« VorigeDoorgaan »
thankful for the bill as I am for the letter that enclosed it.
"If I do not lose, what I hope always to keep, my reverence for transcendent merit, I shall continue to be with unalterable fidelity, Madam, your &c.
LETTER 318. "FROM MR. BOSWELL.
"Edinburgh, March 12. 1778.
"MY DEAR SIR, — The alarm of your late illness distressed me but a few hours; for on the evening of the day that it reached me, I found it contradicted in The London Chronicle,' which I could depend upon as authentic concerning you, Mr. Strahan being the printer of it. I did not see the I did not see the paper in which the approaching extinction of a bright luminary' was announced. Sir William Forbes told me of it; and he says he saw me so uneasy, that he did not give me the report in such strong terms as he read it. He afterwards sent me a letter from Mr. Langton to him, which relieved me much. I am, however, not quite easy, as I have not heard from you; and now I shall not have that comfort before I see you, for I set out for London to-morrow before the post comes in. I hope to be with you on Wednesday morning: and I ever am, with the highest veneration, my dear Sir, your most obliged, faithful, and affectionate humble servant,
more than once appealed to the charity of Mrs. Montague.
Inmates of Bolt Court.- Tom Davies.-Counsel at the Bar of the House of Commons. - Thomas à Kempis. Uses of a Diary.— Strict Adherence to Truth.Ghosts. John Wesley. - Alcibiades's Dog.- Emigration. - Parliamentary Eloquence. Place Hunters. Irish Language. - Thicknesse's "Travels." -Honesty. Temptation. -Dr. Kennedy's Tragedy. Shooting a Highwayman. — Mr. Dunning. Contentment. Laxity of Narration.- Mrs. Montagu.- Harris of Salisbury. -- Definition. Wine-drinking. Pleasure. Goldsmith. Charles Best English Sermons." Seeing Scotland."-Absenteeism. - Delany's " Observations on Swift."
ON Wednesday, March 18., I arrived in London, and was informed by good Mr. Francis, that his master was better, and was gone to Mr. Thrale's at Streatham, to which place I wrote to him, begging to know when he would be in town. He was not expected for some time; but next day, having called on Dr. Taylor, in Dean's-yard, Westminster, I found him there, and was told he had come to town for a few hours. He met me with his usual kindness, but instantly returned to the writing of something on which he was employed when I came in, and on which he seemed much intent. Finding
him thus engaged, I made my visit very short, and had no more of his conversation, except his express ing a serious regret that a friend of ours [Mr. Langton] was living at too much expense, considering how poor an appearance he made : “ If,” said he, “a man has splendour from his expense,
if he spends his money in pride or in pleasure, he has value ; but if he lets others spend it for him, which is most commonly the case, he has no advantage from it.”
On Friday, March 20., I found him at his own house, sitting with Mrs. Williams, and was informed that the room formerly allotted to me was now appropriated to a charitable purpose ; Mrs. Desmoulins (1), and, I think, her daughter, and a Miss Carmichael, being all lodged in it. Such was his humanity, and such his generosity, that Mrs. Desmoulins herself told me he allowed her half a guinea a week. Let it be remembered, that this was above a twelfth part of his pension.(2)
His liberality, indeed, was at all periods of his
(1) Daughter of Dr. Swinfen, Johnson's godfather, and widow of Mr. Desmoulins, a writing-master.
(2) The dissensions that the many odd inhabitants of his house chose to live constantly in, distressed and mortified him exceedingly. He really was sometimes afraid of going home, because he was so sure to be met at the door with numberless complaints; and he used to lament pathetically to me, and to Mr. Sastres, the Italian master, who was much his favourite, that they made his life miserable from the impossibility he found of making theirs happy, when every favour he bestowed on one was wormwood to the rest. If, however, I ventured to blame their ingratitude, and condemn their conduct, he would instantly set about softening the one and justifying the other; and finisher commonly by telling me, that I knew not how to make allow ances for situations I never experienced. — Piozzi.
life very remarkable. Mr. Howard, of Lichfield, at whose father's house Johnson had in his early years been kindly received, told me, that when he was a boy at the Charterhouse, his father wrote to him to go and pay a visit to Mr. Samuel Johnson, which he accordingly did, and found him in an upper room, of poor appearance. Johnson received him with much courteousness, and talked a great deal to him, as to a schoolboy, of the course of his education, and other particulars. When he afterwards came to know and understand the high character of this great man, he recollected his condescension with wonder. He added, that when he was going away, Mr. Johnson presented him with half a guinea; and this, said Mr. Howard, was at a time when he probably had not another.
We retired from Mrs. Williams to another room. Tom Davies soon after joined us. He had now unfortunately failed in his circumstances, and was much indebted to Dr. Johnson's kindness for obtaining for him many alleviations of his distress. After he went away, Johnson blamed his folly in quitting the stage, by which he and his wife got live hundred pounds a year. I said, I believed it was owing to Churchill's attack upon him, “ He mouths a sentence as curs mouth a bone." JOHN
6 I believe so too, Sir. But what a man is he who is to be driven from the stage by a line ? Another line would have driven him from his
I told him that I was engaged as counsel at the bar of the house of commons to oppose a road-bill in the county of Stirling, and asked him what mode he would advise me to follow in addressing such an audience. Johnson. “ Why, Sir, you must provide yourself with a good deal of extraneous matter, which you are to produce occasionally, so as to fill up the time ; for you must consider, that they do not listen much. If you begin with the strength of your cause, it may be lost before they begin to listen. When you catch a moment of attention, press the merits of the question upon them.” He said, as to one point of the merits, that
” he thought “ it would be a wrong thing to deprive the small landholders of the privilege of assessing themselves for making and repairing the high roads : it was destroying a certain portion of liberty without a good reason, which was always a bad thing.” When I mentioned this observation next day to Mr. Wilkes, he pleasantly said, “ What! does he talk of liberty ? Liberty is as ridiculous in his mouth as religion in mine.” Mr. Wilkes's advice as to the best mode of speaking at the bar of the house of commons was not more respectful towards the senate than that of Dr. Johnson. « Be as impudent as you can, as merry as you can, and say whatever comes uppermost. Jack Lee(') is the
1 best heard there of any counsel ; and he is the most impudent dog, and always abusing us."
(1) Mr. Lee, afterwards Solicitor-General in the Rockingham administration. “ He was a man of strong parts, though of coarse manners, and who never hesitated to express in the coarsest language whatever he thought.” — Wraxall's Mem. vol. ii. p. 237. He was particularly distinguished by the violence of his invective against the person and administration of Lord Shelburne in 1782. C.