페이지 이미지

incited by it to piety. I will, however, not deviate too much from common and received methods of devotion."

Her wedding ring, when she became his wife, was, after her death, preserved by him, as long as he lived, with an affectionate care, in a little round, wooden box, in the inside of which he pasted a slip of paper, thus inscribed by him in fair characters, as follows:

Elis. Johnson,
Nupta Jul. 9, 1736,

Mortua, eheu!

Mart, 17, 1752." His humble friend Mr. Robert Levett was an obscure practicer in physic amongst the lower people, his fees being sometimes very small, sometimes whatever provisions his patients could afford him ; but of such extensive practice in that way that Mrs. Williams has told me, his walk was from Houndsditch to Marylebone. Such was Johnson's predilection for him, and fanciful estimation of his moderate abilities, that I have heard him say he should not be satisfied, though attended by all the College of Physicians, unless he had Mr. Levett with him. Mr. Levett had an apartment in his house, or his chambers, and waited upon him every morning, through the whole course of his late and tedious breakfast. He was of a strange grotesque appearance, stiff and formal in his manner, and seldom said a word while any company was present.

Johnson's acquaintance with Bennet Langton,

Esq., of Langton, in Lincolnshire, another much valued friend, commenced soon after the conclusion of his Rambler; which that gentleman, then a youth, had read with so much admiration, that he came to London chiefly with a view of endeavoring to be introduced to its author. By a fortunate chance he happened to take lodgings in a house where Mr. Levett frequently visited; and having mentioned his wish to his landlady, she introduced him to Mr. Levett, who readily obtained Johnson's permission to bring Mr. Langton to him; as, indeed, Johnson, during the whole course of his life, had no shyness, real or affected, but was easy of access to all who were properly recommended, and even wished to see numbers at his levée, as his morning circle of company might, with strict propriety, be called. Mr. Langton was exceedingly surprised when the sage first appeared. He had not received the smallest intimation of his figure, dress, or manner. From perusing his writings, he fancied he should see a decent, welldressed, in short, a remarkably decorous philosopher. Instead of which, down from his bed-chamber, about noon, came, as newly risen, a huge, uncouth fig. ure, with a little dark wig which scarcely covered his head, and his clothes hanging loose about him. But his conversation was so rich, so animated, and so forcible, and his religious and political notions so congenial with those in which Langton had been educated, that he conceived for him that veneration and attachment which he ever preserved. Johnson was not the less ready to love Mr. Langton, for his being of a very ancient family; for I have heard him say, with pleasure, “Langton, Sir, has a grant of free warren from Henry the Second; and Cardinal

Stephen Langton, in King John's reign, was of this family." Mr. Langton afterwards went to Oxford to pursue his studies at Trinity College, where he formed an acquaintance with his fellow-student, Mr. Topham Beauclerk. Johnson, soon after this acquaintance began, passed a considerable time at Oxford.

Mr. Beauclerk's being of the St. Alban's family, and, having, in some particulars, a resemblance to Charles the Second, contributed, in Johnson's imagination, to throw a lustre upon his other qualities; and in a short time, the moral, pious Johnson, and the gay, dissipated Beauclerk, were companions. “What a coalition! (said Garrick, when he heard of this); I shall have my old friend to bail out of the Round-house." One night, when Beauclerk and Langton had supped at a tavern in London, and sat till about three in the morning, it came into their heads to go and knock up Johnson, and see if they could prevail on him to join them in a ramble. They rapped violently at the door of his chambers in the Temple, till at last he appeared in his shirt, with his little black wig on the top of his head, instead of a night-cap, and a poker in his hand, imagining, probably, that some ruffians were coming to attack him. When he discovered who they were, and was told their errand, he smiled, and with great good humor agreed to their proposal. “What, is it you, you dogs! I'll have a frisk with you, He was soon dressed, and they sallied forth together into CoventGarden, where the greengrocers and fruiterers were beginning to arrange their hampers, just come in from the country, Johnson made some attempts to help them, but the honest gardeners stared so at

his figure and manner, and odd interference, that he soon saw his services were not relished. They then repaired to one of the neighboring taverns, and made a bowl of that liquor called Bishop, which Johnson had always liked; while in joyous contempt of sleep, from which he had been roused, he repeated the festive lines,

“Short, O short then be thy reign,

And give us to the world again!” They did not stay long, but walked down to the Thames, took a boat and rowed to Billingsgate. Beauclerk and Johnson were so well pleased with their amusement, that they resolved to persevere in dissipation for the rest of the day; but Langton deserted them, being engaged to breakfast with some young ladies. Johnson scolded him for “leaving his social friends to go and sit with a set of wretched un-idea'd girls.” Garrick being told of this ramble, said to him smartly, “I heard of your frolic t'other night. You'll be in the Chronicle." Upon which Johnson afterwards observed, He durst not do such a thing. His wife would not let him!”

The Dictionary, we may believe, afforded Johnson full occupation this (1754) year. As it approached to its conclusion, he probably worked with redoubled vigor, as seamen increase their exertion and alacrity when they have a near prospect of their haven.

Lord Chesterfield, to whom Johnson had paid the high compliment of addressing to his Lordship the Plan of his Dictionary, had behaved to him in such a manner as to excite his contempt and indignation. The world has been for many years amused with a

story confidently told, and as confidently repeated with additional circumstances, that a sudden disgust was taken by Johnson upon occasion of his having been one day kept long in waiting in his Lordship’s antechamber, for which the reason assigned was, that he had company with him; and that at last, when the door opened, out walked Colley Cibber; and that Johnson was so violently provoked when he found for whom he had been so long excluded, that he went away in a passion, and never would return. Johnson told me, that there never was any particular incident which produced a quarrel between Lord Chesterfield and him; but that his Lordship’s continued neglect was the reason why he resolved to have no connection with him. When the Dictionary was upon the eve of publication, Lord Chesterfield, who, it is said, had flattered himself with expectations that Johnson would dedicate the work to him, attempted, in a courtly manner, to soothe and insinuate himself with the Sage, conscious, as it should seem, of the cold indifference with which he had treated its learned author; and further attempted to conciliate him, by writing two papers in The World, in recommendation of the work; and it must be confessed, that they contain some studied compliments, so finely turned, that if there had been no previous offence, it is probable that Johnson would have been highly delighted. Praise, in general, was pleasing to him; but by praise from a man of rank and elegant accomplishments, he was peculiarly gratified.

This courtly device failed of its effect. Johnson, who thought that “all was false and hollow," despised the honeyed words, and was even indignant that Lord Chesterfield should, for a moment, imagine

« 이전계속 »