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1784. versation was of this complexion. But the fact is, I
have been often in his company, and never once heard Ætat, 75."
him say a severe thing to any one; and many others can attest the same. When he did say a severe thing, it was generally extorted by ignorance pretending to knowledge, or by extreme vanity or affectation.
“ Two instances of inaccuracy, (adds he,) are pe. culiarly worthy of notice :
" It is said, "That natural roughness of his manner so often mentioned, would, notwithstanding the regularity of his notions, burst through them all from time to time; and he once bade a very celebrated lady, who praised him with too much zeal perhaps, or perhaps too strong an emphasis, (which always offended him,) consider what her flattery was worth, before she choaked him with it.'
"Now let the genuine anecdote be contrasted with this.-The person thus represented as being harshly treated, though a very celebrated lady, was then just come to London from an obscure situation in the country. At Sir Joshua Reynolds's one evening, she met Dr. Johnson. She very soon began to pay her court to him in the most fulsome strain. * Spare me, I beseech you, dear Madam,' was his reply. She still laid it on. "Pray, Madam,' let us have no more of this; he rejoined. Not paying any attention to these warnings, she continued still her eulogy. At length, provoked by this indelicate and vain obtrusion of compliment, he exclaimed, “Dearest lady, consider with yourself what your flattery is worth, before you bestow it so freely
“How different does this story appear, when ac.
companied with all these circumstances which really 1784. belong to it, but which Mrs. Thrale either did not
Ætat. 75, know, or has suppressed.
« She says, in another place, • One gentleman, however, who dined at a nobleman's house in his company, and that of Mr. Thrale, to whom I was obliged for the anecdote, was willing to enter the lists in defence of King William's character; and having opposed and contradicted Johnson two or three times, petulantly enough, the master of the house began to feel uneasy, and expect disagreeable consequences; to avoid which he said, loud enough for the Doctor (to hear, Our friend here has no meaning now in all this, except just to relate at club tomorrow how he teazed Johnson at dinner to-day; this is all to do himself honour.—No, upon my word, (replied the other,) I see no honour in it, whatever you may do.-Well, Sir, (returned Mr. Johnson, sternly,) if you do not see the honour, I am sure I feel the disgrace.'
“ This is all sophisticated. Mr. Thrale was not in the company, though he might have related the story to Mrs. Thrale. A friend, from whom I liad the story, was present; and it was not at the house of a nobleman. On the observation being made by the master of the house on a gentleman's contradicting Johnson, that he had talked for the honour, &c. the gentleman muttered in a low voice, ? I see no honour in it;' and Dr. Johnson said nothing : so all the rest, (though bien trouvée) is mere garnish.
I have had occasion several times, in the course of this work, to point out the incorrectness of Mrs.
6" Anecdotes," p. 242.
1784. Thrale, as to particulars which consisted with my
Teown knowledge. But indeed she has, in flippant Ætat. 75.°
terms enough, expressed her disapprobation of that anxious desire of authenticity which prompts a person who is to record conversations, to write them down at the moment. Unquestionably, if they are to be recorded at all, the sooner it is done the better. This lady herself says, “ To recollect, however, and to repeat the sayings of Dr. Johnson, is almost all that can be done by the writers of his Life; as his life, at least since my acquaintance with him, consisted in little else than talking, when he was not employed in some serious piece of work.” She boasts of her having kept a common-place book; and we find she noted, at one time or other, in a very lively manner, specimens of the conversation of Dr. Johnson, and of those who talked with him ; but had she done it recently, they probably would have been less erroneous; and we should have been relieved from those disagreeable doubts of their authenticity, with which we must now peruse them.
She says of him. “ He was the most charitable of mortals, without being what we call an active friend. Admirable at giving counsel; no man saw his way so clearly; but he would not stir a finger for the assistance of those to whom he was willing enough to give advice." And again on the same page, “ If you wanted a slight favour, you must apply to people of other dispositions ; for not a step would Johnson inove to obtain a man a vote in a society, to repay a compliment which might be useful or pleasing, to write a letter of request, &c. or to obtain a hundred
7" Anecdotes," p. 44.
Ibid. p. 23. 9 Ibid. p. 51.
pounds a year more for a friend who perhaps had al- 1784. ready two or three. No force could urge him to diligence, no importunity could conquer his resolution to stand still.”
It is amazing that one who had such opportunities of knowing Dr. Johnson, should appear so little acquainted with his real character. I am sorry this lady does not advert, that she herself contradicts the assertion of his being obstinately defective in the petites morales, in the little endearing charities of social life, in conferring smaller favours ; for she says, “ Dr. Johnson was liberal enough in granting literary assistance to others, I think; and innumerable are the prefaces, Sermons, Lectures, and Dedications which he used to make for people who begged of him." I am certain that a more active friend has rarely been found in any age. This work, which I fondly hope will rescue his memory from obloquy, contains a thousand instances of his benevolent exertions in almost every way that can be conceived ; and particularly in employing his pen with a generous readiness for those to whom its aid could be useful. Indeed his obliging activity in doing little offices of kindness, both by letters and personal application, was one of the most remarkable features in his character; and for the truth of this I can appeal to a number of his respectable friends : Sir Joshua Reynolds, Mr. Langton, Mr. Hamilton, Mr. Burke, Mr. Windham, Mr. Malone, the Bishop of Dromore, Sir William Scott, Sir Robert Chambers.-And can Mrs. Thrale forget the advertisements which he wrote for her husband at the time of his election contest;
1" Anecdotes,' p. 193.
1784. the epitaphs on him and her mother; the playful and
even trifling verses, for the amusement of her and “her daughters; his corresponding with her children, and entering into their minute concerns, which shews him in the most amiable light?
She relates, that Mr. Ch-im-ley unexpectedly rode up to Mr. Thrale's carriage, in which Mr. Thrale and she, and Dr. Johnson were travelling; that he paid them all his proper compliments, but observing that Dr. Johnson, who was reading, did not see him, “ tapt him gently on the shoulder. "'Tis Mr. Ch-im-ley ;' says my husband. "Well, Sirand what if it is Mr. Ch-m-ley; says the other, sternly, just lifting his eyes a moment from his book, and returning to it again with renewed avidity.” This surely conveys a notion of Johnson, as if he had been grossly rude to Mr. Cholmondley, 3 a gentleman whom he always loved and esteemed. If, therefore, there was an absolute necessity for mentioning the story at all, it might have been thought that her tenderness for Dr. Johnson's character would have disposed her to state any think that could soften it. Why then is there a total silence as to what Mr. Cholmondley told her ?-that Johnson, who had known him from his earliest years, having been made sensible of what had doubtless a strange appearance, took occasion, when he afterwards met him, to make a very courteous and kind apology. There is another little circumstance which I cannot but remark.
2 - Anecdotes," p. 258.
s George James Cholmondley, Esq. grandson of George, third Earl of Cholmondley, and one of the Commissioners of Ex. cise; a gentleman respected for his abilities, and elegance of manners,