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as to imagine that I am to prescribe to a gentleman 1776. what company he is to have at his table?" Bos
Ætat. 67. well. “ I beg your pardon, Sir, for wishing to prevent you from meeting people whom you might not like. Perhaps he may have some of what he calls his patriotick friends with him. Johnson. “ Well, Sir, and what ther? What care I for his patriotick friends ? Poh !" Boswell. “ I should not be surprized to find Jack Wilkes there." JOHNSON. " And if Jack Wilkes should be there, what is that to me, Sir? My dear friend, let us have no more of this. I am sorry to be angry with you ; but really it is treating me strangely to talk to me as if I could not meet any company whatever, occasionally.” Bos.
“ Pray forgive me, Sir: I meant well. But you shall meet whoever comes, for me.” Thus i secured him, and told Dilly that he would find him very well pleased to be one of his guests on the day appointed.
Upon the much expected Wednesday, I called on him about half an hour before dinner, as I often did when we were to dine out together, to see that he was ready in time, and to accompany him. I found him buffeting his books, as upon a former occasion, covered with dust, and making no preparation for going abroad.
How is this, Sir? (said I.) Don't you recollect that you are to dine at Mr. Dilly's ?" Johnson. “ Sir, I did not think of going to Dilly's: it went out of my head. I have ordered dinner at home with Mrs. Williams." Boswell.
Boswell. “ But, my dear Sir, you know you were engaged to Mr. Dilly, and I told him so. He will expect you, and will be
3. See page
8 of this volume.
1776. much disappointed if you don't come.” JOHNSON, Sn Ælat. 67.
“ You must talk to Mrs. Williams about this."
Here was a sad dilemma. I feared that what I was so confident I had secured, would yet be frustrated. He had accustomed himself to shew Mrs. Williams such a degree of humane attention, as frequently imposed some restraint upon him; and I knew that if she should be obstinate, he would not stir. I hastened down stairs to the blind lady's room, and told her I was in great uneasiness, for Dr. Johnson had engaged to me to dine this day at Mr. Dilly'sy but that he had told me he had forgotten his engagement, and had ordered dinner at home. “ Yes, Sir, (said she, pretty peevishly,) Dr. Johnson is to dine at home." ? -Madam, (said I,) his respect
is such, that I know he will not leave you, unless you absolutely desire it. But as you have so much of his company, I hope you will be good enough to forego it for a day: as Mr. Dilly is a very worthy man, has frequently had agreeable parties at his house for Dr. Johnson, and will be vexed if the Doctor neglects him to day. And then, Madam, be pleased to consider my situation; I carried the message, and I assured Mr. Dilly that Dr. Johnson was to come ; and no doubt he has made a dinner, and invited a company,
and boasted of the honour he expected to have. I shall be quite disgraced if the Doctor is not there." She gradually softened to my solicitations, which were certainly as earnest as most entreaties to ladies upon any occasion, and was graciously pleased to empower me to tell Dr. Johnson, “ That all things considered, she thought he should certainly go." I flew back to him, still in dust, and careless of what should be the event, “indifferent in his choice to go or stay;" but
as soon as I had announced to him Mrs. Williams's 1776. consent, he roared," Frank, a clean shirt,” and Ætat. 67. was very soon drest. When I had him fairly seated in a hackney-coach with me, I exulted as much as a fortune-hunter who has got an heiress into a postchaise with him to set out for Gretna-Green.
When we entered Mr. Dilly's drawing-room, he found himself in the midst of a company he did not know. I kept myself snug and silent, watching how he would conduct himself. I observed him whispering to Mr. Dilly, “ Who is that gentleman, Sir?”– “ Mr. Arthur Lee."-JOHNSON. “ Too, too, too,” (under his breath,) which was one of his habitual mutterings. Mr. Arthur Lee could not but be very obnoxious to Johnson, for he was not only a patriot, but an American. He was afterwards minister from the United States at the court of Madrid.
" And who is the gentleman in lace ?” — “Mr. Wilkes, Sir.” This information confounded him still more ; he had some difficulty to restrain himself, and taking up a book, sat down upon a window-seat and read, or at least kept his eye upon it intently for some time, till he composed himself. His feelings, I dare say, were aukward enough. But he no doubt recollected his having rated me for supposing that he could be at all disconcerted by any company, and he, therefore, resolutely set himself to behave quite as an easy man of the world, who could adapt himself at once to the disposition and manners of those whom he might chance to meet.
The cheering sound of “ Dinner is upon the table,” dissolved his reverie, and we all sat down without any symptom of ill humour. There were present, beside Mr. Wilkes, and Mr. Arthur Lee, who was
1776. an old companion of mine when he studied physick Ætat. 67.
at Edinburgh, Mr. (now Sir John) Miller, Dr. Lettsom, and Mr. Slater, the druggist. Mr. Wilkes placed himself next to Dr. Johnson, and behaved to him with so much attention and politeness, that he gained upon him insensibly. No man eat more heartily than Johnson, or loved better what was nice and delicate. Mr. Wilkes was very assiduous in helping him to some fine veal. “ Pray give me leave, Sir ;-It is better here- A little of the brown-Some fat, Sir-A little of the stuffing-Some gravy-Let me have the pleasure of giving you some butterAllow me to recommend a squeeze of this orange;or the lemon, perhaps, may have more zest.”—“Sir; Sir, I am obliged to you, Sir," cried Johnson, bowing, and turning his head to him with a look for some time of " surly virtue,"4 but, in a short while, of complacency.
Foote being mentioned, Johnson said, “ He is not a good mimick." One of the company added, “ A merry Andrew, a buffoon.” Johnson. “ But he has wit too, and is not deficient in ideas, or in fertility and variety of imagery, and not empty of reading; he has knowledge enough to fill up his part. One species of wit he has in an eminent degree, that of escape. You drive him into a corner with both hands; but he's gone, Sir, when you think you
have got him like an animal that jumps over your head. Then he has a great range for wit he never lets truth stand between him and a jest, and he is sometimes mighty coarse. Garrick is under many restraints from which Foote is free." WILKES.
* Johnson's “ London, a Poem,” v. 145.
6 Garrick's wit is more like Lord Chesterfield's."
1776. JOHNSON. “ The first time I was in company with
Ætat. 67. Foote was at Fitzherbert's. Having no good opinion of the fellow, I was resolved not to be pleased ; and it is
very difficult to please a man against his will. I went on eating my dinner pretty sullenly, affecting not to mind him. But the dog was so very comical, that I was obliged to lay down my knife and fork, throw myself back upon my chair, and fairly laugh it out. No, Sir, he was irresistible. He upon one occasion experienced, in an extraordinary degree, the efficacy of his powers of entertaining. Amongst the many
and various modes which he tried of getting money, he became a partner with a small-beer brewer, and he was to have a share of the profits for procuring customers amongst his numerous acquaintance. Fitzherbert was one who took his smallbeer ; but it was so bad that the servants resolved not to drink it. They were at some loss how to notify their resolution, being afraid of offending their master, who they know liked Foote much as a companion. At last they fixed upon a little black boy, who was rather a favourite, to be their deputy, and deliver their remonstrance; and having invested him with the whole authority of the kitchen, he was to inform Mr. Fitzherbert, in all their names, upon a certain day, that they would drink Foote's small-beer no longer. On that day Foote happened to dine at Fitzherbert's, and this boy served at table; he was so delighted with Foote's stories, and merriment, and grimace, that when he went down stairs, he told
5 Foote told me, that Johnson said of him, “ For loud obstreperous broad-faced mirth, I know not his equal."