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Mr. Strahan advised me to take care of myself. Such a time of terror you have been happy in not seeing.
"The King said in council, That the magistrates had not done their duty, but that he would do his own:' and a proclamation was published directing us
to keep our servants within doors, as the peace was now to be preserved by force. The soldiers were sent out to different parts, and the town is now (June 9) at quiet.
"The soldiers are stationed so as to be everywhere within call: there is no Longer any body of rioters, and the individuals are hunted to their holes, and led to prison; Lord George was last night sent to the Tower. Mr. John Wilkes was this day in my neighbourhood. to seize the publisher of a seditious paper. "Several chapels have been destroyed, and several inoffensive Papists have been plundered, but the high sport was to burn the gaols. This was a good rabble trick. The debtors and the criminals were all set at liberty; but of the
criminals, as has always happened, many are already retaken; and two pirates have surrendered themselves, and it is expected that they will be pardoned.
"Government now acts again with its proper force; and we are all under the protection of the King and the law. I thought that it would be agreeable to you and my master to have my testimony to the public security; and that you would sleep more quietly when I told you that you were safe.
"There has, indeed, been an universal panic, from which the King was the first that recovered. Without the concurrence of his ministers, or the assistance of the civil magistrates, he put the soldiers in motion, and saved the town from calamities, such as a rabble's government must naturally produce.
"The public has escaped a very heavy calamity. The rioters attempted the Bank on Wednesday night, but in no great number; and, like other thieves, with no great resolution. Jack Wilkes headed the party that drove them away. It is agreed that if they had seized the Bank on Tuesday, at the height of the panic, when no resistance had been prepared, they might have carried irrecoverably away whatever they had found. Jack, who was always zealous for order and decency, declares that if he be trusted with power, he will not leave a rioter alive. There is, however, now no longer any need of heroism or bloodshed; no blue riband1 is any longer worn."
Such was the end of this miserable sedition, from which London was delivered by the magnanimity of the Sovereign himself. Whatever some may maintain, I am satisfied that there was no combination or plan, either domestic or foreign; but that the mischief spread by a gradual contagion of frenzy, augmented by the quantities of fermented liquors, of which the deluded populace possessed themselves in the course of their depredations.
I should think myself very much to blame, did I here neglect to do justice to my esteemed friend Mr. Akerman, the keeper of Newgate, who long discharged a very important trust with an uniform intrepid firmness, and at the same time a tenderness and a liberal charity, which entitle him to be recorded with distinguished honour.
Upon this occasion, from the timidity and negligence of the magistracy on the one hand, and the almost incredible exertions of the mob on the other, the first prison of this great country was laid open, and
1 Lord George Gordon and his followers, during these outrages, wore blue ribands in their hats.-MALONE.
the prisoners set free; but that Mr. Akerman,' whose house was burnt, would have prevented all this, had proper aid been sent him in due time, there can be no doubt.
Many years ago, a fire broke out in the brick part which was built as an addition to the old gaol of Newgate. The prisoners were in consternation and tumult, calling out, "We shall be burnt-we shall be burnt ! Down with the gate-down with the gate!" Mr. Akerman hastened to them, showed himself at the gate, and having, after some confused vociferation of "Hear him-hear him!" obtained a silent attention, he then calmly told them, that the gate must not go down; that they were under his care, and that they should not be permitted to escape; but that he could assure them, they need not be afraid of being burnt, for that the fire was not in the prison, properly so called, which was strongly built with stone; and that if they would engage to be quiet, he himself would come to them, and conduct them to the farther erd of the building, and would not go out till they gave him leave. this proposal they agreed; upon which Mr. Akerman, having first made them fall back from the gate, went in, and with a determined resolution ordered the outer turnkey upon no account to open the gate, even though the prisoners (though he trusted they would not) should break their word, and by force bring himself to order it. "Never mind me," said he," should that happen." The prisoners peaceably followed him, while he conducted them through passages of which he had the keys, to the extremity of the gaol, which was most distant from the fire. Having by this very judicious conduct fully satisfied them that there was no immediate risk, if any at all, he then addressed them thus: "Gentlemen, you are now convinced that I told you true. I have no doubt that the engines will soon extinguish this fire; if they should not a sufficient guard will come, and you shall be all taken out, and lodged in the Compters. I assure you, upon my word and honour, that I have not a farthing insured. I have left my house, that I might take care of
you. I will keep my promise, and stay with you if you insist upon it; but if you will allow me to go out, and look after my family and property, I shall be obliged to you." Struck with his behaviour, they called out, "Master Akerman, you have done bravely; it was very kind in you by all means go and take care of your own concerns.' He did so accordingly, while they remained and were all preserved.
Johnson has been heard to relate the substance of this story with high praise, in which he was joined by Mr. Burke. My illustrious friend, speaking of Mr. Akerman's kindness to his prisoners, pronounced this eulogy upon his character:-" He who has long had constantly in his view the worst of mankind, and is yet eminent for the humanity of his disposition, must have had it originally in a great aegree, and continued to cultivate it very carefully."
1 Governor of Newgate.-ED.
In the course of this month my brother David waited upon Dr. Johnson with the following letter of introduction, which I had taken care should be lying ready on his arrival in London :
"TO DR. SAMUEL JOHNSON.
"MY DEAR SIR,
Edinburgh, April 29, 1780.
"This will be delivered to you by my brother David, on his return from Spain. You will be glad to see the man who vowed to 'stand by the old castle of Auchinleck, with heart, purse, and sword;' that romantic family solemnity devised by me, of which you and I talked with complacency upon the spot. I trust that twelve years of absence have not lessened his feudal attachment and that you will find him worthy of being introduced to your acquaintance. I have the honour to be, with affectionate veneration, my dear Sir,
"Your most faithful humble servant,
Johnson received him very politely, and has thus mentioned him in a letter to Mrs. Thrale ;1 “I have had with me a brother of Boswell's, a Spanish merchant, whom the war has driven from his residence at Valencia; he is gone to see his friends, and will find Scotland but a sorry place after twelve years' residence in a happier climate. He is a very agreeable man, and speaks no Scotch."
"TO DR. BEATTIE, AT ABERDEEN. Bolt-court, Fleet-street, August 21, 1780. "More years3 than I have any delight to reckon have past since you and I saw one another; of this, however, there is no reason for making reprehensory complaint-Sic fata ferunt. But methinks there might pass some small interchange of regard between us. If you say that I ought to have written, I now write; and I write to tell you that I have much kindness for you and Mrs. Beattie; and that I wish your health better, and your life long. Try change of air, and come a few degrees southwards; a softer climate may do you both good; winter is coming in; and London will be warmer, and gayer, and busier, and more fertile for amusement than Aberdeen.
"My health is better; but that will be little in the balance, when I tell you that Mrs. Montagu has been very ill, and is, I doubt, now but weakly. Mr. Thrale has been very dangerously disordered; but is much better, and I hope will totally recover. He has withdrawn himself from business the whole summer. Sir Joshua and his sister are well: and Mr. Davies has got great success as an author, generated by the corruption of a bookseller. More news I have
1 Vol. ii. Mrs. Piozzi has omitted the name, she best knows why.-BOSWELL.
2 Now settled in London.-BOSWELL.
3 I had been five years absent from London.-BEATTIE.
4 Meaning his entertaining "Memoirs of David Garrick, Esq." of which Johnson (as Davies informed me) wrote the first sentence; thus giving, as it were, the key-note to the performance. It is, indeed, very characteristical of its author, beginning with a maxim, and
not to tell you, and therefore you must be contented with hearing, what I know not whether you much wish to hear,' that I am, Sir,
"Your most humble servant,
66 TO JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ.
London, Aug. 21, 1780.
"I find you have taken one of your fits of taciturnity, and have resolved not to write till you are written to; it is but a peevish humour, but you shall have your way.
"I have sat at home in Bolt-court all the summer, thinking to write the Lives, and a great part of the time only thinking. Several of them, however, are done, and I still think to do the rest.
"Mr. Thrale and his family have, since his illness, passed their time first at Bath, and then at Brighthelmstone; but I have been at neither place. I would have gone to Lichfield if I could have had time, and I might have had time if I had been active; but I have missed much, and done little.
“In the late disturbances, Mr. Thrale's house and stock were in great danger; the mob was pacified at their first invasion, with about 50l. in drink and meat; and at their second, were driven away by the soldiers. Mr. Strahan got a garrison into his house, and maintained them a fortnight; he was so frighted that he removed part of his goods. Mrs. Williams took shelter in the country.
"I know not whether I shall get a ramble this autumn; it is now about the time when we were travelling, I have, however, better health than I had then, and hope you and I may yet show ourselves on some part of Europe, Asia, or Africa. In the mean time let us play no trick, but keep each other's kindness by all means in our power.
"The bearer of this is Dr. Dunbar, of Aberdeen, who has written and published a very ingenious book,3 and who I think has a kindness for me, and will, when he knows you, have a kindness for you.
"I suppose your little ladies are grown tall; and your son has become a learned young man. I love them all, and I love your naughty lady, whom I never shall persuade to love me. When the Lives are done, I shall send them
proceeding to illustrate. "All excellence has a right to be recorded. I shall therefore think it superfluous to apologise for writing the life of a man, who, by an uncommon assemblage of private virtues, adorned the highest eminence in a public profession."-BOSWELL.
I wish he had omitted the suspicion expressed here, though I believe he meant nothing but jocularity; for though he and I differed sometimes in opinion, he well knew how much I loved and revered him.-BEATTIE.
2 It will no doubt be remarked how he avoids the rebellious land of America. This puts me in mind of an anecdote for which I am obliged to my worthy social friend Governor Richard Penn: "At one of Miss E. Hervey's assemblies, Dr. Johnson was following her up and down the room; upon which Lord Abington observed to her, 'Your great friend is very fond of you: you can go nowhere without him.' 'Ay,' said she, 'he would follow me to any part of the world.' 'Then,' said the Earl, 'ask him to go with you to America."— BOSWELL.
3 Dr. Dunbar was Professor of Philosophy in King's College, Aberdeen, and author of "Essays on the History of Mankind in Rude and Uncultivated Ages." He died in 1779.—En.