Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]

them as stood in need of his assistance. He had consequently a considerable political interest in the county of Derby, which he employed to support the Devonshire family; for though the schoolfellow and friend of Johnson, he was a Wbig. I could not perceive in his character much congeniality of any sort with that of Johnson, who, however, said to me, “Sir, he has a very strong understanding." His size, and figure, and countenance, and manner were that of a hearty English Squire, with the parson superinduced: and I took particular notice of his upper servant, Mr. Peters, a decent grave man, in purple clothes, and a large white wig, like the butler or major domo of a bishop.

Dr. Johnson and Dr. Taylor met with great cordiality; and Johnson soon gave him the same sad account of their schoolfellow, Congreve, that he had given to Mr. Hector; adding a remark of such moment to the rational conduct of a man in the decline of life, that deserves to be imprinted upon every mind : “ There is nothing against which an old man should be so much upon his guard as putting himself to nurse.” Innumerable have been the melancholy instances of men once distinguished for firmness, resolution, and spirit, who in their latter days have been governed, like children, by interested female artifice.

Dr. Taylor commended a physician who was known to him and Dr. Johnson, and said, “I fight many battles for him, as many people in the country dislike him.”

JOHNSON. should consider, sir, that by every one of your victories he is a loser; for, every man of whom you get the better will be very angry, and resolve not to employ him; whereas if people get the better of you in argument about him, they'll think, "We'll send for Dr. ***** nevertheless.'

" But you

[ocr errors]

This was an observation deep and sure in human nature.

Next day we talked of a book in which an eminent judge was arraigned before the bar of the publick, as having pronounced an unjust decision in a great cause.

Dr. Johnson maintained that this publication would not give any uneasiness to the judge. “For (said he), either he acted honestly, or he meant to do injustice. If he acted bonestly, his own consciousness will protect him; if he meant to do injustice, he will be glad to see the man who attacks him so much vexed.

Next day, as Dr. Johnson had acquainted Dr. Taylor of the reason for his returning speedily to London, it was resolved that we should set out after dinner. A few of Dr. Taylor's neighbours were his guests that day,

Dr. Johnson talked with approbation of one who had attained to the state of the philosophical wise man, that is, to have no want of any thing. “Then, sir (said I), the savage is a wise man.'

“ Sir (said he), I do not mean simply being without, but not having a want.” I maintained, against this proposition, that it was better to have fine clothes, for instance, than not to feel the want of them. Johnson. “ No, sir; fine clothes are good only as they supply the want of other means of procuring respect. Was Charles the Twelfth, think you, less respected for his coarse blue coat and black stock? And you find the King of Prussia dresses plain, because the dignity of his character is sufficient." I here brought myself into a scrape, for I heedlessly said, “Would not you, sir, be the better for velvet embroidery?” JOHNSON.“ Sir, you put an end to all argument when you introduce your opponent himself. Have you no better manners ?

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

There is your want.I apologized by saying, I had mentioned him as an instance of one who wanted as little as any man in the world, and yet, perhaps, might receive some additional lustre from dress.

Having left Ashbourne in the evening, we stopped to change horses at Derby, and availed ourselves of a moment to enjoy the conversation of my countryman, Dr. Butter, then physician there. He was in great indignation because Lord Mountstuart's bill for a Scotch militia had been lost. Dr. Johnson was as violent against it. “I am glad (said he), that Parliament has had the spirit to throw it out. You wanted to take advantage of the timidity of our scoundrels” (meaning, I suppose, the ministry). It may be observed, that he used the epithet scoundrel very commonly, not quite in the sense in which it is generally understood, but as a strong term of disapprobation; as when he abruptly answered Mrs. Thrale, who had asked him how he did, “ Ready to become a scoundrel, madam; with a little more spoiling you will, I think, make me a complete rascal":"-he meant, easy to become a capricious and self-indulgent valetudinarian; a character for which I have heard him express great disgust.

Johuson had with him upon this jaunt, “ Il Palmerino d'Inghilterra,” a romance praised by Cervantes; but did not like it much. He said, he read it for the language, by way of

preparation for his Italian expedition.-We lay this night at Loughborough.

On Thursday, March 28, we pursued our journey. I mentioned that old Mr. Sheridan complained of the ingratitude of Mr. Wedderburne and General Fraser, who had been much obliged

1 Anecdotes of Johnson, p. 176.

to him when they were young Scotchmen entering upon life in England. Johnson.“ Why, sir, a man is very apt to complain of the ingratitude of those who have risen far above him. A man, when he gets into a higher sphere, into other habits of life, cannot keep up all his former connections. Then, sir, those who knew bim formerly upon a level with themselves may think that they ought still to be treated as on a level, which cannot be; and an acquaintance in a former situation may bring out things which it would be very disagreeable to have mentioned before higher company, though, perhaps, every body knows of them." He placed this subject in a new light to me, and showed that a man who has risen in the world must not be condemned too harshly for being distant to former acquaintance, even though he may have been much obliged to them. It is, no doubt, to be wished that a proper degree of attention should be shown by great men to their early friends. But if, either from obtuse insensibility to difference of situation, or presumptuous forwardness, which will not submit even to an exteriour observance of it, the dignity of high place cannot be preserved, when they are admitted into the company of those raised above the state in which they once were, encroachment must be repelled and the kinder feelings sacrificed. To one of the very fortunate persons whom I have mentioned, namely, Mr. Wedderburne, now Lord Loughborough, I must do the justice to relate, that I have been assured by another early acquaintance of his, old Mr. Macklin, who assisted in improving his pronunciation, that he found him very grateful.-Macklin, I suppose, had not pressed upon his elevation with so much eagerness as the gentleman who complained of him. Dr. Jobnson's remark as to the jealousy entertained of our friends who rise far above us is certainly very just. By this was withered the early friendship between Charles Townshend and Akenside; and many similar instances might be adduced.

He said, “It is commonly a weak man who marries for love." We then talked of marrying women of fortune; and I mentioned a common remark, that a man may be, upon the whole, richer by marrying a woman with a very small portion, because a woman of fortune will be proportionally expensive: whereas a woman who brings none will be very moderate in expenses. Johnson. “ Depend upon it, sir, this is not true. A woman of fortune, being used to the handling of money, spends it judiciously: but a woman who gets the command of money for the first time upon her marriage, has such a gust in spending it that she throws it away with great profusion.”

He praised the ladies of the present age, insisting that they were more faithful to their husbands, and more virtuous in every respect than in former times, because their understandings were better cultivated. It was an undoubted proof of his good sense and good disposition that he was never querulous, never prone to inveigh against the present times, as is so common when superficial minds are on the fret. On the contrary, he was willing to speak favourably of his own age; and, indeed, maintained its superiority in every respect, except in its reverence for government; the relaxation of which he imputed, as its grand cause, to the shock which our monarchy received at the Revolution, though necessary; and, secondly, to the timid concessions made to faction by successive administrations in the reign of his present Majesty. I am happy to

« AnteriorContinuar »