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His juvenile attachments to the fair sex were, however, very transient: and it is certain, that he formed no criminal connexion whatsoever. Mr. Hector, who lived with him in his younger days in the utmost intimacy and social freedom, has assured me, that even at that ardent season his conduct was strictly virtuous in that respect; and that though he loved to exhilarate himself with wine, he never knew him intoxicated but once.
In a man whom religious education has secured from licentious indulgences, the passion of love, when once it has seized him, is exceedingly strong; being unimpaired by dissipation, and totally concentrated in one object. This was experienced by Johnson, when he became the fervent admirer of Mrs. Porter, after her first husband's death. Miss Porter told me, that when he was first introduced to her mother, his appearance was very forbidding; he was then lean and lank, so that his immense structure of bones was hideously striking to the eye, and the scars of the scrofula were deeply visible. He also wore his hair, which was straight and stiff, and separated behind : and he often had, seemingly, convulsive starts and odd gesticulations, which tended to excite at once surprise and ridicule. Mrs. Porter was so much engaged by his conversation, that she overlooked all these external disadvantages, and said to her daughter, “This is the most sensible man that I ever saw in my life.”
the Porter family; and it was almost two years after that I introduced him to the acquaintance of Porter, whom I bought my clothes of.
“ If you intend to convince this obstinate woman, and to exhibit to the publick the truth of your narrative, you are at liberty to make what use you please of this statement.
I hope you will pardon me for taking up so much of your time. Wishing you ‘multos et felices annos,” I shall subscribe myself
“ Your obliged humble servant,
“ E. HECTOR.” Birmingham,
BOSWELL. Jan. 9th, 1794.”
It appears from Mr. Hector's letter, that Johnson became acquainted with her three years before he married her.-MALONE.
Though Mrs. Porter was double the age of Johnson, and her person and manner, as described to me by the late Mr. Garrick, were by no means pleasing to others ", she must have had a superiority of understanding and talents”, as she certainly inspired him with a more than or
m Mrs. Johnson's maiden name was Jervis.—Though there was a great disparity of years between her and Dr. Johnson, she was not quite su old as she is here represented, having only completed her forty-eighth year in the month of February preceding her marriage, as appears by the following extract from the parish register of Great Peatling, in Leicestershire, made at Mr. Malone's request, by the hon. and rev. Mr. Ryder, rector of Lutterworth, in that county: “ Anno Dom. 1688— Elizabeth, the daughter
William Jervis, esq. and Mrs. Anne his wife, born the fourth day of February and mané, baptized 16th day of the same month by Mr. Smith, curate of Little Peatling.
“ John Allen, vicar." The family of Jervis, Mr. Ryder informed Malone, once possessed nearly the whole lordship of Great Peatling, about two thousand acres, and there are many monuments of them in the church ; but the estate is now much reduced. The present representative of this ancient family is Mr. Charles Jervis, of Hinckley, attorney-at-law.—Ep.
n Dr. Johnson, however, celebrated the beauty of his wife in her epitaph composed nearly twenty years after this period. Personal beauty is of all subjects the most legitimate one for individual taste; and according to her admiring husband, Mrs. Johnson was formosa, culta, ingeniosa, pia. See her epitaph at length in a subsequent page of these memoirs under the year 1752.—ED.
• The following account of Mrs. Johnson and her family, is copied from a paper chiefly relating to Mrs. Anna Williams, written by lady Knight, at Rome, and transmitted by her to the late John Hoole, esq. the translator of Metastasio, etc. by whom it was inserted in the European Magazine for October, 1799.
Mrs. Williams's account of Mrs. Johnson was, that she had a good understanding and great sensibility, but inclined to be satirical. Her first husband died insolvent; her sons were much disgusted with her for her second marriage, perhaps because they, being struggling to get advanced in life, were mortified to think she had allied herself to a man who had not any visible means of being useful to them; however, she always retained her affection for them. While they (Dr. and Mrs. Johnson) resided in Gough-square, her son, the officer, knocked at the door, and asked the maid if her mistress was at home.
aswered, 'Yes, sir; but she is sick in bed.' •0,' says he, “if it's so, tell her that her son Jervis called to know how she did ;' and was going away. The maid begged she might run up to tell her mistress; and without attending his answer, left him. Mrs. Johnson, enraptured to hear her son was below, desired the maid to tell him she longed to embrace him. When the maid descended, the gentleman was gone, and poor Mrs. Johnson was much agitated by the adventure: it was the only time he ever made an effort to see her.
dinary passion, and she having signified her willingness to accept of his hand, he went to Lichfield to ask his mother's consent to the marriage; which he could not but be conscious was a very imprudent scheme, both on account of their disparity of years, and her want of fortune. But Mrs. Johnson knew too well the ardour of her son's temper, and was too tender a parent to oppose his inclinations.
I know not for what reason the marriage ceremony was not performed at Birmingham ; but a resolution was taken that it should be at Derby, for which place the bride and bridegroom set out on horseback, I suppose in very good humour. But though Mr. Topham Beauclerk used archly to mention Johnson's having told him with much gravity, “Sir, it was a love marriage on both sides,” I have had from my illustrious friend the following curious account of their journey to church upon the nuptial morn: [9th July]
-“ Sir, she had read the old romances, and had got into her head the fantastical notion that a woman of spirit should use her lover like a dog. So, sir, at first she told me that I rode too fast, and she could not keep up with me; and, when I rode a little slower, she passed me, and complained that I lagged behind. I was not to be made the slave of
Dr. Johnson did all he could to console his wife; but told Mrs. Williams, 'Her son is uniformly undutiful; so I conclude, like many other sober men, he might once in his life be drunk, and in that fit nature got the better of his pride.'”
The following anecdotes of Dr. Johnson are recorded by the same lady.
“ One day that he came to my house to meet many others, we told him that we had arranged our party to go to Westminster Abbey; would not he go with us? • No,'
, he replied, ' not while I can keep out.' Upon our saying that the friends of a lady had been in great fear lest she should make a certain match, he said, 'We that are his friends have had great fears for him.'
“ Dr. Johnson's political principles ran high, both in church and state: he wished power to the king and to the heads of the church, as the laws of England have established: but I know he disliked absolute power; and I am very sure of his disapprobation of the doctrines of the church of Rome; because about three weeks before we came abroad, he said to my Cornelia, 'You are going where the ostentatious pomp of church ceremonies attracts the imagination; but if they want to persuade you to change, you must remember, that by increasing your faith, you may be persuaded to become Turk. If these were not the words, I have kept up to the express meaning.” Euror. Mag. Oct. 1799.
caprice; and I resolved to begin as I meant to end. I therefore pushed on briskly, till I was fairly out of her sight. The road lay between two hedges, so I was sure she could not miss it; and I contrived that she hould soon come up with me. When she did, I observed her to be in tears."
This, it must be allowed, was a singular beginning of connubial felicity; but there is no doubt that Johnson, though he thus showed a manly firmness, proved a most affectionate and indulgent husband to the last moment of Mrs. Johnson's life: and in his Prayers and Meditations, we find very remarkable evidence that his regard and fondness for her never ceased, even after her death.
He now set up a private academy, for which purpose he hired a large house, well situated near his native city. In the Gentleman's Magazine for 1736, there is the following advertisement: “At Edial, near Lichfield, in Staffordsbire, young gentlemen are boarded and taught the Latin and Greek languages, by SAMUEL JOHNSON.” But the only pupils that were put under bis care were the celebrated David Garrick and his brother George, and a Mr. Offely, a young gentleman of good fortune, who died early. As yet, his name had nothing of that celebrity which afterwards commanded the highest attention and respect of mankind. Had such an advertisement appeared after the publication of his London, or his Rambler, or his Dictionary, how would it have burst upon the world! with what eagerness would the great and the wealthy have embraced an opportunity of putting their sons under the learned tuition of SAMUEL JOHNSON. The truth, however, is, that he was not so well qualified for being a teacher of elements, and a conductor in learning by regular gradations, as men of inferiour powers of mind. His own acquisitions had been made by fits and starts, by violent irruptions into the regions of knowledge; and it could not be expected that his impatience would be subdued, and his impetuosity restrained, so as to fit him for a quiet guide to novices. The art of communicating instruction, of what
ever kind, is much to be valued ; and I have ever thought that those who devote themselves to this employment, and do their duty with diligence and success, are entitled to very high respect from the community, as Johnson himself often maintained. Yet I am of opinion, that the greatest abilities are not only not required for this office, but render a man less fit for it.
While we acknowledge the justness of Thomson's beautiful remark,
Delightful task! to rear the tender thought,
we must consider that this delight is perceptible only by a mind at ease, a mind at once calm and clear; but that a mind gloomy and impetuous, like that of Johnson, cannot be fixed for any length of time in minute attention, and must be so frequently irritated by unavoidable slowness and errour in the advances of scholars, as to perform the duty with little pleasure to the teacher, and no great advantage to the pupils. Good temper is a most essential requisite in a preceptor. Horace paints the character as bland:
-Ut pueris olim dant crustula blandi
Jobnson was not more satisfied with his situation as the master of an academy, than with that of the usher of a school; we need not wonder, therefore, that he did not keep his academy above a year and a half. From Mr. Garrick's account he did not appear to have been profoundly reverenced by his pupils. His oddities of manner, and uncouth gesticulations, could not but be the subject of merriment to them; and in particular, the young rogues used to listen at the door of his bedchamber, and peep through the keyhole, that they might turn into ridicule his tumultuous and awkward fondness for Mrs. Johnson, whom he used to name by the familiar appellation of Tetty or Tetsey, which, like Betty or Betsey, is provincially used