Imagens das páginas


Letters to his natural son were published, he observed, that they teach the morals of a whore, and the manners of a dancing-master ""

The character of a "respectable Hottentot," in lord Chesterfield's Letters, 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, 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. 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

v. Erasm. Dedication of Adagies to lord Mountjoy ;) and from idiúrns ¿v φιλόσοφοις, φιλόσοφος ἐν ἰδιώταις. Proclus de Critia.—KEARNEY.

h That collection of letters cannot be vindicated from the serious charge of encouraging, in some passages, one of the vices most destructive to the good order and comfort of society, which his lordship represents as mere fashionable gallantry; and, in others, of inculcating the base practice of dissimulation, and recommending, with disproportionate anxiety, a perpetual attention to external elegance of manners. But it must, at the same time, be allowed, that they contain many good precepts of conduct, and much genuine information upon life and manners, very happily expressed; and that there was considerable merit in paying so much attention to the improvement of one who was dependent upon his lordship's protection; it has, probably, been exceeded in no instance by the most exemplary parent: and though I can by no means approve of confounding the distinction between lawful and illicit offspring, which is, in effect, insulting the civil establishment of our country, to look no higher; I cannot help thinking it laudable to be kindly attentive to those, of whose existence we have in any way been the cause. Mr. Stanhope's character has been unjustly represented as diametrically opposite to what lord Chesterfield wished him to be. He has been called dull, gross, and awkward: but I knew him at Dresden, when he was envoy to that court; and though he could not boast of the graces, he was, in truth, a sensible, civil, well-behaved man. BOSWELL.

i Now [1792] one of his majesty's principal secretaries of state.


be meant for him, I said, laughingly, that there was one trait which unquestionably did not belong to him, "he throws his meat anywhere but down his throat." Sir," said he, "lord Chesterfield never saw me eat in his life."

On the 6th of March came out lord Bolingbroke's works, published by Mr. David Mallet. 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, which nobody disputed, was roused with a just indignation, and pronounced this memorable sentence upon the noble author and his editor: "Sir, he was a scoundrel, and a coward 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!" 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. 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, beginning,

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.

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, 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.



SIR, It is but an ill return for the book with which you were pleased to favour me, to have delayed my thanks for it till now. I am too apt to be negligent; but I can never deliberately show my disrespect to a man of your character; and I now pay you a very honest acknowledgment, for the advancement of the literature of our native country. You have shown to all, who shall hereafter attempt the study of our ancient authors, the way to success, by directing them to the perusal of the books which those authors had read. Of this method, Hughes', and men much greater than Hughes, seem never to have thought. The reason why the authors, 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 ", which now draws towards its end; but which I cannot finish to my mind without visiting the libraries of Oxford, which I therefore hope to see in a fortnight". 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,

"[London,] July 16, 1754.

"Your most obedient, etc.



k "Observations on Spenser's Fairy Queen, the first edition of which was now published."


[blocks in formation]

"He came to Oxford within a fortnight, and stayed about five weeks. He lodged at a house called Kettel-hall, near Trinity college. But during his visit at Oxford, he collected nothing in the libraries for his Dictionary."

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 alteration.

"When Johnson came to Oxford in 1754, 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 which he had left there still remaining, particularly a very old butler; 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 mạn, 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!

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.'

"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 is,

Vallis aromaticas fundit Saronica nubes.

I told him, I thought it a very sonorous hexameter. I did not tell him, it was not in the Virgilian style. He much regretted that his first tutor was dead; for whom he seemed to retain the greatest regard. He said, "I once had been a whole morning sliding in Christ-church meadows, 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, entitled, 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 outwalked Johnson, and he cried out 'Sufflamina,' a Latin word, which came from his mouth with a pe

« AnteriorContinuar »