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Anecdotes of the late Samuel Johnson by Hesther Lynch Piozzi

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not stir out of his room in the court he inhabited for many WEEKS together-
-I think MONTHS.

Mr. Thrale's attentions and my own now became so acceptable to him, that he
often lamented to us the horrible condition of his mind, which he said was
nearly distracted; and though he charged US to make him odd solemn promises
of secrecy on so strange a subject, yet when we waited on him one morning,
and heard him, in the most pathetic terms, beg the prayers of Dr. Delap,
who had left him as we came in, I felt excessively affected with grief, and
well remember my husband involuntarily lifted up one hand to shut his
mouth, from provocation at hearing a man so wildly proclaim what he could
at last persuade no one to believe, and what, if true, would have been so
very unfit to reveal.

Mr. Thrale went away soon after, leaving me with him, and bidding me
prevail on him to quit his close habitation in the court and come with us
to Streatham, where I undertook the care of his health, and had the honour
and happiness of contributing to its restoration. This task, though
distressing enough sometimes, would have been less so had not my mother and
he disliked one another extremely, and teased me often with perverse
opposition, petty contentions, and mutual complaints. Her superfluous
attention to such accounts of the foreign politics as are transmitted to us
by the daily prints, and her willingness to talk on subjects he could not
endure, began the aversion; and when, by the peculiarity of his style, she
found out that he teased her by writing in the newspapers concerning
battles and plots which had no existence, only to feed her with new
accounts of the division of Poland, perhaps, or the disputes between the
States of Russia and Turkey, she was exceedingly angry, to be sure, and
scarcely, I think, forgave the offence till the domestic distresses of the
year 1772 reconciled them to and taught them the true value of each other,
excellent as THEY BOTH were, far beyond the excellence of any other man and
woman I ever yet saw. As her conduct, too, extorted his truest esteem, her
cruel illness excited all his tenderness, nor was the sight of beauty,
scarce to be subdued by disease, and wit, flashing through the apprehension
of evil, a scene which Dr. Johnson could see without sensibility. He
acknowledged himself improved by her piety, and astonished at her
fortitude, and hung over her bed with the affection of a parent, and the
reverence of a son. Nor did it give me less pleasure to see her sweet mind
cleared of all its latent prejudices, and left at liberty to admire and
applaud that force of thought and versatility of genius, that comprehensive
soul and benevolent heart, which attracted and commanded veneration from
all, but inspired peculiar sensations of delight mixed with reverence in
those who, like her, had the opportunity to observe these qualities
stimulated by gratitude, and actuated by friendship. When Mr. Thrale's
perplexities disturbed his peace, dear Dr. Johnson left him scarce a
moment, and tried every artifice to amuse as well as every argument to
console him: nor is it more possible to describe than to forget his
prudent, his pious attentions towards the man who had some years before
certainly saved his valuable life, perhaps his reason, by half obliging him
to change the foul air of Fleet Street for the wholesome breezes of the
Sussex Downs.

The epitaph engraved on my mother's monument shows how deserving she was of
general applause. I asked Johnson why he named her person before her mind.
He said it was "because everybody could judge of the one, and but few of
the other."

Juxta sepulta est HESTERA MARIA
Thomae Cotton de Combermere baronetti Cestriensis filia,
Johannis Salusbury armigeri Flintiensis uxor.
Forma felix, felix ingenio:
Omnibus jucunda, suorum amantissima.
Linguis artibusque ita exculta
Ut loquenti nunquam deessent
Sermonis nitor, sententiarum flosculi,
Sapientiae gravitas, leporum gratia:
Modum servandi adeo perita,
Ut domestica inter negotia literis oblectaretur.
Literarum inter delicias, rem familiarem sedulo curaret,
Multis illi multos annos precantibus
diri carcinomatis veneno contabuit,
nexibusque vitae paulatim resolutis,
e terris--meliora sperans--emigravit.
Nata 17O7. Nupta 1739. Obiit 1773.

Mr. Murphy, who admired her talents and delighted in her company, did me
the favour to paraphrase this elegant inscription in verses which I fancy
have never yet been published. His fame has long been out of my power to
increase as a poet: as a man of sensibility perhaps these lines may set
him higher than he now stands. I remember with gratitude the friendly
tears which prevented him from speaking as he put them into my hand.

Near this place
Are deposited the remains of
HESTER MARIA,
The daughter of Sir Thomas Cotton of Combermere,
in the county of Cheshire, Bart., the wife of
John Salusbury,
of the county of Flint, Esquire. She was
born in the year 17O7, married in 1739, and died in 1773.

A pleasing form, where every grace combined,
With genius blest, a pure enlightened mind;
Benevolence on all that smiles bestowed,
A heart that for her friends with love o'erflowed:
In language skilled, by science formed to please,
Her mirth was wit, her gravity was ease.
Graceful in all, the happy mien she knew,
Which even to virtue gives the limits due;
Whate'er employed her, that she seemed to choose,
Her house, her friends, her business, or the muse.
Admired and loved, the theme of general praise,
All to such virtue wished a length of days.
But sad reverse! with slow-consuming pains,
Th' envenomed cancer revelled in her veins;
Preyed on her spirits--stole each power away;
Gradual she sank, yet smiling in decay;
She smiled in hope, by sore affliction tried,
And in that hope the pious Christian died.

The following epitaph on Mr. Thrale, who has now a monument close by hers
in Streatham Church, I have seen printed and commended in Maty's Review for
April, 1784; and a friend has favoured me with the translation:--

Hic conditur quod reliquum est
HENRICI THRALE,
Qui res seu civiles, seu domesticas, ita egit,
Ut vitam illi longiorem multi optarent;
Ita sacras,
Ut quam brevem esset habiturus praescire videretur.
Simplex, apertus, sibique semper similis,
Nihil ostentavit aut arte fictum aut cura
Elaboratum.
In senatu, regi patriaeque
Fideliter studuit;
Vulgi obstrepentis contemptor animosus,
Domi inter mille mercaturae negotia
Literarum elegantiam minime neglexit.
Amicis quocunque modo laborantibus,
Conciliis, auctoritate, muneribus adfuit.
Inter familiares, comites, convivas, hospites,
Tam facili fuit morum suavitate
Ut omnium animos ad se alliceret;
Tam felici sermonis libertate
Ut nulli adulatus, omnibus placeret.
Natus 1724. Ob. 1781.

Consortes tumuli habet Rodolphum patrem, strenuum
fortemque virum, et Henricum filium unicum,
quem spei parentum mors inopina decennem
praeripuit.
Ita
Domus felix et opulenta, quam erexit
Avus, auxitque pater, cum nepote decidit.
Abi viator!
Et vicibus rerum humanarum perspectis,
AEternitatem cogita!

Here are deposited the remains of
HENRY THRALE,
Who managed all his concerns in the present
world, public and private, in such a manner
as to leave many wishing he had continued
longer in it;
And all that related to a future world,
as if he had been sensible how short a time he
was to continue in this.
Simple, open, and uniform in his manners,
his conduct was without either art or affectation.
In the senate steadily attentive to the true interests
of his king and country,
He looked down with contempt on the clamours
of the multitude:
Though engaged in a very extensive business,
He found some time to apply to polite literature
And was ever ready to assist his friends
labouring under any difficulties,
with his advice, his influence, and his purse.
To his friends, acquaintance, and guests,
he behaved with such sweetness of manners
as to attach them all to his person:
So happy in his conversation with them,
as to please all, though he flattered none.
He was born in the year 1724, and died in 1781.
In the same tomb lie interred his father,
Ralph Thrale, a man of vigour and activity,
And his only son Henry, who died before his father,
Aged ten years.

Thus a happy and opulent family,
Raised by the grandfather, and augmented by the
father, became extinguished with the grandson.
Go, Reader!
And reflecting on the vicissitudes of
all human affairs,
Meditate on eternity.

I never recollect to have heard that Dr. Johnson wrote inscriptions for any
sepulchral stones except Dr. Goldsmith's, in Westminster Abbey, and these
two in Streatham Church. He made four lines once on the death of poor
Hogarth, which were equally true and pleasing. I know not why Garrick's
were preferred to them.

"The hand of him here torpid lies,
That drew th' essential form of grace;
Here clos'd in death th' attentive eyes,
That saw the manners in the face."

Mr. Hogarth, among the variety of kindnesses shown to me when I was too
young to have a proper sense of them, was used to be very earnest that I
should obtain the acquaintance, and if possible the friendship, of Dr.
Johnson, whose conversation was, to the talk of other men, "like Titian's
painting compared to Hudson's," he said: "but don't you tell people, now,
that I say so," continued he, "for the connoisseurs and I are at war, you
know; and because I hate THEM, they think I hate TITIAN--and let them!"
Many were indeed the lectures I used to have in my very early days from
dear Mr. Hogarth, whose regard for my father induced him, perhaps, to take
notice of his little girl, and give her some odd particular directions
about dress, dancing, and many other matters, interesting now only because
they were his. As he made all his talents, however, subservient to the
great purposes of morality, and the earnest desire he had to mend mankind,
his discourse commonly ended in an ethical dissertation, and a serious
charge to me, never to forget his picture of the "Lady's last Stake." Of
Dr. Johnson, when my father and he were talking together about him one day,
"That man," says Hogarth, "is not contented with believing the Bible, but
he fairly resolves, I think, to believe nothing BUT the Bible. Johnson,"
added he, "though so wise a fellow, is more like King David than King
Solomon; for he says in his haste that 'all men are liars.'" This charge,
as I afterwards came to know, was but too well founded. Mr. Johnson's
incredulity amounted almost to disease, and I have seen it mortify his
companions exceedingly. But the truth is, Mr. Thrale had a very powerful
influence over the Doctor, and could make him suppress many rough answers.
He could likewise prevail on him to change his shirt, his coat, or his
plate, almost before it came indispensably necessary to the comfort of his
friends. But as I never had any ascendency at all over Mr. Johnson, except
just in the things that concerned his health, it grew extremely perplexing
and difficult to live in the house with him when the master of it was no
more; the worse, indeed, because his dislikes grew capricious; and he could
scarce bear to have anybody come to the house whom it was absolutely
necessary for me to see. Two gentlemen, I perfectly well remember, dining
with us at Streatham in the summer, 1782, when Elliot's brave defence of
Gibraltar was a subject of common discourse, one of these men naturally
enough began some talk about red-hot balls thrown with surprising dexterity
and effect, which Dr. Johnson having listened some time to, "I would advise
you, sir," said he, with a cold sneer, "never to relate this story again;
you really can scarce imagine how VERY POOR a figure you make in the
telling of it." Our guest being bred a Quaker, and, I believe, a man of an
extremely gentle disposition, needed no more reproofs for the same folly;
so if he ever did speak again, it was in a low voice to the friend who came
with him. The check was given before dinner, and after coffee I left the
room. When in the evening, however, our companions were returned to
London, and Mr. Johnson and myself were left alone, with only our usual
family about us, "I did not quarrel with those Quaker fellows," said he,
very seriously. "You did perfectly right," replied I, "for they gave you
no cause of offence." "No offence!" returned he, with an altered voice;
"and is it nothing, then, to sit whispering together when _I_ am present,
without ever directing their discourse towards me, or offering me a share
in the conversation?" "That was because you frighted him who spoke first
about those hot balls." "Why, madam, if a creature is neither capable of
giving dignity to falsehood, nor willing to remain contented with the
truth, he deserves no better treatment."

Mr. Johnson's fixed incredulity of everything he heard, and his little care
to conceal that incredulity, was teasing enough, to be sure; and I saw Mr.
Sharp was pained exceedingly when relating the history of a hurricane that
happened about that time in the West Indies, where, for aught I know, he
had himself lost some friends too, he observed Dr. Johnson believed not a
syllable of the account. "For 'tis SO easy," says he, "for a man to fill
his mouth with a wonder, and run about telling the lie before it can be
detected, that I have no heart to believe hurricanes easily raised by the
first inventor, and blown forwards by thousands more." I asked him once if
he believed the story of the destruction of Lisbon by an earthquake when it
first happened. "Oh! not for six months," said he, "at least. I DID think
that story too dreadful to be credited, and can hardly yet persuade myself
that it was true to the full extent we all of us have heard."

Among the numberless people, however, whom I heard him grossly and flatly
contradict, I never yet saw any one who did not take it patiently excepting
Dr. Burney, from whose habitual softness of manners I little expected such
an exertion of spirit; the event was as little to be expected. Mr. Johnson
asked his pardon generously and genteelly, and when he left the room, rose
up to shake hands with him, that they might part in peace. On another
occasion, when he
had violently provoked Mr. Pepys, in a different but perhaps not a less
offensive manner, till something much too like a quarrel was grown up
between them, the moment he was gone, "Now," says Dr. Johnson, "is Pepys
gone home hating me, who love him better than I did before. He spoke in
defence of his dead friend; but though I hope _I_ spoke better who spoke
against him, yet all my eloquence will gain me nothing but an honest man
for my enemy!" He did not, however, cordially love Mr. Pepys, though he
respected his abilities. "I know the dog was a scholar," said he when they
had been disputing about the classics for three hours together one morning
at Streatham, "but that he had so much taste and so much knowledge I did
NOT believe. I might have taken Barnard's word though, for Barnard would
not lie."

We had got a little French print among us at Brighthelmstone, in November,
1782, of some people skating, with these lines written under:--

"Sur un mince chrystal l'hyver conduit leurs pas,
Le precipice est sous la glace;
Telle est de nos plaisirs la legere surface,
Glissez mortels; n'appayez pas."

And I begged translation from everybody. Dr. Johnson gave me this:--

"O'er ice the rapid skater flies,
With sport above and death below;
Where mischief lurks in gay disguise,
Thus lightly touch and quickly go."

He was, however, most exceedingly enraged when he knew that in the course
of the season I had asked half-a-dozen acquaintance to do the same thing;
and said, "it was a piece of treachery, and done to make everybody else
look little when compared to my favourite friends the PEPYSES, whose
translations were unquestionably the best." I will insert them, because he
DID say so. This is the distich given me by Sir Lucas, to whom I owe more
solid obligations, no less than the power of thanking him for the life he
saved, and whose least valuable praise is the correctness of his taste:--

"O'er the ice as o'er pleasure you lightly should glide,
Both have gulfs which their flattering surfaces hide."

This other more serious one was written by his brother:--

"Swift o'er the level how the skaters slide,
And skim the glitt'ring surface as they go:
Thus o'er life's specious pleasures lightly glide,
But pause not, press not on the gulf below."

Dr. Johnson seeing this last, and thinking a moment, repeated:--

"O'er crackling ice, o'er gulfs profound,
With nimble glide the skaters play;
O'er treacherous pleasure's flow'ry ground
Thus lightly skim, and haste away."

Though thus uncommonly ready both to give and take offence, Mr. Johnson had
many rigid maxims concerning the necessity of continued softness and
compliance of disposition: and when I once mentioned Shenstone's idea that
some little quarrel among lovers, relations, and friends was useful, and
contributed to their general happiness upon the whole, by making the soul
feel her elastic force, and return to the beloved object with renewed
delight: "Why, what a pernicious maxim is this now," cries Johnson, "ALL
quarrels ought to be avoided studiously, particularly conjugal ones, as no
one can possibly tell where they may end; besides that lasting dislike is
often the consequence of occasional disgust, and that the cup of life is
surely bitter enough without squeezing in the hateful rind of resentment."
It was upon something like the same principle, and from his general hatred
of refinement, that when I told him how Dr. Collier, in order to keep the
servants in humour with his favourite dog, by seeming rough with the animal
himself on many occasions, and crying out, "Why will nobody knock this
cur's brains out?" meant to conciliate their tenderness towards Pompey; he
returned me for answer, "that the maxim was evidently false, and founded on
ignorance of human life: that the servants would kick the dog sooner for
having obtained such a sanction to their severity. And I once," added he,
"chid my wife for beating the cat before the maid, who will now," said I,
"treat puss with cruelty, perhaps, and plead her mistress's example."

I asked him upon this if he ever disputed with his wife? (I had heard that
he loved her passionately.) "Perpetually," said he: "my wife had a
particular reverence for cleanliness, and desired the praise of neatness in
her dress and furniture, as many ladies do, till they become troublesome to
their best friends, slaves to their own besoms, and only sigh for the hour
of sweeping their husbands out of the house as dirt and useless lumber. 'A
clean floor is SO comfortable,' she would say sometimes, by way of
twitting; till at last I told her that I thought we had had talk enough
about the FLOOR, we would now have a touch at the CEILING."

On another occasion I have heard him blame her for a fault many people
have, of setting the miseries of their neighbours half unintentionally,
half wantonly before their eyes, showing them the bad side of their
profession, situation, etc. He said, "She would lament the dependence of
pupilage to a young heir, etc., and once told a waterman who rowed her
along the Thames in a wherry, that he was no happier than a galley-slave,
one being chained to the oar by authority, the other by want. I had,
however," said he, laughing, "the wit to get her daughter on my side always
before we began the dispute. She read comedy better than anybody he ever
heard," he said; "in tragedy she mouthed too much."

Garrick told Mr. Thrale, however, that she was a little painted puppet, of
no value at all, and quite disguised with affectation, full of odd airs of
rural elegance; and he made out some comical scenes, by mimicking her in a
dialogue he pretended to have overheard. I do not know whether he meant
such stuff to be believed or no, it was so comical; nor did I indeed ever
see him represent her ridiculously, though my husband did. The
intelligence I gained of her from old Levett was only perpetual illness and
perpetual opium. The picture I found of her at Lichfield was very pretty,
and her daughter, Mrs. Lucy Porter, said it was like. Mr. Johnson has told
me that her hair was eminently beautiful, quite blonde, like that of a
baby; but that she fretted about the colour, and was always desirous to dye
it black, which he very judiciously hindered her from doing. His account
of their wedding we used to think ludicrous enough. "I was riding to
church," says Johnson, "and she following on another single horse. She
hung back, however, and I turned about to see whether she could get her
steed along, or what was the matter. I had, however, soon occasion to see
it was only coquetry, and THAT I DESPISED, so quickening my pace a little,
she mended hers; but I believe there was a tear or two--pretty dear
creature!"

Johnson loved his dinner exceedingly, and has often said in my hearing,
perhaps for my edification, "that wherever the dinner is ill got there is
poverty or there is avarice, or there is stupidity; in short, the family is
somehow grossly wrong: for," continued he, "a man seldom thinks with more
earnestness of anything than he does of his dinner, and if he cannot get
that well dressed, he should be suspected of inaccuracy in other things."
One day, when he was speaking upon the subject, I asked him if he ever
huffed his wife about his dinner? "So often," replied he, "that at last
she called to me, and said, 'Nay, hold, Mr. Johnson, and do not make a
farce of thanking God for a dinner which in a few minutes you will protest
not eatable.'"

When any disputes arose between our married acquaintance, however, Mr.
Johnson always sided with the husband, "whom," he said, "the woman had
probably provoked so often, she scarce knew when or how she had disobliged
him first. Women," says Dr. Johnson, "give great offence by a contemptuous
spirit of non-compliance on petty occasions. The man calls his wife to
walk with him in the shade, and she feels a strange desire just at that
moment to sit in the sun: he offers to read her a play, or sing her a
song, and she calls the children in to disturb them, or advises him to
seize that opportunity of settling the family accounts. Twenty such tricks
will the faithfullest wife in the world not refuse to play, and then look
astonished when the fellow fetches in a mistress. Boarding-schools were
established," continued he, "for the conjugal quiet of the parents. The
two partners cannot agree which child to fondle, nor how to fondle them, so
they put the young ones to school, and remove the cause of contention. The
little girl pokes her head, the mother reproves her sharply. 'Do not mind
your mamma,' says the father, 'my dear, but do your own way.' The mother
complains to me of this. 'Madam,' said I, 'your husband is right all the
while; he is with you but two hours of the day, perhaps, and then you tease
him by making the child cry. Are not ten hours enough for tuition? and are
the hours of pleasure so frequent in life, that when a man gets a couple of
quiet ones to spend in familiar chat with his wife, they must be poisoned
by petty mortifications? Put missy to school; she will learn to hold her
head like her neighbours, and you will no longer torment your family for
want of other talk.'".

The vacuity of life had at some early period of his life struck so forcibly
on the mind of Mr. Johnson, that it became by repeated impression his
favourite hypothesis, and the general tenor of his reasonings commonly
ended there, wherever they might begin. Such things, therefore, as other
philosophers often attribute to various and contradictory causes, appeared
to him uniform enough; all was done to fill up the time, upon his
principle. I used to tell him that it was like the clown's answer in As
You Like It, of "Oh, lord, sir!" for that it suited every occasion. One
man, for example, was profligate and wild, as we call it, followed the
girls, or sat still at the gaming-table. "Why, life must be filled up,"
says Johnson, "and the man who is not capable of intellectual pleasures
must content himself with such as his senses can afford." Another was a
hoarder. "Why, a fellow must do something; and what, so easy to a narrow
mind as hoarding halfpence till they turn into sixpences." Avarice was a
vice against which, however, I never much heard Mr. Johnson declaim, till
one represented it to him connected with cruelty, or some such disgraceful
companion. "Do not," said he, "discourage your children from hoarding if
they have a taste to it: whoever lays up his penny rather than part with
it for a cake, at least is not the slave of gross appetite, and shows
besides a preference always to be esteemed, of the future to the present
moment. Such a mind may be made a good one; but the natural spendthrift,
who grasps his pleasures greedily and coarsely, and cares for nothing but
immediate indulgence, is very little to be valued above a negro." We
talked of Lady Tavistock, who grieved herself to death for the loss of her
husband--"She was rich, and wanted employment," says Johnson, "so she cried
till she lost all power of restraining her tears: other women are forced
to outlive their husbands, who were just as much beloved, depend on it; but
they have no time for grief: and I doubt not, if we had put my Lady
Tavistock into a small chandler's shop, and given her a nurse-child to
tend, her life would have been saved. The poor and the busy have no
leisure for sentimental sorrow." We were speaking of a gentleman who loved
his friend--"Make him Prime Minister," says Johnson, "and see how long his
friend will be remembered." But he had a rougher answer for me, when I
commended a sermon preached by an intimate acquaintance of our own at the
trading end of the town. "What was the subject, madam?" says Dr. Johnson.
"Friendship, sir," replied I. "Why, now, is it not strange that a wise
man, like our dear little Evans, should take it in his head to preach on
such a subject, in a place where no one can be thinking of it?" "Why, what
are they thinking upon, sir?" said I. "Why, the men are thinking on their
money, I suppose, and the women are thinking of their mops."

Dr. Johnson's knowledge and esteem of what we call low or coarse life was
indeed prodigious; and he did not like that the upper ranks should be
dignified with the name of THE WORLD. Sir Joshua Reynolds said one day
that nobody WORE laced coats now; and that once everybody wore them. "See,
now," says Johnson, "how absurd that is; as if the bulk of mankind
consisted of fine gentlemen that came to him to sit for their pictures. If
every man who wears a laced coat (that he can pay for) was extirpated, who
would miss them?" With all this haughty contempt of gentility, no praise
was more welcome to Dr. Johnson than that which said he had the notions or
manners of a gentleman: which character I have heard him define with
accuracy, and describe with elegance. "Officers," he said, "were falsely
supposed to have the carriage of gentlemen; whereas no profession left a
stronger brand behind it than that of a soldier; and it was the essence of
a gentleman's character to bear the visible mark of no profession
whatever." He once named Mr. Berenger as the standard of true elegance;
but some one objecting that he too much resembled the gentleman in
Congreve's comedies, Mr. Johnson said, "We must fix them upon the famous
Thomas Hervey, whose manners were polished even to acuteness and
brilliancy, though he lost but little in solid power of reasoning, and in
genuine force of mind." Mr. Johnson had, however, an avowed and scarcely
limited partiality for all who bore the name or boasted the alliance of an
Aston or a Hervey; and when Mr. Thrale once asked him which had been the
happiest period of his past life? he replied, "It was that year in which he
spent one whole evening with M---y As--n. That, indeed," said he, "was not
happiness, it was rapture; but the thoughts of it sweetened the whole
year." I must add that the evening alluded to was not passed tete-a-tete,
but in a select company, of which the present Lord Killmorey was one.
"Molly," says Dr. Johnson, "was a beauty and a scholar, and a wit and a
Whig; and she talked all in praise of liberty: and so I made this epigram
upon her. She was the loveliest creature I ever saw!!!

"'Liber ut esse velim, suasisti pulchra Maria,
Ut maneam liber--pulchra Maria, vale!'"

"Will it do this way in English, sir?" said I.

"Persuasions to freedom fall oddly from you;
If freedom we seek--fair Maria, adieu!"

"It will do well enough,` replied he, "but it is translated by a lady, and
the ladies never loved M---y As--n." I asked him what his wife thought of
this attachment? "She was jealous, to be sure," said he, "and teased me
sometimes when I would let her; and one day, as a fortune-telling gipsy
passed us when we were walking out in company with two or three friends in
the country, she made the wench look at my hand, but soon repented her
curiosity; 'for,' says the gipsy, 'your heart is divided, sir, between a
Betty and a Molly: Betty loves you best, but you take most delight in
Molly's company.' When I turned about to laugh, I saw my wife was crying.
Pretty charmer! she had no reason!"

It was, I believe, long after the currents of life had driven him to a
great distance from this lady, that he spent much of his time with Mrs.
F-tzh--b--t, of whom he always spoke with esteem and tenderness, and with a
veneration very difficult to deserve. "That woman," said he, "loved her
husband as we hope and desire to be loved by our guardian angel. F-tzh--b-
-t was a gay, good-humoured fellow, generous of his money and of his meat,
and desirous of nothing but cheerful society among people distinguished in
SOME way, in ANY WAY, I think; for Rousseau and St. Austin would have been
equally welcome to his table and to his kindness. The lady, however, was
of another way of thinking: her first care was to preserve her husband's
soul from corruption; her second, to keep his estate entire for their
children: and I owed my good reception in the family to the idea she had
entertained, that I was fit company for F-tzh--b--t, whom I loved
extremely. 'They dare not,' said she, 'swear, and take other
conversation-liberties before YOU.'" I asked if her husband returned her
regard? "He felt her influence too powerfully," replied Mr. Johnson; "no
man will be fond of what forces him daily to feel himself inferior. She
stood at the door of her paradise in Derbyshire, like the angel with a
flaming sword, to keep the devil at a distance. But she was not immortal,
poor dear! she died, and her husband felt at once afflicted and released."
I inquired if she was handsome? "She would have been handsome for a
queen," replied the panegyrist; "her beauty had more in it of majesty than
of attraction, more of the dignity of virtue than the vivacity of wit."
The friend of this lady, Miss B--thby, succeeded her in the management of
Mr. F-tzh--b--t's family, and in the esteem of Dr. Johnson, though he told
me she pushed her piety to bigotry, her devotion to enthusiasm, that she
somewhat disqualified herself for the duties of THIS life, by her perpetual
aspirations after the NEXT. Such was, however, the purity of her mind, he
said, and such the graces of her manner, that Lord Lyttelton and he used to
strive for her preference with an emulation that occasioned hourly disgust,
and ended in lasting animosity. "You may see," said he to me, when the
"Poets' Lives" were printed, "that dear B--thby is at my heart still. She
WOULD delight in that fellow Lyttelton's company though, all that I could
do; and I cannot forgive even his memory the preference given by a mind
like hers." I have heard Baretti say that when this lady died, Dr. Johnson
was almost distracted with his grief, and that the friends about him had
much ado to calm the violence of his emotion. Dr. Taylor, too, related
once to Mr. Thrale and me, that when he lost his wife, the negro Francis
ran away, though in the middle of the night, to Westminster, to fetch Dr.
Taylor to his master, who was all but wild with excess of sorrow, and
scarce knew him when he arrived. After some minutes, however, the Doctor
proposed their going to prayers, as the only rational method of calming the
disorder this misfortune had occasioned in both their spirits. Time, and
resignation to the will of God, cured every breach in his heart before I
made acquaintance with him, though he always persisted in saying he never
rightly recovered the loss of his wife. It is in allusion to her that he
records the observation of a female critic, as he calls her, in Gay's
"Life;" and the lady of great beauty and elegance, mentioned in the
criticisms upon Pope's epitaphs, was Miss Molly Aston. The person spoken
of in his strictures upon Young's poetry is the writer of these anecdotes,
to whom he likewise addressed the following verses when he was in the Isle
of Skye with Mr. Boswell. The letters written in his journey, I used to
tell him, were better than the printed book; and he was not displeased at
my having taken the pains to copy them all over. Here is the Latin ode:--

"Permeo terras, ubi nuda rupes
Saxeas miscet nebulis ruinas,
Torva ubi rident steriles coloni
Rura labores.

"Pervagor gentes, hominum ferorum
Vita ubi nullo decorata cultu,
Squallet informis, tigurique fumis
Faeda latescit.

"Inter erroris salebrosa longi,
Inter ignotae strepitus loquelae,
Quot modis mecum, quid agat requiro
Thralia dulcis?

"Seu viri curas pia nupta mulcet,
Seu fovet mater sobolem benigna,
Sive cum libris novitate pascit
Sedula mentem:

"Sit memor nostri, fideique merces,
Stet fides constans, meritoque blandum
Thraliae discant resonare nomen
Littora Skiae."

On another occasion I can boast verses from Dr. Johnson. As I went into
his room the morning of my birthday once, and said to him, "Nobody sends me
any verses now, because I am five-and-thirty years old, and Stella was fed
with them till forty-six, I remember." My being just recovered from
illness and confinement will account for the manner in which he burst out,
suddenly, for so he did without the least previous hesitation whatsoever,
and without having entertained the smallest intention towards it half a
minute before:

"Oft in danger, yet alive,
We are come to thirty-five;
Long may better years arrive,
Better years than thirty-five.
Could philosophers contrive
Life to stop at thirty-five,
Time his hours should never drive
O'er the bounds of thirty-five.
High to soar, and deep to dive,
Nature gives at thirty-five.
Ladies, stock and tend your hive,
Trifle not at thirty-five:
For howe'er we boast and strive,
Life declines from thirty-five.
He that ever hopes to thrive
Must begin by thirty-five;
And all who wisely wish to wive
Must look on Thrale at thirty-five."

"And now," said he, as I was writing them down, "you may see what it is to
come for poetry to a dictionary-maker; you may observe that the rhymes run
in alphabetical order exactly." And so they do.

Mr. Johnson did indeed possess an almost Tuscan power of improvisation.
When he called to my daughter, who was consulting with a friend about a new
gown and dressed hat she thought of wearing to an assembly, thus suddenly,
while she hoped he was not listening to their conversation--

"Wear the gown and wear the hat,
Snatch thy pleasures while they last;
Hadst thou nine lives like a cat,
Soon those nine lives would be past."

It is impossible to deny to such little sallies the power of the
Florentines, who do not permit their verses to be ever written down, though
they often deserve it, because, as they express it, Cosi se perde-rebbe la
poca gloria.

As for translations, we used to make him sometimes run off with one or two
in a good humour. He was praising this song of Metastasio:--

"Deh, se piacermi vuoi,
Lascia i sospetti tuoi,
Non mi turbar conquesto
Molesto dubitar:
Chi ciecamente crede,
Impegna a serbar fede:
Chi sempre inganno aspetta,
Alletta ad ingannar."

"Should you like it in English," said he, "thus?"

"Would you hope to gain my heart,
Bid your teasing doubts depart;
He who blindly trusts, will find
Faith from every generous mind:
He who still expects deceit,
Only teaches how to cheat."

Mr. Baretti coaxed him likewise one day at Streatham out of a translation
of Emirena's speech to the false courtier Aquileius, and it is probably
printed before now, as I think two or three people took copies; but perhaps
it has slipped their memories.

"Ah! tu in corte invecchiasti, e giurerei
Che fra i pochi non sei tenace ancora
Dell' antica onesta: quando bisogna,
Saprai sereno in volto
Vezzeggiare un nemico: accio vi cada,
Aprirgli innanzi un precipizio, e poi
Piangerne la caduta. Offrirti a tutti
E non esser che tuo; di false lodi
Vestir le accuse, ed aggravar le colpe
Nel farne la difesa, ognor dal trono
I buoni allontanar; d'ogni castigo
Lasciar Vodio allo seettro, c d'ogni dono
Il merito usurpar: tener nascosto
Sotto un zelo apparente un empio fine,
Ne fabbricar che sulle altrui rouine."

"Grown old in courts, thou art not surely one
Who keeps the rigid rules of ancient honour;
Well skilled to soothe a foe with looks of kindness,
To sink the fatal precipice before him,
And then lament his fall with seeming friendship:
Open to all, true only to thyself,
Thou know'st those arts which blast with envious praise,
Which aggravate a fault with feigned excuses,
And drive discountenanced virtue from the throne;
That leave blame of rigour to the prince,
And of his every gift usurp the merit;
That hide in seeming zeal a wicked purpose,
And only build upon another's ruin."

These characters Dr. Johnson, however, did not delight in reading, or in
hearing of: he always maintained that the world was not half so wicked as
it was represented; and he might very well continue in that opinion, as he
resolutely drove from him every story that could make him change it; and
when Mr. Bickerstaff's flight confirmed the report of his guilt, and my
husband said, in answer to Johnson's astonishment, that he had long been a
suspected man: "By those who look close to the ground, dirt will be seen,
sir," was the lofty reply. "I hope I see things from a greater distance."

His desire to go abroad, particularly to see Italy, was very great; and he
had a longing wish, too, to leave some Latin verses at the Grand Chartreux.
He loved, indeed, the very act of travelling, and I cannot tell how far one
might have taken him in a carriage before he would have wished for
refreshment. He was therefore in some respects an admirable companion on
the road, as he piqued himself upon feeling no inconvenience, and on
despising no accommodations. On the other hand, however, he expected no
one else to feel any, and felt exceedingly inflamed with anger if any one
complained of the rain, the sun, or the dust. "How," said he, "do other
people bear them?" As for general uneasiness, or complaints of lone
confinement in a carriage, he considered all lamentations on their account
as proofs of an empty head, and a tongue desirous to talk without materials
of conversation. "A mill that goes without grist," said he, "is as good a
companion as such creatures."

I pitied a friend before him, who had a whining wife that found everything
painful to her, and nothing pleasing. "He does not know that she
whimpers," says Johnson; "when a door has creaked for a fortnight together,
you may observe--the master will scarcely give sixpence to get it oiled."

Of another lady, more insipid than offensive, I once heard him say, "She
has some softness indeed, but so has a pillow." And when one observed, in
reply, that her husband's fidelity and attachment were exemplary,
notwithstanding this low account at which her perfections were rated--"Why,
sir," cries the Doctor, "being married to those sleepy-souled women is just
like playing at cards for nothing: no passion is excited, and the time is
filled up. I do not, however, envy a fellow one of those honeysuckle wives
for my part, as they are but CREEPERS at best, and commonly destroy the
tree they so tenderly cling about."

For a lady of quality, since dead, who received us at her husband's seat in
Wales with less attention than he had long been accustomed to, he had a
rougher denunciation. "That woman," cries Johnson, "is like sour
small-beer, the beverage of her table, and produce of the wretched country
she lives in: like that, she could never have been a good thing, and even
that bad thing is spoiled." This was in the same vein of asperity, and I
believe with something like the same provocation, that he observed of a
Scotch lady, "that she resembled a dead nettle; were she alive," said he,
"she would sting."

Mr. Johnson's hatred of the Scotch is so well known, and so many of his
bons mots expressive of that hatred have been already repeated in so many
books and pamphlets, that 'tis perhaps scarcely worth while to write down
the conversation between him and a friend of that nation who always resides
in London, and who at his return from the Hebrides asked him, with a firm
tone of voice, "What he thought of his country?" "That it is a very vile
country, to be sure, sir," returned for answer Dr. Johnson. "Well, sir!"
replies the other, somewhat mortified, "God made it." "Certainly He did,"
answers Mr. Johnson again, "but we must always remember that He made it for
Scotchmen, and comparisons are odious, Mr. S----; but God made hell."

Dr. Johnson did not, I think, much delight in that kind of conversation
which consists in telling stories. "Everybody," said he, "tells stories of
me, and I tell stories of nobody. I do not recollect," added he, "that I
have ever told YOU, that have been always favourites, above three stories;
but I hope I do not play the Old Fool, and force people to hear
uninteresting narratives, only because I once was diverted with them
myself." He was, however, no enemy to that sort of talk from the famous
Mr. Foote, "whose happiness of manner in relating was such," he said, "as
subdued arrogance and roused stupidity. HIS stories were truly like those
of Biron in Love's Labour's Lost, so VERY attractive--

'That aged ears played truant with his tales,
And younger hearings were quite ravished,
So sweet and voluble was his discourse.'

Of all conversers, however," added he, "the late Hawkins Browne was the
most delightful with whom I ever was in company: his talk was at once so
elegant, so apparently artless, so pure, so pleasing, it seemed a perpetual
stream of sentiment, enlivened by gaiety, and sparkling with images." When
I asked Dr. Johnson who was the best man he had ever known? "Psalmanazar,"
was the unexpected reply. He said, likewise, "that though a native of
France, as his friend imagined, he possessed more of the English language
than any one of the other foreigners who had separately fallen in his way."
Though there was much esteem, however, there was, I believe, but little
confidence between them; they conversed merely about general topics,
religion and learning, of which both were undoubtedly stupendous examples;
and, with regard to true Christian perfection, I have heard Johnson say,
"That George Psalmanazar's piety, penitence, and virtue exceeded almost
what we read as wonderful even in the lives of saints."

I forget in what year it was this extraordinary person lived and died at a
house in Old Street, where Mr. Johnson was witness to his talents and
virtues, and to his final preference of the Church of England, after having
studied, disgraced, and adorned so many modes of worship. The name he went
by was not supposed by his friend to be that of his family, but all
inquiries were vain. His reasons for concealing his original were
penitentiary; he deserved no other name than that of the impostor, he said.
That portion of the Universal History which was written by him does not
seem to me to be composed with peculiar spirit, but all traces of the wit
and the wanderer were probably worn out before he undertook the work. His
pious and patient endurance of a tedious illness, ending in an exemplary
death, confirmed the strong impression his merit had made upon the mind of
Mr. Johnson. "It is so VERY difficult," said he, always, "for a sick man
not to be a scoundrel. Oh! set the pillows soft, here is Mr. Grumbler
a-coming. Ah! let no air in for the world, Mr. Grumbler will be here
presently."

This perpetual preference is so offensive, where the privileges of sickness
are, besides, supported by wealth, and nourished by dependence, that one
cannot much wonder that a rough mind is revolted by them. It was, however,
at once comical and touchant (as the French call it), to observe Mr.
Johnson so habitually watchful against this sort of behaviour, that he was
often ready to suspect himself of it; and when one asked him gently, how he
did?--"Ready to become a scoundrel, madam," would commonly be the answer;
"with a little more spoiling you will, I think, make me a complete rascal!"

His desire of doing good was not, however, lessened by his aversion to a
sick chamber. He would have made an ill man well by any expense or fatigue
of his own, sooner than any of the canters. Canter, indeed, was he none:
he would forget to ask people after the health of their nearest relations,
and say in excuse, "That he knew they did not care: why should they?" says
he; "every one in this world has as much as they can do in caring for
themselves, and few have leisure really to THINK of their neighbours'
distresses, however they may delight their tongues with TALKING of them."

The natural depravity of mankind and remains of original sin were so fixed
in Mr. Johnson's opinion, that he was indeed a most acute observer of their
effects; and used to say sometimes, half in jest, half in earnest, that
they were the remains of his old tutor Mandeville's instructions. As a
book, however, he took care always loudly to condemn the "Fable of the
Bees," but not without adding, "that it was the work of a thinking man."

I have in former days heard Dr. Collier of the Commons loudly condemned for
uttering sentiments, which twenty years after I have heard as loudly
applauded from the lips of Dr. Johnson, concerning the well-known writer of
that celebrated work: but if people will live long enough in this
capricious world, such instances of partiality will shock them less and
less by frequent repetition. Mr. Johnson knew mankind, and wished to mend
them: he therefore, to the piety and pure religion, the untainted
integrity, and scrupulous morals of my earliest and most disinterested
friend, judiciously contrived to join a cautious attention to the capacity
of his hearers, and a prudent resolution not to lessen the influence of his
learning and virtue, by casual freaks of humour and irregular starts of
ill-managed merriment. He did not wish to confound, but to inform his
auditors; and though he did not appear to solicit benevolence, he always
wished to retain authority, and leave his company impressed with the idea
that it was his to teach in this world, and theirs to learn. What wonder,
then, that all should receive with docility from Johnson those doctrines,
which, propagated by Collier, they drove away from them with shouts! Dr.
Johnson was not grave, however, because he knew not how to be merry. No
man loved laughing better, and his vein of humour was rich and apparently
inexhaustible; though Dr. Goldsmith said once to him, "We should change
companions oftener, we exhaust one another, and shall soon be both of us
worn out." Poor Goldsmith was to him, indeed, like the earthen pot to the
iron one in Fontaine's fables; it had been better for HIM, perhaps, that
they had changed companions oftener; yet no experience of his antagonist's
strength hindered him from continuing the contest. He used to remind me
always of that verse in Berni--

"Il pover uomo che non sen' era accorto,
Andava combattendo--ed era morto."

Mr. Johnson made him a comical answer one day, when seeming to repine at
the success of Beattie's "Essay on Truth"--"Here's such a stir," said he,
"about a fellow that has written one book, and I have written many." "Ah,
Doctor," says his friend, "there go two-and-forty sixpences, you know, to
one guinea."

They had spent an evening with Eaton Graham, too, I remember hearing it was
at some tavern; his heart was open, and he began inviting away; told what
he could do to make his college agreeable, and begged the visit might not
be delayed. Goldsmith thanked him, and proposed setting out with Mr.
Johnson for Buckinghamshire in a fortnight. "Nay, hold, Dr. MINOR," says
the other, "I did not invite you."

Many such mortifications arose in the course of their intimacy, to be sure,
but few more laughable than when the newspapers had tacked them together as
the pedant and his flatterer in Love's Labour's Lost. Dr. Goldsmith came
to his friend, fretting and foaming, and vowing vengeance against the
printer, etc., till Mr. Johnson, tired of the bustle, and desirous to think
of something else, cried out at last, "Why, what would'st thou have, dear
Doctor! who the plague is hurt with all this nonsense? and how is a man the
worse, I wonder, in his health, purse, or character, for being called
Holofernes?" "I do not know," replies the other, "how you may relish being
called Holofernes, but I do not like at least to play Goodman Dull."

Dr. Johnson was indeed famous for disregarding public abuse. When the
people criticised and answered his pamphlets, papers, etc., "Why, now,
these fellows are only advertising my book," he would say; "it is surely
better a man should be abused than forgotten." When Churchill nettled him,
however, it is certain he felt the sting, or that poet's works would hardly
have been left out of the edition. Of that, however, I have no right to
decide; the booksellers, perhaps, did not put Churchill on their list. I
know Mr. Johnson was exceedingly zealous to declare how very little he had
to do with the selection. Churchill's works, too, might possibly be
rejected by him upon a higher principle; the highest, indeed, if he was
inspired by the same laudable motive which made him reject every authority
for a word in his dictionary that could only be gleaned from writers
dangerous to religion or morality. "I would not," said he, "send people to
look for words in a book, that by such a casual seizure of the mind might
chance to mislead it for ever." In consequence of this delicacy, Mrs.
Montague once observed, "That were an angel to give the imprimatur, Dr.
Johnson's works were among those very few which would not be lessened by a
line." That such praise from such a lady should delight him, is not
strange; insensibility in a case like that must have been the result alone
of arrogance acting on stupidity. Mr. Johnson had indeed no dislike to the
commendations which he knew he deserved. "What signifies protesting so
against flattery!" would he cry; "when a person speaks well of one, it must
be either true or false, you know; if true, let us rejoice in his good
opinion; if he lies, it is a proof at least that he loves more to please me
than to sit silent when he need say nothing."

That natural roughness of his manner so often mentioned would,
notwithstanding the regularity of his notions, burst through them all from
time to time; and he once bade a very celebrated lady, who praised him with
too much zeal, perhaps, or perhaps too strong an emphasis (which always
offended him), "Consider what her flattery was worth before she choked HIM
with it." A few more winters passed in the talking world showed him the
value of that friend's commendations, however; and he was very sorry for
the disgusting speech he made her.

I used to think Mr. Johnson's determined preference of a cold, monotonous
talker over an emphatical and violent one would make him quite a favourite
among the men of ton, whose insensibility, or affectation of perpetual
calmness, certainly did not give to him the offence it does to many. He
loved "conversation without effort," he said; and the encomiums I have
heard him so often pronounce on the manners of Topham Beaucler in society
constantly ended in that peculiar praise, that "it was without EFFORT."

We were talking of Richardson, who wrote "Clarissa." "You think I love
flattery," says Dr. Johnson, "and so I do; but a little too much always
disgusts me. That fellow Richardson, on the contrary, could not be
contented to sail quietly down the stream of reputation without longing to
taste the froth from every stroke of the oar."

With regard to slight insults from newspaper abuse, I have already declared
his notions. "They sting one," says he, "but as a fly stings a horse; and
the eagle will not catch flies." He once told me, however, that Cummyns,
the famous Quaker, whose friendship he valued very highly, fell a sacrifice
to their insults, having declared on his death-bed to Dr. Johnson that the
pain of an anonymous letter, written in some of the common prints of the
day, fastened on his heart, and threw him into the slow fever of which he
died.

Nor was Cummyns the only valuable member so lost to society. Hawkesworth,
the pious, the virtuous, and the wise, for want of that fortitude which
casts a
shield before the merits of his friend, fell a lamented sacrifice to wanton
malice and cruelty, I know not how provoked; but all in turn feel the lash
of censure in a country where, as every baby is allowed to carry a whip, no
person can escape except by chance. The unpublished crimes, unknown
distresses, and even death itself, however, daily occurring in less liberal
governments and less free nations, soon teach one to content oneself with
such petty grievances, and make one acknowledge that the undistinguishing
severity of newspaper abuse may in some measure diminish the diffusion of
vice and folly in Great Britain, and while they fright delicate minds into
forced refinements and affected insipidity, they are useful to the great
causes of virtue in the soul and liberty in the State; and though
sensibility often sinks under the roughness of their prescriptions, it
would be no good policy to take away their licence.

Knowing the state of Mr. Johnson's nerves, and how easily they were
affected, I forbore reading in a new magazine, one day, the death of a
Samuel Johnson who expired that month; but my companion snatching up the
book, saw it himself, and contrary to my expectation, "Oh!" said he, "I
hope Death will now be glutted with Sam Johnsons, and let me alone for some
time to come; I read of another namesake's departure last week." Though
Mr. Johnson was commonly affected even to agony at the thoughts of a
friend's dying, he troubled himself very little with the complaints they
might make to him about ill-health. "Dear Doctor," said he one day to a
common acquaintance, who lamented the tender state of his INSIDE, "do not
be like the spider, man, and spin conversation thus incessantly out of thy
own bowels." I told him of another friend who suffered grievously with the
gout. "He will live a vast many years for all that," replied he, "and then
what signifies how much he suffers! But he will die at last, poor fellow;
there's the misery; gout seldom takes the fort by a coup-de-main, but
turning the siege into a blockade, obliges it to surrender at discretion."

A lady he thought well of was disordered in her health. "What help has she
called in?" inquired Johnson. "Dr. James, sir," was the reply. "What is
her disease?" "Oh, nothing positive; rather a gradual and gentle decline."
"She will die, then, pretty dear!" answered he. "When Death's pale horse
runs away with a person on full speed, an active physician may possibly
give them a turn; but if he carries them on an even, slow pace, down-hill,
too! no care nor skill can save them!"

When Garrick was on his last sick-bed, no arguments, or recitals of such
facts as I had heard, would persuade Mr. Johnson of his danger. He had
prepossessed himself with a notion, that to say a man was sick was very
near wishing him so; and few things offended him more than prognosticating
even the death of an ordinary acquaintance. "Ay, ay," said he, "Swift knew
the world pretty well when he said that--

'Some dire misfortune to portend,
No enemy can match a friend.'"

The danger, then, of Mr. Garrick, or of Mr. Thrale, whom he loved better,
was an image which no one durst present before his view; he always
persisted in the possibility and hope of their recovering disorders from
which no human creatures by human means alone ever did recover. His
distress for their loss was for that very reason poignant to excess. But
his fears of his own salvation were excessive. His truly tolerant spirit
and Christian charity, which HOPETH ALL THINGS, and BELIEVETH ALL THINGS,
made him rely securely on the safety of his friends; while his earnest
aspiration after a blessed immortality made him cautious of his own steps,
and timorous concerning their consequences. He knew how much had been
given, and filled his mind with fancies of how much would be required, till
his impressed imagination was often disturbed by them, and his health
suffered from the sensibility of his too tender conscience. A real
Christian is SO apt to find his talk above his power of performance!

Mr. Johnson did not, however, give in to ridiculous refinements either of
speculation or practice, or suffer himself to be deluded by specious
appearances. "I have had dust thrown in my eyes too often," would he say,
"to be blinded so. Let us never confound matters of belief with matters of
opinion." Some one urged in his presence the preference of hope to
possession; and as I remember produced an Italian sonnet on the subject.
"Let us not," cries Johnson, "amuse ourselves with subtleties and sonnets,
when speaking about hope, which is the follower of faith and the precursor
of eternity; but if you only mean those air-built hopes which to-day excite
and to-morrow will destroy, let us talk away, and remember that we only
talk of the pleasures of hope; we feel those of possession, and no man in
his senses would change the last for the first. Such hope is a mere
bubble, that by a gentle breath may be blown to what size you will almost,
but a rough blast bursts it at once. Hope is an amusement rather than a
good, and adapted to none but very tranquil minds." The truth is, Mr.
Johnson hated what he called unprofitable chat; and to a gentleman who had
disserted some time about the natural history of the mouse--"I wonder what
such a one would have said," cried Johnson, "if he had ever had the luck to
see a LION!"

I well remember that at Brighthelmstone once, when he was not present, Mr.
Beauclerc asserted that he was afraid of spirits; and I, who was secretly
offended at the charge, asked him, the first opportunity I could find,
"what ground he had ever given to the world for such a report?" "I can,"
replied he, "recollect nothing nearer it than my telling Dr. Lawrence, many
years ago, that a long time after my poor mother's death I heard her voice
call 'SAM!'" "What answer did the Doctor make to your story, sir?" said I.
"None in the world," replied he, and suddenly changed the conversation.
Now, as Mr. Johnson had a most unshaken faith, without any mixture of
credulity, this story must either have been strictly true, or his
persuasion of its truth the effect of disordered spirits. I relate the
anecdote precisely as he told it me, but could not prevail on him to draw
out the talk into length for further satisfaction of my curiosity.

As Johnson was the firmest of believers, without being credulous, so he was
the most charitable of mortals, without being what we call an active
friend. Admirable at giving counsel, no man saw his way so clearly; but he
would not stir a finger for the assistance of those to whom he was willing
enough to give advice: besides that, he had principles of laziness, and
could be indolent by rule. To hinder your death, or procure you a dinner,
I mean if really in want of one; his earnestness, his exertions could not
be prevented, though health and purse and ease were all destroyed by their
violence. If you wanted a slight favour, you must apply to people of other
dispositions; for not a step would Johnson move to obtain a man a vote in a
society, to repay a compliment which might be useful or pleasing, to write
a letter of request, or to obtain a hundred pounds a year more for a
friend, who perhaps had already two or three. No force could urge him to
diligence, no importunity could conquer his resolution of standing still.
"What good are we doing with all this ado?" would he say; "dearest lady,
let's hear no more of it!" I have, however, more than once in my life
forced him on such services, but with extreme difficulty.

We parted at his door one evening when I had teased him for many weeks to
write a recommendatory letter of a little boy to his schoolmaster; and
after he had faithfully promised to do this prodigious feat before we met
again--"Do not forget dear Dick, sir," said I, as he went out of the coach.
He turned back, stood still two minutes on the carriage-step--"When I have
written my letter for Dick, I may hang myself, mayn't I?" and turned away
in a very ill humour indeed.

Though apt enough to take sudden likings or aversions to people he
occasionally met, he would never hastily pronounce upon their character;
and when, seeing him justly delighted with Solander's conversation, I
observed once that he was a man of great parts who talked from a full mind-
-"It may be so," said Mr. Johnson, "but you cannot know it yet, nor I
neither: the pump works well, to be sure! but how, I wonder, are we to
decide in so very short an acquaintance, whether it is supplied by a spring
or a reservoir?" He always made a great difference in his esteem between
talents and erudition; and when he saw a person eminent for literature,
though wholly unconversible, it fretted him. "Teaching such tonies," said
he to me one day, "is like setting a lady's diamonds in lead, which only
obscures the lustre of the stone, and makes the possessor ashamed on't."
Useful and what we call everyday knowledge had the most of his just praise.
"Let your boy learn arithmetic, dear madam," was his advice to the mother
of a rich young heir: "he will not then be a prey to every rascal which
this town swarms with. Teach him the value of money, and how to reckon it;
ignorance to a wealthy lad of one-and-twenty is only so much fat to a sick
sheep: it just serves to call the ROOKS about him."

"And all that prey in vice or folly
Joy to see their quarry fly;
Here the gamester light and jolly,
There the lender grave and sly."

These improviso lines, making part of a long copy of verses which my regard
for the youth on whose birthday they were written obliges me to suppress,
lest they should give him pain, show a mind of surprising activity and
warmth; the more so as he was past seventy years of age when he composed
them; but nothing more certainly offended Mr. Johnson than the idea of a
man's faculties (mental ones, I mean) decaying by time. "It is not true,
sir," would he say; "what a man could once do, he would always do, unless,
indeed, by dint of vicious indolence, and compliance with the nephews and
the nieces who crowd round an old fellow, and help to tuck him in, till he,
contented with the exchange of fame for ease, e'en resolves to let them set
the pillows at his back, and gives no further proof of his existence than
just to suck the jelly that prolongs it."

For such a life or such a death Dr. Johnson was indeed never intended by
Providence: his mind was like a warm climate, which brings everything to
perfection suddenly and vigorously, not like the alembicated productions of
artificial fire, which always betray the difficulty of bringing them forth
when their size is disproportionate to their flavour. "Je ferois un Roman
tout comme un autre, mais la vie n'est point un Roman," says a famous
French writer; and this was so certainly the opinion of the author of the
"Rambler," that all his conversation precepts tended towards the dispersion
of romantic ideas, and were chiefly intended to promote the cultivation of

"That which before thee lies in daily life."
MILTON.

And when he talked of authors, his praise went spontaneously to such
passages as are sure in his own phrase to leave something behind them
useful on common occasions, or observant of common manners. For example,
it was not the two LAST, but the two FIRST volumes of "Clarissa" that he
prized; "for give me a sick-bed and a dying lady," said he, "and I'll be
pathetic myself. But Richardson had picked the kernel of life," he said,
"while Fielding was contented with the husk." It was not King Lear cursing
his daughters, or deprecating the storm, that I remember his commendations
of; but Iago's ingenious malice and subtle revenge; or Prince Hal's gay
compliance with the vices of Falstaff, whom he all along despised. Those
plays had indeed no rivals in Johnson's favour: "No man but Shakespeare,"
he said, "could have drawn Sir John."

His manner of criticising and commending Addison's prose was the same in
conversation as we read it in the printed strictures, and many of the
expressions used have been heard to fall from him on common occasions. It
was notwithstanding observable enough (or I fancied so) that he did never
like, though he always thought fit to praise it; and his praises resembled
those of a man who extols the superior elegance of high painted porcelain,
while he himself always chooses to eat off PLATE. I told him so one day,
and he neither denied it nor appeared displeased.

Of the pathetic in poetry he never liked to speak, and the only passage I
ever heard him applaud as particularly tender in any common book was Jane
Shore's exclamation in the last act--

"Forgive me! BUT forgive me!"

It was not, however, from the want of a susceptible heart that he hated to
cite tender expressions, for he was more strongly and more violently
affected by the force of words representing ideas capable of affecting him
at all than any other man in the world, I believe: and when he would try
to repeat the celebrated Prosa Ecclesiastica pro Mortuis, as it is called,
beginning "Dies irae, Dies illa," he could never pass the stanza ending
thus, "Tantus labor non sit cassus," without bursting into a flood of
tears; which sensibility I used to quote against him when he would inveigh
against devotional poetry, and protest that all religious verses were cold
and feeble, and unworthy the subject, which ought to be treated with higher
reverence, he said, than either poets or painters could presume to excite
or bestow. Nor can anything be a stronger proof of Dr. Johnson's piety
than such an expression; for his idea of poetry was magnificent indeed, and
very fully was he persuaded of its superiority over every other talent
bestowed by heaven on man. His chapter upon that particular subject in his
"Rasselas" is really written from the fulness of his heart, and quite in
his best manner, I think. I am not so sure that this is the proper place
to mention his writing that surprising little volume in a week or ten days'
time, in order to obtain money for his journey to Lichfield when his mother
lay upon her last sick-bed.

Promptitude of thought, indeed, and quickness of expression, were among the
peculiar felicities of Johnson; his notions rose up like the dragon's teeth
sowed by Cadmus all ready clothed, and in bright armour too, fit for
immediate battle. He was therefore (as somebody is said to have expressed
it) a tremendous converser, and few people ventured to try their skill
against an antagonist with whom contention was so hopeless. One gentleman,
however, who dined at a nobleman's house in his company, and that of Mr.
Thrale, to whom I was obliged for the anecdote, was willing to enter the
lists in defence of King William's character, and having opposed and
contradicted Johnson two or three times petulantly enough, the master of
the house began to feel uneasy, and expect disagreeable consequences; to
avoid which he said, loud enough for the Doctor to hear, "Our friend here
has no meaning now in all this, except just to relate at club to-morrow how
he teased Johnson at dinner to-day--this is all to do himself HONOUR."
"No, upon my word," replied the other, "I see no HONOUR in it, whatever you
may do." "Well, sir!" returned Mr. Johnson, sternly, "if you do not SEE
the HONOUR, I am sure I FEEL the DISGRACE."

A young fellow, less confident of his own abilities, lamenting one day that
he had lost all his Greek--"I believe it happened at the same time, sir,"
said Johnson, "that I lost all my large estate in Yorkshire."

But however roughly he might be suddenly provoked to treat a harmless
exertion of vanity, he did not wish to inflict the pain he gave, and was
sometimes very sorry when he perceived the people to smart more than they
deserved. "How harshly you treated that man today," said I once, "who
harangued us so about gardening." "I am sorry," said he, "if I vexed the
creature, for there is certainly no harm in a fellow's rattling a
rattle-box, only don't let him think that he thunders." The Lincolnshire
lady who showed him a grotto she had been making, came off no better, as I
remember. "Would it not be a pretty cool habitation in summer," said she,
"Mr. Johnson?" "I think it would, madam," replied he, "for a toad."

All desire of distinction, indeed, had a sure enemy in Mr. Johnson. We met
a friend driving six very small ponies, and stopped to admire them. "Why
does nobody," said our Doctor, "begin the fashion of driving six spavined
horses, all spavined of the same leg? It would have a mighty pretty
effect, and produce the distinction of doing something worse than the
common way."

When Mr. Johnson had a mind to compliment any one he did it with more
dignity to himself, and better effect upon the company, than any man. I
can recollect but few instances, indeed, though perhaps that may be more my
fault than his. When Sir Joshua Reynolds left the room one day, he said,
"There goes a man not to be spoilt by prosperity." And when Mrs. Montague
showed him some China plates which had once belonged to Queen Elizabeth, he
told her "that they had no reason to be ashamed of their present possessor,
who was so little inferior to the first." I likewise remember that he
pronounced one day at my house a most lofty panegyric upon Jones the
Orientalist, who seemed little pleased with the praise, for what cause I
know not. He was not at all offended when, comparing all our acquaintance
to some animal or other, we pitched upon the elephant for his resemblance,
adding that the proboscis of that creature was like his mind most exactly,
strong to buffet even the tiger, and pliable to pick up even the pin. The
truth is, Mr. Johnson was often good humouredly willing to join in childish
amusements, and hated to be left out of any innocent merriment that was
going forward. Mr. Murphy always said he was incomparable at buffoonery;
and I verily think, if he had had good eyes, and a form less inflexible, he
would have made an admirable mimic.

He certainly rode on Mr. Thrale's old hunter with a good firmness, and
though he would follow the hounds fifty miles on end sometimes, would never
own himself either tired or amused. "I have now learned," said he, "by
hunting, to perceive that it is no diversion at all, nor ever takes a man
out of himself for a moment: the dogs have less sagacity than I could have
prevailed on myself to suppose; and the gentlemen often call to me not to
ride over them. It is very strange, and very melancholy, that the paucity
of human pleasure should persuade us ever to call hunting one of them." He
was, however, proud to be amongst the sportsmen; and I think no praise ever
went so close to his heart as when Mr. Hamilton called out one day upon
Brighthelmstone Downs, "Why, Johnson rides as well, for aught I see, as the
most illiterate fellow in England."

Though Dr. Johnson owed his very life to air and exercise, given him when
his organs of respiration could scarcely play, in the year 1766, yet he
ever persisted in the notion that neither of them had anything to do with
health. "People live as long," said he, "in Pepper Alley as on Salisbury
Plain; and they live so much happier, that an inhabitant of the first
would, if he turned cottager, starve his understanding for want of
conversation, and perish in a state of mental inferiority."

Mr. Johnson, indeed, as he was a very talking man himself, had an idea that
nothing promoted happiness so much as conversation. A friend's erudition
was commended one day as equally deep and strong. "He will not talk, sir,"
was the reply, "so his learning does no good, and his wit, if he has it,
gives us no pleasure. Out of all his boasted stores I never heard him
force but one word, and that word was RICHARD." With a contempt not
inferior he received the praises of a pretty lady's face and behaviour.
"She says nothing, sir," answers Johnson; "a talking blackamoor were better
than a white creature who adds nothing to life, and by sitting down before
one thus desperately silent, takes away the confidence one should have in
the company of her chair if she were once out of it." No one was, however,
less willing to begin any discourse than himself. His friend, Mr. Thomas
Tyers, said he was like the ghosts, who never speak till they are spoken
to: and he liked the expression so well, that he often repeated it. He
had, indeed, no necessity to lead the stream of chat to a favourite
channel, that his fulness on the subject might be shown more clearly
whatever was the topic; and he usually left the choice to others. His
information best enlightened, his argument strengthened, and his wit made
it ever remembered. Of him it might have been said, as he often delighted
to say of Edmund Burke, "that you could not stand five minutes with that
man beneath a shed while it rained, but you must be convinced you had been
standing with the greatest man you had ever yet seen."

As we had been saying, one day, that no subject failed of receiving dignity
from the manner in which Mr. Johnson treated it, a lady at my house said
she would make him talk about love, and took her measures accordingly,
deriding the novels of the day because they treated about love. "It is
not," replied our philosopher, "because they treat, as you call it, about
love, but because they treat of nothing, that they are despicable. We must
not ridicule a passion which he who never felt never was happy, and he who
laughs at never deserves to feel--a passion which has caused the change of
empires and the loss of worlds--a passion which has inspired heroism and
subdued avarice." He thought he had already said too much. "A passion, in
short," added he, with an altered tone, "that consumes me away for my
pretty Fanny here, and she is very cruel," speaking of another lady in the
room. He told us, however, in the course of the same chat, how his negro
Francis had been eminent for his success among the girls. Seeing us all
laugh, "I must have you know, ladies," said he, "that Frank has carried the
empire of Cupid further than most men. When I was in Lincolnshire so many
years ago he attended me thither; and when we returned home together, I
found that a female haymaker had followed him to London for love." Francis
was indeed no small favourite with his master, who retained, however, a
prodigious influence over his most violent passions.

On the birthday of our eldest daughter, and that of our friend Dr. Johnson,
the 17th and the 18th of September, we every year made up a little dance
and supper, to divert our servants and their friends, putting the
summer-house into their hands for the two evenings, to fill with
acquaintance and merriment. Francis and his white wife were invited, of
course. She was eminently pretty, and he was jealous, as my maids told me.
On the first of these days' amusements (I know not what year) Frank took
offence at some attentions paid his Desdemona, and walked away next morning
to London in wrath. His master and I driving the same road an hour after,
overtook him. "What is the matter, child," says Dr. Johnson, "that you
leave Streatham to-day. ART SICK?" "He is jealous," whispered I. "Are
you jealous of your wife, you stupid blockhead?" cries out his master in
another tone. The fellow hesitated, and, "TO BE SURE, SIR, I DON'T QUITE
APPROVE, SIR," was the stammering reply. "Why, what do they DO to her,
man? Do the footmen kiss her?" "No, sir, no! Kiss my WIFE, sir! I HOPE
NOT, sir." "Why, what DO they do to her, my lad?" "Why, nothing, sir, I'm
sure, sir." "Why, then go back directly and dance, you dog, do; and let's
hear no more of such empty lamentations." I believe, however, that Francis
was scarcely as much the object of Mr. Johnson's personal kindness as the
representative of Dr. Bathurst, for whose sake he would have loved anybody
or anything.

When he spoke of negroes, he always appeared to think them of a race
naturally inferior, and made few exceptions in favour of his own; yet
whenever disputes arose in his household among the many odd inhabitants of
which it consisted, he always sided with Francis against the others, whom
he suspected (not unjustly, I believe) of greater malignity. It seems at
once vexatious and comical to reflect that the dissensions those people
chose to live constantly in distressed and mortified him exceedingly. He
really was oftentimes afraid of going home, because he was so sure to be
met at the door with numberless complaints; and he used to lament
pathetically to me, and to Mr. Sastres, the Italian master, who was much
his favourite, that they made his life miserable from the impossibility he
found of making theirs happy, when every favour he bestowed on one was
wormwood to the rest. If, however, I ventured to blame their ingratitude,
and condemn their conduct, he would instantly set about softening the one
and justifying the other; and finished commonly by telling me, that I knew
not how to make allowances for situations I never experienced.

"To thee no reason who know'st only good,
But evil hast not tried."
MILTON.

Dr. Johnson knew how to be merry with mean people, too, as well as to be
sad with them; he loved the lower ranks of humanity with a real affection:
and though his talents and learning kept him always in the sphere of upper
life, yet he never lost sight of the time when he and they shared pain and
pleasure in common. A borough election once showed me his toleration of
boisterous mirth, and his content in the company of people whom one would
have thought at first sight little calculated for his society. A rough
fellow one day on such an occasion, a hatter by trade, seeing Mr. Johnson's
beaver in a state of decay, seized it suddenly with one hand, and clapping
him on the back with the other, "Ah, Master Johnson," says he, "this is no
time to be thinking about HATS." "No, no, sir," replied our Doctor in a
cheerful tone, "hats are of no use now, as you say, except to throw up in
the air and huzza with," accompanying his words with a true election
halloo.

But it was never against people of coarse life that his contempt was
expressed, while poverty of sentiment in men who considered themselves to
be company for THE PARLOUR, as he called it, was what he could not bear. A
very ignorant young fellow, who had plagued us all for nine or ten months,
died at last consumptive. "I think," said Mr. Johnson, when he heard the
news, "I am afraid I should have been more concerned for the death of the
DOG; but--" (hesitating a while) "I am not wrong now in all this, for the
dog acted up to his character on every occasion that we know; but that
dunce of a fellow helped forward the general disgrace of humanity." "Why,
dear sir," said I, "how odd you are! you have often said the lad was not
capable of receiving further instruction." " He was," replied the Doctor,
"like a corked bottle, with a drop of dirty water in it, to be sure; one
might pump upon it for ever without the smallest effect; but when every
method to open and clean it had been tried, you would not have me grieve
that the bottle was broke at last."

This was the same youth who told us he had been reading "Lucius Florus;"
Florus Delphini was the phrase. "And my mother," said he, "thought it had
something to do with Delphos; but of that I know nothing." " Who founded
Rome, then ?" inquired Mr. Thrale. The lad replied, "Romulus." "And who
succeeded Romulus?" said I. A long pause, and apparently distressful
hesitation, followed the difficult question. "Why will you ask him in
terms that he does not comprehend?" said Mr. Johnson, enraged. "You might
as well bid him tell you who phlebotomised Romulus. This fellow's dulness
is elastic," continued he, "and all we do is but like kicking at a
woolsack."

The pains he took, however, to obtain the young man more patient
instructors were many, and oftentimes repeated. He was put under the care
of a clergyman in a distant province; and Mr. Johnson used both to write
and talk to his friends concerning his education. It was on that occasion
that I remember his saying, "A boy should never be sent to Eton or
Westminster School before he is twelve years old at least; for if in his
years of babyhood he escapes that general and transcendent knowledge
without which life is perpetually put to a stand, he will never get it at a
public school, where, if he does not learn Latin and Greek, he learns
nothing." Mr. Johnson often said, "that there was too much stress laid
upon literature as indispensably necessary: there is surely no need that
everybody should be a scholar, no call that every one should square the
circle. Our manner of teaching," said he, "cramps and warps many a mind,
which if left more at liberty would have been respectable in some way,
though perhaps not in that. We lop our trees, and prune them, and pinch
them about," he would say, "and nail them tight up to the wall, while a
good standard is at last the only thing for bearing healthy fruit, though
it commonly begins later. Let the people learn necessary knowledge; let
them learn to count their fingers, and to count their money, before they
are caring for the classics; for," says Mr. Johnson, "though I do not quite
agree with the proverb, that Nullum numen abest si sit prudentia, yet we
may very well say, that Nullum numen adest--ni sit prudentia."

We had been visiting at a lady's house, whom as we returned some of the
company ridiculed for her ignorance. "She is not ignorant," said he, "I
believe, of anything she has been taught, or of anything she is desirous to
know: and I suppose if one wanted a little RUN TEA, she might be a proper
person enough to apply to."

When I relate these various instances of contemptuous behaviour shown to a
variety of people, I am aware that those who till now have heard little of
Mr. Johnson will here cry out against his pride and his severity; yet I
have been as careful as I could to tell them that all he did was gentle, if
all he said was rough. Had I given anecdotes of his actions instead of his
words, we should, I am sure, have had nothing on record but acts of virtue
differently modified, as different occasions called that virtue forth: and
among all the nine biographical essays or performances which I have heard
will at last be written about dear Dr. Johnson, no mean or wretched, no
wicked or even slightly culpable action will, I trust, be found, to produce
and put in the scale against a life of seventy years, spent in the uniform
practice of every moral excellence and every Christian perfection, save
humility alone, says a critic, but that I think MUST be excepted. He was
not, however, wanting even in that to a degree seldom attained by man, when
the duties of piety or charity called it forth.

Lowly towards God, and docile towards the Church; implicit in his belief of
the Gospel, and ever respectful towards the people appointed to preach it;
tender of the unhappy, and affectionate to the poor, let no one hastily
condemn as proud a character which may perhaps somewhat justly be censured
as arrogant. It must, however, be remembered again, that even this
arrogance was never shown without some intention, immediate or remote, of
mending some fault or conveying some instruction. Had I meant to make a
panegyric on Mr. Johnson's well-known excellences, I should have told his
deeds only, not his words--sincerely protesting, that as I never saw him
once do a wrong thing, so we had accustomed ourselves to look upon him
almost as an excepted being: and I should as much have expected injustice
from Socrates, or impiety from Paschal, as the slightest deviation from
truth and goodness in any transaction one might be engaged in with Samuel
Johnson. His attention to veracity was without equal or example: and when
I mentioned Clarissa as a perfect character; "On the contrary," said he,
"you may observe there is always something which she prefers to truth.
Fielding's Amelia was the most pleasing heroine of all the romances," he
said, "but that vile broken nose, never cured, ruined the sale of perhaps
the only book, which being printed off betimes one morning, a new edition
was called for before night."

Mr. Johnson's knowledge of literary history was extensive and surprising.
He knew every adventure of every book you could name almost, and was
exceedingly pleased with the opportunity which writing the "Poets' Lives"
gave him to display it. He loved to be set at work, and was sorry when he
came to the end of the business he was about. I do not feel so myself with
regard to these sheets: a fever which has preyed on me while I wrote them
over for the press, will perhaps lessen my power of doing well the first,
and probably the last work I should ever have thought of presenting to the
public. I could doubtless wish so to conclude it, as at least to show my
zeal for my friend, whose life, as I once had the honour and happiness of
being useful to, I should wish to record a few particular traits of, that
those who read should emulate his goodness; but feeling the necessity of
making even virtue and learning such as HIS agreeable, that all should be
warned against such coarseness of manners, as drove even from HIM those who
loved, honoured, and esteemed him. His wife's daughter, Mrs. Lucy Porter,
of Lichfield, whose veneration for his person and character has ever been
the greatest possible, being opposed one day in conversation by a clergyman
who came often to her house, and feeling somewhat offended, cried out
sudden, "Why, Mr. Pearson," said she, "you are just like Dr. Johnson, I
think: I do not mean that you are a man of the greatest capacity in all
the world like Dr. Johnson, but that you contradict one every word one
speaks, just like him."

Mr. Johnson told me the story: he was present at the giving of the
reproof. It was, however, observable, that with all his odd severity, he
could not keep even indifferent people from teasing him with unaccountable
confessions of silly conduct, which one would think they would scarcely
have had inclination to reveal even to their tenderest and most intimate
companions; and it was from these unaccountable volunteers in sincerity
that he learned to warn the world against follies little known, and seldom
thought on by other moralists.

Much of his eloquence, and much of his logic, have I heard him use to
prevent men from making vows on trivial occasions; and when he saw a person
oddly perplexed about a slight difficulty, "Let the man alone," he would
say, "and torment him no more about it; there is a vow in the case, I am
convinced; but is it not very strange that people should be neither afraid
nor ashamed of bringing in God Almighty thus at every turn between
themselves and their dinner?" When I asked what ground he had for such
imaginations, he informed me, "That a young lady once told him in
confidence that she could never persuade herself to be dressed against the
bell rung for dinner, till she had made a vow to heaven that she would
never more be absent from the family meals."

The strangest applications in the world were certainly made from time to
time towards Mr. Johnson, who by that means had an inexhaustible fund of
ancecdote, and could, if he pleased, tell the most astonishing stories of
human folly and human weakness that ever were confided to any man not a
confessor by profession.

One day, when he was in a humour to record some of them, he told us the
following tale:--"A person," said he, "had for these last five weeks often
called at my door, but would not leave his name or other message, but that
he wished to speak with me. At last we met, and he told me that he was
oppressed by scruples of conscience. I blamed him gently for not applying,
as the rules of our Church direct, to his parish priest or other discreet
clergyman; when, after some compliments on his part, he told me that he was
clerk to a very eminent trader, at whose warehouses much business consisted
in packing goods in order to go abroad; that he was often tempted to take
paper and packthread enough for his own use, and that he had indeed done so
so often, that he could recollect no time when he ever had bought any for
himself. 'But probably,' said I, 'your master was wholly indifferent with
regard to such trivial emoluments. You had better ask for it at once, and
so take your trifles with content.' 'Oh, sir!' replies the visitor, 'my
master bid me have as much as I pleased, and was half angry when I talked
to him about it.' 'Then pray, sir,' said I, 'tease me no more about such
airy nothings,' and was going on to be very angry, when I recollected that
the fellow might be mad, perhaps; so I asked him, 'When he left the
counting-house of an evening?' 'At seven o'clock, sir.' 'And when do you
go to bed, sir?' 'At twelve o'clock.' 'Then,' replied I, 'I have at least
learnt thus much by my new acquaintance--that five hours of the
four-and-twenty unemployed are enough for a man to go mad in; so I would
advise you, sir, to study algebra, if you are not an adept already in it.
Your head would get less MUDDY, and you will leave off tormenting your
neighbours about paper and packthread, while we all live together in a
world that is bursting with sin and sorrow.' It is perhaps needless to add
that this visitor came no more."

Mr. Johnson had, indeed, a real abhorrence of a person that had ever before
him treated a little thing like a great one; and he quoted this scrupulous
gentleman with his packthread very often, in ridicule of a friend who,
looking out on Streatham Common from our windows, one day, lamented the
enormous wickedness of the times because some bird-catchers were busy there
one fine Sunday morning. "While half the Christian world is permitted,"
said he, "to dance and sing and celebrate Sunday as a day of festivity, how
comes your Puritanical spirit so offended with frivolous and empty
deviations from exactness? Whoever loads life with unnecessary scruples,
sir," continued he, "provokes the attention of others on his conduct, and
incurs the censure of singularity without reaping the reward of superior
virtue."

I must not, among the anecdotes of Dr. Johnson's life, omit to relate a
thing that happened to him one day, which he told me of himself. As he was
walking along the Strand a gentleman stepped out of some neighbouring
tavern, with his napkin in his hand, and no hat, and stopping him as civily
as he could, "I beg your pardon, sir, but you are Dr. Johnson, I believe?"
" Yes, sir." "We have a wager depending on your reply. Pray, sir, is it
irr_e_parable or irrep_air_able that one should say?" "The LAST, I think,
sir," answered Dr. Johnson, "for the adverb ought to follow the verb; but
you had better consult my 'Dictionary' than me, for that was the result of
more thought than you will now give me time for." "No, no," replied the
gentleman, gaily, "the book I have no certainty at all of, but here is the
AUTHOR, to whom I referred. Is he not, sir?"--to a friend with him. "I
have won my twenty guineas quite fairly, and am much obliged to you, sir;"
and so shaking Mr. Johnson kindly by the hand, he went back to finish his
dinner or dessert.

Another strange thing he told me once which there was no danger of
forgetting; how a young gentleman called on him one morning, and told him
that his father having, just before his death, dropped suddenly into the
enjoyment of an ample fortune, he (the son) was willing to qualify himself
for genteel society by adding some literature to his other endowments, and
wished to be put in an easy way of obtaining it. Dr. Johnson recommended
the university, "for you read Latin, sir, with FACILITY?" " I read it a
little, to be sure, sir." " But do you read it WITH FACILITY, I say?"
"Upon my word, sir, I do not very well know, but I rather believe not."
Mr. Johnson now began to recommend other branches of science, when he found
languages at such an immeasurable distance, and advising him to study
natural history, there arose some talk about animals, and their divisions
into oviparous and viviparous. "And the cat here, sir," said the youth,
who wished for instruction; "pray in what class is she?" Our Doctor's
patience and desire of doing good began now to give way to the natural
roughness of his temper. "You would do well," said he, "to look for some
person to be always about you, sir, who is capable of explaining such
matters, and not come to us"--there were some literary friends present, as
I recollect--"to know whether the cat lays eggs or not. Get a discreet man
to keep you company: there are so many who would be glad of your table and
fifty pounds a year." The young gentleman retired, and in less than a week
informed his friends that he had fixed on a preceptor to whom no objections
could be made; but when he named as such one of the most distinguished
characters in our age or nation, Mr. Johnson fairly gave himself up to an
honest burst of laughter; and seeing this youth at such a surprising
distance from common knowledge of the world, or of anything in it, desired
to see his visitor no more.

He had not much better luck with two boys that he used to tell of, to whom
he had taught the classics, "so that," he said, "they were no incompetent
or mean scholars." It was necessary, however, that something more familiar
should be known, and he bid them read the History of England. After a few
months had elapsed he asked them, "If they could recollect who first
destroyed the monasteries in our island?" One modestly replied that he did
not know; the other said JESUS CHRIST!

Of the truth of stories which ran currently about the town concerning Dr.
Johnson it was impossible to be certain, unless one asked him himself, and
what he told, or suffered to be told, before his face without
contradicting, has every public mark, I think, of real and genuine
authenticity. I made, one day, very minute inquiries about the tale of his
knocking down the famous Tom Osborne with his own "Dictionary" in the man's
own house. "And how was that affair? In earnest? Do tell me, Mr.
Johnson?" "There is nothing to tell, dearest lady, but that he was
insolent, and I beat him, and that he was a blockhead, and told of it,
which I should never have done. So the blows have been multiplying and the
wonder thickening for all these years, as Thomas was never a favourite with
the public. I have beat many a fellow, but the rest had the wit to hold
their tongues."

I have heard Mr. Murphy relate a very singular story, while he was present,
greatly to the credit of his uncommon skill and knowledge of life and
manners. When first the "Ramblers" came out in separate numbers, as they
were the objects of attention to multitudes of people, they happened, as it
seems, particularly to attract the notice of a society who met every
Saturday evening during the summer at Romford in Essex, and were known by
the name of the Bowling-Green Club. These men seeing one day the character
of Leviculus, the fortune-hunter, or Tetrica, the old maid: another day
some account of a person who spent his life in hoping for a legacy, or of
him who is always prying into other folks' affairs, began sure enough to
think they were betrayed, and that some of the coterie sate down to divert
himself by giving to the public the portrait of all the rest. Filled with
wrath against the traitor of Romford, one of them resolved to write to the
printer, and inquire the author's name. Samuel Johnson, was the reply. No
more was necessary; Samuel Johnson was the name of the curate, and soon did
each begin to load him with reproaches for turning his friends into
ridicule in a manner so cruel and unprovoked. In vain did the guiltless
curate protest his innocence; one was sure that Aligu meant Mr. Twigg, and
that Cupidus was but another name for neighbour Baggs, till the poor
parson, unable to contend any longer, rode to London, and brought them full
satisfaction concerning the writer, who, from his own knowledge of general
manners, quickened by a vigorous and warm imagination, had happily
delineated, though unknown to himself, the members of the Bowling-Green
Club.

Mr. Murphy likewise used to tell before Dr. Johnson, of the first time THEY
met, and the occasion of their meeting, which he related thus. That being
in those days engaged in a periodical paper, he found himself at a friend's
house out of town; and not being disposed to lose pleasure for the sake of
business, wished rather to content his bookseller by sending some unstudied
essay to London by the servant, than deny himself the company of his
acquaintance, and drive away to his chambers for the purpose of writing
something more correct. He therefore took up a French Journal Litteraire
that lay about the room, and translating something he liked from it, sent
it away without further examination. Time, however, discovered that he had
translated from the French a "Rambler" of Johnson's, which had been but a
month before taken from the English; and thinking it right to make him his
personal excuses, he went next day, and found our friend all covered with
soot like a chimney-sweeper, in a little room, with an intolerable heat and
strange smell, as if he had been acting Lungs in the 'Alchymist,' making
aether. "Come, come," says Dr. Johnson, "dear Mur, the story is black
enough now; and it was a very happy day for me that brought you first to my
house, and a very happy mistake about the 'Ramblers.'"

Dr. Johnson was always exceeding fond of chemistry; and we made up a sort
of laboratory at Streatham one summer, and diverted ourselves with drawing
essences and colouring liquors. But the danger Mr. Thrale found his friend
in one day when I was driven to London, and he had got the children and
servants round him to see some experiments performed, put an end to all our
entertainment, so well was the master of the house persuaded that his short
sight would have been his destruction in a moment, by bringing him close to
a fierce and violent flame. Indeed, it was a perpetual miracle that he did
not set himself on fire reading a-bed, as was his constant custom, when
exceedingly unable even to keep clear of mischief with our best help; and
accordingly the fore-top of all his wigs were burned by the candle down to
the very net work. Mr. Thrale's valet de chambre, for that reason, kept
one always in his own hands, with which he met him at the parlour-door when
the bell had called him down to dinner, and as he went upstairs to sleep in
the afternoon, the same man constantly followed him with another.

Future experiments in chemistry, however, were too dangerous, and Mr.
Thrale insisted that we should do no more towards finding the Philosopher's
Stone.

Mr. Johnson's amusements were thus reduced to the pleasures of conversation
merely. And what wonder that he should have an avidity for the sole
delight he
was able to enjoy? No man conversed so well as he on every subject; no man
so acutely discerned the reason of every fact, the motive of every action,
the end of every design. He was indeed often pained by the ignorance or
causeless wonder of those who knew less than himself, though he seldom
drove them away with apparent scorn, unless he thought they added
presumption to stupidity. And it was impossible not to laugh at the
patience he showed, when a Welsh parson of mean abilities, though a good
heart, struck with reverence at the sight of Dr. Johnson, whom he had heard
of as the greatest man living, could not find any words to answer his
inquiries concerning a motto round somebody's arms which adorned a
tombstone in Ruabon churchyard. If I remember right the words were--

"Heb Dw, Heb Dym,
Dw o' diggon."

And though of no very difficult construction, the gentleman seemed wholly
confounded, and unable to explain them; till Mr. Johnson, having picked out
the meaning by little and little, said to the man, "Heb is a preposition, I
believe, sir, is it not?" My countryman recovering some spirits upon the
sudden question, cried out, "So I humbly presume, sir," very comically.

Stories of humour do not tell well in books; and what made impression on
the friends who heard a jest will seldom much delight the distant
acquaintance or sullen critic who reads it. The cork model of Paris is not
more despicable as a resemblance of a great city, than this book, levior
cortice, as a specimen of Johnson's character. Yet everybody naturally
likes to gather little specimens of the rarities found in a great country;
and could I carry home from Italy square pieces of all the curious marbles
which are the just glory of this surprising part of the world, I could
scarcely contrive, perhaps, to arrange them so meanly as not to gain some
attention from the respect due to the places they once belonged to. Such a
piece of motley Mosaic work will these anecdotes inevitably make. But let
the reader remember that he was promised nothing better, and so be as
contented as he can.

An Irish trader at our house one day heard Dr. Johnson launch out into very
great and greatly deserved praises of Mr. Edmund Burke. Delighted to find
his countryman stood so high in the opinion of a man he had been told so
much of, "Sir," said he, "give ME leave to tell something of Mr. Burke
now." We were all silent, and the honest Hibernian began to relate how Mr.
Burke went to see the collieries in a distant province; and he would go
down into the bowels of the earth (in a bag), and he would examine
everything. "He went in a bag, sir, and ventured his health and his life
for knowledge: but he took care of his clothes, that they should not be
spoiled, for he went down in a bag." "Well, sir," says Mr. Johnson,
good-humouredly, "if our friend Mund should die in any of these hazardous
exploits, you and I would write his life and panegyric together; and your
chapter of it should be entitled thus: 'Burke in a Bag.'"

He had always a very great personal regard and particular affection for Mr.
Edmund Burke, as well as an esteem difficult for me to repeat, though for
him only easy to express. And when at the end of the year 1774 the General
Election called us all different ways, and broke up the delightful society
in which we had spent some time at Beaconsfield, Dr. Johnson shook the
hospitable master of the house kindly by the hand, and said, "Farewell, my
dear sir, and remember that I wish you all the success which ought to be
wished you, which can possibly be wished you, indeed--BY AN HONEST MAN."

I must here take leave to observe, that in giving little memoirs of Mr.
Johnson's behaviour and conversation, such as I saw and heard it, my book
lies under manifest disadvantages, compared with theirs, who having seen
him in various situations, and observed his conduct in numberless cases,
are able to throw stronger and more brilliant lights upon his character.
Virtues are like shrubs, which yield their sweets in different manners
according to the circumstances which surround them; and while generosity of
soul scatters its fragrance like the honeysuckle, and delights the senses
of many occasional passengers, who feel the pleasure, and half wonder how
the breeze has blown it from so far, the more sullen but not less valuable
myrtle waits like fortitude to discover its excellence, till the hand
arrives that will CRUSH it, and force out that perfume whose durability
well compensates the difficulty of production.

I saw Mr. Johnson in none but a tranquil, uniform state, passing the
evening of his life among friends, who loved, honoured, and admired him. I
saw none of the things he did, except such acts of charity as have been
often mentioned in this book, and such writings as are universally known.
What he said is all I can relate; and from what he said, those who think it
worth while to read these anecdotes must be contented to gather his
character. Mine is a mere CANDLE-LIGHT picture of his latter days, where
everything falls in dark shadow except the face, the index of the mind; but
even that is seen unfavourably, and with a paleness beyond what nature gave
it.

When I have told how many follies Dr. Johnson knew of others, I must not
omit to mention with how much fidelity he would always have kept them
concealed, could they of whom he knew the absurdities have been contented,
in the common phrase, to keep their own counsel. But returning home one
day from dining at the chaplain's table, he told me that Dr. Goldsmith had
given a very comical and unnecessarily exact recital there of his own
feelings when his play was hissed: telling the company how he went,
indeed, to the Literary Club at night, and chatted gaily among his friends,
as if nothing had happened amiss; that to impress them still more forcibly
with an idea of his magnanimity, he even sung his favourite song about an
old woman tossed in a blanket seventeen times as high as the moon; "but all
this while I was suffering horrid tortures," said he, "and verily believe
that if I had put a bit in my mouth it would have strangled me on the spot,
I was so excessively ill. But I made more noise than usual to cover all
that, and so they never perceived my not eating, nor I believe at all
imaged to themselves the anguish of my heart; but when all were gone except
Johnson here, I burst out a-crying, and even swore by --- that I would
never write again." "All which, Doctor," says Mr. Johnson, amazed at his
odd frankness, "I thought had been a secret between you and me; and I am
sure I would not have said anything about it for the world. Now see,"
repeated he, when he told the story, "what a figure a man makes who thus
unaccountably chooses to be the frigid narrator of his own disgrace. Il
volto sciolto, ed i pensieri stretti, was a proverb made on purpose for
such mortals, to keep people, if possible, from being thus the heralds of
their own shame; for what compassion can they gain by such silly
narratives? No man should be expected to sympathise with the sorrows of
vanity. If, then, you are mortified by any ill-usage, whether real or
supposed, keep at least the account of such mortifications to yourself, and
forbear to proclaim how meanly you are thought on by others, unless you
desire to be meanly thought of by all."

The little history of another friend's superfluous ingenuity will
contribute to introduce a similar remark. He had a daughter of about
fourteen years old, as I remember, fat and clumsy; and though the father
adored, and desired others to adore her, yet being aware, perhaps, that she
was not what the French call paitrie des graces, and thinking, I suppose,
that the old maxim of beginning to laugh at yourself first when you have
anything ridiculous about you was a good one, he comically enough called
his girl TRUNDLE when he spoke of her; and many who bore neither of them
any ill-will felt disposed to laugh at the happiness of the appellation.
"See, now," says Dr. Johnson, "what haste people are in to be hooted.
Nobody ever thought of this fellow nor of his daughter, could he but have
been quiet himself, and forborne to call the eyes of the world on his dowdy
and her deformity. But it teaches one to see at least that if nobody else
will nickname one's children, the parents will e'en do it themselves."

All this held true in matters to Mr. Johnson of more serious consequence.
When Sir Joshua Reynolds had painted his portrait looking into the slit of
his pen, and holding it almost close to his eye, as was his general custom,
he felt displeased, and told me "he would not be known by posterity for his
DEFECTS only, let Sir Joshua do his worst." I said in reply that Reynolds
had no such difficulties about himself, and that he might observe the
picture which hung up in the room where we were talking represented Sir
Joshua holding his ear in his hand to catch the sound. "He may paint
himself as deaf if he chooses," replied Johnson, "but I will not be
BLINKING SAM."

It is chiefly for the sake of evincing the regularity and steadiness of Mr.
Johnson's mind that I have given these trifling memoirs, to show that his
soul was not different from that of another person, but, as it was,
greater; and to give those who did not know him a just idea of his
acquiescence in what we call vulgar prejudices, and of his extreme distance
from those notions which the world has agreed, I know not very well why, to
call romantic. It is indeed observable in his preface to Shakespeare, that
while other critics expatiate on the creative powers and vivid imagination
of that matchless poet, Dr. Johnson commends him for giving so just a
representation of human manners, "that from his scenes a hermit might
estimate the value of society, and a confessor predict the progress of the
passions." I have not the book with me here, but am pretty sure that such
is his expression.

The general and constant advice he gave, too, when consulted about the
choice of a wife, a profession, or whatever influences a man's particular
and immediate happiness, was always to reject no positive good from fears
of its contrary consequences. "Do not," said he, "forbear to marry a
beautiful woman if you can find such, out of a fancy that she will be less
constant than an ugly one; or condemn yourself to the society of coarseness
and vulgarity for fear of the expenses or other dangers of elegance and
personal charms, which have been always acknowledged as a positive good,
and for the want of which there should be always given some weighty
compensation. I have, however," continued Mr. Johnson, "seen some prudent
fellows who forbore to connect themselves with beauty lest coquetry should
be near, and with wit or birth lest insolence should lurk behind them, till
they have been forced by their discretion to linger life away in tasteless
stupidity, and choose to count the moments by remembrance of pain instead
of enjoyment of pleasure."

When professions were talked of, "Scorn," said Mr. Johnson, "to put your
behaviour under the dominion of canters; never think it clever to call
physic a mean study, or law a dry one; or ask a baby of seven years old
which way his GENIUS leads him, when we all know that a boy of seven years
old has no GENIUS for anything except a pegtop and an apple-pie; but fix on
some business where much money may be got, and little virtue risked:
follow that business steadily, and do not live as Roger Ascham says the
wits do, 'men know not how; and at last die obscurely, men mark not
where.'"

Dr. Johnson had indeed a veneration for the voice of mankind beyond what
most people will own; and as he liberally confessed that all his own
disappointments proceeded from himself, he hated to hear others complain of
general injustice. I remember when lamentation was made of the neglect
showed to Jeremiah Markland, a great philologist, as some one ventured to
call him. "He is a scholar, undoubtedly, sir," replied Dr. Johnson, "but
remember that he would run from the world, and that it is not the world's
business to run after him. I hate a fellow whom pride, or cowardice, or
laziness drives into a corner, and does nothing when he is there but sit
and GROWL; let him come out as I do, and BARK. The world," added he, "is
chiefly unjust and ungenerous in this, that all are ready to encourage a
man who once talks of leaving it, and few things do really provoke me more
than to hear people prate of retirement, when they have neither skill to
discern their own motives, or penetration to estimate the consequences.
But while a fellow is active to gain either power or wealth," continued he,
"everybody produces some hindrance to his advancement, some sage remark, or
some unfavourable prediction; but let him once say slightly, I have had
enough of this troublesome, bustling world, 'tis time to leave it now:
'Ah, dear sir!' cries the first old acquaintance he meets, 'I am glad to
find you in this happy disposition: yes, dear friend! DO retire and think
of nothing but your own ease. There's Mr. William will find it a pleasure
to settle all your accounts and relieve you from the fatigue; Miss Dolly
makes the charmingest chicken-broth in the world, and the cheesecakes we
ate of hers once, how good they were. I will be coming every two or three
days myself to chat with you in a quiet way; SO SNUG! and tell you how
matters go upon 'Change, or in the House, or according to the blockhead's
first pursuits, whether lucrative or politic, which thus he leaves; and
lays himself down a voluntary prey to his own sensuality and sloth, while
the ambition and avarice of the nephews and nieces, with their rascally
adherents and coadjutors, reap the advantage, while they fatten their
fool.'"

As the votaries of retirement had little of Mr. Johnson's applause, unless
that he knew that the motives were merely devotional, and unless he was
convinced that their rituals were accompanied by a mortified state of the
body, the sole proof of their sincerity which he would admit, as a
compensation for such fatigue as a worldly life of care and activity
requires; so of the various states and conditions of humanity, he despised
none more, I think, than the man who marries for a maintenance. And of a
friend who made his alliance on no higher principles, he said once, "Now
has that fellow (it was a nobleman of whom we were speaking) at length
obtained a certainty of three meals a day, and for that certainty, like his
brother dog in the fable, he will get his neck galled for life with a
collar."

That poverty was an evil to be avoided by all honest means, however, no man
was more ready to avow: concealed poverty particularly, which he said was
the general corrosive that destroyed the peace of almost every family; to
which no evening perhaps ever returned without some new project for hiding
the sorrows and dangers of the next day. "Want of money," says Dr.
Johnson, "is sometimes concealed under pretended avarice, and sly hints of
aversion to part with it; sometimes under stormy anger, and affectation of
boundless rage, but oftener still under a show of thoughtless extravagance
and gay neglect, while to a penetrating eye none of these wretched veils
suffice to keep the cruel truth from being seen. Poverty is hic et
ubique," says he, "and if you do shut the jade out of the door, she will
always contrive in some manner to poke her pale, lean face in at the
window."

I have mentioned before that old age had very little of Mr. Johnson's
reverence. "A man commonly grew wickeder as he grew older," he said, "at
least he but changed the vices of youth; headstrong passion and wild
temerity, for treacherous caution, and desire to circumvent. I am always,"
said he, "on the young people's side, when there is a dispute between them
and the old ones, for you have at least a chance for virtue till age has
withered its very root." While we were talking, my mother's spaniel, whom
he never loved, stole our toast and butter; "Fie, Belle!" said I, "you used
to be upon honour." "Yes, madam," replies Johnson, "BUT BELLE GROWS OLD."
His reason for hating the dog was, "because she was a professed favourite,"
he said, "and because her lady ordered her from time to time to be washed
and combed, a foolish trick," said he, "and an assumption of superiority
that every one's nature revolts at; so because one must not wish ill to the
lady in such cases," continued he, "one curses the cur." The truth is,
Belle was not well behaved, and being a large spaniel, was troublesome
enough at dinner with frequent solicitations to be fed. "This animal,"
said Dr. Johnson one day, "would have been of extraordinary merit and value
in the state of Lycurgus; for she condemns one to the exertion of perpetual
vigilance."

He had, indeed, that strong aversion felt by all the lower ranks of people
towards four-footed companions very completely, notwithstanding he had for
many years a cat which he called Hodge, that kept always in his room at
Fleet Street; but so exact was he not to offend the human species by
superfluous attention to brutes, that when the creature was grown sick and
old, and could eat nothing but oysters, Mr. Johnson always went out himself
to buy Hodge's dinner, that Francis the black's delicacy might not be hurt,
at seeing himself employed for the convenience of a quadruped.

No one was, indeed, so attentive not to offend in all such sort of things
as Dr. Johnson; nor so careful to maintain the ceremonies of life: and
though he told Mr. Thrale once that he had never sought to please till past
thirty years old, considering the matter as hopeless, he had been always
studious not to make enemies by apparent preference of himself. It
happened very comically that the moment this curious conversation passed,
of which I was a silent auditress, was in the coach, in some distant
province, either Shropshire or Derbyshire, I believe; and as soon as it was
over, Mr. Johnson took out of his pocket a little book and read, while a
gentleman of no small distinction for his birth and elegance suddenly rode
up to the carriage, and paying us all his proper compliments, was desirous
not to neglect Dr. Johnson; but observing that he did not see him, tapped
him gently on the shoulder. "'Tis Mr. Ch-lm---ley," says my husband.
"Well, sir! and what if it is Mr. Ch-lm---ley!" says the other, sternly,
just lifting his eyes a moment from his book, and returning to it again
with renewed avidity.

He had sometimes fits of reading very violent; and when he was in earnest
about getting through some particular pages, for I have heard him say he
never read but one book, which he did not consider as obligatory, through
in his whole life (and "Lady Mary Wortley's Letters," was the book); he
would be quite lost to the company, and withdraw all his attention to what
he was reading, without the smallest knowledge or care about the noise made
round him. His deafness made such conduct less odd and less difficult to
him than it would have been to another man: but his advising others to
take the same method, and pull a little book out when they were not
entertained with what was going forward in society, seemed more likely to
advance the growth of science than of polished manners, for which he always
pretended extreme veneration.

Mr. Johnson, indeed, always measured other people's notions of everything
by his own, and nothing could persuade him to believe that the books which
he disliked were agreeable to thousands, or that air and exercise which he
despised were beneficial to the health of other mortals. When poor Smart,
so well known for his wit and misfortunes, was first obliged to be put in
private lodgings, a common friend of both lamented in tender terms the
necessity which had torn so pleasing a companion from their acquaintance.
"A madman must be confined, sir," replies Dr. Johnson. "But," says the
other, "I am now apprehensive for his general health, he will lose the
benefit of exercise." "Exercise!" returns the Doctor, "I never heard that
he used any: he might, for aught I know, walk TO the alehouse; but I
believe he was always CARRIED home again."

It was, however, unlucky for those who delighted to echo Johnson's
sentiments, that he would not endure from them to-day what perhaps he had
yesterday, by his own manner of treating the subject, made them fond of
repeating; and I fancy Mr. B---- has not forgotten that though his friend
one evening in a gay humour talked in praise of wine as one of the
blessings permitted by heaven, when used with moderation, to lighten the
load of life, and give men strength to endure it; yet, when in consequence
of such talk he thought fit to make a Bacchanalian discourse in its favour,
Mr. Johnson contradicted him somewhat roughly, as I remember; and when, to
assure himself of conquest, he added these words: "You must allow me, sir,
at least that it produces truth; in vino veritas, you know, sir." "That,"
replied Mr. Johnson, "would be useless to a man who knew he was not a liar
when he was sober."

When one talks of giving and taking the lie familiarly, it is impossible to
forbear recollecting the transactions between the editor of "Ossian," and
the author of the "Journey to the Hebrides." It was most observable to me,
however, that Mr. Johnson never bore his antagonist the slightest degree of

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