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Lowe, afterwards Canon of Windsor; who was tutor to the present Marquis Townshend, and his brother Charles.
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 fogging 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) 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 talk, and there's an end on't ; whereas, by exciting emulation and comparisons of fuperiority, you lay the foundation of lasting mischief ; you make brothers and sisters hate each other.”
Mr. Langton told me, that 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.”
That superiority over his fellows, which he maintained with so much dignity in his march through life, was not assumed from vanity and oftentation, 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 beginning Avg Avspūv, a king of men. His schoolfellow, 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.
him to school. One in the middle stooped, while 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 laid 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 fize 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 listlets torpor of doing nothing, alone deserves that
Of this dismal inertness of disposition, Johnson had all his life toq great a share. Mr. Hector relates, that “ he could not oblige him more than by fauntering away the hours of vacation in the fields, during which he was more engaged in talking to himself than to his companion."
Dr. Percy, the Bishop of Dromore, who was long intimately acquainted with him, and has preserved a few anecdotes concerning him, regretting that he was not a more diligent collector, informs me, that.“ when a boy he was immoderately fond of reading romances of chivalry, and he retained his fondness for them through life; so that (adds his Lordship) spending part of a fummer at my parsonage-house in the country, he chose for his regular read
1725. ing the old Spanish romance of FelixMARTE OF Hircania, in folio, which he
read quite through. Yet I have heard hiin attribute to these extravagant fictions, that unsettled turn of mind which prevented his ever fixing in any profession.”
After having resided for some time at the house of his uncle, Cornelius Ford, Johnson was, at the age of fifteen, removed to the school of Stourbridge, in Worcestershire, of which Mr. Wentworth was then master. This step was taken by the advice of his cousin, the Reverend Mr. Ford, a man in whom both talents and good dispositions were disgraced by licentiousness, but who was a very able judge of what was right. At this school he did not receive so much benefit as was expected. It has been said, that he acted in the capacity of an assistant to Mr. Wentworth, in teaching the younger boys.
“ Mr. Wentworth (he told me) was a very able man, but an idle man, and to me very levere ; but I cannot blame him much. I was then a big boy; he saw I did not reverence him; and that he should get no honour by me. I had brought enough with me, to carry me through ; and all I should get at his school would be ascribed to my own labour, or to my former master. Yet he taught me a great deal.”
He thus discriminated, to Dr. Percy, Bishop of Dromore, his progress at his two grammar-schools. “ At one, I learnt much in the school, but little from the master; in the other, I learnt much from the master, but little in the school.”
The Bishop alfo informs me, that “ Dr. Johnson's father, before he was received at Stourbridge, applied to have him admitted as a scholar and assistant to the Reverend Samuel Lea, M. A. head master of Newport school, in Shropshire, (a very diligent good teacher, at that time in high reputation, under whom Mr. Hollis is said, in the Memoirs of his Life, to have been also educated'). This application to Mr. Lea was not successful; but Johnson had afterwards the gratification to hear that the old gentleman, who lived to a very advanced age, mentioned it as one of the most memorable events of his life, that "he was very near having that great man for his scholar.”
He remained at Stourbridge little more than a year, and then returned home, where he may be said to have loitered, for two years, in a state very unworthy his uncommon abilities. He had already given several proofs of his poetical genius, both in his school-exercises and in other occasional
• He is said to be the original of the parson in Hogarth's Modern Midnight Conversation.
compositions. compositions. Of these I have obtained a considerable collection, by the favour of Mr. Wentworth, son of one of his masters, and of Mr. Hector, his schoolfellow and fiiend; from which I select the following specimens :
Translation of VIRGIL. Pastoral I.
NOW, Tityrus, you, supine and careless laid,
My admiration only I exprest,