Aetat. 72.]

Johnson and Shebbeare.


knowledge and abilities much above the class of ordinary writers, and deserves to be remembered as a respectable name in literature, were it only for his admirable Letters on the English Nation, under the name of 'Battista Angeloni, a Jesuit ''

Johnson and Shebbeare2 were frequently named together, as having in former reigns had no predilection for the family of Hanover. The authour of the celebrated Heroick Epistle to Sir William Chambers, introduces them in one line, in a list of those 'who tasted the sweets of his present Majesty's reign". Such was Johnson's candid relish of the merit of that satire, that he allowed Dr. Goldsmith, as he told me, to read it to him from beginning to end, and did not refuse his praise to its execution*,

Goldsmith could sometimes take adventurous liberties with him, and escape unpunished. Beauclerk told me that when Goldsmith talked of a project for having a third Theatre in London, solely for the exhibition of new plays, in order to deliver authours from the supposed tyranny of managers, Johnson treated it slightingly; upon which Goldsmith said, 'Ay, ay, this may be nothing to you, who can now shelter yourself behind the corner of a pension;' and that Johnson bore this with goodhumour.

Johnson praised the Earl of Carlisle's Poems 5, which his

1 Letters on the English Nation : By Batista Angeloni, a Jesuit, who resided many years in London. Translated from the original Italian by the Author of the Marriage Act. A Novel. 2 vols. London [no printer's name given], 1755. Shebbeare published besides six Letters to the People of England in the years 1755-7, for the last of which he was sentenced to the pillory. Ante, iii. 315, note 1. Horace Walpole (Letters, iii. 74) described him in 1757 as 'a broken Jacobite physician, who has threatened to write himself into a place or the pillory.'

* I recollect a ludicrous paragraph in the newspapers, that the King had pensioned both a He-bear and a Shebear. BOSWELL. See ante, ii. 66, and post, April 28, 1783,

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'Witness, ye chosen train, Who breathe the sweets of his

Saturnian reign;

Witness ye Hills, ye Johnsons, Scots,

Hark to my call, for some of you
have ears.'

Heroic Epistle. See post, under June 16, 1784.

4 In this he was unlike the King, who, writes Horace Walpole, ‘expecting only an attack on Chambers, bought it to tease, and began reading it to, him; but, finding it more bitter on himself, flung it down on the floor in a passion, and would read no more.' Journal of the Reign of George III, i. 187.

5 They were published in 1773 in a pamphlet of 16 pages, and, with the good fortune that attends a muse Lordship


The Earl of Carlisle's POEMS.

[A.D. 1781.

Lordship had published with his name, as not disdaining to be a candidate for literary fame. My friend was of opinion, that when a man of rank appeared in that character, he deserved to have his merit handsomely allowed'. In this I think he was

in the peerage, reached a third edition in the year. To this same earl the second edition of Byron's Hours of Idleness was 'dedicated by his obliged ward and affectionate kinsman, the author.' In English Bards and Scotch Reviewers, he is abused in the passage which begins:

'No muse will cheer with renovating smile,

The paralytic puling of Carlisle.' In a note Byron adds :-'The Earl of Carlisle has lately published an eighteen-penny pamphlet on the state of the stage, and offers his plan for building a new theatre. It is to be hoped his lordship will be permitted to bring forward anything for the stage-except his own tragedies.' In the third canto of Childe Harold Byron makes amends. In writing of the death of Lord Carlisle's youngest son at Waterloo, he says:

'Their praise is hymn'd by loftier

harps than mine;

Yet one I would select from that

proud throng, Partly because they blend me with his line,

And partly that I did his Sire some wrong.'

For his lordship's tragedy see post, under Nov. 19, 1783.

' Men of rank and fortune, however, should be pretty well assured of having a real claim to the approbation of the publick, as writers, before they venture to stand forth. Dryden, in his preface to All for Love, thus expresses himself:

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‘Men of pleasant conversation (at least esteemed so) and endued with a trifling kind of fancy, perhaps

helped out by [with] a smattering of Latin, are ambitious to distinguish themselves from the herd of gentlemen, by their poetry : "Rarus enim fermè sensus communis in illa

Fortuna."-Juvenal, viii. 73.]

And is not this a wretched affectation, not to be contented with what fortune has done for them, and sit down quietly with their estates, but they must call their wits in question, and needlessly expose their nakedness to publick view? Not considering that they are not to expect the same approbation from sober men, which they have found from their flatterers after the third bottle: If a little glittering in discourse has passed them on us for witty men, where was the necessity of undeceiving the world? Would a man who has an ill title to an estate, but yet is in possession of it, would he bring it of his own accord to be tried at Westminster? We who write, if we want the talents [talent], yet have the excuse that we do it for a poor subsistence; but what can be urged in their defence, who, not having the vocation of poverty to scribble, out of mere wantonness take pains to make themselves ridiculous? Horace was certainly in the right where he said, "That no man is satisfied with his own condition." A poet is not pleased, because he is not rich; and the rich are discontented because the poets will not admit them of their number.' BOSWELL. Boswell, it should seem, had followed Swift's advice :


'Read all the prefaces of Dryden, For these our critics much con

fide in ;


Dr. Barnard's pleasant verses.


Aetat. 72.] more liberal than Mr. William Whitehead', in his Elegy to Lord Villiers, in which under the pretext of 'superiour toils, demanding all their care,' he discovers a jealousy of the great paying their court to the Muses:

to the chosen few

Who dare excel, thy fost'ring aid afford,

Their arts, their magick powers, with honours due
Exalt; but be thyself what they record".'

Johnson had called twice on the Bishop of Killaloe3 before his Lordship set out for Ireland, having missed him the first time. He said, 'It would have hung heavy on my heart if I had not seen him. No man ever paid more attention to another than he has done to me; and I have neglected him, not wilfully, but from being otherwise occupied. Always, Sir, set a high value on spontaneous kindness. He whose inclination prompts him to cultivate your friendship of his own accord, will love you more than one whom you have been at pains to attach to you.'

Johnson told me, that he was once much pleased to find that

Though merely writ at first for filling,
To raise the volume's price a

Swift's Works, ed. 1803, xi. 293.
See ante, i. 402.

2 Wordsworth, it should seem, held with Johnson in this. When he read the article in the Edinburgh Review on Lord Byron's early poems, he remarked that 'though Byron's verses were probably poor enough, yet such an attack was abominable,-that a young nobleman, who took to poetry, deserved to be encouraged, not ridiculed.' Rogers's Table-Talk, p. 234,


Dr. Barnard, formerly Dean of Derry. See ante, iii. 84.

* This gave me very great pleasure, for there had been once a pretty smart altercation between Dr. Bar

nard and him, upon a question, whether a man could improve him

I 2

self after the age of forty-five; when Johnson in a hasty humour, expressed himself in a manner not quite civil. Dr. Barnard made it the subject of a copy of pleasant verses, in which he supposed himself to learn different perfections from different men. They concluded with delicate irony :—

'Johnson shall teach me how to place

In fairest light each borrow'd grace;

From him I'll learn to write; Copy his clear familiar style, And by the roughness of his file

Grow, like himself, polite.

I know not whether Johnson ever saw the poem, but I had occasion to find that as Dr. Barnard and he knew each other better, their mutual regard increased. BOSWELL. See Appendix.

a carpenter,


Johnson not sought by the great.

[A.D. 1781.

a carpenter, who lived near him, was very ready to shew him some things in his business which he wished to see: 'It was paying (said he) respect to literature.'

I asked him if he was not dissatisfied with having so small a share of wealth, and none of those distinctions in the state which are the objects of ambition. He had only a pension of three hundred a year. Why was he not in such circumstances as to keep his coach? Why had he not some considerable office? JOHNSON, 'Sir, I have never complained of the world'; nor do I think that I have reason to complain. It is rather to be wondered at that I have so much. My pension is more out of the usual course of things than any instance that I have known. Here, Sir, was a man avowedly no friend to Government at the time, who got a pension without asking for it. I never courted the great; they sent for me; but I think they now give me up. They are satisfied; they have seen enough of me.' Upon my observing that I could not believe this, for they must certainly be highly pleased by his conversation; conscious of his own superiority, he answered, 'No, Sir; great lords and great ladies don't love to have their mouths stopped 2.' This was very expressive of the effect which the force of his understanding and brilliancy of his fancy could not but produce; and, to be sure, they must have found themselves strangely diminished in his company. When I warmly declared how happy I was at all times to hear him;- Yes, Sir, (said he); but if you were Lord Chancellor, it would not be so: you would then consider your own dignity.'

There was much truth and knowledge of human nature in this remark. But certainly one should think, that in whatever elevated state of life a man who knew the value of the conversation of Johnson might be placed, though he might prudently avoid a situation in which he might appear lessened by comparison; yet he would frequently gratify himself in private with

See ante, ii. 357, iii. 309, and post, March 23, 1783.

2 'Sir Joshua once asked Lord Bto dine with Dr. Johnson and the rest, but though a man of rank and also of good information, he seemed

as much alarmed at the idea as if you had tried to force him into one of the cages at Exeter-Change.' Hazlitt's Conversations of Northcote, p. 41.


Aetat. 72.]

Of Tory and Whig.


the participation of the rich intellectual entertainment which Johnson could furnish. Strange, however, it is, to consider how few of the great sought his society'; so that if one were disposed to take occasion for satire on that account, very conspicuous objects present themselves. His noble friend, Lord Elibank, well observed, that if a great man procured an interview with Johnson, and did not wish to see him more, it shewed a mere idle curiosity, and a wretched want of relish for extraordinary powers of mind. Mrs. Thrale justly and

wittily accounted for such conduct by saying, that Johnson's conversation was by much too strong for a person accustomed to obsequiousness and flattery; it was mustard in a young child's mouth!

One day, when I told him that I was a zealous Tory, but not enough according to knowledge',' and should be obliged to him for a reason,' he was so candid, and expressed himself so well, that I begged of him to repeat what he had said, and I wrote down as follows:



'A wise Tory and a wise Whig, I believe, will agrees. Their principles are the same, though their modes of thinking are different. A high Tory makes government unintelligible: it is lost in the clouds. A violent Whig makes it impracticable: he is for allowing so much.

Yet when he came across them he met with much respect. At Alnwick he was, he writes, 'treated with great civility by the Duke of Northumberland.' Piozzi Letters, i. 108. At Inverary, the Duke and Duchess of Argyle shewed him great attention. Boswell's Hebrides, Oct. 25. In fact, all through his Scotch tour he was most politely welcomed by 'the great.' At Chatsworth, he was 'honestly pressed to stay' by the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire (post, Sept. 9, 1784). See ante, iii. 21. On the other hand, Mrs. Barbauld says:-'I believe it is true that in England genius and learning obtain less personal notice than in most other parts of Europe.' She

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