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1784. himself thus: “Very well, Master Reynolds ; very
well, indeed. But it will not be understood.” Ætat.75. wel
When I observed to him that Painting was so far inferior to Poetry, that the story or even emblem which it communicates must be previously known, and mentioned as a natural and laughable instance of this, that a little Miss on seeing a picture of Jus. tice with the scales, had exclaimed to me, " See, there's a woman selling sweetmeats ;" he said, “ Painting, Sir, can illustrate, but cannot inform."
No man was more ready to make an apology when he had censured unjustly, than Johnson. When a : proof.sheet of one of his works was brought to him, he found fault with the mode in which a part of it was arranged, refused to read it, and in a passion desired that the compositor: might be sent to him. The compositor was Mr. Manning, a decent sensible man, who had composed about one half of his “ Dictionary," when in Mr. Strahan's printinghouse; and a great part of his " Lives of the Poets," when in that of Mr. Nichols; and who (in his seventy-seventh year) when in Mr. Baldwin's printing-house, composed a part of the first edition of this work concerning him. By producing the manuscript, he at once satisfied Dr. Johnson that he was not to blame. Upon which Johnson candidly and earnestly said to him, “ Mr. Compositor, I ask your pardon ; Mr. Compositor, I ask your pardon, again and again.”
His generous humanity to the miserable was al
:'s Compositor in the Printing-house means, the person who ad
justs the types in the order in which they are to stand for printing; and arranges what is called the form, from which an inr pression is taken.
most beyond example. The following instance is 1784. well attested : Coming home late one night, he found
Ætat. 73, a poor woman lying in the street, so much exhausted that she could not walk; he took her upon his back, and carried her to his house, where he discovered that she was one of those wretched females who had fallen into the lowest state of vice, poverty, and disease. Instead of harshly upbraiding her, he had her taken care of with all tenderness for a long time, at a considerable expence, till she was restored to health, and endeavoured to put her into a virtuous way of living.
He thought Mr. Caleb Whitefoord singularly happy in hitting on the signature of Papyrius Cursor, to his ingenious and diverting cross-readings of the newspapers ; it being a real name of an ancient Roman, and clearly expressive of the thing done in this lively conceit.,
He once in his life was known to have uttered what is called a bull : Sir Joshua Reynolds, when they were riding together in Devonshise, complained that he had a very bad horse, for that even when going down hill he moved slowly step by step. “ Ay (said Johnson,) and when he goes up hill, he stands
He had a great aversion to gesticulating in company. He called once to a gentleman who offended him in that point, · Don't attitudenise.” And when another gentleman thought he was giving additional force to what he uttered, by expressive moveinents
. *The circumstance therefore alluded to in Mr. Courtenay's " Poetical Character” of him is strictly true. My informer was Mrs. Desmoulins, who lived many years in Dr. Johnson's house.
1784. of his hands, Johnson fairly seized them, and held
them down. . .
An authour of considerable eininence having engrossed a good share of the conversation in the company of Johnson, and having said nothing but what was trifling and insignificant ; Johnson when he was gone, observed to us, “ It is wonderful what a difference there sometimes is between a man's powers of writing and of talking. ****** writes with great spirit, but is a poor talker ; had he held his tongue, we might have supposed him to have been restrained by modesty ; but he has spoken a great deal to-day; and have you heard what stuff it was.”
A gentleman having said that a congé d'elire has not, perhaps, the force of a command, but may be considered only as a strong recommendation ; “ Sir, (replied Johnson, who overheard him,) it is such a recommendation, as if I should throw you out of a two pair of stairs window, and recommend to you to fall soft."
Mr. Steevens, who passed many a social hour with him during their long acquaintance, which comienced when they both lived in the Temple, has preserved a good number of particulars concerning him, most of which are to be found in the department of Apophthegms, &c. in the Collection of “ Johnson's Works.” But he has been pleased to favour me with the following, which are original :
“ One evening, previous to the trial of Baretti, a consultation of his friends was held at the house of
5 This has been printed in other publications, “ fall to the ground.” But Johnson himself gave me the true expression which he had used as above ; ineaning that the recommendation left as little choice in the one case as the other.
Mr. Cox, the solicitor, in Southampton-buildings, 1784. Chancery-lane. Among others present were, Mr. Burke and Dr. Johnson, who differed in sentiments concerning the tendency of some part of the defence the prisoner was to make. When the meeting was oyer, Mr. Steevens observed, that the question between him and his friend had been agitated with rather too much warmth. It may be so, Sir, (replied the Doctor,) for Burke and I should have been of one opinion, if we had had no audience."
“ Dr. Johnson once assumed a character in which perhaps even Mr. Boswell never saw him. His curiosity having been excited by the praises bestowed on the celebrated Torré's fireworks at MaryboneGardens, he desired Mr. Steevens to accompany him thither. The evening had proved showery ; and soon after the few people present were assembled, publick notice was given, that the conductors to the wheels, suns, stars, &e. were so thoroughly watersoaked, that it was impossible any part of the exhibition should be made. This is a mere excuse, (says the Doctor,) to save their crackers for a more profitable company. Let us both hold up our sticks, and threaten to break those coloured lamps that surround the Orchestra, and we shall soon have our wishes gratified. The corc of the fire-works cannot be injured ; let the different pieces be touched in their respective centers, and they will do their offices as well as ever.'--Some young men who overheard him, immediately began the violence he had recommended, and an attempt was speedily made to fire some of the wheels which appeared to have received the smallest damage; but to little purpose were they lighted, for most of them completely failed.--The
1784. authour of "The Rambler,' however, may be con
sidered on this occasion, as the ringleader of a sucÆtat. 75.
cessful riot, though not as a skilful pyrotechnist.”
" It has been supposed that Dr. Johnson, so far as fashion was concerned, was careless of his appearance in publick. But this is not altogether true, as the following slight instance may show :-Goldsmith's last Comedy was to be represented during some court-mourning; and Mr. Steevens appointed to call on Dr. Johnson, and carry him to the tavern where he was to dine with others of the Poet's friends. The Doctor was ready dressed, but in coloured cloaths ; yet being told that he would find every one else in black, received the intelligence with a profusion of thanks, hastened to change his attire, all the while repeating his gratitude for the information that had saved him from an appearance so improper in the front row of a front box. “I would not (added he,) for ten pounds, have seemed so retrograde to any general observance.”
“ He would sometimes found his dislikes on very slender circumstances. Happening one day to mention Mr. Flexman, a Disseuting Minister, with some compliment to his exact memory in chronological matters; the Doctor replied, “Let me hear no more of himn, Sir. That is the fellow who made the Index to my Ramblers, and set down the name of Milton thus:-Milton, Mr. John.”
Mr. Steevens adds this testimony: “ It is unfortunate, however, for Johnson, that his particularities and frailties can be more distinctly traced than bis good and amiable exertions. Could the many bounties be studiously concealed, the many acts of humanity he performed in private, be displayed with equal