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enjoying the common sports; and he

He seemed to learn by intuition; for though indolence and procrastination once pleasantly remarked to me, "how wonderfully well he had contrived to be idle without them." Lord Chesterfield, however, has justly observed in one of his letters, when earnestly cautioning a friend against the pernicious effects of idleness, that active sports are not to be reckoned idleness in young people; and that the listless torpor of doing nothing, alone deserves that name. Of this dismal inertness of disposition, Johnson had all his life too great a share. Mr. Hector relates, that "he could not oblige him more than by sauntering away the hours of vacation in the fields, during which he was more engaged in talking to himself than to his companion."

were inherent in his constitution, whenever he made an exertion he did more than any one else. In short, he is a memorable instance of what has been often observed, that the boy is the man in miniature; and that the distinguishing characteristics of each individual are the same, through the whole course of life. His favourites used to receive very liberal assistance from him; and such was the submission and deference with which he was treated, such the desire to obtain his regard, that three of the boys, of whom Mr. Hector was sometimes one, used to come in the morning as his humble attendants, and carry him to school. One in the middle stooped, while he sat upon his back, and one on each side supported him; and thus he was borne triumphant. Such a proof of the early predominance of intellectual vigour is very remarkable, and does honour to human nature.-Talking to me once himself of his being much distinguished at school, he told me, "They never thought to raise me by comparing me to any one; they never said Johnson is as good a scholar as such a one; but such a one is as good a scholar as Johnson; and this was said but of one, but of Lowe; and I do not think he was as good a scholar."

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Dr. Percy, the Bishop of Dromore,1 who was long intimately acquainted with him, and has preserved a few anecdotes concerning him, regretting that he was not a more diligent collector, informs me, that "when a boy he was immoderately fond of reading romances of chivalry, and he retained his fondness for them through life; so that," adds his lordship, “spending part of a summer at my parsonage-house in the country, he chose for his regular reading the old Spanish romance of FELIXMARTE OF HIRCANIA, in folio, which he read quite through. Yet ĺ have heard him attribute to these extravagant fictions that unsettled turn of mind which prevented his ever fixing in any profession.'

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After having resided for some time at the house of his uncle, Cornelius Ford, Johnson was, at the age of fifteen, removed to the school of Stourbridge, in Worcestershire, of which Mr. Wentworth was then master. This step was taken by the advice of his cousin, the Rev. Mr. Ford, a man in whom both talents and good dispositions were disgraced by licentiousness,2 but who was a very able judge of what was right. At this school he did not receive so much benefit as was expected. It has been said, that he

1 Editor of Reliques of Ancient English Poetry (1765).

2 He is said to be the original of the parson in Hogarth's Modern Midnight Conversation. See also Lives of the Poets, ("Fenton.")

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acted in the capacity of an assistant to Mr. Wentworth, in teaching the younger boys. "Mr. Wentworth," he told me, was a very able man, but an idle man, and to me very severe; but I cannot blame him much. I was then a big boy; he saw I did not reverence him; and that he should get no honour by me. had brought enough with me to carry me through; and all I should get at his school would be ascribed to my own labour, or to my former master. Yet he taught me a great deal.”


He thus discriminated to Dr. Percy, Bishop of Dromore, his progress at his At one, I two grammar-schools. learned much in the school, but little from the master; in the other, I learned much from the master, but little in the school.


The bishop also informs me, that "Dr. Johnson's father, before he was received at Stourbridge, applied to have him admitted as a scholar and assistant to the Rev. Samuel Lea, M. A. head master of Newport school, in Shropshire (a very diligent good teacher, at that time in high reputation, under whom Mr. Hollis is said, in the Memoirs of his Life, to have been also educated).1 This application to Mr. Lea was not successful; but Johnson' had afterwards the gratification to hear that the old gentleman, who lived to a very advanced age, mentioned it as one of the most memorable events of his life, that "he was very near having that great man for his scholar.


He remained at Stourbridge little more than a year, and then he returned home, where he may be said to have loitered, for two years, in a state very unworthy his uncommon abilities. He had already given several proofs of his poetical genius, both in his school exercises and in other occasional compositions. these I have obtained a considerable collection, by the favour of Mr. Wentworth, son of one of his masters, and of Mr. Hector, his schoolfellow and friend; from which I select the following specimens:


1 As was likewise the Bishop of Dromore many years afterward. B.

Translation of VIRGIL. Pastoral I.



Now, Tityrus, you, supine and careless laid, Play on your pipe beneath this beechen shade; While wretched we about the world must roam, And leave our pleasing fields and native home, Here at your ease you sing your amorous flame, And the wood rings with Amarillis' name.


Those blessings, friend, a deity bestow'd, For I shall never think him less than god: Oft on his altar shall my firstlings lie, Their blood the consecrated stones shall dye: He gave my flocks to graze the flowery meads,

And me to tune at ease th' unequal reeds.



My admiration only I exprest, (No spark of envy harbours in my breast) That, when confusion o'er the country reigns, you alone this happy state remains. Here I, though faint myself, must drive my goats, Far from their ancient fields and humble cots. This scarce I lead, who left on yonder rock Two tender kids, the hopes of all the flock. Had we not been perverse and careless grown, This dire event by omens was foreshewn; Our trees were blasted by the thunder stroke, And left-hand crows, from an old hollow oak, Foretold the coming evil by their dismal croak.

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THE man, my friend, whose conscious heart
With virtue's sacred ardour glows,
Nor taints with death the envenom'd dart,
Nor needs the guard of Moorish bows :

Though Scythia's icy cliffs he treads,

Or horrid Afric's faithless sands;
Or where the famed Hydaspes spreads
His liquid wealth o'er barbarous lands.
For while by Chloe's image charm'd,
Too far in Sabine woods I stray'd;
Me singing, careless and unarm'd,

A grisly wolf surprised, and fled.
No savage more portentous stain'd
Apulia's spacious wilds with gore;
No fiercer Juba's thirsty land,

Dire nurse of raging lions, bore.

Place me where no soft summer gale

Among the quivering branches sighs; Where clouds condensed for ever veil With horrid gloom the frowning skies: Place me beneath the burning line, A clime denied to human race; I'll sing of Chloe's charms divine, Her heavenly voice, and beauteous face,

Translation of HORACE. Book II. Ode ix. CLOUDS do not always veil the skies,

Nor showers immerse the verdant plain; Nor do the billows always rise,

Or storms afflict the ruffled main : Nor, Valgius, on th' Armenian shores Do the chain'd waters always freeze; Not always furious Boreas roars,

Or bends with violent force the trees. But you are ever drown'd in tears,

For Mystes dead you ever mourn; No setting Sol can ease your cares, But finds you sad at his return. The wise experienc'd Grecian sage Mourn'd not Antilochus so long; Nor did King Priam's hoary age

So much lament his slaughter'd son. Leave off, at length, these woman's sighs; Augustus' numerous trophies sing; Repeat that prince's victories,

To whom all nations tribute bring. Niphates rolls an humbler wave;

At length the undaunted Scythian yields, Content to live the Romans' slave,

And scarce forsakes his native fields.

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Can in my bosom half that grief create,

As the sad thought of your impending fate: When some proud Grecian dame shall tasks impose,

Mimic your tears, and ridicule your woes;
Beneath Hyperia's waters shall you sweat,
And, fainting, scarce support the liquid weight:
Then shall some Argive loud insulting cry,
Behold the wife of Hector, guard of Troy!
Tears, at my name, shall drown those beauteous

And that fair bosom heave with rising sighs!
Before that day, by some brave hero's hand
May I lie slain, and spurn the bloody sand.

THIS tributary verse receive, my fair,
Warm with an ardent lover's fondest prayer.
May this returning day for ever find

Thy form more lovely, more adorned thy mind;
All pains, all cares, may favouring Heaven


All but the sweet solicitudes of love!

May powerful nature join with grateful art,
To point each glance, and force it to the heart!
O then, when conquered crowds confess thy

When ev'n proud wealth and prouder wit obey,
My fair, be mindful of the mighty trust:
Alas! 'tis hard for beauty to be just.
Those sovereign charms with strictest care

Nor give the generous pain, the worthless joy:
With his own form acquaint the forward fool,
Shewn in the faithful glass of ridicule;
Teach mimic censure her own faults to find,
No more let coquettes to themselves be blind,
So shall Belinda's charms improve mankind.


WHEN first the peasant, long inclin'd to roam,
Forsakes his rural sports and peaceful home,
Pleas'd with the scene the smiling ocean yields,
He scorns the verdant meads and flow'ry fields;
Then dances jocund o'er the watery way,
While the breeze whispers, and the streamers
Unbounded prospects in his bosom roll,

And future millions lift his rising soul;
In blissful dreams he digs the golden mine,
And raptur'd sees the new-found ruby shine.
Joys insincere! thick clouds invade the skies,
Loud roar the billows, high the waves arise;
And vows to trust the faithless deep no more.
Sick'ning with fear, he longs to view the shore,
And the long honours of a lasting name,
So the young Author, panting after fame,
Intrusts his happiness to human kind,
More false, more cruel, than the seas or wind.
"Toil on, dull crowd," in ecstacies he cries,
"For wealth or title, perishable prize;
"While I those transitory blessings scorn,
"Secure of praise from ages yet unborn.'
This thought once form'd, all counsel comes too


He flies to press, and hurries on his fate;
Swiftly he sees the imagin'd laurels spread,
And feels the unfading wreath surround his head.
Warn'd by another's fate, vain youth, be wise;
Those dreams were Settle's once, and Ogilby's:
The pamphlet spreads, incessant hisses rise,
To some retreat the baffled writer flies;
Where no sour critics snarl, no sneers molest,
Safe from the tart lampoon, and stinging jest:
There begs of Heaven a less distinguish'd lot,
Glad to be hid, and proud to be forgot.

1 Mr. Hector informs me, that this was made almost impromptu, in his presence. B.

2 This was afterwards published with many alterations, and anonymously, in the Gentleman's Magazine, 1743.


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YE blooming train, who give despair or joy,
Bless with a smile, or with a frown destroy;
In whose fair cheeks destructive Cupids wait,
And with unerring shafts distribute fate;
Whose snowy breasts, whose animated eyes,
Each youth admires, though each admirer dies;
Whilst you deride their pangs in barb'rous play,)
Unpitying see them weep, and hear them pray,
And unrelenting sport ten thousand lives away;)
For you, ye fair, I quit the gloomy plains,
Where sable night in all her horror reigns;
No fragrant bowers, no delightful glades,
Receive the unhappy ghosts of scornful maids.
For kind, for tender nymphs, the myrtle blooms,
And weaves her bending boughs in pleasing

Perennial roses deck each purple vale,
And scents ambrosial breathe in every gale:
Far hence are banish'd vapours, spleen, and tears,
Tea, scandal, ivory teeth, and languid airs:
No pug, nor favourite Cupid there enjoys
The balmy kiss, for which poor Thyrsis dies;
Form'd to delight, they use no foreign arms,
Nor torturing whalebones pinch them



No conscious blushes there their cheeks inflame,

For those who feel no guilt can know no shame; Unfaded still their former charms they shew, Around them pleasures wait, and joys for ever


But cruel virgins meet severer fates;
Expell'd and exil'd from the blissful seats,
To dismal realms, and regions void of peace,
Where furies ever howl, and serpents hiss.
O'er the sad plains perpetual tempests sigh,
And pois'nous vapours, black'ning all the sky,
With livid hue the fairest face o'ercast,
And every beauty withers at the blast:
Where'er they fly their lovers' ghosts pursue,
Inflicting all those ills which once they knew;
Vexation, Fury, Jealousy, Despair,
Vex ev'ry eye, and every bosom tear;
Their foul deformities by all descried,
No maid to flatter, and no paint to hide.



but merely lived from day to day. he read a great deal in a desultory manner, without any scheme of study; as chance threw books in his way, and inclination directed him through them. He used to mention one curious instance of his casual reading, when but a boy. Having imagined that his brother had hid some apples behind a large folio upon an upper shelf in his father's shop, he climbed up to search for them. There were no apples; but the large folio proved to be Petrarch, whom he had seen mentioned, in some preface, as one of the restorers of learning. His curiosity having been thus excited, he sat down with avidity, and read a great part of the book. What he read during these two years, he told me, was not works of mere amusement, 'Not voyages and travels, but all literature, Sir, all ancient writers, all manly: though but little Greek, only some of Anacreon and Hesiod: but in this irre


gular manner," added he, "I had looked into a great many books, which were not commonly known at the Universities, where they seldom read any books but what are put into their hands by their tutors; so that when I came to Oxford, Dr. Adams, now master of Pembroke College, told me, I was the best qualified for the University that he had ever known come there."

In estimating the progress of his mind during these two years, as well as in future periods of his life, we must not regard his own hasty confession of idleness; for we see, when he explains him

Then melt, ye fair, while crowds around you self, that he was acquiring various stores;


Nor let disdain sit lowering in your eye;
With pity soften every awful grace.

And beauty smile auspicious in each face;
To ease their pains exert your milder power,
So shall you guiltless reign, and all mankind


The two years which he spent at home, after his return from Stourbridge, he passed in what he thought idleness, and was scolded by his father for his want of steady application. He had no settled plan of life, nor looked forward at all,

1 Some young ladies at Lichfield having proposed to act The Distressed Mother [by Ambrose

Phillips], Johnson wrote this, and gave it to Mr. Hector to convey it privately to them. B.

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and indeed he himself concluded the account, with saying, "I would not have you think I was doing nothing then.' He might, perhaps, have studied more assiduously; but it may be doubted, whether such a mind as his was not more enriched by roaming at large in the fields of literature than if it had been confined


any single spot. The analogy between body and mind is very general, and the parallel will hold as to their food, as well as any other particular. The flesh of animals who feed excursively, is allowed to have a higher flavour than that of those who are cooped up. May there

not be the same difference between men who read as their taste prompts and men who are confined in cells and colleges to stated tasks?

That a man in Mr. Michael Johnson's circumstances should think of sending his son to the expensive University of Oxford, at his own charge, seems very improbable. The subject was too delicate to question Johnson upon; but I have been assured by Dr. Taylor, that the scheme never would have taken place had not a gentleman of Shropshire, one of his schoolfellows, spontaneously undertaken to support him at Oxford, in the character of his companion: though, in fact, he never received any assistance whatever from that gentleman.1

He, however, went to Oxford, and was entered a commoner of Pembroke College, on the 31st of October, 1728, being then in his nineteenth year.

The Reverend Dr. Adams, who afterward presided over Pembroke College with universal esteem, told me he was present, and gave me some account of what passed on the night of Johnson's arrival at Oxford. On that evening, his father, who had anxiously accompanied him, found means to have him introduced to Mr. Jorden, who was to be his tutor. His being put under any tutor, reminds us of what Wood says of Robert Burton, author of the Anatomy of Melancholy, when elected student of Christ Church; "For form's sake, though he wanted not a tutor, he was put under the tuition of Dr. John Bancroft, afterward Bishop of Oxon.


His father seemed very full of the merits of his son, and told the company he was a good scholar, and a poet, and wrote Latin verses. His figure and manner appeared strange to them; but he behaved modestly, and sat silent, till upon something which occurred in the course of conversation, he suddenly struck in and quoted Macrobius; and thus he gave the first impression of that more ex

1 According to Hawkins, this gentleman was Andrew Corbet, who was entered at Pembroke College in 1727. Croker thinks him more likely to have been Dr. Swinfen, who took his degree from Pembroke in 1712.

2 Athen. Oxon. edit. 1721, i. 627. B.

tensive reading in which he had indulged himself.

His tutor, Mr. Jorden, fellow of Pembroke, was not, it seems, a man of such abilities as we should conceive requisite for the instructor of Samuel Johnson, who gave me the following account of him. "He was a very worthy man, but a heavy man, and I did not profit much by his instructions. Indeed, I did not attend him much. The first day after I came to college, I waited upon him, and then stayed away four. On the sixth, Mr. Jorden asked me why I had not attended. I answered, I had been sliding in Christ Church meadow : and this I said with as much nonchalance as I am now talking to you. I had no notion that I was wrong or irreverent to my tutor.' BOSWELL: That, Sir, was great fortitude of mind. JOHNSON: No, Sir; stark insensibility.

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The fifth of November was at that time kept with great solemnity at Pembroke College, and exercises upon the subject of the day were required. Johnson neglected to perform his, which is much to be regretted; for his vivacity of imagination, and force of language, would probably have produced something sublime upon the gunpowder-plot. To apologise for his neglect, he gave in a short copy of verses entitled Somnium, containing a common thought; “That the Muse had come to him in his sleep, and whispered that it did not become him to write on such subjects as politics; he should confine himself to humbler themes: but the versification was truly Virgilian.


He had a love and respect for Jorden, not for his literature, but for his worth. Whenever," said he, "a young man becomes Jorden's pupil, he becomes his son.


Having given such a specimen of his poetical powers, he was asked by Mr. Jorden to translate Pope's Messiah into Latin verse, as a Christmas exercise. He 3 Oxford, 20th March, 1776. B.

4 It ought to be remembered, that Dr. Johnson was apt, in his literary as well as moral exercises, to overcharge his defects. Dr. Adams informed me, that he attended his tutor's lectures, and also the lectures in the College Hal!, very regularly. B.

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