페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

1781. nothing without the blue-stockings;" and thus by de: Ætat.72 grees the title was established. Miss Hannah More

has admirably described a Blue-stocking Club, in her « Bas Bleu," a poem in which many of the persons who were most conspicuous there are mentioned.

Johnson was prevailed with to come sometimes into these circles, and did not think himself too grave even for the lively Miss Monckton (now Countess of Corke) who used to have the finest bit of blue at the house of her mother, Lady Galway. Her vivacity enchanted the Sage, and they used to talk together with all imaginable ease. A singular instance happened one evening, when she insisted that some of Sterne's writings were very pathetick. Johnson bluntly denied it.

“ I am sure (said she) they have affected me.”_" Why (said Johnson, smiling, and rolling himself about,) that is, because, dearest, you're a dunce."

When she sometime afterwards mentioned this to him, he said with equal truth and politeness; “Madam, if I had thought so, I certainly should not have said it."

Another evening Johnson's kind indulgence towards me had a pretty difficult trial. I had dined at the Duke of Montrose’s with a very agreeable party, and his Grace, according to his usual custom, had circulated the bottle very freely. Lord Graham and I went together to Miss Monckton's, where I certainly was in extraordinary spirits, and above all fear or awe. In the midst of a great number of persons of the first rank, amongst whom I recollect with confusion, a noble lady of the most stately decorum, I placed myself next to Johnson, and thinking myself now fully his match, talked to him in a loud and boisterous manner, desirous to let the company know

how I could contend with Ajax. I particularly re- 1781. member pressing him upon the value of the pleasures

Ætat. 72. of the imagination, and as an illustration of my argument, asking him, “What, Sir, supposing I were to fancy that the

(naming the most charming Duchess in his Majesty's dominions) were in love with me, should I not be very happy?” My friend with much address evaded my interrogatories, and kept me as quiet as possible; but it may easily be conceived how he must have felt.* However, when a few days

Next day 1 endeavoured to give what had happened the most ingenious turn I could, by the following verses:

TO THE HONOURABLE MISS MONCKTON.
Not that with th' excellent Montrose

I had the happiness to dine;
Not that I late from table rose,

From Graham's wit, from generous wine.

It was not these alone which led

On sacred manners to encroach ;
And made me feel what most I dread,

JOHNSON's just frown, and self-reproach.

But when I enter'd, not abashid,

From your bright eyes were shot such rays,
At once intoxication flash'd,

And all my frame was in a blaze !

But not a brilliant blaze I own,

Of the dull smoke I'm yet asham'd;
I was a dreary ruin grown,

And not enlighten'd though inflam'd.

Victim at once to wine and love,

I hope, MARIA, you'll forgive;
While I invoke the powers above,

That henceforth I may wiser live.

The lady was generously forgiving, returned me an obliging

1781. afterwards I waited upon him and made an apology,

he behaved with the most friendly gentleness. Ætat. 72.

While I remained in London this year, Johnson and I dined together at several places. I recollect a placid day at Dr. Butter's, who had now removed from Derby to Lower-Grosvenor-street, London; but of his conversation on that and other occasions during this period, I neglected to keep any regular record, and shall therefore insert here some miscellaneous articles which I find in my Johnsonian notes.

His disorderly habits, when “making provision for the day that was passing over him," appear from the following anecdote, communicated to me by Mr. John Nichols:-" In the year 1763, a young bookseller, who was an apprentice to Mr. Whiston, waited on him with a subscription to his 'Shakspeare:' and observing that the Doctor made no entry in any book of the subscriber's name, ventured diffidently to ask, whether he would please to have the gentleman's address, that it might be properly inserted in the printed list of subscribers.-- I shall print List of Subscribers ;' said Johnson, with great abruptness: but almost immediately recollecting himself, added, very complacently, 'Sir, I have two very cogent reasons for not printing any list of subscribers;--one, that I have lost all the names,-the other, that I have spent all the money."

Johnson could not brook appearing to be worsted in argument, even when he had taken the

side, to shew the force and dexterity of his talents. When, therefore, he perceived that his opponent gained ground, he had recourse to some sudden mode of 1781. robust sophistry. Once when I was pressing upon Ætat. 72 him with visible advantage, he stopped me thus:“ My dear Boswell, let's have no more of this; you'll make nothing of it. I'd rather have you whistle a Scotch tune."

wrong

answer, and I thus obtained an Act of Oblivion, and took care never to ofiend again,

Care, however, must be taken to distinguish between Johnson when he “talked for victory," and Johnson when he had no desire but to inform and illustrate." One of Johnson's principal talents (says an eininent friend of his) was shewn in maintaining the wrong side of an arg

side of an argument, and in a splendid perversion of the truth. If you could contrive to have his fair opinion on a subject, and without

any bias from personal prejudice, or from a wish to be victorious in argument, it was wisdom itself, not only convincing, but overpowering."

He had, however, all his life habituated himself to consider conversation as a trial of intellectual vigour and skill; and to this I think, we may venture to ascribe that unexampled richness and brilliancy which appeared in his own. As a proof at once of his eagerness for colloquial distinction, and his high notion of this eminent friend, he once addressed him thus: “, we now have been several hours together; and you have said but one thing for which I envied you.

He disliked much all speculative desponding considerations, which tended to discourage men from diligence and exertion. He was in this like Dr. Shaw, the great traveller, who Mr. Daines Barrington told me, used to say, “I hate a cui bono man.'

9

5

[The late Right Hon. William Gerrard Hamilton. M.]

1781. Upon being asked by a friend what he should think Ætat. 72.

of a man who was apt to say non est tanti;~" That he's a stupid fellow, Sir; (answered Johnson): What would these tanti men be doing the while?” When I in a low-spirited fit, was talking to him with indifference of the pursuits which generally engage us in a course of action, and enquiring a reason for taking so much trouble; “ Sir (said he, in an animated tone) it is driving on the system of life.”'

He told me, that he was glad that I had, by General Oglethorpe's means, become acquainted with Dr. Shebbeare. Indeed that gentleman, whatever objections were made to him, had knowledge and abilities much above the class of ordinary writers, and deserves to be remembered as a respectable name in literature, were it only for his admirable “ Letters on the English Nation,” under the name of “Battista Angeloni, a Jesuit.”

Johnson and Shebbeare, were frequently named together, as having in former reigns had no predilection for the family of Hanover. The authour of the celebrated “ Heroick Epistle to Sir William Chambers,” introduces them in one line, in a list of those “ who tasted the sweets of his present Majesty's reign." Such was Johnson's candid relish of the merit of that satire, that he allowed Dr. Goldsmith, as he told me, to read it to him from beginning to end, and did not refuse his praise to its execution.

Goldsmith could sometimes take adventurous liberties with him, and escape unpunished. Beauclerk told ine that when Goldsmith talked of a pro

" I recollect a ludicrous paragragh in the newspapers, that the King had pensioned both a He-bear and a She-bear.

« 이전계속 »