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literature on the stage. Being informed of this design, Johnson sent word to Foote, “ That the theatre being intended for the reformation of vice, he would step from the boxes on the stage, and correct him before the audience.” Foote knew the intrepidity of his antagonist, and abandoned the design. No ill-will ensued. Johnson used to say, “ That, for broad-faced mirth, Foote had not his equal."
Dr. Johnson's fame excited the curiosity of the King. His Majesty expressed a desire to see a man of whom extraordinary things were said. Accordingly, the librarian at Buckingham-house invited Johnson to see that elegant collection of books, at the same time giving a hint of what was intended. His Majesty entered the room ; and, among other things, asked the author, “ If he meant to give the world any more of his compositions ?” Johnson answered, “ That he thought he had written enough.” 66 And I should think so too,” replied his Majesty, “ if you had not written so well.”
Though Johnson thought he had written
enough, his genius, even in spite of bodily sluggishness, could not lie still. In 1770 we find him entering the lists as a political writer. The flame of discord that blazed throughout the nation on the expulsion of Mr. Wilkes, and the final determination of the House of Commons, that Mr. Luttrell was duly elected by 206 votes against 1143, spread a general spirit of discontent. To allay the tumult, Dr. Johnson published The False Alarm. Mrs. Piozzi informs us,
66 That this pamphlet was written at her house, between eight o'clock on Wednesday night and twelve on Thursday night.” This celerity has appeared wonderful to many, and some have doubted the truth. It may, however, be placed within the bounds of probability. Johnson has observed that there are different methods of composition. Virgil was used to pour out a great number of verses in the morning, and pass the day in retrenching the exuberances, and correcting inaccuracies ; and it was Pope's custom to write his first thoughts in his first words, and gradually to amplify, decorate, rectify, and refine them. Others employ at once memory and invention, and, with little intermediate use of the
pen, form and polish large masses by continued meditation, and write their productions only, when, in their opinion, they have completed them. This last was Johnson's method. He never took his pen in hand till he had well weighed his subject, and grasped in his mind the sentiments, the train of argument, and the arrangement of the whole. As he often thought aloud, he had, perhaps, talked it over to himself. This
may account for that rapidity with which, in general, he despatched his sheets to the press, without being at the trouble of a fair copy. Whatever may be the logic or eloquence of The False Alarm, the House of Commons have since erased the resolution from the Journals. But whether they have not left materials for a future controversy may be made a question.
In 1771 he published another tract, on the subject of Falkland Islands. The design was to show the impropriety of going to war with Spain for an island thrown aside from human use, stormy in winter, and barren in summer.
For this work it is apparent that materials were furnished by direction of the minister.
At the approach of the general election in 1774, he wrote a short discourse, called The Patriot, not with any visible application to Mr. Wilkes; but to teach the people to reject the leaders of opposition, who called themselves patriots. In 1775 he undertook a pamphlet of more importance, namely, Taxation no Tyranny, in answer to the Resolutions and Address of the American Congress.
of the argument was, that distant colonies, which had in their assemblies a legislature of their own, were, notwithstanding, liable to be taxed in a British Parliament, where they had neither peers in one house, nor representatives in the other. He was of opinion, that this country was strong enough to enforce obedience. “ When an Englishman," he says, “ is told that the Americans shoot up like the hydra, he naturally considers how the hydra was destroyed.” The event has shown how much he and the minister of that day were mistaken.
The Account of the Tour to the Western Islands of Scotland, which as undertaken in the autumn of 1773, in company with Mr. Boswell, was not published till sometime in the year 1775. This book has been variously received; by some extolled for the elegance of the narrative, and the depth of observation on life and manners ; by others, as much condemned, as a work of avowed hostility to the Scotch nation. The praise was, beyond all question, fairly deserved; and the censure, on due examination, will appear hasty and ill-founded. That Johnson entertained some prejudices against the Scotch must not be dissembled. It is true, as Mr. Boswell says, “ that he thought their success in England exceeded their
proportion of real merit, and he could not but see in them that nationality which no liberalminded Scotsman will deny.” The author of these memoirs well remembers, that Johnson one day asked him, “ Have you observed the difference between your own country impudence and Scottish impudence ?” The answer being in the negative: “ Then I will tell you,” said Johnson.
“ The impudence