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During all the time in which Dr. Johnson was employed in relating to the circle at Sir Joshua Reynolds's the particulars of what passed between the king and him, Dr. Goldsmith remained unmoved upon a sofa at some distance, affecting not to join in the least in the eager curiosity of the company. He assigned as a reason for his gloom and seeming inattention, that he apprehended Johnson had relinquished his purpose of furnishing him with a Prologue to his play, with the hopes of which he had been flattered ; but it was strongly suspected that he was fretting with chagrin and envy at the singular honour Dr. Johnson had lately enjoyed. At length, the frankness and simplicity of his natural character prevailed. He sprung from the sofa, advanced to Johnson, and in a kind of flutter, from imagining himself in the situation which he had just been hearing described, exclaimed, “Well, you acquitted yourself in this conversation better than I should have done ; for I should have bowed and stammered through the whole of it.
I received no letter from Johnson this year ; nor have I discovered any of the correspondence? he had, except the two letters to Mr. Drummond, which have been inserted, for the sake of connection with that to the same gentleman in 1766. His diary affords no light as to his employment at this time. He passed three months at Lichfield ; and I cannot omit an affecting and solemn scene there, as related by himself :
Sunday, Oct. 18, 1767. Yesterday, Oct. 17, at about ten in the morning, I took my leave for ever of my dear old friend, Catherine Chambers, who came to live with my mother about 1724, and has been but little parted from us since. She buried my father, my brother, and my mother. She is now fifty-eight years old.
“I desired all to withdraw, then told her that we were to part for ever; that, as Christians, we should part with prayer ; and that I would, if she was willing, say a short prayer beside her. She expressed great desire to hear me; and held up her poor hands, as she lay in bed, with great fervour, while I prayed, kneeling by her, nearly in the following words:
“Almighty and most merciful Father, whose loving kindness is over all thy works, behold, visit, and relieve this thy servant, who is grieved with sickness. Grant that the sense of her weakness may add strength to her faith, and seriousness to her repentance. And grant that by the help of thy Holy Spirit, after the pains and labours of this short life, we may all obtain everlasting happiness, through JESUS CHRIST our Lord, for whose sake hear our prayers. Amen. Our Father, &c.
“I then kissed her. She told me, that to part was the greatest pain that she had ever felt, and that she hoped we should meet again in a better place. I expressed, with swelled eyes, and great emotion of tenderness, the same hopes. We kissed, and parted. I humbly hope to meet again, and to part no more.”ı
1 It is proper here to mention, that when I speak of his correspondence, I consider it independent of the voluminous collection of letters which, in the course of many years, he wrote to Mrs. Thraie, which forms a separate part of his works; and as a proof of the high estimation set on anything which came from his pen, was sold by that lady for the sum of five hundred pounds.-Boswell.
2 In his letter to Mr. Drummond, dated Oct. 24, 1767, he mentions that he had arrived in London, after an absence of nearly six months in the country. Probably part of that time was spent at Oxford.—Malone.
By those who have been taught to look upon Johnson as a man of a harsh and stern character, let this tender and affectionate scene be candidly read ; and let them then judge whether more warmth of heart and grateful kindness, is often found in human nature.
We have the following notice in his devotional record :
“August 2, 1767. I have been disturbed and unsettled for a long time, and have been without resolution to apply to study or to business, being hindered by sudden snatches."'2
He, however, furnished Mr. Adams with a dedication* to the king of that ingenious gentleman's “ Treatise on the Globes,” conceived and expressed in such a manner as could not fail to be very grateful to a monarch, distinguished for his love of the sciences.
This year was published a ridicule of his style, under the title of • Lexiphanes.” Sir John Hawkins ascribes it to Dr. Kenrick ; but its author was one Campbell, a Scotch purser in the navy. The ridicule consisted in applying Johnson's "words of large meaning,” to insignificant matters, as if one should put the armour of Goliath upon a dwarf. The contrast might be laughable ; but the dignity of the armour must remain the same in all considerate minds. This malicious drollery, therefore, it may easily be supposed, could do no harm to its illustrious object. “TO BENNET LANGTON, ESQ, AT MR. ROTAWELL'S, PERFUMER, IN NEW
BOND-STREET, LONDON. “DEAR SIR,
Lichfield, Oct. 10, 1767. “That you have been all summer in London is one more reason for which I regret my long stay in the country. I hope that you will not leave the town before my return. We have here only the chance of vacancies, in the passing carriages, and I have bespoken one that may, if it happens, bring me to town on the 14th of this month ; but this is not certain.
“It will be a favour if you communicate this to Mrs. Williams : I long to see all my friends.
I am, dear Sir,
“SAM. JOHNSON." It appears from his notes of the state of his mind, that he suffered great perturbation and distraction in 1768. Nothing of his writings was given to the public this year, except the Prologue* to his friend Goldsmith's comedy of “ The Good-natured Man." The first lines of this Prologue are strongly characteristical of the dismal gloom of his mind; which, in his case, as in the case of all who are distressed with the same malady of imagination, transfers to others its own feelings. Who could suppose it was to introduce a comedy, when Mr. Bensley solemnly began :
1 Prayers and Meditations, pp. 77, 78.-Boswell. 2 Prayers and Meditations, p.
73. -BOSWELL. 3 Prayers and Meditations, p. 81.-BUSWELL.
“ Press'd with the load of life, the weary mind
Surveys the general toil of human kind.” But this dark ground might make Goldsmith's humour shine the more."
In the spring of this year, having published my “Account of Corsica, with the Journal of a Tour to that Island,” I returned to London, very desirous to see Dr. Johnson, and hear him upon the subject. I found he was at Oxford, with his friend Mr. Chambers, who was now Vinerian Professor, and lived in New Inn Hall. Having had no letter from him since that in which he criticised the Latinity of my Thesis, and having been told by somebody that he was offended at my having put into my book an extract of his letter to me at Paris, I was impatient to be with him, and therefore followed him to Oxford, where I was entertained by Mr. Chambers, with a civility which I shall ever gratefully remember. I found that Dr. Johnson had sent a letter to me to Scotland, and that I had nothing to complain of but his being more indifferent to my anxiety than I wished him to be. Instead of giving, with the circumstances of time and place, such fragments of his conversation as I preserved during this visit to Oxford, I shall throw them together in continuation.
I asked him whether, as a moralist, he did not think that the practice of the law, in some degree, hurt the nice feeling of honesty: JOHNSON : “ Why no, Sir, if you act properly. You are not to deceive your clients with false representations of your opinion ; you are not to tell lies to a judge." BoswELL: “ But what do you think of supporting a cause which you know to be bad ?” JOHNSON: Sir, you do not know it to be good or bad till the judge determines it. I have said that you are to state facts fairly ; so that your thinking, or what you call knowing, a cause to be bad, must be from reasoning, must be from your supposing your arguments to be weak and inconclusive. But, Sir, that is not enough. An argument which does not convince yourself may convince the judge to whom you urge it ; and if it does convince him, why, then, Sir, you are wrong, and he is right. It is his business to judge ; and you are not to be confident in your own opinion that a cause is bad, but to say all you can for your client, and then hear the judge's opinion.” BOSWELL: “But, Sir, does not affecting a warmth when you have no warmth, and appearing to be clearly of one opinion when you are in reality of another opinion, does not such dissimulation impair one's honesty ? Is there not some danger that a lawyer may put on the same mask in common life in the intercourse with his friends ?” JOHNSON: “Why no, Sir. Everybody knows you are paid for affecting warmth for your client ; and it is, therefore, properly no dissimulation : the moment you come from the bar you resume your usual behaviour. Sir, a man will no more carry the artifice of the bar into the common intercourse of society, than a man who is paid for tumbling upon his hands will continue to tumble upon his hands when he should walk on his feet.”i
* In this Prologue, as Mr. John Taylor informs me, after the fourth line" And social sorrow loses half its pain," the following couplet was inserted :
"Amidst the toils of this returning year,
When senators and nobles learn to fear;
The bustling season's epidemic care: So the Prologue appeared in “The Public Advertiser," the theatrical gazette of that day, soon after the first representation of this comedy in 1768. Goldsmith probably thought that the lines printed in italic characters, which, however, seem necessary, or at least improve the sense, might give offence, and therefore prevailed on Johnson to omit them. The epithet little, which perhaps the author thought might diminish his dignity, was also changed to anxious.-MALONE.
Talking of some of the modern plays, he said, “ False Delicacy” was totally void of character. He praised Goldsmith's “Good-natured Man;" said it was the best comedy that had appeared since “ The Provoked Husband,” and that there had not been of late any such character exhibited on the stage as that of Croaker. I observed it was the Suspirius of his " Rambler.” He said, Goldsmith had owned he had borrowed it from thence. “Sir,” continued he, “there is all the difference in the world between characters of nature and characters of manners ; and there is the difference between the characters of Fielding and those
of Richardson. Characters of manners are very entertaining ; but they are to be understood by a more superficial observer than characters of nature, where a man must dive into the recesses of the human heart.
It always appeared to me that he estimated the compositions of Richardson too highly, and that he had an unreasonable prejudice against Fielding. In comparing those two writers he used this expression : "that there
as great a difference between them as between a man who knew how a watch was made and a man
who could tell the hour by looking on the dial-plate.” This was a short and figurative state of his distinction between drawing characters of nature and characters only of manners.
1 See “ The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides," 4th edit. p. 14, where Johnson has supported the same argument–J. BOSWELL, JUN.
But I cannot help being of opinion, that the neat watches of Fielding are as well constructed as the large clocks of Richardson, and that his dial-plates are brighter. Fielding's characters, though they do not expand themselves so widely in dissertation, are as just pictures of human nature, and I will venture to say, have more striking features, and nicer touches of the pencil ; and though Johnson used to quote with approbation a saying of Richardson's, “ that the virtues of Fielding's heroes were the vices of a truly good man,” I will venture to add, that the moral tendency of Fielding's writings, though it does not encourage a strained and rarely possible virtue, is ever favourable to honour and honesty, and cherishes the benevolent and generous affections. He who is as good as Fielding would make him, is an amiable member of society, and may be led on by more regulated instructors, to a higher state of ethical perfection.
Johnson proceeded : “Even Sir Francis Wronghead 1 is a character of manners, though drawn with great humour.” He then repeated, very happily, all Sir Francis's credulous account to Manly of his being with “the great man,” and securing a place. I asked him, if “ The Suspicious Husband” did not furnish a well-drawn character, that of Ranger. Johnson : No, Sir ; Ranger is just a rake, a mere rake, and a lively young fellow, but no character.'
The great Douglas cause was at this time a very general subject of discussion. I found he had not studied it with much attention, but had only heard parts of it occasionally. He, however, talked of it, and said,
I am of opinion that positive proof of fraud should not be required of the plaintiff, but that the judges should decide according as probability shall appear to preponderate, granting to the defendant the presumption of filiation to be strong in his favour. And I think, too, that a good deal of weight should be allowed to the dying declarations, because they were spontaneous. There is a great difference between what is said without our being urged to it, and what is said from a kind of compulsion. If I praise a man's book without being asked my opinion of it, that is honest praise, to which one may trust. But if an author asks me if I like his book, and I give him something like praise, it must not be taken as my real opinion.'
“ I have not been troubled for a long time with authors desiring my opinion of their works. I used once to be sadly plagued with a man who wrote verses, but who literally had no other notion of a verse, but that it consisted of ten syllables. Lay your knife and your fork across your plate, was to him a verse :
Lay your knife and your fork across your plāte. As he wrote a great number of verses, he sometimes by chance made good ones, though he did not know it.
1 In“ The Provoked Husband,” which was begun by Sir John Vanbrugh, and finished by Colley Cibber.-WRIGHT.