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ject for having a third Theatre in London solely for 1781, the exhibition of new plays, in order to deliver au- te thours from the supposed tyranny of managers, John, son 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 Johnson bore this with good-humour,
Johnson praised the Earl of Carlisle's Poems, which his 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
7 Men of rank and fortune however should be pretty well as sured 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,” thụs expresses himself: .
- Men of pleasant conversation (at least esteemed so) and endued with a trifing kind of fancy, perhaps helped out by a smate tering of Latin, are ambitious to distinguish themselves from the herd of gentlemen, by their poetry:
Rarus enim fermè sensus communis in illa
Fortuna.' 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 out of his own accord to be tried at Westminster? We who write, if we want the talents, 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
1781. more liberal than Mr. William Whitehead, in his
66. Elegy to Lord Villiers," in which under the preÆtat.72. **** text of " superiour toils, demanding all their care,"
he discovers a jealousy of the great paying their court
to the chosen few
due :“ Exalt;---but be thyself what they record.” · Johnson had called twice on the Bishop of Killaloe 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;8 and I have neglected him, not wilfully,
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.”
* This gave me very great pleasure, for there had been once a pretty smart altercation between Dr. Barnard and him, upon a question, whether a man could improve himself 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
“ Copy bis clear familiar style,
" Grow, like himself, polite."
but from being otherwise occupied. Always, Sir, set 1781. a high value on spontaneous kindness. He whose
Etat. 72. 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 a carpenter, who lived near him, was very ready to shew hiin 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 distinc. tions 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." 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
1781. strangely diminished in his company. When I
warmly declared how happy I was at all times to hear Ætat. 72.
* 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 the participation of the rich intellectual entertainment which Johnson could furnish. Strange, however, is it, 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 conyersation 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 bega ged of him to repeat what he had said, and I wrote down as follows:
OF TORY AND WHIG.
“ A wise Tory and a wise Whig, I believe, will agree. Their principles are the same, though their inodes 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 liberty to every man, that there is not power enough to govern any man. The prejudice of the Tory is for establishment; The prejudice of the Whig is for innovation. A Tory does not wish to give more real power to Government; but that Government should have more reverence. Then they differ as to the church. The Tory is not for giving more legal power to the Clergy, but wishes they should have a considerable influence, founded on the opinion of mankind: the Whig is for limiting and watching them with a narrow jealousy."
66 TO MR. PERKINS.
“ HOWEVER often I have seen you, I have hitherto forgotten the note, but I have now sent it: with my good wishes for the prosperity of you and your partner, of whom, from our short conver
9 Mr. Barclay, a descendant of Robert Barclay, of Ury, the celebrated apologist of the people called Quakers, and remarkable for maintaining the principles of his venerable progenitor, with as much of the elegance of modern manners, .as is consistent with primitive simplicity.