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radical disease, I have been for these ten days much harassed with the gout; but that has now remitted. I hope God will yet grant me a little longer life, and make me less unfit to appear before him."
He this autumn received a visit from the celebrated Mrs. Siddons. He gives this account of it in one of his letters to Mrs. Thrale (Oct. 27):
“Mrs. Siddons, in her visit to me, behaved with great modesty and propriety, and left nothing behind her to be censured or despised. Neither praise nor money, the two powerful corruptors of mankind, seem to have depraved her. I shall be glad to see her again. Her brother Kemble calls on me, and pleases me very well. Mrs. Siddons and I talked of plays; and she told me her intention of exhibiting this winter the characters of Constance, Catharine, and Isabella,” in Shakspeare.”
Mr. Kemble has favoured me with the following minute of what passed at this visit :
“ When Mrs. Siddons came into the room, there happened to be no chair ready for her, which he observing said, with a smile, ‘Madam, you who so often occasion a want of seats to other people will the more easily excuse the want of one yourself.'
" Having placed himself by her, he, with great good-humour, entered upon a consideration of the English drama; and among other inquiries, particularly asked her which of Shakspeare's characters she was most pleased with. Upon her answering that she thought the character of Queen Catharine, in Henry the Eighth, the most natural : 'I think so too, Madam,' said he ; and whenever you perform it, I will once more hobble out to the theatre myself.' Mrs. Siddons promised she would do herself the honour of acting his favourite part for him ; but many circumstances happened to prevent the representation of King Henry the Eighth during the doctor's life.'
“In the course of the evening he thus gave his opinion upon the merits of
1 This great actor and amiable and accomplished man left the stage in 1816, and died 26th February, 1823, at Lausanne. In his own day he had no competitor in any walk of tragedy ; and those who remembered Barry, Mossop, Henderson, and Garrick admitted, that in characters of high tragic dignity, such as Hamlet, Coriolanus, Alexander, Cato, he excelled all his predecessors, almost as much as his sister did all actresses in the female characters of the same heroic class.-C.
9 Isabella in Shakspeare's Measure for Measure. Mrs. Siddons had made her first appearance in Isabella in the Fatal Marriage.-C.
* It was acted many years after with critical attention to historical accuracy, and with great success. Mrs. Siddons played Catharine : Mr. Kemble, Wolsey ; Mr. Charles Kemble, Cromwell. There is a very interesting picture by Harlow (since engraved), of the trial scene, with portraits of all the performers.-C.
some of the principal performers whom he remembered to have seen upon the stage. “Mrs. Porter in the vehemence of rage, and Mrs. Clive in the sprightli. ness of humour, I have never seen equalled. What Clive did best, she did better than Garrick ; but could not do half so many things well : she was a better romp than any I ever saw in nature. Pritchard, in common life, was a vulgar idiot; she would talk of her gownd: but when she appeared upon the stage, seemed to be inspired by gentility and understanding. I once talked with Colley Cibber, and thought him ignorant of the principles of his art. Garrick, Madam, was no declaimer; there was not one of his own scene-shifters who could not have spoken To be or not to be better than he did: yet he was the only actor I ever saw, whom I could call a master both in tragedy and comedy; though I liked him best in comedy. A true conception of character, and natural expression of it, were his distinguished excellences. Having expatiated, with his usual force and eloquence, on Mr. Garrick's extraordinary eminence as an actor, he concluded with this compliment to his social talents : And after all, Madam, I thought him less to be envied on the stage than at the head of a table.”
Johnson, indeed, had thought more upon the subject of acting than might be generally supposed. Talking of it one day to Mr. Kemble, he said, “ Are you, Sir, one of those enthusiasts who believe yourself transformed into the very character you represent ?" Upon Mr. Kemble's answering, that he had never felt so strong a persuasion himself ;? “To be sure not, Sir,” said Johnson ; "the thing is impossible. And if Garrick really believed himself to be that monster, Richard the Third, he deserved to be hanged every time he performed it.
? Mr. Kemble told me, that the occasion on which he had felt himself the most affected the most personally touched-was in playing the last scene of The Stranger with Mrs. Sid. dons. Her pathos, he said, in that part always overcame him.-C.
9 My worthy friend, Mr. John Nichols, was present when Mr. Henderson, the actor, paid a visit to Dr. Johnson, and was received in a very courteous manner. See Gent. Mag. June, 1791. I found among Dr. Johnson's papers the following letter to him, from the celebrated Mrs. Bellamy :
“No. 10 Duke Street, St. James's, May 11, 1783. “Sir, -The flattering remembrance of the partiality you honoured me with some years ago, as well as the humanity you are known to possess, has encouraged me to solicit your patronage at my benefit. By a long chancery suit, and a complicated train of unfortunate events, I am reduced to the greatest distress ; which obliges me, once more, to request the indulgence of the public. Give me leave to solicit the honour of your company, and to assure you, if you grant my request, the gratification I shall feel from being patronised by Dr. Johnson will be infinitely superior to any advantage that may arise from the benefit; as I am, with the profoundest respect, Sir, your most obedient, humble servant,
“G. A. BELLAMY." I am happy in recording these particulars, which prove that my illustrious friend lived to
TO MRS. LUCY PORTER.
“ Bolt Court, Fleet Street, Nov. 10, 1783. “Dear Madam,—The death of poor Mr. Porter, of which your maid has sent me an account, must have very much surprised you. The death of a friend is almost always unexpected. we do not love to think of it, and therefore are not prepared for its coming. He was, I think, a religious man, and therefore that his end was happy.
“Death has likewise visited my mournful habitation. Last month died Mrs. Williams, who had been to me for thirty years in the place of a sister : her knowledge was great and her conversation pleasing. I now live in cheerless solitude.
“My two last years have passed under the pressure of successive diseases. I have lately had the gout with some severity. But I wonderfully escaped the operation which I mentioned, and am upon the whole restored to health beyond my own expectation.
“ As we daily see our friends die round us, we that are left must cling closer, and if we can do nothing more, at least pray for one another; and remember, that as others die we must die too, and prepare ourselves diligently for the last great trial. I am, Madam, yours affectionately, &c. SAM. JOHNSON."
A pleasing instance of the generous attention of one of his friends has been discovered by the publication of Mrs. Thrale's Collection of Letters. In a letter to one of the Miss Thrales, he writes, “A friend, whose name I will tell when your mamma has tried to guess it, sent to my physician to inquire whether this long train of illness had brought me into difficulties for want of money, with an invitation to send to him for what occasion required. I shall write this night to thank him, having no need to borrow.” And afterwards, in a letter to Mrs. Thrale, “Since you cannot guess, I will tell you, that the generous man was Gerard Hamilton. I returned him a very thankful and respectful letter.”
I applied to Mr. Hamilton, by a common friend, and he has been so obliging as to let me have Johnson's letter to him upon this occasion, to adorn my collection.
LETTER 444. TO THE RIGHT HON. WILLIAM GERARD HAMILTON.
“Nov 19, 1783. “DEAR SIR,—Your kind inquiries after my affairs and your generous offers, have been communicated to me by Dr. Brocklesby. I return thanks with
think much more favourably of players than he appears to have done in the early part of his
MRS. GARDINER-MRS. CHAPONE.
great sincerity, having lived long enough to know what gratitude is due to such friendship; and entreat that my refusal may not be imputed to sullenness or pride. I am, indeed, in no want. Sickness is, by the generosity of my physicians, of little expense to me. But if any unexpected exigence should press me, you shall see, dear Sir, how cheerfully I can be obliged to so much liberality. I am, Sir, your, etc.
I find in this, as in former years, notices of his kind attention to Mrs. Gardiner, who, though in the humble station of a tallowchandler upon Snow Hill, was a woman of excellent good sense, pious, and charitable.' She told me she had been introduced to him by Mrs. Masters, the poetess, whose volumes he revised, and, it is said, illuminated here and there with a ray of his own genius Mrs. Gardiner was very zealous for the support of the ladies charity-school, in the parish of St. Sepulchre. It is confined to females ; and, I am told, it afforded a hint for the story of “Betty Broom” in “The Idler.” Johnson this year, I find, obtained for it a sermon from the late Bishop of St. Asaph, Dr. Shipley, whom he, in one of his letters to Mrs. Thrale, characterises as “knowing and conversable ;" and whom all who knew his lordship, even those who differed from him in politics, remember with much respect.
The Earl of Carlisle having written a tragedy, entitled “The Father's Revenge," some of his lordship's friends applied to Mrs. Chapone, to prevail on Dr. Johnson to read and give his opinion of it, which he accordingly did, in a letter to that lady. Sir Joshua Reynolds having informed me that this letter was in Lord Carlisle's possession, though I was not fortunate enough to have the honour of being known to his lordship, trusting to the general courtesy of literature, I wrote to him, requesting the favour of a copy of it, and to be permitted to insert it in my Life of Dr. Johnson. His lordship was so good as to comply with my request, and has thus enabled me to enrich my work with a very fine piece of writing, which displays both the critical skill and politeness of my illustrious friend ; and perhaps the curiosity which it will excite may induce the noble and elegant author to gratify
1 In his will Dr. Johnson left her a book “at her election, to keep as a token of remem. brance.”—M. She died in 1789, æt. 74.-C.
the world by the publication of a performance of which Dr. Johnson has spoken in such terms.
“Nov. 28, 1783. “Madam,—By sending the tragedy to me a second time, I think that a very honourable distinction has been shown me; and I did not delay the perusal, of which I am now to tell the effect.
“The construction of the play is not completely regular: the stage is too often vacant, and the scenes are not sufficiently connected. This, however, would be called by Dryden only a mechanical defect; which takes away little from the power of the poem, and which is seen rather than felt.
“A rigid examiner of the diction might, perhaps, wish some words changed, and some lines more vigorously terminated. But from such petty imperfections what writer was ever free?
“The general form and force of the dialogue is of more importance. It seems to want that quickness of reciprocation which characterises the English drama, and is not always sufficiently fervid or animated.
“Of the sentiments, I remember not one that I wished omitted. In the imagery I cannot forbear to distinguish the comparison of joy succeeding grief to light rushing on the eye accustomed to darkness. It seems to have all that can be desired to make it please. It is new, just, and delightful.
“With the characters, either as conceived or preserved, I have no fault to find; but was much inclined to congratulate a writer who, in defiance of prejudice and fashion, made the archbishop a good man, and scorned all thoughtless applause, which a vicious churchman would have brought him.
“The catastrophe is affecting. The father and daughter both culpable, both wretched, and both penitent, divide between them our pity and our
“Thus, Madam, I have performed what I did not willingly undertake, and could not decently refuse. The noble writer will be pleased to remember that sincere criticism ought to raise no resentment, because judgment is not under the control of will; but involuntary criticism, as it has still less of choice, ought to be more remote from possibility of offence. I am, etc.
A few copies only of this tragedy have been printed, and given to the author's friends. 2 Dr. Johnson having been very ill when the tragedy was first sent to him had declined the consideration of it.
8 “I could have borne my woes; that stranger Joy
Wounds while it smiles :- the long imprison'd wretch,