Page images



wards, when he related this circumstance, he added, Hawk.

Apoph. “ I hope I shall be pardoned, if once I deserted the service of God for that of man."

His knowledge in manufactures was extensive, and his comprehension relative to mechanical contrivances was still more extraordinary. The well-known Mr. Arkwright pronounced him to be the only person who on a first view understood both the principle and powers of his most complicated piece of machinery.

He would not allow the verb derange, a word at present much in use, to be an English word. “Sir," said a gentleman who had some pretensions to literature, “I have seen it in a book.” “Not in a bound book,” said Johnson; disarrange is the word we ought to use instead of it.”

He thought very favourably of the profession of the law, and said that the sages thereof, for a long series backward, had been friends to religion. Fortescue says that their afternoon's employment was the study of the scriptures?. ]

Though, from my very high admiration of Johnson, I have wondered that he was not courted by all the great and all the eminent persons of his time, it ought fairly to be considered, that no man of humble


[Even so late as the year 1795, a writer in the British Critic censured as a gallicism Mr. Burke's use of derange for disarrange. -Ed.]

(Lord Coke, in his Institutes, 1. 2. c. 1. s. 85. quotes these ancient, as he calls them, verses, recommending a proper distribution of the time of a lawstudent.

“ Sex horæ somno, totidem des legibus æquis,

Quatuor orabis, des epulisque duas

Quod super este ultrò sacris largire Camænis.” Of these Sir William Jones made two versions :

“ Six hours to sleep, to law's grave study six;

Four spend in prayer--the rest on nature fix:' rather (he adds),

Six hours to law, to soothing slumber seven;

Ten to the world allot, and all to Heaven.” It is not very clear what nature in the first version means; in the second Sir William has shortened his day to twenty-three hours : and the general advice 66 of all to Heaven” destroys the peculiar appropriation of a certain period to religious exercises.-Ed.]

birth, who lived entirely by literature, in short no authour by profession, ever rose in this country into that personal notice which he did. In the course of this work a numerous variety of names has been mentioned, to which many might be added. I cannot omit Lord and Lady Lucan', at whose house he often enjoyed all that an elegant table and the best company can contribute to happiness : he found hospitality united with extraordinary accomplishments, and embellished with charms of which no man could be insensible.

On Tuesday, 22d June, I dined with him at the Literary Club, the last time of his being in that respectable society. The other members present were the Bishop of St. Asaph, Lord Eliot, Lord Palmerston, Dr. Fordyce, and Mr. Malone. He looked ill, but had such a manly fortitude, that he did not trouble the company with melancholy complaints. They all showed evident marks of kind concern about him, with which he was much pleased, and he exerted himself to be as entertaining as his indisposition allowed him.

The anxiety of his friends to preserve so estimable a life as long as human means might be supposed to have influence made them plan for him a retreat from the severity of a British winter to the mild climate of Italy. This scheme was at last brought to a serious resolution at General Paoli's, where I had often talked of it. One essential matter, however, I understood was necessary to be previously settled, which was obtaining such an addition to his income as would be sufficient to enable him to defray the expense in a manner becoming the first literary character of a great nation, and, independent of all his other merits, the authour of the “Dictionary of

· [See ante, vol. iii. p. 386, n., where Lord Lucan (though not an English peer) should have been noted as an exception.-E..]

the English Language.” The person to whom I above all others thought I should apply to negotiate this business was the lord chancellor, because I knew that he highly valued Johnson, and that Johnson highly valued his lordship, so that it was no degradation of my illustrious friend to solicit for him the favour of such a man. I have mentioned what Johnson said of him to me when he was at the bar'; and after his lordship was advanced to the seals, he said of him, “ I would prepare myself for no man in England but Lord Thurlow. When I am to meet with him, I should wish to know a day before?.” How he would have prepared himself, I cannot conjecture. Would he have selected certain topicks, and considered them in every view, so as to be in readiness to argue them at all points ? and what may we suppose those topicks to have been ? I once started the curious inquiry to the great man who was the subject of this compliment: he smiled, but did not pursue it.

I first consulted with Sir Joshua Reynolds, who perfectly coincided in opinion with me; and I therefore, though personally very little known to his lordship, wrote to him', stating the case, and requesting his good offices for Dr. Johnson. I mentioned that

[See ante, p. 58.-En.] ? [As this was not said to Mr. Boswell himself, the editor ventures to disbelieve that it was said at all. It is very nearly nonsense, and the kind of nonsense the least like any thing that Doctor Johnson could say. Mr. Boswell, it seems, repeated the story to Lord Thurlow, and his lordship“ smiled—perhaps at so direct and awkward an attempt at flattery.-Ed.]

3 It is strange that Sir John Hawkins should have related that the application was made by Sir Joshua Reynolds, when he could so easily have been informed of the truth by inquiring of Sir Joshua. Sir John's carelessness to ascertain facts is very remarkable. --BOSWELL. [Mr. Boswell is, as usual, unjust towards Sir J. Hawkins. Johnson's own letter of thanks to Lord Thurlow mentions Sir Joshua as the channel of communication on the subject, and does not allude to Boswell; so that Hawkins had no reason to suspect that Mr. Boswell had any thing to do with it; and we shall see by and by some reason to suspect that Sir Joshua was not anxious that Mr. Boswell's name should appear in the transaction. The editor cannot guess why Mr. Boswell did not print his own letter to Lord Thurlow, which is now given from a copy in his hand, in the Reynolds papers.-Ed.)

I was obliged to set out for Scotland early in the following week, so that if his lordship should have any commands for me as to this pious negotiation, he would be pleased to send them before that time, otherwise Sir Joshua Reynolds would give all attention to it.

[The following is a copy of this letter :



“ General Paoli's, Upper Seymour Street,

Portman Square, 24th June, 1784. “ MY LORD,—Dr. Samuel Johnson, though wonderfully recovered from a complication of dangerous illness, is by no means well, and I have reason to think that his valuable life cannot be preserved long without the benignant influence of a southern climate.

“ It would therefore be of very great moment were he to go to Italy before winter sets in; and I know he wishes it much. But the objection is, that his pension of three hundred pounds a year would not be sufficient to defray his expense, and make it convenient for M. Sastres, an ingenious and worthy native of that country, and a teacher of Italian here, to accompany him.

“As I am well assured of your lordship’s regard for Dr. Johnson, I presume, without his knowledge, so far to indulge my anxious concern for him, as to intrude upon your lordship " with this suggestion, being persuaded that if a representation of the matter were made to his majesty by proper authority, the royal bounty would be extended in a suitable manner.

“ Your lordship, I cannot doubt, will forgive me for taking this liberty. I even flatter myself you will approve of it. I am to set out for Scotland on Monday morning, so that if your lordship should have any commands for me as to this pious negotiation, you will be pleased to send them before that time. But Sir Joshua Reynolds, with whom I have consulted, will be here, and will gladly give all attention to it. I am, with very great respect, my lord, your lordship’s most obedient and most humble servant,


This application was made not only without any suggestion on the part of Johnson himself, but was utterly unknown to him, nor had he the smallest

suspicion of it. Any insinuations, therefore, which since his death have been thrown out, as if he had stooped to ask what was superfluous, are without any foundation. But, had he asked it, it would not have been superfluous; for though the money he had saved proved to be more than his friends imagined, or than I believe he himself, in his carelessness concerning worldly matters, knew it to be, had he travelled upon the continent, an augmentation of his income would by no means have been unnecessary.

On Wednesday, June 23, I visited him in the morning, after having been present at the shocking sight? of fifteen men executed before Newgate. I said to him I was sure that human life was not machinery, that is to say, a chain of fatality planned and directed by the Supreme Being, as it had in it so much wickedness and misery, so many instances of both, as that by which my mind was now clouded. Were it machinery, it would be better than it is in these respects, though less noble, as not being a system of moral government. He agreed with me now, as he always did, upon the great question of the liberty of the human will, which has been in all ages perplexed with so much sophistry: “But, sir, as to the doctrine of necessity, no man believes it. If a man should give me arguments that I do not see, though I could not answer them, should I believe that I do not see?” It will be observed, that Johnson at all times made the just distinction between doctrines contrary to reason, and doctrines above


Talking of the religious discipline proper for unhappy convicts, he said, “Sir, one of our regular clergy will probably not impress their minds suf

(A shocking sight indeed !_but Mr. Boswell was fond of enjoying those shocking sights, which yet, he said, “clouded his mind."--Ed.)

« PreviousContinue »