« VorigeDoorgaan »
You wonder “ that an undoubted believer and a man of piety should be afraid of death ;” but it is such characters who have ever the deepest sense of their imperfections and deviations from the rule of duty, of which the very best must be conscious ; and such a temper of mind as is struck with awe and humility at the prospect of the last solemn sentence appears much better suited to the wretched deficiencies of the best human performances than the thoughtless security that rushes undisturbed into eternity. - To this passage the editor of Mrs. Carter's Letters subjoins :-“ Mrs. Carter informed the editor, that in one of the last conversations which she had with this eminent moralist, she told him that she had never known him say any thing contrary to the principles of the Christian religion. He seized her hand with great emotion, exclaiming, · You know this, and bear witness to it when I am gone!'”
633. Johnson and Coxe. (') When I was last (says Lord Chedworth) in town, I dined in company with the eminent Mr. C. (), of whom I did not form a high opinion. He asserted, that Dr. Johnson originally intended to abuse “ Paradise Lost;" but being informed that the nation would not bear it, he produced the critique which now stands in the “ Life of Milton,” and which he admitted to be excellent. I contended that Dr. Johnson had there expressed his real opinion, which no man was less afraid of delivering than Dr. Johnson ; that the critique was written con amore; and that the work was praised with such a glow of fondness, and the grounds of that praise were so fully and satisfactorily unfolded, that it was impossible Dr. Johnson should not have felt the value of the work, which he had so liberally and rationally commended. It came out afterwards that Dr. Johnson had disgusted Mr. C. He had supped at Thrale's one night, when he sat near the
upper end of the table, and Dr. Johnson near the lower end ;
(1) (From Lord Chedwortli's Letters to the Rev. Mr. Crompton.)
(2) (Mr. Crompton informs me, that this was the Rev. William Coxe, who had recently published bis travels.-C.]
and having related a long story which had very much delighted the company, in the pleasure resulting from which relation Dr. Johnson had not (from his deafness and the distance at which he sat) participated, Mrs. Thrale desired him to retell it to the Doctor. C. complied, and going down to the bottom of the table, bawled it over again in Dr. Johnson's ear : when he had finished, Johnson replied, “ So, Sir, and this you relate as a good thing :" at which C. fired. He added to us,
He added to us, “Now, it was a good thing, because it was about the king of Poland.” Of the value of the story, as he did not relate it, I cannot judge; but I am sure you will concur with me that it was not therefore necessarily a good thing because it was about a king.
I think Johnson's behaviour was indefensibly rude ; but, from the sample I had of C.'s conversation, I am led to suspect that Johnson's censure was not unfounded.
634. Biography. (1) Mr. Fowke's conversation was sprightly and entertaining, highly seasoned with anecdotes, many of which related to his great and venerable friend Dr. Johnson ; among these, he was accustomed to relate the following:Mr. Fowke once observed to Dr. Johnson, that, in his opinion, the Doctor's strength lay in writing biography, in which line of composition he infinitely exceeded all his competitors. “ Sir,” said Johnson, “I believe that is true. The dogs don't know how to write trifles with dignity.”
635. Colley Cibber. Speaking of the difficulty of getting information for the “Lives of the Poets,” he said, that when he was young, and wanted to write the “Life of Dryden,” he desired to be introduced to Colley Cibber, from whom he expected to procure many valuable materials for his purpose. Sir,” said Johnson to Cibber, “I find you know Mr. Dryden?” “ Know him ? O Lord ! I was as well ac
(1) [Nos. 634. and 635. are from “ Original Letters ; edited by R. Warner, of Bath, 1803."]
quainted with him as if he had been my own brother.” “ Then you can tell me some anecdotes of him?” “O yes, a thousand! Why, we used to meet him continually at a club at Button's. I remember as well as if it were but yesterday, that when he came into the room in winter time, he used to go and sit close by the fire in one corner ; and that in summer time he would always go and sit in the window.” “ Thus, Sir,” said Johnson, “what with the corner of the fire in winter, and the window in summer, you see that I got much information from Cibber, of the manners and habits of Dryden.”
636. Family Prayers. (TM) During Dr. Johnson's visit to Oxford in June, 1784, his friend Dr. Adams expressed an earnest wish that he would compose some family prayers ; upon which Johnson replied: “I will not compose prayers for you, Sir, because you can do it for yourself; but I have thought of getting together all the books of prayers which I could, selecting those which should appear to me the best, putting out some, inserting others, adding some prayers of my own, and prefixing a discourse on prayer.' lowing MS., Dr. Johnson appears to have put to paper some preparatory notes on this subject :
On the loss of friends — by death ; by his own fault or friend's.
On the unexpected notice of the death of others.
Prayer commonly considered as a stated and temporary duty — performed and forgotten — without any effect on the following day. Prayer — a vow. —Taylor.
SCEPTICISM CAUSED BY
By the fol
(1) [From the Anderdon MSS.]
3. Demand of unsuitable evidence. 4. False judgment of evidence. 5. Complaint of the obscurity of Scripture. 6. Contempt of fathers and of authority. 7. Absurd method of learning objections first. 8. Study not for truth but vanity. 9. Sensuality and a vicious life. 10. False honour, false shame. 11. Omission of prayer and religious exercises. — Oct. 31. 1784.”
637. Burke and Johnson. () In the vicissitudes of twenty-seven years, no estrangement occurred to interrupt their mutual admiration and regard. Burke followed Johnson to the grave as a mourner ; and in contemplating his character, applied to it a fine passage from Cicero, which might equally suit his own :Intentum enim animum quasi arcum habebat, nec languescens succumbebat senectuti.
When someone censured Johnson's general rudeness in society, he replied with equal consideration and truth, “ It is well, when a man comes to die, if he has nothing worse to accuse himself of than some harshness in conversation.”
638. Savage. — Boswell. (?) “ Savage,” said Dr. Adam Smith, “ was but a worthless fellow ; his pension of fifty pounds never lasted him above a few days. As a sample of his economy, you may take a circumstance that Johnson himself told me. It was, at that period, fashionable to wear scarlet cloaks trimmed with gold lace : the Doctor met him one day, just after he had received his pension, with one of these cloaks upon his back, while, at the same time, his naked toes were peeping through his shoes.”—“Boswell was my relative by his mother, who was a daughter of Colonel Erskine, of the Alva family, descended from our common ancestor, John Earl of Marr, governor to Henry Prince of Wales, and Lord Treasurer of Scotland. In consequence of a letter he wrote me I desired him to call at Mr. Pitt's, and took care to be with him when he was introduced. Mr. Pitt was then in the Duke of Grafton's
(1) (From “ Prior's Life of Burke."]
house in Great Bond Street. 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 counteract his whim. He preferred being a showman to keeping a shop of his own.” (Endorsed on a letter from Boswell to Lord Buchan, dated Jan. 5. 1767.)
639. “ A respectable Man.” (') Mr. Barclay, from his connection 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.” (9)
610. Johnson at Thrale's. 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. When Johnson proceeded to the dining-room, one of Mr. Thrale's servants handed him a wig of a smarter description than the one he wore in the morning ; the exchange took place in the hall, or passage. Johnson, like many other men, was always in much better humour after dinner than before.
641. “ An Old Man's Blessing.” Mr. Barclay saw Jobuson 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.
(1) [This and the two following were communicated to Mr. Markland, by Robert Barclay, Esq., of Bury Hill, Dorking. This excellent man died in 1831.]
(2) (This advice will be found to accord pretty closely with Johnson's epitaph on Mr. Thrale: –“Domi inter mille mercanturæ negotia, literatum elegantiam minime neglexit."-- MARKLAND.]