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would have afforded a very rich fund of instruction and entertainment. The suddenness with which his accounts of some of them started out in conversation, was not less pleasing than surprising. I remember he once observed
“ It is wonderful, sir, what is to be found in London. The most literary conversation that I ever enjoyed, was at the table of Jack Ellis, a money scrivener behind the Royal Exchange, with whom I at one period used to dine generally once a week i.”
Volumes would be required to contain a list of his numerous and various acquaintance, none of whom he ever forgot; and could describe and discriminate them all with precision and vivacity. He associated with persons the most widely different in manners, abilities, rank, and accomplishments. He was at once the companion of the brilliant colonel Forrester of the guards, who wrote The Polite Philosopher, and of the awkward and uncouth Robert Levet; of lord Thurlow, and Mr. Sastres the Italian master; and has dined one day with the beautiful, gay, and fascinating lady Craven", and the next with good Mrs. Gardiner, the tallow-chandler on Snow-hill.
i This Mr. Ellis was, I believe, the last of that profession called 'scriveners,' which is one of the London companies, but of which the business is no longer carried on separately, but is transacted by attorneys and others. He was a man of literature and talents. He was the author of a Hudibrastick version of Maphæus's Canto in addition to the Æneid ; of some poems in Dodsley's collection; and various other small pieces; but, being a very modest man, never put his name to any thing. He showed me a translation which he had made of Ovid's Epistles, very prettily done. There is a good engraved portrait of him by Peffer, from a picture by Fry, which hangs in the hall of the scriveners' company.
I visited him October 4th, 1790, in his ninetythird year, and found his judgement distinct and clear, and his memory, though faded so as to fail him occasionally, yet, as he assured me, and I indeed perceived, able to serve him very weil, after a little recollection. It was agreeable to observe, that he was free from the discontent and fretfulness which too often molest old age. He in the summer of that year walked to Rotherhithe, where he dined, and walked home in the evening. He died on the 31st of December, 1791.-BOSWELL.
Some of Ellis's manuscripts were sold at Isaac Reed's sale, but we know not what has now become of them.-ED.
k Lord Macartney, who, with his other distinguished qualities, is remarkable also for an elegant pleasantry, told me that he met Johnson at lady Craven's,
On my expressing my wonder at his discovering so much of the knowledge peculiar to different professions, he told me, “I learnt what I know of law chiefly from Mr. Ballow!, a very able man. I learnt some too from Chambers; but was not so teachable then. One is not willing to be taught by a young man.” When I expressed a wish to know more about Mr. Ballow, Johnson said, Sir, I have seen him but once these twenty years.
The tide of life has driven us different ways.” I was sorry at the time to hear this; but whoever quits the creeks of private connections, and fairly gets into the great ocean of London, will, by imperceptible degrees, unavoidably experience such cessations of acquaintance.
"My knowledge of physick,” he added, “I learnt from Dr. James, whom I helped in writing the proposals for his dictionary, and also a little in the dictionary itselfm. I also learnt from Dr. Lawrence, but was then grown more stubborn."
A curious incident happened to-day, while Mr. Thrale and I sat with bim. Francis announced that a large packet was brought to him from the post-office, said to have come from Lisbon, and it was charged seven pounds ten shillings. He would not receive it, supposing it to be some trick, nor did he even look at it. But upon enquiry afterwards, he found that it was a real packet for him, from that very friend in the East Indies of whom he had been speaking; and the ship which carried it having come to Portugal, this packet with others had been put into the post-office at Lisbon.
and that he seemed jealous of any interference: “So,” said his lordship, smiling, “ I kept back.”-Boswell.
1 There is an account of him in sir John Hawkins's Life of Johnson, p. 244. -Boswell.
Ballow is described by sir John Hawkins, in the passage referred to by Boswell, as a “ lawyer by profession, but of no practice: he having by the interest of some of the Townsends, to whom he had been a kind of law tutor, obtained a place in the Exchequer, which yielded him a handsome income, and exempted him from the necessity of attending Westminster-hall.” His luminous treatise on Equity was published without a name ; and is, indeed, from his repeated editions of the work, almost attributed to its editor Fonblanque, whose numerous and extended notes must be acknowledged to be useful, though infinitely inferior to the scientific original. Ballow's name is to be found in the obituary of the Gent. Mag. for July, 1782, where he is characterised as a great Greek scholar, and famous for his knowledge of the old philosophy.” We must add, that he would neither have obtained this knowledge, nor even have composed such a treatise on Equity, had he been doomed to the practice of the law. We would avoid any thing like invidious allusion to a profession that assumes the title of honoúrable and learned; but our own convictions constrain us to subscribe to the description of Junius, as far at least as the intellect is concerned.-ED.
I have in vain endeavoured to find out what parts Johnson wrote for Dr. James. Perhaps medical men may.-Boswell..
I mentioned a new gaming club, of which Mr. Beauclerk had given me an account, where the members played to a desperate extent. Johnson. “Depend upon it, sir, this is mere talk. Who is ruined by gaming? You will not find six instances in an age. There is a strange rout made about deep play; whereas you have many more people ruined by adventurous trade, and yet we do not hear such an outcry against it.” THRALE.
THRALE. “There may be few people absolutely ruined by deep play; but very many are much hurt in their circumstances by it.” JOHNson. “Yes, sir, and so are very many by other kinds of expense.” I had heard him talk once before in the same manner; and at Oxford he said, "he wished he had learned to play at cards." The truth, however, is, that he loved to display his ingenuity in argument; and therefore would sometimes in conversation maintain opinions which he was sensible were wrong, but in supporting which, his reasoning and wit would be most conspicuous. He would begin thus: “ Why, sir, as to the good or evil of card-playing—" "Now,” said Garrick, " be is thinking which side he shall take.” He appeared to have a pleasure in contradiction, especially when any opinion whatever was delivered with an air of confidence; so that there was hardly any topick, if not one of the great truths of religion and morality, that he might not have been incited to argue either for or against. Lord Elibank" had the highest admiration of his powers. He once observed to me, “ Whatever opinion Johnson maintains, I will not say that he convinces me; but he never fails to show me that he has good reasons for it.” I have heard Johnson pay his lordship this high compliment: “ I never was in lord Elibank's company without learning something."
n Patrick lord Elibank, who died in 1778.
We sat together till it was too late for the afternoon service. Thrale said, he had come with intention to go to church with us. We went at seven to evening prayers at St. Clement's church, after having drank coffee ; an indulgence whicb, I understood, Johnson yielded to on this occasion in compliment to Thrale.
On Sunday, April 7th, Easter-day, after having been at St. Paul's cathedral, I came to Dr. Johnson, according to my usual custom. It seemed to me, that there was always something particularly mild and placid in his manner upon this holy festival, the commemoration of the most joyful event in the history of our world, the resurrection of our Lord and Saviour, who, having triumphed over death and the grave, proclaimed immortality to mankind.
I repeated to him an argument of a lady of my acquaintance, who maintained, that her husband's having been guilty of numberless infidelities, released her from conjugal obligations, because they were reciprocal. JOHNSON. “This is miserable stuff, sir. To the contract of marriage, besides the man and wife, there is a third party-society; and if it be considered as a vow-God: and, therefore, it cannot be dissolved by their consent alone. Laws are not made for particular cases, but for men in general. A woman may be unhappy with her husband; but she cannot be freed from him without the approbation of the civil and ecclesiastical power. A man may be unhappy because he is not so rich as another; but he is not to seize upon another's property with his own hand.” BOSWELL.“ But, sir, this lady does not want that the contract should be dissolved; she only argues, that she may indulge herself in gallantries with equal freedom as her husband does, provided she takes care not to introduce any spurious issue into his family. You know, sir, what Macrobius has told of Juliao.” JOHNSON. “ This lady of yours, sir, I think, is very fit for a brothel.”
Mr. Macbean, author of the Dictionary of Ancient Geography, came in. He mentioned that he had been forty years absent from Scotland. “ Ab, Boswell!" said Johnson, smiling, “what would you give to be forty years from Scotland.” I said,
I said, “I should not like to be so long absent from the seat of my ancestors." This gentleman, Mrs. Williams, and Mr. Levet, dined with us.
Dr. Johnson made a remark which both Mr. Macbean and I thought new. It was this: that “ the law against usury is for the protection of creditors as well as debtors; for if there were no such check, people would be apt, from the temptation of great interest, to lend to desperate persons, by whom they would lose their money. Accordingly there are instances of ladies being ruined, by having injudiciously sunk their fortunes for high annuities, which, after a few years, ceased to be paid, in consequence of the ruined circumstances of the borrower.”
Mrs. Williams was very peevish; and I wondered at Johnson's patience with her now, as I had often done on similar occasions. The truth is, that his humane consideration of the forlorn and indigent state in which this lady was left by her father, induced him to treat her with the utmost tenderness, and even to be desirous of procuring her amusement, so as sometimes to incommode many of his friends, by carrying her with him to their houses, where, from her manner of eating, in consequence of her blindness, she could not but offend the delicacy of persons of nice sensations.
After coffee, we went to afternoon service in St. Clement's church. Observing some beggars in the street as we walked along, I said to him, I supposed there was no civilized country in the world where the misery of want in the lowest classes of the people was prevented. John
Nunquam enim nisi navi plena tollo vectorem.
Lib. II. c. vi.