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octavo die Julii, Anno Domini millesimo septingentesimo sexagesimo-quinto. In cujus rei testimonium singulorum manus et sigillum quo in hisce utimur apposuimus; vicesimo tertio die Julii, Anno Domini millesimo septingentesimo sexagesimo-quinto.
GUL. CLEMENT. FRAN. ANDREWS, R. MURRAY.
Robtus. Law. Tho. LELAND.
This unsolicited mark of distinction, conferred on so great a literary character, did much honour to the judgement and liberal spirit of that learned body. Johnson acknowledged the favour in a letter to Dr. Leland, one of their number; but I have not been able to obtain a copy of itm. He appears
to have been seized with a temporary fit of ambition, for he had thoughts both of studying law, and of engaging in politicks. His Prayer before the Study of Law is truly admirable.
m Since the publication of the edition in 1804, a copy of this letter was communicated Mr. Malone, by John Leland, esq. son to the learned historian to whom it is addressed.
TO THE REV. DR. LELAND.
SIR, -Among the names subscribed to the degree which I have had the honour of receiving from the university of Dublin, I find none of which I have any personal knowledge but those of Dr. Andrews and yourself.
“ Men can be estimated by those who know them not, only as they are represented by those who know them; and therefore I Aatter myself that I owe much of the pleasure which this distinction gives me, to your concurrence with Dr. Andrews in recommending m to the learned society.
Having desired the provost to return my general thanks to the university, I beg that you, sir, will accept my particular and immediate acknowledgments.
“I am, sir,
" Sam. Johnson. ~ Johnson's-court, Fleet-street,
London, Oct. 17, 1765.”
The letter which Johnson wrote to Dr. Andrews on this occasion, we cannot obtain.- ED.
“Sept. 26, 1765. “ Almighty God, the giver of wisdom, without whose help resolutions are vain, without whose blessing study is ineffectual; enable me, if it be thy will, to attain such knowledge as may qualify me to direct the doubtful, and instruct the ignorant; to prevent wrongs, and terminate contentions; and grant that I may use that knowledge which I shall attain, to thy glory and my own salvation, for Jesus Christ's sake. Amen."
His prayer in the view of becoming a politician is entitled, Engaging in Politicks with H-n; no doubt
-n his friend the right honourable William Gerard Hamilton, for whom, during a long acquaintance, he had a great esteem, and to whose conversation he once paid this high compliment: “I am very unwilling to be left alone, sir, and therefore I go with my company down the first pair of stairs, in some hopes that they may, perhaps, return again; I with
you, sir, as far as the street door.” In what particular department he intended to engage", does not appear, nor can Mr. Hamilton explain. His prayer is in general terms: Enlighten my understanding with knowledge of right, and govern my will by thy laws, that no deceit may mislead me, nor temptation corrupt me; that I may always endeavour to do good, and to hinder evil P.” There is nothing upon the subject in his diary.
n Prayers and Meditations, vol. ix. p. 225.
• In the preface to a late collection of Mr. Hamilton's pieces, it has been observed, that our author was, by the generality of Johnson's words, “ led to suppose that he was seized with a teroporary fit of ambition, and that hence he was induced to apply his thoughts to law and politicks. But Mr. Boswell was certainly mistaken in this respect : and these words merely allude to Johnson's having at that time entered into some engagement with Mr. Hamilton, occasionally to furnish him with his sentiments on the great political topicks which should be considered in parliament.” In consequence of this engagement, Johnson, in November, 1766, wrote a very valuable tract, entitled, Considerations on Corn, which is printed as an appendix to the works of Mr. Hamilton, published by T. Payne in 1808.—Malone.
p Prayers and Meditations, vol. ix. p. 226.
This year was distinguished by his being introduced into the family of Mr. Thrale, one of the most eminent brewers in England, and member of parliament for the borough of Southwark. Foreigners are not a little amazed, when they hear of brewers, distillers, and men in similar departments of trade, held forth as persons of considerable consequence. In this great commercial country it is natural that a situation which produces much wealth should be considered as very respectable ; and, no doubt, honest industry is entitled to esteem. But, perhaps, the too rapid advances of men of low extraction tends to lessen the value of that distinction by birth and gentility, which has ever been found beneficial to the grand scheme of subordination. Johnson used to give this account of the rise of Mr. Thrale's father : “ He worked at six shillings a week for twenty years in the great brewery, which afterwards was his own. The proprietor of it, bad an only daughter, who was married to a noble
It was not fit that a peer should continue the business. On the old man's death, therefore, the brewery was to be sold. To find a purchaser for so large a property was a difficult matter; and, after some time, it was suggested, that it would be adviseable to treat with Thrale, a sensible, active, honest man, who had been employed in the house, and to transfer the whole to him for thirty thousand pounds, security being taken upon the property. This was accordingly settled. In eleven years Thrale paid the purchase-money. He acquired a large fortune, and lived to be a member of parliament for Southwark". But what was most remarkable was the liberality with which he used his riches. He gave his son and daughters the best education. The esteem which his good conduct procured him from the nobleman who had married his master's daughter, made him be treated with much attention; and his son, both at school and at the university of Oxford, associated with young men of the first rank. His allowance from his father, after he left college, was splendid; not less than a thousand a year. This, in a man who had risen as old Thrale did, was a very extraordinary instance of generosity. He used to say, • If this young dog does not find so much after I am gone as he expects, let him remember that he has had a great deal in my own time.'
9 The predecessor of old Thrale was Edmund Halsey, esq.; the nobleman who married his daughter, was lord Cobham, great uncle of the marquis of Buckingham. But, I believe, Dr. Johnson was mistaken in assigning so very low an origin to Mr. Thrale. The clerk of St. Albans, a very aged man, told me that he (the elder Thrale) married a sister of Mr. Halsey. It is at least certain, that the family of Thrale was of some consideration in that town: in the abbey church is a handsome monument to the memory of Mr. John Thrale, late of London, merchant, who died in 1704, aged 54; Margaret, his wife, and three of their children, who died young, between the years 1676 and 1690. The arms upon this monument are, paly of eight, gules and or, impaling, ermine, on a chief indented vert, three wolves' (or gryphons') heads, or, couped at the neck : -Crest on a ducal coronet, a tree, vert.-BLAKEWAY.
The son, though in afluent circumstances, had good sense enough to carry on his father's trade, wbich was of such extent, that I remember he once told me, he would not quit it for an annuity of ten thousand a year; “ Not,” said he," that I get ten thousand a year by it, but it is an estate to a family.” Having left daughters only, the pro: perty was sold for the immense sum of one hundred and thirty-five thousand pounds ; a magnificent proof of what may be done by fair trade in a long period of time.
There may be some who think that a new system of gentilitys might be established, upon principles totally
r In- 1733 he served the office of high sheriff for Surrey ; was elected M.P. for Southwark in 1740; and died in April 9, 1758. His widow died April 3, 1760. s Mrs. Burney informs me that she heard Dr. Johnson say,
“ An English merchant is a new species of gentleman.” He, perhaps, had in his mind the following ingenious passage in the Conscious Lovers, act iv. scene 2. where Mr. Sealand thus addresses sir John Bevil : Give me leave to say, that'we merchants are a species of gentry that have grown into the world this last century, and are as honourable, and almost as useful as you landed folks, that have always thought yourselves so much above us; for your trading forsooth is extended no farther than a load of hay, or a fat ox.—You are pleasant people indeed! because you are generally bred up to be lazy, therefore, I warrant you, industry is dishonourable." -Boswell.
different from what have hitherto prevailed. Our present heraldry, it may be said, is suited to the barbarous times in which it had its origin. It is chiefly founded upon ferocious merit, upon military excellence. Why, in civilized times, we may be asked, should there not be rank and honours upon principles which, independent of long custom, are certainly not less worthy, and which, when once allowed to be connected with elevation and precedency, would obtain the same diguity in our imagination? Why should not the knowledge, the skill, the expertness, the assiduity, and the spirited hazards of trade and commerce, when crowned with success, be entitled to give those flattering distinctions by which mankind are so universally captivated?
Such are the specious, but false arguments for a proposition which always will find numerous advocates, in a nation where men are every day starting up from obscurity to wealth. To refute them is needless. The general sense of mankind cries out, with irresistible force, gentilhomme est toujours gentilhomme.”
Mr. Thrale had married Miss Hesther Lynch Salusbury, of good Welch extraction, a lady of lively talents,
, improved by education. That Johnson's introduction into Mr. Thrale's family, which contributed so much to the happiness of his life, was owing to her desire for his conversation, is a very probable and the general supposition; but it is not the truth. Mr. Murphy, who was intimate with Mr. Thrale, baving spoken very highly of Dr. Johnson, he was requested to make them acquainted. This being mentioned to Johnson, he accepted of an invitation to dinner at Thrale's, and was so much pleased with his reception both by Mr. and Mrs. Thrale, and they so much pleased with him, that his invitations to their house were more and more frequent, till at last he became one of the family, and an apartment was appropriated to him, both in their house at Southwark, and in their villa at Streatham.
Johnson had a very sincere esteem for Mr. Thrale, as