« PreviousContinue »
Malone. fectly recovered from his indisposition; received him
with the utmost cordiality; and not only undertook the management of the business in which his friendly interposition had been requested, but with great kindness exerted himself in this gentleman's favour, with a view to his future subsistence, and immediately supplied him with the means of present support.
Finding that the proposed introduction to the bishop of London had from some accidental causes been deferred, lest Mr. Compton, who then lodged at Highgate, should suppose himself neglected, he wrote him the following note: “ TO THE REVEREND MR. COMPTON.
“ 6th October, 1782. “Sir, I have directed Dr. Vyse's letter to be sent to you, that you may know the situation of your business. Delays are incident to all affairs; but there appears nothing in your case of either superciliousness or neglect. Dr. Vyse seems to wish you well. I am, sir, your most humble servant,
-- SAM. JOHNSON.”
Mr. Compton having, by Johnson's advice, quitted Highgate, and settled in London, had now more frequent opportunities of visiting his friend, and profiting by his conversation and advice. Still, however, his means of subsistence being very scanty, Dr. Johnson kindly promised to afford him a decent maintenance, until by his own exertions he should be able to obtain a livelihood; which benevolent offer he accepted, and lived entirely at Johnson's expense till the end of January, 1783; in which month, having previously been introduced to Bishop Lowth, he was received into our communion in St. James's parishchurch. In the following April, the place of undermaster of St. Paul's school having become vacant, his friendly protector did him a more essential service, by writing the following letter in his favour, to the Mercers' Company, in whom the appointment of the Malone. under-master lay:
“ TO THE WORSHIPFUL COMPANY OF THE MERCERS.
“ Bolt-court, Fleet-street, 19th April, 1783. “GENTLEMEN,—At the request of the Reverend Mr. James Compton, who now solicits your votes to be elected undermaster of St. Paul's school, I testify, with great sincerity, that he is, in my opinion, a man of abilities sufficient, and more than sufficient, for the duties of the office for which he is a candidate. I am, gentlemen, your most humble servant,
66 Sam. JOHNSON."
Though this testimony in Mr. Compton's favour was not attended with immediate success, the Reverend Mr. Edwards, who had been bred in St. Paul's school, having been elected to fill the vacant office, yet Johnson's kindness was not without effect; and the result of his recommendation shows how highly he was estimated in the great commercial city of London; for his letter procured Mr. Compton so many well-wishers in the respectable company of mercers, that he was honoured, by the favour of several of its members, with more applications to teach Latin and French than he could find time to attend to. In 1796, the Reverend Mr. Gilbert, one of his majesty's French chaplains, having accepted a living in Guernsey, nominated Mr. Compton as his substitute at the French chapel of St. James's; which appointment, in April, 1811, he relinquished for a better in the French chapel at Bethnal Green. By the favour of Dr. Porteus, the late excellent Bishop of London, he was also appointed, in 1802, chaplain of the Dutch chapel at St. James's; a station which he still holds ?.]
· The preceding account of this gentleman's conversion, and of Johnson's subsequent liberality to him, would, doubtless, have been embodied by Mr. Boswell in his work, had he been apprized of the circumstances above related, which add one more proof to those which he has accumulated of Johnson's uniform and unbounded benevolence.--MALONE.
On Sunday, April 20, being Easter-day, after attending solemn service at St. Paul's, I came to Dr. Johnson, and found Mr. Lowe, the painter, sitting with him. Mr. Lowe mentioned the great number of new buildings of late in London, yet that Dr. Johnson had observed, that the number of inhabitants was not increased. JOHNSON. “
Why, sir, the bills of mortality prove that no more people die now than formerly; so it is plain no more live. The register of births proves nothing, for not one-tenth of the people of London are born there.” BOSWELL. “I believe, sir, a great many of the children born in London die early.” Johnson.“ Why, yes, sir.” BOSWELL. “But those who do live are as stout and strong people as any. Dr. Price says, they must be naturally strong to get through.” JOHNSON. “That is system, sir. A great traveller observes, that it is said there are no weak or deformed people among the Indians; but he, with much sagacity, assigns the reason of this, which is, that the hardship of their life as hunters and fishers does not allow weak or diseased children to grow up. Now had I been an Indian I must have died early ; my eyes would not have served me to get food. I, indeed, now could fish, give me English tackle ; but had I been an Indian, I must have starved, or they would have knocked me on the head, when they saw I could do nothing.” BOSWELL. “Perhaps, they would have taken care of you; we are told they are fond of oratory,—you would have talked to them.” JOHNSON.
Nay, sir, I should not have lived long enough to be fit to talk; I should have been dead before I was ten years old. Depend upon it, sir, a savage, when he is hungry, will not carry about with him a looby of nine years old, who cannot help himself. They have no affection, sir." BOSWELL. “I believe na
tural affection, of which we hear so much, is very small.” JOHNSON. “Sir, natural affection is nothing; but affection from principle and established duty is sometimes wonderfully strong.” LOWE. “ A hen, sir, will feed her chickens in preference to herself.” Johnson. “But we don't know that the hen is hungry; let the hen be fairly hungry, and I'll warrant she'll peck the corn herself. A cock, I believe, will feed hens instead of himself: but we don't know that the cock is hungry. BOSWELL. “ And that, sir, is not from affection, but gallantry. But some of the Indians have affection.” JOHNSON.
Sir, that they help some of their children is plain; for some of them live, which they could not do without being helped."
I dined with him; the company were Mrs. Williams, Mrs. Desmoulins, and Mr. Lowe. He seemed not to be well, talked little, grew drowsy soon after dinner, and retired; upon which I went away.
Having next day gone to Mr. Burke's seat in the country, from whence I was recalled by an express, that a near relation of mine had killed his antagonist iu a duel, and was himself dangerously wounded, I saw little of Dr. Johnson till Monday, April 28, when I spent a considerable part of the day with him, and introduced the subject which then chiefly occupied my mind. JOHNSON. “ I do not see, sir, that fighting is absolutely forbidden in scripture; I see revenge forbidden, but not self-defence.” BOSWELL. “ The quakers say it is.-Unto him that smiteth thee on one cheek, offer him also the other.'” JOHNSON. “ But stay, sir; the text is meant only to have the effect of moderating passion; it is plain that we are not to take it in a literal se We see this from the context, where there are other recommendations; which, I warrant you, the quaker will not take literally; as, for instance, ‘From himn that would borrow of thee turn thou not away. Let a man whose credit is bad come to a quaker, and say, 'Well, sir, lend me a hundred pounds;' he'll find him as unwilling as any other man. No, sir; a man may shoot the man who invades his character, as he may shoot him who attempts to break into his house. So, in 1745, my friend, Tom Cumming, the quaker, said he would not fight, but he would drive an ammunition cart; and we know that the quakers have sent flannel waistcoats to our soldiers, to enable them to fight better.” BoswELL. “ When a man is the aggressor, and by ill usage forces on a duel in which he is killed, have we not little ground to hope that he is gone to a state of happiness?” Johnsoy. “Sir, we are not to judge determinately of the state in which a man leaves this life. He
in a moment have repented effectually, and it is possible may have been accepted of God. There is in 'Camden's Remains' an epitaph upon a very wicked man, who was killed by a fall from his horse, in which he is supposed to say,
• Between the stirrup and the ground,
1 I think it necessary to caution my readers against concluding that, in this or any other conversation of Dr. Johnson, they have his serious and deliberate opinion on the subject of duelling. In my Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides, third edit. p. 386, it appears that he made this frank confession : Nobody, at times, talks more laxly than I do;” and ibid. p. 231, “ He fairly owned he could not explain the rationality of duelling.” We may, therefore, infer, that he could not think that justifiable, which seems so inconsistent with the spirit of the gospel. At the same time, it must be confessed, that, from the prevalent notions of honour, a gentleman who receives a challenge is reduced to a dreadful alternative. A remarkable instance of this is furnished by a clause in the will of the late Colonel Thomas, of the Guards, written the night before he fell in a duel, September 3, 1783: “ In the first place, I commit my soul to Almighty God, in hopes of his mercy and pardon for the irreligious step I now (in compliance with the unwarrantable customs of this wicked world) put myself under the necessity of taking.”—Bosw'ELL. 2 In repeating this epitaph, Johnson improved it. The original runs thus :
" Betreiat the stirrup and the ground,
Mercy I ask', merey I fourid." -- MALONE.