« PreviousContinue »
part of the little pleasure that this life allows. But such is the condition of our nature, that as we live on we must see those whom we love drop successively, and find our circle of relation grow less and less, till we are almost unconnected with the world; and then it must soon be our
i turn to drop into the grave. There is always this consolation, that we have one Protector who can never be lost but by our own fault; and every new experience of the uncertainty of all other comforts, should determine us to fix our hearts where true joys are to be found. All union with the inhabitants of earth must in time be broken; and all the hopes that terminate here, must on [one] part or other end in disappointment.
“I am glad that Mrs. Adey and Mrs. Cobb do not leave you alone. Pay my respects to them, and the Sewards, and all my friends. When Mr. Porter comes, he
, will direct you. Let me know of his arrival, and I will write to him.
“ When I go back to London I will take care of your reading glass. Whenever I can do any thing for you, remember, my dear darling, that one of my greatest pleasures is to please you.
“ The punctuality of your correspondence I consider as a proof of great regard. When we shall see each other, I know not; but let us often think on each other, and think with tenderness. Do not forget me in your prayers. I have for a long time back been very poorly; but of what use is it to complain?
“ Write often, for your letters always give great pleasure to,
“ My dear,
“ SAM. JOHNSON.”
Upon his arrival in London in May, he surprised me one morning with a visit at my lodgings in Half-Moonstreet, was quite satisfied with my explanation, and was in the kindest and most agreeable frame of mind. As he had objected to a part of one of his letters being published, I thought it right to take this opportunity of asking him explicitly, whether it would be improper to publish his letters after his death. His answer was,
Nay, sir, when I am dead, you may do as you will."
He talked in his usual style with a rough contempt of popular liberty. “They make a rout about universal li
• berty, without considering that all that is to be valued, or indeed can be enjoyed by individuals, is private liberty. Political liberty is good only so far as it produces private liberty. Now, sir, there is the liberty of the press, which you know is a constant topick. Suppose you and I and two hundred more were restrained from printing our thoughts: what then? What proportion would that restraint upon as bear to the private happiness of the nation?"
This mode of representing the inconveniencies of restraint as light and insignificant, was a kind of sophistry in which he delighted to indulge himself, in opposition to the extreme laxity for which it has been fashionable for too many to argue, when it is evident, upon reflection, that the very essence of government is restraint; and certain it is, that as government produces rational happiness, too much restraint is better than too little. But when restraint is unnecessary, and so close as to gall those who are subject to it, the people may and ought to remonstrate; and, if relief is not granted, to resist. Of this manly and spirited principle no man was more convinced than Johnson himself.
About this time Dr. Kenrick attacked him, through my sides, in a pamphlet entitled An Epistle to James Boswell, Esq. occasioned by his having transmitted the Moral Writings of Dr. Samuel Johnson to Pascal Paoli, General of the Corsicans. I was at first inclined to answer this pamphlet; but Johnson, who knew that my doing so would only gratify Kenrick, by keeping alive what would soon die away of itself, would not suffer me to take any notice of it. His sincere regard for Francis Barber, his faithful negro servant, made him so desirous of his further improvement, that he now placed him at a school at Bishop Stortford in Hertfordshire. This humane attention does Johnson's heart much honour. Out of many letters which. Mr. Barber received from his master, he has preserved three, which he kindly gave me, and which I shall insert according to their dates.
TO MR. FRANCIS BARBER.
“ DEAR FRANCIS,-I have been very much out of order. I am glad to hear that you are well, and design to come soon to see you. I would have you stay at Mrs. Clapp's for the present, till I can determine what we shall do. Be a good boy.
• My compliments to Mrs. Clapp and to Mr. Fowler,
“ Yours affectionately,
May 28, 1768.
Soon afterwards, he supped at the Crown and Anchor tavern, in the Strand, with a company whom I collected to meet him. There were Dr. Percy, now bishop of Dromore, Dr. Douglas, now bishop of Salisbury, Mr. Langton, Dr. Robertson the bistorian, Dr. Hugh Blair, and Mr. Thomas Davies, who wished much to be introduced to these eminent Scotch literati; but on the present occasion he had very little opportunity of hearing them talk, for with an excess of prudence, for which Johnson afterwards found fault with them, they hardly opened their lips, and that only to say something which they were certain would not expose them to the sword of Goliath ; such was their anxiety for their fame when in the presence of Johnson. He was this evening in remarkable vigour of mind, and eager to exert himself in conversation, which he did with great readiness and fluency; but I am sorry to find that I have preserved but a small part of what passed.
He allowed high praise to Thomson as a poet; but when one of the company said he was also a very good man, our moralist contested this with great warmth, accusing him of gross sensuality and licentiousness of manners. I was very much afraid that in writing Thomson's life, Dr. Johnson would have treated his private character with a stern severity, but I was agreeably disappointed ; and I may claim a little merit in it, from my having been at pains to send him authentick accounts of the affectionate and generous conduct of that poet to his sisters; one of whom, the wife of Mr. Thomson, schoolmaster at Lanark, I knew, and was presented by her with three of his letters, one of which Dr. Johnson has inserted in his life.
He was vehement against old Dr. Mounsey”, of Chelsea college, as “a fellow who swore and talked bawdy." “ I have often been in his company,” said Dr. Percy, “and never heard him swear or talk bawdy.” Mr. Davies, who sat next to Dr. Percy, having after this had some conversation aside with him, made a discovery which, in his zeal to pay court to Dr. Johnson, he eagerly proclaimed aloud from the foot of the table : “O, sir, I have found out a very good reason why Dr. Percy never heard Mounsey swear or talk bawdy; for he tells me, he never saw him but at the duke of Northumberland's table." sir,” said Dr. Johnson loudly to Dr. Percy, “ you would shield this man from the charge of swearing and talking bawdy, because he did not do so at the duke of Northumberland's table. Sir, you might as well tell us that
h Messenger Mounsey, M.D. died at his apartments in Chelsea college, Dec. 26, 1788, ayed ninety-five. Respecting the above dispute, see Butier's Life of Bishop Hildesley, p. 483. That Mounsey was a coarse man, destitute of much sensibility, is evinced in the direction of his will, in which he orders that “ his body shall not suffer any funeral ceremony, but undergo dissection; after which, the remainder of his carcase,” to use his own expressions, may be put into a hole, or crammed into a box with holes and thrown into the Thames, at the pleasure of the surgeon.” Gent. Mag. for 1788, vol. lviii. part 2, p. 1183. The direction ght have been dictated by a philosophic ardour for the propagation of anatomical knowledge; but we repeat, that the whole tenour of the will does not exhibit a sensitive mind.-Ep.
you had seen him hold up his hand at the Old Bailey, and he neither swore nor talked bawdy; or that you him in the cart at Tyburn, and he neither swore nor talked bawdy. And is it thus, sir, that you presume to controvert what I have related ?" Dr. Johnson's animadversion was uttered in such a manner, that Dr. Percy seemed to be displeased, and soon afterwards left the company, of which Johnson did not at that time take any notice.
Swift having been mentioned, Johnson, as usual, treated him with little respect as an author. Some of us endeavoured to support the dean of St. Patrick's, by various arguments. One in particular praised his Conduct of the Allies. JOHNSON.
JOHNSON. “ Sir, his Conduct of the Allies is a performance of very little ability.” “Surely, sir,” said
, Dr. Douglas, “ you must allow it has strong facts i."
” JOHNSON Why yes, sir ; but what is that to the merit of the composition? In the sessions paper of the Old Bailey there are strong facts. Housebreaking is a strong fact; robbery is a strong fact; and murder is a mighty strong fact: but is great praise due to the historian of those strong facts ? No, sir : Swift has told what he had to tell distinctly enough, but that is all. He had to count ten, and he has counted it right.”—Then recollecting that Mr. Davies, by acting as an informer, had been the occasion of his talking somewhat too harshly to his friend Dr. Percy, for which, probably, when the first ebullition was over, he felt some compunction, he took an opportunity to give him a hit; ‘so added, with a preparatory laugh, “ Why, sir, Tom Davies might have written the Conduct of the Allies.” Poor Tom being thus suddenly dragged
My respectable friend, upon reading this passage, observed that he probably must have said not simply " strong facts,” but “ strong facts well arranged." His lordship, however, knows too well the value of written documents to insist on setting his recollection against my notes taken at the time. He does not attempt to traverse the record. The fact, perhaps, may have been, either that the additional words escaped me in the noise of a numerous company, or that Dr. Johnson, from his impetuosity, and eagerness to seize an opportunity to make a lively retort, did not allow Dr. Douglas to finish his sentence.-- BOSWELL,