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” He had once conceived the design of writing 1783. the Life of Oliver Cromwell, saying, that he thought wall win hot hothousacht
8" Ætat. 74. it must be highly curious to trace his extraordinary rise to the supreme power, from so obscure a beginning. He at length laid aside his scheme, on dis. covering that all that can be told of him is already in print; and that it is impracticable to procure any authentick information in addition to what the world is already possessed of."
“ He had likewise projected, but at what part of his life is not known, a work to shew how small a quantity of REAL FICTION there is in the world ; and that the same images, with very little variation, have served all the authours who have ever written.”
“ His thoughts in the latter part of his life were frequently employed on his diseased friends. He often muttered, these, or such like sentences : ' Poor man ! and then he died.”
$ Speaking of a certain literary friend, 'He is a very pompous puzzling fellow, (said he); he lent me a letter once that somebody had written to him,
[Mr. Malone observes, “ This, however, was entirely a mistake, as appears from the Memoirs published by Mr. Noble. Had Johnson been furnished with the materials which the industry of that genileman has procured, and with others which, it is believed, are yet preserved in manuscript, he would, without doubt, hava produced a most valuable and curious history of Cromwell's life.”
[1 may add, that, had Johnson given us a Life of Cromwell, we should not have been disgusted in numberless instances with“ My Lord Protector” and “ My Lady PROTECTRESS ;” and certainly the brutal ruffian who presided in the bloody assembly that murdered their sovereign, would have been characterized by very different epithets than those which are applied to him in this work, where we find him described as “ the BOLD and DETERMINED Bradshaw." M.]
1783. no matter what it was about ; but he wanted to
have the letter back, and expressed a mighty value Etat. 74.
for it; he hoped it was to be met with again, he would not lose it for a thousand pounds. I layed my hand upon it soon afterwards, and gave it him. I believe I said, I was very glad to have met with it. O, then he did not know that it signified any thing. So you see, when the letter was lost it was worth a thousand pounds, and when it was found it was not worth a farthing."
o The style and character of his conversation is pretty generally known; it was certainly conducted in conformity with a precept of Lord Bacon, but it is not clear, I apprehend, that this conformity was either perceived or intended by Johnson. The precept alluded to is as follows: "In all kinds of speech, either pleasant, grave, severe, or ordinary, it is convenient to speak leisurely, and rather drawlingly than liastily: because hasty speech confounds the memory, and oftentimes, besides the unseemliness, drives a man either to stammering, a non-plus, or harping on that which should follow; whereas a slow speech confirmeth the memory, addeth a conceit of wisdom to the hearers, besides a seemliness of speech and countenance.' Dr. Johnson's method of conversation was certainly calculated to excite attention, and to amuse and instruct, (as it happened,) without wearying or confusing his company. He was always most perfectly clear and perspicuons; and his language was so accurate, and his sentences so neatly constructed, that his conversation might have been
o [Hints for Civil Conversation.-Bacon's Works, 4to, vol. i. p. 571. M.)
all printed without any correction. At the same 1783. time, it was easy and natural ; the accuracy of it.Etat. 7 had no appearance of labour, constraint, or stiffness ; he seemed more correct than others, by the force of habit, and the customary exercises of his powerful mind." ." He spoke often in praise of French literature, · The French are excellent in this, (he would say,) they have a book on every subject.' From what he had seen of them he denied them the praise of superior politeness, and mentioned, with very visible disgust, the custom they have of spitting on the floors of their apartments. This, (said the Doctor) is as gross a thing as can well be done ; and one wonders how any man, or set of men, can persist in so offensive a practice for a whole day together; one should expect that the first effort towards civilization would remove it even among savages.
“ Baxter's · Reasons of the Christian religion, he thought contained the best collection of the evidences of the divinity of the Christian system.”
" Chymistry was always an interesting pursuit with Dr. Johnson. Whilst he was in Wiltshire, he attended some experiments that were made by a physician at Salisbury, on the new kinds of air. In the course of the experiments frequent mention being made of Dr. Priestley, Dr. Johnson knit his brows, and in a stern manner enquired, 'Why do we hear so much of Dr. Priestley !" He was very properly
9 I do not wonder at Johnson's displeasure when the name of Dr. Priestley was mentioned ;' for I know no writer who has been buffered to publish more pernicious doctrines. I shall instance only three. First, Materialism ; by which mind is denied to human naļure; which, if believed, must deprive us of every elevated prin
1783. answered, “Sir, because we are indebted to him for
these important discoveries.' On this Dr. Johnson
ciple. Secondly, Necessity; or the doctrine that every action, whether good or bad, is included in an unchangeable and unavoid able system ; a notion utterly subversive of moral government. Thirdly, that we have no reason to think that the future world, (which, as he is pleased to inform us, will be adapted to our merely improved nature,) will be materially different from this; which, if believed, would sink wretched mortals into despair, as they could no longer hope for the “ rest that remaineth for the people of GOD,” or for that happiness which is revealed to us as something beyond our present conceptions; but would feel themselves doomed to a continuation of the uneasy state under which they now groan. I say nothing of the petulant intemperance with which he dares to insult the venerable establishments of his country.
As a specimen of his writings, I shall quote the following passage, which appears to me equally absurd and iinpious, and which might have been retorted upon him by the men who were prosecuted for burning his house. “I cannot, (says he,) as a necessarian, [meaning necessitarian,] hate any man; because I consider bim as being, in all respects, just what God has made him to be ; and also as doing with respect to me, nothing but what he was expressly designed and appointed to do: God being the only cause, and nien nothing more than the instruments in his hands to execute all his pleasure.'— Illustrations of Philosophical Necessity, p. 111.
The Reverend Dr. Parr, in a late tract, appears to suppose that Dr. Johnson not only endured, but almost solicited, an interview with Dr. Priestley. In justice to Dr. Johnson, I declare my firm belief that he never did. My illustrious friend was particularly resolute in not giving countenance to men whose writings he considered as pernicious to society. I was present at Oxford when Dr. Price, even before he had rendered himself so generally obnoxious by bis zeal for the French revolution, came into a company where Johnson was, who instantly left the room. Much more would he have reprobated Dr. Priestley.
Whoever wishes to see a perfect delineation of this Literary Jack of all Trades, may find it in an ingenious track, entitled, “ A SMALL WHOLE-LENGTH OF DR. PRIESTLEY," printed for Rivingtons in St. Paul's Church-Yard.
an ingention of this
appeared well content; and replied, “Well, well, I 1783. believe we are; and let every inan have the honour he has merited.'
" A friend was one day, about two years before his death, struck with some instance of Dr. Johnson's great candour. "Well, Sir, (said he,) I will always say that you are a very candid man.'— Will you, (replied the Doctor,) I doubt then you will be very singular. But, indeed, Sir, (continued he,) I look upon myself to be a man very much misunderstood. I am not an uncandid, nor am I a severe man. I sometimes say more than I mean, in jest; and people are apt to believe me serious : however, I am more candid than I was when I was younger. As I know more of mankind, I expect ess of them, and am ready now to call a man a good man, upon easier terms than I was formerly.”
On his return from Heale he wrote to Dr. Burney.--"I came home on the 18th of September, at noon, to a very disconsolate house. You and I have lost our friends ; but you have more friends at home. My domestick companion is taken from me. She is much missed, for her acquisitions were many, and her curiosity universal ; so that she partook of every conversation. I am not well enough to go much out; and to sit, and eat, or fast alone, is very wearisome. I always mean to send my compliments to all the ladies.”
His fortitude and patience met with severe trials during this year. The stroke of the palsy has been related circumstantially; but he was also afflicted with the gout, and was besides troubled with a com. plaint which not only was attended with iminediate