Page images


Hawki he can amuse or inform mankind, and they must be Apoph. p. 201. the best judges of his pretensions.

He thought worse of the vices of retirement than of those of society.

He attended Mr. Thrale in his last moments, and stayed in the room praying, as is imagined, till he had drawn his last breath. “ His servants,” said he, 6 would have waited upon him in this awful period, and why not his friend ?"

He was extremely fond of reading the lives of great and learned persons.

Two or three years before he died, he applied to a friend of his to give him a list of those in the French language that were well written and genuine. He said that Bolingbroke had declared he could not read Middleton's “Life of Cicero."

He was not apt to judge ill of persons without good reasons: an old friend of his used to say that in general he thought too well of mankind.

One day, on seeing an old terrier lie asleep by the fireside at Streatham, he said, “ Presto, you are, if possible, a more lazy dog than I am."

Being told that Churchill had abused him under the character of Pomposo, in his Ghost, “ I always thought,” said he, “ he was a shallow fellow, and I think so still.”

The Duke of *** once said to Johnson, “that every religion had a certain degree of morality in it." “ Ay, my lord,” answered he, “but the Christian

religion alone puts it on its proper basis.”

The picture of him by Sir Joshua Reynolds, which was painted for Mr. Beauclerk, and is now Mr. Langton's, and scraped in mezzotinto by Doughty, is extremely like him: there is in it that appearance of a labouring working mind, of an indolent reposing

[ocr errors]

body, which he had to a very great degree. Indeed, Hawk.

Apoph. the common operations of dressing, shaving, &c. were p. 204. a toil to him: he held the care of the body very cheap. He used to say, that a man who rode out for an appetite consulted but little the dignity of human nature.

“ The Life of Charles XII.,” by Voltaire, he said was one of the finest pieces of history ever written.

He used to say something tantamount to this: When a woman affects learning, she makes a rivalry between the two sexes for the same accomplishments, which ought not to be, their provinces being different. Milton said before him,

For contemplation he and valour formid,

For softness she and sweet attractive grace." And upon hearing a lady of his acquaintance commended for her learning, he said, “A man is in general better pleased when he has a good dinner upon his table than when his wife talks Greek. My old friend Mrs. Carter," he added, “could make a pudding as well as translate Epictetus from the Greek, and work a handkerchief as well as compose a poem.” He thought, however, that she was too reserved in conversation upon subjects she was so eminently able to converse upon, which was occasioned by her modesty and fear of giving offence.

He said that when he first conversed with Mr. Bruce, the Abyssinian traveller, he was very much inclined to believe he had been there, but that he had afterwards altered his opinion.

He was much pleased with Dr. Jortin's' Sermons, the language of which he thought very elegant; but thought his “Life of Erasmus” a dull book.

He thought Cato the best model of tragedy we had; yet he used to say, of all things, the most

1 [See ante, vol. iv. p. 103.-Ed.)


Hawk. ridiculous would be to see a girl cry at the repreApoph. p. 207. sentation of it.

He thought the happiest life was that of a man of business, with some literary pursuits for his amusement; and that in general no one could be virtuous or happy that was not completely employed.

Johnson had read much in the works of Bishop Taylor: in his Dutch “ Thomas à Kempis” he has quoted him occasionally in the margin.

He is said to have very frequently made sermons for clergymen at a guinea a-piece.

He had a great opinion of the knowledge procured by conversation with intelligent and ingenious per

His first question concerning such as had that character was ever,

" What is his conversation?"

Speaking one day of tea, he said, “What a delightful beverage must that be that pleases all palates at a time when they can take nothing else at breakfast!"

Speaking of schoolmasters, he used to say they were worse than the Egyptian taskmasters of old. “No boy," says he, “is sure any day he goes to school to escape a whipping. How can the schoolmaster tell what the boy has really forgotten, and what he has neglected to learn? what he has had no opportunities of learning, and what he has taken no pains to get at the knowledge of? yet for any of these, however difficult they may be, the boy is obnoxious to punishment."

Of a member of parliament, who, after having harangued for some hours in the house of commons, came into a company where Johnson was, and endeavoured to talk him down, he said, “This man has a pulse in his tongue!.”


· [The editor does not see the point of this.-ED.]


One who had long known Johnson said of him, Hawk.

Apoph. “In general you may tell what the man to whom you p. 211. are speaking will say next: this you can never do of Johnson : his images, his allusions, his great powers of ridicule, throw the appearance of novelty upon the most common conversation."

He was extremely fond of Dr. Hammond's' works, and sometimes gave them as a present to young men going into orders: he also bought them for the library at Streatham.

He said he was always hurt when he found himself ignorant of any thing.

He was extremely accurate in his computation of time. He could tell how many heroick Latin verses could be repeated in such a given portion of it, and was anxious that his friends should take pains to form in their minds some measure for estimating the lapse of it.

Complainers,” said he, " are always loud and clainorous.'

He thought highly of Mandeville's “Treatise on the Hypochondriacal Disease.”

“ I wrote,” said Johnson, “the first seventy lines in the Vanity of Human Wishes'2 in the course of one morning, in that small house beyond the church at Hampstead. The whole number was composed before I committed a single couplet to writing. The same method I pursued in regard to the Prologue on opening Drury-lane Theatre. I did not afterwards change more than a word in it, and that was done


[ocr errors]

[Henry Hammond, D. D., born in 1605; elected a fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford, in 1625; canon of Christchurch, 1645. He suffered much persecution during the Rebellion, and was, it is said, designed for the bishoprick of Worcester at the Restoration ; but he died a few days before the king's return. He was a very voluminous writer, but his best known work is "A Paraphrase and Annotations on the New Testament,” which Dr. Johnson recommended to Mr. Boswell. Ante, vol. iii. p. 424.-Ed.]

[See ante, vol. i. p. 167.-Ed.]

Hawk. at the remonstrance of Garrick. I did not think his Apoph. p. 213. criticism just, but it was necessary that he should be

satisfied with what he was to utter."

To a gentleman who expressed himself in disrespectful terms of Blackmore, one of whose poetick bulls he happened just then to recollect, Dr. Johnson answered, “I hope, sir, a blunder, after you have heard what I shall relate, will not be reckoned decisive against a poet's reputation. When I was a young man, I translated Addison's Latin poem on the Battle of the Pygmies and the Cranes, and must plead guilty to the following couplet :

Down from the guardian boughs the nests they flung,
And kill'd the yet unanimated young.

[ocr errors]


And yet I trust I am no blockhead. I afterwards changed the word kill'd into crush’d.

“I am convinced,” said he to a friend, “I ought to be present at divine service' more frequently than I am; but the provocations given by ignorant and affected preachers too often disturb the mental calm which otherwise would succeed to prayer. I am apt to whisper to myself on such occasions, How can this illiterate fellow dream of fixing attention, after we have been listening to the sublimest truths, conveyed in the most chaste and exalted language, throughout a liturgy which must be regarded as the genuine offspring of piety impregnated by wisdom! Take notice, however, though I make this confession respecting myself, I do not mean to recommend the fastidiousness that sometimes leads me to exchange congregational for solitary worship.” He was at Streatham church when Dodd's first application to him was made, and went out of his pew immediately, to write an answer to the letter he had received. After

" ( Ante, vol, ii. p, 5.- En.]

« PreviousContinue »