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Yet no man had a higher notion of the dignity of literature than Johnson, or was more determined in maintaining the respect which he justly. considered as due to it. Of this, besides the general tenor of his conduct in society, some characteristical instances may be mentioned.
He told Sir Joshua Reynolds, that once when he dined in a numerous company of booksellers, where the room, being small, the head of the table, at which he sat, was almost close to the fire, he persevered in suffering a great deal of inconvenience from the heat, rather than quit his place, and let one of them sit above him.
Goldsmith, in his diverting simplicity, complained one day, in a mixed company, of Lord Camden. “I met him (said he) at Lord Clare's house in the country, and he took no more notice of me than if I had been an ordinary man.” The company having laughed hear. tily, Johnson stood forth in defence of his friend.
Nay, Gentlemen, (said he,) Dr. Goldsmith is in the right. A nobleman ought to have made up to such a man as Goldsmith; and I think it is much against Lord Camden that he neglected him.”
Nor could he patiently endure to hear, that such respect as he thought due only to higher intellectual qualities, should be bestowed on men of slighter, though perhaps more amusing, talents. I told him, that one morning, when I went to breakfast with Garrick, who was very vain of his intimacy with Lord Camden, he accosted me thus :—“Pray now, did you-did you
went on in the words of the poet, miror magis ; thereby signifying, either that he was occupied in admiring what he was glad to see; or, perhaps, that, considering the general lot of men of superiour abilities, he wondered, that Fortune, who is represented as blind, should, in this instance, have been so just."
meet a little lawyer turning the corner, eh?"-"No, Sir, (said I.) Pray what do you mean by the question ?”
Why, (replied Garrick, with an affected indifference, yet as if standing on tip-toe,) Lord Camden has this moment left me. We have had a long walk together.” JOHNSON. “ Well, Sir, Garrick talked very properly. Lord Camden was a little lawyer to be associating so familiarly with a player.”
Sir Joshua Reynolds observed, with great truth, that Johnson considered Garrick to be as it were his property. He would allow no man either to blame or to praise Garrick in his presence, without contradicting him.
Having fallen into a very serious frame of mind, in which mutual expressions of kindness passed between us, such as would be thought too vain in me to repeat, I talked with regret of the sad inevitable certainty that one of us must survive the other. JOHNSON. " Yes, Sir, that is an affecting consideration. I remember Swift, in one of his letters to Pope, says, “I intend to come over, that we may meet once more; and when we must part, it is what happens to all human beings," BOSWELL. “ The hope that we shall see our departed friends again must support the mind.” JOHNSON. " Why, yes, Sir."9 Boswell. “There is a strange unwillingness to part with life, independent of serious fears as to futurity. A reverend friend of ours (nameing him) tells me, that he feels an uneasiness at the thoughts of leaving his house, his study, his books." Johnsox. “ This is foolish in *****. A man need not be uneasy on these grounds: for, as he will retain his consciousness, he may say with the philosopher, Omnia mea mecum porto.” BOSWELL. “ True, Sir: we may
[See on the same subject, vol. ii. p. 151, 152. MALONE.]
carry our books in our heads; but still there is some-thing painful in the thought of leaving for ever what has given us pleasure. I remember, many years ago, when my imagination was warm, and I happened to be in a melancholy mood, it distressed me to think of going into a state of being in which Shakspeare's poetry did not exist. A lady whom I then much admired, a very amiable woman, humoured my fancy, and relieved me by saying, “ The first thing you will meet in the other world, will be an elegant copy of Shakspeare's works presented to you.” Dr. Johnson smiled benignantly at this, and did not appear to disapprove of the notion.
We went to St. Clement's church again in the afternoon, and then returned and drank tea and coffee in Mrs. Williams's room; Mrs. Desmoulins doing the honours of the tea-table. I observed that he would not even look at a proof-sheet of his “ Life of Waller” on Good-Friday.
Mr. Allen, the printer, brought a book on agriculture, which was printed, and was soon to be published.9 9 It was a very strange performance, the authour having mixed in it his own thoughts upon various topicks, along with his remarks on plowing, sowing, and other farming operations. He seemed to be an absurd profane fellow, and had introduced in his books many sneers at religion, with equal ignorance and conceit. Dr. Johnson permitted me to read some passages aloud. One was that he resolved to work on Sunday, and did work, but he owned he felt some weak compunction ; and he had this very curious reflection:-“I was born in the wilds of Christianity, and the briars
99 [This was the late Mr. Marshall's “ Minutes of Agriculture,” 4to. Mr. M. lived to publish many more important works on this subject, and less offensive. He died about two years ago. A. C.]
and thorns still hang about me.” Dr. Johnson could not help laughing at this ridiculous image, yet was very angry at the fellow's impiety. “ However, (said he,) the Reviewers will make him hang himself.” He, however, observed, “ that formerly there might have been a dispensation obtained for working on Sunday in the time of harvest." Indeed in ritual observances, were all the ministers of religion what they should be, and what many of them are, such a power might be wisely and safely lodged with the church.
On Saturday, April 14, I drank tea with him. He praised the late Mr. Duncombe,' of Canterbury, as a pleasing man. “ He used to come to me; I did not seek much after him. Indeed I never sought much after any body.” BOSWELL. “ Lord Orrery, I suppose.” JOHNSON. “ No, Sir; I never went to him but when he sent for me.” BOSWELL. “ Richardson ? " " JOHNSON. “ Yes, Sir: But I sought after George Psalmanazar the most. I used to go and sit with him at an alehouse in the city.'
I am happy to mention another instance which I discovered of his seeking after a man of merit. Soon after the Honourable Daines Barrington had published his excellent “ Observations on the Statutes,"? Johnson waited on that worthy and learned gentleman; and, having told him his name, courteously said, “ I have read your book, Sir, with great pleasure, and wish to be better known to you.” Thus began an acquaintance, which was continued with mutual regard as long as Johnson lived.
1 [William Duncombe, Esq. He married the sister of John Hughes, the poet; was the authour of twoʻtragedies, and other ingenious productions; and died Feb. 26, 1769, aged 79. Malone.]
2 [4to. 1766. The worthy authour died many years after Johnson, March 13, 1800, aged about 74. Malone.]
Talking of a recent seditious delinquent, he said, “ They should set him in the pillory, that he may be punished in a way that would disgrace him.” I observed, that the pillory does not always disgrace. And I mentioned an instance of a gentleman, who I thought was not dishonoured by it. JOHNSON. " Ay, but he was, Sir. He could not mouth and strut as he used to do, after having been there. People are not willing to ask a man to their tables, who has stood in the pillory.”
The gentleman who had dined with us at Dr. Percy's ? came in. Johnson attacked the Americans with intemperate vehemence of abuse. I said something in their favour; and added, that I was always sorry,
when he talked on that subject. This, it seems, exasperated him; though he said nothing at the time. The cloud was charged with sulphureous vapour, which was afterwards to burst in thunder. We talked of a gentleman who was running out his fortune in London ; and I said, “ We must get him out of it. All his friends must quarrel with him, and that will soon drive him away.” JOHNSON. “Nay, Sir, we'll send you to him. If your company does not drive a man out of his house, nothing will.” This was a horrible shock, for which there was no visible cause. I afterwards asked him, why he had said so harsh a thing. JOHNSON. “ Because, Sir, you made me angry about the Americans.” BOSWELL. “ But why did you not take your revenge directly? JOHNSON. (smiling) “ Because, Sir, I had nothing ready. A man cannot strike till he has his weapons.” This was a candid and pleasant confession.
He shewed me to-night his drawing-room, very genteelly fitted up, and said, Mrs. Thrale sneered, when
3 See p. 278, of this volume.