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with books, for which he, and some more of my friends, kindly encouraged a taste, even at that early age, which has adhered to me all my long life, and continues to be the solace of many a painful hour. I recollect that he used to drop in at my father's, for we lived nearly opposite, late in the evening to supper; when, as he would say, he had worked as long as his eyes and nerves would let him, and was come to relax with a little friendly and domestic chat.
“ Most of the ladies who resided much at his house acquired a certain degree of fastidiousness and delicate refinement, which, though amiable in itself, rather disqualified them from appearing in general society to the advantage that might have been expected, and rendered an intercourse with the world uneasy to themselves, giving a peculiar air of shyness and reserve to their whole address; of which habits his own daughters partook, in a degree that has been thought by some a little to obscure those really valuable qualifications and talents they undoubtedly possessed.
“ Besides those I have already named, I well remember a Mrs. Donellan, a venerable old lady, with sharp piercing eyes ; Miss Mulso, afterwards Mrs. Chapone, &c.; Secker, Archbishop of Canterbury; Sir Thomas Robinson (Lord Grantham), &c., who were frequent visitors at his house in town and country. The ladies I have named were often staying at North End, at the period of his highest glory and reputation; and in their company and
conversation his genius was matured. His benevolence was unbounded, as his manner of diffusing it was delicate and refined.” Richardson, with all his excellent qualities, appears to have been entirely spoiled by his female coterie, who pampered him with an amount of fulsome flattery, from which most men would have turned with thorough disgust. Dr. Johnson said of him, that he had “ little conversation, except about his own works;" and another of his intimate acquaintances, Sir Joshua Reynolds, observed that he was always willing to talk of his writings, and “glad to have them introduced.” When Dr. Johnson took Bennet Langton to introduce him to Richardson, he boasted that he had the art of drawing out the novelist into conversation, adding :-“ Sir, I can make him rear.” All that Langton, however, could remember of the interview, which was worth repeating, was the circumstance of Richardson drawing their attention to the fact of his novel, “ Clarissa Harlowe,” having had the honour of being translated into German, of which the German copy lay in the room.
John Dryden, and Thomas Shadwell the dramatic poet, resided at different periods in Salisbury Court. Here also, shortly after the restoration of Charles the Second, were residing the celebrated actors, Thomas Betterton and Joseph Harris. The latter appears to have quitted the stage shortly before the union of the King's and Duke's Servants, in 1682. Betterton appeared on the stage as late as the 25th
of April 1710, when he acted for the last time, in his celebrated part of Melantius, in the “Maid's Tragedy.” He died only three days afterwards ; having, in order to enable him to appear on the stage, made use of some outward applications to suppress the gout in his feet, which sent the disease to his head.
The Salisbury Court Theatre, so often the scene of Betterton's triumphs, was first established in 1629, in the granary of Salisbury House. In March 1649, it was destroyed by the Puritans, but was rebuilt and re-opened by William Beeston, an actor, in 1660. Here the Duke's company acted till their removal to the Lincoln's Inn Theatre, in the spring of 1662. It was finally destroyed by the great Fire in 1666. This theatre must not be confounded with the Dorset Gardens Theatre, which stood in the immediate neighbourhood, but nearer to the Thames.
In Dorset Court, the great philosopher, John Locke, was residing in 1689, and from hence he dates the dedication to his 66 Essay on the Human Understanding."
Gough Square, on the north side of Fleet Street, was, for ten years, the residence of Dr. Johnson. Gough Square is a small paved court, or square, consisting of old houses of a lofty size. The entrance to it is by a narrow passage, called Hind Court, on the north side of Fleet Street, opposite to Whitefriars Street. The residence of Dr. Johnson was No. 4 in this square. Here he was living when he published his “ Vanity of Human Wishes,” in 1749,
which he appears to have written partly in Gough Square, but principally in his occasional visits to Hampstead, where Mrs. Johnson had taken lodgings for the benefit of country-air. In Gough Square he wrote the Rambler, and here also he composed a considerable portion of his Dictionary.
“ While the Dictionary was going forward,” says Boswell, “ Johnson lived part of the time in Holborn, part in Gough Square, Fleet Street; and he had an upper room fitted up like a counting-house for the purpose, in which he gave to the copyists their several tasks.”
Dr. Johnson was residing in Gough Square at the time when he lost his wife, his beloved “ Tetty.” “ The dreadful shock of separation,” says Boswell, “ took place in the night; and he immediately despatched a letter to his friend the Reverend Dr. Taylor, which, as Taylor told me, expressed grief in the strongest manner he had ever read; so that it is much to be regretted it has not been preserved. The letter was brought to Dr. Taylor, at his house in the Cloisters, Westminster, about three in the morning; and as it signified an earnest desire to see him, he got up, and went to Johnson as soon as he was dressed, and found him in tears and in extreme agitation. After being a little while together, Johnson requested him to join with him in prayer. He then prayed extempore, as did Dr. Taylor; and thus by means of that piety which was ever his primary object, his troubled mind was, in some degree, soothed and composed."
The ten years passed by Dr. Johnson in Gough Square were perhaps the most melancholy of his life. Hypochondriacism embittered his social hours, and want stared him in the face. During the period that he was composing his great work, the Dictionary, we find him addressing the following melancholy appeal to Richardson, the novelist :
“Gough Square, 16th March, 1756. SIR, -I am obliged to entreat your assistance; I am now under arrest for five pounds, eighteen shillings. Mr. Strahan, from whom I should have received the necessary help in this case, is not at home, and I am afraid of not finding Mr. Millar. If you will be so good as to send me this sum, I will very gratefully repay you, and add it to all former obligations. I am, Sir, your most obedient and most humble servant,
“SAM. JOHNSON." “ Sent six guineas,
“ Witness, William Richardson.”
It was probably on this occasion that Dr. Johnson, speaking of Richardson's invariable kindness, observed, “I remember writing to him from a sponging-house; and was so sure of my deliverance through his kindness and liberality, that, before his reply was brought, I knew I could afford to joke with the rascal who had me in custody, and did so, over a pint of adulterated wine, for which, at that instant, I had no money to pay.”