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Wilkes, with a placid but significant smile, “a man may collect sermons with intention of making himself better by them. I hope Mr. Beaulerk intended that some time or other that should be the case with him.”
Mr. Wilkes said to me, loud enough for Dr. Johnson to hear, “Dr. Johnson should make me a present of his * Lives of the Poets,' as I am a poor patriot, who cannot afford to buy them.” Johnson seemed to take no notice of this hint; brut in a little while he called to Mr. Dilly, “Pray, Sir, be so good as to send a set of my Lives to Mr. Wilkes, with my compliments." This was accordingly done; and Mr. Wilkes paid Dr. Johnson a visit, was courteously received, and sat with him a long time.
The company gradually dropped away. Mr. Dilly him. self was called downstairs upon business; I left the room for some time; when I returned, I was struck with observing Dr. Samuel Johnson and John Wilkes, Esq., literally tête-à-tête ; for they were reclined upon their chairs, with their heads leaning almost close to each other, and talking earnestly, in a kind of confidential whisper, of the personal quarrel between George the Second and the King of Prussia. Such a scene of perfectly easy sociality between two such opponents in the war of political controversy, as that which I now beheld, would have been an excellent subject for a picture. It presented to my mind the happy days which are foretold in the scripture, when the lion shall lie down with the kid.?
After this day there was another pretty long interval, during which Dr. Johnson and I did not meet. When I mentioned it to him with regret, he was pleased to say, • Then, Sir, let us live double.”
About this time it was much the fashion for several
such dispositions of spirit in way of emulation or complaisance; and by seasoning matters, otherwise distasteful or insipid, with an unusual and thence grateful tang.”—[Barrow's Works, Cambridge Edition, vol. ii., p. 4-6.--Editor.
1 When I mentioned this to the Bishop of Killaloe (Dr. Barnard), “ With the goat,” said his lordship. Such, however, was the engaging politeness and pleasantry of Mr. Wilkes, and such the social goodhumour of the bishop, that when they dined .together at Mr, Dilly's, where I also was, they were mutually agreeable.
ladies to have evening assemblies, where the fair sex might participate in conversation with literary and ingenious men, animated by a desire to please. These societies were denominated Blue-stocking Clubs; the origin of which title being little known, it may be worth while to relate it. One of the most eminent members of those societies, when they first commenced, was Mr. Stillingfleet?, whose dress was remarkably grave, and in particular it was observed that he wore blue stockings. Such was the excellence of his conversation, that his absence was felt as so great a loss, that it used to be said, “We can do nothing without the blue stockings; and thus by degrees the title was established. Miss Hannah More has admirably described a Bluestocking Club in her “Bas Bleu,” a poem in which many of the persons who were most conspicuous there are mentioned.
Johnson was prevailed with to come sometimes into these circles, and did not think himself too grave even for the lively Miss Monckton (now Countess of Cork), who used to have the finest bit of biue at the house of her mother, Lady Galway. Her vivacity enchanted the sage, and they used to talk together with all imaginable ease. A singular instance happened one evening, when she insisted that some of Sterne's writings were very pathetic. Johnson bluntly denied it. “I am sure,” said she, “they have affected me.” “Why,” said Johnson, smiling and rolling himself about, “ that is because, dearest, you're a dunce.” When she some time afterwards mentioned this to him, he said, with equal truth and politeness, “Madam, if I had thought so, I certainly should not have said it.”
Another evening Johnson's kind indulgence towards me
Mr. Benjamin Stillingfleet, author of tracts relating to natural history, &c.
He died Dec. 15, 1771, in his seventieth year; and his Literary Life and Select Works were edited, 1811, by the Rev. William Coxe, in three vols, 8vo. Had Dr. Doran, (Life of Mrs. Montagu, 1873, p. 66,) carefully read Boswell's account of the Blue-stocking Clubs, he would have seen that Boswell does not speak of Stillingfleet as alive in 1781, but as being one of the most eminent members of those societies, when they first commenced ; and Dr. Doran, p. 65, informs us that the celebrated word, “blue stockings,” first occurs in Mrs. Montagu's correspondence in 1757.- Editor.
BOSWELL'S LIFE OF JOHNSON.
had a pretty difficult trial. I had dined at the Duke of Montrose's with a very agreeable party; and his grace, according to his usual custom, had circulated the bottle very freely. . Lord Graham and I went together to Miss Monckton's, where I certainly was in extraordinary spirits, and above all fear or awe. In the midst of a great number of persons of the first rank, amongst whom I recollect, with confusion, a noble lady of the most stately decorum, I placed myself next to Johnson, and thinking myself now fully his match, talked to him in a loud and boisterous manner, desirous to let the company know how I could contend with Ajax. I particularly remember pressing him upon the value of the pleasures of the imagination, and, as an illustration of my argument, asking him, “ What, Sir, supposing I were to fancy that the (naming the most charming duchess in his majesty's dominions) were in love with me, should I not be very happy ? ” My friend with much address evaded my interrogatories, and kept me as quiet as possible ; but it may easily be conceived how he must have felt. However, when a few days afterwards I
1 Next day I endeavoured to give what had happened the most inge. inious turn I could by the following verses :
TO THB HONOURABLE MISS MONCKTON.
I bad the happiness to dine;
From Graham's wit, from generous wine.
It was not these alone which led
On sacred manners to encroach;
Johnson's just frown, and self-reproach.
But when I enter'd not abash'd,
From your bright eyes were shot such rays,
And all my frame was in a blaze!
But not a brilliant blaze, I own;
Of the dull smoke I'm yet ashamed;
And not enlighten'd, though inflamed.
waited upon him and made an apology, he behaved with the most friendly gentleness.
While I remained in London this year, Johnson and I dined together at several places. I recollect a placid day at Dr. Butter's, who had now removed from Derby to Lower Grosvenor Street, London; but of his conversation on that and other occasions during this period I neglected to keep any regular record, and shall therefore insert here some miscellaneous articles which I find in my Johnsonian notes.
His disorderly habits, when “making provision for the day that was passing over him," appear from the following anecdote communicated to me by Mr. John Nichols : “In the year 1763 a young bookseller, who was an apprentice to Mr. Whiston, waited on him with a subscription to his * Shakspeare;' and observing that the doctor made no entry in any book of the subscriber's name, ventured diffi. dently to ask whether he would please to have the gentle. man's address, that it might be properly inserted in the printed list of subscribers. “I shall print no list of subscribers,' said Johnson, with great abruptness ; but almost immediately recollecting himself, added, very complacently,
Sir, I have two very cogent reasons for not printing any list of subscribers: one, that I have lost all the names ; the other, that I have spent all the money.”
Johnson could not brook appearing to be worsted in argument, even when he had taken the wrong side, to show the force and dexterity of his talents. When, therefore, he perceived that his opponent gained ground, he had recourse to some sudden mode of robust sophistry. Once when I was pressing upon him with visible advantage, he stopped me thus: “My dear Boswell, let's have no more of this; you'll make nothing of it. I'd rather have you whistle a Scotch tune.”
Victim at once to wine and love,
I hope, Maria, you'll forgive;
That henceforth I may wiser live.
Care, however, must be taken to distinguish between Johnson when he “ talked for victory," and Johnson when he had no desire but to inform and illustrate. “ One of Johnson's principal talents," says an eminent friend of his, “was shown in maintaining the wrong side of an argument, and in a splendid perversion of the truth. If you could contrive to have his fair opinion on a subject, and without any bias from personal prejudice, or from a wish to be victorious in argument, it was wisdom itself, not only convincing, but overpowering.”
He had, however, all his life habituated himself to consider conversation as a trial of intellectual vigour and skill: and to this, I think, we may venture to ascribe that unexampled richness and brilliancy which appeared in his own. As a proof at once of his eagerness for colloquial distinction, and his high notion of this eminent friend, he once addressed him thus: “- , we have now been several hours together, and you have said but one thing for which I envied you."
He disliked much all speculative desponding considerations, which tended to discourage men from diligence and exertion. He was in this like Dr. Shaw, the great traveller, who, Mr. Daines Barrington told me, used to say, “I hate a cui bono man.” Upon being asked by a friend what he should think of a man who was apt to say non est tanti ; “That he's a stupid fellow, Sir,” answered Johnson. “What would these tanti men be doing the while ? ” When I, in a low-spirited fit, was talking to him with indifference of the pursuits which generally engage us in a course of action, and inquiring a reason for taking so much trouble; “Sir," said he, in an animated tone, “it is driving on the system of life.”
He told me that he was glad that I had, by General Oglethorpe's means, become acquainted with Dr. Shebbeare. Indeed that gentleman, whatever objections were made to him, had knowledge and abilities much above the class of ordinary writers, and deserves to be remembered as a respectable name in literature, were it only for his admirable “ Letters on the English Nation,” under the name of “Battista Angeloni, a Jesuit.”
1 The Right Hon. William Gerrard Hamilton.-Malone.