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himself, the right honourable Edmund Burke, sir Joshua Reynolds, Dr. Nugent, Dr. Goldsmith, the late Mr. Topham Beauclerc, Mr. Langton, Mr. Chamier, sir J. Hawkins, and some others. Johnson's affection for sir Joshua was founded on a long acquaintance, and a thorough knowledge of the virtuous and amiable qualities of that excellent artist. He delighted in the conversation of Mr. Burke. He met him, for the first time, at Mr. Garrick's, several years ago. On the next day he said: “I suppose, Murphy, you are proud of your countryman : ' Cum talis sit, utinam noster esset !"" From that time, his constant observation was, “ that a man of sense could not meet Mr. Burke, by accident, under a gateway, to avoid a shower, without being convinced, that he was the first man in England.” Johnson felt not only kindness, but zeal and ardour for his friends. He did every thing in his power to advance the reputation of Dr. Goldsmith. He loved him, though he knew his failings, and particularly the leaven of envy, which corroded the mind of that elegant writer, and made him impatient, without disguise, of the praises bestowed on any person whatever. Of this infirmity, which marked Goldsmith's character, Johnson gave a remarkable instance. It happened that he went with sir Joshua Reynolds and Goldsmith, to see the fantoccini, which were exhibited, some years ago, in or near the Haymarket. They admired the curious mechanism by which the puppets were made to walk the stage, draw a chair to the table, sit down, write a letter, and perform a variety of other actions, with such dexterity, that “ though nature's journeymen made the men, they imitated humanity," to the astonishment of the spectator. The entertainment being over, the three friends retired to a tavern. Johnson and sir Joshua talked with pleasure of what they had seen; and, says Johnson, in a tone of admiration: “How the little fellow brandished his spontoon!" “ There is nothing in it,” replied Goldsmith, starting up with impatience, “ give me a spontoon ; I can do it as well myself.”
Enjoying his amusements at his weekly club, and happy in a state of independence, Johnson gained, in the year 1765, another resource, which contributed, more than any thing else, to exempt him from the solicitudes of life. He was introduced to the late Mr. Thrale and his family. Mrs. Piozzi has related the fact, and it is, therefore, needless to repeat it in this place. The author of this narrative looks back to the share he had in that business, with self-congratulation, since he knows the tenderness which, from that time, soothed Johnson's cares at Streatham, and prolonged a valuable life. The subscribers to Shakespeare began to despair of ever seeing the promised edition. To acquit himself of this obligation, he went to work unwillingly, but proceeded with vigour. In the month of October, 1765, Shakespeare was published ; and, in a short time after, the university of Dublin sent over a diploma, in honourable terms, creating him a doctor of laws. Oxford, in eight or ten years afterwards, followed the example ; and, till then, Johnson never assumed the title of doctor. In 1766, his constitution seemed to 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 headquarters 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. 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 horsewhipped by a Dublin apothecary, for mimicking him on the stage. “I wonder," said Garrick, “ that any man should show so much resentment to Foote; he has a patent for such liberties ; nobody ever thought 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 repeated to Foote, who, in return, gave out, that he would produce the Caliban of literature on the stage. Being informed of this design, Johnson sent word to Foote: “that the theatre being intended for the reformation of rice, 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 compositions.” 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."
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 two hundred and six votes, against eleven hundred and forty-three, 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. 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 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 despatched 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 Falkland islands. The design was to show the impropriety of going to war with Spain for an island, thrown aside from human use, stormy in winter, and barren in summer. For this work it is apparent, that materials were furnished by direction of the minister.
At the approach of the general election in 1774, he wrote a short discourse, called The Patriot, not with any visible application to Mr. Wilkes; but to teach the people to reject the leaders of opposition, who called themselves patriots. In 1775, he undertook a pamphlet of more importance, namely, Taxation no Tyranny, in answer to the Resolutions and Address of the American congress. The scope of the argument was, that distant colonies, which had, in their assemblies, a legislature of their own, were, notwithstanding, liable to be taxed in a British parliament, where they had neither peers in one house, nor representatives in the other. He was of opinion, that this country was strong enough to enforce obedience. “When an Englishman,” he says, “is told that the Americans shoot up like the hydra, he naturally considers how the hydra was destroyed.” The event has shown how much he and the minister of that day were mistaken.
The account of the Tour to the Western Islands of Scotland, which was undertaken in the autumn of 1773, in company with Mr. Boswell, was not published till some time in the year 1775. This book has been variously received ; by some extolled for the elegance of the narrative, and the depth of observation on life and manners ; by others, as much condemned, as a work of avowed hostility to the Scotch nation. The praise was, beyond all question, fairly deserved ; and the censure, on due examination, will appear hasty and ill founded. That Johnson entertained some prejudices against the Scotch must not be dissembled. It is true, as Mr. Boswell says, “that he thought their success in England exceeded their proportion of real merit, and he could not but see in them that nationality which no liberal-minded Scotsman will deny.” The author of these memoirs well remembers, that Johnson one day asked him, “have you observed the difference between your own country impudence and Scotch impudence ?" The answer being in the negative: “then I will tell you,” said Johnson. “The impudence of an Irishman is the impudence of a fly, that buzzes about you, and you put it away, but it returns again, and flutters and teases you. The impudence of a Scotsman is the impudence of a leech, that fixes and sucks your blood." Upon another occasion, this writer went with him into the shop of Davies, the bookseller, in Russell street, Covent garden. Davies came running to him, almost out of breath with joy: “ The Scots gentleman is come, sir ; his principal wish is to see you ; he is now in the back parlour.” Well, well, I'll see the gentleman,” said Johnson. He walked towards the room. Mr. Boswell was the person. This writer followed, with no small curiosity. “I find,” said Mr. Boswell, “ that I am come to London, at a bad time, when great popular prejudice has gone forth against us North Britons ; but, when I am talking to you, I am talking to a large and liberal mind, and you know that I cannot help coming from Scotland.” “ Sir,” said Johnson, more can the rest of your countrymen.”
He had other reasons that helped to alienate him from the natives of Scotland. Being a cordial well-wisher to the constitution in church and state, he did not think that Calvin and John Knox were proper founders of a national religion. He made, however, a wide distinction between the dissenters of Scotland and the separatists of England. To the former he imputed no disaffection, no want of loyalty. Their soldiers and their officers had shed their blood with zeal and courage in the service of great Britain ; and the people, he used to say, were content with their own established modes of worship, without wishing, in the present age, to give any disturbance to the church of England.
* Mr. Boswell's account of this introduction is very different from the above. See his Life of Johnson, vol. i. p. 360. 8vo. edit. 1804.