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six days?' Perhaps so.'
• ' · Then I will take no more physic; and now you
I have killed myself'.'
fellow-labourers. Francis, put into Dr. Warren's coach a copy of the English Poets.'
“Some years before, some person in a company at Salisbury, of which Dr. Johnson was one, vouched for the company, that there was nobody in it afraid of death--Speak for yourself, sir; for indeed I am.' 'I did not say of dying,' replied the other; “but of death, meaning its consequences. And so I mean,' rejoined the
Gent. “ Mr. Nichols was present when Mr. Henderson, the actor, had the Mag. honour of being introduced to Dr. Johnson, and was highly enterp. 500. tained by the interview. The conversation turning on the merits of
a certain dramatic writer, Johnson said, 'I never did the man an injury; but he would persist in reading his tragedy to me.' When Henderson was taking his leave, he invited him with much earnestness to come again frequently. • The oftener you call on me, sir, the more welcome will your visits be.”
“A literary lady, expressing to Dr. Johnson her approbation of his Dictionary, and, in particular, her satisfaction at his not having admitted into it any improper words—No, madam,' replied he; I hope I have not daubed my fingers. I find, however, that you
have been looking for them.'
Boswell, in his minute and entertaining account of Johnson's Life, has omitted to mention, that, when the Doctor first came to London with his pupil, Garrick, they borrowed five pounds on their joint note of Mr. Wilcocks, the bookseller in the Strand.”
“ The mention of Johnson's name," writes Sir Joseph Mawbey, “reminds me of an anecdote of him which I had from Garrick, with whom I belonged to a summer club for many years (till he died), first held at the assembly-house at Walton Bridge, and afterwards at Hampton. I believe Mr. Boswell does not mention this anecdote in his account of Johnson.
“ Whilst Johnson was sitting in one of the coffeehouses at Oxford, about the time when he had a doctor's degree conferred on him by the University, some young men approached him with a view to entertainment. They knew the subject of Scotch poetry and Scotch literature would call him forth. They talked of Ossian, and Home's
[See ante, vol. v. p. 331..-Ev.]
tragedy of Douglas; and one of them repeated some verses from the latter; after which he called out, “ There's imagery for you,
Dr. Johnson! There's description ! Did you ever know any man write like that?' Johnson replied, with that tone of voice and motion of head and body for which he was remarkable, and which Garrick used to mimick inimitably, 'Yes, sir, many a man, many a woman, and many a child".!”
- The first visit Goldsmith ever received from Dr. Johnson was on Life of May 31, 17612; when he gave an invitation to him and much other Golds. company, many of them literary men, to a supper in his lodgings. Dr. Percy, bishop of Dromore, one of the company then invited, being intimate with the great lexicographer, was desired to call upon him and take him with him. As they went together, the former was much struck with the studied neatness of Johnson's dress. He had on a new suit of clothes, a new wig nicely powdered, and every thing about him so perfectly dissimilar from his usual habits and appearance, that his companion could not help inquiring the cause of this singular transformation. Why, sir,' said Johnson, I hear that
' Goldsmith, who is a very great sloven, justifies his disregard of cleanliness and decency by quoting my practice, and I am desirous this night to show him a better example.”
“Dr. Johnson's friendship for Mrs. Elizabeth Aston commenced Rev.Mr. at the palace in Lichfield, the residence of Mr. Walmesley: with Mrs. Parker. Gastrel he became acquainted in London, at the house of her brotherin-law, Mr. Hervey. During the Doctor's annual visits to his daughterin-law, Lucy Porter, he spent much of his time at Stow-hill, where Mrs. Gastrel and Mrs. Elizabeth Aston resided. They were the daughters of Sir Thomas Aston, of Aston-Hall in Cheshire, of whom it is said, that being applied to for some account of his family, to illustrate the History of Cheshire, he replied, 'that the title and estate
1 [I have quoted this anecdote solely with the view of showing to how little credit hearsay anecdotes are in general entitled. Here is a story published by Sir Joseph Mawbey, a member of the house of commons, and a person every way worthy of credit, who says he had it from Garrick. Now mark-Johnson's " visit to Oxford about the time of his doctor's degree” was in 1754, the first time he had been there since he left the university; but Douglas was not acted till 1756, and Ossian not published till 1760. Every one knows that Dr. Johnson said of Ossian that many men, many women, and many children might have written it.” All therefore that is new in Sir Joseph Mawbey's story is false. Mr. Tyers related the same story, Gentleman's Magazine, 1785, p. 86; but did not lay the scene with such minute inaccuracy as Sir Joseph did.—Ed.]
[It was also in this year, 1761, that Goldsmith published the “ Vicar of Wakefield.” (See ante, vol. i. p. 428. 12.) This leads the editor to observe a more serious inaccuracy of Mrs. Piozzi than Mr. Boswell notices, when she says Johnson left her table to go and sell the “Vicar of Wakefield" for Goldsmith. Now Dr. Johnson was not acquainted with the Thrales till 1765, four years after the book had been published. -Ed.]
3 [The following anecdotes are told by Mr. Parker from the relation of Mrs. Aston and her sister.-ED.]
Rev.Mr. had descended from father to son for thirty generations, and that he Parker. believed they were neither much richer nor much poorer than they
were at first.'
“ He used to say of Dr. Hunter, master of the free grammar school, Lichfield, that he never taught a boy in his life-he whipped and they learned. Hunter was a pompous man, and never entered the school without his gown and cassock, and his wig full dressed. He had a remarkably stern look, and Dr. Johnson said he could tremble at the sight of Miss Seward, she was so like her grandfather.
“ Mrs. Gastrel was on a visit at Mr. Hervey's, in London, at the time that Johnson was writing the Rambler ; the printer's boy would often come after him to their house, and wait while he wrote off a paper for the press in a room full of company. A great portion of the Lives of the Poets was written at Stow-hill; he had a table by one of the windows, which was frequently surrounded by five or six ladies engaged in work or conversation. Mrs. Gastrel had a very valuable edition of Bailey's Dictionary, to which he often referred. She told him that Miss Seward said that he had made poetry of no value by his criticism. Why, my dear lady,' replied he, 'if silver is dirty, it is not the less valuable for a good scouring.'
“A large party had one day been invited to meet the Doctor at Stow-hill; the dinner waited far beyond the usual hour, and the company were about to sit down, when Johnson appeared at the great gate; he stood for some time in deep contemplation, and at length began to climb it, and, having succeeded in clearing it, advanced with hasty strides towards the house. On his arrival Mrs. Gastrel asked him, 'If he had forgotten that there was a small gate for foot passengers by the side of the carriage entrance. “No, my dear lady, by no means,' replied the Doctor; but I had a mind to try whether I could climb a gate now as I used to do when I was
“One day Mrs. Gastrel set a little girl to repeat to him Cato's soliloquy, which she went through very correctly. The Doctor, after a pause, asked the child “What was to bring Cato to an end ?' She said it was a knife. “No, my dear, it was not so. “My aunt Polly said it was a knife.'
Why, aunt Polly's knife may do, but it was a dagger, my dear. He then asked her the meaning of bane and antidote,' which she was unable to give. Mrs. Gastrel said, “You cannot expect so young a child to know the meaning of such words.' He then said, “My dear, how many pence are there in sixpence •I cannot tell, sir,' was the half terrified reply. On this, addressing himself to Mrs. Gastrel, he said, “Now, my dear lady, can any thing be more ridiculous than to teach a child Cato's soliloquy, who does not know how many pence there are in sixpence?'
- The ladies at Stow-hill would occasionally rebuke Dr. Johnson
for the indiscriminate exercise of his charity to all who applied Rev.Mr. for it. • There was that woman,' said one of them, “to whom you
Parker. 'yesterday gave half-a-crown, why she was at church to-day in long sleeves and ribbons. Well, my dear,' replied Johnson, and if it
' · , gave the woman pleasure, why should she not wear them ?'
“ He had long promised to write Mr. Walmesley's epitaph, and Mrs. W. waited for it, in order to erect a monument to her husband's memory; procrastination, however, one of the Doctor's few failings, prevenced its being finished; he was engaged upon it in his last illness, and when the physicians, at his own request, informed him of his danger, he pushed the papers from before him, saying, 'It was too late to write the epitaph of another when he should so soon want one himself.'”
“ The late Mr. Crauford, of Hyde-Park-corner', being engaged to Ed. dinner, where Dr. Johnson was to be, resolved to pay his court to him, and having heard that he preferred Donne’s Satires to Pope's version of them, said, “Do you know, Dr. Johnson, that I like Dr. Donne's original Satires better than Pope's. Johnson said, 'Well, sir, I can't help that.'
“Miss Johnson, one of Sir Joshua's nieces (afterwards Mrs. Deane), was dining one day at her uncle's with Dr. Johnson and a large party: the conversation happening to turn on music, Johnson spoke very contemptuously of that art, and added, “that no man of talent, or whose mind was capable of better things, ever would or could devote his time and attention to so idle and frivolous a pursuit.' The young lady, who was very fond of music, whispered her next neighbour, • I wonder what Dr. Johnson thinks of King David. Johnson overheard her, and, with great good humour and complacency, said, • Madam, I thank you ; I stand rebuked before you, and promise that, on one subject at least, you shall never hear me talk nonsense again.'
“The honours of the University of Cambridge were once performed, to Dr. Johnson, by Dr. Watson, the late Bishop of Llandaff, and then Professor of Chemistry, &c. After having spent the morning in seeing all that was worthy of notice, the sage dined at his conductor's table, which was surrounded by various persons, all anxious to see so remarkable a character, but the moment was not favourable ; he had been wearied by his previous exertions, and would not talk. After the party had dispersed he said, I was tired, and would not take the trouble, or I could have set them right upon several subjects, sir; for instance, the gentleman who said he could not imagine how any pleasure could be derived from hunting, the reason
[Commonly called Fish Crauford. -Ed.] ? ¡Dr. Watson was a fellow of Trinity : see ante, vol. i. p. 500, an account of this visit to Cainbridge, which occurred in Feb. 1765..Ed.]
is, because man feels his own vacuity less in action than when at rest.'
“ Mr. Williams, the Rector of Wellesbourne, in Warwickshire, mentioned having once, when a young man, performed a stage-coach journey with Dr. Johnson, who took his place in the vehicle, provided with a little book, which his companion soon discovered to be Lucian; he occasionally threw it aside, if struck by any remark made by his fellow travellers, and poured forth his knowledge and eloquence in a full stream, to the delight and astonishment of his auditors. Accidentally the first subject which attracted him was the digestive faculties of dogs, from whence he branched off as to the powers of digestion in various species of animals, discovering such stores of information, that this particular point might have been supposed to have formed his especial study, and so it was with every other subject started: the strength of his memory was not less astonishing than his eloquence; he quoted from various authors, either in support of his own argument or to confute those of his companions, as readily and, apparently, as accurately as if the works had been in his hands. The coach halted, as usual, for dinner, which seemed to be a deeply interesting business to Johnson, who vehemently attacked a dish of stewed carp, using his fingers only in feeding himself".
Bishop Percy was at one time on a very intimate footing with Dr. Johnson, and the Doctor one day took Percy's a little daughter upon his knee, and asked her what she thought of Pilgrim's Progress?' The child answered that she had not read it. "No,' replied the Doctor, then I would not give one farthing for you,' and he set her down and took no further notice of her.”
“ Dr. Mudge used to relate, as a proof of Dr. Johnson's quick discernment into character 4 :- When he was on a visit to Dr. Mudge at Plymouth, the inhabitants of the Dock (now Devonport) were very desirous of their town being supplied with water, to effect which it was necessary to obtain the consent of the corporation of Plymouth; this was obstinately refused, the Dock being considered as an upstart. And a rival, Alderman Tolcher, who took a very strong part, called one morning, and immediately opened on the subject to Dr. Johnson,
| [Mr. Boswell, ante, vol. v. p. 183, mentions another instance, in which Dr. Johnson surprised his accidental companions in a stage-coach with the force of his conversation and the goodness of his appetite.--Ed.)
? [Afterwards Mrs. Isted, of Ecton, Northamptonshire.--Ed.]
3 [Mrs. Rose, who has obligingly communicated these anecdotes, is the daughter of Dr. Farr, of Plymouth, and the daughter-in-law of Dr. Johnson's old friend, Dr. Rose, of Chiswick.--Ed.]
4 [This story told by Mr. Boswell, and commented upon by Mr. Blakeway (ante, vol. 1. p. 369), as if Dr. Johnson had seriously entered into the spirit of the contest; whereas Dr. Mudge, more naturally, represents him as flattering, with an ironical vehemence, the prejudices of the worthy alderman, who is known, from other circumstances, to have been of a very zealous disposition.—ED.)