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I would counsel you to omit no decent nor manly degree of importunity. Your 1759. debts in the whole are not large, and of the whole but a small part is trouble- Ætat. 5o. fome. Small debts are like small shot; they are rattling on every side, and can scarcely be escaped without a wound: great debts are like cannon; of loud noise, but little danger. You must, therefore, be enabled to discharge petty debts, that you may have leisure, with security, to struggle with the rest. Neither the great nor little debts disgrace you. I am sure you have my esteem for the courage with which you contracted them, and the spirit with which you endure them. I wish my esteem could be of more use. I have been invited, or have invited myself, to several parts of the kingdom ; and will not incommode my dear Lucy by coming to Lichfield, while her present lodging is of any use to her. I hope in a few days to be at leisure, and to make visits. Whither I shall Ay is matter of no importance. A man unconnected is at home every where; unless he may be said to be at home no where. I am sorry, dear Sir, that where you have parents, a man of your merits should not have an home. I wish I could give it you. I am, my dear Sir, « Affectionately your's,
« SAM. JOHNSON."
He now refreshed himself by an excursion to Oxford, of which the following short characteristical notice, in his own words, is preserved: “*** is now making tea for me. I have been in my gown ever since I came here. It was at my first coming quite new and handsome. I have swum thrice, which I had disused for many years. I have proposed to Vansıttarto climbing over the wall, but he has refused me. And I have clapped my hands till they are fore, at Dr. King's speech?.”
His negro servant, Francis Barber, having left him, and been some time at sea, not pressed as has been supposed, but with his own consent, it appears from a letter to John Wilkes, Esq. from Dr. Smollet, that his master kindly interested himself in procuring his release from a state of life of which Johnson always expressed the utmost abhorrence. He said, “No man will be a failor who has contrivance enough to get himself into a jail; for being in a ship is being in a jail, with the chance of being drowned.” And at another time, “A man in a jail has more room, better food, and commonly better company."
6 Dr. Robert Vanfittart, of the ancient and respectable family of that name in Berkshire. He was eminent for learning and worth, and much efteemed by Dr. Johnson. 1 Gentleman's Magazine, April 1785. Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides, 3d edit. p. 126.
9 Ibid. p. 251.
" DEAR SIR,
Chelsea, March 16, 1759. “ I am again your petitioner, in behalf of that great chum' of literature Samuel Johnson. His black servant, whose name is Francis Barber, has been pressed on board the Stag Frigate, Captain Angel, and our lexicographer is in great distress. He says the boy is a fickly lad, of a delicate frame, and
particularly subject to a malady in his throat, which renders him very unfit for his Majesty's service. You know what matter of animosity the said Johnson has against you; and I dare say you desire no other opportunity of resenting it than that of laying him under an obligation. He was humble enough to desire
assistance on this occasion, though he and I were never cater-cousins; and I gave him to understand that I would make application to my friend Mr. Wilkes, who, perhaps, by his interest with Dr. Hay and Mr. Elliott, might be able to procure the discharge of his lacquey. It would be superAuous to say more on the subject, which I leave to your own confideration; but I cannot let Nip this opportunity of declaring that I am, with the most inviolable esteem and attachment, dear Sir, - Your affectionate obliged humble servant,
« T. SMOLLET."
Mr. Wilkes, who upon all occasions has acted, as a private gentleman, with most polite liberality, applied to his friend Sir George Hay, then one of the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty ; and Francis Barber was discharged, as he has told me, without any wish of his own. He recollects the precise time to be three days before King George II. died. He found his old master in chambers in the Inner Temple, and returned to his service.
What particular new scheme of life Johnson had in view this year, I have not discovered; but that he meditated one of some sort, is clear from his private devotions, in which we find ”, “ the change of outward things which I am now to make ;” and, “ Grant me the grace of thy Holy Spirit, that the course which I am now beginning may proceed according to thy laws, and end in the enjoyment of thy favour.” But he did not, in fact, make any external or visible change.
· Had Dr, Smollet been bred at an English University, he would have known that a chum is a student who lives with another in a chamber common to them both. A chum of literature is nonsense. Prayers and Meditations, p. 30 and 40.
At this time there being a competition among the architects of London to
1759. be employed in the building of Blackfriars-bridge, a question was very Ærat. 5o. warmly agitated whether semicircular or elliptical arches were preferable. In the design offered by Mr. Mylne the elliptical form was adopted, and therefore it was the great object of his rivals to attack it. Johnson's regard for his friend Mr. Gwyn induced him to engage in this controversy against Mr. Mylne }; and after being at considerable pains to study the subject, he wrote three several letters in the Gazetteer, in opposition to his plan.
If 3 Sir John Hawkins has given a long detail of it, in that manner vulgarly, but fignificantly, called rigmarole; in which, amidst an oftentatious exhibition of arts and artists, he talks of "proportions of a column being taken from that of the human figure, and adjnfted by Nature-masculine and feminine-in a man, sesquioctave of the head, and in a woman sesquinonal;” nor has lie failed to introduce a jargon of musical terms, which do not seem much to correspond with the subject, but serve to make up the heterogeneous mass. To follow the Knight through all this, would be an useless fatigue to myself, and not a little disgusting to my readers. I shall, therefore, only make a few remarks upon his statement.--He seems to exult in having detected Johnson in procuring " from a person eminently skilled in mathematicks and the principles of architecture, answers to a string of questions drawn up by himself, touching the comparative strength of semicircular and elliptical arches,” Now I cannot conceive how Johnson could have acted more wisely. Sir John complains that the opinion of that excellent mathematician, Mr. Thomas Simpson, did not preponderate in favour of the semicircular arch. But he should have known, that however eminent Mr. Simpson was in the higher parts of abstract mathematical science, he was little versed. in mixed and practical mechanicks. Mr. Muller, of Woolwich Academy, the scholastick father of all the great engineers which this country has employed for forty years, decided the question by declaring clearly in favour of the elliptical arch.
"It is ungraciou ily suggested, that Johnson's motive for opposing Mr. Mylne's scheme may have been his prejudice against him as a native of North-Britain ; when, in truth, as has been stated, he gave the aid of his able pen to a friend, who was one of the candidates ;. and so far was he from having any illiberal antipathy to Mr. Mylne, that he afterwards lived with that gentleman upon very agreeable terms of acquaintance, and dined with him at his house. Sir John Hawkins, indeed, gives full vent to his own prejudice in abusing Blackfriarsbridge, calling it “ an edifice, in which beauty and symmetry are in vain sought for ; by which the citizens of London have perpetuated their own disgrace, and subjected a whole nation to the * reproach of foreigners." Whoever has contemplated, placido lumine, this stately, elegant, and airy structure, which has so fine an effect, especially on approaching the capital on that quarter, muft wonder at fuch unjust and ill-tempered censure; and I appeal to all foreigners of good taste, whether this bridge be not one of the most distinguished ornaments of London. As to the stability of the fabrick, it is certain that the City of London took every precaution to have the best Port-land ftone for it; but as this is to be found in the quarries belonging to the publick, under the direction of the Lords of the Treasury, it so happened that parliamentary interest, which is often the bane of fair pursuits, thwarted their endeavours. Notwithstanding this disadvantage, it is well known that not only has Blackfriars-bridge never sunk either in its foundations or in its
If it should be remarked that this was a controversy which lay quite out of Johnson's way, let it be remembered that after all, his employing his powers of reasoning and eloquence upon a subject which he had studied on the moment, is not more strange than what we often observe in lawyers, who, as Quicquid agunt homines is the matter of law-suits, are sometimes obliged to pick up a temporary knowledge of an art or science, of which they understood nothing till their brief was delivered, and appear to be much masters of it. In like manner, members of the legiNature frequently introduce and expatiate upon subjects of which they have informed themselves for the occasion
In 1760 he wrote “ An Address of the Painters to George III. on his Accession to the Throne of these Kingdoms,t” which no monarch ever ascended with more sincere congratulations from his people. Two generations of foreign princes had prepared their minds to rejoice in having again a King, who gloried in being « born a Briton." He also wrote for Mr. Baretti the Dedication f of his Italian and English Dictionary, to the Marquis of Abreu, then Ambassadour Extraordinary from Spain at the Court of Great-Britain.
Johnson was now either very idle, or very busy with his Shakspeare; for I can find no other publick composition by him except an account which he gave in the Gentleman's Magazine of Mr. Tytler's acute and able vindi- : cation of Mary Queen of Scots.* The generosity of Johnson's feelings shines forth in the following sentence: “ It has now been fashionable, for near half a century, to defame and vilify the house of Stuart, and to exalt and magnify the reign of Elizabeth. The Stuarts have found few apologists; for the dead cannot pay for praise, and who will, without reward, oppose the tide of popularity ? Yet there remains still among us, not wholly extinguished, a zeal for truth, a desire of establishing right in opposition to fashion.”
In this year I have not discovered a single private letter written by him to any of his friends. It should seem, however, that he had at this period a floating intention of writing a history of the recent and wonderful successes of the British arms in all quarters of the globe; for among his resolutions or memorandums, September 18, there is, “ Send for books for Hist. of War 4.”. How much is it to be regretted that this intention was not fulfilled. His majestick expression would have carried down to the latest posterity the glorious
arches, which were so much the subject of contest, but any injuries which it has suffered from the
achievements of his country, with the same fervent glow which they produced on the mind at the time. He would have been under no temptation to deviate in any degree from truth, which he held very sacred, or to take a licence which a learned divine told me he once seemed, in a conversation, jocularly to allow to historians. “ There are (said he) inexcusable lies, and consecrated lies. For instance, we are told that on the arrival of the news of the unfortunate battle of Fontenoy, every heart beat, and every eye was in tears. Now we know that no man eat his dinner the worse, but there should have been all this concern; and to say there was, (smiling) may be reckoned a consecrated lie.”
This year Mr. Murphy having thought himself ill treated by the Reverend
« Transcendant Genius, whose prolifick vein
Say, pow'rful Johnson, whence thy verse is fraught
energy of thought;
Sublimity and elegance combine ;
“ While harmony gives rapture to the whole.” Again, towards the conclusion:
« Thou then, my friend, who fee'st the dang’rous strife
Thy moral sense, thy dignity of song?
Tell, for you can, by what unerring art - You wake to finer feelings every heart; Сс