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Mr. Strahan talked of launching into the great ocean of London, in order to have a chance for rising to eminence, and observing that many men were kept back from trying their fortune there, because they were born to a competency, said, “Small certainties are the bane of men of talents :” which Johnson confirmed. Mr. Strahan put Johnson in mind of a remark which he had made to him; “ There are few ways in which a man can be more innocently employed than in getting money.” « The more one thinks of this, (faid Strahan,) the juster it will appear.”
Mr. Strahan had taken a poor boy from the country as an apprentice, upon Johnson's recommendation. Jol
Johnson having inquired after him, said, , “Mr. Strahan, let me have five guineas on account, and I'll give this boy one. Nay, if a man recommends a boy, and does nothing for him, it is sad work. Call him down.”
I followed him into the court-yard, behind Mr. Strahan's house ; and there I had a proof of what I had heard him profess, that he talked alike to all. “ Some people (faid he,) tell you that they let themselves down to the capacity of their hearers. I never do that. I speak uniformly, in as intelligible a manner as I can.”
“ Well, my boy, how do you go on?”-“Pretty well, Sir; but they are afraid I an't strong enough for some parts of the business.” Johnson.“ Why I shall be sorry for it; for when you consider with how little mental power and corporeal labour a printer can get a guinea a week, it is a very desirable occu
you hear,-take all the pains you can; and if this does not do, we must think of some other way of life for you. There's a guinea.”
Here was one of the many, many instances of his active benevolence. At the same time, the now and fonorous folemnity with which, while he bent himself down, he addressed a little thick short-legged boy, contrasted with the boy's aukwardness and awe, could not but excite some ludicrous emotions.
I met him at Drury-lane playhouse in the evening. Sir Joshua Reynolds, at Mrs. Abington's request, had promised to bring a body of wits to her benefit; and having secured forty places in the front boxes, had done me the honour to put me in the groupe. Johnson sat on the seat directly behind me; and as he could neither fee nor hear at such a distance from the stage, he was wrapped up in grave abstraction, and seemed quite a cloud, amidst all the sunshine of glitter and gaiety. I wondered at his patience in sitting out a play of five acts, and a farce of two. He said very little; but after the prologue to “ Bon Ton” had been spoken, which he could hear pretty well from the more flow and distinct utterance, he observed, “ Dryden has written
prologues 4 My noble friend Lord Pembroke faid once to me at Wilton, with a happy pleasantry and some truth, that “ Dr. Johnson's sayings would not appear so extraordinary, were it not for his bowwow way.” The sayings themselves are generally of sterling merit ; but, doubtless, his manner was an addition to their effect, and therefore should be attended to as much as may be. It is necessary, however, to guard those who were not acquainted with him, against overcharged imitations or caricatures of his manner, which are frequently attempted, and many of which are secondhand copies from the late Mr. Henderson the actor, who, though a good mimick of some persons, did not represent Johnson correctly. ооо
prologues superiour to any that David Garrick has written ; but David Garrick
1775 : has written more good prologues than Dryden has done. It is wonderful that Ætat. 66. he has been able to write such a variety of them.”
At Mr. Beauclerk's, where I fupped, was Mr. Garrick, whom I made happy with Johnson's praise of his prologues; and I suppose, in gratitude to him, he took up one of his favourite topicks, the nationality of the Scotch, which he maintained in his pleasant manner, with the aid of a little poetical fiction. “ Come, come, don't deny it: they are really national. Why, now, the Adams are as liberal-minded men as any in the world : but, I don't know how it is, all their workmen are Scotch. You are, to be sure, wonder-fully free from that nationality; but so it happens, that you employ the only Scotch shoe-black in London.” He imitated the manner of his old master with ludicrous exaggeration; repeating, with pauses and half whistlings interjected,
“ Os homini sublime dedit,-cælumque tueri
“ Just,-et erectos ad fidera—tollere vultus.” looking downwards all the time, and, while pronouncing the four last words, absolutely touching the ground with a kind of contorted gefticulation.
Garrick, however, when he pleased, could imitate Johnson very exactly ; for that great actor, with his distinguished powers of expression which were so universally admired, possessed also an admirable talent of mimickry. He was always jealous that Johnson spoke lightly of him. I recollect his exhibiting him to me one day, as if saying “Davy is futile,” which he uttered perfectly with the tone and air of Johnson.
I cannot too frequently request of my readers while they peruse my account of Johnson's conversation, to endeavour to keep in mind his deliberate and strong utterance. His mode of speaking was indeed very impressive 4; and I wish it could be preserved as musick is written, according to the very
ing him «
1775. ingenious method of Mr. Steele', who has shewn how the recitation of Ærat. 76. Mr. Garrick, and other eminent speakers, might be transmitted to posterity
a dull fellow.” Boswell. “I understand he was reserved, and might appear dull in company; but surely he was not dull in poetry.” JOHNSON. Sir, he was dull in company, dull in his closet, dull every where. He was dull in a new way, and that made many people think him
He was a mechanical poet.” He then repeated fome ludicrous lines, ich have escaped my memory, and said, “ Is not that GREAT, like his Odes?” Mrs. Thrale maintained that his Odes were melodious; upon which he exclaimed,
“ Weave the warp, and weave the woof;"
I added, in a solemn tone,
« The winding-sheet of Edward's race.' There is a good line.”—“ Aye, (said he,) and the next line is a good one;"> (pronouncing it contemptuously):
“ Give ample verge and room enough,”
« No, Sir, there are but two good stanzas in Gray's poetry, which are in his * Elegy in a Country Church-yard.” He then repeated the stanza,
“ For who to dumb forgetfulness a prey,” &c. mistaking one word; for instead of precinets he said confines. He added, “ The other stanza I forget.”
A young lady who had married a man much her inferiour in rank being mentioned, a question arose how a woman's relations should behave to her in such a situation; and, while I recapitulate the debate, and recollect what has since happened, I cannot but be struck in a manner that delicacy forbids me to express. While I contended that she ought to be treated with an inflexible steadiness of displeasure, Mrs. Thrale was all for mildness and forgiveness, and,
See “ Profodia Rationalis ; or, an Esay towards establishing the Melody and Measure of Speech, to be expressed and perpetuated by peculiar Syınbols." London, 1779. )
according to the vulgar phrase, making the best of a bad bargain. Jouwsoo. 1775.
After frequently considering this subject, I am more and more confirmed
Lord Chesterfield's letters being mentioned, Johnson said, “ It was not to be wondered at that they had so great a sale, considering that they were the letters of a statesman, a wit, one who had been so much in the mouths of mankind, one long accustomed virîm volitare per ora.”
On Friday, March 31, I supped with him and some friends at a tavern.
Why, Sir, did you go to Mrs. Abington's benefit? Did you see?” Johnson.
Next morning I won a small bett from Lady Diana Beauclerk, by asking him as to one of his particularities, which her Ladyship laid I durst not do. It seems he had been frequently observed at the club to put into his pocket the Seville oranges, after he had squeezed the juice of them into the drink which he made for himself. Beauclerk and Garrick talked of it to me, and seemed to think that he had a strange unwillingness to be discovered. We could not divine what he did with them; and this was the bold question to be put. I saw on his table the spoils of the preceding night, some fresh peels nicely scraped and cut into pieces. “O, Sir, (said I,) I now partly see what you do with the squeezed oranges which you put into your pocket at the club." Johnson. “I have a great love for them.” Boswell.“ And pray, Sir, what do you do with them? You scrape them, it seems, very neatly, and what next ?” Johnson. “ I let them dry, Sir.” Boswell. “ And what next?” “ Johnson. “ Nay, Sir, you shall know their fate no further.” Boswell. “ Then the world must be left in the dark. It must be said, (assuming a mock solemnity,) he scraped them, and let them dry, but what he did with them next, he never could be prevailed upon to tell.” Johnson. “Nay; Sir, you should say it more emphatically :-he could not be prevailed upon, even by his dearest friends, to tell.”
He had this morning received his Diploma as Doctor of Laws from the University of Oxford. He did not vaunt of his new dignity, but I understood he was highly pleased with it. I shall here insert the progress and completion of that high academical honour, in the same manner as I have traced his obtaining that of Master of Arts.
To the Reverend Dr. FOTHERGILL, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford,
to be communicated to the Heads of Houses, and proposed in Convocation.
" Mr. Vice-Chancellor and Gentlemen,
“ THE honour of the degree of M. A. by diploma, formerly conferred upon Mr. Samuel Johnson, in consequence of his having eminently distinguished himself by the publication of a series of essays, excellently calculated to form the manners of the people, and in which the cause of religion. and morality has been maintained and recommended by the strongest powers of argument and elegance of language, reflected an equal degree of lustre upon the University itself.