« PreviousContinue »
He talked to-day a good deal of the wonderful extent and variety of London, and observed, that men of curious inquiry might see in it such modes of life as very few could even imagine. He in particular recommended to us to explore Wapping, which we resolved to do 1.
Mr. Lowe, the painter, who was with him, was very much distressed that a large picture which he had painted was refused to be received into the Exhibition of the Royal Academy. Mrs. Thrale knew Johnson's character so superficially, as to represent him as unwilling to do small acts of benevolence; and mentions, in particular, that he would hardly take the trouble to write a letter in favour of his friends. The truth, however, is that he was remarkable, in an extraordinary degree, for what she denies to him; and, above all, for this very sort of kindness, writing letters for those to whom his solicitations might be of service. He now gave Mr. Lowe the following, of which I was diligent enough, with his permission, to take copies at the next coffee-house, while Mr. Windham was so good as to stay by me.
6 TO SIR JOSHUA REYNOLDS.
“12th April, 1783. “Sir,--Mr. Lowe considers himself as cut off from all credit and all hope by the rejection of his picture from the Exhibition. Upon this work he has exhausted all his powers, and suspended all his expectations: and, certainly, to be refused an opportunity of taking the opinion of the publick, is in itself a very great hardship. It is to be condemned without a trial.
“ If you could procure the revocation of this incapacitating edict, you would deliver an unhappy man from great affliction. The council has sometimes reversed its own determination; and
· We accordingly carried our scheme into execution, in October, 1792 ; but whether from that uniformity which has in modern times, in a great degree, spread through every part of the metropolis, or from our want of sufficient exertion, we were disappointed.-BOSWELL.
I hope that, by your interposition, this luckless picture may be got admitted. I am, &c.
- SAM. JOHNSON.”
W TO MR. BARRY.
“ 12th April, 1783. “SIR,-Mr. Lowe's exclusion from the Exhibition gives him more trouble than you and the other gentlemen of the council could imagine or intend. He considers disgrace and ruin as the inevitable consequence of your determination.
“He says, that some pictures have been received after rejection; and if there be any such precedent, I earnestly entreat that
you will use your interest in his favour. Of his work I can say nothing; I pretend not to judge of painting, and this picture I never saw; but I conceive it extremely hard to shut out any man from the possibility of success; and therefore I repeat my request that you will propose the re-consideration of Mr. Lowe's case ; and if there be any among the council with whom my name can have any weight, be pleased to communicate to them the desire of, sir, your most humble servant,
- SAM. JOHNSON."
Such intercession was too powerful to be resisted; and Mr. Lowe's performance was admitted at Somerset-place. The subject, as I recollect, was the Deluge, at that point of time when the water was verging to the top of the last uncovered mountain. Near to the spot was seen the last of the antediluvian race, exclusive of those who were saved in the ark of Noah. This was one of those giants, then the inhabitants of the earth, who had still strength to swim, and with one of his hands held aloft his infant child. Upon the small remaining dry spot appeared a famished lion, ready to spring at the child and devour it. Mr. Lowe told me that Johnson said to him, “Sir, your picture is noble and probable.” “A compliment, indeed,” said Mr. Lowe, “ from a man who cannot lie, and cannot be mistaken.”
About this time he wrote to Mrs. Lucy Porter, mentioning his bad health, and that he intended a visit to Lichfield. “ It is,” says he," with no great expectation of amendment that I make every year a journey into the country; but it is pleasant to visit those whose kindness has been often experienced.”
On April 18 (being Good Friday), I found him at breakfast, in his usual manner upon that day, drinking tea without milk, and eating a cross bun to prevent faintness; we went to St. Clement's church, as formerly. When we came home from church, he placed himself on one of the stone seats at his garden door, and I took the other, and thus in the open air, and in a placid frame of mind, he talked away very easily. JOHNSON. “Were I a country gentleman I should not be very hospitable; I should not have crowds in my house.” BOSWELL. “Sir Alexander Dick tells me that he remembers having a thousand people in a year to dine at his house; that is, reckoning each person as one, each time that he dined there." JOHNSON. “ That, sir, is about three a day.” BOSWELL. “ How your statement lessens the idea!” Johnson.
Johnson. “That, sir, is the good of counting. It brings every thing to a certainty, which before floated in the mind indefinitely.” BOSWELL. “ But Omne ignotum pro magnifico est: one is sorry to have this diminished.” JOHNSON.
JOHNSON.“ Sir, you should not allow yourself to be delighted with errour.” BOSWELL. “ Three a day seem but few.” JOHNSON. “Nay, sir, he who entertains three a day, does very liberally. And if there is a large family, the poor entertain those three, for they eat what the poor would get : there must be superfluous meat; it must be given to the poor, or thrown out.” BOSWELL. “ I observe in London, that the poor go about and gather bones, which I understand are manufactured.” JOHNSON. “Yes, sir; they boil them, and extract a grease from them for greasing wheels and other purposes. Of the best pieces they make a mock ivory, which is used for hafts to knives, and various other things; the coarser pieces they burn and pound, and sell the ashes.” BOSWELL. “For what purpose, sir?" JOHNSON. “Why, sir, for making a furnace for the chemists for melting iron. A paste made of burnt bones will stand a stronger heat than any thing else. Consider, sir, if you are to melt iron, you cannot line your pot with brass, because it is softer than iron, and would melt sooner; nor with iron, for though malleable iron is harder than castiron, yet it would not do; but a paste of burnt bones will not melt.” BOSWELL. “Do you know, sir, I have discovered a manufacture to a great extent, of what you only piddle at-scraping and drying the peel of oranges"? At a place in Newgate-street there is a prodigious quantity prepared, which they sell to the distillers." JOHNSON. “ Sir, I believe they make a higher thing out of them than a spirit; they make what is called orange-butter, the oil of the
orange inspissated, which they mix perhaps with common pomatum, and make it fragrant. The oil does not fly off in the drying."
BosWELL. “ I wish to have a good walled garden." JOHNSON. “I don't think it would be worth the expense to you. We compute, in England, a parkwall at a thousand pounds a mile; now a gardenwall must cost at least as much. You intend your trees should grow higher than a deer will leap. Now let us see; for a hundred pounds you could only have forty-four square yards, which is very little ; for two
1 It is suggested to me by an anonymous annotator on my work, that the reason why Dr. Johnson collected the peels of squeezed oranges may be found in the 358th Letter in Mrs. Piozzi's Collection, where it appears that he recommended “ dried orange-peel, finely powdered,” as a medicine.-BOSWELL. [See ante, vol. iji. p. 205, note.- ED.)
? [The Bishop of Ferns observes, that Mr. Boswell here mistakes forty-four square yards for forty-four yards square, and thus makes Johnson talk nonsense. What Johnson probably said was this: 1760 yards of wall cost a thousand pounds; therefore, one hundred and seventy-six yards will cost a hundred pounds. VOL. V.
hundred pounds you may have eighty-four square yards, which is very well. But when will you get the value of two hundred pounds of walls, in fruit, in your climate ? No, sir; such contention with nature is not worth while. I would plant an orchard, and have plenty of such fruit as ripen well in your country. My friend, Dr. Madden, of Ireland, said, that • In an orchard there should be enough to eat, enough to lay up, enough to be stolen, and enough to rot upon the ground. Cherries are an early fruit ; you may have them; and you may have the early apples and pears.”
BOSWELL. 66 We cannot have nonpareils.” JOHNSON. “Sir, you can no more have nonpareils than you can have grapes.” BOSWELL. “ We have them, sir; but they are very bad.” Johnson. “ Nay, sir, never try to have a thing merely to show that you cannot have it. From ground that would let for forty shillings you may have a large orchard ; and you see it costs you only forty shillings. Nay, you may graze the ground when the trees are grown up; you cannot, while they are young.” BOSWELL. “ Is not a good garden a very common thing in England, sir?” JOHNSON. “ Not so common, sir, as you imagine. In Lincolnshire there is hardly an orchard; in Staffordshire very little fruit.” BoswELL. “Has Langton no orchard ?” JOHNSON. “No, sir.” BOSWELL. “How so, sir?" JOHNSON. “Why, sir, from the 'general negligence of the county. He has it not, because nobody else has it.” BOSWELL.“ A hothouse is a certain thing; I may have that.” Johnson. "A hothouse is pretty certain; but you must first build
One hundred and seventy-six yards will enclose a garden-pot of forty-four square yards, which would be a small closet—but of forty-four yards square, nearly half
Of course, its double will well enclose a garden of eighty-eight yards square (eighty-four is either a misprint or an additional error), and that, as Johnson remarks, is very well, for it would be above an acre and a half.-Ed.]