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fettled residence, to spend a certain number of hours every day amongst your 1763. books. The dissipation of thought, of which you complain, is nothing more Ærat. 56 than the vacillation of a mind suspended between different motives, and changing its direction as any motive gains or loses strength. If you can but kindle in
mind any strong desire, if you can but keep predominant any wish for some particular excellence or attainment, the gufts of imagination will break away, without any effect upon your conduct, and commonly without
memory. “ There lurks, perhaps, in every human heart a desire of distinction, which inclines every man first to hope, and then to believe, that Nature has given him something peculiar to himself. This vanity makes one mind nurse aversions, and another actuate desires, till they rise by art much above their original state of power ; and as affectation, in time, improves to habit, they at last tyrannise over him who at first encouraged them only for show. Every desire is a viper in the bosom, who, while he was chill, was harmless; but when warmth gave him strength, exerted it in poison. You know a gentleman, who, when firit he fet his foot in the gay world, as he prepared himself to whirl in the vortex of pleasure, imagined a total indifference and universal negligence to be the most agreeable concomitants of youth, and the strongest indication of an airy temper and a quick apprehension. Vacant to every object, and sensible of every impulse, he thought that all appearance of diligence would deduct something from the reputation of genius; and hoped that he should appear to attain, amidst all the ease of carelesiness and all the tumult of diversion, that knowledge and those accomplishments which mortals of the common fabrick obtain only by mute abstraction and solitary drudgery. He tried this scheme of life awhile, was made weary of it by his sense and his virtue, he then wished to return to his studies; and finding long habits of idleness and pleasure harder to be cured than he expected, still willing to retain his claim to some extraordinary prerogatives, resolved the common consequences of irregularity into an unalterable decree of destiny, and concluded that Nature had originally formed him incapable of rational employment.
“ Let all such fancies, illusive and destructive, be banished henceforward from your thoughts for ever. Resolve, and keep your resolution ; choose, and pursue your choice. If you spend this day in study, you will find yourself still more able to study to-morrow; not that you are to expect that you shall at once obtain a complete victory. Depravity is not very easily overcome. Resolution will sometimes relax, and diligence will sometimes be interrupted; but let no accidental surprize or deviation, whether short or long, LI 2
dispose you to despondency. Consider these failings as incident to all mankind. Begin again where you left off, and endeavour to avoid the seducements that prevailed over you before.
“ This, my dear Boswell, is advice which, perhaps, has been often given you, and given you without effect.
without effect. But this advice, if
But this advice, if you will not take from others, you must take from your own reflections, if you purpose to do the duties of the station to which the bounty of Providence has called you.
“ Let me have a long letter from you as soon as you can. continue your journal, and enrich it with many observations upon the country in which you reside. It will be a favour if you can get me any books in the Frisick language, and can enquire how the poor are maintained in the Seven Provinces. I am, dear Sir,
" Your most affectionate servant, " London, Dec. 8, 1763.
I hope you
I am sorry to observe, that neither in my own minutes, nor in my letters to Johnson which have been preserved by him, can I find any information how the poor are maintained in the Seven Provinces. But I shall extract from one of my letters what I learnt concerning the other subject of his curiosity.
“ I have made all possible enquiry with respect to the Frisick language, and find that it has been less cultivated than any other of the northern dialects; a certain proof of which is their deficiency of books. Of the old Frisick there are no remains, except some ancient laws preserved by Schotanus in his • Beschryvinge van die Heerlykheid van Friesland;' and his Hiftoria Frifica.' I have not yet been able to find these books. Professor Trotz, who formerly was of the University of Vranyken, in Friesland, and is at present preparing an edition of all the Frisick laws, gave me this information. Of the modern Frisick, or what is fpoken by the boors at this day, I have procured a speci
It is · Gisvert Japix's Rymelerie,' which is the only book that they have. It is amazing, that they have no translation of the bible, no treatises of devotion, nor even any of the ballads and story-books which are so agreeable to country people. You shall have Japix by the first convenient opportunity. I doubt not to pick up Schotanus. Mynheer Trotz has promised me his assistance.”
Early in 1764 Johnson paid a visit to the Langton family, at their seat of Langton, in Lincolnshire, where he passed some time, much to his satisfaction. His friend Bennet Langton, it will not be doubted, did every thing in his power to make the place agreeable to fo illustrious a guest; and the elder
Mr. Langton and his lady, being fully capable of understanding his value, were not wanting in attention. He, however, told me, that old Mr. Langton, Ætat. 55. though a man of considerable learning, had so little allowance to make for his occasional “ laxity of talk,” that because in the course of discussion he sometimes mentioned what might be said in favour of the peculiar tenets of the Romish church, he went to his grave believing him to be of that communion.
Johnson, during his stay at Langton, had the advantage of a good library, and saw several gentlemen of the neighbourhood. I have obtained from Mr. Langton the following particulars of this period.
He was now fully convinced that he could not have been fatisfied with a country living; for, talking of a respectable clergyman in Lincolnshire, he observed, “ This man, Sir, fills up the duties of his life well. I approve of him, but could not imitate him.”
To a lady who endeavoured to vindicate herself from blame for neglecting social attention to worthy neighbours, by saying, “ I would go to them if it would do them any good ;” he said, “What good, Madam, do you expect to have in your power to do them? It is shewing them respect, and that is doing them good.”
So socially accommodating was he, that once when Mr. Langton and he were driving together in a coach, and Mr. Langton complained of being sick, he insisted that they should go out, and sit on the back of it in the open air, which they did. And being sensible how strange the appearance must be, observed, that a countryman whom they saw in a field would probably be thinking, “ If these two madmen should come down, what would become of
Soon after his return to London, which was in February, was founded that club which existed long without a name, but at Mr. Garrick's funeral became distinguished by the title of The LITERARY Club. · Sir Joshua Reynolds had the merit of being the first proposer of it, to which Johnson acceded, and the original members were, Sir Joshua Reynolds, Dr. Johnson, Mr. Edmund Burke, Dr. Nugent, Mr. Beauclerk, Mr. Langton, Dr. Goldsmith, Mr. Chamier, and Sir John Hawkins. They met at the Turk's Head, in Gerardstreet, Soho, one evening in every week, at seven, and generally continued their conversation till a pretty late hour. This club has been gradually increased, and instead of affembling in the evening, they now dine together at a tavern in Doverstreet, once a fortnight, during the meeting of Parliament. Between the time of its formation, and the time at which this work is passing through the
1764. press, (1790,) the following persons, now dead, were members of it: Mr. Ætat. 55. Dunning, (afterwards Lord Ashburton,) Mr. Dyer, Mr. Garrick, Dr. Shipley
Bishop of St. Afaph, Mr. Vesey, and Mr. Thomas Warton. The present
Sir John Hawkins represents himself as a “ seceder” from this society, and assigns as the reason of his “ withdrawing.” himself from it, that its late hours were inconsistent with his domestick arrangements. In this he is not accurate ; for the fact was, that he one evening attacked Mr. Burke in so rude a manner, that all the company testified their displeasure ; and at their next meeting his reception was such, that he never came again *.
He is equally inaccurate with respect to Mr. Garrick, of whom he says, « he trusted that the least intimation of a desire to come among us, would procure him a ready admission; but in this he was mistaken. Johnson consulted me upon it; and when I could find no objection to receiving him, exclaimed, He will disturb us by his buffoonery ; '--and afterwards so managed matters, that he was never formally proposed, and, by consequence, never admitted 5."
In justice both to Mr. Garrick and Dr. Johnson, I think it necessary to rectify this mis-statement. The truth is, that not very long after the institution of our club, Sir Joshua Reynolds was speaking of it to Garrick. like it much, (faid he,) I think I shall be of you.” When Sir Joshua mentioned this to Dr. Johnson, he was much displeased with the actor's conceit. “ He'll be of us, (said Johnson,) how does he know we will permit him? The first duke in England has no right to hold such language.” However, when Garrick was regularly proposed some time afterwards, Johnson, though he had taken a momentary offence at his arrogance, warmly and kindly supported him, and he was accordingly elected, was a most agreeable member, and continued to attend our meetings to the time of his death.
3 Life of Johnson, p. 425.
4 From Sir Joshua Reynolds. s Life of Johnson, p. 425.
Mrs. Piozzi® has also given a similar misrepresentation of Johnson's treat- 1764. ment of Garrick in this particular, as if he had used these contemptuous Ætat. 55. expressions : “ If Garrick does apply, I'll black-ball him. Surely, one ought to fit in a society like ours,
- Unelbow'd by a gamester, pimp, or player.”
I am happy to be enabled by such unquestionable authority as that of Sir Joshua Reynolds, as well as from my own knowledge, to vindicate at once the heart of Johnson and the social merit of Garrick.
In this year, except what he may have done in revising Shakspeare, we do not find that he laboured much in literature. He wrote a review of Grainger's
Sugar Cane, a Poem,” in the London Chronicle. He told me, that Dr. Percy wrote the greatest part of this review; but, I imagine, he did noo recollect it distinctly, for it appears to be mostly, if not altogether, his own. He also wrote in the Critical Review, an accountt of Goldsmith's excellent poem, “The Traveller.”
The ease and independence to which he had at last attained by royal munificence, increased his natural indolence. In his « Meditations” he thus accuses himself: “Good Friday, April 20, 1764. I have made no reformation; I have lived totally useless, more sensual in thought, and more addicted to wine and meat?.” And next morning he thus feelingly complains : “ My indolence, since my last reception of the facrament, has sunk into grosser Nuggishness, and my dissipation spread into wilder negligence. My thoughts have been clouded with sensuality; and, except that from the beginning of this year I have, in some measure, forborne excess of strong drink, my appetites have predominated over my reason. A kind of strange oblivion has overspread me, so that I know not what has become of the last year; and perceive that incidents and intelligence pass over me, without leaving any impression." He then folemnly says, “ This is not the life to which heaven is promised $ ;” and he earnestly resolves on amendment.
It was his custom to observe certain days with a pious abstraction ; viz. New-year’s-day, the day of his wife's death, Good Friday, Easter-day, and his own birth-day. He this year says, “I have now spent fifty-five years in resolving ; having, from the earliest time almost that I can remember, been forming schemes of a better life. I have done nothing. The need of doing, therefore, is presling, since the time of doing is short. O God, grant me to
o Letters to and from Dr. Johnson. Vol. II. p. 278. 7 Prayers and Medications, p. 50.
& Ibid. p. 54