« PreviousContinue »
sign himself to despondency and discontent, but with wisdom and spirit endeavoured to console and amuse his mind with as many innocent enjoyments as he could procure. Sir John Hawkins has mentioned the cordiality with which he insisted that such of the members of the old club in Ivy-lane as survived should meet again and dine together, which they did twice at a tavern, and once at his house.
[“ DR. JOHNSON TO SIR JOHN HAWKINS.
Lolt-court, 22d Nov. 1783. “ DEAR SIR,—As Mr. Ryland was talking with me of old friends and past times, we warmed ourselves into a wish, that all who remained of the Club should meet and dine at the house which once was Horseman’s, in Ivy-lane. I have undertaken to solicit
you, and therefore desire you to tell on what day next week you can conveniently meet your old friends. I am, sir, your most humble servant,
“ SAM. JOHNSON."
The intended meeting was prevented by a circumstance, which the following note will explain :
66 3d Dec. 1783. “ DEAR SIR,—In perambulating Ivy-lane, Mr. Ryland found neither our landlord Horseman nor his successor. The old house is shut up, and he liked not the appearance
of it: he therefore bespoke our dinner at the Queen's Arms, in St. Paul's Churchyard, where, at half an hour after three, your company will be desired to-day by those who remain of our former society. Your humble servant, “ Sam. JOHNSON."
“With this invitation,” says Sir John Hawkins, “ I cheerfully complied, and met, at the time and place appointed, all who could be mustered of our society, namely, Johnson, Mr. Ryland, and Mr. Payne of the bank. When we were collected, the thought that we were so few occasioned some inelancholy reflections, and I could not but compare our meeting, at such an advanced period of life as it was to us all, to that of the four old men in the Senile Colloquium' of Erasmus. We dined,
Hawk. and in the evening regaled with coffee. At ten we
broke up, much to the regret of Johnson, who proposed staying ; but finding us inclined to separate, he left us, with a sigh that seemed to come from his heart, lamenting that he was retiring to solitude and cheerless meditation.
“Johnson had proposed a meeting like this once a month, and we had one more; but, the time approaching for a third, he began to feel a return of some of his complaints, and signified a wish that we would dine with him at his own house; and accordingly we met there, and were very cheerfully entertained by him.”]
[Of this meeting he gave the following account to Mrs. Thrale:
Letters, vol. ii.
“ DR. JOHNSON TO MRS. THRALE.
“ London, 13th December, 1783. “I dined about a fortnight ago with three old friends. We had not met together for thirty years, and one of us thought the other grown very
old. In the thirty years two of our set have died. Our meeting may be supposed to be somewhat tender."]
In order to ensure himself society in the evening for three days in the week, he instituted a club at the Essex Head, in Essex-street, then kept by Samuel Greaves, an old servant of Mr. Thrale's.
6 TO SIR JOSHUA REYNOLDS.
“ 4th December, 1783. “ DEAR SIR,—It is inconvenient to me to come out; I should else have waited on you with an account of a little evening club which we are establishing in Essex-street in the Strand, and of which you are desired to be one. It will be held at the Essex Head, now kept by an old servant of Thrale’s. The company is numerous, and, as you will see by the list, miscellaneous. The terms are lax, and the expenses light. Mr. Barry was adopted by Dr. Brocklesby, who joined with me in forming the plan. We meet thrice a week, and he who misses forfeits twopence.
“ If you are willing to become a member, draw a line under your name. Return the list. We meet for the first time on Monday at eight. I am, &c.
“ SAM, JOHNSON.”
It did not suit 1 Sir Joshua to be one of this club. But when I mention only Mr. Daines Barrington, Dr. Brocklesby, Mr. Murphy, Mr. John Nichols, Mr. Cooke?, Mr. Joddrell, Mr. Paradise, Dr. Horseley, Mr. Windham, I shall sufficiently obviate the misrepresentation of it by Sir John Hawkins, as if it had been a low alehouse association 4, by which Johnson was degraded. Johnson himself, like his namesake Old Ben, composed the rules of his Club.
In mirth, which after no repenting draws.-Milton. “ The club shall consist of four and twenty.
“ The meetings shall be on the Monday, Thursday, and Saturday of every week'; but in the week before Easter there shall be no meeting.
Every member is at liberty to introduce a friend once a week, but not oftener.
“ Two members shall oblige themselves to attend in their turn every night from eight to ten, or to procure two to attend in their room,
[Johnson himself, by the mention of Barry the painter, seems to have anticipated some reluctance on the part of Sir Joshua. Indeed, the violence of Barry's temper, and the absurdity of his conduct, rendered him no very agree. able companion; but towards Sir Joshua his behaviour had been particularly offensive.—ED.]
? [A biographical notice of Mr. Cooke, who died April 3, 1824, will be found in the Gentleman's Magazine for that month; and some account of Mr. Joddrel is given in Nichols's Lit. Anec. vol. viii.Ed.]
3 I was in Scotland when this club was founded, and during all the winter. Johnson, however, declared I should be a member, and invented a word upon the occasion : “Boswell,” said he, “is a very clubable man. When I came to town I was proposed by Mr. Barrington, and chosen. I believe there are few societies where there is better conversation or more decorum. Several of us resolved to continue it after our great founder was removed by death. Other members were added ; and now, about eight years since that loss, we go on happily. Johnson's definition of a club, in this sense, in his Dictionary, is “ An assembly of good fellows, meeting under certain conditions.”_BOSWELL.
4 (Miss Hawkins candidly says, “Boswell was well justified in his resentment of my father's designation of this as a sixpenny club at an alehouse. I am sorry my father permitted himself to be so pettish on the subject. Honestly speaking, I dare say he did not like being passed over.”-Mem. vol. ii. p. 104. -ED.] VOL. V.
Every member present at the club shall spend at least sixpence; and every member who stays away shall forfeit threepence.
“The master of the house shall keep an account of the absent members; and deliver to the president of the night a list of the forfeits incurred.
“When any member returns after absence, he shall immediately lay down his forfeits; which if he omits to do, the president shall require.
“ There shall be no general reckoning, but every man shall adjust his own expenses.
“ The night of indispensable attendance will come to every member once a month. Whoever shall for three months together omit to attend himself, or by substitution, nor shall make any apology in the fourth month, shall be considered as having abdicated the club.
“ When a vacancy is to be filled, the name of the candidate, and of the member recommending him, shall stand in the clubroom three nights. On the fourth he may be chosen by ballot; six members at least being present, and two-thirds of the ballot being in his favour; or the majority, should the numbers not be divisible by three.
- The master of the house shall give notice, six days before, to each of those members whose turn of necessary attendance is come. - The notice
be in these words :—Sir, On the of will be your turn of presiding at the Essex Head. Your company is therefore earnestly requested. 6 One
penny shall be left by each member for the waiter."
In the end of this year he was seized with a spasmodic asthma of such violence, that he was confined to the house in great pain, being sometimes obliged to sit all night in his chair, a recumbent posture being so hurtful to his respiration, that he could not endure lying in bed ; and there came upon him at the same time that oppressive and fatal disease, a dropsy. It was a very severe winter, which probably aggravated his complaints; and the solitude in which Mr. Levett and Mrs. Williams had left him rendered his life very gloomy. Mrs. Desmoulins, who still lived, was herself so very ill, that she could contribute very little to his relief. He, however, had none of that unsocial shyness which we commonly see in people afflicted with sickness. He did not hide his head from the world, in solitary abstraction; he did not deny himself to the visits of his friends and acquaintances; but at all times, when he was not overcome by sleep, was as ready for conversation as in his best days.
And now I am arrived at the last year of the life of SAMUEL JOHNSON; a year in which, although passed in severe indisposition, he nevertheless gave many evidences of the continuance of those wonderous powers of mind which raised him so high in the intellectual world. His conversation and his letters of this year were in no respect inferiour to those of
The following is a remarkable proof of his being alive to the most minute curiosities of literature.
“ TO MR. DILLY, BOOKSELLER, IN THE POULTRY.
6 6th, January, 1784. “ SIR,_There is in the world a set of books which used to be sold by the booksellers on the bridge, and which I must entreat you to procure me. They are called Burton's Books ? :
1 These books are much more numerous than Johnson supposed. The fol. lowing list comprises several of them ; but probably is incomplete : 1. Historical Rarities in London and Westminster
1681 2. Wars in England, Scotland, and Ireland
1681 3. Wonderful Prodigies of Judgment and Mercy
1681 4. Strange and prodigious religious Customs and Manners of sundry Nations
1683 5. English Empire in America
1685 6. Surprising Miracles of Nature and Art
1685 (Admirable Curiosities of Nature, &c. 1681.- Probably the same
book with a different title. ] 7. History of Scotland
1685 8. History of Ireland
1685 9. Two Journies to Jerusalein
1685 10. Nine Worthies of the World
1687 11. Winter's Evenings' Entertainments
1687 12. The English Hero, or the Life of Sir Francis Drake
1687 13. Memorable Accidents and unheard of Transactions
1693 14. History of the House of Orange
1693 15. Burton's Acts of the Martyrs (or, of Martyrs in Flames)
1695 16. Curiosities of England