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Hogarth a Visitor at Islington ; His Character. – Street Studies.
Sympathies between Authors and Painters. – Sir Joshua Reynolds ; His Character ; his Dinners. — The Literary Club ; Its Members. Johnson's Revels with Lanky and Beau. — Goldsmith at the Club.
AMONG the intimates who used to visit the poet occasionally in his retreat at Islington, was Hogarth the painter.o Goldsmith had spoken well of him in his essays in the Public Ledger, and this formed the first link in their friendship. He was at this time upwards of sixty years of age, and is described as 5 a stout, active, bustling little man, in a sky-blue coat, satirical and dogmatic, yet full of real benevolence and the love of human nature. He was the moralist and philosopher of the pencil; like Goldsmith he had sounded the depths of vice and misery, without being polluted by them; and though 10 his picturings had not the pervading amenity of those of the essayist, and dwelt more on the crimes and vices than the follies and humors of mankind, yet they were all calculated, in like manner, to fill the mind with instruction and precept, and to make the heart better.
Hogarth does not appear to have had much of the rural feeling with which Goldsmith was so amply endowed, and may not have accompanied him in his strolls about hedges and green lanes; but he was a fit companion with whom to explore the mazes of London, in which he was continually on the lookout 20 for character and incident. One of Hogarth’s admirers speaks of having come upon him in Castle Street, engaged in one of his street-studies, watching two boys who were quarrelling; patting one on the back who flinched, and endeavoring to spirit him up to a fresh encounter. “ At him again! D— him, if I 25 would take it of him! At him again!”
A frail memorial of this intimacy between the painter and the poet exists in a portrait in oil, called Goldsmith's Hostess. It is supposed to have been painted by Hogarth in the course of his visits to Islington, and given by him to the poet as a 30
means of paying his landlady. There are no friendships among men of talents more likely to be sincere than those between painters and poets. Possessed of the same qualities of mind, governed by the same principles of taste and natural laws of 5 grace and beauty, but applying them to different yet mutually
illustrative arts, they are constantly in sympathy, and never in collision with each other.
A still more congenial intimacy of the kind was that contracted by Goldsmith with Mr. (afterwards Sir Joshua) Rey10 nolds. The latter was now about forty years of age, a few
years older than the poet, whom he charmed by the blandness and benignity of his manners, and the nobleness and generosity of his disposition, as much as he did by the graces of his pencil
and the magic of his coloring. They were men of kindred 15 genius, excelling in corresponding qualities of their several arts,
for style in writing is what color is in painting ; both are innate endowments, and equally magical in their effects. Certain graces and harmonies of both may be acquired by diligent
study and imitation, but only in a limited degree; whereas by 20 their natural possessors they are exercised spontaneously, almost
unconsciously, and with ever-varying fascination. Reynolds soon understood and appreciated the merits of Goldsmith, and a sincere and lasting friendship ensued between them.
At Reynolds's house Goldsmith mingled in a higher range of 25 company than he had been accustomed to. The fame of this
celebrated artist, and his amenity of manners, were gathering round him men of talents of all kinds, and the increasing affluence of his circumstances enabled him to give full indul
gence to his hospitable disposition. Poor Goldsmith had not 30 yet, like Dr. Johnson, acquired reputation enough to atone for
his external defects and his want of the air of good society. Miss Reynolds used to inveigh against his personal appearance, which gave her the idea, she said, of a low mechanic, a journey
man tailor. One evening at a large supper-party, being called 35 upon to give as a toast the ugliest man she knew, she gave Dr.
Goldsmith, upon which a lady who sat opposite, and whom she had never met before, shook hands with her across the table, and “ hoped to become better acquainted.”
We have a graphic and amusing picture of Reynolds's hospi
table but motley establishment, in an account given by a Mr. Courtenay to Sir James Mackintosho; though it speaks of a time after Reynolds had received the honor of knighthood. “ There was something singular,” said he, “in the style and economy of Sir Joshua's table that contributed to pleasantry 5 and good humor, a coarse, inelegant plenty, without any regard to order and arrangement: At five o'clock precisely, dinner was served, whether all the invited guests had arrived or not. Sir Joshua was never so fashionably ill-bred as to wait an hour perhaps for two or three persons of rank or title, and 10 put the rest of the company out of humor by this invidious distinction. His invitations, however, did not regulate the number of his guests. Many dropped in uninvited. A table prepared for seven or eight was often compelled to contain fifteen or sixteen.
There was a consequent deficiency of knives, 15 forks, plates, and glasses. The attendance was in the same style, and those who were knowing in the ways of the house took care on sitting down to call instantly for beer, bread, or wine, that they might secure a supply before the first course
He was once prevailed on to furnish the table with 20 decanters and glasses at dinner, to save time and prevent confusion. These gradually were demolished in the course of service, and were never replaced. These trifling embarrassments, however, only served to enhance the hilarity and singular pleasure of the entertainment. The wine, cookery, and dishes 25 were but little attended to; nor was the fish or venison ever talked of or recommended. Amidst this convivial animated bustle among his guests, our host sat perfectly composed; always attentive to what was said, never minding what was ate or drank, but left every one at perfect liberty to scramble for himself.” 30
Out of the casual but frequent meeting of men of talent at this hospitable board rose that association of wits, authors, scholars, and statesmen, renowned as the Literary Club. Reynolds was the first to propose a regular association of the kind, and was eagerly seconded by Johnson, who proposed as a model 35 a club which he had formed many years previously in IvyLane, but which was now extinct. Like that club the number of members was limited to nine. They were to meet and sup together once a week, on Monday night, at the Turk’s Head
on Gerard Street, Soho, and two members were to constitute a meeting. It took a regular form in the year 1764, but did not receive its literary appellation until several years afterwards.
The original members were Reynolds, Johnson, Burke, Dr. 5 Nugent, Bennet Langton, Topham Beauclerc, Chamier, Hawkins, and Goldsmith; and here a few words concerning some of the members may be acceptable. Burke was at that time about thirty-three years of age; he had mingled a little in
politics and been Under-Secretary to Hamilton at Dublin, 10 but was again a writer for the booksellers, and as yet but in
the dawning of his fame. Dr. Nugent was his father-in-law, a Roman Catholic, and a physician of talent and instruction. Mr. (afterwards Sir John) Hawkins was admitted into this
association from having been a member of Johnson's Ivy-Lane 15 club. Originally an attorney, he had retired from the practice
of the law, in consequence of a large fortune which fell to him in right of his wife, and was now a Middlesex magistrate. He was, moreover, a dabbler in literature and music, and was act
ually engaged on a history of music, which he subsequently 20 published in five ponderous volumes. To him we are also
indebted for a biography of Johnson, which appeared after the death of that eminent man. Hawkins was as mean and parsimonious as he was pompous and conceited. He forbore to
partake of the suppers at the club, and begged therefore to be 25 excused from paying his share of the reckoning:
“ And was he excused ?” asked Dr. Burney of Johnson. “Oh, yes, for no man is angry with another for being inferior to himself. We all scorned him and admitted his plea. Yet I really believe him
to be an honest man at bottom, though to be sure he is penu30 rious, and he is mean, and it must be owned he has a tendency
to savageness.” He did not remain above two or three years in the club; being in a manner elbowed out in consequence of his rudeness to Burke.
Mr. Anthony Chamier was Secretary in the war-office, and a 35 friend to Beauclerc, by whom he was proposed. We have left
out mention of Bennet Langton and Topham Beauclerc until the last, because we have most to say about them. They were doubtless induced to join the club through their devotion to Johnson, and the intimacy of these two very young and aristo
cratic men with the stern and somewhat melancholy moralist is among the curiosities of literature.
Bennet Langton was of an ancient family, who held their ancestral estate of Langton in Lincolnshire, a great title to respect with Johnson.
Langton, sir,” he would say, “has a 5 grant of free-warren’ from Henry the Second; and Cardinal Stephen Langton, in King John's reign, was of this family.”
Langton was of a mild, contemplative, enthusiastic nature. When but eighteen years of age he was so delighted with reading. Johnson's Rambler, that he came to London chiefly with 10 a view to obtain an introduction to the author. Boswell gives us an account of his first interview, which took place in the morning It is not often that the personal appearance of an author agrees with the preconceived ideas of his admirer. Langton, from perusing the writings of Johnson, expected to 15 find him a decent, well-dressed, in short a remarkably decorous philosopher. Instead of which, down from his bedchamber about noon, came, as newly risen, a large uncouth figure, with a little dark wig which scarcely covered his head, and his clothes hanging loose about him. But his conversation was so 20 rich, so animated, and so forcible, and his religious and political notions so congenial with those in which Langton had been educated, that he conceived for him that veneration and attachment which he ever preserved.
Langton went to pursue his studies at Trinity College, Oxford, 25 where Johnson saw much of him during a visit which he paid to the University. He found him in close intimacy with Topham Beauclerc, a youth two years older than himself, very gay and dissipated, and wondered what sympathies could draw two young men together of such opposite characters. On becoming 30 acquainted with Beauclerc he found that, rake though he was, he possessed an ardent love of literature, an acute understanding, polished wit, innate gentility, and high aristocratic breeding: He was, moreover, the only son of Lord Sidney Beauclerc and grandson of the Duke of St. Albans, and was thought in some 35 particulars to have a resemblance to Charles the Second. These were high recommendations with Johnson; and when the youth testified a profound respect for him and an ardent admiration of his talents, the conquest was complete, so that in a