« AnteriorContinuar »
be in a rapid decline; and that morbid melancholy, which often clouded his understanding, came upon him with a deeper gloom than ever. Mr. and Mrs. Thrale paid him a visit in this situation, and found him on his knees, with Dr. Delap, the rector of Lewes, in Sussex, beseeching God to continue to him the use of his understanding. Mr. Thrale took him to his house at Streatham; and Johnson from that time became a constant resident in the family. He went occasionally to the club in Gerard-street; but his head quarters were fixed at Streatham. An apartment was fitted up for him, and the library was greatly enlarged. Parties were constantly invited from town ; and Johnson was every day at an elegant table, with select and polished company. Whatever could be devised by Mr. and Mrs. Thrale to promote the happiness, and establish the health of their guest, was studiously performed from that time to the end of Mr. Thrale's life, Johnson accompanied the family in all their summer excursions to Brighthelmstone, to Wales, and to Paris. It is but justice to Mr. Thrale to say, that a more ingenuous frame of mind no man possessed.
H 3 His
His education at Oxford gave him the habits of a gentleman ; his amiable temper recommended his conversation ; and the goodness of his heart made him a sincere friend. That
he was the patron of Johnson is an honour to his memory. *
In petty disputes with contemporary writers, or the wits of the age, Johnson was seldom entangled. A single incident of that kind may not be unworthy of notice, since it happened with a man of great celebrity in his time. A number of friends dined with Garrick on a Christmas-day. Foote was then in Ireland. It was said at table, that the modern Aristophanes (so Foote was called) had been horse-whipped by a Dublin apothecary, for mimicking him on the stage. “ I wonder,” said Garrick, “that any man “ should shew so much resentment to Foote; “ he has a patent for such liberties; nobody “ever thought it worth his while to quarrel “ with him in London.” “I am glad,” said Johnson, “to find that the man is rising in “ the world.” The expression was afterwards reported to Foote; who, in return, gave out, that he would produce the Caliban of • t literature
literature on the stage. Being informed of this design, Johnson sent word to Foote, “That the theatre being intended for the “reformation of vice, he would step from “ the boxes on the stage, and correct him “ before the audience.” Foote knew the intrepidity of his antagonist, and abandoned the design. No ill-will ensued. Johnson used to say, “That, for broad-faced mirth, Foote “ had not his equal.”
Dr. Johnson's fame excited the curiosity of the King. His Majesty expressed a desire to see a man, of whom extraordinary things were said. Accordingly, the librarian at Buckingham-house invited Johnson to see that elegant collection of books, at the same time giving a hint of what was intended. His Majesty entered the room; and, among other things, asked the author, “If he meant “to give the world any more of his com“ positions?” Johnson answered, “That he “ thought he had written enough.” “And I “should think so too,” replied his Majesty, “if you had not written so well.” *
II 4. Though
Though Johnson thought he had written enough, his genius, even in spite of bodily sluggishness, could not lie still. In 1770 we find him entering the lists as a political writer. The flame of discord that blazed throughout the nation on the expulsion of Mr. Wilkes, and the final determination of the House of Commons, that Mr. Luttrell was duly elected by 206 votes against 1143, spread a general spirit of discontent. To allay the tumult, Dr. Johnson published The False Alarm. Mrs. Piozzi informs us, “That “this pamphlet was written at her house, “between eight o'clock on Wednesday night “ and twelve on Thursday night.” This celerity has appeared wonderful to many, and some have doubted the truth. It may, however, be placed within the bounds of probability. Johnson has observed that there are different methods of composition. Virgil was used to pour out a great number of verses in the morning, and pass the day in retrenching the exuberances, and correcting inaccuracies; and it was Pope's custom to write his first thoughts in his first words, and gradually to amplify, decorate, rectify, and 22 refine
refine them. Others employ at once memory and invention, and, with little intermediate use of the pen, form and polish large masses by continued meditation, and write their productions only, when, in their opinion, they have completed them. This last was Johnson's method. He never took his pen in hand till he had well weighed his subject, and grasped in his mind the sentiments, the train of argument, and the arrangement of the whole. As he often thought aloud, he had, perhaps, talked it over to himself. This may account for that rapidity with which, in general, he dispatched his sheets to the press, without being at the trouble of a fair copy. Whatever may be the logic or eloquence of the False. Alarm, the House of Commons have since erased the resolution from the Journals. But whether they have not left materials for a future controversy may be made a question.
In 1771 he published another tract, on the subject of FALK LAND Is LANDs. The design was to shew the impropriety of going to war with Spain for an island thrown aside from human use, stormy in winter, and barren 1I]