« VorigeDoorgaan »
with his national or party aversions ; but I feel the truest compassion for his present sufferings, and fervently wish I had power to relieve them. A few days since I was to drink tea with him, by his request, at Mrs. Porter's. When I went into the room, he was in deep but agitated slumber, in an arm-chair. Opening the door with that caution due to the sick, he did not awaken at my entrance. I stood by him several minutes, mournfully contemplating the temporary suspension of those vast intellectual powers which must soon, as to this world, be eternally quenched.
Upon the servant entering to announce the arrival of a gentleman of the university, introduced by Mr. White, he awoke with convulsive starts ; — but, rising with more alacrity than could have been expected, he said, “ Come, my dear lady, let you and I attend these gentlemen in the study.
He received them with more than usual complacence; but whimsically chose to get astride upon his chair-seat, with his face to its back, keeping a trotting motion as if on horseback; but, in this odd position, he poured forth streams of eloquence, illumined by frequent flashes of wit and humour, without any tincture of malignity. His memory is considerably impaired, but his eloquence rolls on in its customary majestic torrent, when he speaks at all. My heart aches to see him labour for his breath, which he draws with great effort. It is not improbable that this literary comet may set where it rose, and Lichfield receive his pale and stern remains. (')
(1) [" Dr. Johnson seems, in some respects, to have shared the fate of a proverbial prophet in his own country; for neither Miss Seward nor Dr. Darwin were partial to the great moralist.”
SIR WALTER Scott, Miscel. Prose Works, vol. iv. p. 205.]
ANECDOTES AND REMARKS, FROM THE MEMOIRS AND WORKS OF DR. PARR. (1)
505. Recommendation of Parr. WHEN Dr. Parr determined to leave Stanmore, and to become a candidate for the school at Colchester, he applied to Dr. Johnson for letters of recommendation, which were kindly granted, as will be seen by the following extract of a letter, dated Feb. 5. 1777, from Bennet Langton to Mr. Parr : “ Yesterday morning Mr. Paradise and I went to Bolt Court; and it is, I assure you, but doing justice to Dr. Johnson's expressions, on our application, to say, that nothing could be more friendly than they were. He said he knew of few, if of any, that were so well entitled to success as yourself in an application for presiding over a seminary of education; and expressed the opinion of your possessing all the kinds of learning requisite for that purpose, in very high terms of praise.”
506. Parr's Projected Life of Johnson. For many years I spent a month's holidays in London, and never failed to call upon Johnson. I was not only admitted, but welcomed. I conversed with him upon numberless subjects of learning, politics, and
(1) [Nos. 505. -516. of these anecdotes are selected from the Life and Works of Parr, in eight vols. 8vo. 1828 ; edited by Dr. John Johnstone.]
common life. I traversed the whole compass of his understanding ; and, by the acknowledgment of Burke and Reynolds, I distinctly understood the peculiar and transcendent properties of his mighty and virtuous mind. I intended to write his life ; I laid by sixty or seventy books for the purpose of writing it in such a manner as would do no discredit to myself. I intended to spread my thoughts over two volumes quarto ; and if I had filled three pages, the rest would have followed. Often have I lamented my ill fortune in not building this monument to the fame of Johnson, and let me not be accused of arrogance when I add, my own! (1)
507. Rasselas." Dr. Young said of Johnson's “ Rasselas," that “ it was a mass of sense.”
508. Truth. The following passage, from Johnson's character of Zachary Mudge, unites the true spirit of Christianity with the soundest wisdom :-" 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.” (2) The truth of the concluding sentence will be felt by every man of deep reflection; and well does it become those who are not in the habit of reflecting deeply, to weigh its moral and religious importance
(1) (Dr. Parr has recorded the same sentiment in the note prefixed to the list of the thirty-four works which he had set apart to consult in his projected Life of Dr. Johnson :
-“He will ever have to lament that, amidst his cares, his sorrows, and his anxiety, he did not write the life of his learned and revered friend." - Bib. Parr, p. 716.] (2) [See antè, Vol. VIII. p. 51.]
or the eyes"
in mitigating their prejudices, and in restraining their invectives, upon certain difficult and momentous subjects. Glad should I be if this opinion of Johnson's were, in Johnson's words, written, like the motto of Capaneus, “ in golden letters," and hung up, not only in every dissenting academy, but in every hall of every college in those two noble seminaries which, as Milton says of Athens and Sparta, I revere as of this kingdom.
509. Whig and Tory. To almost every part of Johnson's distinction of a Whig and Tory I assent; there is no part which does not contain judicious remarks and useful information:" A wise Tory and a wise Whig,” he says, “will, I believe, agree. Their principles are the same, though their modes of thinking are different. A high Tory makes government unintelligible ; it is lost in the clouds. A violent Whig makes it impracticable: he is for allowing so much liberty to every man, that there is not power enough to govern any man. The prejudice of the Tory is for establishment; the prejudice of the Whig is for innovation. A Tory does not wish to give more real power to government; but that government should have more reverence. Then they differ as to the church. The Tory is not for giving more legal power to the clergy, but wishes they should have a considerable influence founded on the opinion of mankind : the Whig is for limiting and watching them with a narrow jealousy."
510. Unconscious Similitudes. An instance of unconscious similitude between an ancient and a modern writer occurs at the moment to my memory, and as I have not seen it noticed in any book, you will excuse me for producing it: Gray, says Johnson, “ in his odes, has a kind of strutting dignity, and is tall by walking on tiptoe.” We meet
with a similar thought in Quintilian :
6. Prima est eloquentiæ virtus, perspicuitas : et quo quisque ingenio minus valet, hoc se magis attollere et dilatare conatur ; ut statura breves in digitos eriguntur, et plura infirmi minantur.”
I will add another instance. Johnson said of Lord Chesterfield, “ He is a wit among lords, and a lord
But he remembered not that Pope had written
6 A wit with dunces, and a dunce with wits.” Neither of them, perhaps, was conscious that Quintilian had long ago said “ Qui stultis eruditi videri volunt, eruditis stulti videntur.”
511. Johnson described by Gregory Nazianzen. The following lines I long ago read and marked in the “ Anecdota Græca," by Muratorius, as descriptive of Johnson's benevolence, of his ready powers in conversation, and of the instruction it conveyed to his hearers :
Ω μάκαρ ξυνόν πενιης άκος, ω πτερόεντες
Μύθοι, και πηγή πάσιν αρυομένη,
'Ασθματι πάντα λίπες πυμάτω. These lines were written by Gregory Nazianzen upon Amphilochus; and however untractable they may be in the hands of an epitaph writer, they might be managed with success by such a biographer as Johnson deserves, and perhaps bas hitherto not had.
512. English Universities. There are men to whom such an opponent as Dr. Johnson, upon such a topic as the honour of Cambridge and Oxford, might have been an object both of terror and esteem.” Now, in a paper in the Idler, Johnson has employed quite as good sense, in quite as good English, for the credit of our universities, as Gibbon has since misemployed for their discredit. " If litera