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ment, is seldom wanted, and perhaps never wished for, while the man of general knowledge can often benefit, and always please.”
The predictions of this man of wit and sense, concerning his future conduct, indicate the imperfect expansion, at this early period of his life, of the features of peculiarity which mark a character to succeeding generations. “ You will make your way," said he," the more easily in the world, I see, as you are contented to dispute no man's claim to conversation-excellence: they will, therefore, more willingly allow your pretensions as a writer.”
On his return to Lichfield, at the Whitsuntide following, Mr Hunter, for reasons which, at this distance of time, it is vain to inquire, refused to receive him again into the school. He was, therefore, sent, by the advice of his cousin Ford, to the school of Stourbridge in Worcestershire, of which Mr Wentworth was then master; whom he has described as “ a very able man, but an idle man, and to me very severe; yet he taught me a great deal.” He seems to have been there in the double capacity of a
scholar and usher, repaying the learning he acquired from his master by the instruction he gave to the younger boys.
He thus discriminated to Dr Percy, Bishop of Dromore, his progress at his two grammar. schools : “ At one, I learnt much in the school, but little from the master; in the other, I learnt much from the master, but little in the school."
He remained at Stourbridge little more than a year*, and then returned home, where he pursued his studies; but not upon any regular plan. Of this method of attaining knowledge, he seems ever after to have entertained a favourable opinion, and to have recommended it, not without reason, to young men, as the surest means of enticing them to learn. What he
* 'Yet here his genius was so distinguished, that, although little better than a school boy, he was admitted into the best company of the place, and had no common attention paid to his conversation ; of which remarkable instances were long remembered there. Hence it may be inferred, that he either remained at Stourbridge longer than a year, or occasionally revisited his acquaintance there, before he removed to London. This he might frequently do, when he afterwards resided at Birmingham, not far from Stourbridge. Bishop Percy.
read, without any scheme of study, was not works of mere amusement. “ They were not,” said he, “ voyages and travels, but all literature, all ancient authors, all manly; though but little Greek, only some of Anacreon and Hesiod. But in this irregular manner I had looked into a great many books, which were not commonly known at the universities, where they seldom read any books but what are put into their hands by their tutors; so that when I came to Oxford, Dr Adams told me I was the best qualified for the university that he had ever known come there *."
He had already given several proofs of his poetical genius, both in his school exercises and in other occasional compositions. Of these Mr Boswell obtained a considerable collection from Mr Wentworth, the son of his master, and Mr Hector his school-fellow; of which he has preserved some translations from Homer, Virgil, Horace, &c. Unfortunately the communica
* Boswell's Johnson, Vol. I, p. 34.
tions of Mr Wentworth are not distinguished from those of Mr Hector. Such a precaution would have enabled us to have distinguished with certainty the efforts of the boy from the production of riper years. His translation of the first Eclogue of Virgil is not so harmonious as that from the sixth book of Homer; and both are inferior in this respect to those which he has made of the Odes of Horace. Indeed, in the style and manner of versification used in the last, and in some other of his juvenile pieces, he seems to have made little alteration in his more experienced days; and it must be added, that, in point of smoothness, little improvement could have been made.
After a residence of two years at home, Mr Andrew Corbet, a gentleman of Shropshire, undertook to support - him at Oxford, in the character of a companion to his son, one of his school-fellows; “ though, in fact,” says Mr Boswell, upon the authority of Dr Taylor, “ he never received any assistance whatever from that gentleman.” He was accordingly entered a commoner at Pembroke College,
Oxford, October 31, 1728, being then in his nineteenth year.
On the night of his arrival at Oxford, his father, who had anxiously accompanied him, found means to have bim introduced to Mr Jorden, Fellow of Pembrokê college, who was to be his tutor. According to Dr Adams*, who was present, he seemed very full of the merits of his son ; and told the company he was a good scholar and a poet, and wrote Latin verses. His figure and manner seemed strange to them; but he behaved modestly, and sat silent, till, upon something which occurred in the course of conversation, he suddenly struck in, and quoted Macrobius: and this gave the first impression of that extensive reading in which he had indulged himself.
Of his tutor, Mr Jorden, he gave Mr Boswell the following account : “ He was a very worthy man, but a heavy man; and I did not profit much by his instruction. Indeed, I did not attend him much.” He had, however, a love and respect for Jorden, not for his litera
* Then one of the junior fellows, afterwards master, of Pembroke college.