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reclaiming upon a cause already determined, without any change in the state of the question ? Does it not imply hopes that the judges will change their opinion? Is not uncertainty and inconstancy in the highest degree disreputable to a court? Does it not suppose, that the former judgment was temerarious or negligent? Does it not lessen the confidence of the public ? Will it not be said, that jus est aut incognitum aut vagum ? and will not the consequence be drawn, misera est servitus? Will not the rules of action be obscure? Will not he who knows himself wronged to-day, hope that the courts of justice will think him right to-morrow ? Surely, my lords, these are attempts of dangerous tendency, which the solicitors, as men versed in the law, should have foreseen and avoided. It was natural for an ignorant printer to appeal from the lord ordinary; but from lawyers, the descendants of lawyers, who have practised for three hundred years, and have now raised themselves to a higher denomination, it might be expected, that they should know the reverence due to a judicial determination; and, having been once dismissed, should sit down in silence.”
I am ashamed to mention, that the court, by a plurality of voices, without having a single additional circumstance before them, reversed their own judgment, made a serious matter of this dull and foolish joke, and adjudged Mr. Robertson to pay to the society five pounds (sterling money) and costs of suit. The decision will seem strange to Eng. lish lawyers.
On Tuesday, June 5, Johnson was to return to London. He was very pleasant at breakfast: I mentioned a friend of mine having resolved never to marry a pretty woman. JOHNSON. “Sir, it is a very foolish resolution to resolve not to marry a pretty woman. Beauty is of itself very estimable. No, Sir, I would prefer a pretty woman, unless there are objections to her. A pretty woman may be foolish ; a pretty woman may be wicked ; a pretty woman may not like me. But there is no such danger in marrying a pretty woman as is apprehended ; she will not be persecuted if she does not invite persecution. A pretty woman, if she has a mind to be wicked, can find a readier way than another; and that is all.”
I accompanied him in Mr. Dilly's chaise to Shefford,
where, talking of Lord Bute's never going to Scotland, he said, “ As an Englishman, I should wish all the Scotch gentlemen should be educated in England; Scotland would become a province; they would spend all their rents in England.” This is a subject of much consequence, and much delicacy. The advantage of an English education is unquestionably very great to Scotch gentlemen of talents and ambition; and regular visits to Scotland, and perhaps other means, might be effectually used to prevent them from being totally estranged from their native country, any more than a Cumberland or Northumberland gentleman, who has been educated in the south of England. I own, indeed, that it is no small misfortune for Scotch gentlemen, who have neither talents nor ambition, to be educated in England, where they may be perhaps distinguished only by a nickname, lavish their fortune in giving expensive entertainments to those who laugh at them, and saunter about as mere idle, insignificant hangers-on even upon the foolish great; when, if they had been judiciously brought up at home, they might have been comfortable and creditable members of society.
At Shefford I had another affectionate parting from my revered friend, who was taken up by the Bedford coach and carried to the metropolis. I went with Messieurs Dilly to see some friends at Bedford; dined with the officers of the militia of the county, and next day proceeded on my journey.
TO BENNET LANGTON, ESQ.
“ Bolt Court, June 16, 1781. “Dear Sir,
“How welcome your account of yourself and your invitation to your new house was to me, I need not tell you, who consider our friendship not only as formed by choice, but as matured by tinie. We have been now long enough acquainted to have many images in common, and therefore to have a source of conversation which neither the learning nor the wit of a new com. panion can supply.
“My ‘Lives' are now published ; and if you will tell me whither I shall send them, that they may come to you, I will take care that you shall not be without them.
“You will perhaps be glad to hear that Mrs. Thrale is disencumbered of her brewhouse; and that it seemed to the purchaser so far from an evil, that he was content to give for it an hundred and thirty-five thousand pounds. Is the nation ruined ?
“Please to make my respectful compliments to Lady Rothes, and keep me in the memory of all the little dear family, particu. larly Mrs. Jane. I am, Sir, your, &c., “Sam. Johnson.”
Johnson's charity to the poor was uniform and extensive, both from inclination and principle. He not only bestowed liberally out of his own purse, but what is more difficult as well as rare, would beg from others, when he had proper objects in view. This he did judiciously as well as humanely. Mr. Philip Metcalfe tells me, that when he has asked him for some money for persons in distress, and Mr. Metcalfe has offered what Johnson thought too much, he insisted on taking less, saying, “ No, no, Sir; we must not pamper them.”
I am indebted to Mr. Malone, one of Sir Joshua Reynolds's executors, for the following note, which was found among his papers after his death, and which, we may presume, his unaffected modesty prevented him from com. municating to me with the other letters from Dr. Johnson with which he was pleased to furnish me. However slight in itself, as it does honour to that illustrious painter and most amiable man, I am happy to introduce it.
TO SIR JOSHUA REYNOLDS.
“ June 23, 1781. “Dear Sir,
" It was not before yesterday that I received your splendid benefaction. To a hand so liberal in distributing, I hope nobody will envy the power of acquiring. I am, dear Sir, “Your obliged and most humble servant,
“Sam. Johnson."2 1 The late Mr. Tom Taylor in his life of Reynolds refers this benefaction of Sir Joshua's to a donation to Johnson's unhappy friend, Mauritius Lowe. -See Life of Reynolds, vol. ij., p. 328.-Editor.
: The following letter was written at this time by Johnson on receis.
TO THOMAS ASTLE, ESQ.
"July 17, 1781. “ Sir,
“I am ashamed that you have been forced to call so often for your books, but it has been by no fault on either side. They have never been out of my hands, nor have I ever been at home without seeing you ; for to see a man so skilful in the antiquities of my country is an opportunity of improvement not willingly to be missed.
“Your notes on Alfred' appear to me very judicious and accurate, but they are too few. Many things familiar to you are unknown to me, and to most others; and you must not think too favourably of your readers : by supposing them knowing, you will leave them ignorant. Measure of land, and value of money, it is of great importance to state with care. Had the Saxons any gold coin ?
“I have much curiosity after the manners and transactions of the middle ages, but have wanted either diligence or opportunity, or both. You, Sir, have great opportunities, and I wish you both diligence and success. I am, Sir, &c.,
ing from Mrs. Reynolds, sister to Sir Joshua Reynolds, a copy of her Essay on Taste, privately printed, but never published. TO MRS. FRANCES REYNOLDS.
“Bolt Court, July 21, 1781. “DEAREST MADAM,
“ There is in these (papers ?) such force of comprehension, such nicety of observation, as Locke or Pascal might be proud of. This I say with an intention to have you think I speak my opinion. They cannot, however, be printed in their present state. Many of your notions seem not very clear in your own mind; many are not sufficiently developed and expanded for the common reader: the expression almost everywhere wants to be made clearer and smoother. You may, by revisal and improvement, make it a very elegant work. I am, my dearest dear, your most humble servant,
The version of the letter however is given from the Reynolds MSS. on Mr. Croker's authority.-Editor.
i The will of King Alfred, alluded to in this letter, from the original Saxon, in the library of Mr. Astle, has been printed at the expense of the University of Oxford.
The following curious anecdote I insert in Dr. Burney's own words:
“Dr. Burney related to Dr. Johnson the partiality which his writings had excited in a friend of Dr. Burney's, the late Mr. Bewley, well known in Norfolk by the name of the Philosopher of Massingham ; who, from the Ramblers and plan of his Dictionary, and long before the author's fame was established by the Dictionary itself, or any other work, had conceived such a reverence for him, that he earnestly begged Dr. Burney to give him the cover of the first letter he had received from him, as a relic of so estimable a writer. This was in 1755. In 1760, when Dr. Burney visited Dr. Johnson at the Temple, in London, where he had then chambers, he happened to arrive there before he was up; and being shown into the room where he was to breakfast, finding himself alone, he examined the contents of the apartment, to try whether he could, undiscovered, steal anything to send to his friend Bewley, as another relic of the admirable Dr. Johnson. But finding nothing better to his purpose, he cut some bristles off his hearth-broom, and enclosed them in a letter to his country enthusiast, who received them with due reverence. The Doctor was so sensible of the honour done to him by a man of genius and science, to whom he was an utter stranger, that he said to Dr. Burney, “Sir, there is no man possessed of the smallest portion of modesty, but must be flattered with the admiration of such a man. I'll give him a set of my Lives, if he will do me the honour to accept of them. In this he kept his word; and Dr. Burney had not only the pleasure of gratifying his friend with a present more worthy of his acceptance than the segment from the hearth-broom, but soon after introducing him to Dr. Johnson himself in Bolt Court, with whom he had the satisfaction of conversing a considerable time, not a fortnight before his death ; which happened in St. Martin's Street, during his visit to Dr. Burney, in the house where the great Sir Isaac Newton had lived and died before."
16 The humble but devoted preserver of the bristly tuft of the Bolt Court hearth-broom.” So Madame D'Arblay fantastically describes him in the Memoirs of Dr. Burney, vol. ii., p. 350; but is rebuked by Mr. Croker for the inaccuracy of the Bolt Court hearth-brush ; whereas the article which furnished the opportunity for this joke, belonged to the furniture of Johnson's chambers in the Temple. Bewley died Sept. 1783.- Editor.