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1784. she was fortunate enough to be in Dr. Jonhson's comÆtat. 75. pany, he asked her to sit down by him, which she
did, and upon her enquiring how he was, heanswered, “ I am very ill indeed, Madam. I am very ill even when you are near me ; what should I be were you at a distance."
He had now a great desire to go to Oxford, as his first jaunt after his illness; we talked of it for some days, and I had promised to accompany him. He was impatient and fretful to-night, because I did not at once agree to go with him on Thursday. When I considered how ill he had been, and what allowance should be made for the influence of sickness upon his temper, I resolved to indulge him, though with some inconvenience to myself, as I wished to attend the musical meeting in honour of Handel, in Westminister-Abbey, on the following Saturday.
In the midst of his own diseases and pains, he was ever compassionate to the distresses of others, and actively earnest in procuring them aid, as appears from a note to Sir Joshua Reynolds, of June, in these words: “I am ashamed to ask for some relief for a poor man, to whom, I hope, I have given what I can be expected to spare. The man importunes me, and the blow goes round. I am going to try another air on Thursday.”
On Thursday, June 3, the Oxford post-coach took us up in the morning at Bolt-court. The other two passengers were Mrs. Beresford and her daughter, two very agreeable ladies from America ; they were going to Worcestershire, where they then resided. Frank had been sent by his master the day before to take places for us; and I found from the way-bill
that Dr. Johnson had made our names be put down. 1784. Mrs. Beresford, who had read it, whispered me, “ Is
Ætat. 75 this the great Dr. Johnson ?” I told her it was ; so she was then prepared to listen. As she soon happened to mention in a voice so low that Johnson did not hear it, that her husband had been a member of the American Congress, I cautioned her to beware of introducing that subject, as she must know how very violent Johnson was against the people of that country. He talked a great deal. But I am sorry I have preserved little of the conversation. Miss Beresford was so much charmed, that she said to me aside, “ How he does talk ! Every sentence is an essay. She amused herself in the coach with knotting; he would scarcely allow this species of employment any merit. “Next to mere idleness (said he) I think knotting is to be reckoned in the scale of insignificance ; though I once attempted to learn knotting, Dempster's sister (looking to me) endeavoured to teach me it; but I made no progress.”
I was surprised at his talking without reserve in the publick post-coach of the state of his affairs; “I have (said he) about the world I think above a thousand pounds, which I intend shall afford Frank an annuity of seventy pounds a year.” Indeed his openness with people at a first interview was remarka able. He said once to Mr. Langton, " I think I am like Squire Richard in “The Journey to London, “ I'm never strange in a strange place.” He was truly social. He strongly censured what is much too common in England among persons of condition, maintaining an absolute silence, when unknown to each other; as for instance, when occasionally
178+. brought together in a room before the master or mis..
tress of the house has appeared. “Sir, that is being Ætat. 75.
so uncivilized as not to understand the common rights of humanity.”
At the inn where we stopped he was exceedingly dissatisfied with soine roast mutton which he had for dinner. The ladies, I saw, wondered to see the
great philosopher, whose wisdom and wit they had been admiring all the way, get into ill-humour from such à cause. He scolded the waiter, saying, “ It is as bad as bad can be: it is ill-fed, ill-killed, ill-kept, and ill-drest."
He bore the journey very well, and seemed to feel himself elevated as he approached Oxford, that magnificent and venerable seat of Learning, Orthodoxy, and Toryism. Frank came in the heavy coach, in readiness to attend hirn ; and we were received with the most polite hospitality at the house of his old friend Dr. Adams, Master of Pembroke College, who had given us a kind invitation. Before we were set down, I communicated to Johnson, my having engaged to return to London directly, for the reason I have mentioned, but that I would hasten back to him again. He was pleased that I had made this journey merely to keep him company. He was easy and placid, with Dr. Adams, Mrs. and Miss Adams, and Mrs. Kennicot, widow of the learned Hebræan, who was here on a visit. He soon dispatched the enquiries which were made about his illness and recovery, by a short and distinct narrative; and then assuming a gay air, repeated from Swift,
“ Nor think on our approaching ills,
Dr. Newton, the Bishop of Bristol, having been 1784. mentioned, Johnson, recollecting the manner in
Ætat. 75. which he had been censured by that Prelate, thus retaliated :-" Tom knew he should be dead before what he has said of me would appear. He durst not have printed it while he was alive.” DR. ADAMS, “I believe his · Dissertations on the Prophecies' is his great work." JOHNSON. “
Why, Sir, it is Tom's great work; but how far it is great, or how much of it is Tom's, are other questions. I fancy a considerable part of it was borrowed.” DR. ADAMS. " He
8 Dr. Newton in his Account of his own Life, after animad. verting upon Mr. Gibbon's History, says, “ Dr. Johnson's ' Lives of the Poets' afforded more amusement; but candour was much hurt and offended at the malevolence that predominates in every part. Some passages, it must be allowed, are judicious and well written, but make not sufficient compensation for so much spleen and ill-humour. Never was any biographer more sparing of his praise, or more abundant in his censures. He seemingly delights more in exposing blemishes, than in recommending beauties; slightly passes over excellencies, enlarges upon imperfections, and not content with his own severe reflections, revives old scandal, and produces large quotations fron the forgotten works of former crim ticks. His reputation was so high in the republick of letters, that it wanted not be raised upon the ruins of others. But these Essays, instead of raising a higher idea than was before entertained of his understanding, have certainly given the world a worse opinion of his temper.-The Bishop was therefore the more surprized and concerned for his townsnian, for he respected him not only for his genius and learning, but valued him much for the more aniable part of his character, his humanity and charity, his morality and religion.” The last sentence we may consider as the general and permanent opinion of Bishop Newton; the remarks which precede it must, by all who have read Johnson's admirable work, be imputed to the disgust and peevishness of old age. I wish they had not appeared, and that Dr. Johnson had not been provoked by them to express himself not in respectful terms, of a Prelate, whose labours were certainly of considerable advantage both to literature and religion.
1784. was a very successful man. JOHNSON. " I don't
think so, Sir.—He did not get very high. He was Ætat. 75.
late in getting what he did get; and he did not get it by the best means. I believe he was a gross flatterer.”
I fulfilled my intention by going to London, and returned to Oxford on Wednesday the gth of June, when I was happy to find myself again in the same agreeable circle at Pembroke College, with the comfortable prospect of making some stay. Johnson welcomed my return with more than ordinary glee.
He talked with great regard of the Honourable Archibald Campbell, whose character he had given at the Duke of Argyll's table, when we were at Inverary;' and at this time wrote out for me, in his own hand, a fuller account of that learned and venerable writer, which I have published in its proper place. Johnson made a remark this evening which struck me a good deal. “ I never (said he) knew a nonjuror who could reason." Surely he did not mean to deny that faculty to many of their writers ; to
9 « Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides," third edit. p. 371.
'Tlie Rev. Mr. Agutter has favoured me with a note of a dialogue between Mr. John Henderson and Dr. Johnson on this topick, as related by Mr. Henderson, and it is evidently so authentick that I shall here insert it:-Henderson. “ What do you think, Sir, ok William Law ?" Joinson. “ William Law, Sir, wrote the best piece of Parenetick Divinity ; but William Law was, no reasoner.”
“ Jeremy Collier, Sir ? " Johnson. Jeremy Collier fought without a rival, and therefore could not claim the victory.” Mr. Henderson mentioned Kenn and Kettlewell; but some objections were made; at last be said, but, Sir, “What do you think of Lesley?" Johnson.“ Charles Lesley I had forgotten. Lesley was a reasoner, and a reasoner who was not to be reasoned against."