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his own intolerant and overbearing spirit he apologized by observing, that it had done some good; obscenity and impiety were repressed in his company.
It was late in life before he had the habit of mixing, otherwise than occasionally, with polite company. At Mr. Thrale’s he saw a constant succession of well-accomplished visitors. In that society he began to wear off the rugged points of his own character. He saw the advantages of mutual civility, and endeavoured to profit by the models before him. He aimed at what has been called by Swift the lesser morals, and by Cicero minores virtutes. His endeavour, though new and late, gave pleasure to all his acquaintance. Men were glad to see that he was willing to be communicative on equal terms and reciprocal complacence. The time was then expected when he was to cease being what George Garrick, brother to the celebrated actor, called him the first time he heard him converse, “ A tremendous companion.” He certainly wished to be polite, and even thought himself so ; but his civility still retained something uncouth and harsh. His manners took a milder tone, but the endeavour was too palpably seen. He laboured even in trifles. He was a giant gaining a purchase to lift a feather.
It is observed by the younger Pliny, that in the confines of virtue and great qualities there are generally vices of an opposite nature, In Dr. Johnson not one ingredient can take the name of vice. From his attainments in literature grew the pride of knowledge ; and from his powers of reasoning, the love of disputation and the vain-glory of superior vigour. His piety, in some instances, bordered on superstition. He was willing to believe in preternatural agency, and thought it not more strange that there should be evil spirits than evil men. Even the question about second sight held him in suspense. “ Second sight,” Mr. Pennant tells us, “ is a power of seeing images impressed on the organs of sight by the power of fancy, or on the fancy by the disordered spirits operating on the mind. It is the faculty of seeing spectres or visions, which represent an event actually passing at a distance, or likely to happen at a future day. In 1771, a gentleman, the
last who was supposed to be possessed of this faculty, had a boat at sea in a tempestuous night, and, being anxious for his freight, suddenly started up, and said his men would be drowned, for he had seen them pass before him with wet garments and dropping locks. The event corresponded with his disordered fancy. And thus (continues Mr.Pennant) a distempered imagination, clouded with anxiety, may make an impression on the spirits; as persons, restless and troubled with indignation, see various forms and figures while they lie awake in bed.” This is what Dr. Johnson was not willing to reject. He wished for some positive proof of communications with another world. His benevolence embraced the whole race of man, and yet was tinctured with particular prejudices. He was pleased with the minister in the Isle of Sky, and loved him so much that he began to wish him not a Presbyterian. To that body of dissenters his zeal for the established church made him in some degree an adversary; and his attachment to a mixed and limited monarchy led him to declare open war against what he called a sullen republican. He would rather praise a man of Oxford than of Cambridge. He disliked a Whig, and loved a Tory. These were the shades of his character, which it has been the business of certain party-writers to represent in the darkest colours.
Since virtue, or moral goodness, consists in a just conformity of our actions to the relations in which we stand to the Supreme Being and to our fellow-creatures, where shall we find a man who has been, or endeavoured to be, more diligent in the discharge of those essential duties? His first prayer was cómposed in 1738; he continued those fervent ejaculations of piety to the end of his life. In his meditations we see him scrutinizing himself with severity, and aiming at perfection unattainable by man. His duty to his neighbour consisted in universal benevolence, and a constant aim at the production of happiness. Who was more sincere and steady in his friendships ? It has been said that there was no real affection between him and Garrick. On the part of the latter, there might be some corrosions of jealousy. The character of Prospero, in the Rambler, No. 200, was, beyond all question, occasioned by Garrick's ostentatious display of furniture and Dresden
china. It was surely fair to take from this incident a hint for a moral essay; and, though no more was intended, Garrick, we are told, remembered it with uneasiness. He was also hurt that his Lichfield friend did not think so highly of his dramatic art as the rest of the world. The fact was, Johnson could not see the passions as they rose and chased one another in the varied features of that expressive face; and by his own manner of reciting verses, which was wonderfully impressive, he plainly showed that he thought there was too much of artificial tone and measured cadence in the declamation of the theatre. The present writer well remembers being in conversation with Dr. Johnson near the side of the scenes during the tragedy of King Lear : when Garrick came off the stage, he said, - You two talk so loud you destroy all my feelings.” “Prithee,” replied Johnson, “ do not talk of feelings; Punch has no feelings.” This seems to have been his settled opinion : admirable as Garrick's imitation of nature always was, Johnson thought it no better than mere mimickry. Yet it is certain that he esteemed and loved Garrick; that he dwelt with pleasure on his praise ; and used