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MEETING WITH EDWARDS, AN OLD FELLOW-COLLEGIAN-PRACTICE OF THE LAW-LIFE OF A CLERGYMAN-PHILOSOPHY-WINE-DRINKING-LEAVING A FORTUNE TO A COLLEGETOM TYERS-JOHNSON'S OPINION OF A PROFESSION-THE LAW-SIR WM. SCOTT-DR LELAND-BURKE-GOLDSMITH AND LORD CAMDEN-GARRICK-ON SURVIVING FRIENDSWORK ON AGRICULTURE-MR. DUNCOMBE-PSALMANAZAR-HON. DAINES BARRINGTONTHE PILLORY-JOHNSON'S IRE AGAINST THE AMERICANS-EXTRAVAGANCE OF WEALTH -REVELATION-ENERGY OF JOHNSON'S DICTION-DEMOSTHENES TAYLOR-MBS CHOLMONDELEY-DEFINITION OF A PAMPHLET-A LADY'S VERSES ON IRELANDGOLDSMITH'S COPYRIGHT-JOHNSON'S "HISTORIA STUDIORUM"- EDWARD CAVE
AND now I am to give a pretty full account of one of the most curious incidents in Johnson's life, of which he himself has made the following minute on this day :-"In my return from church I was accosted by Edwards, an old fellow-collegian, who had not seen me since 1729 He knew me, and asked if I remembered one Edwards; I did not at first recollect the name, but gradually, as we walked along, recovered it
and told him a conversation that had passed at an alehouse between us. My purpose is to continue our acquaintance."
It was in Butcher-row that this meeting happened. Mr. Edwards, who was a decent-looking elderly man in grey clothes, and a wig of many curls, accosted Johnson with familiar confidence, knowing who he was, while Johnson returned his salutation with a courteous formality, as to a stranger. But as soon as Edwards had brought to his recollection their having been at Pembroke College together nine-and-forty years ago, he seemed much pleased, asked where he lived, and said he should be glad to see him in Bolt-court. EDWARDS: "Ah, Sir! we are old men now." JOHNSON (who never liked to think of being old): "Don't let us discourage one another." EDWARDS: "Why, Doctor, you look stout and hearty, I am happy to see you so; for the newspapers told us you were very ill." JOHNSON: "Ah, Sir, they are always telling lies of us old fellows."
Wishing to be present at more of so singular a conversation as that between two fellow-collegians, who had lived forty years in London without ever having chanced to meet, I whispered to Mr. Edwards that Dr. Johnson was going home, and that he had better accompany him now. So Edwards walked along with us, I eagerly assisting to keep up the conversation. Mr. Edwards informed Dr. Johnson that he had practised long as a solicitor in Chancery, but that he now lived in the country upon a little farm, about sixty acres, just by Stevenage in Hertfordshire. and that he came to London, (to Barnard's Inn, No. 6) generally twice a week. Johnson appearing to me in a reverie, Mr. Edwards addressed himself to me, and expatiated on the pleasure of living in the country. BOSWELL: “I have no notion of this, Sir. What you have to entertain you, is, I think, exhausted in half an hour." EDWARDS: 66 What! don't you love to have hope realised? I see my grass, and my corn, and my trees growing. Now, for instance, I am curious to see if this frost has not nipped my fruit trees." JOHNSON (who we did not imagine was attending): "You find, Sir, you have fears as well as hopes." So well. did he see the whole, when another saw but the half of a subject.
When we got to Dr. Johnson's house, and were seated in his library, the dialogue went on admirably. EDWARDS: "Sir, I remember you would not let us say prodigious at College. For even then, Sir (turning to me), he was delicate in language, and we all feared him.2 JOHNSON (to Edwards): "From your having practised the law long, Sir, I presume you must be rich." EDWARDS: "No, Sir, I got a good deal of money; but I had a number of poor relations to whom I gave great part of it." JOHNSON: "Sir, you have been rich in the most valuable
1 "Prayers and Meditations," p. 164.-BoswELL.
2 Johnson said to me afterwards, "Sir, they respected me for literature; and yet it was not great but by comparison. Sir, it is amazing how little literature there is in the world."BOSWELL.
sense of the word." EDWARDS: "But I shall not die rich." JOHNSON : "Nay, sure, Sir, it is better to live rich, than to die rich." EDWARDS: "I wish I had continued at College." JOHNSON : Why do you wish that, Sir?" EDWARDS: "Because I think I should have had a much easier life than mine has been. I should have been a parson, and had a good living, like Bloxham and several others, and lived comfortably." JOHNSON: "Sir, the life of a parson, of a conscientious clergyman, is not easy. I have always considered a clergyman as the father of a larger family than he is able to maintain. I would rather have Chancery suits upon my hands than the cure of souls. No, Sir, I do not envy a clergyman's life as an easy life, nor do I envy the clergyınan who makes it an easy life." Here taking himself up all of a sudden, he exclaimed, “Oh, Mr. Edwards! I'll convince you that I recollect you. Do you remember our drinking together at an alehouse near Pembroke-gate? At that time you told me of the Eton boy, who, when verses on our SAVIOUR'S turning water into wine were prescribed as an exercise, brought up a single line, which was highly admired :--
'Vidit et erubuit lympha pudica DEUM.' 1
And I told you of another fine line in 'Camden's Remains,' an eulogy upon one of our kings, who was succeeded by his son, a prince of equal merit :
'Mira cano, Sol occubuit, nox nulla secuta est.''
EDWARDS: "You are a philosopher, Dr. Johnson. I have tried too in my time to be a philosopher; but I don't know how, cheerfulness was always breaking in."-Mr. Burke, Sir Joshua Reynolds, Mr. Courtenay, Mr. Malone, and, indeed, all the eminent men to whom I have mentioned this, have thought it an excellent trait of character. The truth is, that philosophy, like religion, is too generally supposed to be hard and severe, at least so grave as to exclude all gaiety.
EDWARDS: "I have been twice married, Doctor. You, I suppose, have never known what it was to have a wife." JOHNSON: "Sir, I have know what it was to have a wife, and (in a solemn, tender, faltering
This line has frequently been attributed to Dryden, when a King's Scholar at Westminster. But neither Eton nor Westminster have in truth any claim to it, the line being borrowed, with a slight change (as Mr. Bindley has observed to me), from an Epigram by Crashaw, which was published in his EPIGRAMMATA SACRA, first printed at Cambridge without the author's name, in 1634, 8vo.-The original is much more elegant than the copy, the water being personified, and the word on which the point of the Epigram turns being reserved to the close of the line:
"JOANN. 2.-Aquæ in vinum versæ.
Nympha pudica DEUM vidit, et erubuit."-MALONE
tone) I have known what it was to lose a wife.-I had almost broke my heart."
EDWARDS: "How do you live, Sir? For my part I must have my regular meals, and a glass of good wine. I find I require it." JOHNSON: "I now drink no wine, Sir. Early in life I drank wine: for many years I drank none. I then for some years drank a great deal." EDWARDS: 66 Some hogsheads, I warrant you." JOHNSON: "I then had a severe illness, and left it off, and I have never begun it again. I never felt any difference upon myself from eating one thing rather than another. There are people, I believe, who feel a difference; but I am not one of them. And as to regular meals, I have fasted from the Sunday's dinner to the Tuesday's dinner without any inconvenience. I believe it is best to eat just as one is hungry: but a man who is in business, or a man who has a family, must have stated meals. I am a straggler. I may leave this town and go to Grand Cairo, without being missed here or observed there." EDWARDS: "Don't you eat supper, Sir?" JOHNSON: "No, Sir." EDWARDS: "For my part, now, I consider supper as a turnpike through which one must pass, in order to get to bed."
JOHNSON: "You are a lawyer, Mr. Edwards. Lawyers know life practically. A bookish man should always have them to converse with. They have what he wants." EDWARDS: "I am grown old: I am sixty-five." JOHNSON: "I shall be sixty-eight next birthday. Come Sir, drink water, and put in for a hundred."
Mr. Edwards mentioned a gentleman who had left his whole fortune to Pembroke College. JOHNSON: "Whether to leave one's whole fortune to a college be right, must depend upon circumstances. I would leave the interest of a fortune I bequeathed to a college to my relations or my friends for their lives. It is the same thing to a college, which is a permanent society, whether it gets the money now or twenty years hence; and I would wish to make my relations or friends feel the benefit of it."
This interview confirmed my opinion of Johnson's most humane and benevolent heart. His cordial and placid behaviour to an old fellowcollegian, a man so different from himself, and his telling him that he would go down to his farm and visit him, showed a kindness of disposition very rare at an advanced age. He observed, "How wonderful it was that they had both been in London forty years, without having ever once met, and both walkers in the street too!" Mr. Edwards, when going away, again recurred to his consciousness of senility, and looking full in Johnson's face, said to him, “You 'll find in Dr. Young,
'O my coevals! remnants of yourselves.""
1 I am not absolutely sure but this was my own suggestion, though it is truly in the character of Edwards.-- BOSWELL
Johnson did not relish this at all; but shook his head with impatience. Edwards walked off seemingly highly pleased with the honour of having been thus noticed by Dr. Johnson. When he was gone I said to Johnson, I thought him but a weak man. JOHNSON: "Why, yes, Sir. Here is a man who has passed through life without experience: yet I would rather have him with me than a more sensible man who will not talk readily. This man is always willing to say what he has to say." Yet Dr. Johnson had himself by no means that willingness which he praised so much, and I think so justly; for who has not felt the painful effect of the dreary void, when there is a total silence in a company, for any length of time; or, which is as bad, or perhaps worse, when the conversation is with difficulty kept up by a perpetual effort?
Johnson once observed to me, "Tom Tyers described me the best: 'Sir,' said he, 'you are like a ghost: you never speak till you are spoken to."
The gentleman whom he thus familiarly mentioned, was Mr. Thomas Tyers, son of Mr. Jonathan Tyers, the founder of that excellent place of public amusement, Vauxhall Gardens, which must ever be an estate to its proprietor, as it is peculiarly adapted to the taste of the English nation; there being a mixture of curious show-gay exhibition-music, vocal and instrumental, not too refined for the general ear; for all which only a shilling is paid; and, though last not least, good eating and drinking for those who choose to purchase that regale. Mr. Thomas Tyers was bred to the law; but having a handsome fortune, vivacity of temper, and eccentricity of mind, he could not confine himself to the regularity of practice. He therefore ran about the world with a pleasant carelessness, amusing everybody by his desultory conversation. He abounded in anecdote, but was not sufficiently attentive to accuracy. I therefore cannot venture to avail myself much of a biographical sketch of Johnson which he published, being one among the various persons ambitious of appending their names to that illustrious friend. That sketch is, however, an entertaining little collection of fragments. Those which he published of Pope and Addison are of higher merit; but his fame must chiefly rest upon his "Political Conferences," in which he introduces several eminent persons delivering their sentiments in the way of dialogue, and discovers a considerable share of learning, various knowledge, and discernment of character. This much may I be allowed to say of a man who was exceedingly obliging to me, and who lived with Dr. Johnson in as easy a manner as almost any of his very numerous acquaintance.
1 In summer 1792, additional and more expensive decorations having been introduced, the price of admission was raised to 2s. I cannot approve of this. The company may be more select; but a number of the honest commonalty are, I fear, excluded from sharing in elegant and innocent entertainment. An attempt to abolish the shilling gallery at the playhouse has been very properly counteracted.-BOSWELL.