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Mr. Thrale's death was a very effential loss to Johnson, who, although he did not foresee all that afterwards happened, was sufficiently convinced that the comforts which Mr. Thrale's family afforded him would now in a great measure cease. He, however, continued to shew a kind attention to his. widow and children as long as it was acceptable ; and he took upon him, with. a very earnest concern, the office of one of his executors, the importance of which seemed greater than usual to him, from his circumstances having been always such that he had scarcely any share in the real business of life. His. friends of the Club were in hopes that Mr. Thrale might have made a liberalprovision for him for his life, which, as Mr. Thrale left no son, and a very large fortune, it would have been highly to his honour to have done; and, considering Dr. Johnson's age, could not have been of long duration : but he bequeathed him only two hundred pounds, which was the legacy given toeach of his executors. I could not but be somewhat diverted by hearing Johnson talk in a pompous manner of his new office, and particularly of theconcerns of the brewery, which it was at last resolved should be sold. Lord Lucan tells a very good story, which, if not precisely exact, is certainly characteristical : that when the sale of Thrale’s brewery was going forward, Johnson appearedi bustling about, with an ink-horn and pen in his button-hole, like an exciseman; and on being asked what he really considered to be the value of the property which was to be disposed of, answered, “We are not here to fell a. parcel of boilers and vats, but the potentiality of growing rich, beyond the dreams of avarice."
On Friday, April 6, he carried me to dine at a club, which, at his desire, had been lately formed at the Queen's Arms, in St. Paul's Church-yard. He told Mr. Hoole, that he wished to have a City Club, and asked him to collect one; but, said he, “ Don't let them be patriots.” The company to-day were very sensible well-behaved men.' I have preserved only two particulars of his conversation. He said, he was glad Lord George Gordon had escaped, rather than that a precedent should be established for hanging a man for constructive treason ; which, in consistency with his true, manly, constitutional Toryism, he considered would be a dangerous engine of arbitrary power. And upon its being mentioned that an opulent and very indolent Scotch nobleman, who totally resigned the management of his affairs to a man of knowledge and abilities, had claimed some merit by saying, “ The next best thing to managing a man's own affairs well, is being sensible of incapacity, and not attempting it, but having full confidence in one who can do it.” JOHNSON, “ Nay, Sir, this is paltry. There is a
middle course. Let a man give application, and depend upon it he will soon 1781. get above a despicable state of helplessness, and attain the power of acting for
On Saturday, April 7, I dined with him at Mr. Hoole's, with Governour Boucher and Captain Orme, both of whom had been long in the East-Indies; and being men of good sense and observation, were very entertaining. Johnson defended the oriental regulation of different casts of men, which was objected to as totally destructive of the hopes of rising in society by personal merit. He shewed that there was a principle in it fufficiently plausible by analogy. “We see (said he) in metals that there are different species; and so likewise in animals, though one species may not differ very widely from another, as in the species of dogs--the cur, the spaniel, the mastiff. The Bramins are the mastiffs of mankind.”
On Thursday, April 12, I dined with him at a Bishop's, where were Sir Joshua Reynolds, Mr. Berrenger, and some more company. He had dined the day before at another Bishop's. I have unfortunately recorded none of his conversation at the Bishop's where we dined together: but I have preserved his ingenious defence of his dining twice abroad in Passion-week; a laxity, in which I am convinced he would not have indulged himself at the time when he wrote his folemn paper in “ The Rambler," upon that aweful feason. It appeared to me, that by being much more in company, and enjoying more in luxurious living, he had contracted a keener relish of pleasure, and was consequently less rigorous in his religious rites. This he would not acknowledge ; but he reasoned, with admirable fophiftry, as follows : “ Why, Sir, a Bishop's calling company together in this week, is, to use the vulgar phrase, not the thing. But you must consider laxity is a bad thing; but preciseness is also a bad thing; and your general character may be more hurt by precisenefs than by dining with a Bishop in Paffion-week. There might be a handle for reflection. It might be said, "He refused to dine with a Bishop in Pallion-week, but was three Sundays absent from church.” Boswell.“ Very true, Sir. But fuppofe a man to be uniformly of good conduct, would it not be better that he should refuse to dine with a Bishop in this week, and fo not encourage a bad practice by his example ?" Johnson. “ Why, Sir, you are to consider whether you might not do more harm by lessening the influence of a Bishop's character by your disapprobation in refusing him, than by going to him.”
To Mrs. Lucy PORTER, in Lichfield.
. I .
“ The spring is now making quick advances. As it is the season in which the whole world is enlivened and invigorated, I hope that both you and I shall partake of its benefits. My desire is to see Lichfield; but being left executor.to my friend, I know not whether I can be spared; but I will try, for it is now long since we saw one another, and how little we can promise ourselves many more interviews, we are taught by hourly examples of mortality. Let us try to live so as that mortality may not be an evil. Write to me soon, my dearest; your letters will give me great pleasure.
“ I am sorry that Mr. Porter has not had his box; but by sending it to Mr. Mathias, who very readily undertook its conveyance, I did the best I could, and perhaps before now he has it.
“ Be so kind as to make my compliments to my friends; I have a great value for their kindness, and hope to enjoy it before summer is past. De write to me. I am, dearest love,
" Your most humble servant, “ London, April 12, 1781,
On Friday, April 13, being Good-Friday, I went to St. Clement’s-church
Mr. Berrenger visited him to-day, and was very pleasing. We talked of
thing whatever ; and depend upon it, Sir, a man does not love to go to a
On Sunday, April 15, being. Eafter-day, after folemn worship in St. Paul's
I told him, that in a company where I had lately been, a desire was expressed to know his authority for the shocking story of Addison's sending an execution into Steele's house. « Sir (said he) it is generally known, it is known to all who are acquainted with the literary history of that period. It is as well known, as that he wrote · Cato.” Mr, Thomas Sheridan once defended Addison to me, by alledging that he did it in order to cover Steele's goods from other creditors, who were going to seize thein..
We talked of the difference between the mode of education at Oxford, and that in the Colleges, where instruction is chiefly conveyed by lectures, Johnson. « Lectures were once useful; but now, when all can read, and books are so numerous, lectures are unnecessary. If your attention fails, and
, of a lecture, it is lost, you cannot go back as you do
upon a book.”
Dr. Scott agreed with him. “ But yet (said I) Dr. Scott, you yourself gave lectures at Oxford.” He smiled. 66 You laughed (then said I) at those who came to you,”
miss a part
Dr. Scott left us, and soon afterwards we went to dinner. Our company consisted of Mrs. Williams, Mrs. Desmoulins, Mr. Levett, Mr. Allen, the printer, and Mrs. Hall, sister of the Reverend Mr. John Wesley, and resembling him, as I thought, both in figure and manner. Johnson produced now, for the first time, some landsome silver salvers, which he told me he had bought fourteen years ago; so it was a great day. I was not a little amused by observing Allen perpetually struggling to talk in the manner of Johnson, like the little frog in the fable, blowing himself up to resemble the stately ox.
I mentioned a kind of religious Robinhood Society, which met every Sunday evening, at Coachmakers’-hall, for free debate; and that the subject for this night was, the text which relates, with other miracles, which happened at our Saviour's death, “ And the graves were opened, and many bodies of the saints which Nept arole, and came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.” Mrs. Hall said it was a very curious fubject, and she should like to hear it discussed. Johnson. (somewhat warmly) “ One would not go to such a place to hear it--one would not be seen in such a place—to give countenance to such a meeting.” I, however, resolved that I would
<< But Sir, (said she to Johnson,) I should like to hear you discuss it.” He seemed reluctant to engage in it. She talked of the resurrection of the human race in general, and maintained that we shall be raised with the fame bodies. Johnson. “Nay, Madam, we see that it is not to be the same body; for the Scripture uses the illustration of grain fown, and we know that the grain which grows is not the same with what is fown. You cannot fuppose that we Thall rise with a diseased body; it is enough if there be such a sameness as to distinguish identity of person.” She seemed desirous of knowing more, but he left the question in obscurity.
Of apparitions, he observed, “ A total disbelief of them is adverse to the opinion of the existence of the soul between death and the last day; the question simply is, whether departed spirits ever have the power of making themselves perceptible to us; a man who thinks he has seen an apparition, can only be convinced himself; his authority will not convince another, and his conviction, if rational, must be founded on being told something which cannot be known but by supernatural means.”
He mentioned a thing as not unfrequent, of which I had never heard before-being called, that is, hearing one's name pronounced by the voice of a known person at a great distance, far beyond the possibility of being reached