Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

round the world to Johnson's prejudice, by applying 1768. to him the epithet of a bear, let me impress upon Ætat. 9. my readers a just and happy saying of my friend Goldsmith, who knew him well: “ Johnson, to be sure, has a roughness in his manner; but no man alive has a more tender heart. He has nothing of the bear but his skin."

In 1769, so far as I can discover, the pub- 1769. lick was favoured with nothing of Johnson's com- Ætat. 60. position, either for himself or any of his friends. His “Meditations” too strongly prove that he suffered much both in body and mind; yet was he perpetually striving against evil, and nobly endeavouring to advance his intellectual and devotional improvement. Every generous and grateful heart must feel for the distresses of so eminent a benefactor to mankind; and now that his unhappiness is certainly known, must respect that dignity of character which prevented him from complaining.

His Majesty having the preceding year instituted the Royal Academy of Arts in London, Johnson had now the honour of being appointed Professor in Ancient Literature. In the course of the year he wrote some letters to Mrs. Thrale, passed some part of the

6 In which place he has been succeeded by Bennet Langton, Esq. When that truly religious gentleman was elected to this honorary Professorship, at the same time that Edward Gibbon, Esq. noted for introducing a kind of sneering infidelity into his Historical Writings, was elected Professor in Ancient History, in the room of Dr. Goldsmith, I observed that it brought to my mind, “ Wicked Will Whiston and good Mr. Ditton."~I am now also of that admirable institution as Secretary for Foreign Correspone dence, by the favour of the Academicians, and the approbation of the Sovereign.

1769. summer at Oxford and at Lichfield, and when at Ætat. 6o.

Oxford he wrote the following letter :

TO THE REVEREND MR. THOMAS WARTON.

DEAR SIR,

Many years ago, when I used to read in the library of your College, I promised to recompence the college for that permission, by adding to their books a Baskerville's Virgil. I have now sent it, and desire you to reposit it on the shelves in my name.?

“ If you will be pleased to let me know when you have an hour of leisure, I will drink tea with you.

I am engaged for the afternoon, to-morrow and on Friday: all my mornings are my own.

“I am, &c. “May 31, 1769.

“ SAM. Johnson."

[ocr errors]

I came to London in the autumn, and having informed him that I was going to be married in a few months, I wished to have as much of his conversation as I could before engaging in a state of life which would probably keep me more in Scotland, and prevent me seeing hin so often as when I was a single man; but I found he was at Brighthelinstone with Mr. and Mrs. Thrale. I was very sorry that I had 1769. not his company with me at the Jubilee, in honour of Ætat. 6o. Shakspeare, at Statford-upon-Avon, the great poet's native town. Johnson's connection both with Shakspeare and Garrick founded a double claim to his presence; and it would have been highly gratifying to Mr. Garrick. Upon this occasion I particularly lamented that he had not that warmth of friendship for his brilliant pupil, which we may suppose would have had a benignant effect on both. When almost every man of eminence in the literary world was happy to partake in this festival of genius, the absence of Johnson could not but be wondered at and regretted. The only trace of him there, was in the whimsical advertisement of a haberdasher, who sold Shaksperian riblands of various dyes; and, by way of illustrating their appropriation to the bard, introduced a line from the celebrated Prologue at the opening of Drury-lane threatre :

9 " It has this inscription in a blank-leaf: 'Hunc librum D. D. Samuel Johnson, eo quod hic loci studiis interdum vacaret,' Of this library, which is an old Gothick room, he was very fond. On my observing to him that some of the modern libraries of the University were more commodious and pleasant for study, as being more spacious and airy, he replied, “Sir, if a man has a mind to prance, he must study at Christ-Church and All-Souls."

During this visit he seldom or never dined out. ed to be deeply engaged in some literary work. Miss Williams was now with him at Oxford."

8 66

He appear

“ Each change of many-colour'd life he drew."

From Brighthelmstone Dr. Johnson wrote me the following letter, which they who may think that I ought to have suppressed, must have less ardent feelings than I have always avowed:o

9 In the Preface to my Account of Corsica, published in 1763, I thus express myself :

“ He who publishes a book affecting not to be an authour, and professing an indifference for literary fame, may possibly impose upon many people such an idea of his consequence as he wishes may be received. For my part, I should be proud to be known as an authour, and I have an ardent ambition for literary fame ; for, of all possessions I should imagine literary fame to be the most valuable. A man who has been able to furnish a book, wbieh

1769. Ætat. 60.

" TO JAMES BOSWELL, Esq. “ DEAR ŞIR,

“ Why do you charge me with unkindness? I haye omitted nothing that could do you good, or give you pleasure, unless it be that I have forborne to tell you my opinion of your “ Account of Corsica." I believe my opinion, if you think well of my judgement, might have given you pleasure; but when it is considered how much vanity is excited by praise, I am not sure that it would have done you good. Your History is like other histories, but your Journal is in a very high degree curious and delightful. There is between the history and the journal that difference which there will always be found between notions borrowed from without, and notions generated within. Your history was copied from books; your journal rose out of your own experience and observation. You express images which operated strongly upon yourself, and you have impressed them with great force upon your readers. I know not whether you and

has been approved by the world, has established bimself as a resa pectable character in distant society, without any danger of having that character lessened by the observation of his weaknesses. To prezerve an uniform dignity among those who see us every day, is hardly possible; and to aim at it, must put us under the fetters of perpetual restraint. The authour of an approved book may allow his natural disposition an easy play, and yet indulge the pride of superiour genius, when he considers that by those who know him only as an authour, he never ceases to be respected. Such an authour, when in his hours of gloom and discontent, may have the consolation to think, that his writings are, at that very time, giving pleasure to numbers ; and such an authour may cherish the hope of being remembered after death, which has been a great object to the noblest minds in all ages.”

I could name any narrative by which curiosity is 1769. better excited, or better gratified.

Ætat. 60, “ I am glad that you are going to be married; and as I wish you well in things of less importance, wish you well with proportionate ardour in this crisis of your life. What I can contribute to your happiness, I should be very unwilling to withhold; for I have always loved and valued you, and shall love value you still more, as you become more regular and useful: effects which a happy marriage will hardly fail to produce.

“ I do not find that I am likely to come back very soon from this place. I shall, perhaps, stay a fortnight longer; and a fortnight is a long time to a lover absent from his mistress. Would a fortnight ever have an end ?

I am, dear Sir, Your most affectionate humble servant, Brighthelmstone,

“ SAM. JOHNSON." Sept. 9, 1769.

After his return to town, we met frequently, and I continued the practice of making notes of his conversation, though not with so much assiduity as I wish I had done. At this time, indeed, I had a sufficient excuse for not being able to appropriate so much time to my journal; for General Paoli, after Corsica had been overpowered by the monarchy of France, was now nò longer at the head of his brave countrymen, but having with difficulty escaped from his native island, had sought an asylum in Great-Britain ; and it was my duty, as well as my pleasure, to attend much upon him. Such particulars of Johnson's conversation at this period as I have committed to writing, I shall here introduce, without any strict attention to

« ElőzőTovább »