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"All the plans and enterprises of De Witt are now of less importance to the world than that part of his personal character, which represents him as careful of his health, and negligent of his life.

"But biography has often been allotted to writers, who 5 imagine themselves writing a life, when they exhibit a chronological series of actions or preferments. More knowledge may be gained of a man's real character, by a short conversation with one of his servants, than from a formal and studied narrative, begun with his pedigree, and ended with his funeral. 10 We know how few can pourtray a living acquaintance, except by his most prominent and observable particularities, and the grosser features of his mind; and it may be easily imagined how much of this little knowledge may be lost in imparting it, and how soon a succession of copies will lose 15 all resemblance of the original."

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Having said thus much by way of introduction, I commit the following pages to the candour of the Publick.

SAMUEL JOHNSON was born at Lichfield, in Staffordshire, on the 18th of September, 1709; and his baptism is recorded 20 on the day of his birth. His father was Michael Johnson, a native of Derbyshire, of obscure extraction, who settled in Lichfield as a bookseller and stationer. His mother was Sarah Ford, descended of an ancient race of substantial yeomanry in Warwickshire. They were well advanced in years 25 when they married, and never had more than two children, both sons; Samuel and Nathanael, who died in his twentyfifth year.

At that time booksellers' shops in the provincial towns of England were very rare, so that there was not one even in 30 Birmingham, in which town old Mr. Johnson used to open a shop every market-day."

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Johnson's mother was a woman of distinguished understanding. To her must be ascribed early impressions of religion upon the mind of her son. He told me, that he re- 35 membered distinctly having had the first notice of Heaven,

"a place to which good people went," and hell, "a place to which bad people went," communicated to him by her, when a little child in bed with her; and that it might be the better fixed in his memory, she sent him to repeat it to Thomas 5 Jackson, their man-servant.

There is a traditional story of the infant Hercules of toryism, so curiously characteristick, that I shall not withhold


"When Dr. Sacheverel was at Lichfield, Johnson was not 10 quite three years old. Mr. Hammond observing him at the cathedral perched upon his father's shoulders, listening and gaping at the much celebrated preacher, asked Mr. Johnson how he could possibly think of bringing such an infant to church, and in the midst of so great a crowd. He answered, 15 because it was impossible to keep him at home; for, young as he was, he believed he had caught the publick spirit and zeal for Sacheverel, and would have staid for ever in the church, satisfied with beholding_him.”

One day, when the servant who used to be sent to school 20 to conduct him home, had not come in time, he set out by himself, though he was then so near-sighted, that he was obliged to stoop down on his hands and knees to take a view of the kennel before he ventured to step over it. His schoolmistress, afraid that he might miss his way, or fall into the 25 kennel, or be run over by a cart, followed him at some distance. He happened to turn about and perceive her. Feeling her careful attention as an insult to his manliness, he ran back to her in a rage, and beat her, as well as his strength would permit.

30 For the power of his memory he was all his life eminent to a degree almost incredible. When he was a child in petticoats, and had learnt to read, Mrs. Johnson one morning put the common prayer-book into his hands, pointed to the collect for the day, and said, "Sam, you must get this by heart." 35 She went up stairs, leaving him to study it: but by the time she had reached the second floor, she heard him following her. "What's the matter?" said she. "I can say it," he

replied; and repeated it distinctly, though he could not have read it more than twice.

Another story of his infant precocity I am to refute upon his own authority. It is told, that, when a child of three years old, he chanced to tread upon a duckling, the eleventh 5 of a brood, and killed it; upon which, he dictated to his mother the following epitaph:

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His mother, yielding to the superstitious notion as to the virtue of the regal touch, carried him to London, where he was touched by Queen Anne. Being asked if he could remember Queen Anne, "He had (he said) a confused, but 15 somehow a sort of solemn recollection of a lady in diamonds and a long black hood."

He was first taught to read English by Dame Oliver, a widow, who kept a school for young children in Lichfield. He told me she could read the black letter, and asked him to 20 borrow for her, from his father, a bible in that character. When he was going to Oxford, she brought him, in the simplicity of her kindness, a present of gingerbread, and said he was the best scholar she ever had. He delighted in mentioning this early compliment: adding, with smile, that "this 25 was as high a proof of his merit as he could conceive."


He began to learn Latin with Mr. Hawkins, usher, or undermaster of Lichfield school, "a man (said he) very skilful in his little way." Mr. Hunter, the headmaster, according to his account, 'was very severe, and wrong-headedly severe. He 30 did not distinguish between ignorance and negligence; for he would beat a boy equally for not knowing a thing, as for neglecting to know it. For instance, he would call up a boy and ask him Latin for a candlestick, which the boy could not expect to be asked. Now, Sir, if a boy could answer every 35 question, there would be no need of a master to teach him."

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Mr. Langton 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." 5 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. A child is afraid of being whipped, and gets his task, and there's an end on't; whereas, 10 by exciting emulation and comparisons of superiority, 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 15 Shakespeare's lines a little varied,°

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

Johnson did not strut or stand on tip-toe; he only did not stoop. He was from the beginning, "Avaέ åvdpŵv, a king of men. His schoolfellow, Mr. Hector, has assured me that he 20 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.



Johnson was, at the age of fifteen, removed to the school of Stourbridge, in Worcestershire. He thus discriminated his progress at his two grammar-schools. "At one, I learned much in the school, but little from the master; in the other, I learned much from the master, but little in the school."

The two years which he spent at home, after his return from Stourbridge, he passed in what he thought idleness, and was scolded by his father for his want of steady application. He used to mention one curious instance of his casual reading, when but a boy. Having imagined that his brother had hid 35 some apples behind a large folio upon an upper shelf in his father's shop, he climbed up to search for them. There were no apples; but the large folio proved to be Petrarch, whom he

had seen mentioned, in some preface, as one of the restorers of learning. His curiosity having been thus excited, he sat down with avidity, and read a great part of the book. What he read during these two years, he told me, was not works of mere amusement, "not voyages and travels, but all litera- 5 ture, Sir, all ancient writers, all manly: though but little Greek, only some of Anacreon and Hesiod: but in this irregular manner (added he) I had looked into a great many books, which were not commonly known at the Universities, where they seldom read any books but what are put into their 10 hands by their tutors; so that when I came to Oxford, Dr. Adams, now master of Pembroke College, told me, I was the best qualified for the University that he had ever known come there."

The Reverend Dr. Adams gave me some account of what 15 passed on the night of Johnson's arrival at Oxford. His father, who had anxiously accompanied him, found means to have him introduced to Mr. Jorden, who was to be his tutor. His father seemed very full of the merits of his son, and told the company he was a good scholar, and a poet, and wrote 20 Latin verses. His figure and manner appeared strange to them; but he behaved modestly, and sat silent, till upon something which occurred in the course of conversation, he suddenly struck in and quoted Macrobius.

Mr. Jorden "was a very worthy man, but a heavy man, 25 and I did not profit much by his instructions. Indeed, Í did not attend him much. The first day after I came to college, I waited upon him, and then staid away four. On the sixth, Mr. Jorden asked me why I had not attended. I answered, I had been sliding in Christ-Church meadow. And 30 this I said with as much nonchalance as I am now talking to you. I had no notion that I was wrong or irreverent to my tutor." BOSWELL. "That, Sir, was great fortitude of mind." JOHNSON. "No, Sir, stark insensibility." " He had a love and respect for Jorden, not for his literature, but for his 35 worth. "Whenever (said he) a young man becomes Jorden's pupil, he becomes his son."

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