at church."

(1) [Author of “ Anecdotes of Distinguished Persons," “ Biographiana, &c.”]

« VorigeDoorgaan »