« VorigeDoorgaan »
by the tide of human affairs to bloating affluence, and, I should presume, with pretensions of every kind, far, very far inferior to his: yet I do not recollect having ever heard of a sigh excited by his disparity of lot. That he envied Garrick, while he loved and admired him, is true; but it was under the pardonable feeling of jealousy, in seeing histrionic excellence so much more highly prized, than that which he knew himself to
562. Reynolds's "Discourses."
On Johnson's death, Mr. Langton said to Sir John Hawkins, "We shall now know whether he has or has not assisted Sir Joshua in his 'Discourses ;"" but Johnson had assured Sir John, that his assistance had never exceeded the substitution of a word or two, in preference to what Sir Joshua had written.
563. “Mr. James Boswell."
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." 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 subsequent
BY JOHN NICHOLS, ESQ. (1)
66 Literary Anecdotes."— Thirlby. My intimate acquaintance with that bright luminary of literature, Johnson, did not commence till he was advanced in years; but it happens to have fallen to my lot (and I confess that I am proud of it) to have been present at many interesting conversations in the latest periods of the life of this illustrious pattern of true piety. In the progress of his "Lives of the Poets," I had the good fortune to conciliate his esteem, by several little services. Many of his short notes during the progress of that work are printed in the Gentleman's Magazine, and in one of his letters to Mrs. Thrale he says, "I have finished the life of Prior and now a fig for Mr. Nichols ! Our friendship, however, did not cease with the termination of those volumes.
Of his birth-place, Lichfield, Dr. Johnson always spoke with a laudable enthusiasm. "Its inhabitants,' he said, 66 were more orthodox in their religion, more pure in their language, and more polite in their manners, than any other town in the kingdom ;" and he often lamented, that "no city of equal antiquity and worth had been so destitute of a native to record its fame, and transmit its history to posterity."
(1) [From "Literary Anecdotes of the Eighteenth Century," in 9 vols. 8vo. 1812-15. For a character of Mr. Nichols, and of this work, see antè, Vol. VIII. p. 374.]
566. Roxana and Statira.
Mr. Cradock informs me, that he once accompanied Dr. Johnson and Mr. Steevens to Marylebone Gardens, to see "La Serva Padrona" performed. Mr. Steevens, being quite weary of the burletta, exclaimed, “There is no plot; it is merely an old fellow cheated, and deluded by his servant; it is quite foolish and unnatural.” Johnson instantly replied, “ Sir, it is not unnatural. It is a scene that is acted in my family every day in my life." This did not allude to the maid servant, however, so much as to two distressed ladies, whom he generously supported in his house, who were always quarrelling. These ladies presided at Johnson's table by turns when there was company; which, of course, would produce disputes. I ventured one day to say, "Surely, Dr. Johnson, Roxana for this time should take place of Statira." "Yes, Sir," replied the Doctor; but, in my family, it has never been decided which is Roxana, and which is Statira."
567. Joseph Reed's Tragedy.
It happened that I was in Bolt Court on the day when Mr. Henderson, the justly celebrated actor, was first introduced to Dr. Johnson; and the conversation turning on dramatic subjects, Henderson asked the Doctor's opinion of “Dido and its author. 66 "Sir," said Johnson, "I never did the man an injury; yet he would read his tragedy to me."
568. Samuel Boyse. (1)
The following particulars of the unfortunate Samuel Boyse I had from Dr. Johnson's own mouth: —“ By addressing himself to low vices, among which were gluttony and extravagance, Boyse rendered himself so contemptible and wretched, that he frequently was without the least subsistence for days together. After
squandering away in a dirty manner any money which he acquired, he has been known to pawn all his apparel." Dr. Johnson once collected a sum of money to redeem his clothes, which in two days after were pawned again. "This," said the Doctor, was when my acquaintances were few, and most of them as poor as myself. The money was collected by shillings."
569. Lauder's Forgery.
On my showing Dr. Johnson Archdeacon Blackburne's "Remarks on the Life of Milton," which were published in 1780, he wrote on the margin of p. 14., "In the business of Lauder I was deceived; partly by thinking the man too frantic to be fraudulent."
570. Dr. Heberden.
Dr. Johnson being asked in his last illness, what physician he had sent for "Dr. Heberden,” replied he, "ultimum Romanorum, the last of our learned physicians."
571. Parliamentary Debates.
On the morning of Dec. 7. 1784, only six days before his death, Dr. Johnson requested to see the editor of these anecdotes, from whom he had borrowed some of the early volumes of the Gentleman's Magazine, with a professed intention to point out the pieces which he had written in that collection. The books lay on the table, with many leaves doubled down, particularly those which contained his share in the Parliamentary Debates; and such was the goodness of Johnson's heart, that he solemnly declared, that “the only part of his writings which then gave him any compunction, was his account of the debates in the Magazine; but that at the time he wrote them he did not think he was imposing on the world. The mode," he said, was to fix upon a speaker's name, then to conjure up an answer. He
wrote these debates with more velocity than any other of his productions; often three columns of the magazine within the hour. He once wrote ten pages in one day.
572. Mr. Faden.
Dr. Johnson said to me, I may possibly live, or rather breathe, three days, or perhaps three weeks; but I find myself daily and gradually worse. Before I quitted him, he asked, whether any of the family of Faden, the printer, were alive. Being told that the geographer near Charing Cross was Faden's son, he said, after a short pause, "I borrowed a guinea of his father near thirty years ago; be so good as to take this, and pay it for me."
573. Last Interview.
During the whole time of my intimacy with him, he rarely permitted me to depart without some sententious advice. At the latest of these affecting interviews, his words at parting were, "Take care of your eternal sal
vation. Remember to observe the sabbath. Let it never be a day of business, nor wholly a day of dissipation." He concluded his solemn farewell with, "Let my words have their due weight. They are the words of a dying man." I never saw him more. In the last five or six days of his life but few even of his most intimate friends were admitted. Every hour that could be abstracted from his bodily pains and infirmities, was spent in prayer and the warmest ejaculations; and in that pious, praiseworthy, and exemplary manner, he closed a life begun, continued, and ended in virtue.