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He again shook me by the hand at parting, and asked me why I did not come oftener to him Trusting that I was now in his good graces, I answered, that he had not given me much encouragement, and reminded him of the check I had received from him at our first interview. “Poh, poh!" said he, with a complacent smile, never mind these things. Come to me as often as you can. I shall be glad to see you."


I had learnt that his place of frequent resort was the Mitre Tavern in Fleet Street, where he loved to sit up late, and I begged I might be allowed to pass an evening with him there soon, which he promised I should. A few days afterwards I met him near Temple Bar, about one o'clock in the morning, and asked if he would then go to the Mitre. "Sir,” said he, it is "too late; they won't let us in. But I'll go with you another night with my heart."


A revolution of some importance in my plan of life had just taken place; for instead of procuring a commission in the foot-guards, which was my own inclination, I had, in compliance with my father's wishes, agreed to study the law, and was soon to set out for Utrecht, to hear the lectures of an excellent civilian in that University, and then to proceed on my travels. Though very desirous of obtaining Dr. Johnson's advice and instructions on the mode of pursuing my studies, I was at this time so occupied, shall I call it? or so dissipated, by the amusements of London, that our next meeting was not till Saturday, June 25., when, happening to dine


at Clifton's eating-house, in Butcher Row, I was surprised to perceive Johnson come in and take his seat at another table. The mode of dining, or rather being fed, at such houses in London, is well known to many to be particularly unsocial, as there is no Ordinary, or united company, but each person has his own mess, and is under no obligation to hold any intercourse with any one. A liberal and fullminded man, however, who loves to talk, will break through this churlish and unsocial restraint. Johnson and an Irish gentleman got into a dispute concerning the cause of some part of mankind being black. " Why, Sir," said Johnson, " it has been accounted for in three ways: either by supposing that they are the posterity of Ham, who was cursed; or that GOD at first created two kinds of men, one black and and another white; or that by the heat of the sun the skin is scorched, and so acquires a sooty hue. This matter has been much canvassed among naturalists, but has never been brought to any certain issue." What the Irishman said is totally obliterated from my mind; but I remember that he became very warm and intemperate in his expressions: upon which Johnson rose, and quietly walked away. When he had retired, his antagonist took his revenge, as he thought, by saying, "He has a most ungainly figure, and an affectation of pomposity, unworthy of a man of genius."

Johnson had not observed that I was in the room. I followed him, however, and he agreed to meet me in the evening at the Mitre. I called on him, and

we went thither at nine. We had a good supper, and port wine, of which he then sometimes drank a bottle. The orthodox high-church sound of The MITRE, the figure and manner of the celebrated SAMUEL JOHNSON, -the extraordinary power and precision of his conversation, and the pride arising from finding myself admitted as his companion, produced a variety of sensations, and a pleasing elevation of mind beyond what I had ever before experienced. I find in my Journal the following minute of our conversation, which, though it will give but a very faint notion of what passed, is, in some degree, a valuable record; and it will be curious in this view, as shewing how habitual to his mind were some opinions which appear in his works.


'Colley Cibber (1), Sir, was by no means a blockhead but by arrogating to himself too much, he was in danger of losing that degree of estimation to which he was entitled. His friends gave out that he intended his birth-day Odes should be bad: but that was not the case, Sir; for he kept them many months by him, and a few years before he died he shewed me one of them, with great solicitude to render it as perfect as might be, and I made some corrections, to which he was not very willing to submit.



(1) Colley Cibber was born in 1671, bore arms in favour of the revolution, and soon after went on the stage as an actor. 1695 he appeared as a writer of comedies with great and deserved He quitted the stage in 1730, on being appointed poet laureate, and died in 1757. His Memoirs of his own Life, under the modest title of an "Apology," is not only a very amusing collection of theatrical anecdotes, but shows considerable power of observation and delineation of character.-C.

I remember the following couplet in allusion to the King and himself:


'Perch'd on the eagle's soaring wing,

The lowly linnet loves to sing.'

Sir, he had heard something of the fabulous tale of the wren sitting upon the eagle's wing, and he had applied it to a linnet. Cibber's familiar style, however, was better than that which Whitehead has assumed. Grand nonsense is insupportable. Whitehead is but a little man to inscribe verses to players." (1)

I did not presume to controvert this censure, which was tinctured with his prejudice against players; but I could not help thinking that a dramatic poet might with propriety pay a compliment to an eminent performer, as Whitehead has very happily done in his verses to Mr. Garrick.

"Sir, I do not think Gray a first-rate poet. He has not a bold imagination, nor much command of words. The obscurity in which he has involved himself will not persuade us that he is sublime. His Elegy in a Churchyard has a happy selection of images (2), but I don't like what are called his great things. His ode which begins

(1) This was a sneer aimed, it is to be feared, more at Garrick (to whom the verses were inscribed) than at Whitehead. William Whitehead, born about 1715, was the fashionable poet of a day, when Horace's exclusion of mediocrity was forgotten. He succeeded Cibber as laureate in 1757. He died in 1785. He must not be confounded with Paul Whitehead, no better poet, and a much less estimable man. — -C.

(2) And surely a happy selection of expressions. What does it then want? As to the criticism and quotations which follow,

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'Ruin seize thee, ruthless King,

Confusion on thy banners wait!

has been celebrated for its abruptness, and plunging into the subject all at once. But such arts as these have no merit, unless when they are original. We admire them only once; and this abruptness has nothing new in it. We have had it often before. Nay, we have it in strong:

the old song of Johnny Arm

Is there ever a man in all Scotland

From the highest estate to the lowest degree, &c.'

And then, Sir,

'Yes, there is a man in Westmoreland,

And Johnny Armstrong they do him call.'

There, now, you plunge at once into the subject.
You have no previous narration to lead you to it.
The two next lines in that Ode are, I think, very

6 Though fann'd by conquest's crimson'd wing,
They mock the air with idle state.'" (1)

Here let it be observed, that although his opinion of Gray's poetry was widely different from mine, and, I believe, from that of most men of taste, by whom it is with justice highly admired, there is certainly much absurdity in the clamour which has been

they might be pardonable in loose conversation; but Johnson, unluckily for his own reputation, has preserved them in his criticism on Gray, in the Lives of the Poets.-C.

(1) My friend Mr. Malone, in his valuable comments on Shakspeare, has traced in that great poet the disjecta membra of these lines.

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