and our lexicographer is in great distress. He says the boy is a sickly lad, of a delicate frame, and particularly subject to a malady in his throat, which renders him very unfit for his Majesty's service. You know what matter of animosity the said Johnson has against you; and I dare say you desire no other opportunity of resenting it, than that of laying him under an obligation. He was humble enough to desire my assistance on this occasion, though he and I were never catercousins; and I gave him to understand that I would make application to my friend Mr. Wilkes, who, perhaps, by his interest with Dr. Hay and Mr. Elliot, might be able to procure the discharge of his lacquey. It would be superfluous to say more on this subject, which I leave to your own consideration; but I cannot let slip this opportunity of declaring that I am, with the most inviolable esteem and attachment, dear Sir, your affectionate, obliged humble servant,

"T. SMOLLETT." (1)

Mr. Wilkes, who upon all occasions has acted, as a private gentleman, with most polite liberality, applied to his friend Sir George Hay, then one of the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty; and Francis Barber was discharged, as he has told me, without

(1) Dr. Johnson's acquaintance with Mrs. Montagu probably began about this period. We find, in this year, the first of the many applications which he made to the extensive and unwearied charity of that excellent woman:

To Mrs. Montagu.

"June 9. 1759. "MADA,-I am desired by Mrs. Williams to sign receipts with her name for the subscribers which you have been pleased to procure, and to return her humble thanks for your favour, which was conferred with all the grace that elegance can add to beneficence. I am, madam, your most obedient and most humble servant, "SAM. JOHNSON."

It is necessary to request the attention of the reader to the warm terms in which Johnson so frequently expresses his admiration and esteem for Mrs. Montagu, as we shall see that he afterwards took another tone. — C.

[blocks in formation]

any wish of his own. Chambers in the Inner


He found his old master in
Temple, and returned to his

What particular new scheme of life Johnson had in view this year, I have not discovered; but that he meditated one of some sort, is clear from his private devotions, in which we find [24th March], "the change of outward things which I am now to make;" and, "Grant me the grace of thy Holy Spirit, that the course which I am now beginning may proceed according to thy laws, and end in the enjoyment of thy favour." But he did not, in fact, make any external or visible change. (1)


"May 10. 1759.

"DEAR MADAM,-I am almost ashamed to tell you that all your letters came safe, and that I have been always very well, but hindered, I hardly know how, from writing. I sent, last week, some of my works, one for you, one for your aunt Hunter, who was with

(1) "The change of life," says Mr. Croker, "was probably the breaking up his establishment in Gough Square, where he had resided for ten years, and retiring to chambers in Staple Inn; while Mrs. Williams went into lodgings." This economical arrangement, as we learn from the following note, communicated by Mrs. Pearson through Dr. Harwood, took place just at this period:

[blocks in formation]

"DEAR MADAM,-I beg your pardon for having so long omitted to write. One thing or other has put me off. I have this day moved my things, and you are now to direct to me at Staple Inn, London. I hope, my dear, you are well, and Kitty mends. I wish her success in her trade, I am going to publish a little story book [Rasselas], which I will send you when it is out. Write to me, my dearest girl, for I am always glad to hear from you. I am, my dear, your humble servant,


my poor dear mother when she died, one for Mr. Howard, and one for Kitty.

"I beg you my dear, to write often to me, and tell me how you like my little book. I am, dear love, your affectionate humble servant,



"Gray's Inn, Dec. 17. 1759. "MADAM,-Goodness so conspicuous as yours will be often solicited, and perhaps sometimes solicited by those who have little pretension to your favour. It is now my turn to introduce a petitioner, but such as I have reason to believe you will think worthy of your notice. Mrs. Ogle, who kept the music-room in Soho Square, a woman who struggles with great industry for the support of eight children, hopes by a benefit concert to set herself free from a few debts, which she cannot otherwise discharge. She has, I know not why, so high an opinion of me as to believe that you will pay less regard to her application than to mine. You know, madam, I am sure you know, how hard it is to deny, and therefore would not wonder at my compliance, though I were to suppress a motive which you know not, the vanity of being supposed to be of any importance to Mrs. Montagu. But though I may be willing to see the world deceived for my advantage, I am not deceived myself, for I know that Mrs. Ogle will owe whatever favours she shall receive from the patronage which we humbly entreat on this occasion, much more to your compassion for honesty in distress, than to the request of, Madam, your most obedient and most humble servant, "SAM. JOHNSON."

At this time there being a competition among the architects of London to be employed in the (1) [From the Montagu MSS. communicated to Mr. Croker.]

building of Blackfriars' Bridge, a question was very warmly agitated whether semicircular or elliptical arches were preferable. In the design offered by Mr. Mylne the elliptical form was adopted, and therefore it was the great object of his rivals to attack it. Johnson's regard for his friend Mr. Gwyn induced him to engage in this controversy against Mr. Mylne (1); and after being at considerable pains to study the subject, he wrote three several letters in the Gazetteer, in opposition to his plan.

If it should be remarked that this was a con

(1) Sir John Hawkins has given a long detail of it, in that anner vulgarly, but significantly, called rigmarole; in which, amidst an ostentatious exhibition of arts and artists, he talks of "proportions of a column being taken from that of the human figure, and adjusted by nature-masculine and feminine-in a man, sesquioctave of the head, and in a woman sesquinonal;" nor has he failed to introduce a jargon of musical terms, which do not seem much to correspond with the subject, but serve to make up the heterogeneous mass. To follow the knight through all this, would be an useless fatigue to myself, and not a little disgusting to my readers. I shall, therefore, only make a few remarks upon his statement.

He seems to exult in having detected Johnson in procuring, "from a person eminently skilled in mathematics and the principles of architecture, answers to a string of questions drawn up by himself, touching the comparative strength of semicircular and elliptical arches." Now I cannot conceive how Johnson could have acted more wisely. Sir John complains that the opinion of that excellent mathematician, Mr. Thomas Simpson, did not preponderate in favour of the semicircular arch. But he should have known, that however eminent Mr. Simpson was in the higher parts of abstract mathematical science, he was little versed in mixed and practical mechanics. Mr. Muller, of Woolwich Academy, the scholastic father of all the great engineers which this country has employed for forty years, decided the question by declaring clearly in favour of the elliptical arch. It is ungraciously suggested, that Johnson's motive for opposing Mr. Mylne's scheme may have been his prejudice against him as a native of North Britain; when, in truth, as has been stated, he gave the aid of his able pen to a friend, who was one of the candidates; and so

troversy which lay quite out of Johnson's way, let it be remembered, that after all, his employing his powers of reasoning and eloquence upon a subject which he had studied on the moment, is not more strange than what we often observe in lawyers, who, as Quicquid agunt homines is the matter of lawsuits, are sometimes obliged to pick up a temporary knowledge of an art or science, of which they understood nothing till their brief was delivered, and appear to be much masters of it. In like manner, members of the legislature frequently introduce and expatiate upon subjects of which they have informed themselves for the occasion.

far was he from having any illiberal antipathy to Mr. Mylne, that he afterwards lived with that gentleman upon very agreeable terms of acquaintance, and dined with him at his house. Sir John Hawkins, indeed, gives full vent to his own prejudice in abusing Blackfriars' Bridge, calling it "an edifice, in which beauty and symmetry are in vain sought for; by which the citizens of London have perpetuated their own disgrace, and subjected a whole nation to the reproach of foreigners." Whoever has contemplated, placido lumine, this stately, elegant, and airy structure, which has so fine an effect, especially on approaching the capital on that quarter, must wonder at such unjust and ill-tempered censure; and I appeal to all foreigners of good taste, whether this bridge be not one of the most distinguished ornaments of London. As to the stability of the fabric, it is certain that the city of London took every precaution to have the best Portland stone for it; but as this is to be found in the quarries belonging to the public, under the direction of the Lords of the Treasury, it so happened that par. liamentary interest, which is often the bane of fair pursuits, thwarted their endeavours. Notwithstanding this disadvantage, it is well known that not only has Blackfriars Bridge never sunk either in its foundation or in its arches, which were so much the subject of contest, but any injuries which it has suffered from the effects of severe frosts have been already, in some measure, repaired with sounder stone, and every necessary renewal can be completed at a moderate expense.

« VorigeDoorgaan »