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“Hurd, Sir, is a man whose acquaintance is a valuable acquisition."
That learned and ingenious prelate, it is well known, published, at one period of his life, “ Moral and Political Dialogues,” with a wofully Whiggish cast. Afterwards, his lordship, having thought better, came to see his error, and republished the work with a more constitutional spirit. Johnson, however, was unwilling to allow him full credit for his political conversion. I remember when his lordship declined the honour of being archbishop of Canterbury, Johnson, said, I am glad he did not go to Lambeth ; for, after all, I fear he is a Whig in his
Johnson's attention to precision and clearness in ex. pression was very remarkable. He disapproved of a parenthesis ; and I believe, in all his voluminous writings, not half a dozen of them will be found. He never used the phrases the former and the latter, having observed, that they often occasioned obscurity; he therefore contrived to construct his sentences so as not to have occasion for them, and woui), even rather repeat the same words, in order to avoid then. Nothing is more common than to mistake surnames, when we hear them carelessly uttered for the first time. To prevent this, he used not only to pronounce them slowiy and distinctly, but to take the trouble of spelling thero ; a practice which I have often followed, and which I wish were general.
Such was the heat and irritability of his blood, that not only did he pare his nails to the quick, but scraped the joints of his fingers with a penknife, till they seemed quite red and raw.
The heterogeneous composition of human nature was remarkably exemplified in Johnson. His liberality in giving his rhoney to persons in distress was extraordinary. Yet there líırked about him a propensity to paltry saving. One day I owned to him, that “I was occasionally troubled with a fit of narrowness.” “Why, Sir,” said he, “ so am I. But I do not tell it.” He has now and then borrowed a shillingi of me; and when I asked him for it again, seemed to be rather out of humour. A droll little circumstance once occurred; as if he meant to reprimand my minute exactness as a creditor, he thus addressed me ;“Boswell, lend me sixpence--not to be repaid."
This great man's attention to small things was very remarkable. As an instance of it, he one day said to me, “Sir, when you get silver in change for a guinea, look carefully at it; you may find some curious piece of coin.”
Though a stern, true-born Englishman, and fully prejudiced against all other nations, he had discernment enough to see, and candour enough to censure, the cold reserve too common among Englishmen towards strangers: “Sir,” said he, “two men of any other nation who are shown into a room together, at a house where they are both visitors, will immediately find some conversation. But two Englishmen will probably go each to a different window, and remain in obstinate silence. Sir, we as yet do not enough understand the common rights of humanity.”
Johnson was at a certain period of his life a good deal with the Earl of Shelburne, now Marquis of Lansdowne, as he doubtless could not but have a due value for that nobleman's activity of mind, and uncommon acquisitions of important knowledge, however much he might disapprove of other parts of his lordship's character, which were widely different from his own.
Maurice Morgann, Esq., author of the very ingenious “ Essay on the character of Falstaff,"2 being a particular friend of his lordship, had once an opportunity of entertaining Johnson a day or two at Wycombe, when its lord was absent, and by him I have been favoured with two anecdotes.
One is not a little to the credit of Johnson's candour. Mr. Morgann and he had a dispute pretty late at night,
1 I cannot discover when this intercourse could have happened ; nor can I even guess. In 1765, when Johnson “engaged in politics with Hamilton," Lord Shelburne was but 20; nor can I discover that his Lordship had any connexion with Hamilton.— Croker.
A writer in Notes and Queries has this correction : “In 1765 Lord Shelburne was 28. He was born in 1737 ; was in Parliament, 1761; a Privy Councillor, 1763.”—N. and Q., 1st Series, vol. ii., p. 373.Editor.
2 Johnson being asked his opinion of this Essay, answered, “Why, Sir, we shall have the man come forth again; and as he has proved Falstaff to be no coward, he may prove Iago to be a very good cha. racter."
in which Johnson would not give up, though he had the wrong side; and, in short, both kept the field. Next morning, when they met in the breakfasting-room, Dr. Johnson accosted Mr. Morgann thus: “Sir, I have been thinking on our dispute last night ;-You were in the
The other was as follows: Johnson, for sport perhaps, or from the spirit of contradiction, eagerly maintained that Derrick had merit as a writer. Mr. Morgann argued with him directly, in vain. At length he had recourse to this device. “Pray, Sir,” said he, “ whether do you reckon Derrick or Smart the best poet?” Johnson at once felt himself roused; and answered, “Sir, there is no settling the point of precedency between a louse and a flea.”
Once, when checking my boasting too frequently of myself in company, he said to me, “ Boswell, you often vaunt so much as to provoke ridicule. You put me in mind of a man who was standing in the kitchen of an inn with his back to the fire, and thus accosted the person next him. • Do you know, Sir, who I am ?' 'No, Sir,' said the other, *I have not that advantage.' 'Sir,' said he, 'I am the great Twalmley, who invented the New Floodgate Iron.'” The Bishop of Killaloe, on my repeating the story to him, defended Twalmley, by observing that he was entitled to the epithet of great ; for Virgil in his group of worthies in the Elysian fields—
Hic manus ob patriam pugnando vulnera passi, &c. mentions
Inventas aut qui vitam excoluere per artes.? He was pleased to say to me one morning when we were left alone in his study, “ Boswell, I think I am easier with you than with almost any body."
He would not allow Mr. David Hume any credit for his political principles, though similar to his own; saying of him, “Sir, he was a Tory by chance."
His acute observation of human life made him re
1 What the great Twalmley was so proud of having invented was. neither more nor less than a kind of box-iron for smoothing linen.
? Virg. Æn., vi., 660—663.
mark, “ Sır, there is nothing by which a man exasperates most people more than by displaying a superior ability of brilliancy in conversation. They seem pleased at the time; but their envy makes them curse him at their hearts.”
My readers will probably be surprised to hear that the great Dr. Johnson could amuse himself with so slight and playful a species of composition as a charade. I have recovered one which he made on Dr. Barnard, now Lord Bishop of Killaloe ; who has been pleased for many years to treat me with so much intimacy and social ease that I may presume to call him not only my right reverend, but my very dear friend. I therefore with peculiar pleasure give to the world a just and elegant compliment thus paid to his lordship by Johnson.
CHARADE. “My first shuts out thieves from your house or your room, My secondo expresses a Syrian perfume. My whole is a man in whose converse is shared
The strength of a Bar and the sweetness of Nard.”
Johnson asked Richard Owen Cambridge, Esq., if he had read the Spanish translation of Sallust, said to be written by a prince of Spain, with the assistance of his tutor, who is professedly the author of a treatise annexed, on the Phoenician language.
Mr. Cambridge commended the work, particularly as he thought the translator understood his author better than is commonly the case with translators; but said he was disappointed in the purpose for which he borrowed the book; to see whether a Spaniard could be better furnished with inscriptions from monuments, coins, or other antiquities, which he might more probably find on a coast so immediately opposite to Carthage, than the antiquaries of any other countries. JOHNSON. “I am very sorry you were not gratified in your expectations.” CAMBRIDGE. “ The language would have been of little use, as there is no history existing in that tongue to balance the partial Bar. 2 Nard.
accounts which the Roman writers have left us." JohnSON. “No, Sir. They have not been partial, they have told their own story without shame or regard to equitable treatment of their injured enemy; they had no compunction, no feeling for a Carthaginian. Why, Sir, they would never have borne Virgil's description of Eneas's treatment of Dido, if she had not been a Carthaginian.”
I gratefully acknowledge this and other communications from Mr. Cambridge, whom, if a beautiful villa on the banks of the Thames a few miles distant from London, a numerous and excellent library, which he accurately knows and reads, a choice collection of pictures, which he understands and relishes, an easy fortune, an amiable family, an extensive circle of friends and acquaintance, distinguished by rank, fashion, and genius, a literary fame, various, elegant, and still increasing, colloquial talents rarely to be found, and with all these means of happiness, enjoying, when well advanced in vears, health and vigour of body, serenity and animation of mind, do not entitle to be addressed fortunate senex! I know not to whom, in any age, that expression could with propriety have been used. Long may he live to hear and to feel it !i.
Johnson's love of little children, which he discovered upon all occasions, calling them “pretty dears,”and giving them sweetmeats, was an undoubted proof of the real humanity and gentleness of his disposition.
His uncommon kindness to his servants, and serious concern, not only for their comfort in this world, but their happiness in the next, was another unquestionable evidence of what all, who were intimately acquainted with him, knew to be true.
Nor would it be just, under this head, to omit the fondness which he showed for animals which he had taken under his protection. I shall never forget the indulgence with which he treated Hodge, his cat; for whom he himself used to go out and buy oysters, lest the servants, having
Mr. Cambridge enjoyed all the blessings here enumerated for many years after this passage was written. He died at his seat, near Twickenham, Sept. 17, 1802, in his eighty-sixth year. -Malone,
Crossing Richmond Bridge from the Surrey side, this villa is the first house on the left hand, on the Middlesex side. See vol. ii., p. 329.-Editor.