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Mr. Thrale loses the election.
my summers and winters.
I hardly saw a green field, but staid in
town to work, without working much.
'Mr. Thrale's loss of health has lost him the election'; he is now going to Brighthelmston, and expects me to go with him; and how long I shall stay, I cannot tell. I do not much like the place, but yet I shall go, and stay while my stay is desired. We must, therefore, content ourselves with knowing what we know as well as man can know the mind of man, that we love one another, and that we wish each other's happiness, and that the lapse of a year cannot lessen our mutual kindness.
'I was pleased to be told that I accused Mrs. Boswell unjustly, in supposing that she bears me ill-will. I love you so much, that I would be glad to love all that love you, and that you love; and I have love very ready for Mrs. Boswell, if she thinks it worthy of acceptance. I hope all the young ladies and gentlemen are well.
‘I take a great liking to your brother. He tells me that his father received him kindly, but not fondly; however, you seem to have lived well enough at Auchinleck, while you staid. Make your father as happy as you can.
'You lately told me of your health: I can tell you in return, that my health has been for more than a year past, better than it has been for many years before. Perhaps it may please GOD to give us some time together before we are parted.
THE alehouse in the city where Johnson used to go and sit with George Psalmanazar was, no doubt, the club in Old Street, where he met also 'the metaphysical tailor,' the uncle of Hoole the poet (post, under March 30, 1783). Psalmanazar is mentioned a third time by Boswell (post, May 15, 1784) in a passage borrowed from Hawkins's edition of Johnson's Works, xi. 206, where it is stated that 'Johnson said: "He had never seen the close of the life of any one that he wished so much his own to resemble as that of him, for its purity and devotion." He was asked whether he ever contradicted him. "I should as soon," said he, "have thought of contradicting a bishop." When he was asked whether he had ever mentioned Formosa before him, he said, "he was afraid to mention even China." We learn from Hawkins's Life of Johnson, p. 547, that 'Psalmanazar lived in Ironmonger Row, Old Street; in the neighbourhood whereof he was so well known and esteemed, that, as Dr. Hawkesworth once told me, scarce any person, even children, passed him without shewing him the usual signs of respect.' In the list of the writers of the Universal History that Johnson drew up a few days before his death his name is given as the historian of the Jews, Gauls, and Spaniards (post, November, 1784). According to Mrs. Piozzi (Anecdotes, p. 175):-'His pious and patient endurance of a tedious illness, ending in an exemplary death, confirmed the strong impression his merit had made upon the mind of Mr. Johnson. "It is so very difficult," said he always, "for a sick man not to be a scoundrel." Johnson, in Prayers and Meditations, p. 102, mentions him as a man whose life was, I think, uniform.' Smollett, in Humphry Clinker (in Melford's Letter of June 10), describes him as one who, after having drudged half a century in the literary mill, in all the simplicity and abstinence of an Asiatic, subsists upon the charity of a few booksellers, just sufficient to keep him from the parish.' A writer in the Annual Register for 1764 (ii. 71), speaking of the latter part of his life, says :-'He was concerned in compiling and writing works of credit, and lived exemplarily for many years.' He
died a few days before that memorable sixteenth day of May 1763, when Boswell first met Johnson. It is a pity that no record has been kept of the club meetings in Ironmonger Row, for then we should have seen Johnson in a new light. Johnson in an alehouse club, with a metaphysical tailor on one side of him, and an aged writer on the other side of him, 'who spoke English with the city accent and coarsely enough',' and whom he would never venture to contradict, is a Johnson that we cannot easily imagine.
Of the greater part of Psalmanazar's life we know next to nothing— little, I believe, beyond the few facts that I have here gathered together. His early years he has described in his Memoirs. That he started as one of the most shameless impostors, and that he remained a hypocrite and a cheat till he was fully forty, if not indeed longer, his own narrative shows. That for many years he lived laboriously, frugally, and honestly seems to be no less certain. How far his Memoirs are truthful is somewhat doubtful. In them he certainly confesses the impudent trick which he had played in his youth, when he passed himself off as a Formosan convert. He wished, he writes, 'to undeceive the world by unravelling that whole mystery of iniquity' (p. 5). He lays bare roguery enough, and in a spirit, it seems, of real Nevertheless there are passages which are not free from the leaven of hypocrisy, and there are, I suspect, statements which are at least partly false. Johnson, indeed, looked upon him as little less than a saint; but then, as Sir Joshua Reynolds tells us, though 'Johnson was not easily imposed upon by professions to honesty and candour, he appeared to have little suspicion of hypocrisy in religion".' It was in the year 1704 that Psalmanazar published his Historical and Geographical Description of Formosa. So gross is the forgery that it almost passes belief that it was widely accepted as a true narrative. He gave himself out as a native of that island and a convert to Christianity. He lied so foolishly as to maintain that in the Academies of Formosa Greek was studied (p. 290). He asserted also that in an island that is only about half as large as Ireland 18,000 boys were sacrificed every year (p. 176). But his readers were for the most part only too willing to be deceived; for in Protestant England his abuse of the Jesuits covered a multitude of lies. Ere he had been three months in London, he was, he writes (Memoirs, p. 179), 'cried up for a prodigy, and not only the domestic, but even the foreign papers had helped to blaze forth many things in his praise.' He was aided in his fraud by the Rev. Dr. Innes, or Innys, a clergyman of the English Church, who by means of his interesting convert pushed
Hawkins's Johnson's Works, xi. 206.
It is curious that Psalmanazar, in his
"Taylor's Life of Reynolds, ii. 459.
himself into the notice of Compton, Bishop of London, and before long was made chaplain-general to the English forces in Portugal (Memoirs, p. 191). The same man, as Boswell tells us (ante, i. 359), by another impudent cheat, a second time obtained 'considerable promotion.' Psalmanazar's book soon reached a second edition, 'besides the several versions it had abroad' (p. 5). Yet it is very dull reading-just such a piece of work as might be looked for from a young man of little fancy, but gifted with a strong memory. Nevertheless, the author's credit lasted so long, that for many years he lived on a subscription 'which was founded on a belief of his being a Formosan and a real convert to the Church of England' (p. 208). He was even sent to Oxford to study, and had rooms in one of the colleges-Christ Church, if I mistake not (p. 186). It was not only as a student that he was sent by his dupes to that ancient seat of learning; the Bishop of London hoped that he would 'teach the Formosan language to a set of gentlemen who were afterwards to go with him to convert those people to Christianity' (p. 161).
While he was living the life of a lying scoundrel, he was, he says (p. 192), 'happily restrained by Divine Grace,' so that all sense of remorse was not extinguished,' and there was no fall into 'downright infidelity.' At length he picked up Law's Serious Call, which moved him, as later on it moved better men (ante, i. 68). Step by step he got into a way of steady work, and lived henceforth a laborious and honest life. It was in the year 1728, thirty-five years before his death, that he began, he says, to write the narrative of his imposture (p. 59). A dangerous illness and the dread of death had deeply moved him, and filled him with the desire of leaving behind 'a faithful narrative' which would 'undeceive the world.' Nineteen years later, though he did not publish his narrative, he made a public confession of his guilt. In the unsigned article on Formosa, which he wrote in 1747 for Bowen's Complete System of Geography (ii. 251), he says, 'Psalmanaazaar [so he had at one time written his name] hath long since ingenuously owned the contrary [of the truthfulness of his narrative] though not in so public a manner, as he might perhaps have done, had not such an avowment been likely to have affected some few persons who for private ends took advantage of his youthful vanity to encourage him in an imposture, which he might otherwise never had the thought, much less the confidence, to have carried on. These persons being now dead, and out of all danger of being hurt by it, he now gives us leave to assure the world that the greatest part of that account was fabulous, and that he designs to leave behind him a faithful account of that unhappy step, and other particulars of his life leading to it, to be published after his death.'
In his Memoirs he will not, he writes (p. 59), give any account 'of his real country or family.' Yet it is quite clear from his own narrative that he was born in the south of France. 'His pronunciation of French had,' it was said, 'a spice of the Gascoin accent, and in that provincial dialect he was so masterly that none but those born in the country could excel him' (Preface, p. 1). If a town can be found that answers to all that he tells of his birth-place, his whole account may be true; but the circumstances that he mentions seem inconsistent. The city in which he was born was twenty-four miles from an archiepiscopal city in which there was a college of Jesuits (p. 67), and about sixty miles from a noble great city full of gentry and nobility, of coaches, and all kinds of grandeur,' the seat of a great university (pp. 76, 83). When he left the great city for Avignon he speaks of himself as 'going down to Avignon' (p. 87). Thence he started on a pilgrimage to Rome, and in order to avoid his native place, after he had gone no great way, 'he wheeled about to the left, to leave the place at some twenty or thirty miles distance' (p. 101). He changed his mind, however, and returned home. Thence he set off to join his father, who was near 500 miles off' in Germany (p. 60). The direct route was through the great university city' and Lyons (p. 104). His birth-place then, if his account is true, was on the road from Avignon to Rome, sixty miles from a great university city and southwards of it, for through this university city passed the direct road from his home to Lyons. It was, moreover, sixty miles from an archiepiscopal city. I do not think that such a place can be found. He says (p. 59) that he thought himself 'obliged out of respect to his country and family to conceal both, it being but too common, though unjust, to censure them for the crimes of private persons.' The excuse seems unsatisfactory, for he tells enough to shew that he came from the South of France, while for his family there was no need of care. It was, he writes, 'ancient but decayed,' and he was the only surviving child. Of his father and mother he had heard nothing since he started on the career of a pious rogue. They must have been dead very many years by the time his Memoirs were given to the world. His story shews that at all events for the first part of his life he had been one of the vainest of men, and vanity is commonly found joined with a love of mystery. He is not consistent, moreover, in his dates. On April 23, 1752, he was in the 73rd year of his age (p. 7); so that he was born in either 1679 or 1680. When he joined his father he was 'hardly full sixteen years old' (p. 112); yet it was a few years after the Peace of Ryswick, which was signed on September 22, 1697. He was, he says, 'but near twenty' when he wrote his History of Formosa (p. 184). This was in the year 1704.