페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]

opening this he exclaimed, “ Here is the book upon which all my fame was originally founded: when I had read this book I could teach my tutors !”. .“ And now that you have acquired such fame, Doctor,” said Mr. Leicester, “ you must feel exquisite delight in your own mind.” Johnson,

• Why no, Sir, no, I have no such feeling on that account, as you have attributed to me, Sir.” Whether the sincerity of Johnson's declaration be allowed or not, the anecdote may, perhaps, supply a useful hint to future aspiring geniuses ambitious of emulating so great a man.

Monday, then, we may say, was probably that last evening on which the symposium took place, of which Sharp has attempted to give so ridiculous an account,

That some strangers crowded about him was the absurd notion of Sharp; but the plain truth is, that on this last evening there was assembled at the chambers of Mr. Leicester, in Nevell's Court, Trinity College, the very same company as before; viz. Mr. L. the entertainer, Mr. Beauclerk, Drs. Johnson and Lort, my friend, and myself, with the addition only of Farmer, on whose account principally the journey was undertaken.

During our conviviality nothing occurred that was at all like an indignant contradiction, though the Doctor was himself sometimes purposely contradicted to elicit the sparks of his genius by collision. There was, however, no lack of noble sentiments ; and on any subject being started, he would instantly give a sort of treatise upon it in miniature. Long before 12 o'clock our hero began to be very great; for on his entering the room, having a pain in his face he bent it down to the fire, archly observing, with a smile, “ This minority cheek of mine is warring against the general constitution.”.

–« Nay Doctor," said Beauclerk, who well knew how to manage him, “ you mustn't talk against the minority, for they tell you, you know, that they are your friends, and wish to support your liberties, and save you from oppression.” Johnson. yes, Sir, just as wisely, and just as necessarily as if they were to build up the interstices of the cloisters at the bottom of this court, for fear the library should fall upon our heads, Sir."

VOL. II.

• Why

Z

SON.

He was brilliant, therefore, from the very first : and might not the above be accepted as a lively and decisive answer to minority politics in general, during the whole of the present reign?

Kit Smart happening to be mentioned, and that he had broken out of a house of confinement: “ He was a fool for that,” said Beauclerk, “ for within two days they meant to have released him." JOHNSON. “ Whenever poor Kit could make his escape, Sir, it would always have been within two days of his intended liberation.” He then proceeded to speak highly of the parts and scholarship of poor Kit; and, to our great surprise, recited a number of lines out of one of Smart's Latin Triposes; and added, “ Kit Smart was mad, Sir.” BEAUCLERK. “ What do you mean by mad, Doctor ?" John

Why, Sir, he could not walk the streets without the boys running after him.” Soon after this, on Johnson's leaving the room, Beauclerk said to us, “ What he says of Smart is true of himself;" which well agrees with my observations during the walk I took with him that very morning. Beauclerk also took the same opportunity to tell us of that most astonishing, and scarcely credible effort of genius, his writing Rasselas in two days and a night, and then travelling down with the price to support his sick mother! But Boswell says this was done after her decease, to pay her debts and funeral expenses. In either case, what parts ! -- what piety!

On the Doctor's return, Beauclerk said to him, “ Doctor, why do you keep that blind woman in your house ?" JOHNSON. “ Why, Sir, she was a friend to my poor wife, and was in the house with her when she died. And so, Sir, as I could not find in my heart to desire her to quit my house, poor thing! she has remained in ever since, Sir.” It appears, however, that the friendship and conversation of the intelligent Anna Williams proved in general highly gratifying to him, and he feelingly lamented her loss, in 1783. A question was then asked him respecting Sterne. JOAN

“ In a company where I lately was, Tristram Shandy introduced himself; and Tristram Shandy had scarcely sat

SON.

down, when he informed us that he had been writing a dedica. tion to Lord Spencer; and sponte suâ he pulled it out of his pocket; and sponte suâ, for nobody desired him, he began to read it; and before he had read half a dozen lines, sponte meâ, Sir, I told him it was not English, Sir.” This trifle is prefixed to vol. v. and may be fairly said to justify the censure of the critic, even supposing it contained no other error previously to the giving of the above broad hint. It will scarcely be regarded as a forced digression, if I here relate what Farmer observed to me, a year or two before this period, respecting the ill-judging Sterne. “My good friend,” said he, one day in the parlour at Emmanuel, “

you young men seem very fond of this Tristram Shandy: but mark my words, and remember what I say to you; however much it may be talked about at present, yet, depend upon it, in the course of twenty years, should any one wish to refer to the book in question, he will be obliged to go to an antiquary to inquire for it.” This has proved truly prophetic; and it affords a strong confirmation of that poetical adage, generally, though falsely, attributed to Pope, while it belongs to Lord Roscommon, viz.

“ That want of decency is want of sense.” In the height of our convivial hilarity, our great man exclaimed, " Come, now, I'll give you a test: now I'll try who is & true antiquary amongst you. Has any one of this company ever met with the History of Glorianus and Gloriana ?” Farmer, drawing the pipe out of his mouth, followed by a cloud of smoke, instantly said, “ I've got the book.” “ Gi' me your hand, gi' me your hand,” said Johnson ; are the man after my own heart.” And the shaking of two such hands, with two such happy faces attached to them, could hardly, I think, be matched in the whole annals of literature !

As to politics, it is well known that the Doctor was a firm and strenuous defender of the monarchical form of government, as approaching the nearest, that human wisdom is capable of doing, to the divine model, by placing over the nation a prince who shall be clearly above and unconnected with the very highest

s you

[ocr errors]

- or

ranks of his subjects. This must be the most natural form of a community; the safest, and the freest, because the most impartia!. Why then should mortals wish for a different one? – why covet the rule of factious nobles or burgomasters? destroy millions of their fellow-creatures, to establish that most horrible of tyrannies, the power of Le Peuple Souverain, or a lawless and infuriate mob? Being, therefore, himself a true patriot, he was naturally much aniused by facetiously exposing and ridiculing sham patriots or reformers; and on being asked for a toast, his answer was, “ If you wish for a gentleman, I shall always give you Mr. Hollis (1): if for a lady, Mrs. Macaulay, Sir.”

After much of the Doctor's sportiveness and play of wit, at the lady's expense, it must be owned, Beauclerk called out “ Come, come, Doctor, take care what you say, and don't be too saucy, about Mrs. Macaulay; for if you do, I shall find means of setting her upon you as soon as we return, and she will comb your wig for you pretty handsomely." JOHNSON. “ Well, Sir, and pray by what means do you propose to achieve this notable exploit of yours, Mr. Beauclerk ?" BEAUCLERK. “ Oh! I'll soon tell you that, Doctor. You can't deny that it's now a full fortnight since Mrs. M. made you a present of her History; and to my certain knowledge it still remains in your study without one of the leaves being cut open ; which is such a contempt of the lady's genius and abilities, that, should I acquaint her with it, as perhaps I shall, I wouldn't be in your place, Doctor, for a good deal, I assure you.” JOHNSON (sub-laughing all the while at this threat). “Why, in the first place, Sir, I am so far from denying your allegations, that I freely confess, before this company, that they are perfectly true and correct. The work of Mrs. Macaulay is indeed in the situation that you have described. But, in the second place, Sir, I may safely, I believe, defy all your oratorical powers so far to work upon that lady's vanity as to induce her to believe

(1). Thomas Hollis was born in London in 1720, and died suddenly while walking in his grounds at Corscombe, in Dorsetshire, in 1774. He reprinted many of the political works of Milton, Algernon Sydney, Harrington, and other republican writers, at a great expense.

will

it possible that I could have suffered her writings to lie by me so long, without once gratifying myself by a perusal of them. However, pray try, Mr. Beauclerk : I beg you will try, Sir, as soon as you think proper : and then we shall see whether

you soonest bring the lady about my ears, or about your own, Sir."

Such was the rapid appearance and disappearance, the very transient visit, of this great man, to an university supereminently famous in itself for the production of great men. It was a visit, however, of which he spoke afterwards in town, to the writer of this account, with very pleasing recollections. Though he must have been well known to many of the heads and doctors at this seat of learning, yet he seemed studious to preserve a strict incognito; his only aim being an introduction to his favourite scholar — his brother patriot, and antiquary, who was then Mr. (but afterwards Dr.) Farmer, and master of his college, and who finally declined episcopacy. Merit like Johnson's seeks not publicity; it follows not fame, but leaves fame to follow it. Had he visited Cambridge at the commencement, or on some public occasion, he would doubtless have met with the honours due to the bright luminary of a sister university; and yet, even these honours, however genuine and desirable, the modesty of conscious excellence seems rather to have prompted him to avoid.

B. N. TURNER.] Denton, Lincolnshire,

Oct. 17. 1818.

No. III.

PEREGRINE LANGTON.

(See p. 322.)

MR. Langton did not disregard the counsel given by Dr. Johnson, but wrote the following Account, which he has been pleased to communicate to me:

“ The circumstances of Mr. Peregrine Langton were these. He had an annuity for life of two hundred pounds per annum. He resided in a village in Lincolnshire: the rent of his house,

« 이전계속 »