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His sincere regard for Francis Barher, his faithful negro servant, made him so desirous of his further improvement, that he now placed him at a school at Bishop Stortford in Hertfordshire. This humane attention does Johnson's heart much honour. Out of many letters which Mr. Barber received from his master, he has preserved three, which he kindly gave me, and which I shall insert according to their dates.
TO MR. FRANCIS BARBER.
“ DEAR FRANCIS,—I have been very much out of order. I am glad to hear that you are well, and design to come soon to see you. I would have you stay at Mrs. Clapp's for the present, till I can determine what we shall do. Be a good boy.
My compliments to Mrs. Clapp and to Mr. Fowler,
“ Yours affectionately,
May 28, 1768.
Soon afterwards, he supped at the Crown and Anchor tavern, in the Strand, with a company whom I collected to meet him. There were Dr. Percy, now bishop of Dro-. more, Dr. Douglas, now bishop of Salisbury, Mr. Langton, Dr. Robertson the historian, Dr. Hugh Blair, and Mr. Thomas Davies, who wished much to be introduced to these eminent Scotch literati; but on the present occasion he had very little opportunity of hearing them talk, for with an excess of prudence, for which Johnson afterwards found fault with them, they hardly opened their lips, and that only to say something which they were certain would not expose them to the sword of Goliath ; such was their anxiety for their fame when in the presence of Johnson. He was this evening in remarkable vigour of mind, and eager to exert himself in conversation, which he did with great readiness and fluency; but I am sorry to find that I have preserved but a small part of what passed.
He allowed high praise to Thomson as a poet; but when one of the company said he was also a very good man, our moralist contested this with great warmth, accusing him of gross sensuality and licentiousness of man
I was very much afraid that in writing Thomson's life, Dr. Johnson would have treated his private character with a stern severity, but I was agreeably disappointed; and I may claim a little merit in it, from my having been at pains to send him authentick accounts of the affectionate and generous conduct of that poet to his sisters; one of whom, the wife of Mr. Thomson, schoolmaster at Lanark, I knew, and was presented by her with three of his letters, one of which Dr. Johnson has inserted in his life.
He was vehement against old Dr. Mounsey", of Chelsea college, as “a fellow who swore and talked bawdy."
I have often been in his company,” said Dr. Percy, “and never heard him swear or talk bawdy.” Mr. Davies, who sat next to Dr. Percy, having after this had some conversation aside with him, made a discovery which, in his zeal to pay court to Dr. Johnson, he eagerly proclaimed aloud from the foot of the table: “O, sir, I have found out a very good reason why Dr. Percy never heard Mounsey swear or talk bawdy; for he tells me, he never saw him but at the duke of Northumberland's table.” sir,” said Dr. Johnson loudly to Dr. Percy, “ you would shield this man from the charge of swearing and talking bawdy, because he did not do so at the duke of Northumberland's table. Sir, you might as well tell us tbat
· And so,
h Messenger Mounsey, M.D. died at his apartments in Chelsea college, Dec. 26, 1788, aged ninety-five. Respecting the above dispute, see Butler's Life of Bishop Hildesley, p. 483. That Mounsey was a coarse man, destitute of much sensibility, is evinced in the direction of his will, in which he orders that “his body shall not suffer any funeral ceremony, but undergo dissection; after which, the remainder of his carcase,” to use his own expressions, “ may be put into a hole, or crammed into a box with holes and thrown into the Thames, at the pleasure of the surgeon.” Gent. Mag. for 1788, vol. lviii. part 2, p. 1183. The direction might have been dictated by a philosophic ardour for the propagation of anatomical knowledge; but we repeat, that the whole tenour of the will does not exhibit a sensitive mind.--Ev.
you had seen him hold up his hand at the Old Bailey, and he neither swore nor talked bawdy; or that you had seen him in the cart at Tyburn, and he neither swore nor talked bawdy. And is it thus, sir, that you presume to controvert what I have related ?" Dr. Johnson's animadversion was uttered in such a manner, that Dr. Percy seemed to be displeased, and soon afterwards left the company, of which Johnson did not at that time take
notice. Swift having been mentioned, Johnson, as usual, treated him with little respect as an author. Some of us endeavoured to support the dean of St. Patrick's, by various arguments. One in particular praised his Conduct of the Allies. JOHNSON. “Sir, his Conduct of the Allies is a performance of very little ability.” “
“Surely, sir," said Dr. Douglas,
you must allow it has strong facts i." JOHNSON. “Why yes, sir; but what is that to the merit of the composition? In the sessions paper of the Old Bailey there are strong facts. Housebreaking is a strong fact; robbery is a strong fact; and murder is a mighty strong fact: but is great praise due to the historian of those strong facts ? No, sir : Swift has told what he had to tell distinctly enough, but that is all. He had to count ten, and he has counted it right.”—Then recollecting that Mr. Davies, by acting as an informer, had been the occasion of his talking somewhat too harshly to his friend Dr. Percy, for which, probably, when the first ebullition was over, he felt some compunction, he took an opportunity to give him a hit; so added, with a preparatory laugh, “ Why, sir, Tom Davies might have written the Conduct of the Allies.” Poor Tom being thus suddenly dragged
My respectable friend, upon reading this passage, observed that he probably must have said not simply “strong facts,” but “ strong facts well arranged.” His lordship, however, knows too well the value of written documents to insist on setting his recollection against my notes taken at the time. He does not attempt to traverse the record. The fact, perhaps, may have been, either that the additional words escaped me in the noise of a numerous company, or that Dr. Johnson, from his impetuosity, and eagerness to seize an opportunity to make a lively retort, did not allow Dr. Douglas to finish his sentence. -Boswell.
into ludicrous notice in presence of the Scottish doctors, to whom he was ambitious of appearing to advantage, was grievously mortified. Nor did his punishment rest here; for upon subsequent occasions, whenever he, "statesman all o'erk," assumed a strutting importance, I used to hail him-" the author of the Conduct of the Allies."
When I called upon Dr. Johnson next morning, I found him highly satisfied with his colloquial prowess the preceding evening. Well,” said he, “ we had good talk.” BOSWELL. “ Yes, sir, you tossed and gored several persons."
The late Alexander earl of Eglintoune, who loved wit more than wine, and men of genius more than sycophants, had a great admiration of Johnson; but from the remarkable elegance of his own manners, was, perhaps, too delicately sensible of the roughness which sometimes appeared in Johnson's behaviour. One evening about this time, when his lordship did me the honour to sup at my lodgings with Dr. Robertson, and several other men of literary distinction, he regretted that Johnson had not been educated with more refinement, and lived more in polished society. “No, no, my lord,” said signior Baretti,“ do with him what you would, he would always have been a bear.” “True," answered the earl, with a smile, 6 but he would have been a dancing bear.”
To obviate all the reflections which have gone round the world to Johnson's prejudice, by applying to him the epithet of a bear, let me impress upon my readers a just and happy saying of my friend Goldsmith, who knew him well : “ Johnson, to be sure, has a roughness in his manner; but no man alive has a more tender heart. He has nothing of the bear but his skin.”
In 1769, so far as I can discover, the publick was favoured with nothing, of Johnson's composition, either for himself or any of his friends. His Meditations too strongly prove that he suffered much both in body and mind; yet was he perpetually striving against evil, and nobly endeavouring to advance his intellectual and devotional improvement. Every generous and grateful heart must feel for the distresses of so eminent a benefactor to mankind; and now that his unhappiness is certainly known, must respect that dignity of character which prevented him from complaining.
k See the hard drawing of him in Churchill's Rosciad.
His majesty having the preceding year instituted the Royal Academy of Arts in London, Johnson bad now the honour of being appointed professor in ancient literature! In the course of the year he wrote some letters to Mrs. Thrale, passed some part of the summer at Oxford and at Lichfield, and when at Oxford he wrote the following letter:
TO THE REVEREND MR. THOMAS WARTON.
“ DEAR SIR,-Many years ago, when I used to read in the library of your college, I promised to recompence the college for that permission, by adding to their books a Baskerville's Virgil. I have now sent it, and desire you to reposit it on the shelves in my name ".
“ If you will be pleased to let me know when you have
| In which place he has been succeeded by Bennet Langton, esq. When that truly religious gentleman was elected to this honorary professorship, at the same time that Edward Gibbon, esq. noted for introducing a kind of sneering infidelity into his historical writings, was elected professor in ancient history, in the room of Dr. Goldsmith, I observed, that it brought to mind, “ Wicked Will Whiston and good Mr. Ditton.”-I am now also of that admirable institution, as secretary for foreign correspondence, by the favour of the academicians, and the approbation of the sovereign.--Boswell.
m“ It has this inscription in a blank leaf: · Hunc librum D.D. Samuel Johnson, eo quod hic loci studiis interdum vacaret.' Of this library, which is an old Gothic room, he was very fond. On my observing to him, that some of the modern libraries of the university were more commodious and pleasant for study, as being more spacious and airy; he replied, “Sir, if a man has a mind 10 prance, he must study at Christ Church and All Souls.'”_BUSWELL.