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fore he quitted the college *, is more favourable to his happiness, but is less true. “ Johnson," says 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, Sir, I was mad and violent. It was bitterness which they mistook for frolic. I was miserably poor, and 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 Lichfield, which had all along been made with great difficulty, being
• Mr Jorden quitted the college in 1731, and his pupils were transferred to Dr Adams; so that had Johnson returned, Dr Adams would have been his tutor.
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 1731, without a degree, having been a member of it little more than three years. This was a circumstance, which, 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, where he gained no friends, and formed no useful connections, he returned to his native city, destitute, and not knowing how he should gain even a decent livelihood. But he was so far fortunate, that the respectable character of his parents, and his own mérit; secured him a kind reception in the best families at Lichfield. He passed much time in the families of Mr Gilbert Walmsley, register of the Ecclesiastical Court, Mr Howard, Dr Swimfen, Mr Simpson, Mr Butt, Mr Levett, and Captain Garrick, father of the great ornament of the British stage. Of Mr Walmsley, one of the first friends that literature procured him, “ at whose table he enjoyed many cheerful and instructive hours," he has drawn the character, long after his decease *, in the glowing colours of gratitude, intermingled with the dark hues of political prejudice.
“ He was of an advanced age, and I was only not a boy : yet he never received my notions with contempt. He was a whig, with all the virulence and malevolence of his party; yet difference of opinion did not keep us apart. I honoured him, and he endured me.
“ He had mingled in the gay world without exemption from its vices or its follies; but had never neglected the cultivation of his mind. His belief of revelation was unshaken; his learning preserved his principles; he grew first regular, and then pious.
“ His studies had been so various, that I am not able to name a man of equal knowledge.
* He died Aug. 3, 1751, aged 77; and a monument to his memory has been erected in the cathedral of Lichfield.
His acquaintance with books was great; and what he did not immediately know, he could at least tell where to find. Such was his amplitude of learning, and such his copiousness of intelligence, that it may be doubted whe. ther a day now passes in which I have not some advantage from his friendship *.”
In his abborrence of whiggism he has imputed to his friend and benefactor 66 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 Lichfield he was frequently in the company of ladies, particularly at Mr Walmsley's, whose wife and sisters-in-law, the daughters of Sir Thomas Aston, Bart. of the county of Chester, were remarkable for elegance and good-breeding. In the same society he became acquainted with the Hon. Henry Hervey, one of the branches of the noble family of that name, who married Miss Aston, and was
* Life of Smith.
quartered at Lichfield as an officer of the army*, At a subsequent period of his life he thus described this early friend. * Harry Hervey was a vicious man, but very kind to me. If you call a dog Hervey I shall love him.” He had an unlimited partiality for all who bore the name, or boasted the alliance of an Aston or an Hervey. Of Miss Molly Aston, the lady of great beauty and elegance, mentioned in the Criticisms on Pope's Epitaphs, who was afterwards married to Captain Brodie of the navy, he used to speak with the warmest admiration. When Mrs Piozzi once asked him, which had been the happiest period of his past life? he replied, “ It was that year in which I spent, in a select company, a whole evening with Molly Aston. That indeed was not happiness, it was rapture; but the thoughts of it sweetened the whole year. Molly was a beauty and a scholar, a wit and a whig, and she talked all in praise
* He was the third son of the first Earl of Bristol, and having got the Aston estate by his wife, he assumed the name of that family. He quitted the army, and took orders. See “ Collins's Peerage."