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"I wish you had been with us. Think what enthusiastic happiness I shall have to see Mr. Samuel Johnson walking among the romantic rocks and woods of my ancestors at Auchinleck! Write to me at Edinburgh. You owe me his verses on great George and tuneful Cibber, and the bad verses which led him to make his fine ones on Philips the musician. Keep your promise, and let me have them. 1 offer my very best compliments to Mrs. Garrick, and ever am
Your warm admirer and friend,
His answer was as follows:—
"Hampton, 14th September, 1773.
"You stole away from London, and left us all in the lurch; for we expected you one night at the club, and knew nothing of your departure. Had I paid you what I owed you for the book you bought for me, I should only have grieved for the loss of your company, and slept with a quiet conscience; but, wounded as it is, it must remain so till I see you again, though I am sure our good friend, Mr. Johnson will discharge the debt for me, if you will let him. Your account of yonr journey to Fores, the raven, old castle, &c. &c. made me half mad. Are you not rather too late in the year for fine weather, which is the life and soul of seeing places? I hope your pleasure will continue qualis ab incepto, &c.
"Your friend, 'threatens me much. I only wish that
be would put his threats into execution, and, if he prints his play, I will forgive him. I remember he complained to you that his bookseller called for the money for some copies of his [Lusiad], which I subscribed for, and that I desired him to call
11 have suppressed my friend's name from an apprehension of wounding his sensibility: but I would not withhold from my readers a passage which shows Mr. Garrick's mode of writing as the manager of a theatre, and contains a pleasing trait of his domestic life. His judgment of dramatic pieces, so far as concerns their exhibition on the stage, must be allowed to have considerable weight. But from the effect which a perusal of the tragedy here condemned had upon myself, and from the opinions of some emient critics, I venture to pronounce that it has much poetical merit; and its author has distinguished himself by several performances which show that the epithet poetaster was, in the present instance, much misapplied.
The author was Mickle; the play, The Siege of Marseilles Croter.
again. The truth is, that my wife was not at home, and that for weeks together I hare not ten shillings in my pocket. However, had it been otherwise, it was not so great a crime to draw his poetical vengeance upon me. I despise all that he can do, and am glad that I can so easily get rid of him and his ingratitude. I am hardened both to abuse and ingratitude.
"You, I am sure will no more recommend your poetasters to my civility and good offices.
"Shall I recommend to you a play of Eschylus (the Prometheus), published and translated by poor old Morell, who is a good scholar, and an acquaintance of mine? It will be but halfa-guinea, and your name shall be put in the list I am making for him. You will be in very good company.
"Now for the epitaphs!
[These, together with the verses on George the Second, and Colley Cibher as his Poet Laureat, of which imperfect copies have gone about, will appear in my Life of Dr. Johnson.1]
"I have no more paper, or I should have said more to you My love to you, and respects to Mr. Johnson. Yours, ever,
"I can't write. I have the gout in my hand."
Sunday, Oct. 24.—We passed the forenoon calmly and placidly. I prevailed on Dr. Johnson to read aloud Ogden's sixth Sermon on Prayer, which he did with a distinct expression, and pleasing solemnity. He praised my favourite preacher, his elegant language, and remarkable acuteness; and said, he fought infidels with their own weapons.
As a specimen of Ogden's manner, I insert the following passage from the sermon which Dr. Johnson now read. The preacher, after arguing against that vain philosophy which maintains, in conformity with the hard principle of eternal necessity, or unchangeable predetermination, that the only effect of prayer for others, although we are exhorted to pray for them, is to produce good dispositions in ourselves towards them, thus expresses himself:—
"A plain man may be apt to ask, But if this then, though enjoined in the Holy Scriptures, is to be my real aim and inten
1 See Life, vol. i., p. 107.
tion, when I am taught to pray for other persons, why is it that I do not plainly so express it? Why is not the form of the petition brought nearer to the meaning? Give them, say I to our heavenly father, what is good. But this, I am to understand, will be as it will be, and is not for me to alter. What is it then that I am doing? I ana desiring to become charitable myself; and why may I not plainly say so? Is there shame in it, or impiety? The wish is laudable: why should I form designs to hide it ?—Or is it perhaps, better to be brought about by indirect means, and in this artful manner? Alas! who is it that I would impose on? From whom can it be, in this commerce, that I desire to hide any thing? When, as my Saviour commands me, I have 'entered into my closet, and shut my door,' there are but two parties privy to my devotions, God and my own heart: which of the two am I deceiving?"
He wished to have more books, and, upon inquiring if there were any in the house, was told that a waiter had some, which were brought to him; but I recollect none of them, except Hervey's Meditations. He thought slightingly of this admired book. He treated it with ridicule, and would not allow even the scene of the dying husband and father to be pathetic. I am not an impartial judge; for Hervey's Meditations engaged my affections in my early years. He read a passage concerning the moon, ludicrously, and showed how easily he could, in the same style, make reflections on that planet, the very reverse of Hervey's, representing her as treacherous to mankind. He did this with much humour; but I have not preserved the particulars. He then indulged a playful fancy, in making a Meditation on a Pudding, of which. I hastily wrote down, in his presence, the following note; which, though imperfect, may serve to give my readers some idea of it.
"MEDITATION ON A PUDDING.
"Let us seriously reflect of what a pudding is composed. It is composed of flour that once waved in the golden grain, and drank the dews of the morning; of milk pressed from the swelling udder by the gentle hand of the beauteous milkmaid, whose beauty and innocence might have recommended a worse draught; who, while she stroked the udder, indulged no ambitious thoughts of wandering in palaces, formed no plan for the destruction of her fellow-creatures: milk, which is drawn from the cow, that useful animal, that eats the grass of the field, and supplies v.s with that which made the greatest part of the food of mankind in the age which the poets have agreed to call golden. It is made with an egg, that miracle of nature, which the theoretical Burnet has compared to creation. An egg contains water within its beautiful smooth surface; and an unformed mass by the incubation of the parent, becomes a regular animal, furnished with hones and sinews, and covered with feathers. Let us consider: can there be more wanting to complete the meditation on a pudding? If more is wanting, more may be found. It contains salt, which keeps the sea from putrefaction: salt, which is made the image of intellectual excellence, contributes to the formation of a pudding."
In a Magazine I found a saying of Dr. Johnson's something to this purpose; that the happiest part of a man's life is what he passes lying awake in bed in the morning. I read it to him, He said, "I may, perhaps, have said this; for nobody, at times, talks more laxly than I do." I ventured to suggest to him, that this was dangerous from one of his authority.
I spoke of living in the country, and upon what footing one should be with neighbours. I observed that some people were afraid of being on too easy a footing with them, from an apprehension that their time would not be their own. He made the obvious remark, that it depended much on what kind of neighbours one has, whether it was desirable to be on an easy footing with them or not. I mentioned a certain baronet, who told me he never was happy in the country, till he was not on speaking terms with his neighbours, which he contrived in different ways
to bring about. "Lord ," said he, "stuck long; but
at last the fellow pounded my pigs, and then I got rid of him." Johnson. "Nay, Sir, my lord got rid of Sir John, and showed how little he valued him, by putting his pigs in the pound."
I told Dr. Johnson I was in some difficulty how to act at Inverary. I had reason to think that the Duchess of Argyle disliked me, on account of my zeal in the Douglas cause;1 but the Duke of Argyle2 had always been pleased to treat me with great civility. They were now at the castle, which is a very short walk from our inn; and the question was whether I should go and pay my respects there. Dr. Johnson, to whom I had stated the case, was clear that I ought; but, in his usual way, he was very shy of discovering a desire to be invited there himself. Though, from a conviction of the benefit of subordination to society, he has always shown great respect to persons of high rank, when he happened to be in their company, yet his pride of character has ever made him guard against any appearance of courting the great. Besides, he was impatient to go to Glasgow, where he expected letters. At the same time he was, I believe, secretly, not unwilling to have attention paid him by so great a chieftain, and so exalted a nobleman. He insisted that I should not go to the castle this day before dinner, as it would look like seeking an invitation. "But," said I, "if the duke invites us to dine with him to-morrow, shall we accept?" "Yes, Sir;" I think he said, "to be sure." But he added, "He won't ask us." I mentioned, that I was afraid my company might be disagreeable to the duchess. He treated this objection with a manly disdain; " That, Sir, he must settle with his wife." We dined well. I went to the castle just about the time when I supposed the ladies would be retired from dinner.
1 Elizabeth Gunning, celebrated (like her sister, Lady Coventry) for her personal charms, had been previously Duchess of Hamilton, and was mother of Douglas, Duke of Hamilton, the competitor for the Douglas property with the late Lord Douglas: she was, of course, prejudiced against Bobwell, who bad shown all the bustling importance of his character in the Douglas cause, and it was said, I know not on what authority, that he headed the mob which broke the windows of some of the judges, and of Lord Auchinleck, his father, in particular.— Waller Scott.
This lady was married (1) to the Duke of Hamilton, by whom she had two sons, who were successively Dukes of Hamilton, and (2) to the Duke of Argyle, by whom she had two sons, who were successively Dukes of Argyle—so that she was the mother of four dukes. The following notice appeared in the Scot's Magazine for 1770, p. 343 :—'i Died June 9, Mrs. Gunning, Housekeeper at Somerset House, Mother to the Duchess of Hamilton. —Editor.
2 John, fifth Duke of Argyle, who died in 1806, aetat. 83, the senior officer of the British army.— Croker.