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mayor of Shrewsbury, we were invited by Sir Richard Corbet, the new mayor, to dinner; which we did with much pleasure, as finding a large collection of honest Whigs met together in Shropshire." Cole writes on this:
"A very extraordinary meeting truly! I was told by Mr. Farmer, the present master of Emanuel College, that he, being in London last year  with Mr. Arnold, tutor in St. John's College, was desired to introduce the latter, who had been bred a Whig, to the acquaintance of the very learned and sensible Dr. Samuel Johnson. They had not been long together, before (the conversation leading to it) the Doctor, addressing himself to Mr. Arnold, said, "Sir! you are a young man, but I have seen a great deal of the world, and take it upon my word and experience, that where you see a Whig, you see a rascal!" Mr. Farmer said, he was startled, and rather uneasy, that the Doctor had expressed himself so bluntly, and was apprehensive that Mr. Arnold might be shocked and take it ill. But they laughed it off, and were very good company. I have lived all my life among this faction, and am in general much disposed to subscribe to the Doctor's opinion. Whatever this honest collection of Salopian Whigs may have been on the whole, I am as well satisfied, as of any thing I know, that there was one rascal, duly and truly, in the company.-W. Cole, June 26. 1775.”
643. Johnson and Foote. (1)
Johnson and Foote, though both men of wit and strong sense, showed these qualities in different ways. The first was grave and sarcastical; the other was the meteor of the moment, who possessed every species of wit and humour, and could command them at will. Johnson never condescended to be the buffoon, and was
(1) [This and the two following are from Cooke's "Life of Foote," 3 vols. 12mo. 1805.]
not always ready at retort. Foote never failed; and rather than be out of laugh, could put on the motley coat with pleasure, and strut in it with as much pride as in his most refined sallies of conversation. This contrariety of talent and inclinations kept these two geniuses from a personal acquaintance for a long time, though they perfectly understood each other's character, and associated occasionally with the common friends of both.
644. Johnson's Recitation of Poetry.
Dr. Johnson read serious and sublime poetry with great gravity and feeling. In the recital of prayers and religious poems he was awfully impressive, and his memory served him upon those occasions with great readiness. One night at the club, a person quoting the nineteenth psalm, the Doctor caught fire; and, instantly taking off his hat, began with great solemnity,
"The spacious firmament on high," &c.
and went through that beautiful hymn. Those who were acquainted with the Doctor, knew how harsh his features in general were; but, upon this occasion, to use the language of Scripture, "his face was almost as if it had been the face of an angel.'
645. Johnson in Garrick's Library.
On Garrick's showing Johnson a magnificent library full of books in most elegant bindings, the Doctor began running over the volumes in his usual rough and negligent manner; which was, by opening the book so wide as almost to break the back of it, and then flung them down one by one on the floor with contempt. "Zounds," said Garrick, "why, what are you about? you'll spoil all my books." No, Sir," replied Johnson, "I have done nothing but treat a pack of silly plays in fops' dresses just as they deserve; but I see no books."
646. Johnson at Langton in 1764. (1)
In early life (says Mr. Best) I knew Bennet Langton, of that ilk, as the Scotch say. With great personal claims to the respect of the public, he is known to that public chiefly as a friend of Johnson. He was a very tall, meagre, long-visaged man, much resembling a stork standing on one leg, near the shore, in Raphael's cartoon of the miraculous draught of fishes. His manners were in the highest degree polished; his conversation mild, equable, and always pleasing. I formed an intimacy with his son, and went to pay him a visit at Langton. After breakfast we walked to the top of a very steep hill behind the house. When we arrived at the summit, Mr. Langton said, "Poor, dear Dr. Johnson, when he came to this spot, turned to look down the hill, and said he was determined to take a roll down.' When we understood what he meant to do, we endeavoured to dissuade him; but he was resolute, saying, he had not had a roll for a long time;' and taking out of his lesser pockets whatever might be in them- keys, pencil, purse, or pen-knife, and laying himself parallel with the edge of the hill, he actually descended, turning himself over and over till he came to the bottom." The story was told with such gravity, and with an air of such affectionate remembrance of a departed friend, that it was impossible to suppose this extraordinary freak of the great lexicographer to have been a fiction or invention of Mr. Langton. (2)
647. Dr. Dodd. (3)
Miss Seward, her father (the editor of Beaumont and Fletcher, &c.), the Rev. R. G. Robinson of Lichfield,
(1) [From "Personal and Literary Memorials," 8vo. 1829.] (2) [Johnson at the time of his visit to Langton was in his fifty-fifth year.]
(3) [This and the following have been communicated by the Rev. Hastings Robinson, Rector of Great Worley, Essex.]
and Dr. Johnson, were passing the day at the palace at Lichfield, of which Mr. Seward was the occupier. The conversation turned upon Dr. Dodd, who had been recently executed for forgery. (1) It proceeded as follows. MISS SEWARD. "I think, Dr. Johnson, you applied to see Mr. Jenkinson in his behalf." JOHNSON. "Why, yes, Madam; I knew it was a man having no interest, writing to a man who had no interest; but I thought with myself, when Dr. Dodd comes to the place of execution, he may say, Had Dr. Johnson written in my behalf, I had not been here, and (with great emphasis) I could not bear the thought!" () MISS SEWARD. " "But, Dr. Johnson, would you have pardoned Dr. Dodd?" JOHNSON." Madam, had I been placed at the head of the legislature, I should certainly have signed his death-warrant; though no law, either human or divine, forbids our deprecating punishment, either from ourselves or others."
648. "Heerd or Hard?"
In one of his visits to Lichfield, Dr. Johnson called upon Mrs. Gastrell of Stowe, near that city. She opened the Prayer-book, and pointed out a passage, with the wish that he would read it. He began, "We have heard (heerd) with our ears" she stopped him, saying, "Thank you, Doctor! you have read all I wish. merely wanted to know whether you pronounced that word heerd or hard." "Madam," he replied, "heard" is nonsense; there is but one word of that sound (hard) in the language."
(1) [Dr. Dodd was executed June 27. 1777; and Dr. Johnson left town for Lichfield on the latter end of the following month.]
(2) [For Dr. Johnson's letter to the Right Honourable Charles Jenkinson, afterwards Earl of Liverpool, see antè, Vol. VI. p. 282.]
649. Johnson's Willow. (1)
This remarkable tree has been long distinguished as a favourite object of Dr. Johnson, and which he never failed to examine, whenever, after his settlement in the metropolis, he revisited his native city. The great size it had attained at that period, and its delightful situation between the cathedral and the beautiful vale of Stowe, rendered it likely to attract notice; and, from the attachment shown to it by the Doctor, it has ever since been regarded as little inferior in celebrity to Shakspeare's Mulberry, or the Boscobel Oak, and specimens of its wood have been worked into vases and other ornaments. In 1815, a great portion of the tree gave way, and since then several very large boughs have fallen. The Doctor once took an admeasurement of the tree with a piece of string, assisted by a little boy, to whom he gave half a crown for his trouble. The dimensions of the willow in 1781, when in its most flourishing condition, taken by Dr. Trevor Jones, and communicated in a letter to Dr. Johnson, are as follows: "The trunk rises to the height of twelve feet eight inches, and is then divided into fifteen large ascending branches, which, in very numerous and crowded subdivisions, spread at the top in a circular form, not unlike the appearance of a shady oak, inclining a little towards the east. The circumference of the trunk at the bottom is sixteen feet, in the middle eleven feet, and at the top, immediately below the branches, thirteen feet. The entire height of the tree is forty-nine feet, overshadowing a plain not far short of four thousand feet." (2)
(1) [Nos. 649-655. are from the Gentleman's Magazine.] (2) For a drawing of this willow, see Shaw's Staffordshire, and Gent. Mag. Vol. LV.]