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´╗┐Title: Anecdotes of the late Samuel Johnson
Author: Piozzi, Hester Lynch, 1741-1821
Language: English
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Anecdotes of the late Samuel Johnson, LL.D.
Hesther Lynch Piozzi.



Mrs. Piozzi, by her second marriage, was by her first marriage the Mrs.
Thrale in whose house at Streatham Doctor Johnson was, after the year of
his first introduction, 1765, in days of infirmity, an honoured and a
cherished friend.  The year of the beginning of the friendship was the
year in which Johnson, fifty-six years old, obtained his degree of LL.D.
from Dublin, and--though he never called himself Doctor--was thenceforth
called Doctor by all his friends.

Before her marriage Mrs. Piozzi had been Miss Hesther Lynch Salusbury, a
young lady of a good Welsh family.  She was born in the year 1740, and
she lived until the year 1821.  She celebrated her eightieth birthday on
the 27th of January, 1820, by a concert, ball, and supper to six or seven
hundred people, and led off the dancing at the ball with an adopted son
for partner.  When Johnson was first introduced to her, as Mrs. Thrale,
she was a lively, plump little lady, twenty-five years old, short of
stature, broad of build, with an animated face, touched, according to the
fashion of life in her early years, with rouge, which she continued to
use when she found that it had spoilt her complexion.  Her hands were
rather coarse, but her handwriting was delicate.

Henry Thrale, whom she married, was the head of the great brewery house
now known as that of Barclay and Perkins.  Henry Thrale's father had
succeeded Edmund Halsey, who began life by running away from his father,
a miller at St. Albans.  Halsey was taken in as a clerk-of-all-work at
the Anchor Brewhouse in Southwark, became a house-clerk, able enough to
please Child, his master, and handsome enough to please his master's
daughter.  He married the daughter and succeeded to Child's Brewery, made
much money, and had himself an only daughter, whom he married to a lord.
Henry Thrale's father was a nephew of Halseys, who had worked in the
brewery for twenty years, when, after Halsey's death, he gave security
for thirty thousand pounds as the price of the business, to which a noble
lord could not succeed.  In eleven years he had paid the purchase-money,
and was making a large fortune.  To this business his son, who was
Johnson's friend, Henry Thrale, succeeded; and upon Thrale's death it was
bought for 150,000 pounds by a member of the Quaker family of Barclay,
who took Thrale's old manager, Perkins, into partnership.

Johnson became, after 1765, familiar in the house of the Thrales at
Streatham.  There was much company.  Mrs. Thrale had a taste for literary
guests and literary guests had, on their part, a taste for her good
dinners.  Johnson was the lion-in-chief.  There was Dr. Johnson's room
always at his disposal; and a tidy wig kept for his special use, because
his own was apt to be singed up the middle by close contact with the
candle, which he put, being short-sighted, between his eyes and a book.
Mrs. Thrale had skill in languages, read Latin, French, Italian, and
Spanish.  She read literature, could quote aptly, and put knowledge as
well as playful life into her conversation.  Johnson's regard for the
Thrales was very real, and it was heartily returned, though Mrs. Thrale
had, like her friend, some weaknesses, in common with most people who
feed lions and wish to pass for wits among the witty.

About fourteen years after Johnson's first acquaintance with the
Thrales--when Johnson was seventy years old and Mrs. Thrale near
forty--the little lady, who had also lost several children, was unhappy
in the thought that she had ceased to be appreciated by her husband.  Her
husband's temper became affected by the commercial troubles of 1762, and
Mrs. Thrale became jealous of the regard between him and Sophy
Streatfield, a rich widow's daughter.  Under January, 1779, she wrote in
her "Thraliana," "Mr. Thrale has fallen in love, really and seriously,
with Sophy Streatfield; but there is no wonder in that; she is very
pretty, very gentle, soft, and insinuating; hangs about him, dances round
him, cries when she parts from him, squeezes his hand slily, and with her
sweet eyes full of tears looks so fondly in his face--and all for love of
me, as she pretends, that I can hardly sometimes help laughing in her
face.  A man must not be a _man_ but an _it_ to resist such artillery."
Mrs. Thrale goes on to record conquests made by this irresistible Sophy
in other directions, showing the same temper of jealousy.  Thrale died on
the 4th of April, 1781.

Mrs. Thrale had entered in her "Thraliana" under July, 1780, being then
at Brighton, "I have picked up Piozzi here, the great Italian singer.  He
is amazingly like my father.  He shall teach Hesther."  On the 25th of
July, 1784, being at Bath, her entry was, "I am returned from church the
happy wife of my lovely, faithful Piozzi. . . . subject of my prayers,
object of my wishes, my sighs, my reverence, my esteem."  Her age then
was forty-four, and on the 13th of December in the same year Johnson
died.  The newspapers of the day dealt hardly with her.  They called her
an amorous widow, and Piozzi a fortune-hunter.  Her eldest daughter
(afterwards Viscountess Keith) refused to recognise the new father, and
shut herself up in a house at Brighton with a nurse, Tib, where she lived
upon two hundred a year.  Two younger sisters, who were at school, lived
afterwards with the eldest.  Only the fourth daughter, the youngest, went
with her mother and her mother's new husband to Italy.  Johnson, too, was
grieved by the marriage, and had shown it, but had written afterwards
most kindly.  Mrs. Piozzi in Florence was playing at literature with the
poetasters of "The Florence Miscellany" and "The British Album" when she
was working at these "Anecdotes of the Late Samuel Johnson."  Her book of
anecdotes was planned at Florence in 1785, the year after her friend's
death, finished at Florence in October, 1785, and published in the year
1786.  There is a touch of bitterness in the book which she thought of
softening, but her "lovely, faithful Piozzi" wished it to remain.

H. M.


I have somewhere heard or read that the preface before a book, like the
portico before a house, should be contrived so as to catch, but not
detain, the attention of those who desire admission to the family within,
or leave to look over the collection of pictures made by one whose
opportunities of obtaining them we know to have been not unfrequent.  I
wish not to keep my readers long from such intimacy with the manners of
Dr. Johnson, or such knowledge of his sentiments as these pages can
convey.  To urge my distance from England as an excuse for the book's
being ill-written would be ridiculous; it might indeed serve as a just
reason for my having written it at all; because, though others may print
the same aphorisms and stories, I cannot _here_ be sure that they have
done so.  As the Duke says, however, to the Weaver, in _A Midsummer
Night's Dream_, "Never excuse; if your play be a bad one, keep at least
the excuses to yourself."

I am aware that many will say I have not spoken highly enough of Dr.
Johnson; but it will be difficult for those who say so to speak more
highly.  If I have described his manners as they were, I have been
careful to show his superiority to the common forms of common life.  It
is surely no dispraise to an oak that it does not bear jessamine; and he
who should plant honeysuckle round Trajan's column would not be thought
to adorn, but to disgrace it.

When I have said that he was more a man of genius than of learning, I
mean not to take from the one part of his character that which I
willingly give to the other.  The erudition of Mr. Johnson proved his
genius; for he had not acquired it by long or profound study: nor can I
think those characters the greatest which have most learning driven into
their heads, any more than I can persuade myself to consider the River
Jenisca as superior to the Nile, because the first receives near seventy
tributary streams in the course of its unmarked progress to the sea,
while the great parent of African plenty, flowing from an almost
invisible source, and unenriched by any extraneous waters, except eleven
nameless rivers, pours his majestic torrent into the ocean by seven
celebrated mouths.

But I must conclude my preface, and begin my book, the first I ever
presented before the public; from whose awful appearance in some measure
to defend and conceal myself, I have thought fit to retire behind the
Telamonian shield, and show as little of myself as possible, well aware
of the exceeding difference there is between fencing in the school and
fighting in the field.  Studious, however, to avoid offending, and
careless of that offence which can be taken without a cause, I here not
unwillingly submit my slight performance to the decision of that glorious
country, which I have the daily delight to hear applauded in others, as
eminently just, generous, and humane.


Too much intelligence is often as pernicious to biography as too little;
the mind remains perplexed by contradiction of probabilities, and finds
difficulty in separating report from truth.  If Johnson then lamented
that so little had ever been said about Butler, I might with more reason
be led to complain that so much has been said about himself; for
numberless informers but distract or cloud information, as glasses which
multiply will for the most part be found also to obscure.  Of a life,
too, which for the last twenty years was passed in the very front of
literature, every leader of a literary company, whether officer or
subaltern, naturally becomes either author or critic, so that little less
than the recollection that it was _once_ the request of the deceased, and
_twice_ the desire of those whose will I ever delighted to comply with,
should have engaged me to add my little book to the number of those
already written on the subject.  I used to urge another reason for
forbearance, and say, that all the readers would, on this singular
occasion, be the writers of his life: like the first representation of
the _Masque of Comus_, which, by changing their characters from
spectators to performers, was _acted_ by the lords and ladies it was
_written_ to entertain.  This objection is, however, now at an end, as I
have found friends, far remote indeed from literary questions, who may
yet be diverted from melancholy by my description of Johnson's manners,
warmed to virtue even by the distant reflection of his glowing
excellence, and encouraged by the relation of his animated zeal to
persist in the profession as well as practice of Christianity.

Samuel Johnson was the son of Michael Johnson, a bookseller at Lichfield,
in Staffordshire; a very pious and worthy man, but wrong-headed,
positive, and afflicted with melancholy, as his son, from whom alone I
had the information, once told me: his business, however, leading him to
be much on horseback, contributed to the preservation of his bodily
health and mental sanity, which, when he stayed long at home, would
sometimes be about to give way; and Mr. Johnson said, that when his
workshop, a detached building, had fallen half down for want of money to
repair it, his father was not less diligent to lock the door every night,
though he saw that anybody might walk in at the back part, and knew that
there was no security obtained by barring the front door.  "_This_," says
his son, "was madness, you may see, and would have been discoverable in
other instances of the prevalence of imagination, but that poverty
prevented it from playing such tricks as riches and leisure encourage."
Michael was a man of still larger size and greater strength than his son,
who was reckoned very like him, but did not delight in talking much of
his family: "One has," says he, "_so_ little pleasure in reciting the
anecdotes of beggary."  One day, however, hearing me praise a favourite
friend with partial tenderness as well as true esteem: "Why do you like
that man's acquaintance so?" said he.  "Because," replied I, "he is open
and confiding, and tells me stories of his uncles and cousins; I love the
light parts of a solid character."  "Nay, if you are for family history,"
says Mr. Johnson, good-humouredly, "_I_ can fit you: I had an uncle,
Cornelius Ford, who, upon a journey, stopped and read an inscription
written on a stone he saw standing by the wayside, set up, as it proved,
in honour of a man who had leaped a certain leap thereabouts, the extent
of which was specified upon the stone: 'Why now,' says my uncle, 'I could
leap it in my boots;' and he did leap it in his boots.  I had likewise
another uncle, Andrew," continued he, "my father's brother, who kept the
ring in Smithfield (where they wrestled and boxed) for a whole year, and
never was thrown or conquered.  Here now are uncles for you, Mistress, if
that's the way to your heart."  Mr. Johnson was very conversant in the
art of attack and defence by boxing, which science he had learned from
this uncle Andrew, I believe; and I have heard him descant upon the age
when people were received, and when rejected, in the schools once held
for that brutal amusement, much to the admiration of those who had no
expectation of his skill in such matters, from the sight of a figure
which precluded all possibility of personal prowess; though, because he
saw Mr. Thrale one day leap over a cabriolet stool, to show that he was
not tired after a chase of fifty miles or more, _he_ suddenly jumped over
it too, but in a way so strange and so unwieldy, that our terror lest he
should break his bones took from us even the power of laughing.

Michael Johnson was past fifty years old when he married his wife, who
was upwards of forty, yet I think her son told me she remained three
years childless before he was born into the world, who so greatly
contributed to improve it.  In three years more she brought another son,
Nathaniel, who lived to be twenty-seven or twenty-eight years old, and of
whose manly spirit I have heard his brother speak with pride and
pleasure, mentioning one circumstance, particular enough, that when the
company were one day lamenting the badness of the roads, he inquired
where they could be, as he travelled the country more than most people,
and had never seen a bad road in his life.  The two brothers did not,
however, much delight in each other's company, being always rivals for
the mother's fondness; and many of the severe reflections on domestic
life in Rasselas took their source from its author's keen recollections
of the time passed in his early years.  Their father, Michael, died of an
inflammatory fever at the age of seventy-six, as Mr. Johnson told me,
their mother at eighty-nine, of a gradual decay.  She was slight in her
person, he said, and rather below than above the common size.  So
excellent was her character, and so blameless her life, that when an
oppressive neighbour once endeavoured to take from her a little field she
possessed, he could persuade no attorney to undertake the cause against a
woman so beloved in her narrow circle: and it is this incident he alludes
to in the line of his "Vanity of Human Wishes," calling her

   "The general favourite as the general friend."

Nor could any one pay more willing homage to such a character, though she
had not been related to him, than did Dr. Johnson on every occasion that
offered: his disquisition on Pope's epitaph placed over Mrs. Corbet is a
proof of that preference always given by him to a noiseless life over a
bustling one; but however taste begins, we almost always see that it ends
in simplicity; the glutton finishes by losing his relish for anything
highly sauced, and calls for his boiled chicken at the close of many
years spent in the search of dainties; the connoisseurs are soon weary of
Rubens, and the critics of Lucan; and the refinements of every kind
heaped upon civil life always sicken their possessors before the close of

At the age of two years Mr. Johnson was brought up to London by his
mother, to be touched by Queen Anne for the scrofulous evil, which
terribly afflicted his childhood, and left such marks as greatly
disfigured a countenance naturally harsh and rugged, beside doing
irreparable damage to the auricular organs, which never could perform
their functions since I knew him; and it was owing to that horrible
disorder, too, that one eye was perfectly useless to him; that defect,
however, was not observable, the eyes looked both alike.  As Mr. Johnson
had an astonishing memory, I asked him if he could remember Queen Anne at
all?  "He had," he said, "a confused, but somehow a sort of solemn,
recollection of a lady in diamonds, and a long black hood."

The christening of his brother he remembered with all its circumstances,
and said his mother taught him to spell and pronounce the words 'little
Natty,' syllable by syllable, making him say it over in the evening to
her husband and his guests.  The trick which most parents play with their
children, that of showing off their newly-acquired accomplishments,
disgusted Mr. Johnson beyond expression.  He had been treated so himself,
he said, till he absolutely loathed his father's caresses, because he
knew they were sure to precede some unpleasing display of his early
abilities; and he used, when neighbours came o' visiting, to run up a
tree that he might not be found and exhibited, such, as no doubt he was,
a prodigy of early understanding.  His epitaph upon the duck he killed by
treading on it at five years old--

   "Here lies poor duck
      That Samuel Johnson trod on;
   If it had liv'd it had been good luck,
      For it would have been an odd one"--

is a striking example of early expansion of mind and knowledge of
language; yet he always seemed more mortified at the recollection of the
bustle his parents made with his wit than pleased with the thoughts of
possessing it.  "That," said he to me one day, "is the great misery of
late marriages; the unhappy produce of them becomes the plaything of
dotage.  An old man's child," continued he, "leads much such a life.  I
think, as a little boy's dog, teased with awkward fondness, and forced,
perhaps, to sit up and beg, as we call it, to divert a company, who at
last go away complaining of their disagreeable entertainment."  In
consequence of these maxims, and full of indignation against such parents
as delight to produce their young ones early into the talking world, I
have known Mr. Johnson give a good deal of pain by refusing to hear the
verses the children could recite, or the songs they could sing,
particularly one friend who told him that his two sons should repeat
Gray's "Elegy" to him alternately, that he might judge who had the
happiest cadence.  "No, pray, sir," said he, "let the dears both speak it
at once; more noise will by that means be made, and the noise will be
sooner over."  He told me the story himself, but I have forgot who the
father was.

Mr. Johnson's mother was daughter to a gentleman in the country, such as
there were many of in those days, who possessing, perhaps, one or two
hundred pounds a year in land, lived on the profits, and sought not to
increase their income.  She was, therefore, inclined to think higher of
herself than of her husband, whose conduct in money matters being but
indifferent, she had a trick of teasing him about it, and was, by her
son's account, very importunate with regard to her fears of spending more
than they could afford, though she never arrived at knowing how much that
was, a fault common, as he said, to most women who pride themselves on
their economy.  They did not, however, as I could understand, live ill
together on the whole.  "My father," says he, "could always take his
horse and ride away for orders when things went badly."  The lady's
maiden name was Ford; and the parson who sits next to the punch-bowl in
Hogarth's "Modern Midnight Conversation" was her brother's son.  This
Ford was a man who chose to be eminent only for vice, with talents that
might have made him conspicuous in literature, and respectable in any
profession he could have chosen.  His cousin has mentioned him in the
lives of Fenton and of Broome; and when he spoke of him to me it was
always with tenderness, praising his acquaintance with life and manners,
and recollecting one piece of advice that no man surely ever followed
more exactly: "Obtain," says Ford, "some general principles of every
science; he who can talk only on one subject, or act only in one
department, is seldom wanted, and perhaps never wished for, while the man
of general knowledge can often benefit, and always please."  He used to
relate, however, another story less to the credit of his cousin's
penetration, how Ford on some occasion said to him, "You will make your
way the more easily in the world, I see, as you are contented to dispute
no man's claim to conversation excellence; they will, therefore, more
willingly allow your pretensions as a writer."  Can one, on such an
occasion, forbear recollecting the predictions of Boileau's father, when
stroking the head of the young satirist?--"_Ce petit bon homme_," says
he, "_n'a point trop d'esprit_, mais il _ne dira jamais mal de
personne_."  Such are the prognostics formed by men of wit and sense, as
these two certainly were, concerning the future character and conduct of
those for whose welfare they were honestly and deeply concerned; and so
late do those features of peculiarity come to their growth, which mark a
character to all succeeding generations.

Dr. Johnson first learned to read of his mother and her old maid
Catharine, in whose lap he well remembered sitting while she explained to
him the story of St. George and the Dragon.  I know not whether this is
the proper place to add that such was his tenderness, and such his
gratitude, that he took a journey to Lichfield fifty-seven years
afterwards to support and comfort her in her last illness; he had
inquired for his nurse, and she was dead.  The recollection of such
reading as had delighted him in his infancy made him always persist in
fancying that it was the only reading which could please an infant; and
he used to condemn me for putting Newbery's books into their hands as too
trifling to engage their attention.  "Babies do not want," said he, "to
hear about babies; they like to be told of giants and castles, and of
somewhat which can stretch and stimulate their little minds."  When in
answer I would urge the numerous editions and quick sale of "Tommy
Prudent" or "Goody Two-Shoes."  "Remember always," said he, "that the
parents _buy_ the books, and that the children never read them."  Mrs.
Barbauld, however, had his best praise, and deserved it; no man was more
struck than Mr. Johnson with voluntary descent from possible splendour to
painful duty.

At eight years old he went to school, for his health would not permit him
to be sent sooner; and at the age of ten years his mind was disturbed by
scruples of infidelity, which preyed upon his spirits and made him very
uneasy, the more so as he revealed his uneasiness to no one, being
naturally, as he said, "of a sullen temper and reserved disposition."  He
searched, however, diligently but fruitlessly, for evidences of the truth
of revelation; and at length, recollecting a book he had once seen in his
father's shop, entitled "De Veritate Religionis," etc., he began to think
himself highly culpable for neglecting such a means of information, and
took himself severely to task for this sin, adding many acts of
voluntary, and to others unknown, penance.  The first opportunity which
offered, of course, he seized the book with avidity, but on examination,
not finding himself scholar enough to peruse its contents, set his heart
at rest; and, not thinking to inquire whether there were any English
books written on the subject, followed his usual amusements, and
considered his conscience as lightened of a crime.  He redoubled his
diligence to learn the language that contained the information he most
wished for, but from the pain which guilt had given him he now began to
deduce the soul's immortality, which was the point that belief first
stopped at; and from that moment, resolving to be a Christian, became one
of the most zealous and pious ones our nation ever produced.  When he had
told me this odd anecdote of his childhood, "I cannot imagine," said he,
"what makes me talk of myself to you so, for I really never mentioned
this foolish story to anybody except Dr. Taylor, not even to my _dear_,
_dear_ Bathurst, whom I loved better than ever I loved any human
creature; but poor Bathurst is dead!"  Here a long pause and a few tears
ensued.  "Why, sir," said I, "how like is all this to Jean Jacques
Rousseau--as like, I mean, as the sensations of frost and fire, when my
child complained yesterday that the ice she was eating _burned_ her
mouth."  Mr. Johnson laughed at the incongruous ideas, but the first
thing which presented itself to the mind of an ingenious and learned
friend whom I had the pleasure to pass some time with here at Florence
was the same resemblance, though I think the two characters had little in
common, further than an early attention to things beyond the capacity of
other babies, a keen sensibility of right and wrong, and a warmth of
imagination little consistent with sound and perfect health.  I have
heard him relate another odd thing of himself too, but it is one which
everybody has heard as well as me: how, when he was about nine years old,
having got the play of Hamlet in his hand, and reading it quietly in his
father's kitchen, he kept on steadily enough till, coming to the Ghost
scene, he suddenly hurried upstairs to the street door that he might see
people about him.  Such an incident, as he was not unwilling to relate
it, is probably in every one's possession now; he told it as a testimony
to the merits of Shakespeare.  But one day, when my son was going to
school, and dear Dr. Johnson followed as far as the garden gate, praying
for his salvation in a voice which those who listened attentively could
hear plain enough, he said to me suddenly, "Make your boy tell you his
dreams: the first corruption that entered into my heart was communicated
in a dream."  "What was it, sir?" said I.  "Do not ask me," replied he,
with much violence, and walked away in apparent agitation.  I never durst
make any further inquiries.  He retained a strong aversion for the memory
of Hunter, one of his schoolmasters, who, he said, once was a brutal
fellow, "so brutal," added he, "that no man who had been educated by him
ever sent his son to the same school."  I have, however, heard him
acknowledge his scholarship to be very great.  His next master he
despised, as knowing less than himself, I found, but the name of that
gentleman has slipped my memory.  Mr. Johnson was himself exceedingly
disposed to the general indulgence of children, and was even scrupulously
and ceremoniously attentive not to offend them; he had strongly persuaded
himself of the difficulty people always find to erase early impressions
either of kindness or resentment, and said "he should never have so loved
his mother when a man had she not given him coffee she could ill afford,
to gratify his appetite when a boy."  "If you had had children, sir,"
said I, "would you have taught them anything?"  "I hope," replied he,
"that I should have willingly lived on bread and water to obtain
instruction for them; but I would not have set their future friendship to
hazard for the sake of thrusting into their heads knowledge of things for
which they might not perhaps have either taste or necessity.  You teach
your daughters the diameters of the planets, and wonder when you have
done that they do not delight in your company.  No science can be
communicated by mortal creatures without attention from the scholar; no
attention can be obtained from children without the infliction of pain,
and pain is never remembered without resentment."  That something should
be learned was, however, so certainly his opinion that I have heard him
say how education had been often compared to agriculture, yet that it
resembled it chiefly in this: "That if nothing is sown, no crop," says
he, "can be obtained."  His contempt of the lady who fancied her son
could be eminent without study, because Shakespeare was found wanting in
scholastic learning, was expressed in terms so gross and so well known, I
will not repeat them here.

To recollect, however, and to repeat the sayings of Dr. Johnson, is
almost all that can be done by the writers of his life, as his life, at
least since my acquaintance with him, consisted in little else than
talking, when he was not absolutely employed in some serious piece of
work; and whatever work he did seemed so much below his powers of
performance that he appeared the idlest of all human beings, ever musing
till he was called out to converse, and conversing till the fatigue of
his friends, or the promptitude of his own temper to take offence,
consigned him back again to silent meditation.

The remembrance of what had passed in his own childhood made Mr. Johnson
very solicitous to preserve the felicity of children: and when he had
persuaded Dr. Sumner to remit the tasks usually given to fill up boys'
time during the holidays, he rejoiced exceedingly in the success of his
negotiation, and told me that he had never ceased representing to all the
eminent schoolmasters in England the absurd tyranny of poisoning the hour
of permitted pleasure by keeping future misery before the children's
eyes, and tempting them by bribery or falsehood to evade it.  "Bob
Sumner," said he, "however, I have at length prevailed upon.  I know not,
indeed, whether his tenderness was persuaded, or his reason convinced,
but the effect will always be the same.  Poor Dr. Sumner died, however,
before the next vacation."

Mr. Johnson was of opinion, too, that young people should have
_positive_, not _general_, rules given for their direction.  "My mother,"
said he, "was always telling me that I did not _behave_ myself properly,
that I should endeavour to learn _behaviour_, and such cant; but when I
replied that she ought to tell me what to do, and what to avoid, her
admonitions were commonly, for that time at least, at an end."

This I fear was, however, at best a momentary refuge found out by
perverseness.  No man knew better than Johnson in how many nameless and
numberless actions _behaviour_ consists--actions which can scarcely be
reduced to rule, and which come under no description.  Of these he
retained so many very strange ones, that I suppose no one who saw his odd
manner of gesticulating much blamed or wondered at the good lady's
solicitude concerning her son's _behaviour_.

Though he was attentive to the peace of children in general, no man had a
stronger contempt than he for such parents as openly profess that they
cannot govern their children.  "How," says he, "is an army governed?  Such
people, for the most part, multiply prohibitions till obedience becomes
impossible, and authority appears absurd, and never suspect that they
tease their family, their friends, and themselves, only because
conversation runs low, and something must be said."

Of parental authority, indeed, few people thought with a lower degree of
estimation.  I one day mentioned the resignation of Cyrus to his father's
will, as related by Xenophon, when, after all his conquests, he requested
the consent of Cambyses to his marriage with a neighbouring princess, and
I added Rollin's applause and recommendation of the example.  "Do you not
perceive, then," says Johnson, "that Xenophon on this occasion commends
like a pedant, and Pere Rollin applauds like a slave?  If Cyrus by his
conquests had not purchased emancipation, he had conquered to little
purpose indeed.  Can you forbear to see the folly of a fellow who has in
his care the lives of thousands, when he begs his papa permission to be
married, and confesses his inability to decide in a matter which concerns
no man's happiness but his own?"  Mr. Johnson caught me another time
reprimanding the daughter of my housekeeper for having sat down
unpermitted in her mother's presence.  "Why, she gets her living, does
she not," said he, "without her mother's help?  Let the wench alone,"
continued he.  And when we were again out of the women's sight who were
concerned in the dispute: "Poor people's children, dear lady," said he,
"never respect them.  I did not respect my own mother, though I loved
her.  And one day, when in anger she called me a puppy, I asked her if
she knew what they called a puppy's mother."  We were talking of a young
fellow who used to come often to the house; he was about fifteen years
old, or less, if I remember right, and had a manner at once sullen and
sheepish.  "That lad," says Mr. Johnson, "looks like the son of a
schoolmaster, which," added he, "is one of the very worst conditions of
childhood.  Such a boy has no father, or worse than none; he never can
reflect on his parent but the reflection brings to his mind some idea of
pain inflicted, or of sorrow suffered."

I will relate one thing more that Dr. Johnson said about babyhood before
I quit the subject; it was this: "That little people should be encouraged
always to tell whatever they hear particularly striking to some brother,
sister, or servant immediately, before the impression is erased by the
intervention of newer occurrences.  He perfectly remembered the first
time he ever heard of Heaven and Hell," he said, "because when his mother
had made out such a description of both places as she thought likely to
seize the attention of her infant auditor, who was then in bed with her,
she got up, and dressing him before the usual time, sent him directly to
call a favourite workman in the house, to whom he knew he would
communicate the conversation while it was yet impressed upon his mind.
The event was what she wished, and it was to that method chiefly that he
owed his uncommon felicity of remembering distant occurrences and long
past conversations."

At the age of eighteen Dr. Johnson quitted school, and escaped from the
tuition of those he hated or those he despised.  I have heard him relate
very few college adventures.  He used to say that our best accounts of
his behaviour there would be gathered from Dr. Adams and Dr. Taylor, and
that he was sure they would always tell the truth.  He told me, however,
one day how, when he was first entered at the University, he passed a
morning, in compliance with the customs of the place, at his tutor's
chambers; but, finding him no scholar, went no more.  In about ten days
after, meeting the same gentleman, Mr. Jordan, in the street, he offered
to pass by without saluting him; but the tutor stopped, and inquired, not
roughly neither, what he had been doing?  "Sliding on the ice," was the
reply, and so turned away with disdain.  He laughed very heartily at the
recollection of his own insolence, and said they endured it from him with
wonderful acquiescence, and a gentleness that, whenever he thought of it,
astonished himself.  He told me, too, that when he made his first
declamation, he wrote over but one copy, and that coarsely; and having
given it into the hand of the tutor, who stood to receive it as he
passed, was obliged to begin by chance and continue on how he could, for
he had got but little of it by heart; so fairly trusting to his present
powers for immediate supply, he finished by adding astonishment to the
applause of all who knew how little was owing to study.  A prodigious
risk, however, said some one.  "Not at all!" exclaims Johnson.  "No man,
I suppose, leaps at once into deep water who does not know how to swim."

I doubt not but this story will be told by many of his biographers, and
said so to him when he told it me on the 18th of July, 1773.  "And who
will be my biographer," said he, "do you think?"  "Goldsmith, no doubt,"
replied I, "and he will do it the best among us."  "The dog would write
it best, to be sure," replied he; "but his particular malice towards me,
and general disregard for truth, would make the book useless to all, and
injurious to my character."  "Oh! as to that," said I, "we should all
fasten upon him, and force him to do you justice; but the worst is, the
Doctor does not _know_ your life; nor can I tell indeed who does, except
Dr. Taylor of Ashbourne."  "Why, Taylor," said he, "is better acquainted
with my _heart_ than any man or woman now alive; and the history of my
Oxford exploits lies all between him and Adams; but Dr. James knows my
very early days better than he.  After my coming to London to drive the
world about a little, you must all go to Jack Hawkesworth for anecdotes.
I lived in great familiarity with him (though I think there was not much
affection) from the year 1753 till the time Mr. Thrale and you took me
up.  I intend, however, to disappoint the rogues, and either make you
write the life, with Taylor's intelligence, or, which is better, do it
myself, after outliving you all.  I am now," added he, "keeping a diary,
in hopes of using it for that purpose some time."  Here the conversation
stopped, from my accidentally looking in an old magazine of the year
1768, where I saw the following lines with his name to them, and asked if
they were his:--

   _Verses said to be written by Dr. Samuel Johnson_, _at the request of
   a gentleman to whom a lady had given a sprig of myrtle_.

   "What hopes, what terrors, does thy gift create,
   Ambiguous emblem of uncertain fate;
   The myrtle, ensign of supreme command,
   Consigned by Venus to Melissa's hand:
   Not less capricious than a reigning fair,
   Now grants, and now rejects a lover's prayer.
   In myrtle shades oft sings the happy swain,
   In myrtle shades despairing ghosts complain:
   The myrtle crowns the happy lovers' heads,
   The unhappy lover's grave the myrtle spreads:
   Oh, then, the meaning of thy gift impart,
   And ease the throbbings of an anxious heart!
   Soon must this bough, as you shall fix his doom,
   Adorn Philander's head, or grace his tomb."

"Why, now, do but see how the world is gaping for a wonder!" cries Mr.
Johnson.  "I think it is now just forty years ago that a young fellow had
a sprig of myrtle given him by a girl he courted, and asked me to write
him some verses that he might present her in return.  I promised, but
forgot; and when he called for his lines at the time agreed on--'Sit
still a moment,' says I, 'dear Mund, and I'll fetch them thee,' so
stepped aside for five minutes, and wrote the nonsense you now keep such
a stir about."

Upon revising these anecdotes, it is impossible not to be struck with
shame and regret that one treasured no more of them up; but no experience
is sufficient to cure the vice of negligence.  Whatever one sees
constantly, or might see constantly, becomes uninteresting; and we suffer
every trivial occupation, every slight amusement, to hinder us from
writing down what, indeed, we cannot choose but remember, but what we
should wish to recollect with pleasure, unpoisoned by remorse for not
remembering more.  While I write this, I neglect impressing my mind with
the wonders of art and beauties of nature that now surround me; and shall
one day, perhaps, think on the hours I might have profitably passed in
the Florentine Gallery, and reflecting on Raphael's St. John at that
time, as upon Johnson's conversation in this moment, may justly exclaim
of the months spent by me most delightfully in Italy--

   "That I prized every hour that passed by,
      Beyond all that had pleased me before;
   But now they are past, and I sigh
      And I grieve that I prized them no more."


Dr. Johnson delighted in his own partiality for Oxford; and one day, at
my house, entertained five members of the other University with various
instances of the superiority of Oxford, enumerating the gigantic names of
many men whom it had produced, with apparent triumph.  At last I said to
him, "Why, there happens to be no less than five Cambridge men in the
room now."  "I did not," said he, "think of that till you told me; but
the wolf don't count the sheep."  When the company were retired, we
happened to be talking of Dr. Barnard, the Provost of Eton, who died
about that time; and after a long and just eulogium on his wit, his
learning, and his goodness of heart, "He was the only man, too," says Mr.
Johnson, quite seriously, "that did justice to my good breeding; and you
may observe that I am well-bred to a degree of needless scrupulosity.  No
man," continued he, not observing the amazement of his hearers, "no man
is so cautious not to interrupt another; no man thinks it so necessary to
appear attentive when others are speaking; no man so steadily refuses
preference to himself, or so willingly bestows it on another, as I do;
nobody holds so strongly as I do the necessity of ceremony, and the ill
effects which follow the breach of it, yet people think me rude; but
Barnard did me justice."  "'Tis pity," said I, laughing, "that he had not
heard you compliment the Cambridge men after dinner to-day."  "Why,"
replied he, "I was inclined to _down_ them sure enough; but then a fellow
_deserves_ to be of Oxford that talks so."  I have heard him at other
times relate how he used so sit in some coffee-house there, and turn M---
's "C-r-ct-c-s" into ridicule for the diversion of himself and of chance
comers-in.  "The 'Elf-da,'" says he, "was too exquisitely pretty; I could
make no fun out of that."  When upon some occasions he would express his
astonishment that he should have an enemy in the world, while he had been
doing nothing but good to his neighbours, I used to make him recollect
these circumstances.  "Why, child," said he, "what harm could that do the
fellow?  I always thought very well of M---n for a _Cambridge_ man; he
is, I believe, a mighty blameless character."  Such tricks were, however,
the more unpardonable in Mr. Johnson, because no one could harangue like
him about the difficulty always found in forgiving petty injuries, or in
provoking by needless offence.  Mr. Jordan, his tutor, had much of his
affection, though he despised his want of scholastic learning.  "That
creature would," said he, "defend his pupils to the last: no young lad
under his care should suffer for committing slight improprieties, while
he had breath to defend, or power to protect them.  If I had had sons to
send to College," added he, "Jordan should have been their tutor."

Sir William Browne, the physician, who lived to a very extraordinary age,
and was in other respects an odd mortal, with more genius than
understanding, and more self sufficiency than wit, was the only person
who ventured to oppose Mr. Johnson when he had a mind to shine by
exalting his favourite university, and to express his contempt of the
Whiggish notions which prevail at Cambridge.  _He_ did it once, however,
with surprising felicity.  His antagonist having repeated with an air of
triumph the famous epigram written by Dr. Trapp--

   "Our royal master saw, with heedful eyes,
   The wants of his two universities:
   Troops he to Oxford sent, as knowing why
   That learned body wanted loyalty:
   But books to Cambridge gave, as well discerning
   That that right loyal body wanted learning."

Which, says Sir William, might well be answered thus:--

   "The King to Oxford sent his troop of horse,
   For Tories own no argument but force;
   With equal care to Cambridge books he sent,
   For Whigs allow no force but argument."

Mr. Johnson did him the justice to say it was one of the happiest
extemporaneous productions he ever met with, though he once comically
confessed that he hated to repeat the wit of a Whig urged in support of
Whiggism.  Says Garrick to him one day, "Why did not you make me a Tory,
when we lived so much together?  You love to make people Tories."  "Why,"
says Johnson, pulling a heap of halfpence from his pocket, "did not the
king make these guineas?"

Of Mr. Johnson's Toryism the world has long been witness, and the
political pamphlets written by him in defence of his party are vigorous
and elegant.  He often delighted his imagination with the thoughts of
having destroyed Junius, an anonymous writer who flourished in the years
1769 and 1770, and who kept himself so ingeniously concealed from every
endeavour to detect him that no probable guess was, I believe, ever
formed concerning the author's name, though at that time the subject of
general conversation.  Mr. Johnson made us all laugh one day, because I
had received a remarkably fine Stilton cheese as a present from some
person who had packed and directed it carefully, but without mentioning
whence it came.  Mr. Thrale, desirous to know who we were obliged to,
asked every friend as they came in, but nobody owned it.  "Depend upon
it, sir," says Johnson, "it was sent by _Junius_."

The "False Alarm," his first and favourite pamphlet, was written at our
house between eight o'clock on Wednesday night and twelve o'clock on
Thursday night.  We read it to Mr. Thrale when he came very late home
from the House of Commons; the other political tracts followed in their
order.  I have forgotten which contains the stroke at Junius, but shall
for ever remember the pleasure it gave him to have written it.  It was,
however, in the year 1775 that Mr. Edmund Burke made the famous speech in
Parliament that struck even foes with admiration, and friends with
delight.  Among the nameless thousands who are contented to echo those
praises they have not skill to invent, _I_ ventured, before Dr. Johnson
himself, to applaud with rapture the beautiful passage in it concerning
Lord Bathurst and the Angel, which, said our Doctor, had I been in the
house, I would have answered _thus_:--

   "Suppose, Mr. Speaker, that to Wharton or to Marlborough, or to any of
   the eminent Whigs of the last age, the devil had, not with any great
   impropriety, consented to appear, he would, perhaps, in somewhat like
   these words, have commenced the conversation:

   "'You seem, my lord, to be concerned at the judicious apprehension
   that while you are sapping the foundations of royalty at home, and
   propagating here the dangerous doctrine of resistance, the distance of
   America may secure its inhabitants from your arts, though active.  But
   I will unfold to you the gay prospects of futurity.  This people, now
   so innocent and harmless, shall draw the sword against their mother
   country, and bathe its point in the blood of their benefactors; this
   people, now contented with a little, shall then refuse to spare what
   they themselves confess they could not miss; and these men, now so
   honest and so grateful, shall, in return for peace and for protection,
   see their vile agents in the House of Parliament, there to sow the
   seeds of sedition, and propagate confusion, perplexity, and pain.  Be
   not dispirited, then, at the contemplation of their present happy
   state: I promise you that anarchy, poverty, and death shall, by my
   care, be carried even across the spacious Atlantic, and settle in
   America itself, the sure consequences of our beloved Whiggism.'"

This I thought a thing so very particular that I begged his leave to
write it down directly, before anything could intervene that might make
me forget the force of the expressions.  A trick which I have, however,
seen played on common occasions, of sitting steadily down at the other
end of the room to write at the moment what should be said in company,
either _by_ Dr. Johnson or _to_ him, I never practised myself, nor
approved of in another.  There is something so ill-bred, and so inclining
to treachery in this conduct, that were it commonly adopted all
confidence would soon be exiled from society, and a conversation assembly-
room would become tremendous as a court of justice.  A set of
acquaintance joined in familiar chat may say a thousand things which, as
the phrase is, pass well enough at the time, though they cannot stand the
test of critical examination; and as all talk beyond that which is
necessary to the purposes of actual business is a kind of game, there
will be ever found ways of playing fairly or unfairly at it, which
distinguish the gentleman from the juggler.  Dr. Johnson, as well as many
of my acquaintance, knew that I kept a common-place book, and he one day
said to me good-humouredly that he would give me something to write in my
repository.  "I warrant," said he, "there is a great deal about me in it.
You shall have at least one thing worth your pains, so if you will get
the pen and ink I will repeat to you Anacreon's 'Dove' directly; but tell
at the same time that as I never was struck with anything in the Greek
language till I read _that_, so I never read anything in the same
language since that pleased me as much.  I hope my translation,"
continued he, "is not worse than that of Frank Fawkes."  Seeing me
disposed to laugh, "Nay, nay," said he, "Frank Fawkes has done them very

   "Lovely courier of the sky,
   Whence and whither dost thou fly?
   Scatt'ring, as thy pinions play,
   Liquid fragrance all the way.
   Is it business? is it love?
   Tell me, tell me, gentle Dove.
   'Soft Anacreon's vows I bear,
   Vows to Myrtale the fair;
   Graced with all that charms the heart,
   Blushing nature, smiling art.
   Venus, courted by an ode,
   On the bard her Dove bestowed.
   Vested with a master's right
   Now Anacreon rules my flight;
   His the letters that you see,
   Weighty charge consigned to me;
   Think not yet my service hard,
   Joyless task without reward;
   Smiling at my master's gates,
   Freedom my return awaits.
   But the liberal grant in vain
   Tempts me to be wild again.
   Can a prudent Dove decline
   Blissful bondage such as mine?
   Over hills and fields to roam,
   Fortune's guest without a home;
   Under leaves to hide one's head,
   Slightly sheltered, coarsely fed;
   Now my better lot bestows
   Sweet repast, and soft repose;
   Now the generous bowl I sip
   As it leaves Anacreon's lip;
   Void of care, and free from dread,
   From his fingers snatch his bread,
   Then with luscious plenty gay,
   Round his chamber dance and play;
   Or from wine, as courage springs,
   O'er his face extend my wings;
   And when feast and frolic tire,
   Drop asleep upon his lyre.
   This is all, be quick and go,
   More than all thou canst not know;
   Let me now my pinions ply,
   I have chattered like a pie.'"

When I had finished, "But you must remember to add," says Mr. Johnson,
"that though these verses were planned, and even begun, when I was
sixteen years old, I never could find time to make an end of them before
I was sixty-eight."

This facility of writing, and this dilatoriness ever to write, Mr.
Johnson always retained, from the days that he lay abed and dictated his
first publication to Mr. Hector, who acted as his amanuensis, to the
moment he made me copy out those variations in Pope's "Homer" which are
printed in the "Poets' Lives."  "And now," said he, when I had finished
it for him, "I fear not Mr. Nicholson of a pin."  The fine 'Rambler,' on
the subject of Procrastination, was hastily composed, as I have heard, in
Sir Joshua Reynolds's parlour, while the boy waited to carry it to press;
and numberless are the instances of his writing under immediate pressure
of importunity or distress.  He told me that the character of Sober in
the 'Idler' was by himself intended as his own portrait, and that he had
his own outset into life in his eye when he wrote the Eastern story of
"Gelaleddin." Of the allegorical papers in the 'Rambler,' Labour and Rest
was his favourite; but Scrotinus, the man who returns late in life to
receive honours in his native country, and meets with mortification
instead of respect, was by him considered as a masterpiece in the science
of life and manners.  The character of Prospero in the fourth volume
Garrick took to be his; and I have heard the author say that he never
forgave the offence.  Sophron was likewise a picture drawn from reality,
and by Gelidus, the philosopher, he meant to represent Mr. Coulson, a
mathematician, who formerly lived at Rochester.  The man immortalised for
purring like a cat was, as he told me, one Busby, a proctor in the
Commons.  He who barked so ingeniously, and then called the drawer to
drive away the dog, was father to Dr. Salter, of the Charterhouse.  He
who sang a song, and by correspondent motions of his arm chalked out a
giant on the wall, was one Richardson, an attorney.  The letter signed
"Sunday" was written by Miss Talbot; and he fancied the billets in the
first volume of the 'Rambler' were sent him by Miss Mulso, now Mrs.
Chapone.  The papers contributed by Mrs. Carter had much of his esteem,
though he always blamed me for preferring the letter signed "Chariessa"
to the allegory, where religion and superstition are indeed most masterly

When Dr. Johnson read his own satire, in which the life of a scholar is
painted, with the various obstructions thrown in his way to fortune and
to fame, he burst into a passion of tears one day.  The family and Mr.
Scott only were present, who, in a jocose way, clapped him on the back,
and said, "What's all this, my dear sir?  Why, you and I and _Hercules_,
you know, were all troubled with _melancholy_."  As there are many
gentlemen of the same name, I should say, perhaps, that it was a Mr.
Scott who married Miss Robinson, and that I think I have heard Mr. Thrale
call him George Lowis, or George Augustus, I have forgot which.  He was a
very large man, however, and made out the triumvirate with Johnson and
Hercules comically enough.  The Doctor was so delighted at his odd sally
that he suddenly embraced him, and the subject was immediately changed.  I
never saw Mr. Scott but that once in my life.

Dr. Johnson was liberal enough in granting literary assistance to others,
I think; and innumerable are the prefaces, sermons, lectures, and
dedications which he used to make for people who begged of him.  Mr.
Murphy related in his and my hearing one day, and he did not deny it,
that when Murphy joked him the week before for having been so diligent of
late between Dodd's sermon and Kelly's prologue, Dr. Johnson replied,
"Why, sir, when they come to me with a dead staymaker and a dying parson,
what can a man do?"  He _said_, however, that "he hated to give away
literary performances, or even to sell them too cheaply.  The next
generation shall not accuse me," added he, "of beating down the price of
literature.  One hates, besides, ever to give that which one has been
accustomed to sell.  Would not you, sir," turning to Mr. Thrale, "rather
give away money than porter?"

Mr. Johnson had never, by his own account, been a close student, and used
to advise young people never to be without a book in their pocket, to be
read at bye-times when they had nothing else to do.  "It has been by that
means," said he to a boy at our house one day, "that all my knowledge has
been gained, except what I have picked up by running about the world with
my wits ready to observe, and my tongue ready to talk.  A man is seldom
in a humour to unlock his bookcase, set his desk in order, and betake
himself to serious study; but a retentive memory will do something, and a
fellow shall have strange credit given him, if he can but recollect
striking passages from different books, keep the authors separate in his
head, and bring his stock of knowledge artfully into play.  How else,"
added he, "do the gamesters manage when they play for more money than
they are worth?"  His Dictionary, however, could not, one would think,
have been written by running up and down; but he really did not consider
it as a great performance; and used to say "that he might have done it
easily in two years had not his health received several shocks during the

When Mr. Thrale, in consequence of this declaration, teased him in the
year 1768 to give a new edition of it, because, said he, there are four
or five gross faults: "Alas! sir," replied Johnson, "there are four or
five hundred faults instead of four or five; but you do not consider that
it would take me up three whole months' labour, and when the time was
expired the work would not be done."  When the booksellers set him about
it, however, some years after, he went cheerfully to the business, said
he was well paid, and that they deserved to have it done carefully.  His
reply to the person who complimented him on its coming out first,
mentioning the ill success of the French in a similar attempt, is well
known, and, I trust, has been often recorded.  "Why, what would you
expect, dear sir," said he, "from fellows that eat frogs?"  I have,
however, often thought Dr. Johnson more free than prudent in professing
so loudly his little skill in the Greek language; for though he
considered it as a proof of a narrow mind to be too careful of literary
reputation, yet no man could be more enraged than he if an enemy, taking
advantage of this confession, twitted him with his ignorance; and I
remember when the King of Denmark was in England one of his noblemen was
brought by Mr. Colman to see Dr. Johnson at our country house, and having
heard, he said, that he was not famous for Greek literature, attacked him
on the weak side, politely adding that he chose that conversation on
purpose to favour himself.  Our Doctor, however, displayed so copious, so
compendious a knowledge of authors, books, and every branch of learning
in that language, that the gentleman appeared astonished.  When he was
gone home, says Johnson, "Now, for all this triumph I may thank Thrale's
Xenophon here, as I think, excepting that _one_, I have not looked in a
Greek book these ten years; but see what haste my dear friends were all
in," continued he, "to tell this poor innocent foreigner that I know
nothing of Greek!  Oh, no, he knows nothing of Greek!" with a loud burst
of laughing.

When Davies printed the "Fugitive Pieces" without his knowledge or
consent, "How," said I, "would Pope have raved, had he been served so!"
"We should never," replied he, "have heard the last on't, to be sure; but
then Pope was a narrow man.  I will, however," added he, "storm and
bluster _myself_ a little this time," so went to London in all the wrath
he could muster up.  At his return I asked how the affair ended.  "Why,"
said he, "I was a fierce fellow, and pretended to be very angry; and
Thomas was a good-natured fellow, and pretended to be very sorry; so
_there_ the matter ended.  I believe the dog loves me dearly.  Mr.
Thrale," turning to my husband, "what shall you and I do that is good for
Tom Davies?  We will do something for him, to be sure."

Of Pope as a writer he had the highest opinion, and once when a lady at
our house talked of his preface to Shakespeare as superior to Pope's, "I
fear not, madam," said he, "the little fellow has done wonders."  His
superior reverence of Dryden, notwithstanding, still appeared in his talk
as in his writings; and when some one mentioned the ridicule thrown on
him in the 'Rehearsal,' as having hurt his general character as an
author, "On the contrary," says Mr. Johnson, "the greatness of Dryden's
reputation is now the only principle of vitality which keeps the Duke of
Buckingham's play from putrefaction."

It was not very easy, however, for people not quite intimate with Dr.
Johnson to get exactly his opinion of a writer's merit, as he would now
and then divert himself by confounding those who thought themselves
obliged to say to-morrow what he had said yesterday; and even Garrick,
who ought to have been better acquainted with his tricks, professed
himself mortified that one time when he was extolling Dryden in a rapture
that I suppose disgusted his friend, Mr. Johnson suddenly challenged him
to produce twenty lines in a series that would not disgrace the poet and
his admirer.  Garrick produced a passage that he had once heard the
Doctor commend, in which he _now_ found, if I remember rightly, sixteen
faults, and made Garrick look silly at his own table.  When I told Mr.
Johnson the story, "Why, what a monkey was David now," says he, "to tell
of his own disgrace!"  And in the course of that hour's chat he told me
how he used to tease Garrick by commendations of the tomb-scene in
Congreve's 'Mourning Bride,' protesting, that Shakespeare had in the same
line of excellence nothing as good.  "All which is strictly _true_," said
he; "but that is no reason for supposing Congreve is to stand in
competition with Shakespeare: these fellows know not how to blame, nor
how to commend."  I forced him one day, in a similar humour, to prefer
Young's description of "Night" to the so much admired ones of Dryden and
Shakespeare, as more forcible and more general.  Every reader is not
either a lover or a tyrant, but every reader is interested when he hears

   "Creation sleeps; 'tis as the general pulse
   Of life stood still, and nature made a pause;
   An awful pause--prophetic of its end."

"This," said he, "is true; but remember that, taking the compositions of
Young in general, they are but like bright stepping-stones over a miry
road.  Young froths and foams, and bubbles sometimes very vigorously; but
we must not compare the noise made by your tea-kettle here with the
roaring of the ocean."

Somebody was praising Corneille one day in opposition to Shakespeare.
"Corneille is to Shakespeare," replied Mr. Johnson, "as a clipped hedge
is to a forest."  When we talked of Steele's Essays, "They are too thin,"
says our critic, "for an Englishman's taste: mere superficial
observations on life and manners, without erudition enough to make them
keep, like the light French wines, which turn sour with standing awhile
for want of _body_, as we call it."

Of a much-admired poem, when extolled as beautiful, he replied, "That it
had indeed the beauty of a bubble.  The colours are gay," said he, "but
the substance slight."  Of James Harris's Dedication to his "Hermes," I
have heard him observe that, though but fourteen lines long, there were
six grammatical faults in it.  A friend was praising the style of Dr.
Swift; Mr. Johnson did not find himself in the humour to agree with him:
the critic was driven from one of his performances to the other.  At
length, "You _must_ allow me," said the gentleman, "that there are
_strong facts_ in the account of 'The Four Last Years of Queen Anne.'"
"Yes, surely, sir," replies Johnson, "and so there are in the Ordinary of
Newgate's account."  This was like the story which Mr. Murphy tells, and
Johnson always acknowledged: how Mr. Rose of Hammersmith, contending for
the preference of Scotch writers over the English, after having set up
his authors like ninepins, while the Doctor kept bowling them down again;
at last, to make sure of victory, he named Ferguson upon "Civil Society,"
and praised the book for being written in a _new_ manner.  "I do not,"
says Johnson, "perceive the value of this new manner; it is only like
Buckinger, who had no hands, and so wrote with his feet."  Of a modern
Martial, when it came out: "There are in these verses," says Dr. Johnson,
"too much folly for madness, I think, and too much madness for folly."
If, however, Mr. Johnson lamented that the nearer he approached to his
own times, the more enemies he should make, by telling biographical
truths in his "Lives of the Later Poets," what may I not apprehend, who,
if I relate anecdotes of Mr. Johnson, am obliged to repeat expressions of
severity, and sentences of contempt?  Let me at least soften them a
little by saying that he did not hate the persons he treated with
roughness, or despise them whom he drove from him by apparent scorn.  He
really loved and respected many whom he would not suffer to love him.  And
when he related to me a short dialogue that passed between himself and a
writer of the first eminence in the world, when he was in Scotland, I was
shocked to think how he must have disgusted him.  "Dr. --- asked me,"
said he, "why I did not join in their public worship when among them?
for," said he, "I went to your churches often when in England."  "So,"
replied Johnson, "I have read that the Siamese sent ambassadors to Louis
Quatorze, but I never heard that the King of France thought it worth his
while to send ambassadors from his court to that of _Siam_."  He was no
gentler with myself, or those for whom I had the greatest regard.  When I
one day lamented the loss of a first cousin killed in America, "Prithee,
my dear," said he, "have done with canting.  How would the world be worse
for it, I may ask, if all your relations were at once spitted like larks,
and roasted for Presto's supper?"  Presto was the dog that lay under the
table while we talked.  When we went into Wales together, and spent some
time at Sir Robert Cotton's, at Lleweny, one day at dinner I meant to
please Mr. Johnson particularly with a dish of very young peas.  "Are not
they charming?" said I to him, while he was eating them.  "Perhaps," said
he, "they would be so--to a _pig_."

I only instance these replies, to excuse my mentioning those he made to

When a well-known author published his poems in the year 1777: "Such a
one's verses are come out," said I.  "Yes," replied Johnson, "and this
frost has struck them in again.  Here are some lines I have written to
ridicule them; but remember that I love the fellow dearly now, for all I
laugh at him:--

   "'Wheresoe'er I turn my view,
    All is strange, yet nothing new;
    Endless labour all along,
    Endless labour to be wrong;
    Phrase that Time has flung away;
    Uncouth words in disarray,
    Tricked in antique ruff and bonnet,
    Ode, and elegy, and sonnet.'"

When he parodied the verses of another eminent writer, it was done with
more provocation, I believe, and with some merry malice.  A serious
translation of the same lines, which I think are from Euripides, may be
found in Burney's "History of Music." Here are the burlesque ones:--

   "Err shall they not, who resolute explore
      Time's gloomy backward with judicious eyes;
   And scanning right the practices of yore,
      Shall deem our hoar progenitors unwise.

   "They to the dome where smoke with curling play
      Announced the dinner to the regions round,
   Summoned the singer blithe, and harper gay,
      And aided wine with dulcet streaming sound.

   "The better use of notes, or sweet or shrill,
      By quivering string, or modulated wind;
   Trumpet or lyre--to their harsh bosoms chill,
      Admission ne'er had sought, or could not find.

   "Oh! send them to the sullen mansions dun,
      Her baleful eyes where Sorrow rolls around;
   Where gloom-enamoured Mischief loves to dwell,
      And Murder, all blood-boltered, schemes the wound.

   "When cates luxuriant pile the spacious dish,
      And purple nectar glads the festive hour;
   The guest, without a want, without a wish,
      Can yield no room to Music's soothing power."

Some of the old legendary stories put in verse by modern writers provoked
him to caricature them thus one day at Streatham; but they are already
well known, I am sure.

   "The tender infant, meek and mild,
      Fell down upon the stone;
   The nurse took up the squealing child,
      But still the child squealed on."

A famous ballad also, beginning 'Rio verde, Rio verde,' when I commended
the translation of it, he said he could do it better himself--as thus:

   "Glassy water, glassy water,
      Down whose current clear and strong,
   Chiefs confused in mutual slaughter,
      Moor and Christian roll along."

"But, sir," said I, "this is not ridiculous at all."  "Why, no," replied
he, "why should I always write ridiculously?  Perhaps because I made
these verses to imitate such a one," naming him:

   "'Hermit hoar, in solemn cell
      Wearing out life's evening grey;
   Strike thy bosom, sage! and tell
      What is bliss, and which the way?'

   "Thus I spoke, and speaking sighed,
      Scarce repressed the starting tear,
   When the hoary sage replied,
      'Come, my lad, and drink some beer.'"

I could give another comical instance of caricatura imitation.
Recollecting some day, when praising these verses of Lopez de Vega--

   "Se acquien los leones vence,
      Vence una muger hermosa,
   O el de flaco averguence,
      O ella di ser mas furiosa,"

more than he thought they deserved, Mr. Johnson instantly observed "that
they were founded on a trivial conceit, and that conceit ill-explained
and ill-expressed besides.  The lady, we all know, does not conquer in
the same manner as the lion does.  'Tis a mere play of words," added he,
"and you might as well say that

   "'If the man who turnips cries,
   Cry not when his father dies,
   'Tis a proof that he had rather
   Have a turnip than his father.'"

And this humour is of the same sort with which he answered the friend who
commended the following line:--

   "Who rules o'er freemen should himself be free."

"To be sure," said Dr. Johnson--

   "'Who drives fat oxen should himself be fat.'"

This readiness of finding a parallel, or making one, was shown by him
perpetually in the course of conversation.  When the French verses of a
certain pantomime were quoted thus:

   "Je suis Cassandre descendue des cieux,
   Pour vous faire entendre, mesdames et messieurs,
   Que je suis Cassandre descendue des cieux,"

he cried out gaily and suddenly, almost in a moment--

   "I am Cassandra come down from the sky,
   To tell each bystander what none can deny,
   That I am Cassandra come down from the sky."

The pretty Italian verses, too, at the end of Baretti's book called "Easy
Phraseology," he did all' improviso, in the same manner:

   "Viva! viva la padrona!
   Tutta bella, e tutta buona,
   La padrona e un angiolella
   Tutta buona e tutta bella;
   Tutta bella e tutta buona;
   Viva! viva la padrona!"

   "Long may live my lovely Hetty!
   Always young and always pretty,
   Always pretty, always young,
   Live my lovely Hetty long!
   Always young and always pretty!
   Long may live my lovely Hetty!"

The famous distich, too, of an Italian improvisatore, when the Duke of
Modena ran away from the comet in the year 1742 or 1743:

   "Se al venir vestro i principi sen' vanno,
   Deh venga ogni di --- durate un anno;"

"which," said he, "would do just as well in our language thus:

   "'If at your coming princes disappear,
   Comets! come every day--and stay a year.'"

When some one in company commended the verses of M. de Benserade a son

   "Theatre des ris et des pleurs,
   Lit! on je nais, et ou je meurs,
   Tu nous fais voir comment voisins
   Sont nos plaisirs et nos chagrins."

To which he replied without hesitating--

   "'In bed we laugh, in bed we cry,
   And born in bed, in bed we die;
   The near approach a bed may show
   Of human bliss to human woe.'"

The inscription on the collar of Sir Joseph Banks's goat, which had been
on two of his adventurous expeditions with him, and was then, by the
humanity of her amiable master, turned out to graze in Kent as a
recompense for her utility and faithful service, was given me by Johnson
in the year 1777, I think, and I have never yet seen it printed:

   "Perpetui, ambita, bis terra, premia lactis,
   Haec habet altrici Capra secunda Jovis."

The epigram written at Lord Anson's house many years ago, "where," says
Mr. Johnson, "I was well received and kindly treated, and with the true
gratitude of a wit ridiculed the master of the house before I had left it
an hour," has been falsely printed in many papers since his death.  I
wrote it down from his own lips one evening in August, 1772, not
neglecting the little preface accusing himself of making so graceless a
return for the civilities shown him.  He had, among other elegancies
about the park and gardens, been made to observe a temple to the winds,
when this thought naturally presented itself _to a wit_:

      "Gratum animum laudo; Qui debuit omnia ventis,
   Quam bene ventorum, surgere templa jubet!"

A translation of Dryden's epigram, too, I used to fancy I had to myself:

      "Quos laudet vates, Graius, Romanus, et Anglus,
   Tres tria temporibus secla dedere suis:
   Sublime ingenium, Graius,--Romanus habebat
   Carmen grande sonans, Anglus utrumque tulit.
   Nil majus natura capit: clarare priores
   Quae potuere duos, tertius unus habet:"

from the famous lines written under Milton's picture:

      "Three poets in three distant ages born,
   Greece, Italy, and England did adorn;
   The first in loftiness of thought surpassed,
   The next in majesty; in both the last.
   The force of Nature could no further go,
   To make a third she joined the former two."

One evening in the oratorio season of the year 1771 Mr. Johnson went with
me to Covent Garden Theatre, and though he was for the most part an
exceedingly bad playhouse companion, as his person drew people's eyes
upon the box, and the loudness of his voice made it difficult for me to
hear anybody but himself, he sat surprisingly quiet, and I flattered
myself that he was listening to the music.  When we were got home,
however, he repeated these verses, which he said he had made at the
oratorio, and he bade me translate them:


        "Tertii verso quater orbe lustri
   Quid theatrales tibi crispe pompae!
   Quam decet canos male literatos
                 Sera voluptas!

        "Tene mulceri fidibus canoris?
   Tene cantorum modulis stupere?
   Tene per pictas oculo elegante
                 Currere formas?

        "Inter equales sine felle liber,
   Codices veri studiosus inter
   Rectius vives, sua quisque carpat
                 Gaudia gratus.

        "Lusibus gaudet puer otiosis
   Luxus oblectat juvenem theatri,
   At seni fluxo sapienter uti
                 Tempore restat."

I gave him the following lines in imitation, which he liked well enough,
I think:

        "When threescore years have chilled thee quite,
   Still can theatric scenes delight?
   Ill suits this place with learned wight,
                 May Bates or Coulson cry.

        "The scholar's pride can Brent disarm?
   His heart can soft Guadagni warm?
   Or scenes with sweet delusion charm
                 The climacteric eye?

        "The social club, the lonely tower,
   Far better suit thy midnight hour;
   Let each according to his power
                 In worth or wisdom shine!

        "And while play pleases idle boys,
   And wanton mirth fond youth employs,
   To fix the soul, and free from toys,
                 That useful task be thine."

The copy of verses in Latin hexameters, as well as I remember, which he
wrote to Dr. Lawrence, I forgot to keep a copy of; and he obliged me to
resign his translation of the song beginning, "Busy, curious, thirsty
fly," for him to give Mr. Langton, with a promise _not_ to retain a copy.
I concluded he knew why, so never inquired the reason.  He had the
greatest possible value for Mr. Langton, of Langton Hall, Lincoln, of
whose virtue and learning he delighted to talk in very exalted terms; and
poor Dr. Lawrence had long been his friend and confident.  The
conversation I saw them hold together in Essex Street one day, in the
year 1781 or 1782, was a melancholy one, and made a singular impression
on my mind.  He was himself exceedingly ill, and I accompanied him
thither for advice.  The physician was, however, in some respects more to
be pitied than the patient.  Johnson was panting under an asthma and
dropsy, but Lawrence had been brought home that very morning struck with
the palsy, from which he had, two hours before we came, strove to awaken
himself by blisters.  They were both deaf, and scarce able to speak
besides: one from difficulty of breathing, the other from paralytic
debility.  To give and receive medical counsel, therefore, they fairly
sat down on each side a table in the doctor's gloomy apartment, adorned
with skeletons, preserved monsters, etc., and agreed to write Latin
billets to each other.  Such a scene did I never see.  "You," said
Johnson, "are timide and gelide," finding that his friend had prescribed
palliative, not drastic, remedies.  "It is not _me_," replies poor
Lawrence, in an interrupted voice, "'tis nature that is gelide and
timide."  In fact, he lived but few months after, I believe, and retained
his faculties still a shorter time.  He was a man of strict piety and
profound learning, but little skilled in the knowledge of life or
manners, and died without having ever enjoyed the reputation he so justly

Mr. Johnson's health had been always extremely bad since I first knew
him, and his over-anxious care to retain without blemish the perfect
sanity of his mind contributed much to disturb it.  He had studied
medicine diligently in all its branches, but had given particular
attention to the diseases of the imagination, which he watched in himself
with a solicitude destructive of his own peace, and intolerable to those
he trusted.  Dr. Lawrence told him one day that if he would come and beat
him once a week he would bear it, but to hear his complaints was more
than _man_ could support.  'Twas therefore that he tried, I suppose, and
in eighteen years contrived to weary the patience of a _woman_.  When Mr.
Johnson felt his fancy, or fancied he felt it, disordered, his constant
recurrence was to the study of arithmetic, and one day that he was
totally confined to his chamber, and I inquired what he had been doing to
divert himself, he showed me a calculation which I could scarce be made
to understand, so vast was the plan of it, and so very intricate were the
figures: no other, indeed, than that the national debt, computing it at
one hundred and eighty millions sterling, would, if converted into
silver, serve to make a meridian of that metal, I forgot how broad, for
the globe of the whole earth, the real _globe_.  On a similar occasion I
asked him, knowing what subject he would like best to talk upon, how his
opinion stood towards the question between Paschal and Soame Jennings
about number and numeration? as the French philosopher observes that
infinity, though on all sides astonishing, appears most so when the idea
is connected with the idea of number; for the notion of infinite
number--and infinite number we know there is--stretches one's capacity
still more than the idea of infinite space.  "Such a notion, indeed,"
adds he, "can scarcely find room in the human mind."  Our English author,
on the other hand, exclaims, let no man give himself leave to talk about
infinite number, for infinite number is a contradiction in terms;
whatever is once numbered, we all see, cannot be infinite.  "I think,"
said Mr. Johnson, after a pause, "we must settle the matter thus:
numeration is certainly infinite, for eternity might be employed in
adding unit to unit; but every number is in itself finite, as the
possibility of doubling it easily proves; besides, stop at what point you
will, you find yourself as far from infinitude as ever."  These passages
I wrote down as soon as I had heard them, and repent that I did not take
the same method with a dissertation he made one other day that he was
very ill, concerning the peculiar properties of the number sixteen, which
I afterwards tried, but in vain, to make him repeat.

As ethics or figures, or metaphysical reasoning, was the sort of talk he
most delighted in, so no kind of conversation pleased him less, I think,
than when the subject was historical fact or general polity.  "What shall
we learn from _that_ stuff?" said he.  "Let us not fancy, like Swift,
that we are exalting a woman's character by telling how she

   "'Could name the ancient heroes round,
    Explain for what they were renowned,' etc."

I must not, however, lead my readers to suppose that he meant to reserve
such talk for men's company as a proof of pre-eminence.  "He never," as
he expressed it, "desired to hear of the Punic War while he lived; such
conversation was lost time," he said, "and carried one away from common
life, leaving no ideas behind which could serve _living wight_ as warning
or direction."

   "How I should act is not the case,
   But how would Brutus in my place."

"And now," cries Mr. Johnson, laughing with obstreperous violence, "if
these two foolish lines can be equalled in folly, except by the two
succeeding ones--show them me."

I asked him once concerning the conversation powers of a gentleman with
whom I was myself unacquainted.  "He talked to me at club one day,"
replies our Doctor, "concerning Catiline's conspiracy, so I withdrew my
attention, and thought about Tom Thumb."

Modern politics fared no better.  I was one time extolling the character
of a statesman, and expatiating on the skill required to direct the
different currents, reconcile the jarring interests, etc.  "Thus,"
replies he, "a mill is a complicated piece of mechanism enough, but the
water is no part of the workmanship."  On another occasion, when some one
lamented the weakness of a then present minister, and complained that he
was dull and tardy, and knew little of affairs: "You may as well
complain, sir," says Johnson, "that the accounts of time are kept by the
clock; for he certainly does stand still upon the stair-head--and we all
know that he is no great chronologer."  In the year 1777, or thereabouts,
when all the talk was of an invasion, he said most pathetically one
afternoon, "Alas! alas! how this unmeaning stuff spoils all my comfort in
my friends' conversation!  Will the people have done with it; and shall I
never hear a sentence again without the _French_ in it?  Here is no
invasion coming, and you _know_ there is none.  Let the vexatious and
frivolous talk alone, or suffer it at least to teach you _one_ truth; and
learn by this perpetual echo of even unapprehended distress how
historians magnify events expected or calamities endured; when you know
they are at this very moment collecting all the big words they can find,
in which to describe a consternation never felt, for a misfortune which
never happened.  Among all your lamentations, who eats the less--who
sleeps the worse, for one general's ill-success, or another's
capitulation?  _Oh_, _pray_ let us hear no more of it!"  No man, however,
was more zealously attached to his party; he not only loved a Tory
himself, but he loved a man the better if he heard he hated a Whig.  "Dear
Bathurst," said he to me one day, "was a man to my very heart's content:
he hated a fool, and he hated a rogue, and he hated a _Whig_; he was a
very good _hater_."

Some one mentioned a gentleman of that party for having behaved oddly on
an occasion where faction was not concerned: "Is he not a citizen of
London, a native of North America, and a Whig?" says Johnson.  "Let him
be absurd, I beg you of you; when a monkey is _too_ like a man, it shocks

Severity towards the poor was, in Dr. Johnson's opinion (as is visible in
his "Life of Addison" particularly), an undoubted and constant attendant
or consequence upon Whiggism; and he was not contented with giving them
relief, he wished to add also indulgence.  He loved the poor as I never
yet saw any one else do, with an earnest desire to make them happy.  "What
signifies," says some one, "giving halfpence to common beggars? they only
lay it out in gin or tobacco."  "And why should they be denied such
sweeteners of their existence?" says Johnson; "it is surely very savage
to refuse them every possible avenue to pleasure, reckoned too coarse for
our own acceptance.  Life is a pill which none of us can bear to swallow
without gilding; yet for the poor we delight in stripping it still barer,
and are not ashamed to show even visible displeasure if ever the bitter
taste is taken from their mouths."  In consequence of these principles he
nursed whole nests of people in his house, where the lame, the blind, the
sick, and the sorrowful found a sure retreat from all the evils whence
his little income could secure them: and commonly spending the middle of
the week at our house, he kept his numerous family in Fleet Street upon a
settled allowance; but returned to them every Saturday, to give them
three good dinners, and his company, before he came back to us on the
Monday night--treating them with the same, or perhaps more ceremonious
civility than he would have done by as many people of fashion--making the
Holy Scriptures thus the rule of his conduct, and only expecting
salvation as he was able to obey its precepts.

While Dr. Johnson possessed, however, the strongest compassion for
poverty or illness, he did not even pretend to feel for those who
lamented the loss of a child, a parent, or a friend.  "These are the
distresses of sentiment," he would reply, "which a man who is really to
be pitied has no leisure to feel.  The sight of people who want food and
raiment is so common in great cities, that a surly fellow like me has no
compassion to spare for wounds given only to vanity or softness."  No
man, therefore, who smarted from the ingratitude of his friends, found
any sympathy from our philosopher.  "Let him do good on higher motives
next time," would be the answer; "he will then be sure of his reward."  It
is easy to observe that the justice of such sentences made them
offensive; but we must be careful how we condemn a man for saying what we
know to be true, only because it _is_ so.  I hope that the reason our
hearts rebelled a little against his severity was chiefly because it came
from a living mouth.  Books were invented to take off the odium of
immediate superiority, and soften the rigour of duties prescribed by the
teachers and censors of human kind--setting at least those who are
acknowledged wiser than ourselves at a distance.  When we recollect,
however, that for this very reason _they_ are seldom consulted and little
obeyed, how much cause shall his contemporaries have to rejoice that
their living Johnson forced them to feel there proofs due to vice and
folly, while Seneca and Tillotson were no longer able to make
impression--except on our shelves!  Few things, indeed, which pass well
enough with others would do with him: he had been a great reader of
Mandeville, and was ever on the watch to spy out those stains of original
corruption so easily discovered by a penetrating observer even in the
purest minds.  I mentioned an event, which if it had happened would
greatly have injured Mr. Thrale and his family--"and then, dear sir,"
said I, "how sorry you would have been!"  "I _hope_," replied he, after a
long pause, "I should have been _very_ sorry; but remember
Rochefoucault's maxim."

"I would rather," answered I, "remember Prior's verses, and ask--

   'What need of books these truths to tell,
   Which folks perceive that cannot spell?
   And must we spectacles apply,
   To see what hurts our naked eye?'

Will _anybody's_ mind bear this eternal microscope that you place upon
your own so?"  "I never," replied he, "saw one that _would_, except that
of my dear Miss Reynolds--and hers is very near to purity itself."  Of
slighter evils, and friends more distant than our own household, he spoke
less cautiously.  An acquaintance lost the almost certain hope of a good
estate that had been long expected.  "Such a one will grieve," said I,
"at her friend's disappointment."  "She will suffer as much, perhaps,"
said he, "as your horse did when your cow miscarried."  I professed
myself sincerely grieved when accumulated distresses crushed Sir George
Colebrook's family; and I was so.  "Your own prosperity," said he, "may
possibly have so far increased the natural tenderness of your heart, that
for aught I know you _may_ be a _little sorry_; but it is sufficient for
a plain man if he does not laugh when he sees a fine new house tumble
down all on a sudden, and a snug cottage stand by ready to receive the
owner, whose birth entitled him to nothing better, and whose limbs are
left him to go to work again with."

I tried to tell him in jest that his morality was easily contented, and
when I have said something as if the wickedness of the world gave me
concern, he would cry out aloud against canting, and protest that he
thought there was very little gross wickedness in the world, and still
less of extraordinary virtue.  Nothing, indeed, more surely disgusted Dr.
Johnson than hyperbole; he loved not to be told of sallies of excellence,
which he said were seldom valuable, and seldom true.  "Heroic virtues,"
said he, "are the bons mots of life; they do not appear often, and when
they do appear are too much prized, I think, like the aloe-tree, which
shoots and flowers once in a hundred years.  But life is made up of
little things; and that character is the best which does little but
repeated acts of beneficence; as that conversation is the best which
consists in elegant and pleasing thoughts expressed in natural and
pleasing terms.  With regard to my own notions of moral virtue,"
continued he, "I hope I have not lost my sensibility of wrong; but I
hope, likewise, that I have lived long enough in the world to prevent me
from expecting to find any action of which both the original motive and
all the parts were good."

The piety of Dr. Johnson was exemplary and edifying; he was punctiliously
exact to perform every public duty enjoined by the Church, and his spirit
of devotion had an energy that affected all who ever saw him pray in
private.  The coldest and most languid hearer of the Word must have felt
themselves animated by his manner of reading the Holy Scriptures; and to
pray by his sick-bed required strength of body as well as of mind, so
vehement were his manners, and his tones of voice so pathetic.  I have
many times made it my request to Heaven that I might be spared the sight
of his death; and I was spared it.

Mr. Johnson, though in general a gross feeder, kept fast in Lent,
particularly the Holy Week, with a rigour very dangerous to his general
health; but though he had left off wine (for religious motives, as I
always believed, though he did not own it), yet he did not hold the
commutation of offences by voluntary penance, or encourage others to
practise severity upon themselves.  He even once said "that he thought it
an error to endeavour at pleasing God by taking the rod of reproof out of
His hands."  And when we talked of convents, and the hardships suffered
in them: "Remember always," said he, "that a convent is an idle place,
and where there is nothing to be _done_ something must be _endured_:
mustard has a bad taste per se, you may observe, but very insipid food
cannot be eaten without it."

His respect, however, for places of religious retirement was carried to
the greatest degree of earthly veneration; the Benedictine convent at
Paris paid him all possible honours in return, and the Prior and he
parted with tears of tenderness.  Two of that college being sent to
England on the mission some years after, spent much of their time with
him at Bolt Court, I know, and he was ever earnest to retain their
friendship; but though beloved by all his Roman Catholic acquaintance,
particularly Dr. Nugent, for whose esteem he had a singular value, yet
was Mr. Johnson a most unshaken Church of England man; and I think, or at
least I once _did_ think, that a letter written by him to Mr. Barnard,
the King's Librarian, when he was in Italy collecting books, contained
some very particular advice to his friend to be on his guard against the
seductions of the Church of Rome.

The settled aversion Dr. Johnson felt towards an infidel he expressed to
all ranks, and at all times, without the smallest reserve; for though on
common occasions he paid great deference to birth or title, yet his
regard for truth and virtue never gave way to meaner considerations.  We
talked of a dead wit one evening, and somebody praised him.  "Let us
never praise talents so ill employed, sir; we foul our mouths by
commending such infidels," said he.  "Allow him the lumieres at least,"
entreated one of the company.  "I do allow him, sir," replied Johnson,
"just enough to light him to hell."  Of a Jamaica gentleman, then lately
dead: "He will not, whither he is now gone," said Johnson, "find much
difference, I believe, either in the climate or the company."  The Abbe
Reynal probably remembers that, being at the house of a common friend in
London, the master of it approached Johnson with that gentleman so much
celebrated in his hand, and this speech in his mouth: "Will you permit
me, sir, to present to you the Abbe Reynal?"  "_No_, _sir_," replied the
Doctor very loud, and suddenly turned away from them both.

Though Mr. Johnson had but little reverence either for talents or fortune
when he found them unsupported by virtue, yet it was sufficient to tell
him a man was very pious, or very charitable, and he would at least
_begin_ with him on good terms, however the conversation might end.  He
would sometimes, too, good-naturedly enter into a long chat for the
instruction or entertainment of people he despised.  I perfectly
recollect his condescending to delight my daughter's dancing-master with
a long argument about _his_ art, which the man protested, at the close of
the discourse, the Doctor knew more of than himself, who remained
astonished, enlightened, and amused by the talk of a person little likely
to make a good disquisition upon dancing.  I have sometimes, indeed, been
rather pleased than vexed when Mr. Johnson has given a rough answer to a
man who perhaps deserved one only half as rough, because I knew he would
repent of his hasty reproof, and make us all amends by some conversation
at once instructive and entertaining, as in the following cases.  A young
fellow asked him abruptly one day, "Pray, sir, what and where is Palmyra?
I heard somebody talk last night of the ruins of Palmyra."  "'Tis a hill
in Ireland," replies Johnson, "with palms growing on the top, and a bog
at the bottom, and so they call it _Palm-mira_."  Seeing, however, that
the lad thought him serious, and thanked him for the information, he
undeceived him very gently indeed: told him the history, geography, and
chronology of Tadmor in the wilderness, with every incident that
literature could furnish, I think, or eloquence express, from the
building of Solomon's palace to the voyage of Dawkins and Wood.

On another occasion, when he was musing over the fire in our drawing-room
at Streatham, a young gentleman called to him suddenly, and I suppose he
thought disrespectfully, in these words: "Mr. Johnson, would you advise
me to marry?"  "I would advise no man to marry, sir," returns for answer
in a very angry tone Dr. Johnson, "who is not likely to propagate
understanding," and so left the room.  Our companion looked confounded,
and I believe had scarce recovered the consciousness of his own
existence, when Johnson came back, and drawing his chair among us, with
altered looks and a softened voice, joined in the general chat,
insensibly led the conversation to the subject of marriage, where he laid
himself out in a dissertation so useful, so elegant, so founded on the
true knowledge of human life, and so adorned with beauty of sentiment,
that no one ever recollected the offence, except to rejoice in its
consequences.  He repented just as certainly, however, if he had been led
to praise any person or thing by accident more than he thought it
deserved; and was on such occasions comically earnest to destroy the
praise or pleasure he had unintentionally given.

Sir Joshua Reynolds mentioned some picture as excellent.  "It has often
grieved me, sir," said Mr. Johnson, "to see so much mind as the science
of painting requires laid out upon such perishable materials.  Why do not
you oftener make use of copper?  I could wish your superiority in the art
you profess to be preserved in stuff more durable than canvas."  Sir
Joshua urged the difficulty of procuring a plate large enough for
historical subjects, and was going to raise further observations.  "What
foppish obstacles are these!" exclaims on a sudden Dr. Johnson.  "Here is
Thrale has a thousand tun of copper; you may paint it all round if you
will, I suppose; it will serve him to brew in afterwards.  Will it not,
sir?" (to my husband, who sat by).  Indeed, Dr. Johnson's utter scorn of
painting was such that I have heard him say that he should sit very
quietly in a room hung round with the works of the greatest masters, and
never feel the slightest disposition to turn them if their backs were
outermost, unless it might be for the sake of telling Sir Joshua that he
_had_ turned them.  Such speeches may appear offensive to many, but those
who knew he was too blind to discern the perfections of an art which
applies itself immediately to our eyesight must acknowledge he was not in
the wrong.

He delighted no more in music than in painting; he was almost as deaf as
he was blind; travelling with Dr. Johnson was for these reasons tiresome
enough.  Mr. Thrale loved prospects, and was mortified that his friend
could not enjoy the sight of those different dispositions of wood and
water, hill and valley, that travelling through England and France
affords a man.  But when he wished to point them out to his companion:
"Never heed such nonsense," would be the reply; "a blade of grass is
always a blade of grass, whether in one country or another.  Let us, if
we _do_ talk, talk about something; men and women are my subjects of
inquiry; let us see how these differ from those we have left behind."

When we were at Rouen together, he took a great fancy to the Abbe
Roffette, with whom he conversed about the destruction of the order of
Jesuits, and condemned it loudly as a blow to the general power of the
Church, and likely to be followed with many and dangerous innovations,
which might at length become fatal to religion itself, and shake even the
foundation of Christianity.  The gentleman seemed to wonder and delight
in his conversation.  The talk was all in Latin, which both spoke
fluently, and Mr. Johnson pronounced a long eulogium upon Milton with so
much ardour, eloquence, and ingenuity, that the Abbe rose from his seat
and embraced him.  My husband, seeing them apparently so charmed with the
company of each other, politely invited the Abbe to England, intending to
oblige his friend, who, instead of thanking, reprimanded him severely
before the man for such a sudden burst of tenderness towards a person he
could know nothing at all of, and thus put a sudden finish to all his own
and Mr. Thrale's entertainment from the company of the Abbe Roffette.

When at Versailles the people showed us the theatre.  As we stood on the
stage looking at some machinery for playhouse purposes: "Now we are here,
what shall we act, Mr. Johnson--The Englishman at Paris?"  "No, no,"
replied he, "we will try to act Harry the Fifth."  His dislike to the
French was well known to both nations, I believe; but he applauded the
number of their books and the graces of their style.  "They have few
sentiments," said he, "but they express them neatly; they have little
meat, too, but they dress it well."  Johnson's own notions about eating,
however, were nothing less than delicate: a leg of pork boiled till it
dropped from the bone, a veal pie with plums and sugar, or the outside
cut of a salt buttock of beef, were his favourite dainties.  With regard
to drink, his liking was for the strongest, as it was not the flavour,
but the effect, he sought for, and professed to desire; and when I first
knew him, he used to pour capillaire into his port wine.  For the last
twelve years, however, he left off all fermented liquors.  To make
himself some amends, indeed, he took his chocolate liberally, pouring in
large quantities of cream, or even melted butter; and was so fond of
fruit, that though he usually ate seven or eight large peaches of a
morning before breakfast began, and treated them with proportionate
attention after dinner again, yet I have heard him protest that he never
had quite as much as he wished of wall-fruit, except once in his life,
and that was when we were all together at Ombersley, the seat of my Lord
Sandys.  I was saying to a friend one day, that I did not like goose;
"one smells it so while it is roasting," said I.  "But you, madam,"
replies the Doctor, "have been at all times a fortunate woman, having
always had your hunger so forestalled by indulgence, that you never
experienced the delight of smelling your dinner beforehand."  "Which
pleasure," answered I pertly, "is to be enjoyed in perfection by such as
have the happiness to pass through Porridge Island of a morning."  "Come,
come," says he, gravely, "let's have no sneering at what is serious to so
many.  Hundreds of your fellow-creatures, dear lady, turn another way,
that they may not be tempted by the luxuries of Porridge Island to wish
for gratifications they are not able to obtain.  You are certainly not
better than all of _them_; give God thanks that you are happier."

I received on another occasion as just a rebuke from Mr. Johnson, for an
offence of the same nature, and hope I took care never to provoke a
third; for after a very long summer, particularly hot and dry, I was
wishing naturally but thoughtlessly for some rain to lay the dust as we
drove along the Surrey roads.  "I cannot bear," replied he, with much
asperity and an altered look, "when I know how many poor families will
perish next winter for want of that bread which the present drought will
deny them, to hear ladies sighing for rain, only that their complexions
may not suffer from the heat, or their clothes be incommoded by the dust.
For shame! leave off such foppish lamentations, and study to relieve
those whose distresses are real."

With advising others to be charitable, however, Dr. Johnson did not
content himself.  He gave away all he had, and all he ever had gotten,
except the two thousand pounds he left behind; and the very small portion
of his income which he spent on himself, with all our calculation, we
never could make more than seventy, or at most four-score pounds a year,
and he pretended to allow himself a hundred.  He had numberless
dependents out of doors as well as in, who, as he expressed it, "did not
like to see him latterly unless he brought 'em money."  For those people
he used frequently to raise contributions on his richer friends;  "and
this," says he, "is one of the thousand reasons which ought to restrain a
man from drony solitude and useless retirement.  Solitude," added he one
day, "is dangerous to reason, without being favourable to virtue:
pleasures of some sort are necessary to the intellectual as to the
corporeal health; and those who resist gaiety will be likely for the most
part to fall a sacrifice to appetite; for the solicitations of sense are
always at hand, and a dram to a vacant and solitary person is a speedy
and seducing relief.  Remember," concluded he, "that the solitary mortal
is certainly luxurious, probably superstitious, and possibly mad: the
mind stagnates for want of employment, grows morbid, and is extinguished
like a candle in foul air."  It was on this principle that Johnson
encouraged parents to carry their daughters early and much into company:
"for what harm can be done before so many witnesses?  Solitude is the
surest nurse of all prurient passions, and a girl in the hurry of
preparation, or tumult of gaiety, has neither inclination nor leisure to
let tender expressions soften or sink into her heart.  The ball, the
show, are not the dangerous places: no, it is the private friend, the
kind consoler, the companion of the easy, vacant hour, whose compliance
with her opinions can flatter her vanity, and whose conversation can just
soothe, without ever stretching her mind, that is the lover to be feared.
He who buzzes in her ear at court or at the opera must be contented to
buzz in vain."  These notions Dr. Johnson carried so very far, that I
have heard him say, "If you shut up any man with any woman, so as to make
them derive their whole pleasure from each other, they would inevitably
fall in love, as it is called, with each other; but at six months' end,
if you would throw them both into public life, where they might change
partners at pleasure, each would soon forget that fondness which mutual
dependence and the paucity of general amusement alone had caused, and
each would separately feel delighted by their release."

In these opinions Rousseau apparently concurs with him exactly; and Mr.
Whitehead's poem, called "Variety," is written solely to elucidate this
simple proposition.  Prior likewise advises the husband to send his wife
abroad, and let her see the world as it really stands:--

    "Powder, and pocket-glass, and beau."

Mr. Johnson was indeed unjustly supposed to be a lover of singularity.
Few people had a more settled reverence for the world than he, or was
less captivated by new modes of behaviour introduced, or innovations on
the long-received customs of common life.  He hated the way of leaving a
company without taking notice to the lady of the house that he was going,
and did not much like any of the contrivances by which ease had lately
been introduced into society instead of ceremony, which had more of his
approbation.  Cards, dress, and dancing, however, all found their
advocate in Dr. Johnson, who inculcated, upon principle, the cultivation
of those arts which many a moralist thinks himself bound to reject, and
many a Christian holds unfit to be practised.  "No person," said he one
day, "goes under-dressed till he thinks himself of consequence enough to
forbear carrying the badge of his rank upon his back."  And in answer to
the arguments urged by Puritans, Quakers, etc., against showy decorations
of the human figure, I once heard him exclaim, "Oh, let us not be found,
when our Master calls us, ripping the lace off our waistcoats, but the
spirit of contention from our souls and tongues!  Let us all conform in
outward customs, which are of no consequence, to the manners of those
whom we live among, and despise such paltry distinctions.  Alas, sir!"
continued he, "a man who cannot get to heaven in a green coat, will not
find his way thither sooner in a grey one."  On an occasion of less
consequence, when he turned his back on Lord Bolingbroke in the rooms at
Brighthelmstone, he made this excuse, "I am not obliged, sir," said he to
Mr. Thrale, who stood fretting, "to find reasons for respecting the rank
of him who will not condescend to declare it by his dress or some other
visible mark.  What are stars and other signs of superiority made for?"

The next evening, however, he made us comical amends, by sitting by the
same nobleman, and haranguing very loudly about the nature and use and
abuse of divorces.  Many people gathered round them to hear what was
said, and when my husband called him away, and told him to whom he had
been talking, received an answer which I will not write down.

Though no man, perhaps, made such rough replies as Dr. Johnson, yet
nobody had a more just aversion to general satire; he always hated and
censured Swift for his unprovoked bitterness against the professors of
medicine, and used to challenge his friends, when they lamented the
exorbitancy of physicians' fees, to produce him one instance of an estate
raised by physic in England.  When an acquaintance, too, was one day
exclaiming against the tediousness of the law and its partiality: "Let us
hear, sir," said Johnson, "no general abuse; the law is the last result
of human wisdom acting upon human experience for the benefit of the

As the mind of Dr. Johnson was greatly expanded, so his first care was
for general, not particular or petty morality; and those teachers had
more of his blame than praise, I think, who seek to oppress life with
unnecessary scruples.  "Scruples would," as he observed, "certainly make
men miserable, and seldom make them good.  Let us ever," he said,
"studiously fly from those instructors against whom our Saviour denounces
heavy judgments, for having bound up burdens grievous to be borne, and
laid them on the shoulders of mortal men."  No one had, however, higher
notions of the hard task of true Christianity than Johnson, whose daily
terror lest he had not done enough, originated in piety, but ended in
little less than disease.  Reasonable with regard to others, he had
formed vain hopes of performing impossibilities himself; and finding his
good works ever below his desires and intent, filled his imagination with
fears that he should never obtain forgiveness for omissions of duty and
criminal waste of time.  These ideas kept him in constant anxiety
concerning his salvation; and the vehement petitions he perpetually made
for a longer continuance on earth, were doubtless the cause of his so
prolonged existence: for when I carried Dr. Pepys to him in the year
1782, it appeared wholly impossible for any skill of the physician or any
strength of the patient to save him.  He was saved that time, however, by
Sir Lucas's prescriptions; and less skill on one side, or less strength
on the other, I am morally certain, would not have been enough.  He had,
however, possessed an athletic constitution, as he said the man who
dipped people in the sea at Brighthelmstone acknowledged; for seeing Mr.
Johnson swim, in the year 1766, "Why, sir," says the dipper, "you must
have been a stout-hearted gentleman forty years ago."

Mr. Thrale and he used to laugh about that story very often: but Garrick
told a better, for he said that in their young days, when some strolling
players came to Lichfield, our friend had fixed his place upon the stage,
and got himself a chair accordingly; which leaving for a few minutes, he
found a man in it at his return, who refused to give it back at the first
entreaty.  Mr. Johnson, however, who did not think it worth his while to
make a second, took chair and man and all together, and threw them all at
once into the pit.  I asked the Doctor if this was a fact.  "Garrick has
not _spoiled_ it in the telling," said he, "it is very _near_ true, to be

Mr. Beauclerc, too, related one day how on some occasion he ordered two
large mastiffs into his parlour, to show a friend who was conversant in
canine beauty and excellence how the dogs quarrelled, and fastening on
each other, alarmed all the company except Johnson, who seizing one in
one hand by the cuff of the neck, the other in the other hand, said
gravely, "Come, gentlemen! where's your difficulty? put one dog out at
the door, and I will show this fierce gentleman the way out of the
window:" which, lifting up the mastiff and the sash, he contrived to do
very expeditiously, and much to the satisfaction of the affrighted
company.  We inquired as to the truth of this curious recital.  "The dogs
have been somewhat magnified, I believe, sir," was the reply: "they were,
as I remember, two stout young pointers; but the story has gained but

One reason why Mr. Johnson's memory was so particularly exact, might be
derived from his rigid attention to veracity; being always resolved to
relate every fact as it stood, he looked even on the smaller parts of
life with minute attention, and remembered such passages as escape
cursory and common observers.  "A story," says he, "is a specimen of
human manners, and derives its sole value from its truth.  When Foote has
told me something, I dismiss it from my mind like a passing shadow: when
Reynolds tells me something, I consider myself as possessed of an idea
the more."

Mr. Johnson liked a frolic or a jest well enough, though he had strange
serious rules about it too: and very angry was he if anybody offered to
be merry when he was disposed to be grave.  "You have an ill-founded
notion," said he, "that it is clever to turn matters off with a joke (as
the phrase is); whereas nothing produces enmity so certain as one persons
showing a disposition to be merry when another is inclined to be either
serious or displeased."

One may gather from this how he felt when his Irish friend Grierson,
hearing him enumerate the qualities necessary to the formation of a poet,
began a comical parody upon his ornamented harangue in praise of a cook,
concluding with this observation, that he who dressed a good dinner was a
more excellent and a more useful member of society than he who wrote a
good poem.  "And in this opinion," said Mr. Johnson in reply, "all the
dogs in the town will join you."

Of this Mr. Grierson I have heard him relate many droll stories, much to
his advantage as a wit, together with some facts more difficult to be
accounted for; as avarice never was reckoned among the vices of the
laughing world.  But Johnson's various life, and spirit of vigilance to
learn and treasure up every peculiarity of manner, sentiment, or general
conduct, made his company, when he chose to relate anecdotes of people he
had formerly known, exquisitely amusing and comical.  It is indeed
inconceivable what strange occurrences he had seen, and what surprising
things he could tell when in a communicative humour.  It is by no means
my business to relate memoirs of his acquaintance; but it will serve to
show the character of Johnson himself, when I inform those who never knew
him that no man told a story with so good a grace, or knew so well what
would make an effect upon his auditors.  When he raised contributions for
some distressed author, or wit in want, he often made us all more than
amends by diverting descriptions of the lives they were then passing in
corners unseen by anybody but himself; and that odd old surgeon whom he
kept in his house to tend the out-pensioners, and of whom he said most
truly and sublimely that--

      "In misery's darkest caverns known,
     His useful care was ever nigh,
   Where hopeless anguish pours her groan,
     And lonely want retires to die."

I have forgotten the year, but it could scarcely I think be later than
1765 or 1766, that he was called abruptly from our house after dinner,
and returning in about three hours, said he had been with an enraged
author, whose landlady pressed him for payment within doors, while the
bailiffs beset him without; that he was drinking himself drunk with
Madeira to drown care, and fretting over a novel which, when finished,
was to be his whole fortune; but he could not get it done for
distraction, nor could he step out of doors to offer it to sale.  Mr.
Johnson therefore set away the bottle, and went to the bookseller,
recommending the performance, and desiring some immediate relief; which
when he brought back to the writer, he called the woman of the house
directly to partake of punch, and pass their time in merriment.

It was not till ten years after, I dare say, that something in Dr.
Goldsmith's behaviour struck me with an idea that he was the very man,
and then Johnson confessed it was so; the novel was the charming "Vicar
of Wakefield."

There was a Mr. Boyce, too, who wrote some very elegant verses printed in
the magazines of five-and-twenty years ago, of whose ingenuity and
distress I have heard Dr. Johnson tell some curious anecdotes,
particularly that when he was almost perishing with hunger, and some
money was produced to purchase him a dinner, he got a piece of roast
beef, but could not eat it without ketchup, and laid out the last half-
guinea he possessed in truffles and mushrooms, eating them in bed, too,
for want of clothes, or even a shirt to sit up in.

Another man, for whom he often begged, made as wild use of his friend's
beneficence as these, spending in punch the solitary guinea which had
been brought him one morning; when resolving to add another claimant to a
share of the bowl, besides a woman who always lived with him, and a
footman who used to carry out petitions for charity, he borrowed a
chairman's watch, and pawning it for half-a-crown, paid a clergyman to
marry him to a fellow-lodger in the wretched house they all inhabited,
and got so drunk over the guinea bowl of punch the evening of his wedding-
day, that having many years lost the use of one leg, he now contrived to
fall from the top of the stairs to the bottom, and break his arm, in
which condition his companions left him to call Mr. Johnson, who,
relating the series of his tragi-comical distresses obtained from the
Literary Club a seasonable relief.

Of that respectable society I have heard him speak in the highest terms,
and with a magnificent panegyric on each member, when it consisted only
of a dozen or fourteen friends; but as soon as the necessity of enlarging
it brought in new faces, and took off from his confidence in the company,
he grew less fond of the meeting, and loudly proclaimed his carelessness
_who_ might be admitted, when it was become a mere dinner club.  I
_think_ the original names, when I first heard him talk with fervour of
every member's peculiar powers of instructing or delighting mankind, were
Sir John Hawkins, Mr. Burke, Mr. Langton, Mr. Beauclerc, Dr. Percy, Dr.
Nugent, Dr. Goldsmith, Sir Robert Chambers, Mr. Dyer, and Sir Joshua
Reynolds, whom he called their Romulus, or said somebody else of the
company called him so, which was more likely: but this was, I believe, in
the year 1775 or 1776.  It was a supper meeting then, and I fancy Dr.
Nugent ordered an omelet sometimes on a Friday or Saturday night; for I
remember Mr. Johnson felt very painful sensations at the sight of that
dish soon after his death, and cried, "Ah, my poor dear friend!  I shall
never eat omelet with _thee_ again!" quite in an agony.  The truth is,
nobody suffered more from pungent sorrow at a friend's death than
Johnson, though he would suffer no one else to complain of their losses
in the same way; "for," says he, "we must either outlive our friends, you
know, or our friends must outlive us; and I see no man that would
hesitate about the choice."

Mr. Johnson loved late hours extremely, or more properly hated early
ones.  Nothing was more terrifying to him than the idea of retiring to
bed, which he never would call going to rest, or suffer another to call
so.  "I lie down," said he, "that my acquaintance may sleep; but I lie
down to endure oppressive misery, and soon rise again to pass the night
in anxiety and pain."  By this pathetic manner, which no one ever
possessed in so eminent a degree, he used to shock me from quitting his
company, till I hurt my own health not a little by sitting up with him
when I was myself far from well; nor was it an easy matter to oblige him
even by compliance, for he always maintained that no one forbore their
own gratifications for the sake of pleasing another, and if one _did_ sit
up it was probably to amuse oneself.  Some right, however, he certainly
had to say so, as he made his company exceedingly entertaining when he
had once forced one, by his vehement lamentations and piercing reproofs,
not to quit the room, but to sit quietly and make tea for him, as I often
did in London till four o'clock in the morning.  At Streatham, indeed, I
managed better, having always some friend who was kind enough to engage
him in talk, and favour my retreat.

The first time I ever saw this extraordinary man was in the year 1764,
when Mr. Murphy, who had been long the friend and confidential intimate
of Mr. Thrale, persuaded him to wish for Johnson's conversation,
extolling it in terms which that of no other person could have deserved,
till we were only in doubt how to obtain his company, and find an excuse
for the invitation.  The celebrity of Mr. Woodhouse, a shoemaker, whose
verses were at that time the subject of common discourse, soon afforded a
pretence, and Mr. Murphy brought Johnson to meet him, giving me general
cautions not to be surprised at his figure, dress, or behaviour.  What I
recollect best of the day's talk was his earnestly recommending Addison's
works to Mr. Woodhouse as a model for imitation.  "Give nights and days,
sir," said he, "to the study of Addison, if you mean either to be a good
writer, or what is more worth, an honest man."  When I saw something like
the same expression in his criticism on that author, lately published, I
put him in mind of his past injunctions to the young poet, to which he
replied, "that he wished the shoemaker might have remembered them as
well."  Mr. Johnson liked his new acquaintance so much, however, that,
from that time he dined with us every Thursday through the winter, and in
the autumn of the next year he followed us to Brighthelmstone, whence we
were gone before his arrival; so he was disappointed and enraged, and
wrote us a letter expressive of anger, which we were very desirous to
pacify, and to obtain his company again, if possible.  Mr. Murphy brought
him back to us again very kindly, and from that time his visits grew more
frequent, till in the year 1766 his health, which he had always
complained of, grew so exceedingly bad, that he could not stir out of his
room in the court he inhabited for many _weeks_ together--I think

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_ 1707.  _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 1707, 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
        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
    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
   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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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."


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 to-day," 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."


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

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

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 ill-will.  He always kept those quarrels which belonged to him
as a writer separate from those which he had to do with as a man; but I
never did hear him say in private one malicious word of a public enemy;
and of Mr. Macpherson I once heard him speak respectfully, though his
reply to the friend who asked him if _any man living_ could have written
such a book, is well known, and has been often repeated--"Yes, sir, many
men, many women, and many children."

I inquired of him myself if this story was authentic, and he said it was.
I made the same inquiry concerning his account of the state of literature
in Scotland, which was repeated up and down at one time by everybody--"How
knowledge was divided among the Scots, like bread in a besieged town, to
every man a mouthful, to no man a bellyful."  This story he likewise
acknowledged, and said, besides, "that some officious friend had carried
it to Lord Bute, who only answered, 'Well, well! never mind what he says,
he will have the pension all one.'"

Another famous reply to a Scotsman who commended the beauty and dignity
of Glasgow, till Mr. Johnson stopped him by observing, "that he probably
had never yet seen Brentford," was one of the jokes he owned; and said
himself "that when a gentleman of that country once mentioned the lovely
prospects common in his nation, he could not help telling him that the
view of the London road was the prospect in which every Scotsman most
naturally and most rationally delighted."

Mrs. Brooke received an answer not unlike this, when expatiating on the
accumulation of sublime and beautiful objects, which form the fine
prospect _up_ the River St. Lawrence, in North America.  "Come, madam,"
says Dr. Johnson, "confess that nothing ever equalled your pleasure in
seeing that sight reversed; and finding yourself looking at the happy
prospect _down_ the River St. Lawrence."  The truth is, he hated to hear
about prospects and views, and laying out ground and taste in gardening.
"That was the best garden," he said, "which produced most roots and
fruits; and that water was most to be prized which contained most fish."
He used to laugh at Shenstone most unmercifully for not caring whether
there was anything good to _eat_ in the streams he was so fond of, "as
if," says Johnson, "one could fill one's belly with hearing soft murmurs,
or looking at rough cascades!"

He loved the sight of fine forest trees, however, and detested
Brighthelmstone Downs, "because it was a country so truly desolate," he
said, "that if one had a mind to hang one's self for desperation at being
obliged to live there, it would be difficult to find a tree on which to
fasten the rope."  Walking in a wood when it rained was, I think, the
only rural image he pleased his fancy with; "for," says he, "after one
has gathered the apples in an orchard, one wishes them well baked, and
removed to a London eating-house for enjoyment."

With such notions, who can wonder he passed his time uncomfortably enough
with us, who he often complained of for living so much in the country,
"feeding the chickens," as he said I did, "till I starved my own
understanding.  Get, however," said he, "a book about gardening, and
study it hard, since you will pass your life with birds and flowers, and
learn to raise the _largest_ turnips, and to breed the _biggest_ fowls."
It was vain to assure him that the goodness of such dishes did not depend
upon their size.  He laughed at the people who covered their canals with
foreign fowls, "when," says he, "our own geese and ganders are twice as
large.  If we fetched better animals from distant nations, there might be
some sense in the preference; but to get cows from Alderney, or water-
fowl from China, only to see nature degenerating round one, is a poor
ambition indeed."

Nor was Mr. Johnson more merciful with regard to the amusements people
are contented to call such.  "You hunt in the morning," says he, "and
crowd to the public rooms at night, and call it _diversion_, when your
heart knows it is perishing with poverty of pleasures, and your wits get
blunted for want of some other mind to sharpen them upon.  There is in
this world no real delight (excepting those of sensuality), but exchange
of ideas in conversation; and whoever has once experienced the full flow
of London talk, when he retires to country friendships, and rural sports,
must either be contented to turn baby again and play with the rattle, or
he will pine away like a great fish in a little pond, and die for want of
his usual food."  "Books without the knowledge of life are useless," I
have heard him say; "for what should books teach but the art of _living_?
To study manners, however, only in coffee-houses, is more than equally
imperfect; the minds of men who acquire no solid learning, and only exist
on the daily forage that they pick up by running about, and snatching
what drops from their neighbours as ignorant as themselves, will never
ferment into any knowledge valuable or durable; but like the light wines
we drink in hot countries, please for the moment, though incapable of
keeping.  In the study of mankind much will be found to swim as froth,
and much must sink as feculence, before the wine can have its effect, and
become that noblest liquor which rejoices the heart, and gives vigour to
the imagination."

I am well aware that I do not and cannot give each expression of Dr.
Johnson with all its force or all its neatness; but I have done my best
to record such of his maxims, and repeat such of his sentiments, as may
give to those who know him not a just idea of his character and manner of
thinking.  To endeavour at adorning, or adding, or softening, or
meliorating such anecdotes, by any tricks my inexperienced pen could
play, would be weakness indeed; worse than the Frenchman who presides
over the porcelain manufactory at Seve, to whom, when some Greek vases
were given him as models, he lamented la tristesse de telles formes; and
endeavoured to assist them by clusters of flowers, while flying Cupids
served for the handles of urns originally intended to contain the ashes
of the dead.  The misery is, that I can recollect so few anecdotes, and
that I have recorded no more axioms of a man whose every word merited
attention, and whose every sentiment did honour to human nature.  Remote
from affectation as from error or falsehood, the comfort a reader has in
looking over these papers is the certainty that these were really the
opinions of Johnson, which are related as such.

Fear of what others may think is the great cause of affectation; and he
was not likely to disguise his notions out of cowardice.  He hated
disguise, and nobody penetrated it so readily.  I showed him a letter
written to a common friend, who was at some loss for the explanation of
it.  "Whoever wrote it," says our doctor, "could, if he chose it, make
himself understood; but 'tis the letter of an _embarrassed man_ sir;" and
so the event proved it to be.

Mysteriousness in trifles offended him on every side.  "It commonly ended
in guilt," he said; "for those who begin by concealment of innocent
things will soon have something to hide which they dare not bring to
light."  He therefore encouraged an openness of conduct, in women
particularly, "who," he observed, "were often led away when children, by
their delight and power of surprising."  He recommended, on something
like the same principle, that when one person meant to serve another, he
should not go about it slily, or as we say, underhand, out of a false
idea of delicacy, to surprise one's friend with an unexpected favour,
"which, ten to one," says he, "fails to oblige your acquaintance, who had
some reasons against such a mode of obligation, which you might have
known but for that superfluous cunning which you think an elegance.  Oh!
never be seduced by such silly pretences," continued he; "if a wench
wants a good gown, do not give her a fine smelling-bottle, because that
is more delicate: as I once knew a lady lend the key of her library to a
poor scribbling dependant, as if she took the woman for an ostrich that
could digest iron."  He said, indeed, "that women were very difficult to
be taught the proper manner of conferring pecuniary favours; that they
always gave too much money or too little; for that they had an idea of
delicacy accompanying their gifts, so that they generally rendered them
either useless or ridiculous."

He did, indeed, say very contemptuous things of our sex, but was
exceedingly angry when I told Miss Reynolds that he said "It was well
managed of some one to leave his affairs in the hands of his wife,
because, in matters of business," said he, "no woman stops at integrity."
This was, I think, the only sentence I ever observed him solicitous to
explain away after he had uttered it.  He was not at all displeased at
the recollection of a sarcasm thrown on a whole profession at once; when
a gentleman leaving the company, somebody who sat next Dr. Johnson asked
him, who he was?  "I cannot exactly tell you, sir," replied he, "and I
would be loth to speak ill of any person who I do not know deserves it,
but I am afraid he is an _attorney_."  He did not, however, encourage
general satire, and for the most part professed himself to feel directly
contrary to Dr. Swift; "who," says he, "hates the world, though he loves
John and Robert, and certain individuals."

Johnson said always, "that the world was well constructed, but that the
particular people disgraced the elegance and beauty of the general
fabric."  In the same manner I was relating once to him how Dr. Collier
observed that the love one bore to children was from the anticipation
one's mind made while one contemplated them.  "We hope," says he, "that
they will sometime make wise men or amiable women; and we suffer 'em to
take up our affection beforehand.  One cannot love _lumps of flesh_, and
little infants are nothing more."  "On the contrary," says Johnson, "one
can scarcely help wishing, while one fondles a baby, that it may never
live to become a man; for it is so probable that when he becomes a man,
he should be sure to end in a scoundrel."  Girls were less displeasing to
him; "for as their temptations were fewer," he said, "their virtue in
this life, and happiness in the next, were less improbable; and he
loved," he said, "to see a knot of little misses dearly."

Needlework had a strenuous approver in Dr. Johnson, who said "that one of
the great felicities of female life was the general consent of the world
that they might amuse themselves with petty occupations, which
contributed to the lengthening their lives, and preserving their minds in
a state of sanity."  "A man cannot hem a pocket-handkerchief," said a
lady of quality to him one day, "and so he runs mad, and torments his
family and friends."  The expression struck him exceedingly, and when one
acquaintance grew troublesome, and another unhealthy, he used to quote
Lady Frances's observation, "That a man cannot hem a

The nice people found no mercy from Mr. Johnson; such, I mean, as can
only dine at four o'clock, who cannot bear to be waked at an unusual
hour, or miss a stated meal without inconvenience.  _He_ had no such
prejudices himself, and with difficulty forgave them in another.
"Delicacy does not surely consist," says he, "in impossibility to be
pleased, and that is false dignity indeed which is content to depend upon

The saying of the old philosopher who observes, "That he who wants least
is most like the gods, who want nothing," was a favourite sentence with
Dr. Johnson, who on his own part required less attendance, sick or well,
than ever I saw any human creature.  Conversation was all he required to
make him happy; and when he would have tea made at two o'clock in the
morning, it was only that there might be a certainty of detaining his
companions round him.  On that principle it was that he preferred winter
to summer, when the heat of the weather gave people an excuse to stroll
about and walk for pleasure in the shade, while he wished to sit still on
a chair and chat day after day, till somebody proposed a drive in the
coach, and that was the most delicious moment of his life.  "But the
carriage must stop some time," he said, "and the people would come home
at last," so his pleasure was of short duration.

I asked him why he doated on a coach so? and received for answer, "That
in the first place the company were shut in with him _there_, and could
not escape, as out of a room.  In the next place, he heard all that was
said in a carriage, where it was my turn to be deaf," and very impatient
was he at my occasional difficulty of hearing.  On this account he wished
to travel all over the world, for the very act of going forward was
delightful to him, and he gave himself no concern about accidents, which
he said never happened.  Nor did the running away of the horses on the
edge of a precipice between Vernon and St. Denis, in France, convince him
to the contrary, "for nothing came of it," he said, "except that Mr.
Thrale leaped out of the carriage into a chalk-pit, and then came up
again looking _as white_!"  When the truth was, all their lives were
saved by the greatest Providence ever exerted in favour of three human
creatures; and the part Mr. Thrale took from desperation was the
likeliest thing in the world to produce broken limbs and death.

Fear was indeed a sensation to which Mr. Johnson was an utter stranger,
excepting when some sudden apprehensions seized him that he was going to
die, and even then he kept all his wits about him to express the most
humble and pathetic petitions to the Almighty.  And when the first
paralytic stroke took his speech from him, he instantly set about
composing a prayer in Latin, at once to deprecate God's mercy, to satisfy
himself that his mental powers remained unimpaired, and to keep them in
exercise, that they might not perish by permitted stagnation.  This was
after we parted; but he wrote me an account of it, and I intend to
publish that letter, with many more.

When one day he had at my house taken tincture of antimony instead of
emetic wine, for a vomit, he was himself the person to direct us what to
do for him, and managed with as much coolness and deliberation as if he
had been prescribing for an indifferent person.  Though on another
occasion, when he had lamented in the most piercing terms his approaching
dissolution, and conjured me solemnly to tell him what I thought, while
Sir Richard Jebb was perpetually on the road to Streatham, and Mr.
Johnson seemed to think himself neglected if the physician left him for
an hour only, I made him a steady, but as I thought a very gentle
harangue, in which I confirmed all that the doctor had been saying; how
no present danger could be expected, but that his age and continued ill-
health must naturally accelerate the arrival of that hour which can be
escaped by none.  "And this," says Johnson, rising in great anger, "is
the voice of female friendship, I suppose, when the hand of the hangman
would be softer."

Another day, when he was ill, and exceedingly low-spirited, and persuaded
that death was not far distant, I appeared before him in a dark-coloured
gown, which his bad sight, and worse apprehensions, made him mistake for
an iron-grey.  "Why do you delight," said he, "thus to thicken the gloom
of misery that surrounds me?  Is not here sufficient accumulation of
horror without anticipated mourning?"  "This is not mourning, sir," said
I, drawing the curtain, that the light might fall upon the silk, and show
it was a purple mixed with green.  "Well, well," replied he, changing his
voice, "you little creatures should never wear those sort of clothes,
however; they are unsuitable in every way.  What! have not all insects
gay colours?"  I relate these instances chiefly to show that the fears of
death itself could not suppress his wit, his sagacity, or his temptation
to sudden resentment.

Mr. Johnson did not like that his friends should bring their manuscripts
for him to read, and he liked still less to read them when they were
brought.  Sometimes, however, when he could not refuse, he would take the
play or poem, or whatever it was, and give the people his opinion from
some one page he had peeped into.  A gentleman carried him his tragedy,
which, because he loved the author, Johnson took, and it lay about our
rooms some time.  "What answer did you give your friend, sir?" said I,
after the book had been called for.  "I told him," replied he, "that
there was too much _Tig_ and _Tirry_ in it!"  Seeing me laugh most
violently, "Why, what would'st have, child?" said he.  "I looked at the
dramatis, and there was _Tig_ranes and _Tiri_dates, or Teribazus, or such
stuff.  A man can tell but what he knows, and I never got any farther
than the first page.  Alas, madam!" continued he, "how few books are
there of which one ever can possibly arrive at the _last_ page.  Was
there ever yet anything written by mere man that was wished longer by its
readers, excepting 'Don Quixote,' 'Robinson Crusoe,' and the 'Pilgrim's
Progress?'"  After Homer's Iliad, Mr. Johnson confessed that the work of
Cervantes was the greatest in the world, speaking of it I mean as a book
of entertainment.  And when we consider that every other author's
admirers are confined to his countrymen, and perhaps to the literary
classes among _them_, while "Don Quixote" is a sort of common property,
an universal classic, equally tasted by the court and the cottage,
equally applauded in France and England as in Spain, quoted by every
servant, the amusement of every age from infancy to decrepitude; the
first book you see on every shelf, in every shop, where books are sold,
through all the states of Italy; who can refuse his consent to an avowal
of the superiority of Cervantes to all other modern writers?  Shakespeare
himself has, till lately, been worshipped only at home, though his plays
are now the favourite amusements of Vienna; and when I was at Padua some
months ago, Romeo and Juliet was acted there under the name of Tragedia
Veronese; while engravers and translators _live_ by the hero of La Mancha
in every nation, and the sides of miserable inns all over England and
France, and I have heard Germany too, are adorned with the exploits of
Don Quixote.  May his celebrity procure my pardon for a digression in
praise of a writer who, through four volumes of the most exquisite
pleasantry and genuine humour, has never been seduced to overstep the
limits of propriety, has never called in the wretched auxiliaries of
obscenity or profaneness; who trusts to nature and sentiment alone, and
never misses of that applause which Voltaire and Sterne labour to
produce, while honest merriment bestows her unfading crown upon

Dr. Johnson was a great reader of French literature, and delighted
exceedingly in Boileau's works.  Moliere, I think, he had hardly
sufficient taste of, and he used to condemn me for preferring La Bruyere
to the Duc de Rochefoucault, who, he said, was the only gentleman writer
who wrote like a professed author.  The asperity of his harsh sentences,
each of them a sentence of condemnation, used to disgust me, however;
though it must be owned that, among the necessaries of human life, a rasp
is reckoned one as well as a razor.

Mr. Johnson did not like any one who said they were happy, or who said
any one else was so.  "It is all cant," he would cry; "the dog knows he
is miserable all the time."  A friend whom he loved exceedingly, told him
on some occasion, notwithstanding, that his wife's sister was _really_
happy, and called upon the lady to confirm his assertion, which she did
somewhat roundly, as we say, and with an accent and manner capable of
offending Mr. Johnson, if her position had not been sufficient, without
anything more, to put him in very ill-humour.  "If your sister-in-law is
really the contented being she professes herself, sir," said he, "her
life gives the lie to every research of humanity; for she is happy
without health, without beauty, without money, and without
understanding."  This story he told me himself, and when I expressed
something of the horror I felt, "The same stupidity," said he, "which
prompted her to extol felicity she never felt, hindered her from feeling
what shocks you on repetition.  I tell you, the woman is ugly and sickly
and foolish and poor; and would it not make a man hang himself to hear
such a creature say it was happy?

"The life of a sailor was also a continual scene of danger and exertion,"
he said; "and the manner in which time was spent shipboard would make all
who saw a cabin envy a gaol."  The roughness of the language used on
board a man-of-war, where he passed a week on a visit to Captain Knight,
disgusted him terribly.  He asked an officer what some place was called,
and received for answer, that it was where the loplolly man kept his
loplolly, a reply he considered, not unjustly, as disrespectful, gross,
and ignorant; for though in the course of these memoirs I have been led
to mention Dr. Johnson's tenderness towards _poor_ people, I do not wish
to mislead my readers, and make them think he had any delight in _mean_
manners or coarse expressions.  Even dress itself, when it resembled that
of the vulgar, offended him exceedingly; and when he had condemned me
many times for not adorning my children with more show than I thought
useful or elegant, I presented a little girl to him who came o'visiting
one evening covered with shining ornaments, to see if he would approve of
the appearance she made.  When they were gone home, "Well, sir," said I,
"how did you like little miss?  I hope she was _fine_ enough."  "It was
the finery of a beggar," said he, "and you know it was; she looked like a
native of Cow Lane dressed up to be carried to Bartholomew Fair."

His reprimand to another lady for crossing her little child's
handkerchief before, and by that operation dragging down its head oddly
and unintentionally, was on the same principle.  "It is the beggar's fear
of cold," said he, "that prevails over such parents, and so they pull the
poor thing's head down, and give it the look of a baby that plays about
Westminster Bridge, while the mother sits shivering in a niche."

I commended a young lady for her beauty and pretty behaviour one day,
however, to whom I thought no objection could have been made.  "I saw
her," says Dr. Johnson, "take a pair of scissors in her left hand,
though; and for all her father is now become a nobleman, and as you say,
excessively rich, I should, were I a youth of quality ten years hence,
hesitate between a girl so neglected, and a _negro_."

It was indeed astonishing how he _could_ remark such minutenesses with a
sight so miserably imperfect; but no accidental position of a ribband
escaped him, so nice was his observation, and so rigorous his demands of
propriety.  When I went with him to Lichfield and came downstairs to
breakfast at the inn, my dress did not please him, and he made me alter
it entirely before he would stir a step with us about the town, saying
most satirical things concerning the appearance I made in a riding-habit,
and adding, "'Tis very strange that such eyes as yours cannot discern
propriety of dress.  If I had a sight only half as good, I think I should
see to the centre."

My compliances, however, were of little worth.  What really surprised me
was the victory he gained over a lady little accustomed to contradiction,
who had dressed herself for church at Streatham one Sunday morning in a
manner he did not approve, and to whom he said such sharp and pungent
things concerning her hat, her gown, etc., that she hastened to change
them, and returning quite another figure received his applause, and
thanked him for his reproofs, much to the amazement of her husband, who
could scarcely believe his own ears.

Another lady, whose accomplishments he never denied, came to our house
one day covered with diamonds, feathers, etc., and he did not seem
inclined to chat with her as usual.  I asked him why, when the company
was gone.  "Why, her head looked so like that of a woman who shows
puppets," said he, "and her voice so confirmed the fancy, that I could
not bear her to-day.  When she wears a large cap I can talk to her."

When the ladies wore lace trimmings to their clothes he expressed his
contempt of the reigning fashion in these terms: "A Brussels trimming is
like bread sauce," said he, "it takes away the glow of colour from the
gown, and gives you nothing instead of it.  But sauce was invented to
heighten the flavour of our food, and trimming is an ornament to the
manteau or it is nothing.  Learn," said he, "that there is propriety or
impropriety in everything how slight soever, and get at the general
principles of dress and of behaviour; if you then transgress them you
will at least know that they are not observed."

All these exactnesses in a man who was nothing less than exact himself
made him extremely impracticable as an inmate, though most instructive as
companion and useful as a friend.  Mr. Thrale, too, could sometimes
overrule his rigidity by saying coldly, "There, there, now we have had
enough for one lecture, Dr. Johnson.  We will not be upon education any
more till after dinner, if you please," or some such speech.  But when
there was nobody to restrain his dislikes it was extremely difficult to
find anybody with whom he could converse without living always on the
verge of a quarrel, or of something too like a quarrel to be pleasing.  I
came into the room, for example, one evening where he and a gentleman,
whose abilities we all respect exceedingly, were sitting.  A lady who
walked in two minutes before me had blown 'em both into a flame by
whispering something to Mr. S---d, which he endeavoured to explain away
so as not to affront the Doctor, whose suspicions were all alive.  "And
have a care, sir," said he, just as I came in, "the Old Lion will not
bear to be tickled."  The other was pale with rage, the lady wept at the
confusion she had caused, and I could only say with Lady Macbeth--

   "Soh! you've displac'd the mirth, broke the good meeting
   With most admir'd disorder."

Such accidents, however, occurred too often, and I was forced to take
advantage of my lost lawsuit and plead inability of purse to remain
longer in London or its vicinage.  I had been crossed in my intentions of
going abroad, and found it convenient, for every reason of health, peace,
and pecuniary circumstances, to retire to Bath, where I knew Mr. Johnson
would not follow me, and where I could for that reason command some
little portion of time for my own use, a thing impossible while I
remained at Streatham or at London, as my hours, carriage, and servants
had long been at his command, who would not rise in the morning till
twelve o'clock, perhaps, and oblige me to make breakfast for him till the
bell rung for dinner, though much displeased if the toilet was neglected,
and though much of the time we passed together was spent in blaming or
deriding, very justly, my neglect of economy and waste of that money
which might make many families happy.  The original reason of our
connection, his _particularly disordered health and spirits_, had been
long at an end, and he had no other ailments than old age and general
infirmity, which every professor of medicine was ardently zealous and
generally attentive to palliate, and to contribute all in their power for
the prolongation of a life so valuable.  Veneration for his virtue,
reverence for his talents, delight in his conversation, and habitual
endurance of a yoke my husband first put upon me, and of which he
contentedly bore his share for sixteen or seventeen years, made me go on
so long with Mr. Johnson; but the perpetual confinement I will own to
have been terrifying in the first years of our friendship and irksome in
the last.  Nor could I pretend to support it without help, when my
coadjutor was no more.  To the assistance we gave him, the shelter our
house afforded to his uneasy fancies, and to the pains we took to soothe
or repress them, the world perhaps is indebted for the three political
pamphlets, the new edition and correction of his "Dictionary," and for
the "Poets' Lives," which he would scarce have lived, I think, and kept
his faculties entire to have written, had not incessant care been exerted
at the time of his first coming to be our constant guest in the country,
and several times after that, when he found himself particularly
oppressed with diseases incident to the most vivid and fervent
imaginations.  I shall for ever consider it as the greatest honour which
could be conferred on any one to have been the confidential friend of Dr.
Johnson's health, and to have in some measure, with Mr. Thrale's
assistance, saved from distress at least, if not worse, a mind great
beyond the comprehension of common mortals, and good beyond all hope of
imitation from perishable beings.

Many of our friends were earnest that he should write the lives of our
famous prose authors; but he never made any answer that I can recollect
to the proposal, excepting when Sir Richard Musgrave once was singularly
warm about it, getting up and entreating him to set about the work
immediately, he coldly replied, "_Sit down_, _sir_!"

When Mr. Thrale built the new library at Streatham, and hung up over the
books the portraits of his favourite friends, that of Dr. Johnson was
last finished, and closed the number.  It was almost impossible _not_ to
make verses on such an accidental combination of circumstances, so I made
the following ones.  But as a character written in verse will for the
most part be found imperfect as a character, I have therefore written a
prose one, with which I mean, not to complete, but to conclude these
"Anecdotes" of the best and wisest man that ever came within the reach of
my personal acquaintance, and I think I might venture to add, that of all
or any of my readers:--

   Gigantic in knowledge, in virtue, in strength,
   Our company closes with JOHNSON at length;
   So the Greeks from the cavern of Polypheme past,
   When wisest, and greatest, Ulysses came last.
   To his comrades contemptuous we see him look down,
   On their wit and their worth with a general frown.
   Since from Science' proud tree the rich fruit he receives,
   Who could shake the whole trunk while they turned a few leaves.
   His piety pure, his morality nice--
   Protector of virtue, and terror of vice;
   In these features Religion's firm champion displayed,
   Shall make infidels fear for a modern crusade.
   While th' inflammable temper, the positive tongue,
   Too conscious of right for endurance of wrong:
   We suffer from JOHNSON, contented to find,
   That some notice we gain from so noble a mind;
   And pardon our hurts, since so often we've found
   The balm of instruction poured into the wound.
   'Tis thus for its virtues the chemists extol
   Pure rectified spirit, sublime alcohol;
   From noxious putrescence, preservative pure,
   A cordial in health, and in sickness a cure;
   But exposed to the sun, taking fire at his rays,
   Burns bright to the bottom, and ends in a blaze.

It is usual, I know not why, when a character is given, to begin with a
description of the person.  That which contained the soul of Mr. Johnson
deserves to be particularly described.  His stature was remarkably high,
and his limbs exceedingly large.  His strength was more than common, I
believe, and his activity had been greater, I have heard, than such a
form gave one reason to expect.  His features were strongly marked, and
his countenance particularly rugged; though the original complexion had
certainly been fair, a circumstance somewhat unusual.  His sight was
near, and otherwise imperfect; yet his eyes, though of a light grey
colour, were so wild, so piercing, and at times so fierce, that fear was,
I believe, the first emotion in the hearts of all his beholders.  His
mind was so comprehensive, that no language but that he used could have
expressed its contents; and so ponderous was his language, that
sentiments less lofty and less solid than his were would have been
encumbered, not adorned by it.

Mr. Johnson was not intentionally, however, a pompous converser; and
though he was accused of using big words, as they are called, it was only
when little ones would not express his meaning as clearly, or when,
perhaps, the elevation of the thought would have been disgraced by a
dress less superb.  He used to say, "that the size of a man's
understanding might always be justly measured by his mirth," and his own
was never contemptible.  He would laugh at a stroke of genuine humour, or
sudden sally of odd absurdity, as heartily and freely as I ever yet saw
any man; and though the jest was often such as few felt besides himself,
yet his laugh was irresistible, and was observed immediately to produce
that of the company, not merely from the notion that it was proper to
laugh when he did, but purely out of want of power to forbear it.  He was
no enemy to splendour of apparel or pomp of equipage.  "Life," he would
say, "is barren enough surely with all her trappings; let us therefore be
cautious how we strip her."  In matters of still higher moment he once
observed, when speaking on the subject of sudden innovation, "He who
plants a forest may doubtless cut down a hedge; yet I could wish,
methinks, that even he would wait till he sees his young plants grow."

With regard to common occurrences, Mr. Johnson had, when I first knew
him, looked on the still-shifting scenes of life till he was weary; for
as a mind slow in its own nature, or unenlivened by information, will
contentedly read in the same book for twenty times, perhaps, the very act
of reading it being more than half the business, and every period being
at every reading better understood; while a mind more active or more
skilful to comprehend its meaning is made sincerely sick at the second
perusal; so a soul like his, acute to discern the truth, vigorous to
embrace, and powerful to retain it, soon sees enough of the world's dull
prospect, which at first, like that of the sea, pleases by its extent,
but soon, like that, too, fatigues from its uniformity; a calm and a
storm being the only variations that the nature of either will admit.

Of Mr. Johnson's erudition the world has been the judge, and we who
produce each a score of his sayings, as proofs of that wit which in him
was inexhaustible, resemble travellers who, having visited Delhi or
Golconda, bring home each a handful of Oriental pearl to evince the
riches of the Great Mogul.  May the public condescend to accept my _ill-
strung_ selection with patience at least, remembering only that they are
relics of him who was great on all occasions, and, like a cube in
architecture, you beheld him on each side, and his size still appeared

As his purse was ever open to almsgiving, so was his heart tender to
those who wanted relief, and his soul susceptible of gratitude, and of
every kind impression: yet though he had refined his sensibility he had
not endangered his quiet, by encouraging in himself a solicitude about
trifles, which he treated with the contempt they deserve.

It was well enough known before these sheets were published, that Mr.
Johnson had a roughness in his manner which subdued the saucy, and
terrified the meek; this was, when I knew him, the prominent part of a
character which few durst venture to approach so nearly; and which was
for that reason in many respects grossly and frequently mistaken, and it
was perhaps peculiar to him, that the lofty consciousness of his own
superiority which animated his looks, and raised his voice in
conversation, cast likewise an impenetrable veil over him when he said
nothing.  His talk, therefore, had commonly the complexion of arrogance,
his silence of superciliousness.  He was, however, seldom inclined to be
silent when any moral or literary question was started; and it was on
such occasions that, like the sage in "Rasselas," he spoke, and attention
watched his lips; he reasoned, and conviction closed his periods; if
poetry was talked of, his quotations were the readiest; and had he not
been eminent for more solid and brilliant qualities, mankind would have
united to extol his extraordinary memory.  His manner of repeating
deserves to be described, though at the same time it defeats all power of
description; but whoever once heard him repeat an ode of Horace would be
long before they could endure to hear it repeated by another.

His equity in giving the character of living acquaintance ought not
undoubtedly to be omitted in his own, whence partiality and prejudice
were totally excluded, and truth alone presided in his tongue, a
steadiness of conduct the more to be commended, as no man had stronger
likings or aversions.  His veracity was, indeed, from the most trivial to
the most solemn occasions, strict, even to severity; he scorned to
embellish a story with fictitious circumstances, which, he used to say,
took off from its real value.  "A story," says Johnson, "should be a
specimen of life and manners; but if the surrounding circumstances are
false, as it is no more a representation of reality, it is no longer
worthy our attention."

For the rest--that beneficence which during his life increased the
comforts of so many may after his death be, perhaps, ungratefully
forgotten; but that piety which dictated the serious papers in the
"Rambler" will be for ever remembered; for ever, I think, revered.  That
ample repository of religious truth, moral wisdom, and accurate
criticism, breathes, indeed, the genuine emanations of its great author's
mind, expressed, too, in a style so natural to him, and so much like his
common mode of conversing, that I was myself but little astonished when
he told me that he had scarcely read over one of those inimitable essays
before they went to the press.

I will add one or two peculiarities more before I lay down my pen.  Though
at an immeasurable distance from content in the contemplation of his own
uncouth form and figure, he did not like another man much the less for
being a coxcomb.  I mentioned two friends who were particularly fond of
looking at themselves in a glass.  "They do not surprise me at all by so
doing," said Johnson; "they see, reflected in that glass, men who have
risen from almost the lowest situations in life; one to enormous riches,
the other to everything this world can give--rank, fame, and fortune.
They see, likewise, men who have merited their advancement by the
exertion and improvement of those talents which God had given them; and I
see not why they should avoid the mirror."

The other singularity I promised to record is this: That though a man of
obscure birth himself, his partiality to people of family was visible on
every occasion; his zeal for subordination warm even to bigotry; his
hatred to innovation, and reverence for the old feudal times, apparent,
whenever any possible manner of showing them occurred.  I have spoken of
his piety, his charity, and his truth, the enlargement of his heart, and
the delicacy of his sentiments; and when I search for shadow to my
portrait, none can I find but what was formed by pride, differently
modified as different occasions showed it; yet never was pride so
purified as Johnson's, at once from meanness and from vanity.  The mind
of this man was, indeed, expanded beyond the common limits of human
nature, and stored with such variety of knowledge, that I used to think
it resembled a royal pleasure ground, where every plant, of every name
and nation, flourished in the full perfection of their powers, and where,
though lofty woods and falling cataracts first caught the eye, and fixed
the earliest attention of beholders, yet neither the trim parterre nor
the pleasing shrubbery, nor even the antiquated evergreens, were denied a
place in some fit corner of the happy valley.

*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "Anecdotes of the late Samuel Johnson" ***

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