Page images

ficiently: they should be attended by a methodist preacher', or a popish priest.' Let me however observe, in justice to the Reverend Mr. Vilette, who has been ordinary of Newgate for no less than eighteen years, in the course of which he has attended many hundreds of wretched criminals, that his earnest and humane exhortations have been very effectual. His extraordinary diligence is highly praiseworthy, and merits a distinguished reward”.

On Thursday, June 24, I dined with him at Mr. Dilly's, where were the Rev. Mr. (now Dr.) Knox, master of Tunbridge School, Mr. Smith, vicar of Southill, Dr. Beattie, Mr. Pinkerton, authour of various literary performances, and the Rev. Dr. Mayo. At my desire old Mr. Sheridan was invited, as I was earnest to have Johnson and him brought together again by chance, that a reconciliation might be effected. Mr. Sheridan happened to come early, and having learnt that Dr. Johnson was to be there, went away; so I found, with sincere regret, that my

my friendly intentions were hopeless . I recollect nothing that passed this day, except Johnson's quickness, who, when Dr. Beattie observed, as something remarkable which had happened to him, that he had chanced to see both No. 1 and No. 1000 of the hackney-coaches, the first and the last—" Why, sir,” said Johnson, “there is an equal chance for one's seeing those two numbers as any other two." He was clearly right; yet the seeing of the two extremes, each of which is

1 A friend of mine happened to be passing by a field congregation in the environs of London, when a methodist preacher quoted this passage with triumph. -BoswELL.

? I trust that the City of London, now happily in unison with the Court, will have the justice and generosity to obtain preferment for this reverend gentleman, now a worthy old servant of that magnificent corporation.-BOSWELL. [This wish was not accomplished. Mr. Vilette died in April, 1799, having been nearly thirty years chaplain of Newgate.Ed.]

3 [The same whose correspondence has been lately published.--Ed.) 4 (No doubt Mr. Boswell's intentions were friendly, but he certainly had himself contributed by his indiscretions to keep alive the old animosity.--Ed.)

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

in some degree more conspicuous than the rest, could not but strike one in a stronger manner than the sight of any other two numbers. - Though I have neglected to preserve his conversation, it was perhaps at this interview that Dr. Knox formed the notion of it which he has exhibited in his “ Winter Evenings.

On Friday, June 25, I dined with him at General Paoli's, where, he says in one of his letters to Mrs. Thrale, “I love to dine." There was a variety of dishes much to his taste, of all which he seemed to me to eat so much, that I was afraid he might be hurt by it; and I whispered to the general my fear, and begged he might not press him. “Alas !” said the general, “ see how very ill he looks; he can live but a very short time. Would


any slight gratifications to a man under sentence of death ? There is a humane custom in Italy, by which persons in that melancholy situation are indulged with having whatever they like best to eat and drink, even with expensive delicacies.”

I showed him some verses on Lichfield by Miss Seward, which I had that day received from her, and had the pleasure to hear him approve of them. He confirmed to me the truth of a high compliment which I had been told he had paid to that lady, when she mentioned to him “ The Columbiade," an epick poem, by Madame du Boccage :-“ Madam, , there is not any thing equal to your description of the sea round the North Pole, in your Ode on the Death of Captain Cook.”

[I have thus quoted a compliment paid by Dr. Gent. Johnson to one of this lady's poetical pieces, and I


1793, have withheld his opinion of herself, thinking that p. 1011. she might not like it. I am afraid that it has reached her by some other means, and thus we may account for the various attacks made by her on her venerable

townsman since his decease; some avowed, and with her own name -- others, I believe, in various forms and under several signatures. What are we to think of the scraps' of letters between her and Mr. Hayley, impotently attempting to underinine the noble pedestal on which public opinion has placed Dr. Johnson?.]

[A specimen of these scraps will amuse the reader, and more than justify Mr. Boswell's censure of Miss Seward.


66 1782.

“You have seen Dr. Johnson's 'Lives of the Poets :' they have excited your generous indignation : a heart like Mr. Hayley's would shrink back astonished to perceive a mind so enriched with the power of genius, capable of such cool malignity. Yet the Gentleman's Magazine praised these unworthy efforts to blight the laurels of undoubted fame. O that the venom may fall where it ought !—that the breath of public contempt may blow it from the beauteous wreaths,” &c. &c. “I turn froin this comet in literature (Dr. Johnson) to its Sun,-Mr. Hayley!66 MR. HAYLEY TO MISS SEWARD.

66 5th August. “ I have read the · Lives of the Poets' with as much indignation as you can give me credit for—with a strange mixture of detestation and delight. As his language, to give the devil his due, is frequently sublime and enriched with certain diabolical graces of his own, I continue to listen to him, whenever he speaks, with an equal mixture of adıniration and abhorrence.”

Hayley seems to have been puzzled between his real admiration of Johnson and his wish to appear to share the indignation of his fair correspondent, who evidently did not like the expression of “ delightand “admiration" with which Hayley had qualified his assent. She therefore artfully enough seeks to inlist him more thoroughly in her cause by insinuating that Johnson, who was then at Lichfield, and whom, after Churchill, she calls “Immane Pompuso,” had spoken coldly of Hayley's poetry, while she kept an indignant silence.

This partly succeeds, and Hayley's reply is a little more satisfactory to the ireful lady.

(6 25th October. “Your account of Pomposo delights me—that noble leviathan who lashes the troubled waters into a sublime but mischievous storm of turbulence and mud,” &c.

But she was still dissatisfied :-“ I am dubious,” she says, “about the epithet noble ;” and then she proceeds with a long see-saw galimathias of praise and dispraise of his charity and genius on the one hand, and of his acrimony, envy, malignity, bigotry, and superstition, on the other.

Miss Seward stated afterwards that this trash had been published without her consent; though she admitted having sent it to some of her distant friends, 6 induced by the wit and elegance of the Haylean passages.' This latter motive the editor is sorry to say he wholly disbelieves, for he finds that the Haylean passages are but two, and contain but thirty-two lines of the letter-press; while Miss Seward's own are four in number, and extend to a hundred and ninety-one lines; that the correspondence begins and ends with her, and clearly has no objects whatsoever but to exalt herself and depreciate Dr. Johnson. Mr. Hayley attempted to ridicule Johnson in the character of Rumble in one of his duíl rhyming comedies, and in a Dialogue of the Dead, which was dead-born. ED.]

» [This passage is an extract from Mr. Boswell's controversy with Miss Seward_Gentleman's Maguzine, 1793, p. 1011.--Ed.]



[ocr errors]

Letters, vol. ii.

p. 373.


" London, 26th June, 1784. A message came to me yesterday to tell me that Macbean is dead, after three days of illness. He was one of those who, as Swift says, stood as a screen between me and death. He has, I hope, made a good exchange. He was very pious; he was very

; innocent; he did no ill; and of doing good a continual tenour of distress allowed him few opportunities: he was very highly esteemed in the house'.]

[ocr errors]

On Sunday, June 27, I found him rather better. I mentioned to him a young man who was going to Jamaica with his wife and children, in expectation of being provided for by two of her brothers settled in that island, one a clergyman and the other a physician, JOHNSON. “It is a wild scheme, sir, unless he has a positive and deliberate invitation. There was a poor girl, who used to come about me, who had a cousin in Barbadoes, that, in a letter to her, expressed a wish she should come out to that island, and expatiated on the comforts and happiness of her situation. The poor girl went out: her cousin was much surprised, and asked her how she could think of coming. 'Because,' said she, 'you invited me.'-Not I,' answered the cousin. The letter was then produced. I see it is true,' said she, that I did invite you: but I did not think you would come. They lodged her in an out-house, where she passed her time miserably; and as soon as she had an opportunity she returned to England. Always tell this when you hear of people going abroad to relations upon a notion of being well received. In the case which you mention, it is probable the clergyman spends all he gets, and the physician does not know how much he is to get.”

We this day dined at Sir Joshua Reynolds's, with

[ocr errors]

[The Charter-House, into which Johnson had procured his admission. Ep.) VOL. V.


General Paoli, Lord Eliot (formerly Mr. Eliot, of
Port Eliot), Dr. Beattie, and some other company.
Talking of Lord Chesterfield ;-JOHNSON. “ His
manner was exquisitely elegant, and he had more
knowledge than I expected.” BoSWELL. “ Did you
find, sir, his conversation to be of a superior style?"
JOHNSON. “Sir, in the conversation which I had
with him I had the best right to superiority, for it
was upon philology and literature.” Lord Eliot, who
had travelled at the same time with Mr. Stanhope,
Lord Chesterfield's natural son, justly observed, that
it was strange that a man who showed he had so
much affection for his son as Lord Chesterfield did,
by writing so many long and anxious letters to him,
almost all of them when he was secretary of state,
which certainly was a proof of great goodness of dis-
position, should endeavour to make his son a rascal.
His lordship told us that Foote had intended to bring
on the stage a father who had thus tutored his son,
and to show the son an honest man to every one else,
but practising his father's maxims upon him, and
cheating him. JOHNSON. “I am much pleased with
this design; but I think there was no occasion to
make the son honest at all. No; he should be a
consummate rogue: the contrast between honesty and
knavery would be the stronger. It should be con-
trived so that the father should be the only sufferer
by the son's villany, and thus there would be poetical

[Johnson said that he had once seen Mr. Stanhope,
Lord Chesterfield's son, at Dodsley's shop, and was
so much struck with his awkward manner and ap-
pearance, that he could not help asking Mr. Dodsley
who he was.]

He put Lord Eliot in mind of Dr. Walter Harte'.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Hawk. Apoph. 209.

1 [See ante, vol. i. p. 375.-Ed.]

« PreviousContinue »