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His majesty expressed a desire to have the literary biography of this country ably executed, and proposed to Dr. Johnson to undertake it1. Johnson signified his readiness to comply with his majesty's wishes.

During the whole of this interview, Johnson talked to his majesty with profound respect, but still in his firm manly manner, with a sonorous voice, and never in that subdued tone which is commonly used at the levee and in the drawing-room. After the king withdrew, Johnson showed himself highly pleased with his majesty's conversation and gracious behaviour. He said to Mr. Barnard, "Sir, they may talk of the king as they will; but he is the finest gentleman I have ever seen." And he afterwards observed to Mr. Langton, "Sir, his manners are those of as fine a gentleman as we may suppose Louis XIV. or Charles II."

At Sir Joshua Reynolds's, where a circle of Johnson's friends was collected round him to hear his account of this memorable conversation, Dr. Joseph Warton, in his frank and lively manner, was very active in pressing him to mention the particulars. "Come now, sir, this is an interesting matter; do favour us with it." Johnson, with great good humour, complied.

He told them, "I found his majesty wished I should talk, and I made it my business to talk. I find it does a man good to be talked to by his sovereign. In the first place, a man cannot be in a passion 3 Here some question interrupted him, which is to be regretted, as he certainly would have

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[This perhaps may have given Dr. Johnson the first idea of the most popular and entertaining of all his works, "The Lives of the Poets."-ED.] 2 [This reminds us of Madame de Sevigne's charming naïveté, when, after giving an account of Louis XIV. having danced with her, she adds, "Ah! c'est le plus grand roi du monde !"-ED.]

3 [Johnson was, in his calmer moments, sensible of the too great vehemence of his conversation; and yet, see post, 19th May, 1784.-ED.]

pointed out and illustrated many circumstances of advantage, from being in a situation where the powers of the mind are at once excited to vigorous exertion, and tempered by reverential awe.

During all the time in which Dr. Johnson was employed in relating to the circle at Sir Joshua Reynolds's the particulars of what passed between the king and him, Dr. Goldsmith remained unmoved upon a sofa at some distance, affecting not to join in the least in the eager curiosity of the company. He assigned as a reason for his gloom and seeming inattention, that he apprehended Johnson had relinquished his purpose of furnishing him with a prologue to his play, with the hopes of which he had been flattered; but it was strongly suspected that he was fretting with chagrin and envy at the singular honour Dr. Johnson had lately enjoyed. At length, the frankness and simplicity of his natural character prevailed. He sprung from the sofa, advanced to Johnson, and in a kind of flutter, from imagining himself in the situation which he had just been hearing described, exclaimed, "Well, you acquitted yourself in this conversation better than I should have done; for I should have bowed and stammered through the whole of it."

[It is a singularity that, however obvious, has not ED. been before observed, that Johnson should have been in the presence of Queen Anne and of George the Fourth'. He once told Sir John Hawkins, [that, in Hawk. a visit to Mrs. Percy, who had the care of one of the P. 470. young princes, at the queen's house, the Prince of

'[George the First he probably never saw, but George the Second he must frequently have seen, and he had the honour of conversing, as above stated, with George the Third and George the Fourth, and thus saw four of the five last sovereigns, whose reigns already include above a century and a quarter.— ED.]


Wales, being then a child, came into the room, and began to play about; when Johnson, with his usual curiosity, took an opportunity of asking him what books he was reading, and, in particular, inquired as to his knowledge of the scriptures; the prince, in his answers, gave him great satisfaction, and, as to the last, said, that part of his daily exercises was to read Ostervald 1.]

I received no letter from Johnson this year: nor have I discovered any of the correspondence he had, except the two letters to Mr. Drummond, which have been inserted, for the sake of connexion with that to the same gentleman in 1766. His diary affords no light as to his employment at this time. He passed [more than3] three months at Lichfield; and I cannot omit an affecting and solemn scene there, as related by himself:

"Sunday, Oct. 18, 1767. Yesterday, Oct. 17, at about ten & Med, in the morning, I took my leave for ever of my dear old friend, p.76, 77. Catherine Chambers, who came to live with my mother about 1724, and has been but little parted from us since. She buried my father, my brother, and my mother. She is now fifty-eight years old.

"I desired all to withdraw, then told her that we were to part for ever; that as Christians, we should part with prayer ; and that I would, if she was willing, say a short prayer beside her. She expressed great desire to hear me; and held up her poor hands,

[No doubt the popular Catechism and "Abridgement of Sacred History" of J. F. Ostervald, an eminent Swiss divine. He died in 1747, in the 84th year of his age.-ED.]

2 It is proper here to mention, that when I speak of his correspondence, I consider it independent of the voluminous collection of letters which, in the course of many years, he wrote to Mrs. Thrale, which forms a separate part of his works: and as a proof of the high estimation set on any thing which came from his pen, was sold by that lady for the sum of five hundred pounds.-BOSWELL. [See the preface for some observations on these letters.-ED.]

3 In his letter to Mr. Drummond, dated Oct. 24, 1767, he mentions that he had arrived in London, after an absence, of nearly six months, in the country. Probably part of that time was spent at Oxford.-MALONE. [He dates a letter to Mrs. Thrale, from Lichfield, as early as the 20th July, and states that he had already been there longer than he intended. Letters.—ED.]

as she lay in bed, with great fervour, while I prayed, kneeling Prayers by her, nearly in the following words:


Almighty and most merciful Father, whose loving kindness is over all thy works, behold, visit, and relieve this thy servant, who is grieved with sickness. Grant that the sense of her weakness may add strength to her faith, and seriousness to her repentance. And grant that by the help of thy holy spirit, after the pains and labours of this short life, we may all obtain everlasting happiness, through Jesus Christ our Lord, for whose sake hear our prayers 1. Amen. Our father, &c.

"I then kissed her. She told me, that to part was the greatest pain that she had ever felt, and that she hoped we should meet again in a better place. I expressed, with swelled eyes, and great emotion of tenderness, the same hopes. We kissed, and parted, I humbly hope to meet again, and to part no more."

By those who have been taught to look upon Johnson as a man of a harsh and stern character, let this tender and affectionate scene be candidly read; and let them then judge whether more warmth of heart and grateful kindness is often found in human nature.


"Lichfield, 20 July, 1767.

& Med. p.76,77.


vol. i.

"Though I have been away so much longer than I purposed p. 3. or expected, I have found nothing that withdraws my affections from the friends whom I left behind, or which makes me less desirous of reposing at that place which your kindness and Mr. Thrale's allows me to call my home.

"Miss Lucy is more kind and civil than I expected, and has raised my esteem by many excellencies very noble and resplendent, though a little discoloured by hoary virginity. Every thing else recalls to my remembrance years in which I proposed what, I am afraid, I have not done, and promised myself pleasure which I have not found."

We have the following notice in his devotional record:

[The greater part of this prayer is, as the Bishop of Ferns observes, in the visitation of the sick in our liturgy.-ED.]

2[Catherine Chambers died in a few days after this interview, and was buried in St. Chads, Lichfield, on the 7th Nov. 1767.-HARWOOD.]

& Med.


Prayers August 2, 1767. I have been disturbed and unsettled for a long time, and have been without resolution to apply to study or to business, being hindered by sudden snatches.



I have for some days forborne wine and suppers. Abstinence is not easily practised in another's house; but I think it fit to try.

"I was extremely perturbed in the night, but have had this day more ease than I expected. D[eo] gr[atia]. Perhaps this may be such a sudden relief as I once had by a good night's rest in Fetter-lane.

"From that time, by abstinence, I have had more ease. I have read five books of Homer, and hope to end the sixth tonight. I have given Mrs. —— a guinea.

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By abstinence from wine and suppers, I obtained sudden and great relief, and had freedom of mind restored to me; which I have wanted for all this year, without being able to find my means of obtaining it."

He, however, furnished Mr. Adams with a dedication* to the king of that ingenious gentleman's "Treatise on the Globes," conceived and expressed in such a manner as could not fail to be very grateful to a monarch, distinguished for his love of the sciences.

This year was published a ridicule of his style, under the title of "Lexiphanes." Sir John Hawkins ascribes it to Dr. Kenrick; but its authour was one Campbell, a Scotch purser in the navy. The ridicule consisted in applying Johnson's "words of large meaning," to insignificant matters, as if one should put the armour of Goliath upon a dwarf. The con

trast might be laughable; but the dignity of the armour must remain the same in all considerate minds. This malicious drollery', therefore, it may easily be supposed, could do no harm to its illustrious object.

1 [It may have been malicious, but it certainly is not droll. It is so overcharged, as to have neither resemblance nor pleasantry.-ED.]

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