Imágenes de página


1770. « This excellent person was "sometimes charged Ætat. 61. with abetting slavish and arbitrary principles of

government. Nothing in my opinion could be a gros"ser calumny and misrepresentation ; for how can it be rationally supposed, that he should adopt such pernicious and absurd opinions, who supported his philosophical character with so much dignity, extremely jealous of his personal liberty and independence, y and could not brook the smallest appearance of neglect or insult, éven from the highest personages ?

" But let us view him in some instances of more familiar life.

“ His general mode of life, during my acquaintance, seemed to be pretty uniform. About twelve o'clock I commonly visited him, and frequently found him in bed, or declaiming over his tea, which he drank very plentifully. He ĝenerally had a levee of morning visitors, chiesly men of letters ; Hawkes'worth, Goldsmith, Murphy, Langton, Steevens, Beauclerk, &c. &c. and sometimes learned ladies ; particularly I remember a French lady of wit and fashion doing himn the honour of a visit. He seemed to me to be considered as a kind of publick oracle, whom every body thought they had a right to visit and consult; and doubless they were well rewarded. 'I never could discover how he found time for his compositions. He declaimed all the morning, then went to dinner at'a 'tavern, where he commonly staid late, and then drank his tea at some friend's house, over which he loitered a great while, but seldom took

+ [On the necessity of crown influence, see Boucher's Sermons on the American Revolution, p. 218; and Paley's Moral Philosophy, B. VI. c. vii. p. 491. 4to. there quoted. I. B.] ·

supper. I fancy he must have read and wrote chiefly

1770. in the night, for I can scarcely recollect that he ever

Ætat. 61. refused going with me to a tavern, and he often went to Ranelagh, which he deemed a place of innocent recreation.

“ He frequently gave all the silver in his pocket to the poor, who watched him, between his house and the tavern where he dined. He walked the streets at all hours, and said he was never robbed, for the rogues knew he had little money, nor had the appearance of having much.

Though the most accessible and communicative, man alive; yet when he suspected he was invited to be exhibited, he constantly spurned the invitation.

“ Two young women from Staffordshire visited him when I was present, to consult him on the sub, ject of Methodism, to which they were inclined,

Come, (said he,) you pretty fools, dine with Max well and me at the Mitre, and we will talk over that subject ;' which they did, and after dinner he took one of them upon his knee, and fondled her for half an hour together.

Upon a visit to me at a country lodging near Twickenham, he asked what sort of society I had there. I told him, but indifferent; as they chiefly consisted of opulent traders, retired from business. He said, he never much liked that class of people ;

For, Sir, (said he) they have lost the civility of tradesmen, without acquiring the manners of gentlemen.'

Johnson was much attached to London : * he

* [Montagne had the same affection for Paris, which Johnson had for London.--"' Je l'aime tendrement, (says he in his Essay on Vanity,) jusque à ses verrues et à şes taches. Je ne suis Tran.

1770. observed, that a man stored his mind better there,

than Ætat. 61.

where else; and that in remote situations any a man's body might be feasted, but his mind was starved, and his faculties apt to degenerate, from want of exercise and competition. No place, (he said) cured a man's vanity or arrogance, so well as London ; for as no man was either great or good per se, but as compared with others not so good or great, he was sure to find in the metropolis many his equals, and some his superiors. He observed, that a man in London was in less danger of falling in love indiscreetly, than any where else; for there the difficulty of deciding between the conflicting pretensions of a vast variety of objects, kept him safe. He told me, that he had frequently been offered country preferment, if he would consent to take orders; but he could not leave the improved society of the capital, or consent to exchange the exhilarating joys and splendid decorations of publick life, for the obscurity, insipidity, and uniformity of remote situations.

“ Speaking of Mr. Harte, Canon of Windsor, and writer of · The History of Gustavus Adolphus,' he much commended him as a scholar, and a man of the most companionable talents he had ever known. He said, the defects in his history proceeded not from imbecility, but from foppery,

" He loved, he said, the old black letter books ; they were rich in natter, though their style was inelegant; wonderfully so, considering how conver

çois, que par cette grande cité, grande en peuples, grande en felicité de son assiette, mais sur tout grande et incomparable en varieté et diversité des commoditez: la gloire de la France, et l'un des plus nobles ornamens du monde." Vol. iii.

p. 321, edit. Amsterdam, 1781. 1. B.]

sant the writers were with the best models of an 1770. tiquity.

Ætat. 61. “ Burton's · Anatomy of Melancholy,' he said, was the only book that ever took him out of bed two hours sooner than he wished to rise.

“ He frequently exhorted me to set about writing a History of Ireland, and archly remarked, there had been some good Irish writers, and that one Irishman might at least aspire to be equal to another. He had great compassion for the miseries and distresses of the Irish nation, particularly the Papists; and severely reprobated the barbarous debilitating policy of the British government, which, he said, was the most detestable mode of persecution. To a gentleman, who hinted such policy might be necessary to support the authority of the English góvernment, he replied by saying, “Let the authority of the English government perish, rather than be maintained by iniquity. Better would it be to restrain the turbulence of the natives by the authority of the sword, and to make them amenable to law and justice by an effectual and vigorous police, than to grind them to powder by all manner of disabilities and incapacities. Better (said he) to hang or drown people at once, than by an unrelenting persecution: to beggar and starve them. The moderation and humanity of the present times have, in some mea.. sure, justified the wisdom of his observations.

“ Dr. Johnson was often accused of prejudices, nay, antipathy, with regard to the natives of Scotland. Surely, so illiberal a prejudice never entered his mind : and it is well known, many natives of that respectable country possessed a large share in bis esteem; nor were any of them ever excluded

1770. from his good offices, as far as opportunity permitted. Ætat. 01.

True it is, he considered the Scotch, nationally, as a crafty, designing people, eagerly attentive to their own interest, and too apt to overlook the claims and pretensions of other people. While they confine their benevolence, in a manner, exclusively to those of their own country, they expect to share in the good offices of other people. Now (said Johnson) this principle is either right or wrong; if right, we should do well to imitate such conduct ; if wrong, wê cannot too much detest it,'

“ Being solicited to compose a funeral sermon for the daughter of a tradesman, he naturally enquired into the character of the deceased ; and being told she was remarkable for her humility and condescen

sion to inferiours, he observed, that those were very ✓ laudable qualities, but it might not be so easy to discover who the lady's inferiours were.

“ Of a certain player he remarked, that his conversation usually threatened and announced more than it performed; that he fed you with a continual renovation of hope, to end in a constant succession of disappointment.

“ When exasperated by contradiction, he was apt to treat his opponents with too much acrimony: as, * Sir, you don't see your way through that question :'

Sir, you talk the language of ignorance. On ny observing to him that a certain gentleman had remained silent the whole evening, in the midst of a very brilliant and learned society, “Sir, (said he,) the conversation overflowed, and drowned him."

“ His philosophy, though austere and solemn, was by no means norose and cynical, and never blunted the laudable sensibilities of his character, or

« AnteriorContinuar »