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1735. Though Mrs. Porter was double the age of Johnson, and her person and Ærat. 26. manner, as described to me by the late Mr. Garrick, were by no means
pleasing to others, she must have had a superiority of understanding and talents, as she certainly inspired him with a more than ordinary passion; and she having signified her willingness to accept of his hand, he went to Lichfield to ask his mother's consent to the marriage, which he could not but be conscious was a very imprudent scheme, both on account of their disparity of years, and her want of fortune. But Mrs. Johnson knew too well the ardour of her son's temper, and was too tender a parent to oppose his inclinations.
I know not for what reason the marriage ceremony was not performed at Birmingham ; but a resolution was taken that it should be at Derby, for which place the bride and bridegroom set out on horseback, I suppose in very good humour. But though Mr. Topham Beauclerk used archly to mention Johnson's having told him, with much gravity, “ Sir, it was a love-marriage
upon both sides,” I have had from my illustrious friend the following curious 9th July. account of their journey to church upon the nuptial morn. “ Sir, she had
read the old romances, and had got into her head the fantastical notion that a woman of spirit should use her lover like a dog. So, Sir, at first she told me that I rode too fast, and she could not keep up with mé; and, when I rode a little Nower, she passed me, and complained that I lagged behind. I was not to be made the Nave of caprice; and I resolved to begin as I meant to end. I therefore pushed on briskly, till I was fairly out of her sight. The road lay between two hedges, so I was sure she could not miss it; and I contrived that she should soon come up with me. When she did, I observed her to be in tears."
This, it must be allowed, was a singular beginning of connubial felicity; but there is no doubt that Johnson, though he thus shewed a manly firmness, proved a most affectionate and indulgent husband to the last moment of Mrs. Johnson's life; and in his “ Prayers and Meditations,” we find
remarkable evidence that his regard and fondness for her never ceased, even after her death.
He now set up a private academy, for which purpose he hired a large houfe, well situated near his native city. In the Gentleman's Magazine for 1736, there is the following advertisement: “ At Edial, near Lichfield, in Staffordshire, young gentlemen are boarded and taught the Latin and Greek languages, by SAMUEL Johnson.” But the only pupils that were put under his care were the celebrated David Garrick and his brother George, and a
Mr. Offely, a young gentleman of good fortune, who died early. As yet,
Delightful talk! to rear the tender thought,
“ And teach the young idea how to shoot !” we must consider that this delight is perceptible only by “a mind at ease,” a mind at once calm and clear ; but that a mind gloomy and impetuous like that of Johnson, cannot be fixed for any length of time in minute attention, and must be so frequently irritated by unavoidable nowness and errour in the advances of scholars, as to perform the duty with little pleasure to the teacher, and no great advantage to the pupils. Good temper is a most essential requisite in a preceptor. Horace paints the character as bland:
“ Ut pueris olim dant crustula blandi
“ Dočtores, elementa velint ut discere prima." Johnson was not more satisfied with his situation as the master of an academy, than with that of the usher of a school; we need not wonder, there
fore, that he did not keep his academy above a year and a half. From Mr. · Garrick's account he did not appear to have been profoundly reverenced by
his pupils. His oddities of manner, and uncouth gesticulations, could not but be the subject of merriment to them; and, in particular, the young rogues used to listen at the door of his bed-chamber, and peep through the
1735. key-hole, that they might turn into ridicule his tumultuous and aukward Etat. 26. fondness for Mrs. Johnson, whom he used to name by the familiar appel
lation of Tetty or Tetsy, which, like Betty or Betsy, is provincially used as a s contraction for Elizabeth, her christian name, but which to us feems ludicrous, when applied to a woman of her age and appearance. Mr. Garrick described her to me as very fat, with a bofom of more than ordinary protuberance, with fwelled cheeks, of a Aorid red, produced by thick painting, and increased by the liberal use of cordials ; faring and fantastick in her dress, and affected both in her speech and her general behaviour. I have feen Garrick exhibit her, by his exquisite talent for mimickry, so as to excite the heartiest bursts of laughter; but he, probably, as is the case in all such
representations, considerably aggravated the picture.
That Johnson well knew the most proper course to be pursued in the instruction of youth, is authentically ascertained by the following paper in his own hand-writing, given about this period to a relation, and now in the poffefsion of Mr. John Nichols :
“ SCHEME for the CLASSES of a GRAMMAR SCHOOL. « WHEN the introduction, or formation of nouns and verbs, is perfectly mastered, let them learn
“ Corderius by Mr. Clarke, beginning at the same time to translate out of the introduction, that by this means they may learn the syntax. Then let them proceed to
“ Erasmus, with an English tranNation, by the same authour.
« Class II. Learns Eutropius and Cornelius Nepos, or Justin, with the translation.
“ N. B. The first class gets for their part every morning the rules which they have learned before, and in the afternoon learns the Latin rules of the nouns and verbs.
“ They are examined in the rules which they have learned every Thursday and Saturday.
“ The second class doth the same whilst they are in Eutropius ; afterwards their part is in the irregular nouns and verbs, and in the rules for making and scanning verses. They are examined as the first.
“ Class III. Ovid’s Metamorphoses in the morning, and Cæsar's Commentaries in the afternoon.
« Practise in the Latin rules till they are perfect in them, afterwards in Mr. Leeds's Greek Grammar. Examined as before,
“ Afterwards they proceed to Virgil, beginning at the same time to write 1735 themes and verses, and to learn Greek; from thence passing on to Horace, Ærat. 26. &c. as shall seem most
“ Thus you will be tolerably skilled in all the dialects, beginning with the Attick, to which the rest must be referred.
“ In the study of Latin, it is proper not to read the latter authours, till you are well versed in those of the purest ages; as, Terence, Tully, Cæsar, Sallust, Nepos, Velleius Paterculus, Virgil, Horace, Phædrus.
“ The greatest and most necessary talk still remains, to attain a habit of expression, without which knowledge is of little use. This is necessary in Latin, and more necessary in English ; and can only be acquired by a daily imitation of the best and correctest authours.
While Johnson kept his academy, there can be no doubt that he was insensibly furnishing his mind with various knowledge; but I have not discovered that he wrote any thing except a great part of his tragedy of Irene. Mr. Peter Garrick, the elder brother of David, told me that he remembered Johnson's borrowing the Turkish History of him, in order to form his play from it. When he had finished some part of it, he read what he had done to Mr. Walmsley, who objected to his having already brought his heroine into great distress, and asked him “ how can you possibly contrive to plunge her into deeper calamity ?” Johnson, in Ay allusion to the supposed oppressive proceedings of the court of which Mr. Walmsey was register, replied, “ Sir, I can put her into the Spiritual Court !”
Mr. Walmsey, however, was well pleased with this proof of Johnson's abilities as a dramatick writer, and advised him to finish the tragedy, and produce it on the stage.
Johnson now thought of trying his fortune in London, the great field of Ætat. 28. genius and exertion, where talents of every kind have the fullest scope, and
the highest encouragement. It is a memorable circumstance that his pupil David Garrick went thither at the same time, with intention to complete his education, and follow the profession of the law, from which he was soon diverted by his decided preference for the stage.
This joint expedition of those two eminent men to the metropolis, was many years afterwards noticed in an allegorical poem on Shakspeare's Mulberry Tree, by Mr. Lovibond, the ingenious authour of “ The Tears of Old May-day.”
They were recommended to Mr. Colson, an eminent mathematician and master of an academy, by the following letter from Mr. Walmsey:
To the Reverend Mr. COLSON.
Lichfield, March 2, 1737. # DEAR SIR,
“ I had the favour of yours, and am extremely obliged to you; but I cannot say I had a greater affection for you upon it than I had before, being long since so much endeared to you, as well by an early friendship, as by your many excellent and valuable qualifications; and, had I a son of my own, it would be my ambition, instead of sending him to the University, to dispose of him as this young gentleman is.
“ He, and another neighbour of mine, one Mr. Samuel Johnson, set out this morning for London together. Davy Garrick is to be with you early the next week, and Mr. Johnson to try his fate with a tragedy, and to see to get himself employed in some translation, either from the Latin or the French. Johnson is a very good scholar and poet, and I have great hopes will turn out a fine tragedy-writer. If it should any way lie in your way, doubt not but you would be ready to recommend and assist your countryman.
“ G. WALMSLEY."
How he employed himself upon upon his first coming to London is not particularly known. I never heard that he found any protection or encouragement by the means of Mr. Colson, to whose academy David Garrick went. Mrs. Lucy Porter told me, that Mr. WalmNey gave him a letter of introduction to Lintot his bookseller, and that Johnson wrote some things for him ; but I imagine this to be a mistake, for I have discovered no trace of it, and I am pretty sure he told me, that Mr. Cave was the first publisher by whom his pen was engaged in London,