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That his curiosity, however, was unabated, appears from two letters to Mr. John Nichols, of the roth and 20th of October this year. In one he says, “ I have looked into your Anecdotes, and you will hardly thank a lover of literary history for telling you, that he has been much informed and gratified. I wish you would add your own discoveries and intelligence to those of Dr. Rawlinson, and undertake the Supplement to Wood. Think of it.” In the other, “ I wish, Sir, you could obtain some fuller information of Jortin, Markland, and Thirlby. They were three contemporaries of great eminence.”
To Sir JOSHUA REYNOLDS. « DEAR Sir,
“ I HEARD yesterday of your late disorder, and should think ill of myself if I had heard of it without alarm. I heard likewise of
1 heard likewise of your recovery, which I sincerely wish to be complete and permanent. Your country has been in danger of losing one of its brightest ornaments, and I of losing one of my oldest and kindest friends : but I hope you will still live long, for the honour of the nation; and that more enjoyment of your elegance, your intelligence, and your benevolence, is still reserved for, dear Sir,
«s Your most affectionate, &c. Brighthelmston, Nov. 14, 1782.
“ SAM. JOHNSON."
The Reverend Mr. Wilson having dedicated to him his “ Archeological Dictionary,” that mark of respect was thus acknowledged.
To the Reverend Mr. Wilson, Clitheroe, Lancashire. « REVEREND SIR,
« THAT I have long omitted to return you thanks for the honour conferred upon me by your Dedication, I intreat you with great earnestness not to consider as more faulty than it is. A very importunate and oppressive disorder has for some time debarred me from the pleasures, and obstructed me, in the duties of life. The esteem and kindness of wise and good men is one of the last pleasures which I can be content to lose; and gratitude to those from whom this pleasure is received, is a duty of which I hope never to be reproached with the final neglect. I therefore now return you thanks for the notice which I have received from you; and which I consider as giving to my ame not only more bulk, but more weight; not only as extending its 3
superficies, but as increasing its value. Your book was evidently wanted, and 1782.
accept of a copy to keep me
SAM. JOHNson.” In 1783 he was more severely afficted than ever, as will appear in the 1783. course of his correspondence; but still the same ardour for literature, the fame constant piety, the same kindness for his friends, and the fame vivacity, both in conversation and writing, distinguished him.
Having given Dr. Johnson a full account of what I was doing at Auchinleck, and particularly mentioned what I knew would please him—my having brought an old man of eighty-eight from a lonely cottage to a comfortable habitation within my enclosures, where he had good neighbours near to him, I received an answer in February, of which I extract what follows:
“ I am delighted with your account of your activity at Auchinleck, and wish the old gentleman, whom you have so kindly removed, may live long to promote your prosperity by his prayers. You have now a new character and new duties; think on them, and practise them.
“ Make an impartial estimate of your revenue, and whatever it is, live upon less. Resolve never to be poor. Frugality is not only the basis of quiet, but of beneficence. No man can help others that wants help himself; we must have enough before we have to spare.
“ I am glad to find that Mrs. Boswell grows well; and hope that to keep her well, no care nor caution will be omitted. May you long live happily together.
« When you come hither, pray bring with you Baxter's Anacreon. I cannot get that edition in London.”
On Friday, March 21, having arrived in London the night before, I was glad to find him at Mrs. Thrale's house, in Argyll-street, appearances of friendship between them being still kept up. I was shewn into his room, and after the first falutation he said, “ I am glad you are come.
I am very
ill.” He looked pale, and was distressed with a difficulty of breathing. But he soon assumed his usual strong animated style of conversation. Seeing me now for the first time as a Laird, or proprietor of land, he began, “Sir, the
« superiority of a country-gentleman over the people upon his estate is very agreeable ; and he who says he does not feel it to be agreeable, lies: for it must be agreeable to have a casual superiority over those who are by nature equal with us.” Boswell. “ Yet, Sir, we see great proprietors of land who prefer living in London.” Johnson. “ Why, Sir, the pleasure of living in London, the intellectual superiority that is enjoyed there, may counterbalance the other. Besides, Sir, a man may prefer the state of the country-gentleman upon the whole, and yet there may never be a moment when he is willing to make the change to quit London for it.” He said, “ It is better to have five per cent. out of land than out of money, because it is more secure; but the readiness of transference, and promptness of interest, make many people rather.choose the funds. Nay, there is another disadvantage belonging to land, compared with money. A man is not so much afraid of being a hard creditor as of being a hard landlord.” Boswell. “ Because there is a sort of kindly connection between a landlord and his tenants. Johnson. “ No, Sir; many landlords with us never see their tenants. It is because if a landlord drives away his tenants, he may not get others; whereas the demand for money is so great, it may always be lent."
He talked with regret and indignation of the factious opposition to Government at this time, and imputed it, în a great measure, to the Revolution. « Sir, (said he, in a low voice, having come nearer to me, while his old prejudices seemed to be fermenting in his mind,) this Hanoverian family is isolée here. They have no friends. Now the Stuarts had friends who stuck by them so late as 1745. When the right of the King is not reverenced, there will not be reverence for those appointed by the King.”
His observation that the present royal family has no friends, has been too much justified by the very ungrateful behaviour of many who were under great obligations to his Majesty; at the same time there are honourable exceptions; and the very next year after this conversation, and ever since,
; the King has had as extensive and generous support as ever was given to any monarch, and has had the satisfaction of knowing that he was more and more endeared to his people.
He repeated to me his verses on Mr. Levett, with an emotion which gave them full effect; and then he was pleased to say, “ You must be as much
with me as you can. You have done me good. You cannot think how
He sent a message to acquaint Mrs. Thrale that I was arrived. I had not
Talking of conversation, he said, “ There must, in the first place, be knowledge, there must be materials ;-in the second place, there must be a command of words ;- in the third place, there must be imagination, to place things in such views as they are not commonly seen in ;~and in the fourth place, there must be presence of mind, and a resolution that is not to be overcome by failures; this laft is an essential requisite; for want of it many people do not excel in conversation. Now I want it, I throw up the game upon losing a trick.” I wondered to hear him talk thus of himself, and said, “ I don't know, Sir, how this may be, but I am sure you beat other people's cards out of their hands.” I doubt whether he heard this remark. While he went on talking triumphantly, I was fixed in admiration, and said to Mrs. Thrale, “ O, for short-hand to take this down." You'll carry it all in your head, (faid she;) a long head is as good as short-hand." ;
It has been observed and wondered at, that Mr. Charles Fox never talked with any freedom in the presence of Dr. Johnson, though it is well known, and I myself can witness, that his conversation is various, fuent, and exceedingly agreeable. Johnson's experience, however, founded him in going on thus : “ Fox never talks in private company, not from any determination not to talk, but because he has not the first motion. A man who is used to the applause of the House of Commons, has no wish for that of a private company. A man accustomed to throw for a thousand pounds, if fet down to throw for sixpence, would not be at the pains to count his dice. Burke's talk is the ebullition of his mind; he does not talk from a desire of distinction,
He thus curiously characterised one of our old acquaintance : « ********
1723 tells lies of vanity; of victories, for instance, in conversation which never rata 74. happened.” This alluded to a story which I had repeated from that gentleman,
to entertain Johnson with its wild bravado: “ This Johnson, Sir, (faid he,) whom you are all afraid of, will shrink if you come close to him in argument, and rear as loud as he. He once maintained the paradox, that there is no beauty but in utility. "Sir, (faid 1,) what say you to the peacock's tail, which is one of the most beautiful objects in nature, but would have as much utility if its feathers were all of one colour.' He felt what I thus produced, and had recourse to his usual expedient, ridicule; exclaiming, “A peacock has a tail, and a fox has a tail;' and then he burst out into a laugh. Well, Sir, (faid I, with a strong voice, looking him full in the face) you have unkennelled your fox; pursue him if you dare.' He had not a word to say, Sir.” Johnson told me that this was a fiction from beginning to end. '.
After musing for some time, he said, “ I wonder how I should have any enemies; for I do harm to nobody 2.” Boswell. “In the first place, Sir, you will be pleased to recollect, that you set out with attacking the Scotch; so you got a whole nation for your enemies." JOHNSON. “
Why I own, that by my definition of oats I meant to vex them.” Boswell.
Boswell. “ Pray, Sir, can you trace the cause of your antipathy to the Scotch.” Johnson. “ I can not, Sir.” Boswell. “Old Mr. Sheridan says, it was because they sold Charles the First.” Johnson. “ Then, Sir, old Mr. Sheridan has found out a very good reason.”
Surely the most obstinate and sulky nationality, the most determined aversion to this great and good man, must be cured, when he is seen thus playing with one of his prejudices, of which he candidly admitted that he
Were I to insert all the stories which have been told of contests boldly maintained with him, imaginary victories obtained over him, of reducing him to filence, and of making him own that his antagonists had the better of him in argument, my volumes would swell to an immoderate fize. One instance, I find, has circulated both in conversation and in print; that when he would not allow the Scotch writers to have merit, the late Dr. Rose, of Chiswick, asserted, that he could name one Scotch writer, who Dr. Johnson himself would allow to have written better than any man of the age; and upon Johnson's asking who it was, answered, “ Lord Bute, when he signed the warrant for your penfion.” Upon which Johnson, ftruck with the repartee, acknowledged that this was true. When I mentioned it to Johnson, “ Sir, (faid he,) if Rose said this, I never heard it."
2 This refcction was very natural in a man of a good heart, who was not conscious of any ill-will to mankind, though the sharp sayings which were sometimes produced by his discrimination and vivacity, and which he perhaps did not recollect, were, I am afraid, too often remembered
, with resentment,