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- Mr. Strahan, let me have five guineas on account, and I'll give this boy one. Nay, if a man recom-Sre
Ætat. 6. mends a boy, and does nothing for him, it is sad work. Call him down."
I followed him into the court-yard, behind Mr. Strahan's house; and there I had a procf of what I had heard him profess, that he talked alike to all. “ Some people tell you that they let themselves down to the capacity of their hearers. I never do that. I speak uniformly, in as intelligible a manner as I can." Well, my boy, how do you go
on?"_" Pretty well, Sir; but they are afraid I an't strong enough for some parts of the business.” Johnson. “ Why I shall be sorry for it; for when you consider with how little mental power and corporeal labour a printer can get a guinea a week, it is a very desirable occupation for you. Do you hear,—take all the pains you can ; and if this does not do, we must think of some other way of life for you. There's a guinea.”
Here was one of the many, many instances of his active benevolence. At the same time, the slow and soncrous solemnity with which, while he bent himself down, he addressed a little thick short-legged boy, contrasted with the boy's aukwardness and awe, could not but excite some ludicrous emotions.
I met him at Drury-lane play-house in the evening. Sir Joshua Reynolds, at Mrs. Abington's request, had promised to bring a body of wits to her benefit; and having secured forty places in the front boxes, had done me the honour to put me in the group. Johnson sat on the seat directly behind me; and as he could neither see nor hear at such a distance from the stage, he wa; wrapped up in)
1775. abstraction, and seemed quite a cloud, amidst all the Ætat. 66.
sunshine of glitter and gaiety. I wondered at his patience in sitting out a play of five acts, and a farce of two. He said very little; but after the prologue to “ Bon Ton" had been spoken, which he could hear pretty well from the more slow and distinct utterance, he talked on prologue-writing, and observed,
Dryden has written prologues superiour to any that David Garrick has written; but David Garrick has written more good prologues than Dryden has done. It is wonderful that he has been able to write such variety of them.”
At Mr. Beauclerk's, where I supped, was Mr. Garrick, whom I made happy with Johnson's praise of his prologues; and I suppose, in gratitude to him, he took up one of his favourite topicks the nationality of the Scotch, which he maintained in a pleasant manner, with the aid of a little poetical fiction. “ Come, come, don't deny it: they are really national. Why, now, the Adams are as liberal-minded men as any in the world: but, I dont't know how it is, all their workmen are Scotch. You are, to be sure, wonderfully free from that nationality: but so it happens, that you employ the only Scotch shoeblack in London." He imitated the manner of his old master with ludicrous exaggeration; repeating, with pauses and half-whistlings interjected,
« Os homini sublime dedit,-cælumque tueri
looking downwards all the time, and, while pronouncing the four last words, absolutely touching the ground with a kind of contorted gesticulation.
Garrick, however, when he pleased, could imtate
Johnson very exactly; for that great actor, with his 1775. distinguished powers of expression which were so uni
Ætat, 66. versally admired, possessed also an admirable talent of mimickry. He was always jealous that Johnson spoke lightly of him. I recollect his exhibiting him to me one day, as if saying, Davy has some convivial pleasantry about him, but 'tis a futile fellow;" which he uttered perfectly with the tone and air of Johnson.
I cannot too frequently request of my readers, while they peruse my account of Johnson's conversation, to endeavour to keep in mind his deliberate and strong utterance. His mode of speaking was indeed very impressive;' and I wish it could be preserved as musick is written, according to the very ingenious method of Mr. Steele, who has shown how the recitation of Mr. Garrick, and other eminent speakers, might be transmitted to posterity in score."
My noble friend Lord Pembroke said once to me at Wilton, with a happy pleasantry and some truth, that, “ Dr. Johnson's sayings would not appear so extraordinary, were it not for his bow-wow way.” The sayings themselves are generally of sterling merit; but, doubtless, his manner was an addition to their effect; and therefore should be attended to as much as may be. It is necessary, however, to guard those who were not acquainted with him, against overcharged imitations or caricatures of his manner, which are frequently attempted, and many of which are second-hand copies from the late Mr. Henderson the actor, who, though a good mimick of some persons, did not represent Johnson correctly.
2 See “ Prosodia Rationalis ; or, an Essay towards establishing the Melody and Measure of Speech, to be expressed and perpetuated by peculiar Symbols.” London, 1779.
3 I use the phrase in score, as Dr. Johnson has explained it in his Dictionary song in Score, the words with the musical notes of a song annexed." But I understand that in scientifick
1775. Next day I dined with Johnson at Mr. Thrale's.
He attacked Gray, calling him “a dull fellow." Etat. 66.
Boswell. “I understand he was reserved, and might appear dull in company; but surely he was not dull in poetry.” Johnson. “ Sir, he was dull in company, dull in his closet, dull every where. He was dull in a new way, and that made inany people think him GREAT. He was a mechanical poet.” He then repeated some ludicrous lines, which have escaped my memory, and said,
66 Is not that GREAT, like his Odes?” Mrs. Thrale maintained that his Odes were melodious; upon which he exclaimed,
“ Weave the warp, and weave the woof;" —
I added, in a solemn tone,
“ The winding-sheet of Edward's race. There is a good line.”_" Ay, (said he,) and the next line is a good one,” (pronouncing it contempta uously ;)
“Give ample verge and room enough," “ No, Sir, there are but two stanzas in Gray's poetry, which are in his · Elegy in a Country Church-yard.” He then repeated the stanza,
« For who to dumb forgetfulness a prey," &c. mistaking one word; for instead of precincts he
propriety it means all the parts of a musical composition noted down in the characters by which it is exhibited to the eye of the skilful.
[It was declamation that Steele pretended to reduce to notation by new characters. This he called the melody of speech, not the harmony, which the term in score implies. B.]
said confines. He added, "The other stanza I forget."
Ætat. 66. A young lady who had married a man much her inferiour in rank being mentioned, a question arose how a woman's relations should behave to her in such a situation; and, while I recapitulate the debate, and recollect what has since happened, I cannot but be struck in a manner that delicacy forbids me to express. While I contended that she ought to be treated with an inflexible steadiness of displeasure, Mrs. Thrale was all for mildness and forgiveness, and, according to the vulgar phrase, “ making the best of a bad bargain.” Johnson. “Madam, we must distinguish. Were I a man of rank, I would not let a daughter starve who had made a mean marriage ; but having voluntarily degraded herself from the station which she was originally entitled to hold, I would support her only in that which she herself had chosen; and would not put her on a level with my other daughters. You are to consider, Madam, that it is our duty to maintain the subordination of civilized society; and when there is a gross and shameful deviation from rank, it should be punished so as to deter others from the same perversion.”
After frequently considering this subject, I am more and more confirmed in what I then meant to express, and which was sanctioned by the authority, and illustrated by the wisdom, of Johnson; and I think it of the utınost consequence to the happiness of Society, to which subordination is absolutely necessary. It is weak, and contemptible, and unworthy, in a parent to relax in such a case. It is sacrificing general advantage to private feelings. And let it be considered, that the claim of a daughter