"Mr. Hoole, a gentleman long known and long esteemed in the India House, after having translated " Tasso," has undertaken "Ariosto." How well he is

[graphic][merged small]

qualified for his undertaking he has already shown. He is desirous, Sir, of your favour in promoting his proposals, and flatters me by supposing that my testimony may advance his interest.

"It is a new thing for a clerk of the India House to translate poets; it is new for a Governor of Bengal to patronise learning. That he may find his ingenuity rewarded, and that learning may flourish under your protection, is the wish of, Sir, your most humble servant,


I wrote to him in February, complaining of having been troubled by a recurrence of the perplexing question of Liberty and Necessity; and mentioning that I hoped soon to meet him again in London.



March 14, 1781.

What have you to your tongue about

"I hoped you had got rid of all this hypocrisy of misery. do with Liberty and Necessity? Or what more than to hold it? Do not doubt but I shall be most heartily glad to see you here again, for I love every part about you but your affectation of distress.

"I have at last finished my Lives, and have laid up for you a load of copy, all out of order, so that it will amuse you a long time to set it right. Come to me, my dear Bozzy, and let us be as happy as we can. We will go again to the Mitre, and talk old times over. I am, dear Sir, yours affectionately,


On Monday, March 19, I arrived in London, and on Tuesday, the 20th, met him in Fleet-street, walking, or rather indeed moving along ; for his peculiar march is thus described in a very just and picturesque manner, in a short Life1 of him published very soon after his death:"When he walked the streets, what with the constant roll of his head, and the concomitant motion of his body, he appeared to make his way by that motion, independent of his feet." That he was often much stared at while he advanced in this manner, may easily be believed; but it was not safe to make sport of one so robust as he was. Mr. Langton saw him one day, in a fit of absence, by a sudden start, drive the load off a porter's back, and walk forward briskly, without being conscious of what he had done. The porter was very angry, but stood still, and eyed the huge figure with much earnestness, till he was satisfied that his wisest course was to be quiet, and take up his burden again.

Our accidental meeting in the street, after a long separation, was a pleasing surprise to us both. He stepped aside with me into Falconcourt, and made kind inquiries about my family, and as we were in a hurry going different ways, I promised to call on him next day; he said he was engaged to go out in the morning. Early, Sir?" JOHNSON: "Why, Sir, a London morning does not go with

said I. the sun."


I waited on him next evening, and he gave me great portion of his original manuscript of his "Lives of the Poets," which he had preserved

for me.

I found on visiting his friend, Mr. Thrale, that he was now very ill, and had removed, I suppose by the solicitation of Mrs. Thrale, to a house in Grosvenor-square. I was sorry to see him sadly changed in his ap


He told me I might now have the pleasure to see Dr. Johnson drink wine again, for he had lately returned to it. When I mentioned this to Johnson, he said, "I drink it now sometimes, but not socially." The first evening that I was with him at Thrale's, I observed he poured a large quantity of it into a glass, and swallowed it greedily. Every thing about his character and manners was forcible and violent; there never was any moderation; many a day did he fast, many a year did he refrain from wine; but when he did eat, it was voraciously; when he did drink wine, it was copiously. He could practise abstinence, but not temperance.

Published by Kearsley, with this well-chosen motto of Shakspeare's :—

[blocks in formation]

He was a scholar, and a ripe and good one;

And to add greater honours to his age

Than man could give him, he died fearing Heaven."-BOSWELL.

Mrs. Thrale and I had a dispute, whether Shakspeare or Milton had drawn the most admirable picture of a man.1 I was for Shakspeare; Mrs. Thrale for Milton; and after a fair hearing, Johnson decided for my opinion.2


I told him of one of Mr. Burke's playful sallies upon Dean Marlay: 3 "I don't like the Deanery of Ferns, it sounds so like a barren title. "Dr. Heath should have it," said I. Johnson laughed, and condescending to trifle in the same mode of conceit, suggested Dr. Moss.

He said, "Mrs. Montagu has dropped me. Now, Sir, there are people whom one should like very well to drop, but would not wish to be dropped by." He certainly was vain of the society of ladies, and could make himself very agreeable to them, when he chose it; Sir Joshua Reynolds agreed with me that he could. Mr. Gibbon, with his usual sneer, controverted it, perhaps in resentment of Johnson's having talked with some disgust of his ugliness, which one would think a philosopher would not mind. Dean Marlay wittily observed, "A lady may be vain, when she can turn a wolf-dog into a lap dog."

The election for Ayrshire, my own county, was this spring tried upon a petition, before a committee of the House of Commons. I was one of the counsel for the sitting member, and took the liberty of previously stating different points to Johnson, who never failed to see them clearly, and to supply me with some good hints. He dictated to me the following note upon the registration of deeds :

"All laws are made for the convenience of the community; what is legally done should be legally recorded, that the state of things may be known, and that wherever evidence is requisite, evidence may be had. For this reason,

the obligation to frame and establish a legal register is enforced by a legal penalty, which penalty is the want of that perfection and plenitude of right

Shakspeare makes Hamlet thus describe his father :

"See what a grace was seated on this brow,
Hyperion's curls, the front of Jove himself,
An eye like Mars, to threaten and command;
A station like the herald, Mercury,
New-lighted on a heaven-kissing hill;
A combination, and a form, indeed,
Where every God did seem to set his seal,
To give the world assurance of a man."

Milton thus portrays our first parent, Adam :—

"His fair large front and eye sublime declared
Absolute rule; and hyacinthine locks
Round from his parted forelock manly hung

Clust'ring, but not beneath his shoulders broad."-BOSWELL.

2 It is strange that the picture drawn by the unlearned Shakspeare should be full of classical images, and that by the learned Milton void of them.

appears to me more picturesque.-KEARNEY.

Milton's description

3 Dr. Richard Marlay, afterwards Lord Bishop of Waterford, a very amiable, benevolent, and ingenious man. He was chosen a member of the Literary Club in 1777, and died in Dublin, July 2, 1802, in his 75th year.-MALONE.

which a register would give. Thence it follows that this is not an objection merely legal, for the reason on which the law stands being equitable, makes it an equitable objection.

“This,” said he, “you must enlarge on, when speaking to the committee. You must not argue there, as if you were arguing in the schools; close reasoning will not fix their attention-you must say the same thing over and over again, in different words. If you say it but once, they miss it in a moment of inattention. It is unjust, Sir, to censure lawyers for multiplying words when they argue; it is often necessary for them to multiply words."

His notion of the duty of a Member of Parliament sitting upon an election-committee was very high; and when he was told of a gentleman upon one of those committees, who read the newspapers part of the time, and slept the rest, while the merits of a vote were examined by the counsel; and, as an excuse, when challenged by the chairman for such behaviour, bluntly answered, "I had made up my mind upon that case;"―Johnson, with an indignant contempt, said, "If he was such a rogue as to make up his mind upon a case without hearing it, he should not have been such a fool as to tell it." "I think,” said Mr. Dudley Long, now North, "the Doctor has pretty plainly made him out to be both rogue and fool."

Johnson's profound reverence for the Hierarchy made him expect from bishops the highest degree of decorum; he was offended even at their going to taverns: "A bishop," said he, " has nothing to do at a tippling-house. It is not indeed immoral in him to go to a tavern ; neither would it be immoral in him to whip a top in Grosvenor-square; but, if he did, I hope the boys would fall upon him, and apply the whip to him. There are gradations in conduct; there is morality-decency -propriety. None of these should be violated by a bishop. A bishop should not go to a house where he may meet a young fellow leading out a wench." BoS WELL: "But, Sir, every tavern does not admit women.' JOHNSON: 66 Depend upon it, Sir, any tavern will admit a well-dressed man and a well-dressed woman; they will not perhaps admit a woman whom they see every night walking by their door, in the street. But a well-dressed man may lead in a well-dressed woman to any tavern in London. Taverns sell meat and drink, and will sell them to any body who can eat and can drink. You may as well say, that a mercer will not sell silks to a woman of the town."

[ocr errors]

He also disapproved of bishops going to routs, at least of their staying at them longer than their presence commanded respect. He mentioned a particular bishop. "Poh!" said Mrs. Thrale, "the Bishop of is never minded at a rout." BOSWELL: "When a bishop places himself in a situation where he has no distinct character, and is of no consequence, he degrades the dignity of his order." JOHNSON: “Mr. Boswell, Madam, has said it as correctly as it could be."

Nor was it only in the dignitaries of the Church that Johnson

required a particular decorum and delicacy of behaviour; he justly considered that the clergy, as persons set apart for the sacred office of serving at the altar, and impressing the minds of men with the awful concerns of a future state, should be somewhat more serious than the generality of mankind, and have a suitable composure of manners. A due sense of the dignity of their profession, independent of higher motives, will ever prevent them from losing their distinction in an indiscriminate sociality; and did such as affect this, know how much it lessens them in the eyes of those whom they think to please by it, they would feel themselves much mortified.

Johnson, and his friend, Beauclerk, were once together in company with several clergymen, who thought that they should appear to advantage, by assuming the lax jollity of men of the world; which, as it may be observed in similar cases, they carried to noisy excess. Johnson, who they expected would be entertained, sat grave and silent for some time; at last, turning to Beauclerk, he said, by no means in a whisper, "This merriment of parsons is mighty offensive."


Even the dress of a clergyman should be in character, and nothing can be more despicable than conceited attempts at avoiding the appearance of the clerical order; attempts, which are as ineffectual as they are pitiful. Dr. Porteus, now Bishop of London, in his excellent charge when presiding over the diocese of Chester, justly animadverts upon this subject; and observes, of a reverend fop, that he "can be but half a beau." Addison, in The Spectator," has given us a fine portrait of a clergyman, who is supposed to be a member of his Club; and Johnson has exhibited a model, in the character of Mr. Mudge, which has escaped the collectors of his works, but which he owned to me, and which indeed he showed to Sir Joshua Reynolds at the time when it was written. It bears the genuine marks of Johnson's best manner, and is as follows:

"The Reverend Mr. Zachariah Mudge, Prebendary of Exeter, and Vicar o St. Andrew's in Plymouth, a man equally eminent for his virtues and abilities, and at once beloved as a companion and reverenced as a pastor. He had the general curiosity to which no kind of knowledge is indifferent or superfluous; and that general benevolence by which no order of men is hated or despised.

"His principles both of thought and action were great and comprehensive. By a solicitous examination of objections, and judicious comparison of opposite arguments, he attained what inquiry never gives but to industry and perspicuity, a firm and unshaken settlement of conviction. But his firmness was without asperity; for, knowing with how much difficulty truth was sometimes found, he did not wonder that many missed it.

"The general course of his life was determined by his profession; he studied the sacred volumes in the original languages; with what diligence and success his Notes upon the Psalms' give sufficient evidence. He once endeavoured

1 See vol. i. p. 246.-BOSWELL.

« VorigeDoorgaan »