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Mr. Levet, though an Englishman by birth, became early in life a waiter at a coffee-houfe in Paris. The furgeons who frequented it, finding him of an inquifitive turn, and attentive to their converfation, made a purfe for him, and gave him fome inftructions in their art. They afterwards furnished him with the means of other knowledge, by procuring him free admiffion to fuch lectures in pharmacy and anatomy as were read by the ableft profeffors of that period. Hence his introduction to a bufinefs which afforded him a continual though slender maintenance. Where the middle part of his life was spent is uncertain. He refided, however, almoft thirty years under the roof of Johnfon, who never wifhed him to be regarded as an inferiour, or treated him like a dependantt. He breakfasted with the Doctor every morning, and perhaps was feen no more by him till midnight. Much of the day was employed in attendance on his patients, who were chiefly of the low eft rank of tradefmen. The remainder of his hours he dedicated to Hunter's lectures, and to as many different op portunities of improvement as he could meet with on the fame gratuitous conditions. "All his phyfical knowledge (faid Johnfon) and it is not inconfiderables, was obtained through the ear. Though he buys books, he feldom looks into them, or difcovers any power by which he can be fuppofed to judge of an author's merit.”

Before he became a conftant Inmate of the Doctor's houfe, he married a woman who had perfuaded him (notwithstanding their place of congrefs was a fmallcoal-fhed in Fetter-lane) that fhe was nearly related to a nobleman, but was injurioufly kept by him out of large poffeffions. It is almoft needless to add that both parties were difappointed in their views.-If Levet took her for an heirefs, who in time

might be rich, fhe regarded him as a phyfician already in confiderable practice-Compared with the marvels of this tranfaction (as Johnson himself declared when relating them) the tales in the Arabian Nights Entertainments feem familiar occurrences. Never was infant more completely impofed on than our hero.-He had not many days been married before he was arrested for debts incurred by his wife.-In a fhort time afterwards the was tried (providentially in his opinion) for theft, at the Old-Bailey. Levet attended the court, in the hope fhe would be hanged; and very angry was he with the counfel who undertook her defence.—“ I once thought (faid he) the man had been my friend, but this behaviour of his has proved the contrary."-She was acquitted, and Johnson himself concerted the terms of feparation for this ill-ftarred couple, and then took Levet home, where he continued till his death, which happened fuddenly, without pain, and at the age of more than eighty.-As no relations of his were known to Dr. Johnfon, he advertised for them. In the courfe of a few weeks an heir at law appeared, and afcertained his title to what effects the deceafed had left behind him.

Levet's character was rendered valua ble by repeated proofs of honesty, tenderefs, and gratitude to his benefac tor, as well as by an unwearied diligence in his profeffion.-His fingle failing (if it may be called one) was an occafional departure from fobriety. Johnfon would obferve, he was perhaps the only man who ever became intoxicated through motives of prudence. He reflected, that if he refused the gin or brandy offered him by fome of his patients, he could have been no gainer by their cure, as they might have had nothing elfe to bestow on him. This habit of taking a fee in whatever fhape it was exhibited could Kk 2

not

*For an account of Mr. Levet, and for Dr. Johnson's verses on his death, the reader may confult the London Magazine.

+ He was born at Hull, in Yorkshire.

Dr. Johnfon has frequently obferved that Levet was indebted to him for nothing more than houfe room, his fhare in a penny loaf at breakfaft, and now and then a dinner on a Sunday.

§ He had acted for many years in the capacity of phyfician,, furgeon, and apothecary to Johnfon. After the good and learned Dr. Lawrence retired from bufinefs, the care of our author devolved to Levet. Heberden was not called in to him till his illness in the year 1783. Levet died in January, 1782.

not be put off by advice or admonition of any kind. He would swallow what he did not like, nay what he knew would injure hím, rather than go home with an idea that his fkill had been exerted without recompence. "Had (faid Johnfon) all his patients maliciously combined to reward him with meat and ftrong liquors, inftead of money, he would either have burft, like the dragon in the Apocrypha, through repletion, or have been fcorched up, like Portia, by fwallowing fire." But let not from hence an imputation of rapacioufnefs be fixed upon him. Though he took all that was offered him, he demanded nothing from the poor, nor was known, in any

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inftance, to have enforced the payment of even what was justly his due.

His perfon was middle-fized and thin; his vifage fwarthy, aduft, and corrugated. His converfation, except on profeffional fubjects, barren. When in difhabille he might have been miftaken for an alchemist, whose complexion had been hurt by the fumes of the crucible, and whofe clothes had fuffered from the fparks of the furnace.

Such was Levet, whose whimsical frailty, if weighed against his good and useful qualities, was

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"A floating atom, duft that falls unheeded
"Into the adverfe fcale,. nor shakes the balance."
IRENE

I am, Sir,

Your most humble fervant, &c.

LETTER VI.
JOHNSONIANA.

is not unlikely, therefore, that (as he himself has faid of Gray) he lived fullenly on," till he was either disgusted with his quarters, or starved out of them.-But Dr. Adams, once tutor to Dr. Johnson, and now master of Pembroke College, Oxford, is ftill in being, and can perhaps illuftrate so obfcure a period of our author's life.— Be thankful, ye future biographers, for this intelligence! It may ferve as a useful hint to fuch of you as are not too mean and inglorious to expect affiftance, or too infolent and illiberal to deferve it.

FOR the fhortness of Dr. Johnfon's tay at college, and his retirement from it without taking a degree, no reafons have hitherto been affigned. There is caufe, however, to fufpect that he was fent to the univerfity by the private fubfcription of a few individuals belonging to the cathedral of Litchfield, who, with the prophetic eye of tafte," looked forward to his future attainments. These gentlemen, in a fit of zeal which rarely enquires into its own duration, might have defigned to become his lafting patrons; but it is equally probable that the ftream of their bounty diminished gradually, and was dried up at laft.-Every one is acquainted with the uncertain influx of voluntary contributions.-To this circumftance we may add, that the peculiar manners of Johnfon were by no means adapted to conciliate favour among a fet of men who are more fre, quently influenced by a fpecious outfide, than by folid learning*. His fuperior application and vivacity might. Even after his arrival in London he alfo be confidered as a reproach on the acknowledged himself to have rambled idle, and as a contrast to the dull; nor more than once all night about the would people who regarded him in ftreets with his friend Savage, because fuch lights prove at all anxious for his their joint purfes could not raise a sum accommodation among them by the fufficient to pay for the moft humble aid of thofe ftipendary indulgences lodging. which many colleges can beftow. It

While Johnfon, however, remained at college, he was in a ftate not very far removed from indigence. He has been feen with his naked feet appearing through the upper leathers of his fhoes. A new pair was once left at his door; but he threw them away with indignation. He could not stoop to accept any thing fo indelicately obtruded on his neceflities.

He confeffed himfelf likewife to

* See the tory of a Fellow of a College, in Pompey the Little

bave

have been fometimes in the power of bailiffs. Richardfon, the author of Clariffa, was his conftant friend on fuch occafions. "I remember writing to him (faid Johnfon) from a fpunging-house; and was fo fure of my deliverance through his kindnefs and liberality, that, before his reply was brought, I knew I could afford to joke with the rafcal who had me in cuftody, and did fo, over a pint of adulterated. wine, for which, at that inftant, I had no money to pay.'

It has been already often obferved that Johnson had loft the fight of one of his eyes. Mr. Ellis, an ancient gentleman now living (author of a very happy. burlesque tranflation of the thirteenth book added to the Eneid by Maffée Vegio) was in the fame condition. But, fome years after, while he was at Margate, the fight of his eye unexpectedly returned, and that of its fellow became as fuddenly extinguished. Concerning the particulars of this fingular but authenticated event, Dr. Johnfon was ftudioufly inquifitive, and not without reference to his own cafe. -Though he never made ufe of glaffes to affift his fight, he faid he could recollect no production of art to which man has fuperior obligations. He mentioned the name of the original inventor* of fpectacles with reverence, and expreffed his wonder that not an individual, out of the multitudes who had profited by them, had, through gratitude, written the life of fo great a benefactor to fociety.

His knowledge in manufactures was extenfive, and his comprehenfion relative to mechanical contrivances was ftill more extraordinary. The wellknown Mr. Arkwright pronounced him to be the only perfon who, on a first view, understood both the principle and powers of his moft complicated piece of machinery.

Dr. Johnfon delighted in the company of women. "There are few things (he would fay) that we fo unwillingly give up, even in an advanced age, as the fuppofition that we have ftill the power of ingratiating ourselves with the fair-fex."-Among his fin

gularities, his love of converfing with the proftitutes whom he met with in the ftreets was not the leaft. He has been known to carry fome of these unfortunate creatures into a tavern, for the fake of ftriving to awaken in them a proper fenfe of their condition. His younger friends now and then affected to tax him with lefs chaftifed intentions; but he would answer "No, Sir: I have rather been difconcerted and fhocked by the replies of thefe giddy wenches, than flattered or diverted by their tricks. I remember afking one of them for what purpofe fhe fuppofed her Maker had be towed on her fo much beauty. Her anfwer was-To pleafe the gentlemen to be fure; for what other ufe could it be given me?"

The Doctor is known to have been, like Savage, a very late vifitor; yet at whatever hour he returned, he never went to bed without a previous call on Mrs. Williams, the blind lady who for fo many years had found protection under his roof. Coming home one morning between four and five, he faid to her" Take notice, madam, that for once I am here before others are

asleep. As I turned into the court, I ran against a knot of bricklayers.""You forget, my dear Sir (replied fhe) that these people have all been a-bed, and are now preparing for their day's work."- "Is it fo then, madam? I confefs that circumftance had efcaped me."

Garrick, I hear, complains that I am the only popular author of his time, who has exhibited no praise of him in print; but he is mistaken. Akinfide has forborne to mention him.-Some indeed are lavish in their applaufe of all who come within the compafs of their recollection. Yet he who praises every body, praifes nobody. When both fcales are equally loaded, neither can preponderate."

"Perhaps (faid a gentleman) a congé delire has not the force of a pofitive command, but implies only a ftrong recommendation."" Yes (replied Johnson who overheard him) just fuch a recommendation as if I fhould throw

you

The inventor of spectacles is faid to have been a monk of Pifa, who lived at the end of the shirteenth century, and whose name was Spina. Epit.

you out of a three-pair-of-ftairs' window, and recommend you to fall to the ground."

The laft effufion of our author's pleafantry, was the following." I hope, Sir (fays a friend) that the man

whom I recommended to fit up with you was both wakeful and alert.”

Sir (anfwered the Doctor) his vigilance was that of a dormouse, and his activity that of a turmfpit on his first entry into a wheel,"

LETTER VII.
JOHNSONIAN A.

poet's reputation.When I was a young man, I tranflated Addifon's Latin poem on the Battle of the Cranes and Pygmies, and muft plead guilty to the following couplet :

flung,

"And kill'd the yet unanimated young:"
And yet I trust I am no blockhead.—I
afterwards changed the word kill'd into
crud."

"I Have been told, Dr. Johnfon (fays a friend) that your tranflation of Pope's Meffiah was made either as a common exercife, or as an impofition for fome negligence you had been guilty of at college."-" No, Sir (re-Down from the guardian boughs the nests they. plied the Doctor). At Pembroke the former were always in profe, and to the latter I would not have fubmitted. I wrote it rather to fhow the tutors what I could do, than what I was willing fhould be done. It anfwered my purpofe; for it convinced thofe who were well enough inclined to punish me, that I could wield a fcholar's weapon, as often as I was menaced with arbitrary inflictions.-Before the frequency of perfonal fatire had weakened its effect, the petty tyrants of colleges food in awe of a pointed remark, or a vindictive epigram. But fince every man in his turn has been wounded, no man is afhamed of a fear."

"I wrote the first feventy lines in the Vanity of Human Wibes in the courfe of one morning, in that fmall house beyond the church [at Hampstead.] The whole number was compofed before I threw a fingle couplet on paper. The fame method I purfued in regard to the prologue on opening, Drury-lane theatre. I did not afterwards change more than a word in it, and that was done at the remonftrance of Garrick. I did not think his criticifm juft; but it was neceffary he fhould be fatisfied with what he was to utter."

To a gentleman who expreffed himfelf in difrefpectful terms of Black more, one of whofe poetic bulls he happened juft then to recollect, Dr. Johnfon anfwered, I hope a blunder, after you have heard what I fhall relate, will not be reckoned decifive against a

When Dr. Percy firft publifhed his Collection of ancient English Ballads, perhaps he was too lavifh in commendation of the beautiful fimplicity and poetic merit he fuppofed himfélf to difcover in them. This circumstance. provoked Johnfon to obferve one evening at Mifs Reynolds's tea-table, that he could rhyme as well, and as elegantly, in common narrative and converfation. For instance, fays he,

As with my hat upon my head
I walk'd along the Strand,

I there did meet another mán
With his hat in his hand.

Or, to render fuch poetry fubfervient
to my own immediate use,

I therefore pray thee, Renny dear,
That thou will give to me,
With cream and sugar foften'd well
Another dish of tear

Nor fear that I, my gentle maid,

Shall long detain the cup,
When once unto the bottom I

Have drank the liquor up.

Yet hear, alas! this mournful truth,
Nor hear it with a frown ;e-
Thou can'ft not make the tea fo fast

As I can gulp it down.

And thus he proceeded through feveral more ftanzas, till the reverend critic cried out for quarter. Such ridicule, however, was not unmerited. The editor of the Biographia Dramatica judiciously obferves, it has fometimes

happened

happened that thofe who have been tempted to reprint fpecimens of the rude poetry of our early writers have likewife perfuaded themfelves that thefe trifles were poffeffed of a further degree of value than they may juftly challenge as the records of fugitive cuftoms, or the repofitories of ancient language. When Rowe, in his prologue to Jane

SIR,

Shore, without exception, declared that "Thefe venerable ancient fong-enditers "Soar'd many a pitch above our modern writers," he certainly faid what he neither believed himfelf, nor could with any part of his audience or his readers to believe. Such literary falfhoods deferve to be expofed as often as they are detected.

LETTER VIII.

PERMIT me to correct a few miftakes, or, at leaft, provoke an explanation of a few ambiguities, in Mr. Tyers's Sketch of Dr. Johnson's Life. I honour the motives of the writer; but cannot help wishing he had fometimes been poffeffed of lefs credulity, and fometimes had been more decided in his expreffions. Refpect for the dead, not enmity to the living, has given birth to the following ftrictures. "Private and public prayer, when his vifitors were his audience, were his conftant exercifes."] Waving all criticifm on niceties of phrafe, this fentence appears to mean that-Johnfon either prayed both audibly and mentally-or, rehearfed the forms of public worship, and fuch as his own piety could fuggeft, as often as he had company to hear him.-But is it probable that the fincere and almost dying Johnfon would (like the Pharifee, whofe religion confifted in external ceremonies) have oftentatiously followed his devotions before a mixed affembly, though he might fometimes do fo in the prefence of a few intimate friends, who were difpofed to join with him in fupplication, or partake with him in the holy facrament?

"His imagination often appeared too mighty for his reafon."] Were this a fact, the Doctor muft be fuppofed to have frequently thought like an enthufiaft, or talked and written like a madman.-Is this a fpecimen of the laurels which a friendly hand profeffes to plant around the grave of the deceased? Or is it not rather to be confidered as a weed that accidentally prung up among flowers?

He was born for nothing but to rite."] Surely, Johnfon was born

to practice virtue, as well as to recommend it; and fuch a design in his creation appears to have been fulfilled.His practical virtues indeed are afterwards diftinctly enumerated, and prove. in fpite of the foregoing quotation, that he was born for fomewhat more than to be an author.-Such are the natural confequences of a defultory mode of writing, in which, as in Gonzalo's commonwealth," the latter end forgets the beginning."

66

Night was his time for compofition."]This affertion, if meant for a general one, can be refuted by living evidence. Almoft the whole Preface to Shakspeare, and no inconfiderable part of the Lives of the Poets, were compofed by daylight, and in a room where a friend was employed by him in other inveftigations. His ftudies were only continued through the night, when the day had been pre-occupied, or proved too fhort for his undertakings. Refpecting the fertility of his genius, the refources of his learning, and the accuracy of his judgement, the darkness and the light were both alike.

"Mrs. Thrale knew how to fpread a table with the utmost plenty and elegance."] All who are acquainted with this lady's domeftic hiftory must know that, in the prefent inftance, Mr. Tyers's praife of her is unluckily beflowed. Her hufband fuperintended every dinner fet before his guests. Af ter his death the confessed her total ignorance in culinary arrangements. Poor Thrale ftudied an art of which he loved the produce, and to which he expired a martyr. Johnfon repeatedly, and with all the warmth of earnest friendfhip, affured him he was nimis edax re

rum,

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