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lug him along through the Highlands and Hebrides.” Nor would he patiently allow me to enlarge upon Johnson's wonderful abilities; but exclaimed, “ Is he like Burke, who winds into a subject like a serpent?” “But,” said I, “ Johnson is the Hercules who strangled serpents in his cradle.”
I dined with Dr. Johnson at General Paoli's. He was obliged, by indisposition, to leave the company early; he appointed me, however, to meet him in the evening at Mr. (now Sir Robert) Chambers's in the Temple, where he accordingly came, though he continued to be very ill. Chambers, as is common on such occasions, prescribed various remedies to him. JOHNSON (fretted by pain). “Prythee don't tease me. Stay till I am well, and then you shall tell me how to cure myself.” He grew better, and talked with a noble enthusiasm of keeping up the representation of respectable families. His zeal on this subject was a circumstance in his character exceedingly remarkable, when it is considered that he himself had no pretensions to blood. I heard him once say, “I have great merit in being zealous for subordination and the honours of birth; for I can hardly tell who was my grandfather.” He maintained the dignity and propriety of male succession, in opposition to the opinion of one of our friends !, who had that day employed Mr. Chambers to draw his will, devising his estate to his three sisters, in preference to a remote heir male. Johnson called them “ three dowdies," and said, with as high a spirit as the boldest baron in the inost perfect days of the feudal system, “ An ancient estate should always go to males. It is mighty foolish to let a stranger have it because he marries your daughter, and takes your name. As for an estate newly acquired by trade, you may give it, if you will, to the dog Towser, and let him keep his own name.'
' [It seems, from many circumstances, that this was Mr. Langton; and that there was something more in the matter than a mere sally of obstreperous mirth. It is certain that the friendship of “twenty years' standing" (post, 22d August, 1773) between Johnson and Langton suffered, about this time, a serious interruption. Johnson chose to attribute it to the reproof he had lately given Langton at Mr. Dilly's table (ante, p. 239); but it is more probable that it arose from this affair of the will. -ED]
I have known him at times exceedingly diverted at what seemed to others a very small sport. He now laughed immoderately, without any reason, that we could perceive, at our friend's making his will: called him the testator, and added, " I dare say he thinks he has done a mighty thing. He won't stay till he gets home to his seat in the country, to produce this wonderful deed : he 'll call up the landlord of the first inn on the road; and, after a suitable preface upon mortality and the uncertainty of life, will tell him that he should not delay making his will; and here, sir, will he say, is my will, which I have just made, with the assistance of one of the ablest lawyers in the kingdom; and he will read it to him (laughing all the time). He believes he has made this will; but he did not make it; you, Chambers, made it for him. I trust you have had more conscience than to make him say, being of sound understanding ! ha, ha, ha! I hope he has left me a legacy. I'd have his will turned into verse, like a ballad."
In this playful manner did he run on, exulting in his own pleasantry, which certainly was not such as might be expected from the authour of “ The Rambler,” but which is here preserved, that my readers may be acquainted even with the slightest occasional characteristicks of so eminent a man.
Mr. Chambers did not by any means relish this jocularity upon a matter of which pars magna fuit',
(Mr. Chambers may have known more of the real state of the affair than Boswell, and been offended at the mode in which Johnson treated their common friend. It is absurd to think that he could have felt any displeasure on his own account. -Ed.)
and seemed impatient till he got rid of us. Johnson could not stop his merriment, but continued it all the way till he got without the Temple-gate. He then burst into such a fit of laughter, that he appeared to be almost in a convulsion; and, in order to support himself, laid hold of one of the posts at the side of the foot pavement, and sent forth peals so loud, that in the silence of the night his voice seemed to resound from Temple-bar to Fleet-ditch.
This most ludicrous exhibition of the awful, melancholy, and venerable Johnson, happened well to counteract the feelings of sadness which I used to experience when parting with him for a considerable time. I accompanied him to his door, where he gave me his blessing.
He records of himself this year : “ Between Easter and Whitsuntide, having always con- Prayers sidered that time as propitious to study, I attempted to learn & the low Dutch language.”
It is to be observed, that he here admits an opinion of the human mind being influenced by seasons, which he ridicules in his writings. His progress, he says, was interrupted by a fever, “which, by the imprudent use of a small print, left an inflammation in his useful eye.” We cannot but admire his spirit when we know, that amidst a complication of bodily and mental distress, he was still animated with the desire of intellectual improvement'. Various notes of his studies appear on different days, in his manuscript diary of this year; such as,
“ Inchoavi lectionem Pentateuchi. Finivi lectionem Conf. Fab. Burdonum. Legi primum actum Troadum. Legi Dissertationem Clerici postremam de Pent. 2 of Clark's Sermons. L. Apollonii pugnam Betriciam. L. centum versus Homeri."
Not sis months before his death, he wished me to teach him the Scale of Musick : “ Dr. Burney, teach me at least the alphabet of your language."BURNEY
Let this serve as a specimen of what accessions of literature he was perpetually infusing into his mind,
while he charged himself with idleness. Piozzi,
• This year died Mrs. Salisbury (mother of Mrs. Thrale), a lady whom he appears to have esteemed much, and whose memory he honoured with an epitaph. (This event also furnished him with a subject of meditation for the evening of June the 18th,
on which day this lady died.] Prayers [“ Friday, June 18, 1773. This day, after dinner, died Jirs. & Med.
· Salisbury; she had for some days almost lost the power of
speaking. Yesterday, as I touched her hand, and kissed it, she pressed my hand between her two hands, which she probably intended as the parting caress. At night her speech returned a little ; and she said, among other things, to her daughter, I have had much time, and I hope I have used it. This morning being called about nine to feel her pulse, I said at parting, God bless you, for Jesus Christ's sake. She smiled, as pleased. She had
her senses perhaps to the dying moment." p. 129. [He complaius, about this period, that his memory
had been for a long time very much confused, and that names, and persons, and events, slide away strangely from him. “But,” he adds, “I grow easier.”]
In a letter from Edinburgh, dated the 29th of May, I pressed him to persevere in his resolution to make this year the projected visit to the Hebrides, of which he and I had talked for many years, and which I was confident would afford us much entertainment.
“ TO JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ.
“Johnson’s-court, Fleet-street, 5th July, 1773. “Dear Sir,-- When your letter came to me, I was so darkened by an inflammation in my eye that I could not for some time read it. I can now write without trouble, and can read large prints. My eye is gradually growing stronger; and I hope will be able to take some delight in the survey of a Caledonian loch.
“ Chambers is going a judge, with six thousand a year, to
Bengal. He and I shall come down together as far as Newcastle, and thence I shall easily get to Edinburgh. Let me know the exact time when your courts intermit I must conform a little to Chambers's occasions, and he must conform a little to mine. The time which you shall fix must be the common point to which we will come as near as we can. Except this eye, I am very well.
“ Beattie is so caressed, and invited, and treated, and liked, and flattered by the great, that I can see nothing of him. I am in great hope that he will be well provided for, and then we will live upon him at the Marischal College, without pity or modesty.
- left the town without taking leave of me, and is gone in deep dudgeon to — Is not this very childish? Where is now my legncy?
“I hope your dear lady and her dear baby are both well. I shall see them too when I come; and I have that opinion of your choice, as to suspect that when I have seen Mrs. Boswell, I shall be less willing to go away. I am, dear sir, your af. fectionate humble servant,
“ Sam. Johnson. “ Write to me as soon as you can. Chambers is now at Oxford.”
I again wrote to him, informing him that the court of session rose on the twelfth of August, hoping to see him before that time, and expressing, perhaps in too extravagant terms, my admiration of him, and my expectation of pleasure from our intended tour.
“ TO JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ.
“3d August, 1773. “ DEAR SIR,-I shall set out from London on Friday the sixth of this month, and purpose not to loiter much by the way. Which day I shall be at Edinburgh, I cannot exactly tell. I suppose I must drive to an inn, and send a porter to find you.
“ I am afraid Beattie will not be at his college soon enough for us, and I shall be sorry to miss him ; but there is no staying for the concurrence of all conveniences. We will do as well as we can. I am, sir, your most humble servant,
“ Sam. JOHNSON."
[Both these blanks must be filed with Langton. See ante, p. 245.-Ed.]