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which has gone into disuse. The last was Elkanah Settle. There is something in names which one cannot help feeling., Now Elkanah Settle sounds so queer, who can expect much from that name? We should have no hesitation to give it for John Dryden, in preference to Elkanah Settle, from the names only, without knowing their different merits'.' JOHNSON. 'I suppose, Sir, Settle did as well for Aldermen in his time, as John Home could do now. Where did Beckford and Trecothick learn English"?'
Mr. Arthur Lee mentioned some Scotch who had taken possession of a barren part of America, and wondered why they should choose it. JOHNSON. 'Why, Sir, all barrenness is comparative. The Scotch would not know it to be barren.'
2 Johnson implies, no doubt, that they were both Americans by birth. Trecothick was in the American trade, but he was not an American. Walpole's Memoirs of the Reign of
George III, iii. 184, note. Of Beckford Walpole says:- Under a jovial style of good humour he was tyrannic in Jamaica, his native country.' Ib. iv. 156. He came over to England when young and was educated in Westminster School. Stephens's Horne Tooke, ii. 278. Cowper describes a jocular altercation that passed when I was once in the gallery [of the House], between Mr. Rigby and the late Alderman Beckford. The latter was a very incorrect speaker, and the former, I imagine, not a very accurate scholar. He ventured, however, upon a quotation from Terence, and delivered it thus, Sine Scelere et Baccho friget venus. The Alderman interrupted him, was very severe upon his mistake, and restored Ceres to her place in the sentence. Mr. Rigby replied, that he was obliged to his worthy friend for teaching him Latin, and would take the first opportunity to return the favour by teaching him English.' Southey's Cowper, iii. 317. Lord Chatham, in the House of Lords, said of Trecothick :-'I do not know in office a more upright magistrate, nor in private life a worthier man.' Parl. Hist. xvi. 1IOI. See post, Sept. 23, 1777.
Old jokes against Scotland.
BOSWELL. 'Come, come, he is flattering the English. You have now been in Scotland, Sir, and say if you did not see meat and drink enough there.' JOHNSON. 'Why yes, Sir; meat and drink enough to give the inhabitants sufficient strength to run away from home.' All these quick and lively sallies were said sportively, quite in jest, and with a smile, which showed that he meant only wit. Upon this topick he and Mr. Wilkes could perfectly assimilate; here was a bond of union between them, and I was conscious that as both of them had visited Caledonia, both were fully satisfied of the strange narrow ignorance of those who imagine that it is a land of famine'. But they amused themselves with persevering in the old jokes. When I claimed a superiority for Scotland over England in one respect, that no man can be arrested there for a debt merely because another swears it against him; but there must first be the judgement of a court of law ascertaining its justice; and that a seizure of the person, before judgement is obtained, can take place only, if his creditor should swear that he is about to fly from the country, or, as it is technically expressed, is in meditatione fuga: WILKES. 'That, I should think, may be safely sworn of all the Scotch nation.' JOHNSON. (to Mr. Wilkes) 'You must know, Sir, I lately took my friend Boswell and shewed him genuine civilised life in an English provincial town. I turned him loose at Lichfield, my native city, that he might see for once real civility2: for you know he lives among savages in Scotland, and among rakes in London.' WILKES. 'Except when he is with grave, sober, decent people like you and me.' JOHNSON. (smiling) 'And we ashamed of him.'
They were quite frank and easy. Johnson told the story 3 of his asking Mrs. Macaulay to allow her footman to sit down
'Oft have I heard thee mourn
Of the poor, mean, despised,
Who, might calm reason credit
By rancour forged where pre-
Of starving arts which damn all conscience here.'
Churchill's Prophecy of Famine,
Poems, i. 105.
2 For Johnson's praise of Lichfield see ante, March 23, 1776. For the use of the word civility, see ante, ii. 155.
3 See ante, i. 447.
Old England lost and found.
with them, to prove the ridiculousness of the argument for the equality of mankind; and he said to me afterwards, with a nod of satisfaction, 'You saw Mr. Wilkes acquiesced.' Wilkes talked with all imaginable freedom of the ludicrous title given to the Attorney-General, Diabolus Regis; adding, 'I have reason to know something about that officer; for I was prosecuted for a libel.' Johnson, who many people would have supposed must have been furiously angry at hearing this talked of so lightly, said not a word. He was now, indeed, 'a good-humoured fellow'.'
After dinner we had an accession of Mrs. Knowles, the Quaker lady, well known for her various talents, and of Mr. Alderman Lee. Amidst some patriotick groans, somebody (I think the Alderman) said, 'Poor old England is lost.' JOHNSON. 'Sir, it is not so much to be lamented that Old England is lost, as that the Scotch have found it. WILKES. 'Had Lord Bute governed Scotland only, I should not have taken the trouble to write his eulogy, and dedicate Mortimer to him1.'
Mr. Wilkes held a candle to shew a fine print of a beautiful female figure which hung in the room, and pointed out the elegant contour of the bosom with the finger of an arch connoisseur. He afterwards, in a conversation with me, waggishly insisted, that all the time Johnson shewed visible signs of a fervent admiration of the corresponding charms of the fair Quaker.
This record, though by no means so perfect as I could wish, will serve to give a notion of a very curious interview, which was not only pleasing at the time, but had the agreeable and benignant effect of reconciling any animosity, and sweetening any acidity, which in the various bustle of political contest, had
1 See ante, April 18, 1775.
3 It would not become me to expatiate on this strong and pointed remark, in which a very great deal of meaning is condensed. BOSWELL.
4 'Mr. Wilkes's second political essay was an ironical dedication to the Earl of Bute of Ben Jonson's play, The Fall of Mortimer. "Let
me entreat your Lordship," he wrote, "to assist your friend [Mr. Murphy] in perfecting the weak scenes of this tragedy, and from the crude labours of Ben Jonson and others to give us a complete play. It is the warmest wish of my heart that the Earl of Bute may speedily complete the story of Roger Mortimer." Almon's Wilkes, i. 70, 86.
Margaret Caroline Rudd.
been produced in the minds of two men, who though widely different, had so many things in common-classical learning, modern literature, wit, and humour, and ready repartee—that it would have been much to be regretted if they had been for ever at a distance from each other 1.
Mr. Burke gave me much credit for this successful negociation; and pleasantly said, that 'there was nothing to equal it in the whole history of the Corps Diplomatique.
I attended Dr. Johnson home, and had the satisfaction to hear him tell Mrs. Williams how much he had been pleased with Mr. Wilkes's company, and what an agreeable day he had passed 2.
I talked a good deal to him of the celebrated Margaret Caroline Rudd, whom I had visited, induced by the fame of her talents, address, and irresistible power of fascination3. To a lady who disapproved of my visiting her, he said on a former occasion', 'Nay, Madam, Boswell is in the right; I should have visited her myself, were it not that they have now a trick of putting every thing into the news-papers.'
Yet Wilkes within less than a year violently attacked Johnson in parliament. He said, 'The two famous doctors, Shebbeare and Johnson, are in this reign the state hirelings called pensioners.' Their names, he continued, 'disgraced the Civil List. They are the known pensioned advocates of despotism.' Parl. Hist. xix. 118. It is curious that Boswell does not mention this attack, and that Johnson a few months after it was made, speaking of himself and Wilkes, said :-'The contest is now over.' Post, Sept. 21, 1777.
2 The next day he wrote to Mrs. Thrale: For my part, I begin to settle and keep company with grave aldermen. I dined yesterday in the Poultry with Mr. Alderman Wilkes, and Mr. Alderman Lee, and Counsellor Lee, his brother. There sat you the while, so sober, with your W-'s and your H-'s, and my aunt and her turnspit ; and when they are
gone, you think by chance on Johnson, what is he doing? What should he be doing? He is breaking jokes with Jack Wilkes upon the Scots. Such, Madam, are the vicissitudes of things.' Piozzi Letters, i. 325.
3 See ante, March 20, 1776.
4 If he had said this on a former occasion to a lady, he said it also on a latter occasion to a gentleman— Mr. Spottiswoode. Post, April 28, 1778. Moreover, Miss Burney records in 1778, that when Johnson was telling about Bet Flint (post, May 8, 1781) and other strange characters whom he had known, 'Mrs. Thrale said, "I wonder, Sir, you never went to see Mrs. Rudd among the rest." "Why, Madam, I believe I should," said he, "if it was not for the newspapers; but I am prevented many frolics that I should like very well, since I am become such a theme for the papers." Mme. D'Arblay's Diary, i. 90.
Johnson's explosions of satire.
This evening he exclaimed, 'I envy him his acquaintance with Mrs. Rudd.'
I mentioned a scheme which I had of making a tour to the Isle of Man, and giving a full account of it; and that Mr. Burke had playfully suggested as a motto,
"The proper study of mankind is MAN''
JOHNSON. 'Sir, you will get more by the book than the jaunt will cost you; so you will have your diversion for nothing, and add to your reputation.'
On the evening of the next day I took leave of him, being to set out for Scotland'. I thanked him with great warmth for all his kindness. 'Sir, (said he,) you are very welcome. Nobody repays it with more.'
How very false is the notion which has gone round the world of the rough, and passionate, and harsh manners of this great and good man. That he had occasional sallies of heat of temper, and that he was sometimes, perhaps, too easily provoked 3' by absurdity and folly, and sometimes too desirous of triumph in colloquial contest, must be allowed. The quickness both of his perception and sensibility disposed him to sudden explosions of satire; to which his extraordinary readiness of wit was a strong and almost irresistible incitement. To adopt one of the finest images in Mr. Home's Douglas*,
Pope, Essay on Man, ii. 2. Johnson wrote to Mrs. Thrale on May 14 (Tuesday) :—‘* * * * goes away on Thursday, very well satisfied with his journey. Some great men have promised to obtain him a place, and then a fig for my father and his new wife.' Piozzi Letters, i. 324. He is writing no doubt of Boswell; yet, as Lord Auchinleck had been married more than six years, it is odd his wife should be called new. Boswell, a year earlier, wrote to Temple of his hopes from Lord Pembroke: - -'How happy should I be to get an independency
On each glance of thought
by my own influence while my father is alive!' Letters of Boswell, p. 182. Johnson, in a second letter to Mrs. Thrale, written two days after Boswell left, says :-'B- went away on Thursday night, with no great inclination to travel northward; but who can contend with destiny?... He carries with him two or three good resolutions; I hope they will not mould upon the road.' Piozzi Letters, i. 333.
1 Corinthians, xiii. 5.
This passage, which is found in Act iii, is not in the acting copy of Douglas.