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serious *.” The exercise of that privilege, which is enjoyed by every man in society, has not been allowed to him. His fame has given importance even to trifles; and the zeal of his friends has brought every thing to light. What should be related, and what should not, has been published without distinction. Dicenda tacenda locuti! Every thing that fell from him has been caught with eagerness by his admirers, who, as he says in one of his letters, have 'acted with the diligence of spies upon his conduct. To some of them the following lines, in Mallet's Poem on verbal Criticism, are not inapplica')le :
“ Such that grave bird in Northern seas is found,
“ With eye still earnest, and with bill inclin'd,.
" And is the careful TIBBALD of A WHALE." After so many essays and volumes of Johnsonia, na, what remains for the present writer ? Perhaps, what has not been attempted; a short, yet full, a faithful, yet temperate, history of Dr. Johnson.
, SAMUEL JOHNSON was born at Lichfield, September 7, 1709, O.S. † His father, Michael
* Boswell's Life of Johnson, vol. ii. p. 465. 4to edit.
+ This appears in a note to Johnson's Diary, prefixed to the first of his prayers. After the alteration of the style, he kept his birth-day on the 18th of September, and it is accordingly marked September
Johnson, was a bookseller in that city; a man of large athletic make, and violent passions; wrong-headed, positive, and at times afflicted with a degree of melancholy, little short of madness. His mother was sister to Dr. Ford, a practising physician, and father of Cornelius Ford, generally known by the name of PARSON FORD, the same who is represented near the punch-bowl in Hogarth’s Midnight Modern Conyersation. In the Life of Fenton, Johnson says, that “ his abilities, instead of furnishing “convivial merriment to the voluptuous and “dissolute, might have enabled him to excel " among the virtuous and the wise.” Being chaplain to the Earl of Chesterfield, he wished to attend that nobleman on his embassy to the Hague. Colley Cibber has recorded the anecdote, “You should go,” said the witty peer, “ if to your many vices you would add one “ more.” “ Pray my Lord, what is that ?”
Hypocrisy, my dear Doctor.”-Johnson had a younger brother named Nathaniel, who died at the age of twenty-seven or twenty-eight. Michael Johnson, the father, was chosen in the year 1718 Under Bailiff of Lichfield ; and in the year 1725 he served the office of the Senior
Bailiff. He had a brother of the name of An· drew, who, for some years, kept the ring at
Smithfield, appropriated to wrestlers and boxers, Our author used to say, that he was never thrown or conquered. Michael, the father, died December 1731, at the age of seventy-six; his mother at eighty-nine, of a gradual decay, in the year 1759. Of the family nothing more can be related worthy of notice. Johnson did not delight in talking of his relations. “ There “ is little pleasure," he said to Mrs. Piozzi,“ in “ relating the anecdotes of beggary.” .
Johuson derived from his parents, or from an unwholesome nurse, the distemper called the King's Evil. The Jacobites at that time believed in the efficacy of the royal touch; and accordingly Mrs. Johnson presented her son, when two years old, before Queen Anne, who, for the first time, performed that office, and communicated to her young patient all the healing virtue in her power. He was afterwards cut for that scrophulous humour, and the under part of his face was seamed and disfigured by the operation. It is supposed, that this disease deprived him of the sight of his left eye, and also impaired his hearing. At eight years old, he was placed under Mr. Hawkins, at the Free-school in Lichfield, where he was not remarkable for diligence or regular application. Whatever he read, his tenacious memory made his own. In the fields with his school-fellows he talked more to himself than with his companions. » In 1725, when he was about sixteen years old, he went on a visit to his cousin Cornelius Ford, who detained him for some months, and in the mean time assisted him in the classics. The general direction for his studies, which he then received, he related to Mrs. Piozzi. “ Obtain,” says Ford, “ some general “ principles of every science: he who can talk “ only on one subject, or act only in one de“partment, is seldom wanted, and perhaps, ne
“ ver wished for; while the man of general “ knowledge can often benefit, and always “please." The advice Johnson seems to have pursued with a good inclination. His reading was always desultory, seldom resting on any particular author, but rambling from one book to another, and, by hasty snatebes, hoarding up a variety of knowledge. It may be proper in this place to mention another general rule laid down by Ford for Johnson's future conduct : “ You will make your way the more " easily in the world, as you are contented to “ dispute no man's claim to conversation ex“ cellence : they will, therefore, more willingly " allow your pretensions as a writer.” “ But," says Mrs. Piozzi, “ the features of peculiarity, “ which mark a character to all succeeding ge“nerations, are slow in coming to their growth.” That ingenious lady adds, with her usual vivacity, “Can one, on such an occasion, forbear “ recollecting the predictions of Boileau's fa“ ther, who said, stroking the head of the “ young satirist, 'this little man has too much “wit, but he will never speakill of any one'?”
On Johnson's return from Cornelius Ford, Mr. Hunter, then master of the Free-school at Lichfield, refused to receive him again on that foundation. At this distance of time, what his reasons were, it is vain to enquire ; but to refuse assistance to a lad of promising genius must be pronounced harsh and illiberal. It did not, however, stop the progress of the young student's education. He was placed at another school, at Stourbridge in Worcestershire, un
der the care of Mr. Wentworth. Having gone through the rudiments of classic literature, he returned to his father's house, and was probably intended for the trade of a bookseller. He has been heard to say that he could bind a book. At the end of two years, being then about nineteen, he went to assist the studies of a young gentleman, of the name of Corbett, to the University of Oxford; and on the Sist of October, 1728, both were entered of Pembroke College ; Corbett as a gentleman-commoner, and Johnson as a commoner. The college tutor, Mr. Jordan, was a man of no genius; and Johnson, it seems, shewed an early contempt of mean abilities, in one or two instances behaving with insolence to that gentleman. Of his general conduct at the university there are no particulars that merit attention, except the translation of Pope's Messiah, which was a college exercise imposed upon him as a task by Mr. Jordan. Corbett left the university in about two years, and Johnson's salary ceased, He was, by consequence, straitened in his circumstances; but he still remained at college. Mr. Jordan the tutor, went off to a living; and was succeeded by Dr. Adams, who afterwards became head of the college, and was esteemed through life for his learning, his talents, and his amiable character. Johnson grew more regular in his attendance. Ethics, theology, and classic literature, were his favourite studies. He discovered, notwithstanding, early symptoms of that wandering disposition of mind which adhered to him to the end of his life,