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Johnson's tricks of body.
but, from delicacy, avoided shewing him the paper itself. When Sir Joshua observed to Johnson that he seemed very desirous to see Pope's note, he answered, 'Who would not be proud to have such a man as Pope so solicitous in inquiring about him ?'
The infirmity to which Mr. Pope alludes, appeared to me also, as I have elsewhere observed, to be of the convulsive kind, and of the nature of that distemper called St. Vitus's dance; and in this opinion I am confirmed by the description which Sydenham gives of that disease. “This disorder is a kind of convulsion. It manifests itself by halting or unsteadiness of one of the legs, which the patient draws after him like an ideot. If the hand of the same side be applied to the breast, or any other part of the body, he cannot keep it a moment in the same posture, but it will be drawn into a different one by a convulsion, notwithstanding all his efforts to the contrary.' Sir Joshua Reynolds, however, was of a different opinion, and favoured me with the following paper:
Those motions or tricks of Dr. Johnson are improperly called convulsions'. He could sit motionless, when he was told so to do,
Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides, 3rd edit. p. 8. BOSWELL.
According to Sir Joshua Reynolds, · Every person who knew Dr. Johnson must have observed that the moment he was left out of the conversation, whether from his deafness or from whatever cause, but a few minutes without speaking or listening, his mind appeared to be preparing itself. He fell into a reverie accompanied with strange antic gestures; but this he never did when his mind was engaged by the conversation. These were therefore improperly called convulsions, which imply involuntary contortions; whereas, a word addressed to him, his attention was recovered. Sometimes, indeed, it would be near a minute before he would give an answer, looking as if he laboured to bring his mind to bear on the question.' (Taylor's Reynolds, ii. 456).
I still, however, think,' wrote Boswell, “that these gestures were involuntary; for surely had not that been the case, he would have restrained them in the public streets' (Boswell's Hebrides, under date of Aug. 11, 1773, note). Dr. T. Campbell, in his Diary of a Visit to England, p. 33, writing of Johnson on March 16, 1775, says :
—He has the aspect of an idiot, without the faintest ray of sense gleaming from any one feature—with the most awkward garb, and unpowdered grey
His dread of solitude.
as well as any other man ; my opinion is that it proceeded from a habit which he had indulged himself in, of accompanying his thoughts with certain untoward actions, and those actions always appeared to me as if they were meant to reprobate some part of his past conduct. Whenever he was not engaged in conversation, such thoughts were sure to rush into his mind; and, for this reason, any company, any employment whatever, he preferred to being alone'. The great business of his life (he said) was to escape
wig, on one side only of his head-he is for ever dancing the devil's jig, and sometimes he makes the most driveling effort to whistle some thought in his absent paroxysms.' Miss Burney thus describes him when she first saw him in 1778:— Soon after we were seated this great man entered. I have so true a veneration for him that the very sight of him inspires me with delight and reverence, notwithstanding the cruel infirmities to which he is subject; for he has almost perpetual convulsive movements, either of his hands, lips, feet, or knees, and sometimes of all together.' Mme. D'Arblay's Diary, i. 63. See post, under March 30, 1783, Boswell's note on Johnson's peculiarities.
\ 'Solitude,' wrote Reynolds, “to him was horror; nor would he ever trust himself alone but when employed in writing or reading. He has often begged me to go home with him to prevent his being alone in the coach. Any company was better than none; by which he connected himself with many mean persons whose presence he could command.' Taylor's Reynolds, ii. 455. Johnson writing to Mrs. Thrale, said :— If the world be worth winning, let us enjoy it; if it is to be despised, let us despise it by conviction. But the world is not to be despised but as it is compared with something better. Company is in itself better than solitude, and pleasure better than indolence.' Piozzi Letters, i. 242. In The Idler, No. 32, he wrote:-'Others are afraid to be alone, and amuse themselves by a perpetual succession of companions; but the difference is not great; in solitude we have our dreams to ourselves, and in company we agree to dream in concert. The end sought in both is forgetfulness of ourselves.' In The Rambler, No. 5, he wrote :—- It may be laid down as a position which will seldom deceive, that when a man cannot bear his own company, there is something wrong. He must fly from himself, either because he feels a tediousness in life from the equipoise of an empty mind ... or he must be afraid of the intrusion of some unpleasing ideas, and, perhaps, is struggling to escape from the remembrance of a loss, the fear of a calamity, or some other thought of greater horror.'
Cowper, whose temperament was in some respects not unlike Johnson's, wrote ;-'A vacant hour is my abhorrence; because, when I am
Hogarth meets Johnson.
from himself; this disposition he considered as the disease of his mind, which nothing cured but company.
‘One instance of his absence and particularity, as it is characteristick of the man, may be worth relating. When he and I took a journey together into the West, we visited the late Mr. Banks, of Dorsetshire; the conversation turning upon pictures, which Johnson could not well see, he retired to a corner of the room, stretching out his right leg as far as he could reach before him, then bringing up his left leg, and stretching his right further on. The old gentleman observing him, went up to him, and in a very courteous manner assured him, that though it was not a new house, the flooring was perfectly safe. The Doctor started from his reverie, like a person waked out of his sleep, but spoke not a word.'
While we are on this subject, my readers may not be displeased with another anecdote, communicated to me by the same friend, from the relation of Mr. Hogarth.
Johnson used to be a pretty frequent visitor at the house of Mr. Richardson, authour of Clarissa, and other novels of extensive reputation. Mr. Hogarth came one day to see Richardson, soon after the execution of Dr. Cameron, for having taken arms for the house of Stuart in 1745-6; and being a warm partisan of George the Second, he observed to Richardson', that certainly there must have been some very unfavourable circumstances lately discovered in this particular case, which had induced the King to approve of an execution for rebellion so long after the time when it was committed, as this had the appearance of putting a man to death in cold blood', and was very unlike his Majesty's usual
not occupied, I suffer under the whole influence of my unhappy temperament.' Southey's Cowper, vi. 146.
· Richardson was of the same way of thinking as Hogarth. Writing of a speech made at the Oxford Commemoration of 1754 by the Jacobite Dr. King (see post, Feb. 1755), he said:– There cannot be a greater instance of the lenity of the government he abuses than his pestilent harangues so publicly made with impunity furnishes (sic) all his readers with.' - Rich. Corresp. ii. 197.
* Impartial posterity may, perhaps, be as little inclined as Dr. Johnson was to justify the uncommon rigour exercised in the case of Dr. Archibald Cameron. He was an amiable and truly honest man; and
George the Second's cruelty.
clemency. While he was talking, he perceived a person standing at a window in the room, shaking his head, and rolling himself about in a strange ridiculous manner. He concluded that he was an ideot, whom his relations had put under the care of Mr. Richardson, as a very good man. To his great surprize, however, this figure stalked forwards to where he and Mr. Richardson were sitting, and all at once took up the argument, and burst out into an invective against George the Second, as one, who, upon all occasions, was unrelenting and barbarous'; mentioning many instances,
his offence was owing to a generous, though mistaken principle of duty. Being obliged, after 1746, to give up his profession as a physician, and to go into foreign parts, he was honoured with the rank of Colonel, both in the French and Spanish service. He was a son of the ancient and respectable family of Cameron, of Lochiel; and his brother, who was the Chief of that brave clan, distinguished himself by moderation and humanity, while the Highland army marched victorious through Scotland. It is remarkable of this Chief, that though he had earnestly remonstrated against the attempt as hopeless, he was of too heroick a spirit not to venture his life and fortune in the cause, when personally asked by him whom he thought his prince. BOSWELL.
Sir Walter Scott states, in his Introduction to Redgauntlet, that the government of George II were in possession of sufficient evidence that Dr. Cameron had returned to the Highlands, not, as he alleged on his trial, for family affairs merely, but as the secret agent of the Pretender in a new scheme of rebellion: the ministers, however, preferred trying this indefatigable partisan on the ground of his undeniable share in the insurrection of 1745, rather than rescuing themselves and their master from the charge of harshness, at the expense of making it universally known, that a fresh rebellion had been in agitation so late as 1752. LOCKHART. He was executed on June 7, 1753. Gent. Mag. xxiii. 292. Lord Campbell (Lives of the Chancellors, V. 109) says :— I regard his execution as a wanton atrocity.' Horace Walpole, however, inclined to the belief that Cameron was engaged in a new scheme of rebellion. Walpole's Memoirs of George II, i. 333.
· Horace Walpole says that towards convicts under sentence of death .George II's disposition in general was merciful, if the offence was not murder.' He mentions, however, a dreadful exception, when the King sent to the gallows at Oxford a young man who had been 'guilty of a most trifling forgery,' though he had been recommended to mercy by the Judge, who had assured him his pardon.' Mercy
Johnson's writings in 1740.
particularly, that when an officer of high rank had been acquitted by a Court Martial, George the Second had with his own hand, struck his name off the list. In short, he displayed such a power of eloquence, that Hogarth looked at him with astonishment, and actually imagined that this ideot had been at the moment inspired. Neither Hogarth nor Johnson were made known to each other at this interview'.
1740': ÆTAT. 31.)-IN 1740 he wrote for the Gentleman's Magazine the ‘Preface','+ 'Life of Sir Francis Drake,'* and the first parts of those of ' Admiral Blake*,'* and of Philip Baretier*,'* both which he finished the following year. He
was refused, merely because the Judge, Willes, ‘was attached to the Prince of Wales.' It is very likely that this was one of Johnson's ‘instances,' as it had happened about four years earlier, and as an account of the young man had been published by an Oxonian. Walpole's Memoirs of the Reign of George II, i. 175.
* It is strange that when Johnson had been sixteen years in London he should not be known to Hogarth by sight. “Mr. Hogarth,' writes Mrs. Piozzi, 'was used to be very earnest that I should obtain the acquaintance, and if possible, the friendship of Dr. Johnson, “whose conversation was to the talk of other men, like Titian's painting compared to Hudson's,” he said. ... Of Dr. Johnson, when my father and he were talking together about him one day, “That man,” says Hogarth, “is not contented with believing the Bible, but he fairly resolves, I think, to believe nothing but the Bible."' Piozzi's Anec. p. 136.
? On October 29 of this year James Boswell was born.
3 In this preface is found the following lively passage :—*The Roman Gazetteers are defective in several material ornaments of style. They never end an article with the mystical hint, this occasions great speculation. They seem to have been ignorant of such engaging introductions as, we hear it is strongly reported; and of that ingenious, but thread-bare excuse for a downright lie, it wants confirmation.'
• The Lives of Blake and Drake were certainly written with a political aim. The war with Spain was going on, and the Tory party was doing its utmost to rouse the country against the Spaniards. It was 'a time,' according to Johnson, ‘when the nation was engaged in a war with an enemy, whose insults, ravages, and barbarities have long called for vengeance.' Johnson's Works, vi. 293.
• Barretier's childhood surpassed even that of J. S. Mill. At the age of nine he was master of five languages, Greek and Hebrew being two of them. 'In his twelfth year he applied more particularly to