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FROM LA BELLE ASSEMBLEE.
DR. JOHNSON'S COURTSHIP.
THE following curious account of Dr. Johnson's courtship, is extracted from the Letters of Anna Seward, and forms part of one to James Boswell, Esq.; as it is not inserted in this gentleman's Life of Johnson, it may be interesting to many of our readers:"I have often heard my mother say she perfectly remembered his (Johnson's) wife. He has recorded of her that beauty which existed only in his imagination. She had a very red face, and very indifferent features, and her manners in advanced life, (for her children were all grown up when Johnson first saw her,) had an unbecoming excess of girlish levity, and disgusting affectation. The rustic prettiness, and artless manners of her daughter, the present Mrs. Lucy Porter, had won Johnson's youthful heart, when she was upon a visit at my grandfather's in Johnson's school-days. Disgusted by his unsightly form, she had a personal aversion to him, nor could the beautiful verses† he addressed to her, teach her to endure him. The nymph, at length, returned to her parents at Birmingham, and was soon forgotten, Business taking Johnson to Birmingham, on the death of his own father, and calling upon his coy mistress there, he found her father dying. He passed his leisure hours at Mr. Porter's, attending his sick-bed, and, in a few months, asked Mrs. Johnson's consent to marry the old widow. After expressing her surprise at a request so extraordinary-" No, Sam, my willing consent you will never have to so preposterous an union. You are not twenty-five, and she is turned fifty. If she had any prudence this request had never been made to me-Where are your means of subsistence? Porter has died poor, in consequence of his wife's
• The Rev. John Hunter, master of the Litchfield Free-school, by whom Johnson was educated.
† Verses to a lady, on receiving from her a sprig of Myrtle :-
The myrtle, ensign of supreme command,
expensive habits. You have great talents, but, as yet, have turned them into no profitable channel."-" Mother, I have not deceived Mrs. Porter: I have told her the worst of me; that I am of mean extraction; that I have no money; and that I had an uncle hanged. She replied, that she valued no one more or less for his descent; and that she had no more money than myself; and that though she had not had a relation hanged, she had fifty who deserved hanging "-And thus became accomplished this very curious amour. Adieu, Sir, go on and prosper in your arduous task of presenting to the world the portrait of Johnson's mind and manners.
FROM LA BELLE ASSEMBLEE.
ANECDOTES COLLECTED FROM THE PRIVATE LIFE OF PETER THE GREAT, EMPEROR OF RUSSIA.
The parents of Peter the Great.
THE Czar Alexis Michaelowistch, was a widower; gentle and affable, he lived familiarly amongst his subjects, and often condescended to ask them to dine with him, without ceremony. One day, being at the house of a gentleman named Matweof, he found the table set, and he said to him, "Matweof, I will dine with thee; but on condition that I derange no one." Immedi ately after, the wife of Matweof entered the apartment, with a young man and a girl; they sat down to table; the Czar spoke little, ate much, and cast many looks on the young girl, who was a stranger to him. After dinner he said, " Matweof, I know thy wife, I have seen thy son, but I knew not thou hadst a daughter. Thou never told me thou hadst." "My Lord, she whom you have seen is not my daughter; she is the daughter of one of my friends."-"That girl is very pretty; she has much sweetness of countenance." "I can assure your Majesty, that she is yet more amiable than she is beautiful; she is a charming character; mild, modest, and industrious." "You must endeavour, Matweof, to settle her well; she merits it, from the picture you have drawn, and from such a countenance she deserves a good husband." "I think much about it, Sire; but it is not a very easy matter: all require fortune, now a-days (this was in 1670,) and she has none." "I will look out, myself, for a match that may suit her; think you well about it, and in a few days we shall see what is to be done."
The Czar went out, leaving Matweof equally charmed with his frankness and benevolence. When Alexis, some little time
after, saw Matweof again, he said to him :-"Well, hast thou found an husband for thy pretty protegée ?" "Sir, I have some prospect, but an opportunity is yet wanting to speak my mind; and I fear, as I told your Majesty, that want of fortune will be an obstacle." "I am farther advanced than thee, Matweof, for I think I have found what you wish. The match is, in every respect, eligible; and I hope she will not refuse the offer: it is an husband rich enough for both; a good tempered worthy man, in a very respectable situation."
Matweof, expressing himself in the highest terms of gratitude, said:"Sire, may I presume to ask on whom the choice is fal len?" "Thou shalt soon know; go and bring in the lovely girl; I will question her myself." The Czar addressed her, made her equivocal proposals, but without discovering his intentions; and when she went out, he took Matweof by the hand, and said :— "My friend, I will not keep thee longer in suspense; I am every day more charmed with Natalia (so was she named) and the husband I intend for her is myself." Matweof immediately fell at his feet, and after having expressed an astonishment at the signal honour intended his young charge, he said:" My Lord, I have brought up Natalia; she is distantly related to me, and I am as much interested in her happiness as if she was my own child; but I should become an object of hatred and jealousy to the whole Court, who would think I had used stratagem and artifice to draw your Majesty into such an alliance. Put off, Sire, I beseech you, making known your intention. Assemble together, according to custom, the most beautiful young women of your empire; Natalia shall be admitted among the number, and you shall be master of your choice; it will be the same to your Majesty in the end, and I shall not be exposed to disgrace." The Czar approved of this expedient, and in a short time proclaimed his intention of marrying again, and his wish to make his choice from the daughters of his noble subjects. Natalia was the subject he selected; he loved her, and he was beloved again. He sought a wife of simple and modest manners, he found such in Natalia, and she constituted the happiness of his life. He had by her Peter I.; her name was Natalia Kesilowna Narischin.
The difficulty of conquering natural Antipathies, exemplified in
PETER had, from his cradle, two antipathies; a dread of water and of black beetles. His exalted mind triumphed over the former, because he found himself obliged to conquer it; he wished to establish a navy, and transport his people over a new element, and therefore he ought not to fear it himself. To conquer the
latter antipathy he had not so powerful a motive; he retained it, and it degenerated into a weakness. But happy the people whose sovereign has no other weakness than the fear of black beetles.
When Peter travelled through his empire and enlivened it by his presence, he would enter the farm-yard of a countryman in his carriage; he dined in his carriage, and slept in it; and durst not enter the house of a villager, fearful of meeting with black beetles, which flour and ovens always draw together, and which are very general, where every house has its own oven and floor. Once, however, finding himself in a court-yard, from whence the house appeared neat and elegant, he sent one of his Denchtschiefs to inform him if there were any beetles in it; the master positively assured him there was not any. The Czar went in to take his dinner; and the honest Russian assured him that he might be perfectly easy, for not a single black beetle was to be found in his house; and, as a proof, he added, "See, Sire," shewing him a black beetle nailed against the wall in a corner, "see the only one that ever dared shew himself in my house; I punished him, I nailed him there!" Peter cast his eyes on the insect, shuddered, and with a strong and vigorous hand, he well boxed the awkward fellow's ears, who had placed before his sight, the object of his aversion.
As to his antipathy to the water, he did more than conceal it, he converted it into a passion for that element. He was delighted to be at sea; and one of his greatest pleasures was to act the pilot, conduct sloops, and manœuvre on board his own yacht.
One day he invited the foreign ministers to take a little excursion on the water, and accompany him to Cronstadt, where some new works, which much interested him, called him; a part of his fleet were also ready to set sail, and which spectacle he was very happy to have an opportunity of presenting to them.
They embarked on board the Bonyer, (a little Dutch vessel) Peter was the pilot; a propitious gale gently swelled the sails, and for the space of twenty miles nothing could be more happy than the navigation. All on a sudden a violent east wind arose ; Peter looked at the weather, and saw a black cloud at a distance which foretold a storm; he dissembled, and notwithstanding made ready to face it. The tempest did not fail soon to burst forth; the air became darkened, contrary winds arose, whistled amongst the cordage, agitated the sails, and a whirlwind twisted them around the yacht. All the Ministers, with one accord, surrouded the Czar and begged him to land near Peterhoff. Peter refused to comply, sought to assure them they were safe, and answered to every new persuasion they offered, nie bause, fear nothing. However, the heavy clouds increased the darkness:
frequent flashes of lightning issued from them, and claps of thunder accompanied the roarings of the wind: the vessel could no longer be guided by the helm; it rose and sunk, the prey of the whitened billows and the foaming surf; on every side a gulf opened which threatened to swallow them up, while cries of distress were heard, and terror and dismay with the palid hue of death were seated on every visage; Peter alone was calm in the midst of peril, and he opposed science and address against the tempest's rage. The Ministers again repeated their solicitations, and begged him to return or put to land. But Peter, all activity, giving an eye to every thing, enforcing his orders, and occupied with his work, turned a deaf ear to them all. At length, M. de Loos, Minister from Poland and Saxony, at once more bold and terrified than the rest, alone approached the Czar, and in a serious and lementable tone of voice, said to him; "I implore your Majesty, for the love of God, to return to Petersburgh; or, at least, to allow us to land at the nearest shore to Peterhoff, and consider that the King, my master, did not send me into Russia to be drowned! If I perish here, as there is every appearance shall, your Majesty will have to answer for it at my Court."
The Czar, notwithstanding the imminent danger, could not forbear laughing at this speech, and tranquilly answered him :"Nie bause, Mynheer Van Loos, If you perish, we shall perish also, and then your Court can call no one to account." Peter, however, thought no more of reaching Cronstadt; he had felt, for some time, that it was impossible, and he thought only of making land somewhere, but the storm rendered it difficult; he, nevertheless, happily got out of the critical situation in which he was placed; he seized, in a most able manner, a lucky moment, and went ashore at Peterhoff.
Nothing renders us more joyful than escaping a great danger. The supper was quickly prepared ; they sat down to table, where the best Hungarian wine was not spared; they gaily conversed on their adventure, laughed at their fears, and passed their jokes on M. de Loos. All these gentlemen slept at Peterhoff; as for Peter, at break of day, while every one yet slept, he regained his bouyer, and set sail for Cronstadt; and he sent orders from thence to take his party from Peterhoff by boats.
Anecdote of Peter the Great when in France.
Madame de Maintenon, then at St. Cyr, drew near the end of her earthly pilgrimage, when Louis the XVth., yet a child, was just commencing his. Madame de Maintenon was certainly an object of curiosity to such a man as Peter; but he had soine dif