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The PROFESSION may probably think this representation of what is required in a barrister who would hope for success, to be much too indulgent; but certain it is, that as
"The wits of Charles found easier ways to fame,"
some of the lawyers of this age, who have risen high, have by no means thought it absolutely necessary to submit to that long and painful course of study which a Plowden, a Coke, and a Hale considered as requisite. My respected friend, Mr. Langton, has shown me, in the hand-writing of his grandfather, a curious account of a conversation which he had with Lord Chief Justice Hale, in which that great man tells him, 'That for two years after he came to the inn of the court, he studied sixteen hours a day; however (his Lordship added), that by this intense application he almost brought himself to his grave, though he were of a very strong constitution, and after reduced himself to eight hours; but that he would not advise anybody to so much; that he thought six hours a day, with attention and constancy, was sufficient; that man must use his body as he would his horse and his stomach: not tire him at once, but rise with an appetite."
JOHNSON'S RETURN TO LONDON-REV. MR. ASTLE-MR. CATOR-HORACE WALPOLE "EVER-MEMORABLE" JOHN HALES-" No, SIR"-LORD CHATHAM-BURKE'S DEFENCE OF JOHNSON-TOMMY TOWNSHEND"-TRAINED BANDS OF LONDONJOHNSON'S APOLOGY TO THE COMPOSITOR-ATTITUDENIZING--JOHNSON'S WARMTH IN ARGUMENT-HIS VISIT TO MARYLEBONE GARDENS-HIS ATTENTION TO DRESS -HIS LAST DINNER AT "THE LITERARY CLUB"-INTENDED JOURNEY TO ITALY -PUBLIC CRIMINALS-MR. VILETTE-DR. KNOX-MR. PINKERTON-JAMAICALORD CHESTERFIELD-LORD ELIOT-LORD THURLOW'S LETTER IN FAVOUR OF JOHNSON-HIS SENSIBILITY-ITALY-MRS. THRALE'S INTENDED MARRIAGE, AND HER ANECDOTES OF JOHNSON,
N Wednesday, June 19th, Dr. Johnson and I returned to London; he was not well to-day, and said very little, employing himself chiefly in reading Euripides. He expressed some displeasure at me, for not observing sufficiently the various objects on the road. "If I had your eyes, Sir," said he, "I should count the passengers." It was wonderful how accurate his observation of visual objects was, notwithstanding his imperfect eyesight, owing to a habit of attention. That he was much satisfied with the respect paid to him at Dr. Adams's is thus attested by himself: I returned last night from Oxford, after a fortnight's abode with Dr. Adams, who treated me as well as I could expect or wish; and he that contents a sick man, a man whom it is impossible to please, has surely done his part well."
After his return to London from this excursion, I saw him frequently, but have few memorandums; I shall therefore here insert some particulars which I have collected at various times.
The Rev. Mr. Astle, of Ashbourne, in Derbyshire, brother to the learned and ingenious Thomas Astle, Esq., was from his early years
known to Dr. Johnson, who obligingly advised him as to his studies, and recommended to him the following books, of which a list, which he has been pleased to communicate, lies before me, in Johnson's own handwriting :
'Universal History (ancient)-Rollin's Ancient History-Puffendorf's Introduction to History-Vertot's History of Knights of Malta-Vertot's Revolution of Portugal-Vertot's Revolution of Sweden-Carte's History of EnglandPresent State of England-Geographical Grammar-Prideaux's ConnexionNelson's Feasts and Fasts-Duty of Man-Gentleman's Religion-Clarendon's History-Watts's Improvement of the Mind-Watts's Logic-Nature Displayed -Louth's English Grammar-Blackwell on the Classics-Sherlock's Sermons -Burnett's Life of Hale-Dupin's History of the Church-Shuckford's Connexions-Law's Serious Call-Walton's Complete Angler-Sandys's TravelsSprat's History of the Royal Society-England's Gazetteer-Goldsmith's Roman History-Some Commentaries on the Bible."
It having been mentioned to Dr. Johnson, that a gentleman who had a son whom he imagined to have an extreme degree of timidity, resolved to send him to a public school, that he might acquire confidence;— "Sir," said Johuson, "this is a preposterous expedient for removing his infirmity; such a disposition should be cultivated in the shade. Placing him at a public school is forcing an owl upon day."
Speaking of a gentleman whose house was much frequented by low company: "Rags, Sir," said he, will always make their appearance, where they have a right to do it."
Of the same gentleman's mode of living, he said, "Sir, the servants, instead of doing what they are bid, stand round the table in idle clusters, gaping upon the guests; and seem as unfit to attend a company as to steer a man of war."
A dull country magistrate gave Johnson a long tedious account of his exercising his criminal jurisdiction, the result of which was having sentenced four convicts to transportation. Johnson, in an agony of impatience to get rid of such a companion, exclaimed, "I heartily wish, Sir, that I were a fifth."
Johnson was present when a tragedy was read, in which there occurred this line :
"Who rules o'er freemen should himself be free."
The company having admired it much-"I cannot agree with you," said Johnson; "it might as well be said,
'Who drives fat oxen should himself be fat.'"
He was pleased with the kindness of Mr. Cator, who was joined with him in Mr. Thrale's important trust, and thus describes him:1 "There is much good in his character, and much usefulness in his
"Letters to Mrs. Thrale," vol. ii. p. 284.-EoswELL.
knowledge." He found a cordial solace at that gentleman's seat at Beckenham, in Kent, which is indeed one of the finest places at which I ever was a guest; and where I find more and more a hospitable welcome.
Johnson seldom encouraged general censure of any profession; but he was willing to allow a due share of merit to the various departments necessary in civilized life. In a splenetic, sarcastical, or jocular frame of mind, however, he would sometimes utter a pointed saying of that nature. One instance has been mentioned, where he gave a sudden satirical stroke to the character of an attorney. The too indiscriminate admission to that employment, which requires both abilities and integrity, has given rise to injurious reflections, which are totally inapplicable to many very respectable men who exercise it with reputation and honour.
Johnson having argued for some time with a pertinacious gentleman : his opponent, who had talked in a very puzzling manner, happened to say, "I don't understand you, Sir;" upon which Johnson observed, Sir, I have found you an argument; but I am not obliged to find you an understanding."
Talking to me of Horry Walpole (as Horace late Earl of Orford was often called), Johnson allowed that he got together a great many curious little things, and told them in an elegant manner. Mr. Walpole thought Johnson a more amiable character after reading his Letters to Mrs. Thrale: but never was one of the true admirers of that great man.1 We may suppose a prejudice conceived, if he ever heard Johnson's account to Sir George Staunton, that when he made the speeches in Parliament for the Gentleman's Magazine, "he always took care to put Sir Robert Walpole in the wrong, and to say everything he could against the electorate of Hanover." The celebrated Heroic Epistle, in which Johnson is satirically introduced, has been ascribed both to Mr. Walpole and Mr. Mason. One day at Mr. Courtenay's, when a gentleman expressed his opinion that there was more energy in that poem than could be expected from Mr. Walpole, Mr. Warton, the late Laureat, observed, "It may have been written by Walpole, and buckram'd by Mason.'
He disapproved of Lord Hailes, for having modernised the language of the ever-memorable John Hales of Eton, in an edition which his lordship published of that writer's works. "An author's language,
Sir," said he, "is a characteristical part of his composition, and is also characteristical of the age in which he writes. Besides, Sir, when the language is changed we are not sure that the sense is the same. No, Sir I am sorry Lord Hailes has done this.”
I In his Posthumous Works, he has spoken of Johnson in the most contemptuous manner.-MALONE.
2 It is now (1804) known that the "Heroic Epistle" was written by Mason.MALONE.
Here it may be observed, that his frequent use of the expression, No, Sir, was not always to intimate contradiction; for he would say so when he was about to enforce an affirmative proposition which had not been denied, as in the instance last mentioned. I used to consider it as a kind of flag of defiance: as if he had said, "Any argument you may offer against this, is not just. No, Sir, it is not.' It was like Falstaff's “I deny your Major.'
Sir Joshua Reynolds having said that he took the altitude of a man's taste by his stories and his wit, and of his understanding by the remarks which he repeated; being always sure that he must be a weak man, who quotes common things with an emphasis as if they were oracles ;-Johnson agreed with him; and Sir Joshua having also observed that the real character of a man was found out by his amusements-Johnson added, "Yes, Sir; no man is a hypocrite in his pleasures."
I have mentioned Johnson's general aversion to pun. He once, however, endured one of mine.-When we were talking of a numerous company in which he had distinguished himself highly, I said, "Sir, you were a cod surrounded by smelts. Is not this enough for you? at a time too when you were not fishing for a compliment?" He laughed at this with a complacent approbation. Old Mr. Sheridan observed, upon my mentioning it to him, "He liked your compliment so well, he was willing to take it with pun sauce." For my own part, I think no innocent species of wit or pleasantry should be suppressed: and that a good pun may be admitted among the smaller excellencies of lively conversation.
Had Johnson treated at large De Claris Oratoribus, he might have given us an admirable work. When the Duke of Bedford attacked the ministry as vehemently as he could, for having taken upon them to extend the time for the importation of corn, Lord Chatham, in his first speech in the House of Lords, boldly avowed himself to be an adviser of that measure. My colleagues," said he, as I was confined by indisposition, did me the signal honour of coming to the bed-side of a sick man, to ask his opinion. But, had they not thus condescended, I should have taken up my bed and walked, in order to have delivered that opinion at the Council-board." Mr. Langton, who was present, mentioned this to Johnson, who observed, "Now, Sir, we see that he took these words as he found them; without considering, that though the expression in Scripture, take up thy bed and walk, strictly suited the instance of the sick man restored to health and strength, who would of course be supposed to carry his bed with him, it could not be proper in the case of a man who was lying in a state of feebleness, and who certainly would not add to the difficulty of moving at all, that of carrying his bed."
When I pointed out to him in the newspaper one of Mr. Grattan's