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JOHNSON'S ENGAGING IN POLITICKS WITH H
In a little volume entitled Parliamentary Logick, by the Right Hon. W. G. Hamilton, published in 1808, twelve years after the author's death, is included Considerations on Corn, by Dr. Johnson (Works, v. 321). It was written, says Hamilton's editor, in November 1766. A dearth had caused riots. Those who want the supports of life,' Johnson wrote, 'will seize them wherever they can be found.' (Ib. p. 322.) He supported in this tract the bounty for exporting corn. If more than a year after he had engaged in politics with Mr. Hamilton nothing had been produced but this short tract, the engagement was not of much importance. But there was, I suspect, much more in it. Indeed, the editor says (Preface, p. ix.) that ‘Johnson had entered into some engagement with Mr. Hamilton, occasionally to furnish him with his sentiments on the great political topicks that should be considered in Parliament.' Mr. Croker draws attention to a passage in Johnson's letter to Miss Porter of Jan. 14, 1766 (Croker's Boswell, p. 173), in which he says: 'I cannot well come [to Lichfield] during the session of parliament.' In the spring of this same year Burke had broken with Hamilton, in whose service he had been. 'The occasion of our difference,' he wrote, 'was not any act whatsoever on my part; it was entirely upon his, by a voluntary but most insolent and intolerable demand, amounting to no less than a claim of servitude during the whole course of my life, without leaving to me at any time a power either of getting forward with honour, or of retiring with tranquillity' (Burke's Corres. i. 77). It seems to me highly probable that Hamilton, in consequence of his having just lost, as I have shewn, Burke's services, sought Johnson's aid. He had taken Burke as a companion in his studies.' (Ib. p. 48.) 'Six of the best years of my life,' wrote Burke, 'he took me from every pursuit of literary reputation or of improvement of my fortune. In that time he made his own fortune (a very great one.)' (Ib. p. 67.) Burke had been recommended to Hamilton by Dr. Warton. On losing him Hamilton, on Feb. 12, 1765, wrote to
Warton, giving a false account of his separation with Burke, and asking him to recommend some one to fill his place-some one 'who, in addition to a taste and an understanding of ancient authors, and what generally passes under the name of scholarship, has likewise a share of modern knowledge, and has applied himself in some degree to the study of the law.' By way of payment he offers at once an income, which would neither be insufficient for him as a man of letters, or disreputable to him as a gentleman,' and hereafter 'a situation '-a post, that is to say, under govern
(Wooll's Warton, i. 299.) Warton recommended Chambers. Chambers does not seem to have accepted the post, for we find him staying on at Oxford (post, ii. 28, 52). Johnson had all the knowledge that Hamilton required, except that of law. It is this very study that we find him at this very time entering upon. All this shows that for some time and to some extent an engagement was formed between him and Hamilton. Boswell, writing to Malone on Feb. 25, 1791, while The Life of Johnson was going through the press, says :
'I shall have more cancels. That nervous mortal W. G. H. is not satisfied with my report of some particulars which I wrote down from his own mouth, and is so much agitated that Courtenay has persuaded me to allow a new edition of them by H. himself to be made at H.'s expense."
show that there Horace Walpole
(Croker's Boswell, p. 829). This would seem to was something that Hamilton wished to conceal. (Memoirs of the Reign of George III, iii. 402) does not give him a character for truthfulness. He writes on one occasion :-- Hamilton denied it, but his truth was not renowned.' Miss Burney, who met Hamilton fourteen years after this, thus describes him :- 'This Mr. Hamilton is extremely tall and handsome; has an air of haughty and fashionable superiority; is intelligent, dry, sarcastic, and clever. I should have received much pleasure from his conversational powers, had I not previously been prejudiced against him, by hearing that he is infinitely artful, double, and crafty." (Mme. D'Arblay's Diary, i. 293.)
JOHNSON'S FIRST ACQUAINTANCE WITH THE THRALES AND HIS SERIOUS ILLNESS.
Johnson (Pr. and Med. p. 191) writes:- My first knowledge of Thrale was in 1765.' In a letter to Mrs. Thrale, he says:—' You were but five-and-twenty when I knew you first." (Piozzi Letters, i. 284.) As she was born on Jan. 19, 1741, this would place their introduction in 1766. In another letter, written on July 8, 1784, he talks of her 'kindness which soothed twenty years of a life radically wretched.' (Ib. ii. 376.) Perhaps, however, he here spoke in round numbers. Mrs. Piozzi (Anec. p. 125) says they first met in 1764. Mr. Thrale, she writes, sought an excuse for inviting him. The celebrity of Mr. Woodhouse (post, ii. 146), a shoemaker, whose verses were at that time the subject of common discourse, soon afforded a "pretence." There is a notice of Woodhouse in the Gent. Mag. for June 1764 (p. 289). Johnson, she says, dined with them every Thursday through the winter of 1764-5, and in the autumn of 1765 followed them to Brighton. In the Piozzi Letters (i. 1) there is a letter of his, dated Aug. 13, 1765, in which he speaks of his intention to join them there.
'From that time,' she writes, 'his visits grew more frequent till, in the year 1766, his health, which he had always complained of, grew so exceedingly bad, that he could not stir out of his room in the court he inhabited for many weeks together, I think months. Mr. Thrale's attentions and my own now became so acceptable to him, that he often lamented to us the horrible condition of his mind, which, he said, was nearly distracted: and though he charged us to make him odd solemn promises of secrecy on so strange a subject, yet when we waited on him one morning, and heard him, in the most pathetic terms, beg the prayers of Dr. Delap [the Rector of Lewes] who had left him as we came in, I felt excessively affected with grief, and well remember my husband involuntarily lifted up one hand to shut his mouth, from provocation at hearing a man so widely proclaim what he could at last persuade no one to believe; and what, if true, would have been so unfit to reveal. Mr. Thrale went away soon after, leaving me with him, and bidding me prevail on him to quit his close habitation in the court, and come with us to Streatham, where I undertook
undertook the care of his health, and had the honour and happiness of contributing to its restoration.'
It is not possible to reconcile the contradiction in dates between Johnson and Mrs. Piozzi, nor is it easy to fix the time of this illness. That before February 1766, he had had an illness so serious as to lead him altogether to abstain from wine is beyond a doubt. Boswell, on his return to England in that month, heard it from his own lips (post, ii. 9). That this illness must have attacked him after March 1, 1765, when he visited Cambridge, is also clear; for at that time he was still drinking wine (ante, Appendix C). That he was unusually depressed in the spring of this year is shewn by his entry at Easter (ante, p. 564). From his visit to Dr. Percy in the summer of 1764 (ante, p. 562) to the autumn of 1765, we have very little information about him. For more than two years he did not write to Boswell (post, ii. 1). Dr. Adams (ante, p. 559) describes the same kind of attack as Mrs. Piozzi. Its date is not given. Boswell, after quoting an entry made on Johnson's birthday, Sept. 18, 1764, says 'about this time he was afflicted' with the illness Dr. Adams describes. From Mrs. Piozzi, from Johnson's account to Boswell, and from Dr. Adams we learn of a serious illness. Was there more than one? If there was only one, then Boswell is wrong in placing it before March 1, 1765, when Johnson was still a wine-drinker, and Mrs. Piozzi is wrong in placing it after February 1766, when he had become an abstainer. Johnson certainly stayed at Streatham from before Midsummer to October in 1766 (post, ii. 28, and Pr. and Med. p. 71), and this fact lends support to Mrs. Piozzi's statement. But, on the other hand, his meetings with Boswell in February of that year, and his letters to Langton of March 9 and May 10 (post, ii. 18, 19), shew a not unhappy frame of mind. Boswell, in his Hebrides (Oct. 16, 1773), speaks of Johnson's illness in 1766. If it was in 1766 that he was ill, it must have been after May 10 and before Midsummer-day, and this period is almost too brief for Mrs. Piozzi's account. It is a curious coincidence that Cowper was introduced to the Unwins in the same year in which Johnson, according to his own account, had his first knowledge of the Thrales. (Southey's Cowper, i. 171.)
THE END OF THE FIRST VOLUME.