Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

made an early impression, which habits confirmed, and which reason, if ever exerted, could not efface. At the latter part of his life these terrors had a considerable effect; nor was their influence loft, till disease had weakened his powers, and blunted his feelings. ..

The year following, 1730, Mr Corbet left the university,and his father, to whom, according to Sir John Hawkins, he trusted for support, declined contributing any farther to Johnson's maintenance, than paying for his Commons. His father's business was by no means lucrative. His remittances, consequently, were too small even to supply the decencies of external appearance ; and the very shoes that he' wore were so much torn, that they could no longer conceal his feet. So jealous, however, was he of appearing an object of eleemofynary contribution, that a new pair having been placed at his door, by

[ocr errors]

some unknown hand, he fung them away with indignation.

While thus opprefied by want, he seems to have yielded to that indifference to fame and improvement, which is the offfpring of despair. “ He was generally seen,” says Dr. Percy, “ lounging at the college gate, with a circle of young students round him, whom he was entertaining with wit, and keeping from their studies, if not spiriting them up to rebellion against the college discipline, which, in his maturer years, he so much extolled.” The account of his conduct given by Dr. Adams, who was at least his nominal tutor for some time before he quitted the college, is more favourable to his happiness, but is lefs true.“ Johnson,” fays he,“ while he was at Pembroke College, was caressed and loved by all about him; he was a gay and frolicsome fellow, and passed there the happiest part of his life.”. But his own comment upon this opinion; when mentioned to him. by Mr Boswell, shows how fallacious. it is to estimate human happiness by external appearances : “ Ah Şir, I was mad and violent. It was bitterness which they mistook for frolic. I was miserably poor, and I thought to fight my way by my literature and my wit; so I disregarded all power, and all authority."

He struggled for another year in this unequal conflict, and professed a desire to practise either the Civil or the Common Law; but his debts in college increasing; and his scanty remittances from Litchfield, which had all along been made with great difficulty, being discontinued, his father having fallen into a state of insolvency, he was compelled, by irresistible necessity, to relinquish his scheme, and left the college in autumn 1735, without a degree, having been a member of it little more than three

years. This was a circumstance, whichi, in the subsequent part of his life, he had occasion to regret, as the want of it was an obstacle to his obtaining a settlement, whence he might have derived that subsistence of which he was certain by no other means.

From the university he returned to his native city, destitute, and not knowing how he should gain even a decent livelihood. But he was fo får fortunate, that the respectable character of his parents, and his own merit, secured him a kind reception in the best families of Litchfield. . Mr. Gilbert Walmsley, Register of the Prerogative Court at Litchfield,““ was one of the first friends that Literature procured” him; and he passed much time in the families of Mr. Howard, and Dr. Swinfen, Mr. Simpson, Mr. Levett, and Captain Garrick, father of the great ornament of the British stage. He has drawn the character of Mr. Walmsley in his “ Life of Smith,"

ra

Om

in the glowing colours of gratitude, intermingled with the dark hues of political prejudice. In his abhorrence of whiggism, he has imputed to his friend and benefactor, “ all the virulence and malevolence of his party.”. Yet Mr. Walmsley, whose real character is a noble one loved Johnson enough to endure in him the principles he despised.

In the circles of Litchfield, he was frequently in the company of ladies, particularly at Mr. Walmsley's, whose wife and fister-in-law,' of the name of Aston, and the daughters of a Baronet, were remarkable for elegance and good breeding. Of Miss Molly Aston, who was afterwards married to Captain Brodie of the Navy, he used to speak with the warmest admiration. “ Molly” (said he) “ was a beauty and a scholar, a wit and a whig, and the talked all in praise of liberty; and so

« AnteriorContinuar »