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loved to relate with all its circumstances, when re- 1767. quested by his friends. This was his being honoured
Ætat. 58. by a private conversation with his Majesty, in the library at the Queen's house. He had frequently visited those splendid rooms and noble collection of books,' which he used to say was more numerous and curious than he supposed any person could have made in the time which the King had employed. Mr. Barnard, the librarian, took care that he should have every accommodation that could contribute to his ease and convenience, while indulging his literary taste in that place; so that he had here a very agreeable resource at leisure hours.
His Majesty having been informed of his occasional visits, was pleased to signify a desire that he should be told when Dr. Johnson came next to the library. Accordingly, the next time that Johnson did come, as soon as he was fairly engaged with a book, on which, while he sat by the fire, he seemed quite intent, Mr. Barnard stole round to the apartment where the King was, and, in obedience to his Majesty's commands, mentioned that Dr. Johnson was then in the library. His Majesty said he was at leisure, and would go to him; upon which Mr. Barnard took one of the candles that stood on the King's table, and lighted his Majesty through a suite of
| Dr. Johnson had the honour of contributing his assistance towards the formation of this library; for I have read a long letter from him to Mr. Barnard, giving the most masterly instructions on the subject. I wished much to have gratified my readers with the persusal of this letter, and have reason to think that his Majesty would have been graciously pleased to permit its publication ; but Mr. Barnard, to whom I applied, declined it“ own account.".
1767. rooms, till they came to a private door into the Ætat. 58. library, of which his Majesty had the key. Being
entered, Mr. Barnard stepped forward hastily to Dr. Johnson, who was still in a profound study, and whispered him, “Sir, here is the King.”
and stood still. His Majesty approached him, and at once was courteously easy.?
His Majesty began by observing, that he under. stood he came sometimes to the library ; and then mentioned his having heard that the Doctor had been lately at Oxford, asked him if he was not fond of going thither. To which Johnson answered, that he was indeed fond of going to Oxford sometimes, but was likewise glad to come back again. The King then asked him what they were doing at Ox
• The particulars of this conversation I have been at great pains to collect with the utmost authenticity, from Dr. Johnson's own detail to myself: from Mr. Langton who was present when he gave an account of it to Dr. Joseph Warton, and several other friends at Sir Joshua Reynolds's; from Mr. Barnard; from the copy of a letter written by the late Mr. Strahan the printer, to Bishop Warburton; and from a minute, the original of which is among the papers of the late Sir James Caldwell, and a copy of which was most obligingly obtained for me from his son Sir John Caldwell, by Sir Francis Lumm. To all these gentlemen I beg leave to make my grateful acknowledgements, and particularly to Sir Francis Lumm, who was pleased to take a great deal of trouble, and even had the minute laid before the King by Lord Caermarthen, now Duke of Leeds, then one of his Majesty's Principal Secretaries of State, who announced to Sir Francis the Royal pleasure concerning it by a letter, in these words : “ I have the King's commands to assure you, Sir, how sensible his Majesty is of your attention in communicating the minute of conversation previous to its publication. As there appears no objection to your complying with Mr. Boswell's wishes on the subject, you are at full liberty to deliver it to that gentleman, to make such use of in his Life of Dr. Johnson, as he may think proper."
ford. Johnson answered, he could not much com. 1767. mend their diligence, but that in some respects they
Ætat. 58. were mended, for they had put their press under better regulations, and were at that time printing Polybius. He was then asked whether there were better libraries at Oxford or Cambridge. He answered, he believed the Bodleian was larger than any they had at Cambridge ; at the same time adding, “ I hope, whether we have more books or not than they have at Cambridge, we shall make as good use of them as they do.” Being asked whether All-Souls or Christ. Church library was the largest, he answered, “ AllSouls library is the largest we have, except the Bode leian, Ay, (said the King) that is the publick library."
His Majesty enquired if he was then writing any thing. He answered, he was not, for he had pretty well told the world what he knew, and must now read to acquire more knowledge. The King, as it should seem with a view to urge him to rely on his own stores as an original writer, and to continue his labours, then said “I do not think you borrow much froin any body.” Johnson said, he thought he had already done his part as a writer. "I should have thought so too, (said the King,) if you
had not writ ten so well.”-Johnson observed to me, upon this, that “ No man could have paid a handsomer compliment; and it was fit for a King to pay. It was decisive.” When asked by another friend, at Sir Joshua Reynolds's, whether he made any reply to this high compliment, he answered, “ No, Sir, When the King had said it, it was to be so. not for me to bandy civilities with my Sovereign.'' Perhaps no man who had spent his whole life in
1767. courts could have shewn a more nice and dignified.
sense of true politeness, than Johnson did in this Ætat. 58.
His Majesty having observed to hin that he supposed he inust have read a great deal; Johnson answered, that he thought more than he read; that he had read a great deal in the early part of his life, but having fallen into ill health, he had not been able to read inuch, compared with others : for instance, he said he had not read much, compared with Dr. Warburton. Upon which the King said, that he heard Dr. Warburton was a man of such general knowledge, that you could scarce talk with him on any subject on which he was not qualified to speak; and that his learning resembled Garrick's acting, in its universality. His Majesty then talked of the controversy between Warburton and Lowth, which he seemed to have read, and asked Johnson what he thought of it. Johnson answered, “Warburton has most general, most scholastick learning; Lowth is the more correct scholar. I do not know which of them calls names best." The King was pleased to say he was of the same opinion; adding, “ You do not think then, Dr. Johnson, that there was much argument in the case.” Johnson said, he did not think there was. “Why truly, said the King,) when once it comes to calling names, argument is pretty well at an end."
His Majesty then asked him what he thought of
3 The Reverend Mr. Strahan clearly recollects having been told by Johnson, that the King observed that Pope made Warburton a Bishop.“ True, Sir, (said Johnson,) but Warburton did more for Pope; he made him a Christian:" alluding, no doubt, to his ingenious comments on the “ Essay on Man."
Lord Lyttelton's history, which was then just pub- 1767. lished. Johnson said, he thought his style pretty Ætat. 58
. good, but that he had blamed Henry the Second rather too much. “Why, (said the King,) they seldom do these things by halves.”
" No, Sir, (answered Johnson,) not to Kings.” But fearing to be misunderstood, he proceeded to explain himself; and immediately subjoined, “ That for those who spoke worse of Kings than they deserved, he could find no excuse; but that he could more easily conceive how some might speak better of them than they deserved, without any ill intention; for, as Kings had much in their power to give, those who were favoured by them would frequently, from gratitude, exaggerate their praises: and as this proceeded from a good motive, it was certainly excusable, as far as errour could be excusable."
The King then asked him what he thought of Dr. Hill. Johnson answered, that he was an ingenious man, but had no veracity; and immediately mentioned, as an instance of it, an assertion of that writer, that he had seen objects magnified to a much greater degree by using three or four microscopes at a time than by using one. “Now, (added Johnson,) every one acquainted with microscopes knows, that the more of them he looks through, the less the object will appear.” “ Why, (replied the King,) this is not only telling an untruth, but telling it clumsily; for, if that be the case, every one who can look through a microscope will be able to detect him."
“ I now, (said Johnson to his friends, when relating what had passed,) began to consider that I was depreciating this man in the estimation of his Sovereign, and thought it was time for me to say