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whom I formerly knew very well; he had returned from that country with a handsome fortune, as it was reckoned, before means were found to acquire those immense sums which have been brought from thence of late he was a scholar, and an agreeable man, and lived very prettily in London, till his wife died. After her death, he took to dissipation and gaming, and lost all he had. One evening he lost a thousand pounds to a gentleman whose name I am sorry I have forgotten. Next morning he sent the gentleman five hundred pounds, with an apology that it was all he had in the world. The gentleman. sent the money back to him, declaring he would not accept of it; and adding, that if Mr. had occasion for five hundred pounds more, he would lend it to him. He resolved to go out again to the East Indies, and make his fortune anew. He got a considerable appointment, and I had some intention of accompanying him. Had I thought then as I do now, I should have gone: but at that time I had objections to quitting England."
It was a very remarkable circumstance about Johnson, whom shallow observers have supposed to have been ignorant of the world, that very few men had seen greater variety of characters; and none could observe them better, as was evident from the strong yet nice portraits which he often drew. I have frequently thought that if he had made out what the French call une catalogue raisonnée of all the people who had passed under his observation, it would have afforded a very rich fund of instruction
and entertainment. The suddenness with which his accounts of some of them started out in conversation was not less pleasing than surprising. I remember he once observed to me, "It is wonderful, Sir, what is to be found in London. The most literary conversation that I ever enjoyed was at the table of Jack Ellis, a money-scrivener, behind the Royal Exchange, with whom I at one period used to dine generally once a week." (1)
Volumes would be required to contain a list of his numerous and various acquaintance, none of whom he ever forgot; and could describe and discriminate them all with precision and vivacity. He associated with persons the most widely different in manners, abilities, rank, and accomplishments. He was at once the companion of the brilliant Colonel Forrester of the guards, who wrote "The Polite Philosopher," and of the awkward and un
(1) This Mr. Ellis was, I believe, the last of that profession called scriveners, which is one of the London companies, but of which the business is no longer carried on separately, but is transacted by attorneys and others. He was a man of literature and talents. He was the author of a Hudibrastic version of Maphæus's Canto, in addition to the Æneid; of some poems in Dodsley's collection, and various other small pieces; but, being a very modest man, never put his name to any thing. He showed me a translation which he had made of Ovid's Epistles, very prettily done. There is a good engraved portrait of him by Pether, from a picture by Fry, which hangs in the hall of the Scriveners' company. I visited him October 4. 1790, in his ninety-third year, and found his judgment distinct and clear, and his memory, though faded so as to fail him occasionally, yet, as he assured me, and I indeed perceived, able to serve him very well, after a little recollection. It was agreeable to observe, that he was free from the discontent and fretfulness which too often molest old age. He, in the summer of that year, walked to Rotherhithe, where he dined, and walked home in the evening. He died Dec. 31. 1791.
couth Robert Levet; of Lord Thurlow, and Mr. Sastres, the Italian master; and has dined one day with the beautiful, gay, and fascinating Lady Craven ('), and the next with good Mrs. Gardiner, the tallow-chandler, on Snow-hill. (2)
On my expressing my wonder at his discovering so much of the knowledge peculiar to different professions, he told me, "I learnt what I know of law chiefly from Mr. Ballow (3), a very able man. I learnt some too from Chambers: but was not so teachable then. One is not willing to be taught by
(1) Lord Macartney, who, with his other distinguished qualities, is remarkable also for an elegant pleasantry, told me that he met Johnson at Lady Craven's, and that he seemed jealous of any interference. "So," said his lordship, smiling, "I kept back.
(2) This is much exaggerated (see antè, Vol. III. p. 187. n.). His polite acquantance did not extend much beyond the circle of Mr. Thrale, Sir Joshua Reynolds, and the members of the Club. There is no record that I recollect, of his having dined at the table of any peer in London (Lord Lucan, an Irish peer, is hardly an exception): he seems scarcely to have known an English bishop, except Dr. Shipley, whom every one knew, and Bishop Porteus; and except by a few occasional visits at the bas-bleur assemblies of Mrs. Montagu and Mrs. Vesey, we do not trace him in any thing like fashionable society. This seems strange to us; for happily, in our day, a literary man of much less than Johnson's eminence would be courted into the highest and most brilliant ranks of society. Lord Wellesley recollects, with regret, the little notice, compared with his posthumous reputation, which the fashionable world seemed to take of JohnHe was known as a great writer; but his social and conversational powers were not so generally appreciated. — C.
(3) There is an account of him in Sir John Hawkins's Life of Johnson, p. 244. Mr. Thomas Ballow was author of an excellent Treatise of Equity, printed anonymously in 1742, and lately republished, with very valuable additions, by John Fonblanque, esq. Mr. Ballow died suddenly in London, July 26. 1782, aged seventy-five, and is mentioned in the Gentleman's Magazine for that year as "a great Greek scholar, and famous for his knowledge of the old philosophy."— . M.
a young man.' When I expressed a wish to know more about Mr. Ballow, Johnson said, "Sir, I have seen him but once these twenty years. The tide of life has driven us different ways." I was sorry at the time to hear this; but whoever quits the creeks of private connections, and fairly gets into the great ocean of London, will, by imperceptible degrees, unavoidably experience such cessations of acquaintance.
My knowledge of physic," he added, "I learnt from Dr. James, whom I helped in writing the proposals for his Dictionary, and also a little in the Dictionary itself. (1) I also learnt from Dr. Lawrence, but was then grown more stubborn."
A curious incident happened to day, while Mr. Thrale and I sat with him. Francis announced that a large packet was brought to him from the post-office, said to have come from Lisbon, and it was charged seven pounds ten shillings. He would not receive it, supposing it to be some trick, nor did he even look at it. But upon inquiry afterwards he found that it was a real packet for him, from that very friend in the East Indies of whom he had been speaking; and the ship which carried it having come to Portugal, this packet with others had been put into the post-office at Lisbon.
I mentioned a new gaming club, of which Mr. Beauclerk had given me an account, where the members played to a desperate extent. (2) JOHN
(1) I have in vain endeavoured to find out what parts Johnson wrote for Dr. James; perhaps medical men may.
(2) Lord Lauderdale informed me that Mr. Fox (a great
SON. " Depend upon it, Sir, this is mere talk. Who is ruined by gaming? You will not find six instances in an age. There is a strange rout made about deep play; whereas you have many more people ruined by adventurous trade, and yet we do not hear such an outcry against it." THRALE. "There may be few absolutely ruined by deep play; but very many are much hurt in their circumstances by it." JOHNSON. "Yes, Sir, and so are very many by other kinds of expense." I had heard him talk once before in the same manner; and at Oxford, he said " he wished he had learned to play at cards. (') The truth, however, is, that he loved to display his ingenuity in argument; and therefore would sometimes in conversation maintain opinions which he was sensible were wrong, but in supporting which, his reasoning and wit would be most conspicuous. He would begin thus: "Why Sir, as to the good or evil of card playing-' "Now," said Garrick, "he is thinking which side he shall take." He appeared to have a pleasure in contradiction, especially when any opinion whatever was delivered with an air of confidence; so that there was hardly any topic, if not one of the great truths of religion and morality, that he might not have been incited to argue, either for or against.
(1) See antè, Vol. V.
authority on this as well as on more important subjects) told him, that the deepest play he had ever known was between the year 1772 and the beginning of the American war. Lord Lauderdale instanced 5000/. being staked on a single card at faro. — C.