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TO THE SAME.
"MY DEAR SIR,
Edinburgh, Feb. 28, 1778.
"You are at present busy amongst the English poets, preparing, for the public instruction and entertainment, Prefaces, biographical and critical. It will not, therefore, be out of season to appeal to you for the decision of a controversy which has arisen between a lady and me concerning a passage in Parnell. That Poet tells us, that his Hermit quitted his cell
to know the world by sight,
(For yet by swains alone the world he knew,
Whose feet came wand'ring o'er the nightly dew.)'
I maintain, that there is an inconsistency here: for as the hermit's notions of the world were formed from the reports both of books and swains, he could not 'ustly be said to know by swains alone. Be pleased to judge between us, and let us have your reasons.1
"What do you say to Taxation no Tyranny,' now, after Lord North's declaration, or confession, or whatever else his conciliatory speech should be called? I never differed from you in politics but upon two points,-the Middlesex Election, and the Taxation of the Americans by the British Houses of Representatives. There is a charm in the word Parliament, so I avoid it. As I am a steady and a warm Tory, I regret that the King does not see it to be better for him to receive constitutional supplies from his American subjects by the voice of their own assemblies, where his Royal person is represented, than through the medium of his British subjects. I am persuaded that the power of the Crown, which I wish to increase, would be greater when in contact with all its dominions, than if 'the rays of regal bounty '2 were 'to shine' upon America, through that dense troubled body, a modern British Parliament. But enough of this subject; for your angry voice at Ashbourne upon it stil. sounds awful 'in my mind's ears.'
"I ever am, my dear Sir, "Your most affectionate humble servant, "JAMES BOSWELL."
TO THE SAME.
Edinburgh, March 12, 1778.
"MY DEAR SIR, "The alarm of your late illness distressed me but a few hours, for on the evening of the day that it reached me I found it contradicted in "The
on the crust of a roll, which Johnson, after tearing out the crumb for himself, threw to his humble friend.-Boswell.
Perhaps the word threw is here too strong. Dr. Johnson never treated Levett with contempt; it is clear indeed, from various circumstances, that he had great kindness for him. I have often seen Johnson at breakfast, accompanied, or rather attended, by Levett, who had always the management of the tea-kettle.-MALONE.
1 See the subject discussed in a subsequent page, under May 3, 1779.-MALONE.
2 Alluding to a line in his "Vanity of Human Wishes," describing Cardinal Wolsey in his state of elevation:
"Through him the rays of regal bounty shine."-BOSWELL.
London Chronicle,' which I could depend upon as authentic concerning you, Mr. Strahan being the printer of it. I did not see the paper in which the approaching extinction of a bright luminary' was announced. Sir William Forbes told me of it; and he says he saw me so uneasy that he did not give me the report in such strong terms as he read it. He afterwards sent me a letter from Mr. Langton to him, which relieved me much. I am, however, not quite easy, as I have not heard from you; and now I shall not have that comfort before I see you, for I set out for London to-morrow before the post comes in. I hope to be with you on Wednesday morning and I ever am, with the highest veneration, my dear Sir, your most obliged, faithful, and affectionate humble servant,
BOSWELL'S ARRIVAL IN LONDON-MRS. DESMOULINS-JOHNSON'S BENEVOLENT LIBERALITYMR. HOWARD OF LICHFIELD-TOM DAVIES-JOHNSON'S ADVICE ON LAW PLEADING CHARACTERISTIC TRAIT OF JOHNSON-THOMAS A KEMPIS-LORD TRIMLESTOWN - SIR ROBERT SIBBALD-JOHNSON'S ADVICE ON STRICT ADHERENCE TO TRUTH-HIS OPINION ON GHOSTS-JOHN WESLEY-JENNINGS AND ALCIBIADES' DOG-FLORENTINE BOAREMIGRATION-THE HOUSE OF COMMONS-PLACE-HUNTERS-IRISH LANGUAGE-THICKNESSE'S TRAVELS-ANECDOTE OF SIR GODFREY KNELLER-DR. KENNEDY'S TRAGEDY-ON SHOOTING A HIGHWAYMAN-MR. DUNNING-DR. CAMPBELL AND HIS WINE-DRINKING MRS. MONTAGU -MR. HARRIS-JOHNSON'S OPINION OF WINE-DRINKING-GOLDSMITH-CHARLES V.SERMONS-SCOTLAND-DAVIES-ON ABSENTEEISM.
ON Wednesday, March 18, I arrived in London, and was informed by good Mr. Francis, that his master was better, and was gone to Mr. Thrale's at Streatham, to which place I wrote to him, begging to know when he would be in town. He was not expected for some time; but next day having called on Dr. Taylor, in Dean's-yard, Westminster, I found him there, and was told he had come to town for a few hours. He met me with his usual kindness, but instantly returned to the writing of something on which he was employed when I came in, and on which he seemed much intent. Finding him thus engaged, I made my visit very short, and had no more of his conversation, except his expressing a serious regret that a friend of ours was living
at too much expense, considering how poor an appearance he made : "If," said he, " a man has splendour from his expense, if he spends his money in pride or in pleasure, he has value; but if he lets others spend it for him, which is most commonly the case, he has no advantage from it."
On Friday, March 20, I found him at his own house, sitting with Mrs. Williams, and was informed that the room formerly allotted to me was now appropriated to a charitable purpose; Mrs. Desmoulins,' and I think her daughter, and a Miss Carmichael, being all lodged in it. Such was his humanity, and such his generosity, that Mrs. Desmoulins herself told me he allowed her half-a-guinea a week. Let it be remembered, that this was above a twelfth part of his pension.
His liberality, indeed, was at all periods of his life very remarkable. Mr. Howard, of Lichfield, at whose father's house Johnson had in his early years been kindly received, told me that when he was a boy at the Charter-house, his father wrote to him to go and pay a visit to Mr. Samuel Johnson, which he accordingly did, and found him in an upper room, of poor appearance. Johnson received him with much courteousness, and talked a great deal to him as to a schoolboy, of the course of his education, and other particulars. When he afterwards came to know and understand the high character of this great man, he recollected his condescension with wonder. He added, that when he was going away, Mr. Johnson presented him with half-a-guinea; and this, said Mr. Howard, was at a time when he probably had not another.
We retired from Mrs. Williams to another room. Tom Davies soon after joined us. He had now unfortunately failed in his circumstances and was much indebted to Dr. Johnson's kindness in obtaining for him many alleviations of his distress. After he went away, Johnson blamed his folly in quitting the stage, by which he and his wife got 500l. a year I said, I believed it was owing to Churchill's attack upon him,
"He mouths a sentence, as curs mouth a bone."
JOHNSON: "I believe so too, Sir. be driven from the stage by a line? him from his shop."
But what a man is he, who is to
I told him that I was engaged as counsel at the bar of the House of Commons to oppose a road bill in the county of Stirling, and asked him what mode he would advise me to follow in addressing such an audience. JOHNSON: "Why, Sir, you must provide yourself with a good deal of extraneous matter, which you are to produce occasionally, so as to fill up the time; for you must consider, that they do not listen much. If
1 Daughter of Dr. Swinfen, Johnson's godfather, and widow of Mr. Desmoulins a writingmaster.-BOSWELL.
you begin with the strength of your cause, it may be lost before they begin to listen. When you catch a moment of attention, press the merits of the question upon them." He said, as to one point of the merits, that he thought "it would be a wrong thing to deprive the small landholders of the privilege of assessing themselves for making and repairing the high roads; it was destroying a certain portion of liberty, without a good reason, which was always a bad thing." When I mentioned this observation next day to Mr. Wilkes, he pleasantly said, "What! does he talk of liberty? Liberty is as ridiculous in his mouth as Religion in mine." Mr. Wilkes's advice, as to the best mode of speaking at the bar of the House of Commons, was not more respectful towards the senate, than that of Dr. Johnson: "Be as impudent as you can, as merry as you can, and say whatever comes uppermost. Jack Lee' is the best heard there of any counsel; and he is the most impudent dog, and always abusing us.'
In my interview with Dr. Johnson this evening, I was quite easy, quite as his companion; upon which I find in my Journal the following reflection: "So ready is my mind to suggest matter for dissatisfaction, that I felt a sort of regret that I was so easy. I missed that awful reverence with which I used to contemplate Mr. Samuel Johnson, in the complex magnitude of his literary, moral, and religious character. I have a wonderful superstitious love of mystery; when, perhaps, the truth is, that it is owing to the cloudy darkness of my own mind. I should be glad that I am more advanced in my progress of being, so that I can view Dr. Johnson with a steadier and clearer eye. My dissatisfaction to-night was foolish. Would it not be foolish to regret that we shall have less mystery in a future state? That 'we now see in a glass darkly,' but shall then see face to face?""-This reflection, which I thus freely communicate, will be valued by the thinking part of my readers, who may have themselves experienced a similar state of mind.
He returned next day to Streatham, to Mr. Thrale's; where, as Mr. Strahan once complained to me, "he was in a great measure absorbed from the society of his old friends." I was kept in London by business, and wrote to him on the 27th, that a separation from him for a week, when we were so near, was equal to a separation for a year, when we were at four hundred miles distance." I went to Streatham on Monday, March 30. Before he appeared, Mrs. Thrale made a very characteristical remark:-"I do not know for certain what will please Dr. Johnson: but I know for certain that it will displease him to praise anything, even, what he likes, extravagantly."
At dinner he laughed at querulous declamations against the age, on account of luxury,-increase of London,-scarcity of provisions,—and
1 Afterwards Solicitor-general under the Rockingham administration.