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Jarge. Talking on the topic of what his inclinations or faculties might have led him to have been, had he been bred to the profeffion of the law, he has faid he fhould have wifhed for the of fice of Master of the Rolls. He gave into this idea in table-talk, partly ferious and partly jocofe, for it was only a manner he had of defcribing himself to his friends without vanity of his parts (for he was above being vain) or envy of the honourable stations engaged by other men of merit. He would correct any compofitions of his friends (habes confitentem) and dictate on any fubject on which they wanted information. He could have been an orator, if he would. On account of his intimacy with Dr. Dodd, for whom he made a bargain with the bookfellers for his edition of the Bible, he wrote a petition to the crown for mercy, after his condemnation. The letter he compofed for the tranflator of Ariofto, that was fent to Mr. Haftings in Bengal, is efteemed a mafter-piece. Dr. W- of Winchefter, talked of it as the very best he ever read. He could have been eminent, if he chofe it, in letter-writing; a faculty in which, according to Sprat, his Cowley excelled. His epiftolary and confidential correfpondence would make an agreeable publication, but the world will never be trufted with it, He wrote as well in verfe as in profe. Though he compofed fo harmonioufly in Latin and English, he had no ear for mufic: and though he lived in fuch habits of intimacy with Sir Joshua Reynolds, and once intended to have written the lives of the painters, he had no eye, nor perhaps tafte, for a picture, nor a landscape. He renewed his Greek fome years ago, for which he found no occafion for twenty years. He owned that many knew more Greek than himself; but, that his Grammar would fhew he had once taken pains. Sir William Jones, one of the most enlightened of the fons of men, as Johnfon defcribed him, has often faid, he knew a great deal of Greck. With French authors he was familiar. He had lately read over the works of Boileau. He amufed himself, very lately,
with tranflating into Latin verfe many of the Greck epigrams: and had read over the Expedition of Xenophon, and the Iliad of Homer. He took care to keep up all his ftock of learning of all forts, and, in the words of Queen Elifabeth, "to rummage up his old Greek."
He paffed a judgement on Sherlock's French and English letters, and told him there was more French in his English, than English in his French. His curiofity would have led him to read Italian, even if Baretti had not been his acquaintance. Latin was as natural to him as English. He feemed to know the readieft roads to knowledge, and to languages their conductors. He made fuch progrefs in the Hebrew, in a few leffons, that furprized his guide in that tongue. In company with Dr. Barnard and the fellows at Eaton, he aftonished them all with the display of his critical, claffical, and profodical treafures, and also himfelf, for he protefted on his return, he did not know he was fo rich.
Christopher Smart was at first well received by Johnfon. This writer owed his acquaintance with our author, which lafted thirty years, to the introduction of that bard. Johnson, whofe hearing was not always good, understood he called him by the name of Thyer, that eminent fcholar, librarian of Manchefter, and a Nonjuror. This mistake was rather beneficial than otherwife to the perfon introduced. Johnfon had been much indisposed all that day, and repeated a pfalm he had juft tranflated, during his affliction, into Latin verfe, and did not commit to paper. For fo retentive was the memory of this man, that he could always recover whatever he lent to that faculty. Smart in return recited fome of his own Latin compofitions. He had tranflated with fuccefs, and to Mr. Pope's fatisfaction, his St. Cecilian Ode. Come when you would, early or late, for he defired to be called from bed, when a visitor was at the door; the tea-table was fure to be spread, Te veniente die, Te decedente. With tea he cheered himself in the morning, with tea he folaced himself in the evening;
for in thefe, or in equivalent words, he expreffed himself in a printed letter to Jonas Hanway, who had just told the public, that tea was the ruin of the nation, and of the nerves of every one who drank it. The pun upon his favourite liquor he heard with a fmile. Though his time feemed to be bespoke, and quite engroffed, it is certain his houfe was open to all his acquaintance, new and old. His amanuenfis has given up his pen, the printer's devil has waited on the ftairs for a proof theet, and the prefs has often flood ftill. His vifitors were delighted and inftructed. No fubject ever came amifs to him. He could transfer his thoughts from one thing to another with the moft accommodating facility. He had the art, for which Locke was famous, of leading people to taik on their favourite fubjects, and on what they knew beft. By this he acquired a great deal of information. What he once heard he rarely forgot. They gave him their best converfation, and he generally made them pleafed with themfelves, for endeavouring to please him. Poet Smart used to relate, that the first converfation with him was of fuch variety and length, that it began with poetry and ended at fluxions." He always talked as if he was talking upon oath. He was the wifeft perfon, and had the most knowledge in ready cafh, this writer had the honour to be acquainted with. Here a little paufe must be endured. The poor hand that holds the pen is benumbed by the froft as much as by a torpedo. It is cold within, by the fire-fide, and a white world abroad. His reader has a moment's leifure to cenfure or commend the harvest of anecdote that is brought in, for his fake; and if he has more reading than ufual, may remark for or against it in the manner of the Cardinal to Ariofto: "All this may be true, extraordinary, and entertaining; but where the deuce did you pick it all up? The writer, perhaps, comes within the proverbial obfervation, that the inquifitive perfon ends often in the character of the tell-tale.-Johnfon's advice was confulted on all occafions. He was known to be a good cafuift,
and therefore had many cafes for his judgement. It is notorious, that fome men had the wickednefs to over-reach him, and to injure him, till they were found out. Lauder was of the number, who made, at the time, all the friends of Milton his enemies. There is nobody fo likely to be impofed upon as a good man. His converfa tion, in the judgement of feveral, was thought to be equal to his correct wri tings. Perhaps the tongue will throw out more animated expreffions than the pen. He faid the most common things in the neweft manner. He always commanded attention and regard. His perfon, though unadorned with dress, and even deformed by neglect, made you expect fomething, and you was hardly ever difappointed. His manner was interefting: the tone of his voice, and the fincerity of his expreffions, even when they did not capti vate your affections, or carry conviction, prevented contempt. It must be owned, his countenance, on fome occafions, refembled too much the medallic likenefs of Magliabechi, as exhibited before the printed account of him by Mr. Spence. No man dared to take liberties with him, nor flatly contradict him; for he could repel any attack, having always about him the weapons of ridicule, of wit, and of argument. No man was profane, or obfcene, in his company; and none could leave his conversation without being wifer or better.
It must be owned, that fome, who had the defire to be admitted to him, thought him too dogmatical, and as exacting too much homage to his opinions, and came no more. For, they faid, while he prefided in his library, furrounded by his admirers, he would,
gal, who was invited there to make a fortune; but it did not take place. He talked much of travelling into Poland, to obferve the life of the Palatines, the account of which ftruck his curiofity very much. His Raffelas, it is reported, he wrote to raise a purfe of pecuniary affiftance to his aged mother at Litchfield. The firft title of his manufcript, was "Prince of Ethiopia." But, as he had erected a hiftory of Seged King of Ethiopia, in his Ramblers, he changed it to Abyffinia. He had formerly tranflated an account of thofe countries, written by a French Jefuit.
Mr. Bruce is expected to give us a hiftory of both thefe countries. The happy valley he would hardly be able to find in Abyffinia. Dr. Young ufed to say, "that Raffelas was a lump of wifdom." He there difplays an uncommon capacity for remark, and makes the beft ufe of the defcription of travellers. It is an excellent romance. But his Journey into the Western Islands is an original thing. He hoped, as he faid, when he came back, that no Scotchman had any right to be angry with what he wrote. It is a book written without the affiftance of books. He faid, "it was his wifh and endeavour not to make a fingle quotation." His curiofity muft have been exceffive, and his ftrength undecayed, to accomplish a journey of fuch length, and fubject to fuch inconvenience. His book was eagerly read. One of the firft men of the age told Mr. Garrick, "that he would forgive Johnson all his wrong notions refpect ing America, on account of his writing that book." He thought himself the hardier for travelling. He took a tour into France, and meditated another into Italy or Portugal, for the fake of the climate. But Dr. Brocklefby, his friend and phyfician (and who that knows him can wish for more companionable and more profeffional knowledge?) conjured him, by every argument in his power, not to go abroad in the state of his health; but that if he was refolved on the firft, and wifhed for fomething additional to his income, defired he would per
mit him to accommodate him out of his fortune with one hundred pounds a-year, during his travels, to be paid by inftalments,
"Ye little ftars hide your diminished heads.** The reply to this generofity was to this effect: "That he would not be obliged to any perfon's liberality, but to his King's.' The continuance of this defign to go abroad, occafioned the application for an increase of penfion, that is fo honourable to thofe who applied for it, and to the Lord Chancellor, who gave him leave to draw on his banker for any fum.
It is juft come to the knowledge of this narrator, that Mr. Gerard Hamilton offered Johnson his purfe of one hundred guineas (honos erit hurt quoque); but it was not accepted, for (faid Johnfon) I am worth fifteen hundred pounds!" A fum of money that would laft longer than the whole halfguinea that Parfon Adams boafted was fufficient for all his charges and expences. The reader, if he is in a good humour, may not diflike the comparative allufion. Adams, for the mo ment, was richer than Johnson.
With the courage of a man, Johnfon demanded to know of Brockleby. if his recovery was impoffible? Being anfwered in the affirmative; " then (fays he) I will take no more opium, and give up my phyficians."
At laft he faid, "if I am worse, I cannot go; if I am better, I need not go; but if I continue neither better nor worfe, I am as well where I am. The writer of this fketch could wish to have committed to memory or paper all the wife and fenfible things that dropped from his lips. If the one could have been Xenophon, the other was a Socrates.-His benevolence to mankind was known to all who knew him. Though fo declared a friend to the Church of England, and even a friend to the Convocation, it affuredly was not in his wifh to perfecute for fpeculative notions. He used to say, he had no quarrel with any order of men, unless they difbelieved in revelation and a future ftate. He would indeed have fided with Sacheverell againft Daniel Burgefs, if he thought
the Church was in danger. His hand and his heart were always open to charity. The objects under his own roof were only a few of the fubjects for relief. He was at the head of fubfcription in cafes of diftrefs. His guinea, as he faid of another man of a bountiful difpofition, was always ready. He wrote an exhortation to public bounty. He drew up a paper to recommend the French prifoners, in the laft war but one, to the English benevolence; which was of fervice. He implored the hand of benevolence for others, even when he almoft feemed a proper object of it himself.
Like his hero Savage, while in company with him, he is fuppofed to have formerly ftrolled about the streets almost houseless, and as if he was obliged to go without the chearful meal of the day, or to wander about for one, as is reported of Homer. If this were true, it is no wonder if he was an unknown, or uninquired after, for a long time:
it. There is no talking about tafte.
It may be inferted here, that John fon, foon after his coming to London, had thought of writing a hiftory of the revival of learning. The book fellers
had more fervice to offer him.
he never undertook it. The proprietors of the Univerfal Hiftory wifhed
"Slow rifes worth by poverty depreffed." When once diftinguished, as he obWhen once diftinguifhed, as he obferves of Afcham, he gained admirers. He was fitted by nature for a critic. His Lives of the Poets (like all his biographical pieces) are well written. He gives us the pulp without the husks. He has told their perfonal hi-him to take any part in that volumiftory very well. But every thing is not new. Perhaps what Mr. Steevens helped him to, has increafed the number of the beft anecdotes. But his cri`ticifms of their works are of the moft worth, and the greatest novelty. His perfpicacity was very extraordinary. He was able to take meafure of every intellectual object; and to fee all around it. If he chofe to plume himfelf as an author, he might on account of the gift of intuition,
"The brightest feather in the eagle's wing.” He has been cenfured for want of tafte or good nature, in what he fays of Prior, Gray, Lyttelton, Hammond, and others, and to have praised fome pieces that nobody thought highly of. It was a fault in our critic too often to take occafion to fhew himfelf fuperior to his fubject, and alfo to trample upon
nous work. But he declined their of fer. His laft employers wanted him to undertake the life of Spenfer. But he faid, Warton had left little or nothing for him to do. A fyftem of morals next was propofed. But perHe thought, as, like the running horfe haps he chofe to promife nothing more. in Horace, he had done his best, he fhould give up the race and the chace. into fo much confequence, that it ocHis character for learning lifted him cafioned several refpectable writers to dedicate their works to him. This was to receive more reverence than he
paid. Murphy (to whom he was obliged, as he often faid, for many focial happineffes) addreffed to him an imitation of a fatire of Boileau: and Goldfmith dedicated a comedy to him, and praifed him for what, as he explained it, Johnson would like to be
the Strand, on receiving the laft manufcript fheet of his Dictionary, had faid, "Give Johnson his money, for I thank God I have done with him." The philologer took care that he should receive his compliments, and be informed," he was extremely glad he returned thanks to God for any thing."
praised his piety and his wit." His dependent, Levett, died fuddenly under his roof. He preferved his name from oblivion, by writing an epitaph for him, which fhews that his poetical fire was not extinguifhed, and is fo appropriate, that it could belong to no other perfon in the world. Johnfon faid, that the remark of appropriation was juft criticifm: his friend was induced to pronounce, that he would not have fo good an epitaph written for himfelf. Pope has nothing equal to it in his fepulchral poetry. When he dined with Mr. Wilkes, at a private table in the city, their mutual altercations were forgot, at leaft for that day. Johnfon did not remember the fharpnefs of a paper again his defcription or definition of an alphabetical point animadverted upon in his Dictionary by that man of acutenefs; who, in his turn, forgot the feverity of a pamphlet of Johnfon. All was, during this meal, a reciprocation of wit and good humour. During the annual conteft in the city, Johnson confeffed, that Wilkes would make a very good chamberlain. When Johnson (who had said that he would as foon dine with Jack Ketch as with Jack Wilkes) could fit at the fame table with this patriot, it may be concluded he did not write his animofities in marble.-Johnfon was famous for faying what are called good things. Mr. Bofwell, who liftened to him for fo many years, has probably remembered many. He mentioned many of them to Paoli, who paid him the laft tribute of a vifit to his grave. If Johnson had as good eyes as Bofwell, he might have feen more trees in Scotland, perhaps, than he mentions. This is not the record-office for his fayings but a few must be recollected here. For Plutarch has not thought it beneath his dignity to relate fome things of this fort, of fome of his heroes. Pray, Dr. Johnson (faid fomebody) is the mafter of the manfion at Streatham a man of much converfation, or is he only wife and filent ?"-" He ftrikes (fays Johnfon) once an hour, and I fuppofe ftrikes right." Mr. Thrale left him a legacy, and made him an executor. It came to Johnfon's ears, that the great bookfeller in LOND. MAG. May 1785.
Mr. Garrick ufed to relate an incident, with great humour, but without perfonal mimickry (of which perhaps he was the inventor, and the inheritance went to Foote, fays the communicator, who defired it might have a place here) that made a good ftory as he told it. Johnson was once befet with queftions, by fomebody, about the merits of the tragedy of Douglas, that had just made its public appearance. After fubmitting to hear fome favourite defcriptive paffage, which the reciter praifed to the fkies, ignorantly or hypocritically, he was asked, if there ever had been written lines fo tranfcendently excellent by any other poet? To get rid of the importunity, Johnfon impetuoufly replied; " Yes, by many a man-by many a woman— and by many a child." This anfwer immediately checked the enthusiasm of the querift. On reporting this deci fion at a table, it was afferted in company, that Johnfon took an opportunity of faying this again, to a very eminent fcholar at Edinburgh, whom he made an enemy by it.
This opinion of our critic was not meant as a feverity against Douglas ; for he had faid, "he thought it as good a first play as he had read." Gray commended it exceffively. It accordingly holds its rank at the theatre. Its merits, and the great performance of the character of Lady Randolph by Mrs. Siddons, who is above praife, bring it into frequent reprefentation, and occafion clapping hands and weeping eyes. Johnfon received, in the courfe of the laft year, a long and agreeable vifit from this actress. On his being afked afterwards, if he could not wish to compofe a part in a new tragedy (Euripides and Voltaire wrote plays when they were older than Johnfon) to difplay her powers? He replied, "Mrs. Siddons excels in the pathetic, for which I have no talent."