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gone, Johnson and Garrick began a close encounter, telling old stories, “e'en from their boyish days,” at Lichfield. We all stood round them above an hour, laughing in defiance of every rule of Chesterfield, I believe we should not have thought of sitting down or of parting, had not an impertinent watchman been saucily vociferous.
455. Dean Tucker. I asked Dr. Johnson what he thought of the Dean of Gloucester. His answer was verbatim as follows : “I look upon
the Dean of Gloucester to be one of the most 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 style. 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 opinion.
456. “ Adventurer." —De Lolme. Keeping bad company leads to all other bad things. I have got the headach to-day, by raking out so late with that gay libertine, Johnson. Do you know - I did not - that he wrote a quarter of the “ Adventurer ?” I made him tell me all that he wrote in the “ Fugitive Pieces.” De Lolme (1) told me, that he thought Johnson's late political pamphlets were the best things he had written.
457. The Puritans. - Richard Baxter. Dr. Johnson never opens his mouth but one learns something ; one is sure either of hearing a new idea, or an old one expressed in an original manner. He scolded
(1) (A native of Geneva, and author of “ The Constitution of England ;" of which the first English edition appeared in 1775.)
me heartily, as usual, when I differed from him in opinion, and, as usual, laughed when I flattered (1) him. I was very bold in combating some of his darling prejudices : nay, I ventured to defend one or two of the Puritans, 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. 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. Dr. Johnson was wrong ; for Baxter was offered a bishopric after the Restoration.
458. “ Tom Jones.”—“ Joseph Andrews." I never saw Johnson really angry with me but once, and his 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, “I am shocked to hear you quote from so vicious a book. I ain sorry to hear you have read it: a confession which no modest lady should ever make. I scarcely know a more corrupt work.” I thanked him for his correction
; assured him that 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. 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.
459. “ Too many Irons in the Fire.” Mrs. Brooke (?) having repeatedly 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
(1) (On the subject of Miss More's flattery of Johnson, see antè, No. 81.]
(2) [The author of “ Julia Mandeville,” and “ Emily Montagu,” and also of the favourite comic opera of “ Rosina.” The “ Siege of Sinope" was brought out at Covent Garden in 1781, but was only performed ten nights.]
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. “ But, Sir,” said she, “ I have no time, I have already so many irons in the fire.” 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." 460. Lord Lyttelton.- Mrs. Montagu. — Mr. Pepys.
Think of Johnson's having apartments in Grosvenor Square. But he says it is not half so convenient as Bolt Court! He has just finished the Poets : Pope is the last. I am sorry he has lost so much credit by Lord Lyttelton's : he treats him alınost with contempt ; makes him out a poor writer, and an envious man ; speaks well only of his “ Conversion of St. Paul,” of which he says, “it is sufficient to say it has never been answered.” Mrs. Montagu and Mr. Pepys, his lordship’s two chief surviving friends, are very angry. (')
461. Garrick. On Wednesday, Johnson came to see us, and made us a long visit.
On Mrs. Garrick's telling him, she was always more at her 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 her husband's merit, and the cordiality of their union. He bore his strong testimony to the liberality of Garrick. (1781.)
462. “Pensées de Pascal." He reproved me with pretended sharpness for reading « Les Pensées de Pascal,” 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."
(1) (See aned, No. 64., and posi, No. 630.)
463. Milton. On Monday, 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 disparagingly of both. I praised “ Lycidas,” which he absolutely abused, adding, “ If Milton had not written the • Paradise Lost,' he would only have ranked among the minor poets : he was a Phidias that cut a Colossus out of a rock, but could not cut heads out of cherry stones.”
464. Boswell and Garrick. 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, 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 conversation, and for Garrick in reciting
465. The Club. - Garrick's Death. Poor Johnson is in a bad state of health. I fear his constitution 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, endears him to me exceedingly. There are always a great many candidates ready, when any vacancy happens in the Club, and it requires no small interest and reputation to get elected; 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. (')
(1) (Garrick died in January, 1779, and no new election took place till November, 1780; when Dr. Shipley, Bishop of St. Asaph, was chosen a member.]
466. Metaphysical Distresses. In Dr. Johnson, some contrarieties very harmoniously meet : if he has too little charity with the opinions of others, and too little patience for their faults, he has the greatest tenderness for their persons. He told me, the other day, he hated to hear people whine about metaphysical distresses, when there was so much want and hunger in the world. I told him I supposed, then, he never wept at any tragedy but Jane Shore, who died for want of a loaf. He called me saucy girl, but did not deny the inference. (1782.)
467. Abstinence and Temperance. I dined very pleasantly at the Bishop of Chester's (Dr. Porteus). 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 “ Fair Penitent,” &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.
468. Oxford. - Pembroke College. Who do you think is my principal Cicerone at Oxford? Only Dr. Johnson and we do so gallant it about! You cannot imagine with what delight he showed me every part of his own college (Pembroke). Dr. Adams, the master,