Imagens das páginas

Atat. 75

1784. (added he) for ten pounds, have seemed so retrograde to any general


« He would sometimes found his dinikes on very Nender circumstances. Happening one day to mention Mr. Flexman, a Diffenting minister, with some compliment to his exact memory in chronological matters ; the Doctor replied, “Let me hear no more of him, Sir. That is the fellow who made the Index to my Ramblers, and set down the name of Milton thus:Milton, Mr. John."

Mr. Steevens adds this testimony, “ It is unfortunate however for Johnson, that his particularities and frailties can be more distinctly traced than his good and amiable exertions. Could the many bounties he studiously concealed, the many acts of humanity he performed in private, be displayed with equal circumstantiality, his defects would be so far lost in the blaze of his virtues, that the latter only would be regarded."

Though from my very great admiration of Johnson, I have wondered that he was not courted by all the great and all the eminent persons of his time, it ought fairly to be considered, that no man of humble birth, who lived entirely by literature, in short no authour by profesion, ever rose in this country, into that personal notice which he did. In the course of this work a numerous variety of names have been mentioned, to which many might be added. I cannot omit Lord and Lady Lucan, at whose house he often enjoyed all that an elegant table, and the best company can contribute to happiness; he found hospitality united with extraordinary accomplishments, and embellished with charms of which no man could be insensible.

On Tuesday, June 22, I dined with him at The Literary CLUB, the last time of his being in that respectable society. The other members present were the Bishop of St. Afaph, Lord Eliot, Lord Palmerston, Dr. Fordyce, and Mr. Malone. He looked ill; but had such a manly fortitude, that he did not trouble the company with melancholy complaints. They all shewed evident marks of kind concern about him, with which he was mych pleased, and he exerted himself to be as entertaining as his indisposition allowed him.

The anxiety of his friends to preserve so estimable a life, as long as human means might be supposed to have influence, made them plan for him a retreat from the severity of a British winter, to the mild climate of Italy. This scheme was at last brought to a serious resolution at General Paoli's, where I had often talked of it. One essential matter, however, I understood was necessary to be previously settled, which was obtaining such an addition to his income, as would be sufficient to enable him to defray the expence in


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a manner becoming the first literary character of a great nation, and, inde

pendent of all his other merits, the Authour of The DictionARY OF THE Atat. 75.
ENGLISH LANGUAGE. The person to whom I above all others thought I
should apply to negotiate this business, was the Lord Chancellor', because I
knew that he highly valued Johnson, and that Johnson highly valued his
Lordship; so that it was no degradation of my illustrious friend to folicit for
him the favour of such a man. I have mentioned what Johnson said of him
to me when he was at the bar'; and after his Lordship was advanced to the
feals, he said of him, “ I would prepare myself for no man in England but
Lord Thurlow, When I am to meet with him I should wish to know a day
before.” How he would have prepared himself I cannot conjecture. Would
he have selected certain topicks, and considered them in every view fo as to
be in readiness to argue them at all points ? and what may we suppose those
topicks to have been? I once started the curious enquiry to the great
man who was the subject of this compliment: he smiled, but did not
pursue it.

I first consulted with Sir Joshua Reynolds, who perfectly coincided in
opinion with me; and I therefore, though personally very little known to his
Lordship, wrote to him’, stating the case, and requesting his good offices for
Dr. Johnson. I mentioned that I was obliged to set out for Scotland early
in the week after, so that if his Lordship should have any commands for me
as to this pious negociation, he would be pleased to send them before that
time; otherwise Sir Joshua Reynolds would give all attention to it.
This application was made not only without any suggestion on the part

Johnson himself, but was utterly unknown to him, nor had he the smallest
suspicion of it. Any insinuations, therefore, which since his death have been
thrown out, as if he had stooped to ask what was superfluous, are without
any foundation. But, had he asked it, it would not have been superfluous;
for though the money he had saved proved to be more than his friends
imagined, or than I believe he himself, in his carelessness concerning worldly
matters, knew it to be, had he travelled upon the Continent, an augmenta-
tion of his income would by no means have been unnecessary.


9 Edward Lord Thurlow.

Page 441 of this Volume,
? It is strange that Sir John Hawkins Mould have related that the application was made by Sir
Joshua Reynolds, when he could so easily have been informed of the truth by inquiring of Sir
Joshua. Sir John's carelessness to ascertain facts is very remarkable,



1784. On Wednesday, June 23, I visited him in the forenoon, after having beers Ætat. 75. present at the shocking sight of fifteen men executed before Newgate. I said

to him, I was sure that human life was not machinery, that is to say, a chain of fatality planned and directed by the Supreme Being, as it had in it so much wickedness and misery, so many instances of both, as that by which my mind was now clouded. Were it machinery it would be better than it is in these respects, though less noble, as not being a system of moral government. He agreed with me now, as he always did, upon the great question of the liberty of the human will, which has been in all ages perplexed with so much sophistry. But, Sir, as to the doctrine of Necessity, no man believes it. If a man should give me arguments that I do not see, though I could not answer them, should I believe that I do not see?” It will be observed, that Johnson at all times made the just distinction between doctrines contrary to reason, and doctrines above reasona

Talking of the religious discipline proper for unhappy convicts, he faid, « Sir, one of our regular clergy will probably not impress their minds sufficiently: they should be attended by a Methodist preacher, or a Popish priest.” Let me however observe, in justice to the Reverend Mr. Vilette, who has been Ordinary of Newgate for no less than seventeen years, in the course of which he has attended many hundreds of wretched criminals, that his earnest and humane exhortations have been very effectual. His extraordinary diligence is highly praise-worthy, and merits a distinguished reward.

On Thursday, June 24, I dined with him at Mr. Dilly's, where were the Reverend Mr. Knox, master of Tunbridge-school, Mr. Smith, Vicar of Southill, Dr. Beattie, Mr. Pinkerton, authour of various literary performances, and the Reverend Dr. Mayo. At my desire old Mr. Sheridan was invited, as I was earnest to have Johnson and him brought together again by chance, that a reconciliation might be effected. Mr. Sheridan happened to come early, and having learnt that Dr. Johnson was to be there, went away; so I found, with sincere regret, that my friendly intentions were hopeless. I recollect nothing that passed this day, except Johnson's quickness, who, when Dr. Beattie observed, as something remarkable which had happened to him, that he had chanced to see both No. 1, and No. 1,000, of the hackney-coaches, the first and the last; “Why, Sir, (said he,) there is an equal chance for one's seeing those two numbers as any other two." He was clearly right; yet the seeing of the two extremes, each of which is in some degree more conspicuous than the rest, could not but strike one in a stronger manner than the light of any other two numbers. Though I have neglected to preserve

his 1784.

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Ætat. 75

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his conversation, it was perhaps at this interview that Mr. Knox formed the
notion of it which he has exhibited in his “ Winter Evenings.”

On Friday, June 25, I dined with him at General Paoli's, where he says,
in one of his letters to Mrs. Thrale, “I love to dine.” There were a variety
of dishes much to his taste, of all which he seemed to me to eat so much,
that I was afraid he might be hurt by it; and I whispered to the General
my fear, and begged he might not press him. “ Alas! (faid the General,)
see how very ill he looks ; he can live but a very short time. Would you
refuse any night gratifications to a man under sentence of death? There is
a humane custom in Italy, by which persons in that melancholy situation are
indulged with having whatever they like best to eat and drink, even with
expensive delicacies.'

I shewed him some verses on Lichfield by Miss Seward, which I had that day received from her, and had the pleasure to hear him approve of them. He confirmed to me the truth of a high compliment which I had been told he had paid to that lady, when the mentioned to himn « The Colombiade,” an epick poem, by Madame du Boccage :-" Madam, there is not in it any thing equal to your description of the sea round the North Pole, in your Ode on the death of Captain Cook.”

On Sunday, June 27, I found him rather better. I mentioned to him a
young man who was going to Jamaica with his wife and children, in expecta-
tion of being provided for by two of her brothers settled in that island, one
a clergyman and the other a physician. Johnson. “ It is a wild fcheme,
Sir, unless he has a positive and deliberate invitation. There was a poor
girl, who used to come about me, who had a cousin in Barbadoes, that, in a
letter to her, expressed a wish she would come out to that island, and expa-
ciated on the comforts and happiness of her situation. The poor girl went
out: her cousin was much surprized, and asked her how she could think of
coming. · Because (said she) you invited me.'-'Not l'(answered the
cousin). The letter then was produced. "I see it is true, (said she,) that I
did invite you; but I did not think you would come.' They lodged her in
an out-house, where she passed her time miserably; and as soon as she had an
opportunity she returned to England. Always tell this, when you hear of
people going abroad to relations, upon a notion of being well received. In
the case which you mention, it is probable the clergyman spends all he gets,
and the physician does not know how much he is to get.”

We this day dined at Sir Joshua Reynolds's, with General Paoli, Lord
Eliot, (formerly Mr. Eliot, of Port Eliot,) Dr. Beattie, and some more

Xxx 2




Ætat. 75.

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company. Talking of Lord Chesterfield ;-Johnson. “His manner was
exquisitely elegant, and he had more knowledge than I expected.” Boswell.
“ Did you find, Sir, his conversation to be of a superiour style.” Johnson.
“Sir, in the conversation which I had with him I had the best right to
superiority, for it was upon philology and literature.” Lord Eliot, who had
travelled at the same time with Mr. Stanhope, Lord Chesterfield's natural
fon, justly observed, that it was strange that a man who shewed he had so
much affection for his son as Lord Chesterfield did, by writing so many long
and anxious letters to him, almost all of them when he was Secretary of
State, which certainly was a proof of great goodness of disposition, should
endeavour to make his fon a rascal. His Lordship told us, that Foote had
intended to bring on the stage a father who had thus tutored his son, and to
shew the fun an honest man to every thing else, but practising his father's
maxims upon him, and cheating him. JOHNSON. “ I am much pleased with
this design; but I think there was no occasion to make the son honest at
all. No; he should be a confummate rogue: the contrast between honesty
and knavery would be the stronger.. It should be contrived so that the
father should be the only sufferer by the fon's villainy, and thus there would
be poetical justice."

He put Lord Eliot in mind of Dr. Walter Harte. « I know (said he)
Harte was your Lordship’s tutor, and he was also tutor to the Peterborough
family. Pray, my Lord, do you recollect any particulars that he told you
of Lord Peterborough? He is a favourite of mine, and is not enough
known: his character has been only ventilated in party pamphlets.” Lord
Eliot said, if Dr. Johnson would be so good as to af him any questions,
he would tell what he could recollect. Accordingly some things were men-
tioned. “ But (said his Lordship) the best account of Lord Peterborough
that I have happened to meet with, is, “Captain Carleton's Memoirs.?
Carlecon was descended of an ancestor who had distinguished himself at the
siege of Derry. He was an officer; and, what was rare at that time, had
some knowledge of engineering.” Johnson faid, he had never heard of the
book. Lord Eliot had it at Port Eliot; but, after a good deal of enquiry,
procured a copy in London, and sent it to Johnson, who told Sir Joshua
Reynolds that he was going to bed when it came, but was so much pleased
with it, that he fate up till he had read it through, and found in it such an
air of truth, that he could not doubt of its authenticity; adding, with a smile
(in allusion to Lord Elior’s having recently been raised to the peerage,) “I

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