페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

52

Johnson's school-fellows.

The late Dr. Taylor, Prebendary of Westminster, who was educated under him, told me, that 'he was an excellent master, and that his ushers were most of them men of eminence; that Holbrook, one of the most ingenious men, best scholars, and best preachers of his age, was usher during the greatest part of the time that Johnson was at school'. Then came Hague, of whom as much might be said, with the addition that he was an elegant poet. Hague was succeeded by Green, afterwards Bishop of Lincoln, whose character in the learned world is well known. In the same form with Johnson was Congreve', who afterwards became chaplain to Archbishop Boulter, and by that connection obtained good preferment in Ireland. He was a younger son of the ancient family of Congreve, in Staffordshire, of which the poet was a branch. His brother

school. . . . No one who has gone through what they call a great school but must remember to have seen children of excellent and ingenuous natures (as has afterwards appeared in their manhood); I say no man has passed through this way of education but must have seen an ingenuous creature expiring with shame, with pale looks, beseeching sorrow and silent tears, throw up its honest eyes and kneel on its tender knees to an inexorable blockhead to be forgiven the false quantity of a word in making a Latin verse.' Likely enough Johnson's roughness was in part due to this brutal treatment; for Steele goes on to say: It is wholly to this dreadful practice that we may attribute a certain hardiness and ferocity which some men, though liberally educated, carry about them in all their behaviour. To be bred like a gentleman, and punished like a malefactor, must, as we see it does, produce that illiberal sauciness which we see sometimes in men of letters.'

1

1 Johnson described him as 'a peevish and ill-tempered man,' and not so good a scholar or teacher as Taylor made out. Once the boys perceived that he did not understand a part of the Latin lesson; another time, when sent up to the upper-master to be punished, they had to complain that when they could not get the passage,' the assistant would not help them. Annals, pp. 26, 32.

[ocr errors]

"One of the contributors to the Athenian Letters. See Gent. Mag. liv. 276.

'Johnson, post, March 22, 1776, describes him as one 'who does not get drunk, for he is a very pious man, but he is always muddy.'

sold

4

[blocks in formation]

sold the estate. There was also Lowe, afterwards Canon of Windsor'.'

Indeed Johnson was very sensible how much he owed to Mr. Hunter. Mr. Langton one day asked him how he had acquired so accurate a knowledge of Latin, in which, I believe, he was exceeded by no man of his time; he said, 'My master whipt me very well. Without that, Sir, I should have done nothing.' He told Mr. Langton, that while Hunter was flogging his boys unmercifully, he used to say, And this I do to save you from the gallows.' Johnson, upon all occasions, expressed his approbation of enforcing instruction by means of the rod'. 'I would rather (said he)

'A tradition had reached Johnson through his school-fellow Andrew Corbet that Addison had been at the school and had been the leader in a barring out. (Johnson's Works, vii. 419). Garrick entered the school about two years after Johnson left. According to Garrick's biographer, Tom Davies (p. 3), Hunter was an odd mixture of the pedant and the sportsman. Happy was the boy who could slily inform his offended master where a covey of partridges was to be found; this notice was a certain pledge of his pardon.' Lord Campbell in his Lives of the Chief Justices, ii. 279, says :-'Hunter is celebrated for having flogged seven boys who afterwards sat as judges in the superior courts at Westminster at the same time. Among these were Chief Justice Wilmot, Lord Chancellor Northington, Sir T. Clarke, Master of the Rolls, Chief Justice Willes, and Chief Baron Parker. It is remarkable that, although Johnson and Wilmot were several years classfellows at Lichfield, there never seems to have been the slightest intercourse between them in after life; but the Chief Justice used frequently to mention the Lexicographer as 'a long, lank, lounging boy, whom he distinctly remembered to have been punished by Hunter for idleness."' Lord Campbell blunders here. Northington and Clarke were from Westminster School (Campbell's Chancellors, v. 176). The school-house, famous though it was, was allowed to fall into decay. A writer in the Gent. Mag. in 1794 (p. 413) says that 'it is now in a state of dilapidation, and unfit for the use of either the master or boys.' 'Johnson's observation to Dr. Rose, on this subject, deserves to be recorded. Rose was praising the mild treatment of children at school, at a time when flogging began to be less practised than formerly: 'But then, (said Johnson,) they get nothing else: and what they gain at one end, they lose at the other.' BURNEY. See post, under Dec. 17, 1775.

[blocks in formation]

have the rod to be the general terrour to all, to make them learn, than tell a child, if you do thus, or thus, you will be more esteemed than your brothers or sisters. The rod produces an effect which terminates in itself. A child is afraid of being whipped, and gets his task, and there's an end on't; whereas, by exciting emulation and comparisons of superiority, you lay the foundation of lasting mischief; you make brothers and sisters hate each other'.'

When Johnson saw some young ladies in Lincolnshire who were remarkably well behaved, owing to their mother's strict discipline and severe correction', he exclaimed, in one of Shakspeare's lines a little varied,

'Rod, I will honour thee for this thy duty'.'

[ocr errors]

'This passage is quoted from Boswell's Hebrides, Aug. 24, 1773. Mr. Boyd had told Johnson that Lady Errol did not use force or fear in educating her children; whereupon he replied, 'Sir, she is wrong,' and continued in the words of the text.

Gibbon in his Autobiography says:- 'The domestic discipline of our ancestors has been relaxed by the philosophy and softness of the age and if my father remembered that he had trembled before a stern parent, it was only to adopt with his son an opposite mode of behaviour.' Gibbon's Works, i. 112. Lord Chesterfield writing to a friend on Oct. 18, 1752, says :— Pray let my godson never know what a blow or a whipping is, unless for those things for which, were he a man, he would deserve them; such as lying, cheating, making mischief, and meditated malice.' Chesterfield's Misc. Works, iv. 130.

2

Johnson, however, hated anything that came near to tyranny in the management of children. Writing to Mrs. Thrale, who had told him that she had on one occasion gone against the wish of her nurses, he said: 'That the nurses fretted will supply me during life with an additional motive to keep every child, as far as is possible, out of a nurse's power. A nurse made of common mould will have a pride in overcoming a child's reluctance. There are few minds to which tyranny is not delightful; power is nothing but as it is felt, and the delight of superiority is proportionate to the resistance overcome.' Piozzi Letters, ii. 67.

[ocr errors]

'Sword, I will hallow thee for this thy deed.' 2 Henry VI, act iv. sc. 10. John Wesley's mother, writing of the way she had brought up her children, boys and girls alike, says :-'When turned a year old (and some before) they were taught to fear the rod, and to cry softly;

That

Johnson a King of men.

55

That superiority over his fellows, which he maintained with so much dignity in his march through life, was not assumed from vanity and ostentation, but was the natural and constant effect of those extraordinary powers of mind, of which he could not but be conscious by comparison; the intellectual difference, which in other cases of comparison of characters, is often a matter of undecided contest, being as clear in his case as the superiority of stature in some men above others. Johnson did not strut or stand on tip-toe: He only did not stoop. From his earliest years his superiority was perceived and acknowledged'. He was' from the be ginning "Avaş ȧvdpŵv, a king of men. His school-fellow, Mr. Hector, has obligingly furnished me with many particulars of his boyish days': and assured me that he never knew him corrected at school, but for talking and diverting other boys from their business. He seemed to learn by intuition; for though indolence and procrastination were inherent in his constitution, whenever he made an exertion he did more than any one else. In short, he is a memorable instance of what has been often observed, that the boy is the man in miniature: and that the distinguishing characteristicks of each individual are the same, through the whole course of life. His favourites used to receive very liberal assistance from him; and such was the submission and deference with which he was treated, such the desire to obtain his regard, that three of the boys, of whom Mr. Hector was sometimes one, used to come in the morning as his humble attendants, and carry him to school. One in the middle stooped, while

by which means they escaped abundance of correction they might otherwise have had.' Wesley's Journal, i. 370.

There dwelt at Lichfield a gentleman of the name of Butt, to whose house on holidays he was ever welcome. The children in the family, perhaps offended with the rudeness of his behaviour, would frequently call him the great boy, which the father once overhearing said: 'You call him the great boy, but take my word for it, he will one day prove a great man.' Hawkins's Johnson, p. 6.

See post, March 22, 1776 and Johnson's visit to Birmingham in Nov. 1784.

he

56

Johnson's tenacious memory.

he sat upon his back, and one on each side supported him ; and thus he was borne triumphant. Such a proof of the early predominance of intellectual vigour is very remarkable, and does honour to human nature. Talking to me once himself of his being much distinguished at school, he told me, they never thought to raise me by comparing me to any one; they never said, Johnson is as good a scholar as such a one; but such a one is as good a scholar as Johnson; and this was said but of one, but of Lowe; and I do not think he was as good a scholar.'

He discovered a great ambition to excel, which roused him to counteract his indolence. He was uncommonly inquisitive; and his memory was so tenacious, that he never forgot any thing that he either heard or read. Mr. Hector remembers having recited to him eighteen verses, which, after a little pause, he repeated verbatim, varying only one epithet, by which he improved the line.

He never joined with the other boys in their ordinary diversions: his only amusement was in winter, when he took a pleasure in being drawn upon the ice by a boy barefooted, who pulled him along by a garter fixed round him; no very easy operation, as his size was remarkably large. His defective sight, indeed, prevented him from enjoying the common sports; and he once pleasantly remarked to me, 'how wonderfully well he had contrived to be idle without them.' Lord Chesterfield, however, has justly observed in one of his letters, when earnestly cautioning a friend against the pernicious effects of idleness, that active sports are not to be reckoned idleness in young people; and that the listless torpor of doing nothing, alone deserves that name'. Of this dismal inertness of disposition, Johnson had all his life too great a share. Mr. Hector relates, that 'he could not oblige him more than by sauntering away the hours of vacation in

''You should never suffer your son to be idle one minute. I do not call play, of which he ought to have a good share, idleness; but I mean sitting still in a chair in total inaction; it makes boys lazy and indolent.' Chesterfield's Misc. Works, iv. 248.

the

« 이전계속 »