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a gay and satisfied air, Now that the counterpane is 1781. my own, I shall make a petticoat of it.”
Ætat. 7%. Talking of oratory, Mr. Wilkes described it as accompanied with all the charms of poetical expression. JOHNSON. “ No, Sir; oratory is the power of beating down your adversary's arguments, and putting better in their place."-Wilkes. “ But this does not move the passions." Johnson. “He must be a weak man, who is to be so moved." WILKES. (naming a celebrated orator) “ Amidst all the bril
's imagination, and the exuberance of his wit, there is a strange want of taste. It was observed of Apelles's Venus', that her flesh seemed as if she had been nourished by roses : his oratory would sometimes make one suspect that he eats potatoes and drinks whisky."
Mr. Wilkes observed, how tenacious we are of forms in this country; and gave as an instance, the vote of the House of Commons for remitting money to pay the army in America in Portugal pieces, when, in reality, the remittance is made not in Portugal money, but in our specie. JOHNSON.
66 Is there not a law, Sir, against exporting the current coin of the realm.” WILKES.
WILKES. “ Yes, Sir ; but might not the House of Commons, in case of real evident necessity, order our own current coin to be sent into
Ber does not appear to have lived at that time in a very genteel style; for she paid for her ready-furnished room in Meard's Court, Dean Street, Soho, from which these articles were alleged to be stolen, only five shillings a week.
Mr. James Boswell took the trouble to examine the Sessions Paper, to ascertain these particulars. M.]
9 [Mr. Wilkes mistook the objection of Euphranor to the Theseus of Parrhasius for a description of the Venus of Apelles. Vide Plutarch. " Bellone an pace clariorcs Athenienses.” K]
1781. our own colonies?"-Here Johnson, with that quick
ness of recollection which distinguished him so emio Etat. 7..
nently, gave the Middlesex Patriot an admirable retort upon his own ground. “ Sure, Sir, you don't. think a resolution of the House of Commons equal to the law of the land. Wilkes. (at once perceiving the application) “God forbid, Sir."- To hear what had been treated with such violence in 6 The False Alarm,” now turned into pleasant repartee, was extremely agreeable. Johnson went on :-“ Locke observes well, that a prohibition to export the current coin is impolitick; for when the balance of trade happens to be against a state, the current coin must be exported.'!
Mr. Beauclerk's great library was this season sold in London by auction. Mr. Wilkes said, he wondered to find in it such a numerous collection of sermons : seeming to think it strange that a gentleman of Mr. Bea clerk's character in the gay world, should have chosen to have many compositions of that kind. Johnson. “ Why, Sir, you are to consider, that sermons make a considerable branch of English literature; so that a library must be very imperfect if it has not a numerous collection of sermons: and
Mr. Wilkes probably did not know that there is in an English sermon the most comprehensive and lively account of that entera, taining faculty, for which he himself was so much admired. It is in Dr. Barrow's first volume, and fourteenth sermon. Against foolish Talking and Jesting." My old acquaintance, the late Corbyn Morris, in his ingenious “Essay on Wit, Humour, and Ridicule,” calls it “ a profuse description of Wit :” but I do not see how it could be curtailed, without leaving out some good circumstance of discrimination. As it is not generally known, and may perhaps dispose some to read sermons, from which they may receive real advantage, while looking only for entertainment, I shall here subjoin it.
in all collections, Sir, the desire of augmenting them 1781. grows stronger in proportion to the advance in acqui
“But first (says the learned preacher) it may be demanded, what the thing we speak of is ! Or what this facetiousness (or wit, as he calls it before) doth import? To which questions I might reply, as Democritus did to him that asked the definition of a man, 'Tig that which we all see and know.' Any one better apprehends what it is by acquaintance, than I can inform him by description. It is, indeed, a thing so versatile and multiform, appearing in so many shapes, so many postures, so many garbs, so variously apprehended by several eyes and judgements, that it seemeth no less hard to settle a clear and certain notion thereof, than to make a portrait of Proteus, or to define the figure of the fleeting air. Sometimes it lieth in pat allusion to a known story, or in seasonable application of a trivial saying, or in forging an apposite tale ; sometimes it playeth in words and phrases, taking advantage from the ambiguity of their sense, or the affinity of their sound: sometimes it is wrapped in a dress of humourous expression : sometimes it larketh under an odd similitude: sometimes it is lodged in a sly question, in a smart answer, in a quirkish reason, in a shrewd intimation, in cunningly diverting or cleverly retorting an objection: sometimes it is couched in a bold scheme of speech, in a tart irony, in a lusty hyberbole, in a startling metaphor, in a plausible reconciling of contradictions, or in acute nonsense : sometimes a scenical representation of persons or things, a counterfeit speech, a mimical look or gesture, passeth for it: sometimes an affected simplicity, sometimes a presumptuous bluntness giveth it being : sometimes it riseth only from a lucky hitting upon what is strange : sometimes from a crafty wresting obvious matter to the purpose. Often it consisteth in one knows not what, and springeth up one can hardly tell how. Its ways are unaccountable, and inexplicable; being answerable to the numberless rovings of fancy, and windings of language. It is, in short, a manner of speaking out of the simple and plain way, (such as reason teacheth and proveth things by,) which by a pretty surprising uncouthness in conceit or expression, doth affect and amuse the fancy, stirring in it some wonder, and breeding some delight thereto. It raiseth admiration, as signifying a nimble sagacity of apprehension, a special felicity of invention, a vivacity of spirit, and reach of wit more than vulgar; it seeming to argue a rare quickness of parts, that one can
1781. sition; as motion is accelerated by the continuance Ætat. 72.
of the impetus. Besides, Sir, (looking at Mr. Wilkes with a placid but significant smile) a man may collect sermons with intention of making himself better by them. I hope Mr. Beauclerk intended, that some time or other that should be the case with him."
Mr. Wilkes said to me, loud enough for Dr. Johnson to hear, “ Dr. Johnson should make me a present of his · Lives of the Poets,' as I am a poor patriot, who cannot afford to buy them.” Johnson seemed to take no notice of this hint; but in a little while, he called to Mr. Dilly, “ Pray, Sir, be so good as to send a set of my Lives to Mr. Wilkes, with my compliments.” This was accordingly done ; and Mr. Wilkes paid Dr. Johnson a visit, was courteously received, and sat with him a long time.
The company gradually dropped away. Mr. Dilly himself was called down stairs upon business; I left the room for some time; when I returned, I was struck with observing Dr. Samuel Johnson and John Wilkes, Esq. literally tête-à-tête; for they were reelined upon their chairs, with their heads leaning 1781. almost close to each other, and talking earnestly, in a
fetch in remote conceits applicable ; a notable skill, that he can dextrously accommodate them to the purpose before him ; together with a lively briskness of humour, not apt to damp those sportful flashes of imagination. (Whence in Aristotle such persons are termed griditsoi, dextrous men, and suspogos, men of facile or versatile manners, who can easily turn themselves to all things, or turn all things to themselves.) It also procureth delight, by gratifying curiosity with its rareness, as semblance of difficulty: (as monsters, not for their beauty, but their rarity; as juggling tricks, not for their use, but their abstruseness, are beheld with pleasure :) by diverting the mind from its road of serious thoughts ; by instilling gaiety and airiness of spirit; by provoking to such dispositions of spirit in way of emulation or complaisance ; and by seasoning matters, otherwise distateful or insipid, with an unusual and thence grateful tang.".
Ætat. 72. kind of confidential whisper, of the personal quarrel between George the Second and the King of Prussia. Such
a scene of perfectly easy sociality between two such opponents in the war of political controversy, as that which I now beheld, would have been an excellent subject for a picture. It presented to my mind the happy days which are foretold in Scripture, when the lion shall lie down with the kid.?
After this day there was another pretty long interval, during which Dr. Johnson and I did not meet. When I mentioned it to him with regret, he was pleased to say, " Then, Sir, let us live double.”
About this time it was much the fashion for several ladies to have evening assemblies, where the fair sex might participate in conversation with literary and ingenious men, animated by a desire to please. These societies were denominated Blue-stocking Clubs, the origin of which title being little known, it may be worth while to relate it. One of the most eminent members of those societies, when they first commenced, was Mr. Stillingffeet, whose dress was remarkably grave, and in particular it was observed, that he wore blue stockings. Such was the excellence of his conversation, that his absence was felt as so great a loss, that it used to be said, “ We can do
* When I mentioned this to the Bishop of Killaloe, “ With the goat,” said his Lordship. Such, however, was the engaging politeness and pleasantry of Mr. Wilkes, and such the social good humour of the Bishop, that when they dined together at Mr. Dilly's, where I also was, they were mutually agreeable.
3 Mr. Benjamin Stillingfieet, authour of tracts relating to natural history, &c. VOL, IV.