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for him, and his banker in supplying him with money when he wanted it; who was himself now a member of parliament, and who loved much to be employed in political negociation; thought he should do eminent service, both to government and Johnson, if he could be the means of his getting a seat in the house of commons. With this view, he wrote a letter to one of the secretaries of the treasury, of which he gave me a copy, in his own handwriting, which is as follows:
SIR,-You will easily recollect, when I had the honour of waiting upon you some time ago, I took the liberty to observe to you, that Dr. Johnson would make an excellent figure in the house of commons, and heartily wished he had a seat there. My reasons are briefly these :
“ I know his perfect good affection to his majesty and his government, which I am certain he wishes to support by every means in his
power. “ He possesses a great share of manly, nervous, and ready eloquence; is quick in discerning the strength and weakness of an argument; can express himself with clearness and precision; and fears the face of no man alive.
“ His known character as a man of extraordinary sense and unimpeached virtue, would secure bim the attention of the house, and could not fail to give him a proper weight there.
“ He is capable of the greatest application, and can undergo any degree of labour, where he sees it necessary, and where his heart and affections are strongly engaged. His majesty's ministers might therefore securely depend on his doing, upon every proper occasion, the utmost that could be expected from him. They would find him ready to vindicate such measures as tended to promote the stability of government, and resolute and steady in carrying them into execution. Nor is any thing to be apprehended from the supposed impetuosity of his temper. To the friends of the king you will find him a lamb, to his enemies a lion.
“For these reasons I humbly apprehend that he would be a very able and useful member. And I will venture to say, the employment would not be disagreeable to him ; and knowing, as I do, his strong affection to the king, his ability to serve him in that capacity, and the extreme ardour with which I am convinced he would engage in that service, I must repeat, that I wish most heartily to see him in the house. “ If you think this worthy
think this worthy of attention, you will be pleased to take a convenient opportunity of mentioning it to lord North. If his lordship should happily approve of it, I shall have the satisfaction of having been, in some degree, the humble instrument of doing my country, in my opinion, a very essential service. I know your goodnature, and your zeal for the publick welfare, will plead my excuse for giving you this trouble. I am, with the greatest respect, sir,
6. Your most obedient and humble servant, “ New-street,
• WILLIAM STRAHAN. March 30, 1771."
This recommendation, we know, was not effectual; but how, or for what reason, can only be conjectured. It is not to be believed that Mr. Strahan would have applied unless Johnson had approved of it. I never heard him mention the subject; but at a later period of his life, when sir Joshua Reynolds told him that Mr. Edmund Burke had said, that if he had come early into parliament, he certainly would have been the greatest speaker that ever was there, Johnson exclaimed, “I should like to try my hand now." ”
It has been much agitated among his friends and others, whether he would have been a powerful speaker in parliament had he been brought in when advanced in life. I am inclined to think, that his extensive knowledge, his quickness and force of mind, bis vivacity and richness of expression, his wit and humour, and above all his poignancy of sarcasm, would have had great effect in a popular assembly; and that the magnitude of his figure, and strik
ing peculiarity of his manner, would have aided the effect. But I remember it was observed by Mr. Flood, that Johnson, having been long used to sententious brevity, and the short flights of conversation, might have failed in that continued and expanded kind of argument which is requisite in stating complicated matters in publick speaking; and as a proof of this he mentioned the supposed speeches in parliament written by bim for the magazine, none of which, in his opinion, were at all like real debates. The opinion of one who was himself so eminent an orator, must be allowed to have great weight. It was confirmed by sir William Scott, who mentioned that Johnson had told him, that he had several times tried to speak in the Society of Arts and Manufactures, but “ had found he could not get ont.” From Mr. William Gerard Hamilton I have heard that Johnson, when observing to him that it was prudent for a man who had not been accustomed to speak in publick, to begin his speech in as simple a manner as possible, acknowledged that he rose in that society to deliver a speech which he had prepared ; “ but,” said he, “all my flowers of oratory forsook me.” I, however, cannot help wishing that he had “ tried his hand” in parliament; and I wonder that ministry did not make the experiment.
I at length renewed a correspondence which had been too long discontinued.
TO DR. JOHNSON.
Edinburgh, April 18, 1771. .“ MY DEAR SIR, I can now fully understand those intervals of silence in your correspondence with me, which have often given me anxiety and uneasiness ; for although I am conscious that my veneration and love for Mr. John
• Dr. Kippis, however, Biograph. Britan. article J. Gilbert Cooper, p. 266, n. new edit. says, that he "once heard Dr. Johnson speak in the Society of Arts and Manufactures, upon a subject relative to mechanicks, with a propriety, perspicuity, and energy which excited general admiration.”
son have never in the least abated, yet I have deferred for almost a year and a half to write to him.”
In the subsequent part of this letter I gave him an account of my comfortable life as a married man, and a lawyer in practice at the Scotch bar; invited him to Scotland, and promised to attend him to the highlands and Hebrides.
TO JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ.
“ DEAR SIR.-If you are now able to comprehend that I might neglect to write without diminution of affection, you have taught me, likewise, how that neglect may be uneasily felt without resentment. I wished for your letter a long time; and when it came, it amply recompensed the delay. I never was so much pleased as now with your account of yourself; and sincerely hope, that between publick business, improving studies, and domestick pleasures, neither melancholy nor caprice will find any place for entrance. Whatever philosophy may determine of material nature, it is certainly true of intellectual nature, that it abhors a vacuum : our minds cannot be empty; and evil will break in upon them if they are not preoccupied by good. My dear sir, mind your studies, mind your business, , make your lady happy, and be a good christian. After this,
tristitiam et metus Trades protervis in mare Creticum
Portare ventis. “ If we perform our duty, we shall be safe and steady, • Sive per,' etc. whether we climb the highlands, or are tossed among the Hebrides; and I hope the time will come when we may try our powers both with cliffs and water. I see but little of lord Elibank, I know not why; perhaps by my own fault. I am this day going into Staffordshire and Derbyshire for six weeks. · I am, de
sir, your most affectionate
• And most humble servant, “ London, June 20, 1771.
TO SIR JOSHUA REYNOLDS, IN LEICESTER-FIELDS.
“Dear Sir,—When I came to Lichfield, I found that my portrait o had been much visited, and much admired. Every man has a lurking wish to appear considerable in bis native place; and I was pleased with the dignity conferred by such a testimony of your regard.
“ Be pleased, therefore, to accept the thanks of, sir, your most obliged
And most humble servant,
SAM. Johnson, “ Aslborne in Derbyshire,
July 17, 1771. “ Compliments to Miss Reynolds."
TO DR. JOHNSON.
Edinburgh, July 27, 1771. “ MY DEAR SIR,-The bearer of this, Mr. Beattie, professor of moral philosophy at Aberdeen, is desirous of being introduced to your acquaintance. His genius and learning, and labours in the service of virtue and religion, render him very worthy of it; and as he has a high esteem of your character, I hope you will give him a favourable reception. I ever am, etc. . I
" JAMES Boswell."
TO BENNET LANGTON, ESQ. AT LANGTON, NEAR
“ DEAR SIR,-I am lately returned from Staffordshire and Derbyshire. The last letter mentions two others which you have written to me since you received my
# The portrait above alluded to was the second painted by sir Joshua Rey, nolds; with bis arms raised, and his hands bent. It was at this time, it is believed, in the possession of Miss Lucy Porter, but was probably only a copy; as the original picture by sir Joshua is at Knowle, the seat of the duke of Dorset. See Northcote's Memoirs of sir Joshua Reynolds.-Ed.