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Title: Life of Johnson, Volume 1
 - 1709-1765
Author: Boswell, James
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Life of Johnson, Volume 1
 - 1709-1765" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.









VOLUME I.--LIFE (1709-1765)













--_Quò fit ut_ OMNIS
_Votiva pateat veluti descripta tabella_




       *       *       *       *       *
















This Edition



Is Dedicated



DEDICATION TO SIR JOSHUA REYNOLDS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  1

ADVERTISEMENT TO THE FIRST EDITION . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   5

ADVERTISEMENT TO THE SECOND EDITION . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10

ADVERTISEMENT TO THE THIRD EDITION . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  14

SAMUEL JOHNSON, LL.D . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  16

LIFE OF SAMUEL JOHNSON (SEPT. 18, 1709-OCTOBER 1765) . . . . 1-500


  A. JOHNSON'S DEBATES IN PARLIAMENT . . . . . . . . . . . . . 501

       IN 1759 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 512

  C. JOHNSON AT CAMBRIDGE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  517

  D. JOHNSON'S LETTER TO DR. LELAND . . . . . . . . . . . . .  518


     AND HIS SERIOUS ILLNESS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 520


1. SAMUEL JOHNSON, after the Picture by Sir Joshua Reynolds in the
   National Gallery
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  _Frontispiece_ to VOL. I.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . VOL. I, p. 60.

3. FACSIMILE OF A LETTER OF JOHNSON relating to _Rasselas_
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  VOL. I, p. 340.

4. SAMUEL JOHNSON, from the Portrait painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds,
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  VOL. I, p. 392.

5. SAMUEL JOHNSON, after the Bust by Nollekens
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . _Frontispiece_ to VOL. II.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . VOL. II, _to follow Frontispiece_.

7. SAMUEL JOHNSON, after the Painting by Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1770
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  _Frontispiece to_ VOL. III.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . VOL. III, p. 82.

9. OPIE'S PORTRAIT OF JOHNSON, from the Engraving in the Common
   Room of University College
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  VOL. III, _to face_ p. 245.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . VOL. IV, _to face_ p. 377.

11. JAMES BOSWELL OF AUCHINLECK, Esq., from the painting by Sir
    Joshua Reynolds
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . _Frontispiece to_ VOL. V.

12. FACSIMILE OF BOSWELL'S HANDWRITING, 1792, from a Letter in the
    Bodleian Library
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  VOL. V, _to follow Frontispiece_.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  VOL. V, _to face_ p. 5.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Frontispiece to VOL. VI.


Fielding, it is said, drank confusion to the man who invented the fifth
act of a play. He who has edited an extensive work, and has concluded
his labours by the preparation of a copious index, might well be
pardoned, if he omitted to include the inventor of the Preface among the
benefactors of mankind. The long and arduous task that years before he
had set himself to do is done, and the last thing that he desires is to
talk about it. Liberty is what he asks for, liberty to range for a time
wherever he pleases in the wide and fair fields of literature. Yet with
this longing for freedom comes a touch of regret and a doubt lest the
'fresh woods and pastures new' may never wear the friendly and familiar
face of the plot of ground within whose narrower confines he has so long
been labouring, and whose every corner he knows so well. May-be he finds
hope in the thought that should his new world seem strange to him and
uncomfortable, ere long he may be called back to his old task, and in
the preparation of a second edition find the quiet and the peace of mind
that are often found alone in 'old use and wont.'

With me the preparation of these volumes has, indeed, been the work of
many years. Boswell's _Life of Johnson_ I read for the first time in my
boyhood, when I was too young for it to lay any hold on me. When I
entered Pembroke College, Oxford, though I loved to think that Johnson
had been there before me, yet I cannot call to mind that I ever opened
the pages of Boswell. By a happy chance I was turned to the study of the
literature of the eighteenth century. Every week we were required by the
rules of the College to turn into Latin, or what we called Latin, a
passage from _The Spectator_. Many a happy minute slipped by while, in
forgetfulness of my task, I read on and on in its enchanting pages. It
was always with a sigh that at last I tore myself away, and sat
resolutely down to write bad Latin instead of reading good English. From
Addison in the course of time I passed on to the other great writers of
his and the succeeding age, finding in their exquisitely clear style,
their admirable common sense and their freedom from all the tricks of
affectation, a delightful contrast to so many of the eminent authors of
our own time. Those troublesome doubts, doubts of all kinds, which since
the great upheaval of the French Revolution have harassed mankind, had
scarcely begun to ruffle the waters of their life. Even Johnson's
troubled mind enjoyed vast levels of repose. The unknown world alone was
wrapped in stormy gloom; of this world 'all the complaints which were
made were unjust[1].' Though I was now familiar with many of the great
writers, yet Boswell I had scarcely opened since my boyhood. A happy day
came just eighteen years ago when in an old book-shop, almost under the
shadow of a great cathedral, I bought a second-hand copy of a somewhat
early edition of the _Life_ in five well-bound volumes. Of all my books
none I cherish more than these. In looking at them I have known what it
is to feel Bishop Percy's 'uneasiness at the thoughts of leaving his
books in death[2].' They became my almost inseparable companions. Before
long I began to note the parallel passages and allusions not only in
their pages, but in the various authors whom I studied. Yet in these
early days I never dreamt of preparing a new edition. It fell to my lot
as time went on to criticise in some of our leading publications works
that bore both on Boswell and Johnson. Such was my love for the subject
that on one occasion, when I was called upon to write a review that
should fall two columns of a weekly newspaper, I read a new edition of
the _Life_ from beginning to end without, I believe, missing a single
line of the text or a single note. At length, 'towering in the
confidence'[3] of one who as yet has but set his foot on the threshold
of some stately mansion in which he hopes to find for himself a home, I
was rash enough more than twelve years ago to offer myself as editor of
a new edition of Boswell's _Life of Johnson_. Fortunately for me another
writer had been already engaged by the publisher to whom I applied, and
my offer was civilly declined. From that time on I never lost sight of
my purpose but when in the troubles of life I well-nigh lost sight of
every kind of hope. Everything in my reading that bore on my favourite
author was carefully noted, till at length I felt that the materials
which I had gathered from all sides were sufficient to shield me from a
charge of rashness if I now began to raise the building. Much of the
work of preparation had been done at a grievous disadvantage. My health
more than once seemed almost hopelessly broken down. Nevertheless even
then the time was not wholly lost. In the sleepless hours of many a
winter night I almost forgot my miseries in the delightful pages of
Horace Walpole's Letters, and with pencil in hand and some little hope
still in heart, managed to get a few notes taken. Three winters I had to
spend on the shores of the Mediterranean. During two of them my malady
and my distress allowed of no rival, and my work made scarcely any
advance. The third my strength was returning, and in the six months that
I spent three years ago in San Remo I wrote out very many of the notes
which I am now submitting to my readers.

An interval of some years of comparative health that I enjoyed between
my two severest illnesses allowed me to try my strength as a critic and
an editor. In _Dr. Johnson: His Friends and his Critics_, which I
published in the year 1878, I reviewed the judgments passed on Johnson
and Boswell by Lord Macaulay and Mr. Carlyle, I described Oxford as it
was known to Johnson, and I threw light on more than one important
passage in the _Life_. The following year I edited Boswell's _Journal of
a Tour to Corsica_ and his curious correspondence with the Hon. Andrew
Erskine. The somewhat rare little volume in which are contained the
lively but impudent letters that passed between these two friends I had
found one happy day in an old book-stall underneath the town hall of
Keswick. I hoped that among the almost countless readers of Boswell
there would be many who would care to study in one of the earliest
attempts of his joyous youth the man whose ripened genius was to place
him at the very head of all the biographers of whom the world can boast.
My hopes were increased by the elegance and the accuracy of the
typography with which my publishers, Messrs. De La Rue & Co., adorned
this reprint. I was disappointed in my expectations. These curious
Letters met with a neglect which they did not deserve. Twice, moreover,
I was drawn away from the task that I had set before me by other works.
By the death of my uncle, Sir Rowland Hill, I was called upon to edit
his _History of the Penny Postage_, and to write his _Life_. Later on
General Gordon's correspondence during the first six years of his
government of the Soudan was entrusted to me to prepare for the press.
In my _Colonel Gordon in Central Africa_ I attempted to do justice to
the rare genius, to the wise and pure enthusiasm, and to the exalted
beneficence of that great man. The labour that I gave to these works
was, as regards my main purpose, by no means wholly thrown away. I was
trained by it in the duties of an editor, and by studying the character
of two such men, who, though wide as the poles asunder in many things,
were as devoted to truth and accuracy as they were patient in their
pursuit, I was strengthened in my hatred of carelessness and error.

With all these interruptions the summer of 1885 was upon me before I was
ready for the compositors to make a beginning with my work. In revising
my proofs very rarely indeed have I contented myself in verifying my
quotations with comparing them merely with my own manuscript. In almost
all instances I have once more examined the originals. 'Diligence and
accuracy,' writes Gibbon, 'are the only merits which an historical
writer may ascribe to himself; if any merit indeed can be assumed from
the performance of an indispensable duty[4].' By diligence and accuracy
I have striven to win for myself a place in Johnson's _school_--'a
school distinguished,' as Sir Joshua Reynolds said, 'for a love of truth
and accuracy[5].' I have steadily set before myself Boswell's example
where he says:--'Let me only observe, as a specimen of my trouble, that
I have sometimes been obliged to run half over London, in order to fix a
date correctly; which, when I had accomplished, I well knew would obtain
me no praise, though a failure would have been to my discredit[6].' When
the variety and the number of my notes are considered, when it is known
that a great many of the authors I do not myself possess, but that they
could only be examined in the Bodleian or the British Museum, it will be
seen that the labour of revising the proofs was, indeed, unusually
severe. In the course of the eighteen months during which they have been
passing through the press, fresh reading has given fresh information,
and caused many an addition, and not a few corrections moreover to be
made, in passages which I had previously presumed to think already
complete. Had it been merely the biography of a great man of letters
that I was illustrating, such anxious care would scarcely have been
needful. But Boswell's _Life of Johnson_, as its author with just pride
boasts on its title-page, 'exhibits a view of literature and literary
men in Great Britain, for near half a century during which Johnson
flourished.' Wide, indeed, is the gulf by which this half-century is
separated from us. The reaction against the thought and style of the age
over which Pope ruled in its prime, and Johnson in its decline,--this
reaction, wise as it was in many ways and extravagant as it was perhaps
in more, is very far from having spent its force. Young men are still
far too often found in our Universities who think that one proof of
their originality is a contempt of authors whose writings they have
never read. Books which were in the hands of almost every reader of the
_Life_ when it first appeared are now read only by the curious.
Allusions and quotations which once fell upon a familiar and a friendly
ear now fall dead. Men whose names were known to every one, now often
have not even a line in a Dictionary of Biography. Over manners too a
change has come, and as Johnson justly observes, 'all works which
describe manners require notes in sixty or seventy years, or less[7].'
But it is not only Boswell's narrative that needs illustration. Johnson
in his talk ranges over a vast number of subjects. In his capacious
memory were stored up the fruits of an almost boundless curiosity, and a
wide and varied reading. I have sought to follow him wherever a remark
of his required illustration, and have read through many a book that I
might trace to its source a reference or an allusion. I have examined,
moreover, all the minor writings which are attributed to him by Boswell,
but which are not for the most part included in his collected works. In
some cases I have ventured to set my judgment against Boswell's, and
have refused to admit that Johnson was the author of the feeble pieces
which were fathered on him. Once or twice in the course of my reading I
have come upon essays which had escaped the notice of his biographer,
but which bear the marks of his workmanship. To these I have given a
reference. While the minute examination that I have so often had to make
of Boswell's narrative has done nothing but strengthen my trust in his
statements and my admiration of his laborious truthfulness, yet in one
respect I have not found him so accurate as I had expected. 'I have,' he
says, 'been extremely careful as to the exactness of my quotations[8].'
Though in preparing his manuscript he referred in each case 'to the
originals,' yet he did not, I conjecture, examine them once more in
revising his proof-sheets. At all events he has allowed errors to slip
in. These I have pointed out in my notes, for in every case where I
could I have, I believe, verified his quotations.

I have not thought that it was my duty as an editor to attempt to refute
or even to criticise Johnson's arguments. The story is told that when
Peter the Great was on his travels and far from his country, some
members of the Russian Council of State in St. Petersburgh ventured to
withstand what was known to be his wish. His walking-stick was laid upon
the table, and silence at once fell upon all. In like manner, before
that editor who should trouble himself and his readers with attempting
to refute Johnson's arguments, paradoxical as they often were, should be
placed Reynolds's portrait of that 'labouring working mind[9].' It might
make him reflect that if the mighty reasoner could rise up and meet him
face to face, he would be sure, on which ever side the right might be,
even if at first his pistol missed fire to knock him down with the
butt-end of it[10]. I have attempted therefore not to criticise but to
illustrate Johnson's statements. I have compared them with the opinions
of the more eminent men among his contemporaries, and with his own as
they are contained in other parts of his _Life_, and in his writings. It
is in his written works that his real opinion can be most surely found.
'He owned he sometimes talked for victory; he was too conscientious to
make error permanent and pernicious by deliberately writing it[11].' My
numerous extracts from the eleven volumes of his collected works will, I
trust, not only give a truer insight into the nature of the man, but
also will show the greatness of the author to a generation of readers
who have wandered into widely different paths.

In my attempts to trace the quotations of which both Johnson and Boswell
were somewhat lavish, I have not in every case been successful, though I
have received liberal assistance from more than one friend. In one case
my long search was rewarded by the discovery that Boswell was quoting
himself. That I have lighted upon the beautiful lines which Johnson
quoted when he saw the Highland girl singing at her wheel[12], and have
found out who was 'one Giffard,' or rather Gifford, 'a parson,' is to me
a source of just triumph. I have not known many happier hours than the
one in which in the Library of the British Museum my patient
investigation was rewarded and I perused _Contemplation_.

Fifteen hitherto unpublished letters of Johnson[13]; his college
composition in Latin prose[14]; a long extract from his manuscript
diary[15]; a suppressed passage in his _Journey to the Western
Islands_[16]; Boswell's letters of acceptance of the office of Secretary
for Foreign Correspondence to the Royal Academy[17]; the proposal for
the publication of a _Geographical Dictionary_ issued by Johnson's
beloved friend, Dr. Bathurst[18]; and Mr. Recorder Longley's record of
his conversation with Johnson on Greek metres[19], will, I trust, throw
some lustre on this edition.

In many notes I have been able to clear up statements in the text which
were not fully understood even by the author, or were left intentionally
dark by him, or have become obscure through lapse of time. I would
particularly refer to the light that I have thrown on Johnson's engaging
in politics with William Gerard Hamilton[20], and on Burke's 'talk of
retiring[21].' In many other notes I have established Boswell's accuracy
against attacks which had been made on it apparently with success. It
was with much pleasure that I discovered that the story told of
Johnson's listening to Dr. Sacheverel's sermon is not in any way
improbable[22], and that Johnson's 'censure' of Lord Kames was quite
just[23]. The ardent advocates of total abstinence will not, I fear, be
pleased at finding at the end of my long note on Johnson's wine-drinking
that I have been obliged to show that he thought that the gout from
which he suffered was due to his temperance. 'I hope you persevere in
drinking,' he wrote to his friend, Dr. Taylor. 'My opinion is that I
have drunk too little[24].'

In the Appendices I have generally treated of subjects which demanded
more space than could be given them in the narrow limits of a foot-note.
In the twelve pages of the essay on Johnson's _Debates in
Parliament_[25] I have compressed the result of the reading of many
weeks. In examining the character of George Psalmanazar[26] I have
complied with the request of an unknown correspondent who was naturally
interested in the history of that strange man, 'after whom Johnson
sought the most[27].' In my essay on Johnson's Travels and Love of
Travelling[28] I have, in opposition to Lord Macaulay's wild and wanton
rhetoric, shown how ardent and how elevated was the curiosity with which
Johnson's mind was possessed. In another essay I have explained, I do
not say justified, his strong feelings towards the founders of the
United States[29]; and in a fifth I have examined the election of the
Lord Mayors of London, at a time when the City was torn by political
strife[30]. To the other Appendices it is not needful particularly to

In my Index, which has cost me many months' heavy work, 'while I bore
burdens with dull patience and beat the track of the alphabet with
sluggish resolution[31],' I have, I hope, shown that I am not unmindful
of all that I owe to men of letters. To the dead we cannot pay the debt
of gratitude that is their due. Some relief is obtained from its
burthen, if we in our turn make the men of our own generation debtors to
us. The plan on which my Index is made will, I trust, be found
convenient. By the alphabetical arrangement in the separate entries of
each article the reader, I venture to think, will be greatly facilitated
in his researches. Certain subjects I have thought it best to form into
groups. Under America, France Ireland, London, Oxford, Paris, and
Scotland, are gathered together almost all the references to those
subjects. The provincial towns of France, however, by some mistake I did
not include in the general article. One important but intentional
omission I must justify. In the case of the quotations in which my notes
abound I have not thought it needful in the Index to refer to the book
unless the eminence of the author required a separate and a second
entry. My labour would have been increased beyond all endurance and my
Index have been swollen almost into a monstrosity had I always referred
to the book as well as to the matter which was contained in the passage
that I extracted. Though in such a variety of subjects there must be
many omissions, yet I shall be greatly disappointed if actual errors are
discovered. Every entry I have made myself, and every entry I have
verified in the proof-sheets, not by comparing it with my manuscript,
but by turning to the reference in the printed volumes. Some indulgence
nevertheless may well be claimed and granted. If Homer at times nods, an
index-maker may be pardoned, should he in the fourth or fifth month of
his task at the end of a day of eight hours' work grow drowsy. May I
fondly hope that to the maker of so large an Index will be extended the
gratitude which Lord Bolingbroke says was once shown to lexicographers?
'I approve,' writes his Lordship, 'the devotion of a studious man at
Christ Church, who was overheard in his oratory entering into a detail
with God, and acknowledging the divine goodness in furnishing the world
with makers of dictionaries[32].'

In the list that I give in the beginning of the sixth volume of the
books which I quote, the reader will find stated in full the titles
which in the notes, through regard to space, I was forced to compress.

The Concordance of Johnson's sayings which follows the Index[33] will be
found convenient by the literary man who desires to make use of his
strong and pointed utterances. Next to Shakespeare he is, I believe,
quoted and misquoted the most frequently of all our writers. 'It is not
every man that can _carry_ a _bon-mot_[34].' Bons-mots that are
miscarried of all kinds of good things suffer the most. In this
Concordance the general reader, moreover, may find much to delight him.
Johnson's trade was wit and wisdom[35], and some of his best wares are
here set out in a small space. It was, I must confess, with no little
pleasure that in revising my proof-sheets I found that the last line in
my Concordance and the last line in my six long volumes is Johnson's
quotation of Goldsmith's fine saying; 'I do not love a man who is
zealous for nothing.'

In the 'forward' references in the notes to other passages in the book,
the reader may be surprised at finding that while often I only give the
date under which the reference will be found, frequently I am able to
quote the page and volume. The explanation is a simple one: two sets of
compositors were generally at work, and two volumes were passing through
the press simultaneously.

In the selection of the text which I should adopt I hesitated for some
time. In ordinary cases the edition which received the author's final
revision is the one which all future editors should follow. The second
edition, which was the last that was brought out in Boswell's life-time,
could not, I became convinced, be conveniently reproduced. As it was
passing through the press he obtained many additional anecdotes and
letters. These he somewhat awkwardly inserted in an Introduction and an
Appendix. He was engaged on his third edition when he died. 'He had
pointed out where some of these materials should be inserted,' and 'in
the margin of the copy which he had in part revised he had written
notes[36].' His interrupted labours were completed by Edmond Malone, to
whom he had read aloud almost the whole of his original manuscript, and
who had helped him in the revision of the first half of the book when it
was in type[37]. 'These notes,' says Malone, 'are faithfully preserved.'
He adds that 'every new remark, not written by the author, for the sake
of distinction has been enclosed within crotchets[38].' In the third
edition therefore we have the work in the condition in which it would
have most approved itself to Boswell's own judgment. In one point only,
and that a trifling one, had Malone to exercise his judgment. But so
skilful an editor was very unlikely to go wrong in those few cases in
which he was called upon to insert in their proper places the additional
material which the author had already published in his second edition.
Malone did not, however, correct the proof-sheets. I thought it my duty,
therefore, in revising my work to have the text of Boswell's second
edition read aloud to me throughout. Some typographical errors might, I
feared, have crept in. In a few unimportant cases early in the book I
adopted the reading of the second edition, but as I read on I became
convinced that almost all the verbal alterations were Boswell's own.
Slight errors, often of the nature of Scotticisms, had been corrected,
and greater accuracy often given. Some of the corrections and additions
in the third edition that were undoubtedly from his hand were of
considerable importance.

I have retained Boswell's spelling in accordance with the wish that he
expressed in the preface to his _Account of Corsica_. 'If this work,' he
writes, 'should at any future period be reprinted, I hope that care will
be taken of my orthography[39].' The punctuation too has been preserved.

I should be wanting in justice were I not to acknowledge that I owe much
to the labours of Mr. Croker. No one can know better than I do his great
failings as an editor. His remarks and criticisms far too often deserve
the contempt that Macaulay so liberally poured on them. Without being
deeply versed in books, he was shallow in himself. Johnson's strong
character was never known to him. Its breadth and length, and depth and
height were far beyond his measure. With his writings even he shows few
signs of being familiar. Boswell's genius, a genius which even to Lord
Macaulay was foolishness, was altogether hidden from his dull eye. No
one surely but a 'blockhead,' a 'barren rascal[40],' could with scissors
and paste-pot have mangled the biography which of all others is the
delight and the boast of the English-speaking world. He is careless in
small matters, and his blunders are numerous. These I have only noticed
in the more important cases, remembering what Johnson somewhere points
out, that the triumphs of one critic over another only fatigue and
disgust the reader. Yet he has added considerably to our knowledge of
Johnson. He knew men who had intimately known both the hero and his
biographer, and he gathered much that but for his care would have been
lost for ever. He was diligent and successful in his search after
Johnson's letters, of so many of which Boswell with all his persevering
and pushing diligence had not been able to get a sight. The editor of
Mr. Croker's _Correspondence and Diaries_[41] goes, however, much too
far when, in writing of Macaulay's criticism, he says: 'The attack
defeated itself by its very violence, and therefore it did the book no
harm whatever. Between forty and fifty thousand copies have been sold,
although Macaulay boasted with great glee that he had smashed it.' The
book that Macaulay attacked was withdrawn. That monstrous medley reached
no second edition. In its new form all the worst excrescences had been
cleared away, and though what was left was not Boswell, still less was
it unchastened Croker. His repentance, however, was not thorough. He
never restored the text to its old state; wanton transpositions of
passages still remain, and numerous insertions break the narrative. It
was my good fortune to become a sound Boswellian before I even looked at
his edition. It was not indeed till I came to write out my notes for the
press that I examined his with any thoroughness.

'Notes,' says Johnson, 'are often necessary, but they are necessary
evils[42].' To the young reader who for the first time turns over
Boswell's delightful pages I would venture to give the advice Johnson
gives about Shakespeare:--

'Let him that is yet unacquainted with the powers of Shakespeare, and
who desires to feel the highest pleasure that the drama can give, read
every play from the first scene to the last with utter negligence of all
his commentators. When his fancy is once on the wing, let it not stoop
at correction or explanation. When his attention is strongly engaged let
it disdain alike to turn aside to the name of Theobald and of Pope. Let
him read on through brightness and obscurity, through integrity and
corruption; let him preserve his comprehension of the dialogue and his
interest in the fable. And when the pleasures of novelty have ceased let
him attempt exactness and read the commentators[43].'

So too let him who reads the _Life of Johnson_ for the first time read
it in one of the _Pre-Crokerian_ editions. They are numerous and good.
With his attention undiverted by notes he will rapidly pass through one
of the most charming narratives that the world has ever seen, and if his
taste is uncorrupted by modern extravagances, will recognise the genius
of an author who, in addition to other great qualities, has an admirable
eye for the just proportions of an extensive work, and who is the master
of a style that is as easy as it is inimitable.

Johnson, I fondly believe, would have been pleased, perhaps would even
have been proud, could he have foreseen this edition. Few distinctions
he valued more highly than those which he received from his own great
University. The honorary degrees that it conferred on him, the gown that
it entitled him to wear, by him were highly esteemed. In the Clarendon
Press he took a great interest[44]. The efforts which that famous
establishment has made in the excellence of the typography, the quality
of the paper, and the admirably-executed illustrations and facsimiles to
do honour to his memory and to the genius of his biographer would have
highly delighted him. To his own college he was so deeply attached that
he would not have been displeased to learn that his editor had been
nursed in that once famous 'nest of singing birds.' Of Boswell's
pleasure I cannot doubt. How much he valued any tribute of respect from
Oxford is shown by the absurd importance that he gave to a sermon which
was preached before the University by an insignificant clergyman more
than a year and a half after Johnson's death[45]. When Edmund Burke
witnessed the long and solemn procession entering the Cathedral of St.
Paul's, as it followed Sir Joshua Reynolds to his grave, he wrote:
'Everything, I think, was just as our deceased friend would, if living,
have wished it to be; for he was, as you know, not altogether
indifferent to this kind of observances[46].' It would, indeed, be
presumptuous in me to flatter myself that in this edition everything is
as Johnson and Boswell would, if living, have wished it. Yet to this
kind of observances, the observances that can be shown by patient and
long labour, and by the famous press of a great University, neither man
was altogether indifferent.

Should my work find favour with the world of readers, I hope again to
labour in the same fields. I had indeed at one time intended to enlarge
this edition by essays on Boswell, Johnson, Mrs. Thrale, and perhaps on
other subjects. Their composition would, however, have delayed
publication more than seemed advisable, and their length might have
rendered the volumes bulky beyond all reason. A more favourable
opportunity may come. I have in hand a _Selection of the Wit and Wisdom
of Dr. Johnson_. I purpose, moreover, to collect and edit all of his
letters that are not in the _Life_. Some hundreds of these were
published by Mrs. Piozzi; many more are contained in Mr. Croker's
edition; while others have already appeared in _Notes and Queries_[47].
Not a few, doubtless, are still lurking in the desks of the collectors
of autographs. As a letter-writer Johnson stands very high. While the
correspondence of David Garrick has been given to the world in two large
volumes, it is not right that the letters of his far greater friend
should be left scattered and almost neglected. 'He that sees before him
to his third dinner,' says Johnson, 'has a long prospect[48].' My
prospect is still longer; for, if health be spared, and a fair degree of
public favour shown, I see before me to my third book. When I have
published my _Letters_, I hope to enter upon a still more arduous task
in editing the _Lives of the Poets_.

In my work I have received much kind assistance, not only from friends,
but also from strangers to whom I had applied in cases where special
knowledge could alone throw light on some obscure point. My
acknowledgments I have in most instances made in my notes. In some
cases, either through want of opportunity or forgetfulness, this has not
been done. I gladly avail myself of the present opportunity to remedy
this deficiency. The Earl of Crawford and Balcarres I have to thank for
so liberally allowing the original of the famous Round Robin, which is
in his Lordship's possession, to be reproduced by a photographic process
for this edition. It is by the kindness of Mr. J.L.G. Mowat, M.A.,
Fellow and Bursar of Pembroke College, Oxford, that I have been able to
make a careful examination of the Johnsonian manuscripts in which our
college is so rich. If the vigilance with which he keeps guard over
these treasures while they are being inspected is continued by his
successors in office, the college will never have to mourn over the loss
of a single leaf. To the Rev. W.D. Macray, M.A., of the manuscript
department of the Bodleian, to Mr. Falconer Madan, M.A., Sub-Librarian
of the same Library, and to Mr. George Parker, one of the Assistants, I
am indebted for the kindness with which they have helped me in my
inquiries. To Mr. W.H. Allnutt, another of the Assistants, I owe still
more. When I was abroad, I too frequently, I fear, troubled him with
questions which no one could have answered who was not well versed in
bibliographical lore. It was not often that his acuteness was baffled,
while his kindness was never exhausted. My old friend Mr. E.J. Payne,
M.A., Fellow of University College, Oxford, the learned editor of the
_Select Works of Burke_ published by the Clarendon Press, has allowed
me, whenever I pleased, to draw on his extensive knowledge of the
history and the literature of the eighteenth century. Mr. C.G. Crump,
B.A., of Balliol College, Oxford, has traced for me not a few of the
quotations which had baffled my search. To Mr. G.K. Fortescue,
Superintendent of the Reading Room of the British Museum, my most
grateful acknowledgments are due. His accurate and extensive knowledge
of books and his unfailing courtesy and kindness have lightened many a
day's heavy work in the spacious room over which he so worthily
presides. But most of all am I indebted to Mr. C.E. Doble, M.A., of the
Clarendon Press. He has read all my proof-sheets, and by his almost
unrivalled knowledge of the men of letters of the close of the
seventeenth and of the beginning of the eighteenth centuries, he has
saved my notes from some blunders and has enriched them with much
valuable information. In my absence abroad he has in more instances than
I care to think of consulted for me the Bodleian Library. It is some
relief to my conscience to know that the task was rendered lighter to
him by his intimate familiarity with its treasures, and by the deep love
for literature with which he is inspired.

There are other thanks due which I cannot here fittingly express. 'An
author partakes of the common condition of humanity; he is born and
married like another man; he has hopes and fears, expectations and
disappointments, griefs and joys like a courtier or a statesman[49].' In
the hopes and fears, in the expectations and disappointments, in the
griefs and joys--nay, in the very labours of his literary life, if his
hearth is not a solitary one, he has those who largely share.

I have now come to the end of my long labours. 'There are few things not
purely evil,' wrote Johnson, 'of which we can say without some emotion
of uneasiness, _this is the last_[50].' From this emotion I cannot feign
that I am free. My book has been my companion in many a sad and many a
happy hour. I take leave of it with a pang of regret, but I am cheered
by the hope that it may take its place, if a lowly one, among the works
of men who have laboured patiently but not unsuccessfully in the great
and shining fields of English literature.

G. B. H.

_March_ 16, 1887.


Vol. I, page 140, _n_. 5, l. 2, _read 'of.'_
   "     "   176, _n_. 2, l. 22, _for_ 1774 _read_ 1747.
   "     "   262, _n_. 3 of p. 261, l. 3, _for_ guineas _read_ pounds.
   "     "   480, l. 20, _for_ language, _read_ language.'

Vol. II, page 34, _n_. 1, l. 40, _for_ proper. _read_ proper.'
   "      "   445, l. 8, _for_ Masters _read_ Master

Vol. III, page 18, l. 13, _read_ accessary.
   "       "   81, _n_. 1, l. 2, _for_ 1784, _read_ 1784.
   "       "   312, _n_. 1, l. 1, _for_ Mrs. Burney _read_ Miss Burney

Vol. IV, page 323, _n_. 1, l. 21, _for_ Wharton _read_ Warton
   "      "   379, l. 19, _read_ after

Vol. V, page 49, _n_. 4, l. 2, _for 'Boswell' read 'Johnson.'_
Vol. VI. "   74, col. 2, _insert_ Eccles, Rev. W., i. 360.




Every liberal motive that can actuate an Authour in the dedication of
his labours, concurs in directing me to you, as the person to whom the
following Work should be inscribed.

If there be a pleasure in celebrating the distinguished merit of a
contemporary, mixed with a certain degree of vanity not altogether
inexcusable, in appearing fully sensible of it, where can I find one, in
complimenting whom I can with more general approbation gratify those
feelings? Your excellence not only in the Art over which you have long
presided with unrivalled fame, but also in Philosophy and elegant
Literature, is well known to the present, and will continue to be the
admiration of future ages. Your equal and placid temper[51], your variety
of conversation, your true politeness, by which you are so amiable in
private society, and that enlarged hospitality which has long made your
house a common centre of union for the great, the accomplished, the
learned, and the ingenious; all these qualities I can, in perfect
confidence of not being accused of flattery, ascribe to you.

If a man may indulge an honest pride, in having it known to the world,
that he has been thought worthy of particular attention by a person of
the first eminence in the age in which he lived, whose company has been
universally courted, I am justified in availing myself of the usual
privilege of a Dedication, when I mention that there has been a long and
uninterrupted friendship between us.

[Page 2: Dedication.]

If gratitude should be acknowledged for favours received, I have this
opportunity, my dear Sir, most sincerely to thank you for the many happy
hours which I owe to your kindness,--for the cordiality with which you
have at all times been pleased to welcome me,--for the number of
valuable acquaintances to whom you have introduced me,--for the _noctes
coenaeque Deûm_[52], which I have enjoyed under your roof[53].

If a work should be inscribed to one who is master of the subject of it,
and whose approbation, therefore, must ensure it credit and success, the
_Life of Dr. Johnson_ is, with the greatest propriety, dedicated to Sir
Joshua Reynolds, who was the intimate and beloved friend of that great
man; the friend, whom he declared to be 'the most invulnerable man he
knew; whom, if he should quarrel with him, he should find the most
difficulty how to abuse[54].' You, my dear Sir, studied him, and knew him
well: you venerated and admired him. Yet, luminous as he was upon the
whole, you perceived all the shades which mingled in the grand
composition; all the little peculiarities and slight blemishes which
marked the literary Colossus. Your very warm commendation of the
specimen which I gave in my _Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides_, of my
being able to preserve his conversation in an authentick and lively
manner, which opinion the Publick has confirmed, was the best
encouragement for me to persevere in my purpose of producing the whole
of my stores[55].

In one respect, this Work will, in some passages, be different from the
former. In my _Tour_, I was almost unboundedly open in my
communications, and from my eagerness to display the wonderful fertility
and readiness of Johnson's wit, freely shewed to the world its
dexterity, even when I was myself the object of it. I trusted that I
should be liberally understood, as knowing very well what I was about,
and by no means as simply unconscious of the pointed effects of the
satire. I own, indeed, that I was arrogant enough to suppose that the
tenour of the rest of the book would sufficiently guard me against such
a strange imputation. But it seems I judged too well of the world; for,
though I could scarcely believe it, I have been undoubtedly informed,
that many persons, especially in distant quarters, not penetrating
enough into Johnson's character, so as to understand his mode of
treating his friends, have arraigned my judgement, instead of seeing
that I was sensible of all that they could observe.

It is related of the great Dr. Clarke[56], that when in one of his
leisure hours he was unbending himself with a few friends in the most
playful and frolicksome manner, he observed Beau Nash approaching; upon
which he suddenly stopped:--'My boys, (said he,) let us be grave: here
comes a fool.' The world, my friend, I have found to be a great fool, as
to that particular, on which it has become necessary to speak very
plainly. I have, therefore, in this Work been more reserved[57]; and
though I tell nothing but the truth, I have still kept in my mind that
the whole truth is not always to be exposed. This, however, I have
managed so as to occasion no diminution of the pleasure which my book
should afford; though malignity may sometimes be disappointed of its

[Page 4: Dedication.]

I am,

My dear Sir,

Your much obliged friend,

And faithful humble servant,



April 20, 1791.




I at last deliver to the world a Work which I have long promised, and of
which, I am afraid, too high expectations have been raised[58]. The delay
of its publication must be imputed, in a considerable degree, to the
extraordinary zeal which has been shewn by distinguished persons in all
quarters to supply me with additional information concerning its
illustrious subject; resembling in this the grateful tribes of ancient
nations, of which every individual was eager to throw a stone upon the
grave of a departed Hero, and thus to share in the pious office of
erecting an honourable monument to his memory[59].

[Page 6: Advertisement to the First Edition.]

The labour and anxious attention with which I have collected and
arranged the materials of which these volumes are composed, will hardly
be conceived by those who read them with careless facility[60]. The
stretch of mind and prompt assiduity by which so many conversations were
preserved[61], I myself, at some distance of time, contemplate with
wonder; and I must be allowed to suggest, that the nature of the work,
in other respects, as it consists of innumerable detached particulars,
all which, even the most minute, I have spared no pains to ascertain
with a scrupulous authenticity, has occasioned a degree of trouble far
beyond that of any other species of composition. Were I to detail the
books which I have consulted, and the inquiries which I have found it
necessary to make by various channels, I should probably be thought
ridiculously ostentatious. Let me only observe, as a specimen of my
trouble, that I have sometimes been obliged to run half over London, in
order to fix a date correctly; which, when I had accomplished, I well
knew would obtain me no praise, though a failure would have been to my
discredit. And after all, perhaps, hard as it may be, I shall not be
surprized if omissions or mistakes be pointed out with invidious
severity. I have also been extremely careful as to the exactness of my
quotations; holding that there is a respect due to the publick which
should oblige every Authour to attend to this, and never to presume to
introduce them with,--'_I think I have read_;'--or,--'_If I remember
right_;'--when the originals may be examined[62].

I beg leave to express my warmest thanks to those who have been pleased
to favour me with communications and advice in the conduct of my Work.
But I cannot sufficiently acknowledge my obligations to my friend Mr.
_Malone_, who was so good as to allow me to read to him almost the whole
of my manuscript, and make such remarks as were greatly for the
advantage of the Work[63]; though it is but fair to him to mention, that
upon many occasions I differed from him, and followed my own judgement.

I regret exceedingly that I was deprived of the benefit of his revision,
when not more than one half of the book had passed through the press;
but after having completed his very laborious and admirable edition of
_Shakspeare_, for which he generously would accept of no other reward
but that fame which he has so deservedly obtained, he fulfilled his
promise of a long-wished-for visit to his relations in Ireland; from
whence his safe return _finibus Atticis_ is desired by his friends here,
with all the classical ardour of _Sic te Diva potens Cypri_[64]; for
there is no man in whom more elegant and worthy qualities are united;
and whose society, therefore, is more valued by those who know him.

It is painful to me to think, that while I was carrying on this Work,
several of those to whom it would have been most interesting have died.
Such melancholy disappointments we know to be incident to humanity; but
we do not feel them the less. Let me particularly lament the Reverend
_Thomas Warton_, and the Reverend Dr. _Adams_. Mr. _Warton_, amidst his
variety of genius and learning, was an excellent Biographer. His
contributions to my Collection are highly estimable; and as he had a
true relish of my _Tour to the Hebrides_, I trust I should now have been
gratified with a larger share of his kind approbation. Dr. _Adams_,
eminent as the Head of a College, as a writer[65], and as a most amiable
man, had known _Johnson_ from his early years, and was his friend
through life. What reason I had to hope for the countenance of that
venerable Gentleman to this Work, will appear from what he wrote to me
upon a former occasion from Oxford, November 17, 1785:--'Dear Sir, I
hazard this letter, not knowing where it will find you, to thank you for
your very agreeable _Tour_, which I found here on my return from the
country, and in which you have depicted our friend so perfectly to my
fancy, in every attitude, every scene and situation, that I have thought
myself in the company, and of the party almost throughout. It has given
very general satisfaction; and those who have found most fault with a
passage here and there, have agreed that they could not help going
through, and being entertained with the whole. I wish, indeed, some few
gross expressions had been softened, and a few of our hero's foibles had
been a little more shaded; but it is useful to see the weaknesses
incident to great minds; and you have given us Dr. Johnson's authority
that in history all ought to be told[66].'

Such a sanction to my faculty of giving a just representation of Dr.
_Johnson_ I could not conceal. Nor will I suppress my satisfaction in
the consciousness, that by recording so considerable a portion of the
wisdom and wit of '_the brightest ornament of the eighteenth
century_[67].' I have largely provided for the instruction and
entertainment of mankind.

London, April 20, 1791[68].




That I was anxious for the success of a Work which had employed much of
my time and labour, I do not wish to conceal: but whatever doubts I at
any time entertained, have been entirely removed by the very favourable
reception with which it has been honoured[69]. That reception has excited
my best exertions to render my Book more perfect; and in this endeavour
I have had the assistance not only of some of my particular friends, but
of many other learned and ingenious men, by which I have been enabled to
rectify some mistakes, and to enrich the Work with many valuable
additions. These I have ordered to be printed separately in quarto, for
the accommodation of the purchasers of the first edition[70]. May I be
permitted to say that the typography of both editions does honour to the
press of Mr. _Henry Baldwin_, now Master of the Worshipful Company of
Stationers, whom I have long known as a worthy man and an obliging

In the strangely mixed scenes of human existence, our feelings are often
at once pleasing and painful. Of this truth, the progress of the present
Work furnishes a striking instance. It was highly gratifying to me that
my friend, Sir _Joshua Reynolds_, to whom it is inscribed, lived to
peruse it, and to give the strongest testimony to its fidelity; but
before a second edition, which he contributed to improve, could be
finished, the world has been deprived of that most valuable man[71]; a
loss of which the regret will be deep, and lasting, and extensive,
proportionate to the felicity which he diffused through a wide circle of
admirers and friends[72].

[Page 11: Advertisement to the Second Edition.]

In reflecting that the illustrious subject of this Work, by being more
extensively and intimately known, however elevated before, has risen in
the veneration and love of mankind, I feel a satisfaction beyond what
fame can afford. We cannot, indeed, too much or too often admire his
wonderful powers of mind, when we consider that the principal store of
wit and wisdom which this Work contains, was not a particular selection
from his general conversation, but was merely his occasional talk at
such times as I had the good fortune to be in his company[73]; and,
without doubt, if his discourse at other periods had been collected with
the same attention, the whole tenor of what he uttered would have been
found equally excellent.

His strong, clear, and animated enforcement of religion, morality,
loyalty, and subordination, while it delights and improves the wise and
the good, will, I trust, prove an effectual antidote to that detestable
sophistry which has been lately imported from France, under the false
name of _Philosophy_, and with a malignant industry has been employed
against the peace, good order, and happiness of society, in our free and
prosperous country; but thanks be to _GOD_, without producing the
pernicious effects which were hoped for by its propagators.

It seems to me, in my moments of self-complacency, that this extensive
biographical work, however inferior in its nature, may in one respect be
assimilated to the _ODYSSEY_. Amidst a thousand entertaining and
instructive episodes the _HERO_ is never long out of sight; for they are
all in some degree connected with him; and _HE_, in the whole course of
the History, is exhibited by the Authour for the best advantage of his

'--Quid virtus et quid sapientia possit,
Utile proposuit nobis exemplar Ulyssen[74].'

Should there be any cold-blooded and morose mortals who really dislike
this Book, I will give them a story to apply. When the great _Duke of
Marlborough_, accompanied by _Lord Cadogan_, was one day reconnoitering
the army in Flanders, a heavy rain came on, and they both called for
their cloaks. _Lord Cadogan's_ servant, a good humoured alert lad,
brought his Lordship's in a minute. The Dukes servant, a lazy sulky dog,
was so sluggish, that his Grace being wet to the skin, reproved him, and
had for answer with a grunt, 'I came as fast as I could,' upon which the
Duke calmly said, '_Cadogan_, I would not for a thousand pounds have
that fellow's temper!'

There are some men, I believe, who have, or think they have, a very
small share of vanity. Such may speak of their literary fame in a
decorous style of diffidence. But I confess, that I am so formed by
nature and by habit, that to restrain the effusion of delight, on having
obtained such fame, to me would be truly painful. Why then should I
suppress it? Why 'out of the abundance of the heart' should I not
speak[75]? Let me then mention with a warm, but no insolent exultation,
that I have been regaled with spontaneous praise of my work by many and
various persons eminent for their rank, learning, talents and
accomplishments; much of which praise I have under their hands to be
reposited in my archives at _Auchinleck_[76]. An honourable and reverend
friend speaking of the favourable reception of my volumes, even in the
circles of fashion and elegance, said to me, 'you have made them all
talk Johnson.'--Yes, I may add, I have _Johnsonised_ the land; and I
trust they will not only _talk_, but _think_, Johnson.

To enumerate those to whom I have been thus indebted, would be tediously
ostentatious. I cannot however but name one whose praise is truly
valuable, not only on account of his knowledge and abilities, but on
account of the magnificent, yet dangerous embassy, in which he is now
employed[77], which makes every thing that relates to him peculiarly
interesting. Lord MACARTNEY favoured me with his own copy of my book,
with a number of notes, of which I have availed myself. On the first
leaf I found in his Lordship's hand-writing, an inscription of such
high commendation, that even I, vain as I am, cannot prevail on myself
to publish it.

July 1, 1793[78].




Several valuable letters, and other curious matter, having been
communicated to the Author too late to be arranged in that chronological
order which he had endeavoured uniformly to observe in his work, he was
obliged to introduce them in his Second Edition, by way of _ADDENDA_, as
commodiously as he could. In the present edition these have been
distributed in their proper places. In revising his volumes for a new
edition, he had pointed out where some of these materials should be
inserted; but unfortunately in the midst of his labours, he was seized
with a fever, of which, to the great regret of all his friends, he died
on the 19th of May, 1795[79]. All the Notes that he had written in the
margin of the copy which he had in part revised, are here faithfully
preserved; and a few new Notes have been added, principally by some of
those friends to whom the Author in the former editions acknowledged his
obligations. Those subscribed with the letter _B_ were communicated by
Dr. _Burney_: those to which the letters _J B_ are annexed, by the Rev.
_J. Blakeway_, of Shrewsbury, to whom Mr. _Boswell_ acknowledged himself
indebted for some judicious remarks on the first edition of his work:
and the letters _J B-O_. are annexed to some remarks furnished by the
Author's second son, a Student of Brazen-Nose College in Oxford. Some
valuable observations were communicated by _James Bindley_, Esq., First
Commissioner in the Stamp-Office, which have been acknowledged in their
proper places. For all those without any signature, Mr. _Malone_ is
answerable.--Every new remark, not written by the Author, for the sake
of distinction has been enclosed within crotchets: in one instance,
however, the printer by mistake has affixed this mark to a note relative
to the Rev. _Thomas Fysche Palmer_, which was written by Mr. Boswell.
and therefore ought not to have been thus distinguished.

[Page 15: Advertisement to the Third Edition.]

I have only to add, that the proof-sheets of the present edition not
having passed through my hands, I am not answerable for any
typographical errours that may be found in it. Having, however, been
printed at the very accurate press of Mr. _Baldwin_, I make no doubt it
will be found not less perfect than the former edition; the greatest
care having been taken, by correctness and elegance to do justice to one
of the most instructive and entertaining works in the English language.


April 8, 1799.





[N.B. To those which he himself acknowledged is added _acknowl_. To
those which may be fully believed to be his from internal evidence, is
added _intern. evid_.]

1735. Abridgement and translation of Lobo's Voyage to Abyssinia,

1738. Part of a translation of Father Paul Sarpi's History of the
Council of Trent. _acknowl_.

[N.B. As this work after some sheets were printed, suddenly stopped, I
know not whether any part of it is now to be found.]

_For the Gentleman's Magazine_.

Preface. _intern. evid_.

Life of Father Paul. _acknowl_.

1739. A complete vindication of the Licenser of the Stage from the
malicious and scandalous aspersions of Mr. Brooke, authour of Gustavus
Vasa. _acknowl_.

_Marmor Norfolciense_: or, an Essay on an ancient prophetical
inscription in monkish rhyme, lately discovered near Lynne in Norfolk;

[Page 17: A Chronological Catalogue of Prose Works]

_For the Gentleman's Magazine_.

Life of Boerhaave. _acknowl_.

Address to the Reader. _intern. evid_.

Appeal to the Publick in behalf of the Editor. _intern. evid_.

Considerations on the case of Dr. Trapp's Sermons; a plausible attempt
to prove that an authour's work may be abridged without injuring his
property. _acknowl_.

1740. _For the Gentleman's Magazine_.

Preface. _intern. evid_.

Life of Admiral Drake. _acknowl_.

Life of Admiral Blake. _acknowl_.

Life of Philip Barretier. _acknowl_.

Essay on Epitaphs. _acknowl_.

1741. _For the Gentleman's Magazine_.

Preface. _intern. evid_.

A free translation of the Jests of Hierocles, with an introduction.
_intern. evid_.

Debate on the _Humble Petition and Advice_ of the Rump Parliament to
Cromwell in 1657, to assume the Title of King; abridged, methodized and
digested. _intern. evid_.

Translation of Abbé Guyon's Dissertation on the Amazons. _intern. evid_.

Translation of Fontenelle's Panegyrick on Dr. Morin. _intern. evid_.

1742. _For the Gentleman's Magazine_.

Preface. _intern. evid_.

Essay on the Account of the Conduct of the Duchess of Marlborough.

An Account of the Life of Peter Burman. _acknowl_.

The Life of Sydenham, afterwards prefixed to Dr. Swan's Edition of his
Works. _acknowl_.

Proposals for printing Bibliotheca Harleiana, or a Catalogue of the
Library of the Earl of Oxford, afterwards prefixed to the first Volume
of that Catalogue, in which the Latin Accounts of the Books were written
by him. _acknowl_.

Abridgement intitled, Foreign History. _intern. evid_.

Essay on the Description of China, from the French of Du Halde. _intern.

1743. Dedication to Dr. Mead of Dr. James's Medicinal Dictionary.
_intern. evid_.

_For the Gentleman's Magazine_.

Preface, _intern. evid_.

Parliamentary Debates under the Name of Debates in the Senate of
Lilliput, from Nov. 19, 1740, to Feb. 23, 1742-3, inclusive. _acknowl_.

Considerations on the Dispute between Crousaz and Warburton on Pope's
Essay on Man. _intern. evid_.

A Letter announcing that the Life of Mr. Savage was speedily to be
published by a person who was favoured with his Confidence. _intern.

Advertisement for Osborne concerning the Harleian Catalogue. _intern.

1744. Life of Richard Savage. _acknowl_.

Preface to the Harleian Miscellany. _acknowl_.

_For the Gentleman's Magazine_.

Preface. _intern. evid_.

1745. Miscellaneous Observations on the Tragedy of Macbeth, with remarks
on Sir T.H.'s (Sir Thomas Hanmer's) Edition of Shakspeare, and proposals
for a new Edition of that Poet. _acknowl_.

1747. Plan for a Dictionary of the ENGLISH LANGUAGE, addressed to Philip
Dormer, Earl of Chesterfield. _acknowl_.

_For the Gentleman's Magazine_.

1748. Life of Roscommon. _acknowl_.

Foreign History, November. _intern. evid_.

_For Dodsley's_ PRECEPTOR.

Preface. _acknowl_.

Vision of Theodore the Hermit. _acknowl_.

1750. The RAMBLER, the first Paper of which was published 20th of March
this year, and the last 17th of March 1752, the day on which Mrs.
Johnson died. _acknowl_.

Letter in the General Advertiser to excite the attention of the Publick
to the Performance of Comus, which was next day to be acted at
Drury-Lane Playhouse for the Benefit of Milton's Grandaughter.

Preface and Postscript to Lauder's Pamphlet intitled, 'An Essay on
Milton's Use and Imitation of the Moderns in his Paradise Lost.'

1751. Life of Cheynel in the Miscellany called 'The Student.' _acknowl_.

Letter for Lauder, addressed to the Reverend Dr. John Douglas,
acknowledging his Fraud concerning Milton in Terms of suitable
Contrition. _acknowl_.

Dedication to the Earl of Middlesex of Mrs. Charlotte Lennox's 'Female
Quixotte.' _intern. evid_.[82]

1753. Dedication to John Earl of Orrery, of Shakspeare Illustrated, by
Mrs. Charlotte Lennox. _acknowl_.

During this and the following year he wrote and gave to his much loved
friend Dr. Bathurst the Papers in the Adventurer, signed T. _acknowl_.

1754. Life of Edw. Cave in the Gentleman's Magazine. _acknowl_.

1755. A DICTIONARY, with a Grammar and History, of the ENGLISH LANGUAGE.

An Account of an Attempt to ascertain the Longitude at Sea, by an exact
Theory of the Variations of the Magnetical Needle, with a Table of the
Variations at the most remarkable Cities in Europe from the year 1660 to
1860. _acknowl_. This he wrote for Mr. Zachariah Williams, an ingenious
ancient Welch Gentleman, father of Mrs. Anna Williams whom he for many
years kindly lodged in his House. It was published with a Translation
into Italian by Signor Baretti. In a Copy of it which he presented to
the Bodleian Library at Oxford, is pasted a Character of the late Mr.
Zachariah Williams, plainly written by Johnson. _intern. evid_.

1756. An Abridgement of his Dictionary. _acknowl_.

Several Essays in the Universal Visitor, which there is some difficulty
in ascertaining. All that are marked with two Asterisks have been
ascribed to him, although I am confident from internal Evidence, that we
should except from these 'The Life of Chaucer,' 'Reflections on the
State of Portugal,' and 'An Essay on Architecture:' And from the same
Evidence I am confident that he wrote 'Further Thoughts on Agriculture,'
and 'A Dissertation on the State of Literature and Authours.' The
Dissertation on the Epitaphs written by Pope he afterwards acknowledged,
and added to his 'Idler.'

Life of Sir Thomas Browne prefixed to a new Edition of his Christian
Morals. _acknowl_.

_In the Literary Magazine; or, Universal Review_, which began in January

His _Original Essays_ are

Preliminary Address, _intern. evid_..

An introduction to the Political State of Great Britain, _intern.

Remarks on the Militia Bill, _intern. evid_..

Observations on his Britannick Majesty's Treaties with the Empress of
Russia and the Landgrave of Hesse Cassel. _intern. evid_..

Observations on the Present State of Affairs. _intern. evid_..

Memoirs of Frederick III. King of Prussia. _intern. evid_..

In the same Magazine his Reviews_ are of the following Books:

'Birch's History of the Royal Society.'--'Browne's Christian
Morals.'--'Warton's Essay on the Writings and Genius of Pope, Vol.
I.'--'Hampton's Translation of Polybius.'--'Sir Isaac Newton's Arguments
in Proof of a Deity.'--'Borlase's History of the Isles of
Scilly.'--'Home's Experiments on Bleaching.'--'Browne's History of
Jamaica.'--'Hales on Distilling Sea Waters, Ventilators in Ships, and
curing an ill Taste in Milk.'--'Lucas's Essay on Waters.'--'Keith's
Catalogue of the Scottish Bishops.'--'Philosophical Transactions, Vol.
XLIX.'--'Miscellanies by Elizabeth Harrison.'--'Evans's Map and Account
of the Middle Colonies in America.'--'The Cadet, a Military
Treatise.'--'The Conduct of the Ministry relating to the present War
impartially examined.' _intern. evid_..

'Mrs. Lennox's Translation of Sully's Memoirs.'--'Letter on the Case of
Admiral Byng.'--'Appeal to the People concerning Admiral
Byng.'--'Hanway's Eight Days' Journey, and Essay on Tea.'--'Some further
Particulars in Relation to the Case of Admiral Byng, by a Gentleman of
Oxford.' _acknowl_.

Mr. Jonas Hanway having written an angry Answer to the Review of his
Essay on Tea, Johnson in the same Collection made a Reply to it.
_acknowl_. This is the only Instance, it is believed, when he
condescended to take Notice of any Thing that had been written against
him; and here his chief Intention seems to have been to make Sport.

Dedication to the Earl of Rochford of, and Preface to, Mr. Payne's
Introduction to the Game of Draughts, _acknowl_.

Introduction to the London Chronicle, an Evening Paper which still
subsists with deserved credit. _acknowl_.

1757. Speech on the Subject of an Address to the Throne after the
Expedition to Rochefort; delivered by one of his Friends in some publick
Meeting: it is printed in the Gentleman's Magazine for October 1785.
_intern. evid_.

The first two Paragraphs of the Preface to Sir William Chambers's
Designs of Chinese Buildings, &c. _acknowl_.

1758. THE IDLER, which began April 5, in this year, and was continued
till April 5, 1760. _acknowl_.

An Essay on the Bravery of the English Common Soldiers was added to it
when published in Volumes. _acknowl_.

1759. Rasselas Prince of Abyssinia, a Tale. _acknowl_.

Advertisement for the Proprietors of the Idler against certain Persons
who pirated those Papers as they came out singly in a Newspaper called
the Universal Chronicle or Weekly Gazette. _intern. evid_.

For Mrs. Charlotte Lennox's English Version of Brumoy,--'A Dissertation
on the Greek Comedy,' and the General Conclusion of the Book. _intern.

Introduction to the World Displayed, a Collection of Voyages and
Travels. _acknowl_.

Three Letters in the Gazetteer, concerning the best plan for Blackfriars
Bridge. _acknowl_.

1760. Address of the Painters to George III. on his Accession to the
Throne. _intern. evid_.

Dedication of Baretti's Italian and English Dictionary to the Marquis of
Abreu, then Envoy-Extraordinary from Spain at the Court of
Great-Britain. _intern. evid_.

Review in the Gentleman's Magazine of Mr. Tytler's acute and able
Vindication of Mary Queen of Scots. _acknowl_.

Introduction to the Proceedings of the Committee for Cloathing the
French Prisoners. _acknowl_.

1761. Preface to Rolfs Dictionary of Trade and Commerce. _acknowl_.

Corrections and Improvements for Mr. Gwyn the Architect's Pamphlet,
intitled 'Thoughts on the Coronation of George III.' _acknowl_.

1762. Dedication to the King of the Reverend Dr. Kennedy's Complete
System of Astronomical Chronology, unfolding the Scriptures, Quarto
Edition. _acknowl_.

Concluding Paragraph of that Work. _intern. evid_.

Preface to the Catalogue of the Artists' Exhibition. _intern. evid_.


Character of Collins in the Poetical Calendar, published by Fawkes and
Woty. _acknowl_.

Dedication to the Earl of Shaftesbury of the Edition of Roger Ascham's
English Works, published by the Reverend Mr. Bennet. _acknowl_.

The Life of Ascham, also prefixed to that edition. _acknowl_.

Review of Telemachus, a Masque, by the Reverend George Graham of Eton
College, in the Critical Review. _acknowl_.

Dedication to the Queen of Mr. Hoole's Translation of Tasso. _acknowl_.

Account of the Detection of the Imposture of the Cock-Lane Ghost,
published in the Newspapers and Gentleman's Magazine. _acknowl_.


Part of a Review of Grainger's 'Sugar Cane, a Poem,' in the London
Chronicle. _acknowl_.

Review of Goldsmith's Traveller, a Poem, in the Critical Review.


The Plays of William Shakspeare, in eight volumes, 8vo. with Notes.


The Fountains, a Fairy Tale, in Mrs. Williams's Miscellanies. _acknowl_.


Dedication to the King of Mr. Adams's Treatise on the Globes. _acknowl_.


Character of the Reverend Mr. Zachariah Mudge, in the London Chronicle.


The False Alarm. _acknowl_.


Thoughts on the late Transactions respecting Falkland's Islands.


Defence of a Schoolmaster; dictated to me for the House of Lords.

Argument in Support of the Law of _Vicious Intromission_; dictated to me
for the Court of Session in Scotland. _acknowl_.


Preface to Macbean's 'Dictionary of Ancient Geography.' _acknowl_.

Argument in Favour of the Rights of Lay Patrons; dictated to me for the
General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. _acknowl_.


The Patriot. _acknowl_.


A Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland. _acknowl_.

Proposals for publishing the Works of Mrs. Charlotte Lennox, in Three
Volumes Quarto. _acknowl_.

Preface to Baretti's Easy Lessons in Italian and English. _intern.

Taxation no Tyranny; an Answer to the Resolutions and Address of the
American Congress. _acknowl_.

Argument on the Case of Dr. Memis; dictated to me for the Court of
Session in Scotland. _acknowl_.

Argument to prove that the Corporation of Stirling was corrupt; dictated
to me for the House of Lords. _acknowl_.


Argument in Support of the Right of immediate, and personal reprehension
from the Pulpit; dictated to me. _acknowl_.

Proposals for publishing an Analysis of the Scotch Celtick Language, by
the Reverend William Shaw. _acknowl_.


Dedication to the King of the Posthumous Works of Dr. Pearce, Bishop of
Rochester. _acknowl_.

Additions to the Life and Character of that Prelate; prefixed to those
Works. _acknowl_.

Various Papers and Letters in Favour of the Reverend Dr. Dodd.


Advertisement for his Friend Mr. Thrale to the Worthy Electors of the
Borough of Southwark. _acknowl_.

The first Paragraph of Mr. Thomas Davies's Life of Garrick, _acknowl_.


Prefaces Biographical and Critical to the Works of the most eminent
English Poets; afterwards published with the Title of Lives of the
English Poets[83]. _acknowl_.

Argument on the Importance of the Registration of Deeds; dictated to me
for an Election Committee of the House of Commons. _acknowl_.

On the Distinction between TORY and WHIG; dictated to me. _acknowl_.

On Vicarious Punishments, and the great Propitiation for the Sins of the
World, by JESUS CHRIST; dictated to me. _acknowl_.

Argument in favour of Joseph Knight, an African Negro, who claimed his
Liberty in the Court of Session in Scotland, and obtained it; dictated
to me. _acknowl_.

Defence of Mr. Robertson, Printer of the Caledonian Mercury, against the
Society of Procurators in Edinburgh, for having inserted in his Paper a
ludicrous Paragraph against them; demonstrating that it was not an
injurious Libel; dictated to me. _acknowl_.


The greatest part, if not the whole, of a Reply, by the Reverend Mr.
Shaw, to a Person at Edinburgh, of the Name of Clark, refuting his
arguments for the authenticity of the Poems published by Mr. James
Macpherson as Translations from Ossian. _intern. evid_.

1784. List of the Authours of the Universal History, deposited in the
British Museum, and printed in the Gentleman's Magazine for December,
this year, _acknowl_.

_Various Years_.

Letters to Mrs. Thrale. _acknowl_.

Prayers and Meditations, which he delivered to the Rev. Mr. Strahan,
enjoining him to publish them, _acknowl_.

Sermons _left for Publication_ by John Taylor, LL.D. Prebendary of
Westminster, and given to the World by the Reverend Samuel Hayes, A.M.
_intern. evid_.

Such was the number and variety of the Prose Works of this extraordinary
man, which I have been able to discover, and am at liberty to mention;
but we ought to keep in mind, that there must undoubtedly have been many
more which are yet concealed; and we may add to the account, the
numerous Letters which he wrote, of which a considerable part are yet
unpublished. It is hoped that those persons in whose possession they
are, will favour the world with them.


       *       *       *       *       *

'After my death I wish no other herald,
No other speaker of my living actions,
To keep mine honour from corruption,
But such an honest chronicler as Griffith[84].'

SHAKSPEARE, _Henry VIII. [Act IV. Sc. 2_.]



To write the Life of him who excelled all mankind in writing the lives
of others, and who, whether we consider his extraordinary endowments, or
his various works, has been equalled by few in any age, is an arduous,
and may be reckoned in me a presumptuous task.

Had Dr. Johnson written his own life, in conformity with the opinion
which he has given[85], that every man's life may be best written by
himself; had he employed in the preservation of his own history, that
clearness of narration and elegance of language in which he has embalmed
so many eminent persons, the world would probably have had the most
perfect example of biography that was ever exhibited. But although he at
different times, in a desultory manner, committed to writing many
particulars of the progress of his mind and fortunes, he never had
persevering diligence enough to form them into a regular composition[86].
Of these memorials a few have been preserved; but the greater part was
consigned by him to the flames, a few days before his death.

[Page 26: The Author's qualifications.]

As I had the honour and happiness of enjoying his friendship for upwards
of twenty years; as I had the scheme of writing his life constantly in
view; as he was well apprised of this circumstance[87], and from time to
time obligingly satisfied my inquiries, by communicating to me the
incidents of his early years; as I acquired a facility in recollecting,
and was very assiduous in recording, his conversation, of which the
extraordinary vigour and vivacity constituted one of the first features
of his character; and as I have spared no pains in obtaining materials
concerning him, from every quarter where I could discover that they were
to be found, and have been favoured with the most liberal communications
by his friends; I flatter myself that few biographers have entered upon
such a work as this, with more advantages; independent of literary
abilities, in which I am not vain enough to compare myself with some
great names who have gone before me in this kind of writing.

[Page 27: The Life by Sir J. Hawkins.]

Since my work was announced, several Lives and Memoirs of Dr. Johnson
have been published[88], the most voluminous of which is one compiled for
the booksellers of London, by Sir John Hawkins, Knight[89], a man, whom,
during my long intimacy with Dr. Johnson, I never saw in his company, I
think but once, and I am sure not above twice. Johnson might have
esteemed him for his decent, religious demeanour, and his knowledge of
books and literary history; but from the rigid formality of his manners,
it is evident that they never could have lived together with
companionable ease and familiarity[90]; nor had Sir John Hawkins that
nice perception which was necessary to mark the finer and less obvious
parts of Johnson's character. His being appointed one of his executors,
gave him an opportunity of taking possession of such fragments of a
diary and other papers as were left; of which, before delivering them up
to the residuary legatee, whose property they were, he endeavoured to
extract the substance. In this he has not been very successful, as I
have found upon a perusal of those papers, which have been since
transferred to me. Sir John Hawkins's ponderous labours, I must
acknowledge, exhibit a _farrago_, of which a considerable portion is not
devoid of entertainment to the lovers of literary gossiping; but besides
its being swelled out with long unnecessary extracts from various works
(even one of several leaves from Osborne's Harleian Catalogue, and those
not compiled by Johnson, but by Oldys), a very small part of it relates
to the person who is the subject of the book; and, in that, there is
such an inaccuracy in the statement of facts, as in so solemn an authour
is hardly excusable, and certainly makes his narrative very
unsatisfactory. But what is still worse, there is throughout the whole
of it a dark uncharitable cast, by which the most unfavourable
construction is put upon almost every circumstance in the character and
conduct of my illustrious friend[91]; who, I trust, will, by a true and
fair delineation, be vindicated both from the injurious
misrepresentations of this authour, and from the slighter aspersions of
a lady who once lived in great intimacy with him[92].

[Page 28: Warburton's view of biography.]

[Page 29: The author's mode of procedure.]

There is, in the British Museum, a letter from Bishop Warburton to Dr.
Birch, on the subject of biography; which, though I am aware it may
expose me to a charge of artfully raising the value of my own work, by
contrasting it with that of which I have spoken, is so well conceived
and expressed, that I cannot refrain from here inserting it:--

'I shall endeavor, (says Dr. Warburton,) to give you what satisfaction I
can in any thing you want to be satisfied in any subject of Milton, and
am extremely glad you intend to write his life. Almost all the
life-writers we have had before Toland and Desmaiseaux[93], are indeed
strange insipid creatures; and yet I had rather read the worst of them,
than be obliged to go through with this of Milton's, or the other's life
of Boileau, where there is such a dull, heavy succession of long
quotations of disinteresting passages, that it makes their method quite
nauseous. But the verbose, tasteless Frenchman seems to lay it down as a
principle, that every life must be a book, and what's worse, it proves a
book without a life; for what do we know of Boileau, after all his
tedious stuff? You are the only one, (and I speak it without a
compliment) that by the vigour of your stile and sentiments, and the
real importance of your materials, have the art, (which one would
imagine no one could have missed,) of adding agreements to the most
agreeable subject in the world, which is literary history[94].'

'Nov. 24, 1737.'

[Page 30: Not a panegyrick, but a Life.]

Instead of melting down my materials into one mass, and constantly
speaking in my own person, by which I might have appeared to have more
merit in the execution of the work, I have resolved to adopt and enlarge
upon the excellent plan of Mr. Mason, in his Memoirs of Gray[95].
Wherever narrative is necessary to explain, connect, and supply, I
furnish it to the best of my abilities; but in the chronological series
of Johnson's life, which I trace as distinctly as I can, year by year, I
produce, wherever it is in my power, his own minutes, letters, or
conversation, being convinced that this mode is more lively, and will
make my readers better acquainted with him, than even most of those were
who actually knew him, but could know him only partially; whereas there
is here an accumulation of intelligence from various points, by which
his character is more fully understood and illustrated[96].

Indeed I cannot conceive a more perfect mode of writing any man's life,
than not only relating all the most important events of it in their
order, but interweaving what he privately wrote, and said, and thought;
by which mankind are enabled as it were to see him live, and to 'live
o'er each scene[97]' with him, as he actually advanced through the
several stages of his life. Had his other friends been as diligent and
ardent as I was, he might have been almost entirely preserved. As it is,
I will venture to say that he will be seen in this work more completely
than any man who has ever yet lived[98].

And he will be seen as he really was; for I profess to write, not his
panegyrick, which must be all praise, but his Life; which, great and
good as he was, must not be supposed to be entirely perfect. To be as he
was, is indeed subject of panegyrick enough to any man in this state of
being; but in every picture there should be shade as well as light, and
when I delineate him without reserve, I do what he himself recommended,
both by his precept and his example[99].

[Page 31: Conversation best displays character.]

'If the biographer writes from personal knowledge, and makes haste to
gratify the publick curiosity, there is danger lest his interest, his
fear, his gratitude, or his tenderness overpower his fidelity, and tempt
him to conceal, if not to invent. There are many who think it an act of
piety to hide the faults or failings of their friends, even when they
can no longer suffer by their detection; we therefore see whole ranks of
characters adorned with uniform panegyrick, and not to be known from one
another but by extrinsick and casual circumstances. "Let me remember,
(says Hale,) when I find myself inclined to pity a criminal, that there
is likewise a pity due to the country." If we owe regard to the memory
of the dead, there is yet more respect to be paid to knowledge, to
virtue and to truth[100].'

What I consider as the peculiar value of the following work, is, the
quantity it contains of Johnson's conversation; which is universally
acknowledged to have been eminently instructive and entertaining; and of
which the specimens that I have given upon a former occasion[101], have
been received with so much approbation, that I have good grounds for
supposing that the world will not be indifferent to more ample
communications of a similar nature.

That the conversation of a celebrated man, if his talents have been
exerted in conversation, will best display his character, is, I trust,
too well established in the judgment of mankind, to be at all shaken by
a sneering observation of Mr. Mason, in his _Memoirs of Mr. William
Whitehead_, in which there is literally no _Life_, but a mere dry
narrative of facts[102]. I do not think it was quite necessary to attempt
a depreciation of what is universally esteemed, because it was not to be
found in the immediate object of the ingenious writer's pen; for in
truth, from a man so still and so tame, as to be contented to pass many
years as the domestick companion of a superannuated lord and lady[103],
conversation could no more be expected, than from a Chinese mandarin on
a chimney-piece, or the fantastick figures on a gilt leather skreen.

[Page 32: Dr. Johnson on biography.]

If authority be required, let us appeal to Plutarch, the prince of
ancient biographers. [Greek: Oute tais epiphanestatais praxesi pantos
enesti daelosis aretaes ae kakias, alla pragma brachu pollakis, kai
raema, kai paidia tis emphasin aethous epoiaesen mallon ae machai
murionekroi, kai parataxeis ai megistai, kai poliorkiai poleon.] Nor is
it always in the most distinguished atchievements that men's virtues or
vices may be best discerned; but very often an action of small note, a
short saying, or a jest, shall distinguish a person's real character
more than the greatest sieges, or the most important battles[104].'

To this may be added the sentiments of the very man whose life I am
about to exhibit.

'The business of the biographer is often to pass slightly over those
performances and incidents which produce vulgar greatness, to lead the
thoughts into domestick privacies, and display the minute details of
daily life, where exteriour appendages are cast aside, and men excel
each other only by prudence and by virtue. The account of Thuanus is
with great propriety said by its authour to have been written, that it
might lay open to posterity the private and familiar character of that
man, _cujus ingenium et candorem ex ipsius scriptis sunt olim semper
miraturi_, whose candour and genius will to the end of time be by his
writings preserved in admiration.

'There are many invisible circumstances, which whether we read as
enquirers after natural or moral knowledge, whether we intend to enlarge
our science, or increase our virtue, are more important than publick
occurrences. Thus Sallust, the great master of nature, has not forgot in
his account of Catiline to remark, that his walk was now quick, and
again slow, as an indication of a mind revolving[105] with violent
commotion. Thus the story of Melanchthon affords a striking lecture on
the value of time, by informing us, that when he had made an
appointment, he expected not only the hour, but the minute to be fixed,
that the day might not run out in the idleness of suspence; and all the
plans and enterprises of De Witt are now of less importance to the world
than that part of his personal character, which represents him as
careful of his health, and negligent of his life.

'But biography has often been allotted to writers, who seem very little
acquainted with the nature of their task, or very negligent about the
performance. They rarely afford any other account than might be
collected from publick papers, but imagine themselves writing a life,
when they exhibit a chronological series of actions or preferments;[106]
and have so little regard to the manners[106] or behaviour of their
heroes, that more knowledge may be gained of a man's real character, by
a short conversation with one of his servants, than from a formal and
studied narrative, begun with his pedigree, and ended with his funeral.

[Page 33: Reply to possible objections.]

'There are indeed, some natural reasons why these narratives are often
written by such as were not likely to give much instruction or delight,
and why most accounts of particular persons are barren and useless. If a
life be delayed till interest and envy are at an end, we may hope for
impartiality, but must expect little intelligence; for the incidents
which give excellence to biography are of a volatile and evanescent
kind, such as soon escape the memory, and are transmitted[107] by
tradition. We know how few can pourtray a living acquaintance, except by
his most prominent and observable particularities, and the grosser
features of his mind; and it may be easily imagined how much of this
little knowledge may be lost in imparting it, and how soon a succession
of copies will lose all resemblance of the original[108].'

I am fully aware of the objections which may be made to the minuteness
on some occasions of my detail of Johnson's conversation, and how
happily it is adapted for the petty exercise of ridicule, by men of
superficial understanding and ludicrous fancy; but I remain firm and
confident in my opinion, that minute particulars are frequently
characteristick, and always amusing, when they relate to a distinguished
man. I am therefore exceedingly unwilling that any thing, however
slight, which my illustrious friend thought it worth his while to
express, with any degree of point, should perish. For this almost
superstitious reverence, I have found very old and venerable authority,
quoted by our great modern prelate, Secker, in whose tenth sermon there
is the following passage:

'_Rabbi David Kimchi_, a noted Jewish Commentator, who lived about five
hundred years ago, explains that passage in the first Psalm, _His leaf
also shall not wither_, from Rabbins yet older than himself, thus: That
_even the idle talk_, so he expresses it, _of a good man ought to be
regarded_; the most superfluous things he saith are always of some
value. And other ancient authours have the same phrase, nearly in the
same sense.'

[Page 34: Johnson's birth and baptism. A.D. 1709.]

Of one thing I am certain, that considering how highly the small portion
which we have of the table-talk and other anecdotes of our celebrated
writers is valued, and how earnestly it is regretted that we have not
more, I am justified in preserving rather too many of Johnson's sayings,
than too few; especially as from the diversity of dispositions it cannot
be known with certainty beforehand, whether what may seem trifling to
some and perhaps to the collector himself, may not be most agreeable to
many; and the greater number that an authour can please in any degree,
the more pleasure does there arise to a benevolent mind.

To those who are weak enough to think this a degrading task, and the
time and labour which have been devoted to it misemployed, I shall
content myself with opposing the authority of the greatest man of any
age, JULIUS CÆSAR, of whom Bacon observes, that 'in his book of
Apothegms which he collected, we see that he esteemed it more honour to
make himself but a pair of tables, to take the wise and pithy words of
others, than to have every word of his own to be made an apothegm or an

Having said thus much by way of introduction, I commit the following
pages to the candour of the Publick.

       *       *       *       *       *

SAMUEL[110] JOHNSON was born at Lichfield, in Staffordshire, on the 18th
of September, N.S., 1709; and his initiation into the Christian Church
was not delayed; for his baptism is recorded, in the register of St.
Mary's parish in that city, to have been performed on the day of his
birth. His father is there stiled _Gentleman_, a circumstance of which
an ignorant panegyrist has praised him for not being proud; when the
truth is, that the appellation of Gentleman, though now lost in the
indiscriminate assumption of _Esquire_[111], was commonly taken by those
who could not boast of gentility. His father was Michael Johnson, a
native of Derbyshire, of obscure extraction[112], who settled in Lichfield
as a bookseller and stationer[113].

[Page 35: His parentage. A.D. 1709]

His mother was Sarah Ford, descended of an ancient race of substantial
yeomanry in Warwickshire[114]. They were well advanced in years when they
married, and never had more than two children, both sons; Samuel, their
first born, who lived to be the illustrious character whose various
excellence I am to endeavour to record, and Nathanael, who died in his
twenty-fifth year.

[Page 36: Character of Michael Johnson. A.D. 1709]

Mr. Michael Johnson was a man of a large and robust body, and of a
strong and active mind; yet, as in the most solid rocks veins of unsound
substance are often discovered, there was in him a mixture of that
disease, the nature of which eludes the most minute enquiry, though the
effects are well known to be a weariness of life, an unconcern about
those things which agitate the greater part of mankind, and a general
sensation of gloomy wretchedness[115]. From him then his son inherited,
with some other qualities, 'a vile melancholy,' which in his too strong
expression of any disturbance of the mind, 'made him mad all his life,
at least not sober[116].' Michael was, however, forced by the narrowness
of his circumstances to be very diligent in business, not only in his
shop[117], but by occasionally resorting to several towns in the
neighbourhood[118], some of which were at a considerable distance from
Lichfield[119]. At that time booksellers' shops in the provincial towns of
England were very rare, so that there was not one even in Birmingham, in
which town old Mr. Johnson used to open a shop every market-day. He was
a pretty good Latin scholar, and a citizen so creditable as to be made
one of the magistrates of Lichfield[120]; and, being a man of good sense,
and skill in his trade, he acquired a reasonable share of wealth, of
which however he afterwards lost the greatest part, by engaging
unsuccessfully in a manufacture of parchment[121]. He was a zealous
high-church man and royalist, and retained his attachment to the
unfortunate house of Stuart, though he reconciled himself, by
casuistical arguments of expediency and necessity, to take the oaths
imposed by the prevailing power[122].

[Page 37: An incident in his life. A.D. 1709]

There is a circumstance in his life somewhat romantick, but so well
authenticated, that I shall not omit it. A young woman of Leek, in
Staffordshire, while he served his apprenticeship there, conceived a
violent passion for him; and though it met with no favourable return,
followed him to Lichfield, where she took lodgings opposite to the house
in which he lived, and indulged her hopeless flame. When he was informed
that it so preyed upon her mind that her life was in danger, he with a
generous humanity went to her and offered to marry her, but it was then
too late: her vital power was exhausted; and she actually exhibited one
of the very rare instances of dying for love. She was buried in the
cathedral of Lichfield; and he, with a tender regard, placed a stone
over her grave with this inscription:

Here lies the body of

Mrs. ELIZABETH BLANEY, a stranger.

She departed this life

20 of September, 1694.

[Page 38: Sarah Johnson. A.D. 1712.]

Johnson's mother was a woman of distinguished understanding. I asked his
old school-fellow, Mr. Hector, surgeon of Birmingham, if she was not
vain of her son. He said, 'she had too much good sense to be vain, but
she knew her son's value.' Her piety was not inferiour to her
understanding; and to her must be ascribed those early impressions of
religion upon the mind of her son, from which the world afterwards
derived so much benefit. He told me, that he remembered distinctly
having had the first notice of Heaven, 'a place to which good people
went,' and hell, 'a place to which bad people went,' communicated to him
by her, when a little child in bed with her[123]; and that it might be the
better fixed in his memory, she sent him to repeat it to Thomas Jackson,
their man-servant; he not being in the way, this was not done; but there
was no occasion for any artificial aid for its preservation.

In following so very eminent a man from his cradle to his grave, every
minute particular, which can throw light on the progress of his mind, is
interesting. That he was remarkable, even in his earliest years, may
easily be supposed; for to use his own words in his Life of Sydenham,

'That the strength of his understanding, the accuracy of his
discernment, and ardour of his curiosity, might have been remarked from
his infancy, by a diligent observer, there is no reason to doubt. For,
there is no instance of any man, whose history has been minutely
related, that did not in every part of life discover the same proportion
of intellectual vigour[124].'

In all such investigations it is certainly unwise to pay too much
attention to incidents which the credulous relate with eager
satisfaction, and the more scrupulous or witty enquirer considers only
as topicks of ridicule: Yet there is a traditional story of the infant
Hercules of toryism, so curiously characteristick, that I shall not
withhold it. It was communicated to me in a letter from Miss Mary Adye,
of Lichfield:

[Page 39: Anecdotes of Johnson's childhood.]

'When Dr. Sacheverel was at Lichfield, Johnson was not quite three years
old. My grandfather Hammond observed him at the cathedral perched upon
his father's shoulders, listening and gaping at the much celebrated
preacher. Mr. Hammond asked Mr. Johnson how he could possibly think of
bringing such an infant to church, and in the midst of so great a croud.
He answered, because it was impossible to keep him at home; for, young
as he was, he believed he had caught the publick spirit and zeal for
Sacheverel, and would have staid for ever in the church, satisfied with
beholding him[125].'

Nor can I omit a little instance of that jealous independence of spirit,
and impetuosity of temper, which never forsook him. The fact was
acknowledged to me by himself, upon the authority of his mother. One
day, when the servant who used to be sent to school to conduct him home,
had not come in time, he set out by himself, though he was then so
near-sighted, that he was obliged to stoop down on his hands and knees
to take a view of the kennel before he ventured to step over it. His
school-mistress, afraid that he might miss his way, or fall into the
kennel, or be run over by a cart, followed him at some distance. He
happened to turn about and perceive her. Feeling her careful attention
as an insult to his manliness, he ran back to her in a rage, and beat
her, as well as his strength would permit.

Of the power of his memory, for which he was all his life eminent to a
degree almost incredible[126], the following early instance was told me in
his presence at Lichfield, in 1776, by his step-daughter, Mrs. Lucy
Porter, as related to her by his mother.

[Page 40: Johnson's infant precocity. A.D. 1712.]

When he was a child in petticoats, and had learnt to read, Mrs. Johnson
one morning put the common prayer-book into his hands, pointed to the
collect for the day, and said, 'Sam, you must get this by heart.' She
went up stairs, leaving him to study it: But by the time she had reached
the second floor, she heard him following her. 'What's the matter?' said
she. 'I can say it,' he replied; and repeated it distinctly, though he
could not have read it more than twice.

But there has been another story of his infant precocity generally
circulated, and generally believed, the truth of which I am to refute
upon his own authority. It is told[127], that, when a child of three years
old, he chanced to tread upon a duckling, the eleventh of a brood, and
killed it; upon which, it is said, he dictated to his mother the
following epitaph:

'Here lies good master duck,
  Whom Samuel Johnson trod on;
If it had liv'd, it had been _good luck_,
  For then we'd had an _odd one_.'

There is surely internal evidence that this little composition combines
in it, what no child of three years old could produce, without an
extension of its faculties by immediate inspiration; yet Mrs. Lucy
Porter, Dr. Johnson's step-daughter, positively maintained to me, in his
presence, that there could be no doubt of the truth of this anecdote,
for she had heard it from his mother. So difficult is it to obtain an
authentick relation of facts, and such authority may there be for
errour; for he assured me, that his father made the verses, and wished
to pass them for his child's. He added, 'my father was a foolish old
man[128]; that is to say, foolish in talking of his children[129].'

[Page 41: His eyesight.]

[Page 42: The king's evil.]

Young Johnson had the misfortune to be much afflicted with the
scrophula, or king's evil, which disfigured a countenance naturally well
formed, and hurt his visual nerves so much, that he did not see at all
with one of his eyes, though its appearance was little different from
that of the other. There is amongst his prayers, one inscribed '_When
my_ EYE _was restored to its use_[130],' which ascertains a defect that
many of his friends knew he had, though I never perceived it[131]. I
supposed him to be only near-sighted; and indeed I must observe, that in
no other respect could I discern any defect in his vision; on the
contrary, the force of his attention and perceptive quickness made him
see and distinguish all manner of objects, whether of nature or of art,
with a nicety that is rarely to be found. When he and I were travelling
in the Highlands of Scotland, and I pointed out to him a mountain which
I observed resembled a cone, he corrected my inaccuracy, by shewing me,
that it was indeed pointed at the top, but that one side of it was
larger than the other[132]. And the ladies with whom he was acquainted
agree, that no man was more nicely and minutely critical in the elegance
of female dress[133]. When I found that he saw the romantick beauties of
Islam, in Derbyshire, much better than I did, I told him that he
resembled an able performer upon a bad instrument[134]. How false and
contemptible then are all the remarks which have been made to the
prejudice either of his candour or of his philosophy, founded upon a
supposition that he was almost blind. It has been said, that he
contracted this grievous malady from his nurse[135]. His mother yielding
to the superstitious notion, which, it is wonderful to think, prevailed
so long in this country, as to the virtue of the regal touch; a notion,
which our kings encouraged, and to which a man of such inquiry and such
judgement as Carte[136] could give credit; carried him to London, where he
was actually touched by Queen Anne. Mrs. Johnson indeed, as Mr. Hector
informed me, acted by the advice of the celebrated Sir John Floyer[137],
then a physician in Lichfield. Johnson used to talk of this very
frankly; and Mrs. Piozzi has preserved his very picturesque description
of the scene, as it remained upon his fancy. Being asked if he could
remember Queen Anne, 'He had (he said) a confused, but somehow a sort of
solemn recollection of a lady in diamonds, and a long black hood[138].'
This touch, however, was without any effect. I ventured to say to him,
in allusion to the political principles in which he was educated, and of
which he ever retained some odour, that 'his mother had not carried him
far enough; she should have taken him to ROME.'

[Page 43: Johnson at a dame's school.]

He was first taught to read English by Dame Oliver[139], a widow, who kept
a school for young children in Lichfield. He told me she could read the
black letter, and asked him to borrow for her, from his father, a bible
in that character. When he was going to Oxford, she came to take leave
of him, brought him, in the simplicity of her kindness, a present of
gingerbread, and said, he was the best scholar she ever had. He
delighted in mentioning this early compliment: adding, with a smile,
that 'this was as high a proof of his merit as he could conceive.' His
next instructor in English was a master, whom, when he spoke of him to
me, he familiarly called Tom Brown, who, said he, 'published a
spelling-book, and dedicated it to the UNIVERSE; but, I fear, no copy of
it can now be had[140].'

[Page 44: Lichfield School.]

He began to learn Latin[141] with Mr. Hawkins, usher, or under-master of
Lichfield school, 'a man (said he) very skilful in his little way.' With
him he continued two years[142], and then rose to be under the care of Mr.
Hunter, the head-master, who, according to his account, 'was very
severe, and wrong-headedly severe. He used (said he) to beat us
unmercifully; and he did not distinguish between ignorance and
negligence; for he would beat a boy equally for not knowing a thing, as
for neglecting to know it. He would ask a boy a question; and if he did
not answer it, he would beat him, without considering whether he had an
opportunity of knowing how to answer it. For instance, he would call up
a boy and ask him Latin for a candlestick, which the boy could not
expect to be asked. Now, Sir, if a boy could answer every question,
there would be no need of a master to teach him.'

[Page 45: Johnson's school-fellows.]

It is, however, but justice to the memory of Mr. Hunter to mention, that
though he might err in being too severe, the school of Lichfield was
very respectable in his time[143]. The late Dr. Taylor, Prebendary of
Westminster, who was educated under him, told me, that 'he was an
excellent master, and that his ushers were most of them men of eminence;
that Holbrook, one of the most ingenious men, best scholars, and best
preachers of his age, was usher during the greatest part of the time
that Johnson was at school[144]. Then came Hague, of whom as much might be
said, with the addition that he was an elegant poet. Hague was succeeded
by Green, afterwards Bishop of Lincoln, whose character in the learned
world is well known[145]. In the same form with Johnson was Congreve[146],
who afterwards became chaplain to Archbishop Boulter, and by that
connection obtained good preferment in Ireland. He was a younger son of
the ancient family of Congreve, in Staffordshire, of which the poet was
a branch. His brother sold the estate. There was also Lowe, afterwards
Canon of Windsor[147].'

[Page 46: Mr. Hunter.]

Indeed Johnson was very sensible how much he owed to Mr. Hunter. Mr.
Langton one day asked him how he had acquired so accurate a knowledge of
Latin, in which, I believe, he was exceeded by no man of his time; he
said, 'My master whipt me very well. Without that, Sir, I should have
done nothing.' He told Mr. Langton, that while Hunter was flogging his
boys unmercifully, he used to say, 'And this I do to save you from the
gallows.' Johnson, upon all occasions, expressed his approbation of
enforcing instruction by means of the rod[148]. 'I would rather (said he)
have the rod to be the general terrour to all, to make them learn, than
tell a child, if you do thus, or thus, you will be more esteemed than
your brothers or sisters. The rod produces an effect which terminates in
itself. A child is afraid of being whipped, and gets his task, and
there's an end on't; whereas, by exciting emulation and comparisons of
superiority, you lay the foundation of lasting mischief; you make
brothers and sisters hate each other[149].'

When Johnson saw some young ladies in Lincolnshire who were remarkably
well behaved, owing to their mother's strict discipline and severe
correction[150], he exclaimed, in one of Shakspeare's lines a little

'_Rod_, I will honour thee for this thy duty[151].'

[Page 47: Johnson a King of men.]

That superiority over his fellows, which he maintained with so much
dignity in his march through life, was not assumed from vanity and
ostentation, but was the natural and constant effect of those
extraordinary powers of mind, of which he could not but be conscious by
comparison; the intellectual difference, which in other cases of
comparison of characters, is often a matter of undecided contest, being
as clear in his case as the superiority of stature in some men above
others. Johnson did not strut or stand on tip-toe: He only did not
stoop. From his earliest years his superiority was perceived and
acknowledged[152]. He was from the beginning [Greek: anax andron], a king
of men. His schoolfellow, Mr. Hector, has obligingly furnished me with
many particulars of his boyish days[153]: and assured me that he never
knew him corrected at school, but for talking and diverting other boys
from their business. He seemed to learn by intuition; for though
indolence and procrastination were inherent in his constitution,
whenever he made an exertion he did more than any one else. In short, he
is a memorable instance of what has been often observed, that the boy is
the man in miniature: and that the distinguishing characteristicks of
each individual are the same, through the whole course of life. His
favourites used to receive very liberal assistance from him; and such
was the submission and deference with which he was treated, such the
desire to obtain his regard, that three of the boys, of whom Mr. Hector
was sometimes one, used to come in the morning as his humble attendants,
and carry him to school. One in the middle stooped, while he sat upon
his back, and one on each side supported him; and thus he was borne
triumphant. Such a proof of the early predominance of intellectual
vigour is very remarkable, and does honour to human nature. Talking to
me once himself of his being much distinguished at school, he told me,
'they never thought to raise me by comparing me to any one; they never
said, Johnson is as good a scholar as such a one; but such a one is as
good a scholar as Johnson; and this was said but of one, but of Lowe;
and I do not think he was as good a scholar.'

[Page 48: Johnson's tenacious memory.]

He discovered a great ambition to excel, which roused him to counteract
his indolence. He was uncommonly inquisitive; and his memory was so
tenacious, that he never forgot any thing that he either heard or read.
Mr. Hector remembers having recited to him eighteen verses, which, after
a little pause, he repeated _verbatim_, varying only one epithet, by
which he improved the line.

He never joined with the other boys in their ordinary diversions: his
only amusement was in winter, when he took a pleasure in being drawn
upon the ice by a boy barefooted, who pulled him along by a garter fixed
round him; no very easy operation, as his size was remarkably large. His
defective sight, indeed, prevented him from enjoying the common sports;
and he once pleasantly remarked to me, 'how wonderfully well he had
contrived to be idle without them.' Lord Chesterfield, however, has
justly observed in one of his letters, when earnestly cautioning a
friend against the pernicious effects of idleness, that active sports
are not to be reckoned idleness in young people; and that the listless
torpor of doing nothing, alone deserves that name[154]. Of this dismal
inertness of disposition, Johnson had all his life too great a share.
Mr. Hector relates, that 'he could not oblige him more than by
sauntering away the hours of vacation in the fields, during which he was
more engaged in talking to himself than to his companion.'

[Page 49: His fondness for romances.]

Dr. Percy[155], the Bishop of Dromore, who was long intimately acquainted
with him, and has preserved a few anecdotes concerning him, regretting
that he was not a more diligent collector, informs me, that 'when a boy
he was immoderately fond of reading romances of chivalry, and he
retained his fondness for them through life; so that (adds his Lordship)
spending part of a summer[156] at my parsonage-house in the country, he
chose for his regular reading the old Spanish romance of _Felixmarte of
Hircania_, in folio, which he read quite through[157]. Yet I have heard
him attribute to these extravagant fictions that unsettled turn of mind
which prevented his ever fixing in any profession.'

[Page 50: Stourbridge School.]

1725: ÆTAT. 16.--After having resided for some time at the house of his
uncle, Cornelius Ford[158], Johnson was, at the age of fifteen, removed to
the school of Stourbridge, in Worcestershire, of which Mr. Wentworth was
then master. This step was taken by the advice of his cousin, the
Reverend Mr. Ford, a man in whom both talents and good dispositions were
disgraced by licentiousness[159], but who was a very able judge of what
was right.

At this school he did not receive so much benefit as was expected. It
has been said, that he acted in the capacity of an assistant to Mr.
Wentworth, in teaching the younger boys. 'Mr. Wentworth (he told me) was
a very able man, but an idle man, and to me very severe; but I cannot
blame him much. I was then a big boy; he saw I did not reverence him;
and that he should get no honour by me. I had brought enough with me, to
carry me through; and all I should get at his school would be ascribed
to my own labour, or to my former master. Yet he taught me a great

He thus discriminated, to Dr. Percy, Bishop of Dromore, his progress at
his two grammar-schools. 'At one, I learnt much in the school, but
little from the master; in the other, I learnt much from the master, but
little in the school.'

The Bishop also informs me, that 'Dr. Johnson's father, before he was
received at Stourbridge, applied to have him admitted as a scholar and
assistant to the Reverend Samuel Lea, M.A., head master of Newport
school, in Shropshire (a very diligent, good teacher, at that time in
high reputation, under whom Mr. Hollis[160] is said, in the Memoirs of his
Life, to have been also educated[161]). This application to Mr. Lea was
not successful; but Johnson had afterwards the gratification to hear
that the old gentleman, who lived to a very advanced age, mentioned it
as one of the most memorable events of his life, that 'he was very near
having that great man for his scholar.'

He remained at Stourbridge little more than a year, and then returned
home, where he may be said to have loitered, for two years, in a state
very unworthy his uncommon abilities. He had already given several
proofs of his poetical genius, both in his school-exercises and in other
occasional compositions. Of these I have obtained a considerable
collection, by the favour of Mr. Wentworth, son of one of his masters,
and of Mr. Hector, his school-fellow and friend; from which I select the
following specimens:

[Page 51: Johnson's youthful compositions.]

_Translation of_ VIRGIL. Pastoral I.


Now, Tityrus, you, supine and careless laid,
Play on your pipe beneath this beechen shade;
While wretched we about the world must roam,
And leave our pleasing fields and native home,
Here at your ease you sing your amorous flame,
And the wood rings with Amarillis' name.


Those blessings, friend, a deity bestow'd,
For I shall never think him less than God;
Oft on his altar shall my firstlings lie,
Their blood the consecrated stones shall dye:
He gave my flocks to graze the flowery meads,
And me to tune at ease th' unequal reeds.


My admiration only I exprest,
(No spark of envy harbours in my breast)
That, when confusion o'er the country reigns,
To you alone this happy state remains.
Here I, though faint myself, must drive my goats,
Far from their ancient fields and humble cots.
This scarce I lead, who left on yonder rock
Two tender kids, the hopes of all the flock.
Had we not been perverse and careless grown,
This dire event by omens was foreshown;
Our trees were blasted by the thunder stroke,   )
And left-hand crows, from an old hollow oak,    )
Foretold the coming evil by their dismal croak. )

_Translation of_ HORACE. Book I. Ode xxii.

The man, my friend, whose conscious heart
  With virtue's sacred ardour glows,
Nor taints with death the envenom'd dart,
  Nor needs the guard of Moorish bows:

Though Scythia's icy cliffs he treads,
  Or horrid Africk's faithless sands;
Or where the fam'd Hydaspes spreads
  His liquid wealth o'er barbarous lands.

For while by Chloe's image charm'd,
  Too far in Sabine woods I stray'd;
Me singing, careless and unarm'd,
  A grizly wolf surprised, and fled.

No savage more portentous stain'd
  Apulia's spacious wilds with gore;
No fiercer Juba's thirsty land,
  Dire nurse of raging lions, bore.

Place me where no soft summer gale
  Among the quivering branches sighs;
Where clouds condens'd for ever veil
  With horrid gloom the frowning skies:

Place me beneath the burning line,
  A clime deny'd to human race;
I'll sing of Chloe's charms divine,
  Her heav'nly voice, and beauteous face.

_Translation of_ HORACE. Book II. Ode ix.

Clouds do not always veil the skies,
  Nor showers immerse the verdant plain;
Nor do the billows always rise,
  Or storms afflict the ruffled main.

Nor, Valgius, on th' Armenian shores
  Do the chain'd waters always freeze;
Not always furious Boreas roars,
  Or bends with violent force the trees.

But you are ever drown'd in tears,
  For Mystes dead you ever mourn;
No setting Sol can ease your care,
  But finds you sad at his return.

The wise experienc'd Grecian sage
  Mourn'd not Antilochus so long;
Nor did King Priam's hoary age
  So much lament his slaughter'd son.

Leave off, at length, these woman's sighs,
  Augustus' numerous trophies sing;
Repeat that prince's victories,
  To whom all nations tribute bring.

Niphates rolls an humbler wave,
  At length the undaunted Scythian yields,
Content to live the Roman's slave,
  And scarce forsakes his native fields.

_Translation of part of the Dialogue between_ HECTOR _and_
_from the Sixth Book of_ HOMER'S ILIAD.

She ceas'd: then godlike Hector answer'd kind,
(His various plumage sporting in the wind)
That post, and all the rest, shall be my care;
But shall I, then, forsake the unfinished war?
How would the Trojans brand great Hector's name!
And one base action sully all my fame,
Acquired by wounds and battles bravely fought!
Oh! how my soul abhors so mean a thought.
Long since I learn'd to slight this fleeting breath,
And view with cheerful eyes approaching death
The inexorable sisters have decreed
That Priam's house, and Priam's self shall bleed:
The day will come, in which proud Troy shall yield,
And spread its smoking ruins o'er the field.
Yet Hecuba's, nor Priam's hoary age,
Whose blood shall quench some Grecian's thirsty rage,
Nor my brave brothers, that have bit the ground,
Their souls dismiss'd through many a ghastly wound,
Can in my bosom half that grief create,
As the sad thought of your impending fate:
When some proud Grecian dame shall tasks impose,
Mimick your tears, and ridicule your woes;
Beneath Hyperia's waters shall you sweat,
And, fainting, scarce support the liquid weight:
Then shall some Argive loud insulting cry,
Behold the wife of Hector, guard of Troy!
Tears, at my name, shall drown those beauteous eyes,
And that fair bosom heave with rising sighs!
Before that day, by some brave hero's hand
May I lie slain, and spurn the bloody sand.

_To a_ YOUNG LADY _on her_ BIRTH-DAY[162].

This tributary verse receive my fair,
Warm with an ardent lover's fondest pray'r.
May this returning day for ever find
Thy form more lovely, more adorn'd thy mind;
All pains, all cares, may favouring heav'n remove,
All but the sweet solicitudes of love!
May powerful nature join with grateful art,
To point each glance, and force it to the heart!
O then, when conquered crouds confess thy sway,
When ev'n proud wealth and prouder wit obey,
My fair, be mindful of the mighty trust,
Alas! 'tis hard for beauty to be just.
Those sovereign charms with strictest care employ;
Nor give the generous pain, the worthless joy:
With his own form acquaint the forward fool,
Shewn in the faithful glass of ridicule;
Teach mimick censure her own faults to find,   )
No more let coquettes to themselves be blind,  )
So shall Belinda's charms improve mankind.     )


When first the peasant, long inclin'd to roam,
Forsakes his rural sports and peaceful home,
Pleas'd with the scene the smiling ocean yields,
He scorns the verdant meads and flow'ry fields:
Then dances jocund o'er the watery way,
While the breeze whispers, and the streamers play:
Unbounded prospects in his bosom roll,
And future millions lift his rising soul;
In blissful dreams he digs the golden mine,
And raptur'd sees the new-found ruby shine.
Joys insincere! thick clouds invade the skies,
Loud roar the billows, high the waves arise;
Sick'ning with fear, he longs to view the shore,
And vows to trust the faithless deep no more.
So the young Authour, panting after fame,
And the long honours of a lasting name,
Entrusts his happiness to human kind,
More false, more cruel, than the seas or wind.
'Toil on, dull croud, in extacies he cries,
For wealth or title, perishable prize;
While I those transitory blessings scorn,
Secure of praise from ages yet unborn.'
This thought once form'd, all council comes too late,
He flies to press, and hurries on his fate;
Swiftly he sees the imagin'd laurels spread,
And feels the unfading wreath surround his head.
Warn'd by another's fate, vain youth be wise,
Those dreams were Settle's[164] once, and Ogilby's[165]:
The pamphlet spreads, incessant hisses rise,
To some retreat the baffled writer flies;
Where no sour criticks snarl, no sneers molest,
Safe from the tart lampoon, and stinging jest;
There begs of heaven a less distinguish'd lot,
Glad to be hid, and proud to be forgot.

EPILOGUE, _intended to have been spoken by a_ LADY _who was to personate
the Ghost of_ HERMIONE[166].

Ye blooming train, who give despair or joy,
Bless with a smile, or with a frown destroy;
In whose fair cheeks destructive Cupids wait,
And with unerring shafts distribute fate;
Whose snowy breasts, whose animated eyes,
Each youth admires, though each admirer dies;
Whilst you deride their pangs in barb'rous play, }
Unpitying see them weep, and hear them pray,     }
And unrelenting sport ten thousand lives away;   }
For you, ye fair, I quit the gloomy plains;
Where sable night in all her horrour reigns;
No fragrant bowers, no delightful glades,
Receive the unhappy ghosts of scornful maids.
For kind, for tender nymphs the myrtle blooms,
And weaves her bending boughs in pleasing glooms:
Perennial roses deck each purple vale,
And scents ambrosial breathe in every gale:
Far hence are banish'd vapours, spleen, and tears,
Tea, scandal, ivory teeth, and languid airs:
No pug, nor favourite Cupid there enjoys
The balmy kiss, for which poor Thyrsis dies;
Form'd to delight, they use no foreign arms,
Nor torturing whalebones pinch them into charms;
No conscious blushes there their cheeks inflame,
For those who feel no guilt can know no shame;
Unfaded still their former charms they shew,
Around them pleasures wait, and joys for ever new.
But cruel virgins meet severer fates;
Expell'd and exil'd from the blissful seats,
To dismal realms, and regions void of peace,
Where furies ever howl, and serpents hiss.
O'er the sad plains perpetual tempests sigh,
And pois'nous vapours, black'ning all the sky,
With livid hue the fairest face o'ercast,
And every beauty withers at the blast:
Where e'er they fly their lover's ghosts pursue,
Inflicting all those ills which once they knew;
Vexation, Fury, Jealousy, Despair,
Vex ev'ry eye, and every bosom tear;
Their foul deformities by all descry'd,
No maid to flatter, and no paint to hide.
Then melt, ye fair, while crouds around you sigh,
Nor let disdain sit lowring in your eye;
With pity soften every awful grace,
And beauty smile auspicious in each face;
To ease their pains exert your milder power,
So shall you guiltless reign, and all mankind adore.'

[Page 57: His wide reading. ÆTAT. 19.]

The two years which he spent at home, after his return from Stourbridge,
he passed in what he thought idleness[167], and was scolded by his father
for his want of steady application[168]. He had no settled plan of life,
nor looked forward at all, but merely lived from day to day. Yet he read
a great deal in a desultory manner, without any scheme of study, as
chance threw books in his way, and inclination directed him through
them. He used to mention one curious instance of his casual reading,
when but a boy. Having imagined that his brother had hid some apples
behind a large folio upon an upper shelf in his father's shop, he
climbed up to search for them. There were no apples; but the large folio
proved to be Petrarch, whom he had seen mentioned in some preface, as
one of the restorers of learning. His curiosity having been thus
excited, he sat down with avidity, and read a great part of the book.
What he read during these two years he told me, was not works of mere
amusement, 'not voyages and travels, but all literature, Sir, all
ancient writers, all manly: though but little Greek, only some of
Anacreon and Hesiod; but in this irregular manner (added he) I had
looked into a great many books, which were not commonly known at the
Universities, where they seldom read any books but what are put into
their hands by their tutors; so that when I came to Oxford, Dr. Adams,
now master of Pembroke College, told me I was the best qualified for the
University that he had ever known come there[169].'

In estimating the progress of his mind during these two years, as well
as in future periods of his life, we must not regard his own hasty
confession of idleness; for we see, when he explains himself, that he
was acquiring various stores; and, indeed he himself concluded the
account with saying, 'I would not have you think I was doing nothing
then.' He might, perhaps, have studied more assiduously; but it may be
doubted whether such a mind as his was not more enriched by roaming at
large in the fields of literature than if it had been confined to any
single spot. The analogy between body and mind is very general, and the
parallel will hold as to their food, as well as any other particular.
The flesh of animals who feed excursively, is allowed to have a higher
flavour than that of those who are cooped up. May there not be the same
difference between men who read as their taste prompts and men who are
confined in cells and colleges to stated tasks?

[Page 58: Johnson enters Oxford. A.D. 1728.]

That a man in Mr. Michael Johnson's circumstances should think of
sending his son to the expensive University of Oxford, at his own
charge, seems very improbable. The subject was too delicate to question
Johnson upon. But I have been assured by Dr. Taylor that the scheme
never would have taken place had not a gentleman of Shropshire, one of
his schoolfellows, spontaneously undertaken to support him at Oxford, in
the character of his companion; though, in fact, he never received any
assistance whatever from that gentleman[170].

He, however, went to Oxford, and was entered a Commoner of Pembroke
College on the 31st of October, 1728[171], being then in his nineteenth

[Page 59: His first tutor. ÆTAT. 19.]

The Reverend Dr. Adams, who afterwards presided over Pembroke College
with universal esteem, told me he was present, and gave me some account
of what passed on the night of Johnson's arrival at Oxford[173]. On that
evening, his father, who had anxiously accompanied him, found means to
have him introduced to Mr. Jorden, who was to be his tutor. His being
put under any tutor reminds us of what Wood says of Robert Burton,
authour of the 'Anatomy of Melancholy,' when elected student of Christ
Church: 'for form's sake, _though he wanted not a tutor_, he was put
under the tuition of Dr. John Bancroft, afterwards Bishop of Oxon[174].'

His father seemed very full of the merits of his son, and told the
company he was a good scholar, and a poet, and wrote Latin verses. His
figure and manner appeared strange to them; but he behaved modestly, and
sat silent, till upon something which occurred in the course of
conversation, he suddenly struck in and quoted Macrobius; and thus he
gave the first impression of that more extensive reading in which he had
indulged himself.

His tutor, Mr. Jorden, fellow of Pembroke, was not, it seems, a man of
such abilities as we should conceive requisite for the instructor of
Samuel Johnson, who gave me the following account of him. 'He was a very
worthy man, but a heavy man, and I did not profit much by his
instructions. Indeed, I did not attend him much[175]. The first day after
I came to college I waited upon him, and then staid away four. On the
sixth, Mr. Jorden asked me why I had not attended. I answered I had been
sliding in Christ-Church meadow[176]. And this I said with as much
nonchalance as I am now[177] talking to you. I had no notion that I was
wrong or irreverent to my tutor[178]. BOSWELL: 'That, Sir, was great
fortitude of mind.' JOHNSON: 'No, Sir; stark insensibility[179].'

[Page 60: The fifth of November. A.D. 1728.]

The fifth of November[180] was at that time kept with great solemnity at
Pembroke College, and exercises upon the subject of the day were
required[181]. Johnson neglected to perform his, which is much to be
regretted; for his vivacity of imagination, and force of language, would
probably have produced something sublime upon the gunpowder plot[182]. To
apologise for his neglect, he gave in a short copy of verses, entitled
Somnium, containing a common thought; 'that the Muse had come to him in
his sleep, and whispered, that it did not become him to write on such
subjects as politicks; he should confine himself to humbler themes:' but
the versification was truly Virgilian[183].

[Page 61: Johnson's version of Pope's Messiah. ÆTAT. 19.]

He had a love and respect for Jorden, not for his literature, but for
his worth. 'Whenever (said he) a young man becomes Jorden's pupil, he
becomes his son.'

Having given such a specimen of his poetical powers, he was asked by Mr.
Jorden, to translate Pope's Messiah into Latin verse, as a Christmas
exercise. He performed it with uncommon rapidity, and in so masterly a
manner, that he obtained great applause from it, which ever after kept
him high in the estimation of his College, and, indeed, of all the

It is said, that Mr. Pope expressed himself concerning it in terms of
strong approbation[185]. Dr. Taylor told me, that it was first printed for
old Mr. Johnson, without the knowledge of his son, who was very angry
when he heard of it. A Miscellany of Poems collected by a person of the
name of Husbands, was published at Oxford in 1731[186]. In that Miscellany
Johnson's Translation of the Messiah appeared, with this modest motto
from Scaliger's Poeticks. _Ex alieno ingenio Poeta, ex suo tantum

[Page 62: Mr. Courtenays eulogy. A.D. 1728.]

I am not ignorant that critical objections have been made to this and
other specimens of Johnson's Latin Poetry[187]. I acknowledge myself not
competent to decide on a question of such extreme nicety. But I am
satisfied with the just and discriminative eulogy pronounced upon it by
my friend Mr, Courtenay.

'And with like ease his vivid lines assume
The garb and dignity of ancient Rome.--
Let college _verse-men_ trite conceits express,
Trick'd out in splendid shreds of Virgil's dress;
From playful Ovid cull the tinsel phrase,
And vapid notions hitch in pilfer'd lays:
Then with mosaick art the piece combine,
And boast the glitter of each dulcet line:
Johnson adventur'd boldly to transfuse
His vigorous sense into the Latian muse;
Aspir'd to shine by unreflected light,
And with a Roman's ardour _think_ and write.
He felt the tuneful Nine his breast inspire,
And, like a master, wak'd the soothing lyre:
Horatian strains a grateful heart proclaim,
While Sky's wild rocks resound his Thralia's name[188].
Hesperia's plant, in some less skilful hands,
To bloom a while, factitious heat demands:
Though glowing Maro a faint warmth supplies,
The sickly blossom in the hot-house dies:
By Johnson's genial culture, art, and toil,
Its root strikes deep, and owns the fost'ring soil;
Imbibes our sun through all its swelling veins,
And grows a native of Britannia's plains[189].'

[Page 63: Johnson's 'morbid melancholy'. Ætat 19.]

The 'morbid melancholy,' which was lurking in his constitution, and to
which we may ascribe those particularities, and that aversion to regular
life, which, at a very early period, marked his character, gathered such
strength in his twentieth year, as to afflict him in a dreadful manner.
While he was at Lichfield, in the college vacation of the year 1729[190],
he felt himself overwhelmed with an horrible hypochondria, with
perpetual irritation, fretfulness, and impatience; and with a dejection,
gloom, and despair, which made existence misery[191]. From this dismal
malady he never afterwards was perfectly relieved; and all his labours,
and all his enjoyments, were but temporary interruptions of its baleful
influence[192]. How wonderful, how unsearchable are the ways of GOD!
Johnson, who was blest with all the powers of genius and understanding
in a degree far above the ordinary state of human nature, was at the
same time visited with a disorder so afflictive, that they who know it
by dire experience, will not envy his exalted endowments. That it was,
in some degree, occasioned by a defect in his nervous system, that
inexplicable part of our frame, appears highly probable. He told Mr.
Paradise[193] that he was sometimes so languid and inefficient, that he
could not distinguish the hour upon the town-clock.

[Page 64: Johnson consults Dr. Swinfen. A.D. 1729.]

Johnson, upon the first violent attack of this disorder, strove to
overcome it by forcible exertions[194]. He frequently walked to Birmingham
and back again[195], and tried many other expedients, but all in vain. His
expression concerning it to me was 'I did not then know how to manage
it.' His distress became so intolerable, that he applied to Dr. Swinfen,
physician in Lichfield, his god-father, and put into his hands a state
of his case, written in Latin. Dr. Swinfen was so much struck with the
extraordinary acuteness, research, and eloquence of this paper, that in
his zeal for his godson he shewed it to several people. His daughter,
Mrs. Desmoulins, who was many years humanely supported in Dr. Johnson's
house in London, told me, that upon his discovering that Dr. Swinfen had
communicated his case, he was so much offended, that he was never
afterwards fully reconciled to him. He indeed had good reason to be
offended; for though Dr. Swinfen's motive was good, he inconsiderately
betrayed a matter deeply interesting and of great delicacy, which had
been entrusted to him in confidence; and exposed a complaint of his
young friend and patient, which, in the superficial opinion of the
generality of mankind, is attended with contempt and disgrace[196].

[Page 65: Johnson an hypochondriack. ÆTAT. 20.]

But let not little men triumph upon knowing that Johnson was an
HYPOCHONDRIACK, was subject to what the learned, philosophical, and
pious Dr. Cheyne has so well treated under the title of 'The English
Malady[197].' Though he suffered severely from it, he was not therefore
degraded. The powers of his great mind might be troubled, and their full
exercise suspended at times; but the mind itself was ever entire. As a
proof of this, it is only necessary to consider, that, when he was at
the very worst, he composed that state of his own case, which shewed an
uncommon vigour, not only of fancy and taste, but of judgement. I am
aware that he himself was too ready to call such a complaint by the name
of _madness_[198]; in conformity with which notion, he has traced its
gradations, with exquisite nicety, in one of the chapters of his
RASSELAS[199]. But there is surely a clear distinction between a disorder
which affects only the imagination and spirits, while the judgement is
sound, and a disorder by which the judgement itself is impaired. This
distinction was made to me by the late Professor Gaubius of Leyden,
physician to the Prince of Orange, in a conversation which I had with
him several years ago, and he expanded it thus: 'If (said he) a man
tells me that he is grievously disturbed, for that he _imagines_ he sees
a ruffian coming against him with a drawn sword, though at the same time
he is _conscious_ it is a delusion, I pronounce him to have a disordered
imagination; but if a man tells me that he sees this, and in
consternation calls to me to look at it, I pronounce him to be _mad_.'

[Page 66: Johnson's dread of insanity. A.D. 1729.]

It is a common effect of low spirits or melancholy, to make those who
are afflicted with it imagine that they are actually suffering those
evils which happen to be most strongly presented to their minds. Some
have fancied themselves to be deprived of the use of their limbs, some
to labour under acute diseases, others to be in extreme poverty; when,
in truth, there was not the least reality in any of the suppositions; so
that when the vapours were dispelled, they were convinced of the
delusion. To Johnson, whose supreme enjoyment was the exercise of his
reason, the disturbance or obscuration of that faculty was the evil most
to be dreaded. Insanity, therefore, was the object of his most dismal
apprehension[200]; and he fancied himself seized by it, or approaching to
it, at the very time when he was giving proofs of a more than ordinary
soundness and vigour of judgement. That his own diseased imagination
should have so far deceived him, is strange; but it is stranger still
that some of his friends should have given credit to his groundless
opinion, when they had such undoubted proofs that it was totally
fallacious; though it is by no means surprising that those who wish to
depreciate him, should, since his death, have laid hold of this
circumstance, and insisted upon it with very unfair aggravation[201].

Amidst the oppression and distraction of a disease which very few have
felt in its full extent, but many have experienced in a slighter degree,
Johnson, in his writings, and in his conversation, never failed to
display all the varieties of intellectual excellence. In his march
through this world to a better, his mind still appeared grand and
brilliant, and impressed all around him with the truth of Virgil's noble

'_Igneus est ollis vigor et coelestis origo_.'[202]

[Page 67: His reluctance to go to church. Ætat 20.]

The history of his mind as to religion is an important article. I have
mentioned the early impressions made upon his tender imagination by his
mother, who continued her pious care with assiduity, but, in his
opinion, not with judgement. 'Sunday (said he) was a heavy day to me
when I was a boy. My mother confined me on that day, and made me read
"The Whole Duty of Man," from a great part of which I could derive no
instruction. When, for instance, I had read the chapter on theft, which
from my infancy I had been taught was wrong, I was no more convinced
that theft was wrong than before; so there was no accession of
knowledge. A boy should be introduced to such books, by having his
attention directed to the arrangement, to the style, and other
excellencies of composition; that the mind being thus engaged by an
amusing variety of objects, may not grow weary.'

[Page 68: Law's Serious Call. A.D. 1729.]

[Page 69: Johnson grounded in religion. Ætat 20.]

He communicated to me the following particulars upon the subject of his
religious progress. 'I fell into an inattention to religion, or an
indifference about it, in my ninth year. The church at Lichfield, in
which we had a seat, wanted reparation[203], so I was to go and find a
seat in other churches; and having bad eyes, and being awkward about
this, I used to go and read in the fields on Sunday. This habit
continued till my fourteenth year; and still I find a great reluctance
to go to church[204]. I then became a sort of lax _talker_ against
religion, for I did not much _think_ against it; and this lasted till I
went to Oxford, where it would not be _suffered_[205]. When at Oxford, I
took up 'Law's _Serious Call to a Holy Life_,'[206] 'expecting to find it
a dull book (as such books generally are), and perhaps to laugh at it.
But I found Law quite an overmatch for me; and this was the first
occasion of my thinking in earnest of religion, after I became capable
of rational inquiry[207].' From this time forward religion was the
predominant object of his thoughts[208]; though, with the just sentiments
of a conscientious Christian, he lamented that his practice of its
duties fell far short of what it ought to be.

This instance of a mind such as that of Johnson being first disposed, by
an unexpected incident, to think with anxiety of the momentous concerns
of eternity, and of 'what he should do to be saved[209],' may for ever be
produced in opposition to the superficial and sometimes profane contempt
that has been thrown upon, those occasional impressions which it is
certain many Christians have experienced; though it must be acknowledged
that weak minds, from an erroneous supposition that no man is in a state
of grace who has not felt a particular conversion, have, in some cases,
brought a degree of ridicule upon them; a ridicule of which it is
inconsiderate or unfair to make a general application.

[Page 70: Johnson's studies at Oxford. A.D. 1729.]

How seriously Johnson was impressed with a sense of religion, even in
the vigour of his youth, appears from the following passage in his
minutes kept by way of diary: Sept. 7[210], 1736. I have this day entered
upon my twenty-eighth year. 'Mayest thou, O God, enable me, for JESUS
CHRIST'S sake, to spend this in such a manner that I may receive comfort
from it at the hour of death, and in the day of judgement! Amen.'

[Page 71: His rapid reading and composition. Ætat 20.]

The particular course of his reading while at Oxford, and during the
time of vacation which he passed at home, cannot be traced. Enough has
been said of his irregular mode of study. He told me that from his
earliest years he loved to read poetry, but hardly ever read any poem to
an end; that he read Shakspeare at a period so early, that the speech of
the ghost in Hamlet terrified him when he was alone[211]; that Horace's
Odes were the compositions in which he took most delight, and it was
long before he liked his Epistles and Satires. He told me what he read
_solidly_ at Oxford was Greek; not the Grecian historians, but Homer[212]
and Euripides, and now and then a little Epigram; that the study of
which he was the most fond was Metaphysicks, but he had not read much,
even in that way. I always thought that he did himself injustice in his
account of what he had read, and that he must have been speaking with
reference to the vast portion of study which is possible, and to which a
few scholars in the whole history of literature have attained; for when
I once asked him whether a person, whose name I have now forgotten,
studied hard, he answered 'No, Sir; I do not believe he studied hard. I
never knew a man who studied hard. I conclude, indeed, from the effects,
that some men have studied hard, as Bentley and Clarke.' Trying him by
that criterion upon which he formed his judgement of others, we may be
absolutely certain, both from his writings and his conversation, that
his reading was very extensive. Dr. Adam Smith, than whom few were
better judges on this subject, once observed to me that 'Johnson knew
more books than any man alive.' He had a peculiar facility in seizing at
once what was valuable in any book, without submitting to the labour of
perusing it from beginning to end[213]. He had, from the irritability of
his constitution, at all times, an impatience and hurry when he either
read or wrote. A certain apprehension, arising from novelty, made him
write his first exercise at College twice over[214]; but he never took
that trouble with any other composition; and we shall see that his most
excellent works were struck off at a heat, with rapid exertion[215].

[Page 72: Johnson's rooms in College. A.D. 1729.]

Yet he appears, from his early notes or memorandums in my possession, to
have at various times attempted, or at least planned, a methodical
course of study, according to computation, of which he was all his life
fond, as it fixed his attention steadily upon something without, and
prevented his mind from preying upon itself[216]. Thus I find in his
hand-writing the number of lines in each of two of Euripides' Tragedies,
of the Georgicks of Virgil, of the first six books of the Æneid, of
Horace's Art of Poetry, of three of the books of Ovid's Metamorphosis,
of some parts of Theocritus, and of the tenth Satire of Juvenal; and a
table, shewing at the rate of various numbers a day (I suppose verses to
be read), what would be, in each case, the total amount in a week,
month, and year[217].

No man had a more ardent love of literature, or a higher respect for it
than Johnson. His apartment in Pembroke College was that upon the second
floor, over the gateway. The enthusiasts of learning will ever
contemplate it with veneration. One day, while he was sitting in it
quite alone, Dr. Panting[218], then master of the College, whom he called
'a fine Jacobite fellow,' overheard[219] him uttering this soliloquy in
his strong, emphatick voice: 'Well, I have a mind to see what is done in
other places of learning. I'll go and visit the Universities abroad.
I'll go to France and Italy. I'll go to Padua[220].--And I'll mind my
business. For an _Athenian_ blockhead is the worst of all

[Page 73: Johnson a frolicksome fellow. Ætat 20.]

Dr. Adams told me that Johnson, while he was at Pembroke College, 'was
caressed and loved by all about him, was a gay and frolicksome[222]
fellow, and passed there the happiest part of his life.' But this is a
striking proof of the fallacy of appearances, and how little any of us
know of the real internal state even of those whom we see most
frequently; for the truth is, that he was then depressed by poverty, and
irritated by disease. When I mentioned to him this account as given me
by Dr. Adams, he said, 'Ah, Sir, I was mad and violent. It was
bitterness which they mistook for frolick[223]. I was miserably poor, and
I thought to fight my way by my literature and my wit; so I disregarded
all power and all authority[224].'

[Page 74: Dr. Adams. A.D. 1730.]

The Bishop of Dromore observes in a letter to me,

'The pleasure he took in vexing the tutors and fellows has been often
mentioned. But I have heard him say, what ought to be recorded to the
honour of the present venerable master of that College, the Reverend
William Adams, D.D., who was then very young, and one of the junior
fellows; that the mild but judicious expostulations of this worthy man,
whose virtue awed him, and whose learning he revered, made him really
ashamed of himself, "though I fear (said he) I was too proud to own it."

'I have heard from some of his cotemporaries that he was generally seen
lounging at the College gate, with a circle of young students round him,
whom he was entertaining with wit, and keeping from their studies, if
not spiriting them up to rebellion against the College discipline, which
in his maturer years he so much extolled.'

He very early began to attempt keeping notes or memorandums, by way of a
diary of his life. I find, in a parcel of loose leaves, the following
spirited resolution to contend against his natural indolence:

'_Oct. 1729. Desidiæ valedixi; syrenis istius cantibus surdam posthac
aurem obversurus_.--I bid farewell to Sloth, being resolved henceforth
not to listen to her syren strains.'

I have also in my possession a few leaves of another _Libellus_, or
little book, entitled ANNALES, in which some of the early particulars of
his history are registered in Latin.

[Page 75: A nest of singing-birds. Ætat 21.]

I do not find that he formed any close intimacies with his
fellow-collegians. But Dr. Adams told me that he contracted a love and
regard for Pembroke College, which he retained to the last. A short time
before his death he sent to that College a present of all his works, to
be deposited in their library[225]; and he had thoughts of leaving to it
his house at Lichfield; but his friends who were about him very properly
dissuaded him from it, and he bequeathed it to some poor relations[226].
He took a pleasure in boasting of the many eminent men who had been
educated at Pembroke. In this list are found the names of Mr. Hawkins
the Poetry Professor[227], Mr. Shenstone, Sir William Blackstone, and
others[228]; not forgetting the celebrated popular preacher, Mr. George
Whitefield, of whom, though Dr. Johnson did not think very highly[229], it
must be acknowledged that his eloquence was powerful, his views pious
and charitable, his assiduity almost incredible; and, that since his
death, the integrity of his character has been fully vindicated. Being
himself a poet, Johnson was peculiarly happy in mentioning how many of
the sons of Pembroke were poets; adding, with a smile of sportive
triumph, 'Sir, we are a nest of singing birds[230].'

[Page 76: Dr. Taylor at Christ Church. A.D. 1730.]

[Page 77: Johnson's worn-out shoes. Ætat 21.]

He was not, however, blind to what he thought the defects of his own
College; and I have, from the information of Dr. Taylor, a very strong
instance of that rigid honesty which he ever inflexibly preserved.
Taylor had obtained his father's consent to be entered of Pembroke, that
he might be with his schoolfellow Johnson, with whom, though some years
older than himself, he was very intimate. This would have been a great
comfort to Johnson. But he fairly told Taylor that he could not, in
conscience, suffer him to enter where he knew he could not have an able
tutor. He then made inquiry all round the University, and having found
that Mr. Bateman, of Christ Church, was the tutor of highest reputation,
Taylor was entered of that College[231]. Mr. Bateman's lectures were so
excellent, that Johnson used to come and get them at second-hand from
Taylor, till his poverty being so extreme that his shoes were worn out,
and his feet appeared through them, he saw that this humiliating
circumstance was perceived by the Christ Church men, and he came no
more[232]. He was too proud to accept of money, and somebody having set a
pair of new shoes at his door, he threw them away with indignation[233].
How must we feel when we read such an anecdote of Samuel Johnson!

His spirited refusal of an eleemosynary supply of shoes, arose, no
doubt, from a proper pride. But, considering his ascetick disposition at
times, as acknowledged by himself in his 'Meditations,' and the
exaggeration with which some have treated the peculiarities of his
character, I should not wonder to hear it ascribed to a principle of
superstitious mortification; as we are told by Tursellinus, in his Life
of St. Ignatius Loyola, that this intrepid founder of the order of
Jesuits, when he arrived at Goa, after having made a severe pilgrimage
through the Eastern deserts persisted in wearing his miserable shattered
shoes, and when new ones were offered him rejected them as an unsuitable

[Page 78: Johnson leaves Oxford. A.D. 1731.]

The _res angusta domi_[234] prevented him from having the advantage of a
complete academical education[235]. The friend to whom he had trusted for
support had deceived him. His debts in College, though not great, were
increasing[236]; and his scanty remittances from Lichfield, which had all
along been made with great difficulty, could be supplied no longer, his
father having fallen into a state of insolvency. Compelled, therefore,
by irresistible necessity, he left the College in autumn, 1731, without
a degree, having been a member of it little more than three years[237].

[Page 79: His destitute state. Ætat 22.]

Dr. Adams, the worthy and respectable master of Pembroke College, has
generally had the reputation of being Johnson's tutor. The fact,
however, is, that in 1731 Mr. Jorden quitted the College, and his pupils
were transferred to Dr. Adams; so that had Johnson returned, Dr. Adams
_would have been his tutor_. It is to be wished, that this connection
had taken place. His equal temper, mild disposition, and politeness of
manners, might have insensibly softened the harshness of Johnson, and
infused into him those more delicate charities, those _petites morales_,
in which, it must be confessed, our great moralist was more deficient
than his best friends could fully justify. Dr. Adams paid Johnson this
high compliment. He said to me at Oxford, in 1776, 'I was his nominal
tutor[238]; but he was above my mark.' When I repeated it to Johnson, his
eyes flashed with grateful satisfaction, and he exclaimed, 'That was
liberal and noble.'

[Page 80: Michael Johnson's death. A.D. 1731.]

And now (I had almost said _poor_) Samuel Johnson returned to his native
city, destitute, and not knowing how he should gain even a decent
livelihood. His father's misfortunes in trade rendered him unable to
support his son[239]; and for some time there appeared no means by which
he could maintain himself. In the December of this year his father died.

The state of poverty in which he died, appears from a note in one of
Johnson's little diaries of the following year, which strongly displays
his spirit and virtuous dignity of mind.

'1732, _Julii_ 15. _Undecim aureos deposui, quo die quicquid ante matris
funus (quod serum sit precor) de paternis bonis sperari licet, viginti
scilicet libras, accepi. Usque adeo mihi fortuna fingenda est. Interea,
ne paupertate vires animi languescant, nee in flagilia egestas abigat,
cavendum_.--I layed by eleven guineas on this day, when I received
twenty pounds, being all that I have reason to hope for out of my
father's effects, previous to the death of my mother; an event which I
pray GOD may be very remote. I now therefore see that I must make my own
fortune. Meanwhile, let me take care that the powers of my mind may not
be debilitated by poverty, and that indigence do not force me into any
criminal act.'

Johnson was so far fortunate, that the respectable character of his
parents, and his own merit, had, from his earliest years, secured him a
kind reception in the best families at Lichfield. Among these I can
mention Mr. Howard[240], Dr. Swinfen, Mr. Simpson, Mr. Levett[241], Captain
Garrick, father of the great ornament of the British stage; but above
all, Mr. Gilbert Walmsley[242], Register of the Prerogative Court of
Lichfield, whose character, long after his decease, Dr. Johnson has, in
his Life of Edmund Smith[243], thus drawn in the glowing colours of

[Page 81: Gilbert Walmsley. Ætat 22.]

'Of Gilbert Walmsley[244], thus presented to my mind, let me indulge
myself in the remembrance. I knew him very early; he was one of the
first friends that literature procured me, and I hope that, at least, my
gratitude made me worthy of his notice.

'He was of an advanced age, and I was only not a boy, yet he never
received my notions with contempt. He was a whig, with all the virulence
and malevolence of his party; yet difference of opinion did not keep us
apart. I honoured him and he endured me.

'He had mingled with the gay world without exemption from its vices or
its follies; but had never neglected the cultivation of his mind. His
belief of revelation was unshaken; his learning preserved his
principles; he grew first regular, and then pious.

'His studies had been so various, that I am not able to name a man of
equal knowledge. His acquaintance with books was great, and what he did
not immediately know, he could, at least, tell where to find. Such was
his amplitude of learning, and such his copiousness of communication,
that it may be doubted whether a day now passes, in which I have not
some advantage from his friendship.

'At this man's table I enjoyed many cheerful and instructive hours, with
companions, such as are not often found--with one who has lengthened,
and one who has gladdened life; with Dr. James[245], whose skill in
physick will be long remembered; and with David Garrick, whom I hoped to
have gratified with this character of our common friend. But what are
the hopes of man! I am disappointed by that stroke of death, which has
eclipsed the gaiety of nations, and impoverished the publick stock of
harmless pleasure[246].'

[Page 82: Lichfield society. A.D. 1732.]

In these families he passed much time in his early years. In most of
them, he was in the company of ladies, particularly at Mr. Walmsley's,
whose wife and sisters-in-law, of the name of Aston, and daughters of a
Baronet, were remarkable for good breeding; so that the notion which has
been industriously circulated and believed, that he never was in good
company till late in life, and, consequently had been confirmed in
coarse and ferocious manners by long habits, is wholly without
foundation. Some of the ladies have assured me, they recollected him
well when a young man, as distinguished for his complaisance.

And that this politeness was not merely occasional and temporary, or
confined to the circles of Lichfield, is ascertained by the testimony of
a lady, who, in a paper with which I have been favoured by a daughter of
his intimate friend and physician, Dr. Lawrence, thus describes Dr.
Johnson some years afterwards:

'As the particulars of the former part of Dr. Johnson's life do not seem
to be very accurately known, a lady hopes that the following information
may not be unacceptable.

[Page 83: Molly Aston. Ætat 23.]

'She remembers Dr. Johnson on a visit to Dr. Taylor, at Ashbourn, some
time between the end of the year 37, and the middle of the year 40; she
rather thinks it to have been after he and his wife were removed to
London[247]. During his stay at Ashbourn, he made frequent visits to Mr.
Meynell[248], at Bradley, where his company was much desired by the ladies
of the family, who were, perhaps, in point of elegance and
accomplishments, inferiour to few of those with whom he was afterwards
acquainted. Mr. Meynell's eldest daughter was afterwards married to Mr.
Fitzherbert[249], father to Mr. Alleyne Fitzherbert, lately minister to
the court of Russia. Of her, Dr. Johnson said, in Dr. Lawrence's study,
that she had the best understanding he ever met with in any human
being[250]. At Mr. Meynell's he also commenced that friendship with Mrs.
Hill Boothby[251], sister to the present Sir Brook Boothby, which
continued till her death. _The young woman whom he used to call Molly
Aston_[252], was sister to Sir Thomas Aston, and daughter to a Baronet;
she was also sister to the wife of his friend Mr. Gilbert Walmsley[253].
Besides his intimacy with the above-mentioned persons, who were surely
people of rank and education, while he was yet at Lichfield he used to
be frequently at the house of Dr. Swinfen, a gentleman of a very ancient
family in Staffordshire, from which, after the death of his elder
brother, he inherited a good estate. He was, besides, a physician of
very extensive practice; but for want of due attention to the management
of his domestick concerns, left a very large family in indigence. One of
his daughters, Mrs. Desmoulins, afterwards found an asylum in the house
of her old friend, whose doors were always open to the unfortunate, and
who well observed the precept of the Gospel, for he "was kind to the
unthankful and to the evil[254]."'

[Page 84: Johnson an usher. A.D. 1732.]

In the forlorn state of his circumstances, he accepted of an offer to be
employed as usher in the school of Market-Bosworth, in Leicestershire,
to which it appears, from one of his little fragments of a diary, that
he went on foot, on the 16th of July.--'_Julii 16. Bosvortiam pedes
petii_[255].' But it is not true, as has been erroneously related, that he
was assistant to the famous Anthony Blackwall, whose merit has been
honoured by the testimony of Bishop Hurd[256], who was his scholar; for
Mr. Blackwall died on the 8th of April, 1730[257], more than a year before
Johnson left the University[258].

This employment was very irksome to him in every respect, and he
complained grievously of it in his letters to his friend Mr. Hector, who
was now settled as a surgeon at Birmingham. The letters are lost; but
Mr. Hector recollects his writing 'that the poet had described the dull
sameness of his existence in these words, "_Vitam continet una dies_"
(one day contains the whole of my life); that it was unvaried as the
note of the cuckow; and that he did not know whether it was more
disagreeable for him to teach, or the boys to learn, the grammar rules.'
His general aversion to this painful drudgery was greatly enhanced by a
disagreement between him and Sir Wolstan Dixey, the patron of the
school, in whose house, I have been told, he officiated as a kind of
domestick chaplain, so far, at least, as to say grace at table, but was
treated with what he represented as intolerable harshness[259]; and, after
suffering for a few months such complicated misery[260], he relinquished a
situation which all his life afterwards he recollected with the
strongest aversion, and even a degree of horrour[261]. But it is probable
that at this period, whatever uneasiness he may have endured, he laid
the foundation of much future eminence by application to his studies.

[Page 85: His life in Birmingham. Ætat 23.]

Being now again totally unoccupied, he was invited by Mr. Hector to pass
some time with him at Birmingham, as his guest, at the house of Mr.
Warren, with whom Mr. Hector lodged and boarded. Mr. Warren was the
first established bookseller in Birmingham, and was very attentive to
Johnson, who he soon found could be of much service to him in his trade,
by his knowledge of literature; and he even obtained the assistance of
his pen in furnishing some numbers of a periodical Essay printed in the
news-paper, of which Warren was proprietor[262]. After very diligent
inquiry, I have not been able to recover those early specimens of that
particular mode of writing by which Johnson afterwards so greatly
distinguished himself.

[Page 86: Lobo's Voyage to Abyssinia. A.D. 1733.]

He continued to live as Mr. Hector's guest for about six months, and
then hired lodgings in another part of the town[263], finding himself as
well situated at Birmingham[264] as he supposed he could be any where,
while he had no settled plan of life, and very scanty means of
subsistence. He made some valuable acquaintances there, amongst whom
were Mr. Porter, a mercer, whose widow he afterwards married, and Mr.
Taylor[265], who by his ingenuity in mechanical inventions, and his
success in trade, acquired an immense fortune. But the comfort of being
near Mr. Hector, his old school-fellow and intimate friend, was
Johnson's chief inducement to continue here.

In what manner he employed his pen at this period, or whether he derived
from it any pecuniary advantage, I have not been able to ascertain. He
probably got a little money from Mr. Warren; and we are certain, that he
executed here one piece of literary labour, of which Mr. Hector has
favoured me with a minute account. Having mentioned that he had read at
Pembroke College a Voyage to Abyssinia, by Lobo, a Portuguese Jesuit,
and that he thought an abridgment and translation of it from the French
into English might be an useful and profitable publication, Mr. Warren
and Mr. Hector joined in urging him to undertake it. He accordingly
agreed; and the book not being to be found in Birmingham, he borrowed it
of Pembroke College. A part of the work being very soon done, one
Osborn, who was Mr. Warren's printer, was set to work with what was
ready, and Johnson engaged to supply the press with copy as it should be
wanted; but his constitutional indolence soon prevailed, and the work
was at a stand. Mr. Hector, who knew that a motive of humanity would be
the most prevailing argument with his friend, went to Johnson, and
represented to him, that the printer could have no other employment till
this undertaking was finished, and that the poor man and his family were
suffering. Johnson upon this exerted the powers of his mind, though his
body was relaxed. He lay in bed with the book, which was a quarto,
before him, and dictated while Hector wrote. Mr. Hector carried the
sheets to the press, and corrected almost all the proof sheets, very few
of which were even seen by Johnson. In this manner, with the aid of Mr.
Hector's active friendship, the book was completed, and was published in
1735, with LONDON upon the title-page, though it was in reality printed
at Birmingham, a device too common with provincial publishers. For this
work he had from Mr. Warren only the sum of five guineas[266].

This being the first prose work of Johnson, it is a curious object of
inquiry how much may be traced in it of that style which marks his
subsequent writings with such peculiar excellence; with so happy an
union of force, vivacity, and perspicuity. I have perused the book with
this view, and have found that here, as I believe in every other
translation, there is in the work itself no vestige of the translator's
own style; for the language of translation being adapted to the thoughts
of another person, insensibly follows their cast, and, as it were, runs
into a mould that is ready prepared[267].

Thus, for instance, taking the first sentence that occurs at the opening
of the book, p. 4.

'I lived here above a year, and completed my studies in divinity; in
which time some letters were received from the fathers of Ethiopia, with
an account that Sultan Segned[268], Emperour of Abyssinia, was converted
to the church of Rome; that many of his subjects had followed his
example, and that there was a great want of missionaries to improve
these prosperous beginnings. Every body was very desirous of seconding
the zeal of our fathers, and of sending them the assistance they
requested; to which we were the more encouraged, because the Emperour's
letter informed our Provincial, that we might easily enter his dominions
by the way of Dancala; but, unhappily, the secretary wrote Geila[269] for
Dancala, which cost two of our fathers their lives.'

Every one acquainted with Johnson's manner will be sensible that there
is nothing of it here; but that this sentence might have been composed
by any other man.

But, in the Preface, the Johnsonian style begins to appear; and though
use had not yet taught his wing a permanent and equable flight, there
are parts of it which exhibit his best manner in full vigour. I had once
the pleasure of examining it with Mr. Edmund Burke, who confirmed me in
this opinion, by his superiour critical sagacity, and was, I remember,
much delighted with the following specimen:

'The Portuguese traveller, contrary to the general vein of his
countrymen, has amused his reader with no romantick absurdity, or
incredible fictions; whatever he relates, whether true or not, is at
least probable; and he who tells nothing exceeding the bounds of
probability, has a right to demand that they should believe him who
cannot contradict him.

'He appears, by his modest and unaffected narration, to have described
things as he saw them, to have copied nature from the life, and to have
consulted his senses, not his imagination. He meets with no basilisks
that destroy with their eyes, his crocodiles devour their prey without
tears, and his cataracts fall from the rocks without deafening the
neighbouring inhabitants[270].

'The reader will here find no regions cursed with irremediable
barrenness, or blessed with spontaneous fecundity; no perpetual gloom,
or unceasing sunshine; nor are the nations here described either devoid
of all sense of humanity, or consummate in all private or social
virtues. Here are no Hottentots without religious polity or articulate
language[271]; no Chinese perfectly polite, and completely skilled in all
sciences; he will discover, what will always be discovered by a diligent
and impartial enquirer, that wherever human nature is to be found, there
is a mixture of vice and virtue, a contest of passion and reason; and
that the Creator doth not appear partial in his distributions, but has
balanced, in most countries, their particular inconveniencies by
particular favours.'

Here we have an early example of that brilliant and energetick
expression, which, upon innumerable occasions in his subsequent life,
justly impressed the world with the highest admiration.

Nor can any one, conversant with the writings of Johnson, fail to
discern his hand in this passage of the Dedication to John Warren, Esq.
of Pembrokeshire, though it is ascribed to Warren the bookseller:

'A generous and elevated mind is distinguished by nothing more certainly
than an eminent degree of curiosity[272]; nor is that curiosity ever more
agreeably or usefully employed, than in examining the laws and customs
of foreign nations. I hope, therefore, the present I now presume to
make, will not be thought improper; which, however, it is not my
business as a dedicator to commend, nor as a bookseller to depreciate.'

It is reasonable to suppose, that his having been thus accidentally led
to a particular study of the history and manners of Abyssinia, was the
remote occasion of his writing, many years afterwards, his admirable
philosophical tale[273], the principal scene of which is laid in that

[Page 90: Proposals to print Politian. A.D. 1734.]

Johnson returned to Lichfield early in 1734, and in August[274] that year
he made an attempt to procure some little subsistence by his pen; for he
published proposals for printing by subscription the Latin Poems of
Politian[275]: '_Angeli Politiani Poemata Latina, quibus, Notas cum
historiâ Latinæ poeseos, à Petrarchæ ævo ad Politiani tempora deductâ,
et vitâ Politiani fusius quam antehac enarratâ, addidit_ SAM.

It appears that his brother Nathanael[277] had taken up his father's
trade; for it is mentioned that 'subscriptions are taken in by the
Editor, or N. Johnson, bookseller, of Lichfield.' Notwithstanding the
merit of Johnson, and the cheap price at which this book was offered,
there were not subscribers enough to insure a sufficient sale; so the
work never appeared, and probably, never was executed.

[Page 91: First letter to Edward Cave. Ætat 25.]

We find him again this year at Birmingham, and there is preserved the
following letter from him to Mr. Edward Cave[278], the original compiler
and editor of the _Gentleman's Magazine_:


_Nov_. 25, 1734.


'As you appear no less sensible than your readers of the defects of your
poetical article, you will not be displeased, if, in order to the
improvement of it, I communicate to you the sentiments of a person, who
will undertake, on reasonable terms, sometimes to fill a column.

'His opinion is, that the publick would not give you a bad reception,
if, beside the current wit of the month, which a critical examination
would generally reduce to a narrow compass, you admitted not only poems,
inscriptions, &c. never printed before, which he will sometimes supply
you with; but likewise short literary dissertations in Latin or English,
critical remarks on authours ancient or modern, forgotten poems that
deserve revival, or loose pieces, like Floyer's[279], worth preserving. By
this method, your literary article, for so it might be called, will, he
thinks, be better recommended to the publick than by low jests, awkward
buffoonery, or the dull scurrilities of either party.

'If such a correspondence will be agreeable to you, be pleased to inform
me in two posts, what the conditions are on which you shall expect it.
Your late offer[280] gives me no reason to distrust your generosity. If
you engage in any literary projects besides this paper, I have other
designs to impart, if I could be secure from having others reap the
advantage of what I should hint.

[Page 92: Verses on a sprig of myrtle. A.D. 1734.]

'Your letter by being directed to _S. Smith_, to be left at the Castle
in[281] Birmingham, Warwickshire, will reach

'Your humble servant.'

Mr. Cave has put a note on this letter, 'Answered Dec. 2.' But whether
any thing was done in consequence of it we are not informed.

Johnson had, from his early youth, been sensible to the influence of
female charms. When at Stourbridge school, he was much enamoured of
Olivia Lloyd, a young quaker, to whom he wrote a copy of verses, which I
have not been able to recover; but with what facility and elegance he
could warble the amorous lay, will appear from the following lines which
he wrote for his friend Mr. Edmund Hector.

[Page 93: Boswell's controversy with Miss Seward. Ætat 25.]

VERSES _to a_ LADY, _on receiving from her a_ SPRIG of MYRTLE.

'What hopes, what terrours does thy gift create,
Ambiguous emblem of uncertain fate:
The myrtle, ensign of supreme command,
Consign'd 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 lovers' grave the myrtle spreads:
O 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[282].'

[Page 94: Johnson's personal appearance. A.D. 1734.]

His juvenile attachments to the fair sex were, however, very transient;
and it is certain that he formed no criminal connection whatsoever. Mr.
Hector, who lived with him in his younger days in the utmost intimacy
and social freedom, has assured me, that even at that ardent season his
conduct was strictly virtuous in that respect[283]; and that though he
loved to exhilarate himself with wine, he never knew him intoxicated but

[Page 95: Mrs. Porter. Ætat 25.]

In a man whom religious education has secured from licentious
indulgences, the passion of love, when once it has seized him, is
exceedingly strong; being unimpaired by dissipation, and totally
concentrated in one object. This was experienced by Johnson, when he
became the fervent admirer of Mrs. Porter, after her first husband's
death[285]. Miss Porter told me, that when he was first introduced to her
mother, his appearance was very forbidding: he was then lean and lank,
so that his immense structure of bones was hideously striking to the
eye, and the scars of the scrophula were deeply visible[286]. He also wore
his hair[287], which was straight and stiff, and separated behind: and he
often had, seemingly, convulsive starts and odd gesticulations, which
tended to excite at once surprize and ridicule[288]. Mrs. Porter was so
much engaged by his conversation that she overlooked all these external
disadvantages, and said to her daughter, 'this is the most sensible man
that I ever saw in my life.'

Though Mrs. Porter was double the age of Johnson[289], and her person and
manner, as described to me by the late Mr. Garrick, were by no means
pleasing to others, she must have had a superiority of understanding and
talents, as she certainly inspired him with a more than ordinary
passion; and she having signified her willingness to accept of his hand,
he went to Lichfield to ask his mother's consent to the marriage, which
he could not but be conscious was a very imprudent scheme, both on
account of their disparity of years, and her want of fortune[290]. But
Mrs. Johnson knew too well the ardour of her son's temper, and was too
tender a parent to oppose his inclinations.

[Page 96: Johnson's marriage. A.D. 1736.]

I know not for what reason the marriage ceremony was not performed at
Birmingham; but a resolution was taken that it should be at Derby, for
which place the bride and bridegroom set out on horseback, I suppose in
very good humour. But though Mr. Topham Beauclerk used archly to mention
Johnson's having told him, with much gravity, 'Sir, it was a love
marriage on both sides,' I have had from my illustrious friend the
following curious account of their journey to church upon the nuptial

9th July:--'Sir, she had read the old romances, and had got into her
head the fantastical notion that a woman of spirit should use her lover
like a dog. So, Sir, at first she told me that I rode too fast, and she
could not keep up with me; and, when I rode a little slower, she passed
me, and complained that I lagged behind. I was not to be made the slave
of caprice; and I resolved to begin as I meant to end. I therefore
pushed on briskly, till I was fairly out of her sight. The road lay
between two hedges, so I was sure she could not miss it; and I contrived
that she should soon come up with me. When she did, I observed her to be
in tears.'

This, it must be allowed, was a singular beginning of connubial
felicity; but there is no doubt that Johnson, though he thus shewed a
manly firmness, proved a most affectionate and indulgent husband to the
last moment of Mrs. Johnson's life: and in his _Prayers and
Meditations_, we find very remarkable evidence that his regard and
fondness for her never ceased, even after her death.

[Page 97: His School at Edial. Ætat 27.]

He now set up a private academy[291], for which purpose he hired a large
house, well situated near his native city. In the _Gentleman's Magazine_
for 1736, there is the following advertisement:

'At Edial, near Lichfield[292], in Staffordshire, young gentlemen are
boarded and taught the Latin and Greek languages, by SAMUEL JOHNSON.'

But the only pupils that were put under his care were the celebrated
David Garrick and his brother George, and a Mr. Offely, a young
gentleman of good fortune who died early. As yet, his name had nothing
of that celebrity which afterwards commanded the highest attention and
respect of mankind. Had such an advertisement appeared after the
publication of his _London_, or his _Rambler_, or his _Dictionary_, how
would it have burst upon the world! with what eagerness would the great
and the wealthy have embraced an opportunity of putting their sons under
the learned tuition of SAMUEL JOHNSON. The truth, however, is, that he
was not so well qualified for being a teacher of elements, and a
conductor in learning by regular gradations, as men of inferiour powers
of mind. His own acquisitions had been made by fits and starts, by
violent irruptions into the regions of knowledge; and it could not be
expected that his impatience would be subdued, and his impetuosity
restrained, so as to fit him for a quiet guide to novices. The art of
communicating instruction, of whatever kind, is much to be valued; and I
have ever thought that those who devote themselves to this employment,
and do their duty with diligence and success, are entitled to very high
respect from the community, as Johnson himself often maintained[293]. Yet
I am of opinion that the greatest abilities are not only not required
for this office, but render a man less fit for it.

[Page 98: Garrick Johnson's pupil. A.D. 1736.]

While we acknowledge the justness of Thomson's beautiful remark,

'Delightful task! to rear the tender thought,
And teach[294] the young idea how to shoot!'

we must consider that this delight is perceptible only by 'a mind at
ease,' a mind at once calm and clear; but that a mind gloomy and
impetuous like that of Johnson, cannot be fixed for any length of time
in minute attention, and must be so frequently irritated by unavoidable
slowness and errour in the advances of scholars, as to perform the duty,
with little pleasure to the teacher, and no great advantage to the
pupils[295]. Good temper is a most essential requisite in a Preceptor.
Horace paints the character as _bland_:

'... _Ut pueris olim dant crustula blandi
Doctores, elementa velint ut discere_[296].'

[Page 99: Mrs. Johnson. Ætat 27.]

Johnson was not more satisfied with his situation as the master of an
academy, than with that of the usher of a school; we need not wonder,
therefore, that he did not keep his academy above a year and a half.
From Mr. Garrick's account he did not appear to have been profoundly
reverenced by his pupils. His oddities of manner, and uncouth
gesticulations, could not but be the subject of merriment to them; and,
in particular, the young rogues used to listen at the door of his
bed-chamber, and peep through the key-hole, that they might turn into
ridicule his tumultuous and awkward fondness for Mrs. Johnson, whom he
used to name by the familiar appellation of _Tetty_ or _Tetsey_, which,
like _Betty_ or _Betsey_, is provincially used as a contraction for
_Elisabeth_, her Christian name, but which to us seems ludicrous, when
applied to a woman of her age and appearance. Mr. Garrick described her
to me as very fat, with a bosom of more than ordinary protuberance, with
swelled cheeks of a florid red, produced by thick painting, and
increased by the liberal use of cordials; flaring and fantastick in her
dress, and affected both in her speech and her general behaviour. I have
seen Garrick exhibit her, by his exquisite talent of mimickry, so as to
excite the heartiest bursts of laughter; but he, probably, as is the
case in all such representations, considerably aggravated the

That Johnson well knew the most proper course to be pursued in the
instruction of youth, is authentically ascertained by the following
paper[298] in his own hand-writing, given about this period to a relation,
and now in the possession of Mr. John Nichols:


'When the introduction, or formation of nouns and verbs, is perfectly
mastered, let them learn:

'Corderius by Mr. Clarke, beginning at the same time to translate out of
the introduction, that by this means they may learn the syntax. Then let
them proceed to:

'Erasmus, with an English translation, by the same authour.

'Class II. Learns Eutropius and Cornelius Nepos, or Justin, with the

'N.B. The first class gets for their part every morning the rules which
they have learned before, and in the afternoon learns the Latin rules of
the nouns and verbs.

[Page 100: A scheme of study. A.D. 1736.]

'They are examined in the rules which they have learned every Thursday
and Saturday.

'The second class does the same whilst they are in Eutropius; afterwards
their part is in the irregular nouns and verbs, and in the rules for
making and scanning verses. They are examined as the first.

'Class III. Ovid's Metamorphoses in the morning, and Caesar's
Commentaries in the afternoon.

'Practise in the Latin rules till they are perfect in them; afterwards
in Mr. Leeds's Greek Grammar. Examined as before.

'Afterwards they proceed to Virgil, beginning at the same time to write
themes and verses, and to learn Greek; from thence passing on to Horace,
&c. as shall seem most proper.

'I know not well what books to direct you to, because you have not
informed me what study you will apply yourself to. I believe it will be
most for your advantage to apply yourself wholly to the languages, till
you go to the University. The Greek authours I think it best for you to
read are these:

'Ælian.          }
'Lucian by Leeds. }  Attick.
'Xenophon.        }
'Homer.           Ionick.
'Theocritus.      Dorick.
'Euripides.       Attick and Dorick.

'Thus you will be tolerably skilled in all the dialects, beginning with
the Attick, to which the rest must be referred.

'In the study of Latin, it is proper not to read the latter authours,
till you are well versed in those of the purest ages; as Terence, Tully,
Cæsar, Sallust, Nepos, Velleius Paterculus, Virgil, Horace, Phædrus.

'The greatest and most necessary task still remains, to attain a habit
of expression, without which knowledge is of little use. This is
necessary in Latin, and more necessary in English; and can only be
acquired by a daily imitation of the best and correctest authours.


While Johnson kept his academy, there can be no doubt that he was
insensibly furnishing his mind with various knowledge; but I have not
discovered that he wrote any thing except a great part of his tragedy of
_Irene_. Mr. Peter Garrick, the elder brother of David, told me that he
remembered Johnson's borrowing the _Turkish History_[299] of him, in order
to form his play from it. When he had finished some part of it, he read
what he had done to Mr. Walmsley, who objected to his having already
brought his heroine into great distress, and asked him, 'how can you
possibly contrive to plunge her into deeper calamity?' Johnson, in sly
allusion to the supposed oppressive proceedings of the court of which
Mr. Walmsley was register, replied, 'Sir, I can put her into the
Spiritual Court!'

[Page 101: Johnson tries his fortune in London. Ætat 27.]

Mr. Walmsley, however, was well pleased with this proof of Johnson's
abilities as a dramatick writer, and advised him to finish the tragedy,
and produce it on the stage.

Johnson now thought of trying his fortune in London, the great field of
genius and exertion, where talents of every kind have the fullest scope,
and the highest encouragement. It is a memorable circumstance that his
pupil David Garrick went thither at the same time[300], with intention to
complete his education, and follow the profession of the law, from which
he was soon diverted by his decided preference for the stage.

This joint expedition of those two eminent men to the metropolis, was
many years afterwards noticed in an allegorical poem on Shakspeare's
Mulberry Tree, by Mr. Lovibond, the ingenious authour of _The Tears of

They were recommended to Mr. Colson[302], an eminent mathematician and
master of an academy, by the following letter from Mr. Walmsley:

[Page 102: Mr. Walmsley's Letter. A.D. 1737.]


'Lichfield, March 2, 1737.


'I had the favour of yours, and am extremely obliged to you; but I
cannot say I had a greater affection for you upon it than I had before,
being long since so much endeared to you, as well by an early
friendship, as by your many excellent and valuable qualifications; and,
had I a son of my own, it would be my ambition, instead of sending him
to the University, to dispose of him as this young gentleman is.

'He, and another neighbour of mine, one Mr. Samuel Johnson, set out this
morning for London together. Davy Garrick is to be with you early the
next week, and Mr. Johnson to try his fate with a tragedy, and to see to
get himself employed in some translation, either from the Latin or the
French. Johnson is a very good scholar and poet, and I have great hopes
will turn out a fine tragedy-writer. If it should any way lie in your
way, doubt[303] not but you would be ready to recommend and assist your


[Page 103: Like in London. Ætat 28.]

How he employed himself upon his first coming to London is not
particularly known[304]. I never heard that he found any protection or
encouragement by the means of Mr. Colson, to whose academy David Garrick
went. Mrs. Lucy Porter told me, that Mr. Walmsley gave him a letter of
introduction to Lintot[305] his bookseller, and that Johnson wrote some
things for him; but I imagine this to be a mistake, for I have
discovered no trace of it, and I am pretty sure he told me that Mr. Cave
was the first publisher by whom his pen was engaged in London.

He had a little money when he came to town, and he knew how he could
live in the cheapest manner. His first lodgings were at the house of Mr.
Norris, a staymaker, in Exeter-street, adjoining Catharine-street, in
the Strand. 'I dined (said he) very well for eight-pence, with very good
company, at the Pine Apple in New-street, just by. Several of them had
travelled. They expected to meet every day; but did not know one
another's names. It used to cost the rest a shilling, for they drank
wine; but I had a cut of meat for six-pence, and bread for a penny, and
gave the waiter a penny; so that I was quite well served, nay, better
than the rest, for they gave the waiter nothing[306].'

[Page 104: Abstinence from wine. A.D. 1737.]

He at this time, I believe, abstained entirely from fermented liquors: a
practice to which he rigidly conformed for many years together, at
different periods of his life[307].

[Page 105: An Irish Ofellus. Ætat 28.]

His Ofellus in the _Art of Living in London_, I have heard him relate,
was an Irish painter, whom he knew at Birmingham, and who had practised
his own precepts of oeconomy for several years in the British
capital[308]. He assured Johnson, who, I suppose, was then meditating to
try his fortune in London, but was apprehensive of the expence, 'that
thirty pounds a year was enough to enable a man to live there without
being contemptible. He allowed ten pounds for clothes and linen. He said
a man might live in a garret at eighteen-pence a week; few people would
inquire where he lodged; and if they did, it was easy to say, 'Sir, I am
to be found at such a place.' By spending three-pence in a coffee-house,
he might be for some hours every day in very good company; he might dine
for six-pence, breakfast on bread and milk for a penny, and do without
supper. On _clean-shirt-day_ he went abroad, and paid visits.' I have
heard him more than once talk of this frugal friend, whom he recollected
with esteem and kindness, and did not like to have one smile at the
recital. 'This man (said he, gravely) was a very sensible man, who
perfectly understood common affairs: a man of a great deal of knowledge
of the world, fresh from life, not strained through books[309]. He
borrowed a horse and ten pounds at Birmingham. Finding himself master of
so much money, he set off for West Chester[310], in order to get to
Ireland. He returned the horse, and probably the ten pounds too, after
he got home.'

[Page 106: Mr. Henry Hervey. A.D. 1737.]

Considering Johnson's narrow circumstances in the early part of his
life, and particularly at the interesting aera of his launching into the
ocean of London, it is not to be wondered at, that an actual instance,
proved by experience of the possibility of enjoying the intellectual
luxury of social life, upon a very small income, should deeply engage
his attention, and be ever recollected by him as a circumstance of much
importance. He amused himself, I remember, by computing how much more
expence was absolutely necessary to live upon the same scale with that
which his friend described, when the value of money was diminished by
the progress of commerce. It maybe estimated that double the money might
now with difficulty be sufficient.

Amidst this cold obscurity, there was one brilliant circumstance to
cheer him; he was well acquainted with Mr. Henry Hervey[311], one of the
branches of the noble family of that name, who had been quartered at
Lichfield as an officer of the army, and had at this time a house in
London, where Johnson was frequently entertained, and had an opportunity
of meeting genteel company. Not very long before his death, he mentioned
this, among other particulars of his life, which he was kindly
communicating to me; and he described this early friend, 'Harry Hervey,'
thus: 'He was a vicious man, but very kind to me. If you call a dog
HERVEY, I shall love him.'

He told me he had now written only three acts of his _Irene_, and that
he retired for some time to lodgings at Greenwich, where he proceeded in
it somewhat further, and used to compose, walking in the Park[312]; but
did not stay long enough at that place to finish it.

At this period we find the following letter from him to Mr. Edward Cave,
which, as a link in the chain of his literary history, it is proper to

[Page 107: Johnson returns to Lichfield. Ætat 28.]


'Greenwich, next door to the Golden Heart,
'Church-street, July 12, 1737.


'Having observed in your papers very uncommon offers of encouragement to
men of letters, I have chosen, being a stranger in London, to
communicate to you the following design, which, I hope, if you join in
it, will be of advantage to both of us.

'The History of the Council of Trent having been lately translated into
French, and published with large Notes by Dr. Le Courayer[313], the
reputation of that book is so much revived in England, that, it is
presumed, a new translation of it from the Italian, together with Le
Courayer's Notes from the French, could not fail of a favourable

'If it be answered, that the History is already in English, it must be
remembered, that there was the same objection against Le Courayer's
undertaking, with this disadvantage, that the French had a version by
one of their best translators, whereas you cannot read three pages of
the English History without discovering that the style is capable of
great improvements; but whether those improvements are to be expected
from the attempt, you must judge from the specimen, which, if you
approve the proposal, I shall submit to your examination.

'Suppose the merit of the versions equal, we may hope that the addition
of the Notes will turn the balance in our favour, considering the
reputation of the Annotator.

'Be pleased to favour me with a speedy answer, if you are not willing to
engage in this scheme; and appoint me a day to wait upon you, if you

'I am, Sir,

'Your humble servant,


It should seem from this letter, though subscribed with his own name,
that he had not yet been introduced to Mr. Cave. We shall presently see
what was done in consequence of the proposal which it contains.

[Page 108: Irene. A.D. 1737.]

In the course of the summer he returned to Lichfield, where he had left
Mrs. Johnson, and there he at last finished his tragedy, which was not
executed with his rapidity of composition upon other occasions, but was
slowly and painfully elaborated. A few days before his death, while
burning a great mass of papers, he picked out from among them the
original unformed sketch of this tragedy, in his own hand-writing, and
gave it to Mr. Langton, by whose favour a copy of it is now in my
possession. It contains fragments of the intended plot, and speeches for
the different persons of the drama, partly in the raw materials of
prose, partly worked up into verse; as also a variety of hints for
illustration, borrowed from the Greek, Roman, and modern writers. The
hand-writing is very difficult to be read, even by those who were best
acquainted with Johnson's mode of penmanship, which at all times was
very particular. The King having graciously accepted of this manuscript
as a literary curiosity, Mr. Langton made a fair and distinct copy of
it, which he ordered to be bound up with the original and the printed
tragedy; and the volume is deposited in the King's library[314]. His
Majesty was pleased to permit Mr. Langton to take a copy of it for

The whole of it is rich in thought and imagery, and happy expressions;
and of the _disjecta membra_[315] scattered throughout, and as yet
unarranged, a good dramatick poet might avail himself with considerable
advantage. I shall give my readers some specimens of different kinds,
distinguishing them by the Italick character.

'Nor think to say, here will I stop,
Here will I fix the limits of transgression,
Nor farther tempt the avenging rage of heaven.
When guilt like this once harbours in the breast,
Those holy beings, whose unseen direction
Guides through the maze of life the steps of man,
Fly the detested mansions of impiety,
And quit their charge to horrour and to ruin.'

A small part only of this interesting admonition is preserved in the
play, and is varied, I think, not to advantage:

'The soul once tainted with so foul a crime,
No more shall glow with friendship's hallow'd ardour,
Those holy beings whose superior care
Guides erring mortals to the paths of virtue,
Affrighted at impiety like thine,
Resign their charge to baseness and to ruin[316].'
                           '_I feel the soft infection
Flush in my cheek, and wander in my veins.
Teach me the Grecian arts of soft persuasion.'

'Sure this is love, which heretofore I conceived the dream of idle
maids, and wanton poets.'

'Though no comets or prodigies foretold the ruin of Greece, signs which
heaven must by another miracle enable us to understand, yet might it be
foreshewn, by tokens no less certain, by the vices which always bring it

This last passage is worked up in the tragedy itself, as follows:


'----That power that kindly spreads
The clouds, a signal of impending showers,
To warn the wand'ring linnet to the shade,
Beheld, without concern, expiring Greece,
And not one prodigy foretold our fate.


'A thousand horrid prodigies foretold it;
A feeble government, eluded laws,
A factious populace, luxurious nobles,
And all the maladies of sinking States.
When publick villainy, too strong for justice,
Shows his bold front, the harbinger of ruin,
Can brave Leontius call for airy wonders,
Which cheats interpret, and which fools regard?
When some neglected fabrick nods beneath
The weight of years, and totters to the tempest,
Must heaven despatch the messengers of light,
Or wake the dead, to warn us of its fall[317]?'

MAHOMET (to IRENE). 'I have tried thee, and joy to find that thou
deservest to be loved by Mahomet,--with a mind great as his own. Sure,
thou art an errour of nature, and an exception to the rest of thy sex,
and art immortal; for sentiments like thine were never to sink into
nothing. I thought all the thoughts of the fair had been to select the
graces of the day, dispose the colours of the flaunting (flowing) robe,
tune the voice and roll the eye, place the gem, choose the dress, and
add new roses to the fading cheek, but--sparkling.'

[Page 110: Johnson settles in London. A.D. 1737.]

Thus in the tragedy:

'Illustrious maid, new wonders fix me thine;
Thy soul completes the triumphs of thy face:
I thought, forgive my fair, the noblest aim,
The strongest effort of a female soul
Was but to choose the graces of the day,
To tune the tongue, to teach the eyes to roll,
Dispose the colours of the flowing robe,
And add new roses to the faded cheek[318].'

I shall select one other passage, on account of the doctrine which it
illustrates. IRENE observes,

'That the Supreme Being will accept of virtue, whatever outward
circumstances it may be accompanied with, and may be delighted with
varieties of worship: _but is answered_, that variety cannot affect that
Being, who, infinitely happy in his own perfections, wants no external
gratifications; nor can infinite truth be delighted with falsehood; that
though he may guide or pity those he leaves in darkness, he abandons
those who shut their eyes against the beams of day.'

Johnson's residence at Lichfield, on his return to it at this time, was
only for three months; and as he had as yet seen but a small part of the
wonders of the Metropolis, he had little to tell his townsmen. He
related to me the following minute anecdote of this period: 'In the last
age, when my mother lived in London, there were two sets of people,
those who gave the wall, and those who took it; the peaceable and the
quarrelsome. When I returned to Lichfield, after having been in London,
my mother asked me, whether I was one of those who gave the wall, or
those who took it. _Now_ it is fixed that every man keeps to the right;
or, if one is taking the wall, another yields it; and it is never a

He now removed to London with Mrs. Johnson; but her daughter, who had
lived with them at Edial, was left with her relations in the country[320].
His lodgings were for some time in Woodstock-street, near
Hanover-square, and afterwards in Castle-street, near Cavendish-square.
As there is something pleasingly interesting, to many, in tracing so
great a man through all his different habitations, I shall, before this
work is concluded, present my readers with an exact list of his lodgings
and houses, in order of time, which, in placid condescension to my
respectful curiosity, he one evening dictated to me[321], but without
specifying how long he lived at each. In the progress of his life I
shall have occasion to mention some of them as connected with particular
incidents, or with the writing of particular parts of his works. To
some, this minute attention may appear trifling; but when we consider
the punctilious exactness with which the different houses in which
Milton resided have been traced by the writers of his life, a similar
enthusiasm may be pardoned in the biographer of Johnson.

[Page 111: The Gentleman's Magazine. Ætat 28.]

His tragedy being by this time, as he thought, completely finished and
fit for the stage, he was very desirous that it should be brought
forward. Mr. Peter Garrick told me, that Johnson and he went together to
the Fountain tavern, and read it over, and that he afterwards solicited
Mr. Fleetwood, the patentee of Drury-lane theatre, to have it acted at
his house; but Mr. Fleetwood would not accept it, probably because it
was not patronized by some man of high rank[322]; and it was not acted
till 1749, when his friend David Garrick was manager of that theatre.

_The Gentleman's Magazine_, begun and carried on by Mr. Edward Cave,
under the name of SYLVANUS URBAN[323], had attracted the notice and esteem
of Johnson, in an eminent degree, before he came to London as an
adventurer in literature. He told me, that when he first saw St. John's
Gate, the place where that deservedly popular miscellany[324] was
originally printed, he 'beheld it with reverence[325].' I suppose, indeed,
that every young authour has had the same kind of feeling for the
magazine or periodical publication which has first entertained him, and
in which he has first had an opportunity to see himself in print,
without the risk of exposing his name. I myself recollect such
impressions from '_The Scots Magazine_,' which was begun at Edinburgh in
the year 1739, and has been ever conducted with judgement, accuracy, and
propriety. I yet cannot help thinking of it with an affectionate regard.
Johnson has dignified the _Gentleman's Magazine_, by the importance with
which he invests the life of Cave; but he has given it still greater
lustre by the various admirable Essays which he wrote for it.

[Page 112: A list of Johnson's writings. A.D. 1738.]

Though Johnson was often solicited by his friends to make a complete
list of his writings, and talked of doing it, I believe with a serious
intention that they should all be collected on his own account, he put
it off from year to year, and at last died without having done it
perfectly. I have one in his own handwriting, which contains a certain
number[326]; I indeed doubt if he could have remembered every one of them,
as they were so numerous, so various, and scattered in such a
multiplicity of unconnected publications; nay, several of them published
under the names of other persons, to whom he liberally contributed from
the abundance of his mind. We must, therefore, be content to discover
them, partly from occasional information given by him to his friends,
and partly from internal evidence[327].

[Page 113: Edward Cave. Ætat 29.]

His first performance in the _Gentleman's Magazine_, which for many
years was his principal source for employment and support, was a copy of
Latin verses, in March 1738, addressed to the editor in so happy a style
of compliment, that Cave must have been destitute both of taste and
sensibility had he not felt himself highly gratified[328].

[Page 114: 'Ad Urbanum.' A.D. 1738.]


URBANE[329], _nullis fesse laboribus_,
URBANE, _nullis victe calumniis_[330],
  Cui fronte sertum in eruditâ
    Perpetuò viret et virebit;

Quid moliatur gens imilantium,
Quid et minetur, solicitus parùm,
  Vacare solis perge Musis,
    Juxta animo studiisque felix.

Linguæ procacis plumbea spicula,
Fidens, superbo frange silentio;
  Victrix per obstantes catervas
    Sedulitas animosa tendet.

Intende nervos, fortis, inanibus
Risurus olim nisibus æmuli;
  Intende jam nervos, habebis
    Participes operæ Camoenas.

Non ulla Musis pagina gratior,
Quam quæ severis ludicra jungere
  Novit, fatigatamque nugis
    Utilibus recreare mentem.

Texente Nymphis serta Lycoride,
Rosæ ruborem sic viola adjuvat
  Immista, sic Iris refulget
    Æthereis variata fucis[331].'


[Page 115: Reports of the Debates. Ætat 29.]

[Page 116: Libels in the press. A.D. 1738.]

It appears that he was now enlisted by Mr. Cave as a regular coadjutor
in his magazine, by which he probably obtained a tolerable livelihood.
At what time, or by what means, he had acquired a competent knowledge
both of French[332] and Italian[333], I do not know; but he was so well
skilled in them, as to be sufficiently qualified for a translator. That
part of his labour which consisted in emendation and improvement of the
productions of other contributors, like that employed in levelling
ground, can be perceived only by those who had an opportunity of
comparing the original with the altered copy. What we certainly know to
have been done by him in this way, was the Debates in both houses of
Parliament, under the name of 'The Senate of Lilliput,' sometimes with
feigned denominations of the several speakers, sometimes with
denominations formed of the letters of their real names, in the manner
of what is called anagram, so that they might easily be decyphered.
Parliament then kept the press in a kind of mysterious awe, which made
it necessary to have recourse to such devices. In our time it has
acquired an unrestrained freedom, so that the people in all parts of the
kingdom have a fair, open, and exact report of the actual proceedings of
their representatives and legislators, which in our constitution is
highly to be valued; though, unquestionably, there has of late been too
much reason to complain of the petulance with which obscure scribblers
have presumed to treat men of the most respectable character and

[Page 117: William Guthrie. Ætat 29.]

This important article of the _Gentleman's Magazine_ was, for several
years, executed by Mr. William Guthrie, a man who deserves to be
respectably recorded in the literary annals of this country. He was
descended of an ancient family in Scotland; but having a small
patrimony, and being an adherent of the unfortunate house of Stuart, he
could not accept of any office in the state; he therefore came to
London, and employed his talents and learning as an 'Authour by
profession[335].' His writings in history, criticism, and politicks, had
considerable merit[336]. He was the first English historian who had
recourse to that authentick source of information, the Parliamentary
Journals; and such was the power of his political pen, that, at an early
period, Government thought it worth their while to keep it quiet by a
pension, which he enjoyed till his death. Johnson esteemed him enough to
wish that his life should be written[337]. The debates in Parliament,
which were brought home and digested by Guthrie, whose memory, though
surpassed by others who have since followed him in the same department,
was yet very quick and tenacious, were sent by Cave to Johnson for his
revision[338]; and, after some time, when Guthrie had attained to greater
variety of employment, and the speeches were more and more enriched by
the accession of Johnson's genius, it was resolved that he should do the
whole himself, from the scanty notes furnished by persons employed to
attend in both houses of Parliament. Sometimes, however, as he himself
told me, he had nothing more communicated to him than the names of the
several speakers, and the part which they had taken in the debate[339].

[Page 118: London, a Poem. A.D. 1738.]

Thus was Johnson employed during some of the best years of his life, as
a mere literary labourer 'for gain, not glory[340],' solely to obtain an
honest support. He however indulged himself in occasional little
sallies, which the French so happily express by the term _jeux
d'esprit_, and which will be noticed in their order, in the progress of
this work.

[Page 119: Oldham and Johnson compared. Ætat 29.]

But what first displayed his transcendent powers, and 'gave the world
assurance of the MAN[341],' was his _London, a Poem, in Imitation of the
Third Satire of Juvenal_: which came out in May this year, and burst
forth with a splendour, the rays of which will for ever encircle his
name. Boileau had imitated the same satire with great success, applying
it to Paris; but an attentive comparison will satisfy every reader, that
he is much excelled by the English Juvenal. Oldham had also imitated it,
and applied it to London; all which performances concur to prove, that
great cities, in every age, and in every country, will furnish similar
topicks of satire[342]. Whether Johnson had previously read Oldham's
imitation, I do not know; but it is not a little remarkable, that there
is scarcely any coincidence found between the two performances, though
upon the very same subject. The only instances are, in describing London
as the _sink_ of foreign worthlessness:

'----the _common shore_,
Where France does all her filth and ordure pour.'


'The _common shore_ of Paris and of Rome.'



'No calling or profession comes amiss,
A _needy monsieur_ can be what he please.'


'All sciences a _fasting monsieur_ knows.'


The particulars which Oldham has collected, both as exhibiting the
horrours of London, and of the times, contrasted with better days, are
different from those of Johnson, and in general well chosen, and well

There are, in Oldham's imitation, many prosaick verses and bad rhymes,
and his poem sets out with a strange inadvertent blunder:

'Tho' much concern'd to _leave_ my dear old friend,
I must, however, _his_ design commend
Of fixing in the country--.'

[Page 120: The publication of London. A.D. 1738.]

It is plain he was not going to leave his _friend_; his friend was going
to leave _him_. A young lady at once corrected this with good critical
sagacity, to

'Tho' much concern'd to _lose_ my dear old friend.'

There is one passage in the original, better transfused by Oldham than
by Johnson:

'Nil habet infelix paupertas durius in se,
Quàm quod ridiculos homines facit;'

which is an exquisite remark on the galling meanness and contempt
annexed to poverty: JOHNSON'S imitation is,

'Of all the griefs that harass the distrest,
Sure the most bitter is a scornful jest.'

OLDHAM'S, though less elegant, is more just:

'Nothing in poverty so ill is borne,
As its exposing men to grinning scorn.'

Where, or in what manner this poem was composed, I am sorry that I
neglected to ascertain with precision, from Johnson's own authority. He
has marked upon his corrected copy of the first edition of it, 'Written
in 1738;' and, as it was published in the month of May in that year, it
is evident that much time was not employed in preparing it for the
press. The history of its publication I am enabled to give in a very
satisfactory manner; and judging from myself, and many of my friends, I
trust that it will not be uninteresting to my readers.

[Page 121: Johnson's letters to Cave. Ætat 29.]

We may be certain, though it is not expressly named in the following
letters to Mr. Cave, in 1738, that they all relate to it:

                  'To MR. CAVE.

                        'Castle-street, Wednesday Morning.
                                    [_No date_. 1738.]


'When I took the liberty of writing to you a few days ago, I did not
expect a repetition of the same pleasure so soon; for a pleasure I shall
always think it, to converse in any manner with an ingenious and candid
man; but having the inclosed poem in my hands to dispose of for the
benefit of the authour, (of whose abilities I shall say nothing, since I
send you his performance,) I believed I could not procure more
advantageous terms from any person than from you, who have so much
distinguished yourself by your generous encouragement of poetry; and
whose judgment of that art nothing but your commendation of my trifle[344]
can give me any occasion to call in question. I do not doubt but you
will look over this poem with another eye, and reward it in a different
manner, from a mercenary bookseller, who counts the lines he is to
purchase[345], and considers nothing but the bulk. I cannot help taking
notice, that, besides what the authour may hope for on account of his
abilities, he has likewise another claim to your regard, as he lies at
present under very disadvantageous circumstances of fortune. I beg,
therefore, that you will favour me with a letter to-morrow, that I may
know what you can afford to allow him, that he may either part with it
to you, or find out, (which I do not expect,) some other way more to his

'I have only to add, that as I am sensible I have transcribed it very
coarsely, which, after having altered it, I was obliged to do, I will,
if you please to transmit the sheets from the press, correct it for you;
and take the trouble of altering any stroke of satire which you may

'By exerting on this occasion your usual generosity, you will not only
encourage learning, and relieve distress, but (though it be in
comparison of the other motives of very small account) oblige in a very
sensible manner, Sir,

               'Your very humble servant,

                          'SAM. JOHNSON.'

                               'To MR. CAVE.
                                     'Monday, No. 6, Castle-street.


'I am to return you thanks for the present you were so kind as to send
by me[346], and to intreat that you will be pleased to inform me by the
penny-post[347], whether you resolve to print the poem. If you please to
send it me by the post, with a note to Dodsley, I will go and read the
lines to him, that we may have his consent to put his name in the
title-page. As to the printing, if it can be set immediately about, I
will be so much the authour's friend, as not to content myself with mere
solicitations in his favour. I propose, if my calculation be near the
truth, to engage for the reimbursement of all that you shall lose by an
impression of 500; provided, as you very generously propose, that the
profit, if any, be set aside for the authour's use, excepting the
present you made, which, if he be a gainer, it is fit he should repay. I
beg that you will let one of your servants write an exact account of the
expense of such an impression, and send it with the poem, that I may
know what I engage for. I am very sensible, from your generosity on this
occasion, of your regard to learning, even in its unhappiest state; and
cannot but think such a temper deserving of the gratitude of those who
suffer so often from a contrary disposition. I am, Sir,

'Your most humble servant,

'SAM. JOHNSON[348].'

[Page 122: Mrs. Carter. A.D. 1738.]


[No date[349].]


'I waited on you to take the copy to Dodsley's: as I remember the number
of lines which it contains, it will be no longer than _Eugenio_[350], with
the quotations, which must be subjoined at the bottom of the page; part
of the beauty of the performance (if any beauty be allowed it)
consisting in adapting Juvenal's sentiments to modern facts and persons.
It will, with those additions, very conveniently make five sheets. And
since the expense will be no more, I shall contentedly insure it, as I
mentioned in my last. If it be not therefore gone to Dodsley's, I beg it
may be sent me by the penny-post, that I may have it in the evening. I
have composed a Greek epigram to Eliza[351], and think she ought to be
celebrated in as many different languages as Lewis le Grand[352]. Pray
send me word when you will begin upon the poem, for it is a long way to
walk. I would leave my Epigram, but have not daylight to transcribe
it[353]. I am, Sir,

'Your's, &c.,

'SAM. JOHNSON[354].'

[Page 123: Negotiations with Dodsley. Ætat 29.]


[No date.]


'I am extremely obliged by your kind letter, and will not fail to attend
you to-morrow with _Irene_, who looks upon you as one of her best

'I was to day with Mr. Dodsley, who declares very warmly in favour of
the paper you sent him, which he desires to have a share in, it being,
as he says, _a creditable thing to be concerned in_. I knew not what
answer to make till I had consulted you, nor what to demand on the
authour's part, but am very willing that, if you please, he should have
a part in it, as he will undoubtedly be more diligent to disperse and
promote it. If you can send me word to-morrow what I shall say to him, I
will settle matters, and bring the poem with me for the press, which, as
the town empties, we cannot be too quick with. I am, Sir,

'Your's, &c.,


[Page 124: Payment for London. A.D. 1738.]

To us who have long known the manly force, bold spirit, and masterly
versification of this poem, it is a matter of curiosity to observe the
diffidence with which its authour brought it forward into publick
notice, while he is so cautious as not to avow it to be his own
production; and with what humility he offers to allow the printer to
'alter any stroke of satire which he might dislike[355].' That any such
alteration was made, we do not know. If we did, we could not but feel an
indignant regret; but how painful is it to see that a writer of such
vigorous powers of mind was actually in such distress, that the small
profit which so short a poem, however excellent, could yield, was
courted as a 'relief.'

It has been generally said, I know not with what truth, that Johnson
offered his _London_ to several booksellers, none of whom would purchase
it. To this circumstance Mr. Derrick alludes in the following lines of
his _Fortune, a Rhapsody_:

'Will no kind patron JOHNSON own?
Shall JOHNSON friendless range the town?
And every publisher refuse
The offspring of his happy Muse[356]?'

But we have seen that the worthy, modest, and ingenious Mr. Robert
Dodsley[357] had taste enough to perceive its uncommon merit, and thought
it creditable to have a share in it. The fact is, that, at a future
conference, he bargained for the whole property of it, for which he gave
Johnson ten guineas[358]; who told me, 'I might, perhaps, have accepted of
less; but that Paul Whitehead had a little before got ten guineas for a
poem and I would not take less than Paul Whitehead.'

[Page 125: Paul Whitehead. Ætat 29.]

I may here observe, that Johnson appeared to me to undervalue Paul
Whitehead upon every occasion when he was mentioned, and, in my opinion,
did not do him justice; but when it is considered that Paul Whitehead
was a member of a riotous and profane club[359], we may account for
Johnson's having a prejudice against him. Paul Whitehead was, indeed,
unfortunate in being not only slighted by Johnson, but violently
attacked by Churchill, who utters the following imprecation:

'May I (can worse disgrace on manhood fall?)
Be born a Whitehead, and baptiz'd a Paul[360]!'

yet I shall never be persuaded to think meanly of the authour of so
brilliant and pointed a satire as _Manners_[361].

[Page 126: Was Richard Savage Thales? A.D. 1738.]

Johnson's _London_ was published in May, 1738[362]; and it is remarkable,
that it came out on the same morning with Pope's satire, entitled
'1738[363];' so that England had at once its Juvenal and Horace[364] as
poetical monitors. The Reverend Dr. Douglas, now Bishop of Salisbury, to
whom I am indebted for some obliging communications, was then a student
at Oxford, and remembers well the effect which _London_ produced. Every
body was delighted with it; and there being no name to it, the first buz
of the literary circles was 'here is an unknown poet, greater even than
Pope.' And it is recorded in the _Gentleman s Magazine_ of that year[365],
that it 'got to the second edition in the course of a week.'

[Page 127: General Oglethorpe. Ætat 29.]

One of the warmest patrons of this poem on its first appearance was
General Oglethorpe, whose 'strong benevolence of soul[366],' was unabated
during the course of a very long life[367]; though it is painful to think,
that he had but too much reason to become cold and callous, and
discontented with the world, from the neglect which he experienced of
his publick and private worth, by those in whose power it was to gratify
so gallant a veteran with marks of distinction. This extraordinary
person was as remarkable for his learning and taste, as for his other
eminent qualities; and no man was more prompt, active, and generous, in
encouraging merit. I have heard Johnson gratefully acknowledge, in his
presence, the kind and effectual support which he gave to his _London_,
though unacquainted with its authour.

[Page 128: Pope admires _London_. A.D. 1738.]

Pope, who then filled the poetical throne without a rival, it may
reasonably be presumed, must have been particularly struck by the sudden
appearance of such a poet; and, to his credit, let it be remembered,
that his feelings and conduct on the occasion were candid and liberal.
He requested Mr. Richardson, son of the painter[368], to endeavour to find
out who this new authour was. Mr. Richardson, after some inquiry, having
informed him that he had discovered only that his name was Johnson, and
that he was some obscure man, Pope said, 'he will soon be _déterré_[369].'
We shall presently see, from a note written by Pope, that he was himself
afterwards more successful in his inquiries than his friend.

[Page 129: Johnson a 'true-born Englishman.' Ætat 29.]

That in this justly-celebrated poem may be found a few rhymes[370] which
the critical precision of English prosody at this day would disallow,
cannot be denied; but with this small imperfection, which in the general
blaze of its excellence is not perceived, till the mind has subsided
into cool attention, it is, undoubtedly, one of the noblest productions
in our language, both for sentiment and expression. The nation was then
in that ferment against the court and the ministry, which some years
after ended in the downfall of Sir Robert Walpole; and as it has been
said, that Tories are Whigs when out of place, and Whigs, Tories when in
place; so, as a Whig administration ruled with what force it could, a
Tory opposition had all the animation and all the eloquence of
resistance to power, aided by the common topicks of patriotism, liberty,
and independence! Accordingly, we find in Johnson's _London_ the most
spirited invectives against tyranny and oppression, the warmest
predilection for his own country, and the purest love of virtue;
interspersed with traits of his own particular character and situation,
not omitting his prejudices as a 'true-born Englishman[371],' not only
against foreign countries, but against Ireland and Scotland[372]. On some
of these topicks I shall quote a few passages:

[Page 130: Passages from LONDON. A.D. 1738.]

 'The cheated nation's happy fav'rites see;
  Mark whom the great caress, who frown on me.'
 'Has heaven reserv'd in pity to the poor,
  No pathless waste, or undiscover'd shore?
  No secret island in the boundless main?
  No peaceful desert yet unclaim'd by Spain?
  Quick let us rise, the happy seats explore,
  And bear Oppression's insolence no more[373].'

 'How, when competitors like these contend,
  Can _surly Virtue_ hope to fix a friend?'

 'This mournful truth is every where confess'd,

We may easily conceive with what feeling a great mind like his, cramped
and galled by narrow circumstances, uttered this last line, which he
marked by capitals. The whole of the poem is eminently excellent, and
there are in it such proofs of a knowledge of the world, and of a mature
acquaintance with life, as cannot be contemplated without wonder, when
we consider that he was then only in his twenty-ninth year, and had yet
been so little in the 'busy haunts of men[375].'

[Page 131: Sir Robert Walpole. Ætat 29.]

Yet, while we admire the poetical excellence of this poem, candour
obliges us to allow, that the flame of patriotism and zeal for popular
resistance with which it is fraught, had no just cause. There was, in
truth, no 'oppression;' the 'nation' was not 'cheated.' Sir Robert
Walpole was a wise and a benevolent minister, who thought that the
happiness and prosperity of a commercial country like ours, would be
best promoted by peace, which he accordingly maintained, with credit,
during a very long period. Johnson himself afterwards honestly
acknowledged the merit of Walpole, whom he called 'a fixed star;' while
he characterised his opponent, Pitt, as 'a meteor[376].' But Johnson's
juvenile poem was naturally impregnated with the fire of opposition, and
upon every account was universally admired.

[Page 132: Appleby School. A.D. 1738.]

Though thus elevated into fame, and conscious of uncommon powers, he had
not that bustling confidence, or, I may rather say, that animated
ambition, which one might have supposed would have urged him to
endeavour at rising in life. But such was his inflexible dignity of
character, that he could not stoop to court the great; without which,
hardly any man has made his way to a high station[377]. He could not
expect to produce many such works as his _London_, and he felt the
hardships of writing for bread; he was, therefore, willing to resume the
office of a schoolmaster, so as to have a sure, though moderate income
for his life; and an offer being made to him of the mastership of a
school[378], provided he could obtain the degree of Master of Arts, Dr.
Adams was applied to, by a common friend, to know whether that could be
granted him as a favour from the University of Oxford. But though he had
made such a figure in the literary world, it was then thought too great
a favour to be asked.

Hawkins (_Life_, p. 61) says that 'Johnson went to Appleby in Aug. 1738,
and offered himself as a candidate for the mastership.' The date of 1738
seems to be Hawkins's inference. If Johnson went at all, it was in 1739.
Pope, the friend of Swift, would not of course have sought Lord Gower's
influence with Swift. He applied to his lordship, no doubt, as a great
midland-county landowner, likely to have influence with the trustees.
Why, when the difficulty about the degree of M.A. was discovered, Pope
was not asked to solicit Swift cannot be known. See _post_, beginning of
1780 in BOSWELL'S account of the _Life of Swift_.]

[Page 133: Pope's letter of recommendation.]

Pope, without any knowledge of him but from his _London_, recommended
him to Earl Gower, who endeavoured to procure for him a degree from
Dublin, by the following letter to a friend of Dean Swift:


'Mr. Samuel Johnson (authour of _London_, a satire, and some other
poetical pieces) is a native of this country, and much respected by some
worthy gentlemen in his neighbourhood, who are trustees of a charity
school now vacant; the certain salary is sixty pounds a year, of which
they are desirous to make him master; but, unfortunately, he is not
capable of receiving their bounty, which _would make him happy for
life_, by not being a _Master of Arts_; which, by the statutes of this
school, the master of it must be.

'Now these gentlemen do me the honour to think that I have interest
enough in you, to prevail upon you to write to Dean Swift, to persuade
the University of Dublin to send a diploma to me, constituting this poor
man Master of Arts in their University. They highly extol the man's
learning and probity; and will not be persuaded, that the University
will make any difficulty of conferring such a favour upon a stranger, if
he is recommended by the Dean. They say he is not afraid of the
strictest examination, though he is of so long a journey; and will
venture it, if the Dean thinks it necessary; choosing rather to die upon
the road, _than be starved to death in translating for booksellers_;
which has been his only subsistence for some time past.

'I fear there is more difficulty in this affair, than those good-natured
gentlemen apprehend; especially as their election cannot be delayed
longer than the 11th of next month. If you see this matter in the same
light that it appears to me, I hope you will burn this, and pardon me
for giving you so much trouble about an impracticable thing; but, if you
think there is a probability of obtaining the favour asked, I am sure
your humanity, and propensity to relieve merit in distress, will incline
you to serve the poor man, without my adding any more to the trouble I
have already given you, than assuring you that I am, with great truth,

'Your faithful servant,


'Trentham, Aug. 1, 1739.'

[Page 134: Johnson's wish to practise law. A.D. 1738.]

It was, perhaps, no small disappointment to Johnson that this
respectable application had not the desired effect; yet how much reason
has there been, both for himself and his country, to rejoice that it did
not succeed, as he might probably have wasted in obscurity those hours
in which he afterwards produced his incomparable works.

About this time he made one other effort to emancipate himself from the
drudgery of authourship. He applied to Dr. Adams, to consult Dr.
Smalbroke of the Commons, whether a person might be permitted to
practice as an advocate there, without a doctor's degree in Civil Law.
'I am (said he) a total stranger to these studies; but whatever is a
profession, and maintains numbers, must be within the reach of common
abilities, and some degree of industry.' Dr. Adams was much pleased with
Johnson's design to employ his talents in that manner, being confident
he would have attained to great eminence. And, indeed, I cannot conceive
a man better qualified to make a distinguished figure as a lawyer; for,
he would have brought to his profession a rich store of various
knowledge, an uncommon acuteness, and a command of language, in which
few could have equalled, and none have surpassed him[379]. He who could
display eloquence and wit in defence of the decision of the House of
Commons upon Mr. Wilkes's election for Middlesex[380], and of the
unconstitutional taxation of our fellow-subjects in America[381], must
have been a powerful advocate in any cause. But here, also, the want of
a degree was an insurmountable bar.

[Page 135: Paul Sarpi's History. Ætat 29.]

He was, therefore, under the necessity of persevering in that course,
into which he had been forced; and we find, that his proposal from
Greenwich to Mr. Cave, for a translation of Father Paul Sarpi's History,
was accepted[382].

Some sheets of this translation were printed off, but the design was
dropt; for it happened, oddly enough, that another person of the name of
Samuel Johnson, Librarian of St. Martin's in the Fields, and Curate of
that parish, engaged in the same undertaking, and was patronised by the
Clergy, particularly by Dr. Pearce, afterwards Bishop of Rochester.
Several light skirmishes passed between the rival translators, in the
newspapers of the day; and the consequence was, that they destroyed each
other, for neither of them went on with the work. It is much to be
regretted, that the able performance of that celebrated genius FRA
PAOLO, lost the advantage of being incorporated into British literature
by the masterly hand of Johnson.

[Page 136: Mr. Cave's insinuation. A.D. 1738.]

I have in my possession, by the favour of Mr. John Nichols, a paper in
Johnson's hand-writing, entitled 'Account between Mr. Edward Cave and
Sam. Johnson, in relation to a version of Father Paul, &c. begun August
the 2d, 1738; 'by which it appears, that from that day to the 21st of
April, 1739, Johnson received for this work, £49 7_s_. in sums of one,
two, three, and sometimes four guineas at a time, most frequently two.
And it is curious to observe the minute and scrupulous accuracy with
which Johnson has pasted upon it a slip of paper, which he has entitled
Small Account,' and which contains one article, 'Sept. 9th, Mr. Cave
laid down 2s. 6d.' There is subjoined to this account, a list of some
subscribers to the work, partly in Johnson's handwriting, partly in that
of another person; and there follows a leaf or two on which are written
a number of characters which have the appearance of a short hand, which,
perhaps, Johnson was then trying to learn.




'I did not care to detain your servant while I wrote an answer to your
letter, in which you seem to insinuate that I had promised more than I
am ready to perform. If I have raised your expectations by any thing
that may have escaped my memory, I am sorry; and if you remind me of it,
shall thank you for the favour. If I made fewer alterations than usual
in the Debates, it was only because there appeared, and still appears to
be, less need of alteration. The verses to Lady Firebrace[383] may be had
when you please, for you know that such a subject neither deserves much
thought, nor requires it.

'The Chinese Stories[384] may be had folded down when you please to send,
in which I do not recollect that you desired any alterations to be made.

'An answer to another query I am very willing to write, and had
consulted with you about it last night if there had been time; for I
think it the most proper way of inviting such a correspondence as may be
an advantage to the paper, not a load upon it.

'As to the Prize Verses, a backwardness to determine their degrees of
merit is not peculiar to me. You may, if you please, still have what I
can say; but I shall engage with little spirit in an affair, which I
shall _hardly_ end to my own satisfaction, and _certainly_ not to the
satisfaction of the parties concerned[385].

'As to Father Paul, I have not yet been just to my proposal, but have
met with impediments, which, I hope, are now at an end; and if you find
the progress hereafter not such as you have a right to expect, you can
easily stimulate a negligent translator.

'If any or all of these have contributed to your discontent, I will
endeavour to remove it; and desire you to propose the question to which
you wish for an answer.

'I am, Sir,

'Your humble servant,


[Page 137: Impransus. Ætat 29.]


[No date.]


'I am pretty much of your opinion, that the Commentary cannot be
prosecuted with any appearance of success; for as the names of the
authours concerned are of more weight in the performance than its own
intrinsick merit, the publick will be soon satisfied with it. And I
think the Examen should be pushed forward with the utmost expedition.
Thus, "This day, &c., An Examen of Mr. Pope's Essay, &c., containing a
succinct Account of the Philosophy of Mr. Leibnitz on the System of the
Fatalists, with a Confutation of their Opinions, and an Illustration of
the Doctrine of Free-will;" [with what else you think proper.]

'It will, above all, be necessary to take notice, that it is a thing
distinct from the Commentary.

'I was so far from imagining they stood still[386], that I conceived them
to have a good deal before-hand, and therefore was less anxious in
providing them more. But if ever they stand still on my account, it must
doubtless be charged to me; and whatever else shall be reasonable, I
shall not oppose; but beg a suspense of judgment till morning, when I
must entreat you to send me a dozen proposals, and you shall then have
copy to spare.

'I am, Sir,

'Your's, _impransus_[387],


'Pray muster up the Proposals if you can, or let the boy recall them
from the booksellers.'

[Page 138: Mr. Macbean. A.D. 1738.]

But although he corresponded with Mr. Cave concerning a translation of
Crousaz's _Examen_ of Pope's _Essay on Man_, and gave advice as one
anxious for its success, I was long ago convinced by a perusal of the
Preface, that this translation was erroneously ascribed to him; and I
have found this point ascertained, beyond all doubt, by the following
article in Dr. Birch's _Manuscripts in the British Museum_:


'Versionem tuam Examinis Crousasiani jam perlegi. Summam styli et
elegantiam, et in re difficillimâ proprietatem, admiratus.

'_Dabam Novemb_. 27° 1738[388].'

Indeed Mrs. Carter has lately acknowledged to Mr. Seward, that she was
the translator of the _Examen_.

It is remarkable, that Johnson's last quoted letter to Mr. Cave
concludes with a fair confession that he had not a dinner; and it is no
less remarkable, that, though in this state of want himself, his
benevolent heart was not insensible to the necessities of an humble
labourer in literature, as appears from the very next letter:


[No date.]


'You may remember I have formerly talked with you about a Military
Dictionary. The eldest Mr. Macbean[389], who was with Mr. Chambers[390],
has very good materials for such a work, which I have seen, and will do
it at a very low rate[391]. I think the terms of War and Navigation might
be comprised, with good explanations, in one 8vo. Pica, which he is
willing to do for twelve shillings a sheet, to be made up a guinea at the
second impression. If you think on it, I will wait on you with him.

'I am, Sir,

'Your humble servant,


'Pray lend me Topsel on Animals[392].'

[Page 139: Boethius De Consolatione. Ætat 29.]

I must not omit to mention, that this Mr. Macbean was a native of

In the _Gentleman's Magazine_ of this year, Johnson gave a Life of
Father Paul; and he wrote the Preface to the Volume[393], [dagger] which,
though prefixed to it when bound, is always published with the Appendix,
and is therefore the last composition belonging to it. The ability and
nice adaptation with which he could draw up a prefatory address, was one
of his peculiar excellencies.

It appears too, that he paid a friendly attention to Mrs. Elizabeth
Carter; for in a letter from Mr. Cave to Dr. Birch, November 28, this
year, I find 'Mr. Johnson advises Miss C. to undertake a translation of
_Boethius de Cons_, because there is prose and verse, and to put her
name to it when published.' This advice was not followed; probably from
an apprehension that the work was not sufficiently popular for an
extensive sale. How well Johnson himself could have executed a
translation of this philosophical poet, we may judge from the following
specimen which he has given in the _Rambler_: (_Motto to No. 7_.)

'O qui perpetuâ mundum ratione gubernas,
 Terrarum cælique sator!
 Disjice terrenæ nebulas et pondera molis,
 Atque tuo splendore mica! Tu namque serenum,
 Tu requies tranquilla piis. Te cernere finis,
 Principium, vector, dux, semita, terminus, idem.'

'O thou whose power o'er moving worlds presides,
 Whose voice created, and whose wisdom guides,
 On darkling man in pure effulgence shine,
 And cheer the clouded mind with light divine.
'Tis thine alone to calm the pious breast,
 With silent confidence and holy rest;
 From thee, great God! we spring, to thee we tend,
 Path, motive, guide, original, and end!'

[Page 140: Abridgments. A.D. 1739.]

[Page 141: Marmor Norfolciensc. Ætat 30.]

In 1739, beside the assistance which he gave to the Parliamentary
Debates, his writings in the _Gentleman's Magazine_[394] were, 'The Life
of Boerhaave,'[*] in which it is to be observed, that he discovers that
love of chymistry[395] which never forsook him; 'An Appeal to the publick
in behalf of the Editor;'[dagger] 'An Address to the Reader;'[dagger]
'An Epigram both in Greek and Latin to Eliza[396],'[*] and also English
verses to her[397];[*] and, 'A Greek Epigram to Dr. Birch[398].'[*] It has
been erroneously supposed, that an Essay published in that Magazine this
year, entitled 'The Apotheosis of Milton,' was written by Johnson; and
on that supposition it has been improperly inserted in the edition of
his works by the Booksellers, after his decease. Were there no positive
testimony as to this point, the style of the performance, and the name
of Shakspeare not being mentioned in an Essay professedly reviewing the
principal English poets, would ascertain it not to be the production of
Johnson. But there is here no occasion to resort to internal evidence;
for my Lord Bishop of Salisbury (Dr. Douglas) has assured me, that it
was written by Guthrie. His separate publications were[399], 'A Complete
Vindication of the Licensers of the Stage, from the malicious and
scandalous Aspersions of Mr. Brooke, Authour of Gustavus Vasa,'[*] being
an ironical Attack upon them for their Suppression of that Tragedy[400];
and, 'Marmor Norfolciense; or an Essay on an ancient prophetical
Inscription in monkish Rhyme, lately discovered near Lynne in Norfolk,
by PROBUS BRITANNICUS.'[*] In this performance, he, in a feigned
inscription, supposed to have been found in Norfolk, the county of Sir
Robert Walpole, then the obnoxious prime minister of this country,
inveighs against the Brunswick succession, and the measures of
government consequent upon it[401]. To this supposed prophecy he added a
Commentary, making each expression apply to the times, with warm
Anti-Hanoverian zeal.

This anonymous pamphlet, I believe, did not make so much noise as was
expected, and, therefore, had not a very extensive circulation[402]. Sir
John Hawkins relates[403], that, 'warrants were issued, and messengers
employed to apprehend the authour; who, though he had forborne to
subscribe his name to the pamphlet, the vigilance of those in pursuit of
him had discovered;' and we are informed, that he lay concealed in
Lambeth-marsh till the scent after him grew cold. This, however, is
altogether without foundation; for Mr. Steele, one of the Secretaries of
the Treasury, who amidst a variety of important business, politely
obliged me with his attention to my inquiry, informed me, that 'he
directed every possible search to be made in the records of the Treasury
and Secretary of State's Office, but could find no trace whatever of any
warrant having been issued to apprehend the authour of this pamphlet.'

[Page 142: Reprint of Marmor Norfolciensc. A.D. 1739.]

_Marmor Norfolciense_ became exceedingly scarce, so that I, for many
years, endeavoured in vain to procure a copy of it. At last I was
indebted to the malice of one of Johnson's numerous petty adversaries,
who, in 1775, published a new edition of it, 'with Notes and a
Dedication to SAMUEL JOHNSON, LL.D. by TRIBUNUS;' in which some puny
scribbler invidiously attempted to found upon it a charge of
inconsistency against its authour, because he had accepted of a pension
from his present Majesty, and had written in support of the measures of
government. As a mortification to such impotent malice, of which there
are so many instances towards men of eminence, I am happy to relate,
that this _telum imbelle_[404] did not reach its exalted object, till
about a year after it thus appeared, when I mentioned it to him,
supposing that he knew of the re-publication. To my surprize, he had not
yet heard of it. He requested me to go directly and get it for him,
which I did. He looked at it and laughed, and seemed to be much diverted
with the feeble efforts of his unknown adversary, who, I hope, is alive
to read this account. 'Now (said he) here is somebody who thinks he has
vexed me sadly; yet, if it had not been for you, you rogue, I should
probably never have seen it.'

[Page 143: 'Paper-sparing Pope.' Ætat 30.]

As Mr. Pope's note concerning Johnson, alluded to in a former page,
refers both to his _London_, and his _Marmor Norfolciense_, I have
deferred inserting it till now. I am indebted for it to Dr. Percy, the
Bishop of Dromore, who permitted me to copy it from the original in his
possession. It was presented to his Lordship by Sir Joshua Reynolds, to
whom it was given by the son of Mr. Richardson the painter, the person
to whom it is addressed. I have transcribed it with minute exactness,
that the peculiar mode of writing, and imperfect spelling of that
celebrated poet, may be exhibited to the curious in literature. It
justifies Swift's epithet of 'paper-sparing Pope[405]' for it is written
on a slip no larger than a common message-card, and was sent to Mr.
Richardson, along with the _Imitation of Juvenal_.

'This is imitated by one Johnson who put in for a Publick-school in
Shropshire,[406] but was disappointed. He has an infirmity of the
convulsive kind, that attacks him sometimes, so as to make him a sad
Spectacle. Mr. P. from the Merit of this Work which was all the
knowledge he had of him endeavour'd to serve him without his own
application; & wrote to my Ld gore, but he did not succeed. Mr. Johnson
published afterwds another Poem in Latin with Notes the whole very
Humerous call'd the Norfolk Prophecy.[407]'


Johnson had been told of this note; and Sir Joshua Reynolds informed him
of the compliment which it contained, but, from delicacy, avoided
shewing him the paper itself. When Sir Joshua observed to Johnson that
he seemed very desirous to see Pope's note, he answered, 'Who would not
be proud to have such a man as Pope so solicitous in inquiring about

[Page 144: Johnson's tricks of body. A.D. 1739.]

The infirmity to which Mr. Pope alludes, appeared to me also, as I have
elsewhere[408] observed, to be of the convulsive kind, and of the nature
of that distemper called St. Vitus's dance; and in this opinion I am
confirmed by the description which Sydenham gives of that disease. 'This
disorder is a kind of convulsion. It manifests itself by halting or
unsteadiness of one of the legs, which the patient draws after him like
an ideot. If the hand of the same side be applied to the breast, or any
other part of the body, he cannot keep it a moment in the same posture,
but it will be drawn into a different one by a convulsion,
notwithstanding all his efforts to the contrary.' Sir Joshua Reynolds,
however, was of a different opinion, and favoured me with the following

[Page 145: His dread of solitude. Ætat 30.]

'Those motions or tricks of Dr. Johnson are improper'y called
convulsions[409]. He could sit motionless, when he was told so to do, as
well as any other man; my opinion is that it proceeded from a habit
which he had indulged himself in, of accompanying his thoughts with
certain untoward actions, and those actions always appeared to me as if
they were meant to reprobate some part of his past conduct. Whenever he
was not engaged in conversation, such thoughts were sure to rush into
his mind; and, for this reason, any company, any employment whatever, he
preferred to being alone[410]. The great business of his life (he said)
was to escape from himself; this disposition he considered as the
disease of his mind, which nothing cured but company.

'One instance of his absence and particularity, as it is characteristick
of the man, may be worth relating. When he and I took a journey together
into the West, we visited the late Mr. Banks, of Dorsetshire; the
conversation turning upon pictures, which Johnson could not well see, he
retired to a corner of the room, stretching out his right leg as far as
he could reach before him, then bringing up his left leg, and stretching
his right still further on. The old gentleman observing him, went up to
him, and in a very courteous manner assured him, that though it was not
a new house, the flooring was perfectly safe. The Doctor started from
his reverie, like a person waked out of his sleep, but spoke not a

While we are on this subject, my readers may not be displeased with
another anecdote, communicated to me by the same friend, from the
relation of Mr. Hogarth.

[Page 146: Hogarth meets Johnson. A.D. 1739.]

[Page 147: George the Second's cruelty. Ætat 30.]

Johnson used to be a pretty frequent visitor at the house of Mr.
Richardson, authour of _Clarissa_, and other novels of extensive
reputation. Mr. Hogarth came one day to see Richardson, soon after the
execution of Dr. Cameron, for having taken arms for the house of Stuart
in 1745-6; and being a warm partisan of George the Second, he observed
to Richardson[411], that certainly there must have been some very
unfavourable circumstances lately discovered in this particular case,
which had induced the King to approve of an execution for rebellion so
long after the time when it was committed, as this had the appearance of
putting a man to death in cold blood[412], and was very unlike his
Majesty's usual clemency. While he was talking, he perceived a person
standing at a window in the room, shaking his head, and rolling himself
about in a strange ridiculous manner. He concluded that he was an ideot,
whom his relations had put under the care of Mr. Richardson, as a very
good man. To his great surprize, however, this figure stalked forwards
to where he and Mr. Richardson were sitting, and all at once took up the
argument, and burst out into an invective against George the Second, as
one, who, upon all occasions, was unrelenting and barbarous[413];
mentioning many instances, particularly, that when an officer of high
rank had been acquitted by a Court Martial, George the Second had with
his own hand, struck his name off the list. In short, he displayed such
a power of eloquence, that Hogarth looked at him with astonishment, and
actually imagined that this ideot had been at the moment inspired.
Neither Hogarth nor Johnson were made known to each other at this

[1740[415]: ÆTAT. 31.]--In 1740 he wrote for the _Gentleman's Magazine_
the 'Preface[416],'[dagger] 'Life of Sir Francis Drake,'[*] and the first
parts of those of 'Admiral Blake[417],'[*] and of 'Philip Baretier[418],'
both which he finished the following year. He also wrote an 'Essay on
Epitaphs[419],' and an 'Epitaph on Philips, a Musician,'[420] which was
afterwards published with some other pieces of his, in Mrs. Williams's
_Miscellanies_. This Epitaph is so exquisitely beautiful, that I
remember even Lord Kames, strangely prejudiced as he was against Dr.
Johnson, was compelled to allow it very high praise. It has been
ascribed to Mr. Garrick, from its appearing at first with the signature
G; but I have heard Mr. Garrick declare, that it was written by Dr.
Johnson, and give the following account of the manner in which it was
composed. Johnson and he were sitting together; when, amongst other
things, Garrick repeated an Epitaph upon this Philips by a Dr. Wilkes,
in these words:

[Page 148: Epitaph on Philips. A.D. 1740.]

'Exalted soul! whose harmony could please
The love-sick virgin, and the gouty ease;
Could jarring discord, like Amphion, move
To beauteous order and harmonious love;
Rest here in peace, till angels bid thee rise,
And meet thy blessed Saviour in the skies.'

Johnson shook his head at these common-place funereal lines, and said to
Garrick, 'I think, Davy, I can make a better.' Then, stirring about his
tea for a little while, in a state of meditation, he almost extempore
produced the following verses:

[Page 149: Epigram on Cibber. Ætat 31.]

'Philips, whose touch harmonious could remove
The pangs of guilty power or[421] hapless love;
Rest here, distress'd by poverty no more,
Here find that calm thou gav'st so oft before;
Sleep, undisturb'd, within this peaceful shrine,
Till angels wake thee with a note like thine[422]!'

At the same time that Mr. Garrick favoured me with this anecdote, he
repeated a very pointed Epigram by Johnson, on George the Second and
Colley Cibber, which has never yet appeared, and of which I know not the
exact date[423]. Dr. Johnson afterwards gave it to me himself[424]:

'Augustus still survives in Maro's strain,
And Spenser's verse prolongs Eliza's reign;
Great George's acts let tuneful Cibber sing;
For Nature form'd the Poet for the King.'

[Page 150: One of Cromwell's speeches. A.D. 1741.]

In 1741[425][*] he wrote for the _Gentleman's Magazine_ 'the Preface,'[*]
'Conclusion of his lives of Drake and Baretier,'[dagger] 'A free
translation of the Jests of Hierocles[426], with an Introduction;'[dagger]
and, I think, the following pieces: 'Debate on the Proposal of
Parliament to Cromwell, to assume the Title of King, abridged, modified,
and digested[427];'[dagger] 'Translation of Abbé Guyon's Dissertation on
the Amazons;'[dagger] 'Translation of Fontenelle's Panegyrick on Dr.
Morin.'[dagger] Two notes upon this appear to me undoubtedly his. He
this year, and the two following, wrote the _Parliamentary Debates_. He
told me himself, that he was the sole composer of them for those three
years only. He was not, however, precisely exact in his statement, which
he mentioned from hasty recollection; for it is sufficiently evident,
that his composition of them began November 19, 1740, and ended February
23, 1742-3[428].

It appears from some of Cave's letters to Dr. Birch, that Cave had
better assistance for that branch of his Magazine, than has been
generally supposed; and that he was indefatigable in getting it made as
perfect as he could.

[Page 151: Cave's Parliamentary Debates. Ætat 32.]

Thus, 21st July, 1735. 'I trouble you with the inclosed, because you
said you could easily correct what is here given for Lord C----ld's[429]
speech. I beg you will do so as soon as you can for me, because the
month is far advanced.'

And 15th July, 1737. 'As you remember the debates so far as to perceive
the speeches already printed are not exact, I beg the favour that you
will peruse the inclosed, and, in the best manner your memory will
serve, correct the mistaken passages, or add any thing that is omitted.
I should be very glad to have something of the Duke of N--le's[430]
speech, which would be particularly of service.

'A gentleman has Lord Bathurst's speech to add something to.'

And July 3, 1744. 'You will see what stupid, low, abominable stuff is
put[431] upon your noble and learned friend's[432] character, such as I
should quite reject, and endeavour to do something better towards doing
justice to the character. But as I cannot expect to attain my desires in
that respect, it would be a great satisfaction, as well as an honour to
our work to have the favour of the genuine speech. It is a method that
several have been pleased to take, as I could show, but I think myself
under a restraint. I shall say so far, that I have had some by a third
hand, which I understood well enough to come from the first; others by
penny-post[433], and others by the speakers themselves, who have been
pleased to visit St. John's Gate, and show particular marks of their
being pleased[434].'

[Page 152: Johnson's Parliamentary Debates. A.D. 1741.]

There is no reason, I believe, to doubt the veracity of Cave. It is,
however, remarkable, that none of these letters are in the years during
which Johnson alone furnished the Debates, and one of them is in the
very year after he ceased from that labour. Johnson told me that as soon
as he found that the speeches were thought genuine, he determined that
he would write no more of them; for 'he would not be accessary to the
propagation of falsehood.' And such was the tenderness of his
conscience, that a short time before his death he expressed his regret
for his having been the authour of fictions, which had passed for

He nevertheless agreed with me in thinking, that the debates which he
had framed were to be valued as orations upon questions of publick
importance. They have accordingly been collected in volumes, properly
arranged, and recommended to the notice of parliamentary speakers by a
preface, written by no inferior hand[436]. I must, however, observe, that
although there is in those debates a wonderful store of political
information, and very powerful eloquence, I cannot agree that they
exhibit the manner of each particular speaker, as Sir John Hawkins seems
to think. But, indeed, what opinion can we have of his judgement, and
taste in publick speaking, who presumes to give, as the characteristicks
of two celebrated orators, 'the deep-mouthed rancour of Pulteney[437], and
the yelping pertinacity of Pitt[438].'

This year I find that his tragedy of _Irene_ had been for some time
ready for the stage, and that his necessities made him desirous of
getting as much as he could for it, without delay; for there is the
following letter from Mr. Cave to Dr. Birch, in the same volume of
manuscripts in the British Museum, from which I copied those above
quoted. They were most obligingly pointed out to me by Sir William
Musgrave, one of the Curators of that noble repository.

[Page 153: Bibliotheca Harleiana. Ætat 32.]

'Sept. 9, 1741.

'I have put Mr. Johnson's play into Mr. Gray's[439] hands, in order to
sell it to him, if he is inclined to buy it; but I doubt whether he will
or not. He would dispose of the copy, and whatever advantage may be made
by acting it. Would your society[440], or any gentleman, or body of men
that you know, take such a bargain? He and I are very unfit to deal with
theatrical persons. Fleetwood was to have acted it last season, but
Johnson's diffidence or ----[441] prevented it.'

I have already mentioned that _Irene_ was not brought into publick
notice till Garrick was manager of Drury-lane theatre.

[Page 154: Osborne the bookseller. A.D. 1742.]

1742: ÆTAT. 33.--In 1742[442] he wrote for the _Gentleman's Magazine_
the 'Preface,[dagger] the 'Parliamentary Debates,'[*] 'Essay on the
Account of the conduct of the Duchess of Marlborough,'[*] then the
popular topick of conversation. This 'Essay' is a short but masterly
performance. We find him in No. 13 of his _Rambler_, censuring a
profligate sentiment in that 'Account[443];' and again insisting upon it
strenuously in conversation[444]. 'An account of the Life of Peter
Burman,'[*] I believe chiefly taken from a foreign publication; as,
indeed, he could not himself know much about Burman; 'Additions to his
Life of Baretier;'[*] 'The Life of Sydenham,'[*] afterwards prefixed to
Dr. Swan's edition of his works; 'Proposals for Printing Bibliotheca
Harleiana, or a Catalogue of the Library of the Earl of Oxford[445].'[*]
His account of that celebrated collection of books, in which he displays
the importance to literature of what the French call a _catalogue
raisonné_, when the subjects of it are extensive and various, and it is
executed with ability, cannot fail to impress all his readers with
admiration of his philological attainments. It was afterwards prefixed
to the first volume of the Catalogue, in which the Latin accounts of
books were written by him. He was employed in this business by Mr.
Thomas Osborne the bookseller, who purchased the library for 13,000£., a
sum which Mr. Oldys[446] says, in one of his manuscripts, was not more
than the binding of the books had cost; yet, as Dr. Johnson assured me,
the slowness of the sale was such, that there was not much gained by it.
It has been confidently related, with many embellishments, that Johnson
one day knocked Osborne down in his shop, with a folio, and put his foot
upon his neck. The simple truth I had from Johnson himself. 'Sir, he was
impertinent to me, and I beat him. But it was not in his shop: it was in
my own chamber[447].'

[Page 155: A projected parliamentary history. Ætat 33.]

A very diligent observer may trace him where we should not easily
suppose him to be found. I have no doubt that he wrote the little
abridgement entitled 'Foreign History,' in the _Magazine_ for December.
To prove it, I shall quote the Introduction. 'As this is that season of
the year in which Nature may be said to command a suspension of
hostilities, and which seems intended, by putting a short stop to
violence and slaughter, to afford time for malice to relent, and
animosity to subside; we can scarce expect any other accounts than of
plans, negotiations and treaties, of proposals for peace, and
preparations for war.' As also this passage: 'Let those who despise the
capacity of the Swiss, tell us by what wonderful policy, or by what
happy conciliation of interests, it is brought to pass, that in a body
made up of different communities and different religions, there should
be no civil commotions[448], though the people are so warlike, that to
nominate and raise an army is the same.'

I am obliged to Mr. Astle[449] for his ready permission to copy the two
following letters, of which the originals are in his possession. Their
contents shew that they were written about this time, and that Johnson
was now engaged in preparing an historical account of the British


[_No date_]


'I believe I am going to write a long letter, and have therefore taken a
whole sheet of paper. The first thing to be written about is our
historical design.

'You mentioned the proposal of printing in numbers, as an alteration in
the scheme, but I believe you mistook, some way or other, my meaning; I
had no other view than that you might rather print too many of five
sheets, than of five and thirty.

'With regard to what I shall say on the manner of proceeding, I would
have it understood as wholly indifferent to me, and my opinion only, not
my resolution. _Emptoris sit eligere_.

'I think the insertion of the exact dates of the most important events
in the margin, or of so many events as may enable the reader to regulate
the order of facts with sufficient exactness, the proper medium between
a journal, which has regard only to time, and a history which ranges
facts according to their dependence on each other, and postpones or
anticipates according to the convenience of narration. I think the work
ought to partake of the spirit of history, which is contrary to minute
exactness, and of the regularity of a journal, which is inconsistent
with spirit. For this reason, I neither admit numbers or dates, nor
reject them.

[Page 156: Payment for work. A.D. 1742.]

'I am of your opinion with regard to placing most of the resolutions
&c., in the margin, and think we shall give the most complete account of
Parliamentary proceedings that can be contrived. The naked papers,
without an historical treatise interwoven, require some other book to
make them understood. I will date the succeeding facts with some
exactness, but I think in the margin. You told me on Saturday that I had
received money on this work, and found set down 13£. 2s. 6d., reckoning
the half guinea of last Saturday. As you hinted to me that you had many
calls for money, I would not press you too hard, and therefore shall
desire only, as I send it in, two guineas for a sheet of copy; the rest
you may pay me when it may be more convenient; and even by this
sheet-payment I shall, for some time, be very expensive.

'The _Life of Savage_[450] I am ready to go upon; and in Great Primer, and
Pica notes, I reckon on sending in half a sheet a day; but the money for
that shall likewise lye by in your hands till it is done. With the
debates, shall not I have business enough? if I had but good pens.

'Towards Mr. Savage's _Life_ what more have you got? I would willingly
have his trial, &c., and know whether his defence be at Bristol, and
would have his collection of poems, on account of the Preface.--_The
Plain Dealer_[451],--all the magazines that have anything of his, or
relating to him.

'I thought my letter would be long, but it is now ended; and I am, Sir,

'Yours, &c. SAM. JOHNSON.'

'The boy found me writing this almost in the dark, when I could not
quite easily read yours.

'I have read the Italian--nothing in it is well.

'I had no notion of having any thing for the Inscription[452]. I hope you
don't think I kept it to extort a price. I could think of nothing, till
to day. If you could spare me another guinea for the history, I should
take it very kindly, to night; but if you do not I shall not think it an
injury.--I am almost well again.'



'You did not tell me your determination about the 'Soldier's Letter[453],'
which I am confident was never printed. I think it will not do by
itself, or in any other place, so well as the _Mag. Extraordinary_[454].
If you will have it at all, I believe you do not think I set it high,
and I will be glad if what you give, you will give quickly.

[Page 157: _Ad Lauram pariluram Epigramma_. Ætat 33.]

'You need not be in care about something to print, for I have got the
State Trials, and shall extract Layer, Atterbury, and Macclesfield from
them, and shall bring them to you in a fortnight; after which I will try
to get the South Sea Report.'

[_No date, nor signature_]

I would also ascribe to him an 'Essay on the Description of China, from
the French of Du Halde[455].[dagger]

His writings in the _Gentleman's Magazine_ in 1743, are, the
'Preface[456],'[dagger] the 'Parliamentary Debates,'[dagger]
'Considerations on the Dispute between Crousaz[457] and Warburton, on
Pope's Essay on Man;'[dagger] in which, while he defends Crousaz, he
shews an admirable metaphysical acuteness and temperance in
controversy[458]; 'Ad Lauram parituram Epigramma[459];'[*] and, 'A Latin
Translation of Pope's Verses on his Grotto[460];'[*] and, as he could
employ his pen with equal success upon a small matter as a great, I
suppose him to be the authour of an advertisement for Osborne,
concerning the great Harlcian Catalogue[461].

[Page 158: Friendship, an Ode. A.D. 1743.]

But I should think myself much wanting, both to my illustrious friend
and my readers, did I not introduce here, with more than ordinary
respect, an exquisitely beautiful Ode, which has not been inserted in
any of the collections of Johnson's poetry, written by him at a very
early period, as Mr. Hector informs me, and inserted in the _Gentleman's
Magazine_ of this year.


'Friendship, peculiar boon of heav'n,
  The noble mind's delight and pride,
To men and angels only giv'n,
  To all the lower world deny'd.

While love, unknown among the blest,
  Parent of thousand wild desires,
The savage and the human breast
  Torments alike with raging fires;

With bright, but oft destructive, gleam,
  Alike o'er all his lightnings fly;
Thy lambent glories only beam
  Around the fav'rites of the sky.

Thy gentle flows of guiltless joys
  On fools and villains ne'er descend;
In vain for thee the tyrant sighs,
  And hugs a flatterer for a friend.

Directress of the brave and just,
  O guide us through life's darksome way!
And let the tortures of mistrust
  On selfish bosoms only prey.

Nor shall thine ardours cease to glow,
  When souls to blissful climes remove;
What rais'd our virtue here below,
  Shall aid our happiness above.'

[Page 159: Dr. James and Dr. Mead. Ætat 34.]

Johnson had now an opportunity of obliging his schoolfellow Dr. James,
of whom he once observed, 'no man brings more mind to his
profession.[462]' James published this year his _Medicinal Dictionary_, in
three volumes folio. Johnson, as I understood from him, had written, or
assisted in writing, the proposals for this work; and being very fond of
the study of physick, in which James was his master, he furnished some
of the articles[463]. He, however, certainly wrote for it the Dedication
to Dr. Mead,[dagger] which is conceived with great address, to
conciliate the patronage of that very eminent man[464].

[Page 160: Dr. Birch. A.D. 1743.]

It has been circulated, I know not with what authenticity, that Johnson
considered Dr. Birch as a dull writer, and said of him, 'Tom Birch is as
brisk as a bee in conversation; but no sooner does he take a pen in his
hand, than it becomes a torpedo to him, and benumbs all his
faculties[465].' That the literature of this country is much indebted to
Birch's activity and diligence must certainly be acknowledged. We have
seen that Johnson honoured him with a Greek Epigram[466]; and his
correspondence with him, during many years, proves that he had no mean
opinion of him.


'Thursday, Sept. 29, 1743.


'I hope you will excuse me for troubling you on an occasion on which I
know not whom else I can apply to; I am at a loss for the Lives and
Characters of Earl Stanhope, the two Craggs, and the minister
Sunderland; and beg that you will inform [me] where I may find them, and
send any pamphlets, &c. relating to them to Mr. Cave, to be perused for
a few days by, Sir,

'Your most humble servant,


His circumstances were at this time much embarrassed; yet his affection
for his mother was so warm, and so liberal, that he took upon himself a
debt of her's, which, though small in itself, was then considerable to
him. This appears from the following letter which he wrote to Mr.
Levett, of Lichfield, the original of which lies now before me.


'December 1, 1743.


'I am extremely sorry that we have encroached so much upon your
forbearance with respect to the interest, which a great perplexity of
affairs hindered me from thinking of with that attention that I ought,
and which I am not immediately able to remit to you, but will pay it (I
think twelve pounds,) in two months. I look upon this, and on the future
interest of that mortgage, as my own debt; and beg that you will be
pleased to give me directions how to pay it, and not mention it to my
dear mother. If it be necessary to pay this in less time, I believe I
can do it; but I take two months for certainty, and beg an answer
whether you can allow me so much time. I think myself very much obliged
to your forbearance, and shall esteem it a great happiness to be able to
serve you. I have great opportunities of dispersing any thing that you
may think it proper to make publick[467]. I will give a note for the
money, payable at the time mentioned, to any one here that you shall
appoint. I am, Sir,

'Your most obedient,

'And most humble servant,


'At Mr. Osborne's, bookseller, in Gray's Inn.'

[Page 161: The Life of Savage. Ætat 35.]

[Page 162: Johnson's friendship with Savage. A.D. 1744.]

1744: ÆTAT. 35.--It does not appear that he wrote any thing in 1744
for the _Gentleman's Magazine_, but the Preface.[Dagger] His _Life of
Baretier_ was now re-published in a pamphlet by itself. But he produced
one work this year, fully sufficient to maintain the high reputation
which he had acquired. This was _The Life of Richard Savage_;[*] a man,
of whom it is difficult to speak impartially, without wondering that he
was for some time the intimate companion of Johnson[468]; for his
character was marked by profligacy, insolence, and ingratitude[469]: yet,
as he undoubtedly had a warm and vigorous, though unregulated mind, had
seen life in all its varieties, and been much in the company of the
statesmen and wits of his time[470], he could communicate to Johnson an
abundant supply of such materials as his philosophical curiosity most
eagerly desired; and as Savage's misfortunes and misconduct had reduced
him to the lowest state of wretchedness as a writer for bread[471], his
visits to St. John's Gate naturally brought Johnson and him together[472].

[Page 163: Dining behind the screen. Ætat 35.]

It is melancholy to reflect, that Johnson and Savage were sometimes in
such extreme indigence[473], that they could not pay for a lodging; so
that they have wandered together whole nights in the streets[474]. Yet in
these almost incredible scenes of distress, we may suppose that Savage
mentioned many of the anecdotes with which Johnson afterwards enriched
the life of his unhappy companion, and those of other Poets.

[Page 164: Johnson in want of a lodging. A.D. 1744.]

He told Sir Joshua Reynolds, that one night in particular, when Savage
and he walked round St. James's-square for want of a lodging, they were
not at all depressed by their situation; but in high spirits and brimful
of patriotism, traversed the square for several hours, inveighed against
the minister, and 'resolved they would _stand by their country_[475].'

I am afraid, however, that by associating with Savage, who was
habituated to the dissipation and licentiousness of the town, Johnson,
though his good principles remained steady, did not entirely preserve
that conduct, for which, in days of greater simplicity, he was remarked
by his friend Mr. Hector; but was imperceptibly led into some
indulgencies which occasioned much distress to his virtuous mind.[476]

That Johnson was anxious that an authentick and favourable account of
his extraordinary friend should first get possession of the publick
attention, is evident from a letter which he wrote in the _Gentleman's
Magazine_ for August of the year preceding its publication.


'As your collections show how often you have owed the ornaments of your
poetical pages to the correspondence of the unfortunate and ingenious
Mr. Savage, I doubt not but you have so much regard to his memory as to
encourage any design that may have a tendency to the preservation of it
from insults or calumnies; and therefore, with some degree of assurance,
intreat you to inform the publick, that his life will speedily be
published by a person who was favoured with his confidence, and received
from himself an account of most of the transactions which he proposes to
mention, to the time of his retirement to Swansea in Wales.

'From that period, to his death in the prison of Bristol, the account
will be continued from materials still less liable to objection; his own
letters, and those of his friends, some of which will be inserted in the
work, and abstracts of others subjoined in the margin.

'It may be reasonably imagined, that others may have the same design;
but as it is not credible that they can obtain the same materials, it
must be expected they will supply from invention the want of
intelligence; and that under the title of "The Life of Savage," they
will publish only a novel, filled with romantick adventures, and
imaginary amours. You may therefore, perhaps, gratify the lovers of
truth and wit, by giving me leave to inform them in your Magazine, that
my account will be published in 8vo. by Mr. Roberts, in

[_No signature_.]

[Page 165: Reynolds reads THE LIFE OF SAVAGE. Ætat 35.]

In February, 1744, it accordingly came forth from the shop of Roberts,
between whom and Johnson I have not traced any connection, except the
casual one of this publication[478]. In Johnson's _Life of Savage_,
although it must be allowed that its moral is the reverse
of--'_Respicere exemplar vita morumque jubebo_[479],' a very useful lesson
is inculcated, to guard men of warm passions from a too free indulgence
of them; and the various incidents are related in so clear and animated
a manner, and illuminated throughout with so much philosophy, that it is
one of the most interesting narratives in the English language. Sir
Joshua Reynolds told me, that upon his return from Italy[480] he met with
it in Devonshire, knowing nothing of its authour, and began to read it
while he was standing with his arm leaning against a chimney-piece. It
seized his attention so strongly, that, not being able to lay down the
book till he had finished it, when he attempted to move, he found his
arm totally benumbed. The rapidity with which this work was composed, is
a wonderful circumstance. Johnson has been heard to say, 'I wrote
forty-eight of the printed octavo pages of the _Life of Savage_ at a
sitting; but then I sat up all night[481].'

[Page 166: Resemblance of Johnson to Savage. A.D. 1744.]

He exhibits the genius of Savage to the best advantage in the specimens
of his poetry which he has selected, some of which are of uncommon
merit. We, indeed, occasionally find such vigour and such point, as
might make us suppose that the generous aid of Johnson had been imparted
to his friend. Mr. Thomas Warton made this remark to me; and, in support
of it, quoted from the poem entitled _The Bastard_, a line, in which the
fancied superiority of one 'stamped in Nature's mint with extasy[482],' is
contrasted with a regular lawful descendant of some great and ancient

'No tenth transmitter of a foolish face[483].'

But the fact is, that this poem was published some years before Johnson
and Savage were acquainted[484].

[Page 167: Johnson's prejudice against players. Ætat 35.]

It is remarkable, that in this biographical disquisition there appears a
very strong symptom of Johnson's prejudice against players[485]; a
prejudice which may be attributed to the following causes: first, the
imperfection of his organs, which were so defective that he was not
susceptible of the fine impressions which theatrical excellence produces
upon the generality of mankind; secondly, the cold rejection of his
tragedy; and, lastly, the brilliant success of Garrick, who had been his
pupil, who had come to London at the same time with him, not in a much
more prosperous state than himself, and whose talents he undoubtedly
rated low, compared with his own. His being outstripped by his pupil in
the race of immediate fame, as well as of fortune, probably made him
feel some indignation, as thinking that whatever might be Garrick's
merits in his art, the reward was too great when compared with what the
most successful efforts of literary labour could attain. At all periods
of his life Johnson used to talk contemptuously of players[486]; but in
this work he speaks of them with peculiar acrimony; for which, perhaps,
there was formerly too much reason from the licentious and dissolute
manners of those engaged in that profession[487]. It is but justice to
add, that in our own time such a change has taken place, that there is
no longer room for such an unfavourable distinction[488].

[Page 168: Garrick's mistakes in emphasis. A.D. 1744.]

His schoolfellow and friend, Dr. Taylor, told me a pleasant anecdote of
Johnson's triumphing over his pupil David Garrick. When that great actor
had played some little time at Goodman's fields, Johnson and Taylor went
to see him perform, and afterwards passed the evening at a tavern with
him and old Giffard[489]. Johnson, who was ever depreciating
stage-players, after censuring some mistakes in emphasis which Garrick
had committed in the course of that night's acting, said, 'the players,
Sir, have got a kind of rant, with which they run on, without any regard
either to accent or emphasis[490].' Both Garrick and Giffard were offended
at this sarcasm, and endeavoured to refute it; upon which Johnson
rejoined, 'Well now, I'll give you something to speak, with which you
are little acquainted, and then we shall see how just my observation is.
That shall be the criterion. Let me hear you repeat the ninth
Commandment, "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour."'
Both tried at it, said Dr. Taylor, and both mistook the emphasis, which
should be upon _not_ and _false witness_[491]. Johnson put them right, and
enjoyed his victory with great glee.

[Page 169: A review in THE CHAMPION. Ætat 35.]

His _Life of Savage_ was no sooner published, than the following liberal
praise was given to it, in _The Champion_, a periodical paper: 'This
pamphlet is, without flattery to its authour, as just and well written a
piece as of its kind I ever saw; so that at the same time that it highly
deserves, it certainly stands very little in need of this
recommendation. As to the history of the unfortunate person, whose
memoirs compose this work, it is certainly penned with equal accuracy
and spirit, of which I am so much the better judge, as I know many of
the facts mentioned to be strictly true, and very fairly related.
Besides, it is not only the story of Mr. Savage, but innumerable
incidents relating to other persons, and other affairs, which renders
this a very amusing, and, withal, a very instructive and valuable
performance. The author's observations are short, significant, and just,
as his narrative is remarkably smooth, and well disposed. His
reflections open to all the recesses of the human heart; and, in a word,
a more just or pleasant, a more engaging or a more improving treatise,
on all the excellencies and defects of human nature, is scarce to be
found in our own, or, perhaps, any other language[492].'

[Page 170: Parentage of Richard Savage. A.D. 1744.]

Johnson's partiality for Savage made him entertain no doubt of his
story, however extraordinary and improbable. It never occurred to him to
question his being the son of the Countess of Macclesfield, of whose
unrelenting barbarity he so loudly complained, and the particulars of
which are related in so strong and affecting a manner in Johnson's life
of him. Johnson was certainly well warranted in publishing his
narrative, however offensive it might be to the lady and her relations,
because her alledged unnatural and cruel conduct to her son, and
shameful avowal of guilt, were stated in a _Life of Savage_ now lying
before me, which came out so early as 1727, and no attempt had been made
to confute it, or to punish the authour or printer as a libeller: but
for the honour of human nature, we should be glad to find the shocking
tale not true; and, from a respectable gentleman[493] connected with the
lady's family, I have received such information and remarks, as joined
to my own inquiries, will, I think, render it at least somewhat
doubtful, especially when we consider that it must have originated from
the person himself who went by the name of Richard Savage.

If the maxim _falsum in uno, falsum in omnibus_, were to be received
without qualification, the credit of Savage's narrative, as conveyed to
us, would be annihilated; for it contains some assertions which, beyond
a question, are not true[494].

1. In order to induce a belief that Earl Rivers, on account of a
criminal connection with whom, Lady Macclesfield is said to have been
divorced from her husband, by Act of Parliament[495], had a peculiar
anxiety about the child which she bore to him, it is alledged, that his
Lordship gave him his own name, and had it duly recorded in the register
of St. Andrew's, Holborn[496]. I have carefully inspected that register,
but no such entry is to be found[497].

[Page 171: Lady Macclesfield's divorce. Ætat 35.]

2. It is stated, that 'Lady Macclesfield having lived for some time upon
very uneasy terms with her husband, thought a publick confession of
adultery the most obvious and expeditious method of obtaining her
liberty[498];' and Johnson, assuming this to be true, stigmatises her with
indignation, as 'the wretch who had, without scruple, proclaimed herself
an adulteress[499].' But I have perused the Journals of both houses of
Parliament at the period of her divorce, and there find it authentically
ascertained, that so far from voluntarily submitting to the ignominious
charge of adultery, she made a strenuous defence by her Counsel; the
bill having been first moved 15th January, 1697, in the House of Lords,
and proceeded on, (with various applications for time to bring up
witnesses at a distance, &c.) at intervals, till the 3d of March, when
it passed. It was brought to the Commons, by a message from the Lords,
the 5th of March, proceeded on the 7th, 10th, 11th, 14th, and 15th, on
which day, after a full examination of witnesses on both sides, and
hearing of Counsel, it was reported without amendments, passed, and
carried to the Lords.

[Page 172: Lady Macclesfield's alleged cruelty. A.D. 1744.]

That Lady Macclesfield was convicted of the crime of which she was
accused, cannot be denied; but the question now is, whether the person
calling himself Richard Savage was her son.

It has been said[500], that when Earl Rivers was dying, and anxious to
provide for all his natural children, he was informed by Lady
Macclesfield that her son by him was dead. Whether, then, shall we
believe that this was a malignant lie, invented by a mother to prevent
her own child from receiving the bounty of his father, which was
accordingly the consequence, if the person whose life Johnson wrote, was
her son; or shall we not rather believe that the person who then assumed
the name of Richard Savage was an impostor, being in reality the son of
the shoemaker, under whose wife's care[501] Lady Macclesfield's child was
placed; that after the death of the real Richard Savage, he attempted to
personate him; and that the fraud being known to Lady Macclesfield, he
was therefore repulsed by her with just resentment?

There is a strong circumstance in support of the last supposition,
though it has been mentioned as an aggravation of Lady Macclesfield's
unnatural conduct, and that is, her having prevented him from obtaining
the benefit of a legacy left to him by Mrs. Lloyd his god-mother. For if
there was such a legacy left, his not being able to obtain payment of
it, must be imputed to his consciousness that he was not the real
person. The just inference should be, that by the death of Lady
Macclesfield's child before its god-mother, the legacy became lapsed,
and therefore that Johnson's Richard Savage was an impostor. If he had a
title to the legacy, he could not have found any difficulty in
recovering it; for had the executors resisted his claim, the whole
costs, as well as the legacy, must have been paid by them, if he had
been the child to whom it was given[502].

[Page 173: Lord Tyrconnel. Ætat 35.]

The talents of Savage, and the mingled fire, rudeness, pride, meanness,
and ferocity of his character[503], concur in making it credible that he
was fit to plan and carry on an ambitious and daring scheme of
imposture, similar instances of which have not been wanting in higher
spheres, in the history of different countries, and have had a
considerable degree of success.

Yet, on the other hand, to the companion of Johnson, (who through
whatever medium he was conveyed into this world,--be it ever so doubtful
'To whom related, or by whom begot[504],' was, unquestionably, a man of no
common endowments,) we must allow the weight of general repute as to his
_Status_ or parentage, though illicit; and supposing him to be an
impostor, it seems strange that Lord Tyrconnel, the nephew of Lady
Macclesfield, should patronise him, and even admit him as a guest in his
family[505]. Lastly, it must ever appear very suspicious, that three
different accounts of the Life of Richard Savage, one published in _The
Plain Dealer_, in 1724, another in 1727, and another by the powerful pen
of Johnson, in 1744, and all of them while Lady Macclesfield was alive,
should, notwithstanding the severe attacks upon her[506], have been
suffered to pass without any publick and effectual contradiction.

[Page 174: Lady Macclesfield's latter career. A.D. 1744.]

I have thus endeavoured to sum up the evidence upon the case, as fairly
as I can; and the result seems to be, that the world must vibrate in a
state of uncertainty as to what was the truth.

This digression, I trust, will not be censured, as it relates to a
matter exceedingly curious, and very intimately connected with Johnson,
both as a man and an authour[507].

[Page 175: Observations of Shakespeare. Ætat 38.]

He this year wrote the _Preface to the Harleian Miscellany_[508][*] The
selection of the pamphlets of which it was composed was made by Mr.
Oldys[509], a man of eager curiosity and indefatigable diligence, who
first exerted that spirit of inquiry into the literature of the old
English writers, by which the works of our great dramatick poet have of
late been so signally illustrated.

In 1745 he published a pamphlet entitled _Miscellaneous Observations on
the Tragedy of Macbeth, with remarks on Sir T.H.'s (Sir Thomas Hammer's)
Edition of Shakspeare_.[*] To which he affixed, proposals for a new
edition of that poet[510].

As we do not trace any thing else published by him during the course of
this year, we may conjecture that he was occupied entirely with that
work. But the little encouragement which was given by the publick to his
anonymous proposals for the execution of a task which Warburton was
known to have undertaken, probably damped his ardour. His pamphlet,
however, was highly esteemed, and was fortunate enough to obtain the
approbation even of the supercilious Warburton himself, who, in the
Preface to his _Shakspeare_ published two years afterwards, thus
mentioned it: 'As to all those things which have been published under
the titles of _Essays, Remarks, Observations_, &c. on Shakspeare, if you
except some critical notes on _Macbeth_, given as a specimen of a
projected edition, and written, as appears, by a man of parts and
genius, the rest are absolutely below a serious notice.'

Of this flattering distinction shewn to him by Warburton, a very
grateful remembrance was ever entertained by Johnson, who said, 'He
praised me at a time when praise was of value to me.'

[Page 176: The Rebellion of 1745. A.D. 1746.]

1746: ÆTAT. 37.--In 1746 it is probable that he was still employed
upon his _Shakspeare_, which perhaps he laid aside for a time, upon
account of the high expectations which were formed of Warburton's
edition of that great poet[511]. It is somewhat curious, that his literary
career appears to have been almost totally suspended in the years 1745
and 1746, those years which were marked by a civil war in Great-Britain,
when a rash attempt was made to restore the House of Stuart to the
throne. That he had a tenderness for that unfortunate House, is well
known; and some may fancifully imagine, that a sympathetick anxiety
impeded the exertion of his intellectual powers: but I am inclined to
think, that he was, during this time, sketching the outlines of his
great philological work[512].

[Page 177: Johnson not an ardent Jacobite. Ætat 38.]

None of his letters during those years are extant, so far as I can
discover. This is much to be regretted. It might afford some
entertainment to see how he then expressed himself to his private
friends, concerning State affairs. Dr. Adams informs me, that 'at this
time a favourite object which he had in contemplation was _The Life of
Alfred_; in which, from the warmth with which he spoke about it, he
would, I believe, had he been master of his own will, have engaged
himself, rather than on any other subject.'

[Page 178: Poems wrongly assigned to Johnson. A.D. 1747.]

1747: ÆTAT. 38.--In 1747 it is supposed that the _Gentleman's
Magazine_ for May was enriched by him with five[513] short poetical
pieces, distinguished by three asterisks. The first is a translation, or
rather a paraphrase, of a Latin Epitaph on Sir Thomas Hanmer. Whether
the Latin was his, or not, I have never heard, though I should think it
probably was, if it be certain that he wrote the English[514]; as to which
my only cause of doubt is, that his slighting character of Hanmer as an
editor, in his _Observations on Macbeth_, is very different from that in
the 'Epitaph.' It may be said, that there is the same contrariety
between the character in the _Observations_, and that in his own Preface
to Shakspeare[515]; but a considerable time elapsed between the one
publication and the other, whereas the _Observations_ and the 'Epitaph'
came close together. The others are 'To Miss----, on her giving the
Authour a gold and silk net-work Purse of her own weaving;' 'Stella in
Mourning;' 'The Winter's Walk;' 'An Ode;' and, 'To Lyce, an elderly
Lady.' I am not positive that all these were his productions[516]; but as
'The Winter's Walk' has never been controverted to be his, and all of
them have the same mark, it is reasonable to conclude that they are all
written by the same hand. Yet to the Ode, in which we find a passage
very characteristick of him, being a learned description of the gout,

'Unhappy, whom to beds of pain
_Arthritick_ tyranny consigns;'

there is the following note: 'The authour being ill of the gout:' but
Johnson was not attacked with that distemper till at a very late period
of his life[517]. May not this, however, be a poetical fiction? Why may
not a poet suppose himself to have the gout, as well as suppose himself
to be in love, of which we have innumerable instances, and which has
been admirably ridiculed by Johnson in his _Life of Cowley_[518]? I have
also some difficulty to believe that he could produce such a group of
_conceits_[519] as appear in the verses to Lyce, in which he claims for
this ancient personage as good a right to be assimilated to _heaven_, as
nymphs whom other poets have flattered; he therefore ironically ascribes
to her the attributes of the _sky_, in such stanzas as this:

'Her teeth the _night_ with _darkness_ dies,
    She's _starr'd_ with pimples o'er;
Her tongue like nimble _lightning_ plies,
    And can with _thunder roar_.'

But as at a very advanced age he could condescend to trifle in
_namby-pamby_[520] rhymes, to please Mrs. Thrale and her daughter, he may
have, in his earlier years, composed such a piece as this.

It is remarkable, that in this first edition of _The Winters Walk_, the
concluding line is much more Johnsonian than it was afterwards printed;
for in subsequent editions, after praying Stella to 'snatch him to her
arms,' he says,

'And _shield_ me from the _ills_ of life.'

[Page 180: Verses on Lord Lovat. A.D. 1747.]

Whereas in the first edition it is

'And hide me from the _sight_ of life.'

A horrour at life in general is more consonant with Johnson's habitual
gloomy cast of thought.

I have heard him repeat with great energy the following verses, which
appeared in the _Gentleman's Magazine_ for April this year; but I have
no authority to say they were his own. Indeed one of the best criticks
of our age[521] suggests to me, that 'the word _indifferently_ being used
in the sense of _without concern_' and being also very unpoetical,
renders it improbable that they should have been his composition.

'On Lord LOVAT'S _Execution_.

'Pity'd by _gentle minds_ KILMARNOCK died;
The _brave_, BALMERINO, were on thy side;
RADCLIFFE, unhappy in his crimes of youth[522],
Steady in what he still mistook for truth,
Beheld his death so decently unmov'd,
The _soft_ lamented, and the _brave_ approv'd.
But LOVAT'S fate[523] indifferently we view,
True to no King, to no _religion_ true:
No _fair_ forgets the _ruin_ he has done;
No _child_ laments the _tyrant_ of his _son_;
No _tory_ pities, thinking what he was;
No _whig_ compassions, _for he left the cause_;
The _brave_ regret not, for he was not brave;
The _honest_ mourn not, knowing him a knave[524]!'

[Page 181: A Prologue by Johnson. Ætat 38.]

This year his old pupil and friend, David Garrick, having become joint
patentee and manager of Drury-lane theatre, Johnson honoured his opening
of it with a Prologue[525],[*] which for just and manly dramatick
criticism, on the whole range of the English stage, as well as for
poetical excellence[526], is unrivalled. Like the celebrated Epilogue to
the _Distressed Mother_,[527] it was, during the season, often called for
by the audience. The most striking and brilliant passages of it have
been so often repeated, and are so well recollected by all the lovers of
the drama and of poetry, that it would be superfluous to point them out.
In the _Gentleman's Magazine_ for December this year, he inserted an
'Ode on Winter,' which is, I think, an admirable specimen of his genius
for lyrick poetry[528].

[Page 182: The Plan of the Dictionary. A.D. 1747.]

But the year 1747 is distinguished as the epoch, when Johnson's arduous
and important work, his DICTIONARY OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE, was
announced to the world, by the publication of its Plan or _Prospectus_.

How long this immense undertaking had been the object of his
contemplation, I do not know. I once asked him by what means he had
attained to that astonishing knowledge of our language, by which he was
enabled to realise a design of such extent, and accumulated difficulty.
He told me, that 'it was not the effect of particular study; but that it
had grown up in his mind insensibly.' I have been informed by Mr. James
Dodsley, that several years before this period, when Johnson was one day
sitting in his brother Robert's shop, he heard his brother suggest to
him, that a Dictionary of the English Language would be a work that
would be well received by the publick[529]; that Johnson seemed at first
to catch at the proposition, but, after a pause, said, in his abrupt
decisive manner, 'I believe I shall not undertake it.' That he, however,
had bestowed much thought upon the subject, before he published his
_Plan_, is evident from the enlarged, clear, and accurate views which it
exhibits; and we find him mentioning in that tract, that many of the
writers whose testimonies were to be produced as authorities, were
selected by Pope[530]; which proves that he had been furnished, probably
by Mr. Robert Dodsley, with whatever hints that eminent poet had
contributed towards a great literary project, that had been the subject
of important consideration in a former reign.

[Page 183: Address of the Earl of Chesterfield. Ætat 38.]

The booksellers who contracted with Johnson, single and unaided, for the
execution of a work, which in other countries has not been effected but
by the co-operating exertions of many, were Mr. Robert Dodsley, Mr.
Charles Hitch[531], Mr. Andrew Millar, the two Messieurs Longman, and the
two Messieurs Knapton. The price stipulated was fifteen hundred and
seventy-five pounds[532].

The _Plan_ was addressed to Philip Dormer, Earl of Chesterfield, then
one of his Majesty's Principal Secretaries of State[533]; a nobleman who
was very ambitious of literary distinction, and who, upon being informed
of the design, had expressed himself in terms very favourable to its
success. There is, perhaps in every thing of any consequence, a secret
history which it would be amusing to know, could we have it
authentically communicated. Johnson told me[534], 'Sir, the way in which
the _Plan_ of my _Dictionary_ came to be inscribed to Lord Chesterfield,
was this: I had neglected to write it by the time appointed. Dodsley
suggested a desire to have it addressed to Lord Chesterfield. I laid
hold of this as a pretext for delay, that it might be better done, and
let Dodsley have his desire. I said to my friend, Dr. Bathurst, "Now if
any good comes of my addressing to Lord Chesterfield, it will be
ascribed to deep policy, when, in fact, it was only a casual excuse for

[Page 184: The style of the PLAN. A.D. 1747.]

It is worthy of observation, that the _Plan_ has not only the
substantial merit of comprehension, perspicuity, and precision, but that
the language of it is unexceptionably excellent; it being altogether
free from that inflation of style, and those uncommon but apt and
energetick words[535], which in some of his writings have been censured,
with more petulance than justice; and never was there a more dignified
strain of compliment than that in which he courts the attention of one
who, he had been persuaded to believe, would be a respectable patron.

'With regard to questions of purity or propriety, (says he) I was once
in doubt whether I should not attribute to myself too much in attempting
to decide them, and whether my province was to extend beyond the
proposition of the question, and the display of the suffrages on each
side; but I have been since determined by your Lordship's opinion, to
interpose my own judgement, and shall therefore endeavour to support
what appears to me most consonant to grammar and reason. Ausonius
thought that modesty forbade him to plead inability for a task to which
Caesar had judged him equal:

Cur me pesse negem posse quod ille putat[536]?

'And I may hope, my Lord, that since you, whose authority in our
language is so generally acknowledged, have commissioned me to declare
my own opinion, I shall be considered as exercising a kind of vicarious
jurisdiction; and that the power which might have been denied to my own
claim, will be readily allowed me as the delegate of your Lordship.'

[Page 185: The Earl of Orrery. Ætat 38.]

This passage proves, that Johnson's addressing his _Plan_ to Lord
Chesterfield was not merely in consequence of the result of a report by
means of Dodsley, that the Earl favoured the design; but that there had
been a particular communication with his Lordship concerning it. Dr.
Taylor told me, that Johnson sent his _Plan_ to him in manuscript, for
his perusal; and that when it was lying upon his table, Mr. William
Whitehead[537] happened to pay him a visit, and being shewn it, was highly
pleased with such parts of it as he had time to read, and begged to take
it home with him, which he was allowed to do; that from him it got into
the hands of a noble Lord, who carried it to Lord Chesterfield[538]. When
Taylor observed this might be an advantage, Johnson replied, 'No, Sir;
it would have come out with more bloom, if it had not been seen before
by any body.'

The opinion conceived of it by another noble authour, appears from the
following extract of a letter from the Earl of Orrery to Dr. Birch:

'Caledon, Dec. 30, 1747.

'I have just now seen the specimen of Mr. Johnson's Dictionary,
addressed to Lord Chesterfield. I am much pleased with the plan, and I
think the specimen is one of the best that I have ever read. Most
specimens disgust, rather than prejudice us in favour of the work to
follow; but the language of Mr. Johnson's is good, and the arguments are
properly and modestly expressed. However, some expressions may be
cavilled at, but they are trifles. I'll mention one. The _barren_
Laurel. The laurel is not barren, in any sense whatever; it bears fruits
and flowers[539]. _Sed hae sunt nugae_, and I have great expectation from
the performance[540].'

That he was fully aware of the arduous nature of the undertaking, he
acknowledges; and shews himself perfectly sensible of it in the
conclusion of his _Plan_[541]; but he had a noble consciousness of his own
abilities, which enabled him to go on with undaunted spirit[542].

[Page 186: The Dictionary of the French Academy. A.D. 1748.]

Dr. Adams found him one day busy at his _Dictionary_, when the following
dialogue ensued. 'ADAMS. This is a great work, Sir. How are you to get
all the etymologies? JOHNSON. Why, Sir, here is a shelf with Junius, and
Skinner[543], and others; and there is a Welch gentleman who has published
a collection of Welch proverbs, who will help me with the Welch[544].
ADAMS. But, Sir, how can you do this in three years? JOHNSON. Sir, I
have no doubt that I can do it in three years. ADAMS. But the French
Academy, which consists of forty members, took forty years to compile
their Dictionary. JOHNSON. Sir, thus it is. This is the proportion. Let
me see; forty times forty is sixteen hundred. As three to sixteen
hundred, so is the proportion of an Englishman to a Frenchman.' With so
much ease and pleasantry could he talk of that prodigious labour which
he had undertaken to execute.

The publick has had, from another pen[545], a long detail of what had been
done in this country by prior Lexicographers; and no doubt Johnson was
wise to avail himself of them, so far as they went: but the learned, yet
judicious research of etymology[546], the various, yet accurate display of
definition, and the rich collection of authorities, were reserved for
the superior mind of our great philologist[547]. For the mechanical part
he employed, as he told me, six amanuenses; and let it be remembered by
the natives of North-Britain, to whom he is supposed to have been so
hostile, that five of them were of that country. There were two
Messieurs Macbean; Mr. Shiels, who we shall hereafter see partly wrote
the _Lives of the Poets_ to which the name of Cibber is affixed[548]; Mr.
Stewart, son of Mr. George Stewart, bookseller at Edinburgh; and a Mr.
Maitland. The sixth of these humble assistants was Mr. Peyton, who, I
believe, taught French, and published some elementary tracts.

[Page 187: Johnson's amanuenses. Ætat 38.]

To all these painful labourers, Johnson shewed a never-ceasing kindness,
so far as they stood in need of it. The elder Mr. Macbean had afterwards
the honour of being Librarian to Archibald, Duke of Argyle, for many
years, but was left without a shilling. Johnson wrote for him a Preface
to _A System of Ancient Geography_; and, by the favour of Lord Thurlow,
got him admitted a poor brother of the Charterhouse[549]. For Shiels, who
died, of a consumption, he had much tenderness; and it has been thought
that some choice sentences in the _Lives of the Poets_ were supplied by
him[550]. Peyton, when reduced to penury, had frequent aid from the bounty
of Johnson, who at last was at the expense of burying both him and his

[Page 188: The upper room in Gough-square. A.D. 1748.]

[Page 189: Authours quoted in THE DICTIONARY. Ætat 39.]

While the _Dictionary_ was going forward, Johnson lived part of the time
in Holborn, part in Gough-square, Fleet-street; and he had an upper room
fitted up like a counting-house for the purpose, in which he gave to the
copyists their several tasks[552]. The words, partly taken from other
dictionaries, and partly supplied by himself, having been first written
down with spaces left between them, he delivered in writing their
etymologies, definitions, and various significations[553]. The authorities
were copied from the books themselves, in which he had marked the
passages with a black-lead pencil, the traces of which could easily be
effaced[554]. I have seen several of them, in which that trouble had not
been taken; so that they were just as when used by the copyists[555]. It
is remarkable, that he was so attentive in the choice of the passages in
which words were authorised, that one may read page after page of his
_Dictionary_ with improvement and pleasure; and it should not pass
unobserved, that he has quoted no authour whose writings had a tendency
to hurt sound religion and morality[556].

The necessary expense of preparing a work of such magnitude for the
press, must have been a considerable deduction from the price stipulated
to be paid for the copy-right. I understand that nothing was allowed by
the booksellers on that account; and I remember his telling me, that a
large portion of it having by mistake been written upon both sides of
the paper, so as to be inconvenient for the compositor, it cost him
twenty pounds to have it transcribed upon one side only.

[Page 190: The Ivy Lane Club. A.D. 1748.]

[Page 191: Mr. John Hawkins, an attorney. Ætat 39.]

He is now to be considered as 'tugging at his oar[557],' as engaged in a
steady continued course of occupation, sufficient to employ all his time
for some years; and which was the best preventive of that constitutional
melancholy which was ever lurking about him, ready to trouble his quiet.
But his enlarged and lively mind could not be satisfied without more
diversity of employment, and the pleasure of animated relaxation[558]. He
therefore not only exerted his talents in occasional composition very
different from Lexicography, but formed a club in Ivy-lane,
Paternoster-row, with a view to enjoy literary discussion, and amuse his
evening hours. The members associated with him in this little society
were his beloved friend Dr. Richard Bathurst[559], Mr. Hawkesworth[560],
afterwards well known by his writings, Mr. John Hawkins, an attorney[561],
and a few others of different professions[562].

[Page 192: The Vision of Theodore. A.D. 1749.]

In the _Gentleman's Magazine_ for May of this year he wrote a 'Life of
Roscommon,'[*] with Notes, which he afterwards much improved, indented
the notes into text, and inserted it amongst his _Lives of the English

Mr. Dodsley this year brought out his _Preceptor_, one of the most
valuable books for the improvement of young minds that has appeared in
any language; and to this meritorious work Johnson furnished 'The
Preface,'[*] containing a general sketch of the book, with a short and
perspicuous recommendation of each article; as also, 'The Vision of
Theodore the Hermit, found in his Cell,'[*] a most beautiful allegory of
human life, under the figure of ascending the mountain of Existence. The
Bishop of Dromore heard Dr. Johnson say, that he thought this was the
best thing he ever wrote[563].

1749: ÆTAT. 40.--In January, 1749, he published _The Vanity of Human
Wishes, being the Tenth Satire of Juvenal imitated_[564]. He, I believe,
composed it the preceding year[565]. Mrs. Johnson, for the sake of country
air, had lodgings at Hampstead, to which he resorted occasionally, and
there the greatest part, if not the whole, of this _Imitation_ was
written[566]. The fervid rapidity with which it was produced, is scarcely
credible. I have heard him say, that he composed seventy lines of it in
one day, without putting one of them upon paper till they were

[Page 193: The payment of poets.]

I remember when I once regretted to him that he had not given us more of
Juvenal's _Satires_, he said he probably should give more, for he had
them all in his head; by which I understood that he had the originals
and correspondent allusions floating in his mind, which he could, when
he pleased, embody and render permanent without much labour. Some of
them, however, he observed were too gross for imitation.

The profits of a single poem, however excellent, appear to have been
very small in the last reign, compared with what a publication of the
same size has since been known to yield. I have mentioned, upon
Johnson's own authority, that for his _London_ he had only ten guineas;
and now, after his fame was established, he got for his _Vanity of Human
Wishes_ but five guineas more, as is proved by an authentick document in
my possession[568].

It will be observed, that he reserves to himself the right of printing
one edition of this satire, which was his practice upon occasion of the
sale of all his writings; it being his fixed intention to publish at
some period, for his own profit, a complete collection of his works[569].

His _Vanity of Human Wishes_ has less of common life, but more of a
philosophick dignity than his _London_. More readers, therefore, will be
delighted with the pointed spirit of _London_, than with the profound
reflection of _The Vanity of Human Wishes_[570]. Garrick, for instance,
observed in his sprightly manner, with more vivacity than regard to just
discrimination, as is usual with wits, 'When Johnson lived much with
the Herveys, and saw a good deal of what was passing in life, he wrote
his _London_, which is lively and easy. When he became more retired, he
gave us his _Vanity of Human Wishes_, which is as hard as Greek. Had he
gone on to imitate another satire, it would have been as hard as

[Page 194: Lydiat's life. A.D. 1749.]

But _The Vanity of Human Wishes_ is, in the opinion of the best judges,
as high an effort of ethick poetry as any language can shew. The
instances of variety of disappointment are chosen so judiciously and
painted so strongly, that, the moment they are read, they bring
conviction to every thinking mind. That of the scholar must have
depressed the too sanguine expectations of many an ambitious student[572].
That of the warrior, Charles of Sweden, is, I think, as highly finished
a picture as can possibly be conceived.

[Page 195: The conclusion of Johnson's poem. Ætat 40.]

Were all the other excellencies of this poem annihilated, it must ever
have our grateful reverence from its noble conclusion; in which we are
consoled with the assurance that happiness may be attained, if we 'apply
our hearts[573]' to piety:

'Where then shall hope and fear their objects find?
Shall dull suspense corrupt the stagnant mind?
Must helpless man, in ignorance sedate,
Roll darkling down the torrent of his fate?
Shall no dislike alarm, no wishes rise,
No cries attempt the mercy of the skies?
Enthusiast[574], cease; petitions yet remain,
Which Heav'n may hear, nor deem Religion vain.
Still raise for good the supplicating voice,
But leave to Heaven the measure and the choice.
Safe in His hand, whose eye discerns afar
The secret ambush of a specious pray'r;
Implore His aid, in His decisions rest,
Secure whate'er He gives He gives the best.
Yet when the sense of sacred presence fires,
And strong devotion to the skies aspires,
Pour forth thy fervours for a healthful mind,
Obedient passions, and a will resign'd;
For love, which scarce collective man can fill,
For patience, sovereign o'er transmuted ill;
For faith, which panting for a happier seat,
Counts death kind Nature's signal for retreat.
These goods for man the laws of Heaven ordain,
These goods He grants, who grants the power to gain;
With these celestial wisdom calms the mind,
And makes the happiness she does not find.'

[Page 196: IRENE on the stage. A.D. 1749.]

Garrick being now vested with theatrical power by being manager of
Drury-lane theatre, he kindly and generously made use of it to bring out
Johnson's tragedy, which had been long kept back for want of
encouragement. But in this benevolent purpose he met with no small
difficulty from the temper of Johnson, which could not brook that a
drama which he had formed with much study, and had been obliged to keep
more than the nine years of Horace[575], should be revised and altered at
the pleasure of an actor[576]. Yet Garrick knew well, that without some
alterations it would not be fit for the stage. A violent dispute having
ensued between them, Garrick applied to the Reverend Dr. Taylor to
interpose. Johnson was at first very obstinate. 'Sir, (said he) the
fellow wants me to make Mahomet run mad, that he may have an opportunity
of tossing his hands and kicking his heels[577].' He was, however, at
last, with difficulty, prevailed on to comply with Garrick's wishes, so
as to allow of some changes; but still there were not enough.

[Page 197: The Epilogue to IRENE. Ætat 40.]

Dr. Adams was present the first night of the representation of _Irene_,
and gave me the following account: 'Before the curtain drew up, there
were catcalls whistling, which alarmed Johnson's friends. The Prologue,
which was written by himself in a manly strain, soothed the audience[578],
and the play went off tolerably, till it came to the conclusion, when
Mrs. Pritchard[579], the heroine of the piece, was to be strangled upon
the stage, and was to speak two lines with the bow-string round her
neck. The audience cried out "_Murder! Murder_[580]!" She several times
attempted to speak; but in vain. At last she was obliged to go off the
stage alive.' This passage was afterwards struck out, and she was
carried off to be put to death behind the scenes, as the play now has
it[581]. The Epilogue, as Johnson informed me, was written by Sir William
Yonge[582]. I know not how his play came to be thus graced by the pen of a
person then so eminent in the political world.

Notwithstanding all the support of such performers as Garrick, Barry,
Mrs. Cibber, Mrs. Pritchard, and every advantage of dress and
decoration, the tragedy of _Irene_ did not please the publick[583]. Mr.
Garrick's zeal carried it through for nine nights[584], so that the
authour had his three nights' profits; and from a receipt signed by him,
now in the hands of Mr. James Dodsley, it appears that his friend Mr.
Robert Dodsley gave him one hundred pounds for the copy, with his usual
reservation of the right of one edition[585].

[Page 198: IRENE as a poem. A.D. 1749.]

[Page 199: Johnson no tragedy-writer. Ætat 40.]

_Irene_, considered as a poem, is intitled to the praise of superiour
excellence[586]. Analysed into parts, it will furnish a rich store of
noble sentiments, fine imagery, and beautiful language; but it is
deficient in pathos, in that delicate power of touching the human
feelings, which is the principal end of the drama[587]. Indeed Garrick has
complained to me, that Johnson not only had not the faculty of producing
the impressions of tragedy, but that he had not the sensibility to
perceive them. His great friend Mr. Walmsley's prediction, that he would
'turn out a fine tragedy-writer[588],' was, therefore, ill-founded.
Johnson was wise enough to be convinced that he had not the talents
necessary to write successfully for the stage, and never made another
attempt in that species of composition[589].

[Page 200: Deference for the general opinion. A.D. 1749.]

When asked how he felt upon the ill success of his tragedy, he replied,
'Like the Monument[590];' meaning that he continued firm and unmoved as
that column. And let it be remembered, as an admonition to the _genus
irritabile_[591] of dramatick writers, that this great man, instead of
peevishly complaining of the bad taste of the town, submitted to its
decision without a murmur. He had, indeed, upon all occasions, a great
deference for the general opinion[592]: 'A man (said he) who writes a
book, thinks himself wiser or wittier than the rest of mankind; he
supposes that he can instruct or amuse them, and the publick to whom he
appeals, must, after all, be the judges of his pretensions.'

[Page 201: Johnson in the Green Room. Ætat 41.]

On occasion of his play being brought upon the stage, Johnson had a
fancy that as a dramatick authour his dress should be more gay than what
he ordinarily wore; he therefore appeared behind the scenes, and even in
one of the side boxes, in a scarlet waistcoat, with rich gold lace, and
a gold-laced hat[593]. He humourously observed to Mr. Langton, that 'when
in that dress he could not treat people with the same ease as when in
his usual plain clothes[594].' Dress indeed, we must allow, has more
effect even upon strong minds than one should suppose, without having
had the experience of it. His necessary attendance while his play was in
rehearsal, and during its performance, brought him acquainted with many
of the performers of both sexes, which produced a more favourable
opinion of their profession than he had harshly expressed in his _Life
of Savage_[595]. With some of them he kept up an acquaintance as long as
he and they lived, and was ever ready to shew them acts of kindness. He
for a considerable time used to frequent the _Green Room_, and seemed to
take delight in dissipating his gloom, by mixing in the sprightly
chit-chat of the motley circle then to be found there[596]. Mr. David Hume
related to me from Mr. Garrick, that Johnson at last denied himself this
amusement, from considerations of rigid virtue; saying, 'I'll come no
more behind your scenes, David; for the silk stockings and white bosoms
of your actresses excite my amorous propensities.'

[Page 202: The Rambler. A.D. 1750.]

1750: ÆTAT. 41.--In 1750 he came forth in the character for which he
was eminently qualified, a majestick teacher of moral and religious
wisdom. The vehicle which he chose was that of a periodical paper, which
he knew had been, upon former occasions, employed with great success.
The _Tatler, Spectator_, and _Guardian_, were the last of the kind
published in England, which had stood the test of a long trial[597]; and
such an interval had now elapsed since their publication, as made him
justly think that, to many of his readers, this form of instruction
would, in some degree, have the advantage of novelty. A few days before
the first of his _Essays_ came out, there started another competitor for
fame in the same form, under the title of _The _Tatler Revived_[598],
which I believe was 'born but to die[599].' Johnson was, I think, not very
happy in the choice of his title, _The Rambler_, which certainly is not
suited to a series of grave and moral discourses; which the Italians
have literally, but ludicrously translated by _Il Vagabondo_[600]; and
which has been lately assumed as the denomination of a vehicle of
licentious tales, _The Rambler's Magazine_. He gave Sir Joshua Reynolds
the following account of its getting this name: 'What _must_ be done,
Sir, _will_ be done. When I was to begin publishing that paper, I was at
a loss how to name it. I sat down at night upon my bedside, and resolved
that I would not go to sleep till I had fixed its title. _The Rambler_
seemed the best that occurred, and I took it[601].'

With what devout and conscientious sentiments this paper was undertaken,
is evidenced by the following prayer, which he composed and offered up
on the occasion: 'Almighty GOD, the giver of all good things, without
whose help all labour is ineffectual, and without whose grace all wisdom
is folly; grant, I beseech Thee, that in this undertaking[602] thy Holy
Spirit may not be with-held from me, but that I may promote thy glory,
and the salvation of myself and others: grant this, O LORD, for the sake
of thy son JESUS CHRIST. Amen[603].'

[Page 203: Revision of The Rambler. Ætat 41.]

The first paper of the _Rambler_ was published on Tuesday the 20th of
March, 1750; and its authour was enabled to continue it, without
interruption, every Tuesday and Friday, till Saturday the 17th of March,
1752[604], on which day it closed. This is a strong confirmation of the
truth of a remark of his, which I have had occasion to quote
elsewhere[605], that 'a man may write at any time, if he will set himself
doggedly to it[606];' for, notwithstanding his constitutional indolence,
his depression of spirits, and his labour in carrying on his
_Dictionary_, he answered the stated calls of the press twice a week
from the stores of his mind, during all that time; having received no
assistance, except four billets in No. 10, by Miss Mulso, now Mrs.
Chapone[607]; No. 30, by Mrs. Catharine Talbot[608]; No. 97, by Mr. Samuel
Richardson, whom he describes in an introductory note as 'An author who
has enlarged the knowledge of human nature, and taught the passions to
move at the command of virtue;' and Nos. 44 and 100 by Mrs. Elizabeth

[Page 204: Johnson's rapid composition. A.D. 1750.]

Posterity will be astonished when they are told, upon the authority of
Johnson himself, that many of these discourses, which we should suppose
had been laboured with all the slow attention of literary leisure, were
written in haste as the moment pressed, without even being read over by
him before they were printed[609]. It can be accounted for only in this
way; that by reading and meditation, and a very close inspection of
life, he had accumulated a great fund of miscellaneous knowledge, which,
by a peculiar promptitude of mind, was ever ready at his call, and which
he had constantly accustomed himself to clothe in the most apt and
energetick expression. Sir Joshua Reynolds once asked him by what means
he had attained his extraordinary accuracy and flow of language. He told
him, that he had early laid it down as a fixed rule to do his best on
every occasion, and in every company; to impart whatever he knew in the
most forcible language he could put it in; and that by constant
practice, and never suffering any careless expressions to escape him, or
attempting to deliver his thoughts without arranging them in the
clearest manner, it became habitual to him[610].

[Page 205: Hints for the Rambler. Ætat 42.]

Yet he was not altogether unprepared as a periodical writer; for I have
in my possession a small duodecimo volume, in which he has written, in
the form of Mr. Locke's _Common-Place Book_, a variety of hints for
essays on different subjects. He has marked upon the first blank leaf of
it, 'To the 128th page, collections for the _Rambler_;' and in another
place, 'In fifty-two there were seventeen provided; in 97-21; in
190-25.' At a subsequent period (probably after the work was finished)
he added, 'In all, taken of provided materials, 30[611].'

Sir John Hawkins, who is unlucky upon all occasions, tells us, that
'this method of accumulating intelligence had been practised by Mr.
Addison, and is humourously described in one of the _Spectators_[612],
wherein he feigns to have dropped his paper of _notanda_, consisting of
a diverting medley of broken sentences and loose hints, which he tells
us he had collected, and meant to make use of. Much of the same kind is
Johnson's _Adversaria_[613]'. But the truth is, that there is no
resemblance at all between them. Addison's note was a fiction, in which
unconnected fragments of his lucubrations were purposely jumbled
together, in as odd a manner as he could, in order to produce a
laughable effect. Whereas Johnson's abbreviations are all distinct, and
applicable to each subject of which the head is mentioned.

For instance, there is the following specimen:

_Youth's Entry, &c_.

'Baxter's account of things in which he had changed his mind as he grew
up. Voluminous.--No wonder.--If every man was to tell, or mark, on how
many subjects he has changed, it would make vols. but the changes not
always observed by man's self.--From pleasure to bus. [business] to
quiet; from thoughtfulness to reflect. to piety; from dissipation to
domestic. by impercept. gradat. but the change is certain. Dial[614] _non
progredi, progress. esse conspicimus_. Look back, consider what was
thought at some dist. period.

'_Hope predom. in youth. Mind not willingly indulges unpleasing
thoughts_. The world lies all enameled before him, as a distant prospect
sun-gilt[615]; inequalities only found by coming to it. _Love is to be all
joy--children excellent_--Fame to be constant--caresses of the
great--applauses of the learned--smiles of Beauty.

'_Fear of disgrace--bashfulness_--Finds things of less importance.
Miscarriages forgot like excellencies;--if remembered, of no import.
Danger of sinking into negligence of reputation. Lest the fear of
disgrace destroy activity.

[Page 206: Hints for The Rambler. A.D. 1750.]

'_Confidence in himself_. Long tract of life before him.--No thought of
sickness.--Embarrassment of affairs.--Distraction of family. Publick
calamities.--No sense of the prevalence of bad habits.--Negligent of
time--ready to undertake--careless to pursue--all changed by time.

'_Confident of others_--unsuspecting as unexperienced--imagining himself
secure against neglect, never imagines they will venture to treat him
ill. Ready to trust; expecting to be trusted. Convinced by time of the
selfishness, the meanness, the cowardice, the treachery of men.

'Youth ambitious, as thinking honours easy to be had.

'Different kinds of praise pursued at different periods. Of the gay in
youth, dang. hurt, &c. despised.

'Of the fancy in manhood. Ambit.--stocks--bargains.--Of the wise and
sober in old age--seriousness--formality--maxims, but general--only of
the rich, otherwise age is happy--but at last every thing referred to
riches--no having fame, honour, influence, without subjection to


'Hard it would be if men entered life with the same views with which
they leave it, or left as they enter it.--No hope--no undertaking--no
regard to benevolence--no fear of disgrace, &c.

'Youth to be taught the piety of age--age to retain the honour of

This, it will be observed, is the sketch of Number 196 of the _Rambler_.
I shall gratify my readers with another specimen:

'_Confederacies difficult; why_.

[Page 207: Hints for The Rambler. Ætat 41.]

'Seldom in war a match for single persons--nor in peace; therefore kings
make themselves absolute. Confederacies in learning--every great work
the work of one. _Bruy_. Scholar's friendship like ladies. Scribebamus,
&c. Mart.[617] the apple of discord--the laurel of discord--the poverty of
criticism. Swift's opinion of the power of six geniuses united[618]. That
union scarce possible. His remarks just; man a social, not steady
nature. Drawn to man by words, repelled by passions. Orb drawn by
attraction rep. [_repelled_] by centrifugal.

'Common danger unites by crushing other passions--but they return.
Equality hinders compliance. Superiority produces insolence and envy.
Too much regard in each to private interest--too little.

'The mischiefs of private and exclusive societies--the fitness of social
attraction diffused through the whole. The mischiefs of too partial love
of our country. Contraction of moral duties--[Greek: oi philoi on

'Every man moves upon his own center, and therefore repels others from
too near a contact, though he may comply with some general laws.

'Of confederacy with superiours, every one knows the inconvenience. With
equals, no authority;--every man his own opinion--his own interest.

'Man and wife hardly united;--scarce ever without children. Computation,
if two to one against two, how many against five? If confederacies were
easy--useless;--many oppresses many.--If possible only to some,
dangerous. _Principum amicitias_[620]'.

Here we see the embryo of Number 45 of the _Adventurer_; and it is a
confirmation of what I shall presently have occasion to mention[621], that
the papers in that collection marked T. were written by Johnson.

[Page 208: The Rambler's slow sale. A.D. 1750.]

This scanty preparation of materials will not, however, much diminish
our wonder at the extraordinary fertility of his mind; for the
proportion which they bear to the number of essays which he wrote, is
very small; and it is remarkable, that those for which he had made no
preparation, are as rich and as highly finished as those for which the
hints were lying by him. It is also to be observed, that the papers
formed from his hints are worked up with such strength and elegance,
that we almost lose sight of the hints, which become like 'drops in the
bucket.' Indeed, in several instances, he has made a very slender use of
them, so that many of them remain still unapplied[622].

As the _Rambler_ was entirely the work of one man, there was, of course,
such a uniformity in its texture, as very much to exclude the charm of
variety[623]; and the grave and often solemn cast of thinking, which
distinguished it from other periodical papers, made it, for some time,
not generally liked. So slowly did this excellent work, of which twelve
editions have now issued from the press, gain upon the world at large,
that even in the closing number the authour says, 'I have never been
much a favourite of the publick[624].'

[Page 209: George II. not an Augustus. Ætat 41.]

Yet, very soon after its commencement, there were who felt and
acknowledged its uncommon excellence. Verses in its praise appeared in
the newspapers; and the editor of the _Gentleman's Magazine_ mentions,
in October, his having received several letters to the same purpose from
the learned[625]. _The Student, or Oxford and Cambridge Miscellany_, in
which Mr. Bonnell Thornton and Mr. Colman were the principal writers,
describes it as 'a work that exceeds anything of the kind ever published
in this kingdom, some of the _Spectators_ excepted--if indeed they may
be excepted.' And afterwards, 'May the publick favours crown his merits,
and may not the English, under the auspicious reign of GEORGE the
Second, neglect a man, who, had he lived in the first century, would
have been one of the greatest favourites of Augustus.' This flattery of
the monarch had no effect. It is too well known, that the second George
never was an Augustus to learning or genius[626].

[Page 210: Mrs. Johnson's praise of The Rambler. A.D. 1750.]

Johnson told me, with an amiable fondness, a little pleasing
circumstance relative to this work. Mrs. Johnson, in whose judgement and
taste he had great confidence, said to him, after a few numbers of the
_Rambler_ had come out, 'I thought very well of you before; but I did
not imagine you could have written any thing equal to this[627].' Distant
praise, from whatever quarter, is not so delightful as that of a wife
whom a man loves and esteems. Her approbation may be said to 'come home
to his _bosom_;' and being so near, its effect is most sensible and

Mr. James Elphinston[628], who has since published various works, and who
was ever esteemed by Johnson as a worthy man, happened to be in Scotland
while the _Rambler_ was coming out in single papers at London. With a
laudable zeal at once for the improvement of his countrymen, and the
reputation of his friend, he suggested and took the charge of an edition
of those Essays at Edinburgh, which followed progressively the London

The following letter written at this time, though not dated, will show
how much pleased Johnson was with this publication, and what kindness
and regard he had for Mr. Elphinston.

[Page 211: Letters to Mr. Elphinston. Ætat 41.]


[No date.]


'I cannot but confess the failures of my correspondence, but hope the
same regard which you express for me on every other occasion, will
incline you to forgive me. I am often, very often, ill; and, when I am
well, am obliged to work: and, indeed, have never much used myself to
punctuality. You are, however, not to make unkind inferences, when I
forbear to reply to your kindness; for be assured, I never receive a
letter from you without great pleasure, and a very warm sense of your
generosity and friendship, which I heartily blame myself for not
cultivating with more care. In this, as in many other cases, I go wrong,
in opposition to conviction; for I think scarce any temporal good
equally to be desired with the regard and familiarity of worthy men. I
hope we shall be some time nearer to each other, and have a more ready
way of pouring out our hearts.

'I am glad that you still find encouragement to proceed in your
publication, and shall beg the favour of six more volumes to add to my
former six, when you can, with any convenience, send them me. Please to
present a set, in my name, to Mr. Ruddiman[630], of whom, I hear, that his
learning is not his highest excellence. I have transcribed the mottos,
and returned them, I hope not too late, of which I think many very
happily performed. Mr. Cave has put the last in the magazine[631], in
which I think he did well. I beg of you to write soon, and to write
often, and to write long letters, which I hope in time to repay you; but
you must be a patient creditor. I have, however, this of gratitude, that
I think of you with regard, when I do not, perhaps, give the proofs
which I ought, of being, Sir,

'Your most obliged and

'Most humble servant.


This year he wrote to the same gentleman another letter,
upon a mournful occasion,

[Page 212: The death of a mother. A.D. 1750.]


September 25, 1750.


'You have, as I find by every kind of evidence, lost an excellent
mother; and I hope you will not think me incapable of partaking of your
grief. I have a mother, now eighty-two years of age, whom, therefore, I
must soon lose[632], unless it please GOD that she rather should mourn for
me. I read the letters in which you relate your mother's death to Mrs.
Strahan[633], and think I do myself honour, when I tell you that I read
them with tears; but tears are neither to _you_ nor to _me_ of any
further use, when once the tribute of nature has been paid. The business
of life summons us away from useless grief, and calls us to the exercise
of those virtues of which we are lamenting our deprivation. The greatest
benefit which one friend can confer upon another, is to guard, and
excite, and elevate his virtues. This your mother will still perform, if
you diligently preserve the memory of her life, and of her death: a
life, so far as I can learn, useful, wise, and innocent; and a death
resigned, peaceful, and holy. I cannot forbear to mention, that neither
reason nor revelation denies you to hope, that you may increase her
happiness by obeying her precepts; and that she may, in her present
state, look with pleasure upon every act of virtue to which her
instructions or example have contributed. Whether this be more than a
pleasing dream, or a just opinion of separate spirits, is, indeed, of no
great importance to us, when we consider ourselves as acting under the
eye of GOD: yet, surely, there is something pleasing in the belief, that
our separation from those whom we love is merely corporeal; and it may
be a great incitement to virtuous friendship, if it can be made
probable, that that union that has received the divine approbation shall
continue to eternity.

'There is one expedient by which you may, in some degree, continue her
presence. If you write down minutely what you remember of her from your
earliest years, you will read it with great pleasure, and receive from
it many hints of soothing recollection, when time shall remove her yet
farther from you, and your grief shall be matured to veneration. To
this, however painful for the present, I cannot but advise you, as to a
source of comfort and satisfaction in the time to come; for all comfort
and all satisfaction is sincerely wished you by, dear Sir,

'Your most obliged, most obedient,

'And most humble servant,


[Page 213: Goldsmith's debt to Johnson. Ætat 41.]

The _Rambler_ has increased in fame as in age. Soon after its first
folio edition was concluded, it was published in six duodecimo
volumes[634]; and its authour lived to see ten numerous editions of it in
London, beside those of Ireland and Scotland[635].

I profess myself to have ever entertained a profound veneration for the
astonishing force and vivacity of mind which the _Rambler_ exhibits.
That Johnson had penetration enough to see, and seeing would not
disguise the general misery of man in this state of being, may have
given rise to the superficial notion of his being too stern a
philosopher. But men of reflection will be sensible that he has given a
true representation of human existence, and that he has, at the same
time, with a generous benevolence displayed every consolation which our
state affords us; not only those arising from the hopes of futurity, but
such as may be attained in the immediate progress through life. He has
not depressed the soul to despondency and indifference. He has every
where inculcated study, labour, and exertion. Nay, he has shewn, in a
very odious light, a man whose practice is to go about darkening the
views of others, by perpetual complaints of evil, and awakening those
considerations of danger and distress, which are, for the most part,
lulled into a quiet oblivion. This he has done very strongly in his
character of Suspirius[636], from which Goldsmith took that of Croaker, in
his comedy of _The Good-Natured Man_[637], as Johnson told me he
acknowledged to him, and which is, indeed, very obvious[638].

[Page 214: The Beauties of Dr. Johnson. A.D. 1750.]

To point out the numerous subjects which the _Rambler_ treats, with a
dignity and perspicuity which are there united in a manner which we
shall in vain look for any where else, would take up too large a portion
of my book, and would, I trust, be superfluous, considering how
universally those volumes are now disseminated. Even the most condensed
and brilliant sentences which they contain, and which have very properly
been selected under the name of _Beauties_[639], are of considerable bulk.
But I may shortly observe, that the _Rambler_ furnishes such an
assemblage of discourses on practical religion and moral duty, of
critical investigations, and allegorical and oriental tales, that no
mind can be thought very deficient that has, by constant study and
meditation, assimilated to itself all that may be found there. No. 7,
written in Passion-week on abstraction and self-examination[640], and No.
110, on penitence and the placability of the Divine Nature, cannot be
too often read. No. 54, on the effect which the death of a friend should
have upon us, though rather too dispiriting, may be occasionally very
medicinal to the mind. Every one must suppose the writer to have been
deeply impressed by a real scene; but he told me that was not the case;
which shews how well his fancy could conduct him to the 'house of
mourning[641].' Some of these more solemn papers, I doubt not,
particularly attracted the notice of Dr. Young, the authour of _The
Night Thoughts_, of whom my estimation is such, as to reckon his
applause an honour even to Johnson. I have seen some volumes of Dr.
Young's copy of the _Rambler_, in which he has marked the passages which
he thought particularly excellent, by folding down a corner of the page;
and such as he rated in a super-eminent degree, are marked by double
folds. I am sorry that some of the volumes are lost. Johnson was pleased
when told of the minute attention with which Young had signified his
approbation of his Essays.

[Page 215: A Club in Essex. Ætat 41.]

I will venture to say, that in no writings whatever can be found _more
bark and steel for the mind_, if I may use the expression; more that can
brace and invigorate every manly and noble sentiment. No. 32 on
patience, even under extreme misery, is wonderfully lofty, and as much
above the rant of stoicism, as the Sun of Revelation is brighter than
the twilight of Pagan philosophy. I never read the following sentence
without feeling my frame thrill: 'I think there is some reason for
questioning whether the body and mind are not so proportioned, that the
one can bear all which can be inflicted on the other; whether virtue
cannot stand its ground as long as life, and whether a soul well
principled, will not be sooner separated than subdued[642].'

[Page 216: The character of Prospero. A.D. 1750.]

[Page 217: The Style of The Rambler. Ætat 41.]

Though instruction be the predominant purpose of the _Rambler_, yet it
is enlivened with a considerable portion of amusement. Nothing can be
more erroneous than the notion which some persons have entertained, that
Johnson was then a retired authour, ignorant of the world; and, of
consequence, that he wrote only from his imagination when he described
characters and manners. He said to me, that before he wrote that work,
he had been 'running about the world,' as he expressed it, more than
almost any body; and I have heard him relate, with much satisfaction,
that several of the characters in the _Rambler_ were drawn so naturally,
that when it first circulated in numbers, a club in one of the towns in
Essex imagined themselves to be severally exhibited in it, and were much
incensed against a person who, they suspected, had thus made them
objects of publick notice; nor were they quieted till authentick
assurance was given them, that the _Rambler_ was written by a person who
had never heard of any one of them[643]. Some of the characters are
believed to have been actually drawn from the life, particularly that of
Prospero from Garrick[644], who never entirely forgave its pointed
satire[645]. For instances of fertility of fancy, and accurate description
of real life, I appeal to No. 19, a man who wanders from one profession
to another, with most plausible reasons for every change. No. 34, female
fastidiousness and timorous refinement. No. 82, a Virtuoso who has
collected curiosities. No. 88[646], petty modes of entertaining a company,
and conciliating kindness. No. 182, fortune-hunting. No. 194-195, a
tutor's account of the follies of his pupil. No. 197-198,
legacy-hunting. He has given a specimen of his nice observation of the
mere external appearances of life, in the following passage in No. 179,
against affectation, that frequent and most disgusting quality: 'He that
stands to contemplate the crouds that fill the streets of a populous
city, will see many passengers whose air and motion it will be difficult
to behold without contempt and laughter; but if he examine what are the
appearances that thus powerfully excite his risibility, he will find
among them neither poverty nor disease, nor any involuntary or painful
defect. The disposition to derision and insult, is awakened by the
softness of foppery, the swell of insolence, the liveliness of levity,
or the solemnity of grandeur; by the sprightly trip, the stately stalk,
the formal strut, and the lofty mien; by gestures intended to catch the
eye, and by looks elaborately formed as evidences of importance.'

Every page of the _Rambler_ shews a mind teeming with classical allusion
and poetical imagery: illustrations from other writers are, upon all
occasions, so ready, and mingle so easily in his periods, that the whole
appears of one uniform vivid texture.

[Page 218: Johnson's masters in style. A.D. 1750.]

[Page 219: A Great Personage. Ætat 41.]

The style of this work has been censured by some shallow criticks as
involved and turgid, and abounding with antiquated and hard words. So
ill-founded is the first part of this objection, that I will challenge
all who may honour this book with a perusal, to point out any English
writer whose language conveys his meaning with equal force and
perspicuity. It must, indeed, be allowed, that the structure of his
sentences is expanded, and often has somewhat of the inversion of Latin;
and that he delighted to express familiar thoughts in philosophical
language; being in this the reverse of Socrates, who, it was said,
reduced philosophy to the simplicity of common life. But let us attend
to what he himself says in his concluding paper: 'When common words were
less pleasing to the ear, or less distinct in their signification, I
have familiarised the terms of philosophy, by applying them to popular
ideas[647].' And, as to the second part of this objection, upon a late
careful revision of the work, I can with confidence say, that it is
amazing how few of those words, for which it has been unjustly
characterised, are actually to be found in it; I am sure, not the
proportion of one to each paper. This idle charge has been echoed from
one babbler to another, who have confounded Johnson's Essays with
Johnson's _Dictionary_; and because he thought it right in a Lexicon of
our language to collect many words which had fallen into disuse, but
were supported by great authorities, it has been imagined that all of
these have been interwoven into his own compositions. That some of them
have been adopted by him unnecessarily, may, perhaps, be allowed; but,
in general they are evidently an advantage, for without them his stately
ideas would be confined and cramped. 'He that thinks with more extent
than another, will want words of larger meaning[648].' He once told me,
that he had formed his style upon that of Sir William Temple[649], and
upon Chambers's Proposal for his _Dictionary_[650]. He certainly was
mistaken; or if he imagined at first that he was imitating Temple, he
was very unsuccessful; for nothing can be more unlike than the
simplicity of Temple, and the richness of Johnson. Their styles differ
as plain cloth and brocade. Temple, indeed, seems equally erroneous in
supposing that he himself had formed his style upon Sandys's _View of
the State of Religion in the Western parts of the World_.

The style of Johnson was, undoubtedly, much formed upon that of the
great writers in the last century, Hooker, Bacon, Sanderson, Hakewell,
and others; those 'GIANTS[651],' as they were well characterised by A
GREAT PERSONAGE[652], whose authority, were I to name him, would stamp a
reverence on the opinion.

[Page 220: The motto to the Dictionary. A.D. 1750.]

We may, with the utmost propriety, apply to his learned style that
passage of Horace, a part of which he has taken as the motto to his

'Cum tabulis animum censoris sumet honesti;
Audebit quaecumque parùm splendoris habebunt
Et sine pondere erunt, et honore indigna ferentur,
Verba movere loco, quamvis invita recedant,
Et versentur adhuc intra penetralia Vesta.
Obscurata diu populo bonus eruet, atque
Proferet in lucem speciosa vocabula rerum,
Quae priscis memorala Calonibus alque Cethegis,
Nunc situs informis premit et deserta velustas:
Adsciscet nova, quae genitor produxerit usus:
Vehemens, et liquidus, puroque simillimus amni,
Fundet opes Latiumque beabit divile linguá.[654]'

[Page 221: Johnson not a coiner of words. Ætat 41.]

To so great a master of thinking, to one of such vast and various
knowledge as Johnson, might have been allowed a liberal indulgence of
that licence which Horace claims in another place:

'Si forté necesse est
Indiciis monstrare recentibus abdita rerum,
Fingere cinctutis non exaudita Cethegis
Continget, dabiturque licentia sumpta pudenter:
Et nova fictaque nuper habebunt verba fidem si
Græco fonte cadant, parce detorta. Quid autem
Cæcilio Plautoque dabit Romanus, ademptum
Virgilio Varioque? Ego cur, acquirere pauca
Si possum, invideor; cum lingua Catonis et Enni
Sermonem patrium ditaverit, et nova rerum
Nomina protulerit? Licuit semperque licebit
Signatum præsente notá producere nomen[655].'

Yet Johnson assured me, that he had not taken upon him to add more than
four or five words to the English language, of his own formation[656]; and
he was very much offended at the general licence, by no means 'modestly
taken' in his time, not only to coin new words, but to use many words in
senses quite different from their established meaning, and those
frequently very fantastical[657].

[Page 222: Johnson's influence on style. A.D. 1750.]

Sir Thomas Brown[658], whose life Johnson wrote, was remarkably fond of
Anglo-Latian diction; and to his example we are to ascribe Johnson's
sometimes indulging himself in this kind of phraseology'. Johnson's
comprehension of mind was the mould for his language. Had his
conceptions been narrower, his expression would have been easier. His
sentences have a dignified march; and, it is certain, that his example
has given a general elevation to the language of his country, for many
of our best writers have approached very near to him; and, from the
influence which he has had upon our composition, scarcely any thing is
written now that is not better expressed than was usual before he
appeared to lead the national taste.

[Page 223: Courtenay's lines on Johnson's school. Ætat 41.]

This circumstance, the truth of which must strike every critical reader,
has been so happily enforced by Mr. Courtenay, in his _Moral and
Literary Character of Dr. Johnson_, that I cannot prevail on myself to
withhold it, notwithstanding his, perhaps, too great partiality for one
of his friends:

'By nature's gifts ordain'd mankind to rule,
He, like a Titian, form'd his brilliant school;
And taught congenial spirits to excel,
While from his lips impressive wisdom fell.
Our boasted GOLDSMITH felt the sovereign sway:
From him deriv'd the sweet, yet nervous lay.
To Fame's proud cliff he bade our Raphael rise;
Hence REYNOLDS' pen with REYNOLDS' pencil vies.
With Johnson's flame melodious BURNEY glows,
While the grand strain in smoother cadence flows.
And you, MALONE, to critick learning dear.
Correct and elegant, refin'd though clear,
By studying him, acquir'd that classick taste,
Which high in Shakspeare's fane thy statue plac'd.
Near Johnson STEEVENS stands, on scenick ground,
Acute, laborious, fertile, and profound.
Ingenious HAWKESWORTH to this school we owe.
And scarce the pupil from the tutor know.
Here early parts accomplish'd JONES sublimes,
And science blends with Asia's lofty rhymes:
Harmonious JONES! who in his splendid strains
Sings Camdeo's sports, on Agra's flowery plains:
In Hindu fictions while we fondly trace
Love and the Muses, deck'd with Attick grace.
Amid these names can BOSWELL be forgot,
Scarce by North Britons now esteem'd a Scot[659]?
Who to the sage devoted from his youth,
Imbib'd from him the sacred love of truth;
The keen research, the exercise of mind,
And that best art, the art to know mankind.--
Nor was his energy confin'd alone
To friends around his philosophick throne;
_Its influence wide improv'd our letter'd isle.
And lucid vigour marked the general style_:
As Nile's proud waves, swoln from their oozy bed.
First o'er the neighbouring meads majestick spread;
Till gathering force, they more and more expand.
And with new virtue fertilise the land.'

Johnson's language, however, must be allowed to be too masculine for the
delicate gentleness of female writing. His ladies, therefore, seem
strangely formal, even to ridicule; and are well denominated by the
names which he has given them as Misella[660], Zozima, Properantia,

[Page 224: The styles of addison and Johnson. A.D. 1750.]

It has of late been the fashion to compare the style of Addison and
Johnson, and to depreciate, I think very unjustly, the style of Addison
as nerveless and feeble[661], because it has not the strength and energy
of that of Johnson. Their prose may be balanced like the poetry of
Dryden and Pope. Both are excellent, though in different ways. Addison
writes with the ease of a gentleman. His readers fancy that a wise and
accomplished companion is talking to them; so that he insinuates his
sentiments and taste into their minds by an imperceptible influence.
Johnson writes like a teacher. He dictates to his readers as if from an
academical chair. They attend with awe and admiration; and his precepts
are impressed upon them by his commanding eloquence. Addison's style,
like a light wine, pleases everybody from the first. Johnson's, like a
liquor of more body, seems too strong at first, but, by degrees, is
highly relished; and such is the melody of his periods, so much do they
captivate the ear, and seize upon the attention, that there is scarcely
any writer, however inconsiderable, who does not aim, in some degree, at
the same species of excellence. But let us not ungratefully undervalue
that beautiful style, which has pleasingly conveyed to us much
instruction and entertainment. Though comparatively weak, opposed to
Johnson's Herculean vigour, let us not call it positively feeble. Let us
remember the character of his style, as given by Johnson himself[662]:
'What he attempted, he performed; he is never feeble, and he did not
wish to be energetick; he is never rapid, and he never stagnates. His
sentences have neither studied amplitude, nor affected brevity: his
periods, though not diligently rounded, are voluble and easy[663]. Whoever
wishes to attain an English style, familiar but not coarse, and elegant
but not ostentatious, must give his days and nights to the volumes of

[Page 225: Boswell's projected works. Ætat 41.]

[Page 226: The last Rambler. A.D. 1750.]

Though the _Rambler_ was not concluded till the year 1752, I shall,
under this year, say all that I have to observe upon it. Some of the
translations of the mottos by himself are admirably done. He
acknowledges to have received 'elegant translations' of many of them
from Mr. James Elphinston; and some are very happily translated by a Mr.
_F. Lewis_[665], of whom I never heard more, except that Johnson thus
described him to Mr. Malone: 'Sir, he lived in London, and hung loose
upon society.' The concluding paper of his _Rambler_ is at once
dignified and pathetick. I cannot, however, but wish that he had not
ended it with an unnecessary Greek verse, translated also into an
English couplet[666]. It is too much like the conceit of those dramatick
poets, who used to conclude each act with a rhyme; and the expression in
the first line of his couplet, '_Celestial powers_', though proper in
Pagan poetry, is ill suited to Christianity, with 'a conformity[667]' to
which he consoles himself. How much better would it have been, to have
ended with the prose sentence 'I shall never envy the honours which wit
and learning obtain in any other cause, if I can be numbered among the
writers who have given ardour to virtue, and confidence to truth[668].'

His friend, Dr. Birch, being now engaged in preparing an edition of
Ralegh's smaller pieces, Dr. Johnson wrote the following letter to that


'Gough-square, May 12, 1750.


'Knowing that you are now preparing to favour the publick with a new
edition of Ralegh's[669] miscellaneous pieces, I have taken the liberty to
send you a Manuscript, which fell by chance within my notice. I perceive
no proofs of forgery in my examination of it; and the owner tells me,
that as _he_[670] has heard, the handwriting is Sir Walter's. If you
should find reason to conclude it genuine, it will be a kindness to the
owner, a blind person[671], to recommend it to the booksellers. I am, Sir,

'Your most humble servant,


[Page 227: Milton's grand-daughter. Ætat 41.]

[Page 228: Lauder's imposition. A.D. 1751.]

His just abhorrence of Milton's political notions was ever strong. But
this did not prevent his warm admiration of Milton's great poetical
merit, to which he has done illustrious justice, beyond all who have
written upon the subject. And this year he not only wrote a Prologue,
which was spoken by Mr. Garrick before the acting of _Comus_ at
Drury-lane theatre, for the benefit of Milton's grand-daughter, but took
a very zealous interest in the success of the charity[672]. On the day
preceding the performance, he published the following letter in the
'General Advertiser,' addressed to the printer of that paper:


'That a certain degree of reputation is acquired merely by approving the
works of genius, and testifying a regard to the memory of authours, is a
truth too evident to be denied; and therefore to ensure a participation
of fame with a celebrated poet, many who would, perhaps, have
contributed to starve him when alive, have heaped expensive pageants
upon his grave[673].

'It must, indeed, be confessed, that this method of becoming known to
posterity with honour, is peculiar to the great, or at least to the
wealthy; but an opportunity now offers for almost every individual to
secure the praise of paying a just regard to the illustrious dead,
united with the pleasure of doing good to the living. To assist
industrious indigence, struggling with distress and debilitated by age,
is a display of virtue, and an acquisition of happiness and honour.

'Whoever, then, would be thought capable of pleasure in reading the
works of our incomparable Milton, and not so destitute of gratitude as
to refuse to lay out a trifle in rational and elegant entertainment, for
the benefit of his living remains, for the exercise of their own virtue,
the increase of their reputation, and the pleasing consciousness of
doing good, should appear at Drury-lane theatre to-morrow, April 5, when
_Comus_ will be performed for the benefit of Mrs. Elizabeth Foster,
grand-daughter to the author, and the only surviving branch of his

'N.B. There will be a new prologue on the occasion, written by the
author of _Irene[674], and spoken by Mr. Garrick; and, by particular
desire, there will be added to the Masque a dramatick satire, called
_Lethe_, in which Mr. Garrick will perform.'

[Page 229: Douglas's MILTON NO PLAGIARY. Ætat 42.]

1751: ÆTAT. 42.--In 1751[675] we are to consider him as carrying on both
his _Dictionary_ and _Rambler_. But he also wrote _The Life of
Cheynel_[676],[*] in the miscellany called _The Student_; and the Reverend
Dr. Douglas having, with uncommon acuteness, clearly detected a gross
forgery and imposition upon the publick by William Lauder, a Scotch
schoolmaster, who had, with equal impudence and ingenuity, represented
Milton as a plagiary from certain modern Latin poets, Johnson, who had
been so far imposed upon as to furnish a Preface and Postscript to his
work, now dictated a letter for Lauder, addressed to Dr. Douglas,
acknowledging his fraud in terms of suitable contrition.[677]

[Page 230: Johnson tricked by Lander. A.D. 1751.]

This extraordinary attempt of Lauder was no sudden effort. He had
brooded over it for many years: and to this hour it is uncertain what
his principal motive was, unless it were a vain notion of his
superiority, in being able, by whatever means, to deceive mankind. To
effect this, he produced certain passages from Grotius, Masenius, and
others, which had a faint resemblance to some parts of the _Paradise
Lost_. In these he interpolated some fragments of Hog's Latin
translation of that poem, alledging that the mass thus fabricated was
the archetype from which Milton copied.[678] These fabrications he
published from time to time in the _Gentleman s Magazine_; and, exulting
in his fancied success, he in 1750 ventured to collect them into a
pamphlet, entitled _An Essay on Milton's Use and Imitation of the
Moderns in his Paradise Lost_. To this pamphlet Johnson wrote a
Preface[679], in full persuasion of Lauder's honesty, and a Postscript
recommending, in the most persuasive terms[680], a subscription for the
relief of a grand-daughter of Milton, of whom he thus speaks:

'It is yet in the power of a great people to reward the poet whose name
they boast, and from their alliance to whose genius, they claim some
kind of superiority to every other nation of the earth; that poet, whose
works may possibly be read when every other monument of British
greatness shall be obliterated; to reward him, not with pictures or with
medals, which, if he sees, he sees with contempt, but with tokens of
gratitude, which he, perhaps, may even now consider as not unworthy the
regard of an immortal spirit.'

[Page 231: Johnson's admiration of Milton. Ætat 42.]

Surely this is inconsistent with 'enmity towards Milton,' which Sir John
Hawkins[681] imputes to Johnson upon this occasion, adding,

'I could all along observe that Johnson seemed to approve not only of
the design, but of the argument; and seemed to exult in a persuasion,
that the reputation of Milton was likely to suffer by this discovery.
That he was not privy to the imposture, I am well persuaded; but that he
wished well to the argument, may be inferred from the Preface, which
indubitably was written by Johnson.'

Is it possible for any man of clear judgement to suppose that Johnson,
who so nobly praised the poetical excellence of Milton in a Postscript
to this very 'discovery,' as he then supposed it, could, at the same
time, exult in a persuasion that the great poet's reputation was likely
to suffer by it? This is an inconsistency of which Johnson was
incapable; nor can any thing more be fairly inferred from the Preface,
than that Johnson, who was alike distinguished for ardent curiosity and
love of truth, was pleased with an investigation by which both were
gratified. That he was actuated by these motives, and certainly by no
unworthy desire to depreciate our great epick poet, is evident from his
own words; for, after mentioning the general zeal of men of genius and
literature 'to advance the honour, and distinguish the beauties of
_Paradise Lost_', he says,

'Among the inquiries to which this ardour of criticism has naturally
given occasion, none is more obscure in itself, or more worthy of
rational curiosity, than a retrospect[682] of the progress of this mighty
genius in the construction of his work; a view of the fabrick gradually
rising, perhaps, from small beginnings, till its foundation rests in the
centre, and its turrets sparkle in the skies; to trace back the
structure through all its varieties, to the simplicity of its first
plan; to find what was first projected, whence the scheme was taken, how
it was improved, by what assistance it was executed, and from what
stores the materials were collected; whether its founder dug them from
the quarries of Nature, or demolished other buildings to embellish his

Is this the language of one who wished to blast the laurels of

[Page 232: Mrs. Anna Williams. A.D. 1751.]

Though Johnson's circumstances were at this time far from being easy,
his humane and charitable disposition was constantly exerting itself.
Mrs. Anna Williams, daughter of a very ingenious Welsh physician, and a
woman of more than ordinary talents and literature, having come to
London in hopes of being cured of a cataract in both her eyes, which
afterwards ended in total blindness, was kindly received as a constant
visitor at his house while Mrs. Johnson lived; and after her death,
having come under his roof in order to have an operation upon her eyes
performed with more comfort to her than in lodgings, she had an
apartment from him during the rest of her life, at all times when he had
a house[684].

[Page 233: Johnson's pleasure in her company. Ætat 43.]

[Page 234: Death of Johnson's wife. A.D. 1752.]

1752: ÆTAT. 43.--In 1752 he was almost entirely occupied with his
_Dictionary_. The last paper of his _Rambler_ was published March 2[685],
this year; after which, there was a cessation for some time of any
exertion of his talents as an essayist. But, in the same year, Dr.
Hawkesworth, who was his warm admirer, and a studious imitator of his
style[686], and then lived in great intimacy with him, began a periodical
paper, entitled _The Adventurer_, in connection with other gentlemen,
one of whom was Johnson's much-loved friend, Dr. Bathurst; and, without
doubt, they received many valuable hints from his conversation, most of
his friends having been so assisted in the course of their works.

[Page 235: Communications by dreams. Ætat 43.]

That there should be a suspension of his literary labours during a part
of the year 1752, will not seem strange, when it is considered that soon
after closing his _Rambler_, he suffered a loss which, there can be no
doubt, affected him with the deepest distress[687]. For on the 17th of
March, O.S., his wife died. Why Sir John Hawkins should unwarrantably
take upon him even to _suppose_ that Johnson's fondness for her was
_dissembled_ (meaning simulated or assumed,) and to assert, that if it
was not the case, 'it was a lesson he had learned by rote[688],' I cannot
conceive; unless it proceeded from a want of similar feelings in his own
breast. To argue from her being much older than Johnson, or any other
circumstances, that he could not really love her, is absurd; for love is
not a subject of reasoning, but of feeling, and therefore there are no
common principles upon which one can persuade another concerning it.
Every man feels for himself, and knows how he is affected by particular
qualities in the person he admires, the impressions of which are too
minute and delicate to be substantiated in language.

The following very solemn and affecting prayer was found after Dr.
Johnson's decease, by his servant, Mr. Francis Barber, who delivered it
to my worthy friend the Reverend Mr. Strahan[689], Vicar of Islington, who
at my earnest request has obligingly favoured me with a copy of it,
which he and I compared with the original. I present it to the world as
an undoubted proof of a circumstance in the character of my illustrious
friend, which though some whose hard minds I never shall envy, may
attack as superstitious, will I am sure endear him more to numbers of
good men[690]. I have an additional, and that a personal motive for
presenting it, because it sanctions what I myself have always maintained
and am fond to indulge.

'April 26, 1752, being after 12 at Night of the 25th.

'O Lord! Governour of heaven and earth, in whose hands are embodied and
departed Spirits, if thou hast ordained the Souls of the Dead to
minister to the Living, and appointed my departed Wife to have care of
me, grant that I may enjoy the good effects of her attention and
ministration, whether exercised by appearance, impulses, dreams[691] or in
any other manner agreeable to thy Government. Forgive my presumption,
enlighten my ignorance, and however meaner agents are employed, grant me
the blessed influences of thy holy Spirit, through Jesus Christ our
Lord. Amen.'

[Page 236: Johnson's love for his wife. A.D. 1752.]

What actually followed upon this most interesting piece of devotion by
Johnson, we are not informed; but I, whom it has pleased GOD to afflict
in a similar manner to that which occasioned it, have certain experience
of benignant communication by dreams[692].

That his love for his wife was of the most ardent kind, and, during the
long period of fifty years, was unimpaired by the lapse of time, is
evident from various passages in the series of his _Prayers and
Meditations_, published by the Reverend Mr. Strahan, as well as from
other memorials, two of which I select, as strongly marking the
tenderness and sensibility of his mind.

'March 28, 1753. I kept this day[693] as the anniversary of my Tetty's
death[694], with prayer and tears in the morning. In the evening I prayed
for her conditionally, if it were lawful.'

[Page 237: Her wedding-ring. Ætat 43.]

'April 23, 1753. I know not whether I do not too much indulge the vain
longings of affection; but I hope they intenerate my heart, and that
when I die like my Tetty, this affection will be acknowledged in a happy
interview, and that in the mean time I am incited by it to piety. I
will, however, not deviate too much from common and received methods of

Her wedding-ring, when she became his wife, was, after her death,
preserved by him, as long as he lived, with an affectionate care, in a
little round wooden box, in the inside of which he pasted a slip of
paper, thus inscribed by him in fair characters, as follows:

    Eliz. Johnson,
Nupta Jul. 9° 1736,
       Mortua, eheu!
    Mart. 17° 1752[695].

After his death, Mr. Francis Barber, his faithful servant and residuary
legatee, offered this memorial of tenderness to Mrs. Lucy Porter, Mrs.
Johnson's daughter; but she having declined to accept of it, he had it
enamelled as a mourning ring for his old master, and presented it to his
wife, Mrs. Barber, who now has it.

The state of mind in which a man must be upon the death of a woman whom
he sincerely loves, had been in his contemplation many years before. In
his _Irene_, we find the following fervent and tender speech of
Demetrius, addressed to his Aspasia:

'From those bright regions of eternal day,
Where now thou shin'st amongst thy fellow saints,
Array'd in purer light, look down on me!
In pleasing visions and delusive dreams,
O! sooth my soul, and teach me how to lose thee[696].'

[Page 238: The shock of separation. A.D. 1752.]

I have, indeed, been told by Mrs. Desmoulins, who, before her marriage,
lived for some time with Mrs. Johnson at Hampstead[697], that she indulged
herself in country air and nice living, at an unsuitable expense[698],
while her husband was drudging in the smoke of London, and that she by
no means treated him with that complacency which is the most engaging
quality in a wife. But all this is perfectly compatible with his
fondness for her, especially when it is remembered that he had a high
opinion of her understanding, and that the impressions which her beauty,
real or imaginary, had originally made upon his fancy, being continued
by habit, had not been effaced, though she herself was doubtless much
altered for the worse. The dreadful shock of separation took place in
the night; and he immediately dispatched a letter to his friend, the
Reverend Dr. Taylor, which, as Taylor told me, expressed grief in the
strongest manner he had ever read; so that it is much to be regretted it
has not been preserved[699]. The letter was brought to Dr. Taylor, at his
house in the Cloisters, Westminster, about three in the morning; and as
it signified an earnest desire to see him, he got up, and went to
Johnson as soon as he was dressed, and found him in tears and in extreme
agitation. After being a little while together, Johnson requested him to
join with him in prayer. He then prayed extempore, as did Dr. Taylor;
and thus, by means of that piety which was ever his primary object, his
troubled mind was, in some degree, soothed and composed.

The next day he wrote as follows:

'To The Revernd Dr. Taylor.

Dear Sir,

'Let me have your company and instruction. Do not live away from me. My
distress is great.

'Pray desire Mrs. Taylor to inform me what mourning I should buy for my
mother and Miss Porter, and bring a note in writing with you.

'Remember me in your prayers, for vain is the help of man.

'I am, dear Sir, &c.


'March 18, 1752.'

[Page 239: Francis Barber. Ætat 43.]

[Page 240: Prayers for the dead. A.D. 1752.]

That his sufferings upon the death of his wife were severe, beyond what
are commonly endured, I have no doubt, from the information of many who
were then about him, to none of whom I give more credit than to Mr.
Francis Barber, his faithful negro servant[700], who came into his family
about a fortnight after the dismal event. These sufferings were
aggravated by the melancholy inherent in his constitution; and although
he probably was not oftener in the wrong than she was, in the little
disagreements which sometimes troubled his married state[701], during
which, he owned to me, that the gloomy irritability of his existence was
more painful to him than ever, he might very naturally, after her death,
be tenderly disposed to charge himself with slight omissions and
offences, the sense of which would give him much uneasiness[702].
Accordingly we find, about a year after her decease, that he thus
addressed the Supreme Being: 'O LORD, who givest the grace of
repentance, and hearest the prayers of the penitent, grant that by true
contrition I may obtain forgiveness of all the sins committed, and of
all duties neglected in my union with the wife whom thou hast taken from
me; for the neglect of joint devotion, patient exhortation, and mild
instruction[703].' The kindness of his heart, notwithstanding the
impetuosity of his temper, is well known to his friends; and I cannot
trace the smallest foundation for the following dark and uncharitable
assertion by Sir John Hawkins: 'The apparition of his departed wife was
altogether of the terrifick kind, and hardly afforded him a hope that
she was in a state of happiness[704].' That he, in conformity with the
opinion of many of the most able, learned, and pious Christians in all
ages, supposed that there was a middle state after death, previous to
the time at which departed souls are finally received to eternal
felicity, appears, I think, unquestionably from his devotions[705]: 'And,
O LORD, so far as it may be lawful in me[706], I commend to thy fatherly
goodness _the soul of my departed wife_; beseeching thee to grant her
whatever is best in her _present state_, and _finally to receive her to
eternal happiness_[707].' But this state has not been looked upon with
horrour, but only as less gracious.

[Page 241: The funeral sermon on Mrs. Johnson. Ætat 43.]

He deposited the remains of Mrs. Johnson in the church of Bromley, in
Kent[708], to which he was probably led by the residence of his friend
Hawkesworth at that place. The funeral sermon which he composed for her,
which was never preached, but having been given to Dr. Taylor, has been
published since his death[709], is a performance of uncommon excellence,
and full of rational and pious comfort to such as are depressed by that
severe affliction which Johnson felt when he wrote it. When it is
considered that it was written in such an agitation of mind, and in the
short interval between her death and burial, it cannot be read without

From Mr. Francis Barber I have had the following authentick and artless
account of the situation in which he found him recently after his wife's

[Page 242: Johnson's friends in 1752.]

He was in great affliction. Mrs. Williams was then living in his house,
which was in Gough-square. He was busy with the Dictionary. Mr. Shiels,
and some others of the gentlemen who had formerly written for him, used
to come about him. He had then little for himself, but frequently sent
money to Mr. Shiels when in distress[711]. The friends who visited him at
that time, were chiefly Dr. Bathurst[712], and Mr. Diamond, an apothecary
in Cork-street, Burlington-gardens, with whom he and Mrs. Williams
generally dined every Sunday. There was a talk of his going to Iceland
with him, which would probably have happened had he lived. There were
also Mr. Cave, Dr. Hawkesworth, Mr. Ryland[713], merchant on Tower Hill,
Mrs. Masters, the poetess[714], who lived with Mr. Cave, Mrs. Carter, and
sometimes Mrs. Macaulay[715], also Mrs. Gardiner, wife of a
tallow-chandler on Snow-hill, not in the learned way, but a worthy good
woman[716]; Mr. (now Sir Joshua) Reynolds[717]; Mr. Millar, Mr. Dodsley,
Mr. Bouquet, Mr. Payne of Paternoster-row, booksellers; Mr. Strahan, the
printer; the Earl of Orrery[718], Lord Southwell[719], Mr. Garrick.

[Page 243: Robert Levet. Ætat 43.]

Many are, no doubt, omitted in this catalogue of his friends, and, in
particular, his humble friend Mr. Robert Levet, an obscure practiser in
physick amongst the lower people, his fees being sometimes very small
sums, sometimes whatever provisions his patients could afford him; but
of such extensive practice in that way, that Mrs. Williams has told me,
his walk was from Hounsditch to Marybone. It appears from Johnson's
diary that their acquaintance commenced about the year 1746; and such
was Johnson's predilection for him, and fanciful estimation of his
moderate abilities, that I have heard him say he should not be
satisfied, though attended by all the College of Physicians, unless he
had Mr. Levet with him. Ever since I was acquainted with Dr. Johnson,
and many years before, as I have been assured by those who knew him
earlier, Mr. Levet had an apartment in his house, or his chambers, and
waited upon him every morning, through the whole course of his late and
tedious breakfast. He was of a strange grotesque appearance, stiff and
formal in his manner, and seldom said a word while any company was

[Page 244: Sir Joshua Reynolds. A.D. 1752.]

[Page 245: One of 'Dr. Johnson's school.' Ætat 43.]

The circle of his friends, indeed, at this time was extensive and
various, far beyond what has been generally imagined. To trace his
acquaintance with each particular person, if it could be done, would be
a task, of which the labour would not be repaid by the advantage. But
exceptions are to be made; one of which must be a friend so eminent as
Sir Joshua Reynolds, who was truly his _dulce decus_[721], and with whom
he maintained an uninterrupted intimacy to the last hour of his life.
When Johnson lived in Castle-street, Cavendish-square, he used
frequently to visit two ladies, who lived opposite to him, Miss
Cotterells, daughters of Admiral Cotterell. Reynolds used also to visit
there, and thus they met[722]. Mr. Reynolds, as I have observed above[723],
had, from the first reading of his _Life of Savage_, conceived a very
high admiration of Johnson's powers of writing. His conversation no less
delighted him; and he cultivated his acquaintance with the laudable zeal
of one who was ambitious of general improvement[724]. Sir Joshua, indeed,
was lucky enough at their very first meeting to make a remark, which was
so much above the common-place style of conversation, that Johnson at
once perceived that Reynolds had the habit of thinking for himself. The
ladies were regretting the death of a friend, to whom they owed great
obligations; upon which Reynolds observed, 'You have, however, the
comfort of being relieved from a burthen of gratitude[725].' They were
shocked a little at this alleviating suggestion, as too selfish; but
Johnson defended it in his clear and forcible manner, and was much
pleased with the _mind_, the fair view of human nature, which it
exhibited, like some of the reflections of Rochefaucault. The
consequence was, that he went home with Reynolds, and supped with him.

[Page 246: The Miss Cotterells. A.D. 1752.]

Sir Joshua told me a pleasant characteristical anecdote of Johnson about
the time of their first acquaintance. When they were one evening
together at the Miss Cotterells', the then Duchess of Argyle and another
lady of high rank came in. Johnson thinking that the Miss Cotterells
were too much engrossed by them, and that he and his friend were
neglected, as low company of whom they were somewhat ashamed, grew
angry; and resolving to shock their supposed pride, by making their
great visitors imagine that his friend and he were low indeed, he
addressed himself in a loud tone to Mr. Reynolds, saying, 'How much do
you think you and I could get in a week, if we were to _work as hard_ as
we could?'--as if they had been common mechanicks[726].

[Page 247: Bennet Langton. Ætat 43.]

His acquaintance with Bennet Langton, Esq. of Langton, in Lincolnshire,
another much valued friend, commenced soon after the conclusion of his
_Rambler_; which that gentleman, then a youth, had read with so much
admiration, that he came to London chiefly with the view of endeavouring
to be introduced to its authour[727]. By a fortunate chance he happened to
take lodgings in a house where Mr. Levet frequently visited; and having
mentioned his wish to his landlady, she introduced him to Mr. Levet, who
readily obtained Johnson's permission to bring Mr. Langton to him[728];
as, indeed, Johnson, during the whole course of his life, had no
shyness, real or affected, but was easy of access to all who were
properly recommended, and even wished to see numbers at his _levee_[729],
as his morning circle of company might, with strict propriety, be
called. Mr. Langton was exceedingly surprised when the sage first
appeared. He had not received the smallest intimation of his figure,
dress, or manner. From perusing his writings, he fancied he should see a
decent, well-drest, in short, a remarkably decorous philosopher. Instead
of which, down from his bedchamber, about noon, came, as newly risen, a
huge uncouth figure, with a little dark wig which scarcely covered his
head, and his clothes hanging loose about him. But his conversation was
so rich, so animated, and so forcible, and his religious and political
notions so congenial with those in which Langton had been educated, that
he conceived for him that veneration and attachment which he ever
preserved. Johnson was not the less ready to love Mr. Langton, for his
being of a very ancient family; for I have heard him say, with pleasure,
'Langton, Sir, has a grant of free warren from Henry the Second; and
Cardinal Stephen Langton, in King John's reign, was of this family[730].'

[Page 248: Topham Beauclerk. A.D. 1752.]

Mr. Langton afterwards went to pursue his studies at Trinity College,
Oxford, where he formed an acquaintance with his fellow student, Mr.
Topham Beauclerk[731]; who, though their opinions and modes of life were
so different, that it seemed utterly improbable that they should at all
agree, had so ardent a love of literature, so acute an understanding,
such elegance of manners, and so well discerned the excellent qualities
of Mr. Langton, a gentleman eminent not only for worth and learning, but
for an inexhaustible fund of entertaining conversation[732], that they
became intimate friends.

[Page 249: Topham Beauclerk. Ætat 43.]

Johnson, soon after this acquaintance began, passed a considerable time
at Oxford[733]. He at first thought it strange that Langton should
associate so much with one who had the character of being loose, both in
his principles and practice; but, by degrees, he himself was fascinated.
Mr. Beauclerk's being of the St. Alban's family, and having, in some
particulars, a resemblance to Charles the Second, contributed, in
Johnson's imagination, to throw a lustre upon his other qualities[734];
and, in a short time, the moral, pious Johnson, and the gay, dissipated
Beauclerk, were companions. 'What a coalition! (said Garrick, when he
heard of this;) I shall have my old friend to bail out of the
Round-house[735].' But I can bear testimony that it was a very agreeable
association. Beauclerk was too polite, and valued learning and wit too
much, to offend Johnson by sallies of infidelity or licentiousness; and
Johnson delighted in the good qualities of Beauclerk, and hoped to
correct the evil. Innumerable were the scenes in which Johnson was
amused by these young men. Beauclerk could take more liberty with him,
than any body with whom I ever saw him; but, on the other hand,
Beauclerk was not spared by his respectable companion, when reproof was
proper. Beauclerk had such a propensity to satire, that at one time
Johnson said to him, 'You never open your mouth but with intention to
give pain; and you have often given me pain, not from the power of what
you said, but from seeing your intention.' At another time applying to
him, with a slight alteration, a line of Pope, he said,

'Thy love of folly, and thy scorn of fools.[736]

'Every thing thou dost shews the one, and every thing thou say'st the
other.' At another time he said to him, 'Thy body is all vice, and thy
mind all virtue.' Beauclerk not seeming to relish the compliment,
Johnson said, 'Nay, Sir, Alexander the Great, marching in triumph into
Babylon, could not have desired to have had more said to him.'

[Page 250: Johnson the Idle Apprentice. A.D. 1752.]

Johnson was some time with Beauclerk at his house at Windsor, where he
was entertained with experiments in natural philosophy[737]. One Sunday,
when the weather was very fine, Beauclerk enticed him, insensibly, to
saunter about all the morning. They went into a church-yard, in the time
of divine service, and Johnson laid himself down at his ease upon one of
the tomb-stones. 'Now, Sir, (said Beauclerk) you are like Hogarth's Idle
Apprentice.' When Johnson got his pension, Beauclerk said to him, in the
humorous phrase of Falstaff, 'I hope you'll now purge and live cleanly
like a gentleman[738].'

[Page 251: A frisk with Beuclerk and Langton. Ætat 44.]

One night when Beauclerk and Langton had supped at a tavern in London,
and sat till about three in the morning, it came into their heads to go
and knock up Johnson, and see if they could prevail on him to join them
in a ramble. They rapped violently at the door of his chambers in the
Temple, till at last he appeared in his shirt, with his little black wig
on the top of his head, instead of a nightcap, and a poker in his hand,
imagining, probably, that some ruffians were coming to attack him. When
he discovered who they were, and was told their errand, he smiled, and
with great good humour agreed to their proposal: 'What, is it you, you
dogs! I'll have a frisk with you.' He was soon drest, and they sallied
forth together into Covent-Garden, where the greengrocers and fruiterers
were beginning to arrange their hampers, just come in from the country.
Johnson made some attempts to help them; but the honest gardeners stared
so at his figure and manner, and odd interference, that he soon saw his
services were not relished. They then repaired to one of the
neighbouring taverns, and made a bowl of that liquor called
"_Bishop_"[739], which Johnson had always liked; while in joyous contempt
of sleep, from which he had been roused, he repeated the festive lines,

'Short, O short then be thy reign,
And give us to the world again!'[740]

They did not stay long, but walked down to the Thames, took a boat, and
rowed to Billingsgate. Beauclerk and Johnson were so well pleased with
their amusement, that they resolved to persevere in dissipation for the
rest of the day: but Langton deserted them, being engaged to breakfast
with some young Ladies. Johnson scolded him for 'leaving his social
friends, to go and sit with a set of wretched _un-idea'd_ girls.'
Garrick being told of this ramble, said to him smartly, 'I heard of your
frolick t'other night. You'll be in the Chronicle.' Upon which Johnson
afterwards observed, '_He_ durst not do such a thing. His _wife_ would
not _let_ him!'

[Page 252: The Adventurer. A.D. 1753.]

1753: ÆTAT. 44.--He entered upon this year 1753 with his usual piety,
as appears from the following prayer, which I transcribed from that part
of his diary which he burnt a few days before his death[741]:

'Jan. 1, 1753, N. S. which I shall use for the future.

'Almighty God, who hast continued my life to this day, grant that, by
the assistance of thy Holy Spirit, I may improve the time which thou
shall grant me, to my eternal salvation. Make me to remember, to thy
glory, thy judgements and thy mercies. Make me so to consider the loss
of my wife, whom thou hast taken from me, that it may dispose me, by thy
grace, to lead the residue of my life in thy fear. Grant this, O LORD,
for JESUS CHRIST'S sake. Amen.'

He now relieved the drudgery of his _Dictionary_, and the melancholy of
his grief, by taking an active part in the composition of _The
Adventurer_, in which he began to write April 10[742], marking his essays
with the signature T[743], by which most of his papers in that collection
are distinguished: those, however, which have that signature and also
that of _Mysargyrus_, were not written by him, but, as I suppose, by Dr.
Bathurst. Indeed Johnson's energy of thought and richness of language,
are still more decisive marks than any signature. As a proof of this, my
readers, I imagine, will not doubt that Number 39, on sleep, is his; for
it not only has the general texture and colour of his style, but the
authours with whom he was peculiarly conversant are readily introduced
in it in cursory allusion. The translation of a passage in Statius[744]
quoted in that paper, and marked C. B. has been erroneously ascribed to
Dr. Bathurst, whose Christian name was Richard. How much this amiable
man actually contributed to _The Adventurer_, cannot be known. Let me
add, that Hawkesworth's imitations of Johnson are sometimes so happy,
that it is extremely difficult to distinguish them, with certainty, from
the compositions of his great archetype. Hawkesworth was his closest
imitator, a circumstance of which that writer would once have been proud
to be told; though, when he had become elated by having risen into some
degree of consequence, he, in a conversation with me, had the provoking
effrontery to say he was not sensible of it[745].

[Page 253: A letter to Dr. Warton. Ætat 44.]

Johnson was truly zealous for the success of _The Adventurer_; and very
soon after his engaging in it, he wrote the following letter:



'I ought to have written to you before now, but I ought to do many
things which I do not; nor can I, indeed, claim any merit from this
letter; for being desired by the authours and proprietor of _The
Adventurer_ to look out for another hand, my thoughts necessarily fixed
upon you, whose fund of literature will enable you to assist them, with
very little interruption of your studies.

'They desire you to engage to furnish one paper a month, at two guineas
a paper, which you may very readily perform. We have considered that a
paper should consist of pieces of imagination, pictures of life, and
disquisitions of literature. The part which depends on the imagination
is very well supplied, as you will find when you read the paper; for
descriptions of life, there is now a treaty almost made with an authour
and an authouress; and the province of criticism and literature they are
very desirous to assign to the commentator on Virgil.

'I hope this proposal will not be rejected, and that the next post will
bring us your compliance. I speak as one of the fraternity, though I
have no part in the paper, beyond now and then a motto; but two of the
writers are my particular friends, and I hope the pleasure of seeing a
third united to them, will not be denied to, dear Sir,

'Your most obedient,

'And most humble servant,


'March 8, 1753.'

The consequence of this letter was, Dr. Warton's enriching the
collection with several admirable essays.

[Page 254: Bathurst's papers in the Adventurer. A.D. 1753.]

Johnson's saying 'I have no part in the paper beyond now and then a
motto,' may seem inconsistent with his being the authour of the papers
marked T. But he had, at this time, written only one number[746]; and
besides, even at any after period, he might have used the same
expression, considering it as a point of honour not to own them; for
Mrs. Williams told me that, 'as he had _given_ those Essays to Dr.
Bathurst, who sold them at two guineas each, he never would own them;
nay, he used to say he did not _write_ them: but the fact was, that he
_dictated_ them, while Bathurst wrote.' I read to him Mrs. Williams's
account; he smiled, and said nothing[747].

[Page 255: Mrs. Lennox. Ætat 45.]

I am not quite satisfied with the casuistry by which the productions of
one person are thus passed upon the world for the productions of
another. I allow that not only knowledge, but powers and qualities of
mind may be communicated; but the actual effect of individual exertion
never can be transferred, with truth, to any other than its own original
cause. One person's child may be made the child of another person by
adoption, as among the Romans, or by the ancient Jewish mode of a wife
having children born to her upon her knees, by her handmaid. But these
were children in a different sense from that of nature. It was clearly
understood that they were not of the blood of their nominal parents. So
in literary children, an authour may give the profits and fame of his
composition to another man, but cannot make that other the real authour.
A Highland gentleman, a younger branch of a family, once consulted me if
he could not validly purchase the Chieftainship of his family, from the
Chief who was willing to sell it. I told him it was impossible for him
to acquire, by purchase, a right to be a different person from what he
really was; for that the right of Chieftainship attached to the blood of
primogeniture, and, therefore, was incapable of being transferred. I
added, that though Esau sold his birth-right, or the advantages
belonging to it, he still remained the first-born of his parents; and
that whatever agreement a Chief might make with any of the clan, the
Herald's Office could not admit of the metamorphosis, or with any
decency attest that the younger was the elder; but I did not convince
the worthy gentleman.

Johnson's papers in _The Adventurer_ are very similar to those of _The
Rambler_; but being rather more varied in their subjects, and being
mixed with essays by other writers, upon topicks more generally
attractive than even the most elegant ethical discourses, the sale of
the work, at first, was more extensive. Without meaning, however, to
depreciate _The Adventurer_, I must observe that as the value of _The
Rambler_ came, in the progress of time, to be better known, it grew upon
the publick estimation, and that its sale has far exceeded that of any
other periodical papers since the reign of Queen Anne.

In one of the books of his diary I find the following entry:

'Apr. 3, 1753. I began the second vol. of my Dictionary, room being left
in the first for Preface, Grammar, and History, none of them yet begun.

'O GOD, who hast hitherto supported me, enable me to proceed in this
labour, and in the whole task of my present state; that when I shall
render up, at the last day, an account of the talent committed to me, I
may receive pardon, for the sake of JESUS CHRIST. Amen.'

He this year favoured Mrs. Lennox[748] with a Dedication[*] to the Earl of
Orrery, of her _Shakspeare Illustrated_.

[Page 256: The Life of Edward Cave. A.D. 1754.]

1754: ÆTAT. 45.--IN 1754 I can trace nothing published by him, except
his numbers of _The Adventurer_, and 'The Life of Edward Cave,'[*] in
the _Gentleman's Magazine_ for February. In biography there can be no
question that he excelled, beyond all who have attempted that species of
composition; upon which, indeed, he set the highest value. To the minute
selection of characteristical circumstances, for which the ancients were
remarkable, he added a philosophical research, and the most perspicuous
and energetick language. Cave was certainly a man of estimable
qualities, and was eminently diligent and successful in his own
business[749], which, doubtless, entitled him to respect. But he was
peculiarly fortunate in being recorded by Johnson, who, of the narrow
life of a printer and publisher, without any digressions or adventitious
circumstances, has made an interesting and agreeable narrative[750].

The _Dictionary_, we may believe, afforded Johnson full occupation this
year. As it approached to its conclusion, he probably worked with
redoubled vigour, as seamen increase their exertion and alacrity when
they have a near prospect of their haven.

[Page 257: Lord Chesterfield's neglect.]

[Page 258: Lord Chesterfield's flattery. A.D. 1754.]

Lord Chesterfield, to whom Johnson had paid the high compliment of
addressing to his Lordship the _Plan_ of his _Dictionary_, had behaved
to him in such a manner as to excite his contempt and indignation. The
world has been for many years amused with a story confidently told, and
as confidently repeated with additional circumstances[751], that a sudden
disgust was taken by Johnson upon occasion of his having been one day
kept long in waiting in his Lordship's antechamber, for which the reason
assigned was, that he had company with him; and that at last, when the
door opened, out walked Colley Gibber; and that Johnson was so violently
provoked when he found for whom he had been so long excluded, that he
went away in a passion, and never would return. I remember having
mentioned this story to George Lord Lyttelton, who told me, he was very
intimate with Lord Chesterfield; and holding it as a well-known truth,
defended Lord Chesterfield, by saying, that 'Gibber, who had been
introduced, familiarly by the back-stairs, had probably not been there
above ten minutes.' It may seem strange even to entertain a doubt
concerning a story so long and so widely current, and thus implicitly
adopted, if not sanctioned, by the authority which I have mentioned; but
Johnson himself assured me, that there was not the least foundation for
it. He told me, that there never was any particular incident which
produced a quarrel between Lord Chesterfield and him; but that his
Lordship's continued neglect was the reason why he resolved to have no
connection with him[752]. When the _Dictionary_ was upon the eve of
publication, Lord Chesterfield, who, it is said, had flattered himself
with expectations that Johnson would dedicate the work to him[753],
attempted, in a courtly manner, to sooth, and insinuate himself with the
Sage, conscious, as it should seem, of the cold indifference with which
he had treated its learned authour; and further attempted to conciliate
him, by writing two papers in _The World_[754], in recommendation of the
work; and it must be confessed, that they contain some studied
compliments, so finely turned, that if there had been no previous
offence, it is probable that Johnson would have been highly
delighted[755]. Praise, in general, was pleasing to him; but by praise
from a man of rank and elegant accomplishments, he was peculiarly

His Lordship says,

'I think the publick in general, and the republick of letters in
particular, are greatly obliged to Mr. Johnson, for having undertaken,
and executed, so great and desirable a work. Perfection is not to be
expected from man; but if we are to judge by the various works of
Johnson[756] already published, we have good reason to believe, that he
will bring this as near to perfection as any man could do. The _Plan_ of
it, which he published some years ago, seems to me to be a proof of it.
Nothing can be more rationally imagined, or more accurately and
elegantly expressed. I therefore recommend the previous perusal of it to
all those who intend to buy the _Dictionary,_ and who, I suppose, are
all those who can afford it.'

       *       *       *       *       *

'It must be owned, that our language is, at present, in a state of
anarchy, and hitherto, perhaps, it may not have been the worse for it.
During our free and open trade, many words and expressions have been
imported, adopted, and naturalized from other languages, which have
greatly enriched our own. Let it still preserve what real strength and
beauty it may have borrowed from others; but let it not, like the
Tarpeian maid, be overwhelmed and crushed by unnecessary ornaments[757].
The time for discrimination seems to be now come.

[Page 259: Lord Chesterfield's flattery. Ætat 45.]

'Toleration, adoption, and naturalization have run their lengths. Good
order and authority are now necessary. But where shall we find them,
and, at the same time, the obedience due to them? We must have recourse
to the old Roman expedient in times of confusion, and chuse a dictator.
Upon this principle, I give my vote for Mr. Johnson to fill that great
and arduous post. And I hereby declare, that I make a total surrender of
all my rights and privileges in the English language, as a free-born
British subject, to the said Mr. Johnson, during the term of his
dictatorship. Nay more, I will not only obey him, like an old Roman, as
my dictator, but, like a modern Roman, I will implicitly believe in him
as my Pope, and hold him to be infallible while in the chair, but no
longer. More than this he cannot well require; for, I presume, that
obedience can never be expected, when there is neither terrour to
enforce, nor interest to invite it.'

       *       *       *       *       *

'But a Grammar, a Dictionary, and a History of our Language through its
several stages, were still wanting at home, and importunately called for
from abroad. Mr. Johnson's labours will now, I dare say[758], very fully
supply that want, and greatly contribute to the farther spreading of our
language in other countries. Learners were discouraged, by finding no
standard to resort to; and, consequently, thought it incapable of any.
They will now be undeceived and encouraged.'

This courtly device failed of its effect[759]. Johnson, who thought that
'all was false and hollow[760],' despised the honeyed words, and was even
indignant that Lord Chesterfield should, for a moment, imagine that he
could be the dupe of such an artifice. His expression to me concerning
Lord Chesterfield, upon this occasion, was, 'Sir, after making great
professions[761], he had, for many years, taken no notice of me; but when
my _Dictionary_ was coming out, he fell a scribbling in _The World_
about it. Upon which, I wrote him a letter expressed in civil terms, but
such as might shew him that I did not mind what he said or wrote, and
that I had done with him[762].'

[Page 260: Johnson's spelling. A.D. 1754.]

This is that celebrated letter of which so much has been said, and about
which curiosity has been so long excited, without being gratified. I for
many years solicited Johnson to favour me with a copy of it[763], that so
excellent a composition might not be lost to posterity. He delayed from
time to time to give it me[764]; till at last in 1781, when we were on a
visit at Mr. Dilly's, at Southill in Bedfordshire, he was pleased to
dictate it to me from memory[765]. He afterwards found among his papers a
copy of it, which he had dictated to Mr. Baretti, with its title and
corrections, in his own handwriting. This he gave to Mr. Langton; adding
that if it were to come into print, he wished it to be from that copy.
By Mr. Langton's kindness, I am enabled to enrich my work with a perfect
transcript[766] of what the world has so eagerly desired to see.

[Page 261: Johnson's letter to Lord Chesterfield. Ætat 45.]


'February 7, 1755.


'I have been lately informed, by the proprietor of the World, that two
papers, in which my Dictionary is recommended to the publick, were
written by your Lordship. To be so distinguished, is an honour, which,
being very little accustomed to favours from the great, I know not well
how to receive, or in what terms to acknowledge.

'When, upon some slight encouragement, I first visited your Lordship, I
was overpowered, like the rest of mankind, by the enchantment of your
address; and could not forbear to wish that I might boast myself _Le
vainqueur du vainqueur de la terre_[767];--that I might obtain that regard
for which I saw the world contending; but I found my attendance so
little encouraged, that neither pride nor modesty would suffer me to
continue it. When I had once addressed your Lordship in publick, I had
exhausted all the art of pleasing which a retired and uncourtly scholar
can possess. I had done all that I could; and no man is well pleased to
have his all neglected, be it ever so little.

'Seven years, my Lord, have now past, since I waited in your outward
rooms, or was repulsed from your door; during which time I have been
pushing on my work through difficulties, of which it is useless to
complain, and have brought it, at last, to the verge of publication,
without one act of assistance[768], one word of encouragement, or one
smile of favour. Such treatment I did not expect, for I never had a
Patron before.

'The shepherd in Virgil grew at last acquainted with Love, and found him
a native of the rocks.

'Is not a Patron, my Lord, one who looks with unconcern on a man
struggling for life in the water, and, when he has reached ground,
encumbers him with help? The notice which you have been pleased to take
of my labours, had it been early, had been kind; but it has been delayed
till I am indifferent, and cannot enjoy it; till I am solitary, and
cannot impart it[769]; till I am known, and do not want it. I hope it is
no very cynical asperity not to confess obligations where no benefit has
been received, or to be unwilling that the Publick should consider me as
owing that to a Patron, which Providence has enabled me to do for

[Page 263: His high opinion of Warburton. Ætat 45.]

'Having carried on my work thus far with so little obligation to any
favourer of learning[770], I shall not be disappointed though I should
conclude it, if less be possible, with less; for I have been long
wakened from that dream of hope, in which I once boasted myself with so
much exultation.

'My Lord,

'Your Lordship's most humble,

'Most obedient servant,

'SAM. JOHNSON[771].'

'While this was the talk of the town, (says Dr. Adams, in a letter to
me) I happened to visit Dr. Warburton, who finding that I was acquainted
with Johnson, desired me earnestly to carry his compliments to him, and
to tell him, that he honoured him for his manly behaviour in rejecting
these condescensions of Lord Chesterfield, and for resenting the
treatment he had received from him, with a proper spirit. Johnson was
visibly pleased with this compliment, for he had always a high opinion
of Warburton[772]. Indeed, the force of mind which appeared in this
letter, was congenial with that which Warburton himself amply

[Page 264: For 'garret' read 'patron.' A.D. 1754.]

There is a curious minute circumstance which struck me, in comparing the
various editions of Johnson's imitations of Juvenal. In the tenth
Satire, one of the couplets upon the vanity of wishes even for literary
distinction stood thus:

'Yet think[774] what ills the scholar's life assail,
'Pride[775], envy, want, the _garret_, and the jail.'

But after experiencing the uneasiness which Lord Chesterfield's
fallacious patronage made him feel, he dismissed the word _garret_ from
the sad group, and in all the subsequent editions the line stands

'Pride, envy, want, the _Patron_[776], and the jail.'

[Page 265: Defensive pride. Ætat 45.]

That Lord Chesterfield must have been mortified by the lofty contempt,
and polite, yet keen satire with which Johnson exhibited him to himself
in this letter, it is impossible to doubt. He, however, with that glossy
duplicity which was his constant study, affected to be quite
unconcerned. Dr. Adams mentioned to Mr. Robert Dodsley that he was sorry
Johnson had written his letter to Lord Chesterfield. Dodsley, with the
true feelings of trade, said 'he was very sorry too; for that he had a
property in the _Dictionary_, to which his Lordship's patronage might
have been of consequence.' He then told Dr. Adams, that Lord
Chesterfield had shewn him the letter. 'I should have imagined (replied
Dr. Adams) that Lord Chesterfield would have concealed it.' 'Poh! (said
Dodsley) do you think a letter from Johnson could hurt Lord
Chesterfield? Not at all, Sir. It lay upon his table, where any body
might see it. He read it to me; said, "this man has great powers,"
pointed out the severest passages, and observed how well they were
expressed.' This air of indifference, which imposed upon the worthy
Dodsley, was certainly nothing but a specimen of that dissimulation
which Lord Chesterfield inculcated as one of the most essential lessons
for the conduct of life[777]. His Lordship endeavoured to justify himself
to Dodsley from the charges brought against him by Johnson; but we may
judge of the flimsiness of his defence, from his having excused his
neglect of Johnson, by saying that 'he had heard he had changed his
lodgings, and did not know where he lived;' as if there could have been
the smallest difficulty to inform himself of that circumstance, by
inquiring in the literary circle with which his Lordship was well
acquainted, and was, indeed, himself one of its ornaments.

Dr. Adams expostulated with Johnson, and suggested, that his not being
admitted when he called on him, was, probably, not to be imputed to Lord
Chesterfield; for his Lordship had declared to Dodsley, that 'he would
have turned off the best servant he ever had, if he had known that he
denied him to a man who would have been always more than welcome;' and,
in confirmation of this, he insisted on Lord Chesterfield's general
affability and easiness of access, especially to literary men. 'Sir,
(said Johnson) that is not Lord Chesterfield; he is the proudest man
this day existing[778].' 'No, (said Dr. Adams) there is one person, at
least, as proud; I think, by your own account, you are the prouder man
of the two.' 'But mine (replied Johnson, instantly) was defensive
pride.' This, as Dr. Adams well observed, was one of those happy turns
for which he was so remarkably ready.

[Page 266: A wit among Lords. A.D. 1754.]

Johnson having now explicitly avowed his opinion of Lord Chesterfield,
did not refrain from expressing himself concerning that nobleman with
pointed freedom: 'This man (said he) I thought had been a Lord among
wits; but, I find, he is only a wit among Lords![779]' And when his
_Letters_ to his natural son were published, he observed, that 'they
teach the morals of a whore, and the manners of a dancing master.[780]'

[Page 267: Chesterfield's Respectable Hottentot. Ætat 45.]

The character of 'a respectable Hottentot,' in Lord Chesterfield's
letters[781], has been generally understood to be meant for Johnson, and I
have no doubt that it was. But I remember when the _Literary Property_
of those letters was contested in the Court of Session in Scotland, and
Mr. Henry Dundas[782], one of the counsel for the proprietors, read this
character as an exhibition of Johnson, Sir David Dalrymple, Lord Hailes,
one of the Judges, maintained, with some warmth, that it was not
intended as a portrait of Johnson, but of a late noble Lord,
distinguished for abstruse science[783]. I have heard Johnson himself talk
of the character, and say that it was meant for George Lord Lyttelton,
in which I could by no means agree; for his Lordship had nothing of that
violence which is a conspicuous feature in the composition. Finding that
my illustrious friend could bear to have it supposed that it might be
meant for him, I said, laughingly, that there was one trait which
unquestionably did not belong to him; 'he throws his meat any where but
down his throat.' 'Sir, (said he,) Lord Chesterfield never saw me eat in
his life[784].'

[Page 268: A beggarly Scotchman. A.D. 1754.]

On the 6th of March came out Lord Bolingbroke's works, published by Mr.
David Mallet[785]. The wild and pernicious ravings, under the name of
_Philosophy_, which were thus ushered into the world, gave great offence
to all well-principled men. Johnson, hearing of their tendency[786], which
nobody disputed, was roused with a just indignation, and pronounced this
memorable sentence upon the noble authour and his editor. 'Sir, he was a
scoundrel, and a coward[787]: a scoundrel, for charging a blunderbuss
against religion and morality; a coward, because he had not resolution
to fire it off himself, but left half a crown to a beggarly Scotchman,
to draw the trigger after his death[788]!' Garrick, who I can attest from
my own knowledge, had his mind seasoned with pious reverence, and
sincerely disapproved of the infidel writings of several, whom, in the
course of his almost universal gay intercourse with men of eminence, he
treated with external civility, distinguished himself upon this
occasion. Mr. Pelham having died on the very day on which Lord
Bolingbroke's works came out, he wrote an elegant Ode on his death,

'Let others hail the rising sun,
I bow to that whose course is run;'

in which is the following stanza:

'The same sad morn, to Church and State
(So for our sins 'twas fix'd by fate,)
  A double stroke was given;
Black as the whirlwinds of the North,
St. John's fell genius issued forth,
  And Pelham fled to heaven[789].'

[Page 270: Thomas Warton. A.D. 1754.]

Johnson this year found an interval of leisure to make an excursion to
Oxford, for the purpose of consulting the libraries there. Of this, and
of many interesting circumstances concerning him, during a part of his
life when he conversed but little with the world, I am enabled to give a
particular account, by the liberal communications of the Reverend Mr.
Thomas Warton[790], who obligingly furnished me with several of our common
friend's letters, which he illustrated with notes. These I shall insert
in their proper places.



'It is but an ill return for the book with which you were pleased to
favour me[791], to have delayed my thanks for it till now. I am too apt to
be negligent; but I can never deliberately shew my disrespect to a man
of your character: and I now pay you a very honest acknowledgement, for
the advancement of the literature of our native country. You have shewn
to all, who shall hereafter attempt the study of our ancient authours,
the way to success; by directing them to the perusal of the books which
those authours had read. Of this method, Hughes[792] and men much greater
than Hughes, seem never to have thought. The reason why the authours,
which are yet read, of the sixteenth century, are so little understood,
is, that they are read alone; and no help is borrowed from those who
lived with them, or before them. Some part of this ignorance I hope to
remove by my book[793], which now draws towards its end; but which I
cannot finish to my mind, without visiting the libraries at Oxford,
which I, therefore, hope to see in a fortnight[794]. I know not how long I
shall stay, or where I shall lodge: but shall be sure to look for you at
my arrival, and we shall easily settle the rest. I am, dear Sir,

'Your most obedient, &c.


'[London] July 16, 1754.'

[Page 271: Johnson's visit to Oxford. Ætat 45.]

Of his conversation while at Oxford at this time, Mr. Warton preserved
and communicated to me the following memorial, which, though not written
with all the care and attention which that learned and elegant writer
bestowed on those compositions which he intended for the publick eye, is
so happily expressed in an easy style, that I should injure it by any

'When Johnson came to Oxford in 1754[795], the long vacation was
beginning, and most people were leaving the place. This was the first
time of his being there, after quitting the University. The next morning
after his arrival, he wished to see his old College, _Pembroke_. I went
with him. He was highly pleased to find all the College-servants[796]
which he had left there still remaining, particularly a very old
butler[797]; and expressed great satisfaction at being recognised by them,
and conversed with them familiarly. He waited on the master, Dr.
Radcliffe, who received him very coldly. Johnson at least expected, that
the master would order a copy of his Dictionary, now near publication:
but the master did not choose to talk on the subject, never asked
Johnson to dine, nor even to visit him, while he stayed at Oxford. After
we had left the lodgings, Johnson said to me, "_There_ lives a man, who
lives by the revenues of literature, and will not move a finger to
support it. If I come to live at Oxford, I shall take up my abode at
Trinity." We then called on the Reverend Mr. Meeke, one of the fellows,
and of Johnson's standing. Here was a most cordial greeting on both
sides. On leaving him, Johnson said, "I used to think Meeke had
excellent parts, when we were boys together at the College: but, alas!

'"Lost in a convent's solitary gloom[798]!"

'"I remember, at the classical lecture in the Hall, I could not bear
Meeke's superiority, and I tried to sit as far from him as I could, that
I might not hear him construe."

[Page 272: Stories of old college days. A.D. 1754.]

'As we were leaving the College, he said, "Here I translated Pope's
Messiah. Which do you think is the best line in it?--My own favourite

'_Vallis aromalicas fundit Saronica nubes_[799].'"

'I told him, I thought it a very sonorous hexameter. I did not tell him,
it was not in the Virgilian style[800]. He much regretted that his _first_
tutor[801] was dead; for whom he seemed to retain the greatest regard. He
said, "I once had been a whole morning sliding in Christ-Church Meadow,
and missed his lecture in logick. After dinner, he sent for me to his
room. I expected a sharp rebuke for my idleness, and went with a beating
heart. When we were seated, he told me he had sent for me to drink a
glass of wine with him, and to tell me, he was _not_ angry with me for
missing his lecture. This was, in fact, a most severe reprimand. Some
more of the boys were then sent for, and we spent a very pleasant
afternoon." Besides Mr. Meeke, there was only one other Fellow of
Pembroke now resident: from both of whom Johnson received the greatest
civilities during this visit, and they pressed him very much to have a
room in the College.

'In the course of this visit (1754,) Johnson and I walked, three or four
times, to Ellsfield, a village beautifully situated about three miles
from Oxford, to see Mr. Wise, Radclivian librarian, with whom Johnson
was much pleased. At this place, Mr. Wise had fitted up a house and
gardens, in a singular manner, but with great taste. Here was an
excellent library; particularly, a valuable collection of books in
Northern literature, with which Johnson was often very busy. One day Mr.
Wise read to us a dissertation which he was preparing for the press,
intitled, "A History and Chronology of the fabulous Ages." Some old
divinities of Thrace, related to the Titans, and called the CABIRI, made
a very important part of the theory of this piece; and in conversation
afterwards, Mr. Wise talked much of his CABIRI. As we returned to Oxford
in the evening, I out-walked Johnson, and he cried out _Suffiamina_, a
Latin word which came from his mouth with peculiar grace, and was as
much as to say, _Put on your drag chain_. Before we got home, I again
walked too fast for him; and he now cried out, "Why, you walk as if you
were pursued by all the CABIRI in a body." In an evening, we frequently
took long walks from Oxford into the country, returning to supper. Once,
in our way home, we viewed the ruins of the abbies of Oseney and Rewley,
near Oxford. After at least half an hour's silence, Johnson said, "I
viewed them with indignation[802]!" We had then a long conversation on
Gothick buildings; and in talking of the form of old halls, he said, "In
these halls, the fire place was anciently always in the middle of the
room[803], till the Whigs removed it on one side."--About this time there
had been an execution of two or three criminals at Oxford on a Monday.
Soon afterwards, one day at dinner, I was saying that Mr. Swinton the
chaplain of the gaol, and also a frequent preacher before the
University, a learned man, but often thoughtless and absent, preached
the condemnation-sermon on repentance, before the convicts, on the
preceding day, Sunday; and that in the close he told his audience, that
he should give them the remainder of what he had to say on the subject,
the next Lord's Day. Upon which, one of our company, a Doctor of
Divinity, and a plain matter-of-fact man, by way of offering an apology
for Mr. Swinton, gravely remarked, that he had probably preached the
same sermon before the University: "Yes, Sir, (says Johnson) but the
University were not to be hanged the next morning."

[Page 274: Rev. Mr. Meeke. A.D. 1754]

'I forgot to observe before, that when he left Mr. Meeke, (as I have
told above) he added, "About the same time of life, Meeke was left
behind at Oxford to feed on a Fellowship, and I went to London to get my
living: now, Sir, see the difference of our literary characters!"'

The following letter was written by Dr. Johnson to Mr. Chambers, of
Lincoln College, afterwards Sir Robert Chambers, one of the judges in



'The commission which I delayed to trouble you with at your departure, I
am now obliged to send you; and beg that you will be so kind as to carry
it to Mr. Warton, of Trinity, to whom I should have written immediately,
but that I know not if he be yet come back to Oxford.

'In the Catalogue of MSS. of Gr. Brit, see vol. I. pag. 18. MSS. Bodl.
MARTYRIUM xv. _martyrum sub Juliano, auctore Theophylacto_.

'It is desired that Mr. Warton will inquire, and send word, what will be
the cost of transcribing this manuscript.

'Vol. II, pag. 32. Num. 1022. 58. COLL. Nov.--_Commentaria in Acta
Apostol.--Comment. in Septem Epistolas Catholicas_.

'He is desired to tell what is the age of each of these manuscripts: and
what it will cost to have a transcript of the two first pages of each.

'If Mr. Warton be not in Oxford, you may try if you can get it done by
any body else; or stay till he comes, according to your own convenience.
It is for an Italian _literato_.

'The answer is to be directed to his Excellency Mr. Zon, Venetian
Resident, Soho Square.

'I hope, dear Sir, that you do not regret the change of London for
Oxford. Mr. Baretti is well, and Miss Williams[805]; and we shall all be
glad to hear from you, whenever you shall be so kind as to write to,

'Your most humble servant,


'Nov. 21, 1754.'

[Page 275: Johnson desires the Degree of M.A. Ætat 45.]

The degree of Master of Arts, which, it has been observed[806], could not
be obtained for him at an early period of his life, was now considered
as an honour of considerable importance, in order to grace the
title-page of his _Dictionary_; and his character in the literary world
being by this time deservedly high, his friends thought that, if proper
exertions were made, the University of Oxford would pay him the



'I am extremely obliged to you and to Mr. Wise, for the uncommon care
which you have taken of my interest[808]: if you can accomplish your kind
design, I shall certainly take me a little habitation among you.

'The books which I promised to Mr. Wise[809], I have not been able to
procure: but I shall send him a _Finnick Dictionary_, the only copy,
perhaps, in England, which was presented me by a learned Swede: but I
keep it back, that it may make a set of my own books[810] of the new
edition, with which I shall accompany it, more welcome. You will assure
him of my gratitude.

[Page 276: Collins the Poet. A.D. 1754.]

'Poor dear Collins[811]!--Would a letter give him any pleasure? I have a
mind to write.

'I am glad of your hindrance in your Spenserian design[812], yet I would
not have it delayed. Three hours a day stolen from sleep and amusement
will produce it. Let a Servitour[813] transcribe the quotations, and
interleave them with references, to save time. This will shorten the
work, and lessen the fatigue.

'Can I do any thing to promoting the diploma? I would not be wanting to
co-operate with your kindness; of which, whatever be the effect, I shall
be, dear Sir,

'Your most obliged, &c.


'[London,] Nov. 28, 1754.'



'I am extremely sensible of the favour done me, both by Mr. Wise and
yourself. The book[814] cannot, I think, be printed in less than six
weeks, nor probably so soon; and I will keep back the title-page, for
such an insertion as you seem to promise me. Be pleased to let me know
what money I shall send you, for bearing the expence of the affair; and
I will take care that you may have it ready at your hand.

[Page 277: The death of a Wife. Ætat 46.]

'I had lately the favour of a letter from your brother, with some
account of poor Collins, for whom I am much concerned. I have a notion,
that by very great temperance, or more properly abstinence, he may yet

'There is an old English and Latin book of poems by Barclay, called "The
Ship of Fools;" at the end of which are a number of _Eglogues_; so he
writes it, from _Egloga_[816], which are probably the first in our
language. If you cannot find the book I will get Mr. Dodsley to send it

'I shall be extremely glad to hear from you again, to know, if the
affair proceeds[817]. I have mentioned it to none of my friends for fear
of being laughed at for my disappointment.

'You know poor Mr. Dodsley has lost his wife; I believe he is much
affected. I hope he will not suffer so much as I yet suffer for the loss
of mine.

[Greek: Oimoi. ti d oimoi; Onaeta gar peponthamen.][818].

I have ever since seemed to myself broken off from mankind; a kind of
solitary wanderer in the wild of life, without any direction, or fixed
point of view: a gloomy gazer on a world to which I have little
relation. Yet I would endeavour, by the help of you and your brother, to
supply the want of closer union, by friendship: and hope to have long
the pleasure of being, dear Sir,

'Most affectionately your's,


'[London,] Dec. 21, 1754.'

1755: ÆTAT. 46.--In 1755 we behold him to great advantage; his degree
of Master of Arts conferred upon him, his _Dictionary_ published, his
correspondence animated, his benevolence exercised.

[Page 278: Land after a vast sea of words. A.D. 1755.]



'I wrote to you some weeks ago, but believe did not direct accurately,
and therefore know not whether you had my letter. I would, likewise,
write to your brother, but know not where to find him. I now begin to
see land, after having wandered, according to Mr. Warburton's phrase, in
this vast sea of words. What reception I shall meet with on the shore, I
know not; whether the sound of bells, and acclamations of the people,
which Ariosto talks of in his last Canto[819], or a general murmur of
dislike, I know not: whether I shall find upon the coast a Calypso that
will court, or a Polypheme that will resist. But if Polypheme comes,
have at his eye. I hope, however, the criticks will let me be at peace;
for though I do not much fear their skill and strength, I am a little
afraid of myself, and would not willingly feel so much ill-will in my
bosom as literary quarrels are apt to excite.

'Mr. Baretti is about a work for which he is in great want of
_Crescimbeni_, which you may have again when you please.

'There is nothing considerable done or doing among us here. We are not,
perhaps, as innocent as villagers, but most of us seem to be as idle. I
hope, however, you are busy; and should be glad to know what you are

'I am, dearest Sir,

'Your humble servant,


'[London] Feb. 4, 1755.'



'I received your letter this day, with great sense of the favour that
has been done me[820]; for which I return my most sincere thanks: and
entreat you to pay to Mr. Wise such returns as I ought to make for so
much kindness so little deserved.

[Page 279: Dr. King. Ætat 46.]

'I sent Mr. Wise the _Lexicon_, and afterwards wrote to him; but know
not whether he had either the book or letter. Be so good as to contrive
to enquire.

'But why does my dear Mr. Warton tell me nothing of himself? Where hangs
the new volume[821]? Can I help? Let not the past labour be lost, for want
of a little more: but snatch what time you can from the Hall, and the
pupils[822], and the coffee-house, and the parks[823], and complete your
design. I am, dear Sir, &c,


'[London.] Feb. 4, 1755.'



'I had a letter last week from Mr. Wise, but have yet heard nothing from
you, nor know in what state my affair stands[824]; of which I beg you to
inform me, if you can, to-morrow, by the return of the post.

'Mr. Wise sends me word, that he has not had the _Finnick Lexicon_ yet,
which I sent some time ago; and if he has it not, you must enquire after
it. However, do not let your letter stay for that.

'Your brother, who is a better correspondent than you, and not much
better, sends me word, that your pupils keep you in College: but do they
keep you from writing too? Let them, at least, give you time to write
to, dear Sir,

'Your most affectionate, &c.


'[London,] Feb. 13, 1755,'



'Dr. King[825] was with me a few minutes before your letter; this,
however, is the first instance in which your kind intentions to me have
ever been frustrated[826]. I have now the full effect of your care and
benevolence; and am far from thinking it a slight honour, or a small
advantage; since it will put the enjoyment of your conversation more
frequently in the power of, dear Sir,

[Page 280: The Chancellor of Oxford's letter. A.D. 1755.]

'Your most obliged and affectionate


'P.S. I have enclosed a letter to the Vice-Chancellor[827], which you will
read; and, if you like it, seal and give him.

'[London,] Feb. 1755.'

As the Publick will doubtless be pleased to see the whole progress of
this well-earned academical honour, I shall insert the Chancellor of
Oxford's letter to the University[828], the diploma, and Johnson's letter
of thanks to the Vice-Chancellor.

'_To the Reverend Dr_. HUDDESFORD, Vice-Chancellor _of the_ University
_of_ Oxford; _to be communicated to the Heads of Houses, and proposed in


'Mr. Samuel Johnson, who was formerly of Pembroke College, having very
eminently distinguished himself by the publication of a series of
essays, excellently calculated to form the manners of the people, and in
which the cause of religion and morality is every where maintained by
the strongest powers of argument and language; and who shortly intends
to publish a _Dictionary of the English Tongue_, formed on a new plan,
and executed with the greatest labour and judgement; I persuade myself
that I shall act agreeably to the sentiments of the whole University, in
desiring that it may be proposed in convocation to confer on him the
degree of Master of Arts by diploma, to which I readily give my consent;
and am,

[Page 281: Diploma Magistri Johnson. Ætat 46.]

'Mr. Vice-Chancellor, and Gentlemen,

'Your affectionate friend and servant,


'Grosvenor-street, Feb. 4, 1755.'

Term. Seti.


'_CANCELLARIUS, Magistri et Scholares Universitatis Oxoniensis omnibus
ad quos hoc presens scriptum pervenerit, salutem in Domino sempiternam.

'Cum eum in finem gradus academici à majoribus nostris instituti
fuerint, ut viri ingenio et doctriné præstantes titulis quoque prater
cæeteros insignirentur; cùmque vir doctissimus_ Samuel Johnson _è
Collegia Pembrochiensi, scriptis suis popularium mores informantibus
dudum literato orbi innotuerit; quin et linguæ patricæ tum ornandæ tum
stabiliendæ (Lexicon scilicet Anglicanum summo studio, summo à se
judicio congestum propediem editurus) etiam nunc utilissimam impendat
operam; Nos igitur Cancellarius, Magistri, et Scholares antedicti, nè
virum de literis humanioribus optimè meritum diulius inhonoratum
prætereamus, in solenni Convocatione Doctorum, Magistrorum, Regentium,
et non Regentium, decimo die Mensis Februarii Anno Domini Millesimo
Septingentesimo Quinquagesimo quinto habitú, præfatum virum_ Samuelem
Johnson (_conspirantibus omnium suffragiis) Magistrum in Artibus
renunciavimus et constituimus; eumque, virtute præsentis diplomatis,
singulis juribus privilegiis et honoribus ad istum gradum quòquà
pertinentibus frui et gaudere jussimus.

'In cujiis rei testimonium sigillum Universitatis Oxoniensis præsentibus
apponi fecimus.

'Datum in Domo nostræ Convocationis die 20° Mensis Feb. Anno Dom.

'Diploma supra scriptum per Registrarium Iectum erat, et ex decreto
venerabilis Domús communi Universitatis sigillo munitum_'[830].'


'INGRATUS planè et tibi et mihi videar, nisi quanto me gaudio
affecerint quos nuper mihi honores (te credo auctore) decrevit Senatus
Academicus, Iiterarum, quo lamen nihil levius, officio, significem:
ingratus etiam, nisi comitatem, quá vir eximius[831] mihi vestri
testimonium amoris in manus tradidit, agnoscam et laudem. Si quid est
undè rei lam gratæ accedat gratia, hoc ipso magis mihi placet, quod eo
tempore in ordines Academicos denuo cooptatus sim, quo tuam imminuere
auctoritatem, famamque Oxonii Iædere[832], omnibus modis conantur homines
vafri, nec tamen aculi: quibus ego, prout viro umbratico licuit, semper
restiti, semper restiturus. Qui enim, inter has rerum procellas, vel
Tibi vel Academiæ defuerit, illum virtuti et literis, sibique et
posteris, defuturum existimo.


[Page 282: Johnson's letter of thanks. A.D. 1755.]



'After I received my diploma, I wrote you a letter of thanks, with a
letter to the Vice-Chancellor, and sent another to Mr. Wise; but have
heard from nobody since, and begin to think myself forgotten. It is
true, I sent you a double letter[833], and you may fear an expensive
correspondent; but I would have taken it kindly, if you had returned it
treble: and what is a double letter to a _petty king_, that having
_fellowship and fines_, can sleep without a _Modus in his head_[834]?

'Dear Mr. Warton, let me hear from you, and tell me something, I care
not what, so I hear it but from you. Something I will tell you:--I hope
to see my _Dictionary_ bound and lettered, next week;--_vastâ mole
superbus_. And I have a great mind to come to Oxford at Easter; but you
will not invite me. Shall I come uninvited, or stay here where nobody
perhaps would miss me if I went? A hard choice! But such is the world
to, dear Sir,

'Your, &c.


'[London] March 20, 1755.'

[Page 283: A projected Review. Ætat 46.]



'Though not to write, when a man can write so well, is an offence
sufficiently heinous, yet I shall pass it by, I am very glad that the
Vice-Chancellor was pleased with my note. I shall impatiently expect you
at London, that we may consider what to do next. I intend in the winter
to open a _Bibliothèque_, and remember, that you are to subscribe a
sheet a year; let us try, likewise, if we cannot persuade your brother
to subscribe another. My book is now coming _in luminis oras_[835]. What
will be its fate I know not, nor think much, because thinking is to no
purpose. It must stand the censure of the _great vulgar and the
small_[836]; of those that understand it, and that understand it not. But
in all this, I suffer not alone: every writer has the same difficulties,
and, perhaps, every writer talks of them more than he thinks.

[Page 284: Dr. Maty. A.D. 1755.]

'You will be pleased to make my compliments to all my friends: and be so
kind, at every idle hour, as to remember, dear Sir,

'Your, &c.


'[London,] March 25, 1755.'

Dr. Adams told me, that this scheme of a _Bibliothèque_ was a serious
one: for upon his visiting him one day, he found his parlour floor
covered with parcels of foreign and English literary journals, and he
told Dr. Adams he meant to undertake a Review. 'How, Sir, (said Dr.
Adams,) can you think of doing it alone? All branches of knowledge must
be considered in it. Do you know Mathematicks? Do you know Natural
History?' Johnson answered, 'Why, Sir, I must do as well as I can. My
chief purpose is to give my countrymen a view of what is doing in
literature upon the continent; and I shall have, in a good measure, the
choice of my subject, for I shall select such books as I best
understand.' Dr. Adams suggested, that as Dr. Maty had just then
finished his _Bibliothèque Britannique_[837], which was a well-executed
work, giving foreigners an account of British publications, he might,
with great advantage, assume him as an assistant. '_He_, (said Johnson)
the little black dog! I'd throw him into the Thames[838].' The scheme,
however, was dropped.

[Page 285: Dr. Birch's letter. Ætat 46.]

In one of his little memorandum-books I find the following hints for his
intended _Review or Literary Journal_:

'_The Annals of Literature, foreign as welt as domestick_. Imitate Le
Clerk--Bayle--Barbeyrac. Infelicity of Journals in England. Works of the
learned. We cannot take in all. Sometimes copy from foreign Journalists.
Always tell.'


'March 29, 1755.


'I have sent some parts of my _Dictionary_, such as were at hand, for
your inspection. The favour which I beg is, that if you do not like
them, you will say nothing. I am, Sir,

'Your most affectionate humble servant,



Norfolk-street, April 23, 1755.


'The part of your _Dictionary_ which you have favoured me with the sight
of has given me such an idea of the whole, that I most sincerely
congratulate the publick upon the acquisition of a work long wanted, and
now executed with an industry, accuracy, and judgement, equal to the
importance of the subject. You might, perhaps, have chosen one in which
your genius would have appeared to more advantage; but you could not
have fixed upon any other in which your labours would have done such
substantial service to the present age and to posterity. I am glad that
your health has supported the application necessary to the performance
of so vast a task; and can undertake to promise you as one (though
perhaps the only) reward of it, the approbation and thanks of every
well-wisher to the honour of the English language. I am, with the
greatest regard,


'Your most faithful and

'Most affectionate humble servant,


Mr. Charles Burney, who has since distinguished himself so much in the
science of Musick, and obtained a Doctor's degree from the University of
Oxford, had been driven from the capital by bad health, and was now
residing at Lynne Regis, in Norfolk[839]. He had been so much delighted
with Johnson's _Rambler_ and the _Plan_ of his _Dictionary_, that when
the great work was announced in the news-papers as nearly finished, he
wrote to Dr. Johnson, begging to be informed when and in what manner his
_Dictionary_ would be published; intreating, if it should be by
subscription, or he should have any books at his own disposal, to be
favoured with six copies for himself and friends.

[Page 286: Johnson's letter to Mr. Burney. A.D. 1755.]

In answer to this application, Dr. Johnson wrote the following letter,
of which (to use Dr. Burney's own words) 'if it be remembered that it
was written to an obscure young man, who at this time had not much
distinguished himself even in his own profession, but whose name could
never have reached the authour of _The Rambler_, the politeness and
urbanity may be opposed to some of the stories which have been lately
circulated of Dr. Johnson's natural rudeness and ferocity.'



'If you imagine that by delaying my answer I intended to shew any
neglect of the notice with which you have favoured me, you will neither
think justly of yourself nor of me. Your civilities were offered with
too much elegance not to engage attention; and I have too much pleasure
in pleasing men like you, not to feel very sensibly the distinction
which you have bestowed upon me.

'Few consequences of my endeavours to please or to benefit mankind have
delighted me more than your friendship thus voluntarily offered, which
now I have it I hope to keep, because I hope to continue to deserve it.

'I have no _Dictionaries_ to dispose of for myself, but shall be glad to
have you direct your friends to Mr. Dodsley, because it was by his
recommendation that I was employed in the work.

'When you have leisure to think again upon me, let me be favoured with
another letter; and another yet, when you have looked into my
_Dictionary_. If you find faults, I shall endeavour to mend them; if you
find none, I shall think you blinded by kind partiality: but to have
made you partial in his favour, will very much gratify the ambition of,

'Your most obliged

'And most humble servant,


'Cough-square, Fleet-street,

'April 8, 1755,'

[Page 287: Andrew Millar. Ætat 46.]

Mr. Andrew Millar, bookseller in the Strand, took the principal charge
of conducting the publication of Johnson's _Dictionary_; and as the
patience of the proprietors was repeatedly tried and almost exhausted,
by their expecting that the work would be completed within the time
which Johnson had sanguinely supposed, the learned authour was often
goaded to dispatch, more especially as he had received all the
copy-money, by different drafts, a considerable time before he had
finished his task[840]. When the messenger who carried the last sheet to
Millar returned, Johnson asked him, 'Well, what did he say?'--'Sir,
(answered the messenger) he said, thank GOD I have done with him.' 'I am
glad (replied Johnson, with a smile) that he thanks GOD for any
thing[841].' It is remarkable that those with whom Johnson chiefly
contracted for his literary labours were Scotchmen, Mr. Millar and Mr.
Strahan. Millar, though himself no great judge of literature, had good
sense enough to have for his friends very able men to give him their
opinion and advice in the purchase of copyright; the consequence of
which was his acquiring a very large fortune, with great liberality[842].
Johnson said of him, 'I respect Millar, Sir; he has raised the price of
literature.' The same praise may be justly given to Panckoucke, the
eminent bookseller of Paris. Mr. Strahan's liberality, judgement, and
success, are well known.

[Page 288: An Excursion to Langton deferred. A.D. 1755.]



'It has been long observed, that men do not suspect faults which they do
not commit; your own elegance of manners, and punctuality of
complaisance, did not suffer you to impute to me that negligence of
which I was guilty, and which I have not since atoned. I received both
your letters, and received them with pleasure proportionate to the
esteem which so short an acquaintance strongly impressed, and which I
hope to confirm by nearer knowledge, though I am afraid that
gratification will be for a time withheld.

'I have, indeed, published my Book[843], of which I beg to know your
father's judgement, and yours; and I have now staid long enough to watch
its progress into the world. It has, you see, no patrons, and, I think,
has yet had no opponents, except the criticks of the coffee-house, whose
outcries are soon dispersed into the air, and are thought on no more:
from this, therefore, I am at liberty, and think of taking the
opportunity of this interval to make an excursion; and why not then into
Lincolnshire? or, to mention a stronger attraction, why not to dear Mr.
Langton? I will give the true reason, which I know you will approve:--I
have a mother more than eighty years old, who has counted the days to
the publication of my book, in hopes of seeing me; and to her, if I can
disengage myself here, I resolve to go.

'As I know, dear Sir, that to delay my visit for a reason like this,
will not deprive me of your esteem, I beg it may not lessen your
kindness. I have very seldom received an offer of friendship which I so
earnestly desire to cultivate and mature. I shall rejoice to hear from
you, till I can see you, and will see you as soon as I can; for when the
duty that calls me to Lichfield is discharged, my inclination will carry
me to Langton. I shall delight to hear the ocean roar, or see the stars
twinkle, in the company of men to whom Nature does not spread her
volumes or utter her voice in vain.

'Do not, dear Sir, make the slowness of this letter a precedent for
delay, or imagine that I approved the incivility that I have committed;
for I have known you enough to love you, and sincerely to wish a further
knowledge; and I assure you, once more, that to live in a house that
contains such a father and such a son, will be accounted a very uncommon
degree of pleasure, by, dear Sir, your most obliged, and

'Most humble servant,


'May 6, 1755.'

[Page 289: Letters to Mr. Warton. Ætat 46.]



'I am grieved that you should think me capable of neglecting your
letters; and beg you will never admit any such suspicion again. I
purpose to come down next week, if you shall be there; or any other
week, that shall be more agreeable to you. Therefore let me know. I can
stay this visit but a week, but intend to make preparations for a longer
stay next time; being resolved not to lose sight of the University. How
goes Apollonius[844]? Don't let him be forgotten. Some things of this kind
must be done, to keep us up. Pay my compliments to Mr. Wise, and all my
other friends. I think to come to Kettel-Hall[845].

'I am, Sir,

'Your most affectionate, &c.


'[London,] May 13, 1755.'



'It is strange how many things will happen to intercept every pleasure,
though it [be] only that of two friends meeting together. I have
promised myself every day to inform you when you might expect me at
Oxford, and have not been able to fix a time. The time, however, is, I
think, at last come; and I promise myself to repose in Kettel-Hall, one
of the first nights of the next week. I am afraid my stay with you
cannot be long; but what is the inference? We must endeavour to make it
chearful. I wish your brother could meet us, that we might go and drink
tea with Mr. Wise in a body. I hope he will be at Oxford, or at his nest
of British and Saxon antiquities[846]. I shall expect to see _Spenser_
finished, and many other things begun. Dodsley is gone to visit the
Dutch. The _Dictionary_ sells well[847]. The rest of the world goes on as
it did. Dear Sir,

[Page 290: Letters to Mr. Warton. A.D. 1755.]

'Your most affectionate, &c.


'[London,] June 10, 1755.'



'To talk of coming to you, and not yet to come, has an air of trifling
which I would not willingly have among you; and which, I believe, you
will not willingly impute to me, when I have told you, that since my
promise, two of our partners[848] are dead, and that I was solicited to
suspend my excursion till we could recover from our confusion.

'I have not laid aside my purpose; for every day makes me more impatient
of staying from you. But death, you know, hears not supplications, nor
pays any regard to the convenience of mortals. I hope now to see you
next week; but next week is but another name for to-morrow, which has
been noted for promising and deceiving.

'I am, &c.


'[London,] June 24, 1755.'



'I told you, that among the manuscripts are some things of Sir Thomas
More. I beg you to pass an hour in looking on them, and procure a
transcript of the ten or twenty first lines of each, to be compared with
what I have; that I may know whether they are yet published. The
manuscripts are these:

'Catalogue of Bodl. MS. pag. 122. F. 3. Sir Thomas More.

'1. Fall of angels. 2. Creation and fall of mankind. 3. Determination of
the Trinity for the rescue of mankind. 4. Five lectures of our Saviour's
passion. 5. Of the institution of the sacrament, three lectures. 6. How
to receive the blessed body of our Lord sacramentally. 7. Neomenia, the
new moon. 8. _De tristitia, tædio, pavore, et oratione Christi, ante
captionem ejus_.

'Catalogue, pag. 154. Life of Sir Thomas More. _Qu_. Whether Roper's?
Pag. 363. _De resignatione Magni Sigilli in manus Regis per D. Thomam
Morum_. Pag. 364. _Mori Defensio Morice_.

'If you procure the young gentleman in the library to write out what you
think fit to be written, I will send to Mr. Prince the bookseller to pay
him what you shall think proper.

'Be pleased to make my compliments to Mr. Wise, and all my friends.

'I am, Sir,

'Your affectionate, &c.

'[London] Aug. 7, 1755.'

[Page 291: Publication of the DICTIONARY. Ætat 46.]

The _Dictionary_, with a _Grammar and History of the English Language_,
being now at length published, in two volumes folio, the world
contemplated with wonder so stupendous a work achieved by one man,
while other countries had thought such undertakings fit only for whole
academies. Vast as his powers were, I cannot but think that his
imagination deceived him, when he supposed that by constant application
he might have performed the task in three years. Let the Preface be
attentively perused, in which is given, in a clear, strong, and glowing
style, a comprehensive, yet particular view of what he had done; and it
will be evident, that the time he employed upon it was comparatively
short. I am unwilling to swell my book with long quotations from what is
in every body's hands, and I believe there are few prose compositions in
the English language that are read with more delight, or are more
impressed upon the memory, than that preliminary discourse. One of its
excellencies has always struck me with peculiar admiration: I mean the
perspicuity with which he has expressed abstract scientifick notions. As
an instance of this, I shall quote the following sentence: 'When the
radical idea branches out into parallel ramifications, how can a
consecutive series be formed of senses in their own[849] nature
collateral?' We have here an example of what has been often said, and I
believe with justice, that there is for every thought a certain nice
adaptation of words which none other could equal, and which, when a man
has been so fortunate as to hit, he has attained, in that particular
case, the perfection of language.

[Page 292: The Preface to the Dictionary. A.D. 1755.]

The extensive reading which was absolutely necessary for the
accumulation of authorities, and which alone may account for Johnson's
retentive mind being enriched with a very large and various store of
knowledge and imagery, must have occupied several years. The Preface
furnishes an eminent instance of a double talent, of which Johnson was
fully conscious. Sir Joshua Reynolds heard him say, 'There are two
things which I am confident I can do very well: one is an introduction
to any literary work, stating what it is to contain, and how it should
be executed in the most perfect manner; the other is a conclusion,
shewing from various causes why the execution has not been equal to what
the authour promised to himself and to the publick.'

How should puny scribblers be abashed and disappointed, when they find
him displaying a perfect theory of lexicographical excellence, yet at
the same time candidly and modestly allowing that he 'had not satisfied
his own expectations[850].' Here was a fair occasion for the exercise of
Johnson's modesty, when he was called upon to compare his own arduous
performance, not with those of other individuals, (in which case his
inflexible regard to truth would have been violated, had he affected
diffidence,) but with speculative perfection[851]; as he, who can outstrip
all his competitors in the race, may yet be sensible of his deficiency
when he runs against time. Well might he say, that 'the _English
Dictionary_ was written with little assistance of the learned[852],' for
he told me, that the only aid which he received was a paper containing
twenty etymologies, sent to him by a person then unknown, who he was
afterwards informed was Dr. Pearce, Bishop of Rochester[853]. The
etymologies, though they exhibit learning and judgement, are not, I
think, entitled to the first praise amongst the various parts of this
immense work. The definitions have always appeared to me such
astonishing proofs of acuteness of intellect and precision of language,
as indicate a genius of the highest rank[854]. This it is which marks the
superiour excellence of Johnson's _Dictionary_ over others equally or
even more voluminous, and must have made it a work of much greater
mental labour than mere Lexicons, or _Word-books_, as the Dutch call
them. They, who will make the experiment of trying how they can define a
few words of whatever nature, will soon be satisfied of the
unquestionable justice of this observation, which I can assure my
readers is founded upon much study, and upon communication with more
minds than my own.

[Page 293: Erroneous definitions. Ætat 46.]

A few of his definitions must be admitted to be erroneous. Thus,
_Windward_ and _Leeward_[855], though directly of opposite meaning, are
defined identically the same way; as to which inconsiderable specks it
is enough to observe, that his Preface announces that he was aware there
might be many such in so immense a work[856]; nor was he at all
disconcerted when an instance was pointed out to him. A lady once asked
him how he came to define _Pastern_ the _knee_ of a horse: instead of
making an elaborate defence, as she expected, he at once answered,
'Ignorance, Madam, pure ignorance[857].' His definition of _Network_[858]
has been often quoted with sportive malignity[859], as obscuring a thing
in itself very plain. But to these frivolous censures no other answer is
necessary than that with which we are furnished by his own Preface.

[Page 294: Humorous definitions. A.D. 1755.]

'To explain, requires the use of terms less abstruse than that which is
to be explained, and such terms cannot always be found. For as nothing
can be proved but by supposing something intuitively known, and evident
without proof, so nothing can be defined but by the use of words too
plain to admit of definition[860]. Sometimes easier words are changed into
harder; as, _burial_, into _sepulture_ or _interment; dry_[861], into
_desiccative_; _dryness_, into _siccity_ or _aridity; fit_, into
_paroxism_; for the _easiest_ word, whatever it be, can never be
translated into one more easy.'

[Page 295: Humorous definitions.]

His introducing his own opinions, and even prejudices, under general
definitions of words, while at the same time the original meaning of the
words is not explained, as his _Tory_[862], _Whig_[863], _Pension_[864],
_Oats_[865], _Excise_[866], and a few more, cannot be fully defended, and
must be placed to the account of capricious and humorous indulgence[867].
Talking to me upon this subject when we were at Ashbourne in 1777, he
mentioned a still stronger instance of the predominance of his private
feelings in the composition of this work, than any now to be found in
it. 'You know, Sir, Lord Gower forsook the old Jacobite interest. When I
came to the word _Renegado_, after telling that it meant "one who
deserts to the enemy, a revolter," I added, _Sometimes we say a
GOWER_[868]. Thus it went to the press; but the printer had more wit than
I, and struck it out.'

[Page 296: Humorous definitions. A.D. 1756.]

Let it, however, be remembered, that this indulgence does not display
itself only in sarcasm towards others, but sometimes in playful allusion
to the notions commonly entertained of his own laborious task. Thus:
'_Grub-street_, the name of a street in London, much inhabited by
writers of small histories, _dictionaries_, and temporary poems; whence
any mean production is called _Grub-street_[869].'--'_Lexicographer_, a
writer of dictionaries, a _harmless drudge_[870]'.

[Page 297: The gloom of solitude. Ætat 46.]

At the time when he was concluding his very eloquent Preface, Johnson's
mind appears to have been in such a state of depression[871], that we
cannot contemplate without wonder the vigorous and splendid thoughts
which so highly distinguish that performance. 'I (says he) may surely be
contented without the praise of perfection, which if I could obtain in
this gloom of solitude, what would it avail me? I have protracted my
work till most of those whom I wished to please have sunk into the
grave; and success and miscarriage are empty sounds, I therefore dismiss
it with frigid tranquillity, having little to fear or hope from censure
or from praise[872].' That this indifference was rather a temporary than
an habitual feeling, appears, I think, from his letters to Mr.
Warton[873]; and however he may have been affected for the moment, certain
it is that the honours which his great work procured him, both at home
and abroad, were very grateful to him[874]. His friend the Earl of Corke
and Orrery, being at Florence, presented it to the _Academia della
Crusca_. That Academy sent Johnson their _Vocabulario_, and the French
Academy sent him their _Dictionnaire_, which Mr. Langton had the
pleasure to convey to him[875].

[Page 298: His melancholy at its meridian. A.D. 1755.]

It must undoubtedly seem strange, that the conclusion of his Preface
should be expressed in terms so desponding, when it is considered that
the authour was then only in his forty-sixth year. But we must ascribe
its gloom to that miserable dejection of spirits to which he was
constitutionally subject, and which was aggravated by the death of his
wife two years before[876]. I have heard it ingeniously observed by a lady
of rank and elegance, that 'his melancholy was then at its meridian[877].'
It pleased GOD to grant him almost thirty years of life after this time;
and once, when he was in a placid frame of mind, he was obliged to own
to me that he had enjoyed happier days, and had many more friends, since
that gloomy hour than before[878].

[Page 299: Johnson's happiest days last. Ætat 46.]

It is a sad saying, that 'most of those whom he wished to please had
sunk into the grave;' and his case at forty-five was singularly unhappy,
unless the circle of his friends was very narrow. I have often thought,
that as longevity is generally desired, and I believe, generally
expected, it would be wise to be continually adding to the number of our
friends, that the loss of some may be supplied by others. Friendship,
'the wine of life[879],' should like a well-stocked cellar, be thus
continually renewed; and it is consolatory to think, that although we
can seldom add what will equal the generous _first-growths_ of our
youth, yet friendship becomes insensibly old in much less time than is
commonly imagined, and not many years are required to make it very
mellow and pleasant. _Warmth_ will, no doubt, make a considerable
difference. Men of affectionate temper and bright fancy will coalesce a
great deal sooner than those who are cold and dull.

[Page 300: Garrick's complimentary epigram. A.D. 1755.]

The proposition which I have now endeavoured to illustrate was, at a
subsequent period of his life, the opinion of Johnson himself. He said
to Sir Joshua Reynolds, 'If a man does not make new acquaintance as he
advances through life, he will soon find himself left alone. A man, Sir,
should keep his friendship _in constant repair_.'

The celebrated Mr. Wilkes, whose notions and habits of life were very
opposite to his, but who was ever eminent for literature and vivacity,
sallied forth with a little _Jeu d'Esprit_ upon the following passage in
his Grammar of the English Tongue, prefixed to the _Dictionary_: '_H_
seldom, perhaps never, begins any but the first syllable.' In an Essay
printed in _The Publick Advertiser_, this lively writer enumerated many
instances in opposition to this remark; for example, 'The authour of
this observation must be a man of a quick _apprehension_, and of a most
_compre-hensive_ genius.' The position is undoubtedly expressed with too
much latitude.

This light sally, we may suppose, made no great impression on our
Lexicographer; for we find that he did not alter the passage till many
years afterwards[880].

He had the pleasure of being treated in a very different manner by his
old pupil Mr. Garrick, in the following complimentary Epigram[881]:


'Talk of war with a Briton, he'll boldly advance,
That one English soldier will beat ten of France;
Would we alter the boast from the sword to the pen,
Our odds are still greater, still greater our men:
In the deep mines of science though Frenchmen may toil,
Can their strength be compar'd to Locke, Newton, and Boyle?
Let them rally their heroes, send forth all their pow'rs,
Their verse-men and prose-men, then match them with ours!
First Shakspeare and Milton[882], like gods in the fight,
Have put their whole drama and epick to flight;
In satires, epistles, and odes, would they cope,
Their numbers retreat before Dryden and Pope;
And Johnson, well arm'd like a hero of yore,
Has beat forty French[883], and will beat forty more!'

[Page 301: Zachariah Williams. Ætat 46.]

Johnson this year gave at once a proof of his benevolence, quickness of
apprehension, and admirable art of composition, in the assistance which
he gave to Mr. Zachariah Williams, father of the blind lady whom he had
humanely received under his roof. Mr. Williams had followed the
profession of physick in Wales; but having a very strong propensity to
the study of natural philosophy, had made many ingenious advances
towards a discovery of the longitude, and repaired to London in hopes of
obtaining the great parliamentary reward[884]. He failed of success; but
Johnson having made himself master of his principles and experiments,
wrote for him a pamphlet, published in quarto, with the following title:
_An Account of an Attempt to ascertain the Longitude at Sea, by an exact
Theory of the Variation of the Magnetical Needle; with a Table of the
Variations at the most remarkable Cities in Europe, from the year 1660
to 1680_.[Dagger] To diffuse it more extensively, it was accompanied
with an Italian translation on the opposite page, which it is supposed
was the work of Signor Baretti[885], an Italian of considerable
literature, who having come to England a few years before, had been
employed in the capacity both of a language-master and an authour, and
formed an intimacy with Dr. Johnson. This pamphlet Johnson presented to
the Bodleian Library[886]. On a blank leaf of it is pasted a paragraph cut
out of a news-paper, containing an account of the death and character of
Williams, plainly written by Johnson[887].

[Page 302: Joseph Baretti. A.D. 1755.]

[Page 303: A scheme of life for Sunday. Ætat 47.]

In July this year he had formed some scheme of mental improvement, the
particular purpose of which does not appear. But we find in his _Prayers
and Meditations_, p. 25, a prayer entitled 'On the Study of Philosophy,
as an Instrument of living;' and after it follows a note, 'This study
was not pursued.'

On the 13th of the same month he wrote in his _Journal_ the following
scheme of life, for Sunday:

'Having lived' (as he with tenderness of conscience expresses himself)
'not without an habitual reverence for the Sabbath, yet without that
attention to its religious duties which Christianity requires;

'1. To rise early, and in order to it, to go to sleep early on Saturday.

'2. To use some extraordinary devotion in the morning.

'3. To examine the tenour of my life, and particularly the last week;
and to mark my advances in religion, or recession from it.

'4. To read the Scripture methodically with such helps as are at hand.

'5. To go to church twice.

'6. To read books of Divinity, either speculative or practical.

'7. To instruct my family.

'8. To wear off by meditation any worldly soil contracted in the week.'

1756: ÆTAT. 47.--In 1756 Johnson found that the great fame of his
_Dictionary_ had not set him above the necessity of 'making provision
for the day that was passing over him[888].'

[Page 304: Payment for the DICTIONARY. A.D. 1756.]

No royal or noble patron extended a munificent hand to give independence
to the man who had conferred stability on the language of his country.
We may feel indignant that there should have been such unworthy neglect;
but we must, at the same time, congratulate ourselves, when we consider,
that to this very neglect, operating to rouse the natural indolence of
his constitution, we owe many valuable productions, which otherwise,
perhaps, might never have appeared.

He had spent, during the progress of the work, the money for which he
had contracted to write his _Dictionary_. We have seen that the reward
of his labour was only fifteen hundred and seventy-five pounds; and when
the expence of amanuenses and paper, and other articles are deducted,
his clear profit was very inconsiderable. I once said to him, 'I am
sorry, Sir, you did not get more for your _Dictionary_'. His answer was,
'I am sorry, too. But it was very well. The booksellers are generous,
liberal-minded men[889].' He, upon all occasions, did ample justice to
their character in this respect[890]. He considered them as the patrons of
literature; and, indeed, although they have eventually been considerable
gainers by his _Dictionary_, it is to them that we owe its having been
undertaken and carried through at the risk of great expence, for they
were not absolutely sure of being indemnified.

[Page 305: Johnson's opinion of booksellers. Ætat 47.]

On the first day of this year we find from his private devotions, that
he had then recovered from sickness[891]; and in February that his eye was
restored to its use[892]. The pious gratitude with which he acknowledges
mercies upon every occasion is very edifying; as is the humble
submission which he breathes, when it is the will of his heavenly Father
to try him with afflictions. As such dispositions become the state of
man here, and are the true effects of religious discipline, we cannot
but venerate in Johnson one of the most exercised minds that our holy
religion hath ever formed. If there be any thoughtless enough to suppose
such exercise the weakness of a great understanding, let them look up to
Johnson and be convinced that what he so earnestly practised must have a
rational foundation.

[Page 306: Christopher Smart. A.D. 1756.]

His works this year were, an abstract or epitome, in octavo, of his
folio _Dictionary_, and a few essays in a monthly publication, entitled,
_The Universal Visiter_. Christopher Smart, with whose unhappy
vacillation of mind he sincerely sympathised, was one of the stated
undertakers of this miscellany; and it was to assist him that Johnson
sometimes employed his pen[893]. All the essays marked with two
_asterisks_ have been ascribed to him; but I am confident, from internal
evidence, that of these, neither 'The Life of Chaucer,' 'Reflections on
the State of Portugal,' nor an 'Essay on Architecture,' were written by
him. I am equally confident, upon the same evidence, that he wrote
'Further Thoughts on Agriculture[894];'[Dagger] being the sequel of a very
inferiour essay on the same subject, and which, though carried on as if
by the same hand, is both in thinking and expression so far above it,
and so strikingly peculiar, as to leave no doubt of its true parent; and
that he also wrote 'A Dissertation on the State of Literature and
Authours[895],'[Dagger] and 'A Dissertation on the Epitaphs written by
Pope.'[Dagger] The last of these, indeed, he afterwards added to his
_Idler_[896]. Why the essays truly written by him are marked in the same
manner with some which he did not write, I cannot explain; but with
deference to those who have ascribed to him the three essays which I
have rejected, they want all the characteristical marks of Johnsonian

[Page 307: The Literary Magazine. Ætat 47.]

He engaged also to superintend and contribute largely to another monthly
publication, entitled _The Literary Magazine, or Universal Review_; the
first number of which came out in May this year[897]. What were his
emoluments from this undertaking, and what other writers were employed
in it, I have not discovered. He continued to write in it, with
intermissions, till the fifteenth number; and I think that he never gave
better proofs of the force, acuteness, and vivacity of his mind, than in
this miscellany, whether we consider his original essays, or his reviews
of the works of others. The 'Preliminary Address'[Dagger] to the Publick
is a proof how this great man could embellish, with the graces of
superiour composition, even so trite a thing as the plan of a magazine.

His original essays are, 'An Introduction to the Political State of
Great Britain[898];'[Dagger] 'Remarks on the Militia Bill[899];'[Dagger]
'Observations on his Britannick Majesty's Treaties with the Empress of
Russia and the Landgrave of Hesse Cassel[900];'[Dagger] 'Observations on
the Present State of Affairs[901];'[Dagger] and 'Memoirs of Frederick III,
King of Prussia[902].'[Dagger] In all these he displays extensive
political knowledge and sagacity, expressed with uncommon energy and
perspicuity, without any of those words which he sometimes took a
pleasure in adopting in imitation of Sir Thomas Browne; of whose
_Christian Morals_ he this year gave an edition, with his 'Life'[*]
prefixed to it, which is one of Johnson's best biographical
performances. In one instance only in these essays has he indulged his
_Brownism_[903]. Dr. Robertson, the historian, mentioned it to me, as
having at once convinced him that Johnson was the author of the 'Memoirs
of the King of Prussia.' Speaking of the pride which the old King, the
father of his hero, took in being master of the tallest regiment in
Europe, he says, 'To review this towering regiment was his daily
pleasure; and to perpetuate it was so much his care, that when he met a
tall woman he immediately commanded one of his _Titanian_ retinue to
marry her, that they might _propagate procerity_[904]' For this
Anglo-Latian word _procerity_, Johnson had, however, the authority of

[Page 309: The earthquake of Lisbon. Ætat 47.]

His reviews are of the following books: 'Birch's History of the Royal
Society;'[Dagger] 'Murphy's Gray's Inn Journal;'[Dagger] 'Warton's Essay
on the Writings and Genius of Pope, Vol. I.'[Dagger] 'Hampton's
Translation of Polybius;'[Dagger] 'Blackwell's Memoirs of the Court of
Augustus;'[Dagger] 'Russel's Natural History of Aleppo[906];'[Dagger] 'Sir
Isaac Newton's Arguments in Proof of a Deity;'[Dagger] 'Borlase's
History of the Isles of Scilly;'[Dagger] 'Home's Experiments on
Bleaching;'[Dagger] 'Browne's Christian Morals;'[Dagger] 'Hales on
Distilling Sea-Water, Ventilators in Ships, and curing an ill Taste in
Milk;'[Dagger] 'Lucas's Essay on Waters;'[Dagger] 'Keith's Catalogue of
the Scottish Bishops;'[Dagger] 'Browne's History of Jamaica;'[Dagger]
'Philosophical Transactions, Vol. XLIX.'[Dagger] 'Mrs. Lennox's
Translation of Sully's Memoirs;'[*] 'Miscellanies by Elizabeth
Harrison;'[Dagger] 'Evans's Map and Account of the Middle Colonies in
America[907];'[Dagger] 'Letter on the Case of Admiral Byng;'[*] 'Appeal to
the People concerning Admiral Byng;'[*] 'Hanway's Eight Days Journey,
and Essay on Tea;'[*] 'The Cadet, a Military Treatise;'[Dagger] 'Some
further Particulars in Relation to the Case of Admiral Byng, by a
Gentleman of Oxford;'[*] 'The Conduct of the Ministry relating to the
present War impartially examined;'[Dagger] 'A Free Inquiry into the
Nature and Origin of Evil.'[*] All these, from internal evidence, were
written by Johnson; some of them I know he avowed, and have marked them
with an _asterisk_ accordingly[908].

[Page 310: Johnson's ardour for liberty. A.D. 1750.]

Mr. Thomas Davies indeed, ascribed to him the Review of Mr. Burke's
'Inquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful;' and
Sir John Hawkins, with equal discernment, has inserted it in his
collection of Johnson's works: whereas it has no resemblance to
Johnson's composition, and is well known to have been written by Mr.
Murphy, who has acknowledged it to me and many others.

It is worthy of remark, in justice to Johnson's political character,
which has been misrepresented as abjectly submissive to power, that his
'Observations on the present State of Affairs' glow with as animated a
spirit of constitutional liberty as can be found any where. Thus he

 'The time is now come, in which every Englishman expects to be informed
of the national affairs; and in which he has a right to have that
expectation gratified. For, whatever may be urged by Ministers, or those
whom vanity or interest make the followers of ministers, concerning the
necessity of confidence in our governours, and the presumption of prying
with profane eyes into the recesses of policy, it is evident that this
reverence can be claimed only by counsels yet unexecuted, and projects
suspended in deliberation. But when a design has ended in miscarriage or
success, when every eye and every ear is witness to general discontent,
or general satisfaction, it is then a proper time to disentangle
confusion and illustrate obscurity; to shew by what causes every event
was produced, and in what effects it is likely to terminate; to lay down
with distinct particularity what rumour always huddles in general
exclamation, or perplexes by indigested[909] narratives; to shew whence
happiness or calamity is derived, and whence it may be expected; and
honestly to lay before the people what inquiry can gather of the past,
and conjecture can estimate of the future[910]'.

[Page 311: Dr. Lucas. Ætat 47.]

Here we have it assumed as an incontrovertible principle, that in this
country the people are the superintendants of the conduct and measures
of those by whom government is administered; of the beneficial effect of
which the present reign afforded an illustrious example, when addresses
from all parts of the kingdom controuled an audacious attempt to
introduce a new power subversive of the crown.[911]

A still stronger proof of his patriotick spirit appears in his review of
an 'Essay on Waters, by Dr. Lucas;' of whom, after describing him as a
man well known to the world for his daring defiance of power, when he
thought it exerted on the side of wrong, he thus speaks:

'The Irish ministers drove him from his native country by a
proclamation, in which they charged him with crimes of which they never
intended to be called to the proof, and oppressed by methods equally
irresistible by guilt and innocence.

'Let the man thus driven into exile, for having been the friend of his
country, be received in every other place as a confessor of liberty; and
let the tools of power be taught in time, that they may rob, but cannot

Some of his reviews in this _Magazine_ are very short accounts of the
pieces noticed, and I mention them only that Dr. Johnson's opinion of
the works may be known; but many of them are examples of elaborate
criticism, in the most masterly style. In his review of the 'Memoirs of
the Court of Augustus,' he has the resolution to think and speak from
his own mind, regardless of the cant transmitted from age to age, in
praise of the ancient Romans[913]. Thus,

'I know not why any one but a school-boy in his declamation should whine
over the Common-wealth of Rome, which grew great only by the misery of
the rest of mankind. The Romans, like others, as soon as they grew rich,
grew corrupt; and in their corruption sold the lives and freedoms of
themselves, and of one another[914].'

[Page 312: Dr. Watts. A.D. 1756.]


'A people, who, while they were poor, robbed mankind; and as soon as
they became rich, robbed one another[915].'

In his review of the _Miscellanies_ in prose and verse, published by
Elizabeth Harrison, but written by many hands, he gives an eminent proof
at once of his orthodoxy and candour:

'The authours of the essays in prose seem generally to have imitated, or
tried to imitate, the copiousness and luxuriance of Mrs. Rowe[916], This,
however, is not all their praise; they have laboured to add to her
brightness of imagery, her purity of sentiments. The poets have had Dr.
_Watts_ before their eyes; a writer, who, if he stood not in the first
class of genius, compensated that defect by a ready application of his
powers to the promotion of piety. The attempt to employ the ornaments of
romance in the decoration of religion, was, I think, first made by Mr.
_Boyle's Martyrdom of Theodora_; but _Boyle's_ philosophical studies did
not allow him time for the cultivation of style; and the Completion of
the great design was reserved for Mrs. _Rowe_. Dr. _Watts_ was one of
the first who taught the Dissenters to write and speak like other men,
by shewing them that elegance might consist with piety[917]. They would
have both done honour to a better society[918], for they had that charity
which might well make their failings be forgotten, and with which the
whole Christian world might wish for communion. They were pure from all
the heresies of an age, to which every opinion is become a favourite
that the universal church has hitherto detested!

[Page 313: Johnson's defence of tea. Ætat 47.]

'This praise, the general interest of mankind requires to be given to
writers who please and do not corrupt, who instruct and do not weary.
But to them all human eulogies are vain, whom I believe applauded by
angels, and numbered with the just[919].'

[Page 314: Johnson's reply to Hanway's attack. A.D. 1756.]

His defence of tea against Mr. Jonas Hartway's violent attack upon that
elegant and popular beverage[920], shews how very well a man of genius can
write upon the slightest subject, when he writes, as the Italians say,
_con amore_: I suppose no person ever enjoyed with more relish the
infusion of that fragrant leaf than Johnson[921]. The quantities which he
drank of it at all hours were so great, that his nerves must have been
uncommonly strong, not to have been extremely relaxed by such an
intemperate use of it[922]. He assured me, that he never felt the least
inconvenience from it; which is a proof that the fault of his
constitution was rather a too great tension of fibres, than the
contrary. Mr. Hanway wrote an angry answer to Johnson's review of his
_Essay on Tea_, and Johnson, after a full and deliberate pause, made a
reply to it; the only instance, I believe, in the whole course of his
life, when he condescended to oppose any thing that was written against
him[923]. I suppose when he thought of any of his little antagonists, he
was ever justly aware of the high sentiment of Ajax in _Ovid_:

'Iste tulit pretium jam nunc certaminis hujus,
Qui, cùm victus erit, mecum certasse feretur[924].'

But, indeed, the good Mr. Hanway laid himself so open to ridicule, that
Johnson's animadversions upon his attack were chiefly to make sport[925].

[Page 315: Admiral Byng. Ætat 47.]

The generosity with which he pleads the cause of Admiral Byng is highly
to the honour of his heart and spirit. Though _Voltaire_ affects to be
witty upon the fate of that unfortunate officer, observing that he was
shot '_pour encourager les autres_[926],' the nation has long been
satisfied that his life was sacrificed to the political fervour of the
times. In the vault belonging to the Torrington family, in the church of
Southill[927], in Bedfordshire, there is the following Epitaph upon his
monument, which I have transcribed:

  MARCH 14, IN THE YEAR, 1757;

Johnson's most exquisite critical essay in the _Literary Magazine_, and
indeed any where, is his review[928] of Soame Jenyns's _Inquiry into the
Origin of Evil_. Jenyns was possessed of lively talents, and a style
eminently pure and easy, and could very happily play with a light
subject, either in prose or verse; but when he speculated on that most
difficult and excruciating question, the Origin of Evil, he ventured far
beyond his depth[929], and, accordingly, was exposed by Johnson, both with
acute argument and brilliant wit. I remember when the late Mr.
Bicknell's humourous performance, entitled _The Musical Travels of Joel
Collyer_[930], in which a slight attempt is made to ridicule Johnson, was
ascribed to Soame Jenyns, 'Ha! (said Johnson) I thought I had given him
enough of it.'

[Page 316: Soame Jenyns. A.D. 1756.]

His triumph over Jenyns is thus described by my friend Mr. Courtenay in
his _Poetical Review of the literary and moral Character of Dr.
Johnson_; a performance of such merit, that had I not been honoured with
a very kind and partial notice in it[931], I should echo the sentiments of
men of the first taste loudly in its praise:

'When specious sophists with presumption scan
The source of evil hidden still from man;
Revive Arabian tales, and vainly hope
To rival St. John, and his scholar Pope:
Though metaphysicks spread the gloom of night,
By reason's star he guides our aching sight;
The bounds of knowledge marks, and points the way
To pathless wastes, where wilder'd sages stray;
Where, like a farthing link-boy, Jenyns stands,
And the dim torch drops from his feeble hands[932].'

[Page 317: Draughts and cards. Ætat 47.]

This year Mr. William Payne, brother of the respectable Bookseller[933] of
that name, published _An Introduction to the Game of Draughts_, to which
Johnson contributed a Dedication to the Earl of Rochford,[*] and a
Preface,[*] both of which are admirably adapted to the treatise to which
they are prefixed. Johnson, I believe, did not play at draughts after
leaving College[934], by which he suffered; for it would have afforded him
an innocent soothing relief from the melancholy which distressed him so
often. I have heard him regret that he had not learnt to play at
cards[935]; and the game of draughts we know is peculiarly calculated to
fix the attention without straining it. There is a composure and gravity
in draughts which insensibly tranquillises the mind; and, accordingly,
the Dutch are fond of it, as they are of smoaking, of the sedative
influence of which, though he himself never smoaked, he had a high
opinion[936]. Besides, there is in draughts some exercise of the
faculties; and, accordingly, Johnson wishing to dignify the subject in
his Dedication with what is most estimable in it, observes,

'Triflers may find or make any thing a trifle; but since it is the great
characteristick of a wise man to see events in their courses, to obviate
consequences, and ascertain contingencies, your Lordship will think
nothing a trifle by which the mind is inured to caution, foresight, and

As one of the little occasional advantages which he did not disdain to
take by his pen, as a man whose profession was literature, he this year
accepted of a guinea[938] from Mr. Robert Dodsley, for writing the
introduction to _The London Chronicle_, an evening news-paper; and even
in so slight a performance exhibited peculiar talents. This Chronicle
still subsists, and from what I observed, when I was abroad, has a more
extensive circulation upon the Continent than any of the English
newspapers. It was constantly read by Johnson himself[939]; and it is but
just to observe, that it has all along been distinguished for good
sense, accuracy, moderation, and delicacy.

[Page 318: Dr. Madden. A.D. 1756.]

Another instance of the same nature has been communicated to me by the
Reverend Dr. Thomas Campbell, who has done himself considerable credit
by his own writings[940].

'Sitting with Dr. Johnson one morning alone, he asked me if I had known
Dr. Madden, who was authour of the premium-scheme in Ireland[941]. On my
answering in the affirmative, and also that I had for some years lived
in his neighbourhood, &c., he begged of me that when I returned to
Ireland, I would endeavour to procure for him a poem of Dr. Madden's
called _Boulter's Monument_. The reason (said he) why I wish for it, is
this: when Dr. Madden came to London, he submitted that work to my
castigation; and I remember I blotted a great many lines, and might have
blotted many more, without making the poem worse. However, the Doctor
was very thankful, and very generous, for he gave me ten guineas, _which
was to me at that time a great sum_[942].'

[Page 319: Johnson's SHAKSPEARE. Ætat 47.]

He this year resumed his scheme of giving an edition of _Shakspeare_
with notes[943]. He issued Proposals of considerable length[944],[*] in
which he shewed that he perfectly well knew what a variety of research
such an undertaking required; but his indolence prevented him from
pursuing it with that diligence which alone can collect those scattered
facts that genius, however acute, penetrating, and luminous, cannot
discover by its own force. It is remarkable, that at this time his
fancied activity was for the moment so vigorous, that he promised his
work should be published before Christmas, 1757[945]. Yet nine years
elapsed before it saw the light[946]. His throes in bringing it forth had
been severe and remittent; and at last we may almost conclude that the
Caesarian operation was performed by the knife of Churchill, whose
upbraiding satire, I dare say, made Johnson's friends urge him to

'He for subscribers bates his hook,
And takes your cash; but where's the book?
No matter where; wise fear, you know,
Forbids the robbing of a foe;
But what, to serve our private ends,
Forbids the cheating of our friends[948]?'

[Page 320: Johnson refuses a country living. A.D. 1757.]

About this period he was offered a living of considerable value in
Lincolnshire, if he were inclined to enter into holy orders. It was a
rectory in the gift of Mr. Langton, the father of his much valued
friend. But he did not accept of it; partly I believe from a
conscientious motive, being persuaded that his temper and habits
rendered him unfit for that assiduous and familiar instruction of the
vulgar and ignorant which he held to be an essential duty in a
clergyman[949]; and partly because his love of a London life was so
strong, that he would have thought himself an exile in any other place,
particularly if residing in the country[950]. Whoever would wish to see
his thoughts upon that subject displayed in their full force, may peruse
_The Adventurer_, Number 126[951].

1757: ÆTAT. 48.].--In 1757 it does not appear that he published any
thing, except some of those articles in _The Literary Magazine_, which
have been mentioned. That magazine, after Johnson ceased to write in it,
gradually declined, though the popular epithet of _Antigallican_[952] was
added to it; and in July 1758 it expired. He probably prepared a part of
his _Shakspeare_ this year, and he dictated a speech on the subject of
an Address to the Throne, after the expedition to Rochfort, which was
delivered by one of his friends, I know not in what publick meeting.[953]
It is printed in _The Gentleman's Magazine_ for October 1785 as his, and
bears sufficient marks of authenticity.

[Page 321: Irish literature. Ætat 48.]

By the favour of Mr. Joseph Cooper Walker, of the Treasury, Dublin, I
have obtained a copy of the following letter from Johnson to the
venerable authour of _Dissertations on the History of Ireland_.

[Page 322: The affinities of language. A.D. 1757.]



'I have lately, by the favour of Mr. Faulkner,[955] seen your account of
Ireland, and cannot forbear to solicit a prosecution of your design. Sir
William Temple complains that Ireland is less known than any other
country, as to its ancient state.[956] The natives have had little
leisure, and little encouragement for enquiry; and strangers, not
knowing the language, have had no ability.

'I have long wished that the Irish literature were cultivated.[957]
Ireland is known by tradition to have been once the seat of piety and
learning[958]; and surely it would be very acceptable to all those who are
curious either in the original of nations, or the affinities of
languages, to be further informed of the revolution of a people so
ancient, and once so illustrious.

'What relation there is between the Welch and Irish language, or between
the language of Ireland and that of Biscay, deserves enquiry. Of these
provincial and unextended tongues, it seldom happens that more than one
are understood by any one man; and, therefore, it seldom happens that a
fair comparison can be made. I hope you will continue to cultivate this
kind of learning, which has too long lain neglected, and which, if it be
suffered to remain in oblivion for another century, may, perhaps, never
be retrieved. As I wish well to all useful undertakings, I would not
forbear to let you know how much you deserve in my opinion, from all
lovers of study, and how much pleasure your work has given to, Sir,

'Your most obliged,

'And most humble servant,


'London, April 9, 1757.'



'Dr. Marsili[959] of Padua, a learned gentleman, and good Latin poet, has
a mind to see Oxford. I have given him a letter to Dr. Huddesford[960],
and shall be glad if you will introduce him, and shew him any thing in

'I am printing my new edition of _Shakspeare_.

'I long to see you all, but cannot conveniently come yet. You might
write to me now and then, if you were good for any thing. But _honores
mulant mores_. Professors forget their friends[961]. I shall certainly
complain to Miss Jones[962]. I am,

'Your, &c.


'[London,] June 21, 1757.'

'Please to make my compliments to Mr. Wise.'

[Page 323: Subscribers to Johnson's SHAKSPEARE. Ætat 48.]

Mr. Burney having enclosed to him an extract from the review of his
_Dictionary_ in the _Bibliothèque des Savans[963], and a list of
subscribers to his _Shakspeare_, which Mr. Burney had procured in
Norfolk, he wrote the following answer:



'That I may shew myself sensible of your favours, and not commit the
same fault a second time, I make haste to answer the letter which I
received this morning. The truth is, the other likewise was received,
and I wrote an answer; but being desirous to transmit you some proposals
and receipts, I waited till I could find a convenient conveyance, and
day was passed after day, till other things drove it from my thoughts;
yet not so, but that I remember with great pleasure your commendation of
my _Dictionary_. Your praise was welcome, not only because I believe it
was sincere, but because praise has been very scarce. A man of your
candour will be surprised when I tell you, that among all my
acquaintance there were only two, who upon the publication of my book
did not endeavour to depress me with threats of censure from the
publick, or with objections learned from those who had learned them from
my own Preface. Your's is the only letter of goodwill that I have
received; though, indeed, I am promised something of that sort from

'How my new edition[964] will be received I know not; the subscription has
not been very successful. I shall publish about March.

'If you can direct me how to send proposals, I should wish that they
were in such hands.

'I remember, Sir, in some of the first letters with which you favoured
me, you mentioned your lady. May I enquire after her? In return for the
favours which you have shewn me, it is not much to tell you, that I wish
you and her all that can conduce to your happiness.

'I am, Sir,

'Your most obliged,

'And most humble servant,


'Gough-square, Dec. 24, 1757.'

[Page 324: Brothers and sisters. A.D. 1758.]

In 1758 we find him, it should seem, in as easy and pleasant a state of
existence, as constitutional unhappiness ever permitted him to enjoy.



'I must indeed have slept very fast, not to have been awakened by your
letter. None of your suspicions are true; I am not much richer than when
you left me; and, what is worse, my omission of an answer to your first
letter, will prove that I am not much wiser. But I go on as I formerly
did, designing to be some time or other both rich and wise; and yet
cultivate neither mind nor fortune. Do you take notice of my example,
and learn the danger of delay. When I was as you are now, towering in
the confidence of twenty-one, little did I suspect that I should be at
forty-nine, what I now am.

'But you do not seem to need my admonition. You are busy in acquiring
and in communicating knowledge, and while you are studying, enjoy the
end of study, by making others wiser and happier. I was much pleased
with the tale that you told me of being tutour to your sisters. I, who
have no sisters nor brothers, look with some degree of innocent envy on
those who may be said to be born to friends; and cannot see, without
wonder, how rarely that native union is afterwards regarded. It
sometimes, indeed, happens, that some supervenient cause of discord may
overpower this original amity; but it seems to me more frequently thrown
away with levity, or lost by negligence, than destroyed by injury or
violence. We tell the ladies that good wives make good husbands; I
believe it is a more certain position that good brothers make good

'I am satisfied with your stay at home, as Juvenal with his friend's
retirement to Cumæ: I know that your absence is best, though it be not
best for me.

'Quamvis digressu veteris confusus amici,
Laudo tamen vacuis quod sedem figere Cumis
Destinet, atque unum civem donare Sibyllæ[966].'

[Page 325: Dodsley's CLEONE. Ætat 49.]

'_Langton_ is a good Cumæ, but who must be Sibylla? Mrs. Langton is as
wise as Sibyl, and as good; and will live, if my wishes can prolong
life, till she shall in time be as old. But she differs in this, that
she has not scattered her precepts in the wind, at least not those which
she bestowed upon you.

'The two Wartons just looked into the town, and were taken to see
_Cleone_, where, David[967] says, they were starved for want of company to
keep them warm. David and Doddy[968] have had a new quarrel, and, I think,
cannot conveniently quarrel any more. _Cleone_ was well acted by all the
characters, but Bellamy[969] left nothing to be desired. I went the first
night, and supported it, as well as I might; for Doddy, you know, is my
patron[970], and I would not desert him. The play was very well received.
Doddy, after the danger was over, went every night to the stage-side,
and cried at the distress of poor Cleone[971].

[Page 326: Reynolds's prices for portraits. A.D. 1758.]

'I have left off housekeeping[972], and therefore made presents of the
game which you were pleased to send me. The pheasant I gave to Mr.
Richardson[973], the bustard to Dr. Lawrence, and the pot I placed with
Miss Williams, to be eaten by myself. She desires that her compliments
and good wishes may be accepted by the family; and I make the same
request for myself.

'Mr. Reynolds has within these few days raised his price to twenty
guineas a head[974], and Miss is much employed in miniatures[975]. I know
not any body [else] whose prosperity has encreased since you left them.

[Page 327: Johnson's SHAKSPEARE delayed. Ætat 49.]

'Murphy is to have his _Orphan of China_ acted next month; and is
therefore, I suppose, happy[976]. I wish I could tell you of any great
good to which I was approaching, but at present my prospects do not much
delight me; however, I am always pleased when I find that you, dear Sir,

'Your affectionate, humble servant,


'Jan. 9, 1758.'



'Your kindness is so great, and my claim to any particular regard from
you so little, that I am at a loss how to express my sense of your
favours[977]; but I am, indeed, much pleased to be thus distinguished by

'I am ashamed to tell you that my _Shakspeare_ will not be out so soon
as I promised my subscribers; but I did not promise them more than I
promised myself. It will, however, be published before summer.

'I have sent you a bundle of proposals, which, I think, do not profess
more than I have hitherto performed. I have printed many of the plays,
and have hitherto left very few passages unexplained; where I am quite
at a loss, I confess my ignorance, which is seldom done by

'I have, likewise, enclosed twelve receipts; not that I mean to impose
upon you the trouble of pushing them, with more importunity than may
seem proper, but that you may rather have more than fewer than you shall
want. The proposals you will disseminate as there shall be an
opportunity. I once printed them at length in the _Chronicle_, and some
of my friends (I believe Mr. Murphy, who formerly wrote the _Gray's-Inn
Journal_) introduced them with a splendid encomium.

[Page 328: The garret in Gough-square. A.D. 1758.]

'Since the _Life of Browne_, I have been a little engaged, from time to
time, in the _Literary Magazine_, but not very lately. I have not the
collection by me, and therefore cannot draw out a catalogue of my own
parts, but will do it, and send it. Do not buy them, for I will gather
all those that have anything of mine in them, and send them to Mrs.
Burney, as a small token of gratitude for the regard which she is
pleased to bestow upon me.

'I am, Sir,

'Your most obliged

'And most humble servant,


'London, March 8, 1758.'

Dr. Burney has kindly favoured me with the following memorandum, which I
take the liberty to insert in his own genuine easy style. I love to
exhibit sketches of my illustrious friend by various eminent hands.

'Soon after this, Mr. Burney, during a visit to the capital, had an
interview with him in Gough-square, where he dined and drank tea with
him, and was introduced to the acquaintance of Mrs. Williams. After
dinner, Mr. Johnson proposed to Mr. Burney to go up with him into his
garret, which being accepted, he there found about five or six Greek
folios, a deal writing-desk, and a chair and a half. Johnson giving to
his guest the entire seat, tottered himself on one with only three legs
and one arm[979]. Here he gave Mr. Burney Mrs. Williams's history, and
shewed him some volumes of his _Shakspeare_ already printed, to prove
that he was in earnest. Upon Mr. Burney's opening the first volume, at
the _Merchant of Venice_, he observed to him, that he seemed to be more
severe on Warburton than Theobald. "O poor Tib.! (said Johnson) he was
ready knocked down to my hands; Warburton stands between me and him."
"But, Sir, (said Mr. Burney,) you'll have Warburton upon your bones,
won't you?" "No, Sir; he'll not come out: he'll only growl in his den."
"But you think, Sir, that Warburton is a superiour critick to Theobald?"
"O, Sir, he'd make two-and-fifty Theobalds, cut into slices[980]! The
worst of Warburton is, that he has a rage for saying something, when
there's nothing to be said." Mr. Burney then asked him whether he had
seen the letter which Warburton had written in answer to a pamphlet
addressed "To the most impudent Man alive[981]." He answered in the
negative. Mr. Burney told him it was supposed to be written by Mallet.
The controversy now raged between the friends of Pope and Bolingbroke;
and Warburton and Mallet were the leaders of the several parties[982].

[Page 330: The Idler. A.D. 1758.]

Mr. Burney asked him then if he had seen Warburton's book against
Bolingbroke's _Philosophy_[983]? "No, Sir, I have never read Bolingbroke's
impiety, and therefore am not interested about its confutation."'

On the fifteenth of April he began a new periodical paper, entitled _The
Idler_[984],[*] which came out every Saturday in a weekly news-paper,
called _The Universal Chronicle, or Weekly Gazette_, published by
Newbery[985]. These essays were continued till April 5, 1760. Of one
hundred and three, their total number, twelve were contributed by his
friends; of which, Numbers 33, 93, and 96, were written by Mr. Thomas
Warton; No. 67 by Mr. Langton; and Nos. 76, 79, and 82, by Sir Joshua
Reynolds; the concluding words of No. 82, 'and pollute his canvas with
deformity,' being added by Johnson, as Sir Joshua informed me[986].

_The Idler_ is evidently the work of the same mind which produced _The
Rambler_, but has less body and more spirit. It has more variety of real
life, and greater facility of language. He describes the miseries of
idleness, with the lively sensations of one who has felt them[987]; and in
his private memorandums while engaged in it, we find 'This year I hope
to learn diligence[988].' Many of these excellent essays were written as
hastily as an ordinary letter. Mr. Langton remembers Johnson, when on a
visit at Oxford[989], asking him one evening how long it was till the post
went out; and on being told about half an hour, he exclaimed, 'then we
shall do very well.' He upon this instantly sat down and finished an
_Idler_, which it was necessary should be in London the next day. Mr.
Langton having signified a wish to read it, 'Sir, (said he) you shall
not do more than I have done myself.' He then folded it up and sent it

Yet there are in _The Idler_ several papers which shew as much
profundity of thought, and labour of language, as any of this great
man's writings. No. 14, 'Robbery of Time;' No. 24, 'Thinking;' No. 41,
'Death of a Friend[990];' No. 43, 'Flight of Time;' No. 51, 'Domestick
greatness unattainable;' No. 52, 'Self-denial;' No. 58, 'Actual, how
short of fancied, excellence[991];' No. 89, 'Physical evil moral
goode[992];' and his concluding paper on 'The horrour of the last[993];'
will prove this assertion. I know not why a motto, the usual trapping of
periodical papers, is prefixed to very few of the _Idlers_, as I have
heard Johnson commend the custom: and he never could be at a loss for
one, his memory being stored with innumerable passages of the
classicks[994]. In this series of essays he exhibits admirable instances
of grave humour, of which he had an uncommon share. Nor on some
occasions has he repressed that power of sophistry which he possessed in
so eminent a degree. In No. 11, he treats with the utmost contempt the
opinion that our mental faculties depend, in some degree, upon the
weather; an opinion, which they who have never experienced its truth are
not to be envied; and of which he himself could not but be sensible, as
the effects of weather upon him were very visible. Yet thus he

[Page 332: Influence of the weather. A.D. 1758.]

'Surely, nothing is more reproachful to a being endowed with reason,
than to resign its powers to the influence of the air, and live in
dependence on the weather and the wind for the only blessings which
nature has put into our power, tranquillity and benevolence. This
distinction of seasons is produced only by imagination operating on
luxury. To temperance, every day is bright; and every hour is propitious
to diligence. He that shall resolutely excite his faculties, or exert
his virtues, will soon make himself superiour to the seasons; and may
set at defiance the morning mist and the evening damp, the blasts of the
east, and the clouds of the south[995].'

[Page 333: The attendants on a Court. Ætat 49.]

'I think the Romans call it Stoicism[996].'

But in this number of his _Idler_ his spirits seem to run riot; for in
the wantonness of his disquisition he forgets, for a moment, even the
reverence for that which he held in high respect[997]; and describes 'the
attendant on a _Court_,' as one 'whose business, is to watch the looks
of a being, weak and foolish as himself[998].'

[Page 334: Johnson not a plagiary. A.D. 1758.]

Alas! it is too certain, that where the frame has delicate fibres, and
there is a fine sensibility, such influences of the air are
irresistible. He might as well have bid defiance to the ague, the palsy,
and all other bodily disorders, Such boasting of the mind is false

His unqualified ridicule of rhetorical gesture or action is not, surely,
a test of truth; yet we cannot help admiring how well it is adapted to
produce the effect which he wished. 'Neither the judges of our laws, nor
the representatives of our people, would be much affected by laboured
gesticulation, or believe any man the more because he rolled his eyes,
or puffed his cheeks, or spread abroad his arms, or stamped the ground,
or thumped his breast; or turned his eyes sometimes to the ceiling, and
sometimes to the floor[999].'

A casual coincidence with other writers, or an adoption of a sentiment
or image which has been found in the writings of another, and afterwards
appears in the mind as one's own, is not unfrequent. The richness of
Johnson's fancy, which could supply his page abundantly on all
occasions, and the strength of his memory, which at once detected the
real owner of any thought, made him less liable to the imputation of
plagiarism than, perhaps, any of our writers[1000]. In _The Idler_,
however, there is a paper[1001], in which conversation is assimilated to a
bowl of punch, where there is the same train of comparison as in a poem
by Blacklock, in his collection published in 1756[1002], in which a
parallel is ingeniously drawn between human life and that liquor. It

'Say, then, physicians of each kind,
Who cure the body or the mind,
What harm in drinking can there be,
Since punch and life so well agree?'

[Page 335: Profits on The Idler. Ætat 49.]

To _The Idler_, when collected in volumes[1003], he added, beside the
'Essay on Epitaphs' and the 'Dissertation on those of Pope[1004],' an Essay
on the 'Bravery of the English common Soldiers.' He, however, omitted
one of the original papers, which in the folio copy is No. 22[1005].



'Your notes upon my poet were very acceptable. I beg that you will be so
kind as to continue your searches. It will be reputable to my work, and
suitable to your professorship, to have something of yours in the notes.
As you have given no directions about your name, I shall therefore put
it. I wish your brother would take the same trouble. A commentary must
arise from the fortuitous discoveries of many men in devious walks of
literature. Some of your remarks are on plays already printed: but I
purpose to add an Appendix of Notes, so that nothing comes too late.

'You give yourself too much uneasiness, dear Sir, about the loss of the
papers[1006]. The loss is nothing, if nobody has found them; nor even then,
perhaps, if the numbers be known. You are not the only friend that has
had the same mischance. You may repair your want out of a stock, which
is deposited with Mr. Allen, of Magdalen-Hall; or out of a parcel which
I have just sent to Mr. Chambers[1007] for the use of any body that will be
so kind as to want them. Mr. Langtons are well; and Miss Roberts[1008],
whom I have at last brought to speak, upon the information which you
gave me, that she had something to say.

'I am, &c.


'[London] April 14, 1758.'

[Page 336: Mr. Langton as an undergraduate. A.D. 1758.]



'You will receive this by Mr. Baretti, a gentleman particularly intitled
to the notice and kindness of the Professor of poesy. He has time but
for a short stay, and will be glad to have it filled up with as much as
he can hear and see.

'In recommending another to your favour, I ought not to omit thanks for
the kindness which you have shewn to myself. Have you any more notes on
Shakspeare? I shall be glad of them.

'I see your pupil sometimes[1009]: his mind is as exalted as his
stature[1010]. I am half afraid of him; but he is no less amiable than
formidable. He will, if the forwardness of his spring be not blasted, be
a credit to you, and to the University. He brings some of my plays[1011]
with him, which he has my permission to shew you, on condition you will
hide them from every body else.

[Page 337: Experience compared with expectation. Ætat 49.]

'I am, dear Sir, &c.


'[London,] June 1, 1758.'



'Though I might have expected to hear from you, upon your entrance into
a new state of life at a new place, yet recollecting, (not without some
degree of shame,) that I owe you a letter upon an old account, I think
it my part to write first. This, indeed, I do not only from complaisance
but from interest; for living on in the old way, I am very glad of a
correspondent so capable as yourself, to diversify the hours. You have,
at present, too many novelties about you to need any help from me to
drive along your time.

'I know not any thing more pleasant, or more instructive, than to
compare experience with expectation, or to register from time to time
the difference between idea and reality. It is by this kind of
observation that we grow daily less liable to be disappointed[1012]. You,
who are very capable of anticipating futurity, and raising phantoms
before your own eyes, must often have imagined to yourself an academical
life, and have conceived what would be the manners, the views, and the
conversation, of men devoted to letters; how they would choose their
companions, how they would direct their studies, and how they would
regulate their lives. Let me know what you expected, and what you have
found. At least record it to yourself before custom has reconciled you
to the scenes before you, and the disparity of your discoveries to your
hopes has vanished from your mind. It is a rule never to be forgotten,
that whatever strikes strongly, should be described while the first
impression remains fresh upon the mind.

[Page 338: A violent death. A.D. 1759.]

'I love, dear Sir, to think on you, and therefore, should willingly
write more to you, but that the post will not now give me leave to do
more than send my compliments to Mr. Warton, and tell you that I am,
dear Sir, most affectionately,

'Your very humble servant,


'June 28, 1757[1013].'



'I should be sorry to think that what engrosses the attention of my
friend, should have no part of mine. Your mind is now full of the fate
of Dury[1014]; but his fate is past, and nothing remains but to try what
reflection will suggest to mitigate the terrours of a violent death,
which is more formidable at the first glance, than on a nearer and more
steady view. A violent death is never very painful; the only danger is
lest it should be unprovided. But if a man can be supposed to make no
provision for death in war, what can be the state that would have
awakened him to the care of futurity? When would that man have prepared
himself to die, who went to seek death without preparation? What then
can be the reason why we lament more him that dies of a wound, than him
that dies of a fever? A man that languishes with disease, ends his life
with more pain, but with less virtue; he leaves no example to his
friends, nor bequeaths any honour to his descendants. The only reason
why we lament a soldier's death, is, that we think he might have lived
longer; yet this cause of grief is common to many other kinds of death
which are not so passionately bewailed. The truth is, that every death
is violent which is the effect of accident; every death, which is not
gradually brought on by the miseries of age, or when life is
extinguished for any other reason than that it is burnt out. He that
dies before sixty, of a cold or consumption, dies, in reality, by a
violent death; yet his death is borne with patience only because the
cause of his untimely end is silent and invisible. Let us endeavour to
see things as they are, and then enquire whether we ought to complain.
Whether to see life as it is, will give us much consolation, I know not;
but the consolation which is drawn from truth, if any there be, is solid
and durable; that which may be derived from errour must be, like its
original, fallacious and fugitive. I am, dear, dear Sir, your most
humble servant,


'Sept. 21, 1758.'

[Page 339: The death of Johnson's mother. Ætat 50.]

1759: ÆTAT. 50.--In 1759, in the month of January, his mother died at
the great age of ninety, an event which deeply affected him[1015]; not
that 'his mind had acquired no firmness by the contemplation of
mortality[1016];' but that his reverential affection for her was not
abated by years, as indeed he retained all his tender feelings even to
the latest period of his life[1017]. I have been told that he regretted
much his not having gone to visit his mother for several years, previous
to her death[1018]. But he was constantly engaged in literary labours which
confined him to London; and though he had not the comfort of seeing his
aged parent, he contributed liberally to her support[1019].

[Page 340: Rasselas. A.D. 1759.]

Soon after this event, he wrote his _Rasselas_[1020], _Prince of
Abyssinia_; concerning the publication of which Sir John Hawkins guesses
vaguely and idly[1021], instead of having taken the trouble to inform
himself with authentick precision. Not to trouble my readers with a
repetition of the Knight's reveries, I have to mention, that the late
Mr. Strahan the printer told me, that Johnson wrote it, that with the
profits he might defray the expence of his mother's funeral, and pay
some little debts which she had left. He told Sir Joshua Reynolds that
he composed it in the evenings of one week, sent it to the press in
portions as it was written, and had never since read it over[1022]. Mr.
Strahan, Mr. Johnston, and Mr. Dodsley purchased it for a hundred
pounds[1023], but afterwards paid him twenty-five pounds more, when it came
to a second edition.

[Page 342: Rasselas and Candide. A.D. 1759.]

Considering the large sums which have been received for compilations,
and works requiring not much more genius than compilations[1024], we cannot
but wonder at the very low price which he was content to receive for
this admirable performance; which, though he had written nothing else,
would have rendered his name immortal in the world of literature. None
of his writings has been so extensively diffused over Europe; for it has
been translated into most, if not all, of the modern languages[1025]. This
Tale, with all the charms of oriental imagery, and all the force and
beauty of which the English language is capable, leads us through the
most important scenes of human life, and shews us that this stage of our
being is full of 'vanity and vexation of spirit[1026].' To those who look
no further than the present life, or who maintain that human nature has
not fallen from the state in which it was created, the instruction of
this sublime story will be of no avail. But they who think justly, and
feel with strong sensibility, will listen with eagerness and admiration
to its truth and wisdom. Voltaire's _Candide_, written to refute the
system of Optimism, which it has accomplished with brilliant success, is
wonderfully similar in its plan and conduct to Johnson's _Rasselas_;
insomuch, that I have heard Johnson say[1027], that if they had not been
published so closely one after the other that there was not time for
imitation, it would have been in vain to deny that the scheme of that
which came latest was taken from the other. Though the proposition
illustrated by both these works was the same, namely, that in our
present state there is more evil than good, the intention of the writers
was very different. Voltaire, I am afraid, meant only by wanton
profaneness to obtain a sportive victory over religion, and to discredit
the belief of a superintending Providence: Johnson meant, by shewing the
unsatisfactory nature of things temporal, to direct the hopes of man to
things eternal. _Rasselas_, as was observed to me by a very accomplished
lady, may be considered as a more enlarged and more deeply philosophical
discourse in prose, upon the interesting truth, which in his _Vanity of
Human Wishes_ he had so successfully enforced in verse.

The fund of thinking which this work contains is such, that almost every
sentence of it may furnish a subject of long meditation. I am not
satisfied if a year passes without my having read it through; and at
every perusal, my admiration of the mind which produced it is so highly
raised, that I can scarcely believe that I had the honour of enjoying
the intimacy of such a man.

[Page 343: Apparitions. Ætat 50.]

I restrain myself from quoting passages from this excellent work, or
even referring to them, because I should not know what to select, or
rather, what to omit. I shall, however, transcribe one, as it shews how
well he could state the arguments of those who believe in the appearance
of departed spirits; a doctrine which it is a mistake to suppose that he
himself ever positively held[1028]:

'If all your fear be of apparitions, (said the Prince,) I will promise
you safety: there is no danger from the dead; he that is once buried
will be seen no more.

'That the dead are seen no more, (said Imlac,) I will not undertake to
maintain, against the concurrent and unvaried testimony of all ages, and
of all nations. There is no people, rude or learned, among whom
apparitions of the dead are not related and believed. This opinion,
which prevails[1029] as far as human nature is diffused, could become
universal only by its truth; those that never heard of one another,
would not have agreed in a tale which nothing but experience can make
credible. That it is doubted by single cavillers, can very little weaken
the general evidence; and some who deny it with their tongues, confess
it by their fears.'

Notwithstanding my high admiration of _Rasselas_, I will not maintain
that the 'morbid melancholy[1030]' in Johnson's constitution may not,
perhaps, have made life appear to him more insipid and unhappy than it
generally is; for I am sure that he had less enjoyment from it than I
have. Yet, whatever additional shade his own particular sensations may
have thrown on his representation of life, attentive observation and
close enquiry have convinced me, that there is too much of reality in
the gloomy picture. The truth, however, is, that we judge of the
happiness and misery of life differently at different times, according
to the state of our changeable frame. I always remember a remark made to
me by a Turkish lady, educated in France, '_Ma foi, Monsieur, notre
bonheur dépend de la façon que notre sang circule_.' This have I learnt
from a pretty hard course of experience, and would, from sincere
benevolence, impress upon all who honour this book with a perusal, that
until a steady conviction is obtained, that the present life is an
imperfect state, and only a passage to a better, if we comply with the
divine scheme of progressive improvement; and also that it is a part of
the mysterious plan of Providence, that intellectual beings must 'be
made perfect through suffering[1031];' there will be a continual recurrence
of disappointment and uneasiness. But if we walk with hope in 'the
mid-day sun' of revelation, our temper and disposition will be such,
that the comforts and enjoyments in our way will be relished, while we
patiently support the inconveniences and pains. After much speculation
and various reasonings, I acknowledge myself convinced of the truth of
Voltaire's conclusion, '_Après tout c èst un monde passable_[1032].' But we
must not think too deeply;

'Where ignorance is bliss, 'tis folly to be wise[1033],'

is, in many respects, more than poetically just. Let us cultivate, under
the command of good principles, '_la théorie des sensations agréables_;'
and, as Mr. Burke once admirably counselled a grave and anxious
gentleman, 'live pleasant[1034].'

[Page 344: 'Live pleasant.' A.D. 1759.]

The effect of _Rasselas_, and of Johnson's other moral tales, is thus
beautifully illustrated by Mr. Courtenay:

'Impressive truth, in splendid fiction drest,
Checks the vain wish, and calms the troubled breast;
O'er the dark mind a light celestial throws,
And sooths the angry passions to repose;
As oil effus'd illumes and smooths the deep,
When round the bark the swelling surges sweep[1035].'

[Page 345: The Idler pirated. Ætat 50.]

It will be recollected, that during all this year he carried on his
Idler[1036], and, no doubt, was proceeding, though slowly, in his edition
of _Shakspeare_. He, however, from that liberality which never failed,
when called upon to assist other labourers in literature, found time to
translate for Mrs. Lennox's English version of Brumoy, 'A Dissertation
on the Greek Comedy,'[dagger] and 'The General Conclusion of the

An inquiry into the state of foreign countries was an object that seems
at all times to have interested Johnson. Hence Mr. Newbery found no
great difficulty in persuading him to write the Introduction[*] to a
collection of voyages and travels published by him under the title of
_The World Displayed_; the first volume of which appeared this year, and
the remaining volumes in subsequent years.

[Page 346: Parental tyranny. A.D. 1759.]

I would ascribe to this year[1037] the following letter to a son of one of
his early friends at Lichfield, Mr. Joseph Simpson, Barrister, and
authour of a tract entitled _Reflections on the Study of the Law_.

[Page 347: An excursion to Oxford. Ætat 50.]

'If you married imprudently, you miscarried at your own hazard, at an
age when you had a right of choice. It would be hard if the man might
not choose his own wife, who has a right to plead before the Judges of
his country.

'If your imprudence has ended in difficulties and inconveniences, you
are yourself to support them; and, with the help of a little better
health, you would support them and conquer them. Surely, that want which
accident and sickness produces, is to be supported in every region of
humanity, though there were neither friends nor fathers in the world.
You have certainly from your father the highest claim of charity, though
none of right; and therefore I would counsel you to omit no decent nor
manly degree of importunity. Your debts in the whole are not large, and
of the whole but a small part is troublesome. Small debts are like small
shot; they are rattling on every side, and can scarcely be escaped
without a wound: great debts are like cannon; of loud noise, but little
danger. You must, therefore, be enabled to discharge petty debts, that
you may have leisure, with security, to struggle with the rest. Neither
the great nor little debts disgrace you. I am sure you have my esteem
for the courage with which you contracted them, and the spirit with
which you endure them. I wish my esteem could be of more use. I have
been invited, or have invited myself, to several parts of the kingdom;
and will not incommode my dear Lucy by coming to Lichfield, while her
present lodging is of any use to her. I hope, in a few days, to be at
leisure, and to make visits. Whither I shall fly is matter of no
importance. A man unconnected is at home every where; unless he may be
said to be at home no where. I am sorry, dear Sir, that where you have
parents, a man of your merits should not have an home. I wish I could
give it you. I am, my dear Sir,

'Affectionately yours,


He now refreshed himself by an excursion to Oxford, of which the
following short characteristical notice, in his own words, is

'----[1039] is now making tea for me. I have been in my gown ever since I
came here[1040]. It was, at my first coming, quite new and handsome. I have
swum thrice, which I had disused for many years. I have proposed to
Vansittart[1041], climbing over the wall, but he has refused me. And I have
clapped my hands till they are sore, at Dr. King's speech[1042].'

[Page 348: The great CHAM of literature. A.D. 1759.]

His negro servant, Francis Barber, having left him, and been some time
at sea, not pressed as has been supposed, but with his own consent, it
appears from a letter to John Wilkes, Esq., from Dr. Smollet, that his
master kindly interested himself in procuring his release from a state
of life of which Johnson always expressed the utmost abhorrence. He
said, 'No man will be a sailor who has contrivance enough to get himself
into a jail; for being in a ship is being in a jail, with the chance of
being drowned[1043].' And at another time, 'A man in a jail has more room,
better food, and commonly better company[1044].' The letter was as

[Page 349: Johnson's black servant at sea. Ætat 50.]

'Chelsea, March 16, 1759.


'I am again your petitioner, in behalf of that great CHAM[1045] of
literature, Samuel Johnson. His black servant, whose name is Francis
Barber, has been pressed on board the Stag Frigate, Captain Angel, and
our lexicographer is in great distress. He says the boy is a sickly lad,
of a delicate frame, and particularly subject to a malady in his throat,
which renders him very unfit for his Majesty's service. You know what
manner of animosity the said Johnson has against you[1046]; and I dare say
you desire no other opportunity of resenting it than that of laying him
under an obligation. He was humble enough to desire my assistance on
this occasion, though he and I were never cater-cousins; and I gave him
to understand that I would make application to my friend Mr. Wilkes,
who, perhaps, by his interest with Dr. Hay and Mr. Elliot, might be able
to procure the discharge of his lacquey. It would be superfluous to say
more on the subject, which I leave to your own consideration; but I
cannot let slip this opportunity of declaring that I am, with the most
inviolable esteem and attachment, dear Sir,

'Your affectionate, obliged, humble servant,


Mr. Wilkes, who upon all occasions has acted, as a private gentleman,
with most polite liberality, applied to his friend Sir George Hay, then
one of the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty; and Francis Barber was
discharged, as he has told me, without any wish of his own. He found his
old master in Chambers in the Inner Temple[1047], and returned to his

[Page 350: Life in Inner Temple-lane. A.D. 1759.]

What particular new scheme of life Johnson had in view this year, I have
not discovered; but that he meditated one of some sort, is clear from
his private devotions, in which we find[1048], 'the change of outward
things which I am now to make;' and, 'Grant me the grace of thy Holy
Spirit, that the course which I am now beginning may proceed according
to thy laws, and end in the enjoyment of thy favour.' But he did not, in
fact, make any external or visible change[1049].

[Page 351: Blackfriars-bridge. Ætat 50.]

At this time, there being a competition among the architects of London
to be employed in the building of Blackfriars-bridge, a question was
very warmly agitated whether semicircular or elliptical arches were
preferable. In the design offered by Mr. Mylne the elliptical form was
adopted, and therefore it was the great object of his rivals to attack
it. Johnson's regard for his friend Mr. Gwyn induced him to engage in
this controversy against Mr. Mylne[1050]; and after being at considerable
pains to study the subject, he wrote three several letters in the
_Gazetteer_, in opposition to his plan.

If it should be remarked that this was a controversy which lay quite out
of Johnson's way, let it be remembered, that after all, his employing
his powers of reasoning and eloquence upon a subject which he had
studied on the moment, is not more strange than what we often observe in
lawyers, who, as _Quicquid agunt homines_[1051] is the matter of law-suits,
are sometimes obliged to pick up a temporary knowledge of an art or
science, of which they understood nothing till their brief was
delivered, and appear to be much masters of it. In like manner, members
of the legislature frequently introduce and expatiate upon subjects of
which they have informed themselves for the occasion.

[Page 353: Relief of the French Prisoners. Ætat 51.]

1760: ÆTAT. 51].--In 1760 he wrote _An Address of the Painters to
George III. on his Accession to the Throne of these Kingdoms_,[dagger]
which no monarch ever ascended with more sincere congratulations from
his people. Two generations of foreign princes had prepared their minds
to rejoice in having again a King, who gloried in being 'born a
Briton[1052].' He also wrote for Mr. Baretti, the dedication[dagger] of
his _Italian and English Dictionary_ to the Marquis of Abreu, then
Envoy-Extraordinary from Spain at the Court of Great Britain.

[Page 354: Mary Queen of Scots. A.D. 1760.]

Johnson was now neither very idle, nor very busy with his _Shakspeare_;
for I can find no other public composition by him except an introduction
to the proceedings of the Committee for cloathing the French
Prisoners[1053];[*] one of the many proofs that he was ever awake to the
calls of humanity; and an account which he gave in the Gentlemen's
Magazine of Mr. Tytler's acute and able vindication of Mary Queen of
Scots.[*] The generosity of Johnson's feelings shines forth in the
following sentence:--

"It has now been fashionable, for near half a century, to defame and
vilify the house of Stuart and, to exalt and magnify the reign of
Elizabeth. The Stuarts have found few apologists, for the dead cannot
pay for praise; and who will, without reward, oppose the tide of
popularity? Yet there remains still among us, not wholly extinguished, a
zeal for truth, a desire of establishing right in opposition to

In this year I have not discovered a single private letter, written by
him to any of his friends. It should seem, however, that he had at this
period a floating intention of writing a history of the recent and
wonderful successes of the British arms in all quarters of the globe;
for among his resolutions or memorandums, September 18, 'send for books
for Hist. of War[1055].' How much is it to be regretted that this intention
was not fulfilled. His majestick expression would have carried down to
the latest posterity the glorious achievements of his country with the
same fervent glow which they produced on the mind of the time. He would
have been under no temptation to deviate in any degree from truth, which
he held very sacred, or to take a licence, which a learned divine told
me he once seemed, in a conversation, jocularly to allow to historians.

[Page 355: Consecrated lies. Ætat 51.]

'There are (said he) inexcusable lies, and consecrated lies. For
instance, we are told that on the arrival of the news of the unfortunate
battle of Fontenoy, every heart beat, and every eye was in tears. Now we
know, that no man eat his dinner the worse[1056], but there _should_ have
been all this concern; and to say there _was_, (smiling) may be reckoned
a consecrated lie.'

This year Mr. Murphy, having thought himself ill-treated by the Reverend
Dr. Francklin, who was one of the writers of _The Critical Review_,
published an indignant vindication in _A Poetical Epistle to Samuel
Johnson, A.M_., in which he compliments Johnson in a just and elegant

Transcendant Genius! whose prolific vein
Ne'er knew the frigid poet's toil and pain;
To whom APOLLO opens all his store,
And every Muse presents her sacred lore;
Say, pow'rful JOHNSON, whence thy verse is fraught
With so much grace and such energy of thought;
Whether thy JUVENAL instructs the age
In chaster numbers, and new-points his rage;
Or fair IRENE sees, alas! too late.
Her innocence exchang'd for guilty state;
Whatever you write, in every golden line
Sublimity and elegance combine;
Thy nervous phrase impresses every soul,
While harmony gives rapture to the whole.'

[Page 356: Arthur Murphy. A.D. 1760.]

Again, towards the conclusion:

'Thou then, my friend, who seest the dang'rous strife
In which some demon bids me plunge my life,
To the Aonian fount direct my feet,
Say where the Nine thy lonely musings meet?
Where warbles to thy ear the sacred throng,
Thy moral sense, thy dignity of song?
Tell, for you can, by what unerring art
You wake to finer feelings every heart;
In each bright page some truth important give,
And bid to future times thy RAMBLER live[1057]?

I take this opportunity to relate the manner in which an acquaintance
first commenced between Dr. Johnson and Mr. Murphy. During the
publication of _The Grays-Inn Journal_, a periodical paper which was
successfully carried on by Mr. Murphy alone, when a very young man, he
happened to be in the country with Mr. Foote; and having mentioned that
he was obliged to go to London in order to get ready for the press in
one of the numbers of that _Journal_, Foote said to him, 'You need not
to go on that account. Here is a French magazine, in which you will find
a very pretty oriental tale; translate that, and send it to your
printer.' Mr. Murphy having read the tale, was highly pleased with it,
and followed Foote's advice. When he returned to town, this tale was
pointed out to him in _The Rambler_, from whence it had been translated
into the French magazine. Mr. Murphy then waited upon Johnson, to
explain this curious incident. His talents, literature, and
gentleman-like manners, were soon perceived by Johnson, and a friendship
was formed which was never broken[1058].

[Page 357: Letter to Mr. Langston. Ætat 51.]



'You that travel about the world, have more materials for letters, than
I who stay at home; and should, therefore, write with frequency equal to
your opportunities. I should be glad to have all England surveyed by
you, if you would impart your observations in narratives as agreeable as
your last. Knowledge is always to be wished to those who can communicate
it well. While you have been riding and running, and seeing the tombs of
the learned, and the camps of the valiant, I have only staid at home,
and intended to do great things, which I have not done. Beau[1059] went
away to Cheshire, and has not yet found his way back. Chambers passed
the vacation at Oxford.

'I am very sincerely solicitous for the preservation or curing of Mr.
Langton's sight, and am glad that the chirurgeon at Coventry gives him
so much hope. Mr. Sharpe is of opinion that the tedious maturation of
the cataract is a vulgar errour, and that it may be removed as soon as
it is formed. This notion deserves to be considered; I doubt whether it
be universally true; but if it be true in some cases, and those cases
can be distinguished, it may save a long and uncomfortable delay.

'Of dear Mrs. Langton you give me no account; which is the less
friendly, as you know how highly I think of her, and how much I interest
myself in her health. I suppose you told her of my opinion, and likewise
suppose it was not followed; however, I still believe it to be right.

[Page 358: Thomas Sheridan. A.D. 1761.]

'Let me hear from you again, wherever you are, or whatever you are
doing; whether you wander or sit still, plant trees or make
_Rusticks_,[1060] play with your sisters or muse alone; and in return I
will tell you the success of Sheridan[1061], who at this instant is playing
Cato, and has already played Richard twice. He had more company the
second than the first night, and will make, I believe, a good figure in
the whole, though his faults seem to be very many; some of natural
deficience, and some of laborious affectation. He has, I think, no power
of assuming either that dignity or elegance which some men, who have
little of either in common life, can exhibit on the stage. His voice
when strained is unpleasing, and when low is not always heard. He seems
to think too much on the audience, and turns his face too often to the

'However, I wish him well; and among other reasons, because I like his

'Make haste to write to, dear Sir,

'Your most affectionate servant,


'Oct. 18, 1760.'

[Page 359: Instances of literary fraud. Ætat 52.]

1761: ÆTAT. 52.--In 1761 Johnson appears to have done little. He was
still, no doubt, proceeding in his edition of _Shakespeare_; but what
advances he made in it cannot be ascertained. He certainly was at this
time not active; for in his scrupulous examination of himself on Easter
eve, he laments, in his too rigorous mode of censuring his own conduct,
that his life, since the communion of the preceding Easter, had been
'dissipated and useless[1064].' He, however, contributed this year the
Preface[*] to _Rolt's Dictionary of Trade and Commerce_, in which he
displays such a clear and comprehensive knowledge of the subject, as
might lead the reader to think that its authour had devoted all his life
to it. I asked him whether he knew much of Rolt, and of his work. 'Sir,
(said he) I never saw the man, and never read the book. The booksellers
wanted a Preface to a _Dictionary of Trade and Commerce_. I knew very
well what such a Dictionary should be, and I wrote a Preface
accordingly.' Rolt, who wrote a great deal for the booksellers, was, as
Johnson told me, a singular character[1065]. Though not in the least
acquainted with him, he used to say, 'I am just come from Sam. Johnson.'
This was a sufficient specimen of his vanity and impudence. But he gave
a more eminent proof of it in our sister kingdom, as Dr. Johnson
informed me. When Akenside's _Pleasures of the Imagination_ first came
out, he did not put his name to the poem. Rolt went over to Dublin,
published an edition of it, and put his own name to it. Upon the fame of
this he lived for several months, being entertained at the best tables
as 'the ingenious Mr. Rolt[1066].' His conversation indeed, did not
discover much of the fire of a poet; but it was recollected, that both
Addison and Thomson were equally dull till excited by wine. Akenside
having been informed of this imposition, vindicated his right by
publishing the poem with its real authour's name. Several instances of
such literary fraud have been detected. The Reverend Dr. Campbell, of
St. Andrew's, wrote _An Enquiry into the original of Moral Virtue_, the
manuscript of which he sent to Mr. Innes, a clergyman in England, who
was his countryman and acquaintance. Innes published it with his own
name to it; and before the imposition was discovered, obtained
considerable promotion, as a reward of his merit[1067].

[Page 360: The Man of Feeling. A.D. 1781.]

The celebrated Dr. Hugh Blair, and his cousin Mr. George Bannatine, when
students in divinity, wrote a poem, entitled, _The Resurrection_, copies
of which were handed about in manuscript. They were, at length, very
much surprised to see a pompous edition of it in folio, dedicated to the
Princess Dowager of Wales, by a Dr. Douglas, as his own. Some years ago
a little novel, entitled _The Man of Feeling_, was assumed by Mr.
Eccles, a young Irish clergyman, who was afterwards drowned near
Bath[1068]. He had been at the pains to transcribe the whole book, with
blottings, interlineations, and corrections, that it might be shewn to
several people as an original. It was, in truth, the production of Mr.
Henry Mackenzie, an Attorney in the Exchequer at Edinburgh, who is the
authour of several other ingenious pieces; but the belief with regard to
Mr. Eccles became so general, that it was thought necessary for
Messieurs Strahan and Cadell to publish an advertisement in the
newspapers, contradicting the report, and mentioning that they purchase
the copyright of Mr. Mackenzie[1069]. I can conceive this kind of fraud to
be very easily practised with successful effrontery. The _Filiation_ of
a literary performance is difficult of proof; seldom is there any
witness present at its birth. A man, either in confidence or by improper
means, obtains possession of a copy of it in manuscript, and boldly
publishes it as his own. The true authour, in many cases, may not be
able to make his title clear. Johnson, indeed, from the peculiar
features of his literary offspring, might bid defiance to any attempt to
appropriate them to others.

'But Shakspeare's magick could not copied be,
Within that circle none durst walk but he[1070]!'

[Page 361: Letter to Mr. Baretti. Ætat 52.]

He this year lent his friendly assistance to correct and improve a
pamphlet written by Mr. Gwyn, the architect, entitled, _Thoughts on the
Coronation of George III_.[*]

Johnson had now for some years admitted Mr. Baretti to his intimacy; nor
did their friendship cease upon their being separated by Baretti's
revisiting his native country, as appears from Johnson's letters to him.


[Page 362: Baretti's knowledge of languages. A.D. 1761.]

'You reproach me very often with parsimony of writing: but you may
discover by the extent of my paper, that I design to recompence rarity
by length. A short letter to a distant friend is, in my opinion, an
insult like that of a slight bow or cursory salutation;--a proof of
unwillingness to do much, even where there is a necessity of doing
something. Yet it must be remembered, that he who continues the same
course of life in the same place, will have little to tell. One week and
one year are very like one another. The silent changes made by time are
not always perceived; and if they are not perceived, cannot be
recounted. I have risen and lain down, talked and mused, while you have
roved over a considerable part of Europe[1072]; yet I have not envied my
Baretti any of his pleasures, though, perhaps, I have envied others his
company: and I am glad to have other nations made acquainted with the
character of the English, by a traveller who has so nicely inspected our
manners, and so successfully studied our literature. I received your
kind letter from Falmouth, in which you gave me notice of your departure
for Lisbon, and another from Lisbon, in which you told me, that you were
to leave Portugal in a few days. To either of these how could any answer
be returned? I have had a third from Turin, complaining that I have not
answered the former. Your English style still continues in its purity
and vigour. With vigour your genius will supply it; but its purity must
be continued by close attention. To use two languages familiarly, and
without contaminating one by the other, is very difficult: and to use
more than two is hardly to be hoped[1073]. The praises which some have
received for their multiplicity of languages, may be sufficient to
excite industry, but can hardly generate confidence.

'I know not whether I can heartily rejoice at the kind reception which
you have found, or at the popularity to which you are exalted. I am
willing that your merit should be distinguished; but cannot wish that
your affections may be gained. I would have you happy wherever you are:
yet I would have you wish to return to England. If ever you visit us
again, you will find the kindness of your friends undiminished. To tell
you how many enquiries are made after you, would be tedious, or if not
tedious, would be vain; because you may be told in a very few words,
that all who knew you wish you well; and that all that you embraced at
your departure, will caress you at your return: therefore do not let
Italian academicians nor Italian ladies drive us from your thoughts. You
may find among us what you will leave behind, soft smiles and easy
sonnets. Yet I shall not wonder if all our invitations should be
rejected: for there is a pleasure in being considerable at home, which
is not easily resisted.

[Page 363: The Exhibition of Pictures. Ætat 52.]

'By conducting Mr. Southwell[1074] to Venice, you fulfilled, I know, the
original contract: yet I would wish you not wholly to lose him from your
notice, but to recommend him to such acquaintance as may best secure him
from suffering by his own follies, and to take such general care both of
his safety and his interest as may come within your power. His relations
will thank you for any such gratuitous attention: at least they will not
blame you for any evil that may happen, whether they thank you or not
for any good.

'You know that we have a new King and a new Parliament. Of the new
Parliament Fitzherbert[1075] is a member. We were so weary of our old King,
that we are much pleased with his successor; of whom we are so much
inclined to hope great things, that most of us begin already to believe
them. The young man is hitherto blameless; but it would be unreasonable
to expect much from the immaturity of juvenile years, and the ignorance
of princely education. He has been long in the hands of the Scots, and
has already favoured them more than the English will contentedly endure.
But, perhaps, he scarcely knows whom he has distinguished, or whom he
has disgusted.

'The Artists have instituted a yearly Exhibition[1076] of pictures and
statues, in imitation, as I am told, of foreign academies. This year was
the second Exhibition. They please themselves much with the multitude of
spectators, and imagine that the English School will rise in reputation.
Reynolds is without a rival, and continues to add thousands to
thousands, which he deserves, among other excellencies, by retaining his
kindness for Baretti. This Exhibition has filled the heads of the
Artists and lovers of art. Surely life, if it be not long, is tedious,
since we are forced to call in the assistance of so many trifles[1077] to
rid us of our time, of that time which never can return.

[Page 364: Johnson's indifference to pictures. A.D. 1761.]

[Page 365: Monastick life. Ætat 52.]

'I know my Baretti will not be satisfied with a letter in which I give
him no account of myself: yet what account shall I give him? I have not,
since the day of our separation, suffered or done any thing
considerable. The only change in my way of life is, that I have
frequented the theatre more than in former seasons. But I have gone
thither only to escape from myself. We have had many new farces, and the
comedy called _The Jealous Wife_[1078], which, though not written with much
genius, was yet so well adapted to the stage, and so well exhibited by
the actors, that it was crowded for near twenty nights. I am digressing
from myself to the play-house; but a barren plan must be filled with
episodes. Of myself I have nothing to say, but that I have hitherto
lived without the concurrence of my own judgment; yet I continue to
flatter myself, that, when you return, you will find me mended. I do not
wonder that, where the monastick life is permitted, every order finds
votaries, and every monastery inhabitants. Men will submit to any rule,
by which they may be exempted from the tyranny of caprice and of chance.
They are glad to supply by external authority their own want of
constancy and resolution, and court the government of others, when long
experience has convinced them of their own inability to govern
themselves[1079]. If I were to visit Italy, my curiosity would be more
attracted by convents than by palaces: though I am afraid that I should
find expectation in both places equally disappointed, and life in both
places supported with impatience and quitted with reluctance. That it
must be so soon quitted, is a powerful remedy against impatience; but
what shall free us from reluctance? Those who have endeavoured to teach
us to die well, have taught few to die willingly: yet I cannot but hope
that a good life might end at last in a contented death.

'You see to what a train of thought I am drawn by the mention of myself.
Let me now turn my attention upon you. I hope you take care to keep an
exact journal, and to register all occurrences and observations[1080]; for
your friends here expect such a book of travels as has not been often
seen. You have given us good specimens in your letters from Lisbon. I
wish you had staid longer in Spain[1081], for no country is less known to
the rest of Europe; but the quickness of your discernment must make
amends for the celerity of your motions. He that knows which way to
direct his view, sees much in a little time.

[Page 366: Chronology of the Scriptures. A.D. 1762.]

'Write to me very often, and I will not neglect to write to you; and I
may, perhaps, in time, get something to write: at least, you will know
by my letters, whatever else they may have or want, that I continue to

'Your most affectionate friend,


'London, June 10, 1761[1082].'

1762: ÆTAT. 53.--In 1762 he wrote for the Reverend Dr. Kennedy, Rector
of Bradley in Derbyshire, in a strain of very courtly elegance, a
Dedication to the King[*] of that gentleman's work, entitled, _A
complete System of Astronomical Chronology, unfolding the Scriptures_.
He had certainly looked at this work before it was printed; for the
concluding paragraph is undoubtedly of his composition, of which let my
readers judge:

'Thus have I endeavoured to free Religion and History from the darkness
of a disputed and uncertain chronology; from difficulties which have
hitherto appeared insuperable, and darkness which no luminary of
learning has hitherto been able to dissipate. I have established the
truth of the Mosaical account, by evidence which no transcription can
corrupt, no negligence can lose, and no interest can pervert. I have
shewn that the universe bears witness to the inspiration of its
historian, by the revolution of its orbs and the succession of its
seasons; _that the stars in their courses fight against_[1083] incredulity,
that the works of GOD give hourly confirmation to the _law_, the
_prophets_, and the _gospel_, of which _one day telleth another, and one
night certifieth another_[1084]; and that the validity of the sacred
writings can never be denied, while the moon shall increase and wane,
and the sun shall know his going down[1085].'

[Page 367: The care of living. Ætat 53.]

He this year wrote also the Dedication[Dagger] to the Earl of Middlesex
of Mrs Lennox's _Female Quixote_[1086], and the Preface to the _Catalogue
of the Artists' Exhibition_.[Dagger]

The following letter, which, on account of its intrinsick merit, it
would have been unjust both to Johnson and the publick to have
with-held, was obtained for me by the solicitation of my friend Mr.



'I make haste to answer your kind letter, in hope of hearing again from
you before you leave us. I cannot but regret that a man of your
qualifications should find it necessary to seek an establishment in
Guadaloupe, which if a peace should restore to the French[1088], I shall
think it some alleviation of the loss, that it must restore likewise Dr.
Staunton to the English.

'It is a melancholy consideration, that so much of our time is
necessarily to be spent upon the care of living, and that we can seldom
obtain ease in one respect but by resigning it in another; yet I suppose
we are by this dispensation not less happy in the whole, than if the
spontaneous bounty of Nature poured all that we want into our hands. A
few, if they were thus left to themselves, would, perhaps, spend their
time in laudable pursuits; but the greater part would prey upon the
quiet of each other, or, in the want of other objects, would prey upon

'This, however, is our condition, which we must improve and solace as we
can: and though we cannot choose always our place of residence, we may
in every place find rational amusements, and possess in every place the
comforts of piety and a pure conscience.

'In America there is little to be observed except natural curiosities.
The new world must have many vegetables and animals with which
philosophers are but little acquainted. I hope you will furnish yourself
with some books of natural history, and some glasses and other
instruments of observation. Trust as little as you can to report;
examine all you can by your own senses. I do not doubt but you will be
able to add much to knowledge, and, perhaps, to medicine. Wild nations
trust to simples; and, perhaps, the Peruvian bark is not the only
specifick which those extensive regions may afford us.

[Page 368: Improper expectations. A.D. 1762.]

'Wherever you are, and whatever be your fortune, be certain, dear Sir,
that you carry with you my kind wishes; and that whether you return
hither, or stay in the other hemisphere[1089], to hear that you are happy
will give pleasure to, Sir,

'Your most affectionate humble servant,


'June 1, 1762.'

A lady having at this time solicited him to obtain the Archbishop of
Canterbury's patronage to have her son sent to the University, one of
those solicitations which are too frequent, where people, anxious for a
particular object, do not consider propriety, or the opportunity which
the persons whom they solicit have to assist them, he wrote to her the
following answer, with a copy of which I am favoured by the Reverend Dr.
Farmer[1090], Master of Emanuel College, Cambridge.


'I hope you will believe that my delay in answering your letter could
proceed only from my unwillingness to destroy any hope that you had
formed. Hope is itself a species of happiness, and, perhaps, the chief
happiness which this world affords[1091]: but, like all other pleasures
immoderately enjoyed, the excesses of hope must be expiated by pain; and
expectations improperly indulged, must end in disappointment. If it be
asked, what is the improper expectation which it is dangerous to
indulge, experience will quickly answer, that it is such expectation as
is dictated not by reason, but by desire; expectation raised, not by the
common occurrences of life, but by the wants of the expectant; an
expectation that requires the common course of things to be changed, and
the general rules of action to be broken.

[Page 369: Johnson's second letter to Baretti. Ætat 53.]

'When you made your request to me, you should have considered, Madam,
what you were asking. You ask me to solicit a great man, to whom I never
spoke, for a young person whom I had never seen, upon a supposition
which I had no means of knowing to be true. There is no reason why,
amongst all the great, I should chuse to supplicate the Archbishop, nor
why, among all the possible objects of his bounty, the Archbishop should
chuse your son. I know, Madam, how unwillingly conviction is admitted,
when interest opposes it; but surely, Madam, you must allow, that there
is no reason why that should be done by me, which every other man may do
with equal reason, and which, indeed, no man can do properly, without
some very particular relation both to the Archbishop and to you. If I
could help you in this exigence by any proper means, it would give me
pleasure; but this proposal is so very remote from all usual methods,
that I cannot comply with it, but at the risk of such answer and
suspicions as I believe you do not wish me to undergo.

'I have seen your son this morning; he seems a pretty youth, and will,
perhaps, find some better friend than I can procure him; but, though he
should at last miss the University, he may still be wise, useful, and
happy. I am, Madam,

'Your most humble servant,


'June 8, 1762.'


'London, July 20, 1762[1092].


'However justly you may accuse me for want of punctuality in
correspondence, I am not so far lost in negligence as to omit the
opportunity of writing to you, which Mr. Beauclerk's passage through
Milan affords me.

'I suppose you received the _Idlers_, and I intend that you shall soon
receive _Shakspeare_, that you may explain his works to the ladies of
Italy, and tell them the story of the editor, among the other strange
narratives with which your long residence in this unknown region has
supplied you.

'As you have now been long away, I suppose your curiosity may pant for
some news of your old friends. Miss Williams and I live much as we did.
Miss Cotterel[1093] still continues to cling to Mrs. Porter, and
Charlotte[1094] is now big of the fourth child. Mr. Reynolds gets six
thousands a year[1095]. Levet is lately married, not without much suspicion
that he has been wretchedly cheated in his match[1096]. Mr. Chambers is
gone this day, for the first time, the circuit with the Judges. Mr.
Richardson is dead of an apoplexy[1097], and his second daughter has
married a merchant.

[Page 370: Johnson's visit to Lichfield. A.D. 1762.]

[Page 371: All happiness borrowed from hope. Ætat 53.]

'My vanity, or my kindness, makes me flatter myself, that you would
rather hear of me than of those whom I have mentioned; but of myself I
have very little which I care to tell. Last winter I went down to my
native town[1098], where I found the streets much narrower and shorter than
I thought I had left them, inhabited by a new race of people, to whom I
was very little known. My play-fellows were grown old, and forced me to
suspect that I was no longer young. My only remaining friend has changed
his principles, and was become the tool of the predominant faction. My
daughter-in-law, from whom I expected most, and whom I met with sincere
benevolence, has lost the beauty and gaiety of youth, without having
gained much of the wisdom of age[1099]. I wandered about for five days,
[1100] and took the first convenient opportunity of returning to a place,
where, if there is not much happiness, there is, at least, such a
diversity of good and evil, that slight vexations do not fix upon the

'I think in a few weeks to try another excursion[1102]; though to what end?
Let me know, my Baretti, what has been the result of your return to your
own country: whether time has made any alteration for the better, and
whether, when the first raptures of salutation were over, you did not
find your thoughts confessed their disappointment.

'Moral sentences appear ostentatious and tumid, when they have no
greater occasions than the journey of a wit to his own town: yet such
pleasures and such pains make up the general mass of life; and as
nothing is little to him that feels it with great sensibility, a mind
able to see common incidents in their real state, is disposed by very
common incidents to very serious contemplations. Let us trust that a
time will come, when the present moment shall be no longer irksome; when
we shall not borrow all our happiness from hope, which at last is to end
in disappointment.

'I beg that you will shew Mr. Beauclerk all the civilities which you
have in your power; for he has always been kind to me.

'I have lately seen Mr. Stratico, Professor of Padua, who has told me of
your quarrel with an Abbot of the Celestine order; but had not the
particulars very ready in his memory. When you write to Mr. Marsili[1103],
let him know that I remember him with kindness.

'May you, my Baretti, be very happy at Milan[1104], or some other place
nearer to, Sir,

'Your most affectionate humble servant,


[Page 372: The accession of George III. A.D. 1762.]

[Page 373: Johnson's pension. Ætat 53.]

The accession of George the Third to the throne of these kingdoms,
opened a new and brighter prospect to men of literary merit, who had
been honoured with no mark of royal favour in the preceding reign. His
present Majesty's education in this country, as well as his taste and
beneficence, prompted him to be the patron of science and the arts; and
early this year Johnson, having been represented to him as a very
learned and good man, without any certain provision, his Majesty was
pleased to grant him a pension of three hundred pounds a year[1105]. The
Earl of Bute, who was then Prime Minister, had the honour to announce
this instance of his Sovereign's bounty, concerning which, many and
various stories, all equally erroneous, have been propagated:
maliciously representing it as a political bribe to Johnson, to desert
his avowed principles, and become the tool of a government which he held
to be founded in usurpation. I have taken care to have it in my power to
refute them from the most authentick information. Lord Bute told me,
that Mr. Wedderburne, now Lord Loughborough, was the person who first
mentioned this subject to him[1106]. Lord Loughborough told me, that the
pension was granted to Johnson solely as the reward of his literary
merit, without any stipulation whatever, or even tacit understanding
that he should write for administration. His Lordship added, that he was
confident the political tracts which Johnson afterwards did write, as
they were entirely consonant with his own opinions, would have been
written by him though no pension had been granted to him[1107].

[Page 374: Johnson's interview with Lord Bute. A.D. 1762.]

Mr. Thomas Sheridan and Mr. Murphy, who then lived a good deal both with
him and Mr. Wedderburne, told me, that they previously talked with
Johnson upon this matter, and that it was perfectly understood by all
parties that the pension was merely honorary. Sir Joshua Reynolds told
me, that Johnson called on him after his Majesty's intention had been
notified to him, and said he wished to consult his friends as to the
propriety of his accepting this mark of the royal favour, after the
definitions which he had given in his _Dictionary_ of _pension_ and
_pensioners_[1108]. He said he would not have Sir Joshua's answer till next
day, when he would call again, and desired he might think of it. Sir
Joshua answered that he was clear to give his opinion then, that there
could be no objection to his receiving from the King a reward for
literary merit; and that certainly the definitions in his _Dictionary_
were not applicable to him. Johnson, it should seem, was satisfied, for
he did not call again till he had accepted the pension, and had waited
on Lord Bute to thank him. He then told Sir Joshua that Lord Bute said
to him expressly, 'It is not given you for anything you are to do, but
for what you have done.' His Lordship, he said, behaved in the
handsomest manner. He repeated the words twice, that he might be sure
Johnson heard them, and thus set his mind perfectly at ease. This
nobleman, who has been so virulently abused, acted with great honour in
this instance, and displayed a mind truly liberal. A minister of a more
narrow and selfish disposition would have availed himself of such an
opportunity to fix an implied obligation on a man of Johnson's powerful
talents to give him his support.

[Page 375: Murphy's account of the pension. Ætat 53.]

Mr. Murphy and the late Mr. Sheridan severally contended for the
distinction of having been the first who mentioned to Mr. Wedderburne
that Johnson ought to have a pension. When I spoke of this to Lord
Loughborough, wishing to know if he recollected the prime mover in the
business, he said, 'All his friends assisted:' and when I told him that
Mr. Sheridan strenuously asserted his claim to it, his Lordship said,
'He rang the bell.' And it is but just to add, that Mr. Sheridan told
me, that when he communicated to Dr. Johnson that a pension was to be
granted him, he replied in a fervour of gratitude, 'The English language
does not afford me terms adequate to my feelings on this occasion. I
must have recourse to the French. I am _pénétré_ with his Majesty's
goodness.' When I repeated this to Dr. Johnson, he did not contradict

His definitions of _pension_ and _pensioner_, partly founded on the
satirical verses of Pope[1110], which he quotes, may be generally true; and
yet every body must allow, that there may be, and have been, instances
of pensions given and received upon liberal and honourable terms. Thus,
then, it is clear, that there was nothing inconsistent or humiliating in
Johnson's accepting of a pension so unconditionally and so honourably
offered to him.

[Page 376: Johnson's letter to Lord Bute. A.D. 1762.]

But I shall not detain my readers longer by any words of my own, on a
subject on which I am happily enabled, by the favour of the Earl of
Bute, to present them with what Johnson himself wrote; his lordship
having been pleased to communicate to me a copy of the following letter
to his late father[1111], which does great honour both to the writer, and
to the noble person to whom it is addressed:



'When the bills[1112] were yesterday delivered to me by Mr. Wedderburne,
I was informed by him of the future favours which his Majesty has, by
your Lordship's recommendation, been induced to intend for me.

'Bounty always receives part of its value from the manner in which it is
bestowed; your Lordship's kindness includes every circumstance that can
gratify delicacy, or enforce obligation. You have conferred your favours
on a man who has neither alliance nor interest, who has not merited them
by services, nor courted them by officiousness; you have spared him the
shame of solicitation, and the anxiety of suspense.

[Page 377: A visit to Devonshire. Ætat 53.]

'What has been thus elegantly given, will, I hope, not be reproachfully
enjoyed; I shall endeavour to give your Lordship the only recompense
which generosity desires,--the gratification of finding that your
benefits are not improperly bestowed. I am, my Lord,

'Your Lordship's most obliged,

'Most obedient, and most humble servant,


'July 20, 1762.'

This year his friend Sir Joshua Reynolds paid a visit of some weeks to
his native country, Devonshire, in which he was accompanied by Johnson,
who was much pleased with this jaunt, and declared he had derived from
it a great accession of new ideas[1113]. He was entertained at the seats
of several noblemen and gentlemen in the West of England[1114]; but the
greatest part of the time was passed at Plymouth, where the magnificence
of the navy, the ship-building and all its circumstances, afforded him a
grand subject of contemplation. The Commissioner of the Dock-yard paid
him the compliment of ordering the yacht to convey him and his friend to
the Eddystone, to which they accordingly sailed. But the weather was so
tempestuous that they could not land[1115].

[Page 378: Johnson at Plymouth. A.D. 1762.]

Reynolds and he were at this time the guests of Dr. Mudge[1116], the
celebrated surgeon, and now physician of that place, not more
distinguished for quickness of parts and variety of knowledge, than
loved and esteemed for his amiable manners; and here Johnson formed an
acquaintance with Dr. Mudge's father, that very eminent divine, the
Reverend Zachariah Mudge[1117], Prebendary of Exeter, who was idolised
in the west, both for his excellence as a preacher and the uniform
perfect propriety of his private conduct. He preached a sermon purposely
that Johnson might hear him; and we shall see afterwards that Johnson
honoured his memory by drawing his character[1118]. While Johnson was at
Plymouth, he saw a great many of its inhabitants, and was not sparing of
his very entertaining conversation. It was here that he made that frank
and truly original confession, that 'ignorance, pure ignorance,' was the
cause of a wrong definition in his _Dictionary_ of the word _pastern_
[1119], to the no small surprise of the Lady who put the question
to him; who having the most profound reverence for his character, so as
almost to suppose him endowed with infallibility, expected to hear an
explanation (of what, to be sure, seemed strange to a common reader,)
drawn from some deep-learned source with which she was unacquainted.

[Page 379: An enemy of the Dockers. Ætat 53.]

Sir Joshua Reynolds, to whom I was obliged for my information concerning
this excursion, mentions a very characteristical anecdote of Johnson
while at Plymouth. Having observed that in consequence of the Dock-yard
a new town[1120] had arisen about two miles off as a rival to the old;
and knowing from his sagacity, and just observation of human nature, that
it is certain if a man hates at all, he will hate his next neighbour; he
concluded that this new and rising town could not but excite the envy
and jealousy of the old, in which conjecture he was very soon confirmed;
he therefore set himself resolutely on the side of the old town, the
_established_ town, in which his lot was cast, considering it as a kind
of duty to _stand by_ it. He accordingly entered warmly into its
interests, and upon every occasion talked of the _dockers_, as the
inhabitants of the new town were called, as upstarts and aliens.
Plymouth is very plentifully supplied with water by a river brought into
it from a great distance, which is so abundant that it runs to waste in
the town. The Dock, or New-town, being totally destitute of water,
petitioned Plymouth that a small portion of the conduit might be
permitted to go to them, and this was now under consideration. Johnson,
affecting to entertain the passions of the place, was violent in
opposition; and, half-laughing at himself for his pretended zeal where
he had no concern, exclaimed, 'No, no! I am against the _dockers_; I am
a Plymouth-man. Rogues! let them die of thirst. They shall not have a

[Page 380: Johnson's third letter to Baretti. A.D. 1762.]

Lord Macartney obligingly favoured me with a copy of the following
letter, in his own hand-writing, from the original, which was found, by
the present Earl of Bute, among his father's papers.



'That generosity, by which I was recommended to the favour of his
Majesty, will not be offended at a solicitation necessary to make that
favour permanent and effectual.

'The pension appointed to be paid me at Michaelmas I have not received,
and know not where or from whom I am to ask it. I beg, therefore, that
your Lordship will be pleased to supply Mr. Wedderburne with such
directions as may be necessary, which, I believe, his friendship will
make him think it no trouble to convey to me.

'To interrupt your Lordship, at a time like this, with such petty
difficulties, is improper and unseasonable; but your knowledge of the
world has long since taught you, that every man's affairs, however
little, are important to himself. Every man hopes that he shall escape
neglect; and, with reason, may every man, whose vices do not preclude
his claim, expect favour from that beneficence which has been extended

'My Lord,

'Your Lordship's

'Most obliged


'Most humble servant,

'Temple Lane                               'SAM. JOHNSON.'

'Nov. 3, 1762.'


'London, Dec. 21, 1762.


[Page 381: Love and marriage. Ætat 53.]

'You are not to suppose, with all your conviction of my idleness, that I
have passed all this time without writing to my Baretti. I gave a letter
to Mr. Beauclerk, who, in my opinion, and in his own, was hastening to
Naples for the recovery of his health[1122]; but he has stopped at Paris,
and I know not when he will proceed. Langton is with him.

'I will not trouble you with speculations about peace and war. The good
or ill success of battles and embassies extends itself to a very small
part of domestick life: we all have good and evil, which we feel more
sensibly than our petty part of publick miscarriage or prosperity[1123].
I am sorry for your disappointment, with which you seem more touched than
I should expect a man of your resolution and experience to have been,
did I not know that general truths are seldom applied to particular
occasions; and that the fallacy of our self-love extends itself as wide
as our interest or affections. Every man believes that mistresses are
unfaithful, and patrons capricious; but he excepts his own mistress, and
his own patron. We have all learned that greatness is negligent and
contemptuous, and that in Courts life is often languished away in
ungratified expectation; but he that approaches greatness, or glitters
in a Court, imagines that destiny has at last exempted him from the
common lot.

'Do not let such evils overwhelm you as thousands have suffered, and
thousands have surmounted; but turn your thoughts with vigour to some
other plan of life, and keep always in your mind, that, with due
submission to Providence, a man of genius has been seldom ruined but by
himself[1124]. Your Patron's weakness or insensibility will finally do
you little hurt, if he is not assisted by your own passions. Of your love
I know not the propriety, nor can estimate the power; but in love, as in
every other passion, of which hope is the essence, we ought always to
remember the uncertainty of events. There is, indeed, nothing that so
much seduces reason from vigilance, as the thought of passing life with
an amiable woman; and if all would happen that a lover fancies, I know
not what other terrestrial happiness would deserve pursuit. But love and
marriage are different states. Those who are to suffer the evils
together, and to suffer often for the sake of one another, soon lose
that tenderness of look, and that benevolence of mind, which arose from
the participation of unmingled pleasure and successive amusement. A
woman, we are sure, will not be always fair; we are not sure she will
always be virtuous: and man cannot retain through life that respect and
assiduity by which he pleases for a day or for a month. I do not,
however, pretend to have discovered that life has any thing more to be
desired than a prudent and virtuous marriage; therefore know not what
counsel to give you.

[Page 382: Johnson's Life of Collins. A.D. 1763.]

'If you can quit your imagination of love and greatness, and leave your
hopes of preferment and bridal raptures to try once more the fortune of
literature and industry, the way through France is now open[1125]. We
flatter ourselves that we shall cultivate, with great diligence, the
arts of peace; and every man will be welcome among us who can teach us
any thing we do not know[1126]. For your part, you will find all your
old friends willing to receive you.

'Reynolds still continues to increase in reputation and in riches. Miss
Williams, who very much loves you, goes on in the old way. Miss Cotterel
is still with Mrs. Porter. Miss Charlotte is married to Dean Lewis, and
has three children. Mr. Levet has married a street-walker[1127]. But the
gazette of my narration must now arrive to tell you, that Bathurst went
physician to the army, and died at the Havannah[1128].

'I know not whether I have not sent you word that Huggins[1129] and
Richardson[1130] are both dead. When we see our enemies and friends
gliding away before us, let us not forget that we are subject to the
general law of mortality, and shall soon be where our doom will be fixed
for ever.

'I pray GOD to bless you, and am, Sir,

'Your most affectionate humble servant,


'Write soon.'

[Page 383: A dedication to the Queen. Ætat 54.]

1763: ÆTAT. 54.--In 1763 he furnished to _The Poetical Calendar_,
published by Fawkes and Woty, a character of Collins[*], which he
afterwards ingrafted into his entire life of that admirable poet[1131],
in the collection of lives which he wrote for the body of English poetry,
formed and published by the booksellers of London. His account of the
melancholy depression with which Collins was severely afflicted, and
which brought him to his grave, is, I think, one of the most tender and
interesting passages in the whole series of his writings[1132]. He also
favoured Mr. Hoole with the Dedication of his translation of _Tasso to
the Queen_,[*] which is so happily conceived and elegantly expressed,
that I cannot but point it out to the peculiar notice of my readers[1133].

[Page 384: Boswell's youthful compositions. A.D. 1763.]

[Page 385: Johnson's quarrel with Sheridan. Ætat 54.]

This is to me a memorable year; for in it I had the happiness to obtain
the acquaintance of that extraordinary man whose memoirs I am now
writing; an acquaintance which I shall ever esteem as one of the most
fortunate circumstances in my life. Though then but two-and-twenty[1134], I
had for several years read his works with delight and instruction, and
had the highest reverence for their authour, which had grown up in my
fancy into a kind of mysterious veneration[1135], by figuring to myself a
state of solemn elevated abstraction, in which I supposed him to live in
the immense metropolis of London. Mr. Gentleman, a native of Ireland,
who passed some years in Scotland as a player, and as an instructor in
the English language, a man whose talents and worth were depressed by
misfortunes[1136], had given me a representation of the figure and manner
of DICTIONARY JOHNSON, as he was then generally called[1137]; and during
my first visit to London, which was for three months in 1760, Mr. Derrick
the poet[1138], who was Gentleman's friend and countryman, flattered me
with hopes that he would introduce me to Johnson, an honour of which I
was very ambitious. But he never found an opportunity; which made me
doubt that he had promised to do what was not in his power; till Johnson
some years afterwards told me, 'Derrick, Sir, might very well have
introduced you. I had a kindness for Derrick, and am sorry he is dead.'

In the summer of 1761 Mr. Thomas Sheridan was at Edinburgh, and
delivered lectures upon the English Language and Publick Speaking to
large and respectable audiences. I was often in his company, and heard
him frequently expatiate upon Johnson's extraordinary knowledge,
talents, and virtues, repeat his pointed sayings, describe his
particularities, and boast of his being his guest sometimes till two or
three in the morning. At his house I hoped to have many opportunities of
seeing the sage, as Mr. Sheridan obligingly assured me I should not be

[Page 386: Sheridan's pension. A.D. 1763.]

When I returned to London in the end of 1762, to my surprise and regret
I found an irreconcileable difference had taken place between Johnson
and Sheridan. A pension of two hundred pounds a year had been given to
Sheridan. Johnson, who, as has been already mentioned, thought
slightingly of Sheridan's art, upon hearing that he was also pensioned,
exclaimed, 'What! have they given _him_ a pension? Then it is time for
me to give up mine.' Whether this proceeded from a momentary
indignation, as if it were an affront to his exalted merit that a player
should be rewarded in the same manner with him, or was the sudden effect
of a fit of peevishness, it was unluckily said, and, indeed, cannot be
justified. Mr. Sheridan's pension was granted to him not as a player,
but as a sufferer in the cause of government, when he was manager of the
Theatre Royal in Ireland, when parties ran high in 1753[1139]. And it
must also be allowed that he was a man of literature, and had
considerably improved the arts of reading and speaking with distinctness
and propriety.

Besides, Johnson should have recollected that Mr. Sheridan taught
pronunciation to Mr. Alexander Wedderburne[1140], whose sister was
married to Sir Harry Erskine[1141], an intimate friend of Lord Bute, who
was the favourite of the King; and surely the most outrageous Whig will
not maintain, that, whatever ought to be the principle in the disposal of
_offices_, a _pension_ ought never to be granted from any bias of court
connection. Mr. Macklin[1142], indeed, shared with Mr. Sheridan the honour
of instructing Mr. Wedderburne; and though it was too late in life for a
Caledonian to acquire the genuine English cadence, yet so successful
were Mr. Wedderburne's instructors, and his own unabating endeavours,
that he got rid of the coarse part of his Scotch accent, retaining only
as much of the 'native wood-note wild[1143],' as to mark his country;
which, if any Scotchman should affect to forget, I should heartily
despise him. Notwithstanding the difficulties which are to be
encountered by those who have not had the advantage of an English
education, he by degrees formed a mode of speaking to which Englishmen
do not deny the praise of elegance. Hence his distinguished oratory,
which he exerted in his own country as an advocate in the Court of
Session, and a ruling elder of the _Kirk_, has had its fame and ample
reward, in much higher spheres. When I look back on this noble person at
Edinburgh, in situations so unworthy of his brilliant powers, and behold
LORD LOUGHBOROUGH at London, the change seems almost like one of the
metamorphoses in _Ovid_; and as his two preceptors, by refining his
utterance, gave currency to his talents, we may say in the words of that
poet, '_Nam vos mutastis_[1144],'

[Page 387: Lord Loughborough. Ætat 54.]

I have dwelt the longer upon this remarkable instance of successful
parts and assiduity; because it affords animating encouragement to other
gentlemen of North-Britain to try their fortunes in the southern part of
the Island, where they may hope to gratify their utmost ambition; and
now that we are one people by the Union, it would surely be illiberal to
maintain, that they have not an equal title with the natives of any
other part of his Majesty's dominions.

[Page 388: Sheridan's attack on Johnson. A.D. 1763.]

[Page 389: Mrs. Sheridan. Ætat 54.]

Johnson complained that a man who disliked him repeated his sarcasm to
Mr. Sheridan, without telling him what followed, which was, that after a
pause he added, 'However, I am glad that Mr. Sheridan has a pension, for
he is a very good man.' Sheridan could never forgive this hasty
contemptuous expression. It rankled in his mind; and though I informed
him of all that Johnson said, and that he would be very glad to meet him
amicably, he positively declined repeated offers which I made, and once
went off abruptly from a house where he and I were engaged to dine,
because he was told that Dr. Johnson was to be there[1145]. I have no
sympathetick feeling with such persevering resentment. It is painful
when there is a breach between those who have lived together socially
and cordially; and I wonder that there is not, in all such cases, a
mutual wish that it should be healed. I could perceive that Mr. Sheridan
was by no means satisfied with Johnson's acknowledging him to be a good
man[1146]. That could not sooth his injured vanity. I could not but smile,
at the same time that I was offended, to observe Sheridan in _The Life
of Swift_[1147], which he afterwards published, attempting, in the
writhings of his resentment, to depreciate Johnson, by characterising
him as 'A writer of gigantick fame in these days of little men;' that
very Johnson whom he once so highly admired and venerated.

[Page 390: Mr. Thomas Davies. A.D. 1763.]

This rupture with Sheridan deprived Johnson of one of his most agreeable
resources for amusement in his lonely evenings; for Sheridan's
well-informed, animated, and bustling mind never, suffered conversation
to stagnate; and Mrs. Sheridan[1148] was a most agreeable companion to an
intellectual man. She was sensible, ingenious, unassuming, yet
communicative. I recollect, with satisfaction, many pleasing hours which
I passed with her under the hospitable roof of her husband, who was to
me a very kind friend. Her novel, entitled _Memoirs of Miss Sydney
Biddulph_, contains an excellent moral while it inculcates a future
state of retribution[1149]; and what it teaches is impressed upon the
mind by a series of as deep distress as can affect humanity, in the
amiable and pious heroine who goes to her grave unrelieved, but resigned,
and full of hope of 'heaven's mercy.' Johnson paid her this high
compliment upon it: 'I know not, Madam, that you have a right, upon
moral principles, to make your readers suffer so much[1150].'

Mr. Thomas Davies the actor, who then kept a bookseller's shop in
Russel-street, Covent-garden[1151], told me that Johnson was very much his
friend, and came frequently to his house, where he more than once
invited me to meet him; but by some unlucky accident or other he was
prevented from coming to us.

[Page 391: Mr. Davies's back-parlour. Ætat 54.]

Mr. Thomas Davies was a man of good understanding and talents, with the
advantage of a liberal education[1152]. Though somewhat pompous, he was an
entertaining companion; and his literary performances[1153] have no
inconsiderable share of merit. He was a friendly and very hospitable
man. Both he and his wife, (who has been celebrated for her beauty[1154],)
though upon the stage for many years, maintained an uniform decency of
character; and Johnson esteemed them, and lived in as easy an intimacy
with them, as with any family which he used to visit[1155]. Mr. Davies
recollected several of Johnson's remarkable sayings, and was one of the
best of the many imitators of his voice and manner, while relating them.
He increased my impatience more and more to see the extraordinary man
whose works I highly valued, and whose conversation was reported to be
so peculiarly excellent.

[Page 392: Boswell's introduction to Johnson. A.D. 1763.]

[Page 393: His first record of Johnson's talk. Ætat 54.]

At last, on Monday the 16th of May, when I was sitting in Mr. Davies's
back-parlour, after having drunk tea with him and Mrs. Davies, Johnson
unexpectedly came into the shop[1156]; and Mr. Davies having perceived him
through the glass-door in the room in which we were sitting, advancing
towards us,--he announced his aweful approach to me, somewhat in the
manner of an actor in the part of Horatio, when he addresses Hamlet on
the appearance of his father's ghost, 'Look, my Lord, it comes.' I found
that I had a very perfect idea of Johnson's figure, from the portrait of
him painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds soon after he had published his
_Dictionary_, in the attitude of sitting in his easy chair in deep
meditation, which was the first picture his friend did for him, which
Sir Joshua very kindly presented to me, and from which an engraving has
been made for this work. Mr. Davies mentioned my name, and respectfully
introduced me to him. I was much agitated; and recollecting his
prejudice against the Scotch, of which I had heard much, I said to
Davies, 'Don't tell where I come from.'--'From Scotland,' cried Davies
roguishly. 'Mr. Johnson, (said I) I do indeed come from Scotland, but I
cannot help it[1157].' I am willing to flatter myself that I meant this as
light pleasantry to sooth and conciliate him, and not as an humiliating
abasement at the expence of my country. But however that might be, this
speech was somewhat unlucky; for with that quickness of wit for which he
was so remarkable, he seized the expression 'come from Scotland,' which
I used in the sense of being of that country; and, as if I had said that
I had come away from it, or left it, retorted, 'That, Sir, I find, is
what a very great many of your countrymen cannot help.' This stroke
stunned me a good deal; and when we had sat down, I felt myself not a
little embarrassed, and apprehensive of what might come next. He then
addressed himself to Davies: 'What do you think of Garrick? He has
refused me an order for the play for Miss Williams, because he knows the
house will be full, and that an order would be worth three shillings.'
Eager to take any opening to get into conversation with him, I ventured
to say, 'O, Sir, I cannot think Mr. Garrick would grudge such a trifle
to you.' 'Sir, (said he, with a stern look,) I have known David Garrick
longer than you have done: and I know no right you have to talk to me on
the subject.' Perhaps I deserved this check; for it was rather
presumptuous in me, an entire stranger, to express any doubt of the
justice of his animadversion upon his old acquaintance and pupil[1158]. I
now felt myself much mortified, and began to think that the hope which I
had long indulged of obtaining his acquaintance was blasted. And, in
truth, had not my ardour been uncommonly strong, and my resolution
uncommonly persevering, so rough a reception might have deterred me for
ever from making any further attempts. Fortunately, however, I remained
upon the field not wholly discomfited; and was soon rewarded by hearing
some of his conversation, of which I preserved the following short
minute, without marking the questions and observations by which it was

'People (he remarked) may be taken in once, who imagine that an authour
is greater in private life than other men. Uncommon parts require
uncommon opportunities for their exertion.

'In barbarous society, superiority of parts is of real consequence.
Great strength or great wisdom is of much value to an individual. But in
more polished times there are people to do every thing for money; and
then there are a number of other superiorities, such as those of birth
and fortune, and rank, that dissipate men's attention, and leave no
extraordinary share of respect for personal and intellectual
superiority. This is wisely ordered by Providence, to preserve some
equality among mankind.'

[Page 394: Sheridan's lectures on Oratory. A.D. 1763.]

'Sir, this book (_The Elements of Criticism_'[1159], which he had taken
up,) is a pretty essay, and deserves to be held in some estimation,
though much of it is chimerical.'

Speaking of one who with more than ordinary boldness attacked publick
measures and the royal family, he said,

'I think he is safe from the law, but he is an abusive scoundrel; and
instead of applying to my Lord Chief Justice to punish him, I would send
half a dozen footmen and have him well ducked[1160].'

'The notion of liberty amuses the people of England, and helps to keep
off the _tædium vitæ_. When a butcher tells you that _his heart bleeds
for his country_, he has, in fact, no uneasy feeling.'

'Sheridan will not succeed at Bath with his oratory. Ridicule has gone
down before him, and, I doubt, Derrick is his enemy[1161].'

'Derrick may do very well, as long as he can outrun his character; but
the moment his character gets up with him, it is all over.'

[Page 395: Boswell's first call on Johnson. Ætat 54.]

It is, however, but just to record, that some years afterwards, when I
reminded him of this sarcasm, he said, 'Well, but Derrick has now got a
character that he need not run away from.'

I was highly pleased with the extraordinary vigour of his conversation,
and regretted that I was drawn away from it by an engagement at another
place. I had, for a part of the evening, been left alone with him, and
had ventured to make an observation now and then, which he received very
civilly; so that I was satisfied that though there was a roughness in
his manner, there was no ill-nature in his disposition. Davies followed
me to the door, and when I complained to him a little of the hard blows
which the great man had given me, he kindly took upon him to console me
by saying, 'Don't be uneasy. I can see he likes you very well.'

[Page 369: The Giant in his den. A.D. 1763.]

A few days afterwards I called on Davies, and asked him if he thought I
might take the liberty of waiting on Mr. Johnson at his Chambers in the
Temple. He said I certainly might, and that Mr. Johnson would take it as
a compliment. So upon Tuesday the 24th of May, after having been
enlivened by the witty sallies of Messieurs Thornton[1162], Wilkes,
Churchill and Lloyd[1163], with whom I had passed the morning, I boldly
repaired to Johnson. His Chambers were on the first floor of No. 1,
Inner-Temple-lane, and I entered them with an impression given me by the
Reverend Dr. Blair[1164], of Edinburgh, who had been introduced to him not
long before, and described his having 'found the Giant in his den;' an
expression, which, when I came to be pretty well acquainted with
Johnson, I repeated to him, and he was diverted at this picturesque
account of himself. Dr. Blair had been presented to him by Dr. James
Fordyce[1165]. At this time the controversy concerning the pieces published
by Mr. James Macpherson, as translations of Ossian[1166], was at its
height. Johnson had all along denied their authenticity; and, what was
still more provoking to their admirers, maintained that they had no
merit. The subject having been introduced by Dr. Fordyce, Dr. Blair,
relying on the internal evidence of their antiquity, asked Dr. Johnson
whether he thought any man of a modern age could have written such
poems? Johnson replied, 'Yes, Sir, many men, many women, and many
children[1167].' Johnson, at this time, did not know that Dr. Blair had
just published a _Dissertation_, not only defending their authenticity,
but seriously ranking them with the poems of _Homer_ and _Virgil_; and
when he was afterwards informed of this circumstance, he expressed some
displeasure at Dr. Fordyce's having suggested the topick, and said, 'I
am not sorry that they got thus much for their pains. Sir, it was like
leading one to talk of a book when the authour is concealed behind the

[Page 397: Christopher Smart's madness. Ætat 54.]

He received me very courteously; but, it must be confessed, that his
apartment, and furniture, and morning dress, were sufficiently uncouth.
His brown suit of cloaths looked very rusty; he had on a little old
shrivelled unpowdered wig, which was too small for his head; his
shirt-neck and knees of his breeches were loose; his black worsted
stockings ill drawn up; and he had a pair of unbuckled shoes by way of
slippers. But all these slovenly particularities were forgotten the
moment that he began to talk. Some gentlemen, whom I do not recollect,
were sitting with him; and when they went away, I also rose; but he said
to me, 'Nay, don't go.' 'Sir, (said I,) I am afraid that I intrude upon
you. It is benevolent to allow me to sit and hear you.' He seemed
pleased with this compliment, which I sincerely paid him, and answered,
'Sir, I am obliged to any man who visits me.' I have preserved the
following short minute of what passed this day:--

'Madness frequently discovers itself merely by unnecessary deviation
from the usual modes of the world. My poor friend Smart shewed the
disturbance of his mind, by falling upon his knees, and saying his
prayers in the street, or in any other unusual place. Now although,
rationally speaking, it is greater madness not to pray at all, than to
pray as Smart did, I am afraid there are so many who do not pray, that
their understanding is not called in question.'

Concerning this unfortunate poet, Christopher Smart, who was confined in
a mad-house, he had, at another time, the following conversation with
Dr. Burney:--BURNEY. 'How does poor Smart do, Sir; is he likely to
recover?' JOHNSON. 'It seems as if his mind had ceased to struggle with
the disease; for he grows fat upon it.' BURNEY. 'Perhaps, Sir, that may
be from want of exercise.' JOHNSON. 'No, Sir; he has partly as much
exercise as he used to have, for he digs in the garden. Indeed, before
his confinement, he used for exercise to walk to the ale-house; but he
was _carried_ back again. I did not think he ought to be shut up. His
infirmities were not noxious to society. He insisted on people praying
with him[1169]; and I'd as lief pray with Kit Smart as any one else.
Another charge was, that he did not love clean linen; and I have no
passion for it.'--Johnson continued. 'Mankind have a great aversion to
intellectual labour[1170]; but even supposing knowledge to be easily
attainable, more people would be content to be ignorant than would take
even a little trouble to acquire it.'

[Page 398: Johnson's mode of life. A.D. 1763.]

'The morality of an action depends on the motive from which we act. If I
fling half a crown to a beggar with intention to break his head, and he
picks it up and buys victuals with it, the physical effect is good; but,
with respect to me, the action is very wrong. So, religious exercises,
if not performed with an intention to please GOD, avail us nothing. As
our Saviour says of those who perform them from other motives, "Verily
they have their reward[1171]."

'The Christian religion has very strong evidences[1172]. It, indeed,
appears in some degree strange to reason; but in History we have
undoubted facts, against which, reasoning _à priori_, we have more
arguments than we have for them; but then, testimony has great weight,
and casts the balance. I would recommend to every man whose faith is yet
unsettled, Grotius,--Dr. Pearson,--and Dr. Clarke[1173].'

Talking of Garrick, he said, 'He is the first man in the world for
sprightly conversation.'

When I rose a second time he again pressed me to stay, which I did.

He told me, that he generally went abroad at four in the afternoon, and
seldom came home till two in the morning[1174]. I took the liberty to ask
if he did not think it wrong to live thus, and not make more use of his
great talents[1175]. He owned it was a bad habit. On reviewing, at the
distance of many years, my journal of this period, I wonder how, at my
first visit, I ventured to talk to him so freely, and that he bore it
with so much indulgence.

[Page 399: Johnson the horse-rider. Ætat 54.]

Before we parted, he was so good as to promise to favour me with his
company one evening at my lodgings; and, as I took my leave, shook me
cordially by the hand. It is almost needless to add, that I felt no
little elation at having now so happily established an acquaintance of
which I had been so long ambitious.

My readers will, I trust, excuse me for being thus minutely
circumstantial, when it is considered that the acquaintance of Dr.
Johnson was to me a most valuable acquisition, and laid the foundation
of whatever instruction and entertainment they may receive from my
collections concerning the great subject of the work which they are now

I did not visit him again till Monday, June 13, at which time I
recollect no part of his conversation, except that when I told him I had
been to see Johnson ride upon three horses[1176], he said, 'Such a man,
Sir, should be encouraged; for his performances shew the extent of the
human powers in one instance, and thus tend to raise our opinion of the
faculties of man. He shews what may be attained by persevering
application; so that every man may hope, that by giving as much
application, although perhaps he may never ride three horses at a time,
or dance upon a wire, yet he may be equally expert in whatever
profession he has chosen to pursue.'

He again shook me by the hand at parting, and asked me why I did not
come oftener to him. Trusting that I was now in his good graces, I
answered, that he had not given me much encouragement, and reminded him
of the check I had received from him at our first interview. 'Poh, poh!
(said he, with a complacent smile,) never mind these things. Come to me
as often as you can. I shall be glad to see you.'

I had learnt that his place of frequent resort was the Mitre tavern in
Fleet-street, where he loved to sit up late, and I begged I might be
allowed to pass an evening with him there soon, which he promised I
should. A few days afterwards I met him near Temple-bar, about one
o'clock in the morning, and asked if he would then go to the Mitre.
'Sir, (said he) it is too late; they won't let us in. But I'll go with
you another night with all my heart.'

[Page 400: A revolution in Boswell's life. A.D. 1763.]

[Page 401: The Mitre. Ætat 54.]

A revolution of some importance in my plan of life had just taken place;
for instead of procuring a commission in the footguards, which was my
own inclination[1177], I had, in compliance with my father's wishes, agreed
to study the law; and was soon to set out for Utrecht, to hear the
lectures of an excellent Civilian in that University, and then to
proceed on my travels. Though very desirous of obtaining Dr. Johnson's
advice and instructions on the mode of pursuing my studies, I was at
this time so occupied, shall I call it? or so dissipated, by the
amusements of London, that our next meeting was not till Saturday, June
25, when happening to dine at Clifton's eating-house, in Butcher-row[1178],
I was surprized to perceive Johnson come in and take his seat at another
table. The mode of dining, or rather being fed, at such houses in
London, is well known to many to be particularly unsocial, as there is
no Ordinary, or united company, but each person has his own mess, and is
under no obligation to hold any intercourse with any one. A liberal and
full-minded man, however, who loves to talk, will break through this
churlish and unsocial restraint. Johnson and an Irish gentleman got into
a dispute concerning the cause of some part of mankind being black.
'Why, Sir, said (Johnson,) it has been accounted for in three ways:
either by supposing that they are the posterity of Ham, who was cursed;
or that GOD at first created two kinds of men, one black and another
white; or that by the heat of the sun the skin is scorched, and so
acquires a sooty hue. This matter has been much canvassed among
naturalists, but has never been brought to any certain issue.' What the
Irishman said is totally obliterated from my mind; but I remember that
he became very warm and intemperate in his expressions; upon which
Johnson rose, and quietly walked away. When he had retired, his
antagonist took his revenge, as he thought, by saying, 'He has a most
ungainly figure, and an affectation of pomposity, unworthy of a man of

Johnson had not observed that I was in the room. I followed him,
however, and he agreed to meet me in the evening at the Mitre. I called
on him, and we went thither at nine. We had a good supper, and port
wine, of which he then sometimes drank a bottle. The orthodox
high-church sound of the MITRE,--the figure and manner of the celebrated
SAMUEL JOHNSON,--the extraordinary power and precision of his
conversation, and the pride arising from finding myself admitted as his
companion, produced a variety of sensations, and a pleasing elevation of
mind beyond what I had ever before experienced. I find in my journal the
following minute of our conversation, which, though it will give but a
very faint notion of what passed, is in some degree a valuable record;
and it will be curious in this view, as shewing how habitual to his mind
were some opinions which appear in his works.

[Page 402: Cibber and Whitehead. A.D. 1763.]

'Colley Cibber[1179], Sir, was by no means a blockhead; but by arrogating
to himself too much, he was in danger of losing that degree of
estimation to which he was entitled. His friends gave out that he
_intended_ his birth-day _Odes_ should be bad: but that was not the
case, Sir; for he kept them many months by him, and a few years before
he died he shewed me one of them, with great solicitude to render it as
perfect as might be, and I made some corrections, to which he was not
very willing to submit. I remember the following couplet in allusion to
the King and himself:

"Perch'd on the eagle's soaring wing,
The lowly linnet loves to sing."

Sir, he had heard something of the fabulous tale of the wren sitting
upon the eagle's wing, and he had applied it to a linnet. Gibber's
familiar style, however, was better than that which Whitehead has
assumed. _Grand_ nonsense is insupportable[1180]. Whitehead is but a
little man to inscribe verses to players.'

I did not presume to controvert this censure, which was tinctured with
his prejudice against players[1181]; but I could not help thinking that a
dramatick poet might with propriety pay a compliment to an eminent
performer, as Whitehead has very happily done in his verses to Mr.

[Page 403: The abruptness of Gray's Ode. Ætat 54.]

'Sir, I do not think Gray a first-rate poet. He has not a bold
imagination, nor much command of words. The obscurity in which he has
involved himself will not persuade us that he is sublime[1183]. His
_Elegy in a Church-yard_ has a happy selection of images, but I don't
like what are called his great things. His _Ode_ which begins

        "Ruin seize thee, ruthless King,
        Confusion on thy banners wait!"

has been celebrated for its abruptness, and plunging into the subject
all at once[1184]. But such arts as these have no merit, unless when they
are original. We admire them only once; and this abruptness has nothing
new in it. We have had it often before. Nay, we have it in the old song
of Johnny Armstrong[1185]:

        "Is there ever a man in all Scotland
        From the highest estate to the lowest degree, &c."

And then, Sir,

        "Yes, there is a man in Westmoreland,
        And Johnny Armstrong they do him call."

There, now, you plunge at once into the subject. You have no previous
narration to lead you to it. The two next lines in that _Ode_ are, I
think, very good:

        "Though fann'd by conquest's crimson wing,
        They mock the air with idle state[1186]."'

[Page 404: Boswell opens his mind. A.D. 1763.]

Here let it be observed, that although his opinion of Gray's poetry was
widely different from mine, and I believe from that of most men of
taste[1187], by whom it is with justice highly admired, there is
certainly much absurdity in the clamour which has been raised, as if he
had been culpably injurious to the merit of that bard, and had been
actuated by envy. Alas! ye little short-sighted criticks, could JOHNSON
be envious of the talents of any of his contemporaries? That his opinion
on this subject was what in private and in publick he uniformly expressed,
regardless of what others might think, we may wonder, and perhaps
regret; but it is shallow and unjust to charge him with expressing what
he did not think.

Finding him in a placid humour, and wishing to avail myself of the
opportunity which I fortunately had of consulting a sage, to hear whose
wisdom, I conceived in the ardour of youthful imagination, that men
filled with a noble enthusiasm for intellectual improvement would gladly
have resorted from distant lands;--I opened my mind to him ingenuously,
and gave him a little sketch of my life, to which he was pleased to
listen with great attention[1188].

[Page 405: The differences of Christians. Ætat 54.]

I acknowledged, that though educated very strictly in the principles of
religion, I had for some time been misled into a certain degree of
infidelity; but that I was come now to a better way of thinking, and was
fully satisfied of the truth of the Christian revelation, though I was
not clear as to every point considered to be orthodox. Being at all
times a curious examiner of the human mind, and pleased with an
undisguised display of what had passed in it, he called to me with
warmth, 'Give me your hand; I have taken a liking to you.' He then began
to descant upon the force of testimony, and the little we could know of
final causes; so that the objections of, why was it so? or why was it
not so? ought not to disturb us: adding, that he himself had at one
period been guilty of a temporary neglect of religion, but that it was
not the result of argument, but mere absence of thought[1189].

After having given credit to reports of his bigotry, I was agreeably
surprized when he expressed the following very liberal sentiment, which
has the additional value of obviating an objection to our holy religion,
founded upon the discordant tenets of Christians themselves: 'For my
part, Sir, I think all Christians, whether Papists or Protestants, agree
in the essential articles, and that their differences are trivial, and
rather political than religious[1190].'

We talked of belief in ghosts. He said, 'Sir, I make a distinction
between what a man may experience by the mere strength of his
imagination, and what imagination cannot possibly produce. Thus, suppose
I should think that I saw a form, and heard a voice cry "Johnson, you
are a very wicked fellow, and unless you repent you will certainly be
punished;" my own unworthiness is so deeply impressed upon my mind, that
I might _imagine_ I thus saw and heard, and therefore I should not
believe that an external communication had been made to me. But if a
form should appear, and a voice should tell me that a particular man had
died at a particular place, and a particular hour, a fact which I had no
apprehension of, nor any means of knowing, and this fact, with all its
circumstances, should afterwards be unquestionably proved, I should, in
that case, be persuaded that I had supernatural intelligence imparted to

[Page 406: The Cock-lane Ghost. A.D. 1763.]

Here it is proper, once for all, to give a true and fair statement of
Johnson's way of thinking upon the question, whether departed spirits
are ever permitted to appear in this world, or in any way to operate
upon human life. He has been ignorantly misrepresented as weakly
credulous upon that subject; and, therefore, though I feel an
inclination to disdain and treat with silent contempt so foolish a
notion concerning my illustrious friend, yet as I find it has gained
ground, it is necessary to refute it. The real fact then is, that
Johnson had a very philosophical mind, and such a rational respect for
testimony, as to make him submit his understanding to what was
authentically proved, though he could not comprehend why it was so.
Being thus disposed, he was willing to inquire into the truth of any
relation of supernatural agency, a general belief of which has prevailed
in all nations and ages[1191]. But so far was he from being the dupe of
implicit faith, that he examined the matter with a jealous attention,
and no man was more ready to refute its falsehood when he had discovered
it. Churchill, in his poem entitled _The Ghost_, availed himself of the
absurd credulity imputed to Johnson, and drew a caricature of him under
the name of 'POMPOSO[1192],' representing him as one of the believers of
the story of a Ghost in Cock-lane, which, in the year 1762, had gained
very general credit in London[1193]. Many of my readers, I am convinced,
are to this hour under an impression that Johnson was thus foolishly
deceived. It will therefore surprise them a good deal when they are
informed upon undoubted authority, that Johnson was one of those by whom
the imposture was detected. The story had become so popular, that he
thought it should be investigated[1194]; and in this research he was
assisted by the Reverend Dr. Douglas[1195], now Bishop of Salisbury, the
great detector of impostures; who informs me, that after the gentlemen
who went and examined into the evidence were satisfied of its falsity,
Johnson wrote in their presence an account of it, which was published in
the newspapers and _Gentleman's Magazine_, and undeceived the world[1196].

[Page 408: Subordination. A.D. 1763.]

Our conversation proceeded. 'Sir, (said he) I am a friend to
subordination, as most conducive to the happiness of society[1197]. There
is a reciprocal pleasure in governing and being governed.'

'Dr. Goldsmith is one of the first men we now have as an authour, and he
is a very worthy man too. He has been loose in his principles, but he is
coming right.'

[Page 409: Scotch Landlords. Ætat 54.]

I mentioned Mallet's tragedy of _Elvira_[1198], which had been acted the
preceding winter at Drury-lane, and that the Honourable Andrew
Erskine[1199], Mr. Dempster[1200], and myself, had joined in writing a
pamphlet, entitled, _Critical Strictures_, against it[1201]. That the
mildness of Dempster's disposition had, however, relented; and he had
candidly said, 'We have hardly a right to abuse this tragedy: for bad as
it is, how vain should either of us be to write one not near so good.'
JOHNSON. 'Why no, Sir; this is not just reasoning. You may abuse a
tragedy, though you cannot write one. You may scold a carpenter who has
made you a bad table, though you cannot make a table. It is not your
trade to make tables.'

When I talked to him of the paternal estate to which I was heir, he
said, 'Sir, let me tell you, that to be a Scotch landlord, where you
have a number of families dependent upon you, and attached to you, is,
perhaps, as high a situation as humanity can arrive at. A merchant upon
the 'Change of London, with a hundred thousand pounds, is nothing; an
English Duke, with an immense fortune, is nothing; he has no tenants who
consider themselves as under his patriarchal care, and who will follow
him to the field upon an emergency.'

His notion of the dignity of a Scotch landlord had been formed upon what
he had heard of the Highland Chiefs; for it is long since a lowland
landlord has been so curtailed in his feudal authority, that he has
little more influence over his tenants than an English landlord; and of
late years most of the Highland Chiefs have destroyed, by means too well
known, the princely power which they once enjoyed[1202].

[Page 410: Johnson's kindness of heart. A.D. 1763.]

He proceeded: 'Your going abroad, Sir, and breaking off idle habits, may
be of great importance to you. I would go where there are courts and
learned men. There is a good deal of Spain that has not been
perambulated. I would have you go thither[1203]. A man of inferiour talents
to yours may furnish us with useful observations upon that country.' His
supposing me, at that period of life, capable of writing an account of
my travels that would deserve to be read, elated me not a little.

I appeal to every impartial reader whether this faithful detail of his
frankness, complacency, and kindness to a young man, a stranger and a
Scotchman, does not refute the unjust opinion of the harshness of his
general demeanour. His occasional reproofs of folly, impudence, or
impiety, and even the sudden sallies of his constitutional irritability
of temper, which have been preserved for the poignancy of their wit,
have produced that opinion among those who have not considered that such
instances, though collected by Mrs. Piozzi into a small volume, and read
over in a few hours, were, in fact, scattered through a long series of
years; years, in which his time was chiefly spent in instructing and
delighting mankind by his writings and conversation, in acts of piety to
GOD, and good-will to men[1204].

I complained to him that I had not yet acquired much knowledge, and
asked his advice as to my studies[1205]. He said, 'Don't talk of study now.
I will give you a plan; but it will require some time to consider of
it.' 'It is very good in you (I replied,) to allow me to be with you
thus. Had it been foretold to me some years ago that I should pass an
evening with the authour of _The Rambler_, how should I have exulted!'
What I then expressed, was sincerely from the heart. He was satisfied
that it was, and cordially answered, 'Sir, I am glad we have met. I hope
we shall pass many evenings and mornings too, together.' We finished a
couple of bottles of port, and sat till between one and two in the

[Page 411: Oliver Goldsmith. Ætat 54.]

He wrote this year in the _Critical Review_ the account of 'Telemachus,
a Mask,' by the Reverend George Graham, of Eton College[1206]. The subject
of this beautiful poem was particularly interesting to Johnson, who had
much experience of 'the conflict of opposite principles,' which he
describes as 'The contention between pleasure and virtue, a struggle
which will always be continued while the present system of nature shall
subsist: nor can history or poetry exhibit more than pleasure triumphing
over virtue, and virtue subjugating pleasure.'

[Page 412: Oliver Goldsmith. A.D. 1763.]

As Dr. Oliver Goldsmith will frequently appear in this narrative, I
shall endeavour to make my readers in some degree acquainted with his
singular character. He was a native of Ireland, and a contemporary with
Mr. Burke at Trinity College, Dublin, but did not then give much promise
of future celebrity[1207]. He, however, observed to Mr. Malone, that
'though he made no great figure in mathematicks[1208], which was a study in
much repute there, he could turn an Ode of Horace into English better
than any of them.' He afterwards studied physick at Edinburgh, and upon
the Continent; and I have been informed, was enabled to pursue his
travels on foot[1209], partly by demanding at Universities to enter the
lists as a disputant, by which, according to the custom of many of them,
he was entitled to the premium of a crown, when luckily for him his
challenge was not accepted; so that, as I once observed to Dr. Johnson,
he _disputed_ his passage through Europe[1210]. He then came to England,
and was employed successively in the capacities of an usher to an
academy, a corrector of the press, a reviewer, and a writer for a
news-paper. He had sagacity enough to cultivate assiduously the
acquaintance of Johnson, and his faculties were gradually enlarged by
the contemplation of such a model. To me and many others it appeared
that he studiously copied the manner of Johnson[1211], though, indeed, upon
a smaller scale.

At this time I think he had published nothing with his name[1212], though
it was pretty generally known that _one Dr. Goldsmith_ was the authour
of _An Enquiry into the present State of polite Learning in Europe_[1213],
and of _The Citizen of the World_[1214], a series of letters supposed to be
written from London by a Chinese. No man had the art of displaying with
more advantage as a writer, whatever literary acquisitions he made.
'_Nihil quod tetigit non ornavit_'[1215]. His mind resembled a fertile, but
thin soil. There was a quick, but not a strong vegetation, of whatever
chanced to be thrown upon it. No deep root could be struck. The oak of
the forest did not grow there; but the elegant shrubbery and the
fragrant parterre appeared in gay succession. It has been generally
circulated and believed that he was a mere fool in conversation[1216]; but,
in truth, this has been greatly exaggerated.

He had, no doubt, a more than common share of that hurry of ideas which
we often find in his countrymen, and which sometimes produces a
laughable confusion in expressing them. He was very much what the French
call _un etourdi_[1217], and from vanity and an eager desire of being
conspicuous wherever he was, he frequently talked carelessly without
knowledge of the subject, or even without thought. His person was short,
his countenance coarse and vulgar, his deportment that of a scholar
awkwardly affecting the easy gentleman[1218]. Those who were in any way
distinguished, excited envy in him to so ridiculous an excess, that the
instances of it are hardly credible[1219]. When accompanying two beautiful
young ladies[1220] with their mother on a tour in France, he was seriously
angry that more attention was paid to them than to him[1221]; and once at
the exhibition of the _Fantoccini_[1222] in London, when those who sat next
him observed with what dexterity a puppet was made to toss a pike, he
could not bear that it should have such praise, and exclaimed with some
warmth, 'Pshaw! I can do it better myself[1223].'

[Page 415: The Vicar of Wakefield. Ætat 54.]

He, I am afraid, had no settled system of any sort[1224], so that his
conduct must not be strictly scrutinised; but his affections were social
and generous, and when he had money he gave it away very liberally. His
desire of imaginary consequence predominated over his attention to
truth. When he began to rise into notice, he said he had a brother who
was Dean of Durham[1225], a fiction so easily detected, that it is
wonderful how he should have been so inconsiderate as to hazard it. He
boasted to me at this time of the power of his pen in commanding money,
which I believe was true in a certain degree, though in the instance he
gave he was by no means correct. He told me that he had sold a novel for
four hundred pounds. This was his _Vicar of Wakefield_. But Johnson
informed me, that he had made the bargain for Goldsmith, and the price
was sixty pounds[1226]. 'And, Sir, (said he,) a sufficient price too, when
it was sold; for then the fame of Goldsmith had not been elevated, as it
afterwards was, by his _Traveller_; and the bookseller had such faint
hopes of profit by his bargain, that he kept the manuscript by him a
long time, and did not publish it till after _The Traveller_ had
appeared[1227]. Then, to be sure, it was accidentally worth more

Mrs. Piozzi[1229] and Sir John Hawkins[1230] have strangely mis-stated the
history of Goldsmith's situation and Johnson's friendly interference,
when this novel was sold. I shall give it authentically from Johnson's
own exact narration:--'I received one morning a message from poor
Goldsmith that he was in great distress, and as it was not in his power
to come to me, begging that I would come to him as soon as possible. I
sent him a guinea, and promised to come to him directly. I accordingly
went as soon as I was drest, and found that his landlady had arrested
him for his rent, at which he was in a violent passion. I perceived that
he had already changed my guinea, and had got a bottle of Madeira and a
glass before him[1231]. I put the cork into the bottle, desired he would be
calm, and began to talk to him of the means by which he might be
extricated. He then told me that he had a novel ready for the press,
which he produced to me. I looked into it, and saw its merit; told the
landlady I should soon return, and having gone to a bookseller, sold it
for sixty pounds. I brought Goldsmith the money, and he discharged his
rent, not without rating his landlady in a high tone for having used him
so ill[1232].'

[Page 417: Dr. John Campbell. Ætat 54.]

My next meeting with Johnson was on Friday the 1st of July, when he and
I and Dr. Goldsmith supped together at the Mitre. I was before this time
pretty well acquainted with Goldsmith, who was one of the brightest
ornaments of the Johnsonian school[1233]. Goldsmith's respectful attachment
to Johnson was then at its height; for his own literary reputation had
not yet distinguished him so much as to excite a vain desire of
competition with his great Master. He had increased my admiration of the
goodness of Johnson's heart, by incidental remarks in the course of
conversation, such as, when I mentioned Mr. Levet, whom he entertained
under his roof, 'He is poor and honest, which is recommendation enough
to Johnson;' and when I wondered that he was very kind to a man of whom
I had heard a very bad character, 'He is now become miserable, and that
insures the protection of Johnson.'

Goldsmith attempted this evening to maintain, I suppose from an
affectation of paradox, 'that knowledge was not desirable on its own
account, for it often was a source of unhappiness.' JOHNSON. 'Why, Sir,
that knowledge may in some cases produce unhappiness, I allow. But, upon
the whole, knowledge, _per se_, is certainly an object which every man
would wish to attain, although, perhaps, he may not take the trouble
necessary for attaining it[1234].'

[Page 418: Churchill's attack on Johnson. A.D. 1763.]

Dr. John Campbell[1235], the celebrated political and biographical writer,
being mentioned, Johnson said, 'Campbell is a man of much knowledge, and
has a good share of imagination. His _Herinipptis Redivivus_[1236] is very
entertaining, as an account of the Hermetick philosophy, and as
furnishing a curious history of the extravagancies of the human mind. If
it were merely imaginary it would be nothing at all. Campbell is not
always rigidly careful of truth in his conversation; but I do not
believe there is any thing of this carelessness in his books[1237].
Campbell is a good man, a pious man. I am afraid he has not been in the
inside of a church for many years[1238]; but he never passes a church
without pulling off his hat[1239]. This shews that he has good
principles[1240]. I used to go pretty often to Campbell's on a Sunday
evening[1241] till I began to consider that the shoals of Scotchmen who
flocked about him might probably say, when any thing of mine was well
done, 'Ay, ay, he has learnt this of CAWMELL!'

[Page 419: Churchill's poetry. Ætat 54.]

He talked very contemptuously of Churchill's poetry, observing that 'it
had a temporary currency, only from its audacity of abuse, and being
filled with living names, and that it would sink into oblivion.' I
ventured to hint that he was not quite a fair judge, as Churchill had
attacked him violently. JOHNSON. 'Nay, Sir, I am a very fair judge. He
did not attack me violently till he found I did not like his poetry[1242];
and his attack on me shall not prevent me from continuing to say what I
think of him, from an apprehension that it may be ascribed to
resentment. No, Sir, I called the fellow a blockhead[1243] at first, and I
will call him a blockhead still. However, I will acknowledge that I have
a better opinion of him now, than I once had; for he has shewn more
fertility than I expected[1244]. To be sure, he is a tree that cannot
produce good fruit: he only bears crabs. But, Sir, a tree that produces
a great many crabs is better than a tree which produces only a few.'

[Page 420: Bonnell Thornton's ODE. A.D. 1763.]

In this depreciation of Churchill's poetry I could not agree with
him[1245]. It is very true that the greatest part of it is upon the topicks
of the day, on which account, as it brought him great fame and profit at
the time[1246], it must proportionally slide out of the publick attention
as other occasional objects succeed. But Churchill had extraordinary
vigour both of thought and expression. His portraits of the players will
ever be valuable to the true lovers of the drama; and his strong
caricatures of several eminent men of his age, will not be forgotten by
the curious. Let me add, that there are in his works many passages which
are of a general nature[1247]; and his _Prophecy of Famine_ is a poem of no
ordinary merit. It is, indeed, falsely injurious to Scotland, but
therefore may be allowed a greater share of invention.

Bonnell Thornton had just published a burlesque _Ode on St. Cecilia's
day, adapted to the ancient British musick, viz. the salt-box, the
Jew's-harp, the marrow-bones and cleaver, the humstrum or hurdy-gurdy,
&c_. Johnson praised its humour, and seemed much diverted with it. He
repeated the following passage:--

'In strains more exalted the salt-box shall join,
And clattering and battering and clapping combine;
With a rap and a tap while the hollow side sounds,
Up and down leaps the flap, and with rattling rebounds[1248].

I mentioned the periodical paper called _The Connoisseur[1249]_. He said it
wanted matter.--No doubt it has not the deep thinking of Johnson's
writings. But surely it has just views of the surface of life, and a
very sprightly manner. His opinion of _The World_ was not much higher
than of the _Connoisseur_.

[Page 421: Tea with Miss Williams. Ætat 54.]

Let me here apologize for the imperfect manner in which I am obliged to
exhibit Johnson's conversation at this period. In the early part of my
acquaintance with him, I was so wrapt in admiration of his extraordinary
colloquial talents, and so little accustomed to his peculiar mode of
expression, that I found it extremely difficult to recollect and record
his conversation with its genuine vigour and vivacity. In progress of
time, when my mind was, as it were, _strongly impregnated--with the
Johnsonian æther_, I could, with much more facility and exactness, carry
in my memory and commit to paper the exuberant variety of his wisdom and

At this time _Miss_ Williams, as she was then called, though she did not
reside with him in the Temple under his roof, but had lodgings in
Bolt-court, Fleet-street[1250], had so much of his attention, that he every
night drank tea with her before he went home, however late it might be,
and she always sat up for him. This, it may be fairly conjectured, was
not alone a proof of his regard for _her_, but of his own unwillingness
to go into solitude, before that unseasonable hour at which he had
habituated himself to expect the oblivion of repose. Dr. Goldsmith,
being a privileged man, went with him this night, strutting away, and
calling to me with an air of superiority, like that of an esoterick over
an exoterick disciple of a sage of antiquity, 'I go to Miss Williams.' I
confess, I then envied him this mighty privilege, of which he seemed so
proud; but it was not long before I obtained the same mark of

On Tuesday the 5th of July, I again visited Johnson. He told me he had
looked into the poems of a pretty voluminous writer, Mr. (now Dr.) John
Ogilvie, one of the Presbyterian ministers of Scotland, which had lately
come out, but could find no thinking in them. BOSWELL. 'Is there not
imagination in them, Sir?' JOHNSON. 'Why, Sir, there is in them what
_was_ imagination, but it is no more imagination in _him_, than sound is
sound in the echo. And his diction too is not his own. We have long ago
seen _white-robed innocence_, and _flower-bespangled meads_.'

[Page 422: The immensity of London. A.D. 1763.]

Talking of London, he observed, 'Sir, if you wish to have a just notion
of the magnitude of this city, you must not be satisfied with seeing its
great streets and squares, but must survey the innumerable little lanes
and courts. It is not in the showy evolutions of buildings, but in the
multiplicity of human habitations which are crouded together, that the
wonderful immensity of London consists.'--I have often amused myself
with thinking how different a place London is to different people. They,
whose narrow minds are contracted to the consideration of some one
particular pursuit, view it only through that medium. A politician
thinks of it merely as the seat of government in its different
departments; a grazier, as a vast market for cattle; a mercantile man,
as a place where a prodigious deal of business is done upon 'Change; a
dramatick enthusiast, as the grand scene of theatrical entertainments; a
man of pleasure, as an assemblage of taverns, and the great emporium for
ladies of easy virtue. But the intellectual man is struck with it, as
comprehending the whole of human life in all its variety, the
contemplation of which is inexhaustible[1252].

[Page 423: Goldsmith's eagerness to shine. Ætat 54.]

On Wednesday, July 6, he was engaged to sup with me at my lodgings in
Downing-street, Westminster. But on the preceding night my landlord
having behaved very rudely to me and some company who were with me, I
had resolved not to remain another night in his house. I was exceedingly
uneasy at the aukward appearance I supposed I should make to Johnson and
the other gentlemen whom I had invited, not being able to receive them
at home, and being obliged to order supper at the Mitre. I went to
Johnson in the morning, and talked of it as a serious distress. He
laughed, and said, 'Consider, Sir, how insignificant this will appear a
twelvemonth hence.'--Were this consideration to be applied to most of
the little vexatious incidents of life, by which our quiet is too often
disturbed, it would prevent many painful sensations. I have tried it
frequently, with good effect. 'There is nothing (continued he) in this
mighty misfortune; nay, we shall be better at the Mitre.' I told him
that I had been at Sir John Fielding's office, complaining of my
landlord, and had been informed, that though I had taken my lodgings for
a year, I might, upon proof of his bad behaviour, quit them when I
pleased, without being under an obligation to pay rent for any longer
time than while I possessed them. The fertility of Johnson's mind could
shew itself even upon so small a matter as this. 'Why, Sir, (said he,) I
suppose this must be the law, since you have been told so in Bow-street.
But, if your landlord could hold you to your bargain, and the lodgings
should be yours for a year, you may certainly use them as you think fit.
So, Sir, you may quarter two life-guardsmen upon him; or you may send
the greatest scoundrel you can find into your apartments; or you may say
that you want to make some experiments in natural philosophy, and may
burn a large quantity of assafoetida in his house.'

I had as my guests this evening at the Mitre tavern, Dr. Johnson, Dr.
Goldsmith, Mr. Thomas Davies, Mr. Eccles, an Irish gentleman, for whose
agreeable company I was obliged to Mr. Davies, and the Reverend Mr. John
Ogilvie[1253], who was desirous of being in company with my illustrious
friend, while I, in my turn, was proud to have the honour of shewing one
of my countrymen upon what easy terms Johnson permitted me to live with

[Page 424: The lawfulness of rebellion. A.D. 1763.]

Goldsmith, as usual, endeavoured, with too much eagerness, to
_shine_[1254], and disputed very warmly with Johnson against the well-known
maxim of the British constitution, 'the King can do no wrong;'
affirming, that 'what was morally false could not be politically true;
and as the King might, in the exercise of his regal power, command and
cause the doing of what was wrong, it certainly might be said, in sense
and in reason, that he could do wrong.' JOHNSON. 'Sir, you are to
consider, that in our constitution, according to its true principles,
the King is the head; he is supreme; he is above every thing, and there
is no power by which he can be tried. Therefore, it is, Sir, that we
hold the King can do no wrong; that whatever may happen to be wrong in
government may not be above our reach, by being ascribed to Majesty[1255].
Redress is always to be had against oppression, by punishing the
immediate agents. The King, though he should command, cannot force a
Judge to condemn a man unjustly; therefore it is the Judge whom we
prosecute and punish. Political institutions are formed upon the
consideration of what will most frequently tend to the good of the
whole, although now and then exceptions may occur. Thus it is better in
general that a nation should have a supreme legislative power, although
it may at times be abused. And then, Sir, there is this consideration,
that _if the abuse be enormous, Nature will rise up, and claiming her
original rights, overturn a corrupt political system_.' I mark this
animated sentence with peculiar pleasure, as a noble instance of that
truly dignified spirit of freedom which ever glowed in his heart, though
he was charged with slavish tenets by superficial observers; because he
was at all times indignant against that false patriotism, that pretended
love of freedom, that unruly restlessness, which is inconsistent with
the stable authority of any good government[1256].

This generous sentiment, which he uttered with great fervour, struck me
exceedingly, and stirred my blood to that pitch of fancied resistance,
the possibility of which I am glad to keep in mind, but to which I trust
I never shall be forced.

[Page 425: A Scotchman's noblest prospect. Ætat 54.]

'Great abilities (said he) are not requisite for an Historian; for in
historical composition, all the greatest powers of the human mind are
quiescent. He has facts ready to his hand; so there is no exercise of
invention. Imagination is not required in any high degree; only about as
much as is used in the lower kinds of poetry. Some penetration,
accuracy, and colouring will fit a man for the task, if he can give the
application which is necessary[1257].'

'Bayle's _Dictionary_ is a very useful work for those to consult who
love the biographical part of literature, which is what I love most.'

Talking of the eminent writers in Queen Anne's reign, he observed, 'I
think Dr. Arbuthnot the first man among them[1259]. He was the most
universal genius, being an excellent physician, a man of deep learning,
and a man of much humour. Mr. Addison was, to be sure, a great man; his
learning was not profound; but his morality, his humour, and his
elegance of writing, set him very high.'

Mr. Ogilvie was unlucky enough to choose for the topick of his
conversation the praises of his native country. He began with saying,
that there was very rich land round Edinburgh. Goldsmith, who had
studied physick there, contradicted this, very untruly, with a sneering
laugh[1260]. Disconcerted a little by this, Mr. Ogilvie then took new
ground, where, I suppose, he thought himself perfectly safe; for he
observed, that Scotland had a great many noble wild prospects. JOHNSON.
'I believe, Sir, you have a great many. Norway, too, has noble wild
prospects; and Lapland is remarkable for prodigious noble wild
prospects. But, Sir, let me tell you, the noblest prospect which a
Scotchman ever sees, is the high road that leads him to England[1261]!'

[Page 426: The influence of weather. A.D. 1763.]

This unexpected and pointed sally produced a roar of applause. After
all, however, those, who admire the rude grandeur of Nature, cannot deny
it to Caledonia.

On Saturday, July 9, I found Johnson surrounded with a numerous levee,
but have not preserved any part of his conversation. On the 14th we had
another evening by ourselves at the Mitre. It happening to be a very
rainy night, I made some common-place observations on the relaxation of
nerves and depression of spirits which such weather occasioned[1262];
adding, however, that it was good for the vegetable creation. Johnson,
who, as we have already seen[1263], denied that the temperature of the air
had any influence on the human frame, answered, with a smile of
ridicule, 'Why yes, Sir, it is good for vegetables, and for the animals
who eat those vegetables, and for the animals who eat those animals.'
This observation of his aptly enough introduced a good supper; and I
soon forgot, in Johnson's company, the influence of a moist atmosphere.

[Page 427: Boswell's father. Ætat 54.]

Feeling myself now quite at ease as his companion, though I had all
possible reverence for him, I expressed a regret that I could not be so
easy with my father[1264], though he was not much older than Johnson, and
certainly however respectable had not more learning and greater
abilities to depress me. I asked him the reason of this. JOHNSON. 'Why,
Sir, I am a man of the world. I live in the world, and I take, in some
degree, the colour of the world as it moves along. Your father is a
Judge in a remote part of the island, and all his notions are taken from
the old world. Besides, Sir, there must always be a struggle between a
father and son, while one aims at power and the other at
independence[1265].' I said, I was afraid my father would force me to be a
lawyer. JOHNSON. 'Sir, you need not be afraid of his forcing you to be a
laborious practising lawyer; that is not in his power. For as the
proverb says, "One man may lead a horse to the water, but twenty cannot
make him drink." He may be displeased that you are not what he wishes
you to be; but that displeasure will not go far. If he insists only on
your having as much law as is necessary for a man of property, and then
endeavours to get you into Parliament, he is quite in the right.'

He enlarged very convincingly upon the excellence of rhyme over blank
verse in English poetry[1266]. I mentioned to him that Dr. Adam Smith, in
his lectures upon composition, when I studied under him in the College
of Glasgow, had maintained the same opinion strenuously, and I repeated
some of his arguments. JOHNSON. 'Sir, I was once in company with Smith,
and we did not take to each other[1267]; but had I known that he loved
rhyme as much as you tell me he does, I should have HUGGED him.'

[Page 428: The evidences of Christianity. A.D. 1763.]

Talking of those who denied the truth of Christianity, he said, 'It is
always easy to be on the negative side. If a man were now to deny that
there is salt upon the table, you could not reduce him to an absurdity.
Come, let us try this a little further. I deny that Canada is taken, and
I can support my denial by pretty good arguments. The French are a much
more numerous people than we; and it is not likely that they would allow
us to take it. "But the ministry have assured us, in all the formality
of _The Gazette_, that it is taken."--Very true. But the ministry have
put us to an enormous expence by the war in America, and it is their
interest to persuade us that we have got something for our money.--"But
the fact is confirmed by thousands of men who were at the taking of
it."--Ay, but these men have still more interest in deceiving us. They
don't want that you should think the French have beat them, but that
they have beat the French. Now suppose you should go over and find that
it is really taken, that would only satisfy yourself; for when you come
home we will not believe you. We will say, you have been bribed.--Yet,
Sir, notwithstanding all these plausible objections, we have no doubt
that Canada is really ours. Such is the weight of common testimony. How
much stronger are the evidences of the Christian religion!'

'Idleness is a disease which must be combated; but I would not advise a
rigid adherence to a particular plan of study. I myself have never
persisted in any plan for two days together. A man ought to read just as
inclination leads him; for what he reads as a task will do him little
good. A young man should read five hours in a day, and so may acquire a
great deal of knowledge[1268].'

[Page 429: Johnson's pension. Ætat 54.]

To a man of vigorous intellect and arduous curiosity like his own,
reading without a regular plan may be beneficial; though even such a man
must submit to it, if he would attain a full understanding of any of the

To such a degree of unrestrained frankness had he now accustomed me,
that in the course of this evening I talked of the numerous reflections
which had been thrown out against him[1269] on account of his having
accepted a pension from his present Majesty. 'Why, Sir, (said he, with a
hearty laugh,) it is a mighty foolish noise that they make[1270]. I have
accepted of a pension as a reward which has been thought due to my
literary merit; and now that I have this pension, I am the same man in
every respect that I have ever been[1271]; I retain the same principles.
It is true, that I cannot now curse (smiling) the House of Hanover; nor
would it be decent for me to drink King James's health in the wine that
King George gives me money to pay for. But, Sir, I think that the
pleasure of cursing the House of Hanover, and drinking King James's
health, are amply overbalanced by three hundred pounds a year.'

[Page 430: Johnson's Jacobitism. A.D. 1763.]

There was here, most certainly, an affectation of more Jacobitism than
he really had; and indeed an intention of admitting, for the moment, in
a much greater extent than it really existed, the charge of disaffection
imputed to him by the world[1272], merely for the purpose of shewing how
dexterously he could repel an attack, even though he were placed in the
most disadvantageous position; for I have heard him declare, that if
holding up his right hand would have secured victory at Culloden to
Prince Charles's army, he was not sure he would have held it up; so
little confidence had he in the right claimed by the house of Stuart,
and so fearful was he of the consequences of another revolution on the
throne of Great-Britain; and Mr. Topham Beauclerk assured me, he had
heard him say this before he had his pension. At another time he said to
Mr. Langton, 'Nothing has ever offered, that has made it worth my while
to consider the question fully.' He, however, also said to the same
gentleman, talking of King James the Second, 'It was become impossible
for him to reign any longer in this country.'[1273] He no doubt had an
early attachment to the House of Stuart; but his zeal had cooled as his
reason strengthened. Indeed I heard him once say, that 'after the death
of a violent Whig, with whom he used to contend with great eagerness, he
felt his Toryism much abated.'[1274] I suppose he meant Mr. Walmsley.

[Page 431: Whiggism. Ætat 54.]

Yet there is no doubt that at earlier periods he was wont often to
exercise both his pleasantry and ingenuity in talking Jacobitism. My
much respected friend, Dr. Douglas, now Bishop of Salisbury, has
favoured me with the following admirable instance from his Lordship's
own recollection. One day when dining at old Mr. Langton's where Miss
Roberts,[1276] his niece, was one of the company, Johnson, with his usual
complacent attention to the fair sex, took her by the hand and said, 'My
dear, I hope you are a Jacobite.' Old Mr. Langton, who, though a high
and steady Tory, was attached to the present Royal Family, seemed
offended, and asked Johnson, with great warmth, what he could mean by
putting such a question to his niece? 'Why, Sir, (said Johnson) I meant
no offence to your niece, I meant her a great compliment. A Jacobite,
Sir, believes in the divine right of Kings. He that believes in the
divine right of Kings believes in a Divinity. A Jacobite believes in the
divine right of Bishops. He that believes in the divine right of Bishops
believes in the divine authority of the Christian religion. Therefore,
Sir, a Jacobite is neither an Atheist nor a Deist. That cannot be said
of a Whig; for _Whiggism is a negation of all principle_[1277].'

He advised me, when abroad, to be as much as I could with the Professors
in the Universities, and with the Clergy; for from their conversation I
might expect the best accounts of every thing in whatever country I
should be, with the additional advantage of keeping my learning alive.

It will be observed, that when giving me advice as to my travels, Dr.
Johnson did not dwell upon cities, and palaces, and pictures, and shows,
and Arcadian scenes. He was of Lord Essex's opinion, who advises his
kinsman Roger Earl of Rutland, 'rather to go an hundred miles to speak
with one wise man, than five miles to see a fair town[1278].'

[Page 432: Lord Hailes. A.D. 1763.]

I described to him an impudent fellow[1279] from Scotland, who affected to
be a savage, and railed at all established systems. JOHNSON. 'There is
nothing surprizing in this, Sir. He wants to make himself conspicuous.
He would tumble in a hogstye, as long as you looked at him and called to
him to come out. But let him alone, never mind him, and he'll soon give
it over.'

I added, that the same person maintained that there was no distinction
between virtue and vice. JOHNSON. 'Why, Sir, if the fellow does not
think as he speaks, he is lying; and I see not what honour he can
propose to himself from having the character of a lyar. But if he does
really think that there is no distinction between virtue and vice, why,
Sir, when he leaves our houses let us count our spoons[1280].'

Sir David Dalrymple, now one of the Judges of Scotland by the title of
Lord Hailes, had contributed much to increase my high opinion of
Johnson, on account of his writings, long before I attained to a
personal acquaintance with him; I, in return, had informed Johnson of
Sir David's eminent character for learning and religion[1281]; and Johnson
was so much pleased, that at one of our evening meetings he gave him for
his toast. I at this time kept up a very frequent correspondence with
Sir David; and I read to Dr. Johnson to-night the following passage from
the letter which I had last received from him:--

'It gives me pleasure to think that you have obtained the friendship of
Mr. Samuel Johnson. He is one of the best moral writers which England
has produced. At the same time, I envy you the free and undisguised
converse with such a man. May I beg you to present my best respects to
him, and to assure him of the veneration which I entertain for the
authour of the _Rambler_ and of _Rasselas_? Let me recommend this last
work to you; with the _Rambler_ you certainly are acquainted. In
_Rasselas_ you will see a tender-hearted operator, who probes the wound
only to heal it. Swift, on the contrary, mangles human nature. He cuts
and slashes, as if he took pleasure in the operation, like the tyrant
who said, _Ita feri ut se sentiat emori_[1282].'

[Page 433: Journal-keeping. Ætat 54.]

Johnson seemed to be much gratified by this just and well-turned

He recommended to me to keep a journal of my life, full and
unreserved[1283]. He said it would be a very good exercise, and would yield
me great satisfaction when the particulars were faded from my
remembrance. I was uncommonly fortunate in having had a previous
coincidence of opinion with him upon this subject, for I had kept such a
journal for some time[1284]; and it was no small pleasure to me to have
this to tell him, and to receive his approbation. He counselled me to
keep it private, and said I might surely have a friend who would burn it
in case of my death. From this habit I have been enabled to give the
world so many anecdotes, which would otherwise have been lost to
posterity. I mentioned that I was afraid I put into my journal too many
little incidents. JOHNSON. 'There is nothing, Sir, too little for so
little a creature as man. It is by studying little things that we attain
the great art of having as little misery and as much happiness as

[Page 434: Sir Thomas Robinson. A.D. 1763.]

Next morning Mr. Dempster happened to call on me, and was so much struck
even with the imperfect account which I gave him of Dr. Johnson's
conversation, that to his honour be it recorded, when I complained that
drinking port and sitting up late with him affected my nerves for some
time after, he said, 'One had better be palsied at eighteen than not
keep company with such a man[1286].'

[Page 435: The King of Prussia. Ætat 54.]

On Tuesday, July 18[1287], I found tall Sir Thomas Robinson[1288]
sitting with Johnson. Sir Thomas said, that the king of Prussia valued
himself upon three things;--upon being a hero, a musician, and an
authour. JOHNSON. 'Pretty well, Sir, for one man. As to his being an
authour, I have not looked at his poetry; but his prose is poor stuff.
He writes just as you might suppose Voltaire's footboy to do, who has
been his amanuensis. He has such parts as the valet might have, and about
as much of the colouring of the style as might be got by transcribing his
works.' When I was at Ferney, I repeated this to Voltaire, in order to
reconcile him somewhat to Johnson, whom he, in affecting the English mode
of expression, had previously characterised as 'a superstitious dog;' but
after hearing such a criticism on Frederick the Great, with whom he was
then on bad terms, he exclaimed, 'An honest fellow[1289]!'

But I think the criticism much too severe; for the _Memoirs of the House
of Brandenburgh_ are written as well as many works of that kind. His
poetry, for the style of which he himself makes a frank apology,
'_Jargonnant un François barbare_,' though fraught with pernicious
ravings of infidelity, has, in many places, great animation, and in some
a pathetick tenderness[1290].

Upon this contemptuous animadversion on the King of Prussia, I observed
to Johnson, 'It would seem then, Sir, that much less parts are necessary
to make a King, than to make an Authour; for the King of Prussia is
confessedly the greatest King now in Europe, yet you think he makes a
very poor figure as an Authour.'

[Page 436: Johnson's library. A.D. 1763.]

Mr. Levet this day shewed me Dr. Johnson's library, which was contained
in two garrets over his Chambers, where Lintot, son of the celebrated
bookseller of that name, had formerly his warehouse[1291]. I found a
number of good books, but very dusty and in great confusion[1292]. The
floor was strewed with manuscript leaves, in Johnson's own hand-writing,
which I beheld with a degree of veneration, supposing they perhaps might
contain portions of _The Rambler_ or of _Rasselas_. I observed an
apparatus for chymical experiments, of which Johnson was all his life
very fond[1293]. The place seemed to be very favourable for retirement
and meditation. Johnson told me, that he went up thither without
mentioning it to his servant, when he wanted to study, secure from
interruption; for he would not allow his servant to say he was not at
home when he really was. 'A servant's strict regard for truth, (said he)
must be weakened by such a practice. A philosopher may know that it is
merely a form of denial; but few servants are such nice distinguishers.
If I accustom a servant to tell a lie for _me_, have I not reason to
apprehend that he will tell many lies for _himself_.' I am, however,
satisfied that every servant, of any degree of intelligence, understands
saying his master is not at home, not at all as the affirmation of a
fact, but as customary words, intimating that his master wishes not to be
seen; so that there can be no bad effect from it.

[Page 437: Copyright in books. Ætat 54.]

Mr. Temple, now vicar of St. Gluvias, Cornwall[1294], who had been my
intimate friend for many years, had at this time chambers in
Farrar's-buildings, at the bottom of Inner Temple-lane, which he kindly
lent me upon my quitting my lodgings, he being to return to Trinity
Hall, Cambridge. I found them particularly convenient for me, as they
were so near Dr. Johnson's.

On Wednesday, July 20, Dr. Johnson, Mr. Dempster, and my uncle Dr.
Boswell, who happened to be now in London, supped with me at these
Chambers. JOHNSON. 'Pity is not natural to man. Children are always
cruel. Savages are always cruel. Pity is acquired and improved by the
cultivation of reason. We may have uneasy sensations from seeing a
creature in distress, without pity; for we have not pity unless we wish
to relieve them. When I am on my way to dine with a friend, and finding
it late, have bid the coachman make haste, if I happen to attend when he
whips his horses, I may feel unpleasantly that the animals are put to
pain, but I do not wish him to desist. No, Sir, I wish him to drive on.'

Mr. Alexander Donaldson, bookseller of Edinburgh, had for some time
opened a shop in London, and sold his cheap editions of the most popular
English books, in defiance of the supposed common-law right of _Literary
Property_[1295]. Johnson, though he concurred in the opinion which was
afterwards sanctioned by a judgement of the House of Lords[1296], that
there was no such right, was at this time very angry that the
Booksellers of London, for whom he uniformly professed much regard,
should suffer from an invasion of what they had ever considered to be
secure: and he was loud and violent against Mr. Donaldson. 'He is a
fellow who takes advantage of the law to injure his brethren; for,
notwithstanding that the statute secures only fourteen years of
exclusive right, it has always been understood by _the trade_[1297], that
he, who buys the copyright of a book from the authour, obtains a
perpetual property; and upon that belief, numberless bargains are made
to transfer that property after the expiration of the statutory term.
Now Donaldson, I say, takes advantage here, of people who have really an
equitable title from usage; and if we consider how few of the books, of
which they buy the property, succeed so well as to bring profit, we
should be of opinion that the term of fourteen years is too short; it
should be sixty years.' DEMPSTER. 'Donaldson, Sir, is anxious for the
encouragement of literature. He reduces the price of books, so that poor
students may buy them[1298].' JOHNSON, (laughing) 'Well, Sir, allowing
that to be his motive, he is no better than Robin Hood, who robbed the
rich in order to give to the poor.'

[Page 439: Humes style. Ætat 54.]

It is remarkable, that when the great question concerning Literary
Property came to be ultimately tried before the supreme tribunal of this
country, in consequence of the very spirited exertions of Mr.
Donaldson[1299], Dr. Johnson was zealous against a perpetuity; but he
thought that the term of the exclusive right of authours should be
considerably enlarged. He was then for granting a hundred years.

The conversation now turned upon Mr. David Hume's style. JOHNSON. 'Why,
Sir, his style is not English; the structure of his sentences is
French[1300]. Now the French structure and the English structure may, in
the nature of things, be equally good. But if you allow that the English
language is established, he is wrong. My name might originally have been
Nicholson, as well as Johnson; but were you to call me Nicholson now,
you would call me very absurdly.'

[Page 440: Merit set against fortune. A.D. 1763.]

Rousseau's treatise on the inequality of mankind[1301] was at this time a
fashionable topick. It gave rise to an observation by Mr. Dempster, that
the advantages of fortune and rank were nothing to a wise man, who ought
to value only merit. JOHNSON. 'If man were a savage, living in the woods
by himself, this might be true; but in civilized society we all depend
upon each other, and our happiness is very much owing to the good
opinion of mankind. Now, Sir, in civilized society, external advantages
make us more respected. A man with a good coat upon his back meets with
a better reception than he who has a bad one[1302].

[Page 441: The 'advantages' of poverty. Ætat 54.]

Sir, you may analyse this, and say what is there in it? But that will
avail you nothing, for it is a part of a general system. Pound St.
Paul's Church into atoms, and consider any single atom; it is, to be
sure, good for nothing: but, put all these atoms together, and you have
St. Paul's Church. So it is with human felicity, which is made up of
many ingredients, each of which may be shewn to be very insignificant.
In civilized society, personal merit will not serve you so much as money
will. Sir, you may make the experiment. Go into the street, and give one
man a lecture on morality, and another a shilling, and see which will
respect you most. If you wish only to support nature, Sir William Petty
fixes your allowance at three pounds a year[1303] but as times are much
altered, let us call it six pounds. This sum will fill your belly,
shelter you from the weather, and even get you a strong lasting coat,
supposing it to be made of good bull's hide. Now, Sir, all beyond this
is artificial, and is desired in order to obtain a greater degree of
respect from our fellow-creatures. And, Sir, if six hundred pounds a
year procure a man more consequence, and, of course, more happiness than
six pounds a year, the same proportion will hold as to six thousand, and
so on as far as opulence can be carried. Perhaps he who has a large
fortune may not be so happy as he who has a small one; but that must
proceed from other causes than from his having the large fortune: for,
_caeteris paribus_, he who is rich in a civilized society, must be
happier than he who is poor; as riches, if properly used, (and it is a
man's own fault if they are not,) must be productive of the highest
advantages. Money, to be sure, of itself is of no use; for its only use
is to part with it. Rousseau, and all those who deal in paradoxes, are
led away by a childish desire of novelty[1304]. When I was a boy, I used
always to choose the wrong side of a debate, because most ingenious
things, that is to say, most new things, could be said upon it. Sir,
there is nothing for which you may not muster up more plausible
arguments, than those which are urged against wealth and other external
advantages. Why, now, there is stealing; why should it be thought a
crime? When we consider by what unjust methods property has been often
acquired, and that what was unjustly got it must be unjust to keep,
where is the harm in one man's taking the property of another from him?
Besides, Sir, when we consider the bad use that many people make of
their property, and how much better use the thief may make of it, it may
be defended as a very allowable practice. Yet, Sir, the experience of
mankind has discovered stealing to be so very bad a thing, that they
make no scruple to hang a man for it. When I was running about this town
a very poor fellow, I was a great arguer for the advantages of poverty;
but I was, at the same time, very sorry to be poor. Sir, all the
arguments which are brought to represent poverty as no evil, shew it to
be evidently a great evil. You never find people labouring to convince
you that you may live very happily upon a plentiful fortune.--So you
hear people talking how miserable a King must be; and yet they all wish
to be in his place[1305].'

[Page 442: Great Kings always social. A.D. 1763.]

It was suggested that Kings must be unhappy, because they are deprived
of the greatest of all satisfactions, easy and unreserved society.
JOHNSON. 'That is an ill-founded notion. Being a King does not exclude a
man from such society. Great Kings have always been social. The King of
Prussia, the only great King at present, is very social[1306]. Charles the
Second, the last King of England who was a man of parts, was social; and
our Henrys and Edwards were all social.'

Mr. Dempster having endeavoured to maintain that intrinsick merit
_ought_ to make the only distinction amongst mankind. JOHNSON. 'Why,
Sir, mankind have found that this cannot be. How shall we determine the
proportion of intrinsick merit? Were that to be the only distinction
amongst mankind, we should soon quarrel about the degrees of it. Were
all distinctions abolished, the strongest would not long acquiesce, but
would endeavour to obtain a superiority by their bodily strength. But,
Sir, as subordination is very necessary for society, and contensions for
superiority very dangerous, mankind, that is to say, all civilized
nations, have settled it upon a plain invariable principle. A man is
born to hereditary rank; or his being appointed to certain offices,
gives him a certain rank. Subordination tends greatly to human
happiness. Were we all upon an equality, we should have no other
enjoyment than mere animal pleasure[1307].'

[Page 443: Johnson's respect for rank. Ætat 54.]

I said, I considered distinction of rank to be of so much importance in
civilised society, that if I were asked on the same day to dine with the
first Duke in England, and with the first man in Britain for genius, I
should hesitate which to prefer. JOHNSON. 'To be sure, Sir, if you were
to dine only once, and it were never to be known where you dined, you
would choose rather to dine with the first man for genius; but to gain
most respect, you should dine with the first Duke in England. For nine
people in ten that you meet with, would have a higher opinion of you for
having dined with a Duke; and the great genius himself would receive you
better, because you had been with the great Duke.'

He took care to guard himself against any possible suspicion that his
settled principles of reverence for rank and respect for wealth were at
all owing to mean or interested motives; for he asserted his own
independence as a literary man. 'No man (said he) who ever lived by
literature, has lived more independently than I have done.' He said he
had taken longer time than he needed to have done in composing his
_Dictionary_. He received our compliments upon that great work with
complacency, and told us that the Academy _della Crusca_[1308] could
scarcely believe that it was done by one man.

[Page 444: Sceptical innovators. A.D. 1763.]

Next morning I found him alone, and have preserved the following
fragments of his conversation. Of a gentleman[1309] who was mentioned, he
said, 'I have not met with any man for a long time who has given me such
general displeasure. He is totally unfixed in his principles, and wants
to puzzle other people. I said his principles had been poisoned by a
noted infidel writer, but that he was, nevertheless, a benevolent good
man. JOHNSON. 'We can have no dependance upon that instinctive, that
constitutional goodness which is not founded upon principle. I grant you
that such a man may be a very amiable member of society. I can conceive
him placed in such a situation that he is not much tempted to deviate
from what is right; and as every man prefers virtue, when there is not
some strong incitement to transgress its precepts, I can conceive him
doing nothing wrong. But if such a man stood in need of money, I should
not like to trust him; and I should certainly not trust him with young
ladies, for _there_ there is always temptation. Hume, and other
sceptical innovators, are vain men, and will gratify themselves at any
expence. Truth will not afford sufficient food to their vanity; so they
have betaken themselves to errour. Truth, Sir, is a cow which will yield
such people no more milk, and so they are gone to milk the bull[1310]. If I
could have allowed myself to gratify my vanity at the expence of truth,
what fame might I have acquired. Every thing which Hume has advanced
against Christianity had passed through my mind long before he wrote.
Always remember this, that after a system is well settled upon positive
evidence, a few partial objections ought not to shake it. The human mind
is so limited, that it cannot take in all the parts of a subject, so
that there may be objections raised against any thing. There are
objections against a _plenum_, and objections against a _vacuum_; yet
one of them must certainly be true[1311].'

[Page 445: The proofs of Christianity. Ætat 54.]

I mentioned Hume's argument against the belief of miracles, that it is
more probable that the witnesses to the truth of them are mistaken, or
speak falsely, than that the miracles should be true[1312]. JOHNSON.
'Why, Sir, the great difficulty of proving miracles should make us very
cautious in believing them. But let us consider; although GOD has made
Nature to operate by certain fixed laws, yet it is not unreasonable to
think that he may suspend those laws, in order to establish a system
highly advantageous to mankind. Now the Christian religion is a most
beneficial system, as it gives us light and certainty where we were
before in darkness and doubt. The miracles which prove it are attested
by men who had no interest in deceiving us; but who, on the contrary,
were told that they should suffer persecution, and did actually lay down
their lives in confirmation of the truth of the facts which they
asserted. Indeed, for some centuries the heathens did not pretend to
deny the miracles; but said they were performed by the aid of evil
spirits. This is a circumstance of great weight. Then, Sir, when we take
the proofs derived from prophecies which have been so exactly fulfilled,
we have most satisfactory evidence. Supposing a miracle possible, as to
which, in my opinion, there can be no doubt, we have as strong evidence
for the miracles in support of Christianity, as the nature of the thing

At night Mr. Johnson and I supped in a private room at the Turk's Head
coffee-house, in the Strand[1313]. 'I encourage this house (said he;) for
the mistress of it is a good civil woman, and has not much business.'

'Sir, I love the acquaintance of young people; because, in the first
place, I don't like to think myself growing old. In the next place,
young acquaintances must last longest, if they do last; and then, Sir,
young men have more virtue than old men; they have more generous
sentiments in every respect[1314]. I love the young dogs of this age: they
have more wit and humour and knowledge of life than we had; but then the
dogs are not so good scholars, Sir, in my early years I read very hard.
It is a sad reflection, but a true one, that I knew almost as much at
eighteen as I do now[1315]. My judgement, to be sure, was not so good; but
I had all the facts. I remember very well, when I was at Oxford, an old
gentleman said to me, "Young man, ply your book diligently now, and
acquire a stock of knowledge; for when years come upon you, you will
find that poring upon books will be but an irksome task."'

[Page 446: Remedies for melancholy. A.D. 1763.]

This account of his reading, given by himself in plain words,
sufficiently confirms what I have already advanced upon the disputed
question as to his application. It reconciles any seeming inconsistency
in his way of talking upon it at different times; and shews that
idleness and reading hard were with him relative terms, the import of
which, as used by him, must be gathered from a comparison with what
scholars of different degrees of ardour and assiduity have been known to
do. And let it be remembered, that he was now talking spontaneously, and
expressing his genuine sentiments; whereas at other times he might be
induced from his spirit of contradiction, or more properly from his love
of argumentative contest, to speak lightly of his own application to
study. It is pleasing to consider that the old gentleman's gloomy
prophecy as to the irksomeness of books to men of an advanced age, which
is too often fulfilled, was so far from being verified in Johnson, that
his ardour for literature never failed, and his last writings had more
ease and vivacity than any of his earlier productions.

He mentioned to me now, for the first time, that he had been distrest by
melancholy, and for that reason had been obliged to fly from study and
meditation, to the dissipating variety of life. Against melancholy he
recommended constant occupation of mind, a great deal of exercise,
moderation in eating and drinking, and especially to shun drinking at
night. He said melancholy people were apt to fly to intemperance for
relief, but that it sunk them much deeper in misery[1316]. He observed,
that labouring men who work hard, and live sparingly, are seldom or
never troubled with low spirits.

[Page 447: Mrs. Macaulay's footman. Ætat 54.]

[Page 448: Levelling up. A.D. 1763.]

He again insisted on the duty of maintaining subordination of rank.
'Sir, I would no more deprive a nobleman of his respect, than of his
money. I consider myself as acting a part in the great system of
society, and I do to others as I would have them to do to me. I would
behave to a nobleman as I should expect he would behave to me, were I a
nobleman and he Sam. Johnson. Sir, there is one Mrs. Macaulay[1317] in this
town, a great republican. One day when I was at her house, I put on a
very grave countenance, and said to her, "Madam, I am now become a
convert to your way of thinking. I am convinced that all mankind are
upon an equal footing; and to give you an unquestionable proof, Madam,
that I am in earnest, here is a very sensible, civil, well-behaved
fellow-citizen, your footman; I desire that he may be allowed to sit
down and dine with us[1318]." I thus, Sir, shewed her the absurdity of the
levelling doctrine. She has never liked me since. Sir, your levellers
wish to level _down_ as far as themselves; but they cannot bear
levelling _up_ to themselves. They would all have some people under
them; why not then have some people above them?' I mentioned a certain
authour who disgusted me by his forwardness, and by shewing no deference
to noblemen into whose company he was admitted. JOHNSON. 'Suppose a
shoemaker should claim an equality with him, as he does with a Lord; how
he would stare. "Why, Sir, do you stare? (says the shoemaker,) I do
great service to society. 'Tis true I am paid for doing it; but so are
you, Sir: and I am sorry to say it, paid better than I am, for doing
something not so necessary. For mankind could do better without your
books, than without my shoes." Thus, Sir, there would be a perpetual
struggle for precedence, were there no fixed invariable rules for the
distinction of rank, which creates no jealousy, as it is allowed to be

He said, Dr. Joseph Warton was a very agreeable man, and his _Essay on
the Genius and Writings of Pope_, a very pleasing book. I wondered that
he delayed so long to give us the continuation of it[1319]. JOHNSON. 'Why,
Sir, I suppose he finds himself a little disappointed, in not having
been able to persuade the world to be of his opinion as to Pope.'

We have now been favoured with the concluding volume, in which, to use a
parliamentary expression, he has _explained_, so as not to appear quite
so adverse to the opinion of the world, concerning Pope, as was at first
thought[1320]; and we must all agree that his work is a most valuable
accession to English literature.

[Page 449: Sir James Macdonald. Ætat 54.]

A writer of deserved eminence[1321] being mentioned, Johnson said, 'Why,
Sir, he is a man of good parts, but being originally poor, he has got a
love of mean company and low jocularity; a very bad thing, Sir. To laugh
is good, as to talk is good. But you ought no more to think it enough if
you laugh, than you are to think it enough if you talk. You may laugh in
as many ways as you talk; and surely _every_ way of talking that is
practised cannot be esteemed.'

[Page 450: Mark's WESTERN ISLES. A.D. 1763.]

I spoke of Sir James Macdonald[1322] as a young man of most distinguished
merit, who united the highest reputation at Eaton and Oxford, with the
patriarchal spirit of a great Highland Chieftain. I mentioned that Sir
James had said to me, that he had never seen Mr. Johnson, but he had a
great respect for him, though at the same time it was mixed with some
degree of terrour[1323]. JOHNSON. 'Sir, if he were to be acquainted with
me, it might lessen both.'

[Page 451: A schoolboy's happiness. Ætat 54.]

The mention of this gentleman led us to talk of the Western Islands of
Scotland, to visit which he expressed a wish that then appeared to me a
very romantick fancy, which I little thought would be afterwards
realised[1324]. He told me, that his father had put Martin's account of
those islands into his hands when he was very young, and that he was
highly pleased with it; that he was particularly struck with the St.
Kilda man's notion that the high church of Glasgow had been hollowed out
of a rock[1325]; a circumstance to which old Mr. Johnson had directed his
attention. He said he would go to the Hebrides with me, when I returned
from my travels, unless some very good companion should offer when I was
absent, which he did not think probable; adding, 'There are few people
to whom I take so much to as you.' And when I talked of my leaving
England, he said with a very affectionate air, 'My dear Boswell, I
should be very unhappy at parting, did I think we were not to meet
again[1326].' I cannot too often remind my readers, that although such
instances of his kindness are doubtless very flattering to me, yet I
hope my recording them will be ascribed to a better motive than to
vanity; for they afford unquestionable evidence of his tenderness and
complacency, which some, while they were forced to acknowledge his great
powers, have been so strenuous to deny.

He maintained that a boy at school was the happiest of human beings[1327].
I supported a different opinion, from which I have never yet varied,
that a man is happier; and I enlarged upon the anxiety and sufferings
which are endured at school. JOHNSON. 'Ah! Sir, a boy's being flogged is
not so severe as a man's having the hiss of the world against him. Men
have a solicitude about fame[1328]; and the greater share they have of it,
the more afraid they are of losing it.' I silently asked myself, 'Is it
possible that the great SAMUEL JOHNSON really entertains any such
apprehension, and is not confident that his exalted fame is established
upon a foundation never to be shaken?'

He this evening drank a bumper to Sir David Dalrymple[1329], 'as a man of
worth, a scholar, and a wit.' 'I have (said he) never heard of him
except from you; but let him know my opinion of him: for as he does not
shew himself much in the world, he should have the praise of the few who
hear of him.'

[Page 452: The Tale Of A Tub. A.D. 1763.]

On Tuesday, July 26, I found Mr. Johnson alone. It was a very wet day,
and I again complained of the disagreeable effects of such weather.
JOHNSON. 'Sir, this is all imagination, which physicians encourage; for
man lives in air, as a fish lives in water; so that if the atmosphere
press heavy from above, there is an equal resistance from below. To be
sure, bad weather is hard upon people who are obliged to be abroad; and
men cannot labour so well in the open air in bad weather, as in good:
but, Sir, a smith or a taylor, whose work is within doors, will surely
do as much in rainy weather, as in fair. Some very delicate frames,
indeed, may be affected by wet weather; but not common constitutions.'

We talked of the education of children; and I asked him what he thought
was best to teach them first. JOHNSON. 'Sir, it is no matter what you
teach them first, any more than what leg you shall put into your
breeches first. Sir, you may stand disputing which is best to put in
first, but in the mean time your breech is bare. Sir, while you are
considering which of two things you should teach your child first,
another boy has learnt them both.'

On Thursday, July 28, we again supped in private at the Turk's Head
coffee-house. JOHNSON. 'Swift has a higher reputation than he deserves.
His excellence is strong sense; for his humour, though very well, is not
remarkably good. I doubt whether _The Tale of a Tub_ be his; for he
never owned it, and it is much above his usual manner[1331].'

[Page 453: Mr. Thomas Sheridan's dulness. Ætat 54.]

'Thompson, I think, had as much of the poet about him as most writers.
Every thing appeared to him through the medium of his favourite pursuit.
He could not have viewed those two candles burning but with a poetical

'Has not ----[1333] a great deal of wit, Sir?' JOHNSON. 'I do not think
so, Sir. He is, indeed, continually attempting wit, but he fails. And I
have no more pleasure in hearing a man attempting wit and failing, than in
seeing a man trying to leap over a ditch and tumbling into it.'

He laughed heartily, when I mentioned to him a saying of his concerning
Mr. Thomas Sheridan, which Foote took a wicked pleasure to circulate.
'Why, Sir, Sherry is dull, naturally dull; but it must have taken him a
great deal of pains to become what we now see him. Such an excess of
stupidity, Sir, is not in Nature.' 'So (said he,) I allowed him all his
own merit.'

[Page 454: Experience the test of truth. A.D. 1763.]

He now added, 'Sheridan cannot bear me. I bring his declamation to a
point. I ask him a plain question, 'What do you mean to teach?' Besides,
Sir, what influence can Mr. Sheridan have upon the language of this
great country, by his narrow exertions? Sir, it is burning a farthing
candle at Dover, to shew light at Calais[1334].'

Talking of a young man[1335] who was uneasy from thinking that he was very
deficient in learning and knowledge, he said, 'A man has no reason to
complain who holds a middle place, and has many below him; and perhaps
he has not six of his years above him;--perhaps not one. Though he may
not know any thing perfectly, the general mass of knowledge that he has
acquired is considerable. Time will do for him all that is wanting.'

The conversation then took a philosophical turn. JOHNSON. 'Human
experience, which is constantly contradicting theory, is the great test
of truth. A system, built upon the discoveries of a great many minds, is
always of more strength, than what is produced by the mere workings of
any one mind, which, of itself, can do little. There is not so poor a
book in the world that would not be a prodigious effort were it wrought
out entirely by a single mind, without the aid of prior investigators.
The French writers are superficial[1336]; because they are not scholars,
and so proceed upon the mere power of their own minds; and we see how
very little power they have.'

[Page 455: The University of Salamancha. Ætat 54.]

'As to the Christian religion, Sir, besides the strong evidence which we
have for it, there is a balance in its favour from the number of great
men who have been convinced of its truth, after a serious consideration
of the question. Grotius was an acute man, a lawyer, a man accustomed to
examine evidence, and he was convinced. Grotius was not a recluse, but a
man of the world, who certainly had no bias to the side of religion. Sir
Isaac Newton set out an infidel[1337], and came to be a very firm

He this evening again recommended to me to perambulate Spain[1338]. I said
it would amuse him to get a letter from me dated at Salamancha. JOHNSON.
'I love the University of Salamancha; for when the Spaniards were in
doubt as to the lawfulness of their conquering America, the University
of Salamancha gave it as their opinion that it was not lawful.' He spoke
this with great emotion, and with that generous warmth which dictated
the lines in his _London_, against Spanish encroachment[1339].

I expressed my opinion of my friend Derrick as but a poor writer.
JOHNSON. 'To be sure, Sir, he is; but you are to consider that his being
a literary man has got for him all that he has. It has made him King of
Bath[1340]. Sir, he has nothing to say for himself but that he is a
writer. Had he not been a writer, he must have been sweeping the
crossings in the streets, and asking halfpence from every body that past.'

[Page 456: Mr. Derrick. A.D. 1763.]

In justice, however, to the memory of Mr. Derrick, who was my first
tutor in the ways of London, and shewed me the town in all its variety
of departments, both literary and sportive, the particulars of which Dr.
Johnson advised me to put in writing, it is proper to mention what
Johnson, at a subsequent period, said of him both as a writer and an
editor: 'Sir, I have often said, that if Derrick's letters[1341] had been
written by one of a more established name, they would have been thought
very pretty letters[1342].' And, 'I sent Derrick to Dryden's relations to
gather materials for his life; and I believe he got all that I myself
should have got[1343].'

Poor Derrick! I remember him with kindness. Yet I cannot withhold from
my readers a pleasant humourous sally which could not have hurt him had
he been alive, and now is perfectly harmless. In his collection of
poems, there is one upon entering the harbour of Dublin, his native
city, after a long absence. It begins thus:

'Eblana! much lov'd city, hail!
Where first I saw the light of day.'

And after a solemn reflection on his being 'numbered with forgotten
dead,' there is the following stanza:

'Unless my lines protract my fame,
  And those, who chance to read them, cry,
I knew him! Derrick was his name,
  In yonder tomb his ashes lie.'

Which was thus happily parodied by Mr. John Home, to whom we owe the
beautiful and pathetick tragedy of _Douglas_:

'Unless my _deeds_ protract my fame,
  _And he who passes sadly sings_,
I knew him! Derrick was his name,
  _On yonder tree his carcase swings_!'

[Page 457: A day at Greenwich. Ætat 54.]

I doubt much whether the amiable and ingenious author of these burlesque
lines will recollect them, for they were produced extempore one evening
while he and I were walking together in the dining-room at Eglintoune
Castle, in 1760, and I have never mentioned them to him since.

Johnson said once to me, 'Sir, I honour Derrick for his presence of
mind. One night, when Floyd[1344], another poor authour, was wandering
about the streets in the night, he found Derrick fast asleep upon a
bulk[1345]; upon being suddenly waked, Derrick started up, "My dear
Floyd, I am sorry to see you in this destitute state; will you go home
with me to _my lodgings_?"'

I again begged his advice as to my method of study at Utrecht. 'Come,
(said he) let us make a day of it. Let us go down to Greenwich and dine,
and talk of it there.' The following Saturday was fixed for this

As we walked along the Strand to-night, arm in arm, a woman of the town
accosted us, in the usual enticing manner. 'No, no, my girl, (said
Johnson) it won't do.' He, however, did not treat her with harshness,
and we talked of the wretched life of such women; and agreed, that much
more misery than happiness, upon the whole, is produced by illicit
commerce between the sexes.

[Page 458: The Desire of Knowledge. A.D. 1703.]

On Saturday, July 30, Dr. Johnson and I took a sculler at the
Temple-stairs, and set out for Greenwich. I asked him if he really
thought a knowledge of the Greek and Latin languages an essential
requisite to a good education. JOHNSON. 'Most certainly, Sir; for those
who know them have a very great advantage over those who do not. Nay,
Sir, it is wonderful what a difference learning makes upon people even
in the common intercourse of life, which does not appear to be much
connected with it.' 'And yet, (said I) people go through the world very
well, and carry on the business of life to good advantage, without
learning.' JOHNSON. 'Why, Sir, that may be true in cases where learning
cannot possibly be of any use; for instance, this boy rows us as well
without learning, as if he could sing the song of Orpheus to the
Argonauts, who were the first sailors.' He then called to the boy, 'What
would you give, my lad, to know about the Argonauts?' 'Sir (said the
boy,) I would give what I have.' Johnson was much pleased with his
answer, and we gave him a double fare. Dr. Johnson then turning to me,
'Sir, (said he) a desire of knowledge is the natural feeling of mankind;
and every human being, whose mind is not debauched, will be willing to
give all that he has to get knowledge[1346].'

We landed at the Old Swan[1347], and walked to Billingsgate, where we
took oars, and moved smoothly along the silver Thames. It was a very fine
day. We were entertained with the immense number and variety of ships
that were lying at anchor, and with the beautiful country on each side
of the river.

[Page 459: The Methodists. Ætat 54.]

[Page 460: A course of study. A.D. 1763.]

I talked of preaching, and of the great success which those called
Methodists[1348] have. JOHNSON. 'Sir, it is owing to their expressing
themselves in a plain and familiar manner, which is the only way to do
good to the common people, and which clergymen of genius and learning
ought to do from a principle of duty, when it is suited to their
congregations; a practice, for which they will be praised by men of
sense[1349]. To insist against drunkenness as a crime, because it debases
reason, the noblest faculty of man, would be of no service to the common
people: but to tell them that they may die in a fit of drunkenness, and
shew them how dreadful that would be, cannot fail to make a deep
impression. Sir, when your Scotch clergy give up their homely manner,
religion will soon decay in that country.' Let this observation, as
Johnson meant it, be ever remembered.

I was much pleased to find myself with Johnson at Greenwich, which he
celebrates in his _London_ as a favourite scene. I had the poem in my
pocket, and read the lines aloud with enthusiasm:

'On Thames's banks in silent thought we stood:
Where Greenwich smiles upon the silver flood:
Pleas'd[1350] with the seat which gave ELIZA birth,
We kneel, and kiss the consecrated earth.'

He remarked that the structure of Greenwich hospital was too magnificent
for a place of charity, and that its parts were too much detached to
make one great whole.

Buchanan, he said, was a very fine poet; and observed, that he was the
first who complimented a lady, by ascribing to her the different
perfections of the heathen goddesses[1351]; but that Johnston[1352]
improved upon this, by making his lady, at the same time, free from their

He dwelt upon Buchanan's elegant verses to Mary Queen of Scots, _Nympha
Caledoniae_, &c., and spoke with enthusiasm of the beauty of Latin
verse. 'All the modern languages (said he) cannot furnish so melodious a
line as

'Formosam resonare doces Amarillida silvas[1353].'

[Page 461: Nature and Fleet-street. Ætat 54.]

Afterwards he entered upon the business of the day, which was to give me
his advice as to a course of study. And here I am to mention with much
regret, that my record of what he said is miserably scanty. I recollect
with admiration an animating blaze of eloquence, which rouzed every
intellectual power in me to the highest pitch, but must have dazzled me
so much, that my memory could not preserve the substance of his
discourse[1354]; for the note which I find of it is no more than this:--'He
ran over the grand scale of human knowledge; advised me to select some
particular branch to excel in, but to acquire a little of every kind.'
The defect of my minutes will be fully supplied by a long letter upon
the subject which he favoured me with, after I had been some time at
Utrecht, and which my readers will have the pleasure to peruse in its
proper place.

We walked in the evening in Greenwich Park. He asked me, I suppose, by
way of trying my disposition, 'Is not this very fine?' Having no
exquisite relish of the beauties of Nature[1355], and being more
delighted with 'the busy hum of men[1356],' I answered, 'Yes, Sir; but
not equal to Fleet-street[1357].' JOHNSON. 'You are right, Sir.'

I am aware that many of my readers may censure my want of taste. Let me,
however, shelter myself under the authority of a very fashionable
Baronet[1358] in the brilliant world, who, on his attention being called
to the fragrance of a May evening in the country, observed, 'This may be
very well; but, for my part, I prefer the smell of a flambeau at the

[Page 462: Auchinleck. A.D. 1763.]

We staid so long at Greenwich, that our sail up the river, in our return
to London, was by no means so pleasant as in the morning; for the night
air was so cold that it made me shiver. I was the more sensible of it
from having sat up all the night before, recollecting and writing in my
journal what I thought worthy of preservation; an exertion, which,
during the first part of my acquaintance with Johnson, I frequently
made. I remember having sat up four nights in one week, without being
much incommoded in the day time.

Johnson, whose robust frame was not in the least affected by the cold,
scolded me, as if my shivering had been a paltry effeminacy, saying,
'Why do you shiver?' Sir William Scott,[1360] of the Commons, told me, that
when he complained of a headach in the post-chaise, as they were
travelling together to Scotland, Johnson treated him in the same manner:
'At your age, Sir, I had no head-ach.' It is not easy to make allowance
for sensations in others, which we ourselves have not at the time. We
must all have experienced how very differently we are affected by the
complaints of our neighbours, when we are well and when we are ill. In
full health, we can scarcely believe that they suffer much; so faint is
the image of pain upon our imagination: when softened by sickness, we
readily sympathize with the sufferings of others.

We concluded the day at the Turk's Head coffee-house very socially. He
was pleased to listen to a particular account which I gave him of my
family, and of its hereditary estate, as to the extent and population of
which he asked questions, and made calculations; recommending, at the
same time, a liberal kindness to the tenantry, as people over whom the
proprietor was placed by Providence[1361]. He took delight in hearing my
description of the romantick seat of my ancestors. 'I must be there,
Sir, (said he) and we will live in the old castle; and if there is not a
room in it remaining, we will build one.' I was highly flattered, but
could scarcely indulge a hope that Auchinleck would indeed be honoured
by his presence, and celebrated by a description, as it afterwards was,
in his _Journey to the Western Islands_[1362].

[Page 463: Tea with Miss Williams. Ætat 54.]

After we had again talked of my setting out for Holland, he said, 'I
must see thee out of England; I will accompany you to Harwich.' I could
not find words to express what I felt upon this unexpected and very
great mark of his affectionate regard.

Next day, Sunday, July 31, I told him I had been that morning at a
meeting of the people called Quakers, where I had heard a woman preach.
JOHNSON. 'Sir, a woman's preaching is like a dog's walking on his hinder
legs. It is not done well; but you are surprized to find it done at

On Tuesday, August 2 (the day of my departure from London having been
fixed for the 5th,) Dr. Johnson did me the honour to pass a part of the
morning with me at my Chambers. He said, that 'he always felt an
inclination to do nothing.' I observed, that it was strange to think
that the most indolent man in Britain had written the most laborious
work, _The English Dictionary_.

I mentioned an imprudent publication[1363], by a certain friend of his, at
an early period of life, and asked him if he thought it would hurt him.
JOHNSON. 'No, Sir; not much. It may, perhaps, be mentioned at an

I had now made good my title to be a privileged man[1364], and was carried
by him in the evening to drink tea with Miss Williams, whom, though
under the misfortune of having lost her sight, I found to be agreeable
in conversation; for she had a variety of literature, and expressed
herself well; but her peculiar value was the intimacy in which she had
long lived with Johnson, by which she was well acquainted with his
habits, and knew how to lead him on to talk.

[Page 464: Convocation. A.D. 1763.]

After tea he carried me to what he called his walk, which was a long
narrow paved court in the neighbourhood, overshadowed by some trees.
There we sauntered a considerable time; and I complained to him that my
love of London and of his company was such, that I shrunk almost from
the thought of going away, even to travel, which is generally so much
desired by young men[1365]. He roused me by manly and spirited
conversation. He advised me, when settled in any place abroad, to study
with an eagerness after knowledge, and to apply to Greek an hour every
day; and when I was moving about, to read diligently the great book of

On Wednesday, August 3, we had our last social evening at the Turk's
Head coffee-house, before my setting out for foreign parts. I had the
misfortune, before we parted, to irritate him unintentionally. I
mentioned to him how common it was in the world to tell absurd stories
of him, and to ascribe to him very strange sayings. JOHNSON. 'What do
they make me say, Sir?' BOSWELL. 'Why, Sir, as an instance very strange
indeed, (laughing heartily as I spoke,) David Hume told me, you said
that you would stand before a battery of cannon, to restore the
Convocation to its full powers.' Little did I apprehend that he had
actually said this: but I was soon convinced of my errour; for, with a
determined look, he thundered out 'And would I not, Sir? Shall the
Presbyterian _Kirk_ of Scotland have its General Assembly, and the
Church of England be denied its Convocation?' He was walking up and down
the room while I told him the anecdote; but when he uttered this
explosion of high-church zeal, he had come close to my chair, and his
eyes flashed with indignation.[1366] I bowed to the storm, and diverted
the force of it, by leading him to expatiate on the influence which
religion derived from maintaining the church with great external

I must not omit to mention that he this year wrote _The Life of
Ascham_[dagger], and the Dedication to the Earl of Shaftesbury[dagger],
prefixed to the edition of that writer's English works, published by Mr.

[Page 465: In the Harwich stage coach. Ætat 54.]

[Page 466: Blacklock's poetry. A.D. 1763.]

On Friday, August 5, we set out early in the morning in the Harwich
stage coach. A fat elderly gentlewoman, and a young Dutchman, seemed the
most inclined among us to conversation. At the inn where we dined, the
gentlewoman said that she had done her best to educate her children; and
particularly, that she had never suffered them to be a moment idle.
JOHNSON. 'I wish, madam, you would educate me too; for I have been an
idle fellow all my life.' 'I am sure, Sir, (said she) you have not been
idle.' JOHNSON. 'Nay, Madam, it is very true; and that gentleman there
(pointing to me,) has been idle. He was idle at Edinburgh. His father
sent him to Glasgow, where he continued to be idle. He then came to
London, where he has been very idle; and now he is going to Utrecht,
where he will be as idle as ever.' I asked him privately how he could
expose me so. JOHNSON. 'Poh, poh! (said he) they knew nothing about you,
and will think of it no more.' In the afternoon the gentlewoman talked
violently against the Roman Catholicks, and of the horrours of the
Inquisition. To the utter astonishment of all the passengers but myself,
who knew that he could talk upon any side of a question, he defended the
Inquisition, and maintained, that 'false doctrine should be checked on
its first appearance; that the civil power should unite with the church
in punishing those who dared to attack the established religion, and
that such only were punished by the Inquisition[1368].' He had in his
pocket '_Pomponius Mela de situ Orbis_,' in which he read occasionally,
and seemed very intent upon ancient geography. Though by no means
niggardly, his attention to what was generally right was so minute, that
having observed at one of the stages that I ostentatiously gave a
shilling to the coachman, when the custom was for each passenger to give
only six-pence, he took me aside and scolded me, saying that what I had
done would make the coachman dissatisfied with all the rest of the
passengers, who gave him no more than his due. This was a just
reprimand; for in whatever way a man may indulge his generosity or his
vanity in spending his money, for the sake of others he ought not to
raise the price of any article for which there is a constant demand.

He talked of Mr. Blacklock's poetry, so far as it was descriptive of
visible objects; and observed, that 'as its authour had the misfortune
to be blind, we may be absolutely sure that such passages are
combinations of what he has remembered of the works of other writers who
could see. That foolish fellow, Spence, has laboured to explain
philosophically how Blacklock may have done, by means of his own
faculties, what it is impossible he should do[1369]. The solution, as I
have given it, is plain. Suppose, I know a man to be so lame that he is
absolutely incapable to move himself, and I find him in a different room
from that in which I left him; shall I puzzle myself with idle
conjectures, that, perhaps, his nerves have by some unknown change all
at once become effective? No, Sir; it it clear how he got into a
different room: he was _carried_.'

[Page 467: Torture in Holland. Ætat 54.]

Having stopped a night at Colchester[1370], Johnson talked of that town
with veneration, for having stood a siege for Charles the First. The
Dutchman alone now remained with us. He spoke English tolerably well;
and thinking to recommend himself to us by expatiating on the
superiority of the criminal jurisprudence of this country over that of
Holland, he inveighed against the barbarity of putting an accused person
to the torture, in order to force a confession[1371]. But Johnson was as
ready for this, as for the Inquisition. 'Why, Sir, you do not, I find,
understand the law of your own country. The torture in Holland is
considered as a favour to an accused person; for no man is put to the
torture there, unless there is as much evidence against him as would
amount to conviction in England. An accused person among you, therefore,
has one chance more to escape punishment, than those who are tried among

[Page 468: Johnson's relish for good eating. A.D. 1763.]

[Page 469: A critick of cookery. Ætat 54.]

[Page 470: Studied behaviour. A.D. 1763.]

At supper this night he talked of good eating with uncommon
satisfaction. 'Some people (said he,) have a foolish way of not minding,
or pretending not to mind, what they eat. For my part, I mind my belly
very studiously, and very carefully; for I look upon it, that he who
does not mind his belly will hardly mind anything else[1372].' He now
appeared to me _Jean Bull philosophe_, and he was, for the moment, not
only serious but vehement. Yet I have heard him, upon other occasions,
talk with great contempt of people who were anxious to gratify their
palates; and the 206th number of his _Rambler_ is a masterly essay
against gulosity[1373]. His practice, indeed, I must acknowledge, may be
considered as casting the balance of his different opinions upon this
subject; for I never knew any man who relished good eating more than he
did. When at table, he was totally absorbed in the business of the
moment; his looks seemed rivetted to his plate; nor would he, unless
when in very high company, say one word, or even pay the least attention
to what was said by others, till he had satisfied his appetite[1374],
which was so fierce, and indulged with such intenseness, that while in
the act of eating, the veins of his forehead swelled, and generally a
strong perspiration was visible[1375]. To those whose sensations were
delicate, this could not but be disgusting; and it was doubtless not very
suitable to the character of a philosopher, who should be distinguished
by self-command. But it must be owned, that Johnson, though he could be
rigidly _abstemious_, was not a _temperate_ man either in eating or
drinking. He could refrain, but he could not use moderately[1376]. He
told me, that he had fasted two days without inconvenience, and that he
had never been hungry but once[1377]. They who beheld with wonder how
much he eat upon all occasions when his dinner was to his taste, could
not easily conceive what he must have meant by hunger; and not only was
he remarkable for the extraordinary quantity which he eat, but he was,
or affected to be, a man of very nice discernment in the science of
cookery. He used to descant critically on the dishes which had been at
table where he had dined or supped, and to recollect very minutely what
he had liked[1378]. I remember, when he was in Scotland, his praising
'_Gordon's palates_', (a dish of palates at the Honourable Alexander
Gordon's) with a warmth of expression which might have done honour to
more important subjects. 'As for Maclaurin's imitation of a _made dish_,
it was a wretched attempt[1379].' He about the same time was so much
displeased with the performances of a nobleman's French cook, that he
exclaimed with vehemence, 'I'd throw such a rascal into the river;' and
he then proceeded to alarm a lady at whose house he was to sup[1380], by
the following manifesto of his skill: 'I, Madam, who live at a variety
of good tables, am a much better judge of cookery, than any person who
has a very tolerable cook, but lives much at home; for his palate is
gradually adapted to the taste of his cook; whereas, Madam, in trying by
a wider range, I can more exquisitely judge[1381].' When invited to dine,
even with an intimate friend, he was not pleased if something better
than a plain dinner was not prepared for him. I have heard him say on
such an occasion, 'This was a good dinner enough, to be sure; but it was
not a dinner to _ask_ a man to.' On the other hand, he was wont to
express, with great glee, his satisfaction when he had been entertained
quite to his mind. One day when we had dined with his neighbour and
landlord in Bolt-court, Mr. Allen, the printer, whose old housekeeper
had studied his taste in every thing, he pronounced this eulogy: 'Sir,
we could not have had a better dinner had there been a _Synod of

While we were left by ourselves, after the Dutchman had gone to bed, Dr.
Johnson talked of that studied behaviour which many have recommended and
practised. He disapproved of it; and said, 'I never considered whether I
should be a grave man, or a merry man, but just let inclination, for the
time, have its course[1383].'

He flattered me with some hopes that he would, in the course of the
following summer, come over to Holland, and accompany me in a tour
through the Netherlands.

I teized him with fanciful apprehensions of unhappiness. A moth having
fluttered round the candle, and burnt itself, he laid hold of this
little incident to admonish me; saying, with a sly look, and in a solemn
but quiet tone, 'That creature was its own tormentor, and I believe its
name was BOSWELL.'

[Page 471: Bishop Berkley's sophistry. Ætat 54.]

Next day we got to Harwich to dinner; and my passage in the packet-boat
to Helvoetsluys being secured, and my baggage put on board, we dined at
our inn by ourselves. I happened to say it would be terrible if he
should not find a speedy opportunity of returning to London, and be
confined to so dull a place. JOHNSON. 'Don't, Sir, accustom yourself to
use big words for little matters[1384]. It would _not_ be _terrible_,
though I _were_ to be detained some time here.' The practice of using
words of disproportionate magnitude, is, no doubt, too frequent every
where; but, I think, most remarkable among the French, of which, all who
have travelled in France must have been struck with innumerable

We went and looked at the church, and having gone into it and walked up
to the altar, Johnson, whose piety was constant and fervent, sent me to
my knees, saying, 'Now that you are going to leave your native country,
recommend yourself to the protection of your CREATOR and REDEEMER.'

[Page 472: Boswell embarks for Holland. A.D. 1763.]

After we came out of the church, we stood talking for some time together
of Bishop Berkeley's ingenious sophistry to prove the non-existence of
matter, and that every thing in the universe is merely ideal. I
observed, that though we are satisfied his doctrine is not true, it is
impossible to refute it. I never shall forget the alacrity with which
Johnson answered, striking his foot with mighty force against a large
stone, till he rebounded from it, 'I refute it _thus_[1385].' This was a
stout exemplification of the _first truths of Pere Bouffier_[1386], or the
_original principles_ of Reid and of Beattie; without admitting which,
we can no more argue in metaphysicks, than we can argue in mathematicks
without axioms. To me it is not conceivable how Berkeley can be answered
by pure reasoning; but I know that the nice and difficult task was to
have been undertaken by one of the most luminous minds of the present
age, had not politicks 'turned him from calm philosophy aside[1387].' What
an admirable display of subtilty, united with brilliance, might his
contending with Berkeley have afforded us[1388]! How must we, when we
reflect on the loss of such an intellectual feast, regret that he should
be characterised as the man,

'Who born for the universe narrow'd his mind,
 And to party gave up what was meant for mankind[1389]?'

My revered friend walked down with me to the beach, where we embraced
and parted with tenderness, and engaged to correspond by letters. I
said, 'I hope, Sir, you will not forget me in my absence.' JOHNSON.
'Nay, Sir, it is more likely you should forget me, than that I should
forget you.' As the vessel put out to sea, I kept my eyes upon him for a
considerable time, while he remained rolling his majestick frame in his
usual manner: and at last I perceived him walk back into the town, and
he disappeared[1390].

[Page 473: Johnson's first letter to Boswell. Ætat 54.]

Utrecht seeming at first very dull to me, after the animated scenes of
London, my spirits were grievously affected; and I wrote to Johnson a
plaintive and desponding letter, to which he paid no regard. Afterwards,
when I had acquired a firmer tone of mind, I wrote him a second letter,
expressing much anxiety to hear from him. At length I received the
following epistle, which was of important service to me, and, I trust,
will be so to many others.



'You are not to think yourself forgotten, or criminally neglected, that
you have had yet no letter from me. I love to see my friends, to hear
from them, to talk to them, and to talk of them; but it is not without a
considerable effort of resolution that I prevail upon myself to write. I
would not, however, gratify my own indolence by the omission of any
important duty, or any office of real kindness.

[Page 474: Boswell's character sketched by Johnson. A.D. 1763.]

'To tell you that I am or am not well, that I have or have not been in
the country, that I drank your health in the room in which we sat last
together, and that your acquaintance continue to speak of you with their
former kindness, topicks with which those letters are commonly filled
which are written only for the sake of writing, I seldom shall think
worth communicating; but if I can have it in my power to calm any
harassing disquiet, to excite any virtuous desire, to rectify any
important opinion, or fortify any generous resolution, you need not
doubt but I shall at least wish to prefer the pleasure of gratifying a
friend much less esteemed than yourself, before the gloomy calm of idle
vacancy. Whether I shall easily arrive at an exact punctuality of
correspondence, I cannot tell. I shall, at present, expect that you will
receive this in return for two which I have had from you. The first,
indeed, gave me an account so hopeless of the state of your mind, that
it hardly admitted or deserved an answer; by the second I was much
better pleased: and the pleasure will still be increased by such a
narrative of the progress of your studies, as may evince the continuance
of an equal and rational application of your mind to some useful

'You will, perhaps, wish to ask, what study I would recommend. I shall
not speak of theology, because it ought not to be considered as a
question whether you shall endeavour to know the will of GOD.

'I shall, therefore, consider only such studies as we are at liberty to
pursue or to neglect; and of these I know not how you will make a better
choice, than by studying the civil law, as your father advises, and the
ancient languages, as you had determined for yourself; at least resolve,
while you remain in any settled residence, to spend a certain number of
hours every day amongst your books. The dissipation of thought, of which
you complain, is nothing more than the vacillation of a mind suspended
between different motives, and changing its direction as any motive
gains or loses strength. If you can but kindle in your mind any strong
desire, if you can but keep predominant any wish for some particular
excellence or attainment, the gusts of imagination will break away,
without any effect upon your conduct, and commonly without any traces
left upon the memory.

[Page 475: The Frisick language. Ætat 54.]

'There lurks, perhaps, in every human heart a desire of distinction,
which inclines every man first to hope, and then to believe, that Nature
has given him something peculiar to himself. This vanity makes one mind
nurse aversion, and another actuate desires, till they rise by art much
above their original state of power; and as affectation, in time,
improves to habit, they at last tyrannise over him who at first
encouraged them only for show. Every desire is a viper in the bosom,
who, while he was chill, was harmless; but when warmth gave him
strength, exerted it in poison. You know a gentleman, who, when first he
set his foot in the gay world, as he prepared himself to whirl in the
vortex of pleasure, imagined a total indifference and universal
negligence to be the most agreeable concomitants of youth, and the
strongest indication of an airy temper and a quick apprehension. Vacant
to every object, and sensible of every impulse, he thought that all
appearance of diligence would deduct something from the reputation of
genius; and hoped that he should appear to attain, amidst all the ease
of carelessness, and all the tumult of diversion, that knowledge and
those accomplishments which mortals of the common fabrick obtain only by
mute abstraction and solitary drudgery. He tried this scheme of life
awhile, was made weary of it by his sense and his virtue; he then wished
to return to his studies; and finding long habits of idleness and
pleasure harder to be cured than he expected, still willing to retain
his claim to some extraordinary prerogatives, resolved the common
consequences of irregularity into an unalterable decree of destiny, and
concluded that Nature had originally formed him incapable of rational

'Let all such fancies, illusive and destructive, be banished
henceforward from your thoughts for ever. Resolve, and keep your
resolution; choose, and pursue your choice. If you spend this day in
study, you will find yourself still more able to study to-morrow; not
that you are to expect that you shall at once obtain a complete victory.
Depravity is not very easily overcome. Resolution will sometimes relax,
and diligence will sometimes be interrupted; but let no accidental
surprise or deviation, whether short or long, dispose you to
despondency. Consider these failings as incident to all mankind. Begin
again where you left off, and endeavour to avoid the seducements that
prevailed over you before.

'This, my dear Boswell, is advice which, perhaps, has been often given
you, and given you without effect. But this advice, if you will not take
from others, you must take from your own reflections, if you purpose to
do the duties of the station to which the bounty of Providence has
called you.

'Let me have a long letter from you as soon as you can. I hope you
continue your journal, and enrich it with many observations upon the
country in which you reside. It will be a favour if you can get me any
books in the Frisick language, and can enquire how the poor are
maintained in the Seven Provinces. I am, dear Sir,

              'Your most affectionate servant,
                            'SAM. JOHNSON.'
  'London, Dec. 8, 1763.'

I am sorry to observe, that neither in my own minutes, nor in my letters
to Johnson, which have been preserved by him, can I find any information
how the poor are maintained in the Seven Provinces. But I shall extract
from one of my letters what I learnt concerning the other subject of his

[Page 476: Johnson's visit to Langton. A.D. 1764.]

'I have made all possible enquiry with respect to the Frisick language,
and find that it has been less cultivated than any other of the northern
dialects; a certain proof of which is their deficiency of books. Of the
old Frisick there are no remains, except some ancient laws preserved by
_Schotanus_ in his _Beschryvinge van die Heerlykheid van Friesland_; and
his _Historia Frisica_. I have not yet been able to find these books.
Professor Trotz, who formerly was of the University of Vranyken in
Friesland, and is at present preparing an edition of all the Frisick
laws, gave me this information. Of the modern Frisick, or what is spoken
by the boors at this day, I have procured a specimen. It is _Gisbert
Japix's Rymelerie_, which is the only book that they have. It is
amazing, that they have no translation of the bible, no treatises of
devotion, nor even any of the ballads and storybooks which are so
agreeable to country people. You shall have _Japix_ by the first
convenient opportunity. I doubt not to pick up _Schotanus_. Mynheer
Trotz has promised me his assistance.'

1764: ÆTAT. 55.] Early in 1764 Johnson paid a visit to the Langton
family, at their seat of Langton, in Lincolnshire, where he passed some
time, much to his satisfaction[1391]. His friend Bennet Langton, it will
not be doubted, did every thing in his power to make the place agreeable
to so illustrious a guest; and the elder Mr. Langton and his lady, being
fully capable of understanding his value, were not wanting in attention.
He, however, told me, that old Mr. Langton, though a man of considerable
learning, had so little allowance to make for his occasional 'laxity of
talk[1392],' that because in the course of discussion he sometimes
mentioned what might be said in favour of the peculiar tenets of the
Romish church, he went to his grave believing him to be of that

Johnson, during his stay at Langton, had the advantage of a good
library, and saw several gentlemen of the neighbourhood. I have obtained
from Mr. Langton the following particulars of this period.

He was now fully convinced that he could not have been satisfied with a
country living[1394]; for, talking of a respectable clergyman in
Lincolnshire, he observed, 'This man, Sir, fills up the duties of his
life well. I approve of him, but could not imitate him.'

[Page 477: The Literary Club. Ætat 55.]

To a lady who endeavoured to vindicate herself from blame for neglecting
social attention to worthy neighbours, by saying, 'I would go to them if
it would do them any good,' he said, 'What good, Madam, do you expect to
have in your power to do them? It is shewing them respect, and that is
doing them good.'

So socially accommodating was he, that once when Mr. Langton and he were
driving together in a coach, and Mr. Langton complained of being sick,
he insisted that they should go out and sit on the back of it in the
open air, which they did. And being sensible how strange the appearance
must be, observed, that a countryman whom they saw in a field, would
probably be thinking, 'If these two madmen should come down, what would
become of me[1395]?'

[Page 478: The Literary Club. A.D. 1764.]

[Page 479: List of the members. Ætat 55.]

Soon after his return to London, which was in February, was founded that
CLUB which existed long without a name, but at Mr. Garrick's funeral
became distinguished by the title of THE LITERARY CLUB[1396]. Sir Joshua
Reynolds had the merit of being the first proposer of it[1397], to which
Johnson acceded, and the original members were, Sir Joshua Reynolds, Dr.
Johnson, Mr. Edmund Burke, Dr. Nugent[1398], Mr. Beauclerk, Mr. Langton,
Dr. Goldsmith, Mr. Chamier[1399], and Sir John Hawkins[1400]. They met at
the Turk's Head, in Gerrard-street, Soho, one evening in every week, at
seven, and generally continued their conversation till a pretty late
hour[1401]. This club has been gradually increased to its present number,
thirty-five[1402]. After about ten years, instead of supping weekly, it
was resolved to dine together once a fortnight during the meeting of
Parliament. Their original tavern having been converted into a private
house, they moved first to Prince's in Sackville-street, then to Le
Telier's in Dover-street, and now meet at Parsloe's, St. James's-street
[1403]. Between the time of its formation, and the time at which this
work is passing through the press, (June 1792,)[1404] the following
persons, now dead, were members of it: Mr. Dunning, (afterwards Lord
Ashburton,) Mr. Samuel Dyer, Mr. Garrick, Dr. Shipley Bishop of St.
Asaph, Mr. Vesey, Mr. Thomas Warton and Dr. Adam Smith. The present
members are,--Mr. Burke, Mr. Langton, Lord Charlemont, Sir Robert
Chambers, Dr. Percy Bishop of Dromore, Dr. Barnard Bishop of Killaloe,
Dr. Marlay Bishop of Clonfert, Mr. Fox, Dr. George Fordyce, Sir William
Scott, Sir Joseph Banks, Sir Charles Bunbury, Mr. Windham of Norfolk, Mr.
Sheridan, Mr. Gibbon, Sir William Jones, Mr. Colman, Mr. Steevens, Dr.
Burney, Dr. Joseph Warton, Mr. Malone, Lord Ossory, Lord Spencer, Lord
Lucan, Lord Palmerston, Lord Eliot, Lord Macartney, Mr. Richard Burke
junior, Sir William Hamilton, Dr. Warren, Mr. Courtenay, Dr. Hinchcliffe
Bishop of Peterborough, the Duke of Leeds, Dr. Douglas Bishop of
Salisbury, and the writer of this account.

[Page 480: Garrick and the Literary Club. A.D. 1764.]

Sir John Hawkins[1405] represents himself as a '_seceder_' from this
society, and assigns as the reason of his '_withdrawing_' himself from
it, that its late hours were inconsistent with his domestick
arrangements. In this he is not accurate; for the fact was, that he one
evening attacked Mr. Burke, in so rude a manner, that all the company
testified their displeasure; and at their next meeting his reception was
such, that he never came again[1406].

He is equally inaccurate with respect to Mr. Garrick, of whom he says,
'he trusted that the least intimation of a desire to come among us,
would procure him a ready admission; but in this he was mistaken.
Johnson consulted me upon it; and when I could find no objection to
receiving him, exclaimed,--"He will disturb us by his buffoonery;"--and
afterwards so managed matters that he was never formally proposed, and,
by consequence, never admitted[1407].'

[Page 481: Grainger's Sugar Cane. Ætat 55.]

In justice both to Mr. Garrick and Dr. Johnson, I think it necessary to
rectify this mis-statement. The truth is, that not very long after the
institution of our club, Sir Joshua Reynolds was speaking of it to
Garrick. 'I like it much, (said he,) I think I shall be of you.' When
Sir Joshua mentioned this to Dr. Johnson, he was much displeased with
the actor's conceit. '_He'll be of us_, (said Johnson) how does he know
we will _permit_ him? The first Duke in England has no right to hold
such language.' However, when Garrick was regularly proposed some time
afterwards, Johnson, though he had taken a momentary offence at his
arrogance, warmly and kindly supported him, and he was accordingly
elected, was a most agreeable member, and continued to attend our
meetings to the time of his death.

Mrs. Piozzi has also given a similar misrepresentation of Johnson's
treatment of Garrick in this particular, as if he had used these
contemptuous expressions: 'If Garrick does apply, I'll black-ball
him.[1408] Surely, one ought to sit in a society like ours,

'Unelbow'd by a gamester, pimp, or player[1409].'

I am happy to be enabled by such unquestionable authority as that of Sir
Joshua Reynolds, as well as from my own knowledge, to vindicate at once
the heart of Johnson and the social merit of Garrick[1410].

[Page 482: Johnson's self-accusations. A.D. 1764.]

In this year, except what he may have done in revising _Shakspeare_, we
do not find that he laboured much in literature. He wrote a review of
Grainger's _Sugar Cane, a Poem_, in the _London Chronicle_. He told me,
that Dr. Percy wrote the greatest part of this review; but, I imagine,
he did not recollect it distinctly, for it appears to be mostly, if not
altogether, his own[1411]. He also wrote in _The Critical Review_, an
account of Goldsmith's excellent poem, _The Traveller_[1412].

The ease and independence to which he had at last attained by royal
munificence, increased his natural indolence. In his _Meditations_ he
thus accuses himself:--

'Good Friday, April 20, 1764.--I have made no reformation; I have lived
totally useless, more sensual in thought, and more addicted to wine and

And next morning he thus feelingly complains:--

'My indolence, since my last reception of the sacrament, has sunk into
grosser sluggishness, and my dissipation spread into wilder negligence.
My thoughts have been clouded with sensuality; and, except that from the
beginning of this year I have, in some measure, forborne excess of
strong drink, my appetites have predominated over my reason. A kind of
strange oblivion has overspread me, so that I know not what has become
of the last year; and perceive that incidents and intelligence pass over
me, without leaving any impression.' He then solemnly says,

'This is not the life to which heaven is promised[1414];' and he earnestly
resolves an amendment.

[Page 483: A severe attack of hypochondria. Ætat 55.]

It was his custom to observe certain days with a pious abstraction; viz.
New-year's-day, the day of his wife's death, Good Friday, Easter-day,
and his own birth-day. He this year says[1415]:--'I have now spent
fifty-five years in resolving; having, from the earliest time almost
that I can remember, been forming schemes of a better life. I have done
nothing. The need of doing, therefore, is pressing, since the time of
doing is short. 0 GOD, grant me to resolve aright, and to keep my
resolutions, for JESUS CHRIST'S sake. Amen[1416].'

Such a tenderness of conscience, such a fervent desire of improvement,
will rarely be found. It is, surely, not decent in those who are
hardened in indifference to spiritual improvement, to treat this pious
anxiety of Johnson with contempt.

About this time he was afflicted with a very severe return of the
hypochondriack disorder, which was ever lurking about him. He was so
ill, as, notwithstanding his remarkable love of company, to be entirely
averse to society, the most fatal symptom of that malady. Dr. Adams told
me, that as an old friend he was admitted to visit him, and that he
found him in a deplorable state, sighing, groaning, talking to himself,
and restlessly walking from room to room. He then used this emphatical
expression of the misery which he felt: 'I would consent to have a limb
amputated to recover my spirits[1417].'

[Page 484: Johnson's particularities. A.D. 1764.]

Talking to himself was, indeed, one of his singularities ever since I
knew him. I was certain that he was frequently uttering pious
ejaculations; for fragments of the Lord's Prayer have been distinctly
overheard[1418]. His friend Mr. Thomas Davies, of whom Churchill says,

'That Davies hath a very pretty wife[1419],'

when Dr. Johnson muttered 'lead us not into temptation,' used with
waggish and gallant humour to whisper Mrs. Davies, 'You, my dear, are
the cause of this.'

He had another particularity, of which none of his friends ever ventured
to ask an explanation[1420]. It appeared to me some superstitious habit,
which he had contracted early, and from which he had never called upon
his reason to disentangle him. This was his anxious care to go out or in
at a door or passage by a certain number of steps from a certain point,
or at least so as that either his right or his left foot, (I am not
certain which,) should constantly make the first actual movement when he
came close to the door or passage. Thus I conjecture: for I have, upon
innumerable occasions, observed him suddenly stop, and then seem to
count his steps with a deep earnestness; and when he had neglected or
gone wrong in this sort of magical movement, I have seen him go back
again, put himself in a proper posture to begin the ceremony, and,
having gone through it, break from his abstraction, walk briskly on, and
join his companion[1421]. A strange instance of something of this nature,
even when on horseback, happened when he was in the isle of Sky[1422].
Sir Joshua Reynolds has observed him to go a good way about, rather than
cross a particular alley in Leicester-fields; but this Sir Joshua
imputed to his having had some disagreeable recollection associated
with it.

[Page 486: Illness of Joshua Reynolds. A.D. 1765.]

That the most minute singularities which belonged to him, and made very
observable parts of his appearance and manner, may not be omitted, it is
requisite to mention, that while talking or even musing as he sat in his
chair, he commonly held his head to one side towards his right shoulder,
and shook it in a tremulous manner, moving his body backwards and
forwards, and rubbing his left knee in the same direction, with the palm
of his hand. In the intervals of articulating he made various sounds
with his mouth, sometimes as if ruminating, or what is called chewing
the cud, sometimes giving a half whistle, some-times making his tongue
play backwards from the roof of his mouth, as if clucking like a hen,
and sometimes protruding it against his upper gums in front, as if
pronouncing quickly under his breath, _too, too, too_: all this
accompanied sometimes with a thoughtful look, but more frequently with a
smile. Generally when he had concluded a period, in the course of a
dispute, by which time he was a good deal exhausted by violence and
vociferation, he used to blow out his breath like a Whale. This I
supposed was a relief to his lungs; and seemed in him to be a
contemptuous mode of expression, as if he had made the arguments of his
opponent fly like chaff before the wind.

I am fully aware how very obvious an occasion I here give for the
sneering jocularity of such as have no relish of an exact likeness;
which to render complete, he who draws it must not disdain the slightest
strokes. But if witlings should be inclined to attack this account, let
them have the candour to quote what I have offered in my defence.

He was for some time in the summer at Easton Maudit, Northamptonshire,
on a visit to the Reverend Dr. Percy, now Bishop of Dromore. Whatever
dissatisfaction he felt at what he considered as a slow progress in
intellectual improvement, we find that his heart was tender, and his
affections warm, as appears from the following very kind letter:



'I did not hear of your sickness till I heard likewise of your recovery,
and therefore escaped that part of your pain, which every man must feel,
to whom you are known as you are known to me.

'Having had no particular account of your disorder, I know not in what
state it has left you. If the amusement of my company can exhilarate the
languor of a slow recovery, I will not delay a day to come to you; for I
know not how I can so effectually promote my own pleasure as by pleasing
you, or my own interest as by preserving you, in whom, if I should lose
you, I should lose almost the only man whom I call a friend.

'Pray let me hear of you from yourself, or from dear Miss Reynolds[1423].
Make my compliments to Mr. Mudge. I am, dear Sir,

'Your most affectionate

'And most humble servant,


'At the Rev. Mr. Percy's, at Easton Maudit, Northamptonshire, (by Castle
Ashby,) Aug. 19, 1764.'

[Page 487: Johnson at Cambridge. Ætat 56.]

1765: ÆTAT. 56.--Early in the year 1765 he paid a short visit to the
University of Cambridge, with his friend Mr. Beauclerk. There is a
lively picturesque account of his behaviour on this visit, in _The
Gentleman's Magazine_ for March 1785, being an extract of a letter from
the late Dr. John Sharp. The two following sentences are very

'He drank his large potations of tea with me, interrupted by many an
indignant contradiction, and many a noble sentiment,'--'Several persons
got into his company the last evening at Trinity, where, about twelve,
he began to be very great; stripped poor Mrs. Macaulay to the very skin,
then gave her for his toast, and drank her in two bumpers[1424].'

The strictness of his self-examination and scrupulous Christian humility
appear in his pious meditation on Easter-day this year.

'I purpose again to partake of the blessed sacrament; yet when I
consider how vainly I have hitherto resolved at this annual
commemoration of my Saviour's death, to regulate my life by his laws, I
am almost afraid to renew my resolutions.'

The concluding words are very remarkable, and shew that he laboured
under a severe depression of spirits.

'Since the last Easter I have reformed no evil habit, my time has been
unprofitably spent, and seems as a dream that has left nothing behind.
_My memory grows confused, and I know not how the days pass over me_.
Good Lord deliver me[1425]!'

[Page 488: Trinity College, Dublin. A.D. 1765.]

No man was more gratefully sensible of any kindness done to him than
Johnson. There is a little circumstance in his diary this year, which
shews him in a very amiable light.

'July 2.--I paid Mr. Simpson ten guineas, which he had formerly lent me
in my necessity and for which Tetty expressed her gratitude.'

'July 8.--I lent Mr. Simpson ten guineas more[1426].'

Here he had a pleasing opportunity of doing the same kindness to an old
friend, which he had formerly received from him. Indeed his liberality
as to money was very remarkable. The next article in his diary is,

'July 16.--I received seventy-five pounds[1427]. Lent Mr. Davis

Trinity College, Dublin, at this time surprised Johnson with a
spontaneous compliment of the highest academical honours, by creating
him Doctor of Laws[1428]. The diploma, which is in my possession, is as

[Page 489: Johnson created Doctor of Laws. Ætat 56.]

'_OMNIBUS ad quos præsentes literae pervenerint, salutem. Nos Præpositus
et Socii seniores Collegii sacrosanctæ et individuæ Trinitatis Reginæ
Elizabethæ juxta Dublin, testamur_, Samueli Johnson, _Armigero[1429], ob
egregiam scriptorum elegantiam et utilitatem, gratiam concessam fuisse
pro gradu Doctoratus in utroque Jure, octavo die Julii, Anno Domini
millesimo septingentesimo sexagesimo-quinto. In cujus rei testimonium
singulorum manus et sigillum quo in hisce utimur apposuimus; vicesimo
tertio die Julii, Anno Domini millesimo septingentesimo

            'GUL. CLEMENT.   FRAN. ANDREWS.   R. MURRAY.
            'THO. WILSON.         Præps.      ROBtus LAW.
            'THO. LELAND.                     MICH. KEARNEY.'

This unsolicited mark of distinction, conferred on so great a literary
character, did much honour to the judgement and liberal spirit of that
learned body. Johnson acknowledged the favour in a letter to Dr. Leland,
one of their number; but I have not been able to obtain a copy of it.

He appears this year to have been seized with a temporary fit of
ambition, for he had thoughts both of studying law and of engaging in
politics. His 'Prayer before the Study of Law' is truly admirable:--

'Sept. 26, 1765.

'Almighty GOD, the giver of wisdom, without whose help resolutions are
vain, without whose blessing study is ineffectual; enable me, if it be
thy will, to attain such knowledge as may qualify me to direct the
doubtful, and instruct the ignorant; to prevent wrongs and terminate
contentions; and grant that I may use that knowledge which I shall
attain, to thy glory and my own salvation, for JESUS CHRIST'S sake.

[Page 490: Johnson's introduction to the Thrales. A.D. 1765.]

His prayer in the view of becoming a politician is entitled, 'Engaging
in POLITICKS with H----n,' no doubt his friend, the Right Honourable
William Gerard Hamilton[1432], for whom, during a long acquaintance, he had
a great esteem, and to whose conversation he once paid this high
compliment: 'I am very unwilling to be left alone, Sir, and therefore I
go with my company down the first pair of stairs, in some hopes that
they may, perhaps, return again. I go with you, Sir, as far as the
street-door.' In what particular department he intended to engage does
not appear, nor can Mr. Hamilton explain[1433]. His prayer is in general

'Enlighten my understanding with knowledge of right, and govern my will
by thy laws, that no deceit may mislead me, nor temptation corrupt me;
that I may always endeavour to do good, and hinder evil[1434].'

There is nothing upon the subject in his diary.

[Page 491: Old Thrale. Ætat 56.]

This year[1435] was distinguished by his being introduced into the family
of Mr. Thrale, one of the most eminent brewers in England, and Member of
Parliament for the borough of Southwark. Foreigners are not a little
amazed when they hear of brewers, distillers, and men in similar
departments of trade, held forth as persons of considerable consequence.
In this great commercial country it is natural that a situation which
produces much wealth should be considered as very respectable; and, no
doubt, honest industry is entitled to esteem. But, perhaps, the too
rapid advance of men of low extraction tends to lessen the value of that
distinction by birth and gentility, which has ever been found beneficial
to the grand scheme of subordination. Johnson used to give this account
of the rise of Mr. Thrale's father: 'He worked at six shillings a week
for twenty years in the great brewery, which afterwards was his own. The
proprietor of it had an only daughter, who was married to a nobleman. It
was not fit that a peer should continue the business. On the old man's
death, therefore, the brewery was to be sold. To find a purchaser for so
large a property was a difficult matter; and, after some time, it was
suggested, that it would be adviseable to treat with Thrale, a sensible,
active, honest man, who had been employed in the house, and to transfer
the whole to him for thirty thousand pounds, security being taken upon
the property. This was accordingly settled. In eleven years Thrale paid
the purchase-money[1436]. He acquired a large fortune, and lived to be
Member of Parliament for Southwark. But what was most remarkable was the
liberality with which he used his riches. He gave his son and daughters
the best education. The esteem which his good conduct procured him from
the nobleman who had married his master's daughter, made him be treated
with much attention; and his son, both at school and at the University
of Oxford, associated with young men of the first rank. His allowance
from his father, after he left college, was splendid; no less than a
thousand a year. This, in a man who had risen as old Thrale did, was a
very extraordinary instance of generosity. He used to say, 'If this
young dog does not find so much after I am gone as he expects, let him
remember that he has had a great deal in my own time.'

The son, though in affluent circumstances, had good sense enough to
carry on his father's trade, which was of such extent, that I remember
he once told me, he would not quit it for an annuity of ten thousand a
year; 'Not (said he,) that I get ten thousand a year by it, but it is an
estate to a family.' Having left daughters only, the property was sold
for the immense sum of one hundred and thirty-five thousand pounds[1437]; a
magnificent proof of what may be done by fair trade in no long period of

[Page 492: A new system of gentility. A.D. 1765.]

There may be some who think that a new system of gentility[1438] might be
established, upon principles totally different from what have hitherto
prevailed. Our present heraldry, it may be said, is suited to the
barbarous times in which it had its origin. It is chiefly founded upon
ferocious merit, upon military excellence. Why, in civilised times, we
may be asked, should there not be rank and honours, upon principles,
which, independent of long custom, are certainly not less worthy, and
which, when once allowed to be connected with elevation and precedency,
would obtain the same dignity in our imagination? Why should not the
knowledge, the skill, the expertness, the assiduity, and the spirited
hazards of trade and commerce, when crowned with success, be entitled to
give those flattering distinctions by which mankind are so universally

Such are the specious, but false arguments for a proposition which
always will find numerous advocates, in a nation where men are every day
starting up from obscurity to wealth. To refute them is needless. The
general sense of mankind cries out, with irresistible force, 'Un
gentilhomme est toujours gentilhomme'[1439].

[Page 493: A new home for Johnson. Ætat 56.]

Mr. Thrale had married Miss Hesther Lynch Salusbury, of good Welsh
extraction[1440], a lady of lively talents, improved by education. That
Johnson's introduction into Mr. Thrale's family, which contributed so
much to the happiness of his life, was owing to her desire for his
conversation, is very probable and a general supposition: but it is not
the truth. Mr. Murphy, who was intimate with Mr. Thrale[1441], having
spoken very highly of Dr. Johnson, he was requested to make them
acquainted[1442]. This being mentioned to Johnson, he accepted of an
invitation to dinner at Thrale's, and was so much pleased with his
reception, both by Mr. and Mrs. Thrale, and they so much pleased with
him, that his invitations to their house were more and more frequent,
till at last he became one of the family, and an apartment was
appropriated to him, both in their house in Southwark, and in their
villa at Streatham[1443].

[Page 494: Mr. Thrale. A.D. 1765.]

Johnson had a very sincere esteem for Mr. Thrale, as a man of excellent
principles, a good scholar, well skilled in trade, of a sound
understanding, and of manners such as presented the character of a plain
independent English 'Squire[1444]. As this family will frequently be
mentioned in the course of the following pages, and as a false notion
has prevailed that Mr. Thrale was inferiour, and in some degree
insignificant, compared with Mrs. Thrale, it may be proper to give a
true state of the case from the authority of Johnson himself in his own

[Page 495: Mrs. Thrale. Ætat 56.]

'I know no man, (said he,) who is more master of his wife and family
than Thrale. If he but holds up a finger, he is obeyed. It is a great
mistake to suppose that she is above him in literary attainments[1445]. She
is more flippant; but he has ten times her learning: he is a regular
scholar; but her learning is that of a school-boy in one of the lower
forms.' My readers may naturally wish for some representation of the
figures of this couple. Mr. Thrale was tall, well proportioned, and
stately. As for Madam, or my Mistress[1446], by which epithets Johnson used
to mention Mrs. Thrale, she was short, plump, and brisk[1447]. She has
herself given us a lively view of the idea which Johnson had of her
person, on her appearing before him in a dark-coloured gown; 'You little
creatures should never wear those sort of clothes, however; they are
unsuitable in every way. What! have not all insects gay colours[1448]?' Mr.
Thrale gave his wife a liberal indulgence, both in the choice of their
company, and in the mode of entertaining them. He understood and valued
Johnson, without remission, from their first acquaintance to the day of
his death. Mrs. Thrale was enchanted with Johnson's conversation, for
its own sake, and had also a very allowable vanity in appearing to be
honoured with the attention of so celebrated a man.

[Page 496: Johnson's SHAKSPEARE published. A.D. 1765.]

Nothing could be more fortunate for Johnson than this connection[1449]. He
had at Mr. Thrale's all the comforts and even luxuries of life; his
melancholy was diverted, and his irregular habits lessened[1450] by
association with an agreeable and well-ordered family. He was treated
with the utmost respect, and even affection. The vivacity of Mrs.
Thrale's literary talk roused him to cheerfulness and exertion, even
when they were alone. But this was not often the case; for he found here
a constant succession of what gave him the highest enjoyment: the
society of the learned, the witty, and the eminent in every way, who
were assembled in numerous companies[1451], called forth his wonderful
powers, and gratified him with admiration, to which no man could be

[Page 497: Dr. Kenrick. Ætat 56.]

In the October of this year[1452] he at length gave to the world his
edition of _Shakspeare_[1453], which, if it had no other merit but that of
producing his Preface[1454], in which the excellencies and defects of that
immortal bard are displayed with a masterly hand, the nation would have
had no reason to complain. A blind indiscriminate admiration of
Shakspeare had exposed the British nation to the ridicule of
foreigners[1455]. Johnson, by candidly admitting the faults of his poet,
had the more credit in bestowing on him deserved and indisputable
praise; and doubtless none of all his panegyrists have done him half so
much honour. Their praise was, like that of a counsel, upon his own side
of the cause: Johnson's was like the grave, well-considered, and
impartial opinion of the judge, which falls from his lips with weight,
and is received with reverence. What he did as a commentator has no
small share of merit, though his researches were not so ample, and his
investigations so acute as they might have been, which we now certainly
know from the labours of other able and ingenious criticks who have
followed him[1456]. He has enriched his edition with a concise account of
each play, and of its characteristick excellence. Many of his notes have
illustrated obscurities in the text, and placed passages eminent for
beauty in a more conspicuous light; and he has in general exhibited such
a mode of annotation, as may be beneficial to all subsequent editors[1457].

[Page 498: Johnson's attack on Voltaire. A.D. 1785.]

His _Shakespeare_ was virulently attacked by Mr. William Kenrick, who
obtained the degree of LL.D. from a Scotch University, and wrote for the
booksellers in a great variety of branches. Though he certainly was not
without considerable merit, he wrote with so little regard to decency
and principles, and decorum[1458], and in so hasty a manner, that his
reputation was neither extensive nor lasting. I remember one evening,
when some of his works were mentioned, Dr. Goldsmith said, he had never
heard of them; upon which Dr. Johnson observed, 'Sir, he is one of the
many who have made themselves _publick_, without making themselves

A young student of Oxford, of the name of Barclay, wrote an answer to
Kenrick's review of Johnson's _Shakspeare_. Johnson was at first angry
that Kenrick's attack should have the credit of an answer. But
afterwards, considering the young man's good intention, he kindly
noticed him, and probably would have done more, had not the young man

[Page 499: Voltaire's reply. Ætat 56.]

In his Preface to _Shakspeare_, Johnson treated Voltaire very
contemptuously, observing, upon some of his remarks, 'These are the
petty criticisms of petty wits[1461].' Voltaire, in revenge, made an attack
upon Johnson, in one of his numerous literary sallies, which I remember
to have read; but there being no general index to his voluminous works,
have searched in vain, and therefore cannot quote it[1462].

Voltaire was an antagonist with whom I thought Johnson should not
disdain to contend. I pressed him to answer. He said, he perhaps might;
but he never did.

Mr. Burney having occasion to write to Johnson for some receipts for
subscriptions to his Shakspeare, which Johnson had omitted to deliver
when the money was paid[1463], he availed himself of that opportunity of
thanking Johnson for the great pleasure which he had received from the
perusal of his Preface to _Shakspeare_; which, although it excited much
clamour against him at first, is now justly ranked among the most
excellent of his writings. To this letter Johnson returned the following

[Page 500: Resolutions at church.]



'I am sorry that your kindness to me has brought upon you so much
trouble, though you have taken care to abate that sorrow, by the
pleasure which I receive from your approbation. I defend my criticism in
the same manner with you. We must confess the faults of our favourite,
to gain credit to our praise of his excellencies. He that claims, either
in himself or for another, the honours of perfection, will surely injure
the reputation which he designs to assist.

'Be pleased to make my compliments to your family.

'I am, Sir,

'Your most obliged

'And most humble servant,

'Sam. Johnson.'

'Oct. 16, 1765.[1464]'

From one of his journals I transcribed what follows:

'At church, Oct. --65.

'To avoid all singularity; _Bonaventura_[1465].

'To come in before service, and compose my mind by meditation, or by
reading some portions of scriptures. _Tetty_.

'If I can hear the sermon, to attend it, unless attention be more
troublesome than useful.

'To consider the act of prayer as a reposal of myself upon God, and a
resignation of 'all into his holy hand.'



(_Pages_ 118 _and_ 150.)

The publication of the 'Debates' in the _Gentleman's Magazine_ began in
July 1732. The names of the speakers were not printed in full; Sir
Robert Walpole was disguised--if a disguise it can be called--as Sir
R----t W----le, and Mr. Pelham as Mr. P--lh--m. Otherwise the report was
open and avowed. During the first few years, however, it often happened
that no attempt was made to preserve the individuality of the members.
Thus in a debate on the number of seamen (_Gent. Mag_. v. 507), the
speeches of the 'eight chief speakers' were so combined as to form but
three. First come 'the arguments made use of for 30,000 men;' next, 'an
answer to the following effect;' and lastly, 'a reply that was in
substance as follows.' Each of these three speeches is in the first
person, though each is formed of the arguments of two members at least,
perhaps of many. In the report of a two days' debate in 1737, in which
there were fourteen chief speakers, the substance of thirteen of the
speeches was given in three (_ib_. vii. 746, 775). In July 1736 (_ib_.
vi. 363) we find the beginning of a great change. 'To satisfy the
impatience of his readers,' the publisher promises 'to give them
occasionally some entire speeches.' He prints one which likely enough
had been sent to him by the member who had spoken it, and adds that he
shall be 'grateful for any authentic intelligence in matters of such
importance and _tenderness_ as the speeches in Parliament' (_ib_. p.
365). Cave, in his examination before the House of Lords on April 30,
1747, on a charge of having printed in the _Gentleman's Magazine_ an
account of the trial of Lord Lovat, owned that 'he had had speeches sent
him by the members themselves, and had had assistance from some members
who have taken notes of other members' speeches' (_Parl. Hist_. xiv.

It was chiefly in the numbers of the _Magazine_ for the latter half of
each year that the publication took place. The parliamentary recess was
the busy time for reporters and printers. It was commonly believed that
the resolution on the Journals of the House of Commons against
publishing any of its proceedings was only in force while parliament was
sitting. But on April 13, 1738, it was unanimously resolved 'that it is
an high indignity to, and a notorious breach of the privilege of this
House to give any account of the debates, as well during the recess as
the sitting of parliament' (_Parl. Hist_. x. 812). It was admitted that
this privilege expired at the end of every parliament. When the
dissolution had come every one might publish what he pleased. With the
House of Lords it was far otherwise, for 'it is a Court of Record, and
as such its rights and privileges never die. It may punish a printer for
printing any part of its proceedings for thirty or forty years back'
(_ib_. p. 807). Mr. Winnington, when speaking to this resolution of
April 13, said that if they did not put a speedy stop to this practice
of reporting 'they will have every word that is spoken here by
_gentlemen_ misrepresented by _fellows_ who thrust themselves into our
gallery' (_ib_. p. 806). Walpole complained 'that he had been made to
speak the very reverse of what he meant. He had read debates wherein all
the wit, the learning, and the argument had been thrown into one side,
and on the other nothing but what was low, mean, and ridiculous' (_ib_.
p. 809). Later on, Johnson in his reports 'saved appearances tolerably
well; but took care that the WHIG DOGS should not have the best of it'
(Murphy's _Johnson_, p. 45).

It was but a few days after he became a contributor to the _Magazine_
that this resolution was passed. Parliament rose on May 20, and in the
June number the reports of the debates of the Senate of Lilliput began.
To his fertile mind was very likely due this humorous expedient by which
the resolution of the House was mocked. That he wrote the introduction
in which is narrated the voyage of Captain Gulliver's grandson to
Lilliputia can scarcely be doubted. It bears all the marks of his early
style. The Lords become Hurgoes, and the Commons Clinabs, Walpole
becomes Walelop, Pulteney Pulnub, and Pitt Ptit; otherwise the report is
much as it had been. At the end of the volume for 1739 was given a key
to all the names. The _London Magazine_ had boldly taken the lead. In
the May number, which was published at the close of the month, and
therefore after parliament had risen, began the report of the
proceedings and debates of a political and learned club of young
noblemen and gentlemen, who hoped one day to enter parliament, and who
therefore, the better to qualify themselves for their high position,
only debated questions that were there discussed. To the speakers were
given the names of the ancient Greeks and Romans. Thus we find the Hon.
Marcus Cato and the Right Hon. M. Tullius Cicero. By the key that was
published in 1742 Cicero was seen to be Walpole, and Cato, Pulteney.
What risks the publishers and writers ran was very soon shown. In
December 1740 the ministers proposed to lay an embargo on various
articles of food. As the members entered the House a printed paper was
handed to each, entitled _Considerations upon the Embargo_. Adam Smith
had just gone up as a young student to the University of Oxford. There
are 'considerations' suggested in this paper which the great authority
of the author of the _Wealth of Nations_ has not yet made pass current
as truths. The paper contained, moreover, charges of jobbery against
'great men,' though no one was named. It was at once voted a malicious
and scandalous libel, and the author, William Cooley, a scrivener, was
committed to Newgate. With him was sent the printer of the _Daily Post_,
in which part of the _Considerations_ had been published. After seven
weeks' imprisonment in the depth of winter in that miserable den,
'without sufficient sustenance to support life,' Cooley was discharged
on paying his fees. He was in knowledge more than a hundred years before
his time, and had been made to suffer accordingly. The printer would
have been discharged also, but the fees were more than he could pay. Two
months later he petitioned for mercy. The fees by that time were £121.
His petition was not received, and he was kept in prison till the close
of the session (_Parl. Hist_. xi. 867-894).

Such were the risks run by Cave and Johnson and their fellow-workers.
That no prosecution followed was due perhaps to that dread of ridicule
which has often tempered the severity of the law. 'The Hurgolen Branard,
who in the former session was Pretor of Mildendo,' might well have been
unwilling to prove that he was Sir John Barnard, late Lord Mayor of

Johnson, it should seem, revised some of the earliest _Debates_. In a
letter to Cave which cannot have been written later than September 1738,
he mentions the alterations that he had made (_ante_, p. 136). The more
they were written by him, the less authentic did they become, for he was
not one of those 'fellows who thrust themselves into the gallery of the
House.' His employer, Cave, if we can trust his own evidence, had been
in the habit of going there and taking notes with a pencil (_Parl.
Hist_. xiv. 60). But Johnson, Hawkins says (_Life_, p. 122), 'never was
within the walls of either House.' According to Murphy (_Life_, p. 44),
he had been inside the House of Commons once. Be this as it may, in the
end the _Debates_ were composed by him alone (_ante_, p. 118). From that
time they must no longer be looked upon as authentic records, in spite
of the assertions of the Editor of the _Parl. Hist_. (xi. Preface).
Johnson told Boswell (_ante_, p. 118) 'that sometimes he had nothing
more communicated to him than the names of the several speakers, and the
part which they had taken in the debate;' sometimes 'he had scanty notes
furnished by persons employed to attend in both Houses of Parliament.'
Often, his Debates were written 'from no materials at all--the mere
coinage of his own imagination' (_post_, under Dec. 9, 1784).

'He never wrote any part of his works with equal velocity. Three columns
of the _Magazine_ in an hour was no uncommon effort, which was faster
than most persons could have transcribed that quantity' (_ib_.).
According to Hawkins (_Life_, p. 99), 'His practice was to shut himself
up in a room assigned to him at St. John's Gate, to which he would not
suffer any one to approach, except the compositor or Cave's boy for
matter, which, as fast as he composed it, he tumbled out at the door.'

From Murphy we get the following curious story:--

'That Johnson was the author of the debates during that period [Nov,
1740 to Feb. 1743] was not generally known; but the secret transpired
several years afterwards, and was avowed by himself on the following
occasion:--Mr. Wedderburne (now Lord Loughborough), Dr. Johnson, Dr.
Francis (the translator of _Horace_), the present writer, and others
dined with the late Mr. Foote. An important debate towards the end of
Sir Robert Walpole's administration being mentioned, Dr. Francis
observed, "that Mr. Pitt's speech on that occasion was the best he had
ever read." He added, "that he had employed eight years of his life in
the study of Demosthenes, and finished a translation of that celebrated
orator, with all the decorations of style and language within the reach
of his capacity; but he had met with nothing equal to the speech above
mentioned." Many of the company remembered the debate; and some passages
were cited with the approbation and applause of all present. During the
ardour of conversation, Johnson remained silent. As soon as the warmth
of praise subsided, he opened with these words:--"That speech I wrote in
a garret in Exeter Street." The company was struck with astonishment.
After staring at each other in silent amaze, Dr. Francis asked how that
speech could be written by him? "Sir," said Johnson, "I wrote it in
Exeter Street. I never had been in the gallery of the House of Commons
but once. Cave had interest with the door-keepers. He, and the persons
employed under him, gained admittance: they brought away the subject of
discussion, the names of the speakers, the side they took, and the order
in which they rose, together with notes of the arguments advanced in the
course of the debate. The whole was afterwards communicated to me, and I
composed the speeches in the form which they now have in the
Parliamentary Debates." To this discovery Dr. Francis made
answer:--"Then, sir, you have exceeded Demosthenes himself, for to say
that you have exceeded Francis's _Demosthenes_, would be saying
nothing." The rest of the company bestowed lavish encomiums on Johnson:
one, in particular, praised his impartiality; observing, that he dealt
out reason and eloquence with an equal hand to both parties. "That is
not quite true," said Johnson; "I saved appearances tolerably well, but
I took care that the WHIG DOGS should not have the best of it."'
Murphy's _Life of Johnson_, p. 343.

Murphy, we must not forget, wrote from memory, for there is no reason to
think that he kept notes. That his memory cannot altogether be trusted
has been shown by Boswell (_ante_, p. 391, note 4). This dinner with
Foote must have taken place at least nineteen years before this account
was published, for so many years had Dr. Francis been dead. At the time
when Johnson was living in Exeter-street he was not engaged on the
magazine. Nevertheless the main facts may be true enough. Johnson
himself told Boswell (_post_, May 13, 1778) that in Lord Chesterfield's
_Miscellaneous Works_ (ii. 319) there were two speeches ascribed to
Chesterfield which he had himself entirely written. Horace Walpole
(_Letters_, i. 147) complained that the published report of his own
first speech 'did not contain one sentence of the true one.' Johnson, in
his preface to the _Literary Magazine_ of 1756, seems to confess what he
had done, unless, indeed, he was altogether making himself the mere
mouth-piece of the publisher. He says:--'We shall not attempt to give
any regular series of debates, or to amuse our readers with senatorial
rhetorick. The speeches inserted in other papers have been long known to
be fictitious, and produced sometimes by men who never heard the debate,
nor had any authentick information. We have no design to impose thus
grossly on our readers.' (_Works_, v. 363.)

The secret that Johnson wrote these _Debates_ was indeed well kept. He
seems to be aimed at in a question that was put to Cave in his
examination before the House of Lords in 1747. 'Being asked "if he ever
had any person whom he kept in pay to make speeches for him," he said,
"he never had."' (_Parl. Hist_. xiv. 60.) Herein he lied in order, no
doubt, to screen Johnson. Forty-four years later Horace Walpole wrote
(_Letters_, ix. 319), 'I never knew Johnson wrote the speeches in the
_Gentleman's Magazine_ till he died.' Johnson told Boswell 'that as soon
as he found that they were thought genuine he determined that he would
write no more of them, "for he would not be accessory to the propagation
of falsehood."' (_Ante_, p. 152.) One of his _Debates_ was translated
into French, German, and Spanish (_Gent. Mag_. xiii. 59), and, no doubt,
was accepted abroad as authentic. When he learnt this his conscience
might well have received a shock. That it did receive a shock seems
almost capable of proof. It was in the number of the _Magazine_ for
February, 1743--at the beginning of March, that is to say--that the fact
of these foreign translations was made known. The last Debate that
Johnson wrote was for the 22nd day of February in that year. In 1740,
1741, and 1742, he had worked steadily at his _Debates_. The beginning
of 1743 found him no less busy. His task suddenly came to an end. Among
foreign nations his speeches were read as the very words of English
statesmen. To the propagation of such a falsehood as this he would no
longer be accessory. Fifteen years later Smollett quoted them as if they
were genuine (_History of England_, iii. 73). Here, however, Johnson's
conscience was void of offence; for 'he had cautioned him not to rely on
them, for that they were not authentic.' (Hawkins, _Life_, p. 129.)

That they should generally have passed current shews how unacquainted
people at that time were with real debating. Even if we had not
Johnson's own statement, both from external and internal evidence we
could have known that they were for the most part 'the mere coinage of
his imagination.' They do not read like speeches that had ever been
spoken. 'None of them,' Mr. Flood said, 'were at all like real debates'
(_post_, under March 30, 1771). They are commonly formed of general
statements which suit any one speaker just as well as any other. The
scantier were the notes that were given him by those who had heard the
debate, the more he had to draw on his imagination. But his was an
imagination which supplied him with what was general much more readily
than with what was particular. Had De Foe been the composer he would
have scattered over each speech the most ingenious and probable matters
of detail, but De Foe and Johnson were wide as the poles asunder.
Neither had Johnson any dramatic power. His parliamentary speakers have
scarcely more variety than the characters in _Irene_. Unless he had been
a constant frequenter of the galleries of the two Houses, he could not
have acquired any knowledge of the style and the peculiarities of the
different members. Nay, even of their modes of thinking and their
sentiments he could have gained but the most general notions. Of
debating he knew nothing. It was the set speeches in _Livy_ and the old
historians that he took as his models. In his orations there is very
little of 'the tart reply;' there is, indeed, scarcely any examination
of an adversary's arguments. So general are the speeches that the order
in which they are given might very often without inconvenience be
changed. They are like a series of leading articles on both sides of the
question, but all written by one man. Johnson is constantly shifting his
character, and, like Falstaff and the Prince, playing first his own part
and then his opponent's. It is wonderful how well he preserves his
impartiality, though he does 'take care that the Whig dogs should not
have the best of it.'

He not only took the greatest liberties in his reports, but he often
took them openly. Thus an army bill was debated in committee on Dec. 10,
1740, and again the following day on the report in the full House. 'As
in these two debates,' he writes, 'the arguments were the same, Mr.
Gulliver has thrown them into one to prevent unnecessary repetitions.'
(_Gent. Mag_. Dec. 1742, p. 676.) In each House during the winter of
1742-3 there was a debate on taking the Hanoverian troops into pay. The
debate in the Lords was spread over five numbers of the _Magazine_ in
the following summer and autumn. It was not till the spring of 1744 that
the turn of the Commons came, and then they were treated somewhat
scurvily. 'This debate,' says the reporter, who was Johnson, 'we thought
it necessary to contract by the omission of those arguments which were
fully discussed in the House of Hurgoes, and of those speakers who
produced them, lest we should disgust our readers by tedious
repetitions.' (_Ib_. xiv. 125.) Many of these debates have been reported
somewhat briefly by Bishop (afterwards Archbishop) Seeker. To follow his
account requires an accurate knowledge of the times, whereas Johnson's
rhetorick for the most part is easily understood even by one very
ignorant of the history of the first two Georges. Much of it might have
been spoken on almost any occasion, for or against almost any minister.
It is true that we here and there find such a correspondence between the
two reports as shews that Johnson, as he has himself told us, was at
times furnished with some information. But, on the other hand, we can no
less clearly see that he was often drawing solely on his imagination.
Frequently there is but the slightest agreement between the reports
given by the two men of the same speeches. Of this a good instance is
afforded by Lord Carteret's speech of Feb. 13, 1741. According to
Johnson 'the Hurgo Quadrert began in this manner':--

'As the motion which I am about to make is of the highest importance and
of the most extensive consequences; as it cannot but meet with all the
opposition which the prejudices of some and the interest of others can
raise against it; as it must have the whole force of ministerial
influence to encounter without any assistance but from justice and
reason, I hope to be excused by your Lordships for spending some time in
endeavouring to shew that it wants no other support; that it is not
founded upon doubtful suspicions but upon uncontestable facts,' and so
on for eight more lines. (_Gent. Mag_. xi. 339).

The Bishop's note begins as follows:--

'CARTERET. I am glad to see the House so full. The honour of the nation
is at stake. And the oldest man hath not known such circumstances as we
are in. When storms rise you must see what pilots you have, and take
methods to make the nation easy. I shall (1) go through the foreign
transactions of several years; (2) The domestic; (3) Prove that what I
am about to propose is a parliamentary method.' (_Parl. Hist_. xi.

Still more striking is the difference in the two reports of a speech by
Lord Talbot on May 25, 1742. According to the _Gent. Mag_. xii. 519,
'the Hurgo Toblat spoke to this effect':--

'So high is my veneration for this great assembly that it is never
without the utmost efforts of resolution that I can prevail upon myself
to give my sentiments upon any question that is the subject of debate,
however strong may be my conviction, or however ardent my zeal.'

The Bishop makes him say:--

'I rise up only to give time to others to consider how they will carry
on the debate.' (_Parl. Hist_. xii. 646.)

On Feb. 13, 1741, the same Lord, being called to order for saying that
there were Lords who were influenced by a place, exclaimed, according to
the Bishop, '"By the eternal G--d, I will defend my cause everywhere."
But Lords calling to order, he recollected himself and made an excuse.'
(_Parl. Hist_. xi. 1063). In the _Gent. Mag_. xi. 4l9, 'the Hurgo Toblat
resumed:--"My Lords, whether anything has escaped from me that deserves
such severe animadversions your Lordships must decide."'

Once at least in Johnson's reports a speech is given to the wrong
member. In the debate on the Gin Bill on Feb. 22, 1743 (_Gent. Mag_.
xiii. 696), though the Bishop's notes show that he did not speak, yet a
long speech is put into his mouth. It was the Earl of Sandwich who had
spoken at this turn of the debate. The editor of the _Parl. Hist_. (xii.
1398), without even notifying the change, coolly transfers the speech
from the 'decent' Seeker[1466], who was afterwards Primate, to the
grossly licentious Earl. A transference such as this is, however, but of
little moment. For the most part the speeches would be scarcely less
lifelike, if all on one side were assigned to some nameless Whig, and all
on the other side to some nameless Tory. It is nevertheless true that
here and there are to be found passages which no doubt really fell from
the speaker in whose mouth they are put. They mention some fact or
contain some allusion which could not otherwise have been known by
Johnson. Even if we had not Cave's word for it, we might have inferred
that now and then a member was himself his own reporter. Thus in the
_Gent. Mag_. for February 1744 (p. 68) we find a speech by Sir John St.
Aubyn that had appeared eight months earlier in the very same words in
the _London Magazine_. That Johnson copied a rival publication is most
unlikely--impossible, I might say. St. Aubyn, I conjecture, sent a copy
of his speech to both editors. In the _Gent. Mag_. for April 1743 (p.
184), a speech by Lord Percival on Dec. 10, 1742, is reported apparently
at full length. The debate itself was not published till the spring of
1744, when the reader is referred for this speech to the back number in
which it had already been inserted. (_Ib_. xiv. 123).

The _London Magazine_ generally gave the earlier report; it was,
however, twitted by its rival with its inaccuracy. In one debate, it was
said, 'it had introduced instead of twenty speakers but six, and those
in a very confused manner. It had attributed to Caecilius words
remembered by the whole audience to be spoken by M. Agrippa.' (_Gent.
Mag_. xii. 512). The report of the debate of Feb. 13, 1741, in the
_London Magazine_ fills more than twenty-two columns of the _Parl.
Hist_. (xi. 1130) with a speech by Lord Bathurst. That he did speak is
shewn by Secker (_ib_. p. 1062). No mention of him is made, however, in
the report in the _Gent. Mag_. (xi. 339). But, on the other hand, it
reports eleven speakers, while the _London Magazine_ gives but five.
Secker shows that there were nineteen. Though the _London Magazine_ was
generally earlier in publishing the debates, it does not therefore
follow that Johnson had seen their reports when he wrote his. His may
have been kept back by Cave's timidity for some months even after they
had been set up in type. In the staleness of the debate there was some
safeguard against a parliamentary prosecution.

Mr. Croker maintains (Croker's _Boswell_, p. 44) that Johnson wrote the
_Debates_ from the time (June 1738) that they assumed the _Lilliputian_
title till 1744. In this he is certainly wrong. Even if we had not
Johnson's own statement, from the style of the earlier _Debates_ we
could have seen that they were not written by him. No doubt we come
across numerous traces of his work; but this we should have expected.
Boswell tells us that Guthrie's reports were sent to Johnson for
revision (_ante_, p. 118). Nay, even a whole speech now and then may be
from his hand. It is very likely that he wrote, for instance, the
_Debate_ on buttons and button-holes (_Gent. Mag_. viii. 627), and the
_Debate_ on the registration of seamen (_ib_. xi.). But it is absurd to
attribute to him passages such as the following, which in certain
numbers are plentiful enough long after June 1738. 'There never was any
measure pursued more consistent with, and more consequential of, the
sense of this House' (_ib_. ix. 340). 'It gave us a handle of making
such reprisals upon the Iberians as this Crown found the sweets of'
(_ib_. x. 281). 'That was the only expression that the least shadow of
fault was found with' (ib. xi. 292).

'Johnson told me himself,' says Boswell (_ante_, p. 150), 'that he was
the sole composer of the _Debates_ for those three years only
(1741-2-3). He was not, however, precisely exact in his statement, which
he mentioned from hasty recollection; for it is sufficiently evident
that his composition of them began November 19, 1740, and ended February
23 [22], 1742-3.' Some difficulty is caused in following Boswell's
statement by the length of time that often elapsed between the debate
itself and its publication. The speeches that were spoken between Nov.
19, or, more strictly speaking, Nov. 25, 1740, and Feb. 22, 1743, were
in their publication spread through the _Magazine_ from July 1741 to
March, 1744. On Feb. 13, 1741, Lord Carteret in the House of 'Lords, and
Mr. Sandys, 'the Motion-maker[1467],' in the House of Commons, moved an
address to the King for the removal of Sir Robert Walpole. Johnson's
report of the debate in the Lords was published in the _Magazine_ for
the next July and August. The year went round. Walpole's ministry was
overthrown, and Walpole himself was banished to the House of Lords. A
second year went by. At length, in three of the spring numbers of 1743,
the debate on Sandys's motion was reported. It had been published in the
_London Magazine_ eleven months earlier.

Cave, if he was tardy, nevertheless was careful that his columns should
not want variety. Thus in the number for July 1743, we have the middle
part of the debate in the Lords on Feb. 1, 1743, the end of the debate
in the Commons on March 9, 1742, and the beginning of another in the
Commons on the following March 23. From the number for July 1741 to the
number for March 1744 Johnson, as I have already said, was the sole
composer of the _Debates_. The irregularity with which they were given
at first sight seems strange; but in it a certain method can be
discovered. The proceedings of a House of Commons that had come to an
end might, as I have shown, be freely published. There had been a
dissolution after the session which closed in April 1741. The
publication of the _Debates_ of the old parliament could at once begin,
and could go on freely from month to month all the year round. But they
would not last for ever. In 1742, in the autumn recess, the time when
experience had shewn that the resolution of the House could be broken
with the least danger, the _Debates_ of the new parliament were
published. They were continued even in the short session before
Christmas. But the spring of 1743 saw a cautious return to the reports
of the old parliament. The session closed on April 21, and in the May
number the comparatively fresh _Debates_ began again. In one case the
report was not six months after date. In the beginning of 1744 this
publication went on even in the session, but it was confined to the
proceedings of the previous winter.

The following table shews the order in which Johnson's Debates were

_Gentleman's                               _Debate or part
Magazine_.                                  of debate of_

July, 1741     {Parliament was dissolved } Feb. 13, 1741
               { on April 25, 1741.      }
Aug.   "                                   Feb. 13,  "

Sept.  "                                  {Jan. 27,  "
                                          {Mar.  2,  "
Oct.   "                                   Mar.  2,  "

Nov.   "                                   Mar.  2,  "

Dec.   "      { The new Parliament met}    Dec.  9, 1740
              {       on Dec. 1.      }

_Gentleman's                             Debate or part
Magazine.                                  of debate of_

Supplement to 1741                         Dec. 2, "
                                           Dec. 12,"
Jan. 1742                                  Feb. 3, 1741
                                           Feb. 27, "
Feb. "                                     Jan. 26, "
                                           April 13, "
Mar. "                                     Feb. 24, "
                                           April 13, "
April "                                    Jan. 27, "
                                           Feb. 24, "
May "                                      Nov. 25, 1740
June "                                     Nov. 25, "
                                           April 8, 1741
July "         The session ended on July   April 8, "
                15.                        Dec. 1, "
                                           Dec. 4, "
Aug. "                                     Dec. 4, "
Sept. "                                    Dec. 4, "
                                           Dec. 8, "
Oct. "                                     Dec. 8, "
                                           May 25, 1742
Nov. "         The Session opened on       May 25, "
               Nov. 16.
Dec. "                                     May 25, "
                                           June 1, "
Supplement to 1742                         Dec. 10, 1740
                                           June 1, 1742
Jan. 1743                                  Dec. 10, 1740
Feb. "                                     Feb. 13, 1741
Mar. "                                     Feb. 13, "
April "     The Session ended on April 21  Feb. 13, "
May "                                      Mar. 9, 1742
                                           Nov. 16, "
June "                                     Mar. 9, "
                                           Feb. 1, 1743
July "                                     Mar. 9, 1742
                                           Mar. 23, "
                                           Feb. 1, 1743
Aug. "                                     Feb. 1, "
Sept. "                                    Feb. 1, "
Oct. "                                     Feb. 1, "
Nov. "                                     Feb. 22, "
Dec. "     The Session opened on Dec. 1    Feb. 22, "
Supplement to 1743                         Feb. 22, "
Jan. 1744                                  Feb. 22, "
Feb. "                                     Dec. 10, 1742
                                           Feb. 22, 1743
Mar. "                                     Dec. 10, 1742

During the rest of 1744 the debates were given in the old form, and in a
style that is a close imitation of Johnson's. Most likely they were
composed by Hawkesworth (_ante_, p. 252). In 1745 they were fewer in
number, and in 1746 the reports of the Senate of Lilliputia with its
Hurgoes and Clinabs passed away for ever. They had begun, to quote the
words of the Preface to the _Magazine_ for 1747, at a time when 'a
determined spirit of opposition in the national assemblies communicated
itself to almost every individual, multiplied and invigorated periodical
papers, and rendered politics the chief, if not the only object, of
curiosity.' They are a monument to the greatness of Walpole, and to the
genius of Johnson. Had that statesman not been overthrown, the people
would have called for these reports even though Johnson had refused to
write them. Had Johnson still remained the reporter, even though Walpole
no longer swayed the Senate of the Lilliputians, the speeches of that
tumultuous body would still have been read. For though they are not
debates, yet they have a vast vigour and a great fund of wisdom of their

       *       *       *       *       *



Malone published seven of the following letters in the fourth edition,
and Mr. Croker the rest.



'The account which Miss [Porter] gives me of your health pierces my
heart. God comfort and preserve you and save you, for the sake of Jesus

'I would have Miss read to you from time to time the Passion of our
Saviour, and sometimes the sentences in the Communion Service, beginning
"_Come unto me, all ye that travail and are heavy laden, and I will give
you rest_."

'I have just now read a physical book, which inclines me to think that a
strong infusion of the bark would do you good. Do, dear mother, try it.

'Pray, send me your blessing, and forgive all that I have done amiss to
you. And whatever you would have done, and what debts you would have
paid first, or any thing else that you would direct, let Miss put it
down; I shall endeavour to obey you.

'I have got twelve guineas[1468] to send you, but unhappily am at a loss
how to send it to-night. If I cannot send it to-night, it will come by
the next post.

'Pray, do not omit any thing mentioned in this letter: God bless you for
ever and ever.

'I am your dutiful son,


'Jan. 13, 1758[1469].'


'MY DEAR Miss,

'I think myself obliged to you beyond all expression of gratitude for
your care of my dear mother. God grant it may not be without success.
Tell Kitty[1470] that I shall never forget her tenderness for her
mistress. Whatever you can do, continue to do. My heart is very full.

'I hope you received twelve guineas on Monday. I found a way of sending
them by means of the postmaster, after I had written my letter, and hope
they came safe. I will send you more in a few days. God bless you all.

'I am, my dear,

'Your most obliged

'And most humble servant,


'Jan. 16, 1759.
'Over the leaf is a letter to my mother.'


'Your weakness afflicts me beyond what I am willing to communicate to
you. I do not think you unfit to face death, but I know not how to bear
the thought of losing you. Endeavour to do all you [can] for yourself.
Eat as much as you can.

'I pray often for you; do you pray for me. I have nothing to add to my
last letter.

'I am, dear, dear mother

'Your dutiful son,


'Jan. 16, 1759.'



'I fear you are too ill for long letters; therefore I will only tell
you, you have from me all the regard that can possibly subsist in the
heart. I pray God to bless you for evermore, for Jesus Christ's sake.

'Let Miss write to me every post, however short.

'I am, dear mother,

'Your dutiful son,


'Jan. 18, 1759.'


'DEAR Miss,

'I will, if it be possible, come down to you. God grant I may yet [find]
my dear mother breathing and sensible. Do not tell her, lest I
disappoint her. If I miss to write next post, I am on the road.

                             'I am, my dearest Miss,
                                       'Your most humble servant,
                                                      'SAM. JOHNSON.'
'Jan. 20, 1759.'

_On the other side_.


'Neither your condition nor your character make it fit for me to say
much. You have been the best mother, and I believe the best woman in the
world. I thank you for your indulgence to me, and beg forgiveness of all
that I have done ill, and all that I have omitted to do well. God grant
you his Holy Spirit, and receive you to everlasting happiness, for Jesus
Christ's sake. Amen. Lord Jesus receive your spirit. Amen.

                              'I am, dear, dear mother,
                                      'Your dutiful son,
                                              'SAM. JOHNSON.'
'Jan. 20, 1759.'


'You will conceive my sorrow for the loss of my mother, of the best
mother. If she were to live again surely I should behave better to her.
But she is happy, and what is past is nothing to her; and for me, since
I cannot repair my faults to her, I hope repentance will efface them. I
return you and all those that have been good to her my sincerest thanks,
and pray God to repay you all with infinite advantage. Write to me, and
comfort me, dear child. I shall be glad likewise, if Kitty will write to
me. I shall send a bill of twenty pounds in a few days, which I thought
to have brought to my mother; but God suffered it not. I have not power
or composure to say much more. God bless you, and bless us all.

                         'I am, dear Miss,
                                 'Your affectionate humble servant,
                                                         'SAM. JOHNSON.'
'Jan. 23, 1759[1472].'

'To Miss PORTER.

(_The beginning is torn and lost_.)

       *       *       *       *       *

'You will forgive me if I am not yet so composed as to give any
directions about any thing. But you are wiser and better than I, and I
shall be pleased with all that you shall do. It is not of any use for me
now to come down; nor can I bear the place. If you want any directions,
Mr. Howard[1473] will advise you. The twenty pounds I could not get a
bill for to-night, but will send it on Saturday.

'I am, my dear, your affectionate servant,


'Jan. 25, 1759.'

       *       *       *       *       *

'To Miss PORTER.

'DEAR Miss,

'I have no reason to forbear writing, but that it makes my heart heavy,
and I had nothing particular to say which might not be delayed to the
next post; but had no thoughts of ceasing to correspond with my dear
Lucy, the only person now left in the world with whom I think myself
connected. There needed not my dear mother's desire, for every heart
must lean to somebody, and I have nobody but you; in whom I put all my
little affairs with too much confidence to desire you to keep receipts,
as you prudently proposed.

'If you and Kitty will keep the house, I think I shall like it best.
Kitty may carry on the trade for herself, keeping her own stock apart,
and laying aside any money that she receives for any of the goods which
her good mistress has left behind her. I do not see, if this scheme be
followed, any need of appraising the books. My mother's debts, dear
mother, I suppose I may pay with little difficulty; and the little trade
may go silently forward. I fancy Kitty can do nothing better; and I
shall not want to put her out of a house, where she has lived so long,
and with so much virtue. I am very sorry that she is ill, and earnestly
hope that she will soon recover; let her know that I have the highest
value for her, and would do any thing for her advantage. Let her think
of this proposal. I do not see any likelier method by which she may pass
the remaining part of her life in quietness and competence.

'You must have what part of the house you please, while you are inclined
to stay in it; but I flatter myself with the hope that you and I shall
some time pass our days together. I am very solitary and comfortless,
but will not invite you to come hither till I can have hope of making
you live here so as not to dislike your situation. Pray, my dearest,
write to me as often as you can.

'I am, dear Madam,

'Your affectionate humble servant,


'Feb. 6, 1759'

 'To Miss PORTER.


 'I thought your last letter long in coming; and did not require or
expect such an inventory of little things as you have sent me. I could
have taken your word for a matter of much greater value. I am glad that
Kitty is better; let her be paid first, as my dear, dear mother ordered,
and then let me know at once the sum necessary to discharge her other
debts, and I will find it you very soon.

'I beg, my dear, that you would act for me without the least scruple,
for I can repose myself very confidently upon your prudence, and hope we
shall never have reason to love each other less. I shall take it very
kindly if you make it a rule to write to me once at least every week,
for I am now very desolate, and am loth to be universally forgotten.

                            'I am, dear sweet,
                                  'Your affectionate servant,
                                                    'SAM. JOHNSON.'
'March 1, 1759.'



'I beg your pardon for having so long omitted to write. One thing or
other has put me off. I have this day moved my things and you are now to
direct to me at Staple Inn, London. I hope, my dear, you are well, and
Kitty mends. I wish her success in her trade. I am going to publish a
little story book [_Rasselas_], which I will send you when it is out.
Write to me, my dearest girl, for I am always glad to hear from you.

                      'I am, my dear, your humble servant,
                                             'SAM. JOHNSON.'
'March 23, 1759.'



'I am almost ashamed to tell you that all your letters came safe, and
that I have been always very well, but hindered, I hardly know how, from
writing. I sent, last week, some of my works, one for you, one for your
aunt Hunter, who was with my poor dear mother when she died, one for Mr.
Howard, and one for Kitty.

'I beg you, my dear, to write often to me, and tell me how you like my
little book.

                'I am, dear love, your affectionate humble servant,
                                             'SAM. JOHNSON.'
'May 10, 1759.'


(Page 487.)

The following is the full extract of Dr. Sharp's letter giving an
account of Johnson's visit to Cambridge in 1765:--

'Camb. Mar. 1, 1765.

'As to Johnson, you will be surprised to hear that I have had him in the
chair in which I am now writing. He has ascended my aërial citadel. He
came down on a Saturday evening, with a Mr. Beauclerk, who has a friend
at Trinity. Caliban, you may be sure, was not roused from his lair
before next day noon, and his breakfast probably kept him till night. I
saw nothing of him, nor was he heard of by any one, till Monday
afternoon, when I was sent for home to two gentlemen unknown. In
conversation I made a strange _faux pas_ about Burnaby Greene's poem, in
which Johnson is drawn at full length[1474]. He drank his large potations
of tea with me, interrupted by many an indignant contradiction, and many
a noble sentiment. He had on a better wig than usual, but, one whose
curls were not, like Sir Cloudesly's[1475], formed for 'eternal buckle.'
[1476] Our conversation was chiefly on books, you may be sure. He was
much pleased with a small _Milton_ of mine, published in the author's
lifetime, and with the Greek epigram on his own effigy, of its being the
picture, not of him, but of a bad painter[1477]. There are many manuscript
stanzas, for aught I know, in Milton's own handwriting, and several
interlined hints and fragments. We were puzzled about one of the
sonnets, which we thought was not to be found in Newton's edition[1478],
and differed from all the printed ones. But Johnson cried, "No, no!"
repeated the whole sonnet instantly, _memoriter_, and shewed it us in
Newton's book. After which he learnedly harangued on sonnet-writing, and
its different numbers. He tells me he will come hither again quickly,
and is promised "an habitation in Emanuel College[1479]." He went back to
town next morning; but as it began to be known that he was in the
university, several persons got into his company the last evening at
Trinity, where, about twelve, he began to be very great; stripped poor
Mrs. Macaulay to the very skin, then gave her for his toast, and drank
her in two bumpers.' (_Gent. Mag_. for 1785, p. 173.)

       *       *       *       *       *



(Page 489.)



'Among the names subscribed to the degree which I have had the honour of
receiving from the university of Dublin, I find none of which I have any
personal knowledge but those of Dr. Andrews and yourself.

'Men can be estimated by those who know them not, only as they are
represented by those who know them; and therefore I flatter myself that
I owe much of the pleasure which this distinction gives me to your
concurrence with Dr. Andrews in recommending me to the learned society.

'Having desired the Provost to return my general thanks to the
University, I beg that you, sir, will accept my particular and immediate

'I am, Sir,

'Your most obedient and most humble servant,


'Johnson's-court, Fleet-street,

London, Oct. 17, 1765.'

       *       *       *       *       *



(Page 490.)

In a little volume entitled _Parliamentary Logick_, by the Right Hon.
W.G. Hamilton, published in 1808, twelve years after the author's death,
is included _Considerations on Corn_, by Dr. Johnson (_Works_, v. 321).
It was written, says Hamilton's editor, in November 1766. A dearth had
caused riots. 'Those who want the supports of life,' Johnson wrote,
'will seize them wherever they can be found.' (_Ib_. p. 322.) He
supported in this tract the bounty for exporting corn. If more than a
year after he had engaged in politics with Mr. Hamilton nothing had been
produced but this short tract, the engagement was not of much
importance. But there was, I suspect, much more in it. Indeed, the
editor says (_Preface_, p. ix.) that 'Johnson had entered into some
engagement with Mr. Hamilton, occasionally to furnish him with his
sentiments on the great political topicks that should be considered in
Parliament.' Mr. Croker draws attention to a passage in Johnson's letter
to Miss Porter of Jan. 14, 1766 (Croker's _Boswell_, p. 173) in which he
says: 'I cannot well come [to Lichfield] during the session of
parliament.' In the spring of this same year Burke had broken with
Hamilton, in whose service he had been. 'The occasion of our
difference,' he wrote, 'was not any act whatsoever on my part; it was
entirely upon his, by a voluntary but most insolent and intolerable
demand, amounting to no less than a claim of servitude during the whole
course of my life, without leaving to me at any time a power either of
getting forward with honour, or of retiring with tranquillity' (Burke's
_Corres_. i. 77). It seems to me highly probable that Hamilton, in
consequence of his having just lost, as I have shewn, Burke's services,
sought Johnson's aid. He had taken Burke 'as a companion in his
studies.' (_Ib_. p. 48.) 'Six of the best years of my life,' wrote
Burke, 'he took me from every pursuit of literary reputation or of
improvement of my fortune. In that time he made his own fortune (a very
great one).' (_Ib_. p. 67.) Burke had been recommended to Hamilton by
Dr. Warton. On losing him Hamilton, on Feb. 12, 1765, wrote to Warton,
giving a false account of his separation with Burke, and asking him to
recommend some one to fill his place--some one 'who, in addition to a
taste and an understanding of ancient authors, and what generally passes
under the name of scholarship, has likewise a share of modern knowledge,
and has applied himself in some degree to the study of the law.' By way
of payment he offers at once 'an income, which would neither be
insufficient for him as a man of letters, or disreputable to him as a
gentleman,' and hereafter 'a situation'--a post, that is to say, under
government. (Wooll's _Warton_, i. 299.) Warton recommended Chambers.
Chambers does not seem to have accepted the post, for we find him
staying on at Oxford (_post_, ii. 25, 46). Johnson had all the knowledge
that Hamilton required, except that of law. It is this very study that
we find him at this very time entering upon. All this shows that for
some time and to some extent an engagement was formed between him and
Hamilton. Boswell, writing to Malone on Feb. 25, 1791, while _The Life
of Johnson_ was going through the press, says:--

'I shall have more cancels. That _nervous_ mortal W. G. H. is not
satisfied with my report of some particulars _which I wrote down from
his own mouth_, and is so much agitated that Courtenay has persuaded me
to allow a _new edition_ of them by H. himself to be made at H.'s

(Croker's _Boswell_, p. 829). This would seem to show that there was
something that Hamilton wished to conceal. Horace Walpole (_Memoirs of
the Reign of George III_, iii. 402) does not give him a character for
truthfulness. He writes on one occasion:--'Hamilton denied it, but his
truth was not renowned.' Miss Burney, who met Hamilton fourteen years
after this, thus describes him:--'This Mr. Hamilton is extremely tall
and handsome; has an air of haughty and fashionable superiority; is
intelligent, dry, sarcastic, and clever. I should have received much
pleasure from his conversational powers, had I not previously been
prejudiced against him, by hearing that he is infinitely artful, double,
and crafty.' (Mme. D'Arblay's _Diary_, i. 293).

       *       *       *       *       *



(_Page_ 490.)

Johnson (_Pr. and Med_. p. 191) writes:--'My first knowledge of Thrale
was in 1765.' In a letter to Mrs. Thrale, he says:--'You were but
five-and-twenty when I knew you first.' (_Piozzi Letters_, i. 284). As
she was born on Jan. 16/27, 1741, this would place their introduction in
1766. In another letter, written on July 8, 1784, he talks of her
'kindness which soothed twenty years of a life radically wretched.'
(_Ib_. ii. 376). Perhaps, however, he here spoke in round numbers. Mrs.
Piozzi (_Anec_. p. 125) says they first met in 1764. Mr. Thrale, she
writes, sought an excuse for inviting him. 'The celebrity of Mr.
Woodhouse (_post_, ii. 127), a shoemaker, whose verses were at that time
the subject of common discourse, soon afforded a 'pretence.' There is a
notice of Woodhouse in the _Gent. Mag_. for June, 1764 (p. 289).
Johnson, she says, dined with them every Thursday through the winter of
1764-5, and in the autumn of 1765 followed them to Brighton. In the
_Piozzi Letters_ (i. 1) there is a letter of his, dated Aug. 13, 1765,
in which he speaks of his intention to join them there.

'From that time,' she writes, '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 _months_. Mr. Thrale's
attentions and my own now became so acceptable to him, that he often
lamented to us the horrible condition of his mind, which, he said, was
nearly distracted: and though he charged _us_ to make him odd solemn
promises of secrecy on so strange a subject, yet when we waited on him
one morning, and heard him, in the most pathetic terms, beg the prayers
of Dr. Delap [the Rector of Lewes] 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 widely proclaim what he could at last persuade no one
to believe; and what, if true, would have been so 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.'

It is not possible to reconcile the contradiction in dates between
Johnson and Mrs. Piozzi, nor is it easy to fix the time of this illness.
That before February, 1766, he had had an illness so serious as to lead
him altogether to abstain from wine is beyond a doubt. Boswell, on his
return to England in that month, heard it from his own lips (_post_, ii.
8). That this illness must have attacked him after March 1, 1765, when
he visited Cambridge, is also clear; for at that time he was still
drinking wine (_ante_, Appendix C). That he was unusually depressed in
the spring of this year is shewn by his entry at Easter (_ante_, p.
487). From his visit to Dr. Percy in the summer of 1764 (_ante_, p. 486)
to the autumn of 1765, we have very little information about him. For
more than two years he did not write to Boswell (_post_, ii. 1). Dr.
Adams (_ante_, p. 483) describes the same kind of attack as Mrs. Piozzi.
Its date is not given. Boswell, after quoting an entry made on Johnson's
birthday, Sept. 18, 1764, says 'about this time he was afflicted' with
the illness Dr. Adams describes. From Mrs. Piozzi, from Johnson's
account to Boswell, and from Dr. Adams we learn of a serious illness.
Was there more than one? If there was only one, then Boswell is wrong in
placing it before March 1, 1765, when Johnson was still a wine-drinker,
and Mrs. Piozzi is wrong in placing it after February, 1766, when he had
become an abstainer. Johnson certainly stayed at Streatham from before
Midsummer to October in 1766 (_post_, ii. 25, and _Pr. and Med_. p. 71),
and this fact lends support to Mrs. Piozzi's statement. But, on the
other hand, his meetings with Boswell in February of that year, and his
letters to Langton of March 9 and May 10 (_post_, ii. 16, 17), shew a
not unhappy frame of mind. Boswell, in his _Hebrides_ (Oct. 16, 1773),
speaks of Johnson's illness in 1766. If it was in 1766 that he was ill,
it must have been after May 10 and before Midsummer-day, and this period
is almost too brief for Mrs. Piozzi's account. It is a curious
coincidence that Cowper was introduced to the Unwins in the same year in
which Johnson, according to his own account, had his first knowledge of
the Thrales. (Southey's _Cowper_, i, 171.)

       *        *        *        *        *


[1] _Post_, iv. 172.

[2] _Post_, iii. 312.

[3] _Post_, i. 324.

[4] _History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire_, ed. 1807,
vol. i. p. xi.

[5] _Post_, iii. 230.

[6] _Post_, i. 7.

[7] _Post_, ii. 212.

[8] _Post_, i. 7.

[9] _Post_, iv. 444.

[10] _Post_, ii. 100.

[11] _Post_, iv. 429; v. 17.

[12] _Post_, v. 117.

[13] _Post_, i. 472, n. 4; iv. 260, n. 2; v. 405, n. 1, 454, n. 2; vi.

[14] _Post_, i. 60, n. 7.

[15] _Post_, ii. 476.

[16] _Post_, vi. xxxiv.

[17] _Post_, iii. 462.

[18] _Post_, vi. xxii.

[19] _Post_, iv. 8, n. 3.

[20] _Post_, i. 489, 518.

[21] _Post_, iv. 223, n. 3.

[22] _Post_, i. 39, n. 1.

[23] _Post_, iii. 340, n. 2.

[24] _Post_, i. 103, n. 3.

[25] _Post_, i. 501.

[26] _Post_, iii. 443.

[27] _Post_, iii. 314.

[28] _Post_, iii. 449.

[29] _Post_, iii. 478.

[30] _Post_, iii. 459.

[31] _Post_, i. 189. n. 2.

[32] i. 296, n. 3.

[33] _Post_, vi. 289.

[34] _Post_, ii. 350.

[35] _Post_, iii. 137, n. 1; 389.

[36] _Post_, i. 14

[37] _Post_, i. 7-8

[38] _Post_, i. 14-15.

[39] _Post_, iv. 31, n. 3

[40] ii. 173-4.

[41] vol. ii. p. 47.

[42] Johnson's _Works_, ed. 1825, vol. v. p. 152.

[43] Johnson's _Works_, ed. 1825, vol. v. p. 152.

[44] See _Post_, ii. 35, 424-6, 441.

[45] See _Post_, iv. 422.

[46] _Correspondence of Edmund Burke_, ii. 425.

[47] To this interesting and accurate publication I am indebted for many
valuable notes.

[48] _Post_, iii. 51, n. 3.

[49] Johnson's _Works_, ed. 1825, vol. iv. p. 446.

[50] _Post_, i. 331, _n_. 7.

[51] Johnson said of him:--'Sir Joshua Reynolds is the same all the year
round;' _post_, March 28, 1776. Boswell elsewhere describes him as 'he
who used to be looked upon as perhaps the most happy man in the world.'
_Letters of Boswell_, p. 344.

[52] 'O noctes coenaeque Deum!' 'O joyous nights! delicious feasts! At
which the gods might be my guests. _Francis_. Horace, _Sat_, ii. 6. 65.

[53] Six years before this Dedication Sir Joshua had conferred on him
another favour. 'I have a proposal to make to you,' Boswell had written
to him, 'I am for certain to be called to the English bar next February.
Will you now do my picture? and the price shall be paid out of the first
fees which I receive as a barrister in Westminster Hall. Or if that fund
should fail, it shall be paid at any rate five years hence by myself or
my representatives.' Boswell told him at the same time that the debts
which he had contracted in his father's lifetime would not be cleared
off for some years. The letter was endorsed by Sir Joshua:--'I agree to
the above conditions;' and the portrait was painted. Taylor's
_Reynolds_, ii. 477.

[54] See Boswell's _Hebrides_, Aug. 24, 1773.

[55] 'I surely have the art of writing agreeably. The Lord Chancellor
[Thurlow] told me he had read every word of my _Hebridian Journal_;' he
could not help it; adding, 'could you give a rule how to write a book
that a man _must_ read? I believe Longinus could not.' _Letters of
Boswell_, p. 322.

[56] Boswell perhaps quotes from memory the following passage in
Goldsmith's _Life of Nash_:--'The doctor was one day conversing with
Locke and two or three more of his learned and intimate companions, with
that freedom, gaiety, and cheerfulness, which is ever the result of
innocence. In the midst of their mirth and laughter, the doctor, looking
from the window, saw Nash's chariot stop at the door. "Boys, boys,"
cried the philosopher, "let us now be wise, for here is a fool coming."'
Cunningham's Goldsmith's _Works_, iv. 96. Dr. Warton in his criticism on
Pope's line

'Unthought of frailties cheat us
  in the wise,'

(_Moral Essays_, i. 69) says:--'For who could imagine that Dr. Clarke
valued himself for his agility, and frequently amused himself in a
private room of his house in leaping over the tables and chairs.'
Warton's _Essay on Pope_, ii. 125. 'It is a good remark of Montaigne's,'
wrote Goldsmith, 'that the wisest men often have friends with whom they
do not care how much they play the fool.' Forster's _Goldsmith_, i. 166.
Mr. Seward says in his _Anecdotes_, ii. 320, that 'in the opinion of Dr.
Johnson' Dr. Clarke was the most complete literary character that
England ever produced.' For Dr. Clarke's sermons see _post_, April
7, 1778.

[57] See _post_, Oct. 16, 1769, note.

[58] How much delighted would Boswell have been, had he been shewn the
following passage, recorded by Miss Burney, in an account she gives of a
conversation with the Queen:--

THE QUEEN:--'Miss Burney, have you heard that Boswell is going to
publish a life of your friend Dr. Johnson?' 'No, ma'am!' 'I tell you as
I heard, I don't know for the truth of it, and I can't tell what he will
do. He is so extraordinary a man that perhaps he will devise something
extraordinary.' _Mme. D'Artlay's Diary_, ii. 400. 'Dr. Johnson's
history,' wrote Horace Walpole, on June 20, 1785, 'though he is going to
have as many lives as a cat, might be reduced to four lines; but I shall
wait to extract the quintessence till Sir John Hawkins, Madame Piozzi,
and Mr. Boswell have produced their quartos.' Horace Walpole's
_Letters_, viii. 557.

[59] The delay was in part due to Boswell's dissipation and
place-hunting, as is shewn by the following passages in his _Letters_ to
Temple:--'Feb. 24, 1788, I have been wretchedly dissipated, so that I
have not written a line for a fortnight.' p. 266. 'Nov. 28, 1789,
Malone's hospitality, and my other invitations, and particularly my
attendance at Lord Lonsdale's, have lost us many evenings.' _Ib_. p.
311. 'June 21, 1790, How unfortunate to be obliged to interrupt my work!
Never was a poor ambitious projector more mortified. I am suffering
without any prospect of reward, and only from my own folly.' _Ib_.
p. 326.

[60] 'You cannot imagine what labour, what perplexity, what vexation I
have endured in arranging a prodigious multiplicity of materials, in
supplying omissions, in searching for papers, buried in different
masses, and all this besides the exertion of composing and polishing;
many a time have I thought of giving it up.' _Letters of Boswell_,
p. 311.

[61] Boswell writing to Temple in 1775, says:--'I try to keep a journal,
and shall shew you that I have done tolerably; but it is hardly credible
what ground I go over, and what a variety of men and manners I
contemplate in a day; and all the time I myself am _pars magna_, for my
exuberant spirits will not let me listen enough.' _Ib_. p. 188. Mr.
Barclay said that 'he had seen Boswell lay down his knife and fork, and
take out his tablets, in order to register a good anecdote.' Croker's
_Boswell_, p. 837. The account given by Paoli to Miss Burney, shows that
very early in life Boswell took out his tablets:--'He came to my
country, and he fetched me some letter of recommending him; but I was of
the belief he might be an impostor, and I supposed in my minde he was an
espy; for I look away from him, and in a moment I look to him again, and
I behold his tablets. Oh! he was to the work of writing down all I say.
Indeed I was angry. But soon I discover he was no impostor and no espy;
and I only find I was myself the monster he had come to discern. Oh! he
is a very good man; I love him indeed; so cheerful, so gay, so pleasant!
but at the first, oh! I was indeed angry.' _Mme. D'Arblay's Diary_, ii.
155. Boswell not only recorded the conversations, he often stimulated
them. On one occasion 'he assumed,' he said, 'an air of ignorance to
incite Dr. Johnson to talk, for which it was often necessary to employ
some address.' See _post_, April 12, 1776. 'Tom Tyers,' said Johnson,
'described me the best. He once said to me, "Sir, you are like a ghost:
you never speak till you are spoken to."' Boswell's _Hebrides_, Aug. 20,
1773. Boswell writing of this Tour said:--'I also may be allowed to
claim some merit in leading the conversation; I do not mean leading, as
in an orchestra, by playing the first fiddle; but leading as one does in
examining a witness--starting topics, and making him pursue them.' _Ib_.
Sept. 28. One day he recorded:--'I did not exert myself to get Dr.
Johnson to talk, that I might not have the labour of writing down his
conversation.' _Ib_. Sept. 7. His industry grew much less towards the
close of Johnson's life. Under May 8, 1781, he records:--'Of his
conversation on that and other occasions during this period, I neglected
to keep any regular record.' On May 15, 1783:--'I have no minute of any
interview with Johnson [from May 1] till May 15. 'May 15, 1784:--'Of
these days and others on which I saw him I have no memorials.'

[62] It is an interesting question how far Boswell derived his love of
truth from himself, and how far from Johnson's training. He was one of
Johnson's _school_. He himself quotes Reynolds's observation, 'that all
who were of his _school_ are distinguished for a love of truth and
accuracy, which they would not have possessed in the same degree if they
had not been acquainted with Johnson' (_post_, under March 30, 1778).
Writing to Temple in 1789, he said:--'Johnson taught me to
cross-question in common life.' _Letters of Boswell_, p. 280. His
quotations, nevertheless, are not unfrequently inaccurate. Yet to him
might fairly be applied the words that Gibbon used of Tillemont:--'His
inimitable accuracy almost assumes the character of genius.' Gibbon's
_Misc. Words_, i. 213.

[63] 'The revision of my _Life of Johnson_, by so acute and knowing a
critic as Mr. Malone, is of most essential consequence, especially as he
is _Johnsonianissimum_.' _Letters of Boswell_, p. 310. A few weeks
earlier he had written:--'Yesterday afternoon Malone and I made ready
for the press thirty pages of Johnson's _Life_; he is much pleased with
it; but I feel a sad indifference [he had lately lost his wife], and he
says, "I have not the use of my faculties."' _Ib_. p. 308.

[64] Horace, _Odes_, i. 3. 1.

[65] He had published an answer to Hume's _Essay on Miracles_. See
_post_, March 20, 1776.

[66] Macleod asked if it was not wrong in Orrery to expose the defects
of a man [Swift] with whom he lived in intimacy, Johnson, 'Why no, Sir,
after the man is dead; for then it is done historically.' Boswell's
_Hebrides_, Sept. 22, 1773. See also _post_, Sept 17, 1777.

[67] See Mr. Malone's Preface to his edition of Shakspeare. BOSWELL.

[68] 'April 6, 1791.

'My _Life of Johnson_ is at last drawing to a close.... I really hope to
publish it on the 25th current.... I am at present in such bad spirits
that I have every fear concerning it--that I may get no profit, nay, may
lose--that the Public may be disappointed, and think that I have done it
poorly--that I may make many enemies, and even have quarrels. Yet
perhaps the very reverse of all this may happen.' _Letters of
Boswell_, p. 335.

'August 22, 1791.

'My _magnum opus_ sells wonderfully; twelve hundred are now gone, and we
hope the whole seventeen hundred may be gone before Christmas.' _Ib_.
p. 342.

Malone in his Preface to the fourth edition, dated June 20, 1804, says
that 'near four thousand copies have been dispersed.' The first edition
was in 2 vols., quarto; the second (1793) in 3 vols., octavo; the third
(1799), the fourth (1804), the fifth (1807), and the sixth (1811), were
each in 4 vols., octavo. The last four were edited by Malone, Boswell
having died while he was preparing notes for the third edition.

[69] 'Burke affirmed that Boswell's _Life_ was a greater monument to
Johnson's fame than all his writings put together.' _Life of
Mackintosh_, i. 92.

[70] It is a pamphlet of forty-two pages, under the title of _The
Principal Corrections and Additions to the First Edition of Mr.
Boswell's Life Of Johnson_. Price two shillings and sixpence.

[71] Reynolds died on Feb. 23, 1792.

[72] Sir Joshua in his will left £200 to Mr. Boswell 'to be expended, if
he thought proper, in the purchase of a picture at the sale of his
paintings, to be kept for his sake.' Taylor's _Reynolds_, ii. 636.

[73] Of the seventy-five years that Johnson lived, he and Boswell did
not spend two years and two months in the same neighbourhood. Excluding
the time they were together on their tour to the Hebrides, they were
dwelling within reach of each other a few weeks less than two years.
Moreover, when they were apart, there were great gaps in their
correspondence. Between Dec. 8, 1763, and Jan. 14, 1766, and again
between Nov. 10, 1769 and June 20, 1771, during which periods they did
not meet, Boswell did not receive a single letter from Johnson. The
following table shows the times they were in the same neighbourhood.

1763, May 16 to Aug. 6,              London.
1766, a few days in February           "
1768,        "        "      March,  Oxford.
1768, a few days in May,             London.
1769, end of Sept. to Nov. 10,         "
1772, March 21 to about May 10,        "
1773, April 3 to May 10,               "
   "     Aug. 14 to Nov. 22,         Scotland.
1775, March 21 to April 18,          London.
         May 2 to May 23,              "
1776, March 15 to May 16,            London, Oxford, Birmingham,
         with an interval of         Lichfield,
         about a fortnight,          Ashbourne,
         when Johnson was at         and
         Bath and Boswell at         Bath.
1777, Sept. 14 to Sept. 24,          Ashbourne.
1778, March 18 to May 19,            London.
1779, March 15 to May 3,               "
  "      Oct. 4 to Oct. 18,            "
1781, March 19 to June 5,            London
                                         and Southill.
1783, March 21 to May 30,            London.
1784, May 5 to June 30,              London
                                         and Oxford.


'To shew what wisdom and what sense can do,
The poet sets Ulysses in our view.'

_Francis_. Horace, _Ep_. i. 2. 17.

[75] In his _Letter to the People of Scotland, p. 92, he wrote:--'Allow
me, my friends and countrymen, while I with honest zeal maintain _your_
cause--allow me to indulge a little more my _own egotism_ and _vanity_.
They are the indigenous plants of my mind; they distinguish it. I may
prune their luxuriancy; but I must not entirely clear it of them; for
then I should be no longer "as I am;" and perhaps there might be
something not so good.'

[76] See _post_, April 17, 1778, note.

[77] Lord Macartney was the first English ambassador to the Court of
Pekin. He left England in 1792 and returned in 1794.

[78] Boswell writing to Temple ten days earlier had said:--'Behold my
_hand_! the robbery is only of a few shillings; but the cut on my head
and bruises on my arms were sad things, and confined me to bed, in pain,
and fever, and helplessness, as a child, many days.... This shall be a
crisis in my life: I trust I shall henceforth be a sober regular man.
Indeed, my indulgence in wine has, of late years especially, been
excessive.' _Letters of Boswell_, p. 346.

[79] On this day his brother wrote to Mr. Temple: 'I have now the
painful task of informing you that my dear brother expired this morning
at two o'clock; we have both lost a kind, affectionate friend, and I
shall never have such another.' _Letters of Boswell_, p. 357. What was
probably Boswell's last letter is as follows:--

'My Dear Temple,

'I would fain write to you in my own hand, but really cannot. [These
words, which are hardly legible, and probably the last poor Boswell ever
wrote, afford the clearest evidence of his utter physical prostration.]
Alas, my friend, what a state is this! My son James is to write for me
what remains of this letter, and I am to dictate. The pain which
continued for so many weeks was very severe indeed, and when it went off
I thought myself quite well; but I soon felt a conviction that I was by
no means as I should be--so exceedingly weak, as my miserable attempt to
write to you afforded a full proof. All then that can be said is, that I
must wait with patience. But, O my friend! how strange is it that, at
this very time of my illness, you and Miss Temple should have been in
such a dangerous state. Much occasion for thankfulness is there that it
has not been worse with you. Pray write, or make somebody write
frequently. I feel myself a good deal stronger to-day, not withstanding
the scrawl. God bless you, my dear Temple! I ever am your old and
affectionate friend, here and I trust hereafter,

'JAMES BOSWELL.' _Ib_. p. 353.

[80] Malone died on May 25, 1812.

[81] I do not here include his Poetical Works; for, excepting his Latin
Translation of Pope's _Messiah_, his _London_, and his _Vanity of Human
Wishes_ imitated from _Juvenal_; his Prologue on the opening of
Drury-Lane Theatre by Mr. Garrick, and his _Irene_, a Tragedy, they are
very numerous, and in general short; and I have promised a complete
edition of them, in which I shall with the utmost care ascertain their
authenticity, and illustrate them with notes and various readings.
BOSWELL. Boswell's meaning, though not well expressed, is clear enough.
Mr. Croker needlessly suggests that he wrote 'they are _not_ very
numerous.' Boswell a second time (_post_, under Aug. 12, 1784, note)
mentions his intention to edit Johnson's poems. He died without doing
it. See also _post_, 1750, Boswell's note on Addison's style.

[82] The _Female Quixote_ was published in 1752. See _post_, 1762, note.

[83] The first four volumes of the _Lives_ were published in 1779, the
last six in 1781.

[84] See Dr. Johnson's letter to Mrs. Thrale, dated Ostick in Skie,
September 30, 1773:--'Boswell writes a regular Journal of our travels,
which I think contains as much of what I say and do, as of all other
occurrences together; "_for such a faithful chronicler_ is _Griffith_."'
BOSWELL. See _Piozzi Letters_, i. 159, where however we read '_as_

[85] _Idler_, No. 84. BOSWELL.--In this paper he says: 'Those relations
are commonly of most value in which the writer tells his own story. He
that recounts the life of another ... lessens the familiarity of his
tale to increase its dignity ... and endeavours to hide the man that he
may produce a hero.'

[86] 'It very seldom happens to man that his business is his pleasure.
What is done from necessity is so often to be done when against the
present inclination, and so often fills the mind with anxiety, that an
habitual dislike steals upon us, and we shrink involuntarily from the
remembrance of our task.... From this unwillingness to perform more than
is required of that which is commonly performed with reluctance it
proceeds that few authors write their own lives.' _Idler_, No. 102. See
also _post_, May 1, 1783.

[87] Mrs. Piozzi records the following conversation with Johnson, which,
she says, took place on July 18, 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 sometime.' Piozzi's _Anec_. p. 31. How much
of this is true cannot be known. Boswell some time before this
conversation had told Johnson that he intended to write his Life, and
Johnson had given him many particulars (see _post_, March 31, 1772, and
April 11, 1773). He read moreover in manuscript most of Boswell's _Tour
to the Hebrides_, and from it learnt of his intention. 'It is no small
satisfaction to me to reflect,' Boswell wrote, 'that Dr. Johnson, after
being apprised of my intentions, communicated to me, at subsequent
periods, many particulars of his life.' Boswell's _Hebrides_, Oct.
14, 1773.

[88] 'It may be said the death of Dr. Johnson kept the public mind in
agitation beyond all former example. No literary character ever excited
so much attention.' Murphy's _Johnson_, p. 3.

[89] The greatest part of this book was written while Sir John Hawkins
was alive; and I avow, that one object of my strictures was to make him
feel some compunction for his illiberal treatment of Dr. Johnson. Since
his decease, I have suppressed several of my remarks upon his work. But
though I would not 'war with the dead' _offensively_, I think it
necessary to be strenuous in _defence_ of my illustrious friend, which I
cannot be without strong animadversions upon a writer who has greatly
injured him. Let me add, that though I doubt I should not have been very
prompt to gratify Sir John Hawkins with any compliment in his life-time,
I do now frankly acknowledge, that, in my opinion, his volume, however
inadequate and improper as a life of Dr. Johnson, and however
discredited by unpardonable inaccuracies in other respects, contains a
collection of curious anecdotes and observations, which few men but its
author could have brought together. BOSWELL.

[90] 'The next name that was started was that of Sir John Hawkins; and
Mrs. Thrale said, "Why now, Dr. Johnson, he is another of those whom you
suffer nobody to abuse but yourself: Garrick is one too; for, if any
other person speaks against him, you brow-beat him in a minute." "Why
madam," answered he, "they don't know when to abuse him, and when to
praise him; I will allow no man to speak ill of David that he does not
deserve; and as to Sir John, why really I believe him to be an honest
man at the bottom; but to be sure he is penurious, and he is mean, and
it must be owned he has a degree of brutality, and a tendency to
savageness, that cannot easily be defended.... He said that Sir John and
he once belonged to the same club, but that as he eat no supper, after,
the first night of his admission he desired to be excused paying his
share." "And was he excused?" "O yes; for no man is angry at another for
being inferior to himself. We all scorned him, and admitted his plea.
For my part, I was such a fool as to pay my share for wine, though I
never tasted any. But Sir John was a most _unclubable man_."' Madame
D'Arblay's _Diary_, i. 65.

[91] 'In censuring Mr. [_sic_] J. Hawkins's book I say: "There is
throughout the whole of it a dark, uncharitable cast, which puts the
most unfavourable construction on my illustrious friend's conduct."
Malone maintains _cast_ will not do; he will have "malignancy." Is that
not too strong? How would "disposition" do?... Hawkins is no doubt very
malevolent. _Observe how he talks of me as quite unknown.' Letters of
Boswell_, p. 281. Malone wrote of Hawkins as follows: 'The bishop
[Bishop Percy of Dromore] concurred with every other person I have heard
speak of Hawkins, in saying that he was a most detestable fellow. He was
the son of a carpenter, and set out in life in the very lowest line of
the law. Dyer knew him well at one time, and the Bishop heard him give a
character of Hawkins once that painted him in the blackest colours;
though Dyer was by no means apt to deal in such portraits. Dyer said he
was a man of the most mischievous, uncharitable, and malignant
disposition. Sir Joshua Reynolds observed to me that Hawkins, though he
assumed great outward sanctity, was not only mean and grovelling in
dispostion, but absolutely dishonest. He never lived in any real
intimacy with Dr. Johnson, who never opened his heart to him, or had in
fact any accurate knowledge of his character.' Prior's _Malone_, pp.
425-7. See _post_, Feb. 1764, note.

[92] Mrs. Piozzi. See _post_, under June 30, 1784.

[93] Voltaire in his account of Bayle says: 'Des Maizeaux a écrit sa vie
en un gros volume; elle ne devait pas contenir six pages.' Voltaire's
_Works_, edition of 1819, xvii. 47.

[94] Brit. Mus. 4320, Ayscough's Catal., Sloane MSS. BOSWELL.--Horace
Walpole describes Birch as 'a worthy, good-natured soul, full of
industry and activity, and running about like a young setting-dog in
quest of anything, new or old, and with no parts, taste, or judgment.'
Walpole's _Letters_, vii. 326. See _post_, Sept. 1743.

[95] 'You have fixed the method of biography, and whoever will write a
life well must imitate you.' Horace Walpole to Mason; Walpole's
_Letters_, vi. 211.

[96] 'I am absolutely certain that my mode of biography, which gives not
only a _History_ of Johnson's _visible_ progress through the world, and
of his publications, but a _view_ of his mind in his letters and
conversations, is the most perfect that can be conceived, and will be
more of a Life than any work that has ever yet appeared.' _Letters of
Boswell_, p. 265.

[97] Pope's Prologue to Addison's _Cato_, 1. 4.

[98] 'Boswell is the first of biographers. He has distanced all his
competitors so decidedly that it is not worth while to place them.
Eclipse is first, and the rest nowhere.' Macaulay's _Essays_, i. 374.

[99] See _post_, Sept. 17, 1777, and Malone's note of March 15, 1781,
and Boswell's _Hebrides_, Sept. 22, 1773. Hannah More met Boswell when
he was carrying through the press his _Journal of a Tour to the
Hebrides_. 'Boswell tells me,' she writes, 'he is printing anecdotes of
Johnson, not his _Life_, but, as he has the vanity to call it, his
_pyramid_. I besought his tenderness for our virtuous and most revered
departed friend, and begged he would mitigate some of his asperities. He
said roughly: "He would not cut off his claws, nor make a tiger a cat,
to please anybody." It will, I doubt not, be a very amusing book, but, I
hope, not an indiscreet one; he has great enthusiasm and some fire.' H.
More's _Memoirs_, i. 403.

[100] Rambler, No. 60. BOSWELL.

[101] In the _Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides_.

[102] 'Mason's _Life of Gray_ is excellent, because it is interspersed
with letters which show us the _man_. His _Life of Whitehead_ is not a
life at all, for there is neither a letter nor a saying from first to
last.' _Letters of Boswell_, p. 265.

[103] The Earl and Countess of Jersey, WRIGHT.

[104] Plutarch's _Life of Alexander_, Langhorne's Translation. BOSWELL.

[105] In the original, _revolving something_.

[106] In the original, _and so little regard the manners_.

[107] In the original, _and are rarely transmitted_.

[108] _Rambler_, No. 60. BOSWELL.

[109] Bacon's _Advancement of Learning_, Book I. BOSWELL.

[110] Johnson's godfather, Dr. Samuel Swinfen, according to the author
of _Memoirs of the Life and Writings of Dr. Johnson_, 1785, p. 10, was
at the time of his birth lodging with Michael Johnson. Johnson had
uncles on the mother's side, named Samuel and Nathanael (see _Notes and
Queries_, 5th S. v. 13), after whom he and his brother may have been
named. It seems more likely that it was his godfather who gave him
his name.

[111] So early as 1709 _The Tatler_ complains of this 'indiscriminate
assumption.' 'I'll undertake that if you read the superscriptions to all
the offices in the kingdom, you will not find three letters directed to
any but Esquires.... In a word it is now _Populus Armigerorum_, a people
of Esquires, And I don't know but by the late act of naturalisation,
foreigners will assume that title as part of the immunity of being
Englishmen.' _The Tatler_, No. 19.

[112] 'I can hardly tell who was my grandfather,' said Johnson. See
_post_, May 9, 1773.

[113] Michael Johnson was born in 1656. He must have been engaged in the
book-trade as early as 1681; for in the _Life of Dryden_ his son says,
'The sale of Absalom and Achitophel was so large, that my father, an old
bookseller, told me, he had not known it equalled but by Sacheverell's
Trial.' Johnson's _Works_, vii. 276. In the _Life of Sprat_ he is
described by his son as 'an old man who had been no careless observer of
the passages of those times.' Ib. 392.

[114] Her epitaph says that she was born at Kingsnorton. Kingsnorton is
in Worcestershire, and not, as the epitaph says, 'in agro Varvicensi.'
When Johnson a few days before his death burnt his papers, some
fragments of his _Annals_ escaped the flames. One of these was never
seen by Boswell; it was published in 1805 under the title of _An Account
of the Life of Dr. Samuel Johnson, from his Birth to his Eleventh Year,
written by himself_. In this he says (p. 14), 'My mother had no value
for my father's relations; those indeed whom we knew of were much lower
than hers.' Writing to Mrs. Thrale on his way to Scotland he said: 'We
changed our horses at Darlington, where Mr. Cornelius Harrison, a
cousin-german of mine, was perpetual curate. He was the only one of my
relations who ever rose in fortune above penury, or in character above
neglect.' _Piozzi Letters_, i. 105. His uncle Harrison he described as
'a very mean and vulgar man, drunk every night, but drunk with little
drink, very peevish, very proud, very ostentatious, but luckily not
rich.' _Annals_, p. 28. In _Notes and Queries_, 6th S. x. 465, is given
the following extract of the marriage of Johnson's parents from the
Register of Packwood in Warwickshire:--

'1706. Mickell Johnsones of lichfield and Sara ford maried June the

[115] Mrs. Piozzi (_Anec_. p. 3) records that Johnson told her that 'his
father was wrong-headed, positive, and afflicted with melancholy.'

[116] _Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides_, 3rd edit. p. 213 [Sept. 16].

[117] Stockdale in his _Memoirs_, ii. 102, records an anecdote told him
by Johnson of 'the generosity of one of the customers of his father.
"This man was purchasing a book, and pressed my father to let him have
it at a far less price than it was worth. When his other topics of
persuasion failed, he had recourse to one argument which, he thought,
would infallibly prevail:--You know, Mr. Johnson, that I buy an almanac
of you every year."'

[118] Extract of a letter, dated 'Trentham, St. Peter's day, 1716,'
written by the Rev. George Plaxton, Chaplain at that time to Lord Gower,
which may serve to show the high estimation in which the Father of our
great Moralist was held: 'Johnson, the Litchfield Librarian, is now
here; he propagates learning all over this diocese, and advanceth
knowledge to its just height; all the Clergy here are his Pupils, and
suck all they have from him; Allen cannot make a warrant without his
precedent, nor our quondam John Evans draw a recognizance _sine
directione Michaelis_.' _Gentleman's Magazine_, October, 1791. BOSWELL.

[119] In _Notes and Queries_, 3rd S. v. 33, is given the following
title-page of one of his books: '[Greek: Pharmako-Basauos]: _or the
Touchstone of Medicines, etc_. By Sir John Floyer of the City of
Litchfield, Kt., M.D., of Queen's College, Oxford. London: Printed for
Michael Johnson, Bookseller, and are to be sold at his shops at
Litchfield and Uttoxiter, in Staffordshire; and Ashby-de-la-Zouch, in
Leicestershire, 1687.'

[120] Johnson writing of his birth says: 'My father being that year
sheriff of Lichfield, and to ride the circuit of the county [Mr. Croker
suggests city, not being aware that 'the City of Lichfield was a county
in itself.' See Harwood's _Lichfield_, p. 1. In like manner, in the
Militia Bill of 1756 (_post_ 1756) we find entered, 'Devonshire with
Exeter City and County,' 'Lincolnshire with Lincoln City and County']
next day, which was a ceremony then performed with great pomp, he was
asked by my mother whom he would invite to the Riding; and answered,
"all the town now." He feasted the citizens with uncommon magnificence,
and was the last but one that maintained the splendour of the Riding.'
_Annals_, p. 10. He served the office of churchwarden in 1688; of
sheriff in 1709; of junior bailiff in 1718; and senior bailiff in 1725.'
Harwood's _Lichfield_, p. 449.

[121] 'My father and mother had not much happiness from each other. They
seldom conversed; for my father could not bear to talk of his affairs,
and my mother being unacquainted with books cared not to talk of
anything else. Had my mother been more literate, they had been better
companions. She might have sometimes introduced her unwelcome topic with
more success, if she could have diversified her conversation. Of
business she had no distinct conception; and therefore her discourse was
composed only of complaint, fear, and suspicion. Neither of them ever
tried to calculate the profits of trade, or the expenses of living. My
mother concluded that we were poor, because we lost by some of our
trades; but the truth was, that my father, having in the early part of
his life contracted debts, never had trade sufficient to enable him to
pay them and maintain his family; he got something, but not enough.'
_Annals_, p. 14. Mr. Croker noticing the violence of Johnson's language
against the Excise, with great acuteness suspected 'some cause of
_personal animosity_;' this mention of the trade in parchment (an
_exciseable_ article) afforded a clue, which has led to the confirmation
of that suspicion. In the records of the Excise Board is to be found the
following letter, addressed to the supervisor of excise at Lichfield:
'July 27, 1725. The Commissioners received yours of the 22nd instant,
and since the justices would not give judgment against Mr. Michael
Johnson, _the tanner_, notwithstanding the facts were fairly against
him, the Board direct that the next time he offends, you do not lay an
information against him, but send an affidavit of the fact, that he may
be prosecuted in the Exchequer.'

[122] See _post_, March 27, 1775.

[123] 'I remember, that being in bed with my mother one morning, I was
told by her of the two places to which the inhabitants of this world
were received after death: one a fine place filled with happiness,
called Heaven; the other, a sad place, called Hell. That this account
much affected my imagination I do not remember.' _Annals_, p. 19.

[124] Johnson's _Works_, vi. 406.

[125] Mr. Croker disbelieves the story altogether. 'Sacheverel,' he
says, 'by his sentence pronounced in Feb. 1710, was interdicted for
three years from preaching; so that he could not have preached at
Lichfield while Johnson was under three years of age. Sacheverel,
indeed, made a triumphal progress through the midland counties in 1710;
and it appears by the books of the corporation of Lichfield that he was
received in that town, and complimented by the attendance of the
corporation, "and a present of three dozen of wine," on June 16, 1710;
but then "the _infant Hercules of Toryism_" was just _nine months_ old.'
It is quite possible that the story is in the main correct. Sacheverel
was received in Lichfield in 1710 on his way down to Shropshire to take
possession of a living. At the end of the suspension in March 1713 he
preached a sermon in London, for which, as he told Swift, 'a book-seller
gave him £100, intending to print 30,000' (Swift's _Journal to Stella_,
April 2, 1713). It is likely enough that either on his way up to town or
on his return journey he preached at Lichfield. In the spring of 1713
Johnson was three years old.

[126] See _post_, p. 48, and April 25,1778 note; and Boswell's
_Hebrides_, Oct. 28, 1773.

[127] _Anecdotes of Dr. Johnson_, by Hester Lynch Piozzi, p. 11. Life of
Dr. Johnson_, by Sir John Hawkins, p. 6. BOSWELL.

[128] 'My father had much vanity which his adversity hindered from being
fully exerted.' _Annals_, p. 14.

[129] This anecdote of the duck, though disproved by internal and
external evidence, has nevertheless, upon supposition of its truth, been
made the foundation of the following ingenious and fanciful reflections
of Miss Seward, amongst the communications concerning Dr. Johnson with
which she has been pleased to favour me: 'These infant numbers contain
the seeds of those propensities which through his life so strongly
marked his character, of that poetick talent which afterwards bore such
rich and plentiful fruits; for, excepting his orthographick works, every
thing which Dr. Johnson wrote was Poetry, whose essence consists not in
numbers, or in jingle, but in the strength and glow of a fancy, to which
all the stores of nature and of art stand in prompt administration; and
in an eloquence which conveys their blended illustrations in a language
"more tuneable than needs or rhyme or verse to add more harmony."

'The above little verses also shew that superstitious bias which "grew
with his growth, and strengthened with his strength," and, of late years
particularly, injured his happiness, by presenting to him the gloomy
side of religion, rather than that bright and cheering one which gilds
the period of closing life with the light of pious hope.'

This is so beautifully imagined, that I would not suppress it. But like
many other theories, it is deduced from a supposed fact, which is,
indeed, a fiction. BOSWELL.

[130] _Prayers and Meditations_, p. 27. BOSWELL.

[131] Speaking himself of the imperfection of one of his eyes, he said
to Dr. Burney, 'the dog was never good for much.' MALONE.

[132] Boswell's _Hebrides_, Sept. 1, 1773.

[133] 'No accidental position of a riband,' wrote Mrs. Piozzi, 'escaped
him, so nice was his observation, and so rigorous his demands of
propriety.' Piozzi's _Anec_. p. 287. Miss Burney says:--
'Notwithstanding Johnson is sometimes so absent and always so
near-sighted, he scrutinizes into every part of almost everybody's
appearance [at Streatham].' And again she writes:--'his blindness is as
much the effect of absence [of mind] as of infirmity, for he sees
wonderfully at times. He can see the colour of a lady's top-knot, for he
very often finds fault with it.' Mme. D'Arblays _Diary_, i. 85, ii. 174.
'He could, when well, distinguish the hour on Lichfield town-clock.'
_Post_, p. 64.

[134] See _post_, Sept. 22, 1777.

[135] This was Dr. Swinfen's opinion, who seems also to have attributed
Johnson's short-sightedness to the same cause. 'My mother,' he says,
'thought my diseases derived from her family.' _Annals_, p. 12. When he
was put out at nurse, 'She visited me,' he says, 'every day, and used to
go different ways, that her assiduity might not expose her to ridicule.'

[136] In 1738 Carte published a masterly 'Account of Materials, etc.,
for a History of England with the method of his undertaking.' (_Gent.
Mag_. viii. 227.) He proposed to do much of what has been since done
under the direction of the Master of the Rolls. He asked for
subscriptions to carry on his great undertaking, for in its researches
it was to be very great. In 1744 the City of London resolved to
subscribe £50 for seven years (ib. xiv: 393). In vol. i. of his history,
which only came down to the reign of John (published in 1748), he went
out of his way to assert that the cure by the king's touch was not due
to the 'regal _unction_'; for he had known a man cured who had gone over
to France, and had been there 'touched by the eldest lineal descendant
of a race of kings who had not at that time been crowned or _anointed_.'
(ib. xviii. 13.) Thereupon the Court of Common Council by a unanimous
vote withdrew its subscription, (ib. 185.) The old Jacobites maintained
that the power did not descend to Mary, William, or Anne. It was for
this reason that Boswell said that Johnson should have been taken to
Rome; though indeed it was not till some years after he was 'touched' by
Queen Anne that the Pretender dwelt there. The Hanoverian kings never
'touched.' The service for the ceremony was printed in the _Book of
Common Prayer_ as late as 1719. (_Penny Cyclo_. xxi. 113.) 'It appears
by the newspapers of the time,' says Mr. Wright, quoted by Croker, 'that
on March 30, 1712, two hundred persons were touched by Queen Anne.'
Macaulay says that 'Charles the Second, in the course of his reign,
touched near a hundred thousand persons.... The expense of the ceremony
was little less than ten thousand pounds a year.' Macaulay's
_England_, ch. xiv.

[137] See _post_, p. 91, note.

[138] _Anecdotes_, p. 10. BOSWELL.

[139] Johnson, writing of Addison's schoolmasters, says:--'Not to name
the school or the masters of men illustrious for literature is a kind of
historical fraud, by which honest fame is injuriously diminished. I
would therefore trace him through the whole process of his education.'
Johnson's _Works_, vii. 418.

[140] Neither the British Museum nor the Bodleian Library has a copy.

[141] 'When we learned _Propria qua maribus_, we were examined in the
Accidence; particularly we formed verbs, that is, went through the same
person in all the moods and tenses. This was very difficult to me, and I
was once very anxious about the next day, when this exercise was to be
performed in which I had failed till I was discouraged. My mother
encouraged me, and I proceeded better. When I told her of my good
escape, "We often," said she, dear mother! "come off best when we are
most afraid." She told me that, once when she asked me about forming
verbs I said, "I did not form them in an ugly shape." "You could not,"
said she "speak plain; and I was proud that I had a boy who was forming
verbs" These little memorials soothe my mind.' _Annals_, p. 22.

[142] 'This was the course of the school which I remember with pleasure;
for I was indulged and caressed by my master; and, I think, really
excelled the rest.' _Annals_, p. 23.

[143] Johnson said of Hunter:--'Abating his brutality, he was a very
good master;' _post_. March 21, 1772. Steele in the _Spectator_, No.
157, two years after Johnson's birth, describes these savage tyrants of
the grammar-schools. 'The boasted liberty we talk of,' he writes, 'is
but a mean reward for the long servitude, the many heartaches and
terrors to which our childhood is exposed in going through a grammar
school.... No one who has gone through what they call a great school but
must remember to have seen children of excellent and ingenuous natures
(as has afterwards appeared in their manhood); I say no man has passed
through this way of education but must have seen an ingenuous creature
expiring with shame, with pale looks, beseeching sorrow and silent
tears, throw up its honest eyes and kneel or its tender kneeds to an
inexorable blockhead to be forgiven the false quantity of a word in
making a Latin verse.' Likely enough Johnson's roughness was in part due
to this brutal treatment; for Steele goes on to say:--'It is wholly to
this dreadful practise that we may attribute a certain hardiness and
ferocity which some men, though liberally educated, carry about them in
all their behaviour. To be bred like a gentleman, and punished like a
malefactor, must, as we see it does, produce that illiberal sauciness
which we see sometimes in men of letters.'

[144] Johnson described him as 'a peevish and ill-tempered man,' and not
so good a scholar or teacher as Taylor made out. Once the boys perceived
that he did not understand a part of the Latin lesson; another time,
when sent up to the upper-master to be punished, they had to complain
that when they 'could not get the passage,' the assistant would not help
them. _Annals_, pp. 26, 32.

[145] One of the contributors to the _Athenian Letters_. See _Gent.
Mag_. liv. 276.

[146] Johnson, _post_, March 22, 1776, describes him as one 'who does
not get drunk, for he is a very pious man, but he is always muddy.'

[147] A tradition had reached Johnson through his school-fellow Andrew
Corbet that Addison had been at the school and had been the leader in a
barring out. (Johnson's _Works_, vii. 419.) Garrick entered the school
about two years after Johnson left. According to Garrick's biographer,
Tom Davies (p. 3), 'Hunter was an odd mixture of the pedant and the
sportsman. Happy was the boy who could slily inform his offended master
where a covey of partridges was to be found; this notice was a certain
pledge of his pardon.' Lord Campbell in his _Lives of the Chief
Justices_, ii. 279, says:--'Hunter is celebrated for having flogged
seven boys who afterwards sat as judges in the superior courts at
Westminster at the same time. Among these were Chief Justice Wilmot,
Lord Chancellor Northington, Sir T. Clarke, Master of the Rolls, Chief
Justice Willes, and Chief Baron Parker. It is remarkable that, although
Johnson and Wilmot were several years class-fellows at Lichfield, there
never seems to have been the slightest intercourse between them in after
life; but the Chief Justice used frequently to mention the Lexicographer
as "a long, lank, lounging boy, whom he distinctly remembered to have
been punished by Hunter for idleness." Lord Campbell blunders here.
Northington and Clarke were from Westminster School (Campbell's
_Chancellors_, v. 176). The schoolhouse, famous though it was, was
allowed to fall into decay. A writer in the _Gent. Mag_. in 1794 (p.
413) says that 'it is now in a state of dilapidation, and unfit for the
use of either the master or boys.'

[148] Johnson's observation to Dr. Rose, on this subject, deserves to be
recorded. Rose was praising the mild treatment of children at school, at
a time when flogging began to be less practised than formerly: 'But
then, (said Johnson,) they get nothing else: and what they gain at one
end, they lose at the other.' BURNEY. See _post_, under Dec. 17, 1775.

[149] This passage is quoted from Boswell's _Hebrides_, Aug. 24, 1773.
Mr. Boyd had told Johnson that Lady Errol did not use force or fear in
educating her children; whereupon he replied, 'Sir, she is wrong,' and
continued in the words of the text.

Gibbon in his _Autobiography_ says:--'The domestic discipline of our
ancestors has been relaxed by the philosophy and softness of the age:
and if my father remembered that he had trembled before a stern parent,
it was only to adopt with his son an opposite mode of behaviour.'
Gibbon's _Works_, i. 112. Lord Chesterfield writing to a friend on Oct.
18, 1752, says:--'Pray let my godson never know what a blow or a
whipping is, unless for those things for which, were he a man, he would
deserve them; such as lying, cheating, making mischief, and meditated
malice.' Chesterfield's _Misc. Works_, iv. 130.

[150] Johnson, however, hated anything that came near to tyranny in the
management of children. Writing to Mrs. Thrale, who had told him that
she had on one occasion gone against the wish of her nurses, he
said:--'That the nurses fretted will supply me during life with an
additional motive to keep every child, as far as is possible, out of a
nurse's power. A nurse made of common mould will have a pride in
overcoming a child's reluctance. There are few minds to which tyranny is
not delightful; power is nothing but as it is felt, and the delight of
superiority is proportionate to the resistance overcome.' _Piozzi
Letters_, ii. 67.

[151] 'Sword, I will hallow thee for this thy deed.' 2 Henry VI, act iv.
sc. 10. John Wesley's mother, writing of the way she had brought up her
children, boys and girls alike, says:--'When turned a year old (and some
before) they were taught to fear the rod, and to cry softly; by which
means they escaped abundance of correction they might otherwise have
had.' Wesley's _Journal_, i. 370.

[152] 'There dwelt at Lichfield a gentleman of the name of Butt, to
whose house on holidays he was ever welcome. The children in the family,
perhaps offended with the rudeness of his behaviour, would frequently
call him the great boy, which the father once overhearing said:--'You
call him the great boy, but take my word for it, he will one day prove a
great man.' Hawkins's _Johnson_, p. 6.

[153] See _post_, March 22, 1776 and Johnson's visit to Birmingham in
Nov. 1784.

[154] 'You should never suffer your son to be idle one minute. I do not
call play, of which he ought to have a good share, idleness; but I mean
sitting still in a chair in total inaction; it makes boys lazy and
indolent.' Chesterfield's _Misc. Works_, iv. 248.

[155] The author of the _Reliques_.

[156] The summer of 1764.

[157] Johnson, writing of _Paradise Lost_, book ii. l. 879, says:--'In
the history of _Don Bellianis_, when one of the knights approaches, as I
remember, the castle of Brandezar, the gates are said to open, _grating
harsh thunder upon their brazen hinges_.' Johnson's _Works_, v. 76. See
_post_, March 27, 1776, where 'he had with him upon a jaunt Il Palmerino
d'Inghilterra.' Prior says of Burke that 'a very favourite study, as he
once confessed in the House of Commons, was the old romances, _Palmerin
of England_ and _Don Belianis of Greece_, upon which he had wasted much
valuable time.' Prior's _Burke_, p. 9.

[158] Hawkins (_Life_, p. 2) says that the uncle was Dr. Joseph Ford 'a
physician of great eminence.' The son, Parson Ford, was Cornelius. In
Boswell's _Hebrides_, Oct. 15, 1773, Johnson mentions an uncle who very
likely was Dr. Ford. In _Notes and Queries_, 5th S. v. 13, it is shown
that by the will of the widow of Dr. Ford the Johnsons received £200 in
1722. On the same page the Ford pedigree is given, where it is seen that
Johnson had an uncle Cornelius. It has been stated that 'Johnson was
brought up by his uncle till his fifteenth year.' I understand Boswell
to say that Johnson, after leaving Lichfield School, resided for some
time with his uncle before going to Stourbridge.

[159] He is said to be the original of the parson in Hogarth's _Modern
Midnight Conversation_. BOSWELL.

In the _Life of Fenton_ Johnson describes Ford as 'a clergyman at that
time too well known, whose abilities, instead of furnishing convivial
merriment to the voluptuous and dissolute, might have enabled him to
excel among the virtuous and the wise.' Johnson's _Works_, viii. 57.
Writing to Mrs. Thrale on July 8, 1771, he says, 'I would have been glad
to go to Hagley [close to Stourbridge] for I should have had the
opportunity of recollecting past times, and wandering _per montes notos
et flumina nota_, of recalling the images of sixteen, and reviewing my
conversations with poor Ford.' _Piozzi Letters_, i. 42. See also _post_,
May 12, 1778.

[160] See _post_, April 20, 1781.

[161] As was likewise the Bishop of Dromore many years afterwards.

[162] Mr. Hector informs me, that this was made almost _impromptu_, in
his presence. BOSWELL.

[163] This he inserted, with many alterations, in the _Gentleman's
Magazine_, 1743 [p. 378]. BOSWELL. The alterations are not always for
the better. Thus he alters

'And the long honours of a lasting name'


'And fir'd with pleasing hope of endless fame.'

[164] Settle was the last of the city-poets; _post_, May 15, 1776.

[165] 'Here swells the shelf with Ogilby the great.' Dunciad, i. 141.

[166] Some young ladies at Lichfield having proposed to act _The
Distressed Mother_, Johnson wrote this, and gave it to Mr. Hector to
convey it privately to them. BOSWELL. See _post_, 1747, for _The
Distressed Mother_.

[167] Yet he said to Boswell:--'Sir, in my early years I read very hard.
It is a sad reflection, but a true one, that I knew almost as much at
eighteen as I do now' (_post_, July 21, 1763). He told Mr. Langton, that
'his great period of study was from the age of twelve to that of
eighteen' (Ib. note). He told the King that his reading had later on
been hindered by ill-health (_post_, Feb. 1767).

[168] Hawkins (_Life_, p. 9) says that his father took him home,
probably with a view to bring him up to his own trade; for I have heard
Johnson say that he himself was able to bind a book. 'It were better
bind books again,' wrote Mrs. Thrale to him on Sept. 18, 1777, 'as you
did one year in our thatched summer-house.' _Piozzi Letters_, i. 375. It
was most likely at this time that he refused to attend his father to
Uttoxeter market, for which fault he made atonement in his old age
(_post_, November, 1784).

[169] Perhaps Johnson had his own early reading in mind when he thus
describes Pope's reading at about the same age. 'During this period of
his life he was indefatigably diligent and insatiably curious; wanting
health for violent, and money for expensive pleasures, and having
excited in himself very strong desires of intellectual eminence, he
spent much of his time over his books; but he read only to store his
mind with facts and images, seizing all that his authors presented with
undistinguishing voracity, and with an appetite for knowledge too eager
to be nice.' Johnson's _Works_, viii. 239.

[170] Andrew Corbet, according to Hawkins. Corbet had entered Pembroke
College in 1727. Dr. Swinfen, Johnson's god-father, was a member of the
College. I find the name of a Swinfen on the books in 1728.

[171] In the Caution Book of Pembroke College are found the two
following entries:--

'Oct. 31, 1728. Recd. then of Mr. Samuel Johnson Commr. of Pem. Coll. ye
summ of seven Pounds for his Caution, which is to remain in ye Hands of
ye Bursars till ye said Mr. Johnson shall depart ye said College leaving
ye same fully discharg'd.

Recd. by me, John Ratcliff, Bursar.'

'March 26, 1740. At a convention of the Master and Fellows to settle the
accounts of the Caution it appear'd that the Persons Accounts
underwritten stood thus at their leaving the College:

Caution not Repay'd
Mr. Johnson £7  0  0
Battells not discharg'd
Mr. Johnson £7  0  0

Mr. Carlyle is in error in describing Johnson as a servitor. He was a
commoner as the above entry shows. Though he entered on Oct. 31, he did
not matriculate till Dec. 16. It was on Palm Sunday of this same year
that Rousseau left Geneva, and so entered upon his eventful career.
Goldsmith was born eleven days after Johnson entered (Nov. 10, 1728).
Reynolds was five years old. Burke was born before Johnson left Oxford.

[172] He was in his twentieth year. He was born on Sept. 18, 1709, and
was therefore nineteen. He was somewhat late in entering. In his _Life
of Ascham_ he says, 'Ascham took his bachelor's degree in 1534, in the
eighteenth year of his age; a time of life at which it is more common
now to enter the universities than to take degrees.' Johnson's _Works_,
vi. 505. It was just after Johnson's entrance that the two Wesleys began
to hold small devotional meetings at Oxford.

[173] Builders were at work in the college during all his residence.
'July 16, 1728. About a quarter of a year since they began to build a
new chapel for Pembroke Coll. next to Slaughter Lane.' Hearne's
_Remains_, iii. 9.

[174] _Athen. Oxon_. edit. 1721, i. 627. BOSWELL.

[175] Johnson would oftener risk the payment of a small fine than attend
his lectures.... Upon occasion of one such imposition he said to
Jorden:--"Sir, you have sconced [fined] me two pence for non-attendance
at a lecture not worth a penny." Hawkins's _Johnson_, p. 9. A passage in
Whitefield's _Diary_ shows that the sconce was often greater. He once
neglected to give in the weekly theme which every Saturday had to be
given to the tutor in the Hall 'when the bell rang.' He was fined
half-a-crown. Tyerman's _Whitefield_, i. 22. In my time (1855-8) at
Pembroke College every Saturday when the bell rang we gave in our piece
of Latin prose--themes were things of the past.

[176] This was on Nov. 6, O.S., or Nov. 17, N.S.--a very early time for
ice to bear. The first mention of frost that I find in the newspapers of
that winter is in the _Weekly Journal_ for Nov. 30, O.S.; where it is
stated that 'the passage by land and water [i.e. the Thames] is now
become very dangerous by the snow, frost, and ice.' The record of
meteorological observations began a few years later.

[177] Oxford, 20th March, 1776. BOSWELL.

[178] Mr. Croker discovers a great difference between this account and
that which Johnson gave to Mr. Warton (_post_, under July 16, 1754).
There is no need to have recourse, with Mr. Croker, 'to an ear spoiled
by flattery.' A very simple explanation may be found. The accounts refer
to different hours of the same day. Johnson's 'stark insensibility'
belonged to the morning, and his 'beating heart' to the afternoon. He
had been impertinent before dinner, and when he was sent for after
dinner 'he expected a sharp rebuke.'

[179] It ought to be remembered that Dr. Johnson was apt, in his
literary as well as moral exercises, to overcharge his defects. Dr.
Adams informed me, that he attended his tutors lectures, and also the
lectures in the College Hall, very regularly. BOSWELL.

[180] Early in every November was kept 'a great gaudy [feast] in the
college, when the Master dined in publick, and the juniors (by an
ancient custom they were obliged to comply with) went round the fire in
the hall.' Philipps's _Diary, Notes and Queries_, 2nd S., x. 443. We can
picture to ourselves among the juniors in November 1728, Samuel Johnson,
going round the fire with the others. Here he heard day after day the
Latin grace which Camden had composed for the society. 'I believe I can
repeat it,' Johnson said at St. Andrew's, 'which he did.' Boswell's
_Hebrides_, Aug. 19, 1773.

[181] Seven years before Johnson's time, on Nov. 5, 'Mr. Peyne, Bachelor
of Arts, made an oration in the hall suitable to the day.'
Philipps's _Diary_.

[182] Boswell forgot Johnson's criticism on Milton's exercises on this
day. 'Some of the exercises on Gunpowder Treason might have been
spared.' Johnson's _Works_, vii. 119.

[183] It has not been preserved. There are in the college library four
of his compositions, two of verse and two of prose. One of the copies of
verse I give _post_, under July 16, 1754. Both have been often printed.
As his prose compositions have never been published I will give one:--

              'Mea nec Falernae
Temperant Vites, neque Formiani Pocula Colles.'

'Quaedam minus attente spectata absurda videntur, quae tamen penitus
perspecta rationi sunt consentanea. Non enim semper facta per se, verum
ratio occasioque faciendi sunt cogitanda. Deteriora ei offerre cui
meliorum ingens copia est, cui non ridiculum videtur? Quis sanus hirtam
agrestemque vestem Lucullo obtulisset, cujus omnia fere Serum opificia,
omnia Parmae vellera, omnes Tyri colores latuerunt? Hoc tamen fecisse
Horatium non puduit, quo nullus urbanior, nullus procerum convictui
magis assuetus. Maecenatem scilicet nôrat non quaesiturum an meliora
vina domi posset bibere, verum an inter domesticos quenquam propensiori
in se animo posset invenire. Amorem, non lucrum, optavit patronus ille
munifentissimus (_sic_). Pocula licet vino minus puro implerentur, satis
habuit, si hospitis vultus laetitia perfusus sinceram puramque amicitiam
testaretur. Ut ubi poetam carmine celebramus, non fastidit, quod ipse
melius posset scribere, verum poema licet non magni facit (_sic_),
amorem scriptoris libenter amplectitur, sic amici munuscula animum
gratum testantia licet parvi sint, non nisi a superbo et moroso
contemnentur. Deos thuris fumis indigere nemo certè unquam credidit,
quos tamen iis gratos putarunt, quia homines se non beneficiorum
immemores his testimoniis ostenderunt.'


[184] 'The accidental perusal of some Latin verses gained Addison the
patronage of Dr. Lancaster, afterwards Provost of Queen's College, by
whose recommendation he was elected into Magdalen College as a Demy' [a
scholar]. Johnson's _Works_, vii. 420. Johnson's verses gained him
nothing but 'estimation.'

[185] He is reported to have said:--'The writer of this poem will leave
it a question for posterity, whether his or mine be the original.'
Hawkins, p. 13.

[186] 'A Miscellany of Poems by several hands. Published by J. Husbands,
A.M., Fellow of Pembroke College, Oxon., Oxford. Printed by Leon.
Lichfield, near the East-Gate, In the year MDCCXXXI.' Among the
subscribers I notice the name of Richard Savage, Esq., for twenty
copies. It is very doubtful whether he paid for one. Pope did not
subscribe. Johnson's poem is thus mentioned in the preface:--'The
translation of Mr. Pope's Messiah was deliver'd to his Tutor as a
College Exercise by Mr. Johnson, a commoner of Pembroke College in
Oxford, and 'tis hoped will be no discredit to the excellent original.'

[187] See _post_, under July 16, 1754.

[188] See Boswell's _Hebrides_, Sept. 6, 1773.

[189] _Poetical Review of the Literary and Moral Character of Dr.
Johnson,_ by John Courtenay, Esq., M.P. BOSWELL.

[190] Hector, in his account of Johnson's early life, says:--'After a
long absence from Lichfield, when he returned, I was apprehensive of
something wrong in his constitution which might either impair his
intellect or endanger his life; but, thanks to Almighty God, my fears
have proved false.' Hawkins, p. 8. The college books show that Johnson
was absent but one week in the Long Vacation of 1729. It is by no means
unlikely that he went to Lichfield in that week to consult Dr. Swinfen
about his health. In that case his first attack, when he tried to
overcome the malady by frequently walking to Birmingham, must have been
at an earlier date. In his time students often passed the vacation at
the University. The following table shows the number of graduates and
undergraduates in residence in Pembroke College at the end of each
fourth week, from June to December 1729:--

             Members in residence.
  June 20, 1729 . . . 54
  July 18,  "   . . . 34
  Aug. 15,  "   . . . 25
  Sept. 12, "   . . . 16
  Oct. 10,  "   . . . 30
  Nov. 7,   "   . . . 52
  Dec. 5,   "   . . . 49

At Christmas there were still sixteen men left in the college. That
under a zealous tutor the vacation was by no means a time of idleness is
shown by a passage in Wesley's _Journal_, in which he compares the
Scotch Universities with the English. 'In Scotland,' he writes, 'the
students all come to their several colleges in November, and return home
in May. So they _may_ study five months in the year, and lounge all the
rest! O where was the common sense of those who instituted such
colleges? In the English colleges everyone _may_ reside all the year, as
all my pupils did; and I should have thought myself little better than a
highwayman if I had not lectured them every day in the year but
Sundays.' Wesley's _Journal_, iv. 75. Johnson lived to see Oxford empty
in the Long Vacation. Writing on Aug. 1, 1775, he said:--'The place is
now a sullen solitude.' _Piozzi Letters_, i. 294.

[191] Johnson, perhaps, was thinking of himself when he thus criticised
the character of Sir Roger de Coverley. 'The variable weather of the
mind, the flying vapours of incipient madness, which from time to time
cloud reason without eclipsing it, it requires so much nicety to exhibit
that Addison seems to have been deterred from prosecuting his own
design.' Johnson's _Works_, vii. 431.

[192] Writing in his old age to Hector, he said,--'My health has been
from my twentieth year such as has seldom afforded me a single day of
ease' (_post_, under March 21, 1782). Hawkins writes, that he once told
him 'that he knew not what it was to be totally free from pain.'
Hawkins, p. 396.

[193] See _post_, Oct. 27, 1784, note.

[194] In the _Rambler_, No. 85, he pointed out 'how much happiness is
gained, and how much misery escaped, by frequent and violent agitation
of the body.' See _post_, July 21, 1763, for his remedies against

[195] Thirty-two miles in all. Southey mentions that in 1728, the
Wesleys, to save the more money for the poor, began to perform their
journeys on foot. He adds,--'It was so little the custom in that age for
men in their rank of life to walk any distance, as to make them think it
a discovery that four or five-and-twenty miles are an easy and safe
day's journey.' Southey's _Wesley_, i. 52.

[196] Boswell himself suffered from hypochondria. He seems at times to
boast of it, as Dogberry boasted of his losses; so that Johnson had some
reason for writing to him with seventy, as if he were 'affecting it from
a desire of distinction.' _Post_, July 2, 1776.

[197] Johnson on April 7, 1776, recommended Boswell to read this book,
and again on July 2 of the same year.

[198] On Dec. 24, 1754, writing of the poet Collins, who was either mad
or close upon it, he said,--'Poor dear Collins! I have often been near
his state.' Wooll's _Warton_, p. 229. 'I inherited,' Johnson said, 'a
vile melancholy from my father, which has made me mad all my life, at
least not sober.' Boswell's _Hebrides_, Sept. 16, 1773. 'When I survey
my past life,' he wrote in 1777, 'I discover nothing but a barren waste
of time, with some disorders of body and disturbances of the mind very
near to madness.' _Pr. and Med_. p. 155. Reynolds recorded that 'what
Dr. Johnson said a few days before his death of his disposition to
insanity was no new discovery to those who were intimate with him.'
Taylor's _Reynolds_, ii. 455. See also _post_ Sept. 20, 1777.

[199] Ch. 44.

[200] 'Of the uncertainties of our present state, the most dreadful and
alarming is the uncertain continuance of reason.' _Rasselas_, ch. 43.

[201] Boswell refers to Mrs. Piozzi (_Anec_., pp. 77, 127), and Hawkins
(_Life_, pp. 287-8).

[202] 'Quick in these seeds is might of fire and birth of heavenly
place.' Morris, _Aeneids_, vi. 730.

[203] On Easter Sunday 1716 during service some pieces of stone from the
spire of St. Mary's fell on the roof of the church. The congregation,
thinking that the steeple was coming down, in their alarm broke through
the windows. Johnson, we may well believe, witnessed the scene. The
church was pulled down, and the new one was opened in Dec. 1721.
Harwood's _Lichfield_, p. 460.

[204] 'Sept. 23, 1771. I have gone voluntarily to church on the week day
but few times in my life. I think to mend. April 9, 1773. I hope in time
to take pleasure in public worship. April 6, 1777. I have this year
omitted church on most Sundays, intending to supply the deficience in
the week. So that I owe twelve attendances on worship. I will make no
more such superstitious stipulations, which entangle the mind with
unbidden obligations.' _Pr. and Med_. pp. 108, 121, 161. In the
following passage in the _Life of Milton_, Johnson, no doubt, is
thinking of himself:--'In the distribution of his hours there was no
hour of prayer, either solitary or with his household; omitting public
prayers he omitted all.... That he lived without prayer can hardly be
affirmed; his studies and meditations were an habitual prayer. The
neglect of it in his family was probably a fault for which he condemned
himself, and which he intended to correct, but that death as too often
happens, intercepted his reformation.' Johnson's _Works_, vii. 115. See
_post_, Oct. 10, 1779.

[205] We may compare with this a passage in Verecundulus's letter in
_The Rambler_, No. 157:--'Though many among my fellow students [at the
university] took the opportunity of a more remiss discipline to gratify
their passions, yet virtue preserved her natural superiority, and those
who ventured to neglect were not suffered to insult her.' Oxford at this
date was somewhat wayward in her love for religion. Whitefield
records:--'I had no sooner received the sacrament publicly on a week-day
at St. Mary's, but I was set up as a mark for all the polite students
that knew me to shoot at. By this they knew that I was commenced
Methodist, for though there is a sacrament at the beginning of every
term, at which all, especially the seniors, are by statute obliged to be
present, yet so dreadfully has that once faithful city played the
harlot, that very few masters, and no undergraduates but the Methodists
attended upon it. I daily underwent some contempt at college. Some have
thrown dirt at me; others by degrees took away their pay from me.'
Tyerman's _Whitefield_, i. 19. Story, the Quaker, visiting Oxford in
1731, says, 'Of all places wherever I have been the scholars of Oxford
were the rudest, most giddy, and unruly rabble, and most mischievous.'
Story's _Journal_, p. 675.

[206] John Wesley, who was also at Oxford, writing of about this same
year, says:--'Meeting now with Mr. Law's _Christian Perfection_ and
_Serious Call_ the light flowed in so mightily upon my soul that
everything appeared in a new view.' Wesley's _Journal_, i. 94.
Whitefield writes:--'Before I went to the University, I met with Mr.
Law's _Serious Call_, but had not then money to purchase it. Soon after
my coming up to the University, seeing a small edition of it in a
friend's hand I soon procured it. God worked powerfully upon my soul by
that and his other excellent treatise upon Christian perfection.'
Tyerman's _Whitefield_, i. 16. Johnson called the _Serious Call_ 'the
finest piece of hortatory theology in any language;' _post_, 1770. A few
months before his death he said:--'William Law wrote the best piece of
parenetic divinity; but William Law was no reasoner;' _post_, June 9,
1784. Law was the tutor of Gibbon's father, and he died in the house of
the historian's aunt. In describing the _Serious Call_ Gibbon
says:--'His precepts are rigid, but they are founded on the gospel; his
satire is sharp, but it is drawn from the knowledge of human life; and
many of his portraits are not unworthy of the pen of La Bruyère. If he
finds a spark of piety in his reader's mind he will soon kindle it to a
flame.' Gibbon's _Misc. Works_, i. 21.

[207] Mrs. Piozzi has given a strange fantastical account of the
original of Dr. Johnson's belief in our most holy religion. '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 none, 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 [_I suppose at
five years old_] in his father's shop, intitled _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 enquire 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 [namely having omitted to read what he did not
understand_,] had given him, he now began to deduce the soul's
immortality [_a sensation of pain in this world being an unquestionable
proof of existence in another_], 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.'
_Anecdotes_, p. 17.

This is one of the numerous misrepresentations of this lively lady,
which it is worth while to correct; for if credit should be given to
such a childish, irrational, and ridiculous statement of the foundation
of Dr. Johnson's faith in Christianity, how little credit would be due
to it. Mrs. Piozzi seems to wish, that the world should think Dr.
Johnson also under the influence of that easy logick, _Stet pro ratione
voluntas_. BOSWELL. On April 28, 1783, Johnson said:--'Religion had
dropped out of my mind. It was at an early part of my life. Sickness
brought it back, and I hope I have never lost it since.' Most likely it
was the sickness in the long vacation of 1729 mentioned _ante_, p. 63.

[208] In his _Life of Milton_, writing of _Paradise Lost_, he
says:--'But these truths are too important to be new; they have been
taught to our infancy; they have mingled with our solitary thoughts and
familiar conversations, and are habitually interwoven with the whole
texture of life.' Johnson's _Works_, vii. 134.

[209] Acts xvi. 30.

[210] Sept. 7, Old Style, or Sept. 18, New Style.

[211] 'He that peruses Shakespeare looks round alarmed, and starts to
find himself alone.' Johnson's _Works_, v. 71. 'I was many years ago so
shocked by Cordelia's death, that I know not whether I ever endured to
read again the last scenes of the play till I undertook to revise them
as an editor.' Ib. p. 175.

[212] He told Mr. Windham that he had never read through the Odyssey
completely. Windham's _Diary_, p. 17. At college, he said, he had been
'very idle and neglectful of his studies.' Ib.

[213] 'It may be questioned whether, except his Bible, he ever read a
book entirely through. Late in life, if any man praised a book in his
presence, he was sure to ask, 'Did you read it through?' If the answer
was in the affirmative, he did not seem willing to believe it.' Murphy's
_Johnson_, p. 12. It would be easy to show that Johnson read many books
right through, though, according to Mrs. Piozzi, he asked, '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?' Piozzi's Anec., p. 281. Nevertheless in Murphy's statement
there is some truth. See what has been just stated by Boswell, that 'he
hardly ever read any poem to an end,' and _post_, April 19, 1773 and
June 15, 1784. To him might be applied his own description of
Barretier:--'He had a quickness of apprehension and firmness of memory
which enabled him to read with incredible rapidity, and at the same time
to retain what he read, so as to be able to recollect and apply it. He
turned over volumes in an instant, and selected what was useful for his
purpose.' Johnson's _Works_, vi. 390.

[214] See _post_, June 15, 1784. Mr. Windham (_Diary_, p. 17) records
the following 'anecdote of Johnson's first declamation at college;
having neglected to write it till the morning of his being (sic) to
repeat it, and having only one copy, he got part of it by heart while he
was walking into the hall, and the rest he supplied as well as he could
extempore.' Mrs. Piozzi, recording the same ancedote, says that 'having
given the copy into the hand of the tutor who stood to receive it as he
passed, he was obliged to begin by chance, and continue on how he
could.... "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."' Piozzi's _Anec_. p. 30.

[215] He told Dr. Burney that he never wrote any of his works that were
printed, twice over. Dr. Burney's wonder at seeing several pages of his
_Lives of the Poets_, in Manuscript, with scarce a blot or erasure, drew
this observation from him. MALONE. 'He wrote forty-eight of the printed
octavo pages of the _Life of Savage_ at a sitting' (_post_, Feb. 1744),
and a hundred lines of the _Vanity of Human Wishes_ in a day (_post_,
under Feb. 15, 1766). The _Ramblers_ were written in haste as the moment
pressed, without even being read over by him before they were printed
(_post_, beginning of 1750). In the second edition, however, he made
corrections. 'He composed _Rasselas_ in the evenings of one week'
(_post_, under January, 1759). '_The False Alarm_ was written between
eight o'clock on Wednesday night and twelve o'clock on Thursday night.'
Piozzi's _Anec_., p. 41. '_The Patriot_' he says, 'was called for on
Friday, was written on Saturday' (_post_, Nov. 26, 1774).

[216] 'When Mr. Johnson felt his fancy, or fancied he felt it,
disordered, his constant recurrence was to the study of arithmetic.'
Piozzi's _Anec_. p. 77. 'Ethics, or figures, or metaphysical reasoning,
was the sort of talk he most delighted in;' ib. p. 80. See _post_,
Sept. 24, 1777.

[217] 'Sept. 18, 1764, I resolve to study the Scriptures; I hope in the
original languages. 640 verses every Sunday will nearly comprise the
Scriptures in a year.' _Pr. and Med_. p. 58. '1770, 1st Sunday after
Easter. The plan which I formed for reading the Scriptures was to read
600 verses in the Old Testament, and 200 in the New, every week;' ib.
p. 100.

[218] 'August 1, 1715. This being the day on which the late Queen Anne
died, and on which George, Duke and Elector of Brunswick, usurped the
English throne, there was very little rejoicing in Oxford.... There was
a sermon at St. Marie's by Dr. Panting, Master of Pembroke.... He is an
honest gent. His sermon took no notice, at most very little, of the Duke
of Brunswick.' Hearne's _Remains_, ii. 6.

[219] The outside wall of the gateway-tower forms an angle with the wall
of the Master's house, so that any one sitting by the open window and
speaking in a strong emphatic voice might have easily been overheard.

[220] Goldsmith did go to Padua, and stayed there some months. Forster's
_Goldsmith_, i. 71.

[221] I had this anecdote from Dr. Adams, and Dr. Johnson confirmed it.
Bramston, in his _Man of Taste_, has the same thought: 'Sure, of all
blockheads, scholars are the worst.' BOSWELL. Johnson's meaning,
however, is, that a scholar who is a blockhead must be the worst of all
blockheads, because he is without excuse. But Bramston, in the assumed
character of an ignorant coxcomb, maintains that _all_ scholars are
blockheads on account of their scholarship. J. BOSWELL, JUN. There is, I
believe, a Spanish proverb to the effect that, 'to be an utter fool a
man must know Latin.' A writer in _Notes and Queries_ (5th S. xii. 285)
suggests that Johnson had in mind Acts xvii. 21.

[222] It was the practice in his time for a servitor, by order of the
Master, to go round to the rooms of the young men, and knocking at the
door to enquire if they were within; and if no answer was returned to
report them absent. Johnson could not endure this intrusion, and would
frequently be silent, when the utterance of a word would have ensured
him from censure, and would join with others of the young men in the
college in hunting, as they called it, the servitor who was thus
diligent in his duty, and this they did with the noise of pots and
candlesticks, singing to the tune of Chevy Chase the words in the
old ballad,--

'To drive the deer with hound and horn!' _Hawkins_, p. 12. Whitefield,
writing of a few years later, says:--'At this time Satan used to terrify
me much, and threatened to punish me if I discovered his wiles. It being
my duty, as servitor, in my turn to knock at the gentlemen's rooms by
ten at night, to see who were in their rooms, I thought the devil would
appear to me every stair I went up.' Tyerman's _Whitefield_, i. 20.

[223] See _post_, June 12, 1784.

[224] Perhaps his disregard of all authority was in part due to his
genius, still in its youth. In his _Life of Lyttelton_ he says:--'The
letters [Lyttelton's _Persian Letters_] have something of that
indistinct and headstrong ardour for liberty which a man of genius
always catches when he enters the world, and always suffers to cool as
he passes forward.' Johnson's _Works_, viii. 488.

[225] Dr. Hall [formerly Master of the College] says, 'Certainly not
all.' CROKER.

[226] 'I would leave the interest of the fortune I bequeathed to a
college to my relations or my friends for their lives. It is the same
thing to a college, which is a permanent society, whether it gets the
money now or twenty years hence; and I would wish to make my relations
or friends feel the benefit of it;' _post_, April 17, 1778. Hawkins
(_Life_, p. 582,) says that 'he meditated a devise of his house to the
corporation of that city for a charitable use, but, it being freehold he
said, "I cannot live a twelvemonth, and the last statute of Mortmain
stands in my way."' The same statute, no doubt, would have hindered the
bequest to the College.

[227] Garrick refused to act one of Hawkins's plays. The poet towards
the end of a long letter which he signed,--'Your much dissatisfied
humble servant,' said:--'After all, Sir, I do not desire to come to an
open rupture with you. I wish not to exasperate, but to convince; and I
tender you once more my friendship and my play.' _Garrick Corres_. ii.
8. See _post_, April 9, 1778.

[228] See Nash's _History of Worcestershire_, vol. i. p. 529. BOSWELL.
To the list should be added, Francis Beaumont, the dramatic writer; Sir
Thomas Browne, whose life Johnson wrote; Sir James Dyer, Chief Justice
of the King's Bench, Lord Chancellor Harcourt, John Pym, Francis Rous,
the Speaker of Cromwell's parliament, and Bishop Bonner. WRIGHT. Some of
these men belonged to the ancient foundation of Broadgates Hall, which
in 1624 was converted into Pembroke College. It is strange that Boswell
should have passed over Sir Thomas Browne's name. Johnson in his life of
Browne says that he was 'the first man of eminence graduated from the
new college, to which the zeal or gratitude of those that love it most
can wish little better than that it may long proceed as it began.'
Johnson's _Works_, vi. 476. To this list Nash adds the name of the Revd.
Richard Graves, author of _The Spiritual Quixote_, who took his degree
of B.A. on the same day as Whitefield, whom he ridiculed in
that romance.

[229] See _post_, Oct. 6, 1769, and Boswell's _Hebrides_, Aug. 15, 1773.

[230] In his _Life of Shenstone_ he writes:--'From school Shenstone was
sent to Pembroke College in Oxford, a society which for half a century
has been eminent for English poetry and elegant literature. Here it
appears that he found delight and advantage; for he continued his name
in the book ten years, though he took no degree.' Johnson's _Works_,
viii. 408. Johnson's name would seem to have been in like manner
continued for more than eleven years, and perhaps for the same reasons.
(_Ante_, p. 58 note.) Hannah More was at Oxford in June 1782, during one
of Johnson's visits to Dr. Adams. 'You cannot imagine,' she writes,
'with what delight Dr. Johnson showed me every part of his own
college.... After dinner he begged to conduct me to see the college; he
would let no one show it me but himself. "This was my room; this
Shenstone's." Then, after pointing out all the rooms of the poets who
had been of his college, "In short," said he, "we were a nest of
singing-birds. Here we walked, there we played at cricket." [It may be
doubted whether he ever played.] He ran over with pleasure the history
of the juvenile days he passed there. When we came into the Common Room,
we spied a fine large print of Johnson, framed and hung up that very
morning, with this motto: "And is not Johnson ours, himself a host;"
under which stared you in the face, "From Miss More's _Sensibility_"'
Hannah More's _Memoirs_, i. 261. At the end of 'the ludicrous analysis
of Pocockius' quoted by Johnson in the _Life of Edmund Smith_ are the
following lines:--'Subito ad Batavos proficiscor, lauro ab illis
donandus. Prius vero Pembrochienses voco ad certamen poeticum.' Smith
was at Christ Church. He seems to be mocking the neighbouring 'nest of
singing-birds.' Johnson's _Works_, vii. 381.

[231] Taylor matriculated on Feb. 24, 1729. Mr. Croker in his note has
confounded him with another John Taylor who matriculated more than a
year later. Richard West, writing of Christ Church in 1735,
says:--'Consider me very seriously here in a strange country, inhabited
by things that call themselves Doctors and Masters of Arts; a country
flowing with syllogisms and ale, where Horace and Virgil are equally
unknown.' Gray's _Letters_, ii. I.


'Si toga sordidula est et rupta
  calceus alter
Pelle patet.'
'Or if the shoe be ript, or patches put.'

Dryden, _Juvenal_, iii. 149.

Johnson in his _London_, in describing 'the blockhead's insults,' while
he mentions 'the tattered cloak,' passes over the ript shoe. Perhaps the
wound had gone too deep to his generous heart for him to bear even to
think on it.

[233] 'Yet some have refused my bounties, more offended with my
quickness to detect their wants than pleased with my readiness to
succour them.' _Rasselas_, ch. 25. 'His [Savage's] distresses, however
afflictive, never dejected him; in his lowest state he wanted not spirit
to assert the natural dignity of wit, and was always ready to repress
that insolence which the superiority of fortune incited; ... he never
admitted any gross familiarities, or submitted to be treated otherwise
than as an equal.... His clothes were worn out; and he received notice
that at a coffee-house some clothes and linen were left for him.... But
though the offer was so far generous, it was made with some neglect of
ceremonies, which Mr. Savage so much resented that he refused the
present, and declined to enter the house till the clothes that had been
designed for him were taken away.' Johnson's _Works_, viii. 161 and 169.


'Haud facile emergunt quorum
  virtutibus obstat
Res angusta domi.'

Juvenal, _Sat_. iii. 164.

Paraphrased by Johnson in his _London_, 'Slow rises worth by poverty

[235] Cambridge thirty-six years later neglected Parr as Oxford
neglected Johnson. Both these men had to leave the University through
poverty. There were no open scholarships in those days.

[236] Yet his college bills came to only some eight shillings a week. As
this was about the average amount of an undergraduate's bill it is clear
that, so far as food went, he lived, in spite of Mr. Carlyle's
assertion, as well as his fellow-students.

[237] Mr. Croker states that 'an examination of the college books proves
that Johnson, who entered on the 31st October, 1728, remained there,
even during the vacations, to the 12th December, 1729, when he
personally left the college, and never returned--though his _name_
remained on the books till 8th October, 1731.' I have gone into this
question at great length in my _Dr. Johnson: His Friends and His
Critics_, p. 329. I am of opinion that Mr. Croker's general conclusion
is right. The proof of residence is established, and alone established,
by the entries in the buttery books. Now these entries show that
Johnson, with the exception of the week in October 1729 ending on the
24th, was in residence till December 12, 1729. He seems to have returned
for a week in March 1730, and again for a week in the following
September. On three other weeks there is a charge against him of
fivepence in the books. Mr. Croker has made that darker which was
already dark enough by confounding, as I have shewn, two John Taylors
who both matriculated at Christ Church. Boswell's statement no doubt is
precise, but in this he followed perhaps the account given by Hawkins.
He would have been less likely to discover Hawkins's error from the fact
that, as Johnson's name was for about three years on the College books,
he was so long, in name at least, a member of the College. Had Boswell
seen Johnson's letter to Mr. Hickman, quoted by Mr. Croker (Croker's
_Boswell_, p. 20), he would at once have seen that Johnson could not
have remained at college for a little more than three years. For within
three years all but a day of his entrance at Pembroke, he writes to Mr.
Hickman from Lichfield, '_As I am yet unemployed_, I hope you will, if
anything should offer, remember and recommend, Sir, your humble servant,
Sam. Johnson.'

In Boswell's _Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides_ (Aug. 15, 1773) there
is a very perplexing passage bearing on Johnson's residence at College.
'We talked of Whitefield. He said he was at the same college with him,
and knew him before he began to be better than other people.' Now
Johnson, as Boswell tells us, read this journal in manuscript. The
statement therefore seems to be well-established indeed. Yet Whitefield
did not matriculate till Nov. 7, 1732, a full year after Johnson,
according to Boswell, had left Oxford. We are told that, when Johnson
was living at Birmingham, he borrowed Lobo's _Abyssinia_ from the
library of Pembroke College. It is probable enough that a man who
frequently walked from Lichfield to Birmingham and back would have
trudged all the way to Oxford to fetch the book. In that case he might
have seen Whitefield. But Thomas Warton says that 'the first time of his
being at Oxford after quitting the University was in 1754' (_post_,
under July 16, 1754).

[238] 'March 16, 1728-9. Yesterday in a Convocation Mr. Wm. Jorden of
Pembroke Coll. was elected the Univ. of Oxford rector of Astocke in com.
Wilts (which belongs to a Roman Catholic family).' Hearne's _Remains_,
iii. 17. His fellowship was filled up on Dec. 23, 1730. Boswell's
statement therefore is inaccurate. If Johnson remained at college till
Nov. 1731, he would have really been for at least ten months Adams's
pupil. We may assume that as his name remained on the books after Jorden
left so he was _nominally_ transferred to Adams. It is worthy of notice
that Thomas Warton, in the account that he gives of Johnson's visit to
Oxford in 1754, says:--'He much regretted that his _first_ tutor
was dead.'

[239] According to Hawkins (_Life_, pp. 17, 582 and _post_, Dec. 9,
1784) Johnson's father was at one time a bankrupt. Johnson, in the
epitaph that he wrote for him (_post_, Dec. 2, 1784) describes him as
'bibliopola admodum peritus,' but 'rebus adversis diu conflictatus.' He
certainly did not die a bankrupt, as is shown by his leaving property to
his widow and son, and also by the following MS. letter, that is
preserved with two others of the same kind in Pembroke College.

Ashby, April 19, 1736.

Good Sr.,

I must truble you again, my sister who desiurs her survis to you, & begs
you will be so good if you can to pravale with Mr. Wumsley to paye you
the little money due to her you may have an opertunity to speak to him &
it will be a great truble for me to have a jerney for it when if he
pleasd he might paye it you, it is a poore case she had but little left
by Mr. Johnson but his books (not but he left her all he had) & those
sold at a poore reat, and be kept out of so small a sume by a gentleman
so well able to paye, if you will doe yr best for the widow will be
varey good in you, which will oblige yr reall freund JAMES BATE.

To Mr. John Newton

a Sider Seller at Litchfield.

Pd. £5 to Mr. Newton.

In another hand is written,

To Gilbert Walmesley Esq.

at Lichfield.

And in a third hand,

Pd. £5 to Mr. Newton.

The exact amount claimed, as is Shewn by the letter, dated Jan. 31,
1735, was £5 6s. 4d. There is a yet earlier letter demanding payment of
£5 6s. 4d. as 'due to me' for books, signed D. Johnson, dated
Swarkstone, Aug. 21, 1733. It must be the same account. Perhaps D.
Johnson was the executor. He writes from Ashby, where Michael Johnson
had a branch business. But I know of no other mention of him or of James
Bate. John Newton was the father of the Bishop of Bristol. _Post_, June
3,1784, and Bishop Newton's _Works_, i. I.

[240] Johnson, in a letter to Dr. Taylor, dated Aug. 18, 1763, advised
him, in some trouble that he had with his wife, 'to consult our old
friend Mr. Howard. His profession has acquainted him with matrimonial
law, and he is in himself a cool and wise man.' _Notes and Queries_, 6th
S. v. 342. See _post_, March 20, 1778, for mention of his son.

[241] See _post_, Dec. 1, 1743, note. Robert Levett, made famous by
Johnson's lines (_post_, Jan. 20, 1782), was not of this family.

[242] Mr. Warton informs me, 'that this early friend of Johnson was
entered a Commoner of Trinity College, Oxford, aged seventeen, in 1698;
and is the authour of many Latin verse translations in the _Gent. Mag_.
(vol. xv. 102). One of them is a translation of:

'My time, O ye Muses, was happily spent.' &c.

He died Aug, 3, 1751, and a monument to his memory has been erected in
the Cathedral of Lichfield, with an inscription written by Mr. Seward,
one of the Prebendaries. BOSWELL.

[243] Johnson's _Works_, vii. 380.

[244] See _post_, 1780, note at end of Mr. Langton's 'Collection.'

[245] See _post_, 1743.

[246] See _post_ April 24, 1779.

[247] Hawkins (_Life_, p. 61) says that in August, 1738 (? 1739),
Johnson went to Appleby, in Leicestershire, to apply for the mastership
of Appleby School. This was after he and his wife had removed to London.
It is likely that he visited Ashbourne.

[248] 'Old Meynell' is mentioned, _post_, 1780, in Mr. Langton's
'Collection,' as the author of 'the observation, "For anything I see,
foreigners are fools;"' and 'Mr. Meynell,' _post_, April 1, 1779, as
saying that 'The chief advantage of London is, that a man is always _so
near his burrow_.'

[249] See _post_, under March 16, 1759, note, and April 21, 1773. Mr.
Alleyne Fitzherbert was created Lord St. Helens.

[250] See _post_, 1780, end of Mr. Langton's 'Collection.'

[251] Johnson, writing to Dr. Taylor on July 31, 1756, said, 'I find
myself very unwilling to take up a pen, only to tell my friends that I
am well, and indeed I never did exchange letters regularly but with dear
Miss Boothby.' _Notes and Queries_, 6th S. v. 304. At the end of the
_Piozzi Letters_ are given some of his letters to her. They were
republished together with her letters to him in _An Account of the Life
of Dr. Samuel Johnson_, 1805.

[252] The words of Sir John Hawkins, P. 316. BOSWELL. 'When Mr. Thrale
once asked Johnson which had been the happiest period of his past life,
he replied, "it was that year in which he spent one whole evening with
Molly Aston. 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 tête-à-tête, but in a select company
of which the present Lord Kilmorey 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

'Will it do this way in English, Sir,' said I:--

'Persuasions to freedom fall oddly
   from you;
If freedom we seek--fair Maria,

'It will do well enough,' replied he; 'but it is translated by a lady,
and the ladies never loved Molly Aston.'" Piozzi's _Anec_., p. 157. See
_post_, May 8, 1778.

[253] Sir Thomas Aston, Bart., who died in January, 1724-5, left one
son, named Thomas also, and eight daughters. Of the daughters, Catherine
married Johnson's friend, the Hon. Henry Hervey [_post, 1737]; Margaret,
Gilbert Walmsley. Another of these ladies married the Rev. Mr. Gastrell
[the man who cut down Shakspeare's mulberry tree, _post_, March 25,
1776]; Mary, or _Molly_ Aston, as she was usually called, became the
wife of Captain Brodie of the navy. MALONE.

[254] Luke vi. 35.

[255] If this was in 1732 it was on the morrow of the day on which he
received his share of his father's property, _ante_, p. 80. A letter
published in _Notes and Queries_, 6th S. x. 421, shews that for a short
time he was tutor to the son of Mr. Whitby of Heywood.

[256] Bishop Hurd does not praise Blackwall, but the Rev. Mr. Budworth,
headmaster of the grammar school at Brewood, who had himself been bred
under Blackwall. MALONE. Mr. Nichols relates (_post_, Dec. 1784) that
Johnson applied for the post of assistant to Mr. Budworth.

[257] See _Gent. Mag_. Dec. 1784, p. 957. BOSWELL.

[258] See _ante_, p. 78.

[259] The patron's manners were those of the neighbourhood. Hutton,
writing of this town in 1770, says,--'The inhabitants set their dogs at
me merely because I was a stranger. Surrounded with impassable roads, no
intercourse with man to humanize the mind, no commerce to smooth their
rugged manners, they continue the boors of nature.' _Life, of W.
Hutton_, p. 45.

[260] It appears from a letter of Johnson's to a friend, dated
Lichfield, July 27, 1732, that he had left Sir Wolstan Dixie's house
recently, before that letter was written. MALONE.

[261] 'The despicable wretchedness of teaching,' wrote Carlyle, in his
twenty-fourth year, when he was himself a teacher, 'can be known only to
those who have tried it, and to Him who made the heart and knows it all.
One meets with few spectacles more afflicting than that of a young man
with a free spirit, with impetuous though honourable feelings, condemned
to waste the flower of his life in such a calling; to fade in it by slow
and sure corrosion of discontent; and at last obscurely and unprofitably
to leave, with an indignant joy, the miseries of a world which his
talents might have illustrated and his virtues adorned. Such things have
been and will be. But surely in that better life which good men dream
of, the spirit of a Kepler or a Milton will find a more propitious
destiny.' Conway's _Carlyle_, p. 176.

[262] This newspaper was the _Birmingham Journal_. In the office of the
_Birmingham Daily Post_ is preserved the number (No. 28) for May 21,
1733. It is believed to be the only copy in existence. Warren is
described by W. Hutton (_Life_, p. 77) as one of the 'three eminent
booksellers' in Birmingham in 1750. 'His house was "over against the
Swan Tavern," in High Street; doubtless in one of the old half-timbered
houses pulled down in 1838 [1850].' Timmins's _Dr. Johnson in
Birmingham_, p. 4.

[263] 'In the month of June 1733, I find him resident in the house of a
person named Jarvis, at Birmingham.' Hawkins, p. 21. His wife's maiden
name was Jarvis or Jervis.

[264] In 1741, Hutton, a runaway apprentice, arrived at Birmingham. He
says,--'I had never seen more than five towns, Nottingham, Derby,
Burton, Lichfield and Walsall. The outskirts of these were composed of
wretched dwellings, visibly stamped with dirt and poverty. But the
buildings in the exterior of Birmingham rose in a style of elegance.
Thatch, so plentiful in other places, was not to be met with in this.
The people possessed a vivacity I had never beheld. I had been among
dreamers, but now I saw men awake. Their very step along the street
showed alacrity. Every man seemed to know what he was about. The faces
of other men seemed tinctured with an idle gloom; but here with a
pleasing alertness. Their appearance was strongly marked with the modes
of civil life.' _Life of W. Hutton_, p. 41.

[265] Hutton, in his account of the Birmingham riots of 1791, describing
the destruction of a Mr. Taylor's house, says,--'The sons of plunder
forgot that the prosperity of Birmingham was owing to a Dissenter,
father to the man whose property they were destroying;' ib. p. 181.

[266] Johnson, it should seem, did not think himself ill-used by Warren;
for writing to Hector on April 15, 1755, he says,--'What news of poor
Warren? I have not lost all my kindness for him.' _Notes and Queries_,
6th S. iii. 301.

[267] That it is by no means an exact translation Johnson's _Preface_
shows. He says that in the dissertations alone an exact translation has
been attempted. The rest of the work he describes as an epitome.

[268] In the original, _Segued_.

[269] In the original, _Zeila_.

[270] Lobo, in describing a waterfall on the Nile, had said:--'The fall
of this mighty stream from so great a height makes a noise that may be
heard to a considerable distance; but I could not observe that the
neighbouring inhabitants were at all deaf. I conversed with several, and
was as easily heard by them as I heard them,' p. 101.

[271] In the original, _without religion, polity, or articulate

[272] See _Rambler_, No. 103. BOSWELL. Johnson in other passages
insisted on the high value of curiosity. In this same _Rambler_ he
says:--'Curiosity is one of the permanent and certain characteristics of
a vigorous intellect.' In the allegory in _Rambler_, No. 105, he calls
curiosity his 'long-loved protectress,' who is known by truth 'among the
most faithful of her followers.' In No. 150 he writes:--'Curiosity is in
great and generous minds the first passion and the last; and perhaps
always predominates in proportion to the strength of the contemplative
faculties.' In No. 5 he assert that 'he that enlarges his curiosity
after the works of nature demonstrably multiplies the inlets to

[273] Rasselas, _post_, 1759.

[274] Hawkins (p. 163) gives the following extract from Johnson's
_Annales_:--'Friday, August 27 (1734), 10 at night. This day I have
trifled away, except that I have attended the school in the morning, I
read to-night in Roger's sermoms. To-night I began the breakfast law
(sic) anew.'

[275] May we not trace a fanciful similarity between Politian and
Johnson? Huetius, speaking of Paulus Pelissonius Fontanerius, says, '...
in quo Natura, ut olim in Angelo Politiano, deformitarem oris
excellentis ingenii præstantia compensavit.' _Comment, de reb. ad eum
pertin_. Edit. Amstel. 1718, p. 200. BOSWELL. In Paulus Pelissonius
Fontanerius we have difficulty in detecting Mme. de Sévigné's friend,
Pelisson, of whom M. de Guilleragues used the phrase, 'qu'il abusait de
la permission qu'ont les hommes d'être laids.' See _Mme. de Sévigné's
Letter_, 5 Jan., 1674. CROKER.

[276] The book was to contain more than thirty sheets, the price to be
two shillings and sixpence at the time of subscribing, and two shillings
and sixpence at the delivery of a perfect book in quires. BOSWELL.
'Among the books in his library, at the time of his decease, I found a
very old and curious edition of the works of Politian, which appeared to
belong to Pembroke College, Oxford.' HAWKINS, p. 445. See _post_, Nov.,
1784. In his last work he shews his fondness for modern Latin poetry. He
says:--'Pope had sought for images and sentiments in a region not known
to have been explored by many other of the English writers; he had
consulted the modern writers of Latin poetry, a class of authors whom
Boileau endeavoured to bring into contempt, and who are too generally
neglected.' Johnson's _Works_, viii. 299.

[277] A writer in _Notes and Queries_, 1st S. xii. 266, says 'that he
has a letter written by Nathanael, in which he makes mention of his
brother "scarcely using him with common civility," and says, "I believe
I shall go to Georgia in about a fortnight!"' Nathanael died in
Lichfield in 1737; see _post_, Dec. 2, 1784, for his epitaph. Among the
MSS. in Pembroke College Library are bills for books receipted by Nath.
Johnson and by Sarah Johnson (his mother). She writes like a person of
little education.

[278] Miss Cave, the grand-niece of Mr. Edward Cave, has obligingly
shewn me the originals of this and the other letters of Dr. Johnson, to
him, which were first published in the _Gent. Mag_. [lv. 3], with notes
by Mr. John Nichols, the worthy and indefatigable editor of that
valuable miscellany, signed N.; some of which I shall occasionally
transcribe in the course of this work. BOSWELL. I was able to examine
some of these letters while they were still in the possession of one of
Cave's collateral descendants, and I have in one or two places corrected
errors of transcription.

[279] Sir John Floyer's Treatise on Cold Baths. _Gent. Mag_. 1734, p.
197. BOSWELL. This letter shews how uncommon a thing a cold bath was.
Floyer, after recommending 'a general method of bleeding and purging'
before the patient uses cold bathing, continues, 'I have commonly cured
the rickets by dipping children of a year old in the bath every morning;
and this wonderful effect has encouraged me to dip four boys at
Lichfield in the font at their baptism, and none have suffered any
inconvenience by it.' (For mention of Floyer, see _ante_, p. 42, and
_post_, March 27 and July 20, 1784.) Locke, in his _Treatise on
Education_, had recommended cold bathing for children. Johnson, in his
review of Lucas's _Essay on Waters_ (_post_, 1756), thus attacks cold
bathing:--'It is incident to physicians, I am afraid, beyond all other
men, to mistake subsequence for consequence. "The old gentleman," says
Dr. Lucas, "that uses the cold bath, enjoys in return an uninterrupted
state of health." This instance does not prove that the cold bath
produces health, but only that it will not always destroy it. He is well
with the bath, he would have been well without it.' _Literary
Magazine_, p. 229.

[280] A prize of fifty pounds for the best poem on 'Life, Death,
Judgement, Heaven, and Hell.' See _Gent. Mag_. vol. iv. p. 560. N.
BOSWELL. 'Cave sometimes offered subjects for poems, and proposed prizes
for the best performers. The first prize was fifty pounds, for which,
being but newly acquainted with wealth, and thinking the influence of
fifty pounds extremely great, he expected the first authors of the
kingdom to appear as competitors; and offered the allotment of the prize
to the universities. But when the time came, no name was seen among the
writers that had ever been seen before; the universities and several
private men rejected the province of assigning the prize.' Johnson's
_Works_, vi. 432.

[281] I suspect that Johnson wrote 'the Castle _Inn_, Birmingham.'

[282] Mrs. Piozzi gives the following account of this little composition
from Dr. Johnson's own relation to her, on her inquiring whether it was
rightly attributed to him:--'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' [see _post_,
May 7, 1773, for Johnson's 'way of contracting the names of his
friends'], 'and I'll fetch them thee--So stepped aside for five minutes,
and wrote the nonsense you now keep such a stir about.' _Anec_. p. 34.

In my first edition I was induced to doubt the authenticity of this
account, by the following circumstantial statement in a letter to me
from Miss Seward, of Lichfield:--'_I know_ those verses were addressed
to Lucy Porter, when he was enamoured of her in his boyish days, two or
three years before he had seen her mother, his future wife. He wrote
them at my grandfather's, and gave them to Lucy in the presence of my
mother, to whom he showed them on the instant. She used to repeat them
to me, when I asked her for _the Verses Dr. Johnson gave her on a Sprig
of Myrtle, which he had stolen or begged from her bosom_. We all know
honest Lucy Porter to have been incapable of the mean vanity of applying
to herself a compliment not _intended_ for her.' Such was this lady's
statement, which I make no doubt she supposed to be correct; but it
shews how dangerous it is to trust too implicitly to traditional
testimony and ingenious inference; for Mr. Hector has lately assured me
that Mrs. Piozzi's account is in this instance accurate, and that he was
the person for whom Johnson wrote those verses, which have been
erroneously ascribed to Mr. Hammond.

I am obliged in so many instances to notice Mrs. Piozzi's incorrectness
of relation, that I gladly seize this opportunity of acknowledging, that
however often, she is not always inaccurate.

The author having been drawn into a controversy with Miss Anna Seward,
in consequence of the preceding statement, (which may be found in the
_Gent. Mag_. vol. liii. and liv.) received the following letter from Mr.
Edmund Hector, on the subject:


'I am sorry to see you are engaged in altercation with a Lady, who seems
unwilling to be convinced of her errors. Surely it would be more
ingenuous to acknowledge, than to persevere.

'Lately, in looking over some papers I meant to burn, I found the
original manuscript of the _Myrtle_, with the date on it, 1731, which I
have inclosed.

'The true history (which I could swear to) is as follows: Mr. Morgan
Graves, the elder brother of a worthy Clergyman near Bath, with whom I
was acquainted, waited upon a lady in this neighbourhood, who at parting
presented him the branch. He shewed it me, and wished much to return the
compliment in verse. I applied to Johnson, who was with me, and in about
half an hour dictated the verses which I sent to my friend.

'I most solemnly declare, at that time Johnson was an entire stranger to
the Porter family; and it was almost two years after that I introduced
him to the acquaintance of Porter, whom I bought my cloaths of.

'If you intend to convince this obstinate woman, and to exhibit to the
publick the truth of your narrative, you are at liberty to make what use
you please of this statement.

'I hope you will pardon me for taking up so much of your time. Wishing
you _multos et felices annos_, I shall subscribe myself,

'Your obliged humble servant,


Jan. 9th, 1794.

BOSWELL. For a further account of Boswell's controversy with Miss
Seward, see _post_, June 25, 1784.

[283] See _post_, beginning of 1744, April 28, 1783, and under Dec. 2,

[284] See _post_, near end of 1762, note.

[285] In the registry of St. Martin's Church, Birmingham, are the
following entries:--'Baptisms, Nov. 8, 1715, Lucy, daughter of Henry
Porter. Jan. 29, 1717 [O. S.], Jarvis Henry, son of Henry Porter.
Burials, Aug. 3, 1734, Henry Porter of Edgbaston.' There were two sons;
one, Captain Porter, who died in 1763 (Croker's _Boswell_, p. 130), the
other who died in 1783 (_post_, Nov. 29, 1783).

[286] According to Malone, Reynolds said that 'he had paid attention to
Johnson's limbs; and far from being unsightly, he deemed them well
formed.' Prior's _Malone_, p. 175. Mrs. Piozzi says:--'His stature was
remarkably high, and his limbs exceedingly large; 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.' Piozzi's _Anec_. p. 297. See _post_, end of the
book, and Boswell's _Hebrides_, near the beginning.

[287] If Johnson wore his own hair at Oxford, it must have exposed him
to ridicule. Graves, the author of _The Spiritual Quixote_, tells us
that Shenstone had the courage to wear his own hair, though 'it often
exposed him to the ill-natured remarks of people who had not half his
sense. After I was elected at All Souls, where there was often a party
of loungers in the gateway, on my expostulating with Mr. Shenstone for
not visiting me so often as usual, he said, "he was ashamed to face his
enemies in the gate."'

[288] See _post_, 1739.

[289] Mrs. Johnson was born on Feb. 4, 1688-9. MALONE. She was married
on July 9, 1735, in St. Werburgh's Church, Derby, as is shewn by the
following copy of the marriage register: '1735, July 9, Mar'd Sam'll
Johnson of ye parish of St Mary's in Litchfield, and Eliz'th Porter of
ye parish of St Phillip in Burmingham.' _Notes and Queries_, 4th S. vi.
44. At the time of their marriage, therefore, she was forty-six, and
Johnson only two months short of twenty-six.

[290] The author of the _Memoirs of the Life and Writings of Dr.
Johnson_, 1785, p. 25, says:--'Mrs. Porter's husband died insolvent, but
her settlement was secured. She brought her second husband about seven
or eight hundred pounds, a great part of which was expended in fitting
up a house for a boarding-school.' That she had some money can be almost
inferred from what we are told by Boswell and Hawkins. How other-wise
was Johnson able to hire and furnish a large house for his school?
Boswell says that he had but three pupils. Hawkins gives him a few more.
'His number,' he writes (p. 36) 'at no time exceeded eight, and of those
not all were boarders.' After nearly twenty months of married life, when
he went to London, 'he had,' Boswell says, 'a little money.' It was not
till a year later still that he began to write for the _Gent. Mag_. If
Mrs. Johnson had not money, how did she and her husband live from July
1735 to the spring of 1738? It could scarcely have been on the profits
made from their school. Inference, however, is no longer needful, as
there is positive evidence. Mr. Timmins in his _Dr. Johnson in
Birmingham_ (p. 4) writes:--'My friend, Mr. Joseph Hill, says, A copy of
an old deed which has recently come into my hands, shews that a hundred
pounds of Mrs. Johnson's fortune was left in the hands of a Birmingham
attorney named Thomas Perks, who died insolvent; and in 1745, a bulky
deed gave his creditors 7_s_. 4_d_. in the pound. Among the creditors
for £100 were "Samuel Johnson, gent., and Elizabeth his wife, executors
of the last will and testament of Harry Porter, late of Birmingham
aforesaid, woollen draper, deceased." Johnson and his wife were almost
the only creditors who did not sign the deed, their seals being left
void. It is doubtful, therefore, whether they ever obtained the amount
of the composition £36 13_s_. 4_d_.'

[291] Sir Walter Scott has recorded Lord Auchinleck's 'sneer of most
sovereign contempt,' while he described Johnson as 'a dominie, monan
auld dominie; he keeped a schule, and cau'd it an acaadamy.' Croker's
_Boswell_, p. 397, note.

[292] 'Edial is two miles west of Lichfield.' Harwood's _Lichfield_, p.

[293] Johnson in more than one passage in his writings seems to have in
mind his own days as a schoolmaster. Thus in the _Life of Milton_ he
says:--'This is the period of his life from which all his biographers
seem inclined to shrink. They are unwilling that Milton should be
degraded to a schoolmaster; but, since it cannot be denied that he
taught boys, one finds out that he taught for nothing, and another that
his motive was only zeal for the propagation of learning and virtue; and
all tell what they do not know to be true, only to excuse an act which
no wise man will consider as in itself disgraceful. His father was
alive; his allowance was not ample; and he supplied its deficiencies by
an honest and useful employment.' Johnson's _Works_, vii. 75. In the
_Life of Blackmore_ he says:--'In some part of his life, it is not known
when, his indigence compelled him to teach a school, an humiliation with
which, though it certainly lasted but a little while, his enemies did
not forget to reproach him, when he became conspicuous enough to excite
malevolence; and let it be remembered for his honour, that to have been
once a school-master is the only reproach which all the perspicacity of
malice, animated by wit, has ever fixed upon his private life.'
Johnson's _Works_, viii. 36.

[294] In the original _To teach. Seasons, Spring_, l. 1149, Thomson is
speaking, not of masters, but of parents.

[295] In the _Life of Milton_, Johnson records his own experience.
'Every man that has ever undertaken to instruct others can tell what
slow advances he has been able to make, and how much patience it
requires to recall vagrant inattention, to stimulate sluggish
indifference, and to rectify absurd misapprehension.' Johnson's
_Works_, vii. 76.


'As masters fondly soothe their
   boys to read
With cakes and sweetmeats.'

_Francis_, Hor. i. _Sat_. I. 25.

[297] As Johnson kept Garrick much in awe when present, David, when his
back was turned, repaid the restraint with ridicule of him and his
dulcinea, which should be read with great abatement. PERCY. He was not
consistent in his account, for 'he told Mrs. Thrale that she was a
_little painted puppet_ of no value at all.' 'He made out,' Mrs. Piozzi
continues, '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. The picture I found of her at
Lichfield was very pretty, and her daughter said it was like. Mr.
Johnson has told me that her hair was eminently beautiful, quite
_blonde_ like that of a baby.' Piozzi's _Anec_. p. 148.

[298] Mr. Croker points out that in this paper 'there are two separate
schemes, the first for a school--the second for the individual studies
of some young friend.'

[299] In the _Rambler_, No. 122, Johnson, after stating that 'it is
observed that our nation has been hitherto remarkably barren of
historical genius,' praises Knolles, who, he says, 'in his _History of
the Turks_, has displayed all the excellencies that narration
can admit.'

[300] Both of them used to talk pleasantly of this their first journey
to London. Garrick, evidently meaning to embellish a little, said one
day in my hearing, 'we rode and tied.' And the Bishop of Killaloe
informed me, that at another time, when Johnson and Garrick were dining
together in a pretty large company, Johnson humorously ascertaining the
chronology of something, expressed himself thus: 'that was the year when
I came to London with two-pence half-penny in my pocket.' Garrick
overhearing him, exclaimed, 'eh? what do you say? with two-pence
half-penny in your pocket?'--JOHNSON, 'Why yes; when I came with
two-pence half-penny in _my_ pocket, and thou, Davy, with three
half-pence in thine.' BOSWELL.

[301] See _Gent. Mag_., xxiv. 333.

[302] Mr. Colson was First Master of the Free School at Rochester. In
1739 he was appointed Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge.
MALONE. Mrs. Piozzi (_Anec_. p. 49) says that 'by Gelidus the
philosopher (_Rambler_, No. 24), Johnson meant to represent Colson.'

[303] This letter is printed in the _Garrick Corres_. i. 2. There we
read _I doubt not_.

[304] One curious anecdote was communicated by himself to Mr. John
Nichols. Mr. Wilcox, the bookseller, on being informed by him that his
intention was to get his livelihood as an authour, eyed his robust frame
attentively, and with a significant look, said, 'You had better buy a
porter's knot.' He however added, 'Wilcox was one of my best friends.'
BOSWELL. Hawkins (_Life_, p. 43) states that Johnson and Garrick had
soon exhausted their small stock of money in London, and that on
Garrick's suggestion they applied for a loan to Wilcox, of whom he had a
slight knowledge. 'Representing themselves to him, as they really were,
two young men, friends and travellers from the same place, and just
arrived with a view to settle here, he was so moved with their artless
tale, that on their joint note he advanced them all that their modesty
would permit them to ask (five pounds), which was soon after punctually
repaid.' Perhaps Johnson was thinking of himself when he recorded the
advice given by Cibber to Fenton, 'When the tragedy of Mariamne was
shewn to Cibber, it was rejected by him, with the additional insolence
of advising Fenton to engage himself in some employment of honest
labour, by which he might obtain that support which he could never hope
from his poetry. The play was acted at the other theatre; and the brutal
petulance of Cibber was confuted, though perhaps not shamed, by general
applause.' Johnson's _Works_, viii. 56. Adam Smith in the _Wealth of
Nations_ (Book i. ch. 2) says that 'the difference between the most
dissimilar characters, between a philosopher and a common street-porter,
for example, seems to arise not so much from nature, as from habit,
custom, and education.' Wilcox's shop was in Little Britain. Benjamin
Franklin, in 1725, lodged next door to him. 'He had,' says Franklin
(_Memoirs_, i. 64), 'an immense collection of second-hand books.
Circulating libraries were not then in use; but we agreed that on
certain reasonable terms I might read any of his books.'

[305] Bernard Lintot (_post_, July 19, 1763) died Feb. 3, 1736. _Gent.
Mag_. vi. 110. This, no doubt, was his son.

[306] Dr. A. Carlyle (_Auto_. p. 195) says that being in London in 1746
he dined frequently with a club of officers, where they had an excellent
dinner at ten-pence. From what he adds it is clear that the
tavern-keeper made his profit on the wine. At Edinburgh, four years
earlier, he and his fellow-students used to get 'at four-pence a-head a
very good dinner of broth and beef, and a roast and potatoes every day,
with fish three or four times a-week, and all the small beer that was
called for till the cloth was removed' (_ib_. p. 63). W. Hutton, who in
1750 opened a very small book-shop in Birmingham, for which he paid rent
at a shilling a week, says (_Life of Hutton_, p. 84): 'Five shillings a
week covered every expense; as food, rent, washing, lodging, &c.' He
knew how to live wretchedly.

[307] On April 17, 1778, Johnson said: 'Early in life I drank wine; for
many years I drank none. I then for some years drank a great deal. I
then had a severe illness, and left it off, and I have never begun it
again.' Somewhat the same account is given in Boswell's _Hebrides_,
Sept. 16, 1773. Roughly speaking, he seems to have been an abstainer
from about 1736 to at least as late as 1757, and from about 1765 to the
end of his life. In 1751 Hawkins (_Life_, p. 286) describes him as
drinking only lemonade 'in a whole night spent in festivity' at the Ivy
Lane Club. In 1757 he described himself 'as a hardened and shameless
tea-drinker, who has for twenty years diluted his meals with only tea'
(Johnson's _Works_, vi. 21). It was, I believe, in his visit to Oxford
in 1759 that 'University College witnessed his drinking three bottles of
port without being the worse for it' (_post_, April 7, 1778). When he
was living in the Temple (between 1760-65) he had the frisk with Langton
and Beauclerk when they made a bowl of _Bishop_ (_post_, 1753). On his
birthday in 1760, he 'resolved to drink less strong liquors' (_Pr. and
Med_. p. 42). In 1762 on his visit to Devonshire he drank three bottles
of wine after supper. This was the only time Reynolds had seen him
intoxicated. (Northcote's _Reynolds_, ii. 161). In 1763 he affected
Boswell's nerves by keeping him up late to drink port with him (_post_,
July 14, 1763). On April 21, 1764, he records: 'From the beginning of
this year I have in some measure forborne excess of strong drink' (_Pr.
and Med_. p. 51). On Easter Sunday he records: 'Avoided wine' (_id_. p.
55). On March 1, 1765, he is described at Cambridge as 'giving Mrs.
Macaulay for his toast, and drinking her in two bumpers.' It was about
this time that he had the severe illness (_post_, under Oct. 17, 1765,
note). In Feb. 1766, Boswell found him no longer drinking wine. He
shortly returned to it again; for on Aug. 2, 1767, he records, 'I have
for some days forborne wine;' and on Aug. 17, 'By abstinence from wine
and suppers I obtained sudden and great relief' (_Pr. and Med_. pp. 73,
4). According to Hawkins, Johnson said:--'After a ten years' forbearance
of every fluid except tea and sherbet, I drank one glass of wine to the
health of Sir Joshua Reynolds on the evening of the day on which he was
knighted' (Hawkins's _Johnson's Works_ (1787), xi. 215). As Reynolds was
knighted on April 21, 1769 (Taylor's _Reynolds_, i. 321), Hawkins's
report is grossly inaccurate. In Boswell's _Hebrides_, Sept. 16, 1773,
and _post_, March 16, 1776, we find him abstaining. In 1778 he persuaded
Boswell to be 'a water-drinker upon trial' (_post_, April 28, 1778). On
April 7, 1779, 'he was persuaded to drink one glass of claret that he
might judge of it, not from recollection.' On March 20, 1781, Boswell
found that Johnson had lately returned to wine. 'I drink it now
sometimes,' he said, 'but not socially.' He seems to have generally
abstained however. On April 20, 1781, he would not join in drinking
Lichfield ale. On March 17, 1782, he made some punch for himself, by
which in the night he thought 'both his breast and imagination
disordered' (_Pr. and Med_. p. 205). In the spring of this year Hannah
More urged him to take a little wine. 'I can't drink a _little_, child,'
he answered; 'therefore I never touch it' (H. More's _Memoirs_, i. 251).
On July 1, 1784, Beattie, who met him at dinner, says, 'he cannot be
prevailed on to drink wine' (Beattie's _Life_, p. 316). On his death-bed
he refused any 'inebriating sustenance' (_post_, Dec. 1784). It is
remarkable that writing to Dr. Taylor on Aug. 5, 1773, he said:--'Drink
a great deal, and sleep heartily;' and that on June 23, 1776, he again
wrote to him:--'I hope you presever in drinking. My opinion is that I
have drunk too little, and therefore have the gout, for it is of my own
acquisition, as neither my father had it nor my mother' (_Notes and
Queries_, 6th S. v. pp. 422, 3). On Sept. 19, 1777 (_post_), he even
'owned that in his opinion a free use of wine did not shorten life.'
Johnson disapproved of fermented liquors only in the case of those who,
like himself and Boswell, could not keep from excess.

[308] Ofellus, or rather Ofella, is the 'rusticus, abnormis sapiens,
crassaque Minerva' of Horace's _Satire_, ii. 2. 3. What he teaches is
briefly expressed in Pope's Imitation, ii. 2. 1:

'What, and how great, the virtue and the art
To live on little with a cheerful heart
(A doctrine sage, but truly none of mine);
Let's talk, my friends, but talk before we dine.'

In 1769 was published a worthless poem called _The Art of Living in
London_; in which 'instructions were given to persons who live in a
garret, and spend their evenings in an ale-house.' _Gent. Mag_. xxxix.
45. To this Boswell refers.

[309] 'Johnson this day, when we were by ourselves, observed how common
it was for people to talk from books; to retail the sentiments of
others, and not their own; in short, to converse without any originality
of thinking. He was pleased to say, "You and I do not talk from books."'
Boswell's _Hebrides_, Nov. 3, 1773.

[310] The passage to Ireland was commonly made from Chester.

[311] The honourable Henry Hervey, third son of the first Earl of
Bristol, quitted the army and took orders. He married a sister of Sir
Thomas Aston, by whom he got the Aston Estate, and assumed the name and
arms of that family. Vide Collins's _Peerage_. BOSWELL.

[312] The following brief mention of Greenwich Park in 1750 is found in
one of Miss Talbot's Letters. 'Then when I come to talk of
Greenwich--Did you ever see it? It was quite a new world to me, and a
very charming one. Only on the top of a most inaccessible hill in the
park, just as we were arrived at a view that we had long been aiming at,
a violent clap of thunder burst over our heads.'--_Carter and Talbot
Corres_, i. 345.

[313] At the Oxford Commemoration of 1733 Courayer returned thanks in
his robes to the University for the honour it had done him two years
before in presenting him with his degree. _Dr. Johnson: His Friends and
his Critics_, p. 94.

[314] This library was given by George IV to the British Museum. CROKER.

[315] Ovid, Meta. iii. 724.

[316] Act iii. sc. 8.

[317] Act i. sc. 1.

[318] Act ii. sc. 7.

[319] _Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides_, 3rd edit. p. 232 [Sept. 20,
1773]. BOSWELL.

[320] Johnson's letter to her of Feb. 6, 1759, shows that she was, at
that time, living in his house at Lichfield. Miss Seward (_Letters_, i.
116) says that 'she boarded in Lichfield with his mother.' Some passages
in other of his letters (Croker's _Boswell_, pp. 144, 145, 173) lead me
to think that she stayed on in this house till 1766, when she had built
herself a house with money left her by her brother.

[321] See _post_, Oct. 10, 1779.

[322] He could scarcely have solicited a worse manager. Horace Walpole
writing in 1744 (_Letters_, i. 332) says: 'The town has been trying all
this winter to beat pantomimes off the stage very boisterously.
Fleetwood, the master of Drury-Lane, has omitted nothing to support them
as they supported his house. About ten days ago, he let into the pit
great numbers of Bear-garden _bruisers_ (that is the term) to knock down
everybody that hissed. The pit rallied their forces and drove them out.'

[323] It was not till volume v. that Cave's name was given on the
title-page. In volumes viii. and ix., and volumes xii. to xvii. the name
is Edward Cave, Jun. Cave in his examination before the House of Lords
on April 30, 1747, said:--'That he was concerned in the _Gentleman's
Magazine_ at first with his nephew; and since the death of his nephew he
has done it entirely himself.' _Parl. Hist_. xiv. 59.

[324] Its sale, according to Johnson, was ten thousand copies. _Post_,
April 25, 1778. So popular was it that before it had completed its ninth
year the fifth edition of some of the earliest numbers was printed.
Johnson's _Works_, v. 349. In the _Life of Cave_ Johnson describes it as
'a periodical pamphlet, of which the scheme is known wherever the
English language is spoken.' _Ib_. vi. 431.

[325] Yet the early numbers contained verses as grossly indecent as they
were dull. Cave moreover advertised indecent books for sale at St.
John's Gate, and in one instance, at least, the advertisement was in
very gross language.

[326] See _post_, April 25, 1778.

[327] While in the course of my narrative I enumerate his writings, I
shall take care that my readers shall not be left to waver in doubt,
between certainty and conjecture, with regard to their authenticity;
and, for that purpose, shall mark with an _asterisk_ (*) those which he
acknowledged to his friends, and with a _dagger_ (dagger) those which
are ascertained to be his by internal evidence. When any other pieces
are ascribed to him, I shall give my reasons. BOSWELL.

[328] Hawkins says that 'Cave had few of those qualities that constitute
the character of urbanity. Upon the first approach of a stranger his
practice was to continue sitting, and for a few minutes to continue
silent. If at any time he was inclined to begin the discourse, it was
generally by putting a leaf of the _Magazine_ then in the press into the
hand of his visitor and asking his opinion of it. He was so incompetent
a judge of Johnson's abilities that, meaning at one time to dazzle him
with the splendour of some of those luminaries in literature who
favoured him with their correspondence, he told him that, if he would in
the evening be at a certain alehouse in the neighbourhood of
Clerkenwell, he might have a chance of seeing Mr. Browne and another or
two of the persons mentioned in the preceding note. [The note contained
the names of some of Cave's regular writers.] Johnson accepted the
invitation; and being introduced by Cave, dressed in a loose horseman's
coat, and such a great bushy uncombed wig as he constantly wore, to the
sight of Mr. Browne, whom he found sitting at the upper end of a long
table, in a cloud of tobacco-smoke, had his curiosity gratified.' [Mr.
Carlyle writes of 'bushy-wigged Cave;' but it was Johnson whose wig is
described, and not Cave's. On p. 327 Hawkins again mentions his 'great
bushy wig,' and says that 'it was ever nearly as impenetrable by a comb
as a quickset hedge.'] Hawkins's _Johnson_, pp. 45-50. Johnson, after
mentioning Cave's slowness, says: 'The same chillness of mind was
observable in his conversation; he was watching the minutest accent of
those whom he disgusted by seeming inattention; and his visitant was
surprised, when he came a second time, by preparations to execute the
scheme which he supposed never to have been heard.' Johnson's
_Works_, vi. 434.

[329] 'The first lines put one in mind of Casimir's Ode to Pope Urban:--

    "Urbane, regum maxime, maxime
    Urbane vatum."

The Polish poet was probably at that time in the hands of a man who had
meditated the history of the Latin poets.' Murphy's _Johnson_, p. 42.

[330] Cave had been grossly attacked by rival booksellers; see _Gent.
Mag_., viii. 156. Hawkins says (_Life_, p. 92), 'With that sagacity
which we frequently observe, but wonder at, in men of slow parts, he
seemed to anticipate the advice contained in Johnson's ode, and forbore
a reply, though not his revenge.' This he gratified by reprinting in his
own Magazine one of the most scurrilous and foolish attacks.

[331] A translation of this Ode, by an unknown correspondent, appeared
in the _Magazine_ for the month of May following:

  'Hail, URBAN! indefatigable man,
Unwearied yet by all thy useful toil!
  Whom num'rous slanderers assault in vain;
Whom no base calumny can put to foil.
  But still the laurel on thy learned brow
  Flourishes fair, and shall for ever grow.

  'What mean the servile imitating crew,
What their vain blust'ring, and their empty noise,
  Ne'er seek: but still thy noble ends pursue,
Unconquer'd by the rabble's venal voice.
  Still to the Muse thy studious mind apply,
  Happy in temper as in industry.

  'The senseless sneerings of an haughty tongue,
Unworthy thy attention to engage,
  Unheeded pass: and tho' they mean thee wrong,
By manly silence disappoint their rage.
  Assiduous diligence confounds its foes,
  Resistless, tho' malicious crouds oppose.

  'Exert thy powers, nor slacken in the course,
Thy spotless fame shall quash all false reports:
  Exert thy powers, nor fear a rival's force,
But thou shalt smile at all his vain efforts;
  Thy labours shall be crown'd with large success;
  The Muse's aid thy Magazine shall bless.

  'No page more grateful to th' harmonious nine
Than that wherein thy labours we survey;
  Where solemn themes in fuller splendour shine,
(Delightful mixture,) blended with the gay,
  Where in improving, various joys we find,
  A welcome respite to the wearied mind.

  'Thus when the nymphs in some fair verdant mead,
Of various flowr's a beauteous wreath compose,
  The lovely violet's azure-painted head
Adds lustre to the crimson-blushing rose.
  Thus splendid Iris, with her varied dye,
  Shines in the aether, and adorns the sky. BRITON.'


[332] 'I have some reason to think that at his first coming to town he
frequented Slaughter's coffee-house with a view to acquire a habit of
speaking French, but he never could attain to it. Lockman used the same
method and succeeded, as Johnson himself once told me.' Hawkins's
_Johnson_, p. 516. Lockman is _l'ilustre Lockman_ mentioned _post_,
1780, in Mr. Langton's _Collection_. It was at 'Old Slaughter's
Coffee-house, when a number of foreigners were talking loud about little
matters, that Johnson one evening said, "Does not this confirm old
Meynell's observation, _For anything I see, foreigners are fools_"?'
_post_, ib.

[333] He had read Petrarch 'when but a boy;' _ante_, p. 57.

[334] Horace Walpole, writing of the year 1770, about libels, says:
'Their excess was shocking, and in nothing more condemnable than in the
dangers they brought on the liberty of the press.' This evil was chiefly
due to 'the spirit of the Court, which aimed at despotism, and the
daring attempts of Lord Mansfield to stifle the liberty of the press.
His innovations had given such an alarm that scarce a jury would find
the rankest satire libellous.' _Memoirs of the Reign of George III_, iv.
167. Smollett in _Humphrey Clinker_ (published in 1771) makes Mr.
Bramble write, in his letter of June 2: 'The public papers are become
the infamous vehicles of the most cruel and perfidious defamation; every
rancorous knave--every desperate incendiary, that can afford to spend
half-a-crown or three shillings, may skulk behind the press of a
newsmonger, and have a stab at the first character in the kingdom,
without running the least hazard of detection or punishment.' The
scribblers who had of late shewn their petulance were not always
obscure. Such scurrilous but humorous pieces as _Probationary Odes for
the Laureateship_, _The Rolliad_, and _Royal Recollections_, which were
all published while Boswell was writing _The Life of Johnson_, were
written, there can be little doubt, by men of position. In the first of
the three (p. 27) Boswell is ridiculed. He is made to say:--'I know
Mulgrave is a bit of a poet as well as myself; for I dined in company
once where he dined that very day twelve-month.' This evil of libelling
had extended to America. Benjamin Franklin (_Memoirs_, i. 148), writing
in 1784, says that 'libelling and personal abuse have of late years
become so disgraceful to our country. Many of our printers make no
scruple of gratifying the malice of individuals by false accusations of
the fairest characters.'

[335] Boswell perhaps refers to a book published in 1758, called _The
Case of Authors by Profession. Gent. Mag_. xxviii. 130. Guthrie applies
the term to himself in the letter below.

[336] How much poetry he wrote, I know not: but he informed me, that he
was the authour of the beautiful little piece, _The Eagle and Robin
Redbreast_, in the collection of poems entitled _The Union_, though it
is there said to be written by Archibald Scott, before the year 1600.
BOSWELL. Mr. P. Cunningham has seen a letter of Jos. Warton's which
states that this poem was written by his brother Tom, who edited the
volume. CROKER.

[337] Dr. A. Carlyle in his _Autobiography_ (p. 191) describes a curious
scene that he witnessed in the British Coffee-house. A Captain Cheap
'was employed by Lord Anson to look out for a proper person to write his
voyage. Cheap had a predilection for his countrymen, and having heard of
Guthrie, he had come down to the coffee-house to inquire about him. Not
long after Cheap had sat down, Guthrie arrived, dressed in laced
clothes, and talking loud to everybody, and soon fell awrangling with a
gentleman about tragedy and comedy and the unities, &c., and laid down
the law of the drama in a peremptory manner, supporting his arguments
with cursing and swearing. I saw Cheap was astonished, when, going to
the bar, he asked who this was, and finding it was Guthrie he paid his
coffee and slunk off in silence.' Guthrie's meanness is shown by the
following letter in D'Israeli's _Calamities of Authors_, i. 5:--

'June 3, 1762.

'My Lord,

'In the year 1745-6 Mr. Pelham, then First Lord of the Treasury,
acquainted me that it was his Majesty's pleasure I should receive till
better provided for, which never has happened, 200£. a year, to be paid
by him and his successors in the Treasury. I was satisfied with the
august name made use of, and the appointment has been regularly and
quarterly paid me ever since. I have been equally punctual in doing the
Government all the services that fell within my abilities or sphere of
life, especially in those critical situations that call for unanimity in
the service of the Crown.

'Your Lordship may possibly now suspect that I am an Author by
profession; you are not deceived; and will be less so, if you believe
that I am disposed to serve his Majesty under your Lordship's future
patronage and protection with greater zeal, if possible, than ever.

'I have the honour to be

'My Lord &c.


The lord's name is not given. See _post_, spring of 1768, and 1780 in
Mr. Langton's _Collection_ for further mention of Guthrie.

[338] Perhaps there were Scotticisms for Johnson to correct; for
Churchill in _The Author_, writing of Guthrie, asks:--

'With rude unnatural jargon to support Half _Scotch_, half _English_, a
declining Court

       *       *       *       *       *

Is there not Guthrie?'

_Churchill's Poems_, ii. 39.

[339] See Appendix A.

[340] Pope, _Imitations of Horace_, ii. l. 71.

[341] 'To give the world assurance of a man.' _Hamlet_, Act iii. sc. 4.

[342] In his _Life of Pope_ Johnson says: 'This mode of imitation ...
was first practised in the reign of Charles II. by Oldham and Rochester;
at least I remember no instances more ancient. It is a kind of middle
composition between translation and original design, which pleases when
the thoughts are unexpectedly applicable and the parallels lucky. It
seems to have been Pope's favourite amusement, for he has carried it
farther than any former poet.' Johnson's _Works_, viii. 295.

[343] I own it pleased me to find amongst them one trait of the manners
of the age in London, in the last century, to shield from the sneer of
English ridicule, which was some time ago too common a practice in my
native city of Edinburgh:--

'If what I've said can't from the town affright,
Consider other _dangers of the night_;
When brickbats are from upper stories thrown,
And _emptied chamberpots come pouring down
From garret windows_.'


See Boswell's _Hebrides_, Aug. 14, 1773, where Johnson, on taking his
first walk in Edinburgh, 'grumbled in Boswell's ear, "I smell you in the
dark."' I once spent a night in a town of Corsica, on the great road
between Ajaccio and Bastia, where, I was told, this Edinburgh practice
was universal. It certainly was the practice of the hotel.

[344] His Ode _Ad Urbanum_ probably. NICHOLS. BOSWELL.

[345] Johnson, on his death-bed, had to own that 'Cave was a penurious
paymaster; he would contract for lines by the hundred, and expect the
long hundred.' See _post_, Dec. 1784.

[346] Cave sent the present by Johnson to the unknown author.

[347] See _post_, p. 151, note 5.

[348] The original letter has the following additional paragraph:--'I
beg that you will not delay your answer.'

[349] In later life Johnson strongly insisted on the importance of fully
dating all letters. After giving the date in a letter to Mrs. Thrale, he
would add,--'Now there is a date, look at it' (_Piozzi Letters_, ii.
109); or, 'Mark that--you did not put the year to your last' (_Ib_. p.
112); or, 'Look at this and learn' (_Ib_. p. 138). She never did learn.
The arrangement of the letters in the _Piozzi Letters_ is often very
faulty. For an omission of the date by Johnson in late life see _post_,
under March 5, 1774.

[350] A poem, published in 1737, of which see an account under April 30,

[351] The learned Mrs. Elizabeth Carter. BOSWELL. She was born Dec.
1717, and died Feb. 19, 1806. She never married. Her father gave her a
learned education. Dr. Johnson, speaking of some celebrated scholar
[perhaps Langton], said, 'that he understood Greek better than any one
whom he he had ever known, except Elizabeth Carter.' Pennington's
_Carter_, i. 13. Writing to her in 1756 he said, 'Poor dear Cave! I owed
him much; for to him I owe that I have known you' (_Ib_. p. 40). Her
father wrote to her on June 25, 1738:--'You mention Johnson; but that is
a name with which I am utterly unacquainted, Neither his scholastic,
critical, or poetical character ever reached my ears. I a little suspect
his judgement, if he is very fond of Martial' (_Ib_. p. 39). Since 1734
she had written verses for the _Gent. Mag_. under the name of Eliza
(_Ib_. p. 37)! They are very poor. Her _Ode to Melancholy_ her
biographer calls her best. How bad it is three lines will show:--

'Here, cold to pleasure's airy forms,
Consociate with my sister worms,
And mingle with the dead.'

_Gent. Mag_. ix. 599.

Hawkins records that Johnson, upon hearing a lady commended for her
learning, said:--'A man is in general better pleased when he has a good
dinner upon his table than when his wife talks Greek. My old friend,
Mrs. Carter, could make a pudding as well as translate Epictetus.'
Johnson's _Works_ (1787), xi. 205. Johnson, joining her with Hannah More
and Fanny Burney, said:--'Three such women are not to be found.' _Post_,
May 15, 1784.

[352] See Voltaire's _Siécle de Louis XIV_, ch. xxv..

[353] At the end of his letter to Cave, quoted _post_, 1742, he
says:--'The boy found me writing this almost in the dark, when I could
not quite easily read yours.' A man who at times was forced to walk the
streets, for want of money to pay for a lodging, was likely also at
times to be condemned to idleness for want of a light.

[354] At the back of this letter is written: 'Sir, Please to publish the
enclosed in your paper of first, and place to acc't of Mr. Edward Cave.
For whom I am, Sir, your hum. ser't J. Bland. St. John's Gate, April 6,
1738.' _London_ therefore was written before April 6.

[355] Boswell misread the letter. Johnson does not offer to allow the
printer to make alterations. He says:--'I will take the trouble of
altering any stroke of satire which you may dislike.' The law against
libel was as unjust as it was severe, and printers ran a great risk.

[356] Derrick was not merely a poet, but also Master of the Ceremonies
at Bath; _post_, May 16, 1763. For Johnson's opinion of _his_ 'Muse' see
_post_ under March 30, 1783. _Fortune, a Rhapsody_, was published in
Nov. 1751. _Gent. Mag_. xxi. 527. He is described in _Humphrey Clinker_
in the letters of April 6 and May 6.

[357] See _post_, March 20, 1776.

[358] Six years later Johnson thus wrote of Savage's _Wanderer_:--'From
a poem so diligently laboured, and so successfully finished, it might be
reasonably expected that he should have gained considerable advantage;
nor can it without some degree of indignation and concern be told, that
he sold the copy for ten guineas.' Johnson's _Works_, viii. 131. Mrs.
Piozzi sold in 1788 the copyright of her collection of Johnson's Letters
for £500; _post_, Feb. 1767.

[359] The Monks of Medmenham Abbey. See Almon's _Life of Wilkes_, iii.
60, for Wilkes's account of this club. Horace Walpole (_Letters_, i. 92)
calls Whitehead 'an infamous, but not despicable poet.'

[360] From _The Conference_, Churchill's _Poems_, ii. 15.

[361] In the _Life of Pope_ Johnson writes:--'Paul Whitehead, a small
poet, was summoned before the Lords for a poem called _Manners_,
together with Dodsley his publisher. Whitehead, who hung loose upon
society, sculked and escaped; but Dodsley's shop and family made his
appearance necessary.' Johnson's _Works_, viii. 297. _Manners_ was
published in 1739. Dodsley was kept in custody for a week. _Gent. Mag_.
ix. 104. 'The whole process was supposed to be intended rather to
intimidate Pope [who in his _Seventeen Hundred and Thirty-Eight_ had
given offence] than to punish Whitehead, and it answered that purpose.'
CHALMERS, quoted in _Parl. Hist_. x. 1325

[362] Sir John Hawkins, p. 86, tells us:--'The event is _antedated_, in
the poem of _London_; but in every particular, except the difference of
a year, what is there said of the departure of Thales, must be
understood of Savage, and looked upon as _true history_.' This
conjecture is, I believe, entirely groundless. I have been assured, that
Johnson said he was not so much as acquainted with Savage when he wrote
his _London_. If the departure mentioned in it was the departure of
Savage, the event was not _antedated_ but _foreseen_; for _London_ was
published in May, 1738, and Savage did not set out for Wales till July,
1739. However well Johnson could defend the credibility of _second
sight_ [see _post_, Feb. 1766], he did not pretend that he himself was
possessed of that faculty. BOSWELL. I am not sure that Hawkins is
altogether wrong in his account. Boswell does not state _of his own
knowledge_ that Johnson was not acquainted with Savage when he wrote
_London_. The death of Queen Caroline in Nov. 1737 deprived Savage of
her yearly bounty, and 'abandoned him again to fortune' (Johnson's
_Works_, viii. 166). The elegy on her that he composed on her birth-day
(March 1) brought him no reward. He was 'for some time in suspense,' but
nothing was done. 'He was in a short time reduced to the lowest degree
of distress, and often wanted both lodging and food' (_Ib_. p. 169). His
friends formed a scheme that 'he should retire into Wales.' 'While this
scheme was ripening' he lodged 'in the liberties of the Fleet, that he
might be secure from his creditors' (_Ib_. p. 170). After many delays a
subscription was at length raised to provide him with a small pension,
and he left London in July 1739 (_Ib_. p 173). _London_, as I have
shewn, was written before April 6, 1738. That it was written with great
rapidity we might infer from the fact that a hundred lines of _The
Vanity of Human Wishes_ were written in a day. At this rate _London_
might have been the work of three days. That it was written in a very
short time seems to be shown by a passage in the first of these letters
to Cave. Johnson says:--'When I took the liberty of writing to you a few
days ago, I did not expect a repetition of the same pleasure so soon;
... but having the enclosed poem, &c.' It is probable that in these few
days the poem was written. If we can assume that Savage's elegy was sent
to the Court not later than March 1--it may have been sent earlier--and
that Johnson's poem was written in the last ten days of March, we have
three weeks for the intervening events. They are certainly not more than
sufficient, if indeed they are sufficient. The coincidence is certainly
very striking between Thales's retirement to 'Cambria's solitary shore'
and Savage's retirement to Wales. There are besides lines in the
poem--additions to Juvenal and not translations--which curiously
correspond with what Johnson wrote of Savage in his _Life_. Thus he says
that Savage 'imagined that he should be transported to scenes of flowery
felicity; ... he could not bear ... to lose the opportunity of
listening, without intermission, to the melody of the nightingale, which
he believed was to be heard from every bramble, and which he did not
fail to mention as a very important part of the happiness of a country
life' (_Ib_. p. 170). In like manner Thales prays to find:--

'Some pleasing bank where verdant osiers play,
Some peaceful vale, with nature's paintings gay.

       *       *       *       *       *

There every bush with nature's musick rings;
There every breeze bears health upon its wings.'

Mr. Croker objects that 'if Thales had been Savage, Johnson could never
have admitted into his poem two lines that point so forcibly at the
drunken fray, in which Savage stabbed a Mr. Sinclair, for which he was
convicted of _murder_:--

"Some frolic _drunkard_, reeling from a feast,
_Provokes_ a broil, and _stabs_ you in a jest."'

But here Johnson is following Juvenal. Mr. Croker forgets that, if
Savage was convicted of murder, 'he was soon after admitted to bail, and
pleaded the King's pardon.' 'Persons of distinction' testified that he
was 'a modest inoffensive man, not inclined to broils or to insolence;'
the witnesses against him were of the lowest character, and his judge
had shewn himself as ignorant as he was brutal. Sinclair had been
drinking in a brothel, and Savage asserted that he had stabbed him 'by
the necessity of self defence' (_Ib_. p. 117). It is, however, not
unlikely that Wales was suggested to Johnson as Thales's retreat by
Swift's lines on Steele, in _Miscellanies in Prose and Verse_ (v. 181),
published only three years before _London_:--

'Thus Steele who owned what others writ,
And flourished by imputed wit,
From perils of a hundred jails
Withdrew to starve and die in Wales.'

[363] The first dialogue was registered at Stationers' Hall, 12th May,
1738, under the title _One Thousand Seven Hundred and Thirty Eight_. The
second dialogue was registered 17th July, 1738, as _One Thousand Seven
Hundred and Thirty Eight, Dialogue_ 2. Elwin's _Pope_, iii. 455.

David Hume was in London this spring, finding a publisher for his first
work, _A Treatise of Human Nature_. J. H. Burton's _Hume_, i. 66.

[364] Pope had published _Imitations of Horace_.

[365] P. 269. BOSWELL. 'Short extracts from _London, a Poem_, become
remarkable for having got to the second edition in the space of a week.'
_Gent. Mag_. viii. 269. The price of the poem was one shilling. Pope's
satire, though sold at the same price, was longer in reaching its second
edition (_Ib_. p. 280).


'One driven by strong benevolence of soul
Shall fly, like Oglethorpe, from pole to pole.'

Pope's _Imitations of Horace_, ii. 2. 276.

'General Oglethorpe, died 1785, earned commemoration in Pope's gallery
of worthies by his Jacobite politics. He was, however, a remarkable man.
He first directed attention to the abuses of the London jails. His
relinquishment of all the attractions of English life and fortune for
the settlement of the colony of Georgia is as romantic a story at that
of Bishop Berkeley' (Pattison's _Pope_, p. 152). It is very likely that
Johnson's regard for Oglethorpe was greatly increased by the stand that
he and his brother-trustees in the settlement of Georgia made against
slavery (see _post_, Sept. 23, 1777). 'The first principle which they
laid down in their laws was that no slave should be employed. This was
regarded at the time as their great and fundamental error; it was
afterwards repealed' (Southey's _Wesley_, i. 75). In spite, however, of
Oglethorpe's 'strong benevolence of soul' he at one time treated Charles
Wesley, who was serving as a missionary in Georgia, with great brutality
(_Ib_. p. 88). According to Benjamin Franklin (_Memoirs_, i. 162)
Georgia was settled with little forethought. 'Instead of being made with
hardy industrious husbandmen, it was with families of broken
shop-keepers, and other insolvent debtors; many of idle habits, taken
out of the jails, who being set down in the woods, unqualified for
clearing land, and unable to endure the hardships of a new settlement,
perished in numbers, leaving many helpless children unprovided for.'
Johnson wished to write Oglethorpe's life; _post_, April 10, 1775.

[367] Horace Walpole (_Letters_, viii. 548), writing of him 47 years
after _London_ was published, when he was 87 years old, says:--'His
eyes, ears, articulation, limbs, and memory would suit a boy, if a boy
could recollect a century backwards. His teeth are gone; he is a shadow,
and a wrinkled one; but his spirits and his spirit are in full bloom:
two years and a-half ago he challenged a neighbouring gentleman for
trespassing on his manor.'

[368] Once Johnson being at dinner at Sir Joshua's in company with many
painters, in the course of conversation Richardson's _Treatise on
Painting_ happened to be mentioned, 'Ah!' said Johnson, 'I remember,
when I was at college, I by chance found that book on my stairs. I took
it up with me to my chamber, and read it through, and truly I did not
think it possible to say so much upon the art.' Sir Joshua desired of
one of the company to be informed what Johnson had said; and it being
repeated to him so loud that Johnson heard it, the Doctor seemed hurt,
and added, 'But I did not wish, Sir, that Sir Joshua should have been
told what I then said.' Northcote's _Reynolds_, i. 236. Jonathan
Richardson the painter had published several works on painting before
Johnson went to college. He and his son, Jonathan Richardson, junior,
brought out together _Explanatory Notes on Paradise Lost_.

[369] Sir Joshua Reynolds, from the information of the younger
Richardson. BOSWELL. See _post_, Oct. 16, 1769, where Johnson himself
relates this anecdote. According to Murphy, 'Pope said, "The author,
whoever he is, will not be long concealed;" alluding to the passage in
Terence [_Eun_. ii. 3, 4], _Ubi, ubi est, diu celari non potest_.'
Murphy's _Johnson_, p. 35.

[370] Such as _far_ and _air_, which comes twice; _vain_ and _man_,
_despair_ and _bar_.

[371] It is, however, remarkable, that he uses the epithet, which
undoubtedly, since the union between England and Scotland, ought to
denominate the natives of both parts of our island:--

'Was early taught a BRITON'S rights to prize.'


Swift, in his _Journal to Stella_ (Nov. 23, 1711), having to mention
England, continues:--'I never will call it _Britain_, pray don't call it
Britain.' In a letter written on Aug. 8, 1738, again mentioning England,
he adds,--'Pox on the modern phrase Great Britain, which is only to
distinguish it from Little Britain, where old clothes and old books are
to be bought and sold' (Swift's _Works_, 1803, xx. 185). George III
'gloried in being born a Briton;' _post_, 1760. Boswell thrice more at
least describes Johnson as 'a true-born Englishman;' _post_, under Feb.
7, 1775, under March 30, 1783, and Boswell's _Hebrides_ under Aug. 11,
1773. The quotation is from _Richard II_, Act i. sc. 3.


'For who would leave, unbrib'd, Hibernia's land,
Or change the rocks of Scotland for the Strand?
There none are swept by sudden fate away,
But all, whom hunger spares, with age decay.'

_London_, 1. 9-12.

[373] In the _Life of Savage_, Johnson, criticising the settlement of
colonies, as it is considered by the poet and the politician, seems to
be criticising himself. 'The politician, when he considers men driven
into other countries for shelter, and obliged to retire to forests and
deserts, and pass their lives, and fix their posterity, in the remotest
corners of the world, to avoid those hardships which they suffer or fear
in their native place, may very properly enquire, why the legislature
does not provide a remedy for these miseries, rather than encourage an
escape from them. He may conclude that the flight of every honest man is
a loss to the community.... The poet guides the unhappy fugitive from
want and persecution to plenty, quiet, and security, and seats him in
scenes of peaceful solitude, and undisturbed repose.' Johnson's _Works_,
viii. 156.

[374] Three years later Johnson wrote:--'Mere unassisted merit advances
slowly, if, what is not very common, it advances at all.' _Ib_. vi. 393.

[375] 'The busy _hum_ of men.' Milton's _L'Allegro_, 1. 118.

[376] See Boswell's _Hebrides_, Oct. 21, 1773, and _post_, March 21,
1775, for Johnson's attack on Lord Chatham. In the _Life of Thomson_
Johnson wrote:--'At this time a long course of opposition to Sir Robert
Walpole had filled the nation with clamours for liberty, of which no man
felt the want, and with care for liberty, which was not in danger.'
Johnson's _Works_, viii. 370. Hawkins says (_Life_, p. 514);--'Of
Walpole he had a high opinion. He said of him that he was a fine fellow,
and that his very enemies deemed him so before his death. He honoured
his memory for having kept this country in peace many years, as also for
the goodness and placability of his temper.' Horace Walpole (_Letters_,
v. 509), says:--'My father alone was capable of acting on one great plan
of honesty from the beginning of his life to the end. He could for ever
wage war with knaves and malice, and preserve his temper; could know
men, and yet feel for them; could smile when opposed, and be gentle
after triumph.'

[377] Johnson in the _Life of Milton_ describes himself:--'Milton was
naturally a thinker for himself, confident of his own abilities, and
disdainful of help or hindrance. From his contemporaries he neither
courted nor received support; there is in his writings nothing by which
the pride of other authors might be gratified, or favour gained; no
exchange of praise, nor solicitation of support.' Johnson's _Works_,
vii. 142. See _post_ Feb. 1766, for Johnson's opinion on 'courting
great men.'

[378] In a billet written by Mr. Pope in the following year, this school
is said to have been in _Shropshire_; but as it appears from a letter
from Earl Gower, that the trustees of it were 'some worthy gentlemen in
Johnson's neighbourhood,' I in my first edition suggested that Pope must
have, by mistake, written Shropshire, instead of Staffordshire. But I
have since been obliged to Mr. Spearing, attorney-at-law, for the
following information:--'William Adams, formerly citizen and haberdasher
of London, founded a school at Newport, in the county of Salop, by deed
dated 27th November, 1656, by which he granted "the yearly sum of _sixty
pounds_ to such able and learned schoolmaster, from time to time, being
of godly life and conversation, who should have been educated at one of
the Universities of Oxford or Cambridge, and had taken the degree of
_Master of Arts_, and was well read in the Greek and Latin tongues, as
should be nominated from time to time by the said William Adams, during
his life, and after the decease of the said William Adams, by the
Governours (namely, the Master and Wardens of the Haberdashers' Company
of the City of London) and their successors." The manour and lands out
of which the revenues for the maintenance of the school were to issue
are situate _at Knighton and Adbaston, in the county of Stafford_.' From
the foregoing account of this foundation, particularly the circumstances
of the salary being sixty pounds, and the degree of Master of Arts being
a requisite qualification in the teacher, it seemed probable that this
was the school in contemplation; and that Lord Gower erroneously
supposed that the gentlemen who possessed the lands, out of which the
revenues issued, were trustees of the charity.

Such was probable conjecture. But in the _Gent. Mag_. for May, 1793,
there is a letter from Mr. Henn, one of the masters of the school of
Appleby, in Leicestershire, in which he writes as follows:--

'I compared time and circumstance together, in order to discover whether
the school in question might not be this of Appleby. Some of the
trustees at that period were "worthy gentlemen of the neighbourhood of
Litchfield." Appleby itself is not far from the neighbourhood of
Litchfield. The salary, the degree requisite, together with the _time of
election_, all agreeing with the statutes of Appleby. The election, as
said in the letter, "could not be delayed longer than the 11th of next
month," which was the 11th of September, just three months after the
annual audit-day of Appleby school, which is always on the 11th of June;
and the statutes enjoin _ne ullius praeceptorum electio diutius tribus
mensibus moraretur, etc_.

'These I thought to be convincing proofs that my conjecture was not
ill-founded, and that, in a future edition of that book, the
circumstance might be recorded as fact.

'But what banishes every shadow of doubt is the _Minute-book_ of the
school, which declares the headmastership to be _at that time_ VACANT.'

I cannot omit returning thanks to this learned gentleman for the very
handsome manner in which he has in that letter been so good as to speak
of this work. BOSWELL.

[379] 'What a pity it is, Sir,' said to him Sir William Scott,
afterwards Lord Stowell, 'that you did not follow the profession of the
law! You might have been Lord Chancellor of Great Britain' _Post_,
April 17, 1778.

[380] See _post_, beginning of 1770.

[381] See _post_, March 21, 1775.

[382] In the _Weekly Miscellany_, October 21, 1738, there appeared the
following advertisement:--'Just published, Proposals for printing the
_History of the Council of Trent_, translated from the Italian of Father
Paul Sarpi; with the Authour's Life, and Notes theological, historical,
and critical, from the French edition of Dr. Le Courayer. To which are
added, Observations on the History, and Notes and Illustrations from
various Authours, both printed and manuscript. By S. Johnson. 1. The
work will consist of two hundred sheets, and be two volumes in quarto,
printed on good paper and letter. 2. The price will be 18_s_. each
volume, to be paid, half-a-guinea at the delivery of the first volume,
and the rest at the delivery of the second volume in sheets. 3.
Two-pence to be abated for every sheet less than two hundred. It may be
had on a large paper, in three volumes, at the price of three guineas;
one to be paid at the time of subscribing, another at the delivery of
the first, and the rest at the delivery of the other volumes. The work
is now in the press, and will be diligently prosecuted. Subscriptions
are taken in by Mr. Dodsley in Pall-Mall, Mr. Rivington in St. Paul's
Church-yard, by E. Cave at St. John's Gate, and the Translator, at No.
6, in Castle-street by Cavendish-square.' BOSWELL.

[383] They afterwards appeared in the _Gent. Mag_. [viii. 486] with this
title--'_Verses to Lady Firebrace, at Bury Assizes_.' BOSWELL.

[384] Du Halde's Description of China was then publishing by Mr. Cave in
weekly numbers, whence Johnson was to select pieces for the
embellishment of the _Magazine_. NICHOLS. BOSWELL.

[385] The premium of forty pounds proposed for the best poem on the
Divine Attributes is here alluded to. NICHOLS. BOSWELL.

[386] The Compositors in Mr. Cave's printing-office, who appear by this
letter to have then waited for copy. NICHOLS. BOSWELL.

[387] Twenty years later, when he was lodging in the Temple, he had
fasted for two days at a time; 'he had drunk tea, but eaten no bread;
this was no intentional fasting, but happened just in the course of a
literary life.' Boswell's _Hebrides_, Oct. 4, 1773. See _post_, Aug.
5, 1763.

[388] Birch MSS. Brit. Mus. 4323. BOSWELL.

[389] See _post_, under Dec. 30, 1747, and Oct. 24, 1780.

[390] See _post_, 1750.

[391] This book was published. BOSWELL. I have not been able to find it.

[392] _The Historie of four-footed beasts and serpents_. By Edward
Topsell. London, 1607. Isaac Walton, in the _Complete Angler_, more than
once quotes Topsel. See p. 99 in the reprint of the first edition, where
he says:--'As our Topsel hath with great diligence observed.'

[393] In this preface he describes some pieces as 'deserving no other
fate than to be hissed, torn, and forgotten. Johnson's _Works_, v. 346.

[394] The letter to Mr. Urban in the January number of this year (p. 3)
is, I believe, by Johnson.

[395] 'Yet did Boerhaave not suffer one branch of science to withdraw
his attention from others; anatomy did not withhold him from chymistry,
nor chymistry, enchanting as it is, from the study of botany.' Johnson's
_Works_, vi. 276. See _post_, under Sept. 9, 1779.

[396] _Gent. Mag_. viii. 210, and Johnson's _Works_, i. 170.

[397] What these verses are is not clear. On p. 372 there is an epigram
_Ad Elisam Popi Horto Lauras carpentem_, of which on p. 429 there are
three translations. That by Urbanus may be Johnson's.

[398] _Ib_. p. 654, and Johnson's _Works_, i. 170. On p. 211 of this
volume of the _Gent. Mag_. is given the epigram 'To a lady who spoke in
defence of liberty.' This was 'Molly Aston' mentioned _ante_, p. 83.

[399] To the year 1739 belongs _Considerations on the Case of Dr.
T[rapp]s Sermons. Abridged by Mr. Cave, 1739_; first published in the
_Gent. Mag_. of July 1787. (See _post_ under Nov. 5, 1784, note.) Cave
had begun to publish in the _Gent. Mag_. an abridgment of four sermons
preached by Trapp against Whitefield. He stopped short in the
publication, deterred perhaps by the threat of a prosecution for an
infringement of copy-right. 'On all difficult occasions,' writes the
Editor in 1787, 'Johnson was Cave's oracle; and the paper now before us
was certainly written on that occasion.' Johnson argues that abridgments
are not only legal but also justifiable. 'The design of an abridgment is
to benefit mankind by facilitating the attainment of knowledge ... for
as an incorrect book is lawfully criticised, and false assertions justly
confuted ... so a tedious volume may no less lawfully be abridged,
because it is better that the proprietors should suffer some damage,
than that the acquisition of knowledge should be obstructed with
unnecessary difficulties, and the valuable hours of thousands thrown
away.' Johnson's _Works_, v. 465. Whether we have here Johnson's own
opinion cannot be known. He was writing as Cave's advocate. See also
Boswell's _Hebrides_, Aug. 20, 1773.

[400] In his _Life of Thomson_ Johnson writes:--'About this time the act
was passed for licensing plays, of which the first operation was the
prohibition of _Gustavus Vasa_, a tragedy of Mr. Brooke, whom the public
recompensed by a very liberal subscription; the next was the refusal of
_Edward and Eleonora_, offered by Thomson. It is hard to discover why
either play should have been obstructed.' Johnson's Works, viii. 373.

[401] The Inscription and the Translation of it are preserved in the
_London Magazine_ for the year 1739, p. 244. BOSWELL. See Johnson's
_Works_, vi. 89.

[402] It is a little heavy in its humour, and does not compare well with
the like writings of Swift and the earlier wits.

[403] Hawkins's _Johnson_, p. 72.


'Sic fatus senior, telumque imbelle sine ictu Conjecit.' 'So spake the
elder, and cast forth a toothless spear and vain.'

Morris, _Æneids_, ii. 544.


'Get all your verses printed fair,
    Then let them well be dried;
And Curll must have a special care
    To leave the margin wide.
Lend these to paper-sparing Pope;
    And when he sits to write,
No letter with an envelope
    Could give him more delight.'

_Advice to the Grub Street Verse-Writers_. (Swift's _Works_, 1803, xi
32.) Nichols, in a note on this passage, says:--'The original copy of
Pope's _Homer_ is almost entirely written on the covers of letters, and
sometimes between the lines of the letters themselves.' Johnson, in his
_Life of Pope_, writes:--'Of Pope's domestic character frugality was a
part eminently remarkable.... This general care must be universally
approved; but it sometimes appeared in petty artifices of parsimony,
such as the practice of writing his compositions on the back of letters,
as may be seen in the remaining copy of the _Iliad_, by which perhaps in
five years five shillings were saved.' Johnson's _Works_, viii. 312.

[406] See note, p. 132. BOSWELL.

[407] The _Marmor Norfolciense_, price one shilling, is advertised in
the _Gent. Mag_. for 1739 (p. 220) among the books for April.

[408] _Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides_, 3rd edit. p. 8. BOSWELL.

[409] According to Sir Joshua Reynolds, 'Every person who knew Dr.
Johnson must have observed that the moment he was left out of the
conversation, whether from his deafness or from whatever cause, but a
few minutes without speaking or listening, his mind appeared to be
preparing itself. He fell into a reverie accompanied with strange antic
gestures; but this he never did when his mind was engaged by the
conversation. These were therefore improperly called convulsions, which
imply involuntary contortions; whereas, a word addressed to him, his
attention was recovered. Sometimes, indeed, it would be near a minute
before he would give an answer, looking as if he laboured to bring his
mind to bear on the question' (Taylor's _Reynolds_, ii. 456). 'I still,
however, think,' wrote Boswell, 'that these gestures were involuntary;
for surely had not that been the case, he would have restrained them in
the public streets' (Boswell's _Hebrides_, under date of Aug. 11, 1773,
note). Dr. T. Campbell, in his _Diary of a Visit to England_, p. 33,
writing of Johnson on March 16, 1775, says:--'He has the aspect of an
idiot, without the faintest ray of sense gleaming from any one
feature--with the most awkward garb, and unpowdered grey wig, on one
side only of his head--he is for ever dancing the devil's jig, and
sometimes he makes the most driveling effort to whistle some thought in
his absent paroxysms.' Miss Burney thus describes him when she first saw
him in 1778:--'Soon after we were seated this great man entered. I have
so true a veneration for him that the very sight of him inspires me with
delight and reverence, notwithstanding the cruel infirmities to which he
is subject; for he has almost perpetual convulsive movements, either of
his hands, lips, feet, or knees, and sometimes of all together.' Mme.
D'Arblay's _Diary_, i. 63. See _post_, under March 30, 1783, Boswell's
note on Johnson's peculiarities.

[410] 'Solitude,' wrote Reynolds, 'to him was horror; nor would he ever
trust himself alone but when employed in writing or reading. He has
often begged me to go home with him to prevent his being alone in the
coach. Any company was better than none; by which he connected himself
with many mean persons whose presence he could command.' Taylor's
_Reynolds_, ii. 455. Johnson writing to Mrs. Thrale, said:--'If the
world be worth winning, let us enjoy it; if it is to be despised, let us
despise it by conviction. But the world is not to be despised but as it
is compared with something better. Company is in itself better than
solitude, and pleasure better than indolence.' _Piozzi Letters_, i. 242.
In _The Idler_, No. 32, he wrote:--'Others are afraid to be alone, and
amuse themselves by a perpetual succession of companions; but the
difference is not great; in solitude we have our dreams to ourselves,
and in company we agree to dream in concert. The end sought in both is
forgetfulness of ourselves.' In _The Rambler_, No. 5, he wrote:--'It may
be laid down as a position which will seldom deceive, that when a man
cannot bear his own company, there is something wrong. He must fly from
himself, either because he feels a tediousness in life from the
equipoise of an empty mind ... or he must be afraid of the intrusion of
some unpleasing ideas, and, perhaps, is struggling to escape from the
remembrance of a loss, the fear of a calamity, or some other thought of
greater horror.'

Cowper, whose temperament was in some respects not unlike Johnson's,
wrote:--'A vacant hour is my abhorrence; because, when I am not
occupied, I suffer under the whole influence of my unhappy temperament.'
Southey's _Cowper_, vi. 146.

[411] Richardson was of the same way of thinking as Hogarth. Writing of
a speech made at the Oxford Commemoration of 1754 by the Jacobite Dr.
King (see _post_, Feb. 1755), he said:--'There cannot be a greater
instance of the lenity of the government he abuses than his pestilent
harangues so publicly made with impunity furnishes (_sic_) all his
readers with.'--_Rich. Corresp_. ii. 197.

[412] Impartial posterity may, perhaps, be as little inclined as Dr.
Johnson was to justify the uncommon rigour exercised in the case of Dr.
Archibald Cameron. He was an amiable and truly honest man; and his
offence was owing to a generous, though mistaken principle of duty.
Being obliged, after 1746, to give up his profession as a physician, and
to go into foreign parts, he was honoured with the rank of Colonel, both
in the French and Spanish service. He was a son of the ancient and
respectable family of Cameron, of Lochiel; and his brother, who was the
Chief of that brave clan, distinguished himself by moderation and
humanity, while the Highland army marched victorious through Scotland.
It is remarkable of this Chief, that though he had earnestly
remonstrated against the attempt as hopeless, he was of too heroick a
spirit not to venture his life and fortune in the cause, when personally
asked by him whom he thought his prince. BOSWELL.

Sir Walter Scott states, in his Introduction to _Redgauntlet_, that the
government of George II were in possession of sufficient evidence that
Dr. Cameron had returned to the Highlands, _not_, as he alleged on his
trial, for family affairs merely, but as the secret agent of the
Pretender in a new scheme of rebellion: the ministers, however,
preferred trying this indefatigable partisan on the ground of his
undeniable share in the insurrection of 1745, rather than rescuing
themselves and their master from the charge of harshness, at the expense
of making it universally known, that a fresh rebellion had been in
agitation so late as 1752. LOCKHART. He was executed on June 7, 1753.
_Gent. Mag_. xxiii. 292. Lord Campbell (_Lives of the Chancellors_, v.
109) says:--'I regard his execution as a wanton atrocity.' Horace
Walpole, however, inclined to the belief that Cameron was engaged in a
new scheme of rebellion. Walpole's _Memoirs of George II_, i. 333.

[413] Horace Walpole says that towards convicts under sentence of death
'George II's disposition in general was merciful, if the offence was not
murder.' He mentions, however, a dreadful exception, when the King sent
to the gallows at Oxford a young man who had been 'guilty of a most
trifling forgery,' though he had been recommended to mercy by the Judge,
who 'had assured him his pardon.' Mercy was refused, merely because the
Judge, Willes, 'was attached to the Prince of Wales.' It is very likely
that this was one of Johnson's 'instances,' as it had happened about
four years earlier, and as an account of the young man had been
published by an Oxonian. Walpole's _Memoirs of the Reign of George
II_, i. 175.

[414] It is strange that when Johnson had been sixteen years in London
he should not be known to Hogarth by sight. 'Mr. Hogarth,' writes Mrs.
Piozzi, '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.... 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."' Piozzi's _Anec_. p. 136.

[415] On October 29 of this year James Boswell was born.

[416] In this preface is found the following lively passage:--'The Roman
Gazetteers are defective in several material ornaments of style. They
never end an article with the mystical hint, _this occasions great
speculation_. They seem to have been ignorant of such engaging
introductions as, _we hear it is strongly reported_; and of that
ingenious, but thread-bare excuse for a downright lie, _it wants

[417] The _Lives_ of Blake and Drake were certainly written with a
political aim. The war with Spain was going on, and the Tory party was
doing its utmost to rouse the country against the Spaniards. It was 'a
time,' according to Johnson, 'when the nation was engaged in a war with
an enemy, whose insults, ravages, and barbarities have long called for
vengeance.' Johnson's _Works_, vi. 293.

[418] Barretier's childhood surpassed even that of J. S. Mill. At the
age of nine he was master of five languages, Greek and Hebrew being two
of them. 'In his twelfth year he applied more particularly to the study
of the fathers.' At the age of fourteen he published _Anti-Artemonius;
sive initium evangelii S. Joannis adversus Artemonium vindicatum_. The
same year the University of Halle offered him the degree of doctor in
philosophy. 'His theses, or philosophical positions, which he printed,
ran through several editions in a few weeks.' He was a deep student of
mathematics, and astronomy was his favourite subject. His health broke
down under his studies, and he died in 1740 in the twentieth year of his
age. Johnson's _Works_, vi. 376.

[419] He wrote also in 1756 _A Dissertation on the Epitaphs written by

[420] See _post_, Oct. 16, 1769.

[421] In the original _and_. _Gent. Mag_. x. 464. The title of this poem
as there given is:--'An epitaph upon the celebrated Claudy Philips,
Musician, who died very poor.'

[422] The epitaph of Phillips is in the porch of Wolverhampton Church.
The prose part of it is curious:--

         'Near this place lies
     Charles Claudius Phillips,
   Whose absolute contempt of riches
  and inimitable performances upon the
  made him the admiration of all that
            knew him.
       He was born in Wales,
      made the tour of Europe,
  and, after the experience of both
        kinds of fortune,
           Died in 1732.'

Mr. Garrick appears not to have recited the verses correctly, the
original being as follows:--

  'Exalted soul, _thy various sounds_ could please
  The love-sick virgin and the gouty ease;
  Could jarring _crowds_, like old Amphion, move
  To beauteous order and harmonious love;
  Rest here in peace, till Angels bid thee rise,
  And meet thy Saviour's _consort_ in the skies.' BLAKEWAY.

_Consort_ is defined in Johnson's _Dictionary_ as _a number of
instruments playing together_.

[423] I have no doubt that it was written in 1741; for the second line
is clearly a parody of a line in the chorus of Cibber's _Birthday Ode_
for that year. The chorus is as follows:

'While thou our Master of the Main
Revives Eliza's glorious reign,
The great Plantagenets look down,
And see _your_ race adorn your crown.'

_Gent. Mag_. xi. 549.

In the _Life of Barretier_ Johnson had also this fling at George
II:--'Princes are commonly the last by whom merit is distinguished.'
Johnson's _Works_, vi. 381.

[424] See Boswell's _Hebrides_, Oct. 23 and Nov. 21, 1773.

[425] Hester Lynch Salusbury, afterwards Mrs. Thrale, and later on Mrs.
Piozzi, was born on Jan. 27, 1741.

[426] This piece is certainly not by Johnson. It contains more than one
ungrammatical passage. It is impossible to believe that he wrote such a
sentence as the following:--'Another having a cask of wine sealed up at
the top, but his servant boring a hole at the bottom stole the greatest
part of it away; sometime after, having called a friend to taste his
wine, he found the vessel almost empty,' &c.

[427] Mr. Carlyle, by the use of the term 'Imaginary Editors'
(_Cromwell's Letters and Speeches_, iii. 229), seems to imply that he
does not hold with Boswell in assigning this piece to Johnson. I am
inclined to think, nevertheless, that Boswell is right. If it is
Johnson's it is doubly interesting as showing the method which he often
followed in writing the Parliamentary Debates. When notes were given
him, while for the most part he kept to the speaker's train of thoughts,
he dealt with the language much as it pleased him. In the _Gent. Mag_.
Cromwell speaks as if he were wearing a flowing wig and were addressing
a Parliament of the days of George II. He is thus made to conclude
Speech xi:--'For my part, could I multiply my person or dilate my power,
I should dedicate myself wholly to this great end, in the prosecution of
which I shall implore the blessing of God upon your counsels and
endeavours.' _Gent. Mag_. xi. 100. The following are the words which
correspond to this in the original:--'If I could help you to many, and
multiply myself into many, that would be to serve you in regard to
settlement.... But I shall pray to God Almighty that He would direct you
to do what is according to His will. And this is that poor account I am
able to give of myself in this thing.' Carlyle's _Cromwell_, iii. 255.

[428] See Appendix A.

[429] Lord Chesterfield.

[430] Duke of Newcastle.

[431] I suppose in another compilation of the same kind. BOSWELL.

[432] Doubtless, Lord Hardwick. BOSWELL.

[433] The delivery of letters by the penny-post 'was originally confined
to the cities of London and Westminster, the borough of Southwark and
the respective suburbs thereof.' In 1801 the postage was raised to
twopence. The term 'suburbs' must have had a very limited signification,
for it was not till 1831 that the limits of this delivery were extended
to all places within three miles of the General Post Office. _Ninth
Report of the Commissioners of the Post Office_, 1837, p. 4.

[434] Birch's _MSS. in the British Museum_, 4302. BOSWELL.

[435] See _post_, Dec. 1784, in Nichols's _Anecdotes_. If we may trust
Hawkins, it is likely that Johnson's 'tenderness of conscience' cost
Cave a good deal; for he writes that, while Johnson composed the
_Debates_, the sale of the _Magazine_ increased from ten to fifteen
thousand copies a month. 'Cave manifested his good fortune by buying an
old coach and a pair of older horses.' Hawkins's _Johnson_, P. 123.

[436] I am assured that the editor is Mr. George Chalmers, whose
commercial works are well known and esteemed. BOSWELL.

[437] The characteristic of Pulteney's oratory is thus given in Hazlitts
_Northcole's Conversations_ (p. 288):--'Old Mr. Tolcher used to say of
the famous Pulteney--"My Lord Bath always speaks in blank verse."'

[438] Hawkins's _Life of Johnson_, p. 100. BOSWELL.

[439] A bookseller of London. BOSWELL

[440] Not the Royal Society; but the Society for the encouragement of
learning, of which Dr. Birch was a leading member. Their object was to
assist authors in printing expensive works. It existed from about 1735
to 1746, when having incurred a considerable debt, it was
dissolved. BOSWELL.

[441] There is no erasure here, but a mere blank; to fill up which may
be an exercise for ingenious conjecture. BOSWELL.

[442] Johnson, writing to Dr. Taylor on June 10, 1742, says:--'I propose
to get _Charles of Sweden_ ready for this winter, and shall therefore,
as I imagine, be much engaged for some months with the dramatic writers
into whom I have scarcely looked for many years. Keep _Irene_ close, you
may send it back at your leisure.' _Notes and Queries_, 6th S., v. 303.
_Charles of Sweden_ must have been a play which he projected.

[443] The profligate sentiment was, that 'to tell a secret to a friend
is no breach of fidelity, because the number of persons trusted is not
multiplied, a man and his friend being virtually the same.'
_Rambler_, No. 13.

[444] _Journal of a tour to the Hebrides_, 3rd edit. p. 167. [Sept. 10,
1773.] BOSWELL.

[445] This piece contains a passage in honour of some great critic. 'May
the shade, at least, of one great English critick rest without
disturbance; and may no man presume to insult his memory, who wants his
learning, his reason, or his wit.' Johnson's _Works_, v. 182. Bentley
had died on July 14 of this year, and there can be little question that
Bentley is meant.

[446] See _post_, end of 1744.

[447] '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.... I have beat many a fellow, but the rest had
the wit to hold their tongues.' Piozzi's _Anec_. p. 233. In the _Life of
Pope_ Johnson thus mentions Osborne:--'Pope was ignorant enough of his
own interest to make another change, and introduced Osborne contending
for the prize among the booksellers [_Dunciad_, ii. 167]. Osborne was a
man entirely destitute of shame, without sense of any disgrace but that
of poverty.... The shafts of satire were directed equally in vain
against Cibber and Osborne; being repelled by the impenetrable impudence
of one, and deadened by the impassive dulness of the other.' Johnson's
_Works_, viii. 302.

[448] In the original _contentions_.

[449] 'Dec. 21, 1775. In the Paper Office there is a wight, called
Thomas Astle, who lives like moths on old parchments.' Walpole's
_Letters_, vi. 299.

[450] Savage died on Aug. 1, 1743, so that this letter is misplaced.

[451] The Plain Dealer was published in 1724, and contained some account
of Savage. BOSWELL.

[452] In the _Gent. Mag_. for Sept. 1743 (p. 490) there is an epitaph on
R----d S----e, Esq., which may perhaps be this inscription. 'His life
was want,' this epitaph declares. It is certainly not the Runick
Inscription in the number for March 1742, as Malone suggests; for the
earliest possible date of this letter is seventeen months later.

[453] I have not discovered what this was. BOSWELL.

[454] The _Mag.-Extraordinary_ is perhaps the Supplement to the December
number of each year.

[455] This essay contains one sentiment eminently Johnsonian. The writer
had shown how patiently Confucius endured extreme indigence. He
adds:--'This constancy cannot raise our admiration after his former
conquest of himself; for how easily may he support pain who has been
able to resist pleasure.' _Gent. Mag_. xii. 355.

[456] In this Preface there is a complaint that has been often
repeated--'All kinds of learning have given way to politicks.'

[457] In the _Life of Pope_ (Johnson's _Works_, viii. 287) Johnson says
that Crousaz, 'however little known or regarded here, was no mean

[458] It is not easy to believe that Boswell had read this essay, for
there is nothing metaphysical in what Johnson wrote. Two-thirds of the
paper are a translation from Crousaz. Boswell does not seem to have
distinguished between Crousaz's writings and Johnson's. We have here a
striking instance of the way in which Cave sometimes treated his
readers. One-third of this essay is given in the number for March, the
rest in the number for November.


Angliacas inter pulcherrima Laura puellas,
  Mox uteri pondus depositura grave,
Adsit, Laura, tibi facilis Lucina dolenti,
  Neve tibi noceat praenituisse Deae.

Mr. Hector was present when this Epigram was made _impromptu_. The first
line was proposed by Dr. James, and Johnson was called upon by the
company to finish it, which he instantly did. BOSWELL. Macaulay
(_Essays_, i. 364) criticises Mr. Croker's criticism of this epigram.

[460] The lines with which this poem is introduced seem to show that it
cannot be Johnson's. He was not the man to allow that haste of
performance was any plea for indulgence. They are as follows:--'Though
several translations of Mr. Pope's verses on his Grotto have already
appeared, we hope that the following attempt, which, we are assured, was
the casual amusement of half an hour during several solicitations to
proceed, will neither be unacceptable to our readers, nor (these
circumstances considered) dishonour the persons concerned by a hasty
publication.' _Gent. Mag_. xiii. 550.

[461] See _Gent. Mag_. xiii. 560. I doubt whether this advertisement be
from Johnson's hand. It is very unlikely that he should make the
advertiser in one and the same paragraph when speaking of himself use
_us_ and _mine_. Boswell does not mention the Preface to vol. iii. of
the _Harkian Catalogue_. It is included in Johnson's _Works_ (v. 198).
Its author, be he who he may, in speaking of literature, says:--'I have
idly hoped to revive a taste well-nigh extinguished.'

[462] Johnson did not speak equally well of Dr. James's morals. 'He will
not,' he wrote, 'pay for three box tickets which he took. It is a
strange fellow.' The tickets were no doubt for Miss Williams's benefit
(Croker's _Boswell_, 8vo. p. 101). See _ante_, p. 81, and _post_, March
28, 1776, end of 1780, note.

[463] See _post_, April 5, 1776.

[464] 'TO DR. MEAD.


'That the _Medicinal Dictionary_ is dedicated to you, is to be imputed
only to your reputation for superior skill in those sciences which I
have endeavoured to explain and facilitate: and you are, therefore, to
consider this address, if it be agreeable to you, as one of the rewards
of merit; and if, otherwise, as one of the inconveniences of eminence.

'However you shall receive it, my design cannot be disappointed; because
this publick appeal to your judgement will shew that I do not found my
hopes of approbation upon the ignorance of my readers, and that I fear
his censure least, whose knowledge is most extensive.

'I am, Sir,

'Your most obedient

'humble servant,


BOSWELL. See _post_, May 16, 1778, where Johnson said, 'Dr. Mead lived
more in the broad sunshine of life than almost any man.'

[465] Johnson was used to speak of him in this manner:--'Tom is a lively
rogue; he remembers a great deal, and can tell many pleasant stories;
but a pen is to Tom a torpedo, the touch of it benumbs his hand and his
brain.' Hawkins's _Johnson_, p. 209. Goldsmith in his _Life of Nash_
(Cunningham's _Goldsmith's Works_, iv. 54) says:--'Nash was not born a
writer, for whatever humour he might have in conversation, he used to
call a pen his torpedo; whenever he grasped it, it benumbed all his
faculties.' It is very likely that Nash borrowed this saying from
Johnson. In Boswell's _Hebrides_, Sept. 24, 1773, we read:--Dr. Birch
being mentioned, Dr. Johnson said he had more anecdotes than any man. I
said, Percy had a great many; that he flowed with them like one of the
brooks here. JOHNSON. "If Percy is like one of the brooks here, Birch
was like the River Thames. Birch excelled Percy in that as much as Percy
excels Goldsmith." Disraeli (_Curiosities of Literature_, iii, 425)
describes Dr. Birch as 'one to whom British history stands more indebted
than to any superior author. He has enriched the British Museum by
thousands of the most authentic documents of genuine secret history.'

[466] _Ante_, p. 140.

[467] In 1761 Mr. John Levett was returned for Lichfield, but on
petition was declared to be not duly elected (_Parl. Hist_. xv. 1088).
Perhaps he was already aiming at public life.

[468] One explanation may be found of Johnson's intimacy with Savage and
with other men of loose character. 'He was,' writes Hawkins, 'one of the
most quick-sighted men I ever knew in discovering the good and amiable
qualities of others' (Hawkins's _Johnson_, p. 50). 'He was,' says
Boswell (_post_, April 13, 1778), 'willing to take men as they are,
imperfect, and with a mixture of good and bad qualities.' How intimate
the two men were is shown by the following passage in Johnson's _Life of
Savage_:--'Savage left London in July, 1739, having taken leave with
great tenderness of his friends, and parted from the author of this
narrative with tears in his eyes.' Johnson's _Works_, viii. 173.

[469] As a specimen of his temper, I insert the following letter from
him to a noble Lord, to whom he was under great obligations, but who, on
account of his bad conduct, was obliged to discard him. The original was
in the hands of the late Francis Cockayne Cust, Esq., one of His
Majesty's Counsel learned in the law:

'_Right Honourable_ BRUTE, _and_ BOOBY,

'I find you want (as Mr. ---- is pleased to hint,) to swear away my
life, that is, the life of your creditor, because he asks you for a
debt.--The publick shall soon be acquainted with this, to judge whether
you are not fitter to be an Irish Evidence, than to be an Irish Peer.--I
defy and despise you.

'I am,

'Your determined adversary,

'R. S.'

BOSWELL. The noble Lord was no doubt Lord Tyrconnel. See Johnson's
_Works_, viii. 140. Mr. Cust is mentioned _post_, p. 170.

[470] 'Savage took all opportunities of conversing familiarly with those
who were most conspicuous at that time for their power or their
influence; he watched their looser moments, and examined their domestic
behaviour with that acuteness which nature had given him, and which the
uncommon variety of his life had contributed to increase, and that
inquisitiveness which must always be produced in a vigorous mind by an
absolute freedom from all pressing or domestic engagements.' Johnson's
_Works_, viii. 135.

[471] 'Thus he spent his time in mean expedients and tormenting
suspense, living for the greatest part in the fear of prosecutions from
his creditors, and consequently skulking in obscure parts of the town,
of which he was no stranger to the remotest corners.' _Ib_. p. 165.

[472] Sir John Hawkins gives the world to understand, that Johnson,
'being an admirer of genteel manners, was captivated by the address and
demeanour of Savage, who, as to his exterior, was, to a remarkable
degree, accomplished.' Hawkins's _Life_, p. 52. But Sir John's notions
of gentility must appear somewhat ludicrous, from his stating the
following circumstance as presumptive evidence that Savage was a good
swordsman: 'That he understood the exercise of a gentleman's weapon, may
be inferred from the use made of it in that rash encounter which is
related in his life.' The dexterity here alluded to was, that Savage, in
a nocturnal fit of drunkenness, stabbed a man at a coffee-house, and
killed him; for which he was tried at the Old-Bailey, and found guilty
of murder.

Johnson, indeed, describes him as having 'a grave and manly deportment,
a solemn dignity of mien; but which, upon a nearer acquaintance,
softened into an engaging easiness of manners.' [Johnson's _Works_,
viii. 187.] How highly Johnson admired him for that knowledge which he
himself so much cultivated, and what kindness he entertained for him,
appears from the following lines in the _Gentleman's Magazine_ for
April, 1738, which I am assured were written by Johnson:


'Humani studium generis cui pectore
O colat humanum te foveatque

BOSWELL. The epigram is inscribed Ad Ricardum Savage, Arm. Humani
Generis Amatorem. _Gent. Mag_. viii. 210.

[473] The following striking proof of Johnson's extreme indigence, when
he published the _Life of Savage_, was communicated to the author, by
Mr. Richard Stow, of Apsley, in Bedfordshire, from the information of
Mr. Walter Harte, author of the _Life of Gustavus Adolphus_:

'Soon after Savage's _Life_ was published, Mr. Harte dined with Edward
Cave, and occasionally praised it. Soon after, meeting him, Cave said,
'You made a man very happy t'other day.'--'How could that be,' says
Harte; 'nobody was there but ourselves.' Cave answered, by reminding him
that a plate of victuals was sent behind a screen, which was to Johnson,
dressed so shabbily, that he did not choose to appear; but on hearing
the conversation, was highly delighted with the encomiums on his book.'
MALONE. 'He desired much to be alone, yet he always loved good talk, and
often would get behind the screen to hear it.' Great-Heart's account of
Fearing; _Pilgrim's Progress_, Part II. Harte was tutor to Lord
Chesterfield's son. See _post_, 1770, in Dr. Maxwell's _Collectanea_,
and March 30, 1781.

[474] 'Johnson has told me that whole nights have been spent by him and
Savage in a perambulation round the squares of Westminster, St. James's
in particular, when all the money they could both raise was less than
sufficient to purchase for them the shelter and sordid comforts of a
night's cellar.' Hawkins's _Johnson_, P. 53. Where was Mrs. Johnson
living at this time? This perhaps was the time of which Johnson wrote,
when, after telling of a silver cup which his mother had bought him, and
marked SAM. I., he says:--'The cup was one of the last pieces of plate
which dear Tetty sold in our distress.' _Account of Johnson's Early
Life_, p. 18. Yet it is not easy to understand how, if there was a
lodging for her, there was not one for him. She might have been living
with friends. We have a statement by Hawkins (p. 89) that there was 'a
temporary separation of Johnson from his wife.' He adds that, 'while he
was in a lodging in Fleet Street, she was harboured by a friend near the
Tower.' This separation, he insinuates, rose by an estrangement caused
by Johnson's 'indifference in the discharge of the domestic virtues.' It
is far more likely that it rose from destitution.

Shenstone, in a letter written in 1743, gives a curious account of the
streets of London through which Johnson wandered. He says;--'London is
really dangerous at this time; the pickpockets, formerly content with
mere filching, make no scruple to knock people down with bludgeons in
Fleet Street and the Strand, and that at no later hour than eight
o'clock at night; but in the Piazzas, Covent Garden, they come in large
bodies, armed with _couteaus_, and attack whole parties, so that the
danger of coming out of the play-houses is of some weight in the
opposite scale, when I am disposed to go to them oftener than I ought.'
Shenstone's _Works_ (edit.), iii. 73.

[475] 'Savage lodged as much by accident as he dined, and passed the
night sometimes in mean houses, ... and sometimes, when he had not money
to support even the expenses of these receptacles, walked about the
streets till he was weary, and lay down in the summer upon a bulk, or in
the winter, with his associates in poverty, among the ashes of a
glass-house. In this manner were passed those days and those nights
which nature had enabled him to have employed in elevated speculations,
useful studies, or pleasing conversation.' Johnson's _Works_, viii. 159.

[476] See _ante_, p. 94.

[477] Cave was the purchaser of the copyright, and the following is a
copy of Johnson's receipt for the money:--'The 14th day of December,
received of Mr. Ed. Cave the sum of fifteen guineas, in full, for
compiling and writing _The Life of Richard Savage, Esq_., deceased; and
in full for all materials thereto applied, and not found by the said
Edward Cave. I say, received by me, SAM. JOHNSON. Dec. 14, 1743.'
WRIGHT. The title-page is as follows:--'An account of the Life of Mr.
Richard Savage, son of the Earl Rivers. London. Printed for J. Roberts,
in Warwick-Lane. MDCCXLIV. It reached a second edition in 1748, a third
in 1767, and a fourth in 1769. A French translation was published
in 1771.

[478] Roberts published in 1745 Johnson's _Observations on Macbeth_. See
_Gent. Mag_. xv. 112, 224.

[479] Horace, _Ars Poetica_ l. 317.

[480] In the autumn of 1752. Northcote's _Reynolds_ i. 52

[481] _Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides_, 3rd ed. p. 35 [p. 55. Aug.
19, 1773]. BOSWELL.

[482] 'mint _of_ ecstasy:' Savage's _Works_ (1777), ii. 91.

[483] 'He lives to build, not boast a generous race: No tenth
transmitter of a foolish face.' _Ib_.

[484] '_The Bastard_: A poem, inscribed with all due reverence to Mrs.
Bret, once Countess of Macclesfield. By Richard Savage, son of the late
Earl Rivers. London, printed for T. Worrall, 1728.' Fol. first edition.
P. CUNNINGHAM. Between Savage's character, as drawn by Johnson, and
Johnson himself there are many points of likeness. Each 'always
preserved a steady confidence in his own capacity,' and of each it might
be said:--'Whatever faults may be imputed to him, the virtue of
suffering well cannot be denied him.' Each 'excelled in the arts of
conversation and therefore willingly practised them.' In Savage's
refusal to enter a house till some clothes had been taken away that had
been left for him 'with some neglect of ceremonies,' we have the
counterpart of Johnson's throwing away the new pair of shoes that had
been set at his door. Of Johnson the following lines are as true as of
Savage:--'His distresses, however afflictive, never dejected him; in his
lowest state he wanted not spirit to assert the natural dignity of wit,
and was always ready to repress that insolence which the superiority of
fortune incited; ... he never admitted any gross familiarities, or
submitted to be treated otherwise than as an equal.' Of both men it
might be said that 'it was in no time of his life any part of his
character to be the first of the company that desired to separate.' Each
'would prolong his conversation till midnight, without considering that
business might require his friend's application in the morning;' and
each could plead the same excuse that, 'when he left his company, he was
abandoned to gloomy reflections.' Each had the same 'accurate judgment,'
the same 'quick apprehension,' the same 'tenacious memory.' In reading
such lines as the following who does not think, not of the man whose
biography was written, but of the biographer himself?--'He had the
peculiar felicity that his attention never deserted him; he was present
to every object, and regardful of the most trifling occurrences ... To
this quality is to be imputed the extent of his knowledge, compared with
the small time which he spent in visible endeavours to acquire it. He
mingled in cursory conversation with the same steadiness of attention as
others apply to a lecture.... His judgment was eminently exact both with
regard to writings and to men. The knowledge of life was indeed his
chief attainment.' Of Johnson's _London_, as of Savage's _The Wanderer_,
it might equally well be said:--'Nor can it without some degree of
indignation and concern be told that he sold the copy for ten guineas.'

[485] 'Savage was now again abandoned to fortune without any other
friend than Mr. Wilks; a man who, whatever were his abilities or skill
as an actor, deserves at least to be remembered for his virtues, which
are not often to be found in the world, and perhaps less often in his
profession than in others. To be humane, generous, and candid is a very
high degree of merit in any case, but those qualities deserve still
greater praise when they are found in that condition which makes almost
every other man, for whatever reason, contemptuous, insolent, petulant,
selfish, and brutal.' _Johnson's Works_, viii. 107.

[486] In his old age he wrote as he had written in the vigour of his
manhood:--'To the censure of Collier ... he [Dryden] makes little reply;
being at the age of sixty-eight attentive to better things than the
claps of a play-house.' Johnson's _Works_ vii. 295. See _post_, April
29, 1773, and Sept. 21, 1777.

[487] Johnson, writing of the latter half of the seventeenth century,
says:--'The playhouse was abhorred by the Puritans, and avoided by those
who desired the character of seriousness or decency. A grave lawyer
would have debased his dignity, and a young trader would have impaired
his credit, by appearing in those mansions of dissolute licentiousness.'
Johnson's _Works_, vii. 270. The following lines in Churchill's
_Apology_ (_Poems_, i. 65), published in 1761, shew how strong, even at
that time, was the feeling against strolling players:--

'The strolling tribe, a despicable race,
Like wand'ring Arabs shift from place to place.
Vagrants by law, to Justice open laid,
They tremble, of the beadle's lash afraid,
And fawning cringe, for wretched means of life,
To Madam May'ress, or his Worship's Wife.'

[488] Johnson himself recognises the change in the public
estimation:--'In Dryden's time,' he writes, 'the drama was very far from
that universal approbation which it has now obtained.' _Works_,
vii. 270.

[489] Giffard was the manager of the theatre in Goodman's Fields, where
Garrick, on Oct. 19, 1741, made his first appearance before a London
audience. Murphy's _Garrick_, pp. 13, 16.

[490] 'Colonel Pennington said, Garrick sometimes failed in emphasis;
as, for instance, in Hamlet,

"I will speak _daggers_ to her; but use _none_;"

instead of

"I will _speak_ daggers to her; but _use_ none."'

Boswell's _Hebrides_, Aug. 28, 1773.

[491] I suspect Dr. Taylor was inaccurate in this statement. The
emphasis should be equally upon _shalt_ and _not_, as both concur to
form the negative injunction; and _false witness_, like the other acts
prohibited in the Decalogue, should not be marked by any peculiar
emphasis, but only be distinctly enunciated. BOSWELL.

[492] This character of the _Life of Savage_ was not written by Fielding
as has been supposed, but most probably by Ralph, who, as appears from
the minutes of the partners of _The Champion_, in the possession of Mr.
Reed of Staple Inn, succeeded Fielding in his share of the paper, before
the date of that eulogium. BOSWELL. Ralph is mentioned in _The Dunciad_,
iii. 165. A curious account of him is given in Benjamin Franklin's
_Memoirs_, i. 54-87 and 245.

[493] The late Francis Cockayne Cust, Esq., one of his Majesty's
Counsel. BOSWELL.

[494] Savage's veracity was questioned, but with little reason; his
accounts, though not indeed always the same, were generally consistent.
'When he loved any man, he suppressed all his faults: and, when he had
been offended by him, concealed all his virtues: but his characters were
generally true so far as he proceeded; though it cannot be denied that
his partiality might have sometimes the effect of falsehood.' Johnson's
_Works_, viii. 190.

[495] 1697. BOSWELL.

[496] Johnson's _Works_, viii. 98.

[497] The story on which Mr. Cust so much relies, that Savage was a
supposititious child, not the son of Lord Rivers and Lady Macclesfield,
but the offspring of a shoemaker, introduced in consequence of her real
son's death, was, without doubt, grounded on the circumstance of Lady
Macclesfield having, in 1696, previously to the birth of Savage, had a
daughter by the Earl Rivers, who died in her infancy; a fact which was
proved in the course of the proceedings on Lord Macclesfield's Bill of
Divorce. Most fictions of this kind have some admixture of truth in
them. MALONE. From _The Earl of Macclesfield's Case_, it appears that
'Anne, Countess of Macclesfield, under the name of Madam Smith, in Fox
Court, near Brook Street, Holborn, was delivered of a male child on the
16th of January, 1696-7, who was baptized on the Monday following, the
18th, and registered by the name of Richard, the son of John Smith, by
Mr. Burbridge; and, from the privacy, was supposed by Mr. Burbridge to
be "a by-blow or bastard."' It also appears, that during her delivery,
the lady wore a mask; and that Mary Pegler, on the next day after the
baptism, took a male child, whose mother was called Madam Smith, from
the house of Mrs. Pheasant, in Fox Court [running from Brook Street in
Gray's Inn Lane], who went by the name of Mrs. Lee.

Conformable to this statement is the entry in the register of St.
Andrew's, Holborn, which is as follows, and which unquestionably records
the baptism of Richard Savage, to whom Lord Rivers gave his own
Christian name, prefixed to the assumed surname of his mother:--'Jan.
1696-7. Richard, son of John Smith and Mary, in Fox Court, in Gray's Inn
Lane, baptized the 18th.' BINDLEY. According to Johnson's account Savage
did not learn who his parents were till the death of his nurse, who had
always treated him as her son. Among her papers he found some letters
written by Lady Macclesfield's mother proving his origin. Johnson's
_Works_, viii. 102. Why these letters were not laid before the public is
not stated. Johnson was one of the least credulous of men, and he was
convinced by Savage's story. Horace Walpole, too, does not seem to have
doubted it. Walpole's _Letters_, i. cv.

[498] Johnson's _Works_, viii. 97.

[499] _Ib_. p. 142.

[500] Johnson's _Works_, p. 101.

[501] According to Johnson's account (Johnson's _Works_, viii. 102), the
shoemaker under whom Savage was placed on trial as an apprentice was not
the husband of his nurse.

[502] He was in his tenth year when she died. 'He had none to prosecute
his claim, to shelter him from oppression, or call in law to the
assistance of justice.' _Ib_. p. 99.

[503] Johnson's companion appears to have persuaded that lofty-minded
man, that he resembled him in having a noble pride; for Johnson, after
painting in strong colours the quarrel between Lord Tyrconnel and
Savage, asserts that 'the spirit of Mr. Savage, indeed, never suffered
him to solicit a reconciliation: he returned reproach for reproach, and
insult for insult.' [_Ib_. p. 141.] But the respectable gentleman to
whom I have alluded, has in his possession a letter, from Savage, after
Lord Tyrconnel had discarded him, addressed to the Reverend Mr. Gilbert,
his Lordship's Chaplain, in which he requests him, in the humblest
manner, to represent his case to the Viscount. BOSWELL.

[504] 'How loved, how honoured once avails thee not, To whom related, or
by whom begot.'

POPE'S _Elegy to the Memory of an Unfortunate Lady_.

[505] Trusting to Savage's information, Johnson represents this unhappy
man's being received as a companion by Lord Tyrconnel, and pensioned by
his Lordship, as if posteriour to Savage's conviction and pardon. But I
am assured, that Savage had received the voluntary bounty of Lord
Tyrconnel, and had been dismissed by him, long before the murder was
committed, and that his Lordship was very instrumental in procuring
Savage's pardon, by his intercession with the Queen, through Lady
Hertford. If, therefore, he had been desirous of preventing the
publication by Savage, he would have left him to his fate. Indeed I must
observe, that although Johnson mentions that Lord Tyrconnel's patronage
of Savage was 'upon his promise to lay aside his design of exposing the
cruelty of his mother,' [Johnson's _Works_, viii. 124], the great
biographer has forgotten that he himself has mentioned, that Savage's
story had been told several years before in _The Plain Dealer_; from
which he quotes this strong saying of the generous Sir Richard Steele,
that 'the inhumanity of his mother had given him a right to find every
good man his father.' [_Ib_. p. 104.] At the same time it must be
acknowledged, that Lady Macclesfield and her relations might still wish
that her story should not be brought into more conspicuous notice by the
satirical pen of Savage. BOSWELL.

[506] According to Johnson, she was at Bath when Savage's poem of _The
Bastard_ was published. 'She could not,' he wrote, 'enter the
assembly-rooms or cross the walks without being saluted with some lines
from _The Bastard_. This was perhaps the first time that she ever
discovered a sense of shame, and on this occasion the power of wit was
very conspicuous; the wretch who had without scruple proclaimed herself
an adulteress, and who had first endeavoured to starve her son, then to
transport him, and afterwards to hang him, was not able to bear the
representation of her own conduct; but fled from reproach, though she
felt no pain from guilt, and left Bath with the utmost haste to shelter
herself among the crowds of London.' Johnson's _Works_, viii. 141.

[507] Miss Mason, after having forfeited the title of Lady Macclesfield
by divorce, was married to Colonel Brett, and, it is said, was well
known in all the polite circles. Colley Cibber, I am informed, had so
high an opinion of her taste and judgement as to genteel life, and
manners, that he submitted every scene of his _Careless Husband_ to Mrs.
Brett's revisal and correction. Colonel Brett was reported to be too
free in his gallantry with his Lady's maid. Mrs. Brett came into a room
one day in her own house, and found the Colonel and her maid both fast
asleep in two chairs. She tied a white handkerchief round her husband's
neck, which was a sufficient proof that she had discovered his intrigue;
but she never at any time took notice of it to him. This incident, as I
am told, gave occasion to the well-wrought scene of Sir Charles and Lady
Easy and Edging. BOSWELL. Lady Macclesfield died 1753, aged above 80.
Her eldest daughter, by Col. Brett, was, for the few last months of his
life, the mistress of George I, (Walpole's _Reminiscences_, cv.) Her
marriage ten years after her royal lover's death is thus announced in
the _Gent. Mag_., 1737:--'Sept. 17. Sir W. Leman, of Northall, Bart., to
Miss Brett [Britt] of Bond Street, an heiress;' and again next
month--'Oct. 8. Sir William Leman, of Northall, Baronet, to Miss Brett,
half sister to Mr. Savage, son to the late Earl Rivers;' for the
difference of date I know not how to account; but the second insertion
was, no doubt, made by Savage to countenance his own pretensions. CROKER.

[508] 'Among the names of subscribers to the _Harleian Miscellany_ there
occurs that of "Sarah Johnson, bookseller in Lichfield."'
_Johnsoniana_, p. 466.

[509] A brief account of Oldys is given in the _Gent. Mag_. liv. 161,
260. Like so many of his fellows he was thrown into the Fleet. 'After
poor Oldys's release, such was his affection for the place that he
constantly spent his evenings there.'

[510] In the Feb. number of the _Gent. Mag_. for this year (p. 112) is
the following advertisement:--'Speedily will be published (price 1s.)
_Miscellaneous Observations on the Tragedy of Macbeth_, with remarks on
Sir T.H.'s edition of _Shakespear_; to which is affix'd proposals for a
new edition of _Shakespear_, with a specimen. Printed for J. Roberts in
Warwick Lane.' In the March number (p. 114), under the date of March 31,
it is announced that it will be published on April 6. In spite of the
two advertisements, and the title-page which agrees with the
advertisements, I believe that the Proposals were not published till
eleven years later (see _post_, end of 1756). I cannot hear of any copy
of the _Miscellaneous Observations_ which contains them. The
advertisement is a third time repeated in the April number of the _Gent.
Mag_. for 1745 (p. 224), but the Proposals are not this time mentioned.
Tom Davies the bookseller gives 1756 as the date of their publication
(_Misc. and Fugitive Pieces_, ii. 87). Perhaps Johnson or the
booksellers were discouraged by Hanmer's _Shakespeare_ as well as by
Warburton's. Johnson at the end of the _Miscellaneous Observations_
says:--'After the foregoing pages were printed, the late edition of
_Shakespeare_ ascribed to Sir T. H. fell into my hands.'

[511] 'The excellence of the edition proved to be by no means
proportionate to the arrogance of the editor.' _Cambridge
Shakespeare_, i. xxxiv.

[512] 'When you see Mr. Johnson pray [give] my compliments, and tell him
I esteem him as a great genius--quite lost both to himself and the
world.' _Gilbert Walmesley to Garrick_, Nov. 3, 1746. _Garrick
Correspondence_, i. 45. Mr. Walmesley's letter does not shew that
Johnson was idle. The old man had expected great things from him. 'I
have great hopes,' he had written in 1737 (see _ante_, p. 102), 'that he
will turn out a fine tragedy writer.' In the nine years in which Johnson
had been in town he had done, no doubt, much admirable work; but by his
poem of _London_ only was he known to the public. His _Life of Savage_
did not bear his name. His _Observations on Macbeth_ were published in
April, 1745; his _Plan of the Dictionary_ in 1747 [Transcriber's note:
Originally 1774, corrected in Errata.]. What was Johnson doing
meanwhile? Boswell conjectures that he was engaged on his _Shakespeare_
and his _Dictionary_. That he went on working at his _Shakespeare_ when
the prospect of publishing was so remote that he could not issue his
proposals is very unlikely. That he had been for some time engaged on
his _Dictionary_ before he addressed Lord Chesterfield is shewn by the
opening sentences of the _Plan_. Mr. Croker's conjecture that he was
absent or concealed on account of some difficulties which had arisen
through the rebellion of 1745 is absurd. At no time of his life had he
been an ardent Jacobite. 'I have heard him declare,' writes Boswell,
'that if holding up his right hand would have secured victory at
Culloden to Prince Charles's army, he was not sure he would have held it
up;' _post_, July 14, 1763. 'He had never in his life been in a
nonjuring meeting-house;' _post_, June 9, 1784.

For the fact that he wrote very little, if indeed anything, in the
_Gent. Mag_. during these years more than one reason may be given. In
the first place, public affairs take up an unusual amount of room in its
columns. Thus in the number for Dec. 1745 we read:--'Our readers being
too much alarmed by the present rebellion to relish with their usual
delight the _Debates in the Senate of Lilliput_ we shall postpone them
for a season, that we may be able to furnish out a fuller e