Here he had a pleasing opportunity of doing the same kindness to an old friend which he had formerly received from him. Indeed, his liberality as to money was very remarkable. The next article in his diary is : 'July 16th. I received £75. Lent Mr. Davies £25.'

Trinity College, Dublin, at this time surprised Johnson with a spontaneous compliment of the highest academical honours by creating him Doctor of Laws. The diploma, which is in my possession, is as follows:

'Omnibus, ad quos præsentes literæ pervenerint, salutem. Nos, Præpositus et Socii Seniores Collegii sacrosanctæ et individuæ Trinitatis Reginæ Elizabethæ juxta Dublin, testamur, Samueli Johnson, Armigero, ob egregiam scriptorum elegantiam et utilitatem, gratiam concessam fuisse pro gradu Doctoratûs in utroque Jure, octavo die Julii, Anno Domini millesimo septingentesimo sexagesimo-quinto. In cujus rei testimonium singulorum manus et sigillum quo in hisce utimur apposuimus, vicesimo tertio die Julii, Anno Domini millesimo septingentesimo sexagesimo-quinto.



Props. ROBtus LAW.

This unsolicited mark of distinction, conferred on so great a literary character, did much honour to the judgment and liberal spirit of that learned body. Johnson acknowledged the favour in a letter to Dr. Leland, one of their number; but I have not been able to obtain a copy of it.'

1 [Since the publication of the edition in 1804 a copy of this letter has been obligingly communicated to me by John Leland, Esq., son to the learned historian to whom it is addressed:


'SIR,-Among the names subscribed to the degree which I have had the honour of receiving from the University of Dublin, I find none of

He appears this year to have been seized with a temporary fit of ambition, for he had thoughts both of studying law and of engaging in politics. His 'Prayer before the Study of Law' is truly admirable :

'Sept. 26, 1765.

'Almighty God, the giver of wisdom, without whose help resolutions are vain, without whose blessing study is ineffectual; enable me, if it be Thy will, to attain such knowledge as may qualify me to direct the doubtful and instruct the ignorant; to prevent wrongs and terminate contentions; and grant that I may use that knowledge which I shall attain to Thy glory and my own salvation, for Jesus Christ's sake. Amen.'1


His prayer in the view of becoming a politician is entitled, 'Engaging in Politics with H- -n,'— doubt his friend the Right Honourable William Gerard Hamilton, for whom, during a long acquaintance, he had a great esteem, and to whose conversation he once paid this high compliment: 'I am very unwilling to be left alone, sir, and therefore I go with my company down the first pair of stairs, in some hopes that they may, perhaps, return again; I go

which I have any personal knowledge but those of Dr. Andrews and yourself.

'Men can be estimated by those who know them not, only as they are represented by those who know them; and therefore I flatter myself that I owe much of the pleasure which this distinction gives me to your concurrence with Dr. Andrews in recommending me to the learned society.

'Having desired the Provost to return my general thanks to the University, I beg that you, sir, will accept my particular and immediate acknowledgments.-I am, sir, your most obedient and most humble servant, SAM. JOHNSON.

'Johnson's Court, Fleet Street,

London, Oct. 17, 1765.'

I have not been able to recover the letter which Johnson wrote to Dr. Andrews on this occasion.-M.]

1 Prayers and Meditations, p. 66.

with you, sir, as far as the street door.' In what particular department he intended to engage does not appear, nor can Mr. Hamilton explain. His prayer is in general terms: 'Enlighten my understanding with the knowledge of right, and govern my will by thy laws, that no deceit may mislead me nor temptation corrupt me; that I may always endeavour to do good, and hinder evil.' There is nothing upon the subject in his diary.

This year was distinguished by his being introduced into the family of Mr. Thrale, one of the most eminent brewers in England, and member of Parliament for the borough of Southwark. Foreigners are not a little amazed when they hear of brewers, distillers, and men in similar departments of trade, held forth as persons of considerable consequence. In this great commercial country it is natural that a situation which produces much wealth should be considered as very respectable; and, no doubt, honest industry is entitled to esteem. But perhaps the too rapid advances of men of low extraction tends to lessen the value of that distinction by birth and gentility, which has ever been found beneficial to the grand scheme of subordination. Johnson used to give this account of the rise

of Mr. Thrale's father:

'He worked at six shillings a week for twenty years in the great brewery which afterwards was his own. The proprietor of it 2 had an only daughter, who was married to a nobleman.

1 Prayers and Meditations, p. 67.

2 [The predecessor of old Thrale was Edmund Halsey, Esq.; the nobleman who married his daughter was Lord Cobham, great-uncle of the Marquis of Buckingham. But I believe Dr. Johnson was mistaken in assigning so very low an origin to Mr. Thrale. The Clerk of St. Alban's, a very aged man, told me that he (the elder Thrale) married a

It was not fit that a peer should continue the business. On the old man's death, therefore, the brewery was to be sold. To find a purchaser for so large a property was a difficult matter; and, after some time, it was suggested that it would be advisable to treat with Thrale, a sensible, active, honest man, who had been employed in the house, and to transfer the whole to him for £30,000 security being taken upon the property. This was accordingly settled. In eleven years

Thrale paid the purchase-money. He acquired a large fortune, and lived to be a member of Parliament for Southwark.1 But what was most remarkable was the liberality with which he used his riches. He gave his son and daughters the best education. The esteem which his good conduct procured him from the nobleman who had married his master's daughter made him be treated with much affection; and his son, both at school and at the University of Oxford, associated with young men of the first rank. His allowance from his father, after he left college, was splendid,-not less than a thousand a year. This, in a man who had risen as old Thrale did, was a very extraordinary instance of generosity. He used to say, "If this young dog does not find so much after I am gone as he expects, let him remember that he has had a great deal in my own time.""

The son, though in affluent circumstances, had good sense enough to carry on his father's trade, which was of such extent that I remember he once told me he would not quit it for an annuity of ten thousand a year, 'Not (said he) that I get ten thousand a year by it, but it is an estate to a family.' Having left daughters

sister of Mr. Halsey. It is at least certain that the family of Thrale was of some consideration in that town: in the abbey church is a handsome monument to the memory of Mr. John Thrale, late of London, merchant, who died in 1704, aged 54, Margaret his wife, and three of their children, who died young between the years 1676 and 1690. The arms upon this monument are, paly of eight, gules and or, impaling, ermine, on a chief indented vert, three wolves' (or gryphons') heads, or, couped at the neck:-Crest on a ducal coronet, a tree, vert.-J. BLAKEWAY.]

1 [In 1733 he served the office of High Sheriff for Surrey, and died April 9, 1758.-A. C.]

only, the property was sold for the immense sum of £135,000, a magnificent proof of what may be done by fair trade in a long period of time.

There may be some who think that a new system of gentility1 might be established, upon principles totally different from what have hitherto prevailed. Our present heraldry, it may be said, is suited to the barbarous times in which it had its origin. It is chiefly founded upon ferocious merit, upon military excellence. Why, in civilised times, we may be asked, should there not be rank and honours, upon principles which, independent of long custom, are certainly not less worthy, and which, when once allowed to be connected with elevation and precedency, would obtain the same dignity in our imagination? Why should not the knowledge, the skill, the expertness, the assiduity, and the spirited hazards, of trade and commerce, when crowned with success, be entitled to give those flattering distinctions by which mankind are so universally captivated?

Such are the specious, but false, arguments for a proposition which always will find numerous advocates, in a nation where men are every day starting up from obscurity to wealth. To refute them is needless. The general sense of mankind cries out, with irre

1 Mrs. Burney informs me that she heard Dr. Johnson say, 'An English merchant is a new species of gentleman.' He, perhaps, had in his mind the following ingenious passage in The Conscious Lovers, Act iv. Scene 2, where Mr. Sealand thus addresses Sir John Bevil: 'Give me leave to say that we merchants are a species of gentry that have grown into the world this last century, and are as honourable, and almost as useful, as you landed folks, that have always thought your selves so much above us; for your trading, forsooth, is extended no further than a load of hay or a fat ox. You are pleasant people indeed! because you are generally bred up to be lazy, therefore, I warrant you, industry is dishonourable.' The Conscious Lovers is by Steele.

« ElőzőTovább »