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throat."—" Sir, (said he,) Lord Chesterfield never saw me eat in his life." (1)
On the 6th of March came out Lord Bolingbroke's works, published by Mr. David Mallet. The wild and pernicious ravings under the name of “ Philosophy," which were thus ushered into the world, gave great offence to all well-principled men. Johnson, hearing of their tendency, which nobody disputed, was roused with a just indignation, and pronounced this memorable sentence upon the noble author and his editor:-" Sir, he was a scoundrel, and a coward: a scoundrel for charging a blunderbuss against religion and morality; a coward, because he had no resolution to fire it off himself, but left half a crown to a beggarly Scotchman, to draw the trigger after his death!" Garrick, who I can attest from my own knowledge, had his mind seasoned with pious reverence, and sincerely disapproved of the infidel writings of several, whom in the course of his almost universal gay intercourse with men of eminence he treated with external civility, distinguished himself upon this occasion. Mr. Pelham having died on the very day on which Lord Bolingbroke's works came out, he wrote an elegant Ode on his death, beginning
BOLINGBROKE AND MALLET.
"Let others hail the rising sun,
I bow to that whose course is run;"
(1) Lord Chesterfield's picture, if meant for Johnson, was not overcharged; for what between his blindness, his nervousness, and his eagerness, all his friends describe his mode of eating to have been something worse than awkward. See post, 5th Aug. 1763. — C.
in which is the following stanza :
"The same sad morn, to Church and State
A double stroke was given;
Black as the whirlwinds of the North,
St. John's fell genius issued forth,
Johnson this year found an interval of leisure to make an excursion to Oxford, for the purpose of consulting the libraries there. Of this, and of many interesting circumstances concerning him, during a part of his life when he conversed but little with the world, I am enabled to give a particular account, by the liberal communications of the Reverend Mr. Thomas Warton, who obligingly furnished me with several of our common friend's letters, which he illustrated with notes. These I shall insert in their proper places.
LETTER 26. TO THE REV. THOMAS WARTON. [London] July 16. 1754.
66 SIR,- It is but an ill return for the book with which you were pleased to favour me (1), to have delayed my thanks for it till now. I am too apt to be negligent; but I can never deliberately show my disrespect to a man of your character: and I now pay you a very honest acknowledgment, for the advancement of the literature of our native country. You have shown to all, who shall hereafter attempt the study of our ancient authors, the way to success; by directing them to the perusal of the books which those authors had read. Of this me
(1) Observations on Spenser's Fairy Queen, the first edition of which was now published. WARTON.
thod, Hughes (1), and men much greater than Hughes, seem never to have thought. The reason why the authors, which are yet read, of the sixteenth century, are so little understood, is, that they are read alone; and no help is borrowed from those who lived with them, or before them. Some part of this ignorance I hope to remove by my book, [the Dictionary,] which now draws towards its end; but which I cannot finish to my mind, without visiting the libraries of Oxford, which I therefore hope to see in a fortnight. (2) I know not how long I shall stay, or where I shall lodge: but shall be sure to look for you at my arrival, and we shall easily settle the rest. I am, dear Sir, your most obedient, &c.
Of his conversation while at Oxford at this time, Mr. Warton preserved and communicated to me the following memorial, which, though not written with all the care and attention which that learned and elegant writer bestowed on those compositions which he intended for the public eye, is so happily expressed in an easy style, that I should injure it by any alteration.
"When Johnson came to Oxford in 1754, the long vacation was beginning, and most people were leaving
(1) [John Hughes, the poet, was born at Marlborough in 1677. In 1715, he published an edition of Spenser, "a work," says Johnson," for which he was well qualified, as a judge of the beauties of writing, but perhaps wanted an antiquary's knowledge of the obsolete words." His tragedy of the "Siege of Damascus" was first represented February 17. 1720; and on the same day he died. Pope describes him as "a good humble-spirited man, a great admirer of Addison, and but a poor writer, except his play; that is very well."]
(2) He came to Oxford within a fortnight, and stayed about five weeks. He lodged at Kettel Hail. -WARTON. [See p. 41. n.]
the place. This was the first time of his being there, after quitting the University. The next morning after his arrival, he wished to see his old college, Pembroke. I went with him. He was highly pleased to find all the college-servants which he had left there still remaining, particularly a very old butler; and expressed great satisfaction at being recognised by them, and conversed with them familiarly. He waited on the master, Dr. Radcliffe, who received him very coldly. Johnson at least expected, that the master would order a copy of his Dictionary, now near publication; but the master did not choose to talk on the subject, never asked Johnson to dine, nor even to visit him, while he staid at Oxford. After we had left the lodgings, Johnson said to me, There lives a man, who lives by the revenues of literature, and will not move a finger to support it. () If I come to live at ford, I shall take up my abode at Trinity.' We then called on the Reverend Mr. Meeke, one of the fellows, and of Johnson's standing. Here was a most cordial greeting on both sides. On leaving him, Johnson said, 'I used to think Meeke had excellent parts, when we were boys together at the college but, alas !
'Lost in a convent's solitary gloom !'
(1) There is some excuse for Dr. Ratcliff (so he spelt his name) not ordering a copy of the book, for this visit occurred seven or eight months before the Dictionary was published. His personal neglect of Johnson is less easily to be accounted for, unless it be by the fact, that he was a great invalid; but the imputation of his living by the revenues of literature, and doing nothing for it, cannot, as Dr. Hall informs me, be justly made against Dr. Ratcliff; for he bequeathed to his college 1000l. 4 per cents. for the establishment of an exhibition for the son of a Gloucestershire clergyman-1000l. for the improvement of the college buildings-100l. worth of booksand 100%. for contingent expenses. The residue of his property (except 600l. left for the repair of the prebendal house at Gloucester) he left to the old butler mentioned in the text, who had long been his servant: a bequest which Johnson himself imitated in favour of his own servant, Barber. — C.
"I remember, at the classical lecture in the Hall, I could not bear Meeke's superiority, and I tried to sit as far from him as I could, that I might not hear him construe.'
"As we were leaving the college, he said, 'Here I translated Pope's Messiah. Which do you think is the best line in it? —- My own favourite is,
'Vallis aromaticas fundit Saronica nubes.'
I told him, I thought it a very sonorous hexameter. I did not tell him, it was not in the Virgilian style. He much regretted that his first tutor was dead; for whom he seemed to retain the greatest regard. He said, 'I once had been a whole morning sliding in Christ-Church meadows, and missed his lecture in logic. After dinner he sent for me to his room. I expected a sharp rebuke for my idleness, and we with a beating heart. (1) When we were seated, he told me he had sent for me to drink a glass of wine with him, and to tell me, he was not angry with me for missing his lecture. This was, in fact, a most severe reprimand. Some more of the boys were then sent for, and we spent a very pleasant afternoon.' Besides Mr. Meeke, there was only one other fellow of Pembroke now resident: from both of whom Johnson received the greatest civilities during this visit, and they pressed him very much to have a room in the college.
"In the course of this visit Johnson and I walked three or four times to Ellsfield, a village beautifully situ
(1) This was Johnson's earliest account of this little event, and probably the most accurate; many years after this he told the story to Boswell and Mrs. Piozzi, and made a parade of his having waited on his tutor, not with a "beating heart," but with "nonchalance and even insolence." It would seem as if Johnson had been induced, by the too obsequious deference of his later admirers, to assign to his character in youth a little more of sturdy dignity than, when his recollection was fresher and his ear unspoiled by flattery, he assumed to Mr. Warton. (See antè, Vol. I. p. 59.)- C.