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A MATRIMONIAL THOUGHT.
IN the blithe days of honey-moon,
But now my kitten's grown a cat,
I fear fhe has nine lives.
My illuftrious friend faid, "It is very well, Sir; but you should not fwear."
He was fo good as to accompany me to London, and see me into the postchaife which was to carry me on my road to Scotland. And fure I am, that however inconfiderable many of the particulars recorded at this time may appear to fome, they will be esteemed by the best part of my readers as genuine traits of his character, contributing together to give a full, fair, and distinct view of it.
In 1770 he published a political pamphlet, entitled "The Falfe Alarm,” intended to justify the conduct of ministry and their majority in the House of Commons, for having virtually affumed it as an axiom, that the expulfion of a Member of Parliament was equivalent to exclufion, and thus having declared Colonel Lutterel to be duly elected for the county of Middlesex, notwithstanding Mr. Wilkes had a great majority of votes. This being juftly confidered as a grofs violation of the right of election, an alarm for the conftitution extended itself all over the kingdom. To prove this alarm to be false, was the purpose of Johnson's pamphlet; but even his vast powers were inadequate to cope with conftitutional truth and reason, and his argument failed of effect; and the Houfe of Commons have fince expunged the offenfive refolution from their Journals. That the House of Commons might have expelled Mr. Wilkes repeatedly, and as often as he should be re-chosen, was not denied; but incapacitation cannot be but by an act of the whole legislature. It was wonderful to fee how a prejudice in favour of government in general, and an averfion to popular clamour, could blind and contract
fuch an understanding as Johnson's, in this particular cafe; yet the wit, the farcafm, the eloquent vivacity which this pamphlet difplayed, made it be Etat. 61. read with great avidity at the time, and it will ever be read with pleasure, for the fake of its compofition. That it endeavoured to infuse a narcotick indifference, as to publick concerns, into the minds of the people, and that it broke out fometimes into an extreme coarseness of contemptuous abufe, is but too evident.
It must not, however, be omitted, that when the storm of his violence subfides, he takes a fair opportunity to pay a grateful compliment to the King, who had rewarded his merit: "Thefe low-born rulers have endeavoured, furely without effect, to alienate the affections of the people from the only King who for almost a century has much appeared to defire, or much endeavoured to deserve them." And, "Every honeft man muft lament, that the faction has been regarded with frigid neutrality by the Tories, who being long accuftomed to fignalife their principles by oppofition to the Court, do not yet confider, that they have at last a King who knows not the name of who wishes to be the common father of all his people.”
To this pamphlet, which was at once difcovered to be Johnfon's, feveral answers came out, in which, care was taken to remind the publick of his former attacks upon government, and of his now being a penfioner, without allowing for the honourable terms upon which Johnson's pension was granted and accepted, or the change of fyftem which the British court had undergone upon the acceffion of his present Majefty. He was, however, foothed in the highest strain of panegyrick, in a poem called "The Remonftrance," by the Reverend Mr. Stockdale, to whom he was, upon many occafions, a kind protector.
The following admirable minute made by him, describes fo well his own ftate, and that of numbers to whom felf-examination is habitual, that I cannot omit it:
"June 1, 1770. Every man naturally perfuades himself that he can keep his refolutions, nor is he convinced of his imbecillity but by length of time and frequency of experiment. This opinion of our own conftancy is fo prevalent, that we always despise him who suffers his general and fettled purpose to be overpowered by an occafional defire. They, therefore, whom frequent failures. have made desperate, cease to form refolutions; and they who are become cunning, do not tell them. Those who do not make them are very few, but of their effect little is perceived; for scarcely any man perfifts in a course of
life planned by choice, but as he is reftrained from deviation by fome exterAtat. 61. nal power. He who may live as he will, feldom lives long in the obfervation of his own rules"."
Of this year I have obtained the following letters:
To the Reverend Dr. FARMER, Cambridge.
"AS no man ought to keep wholly to himself any poffeffion that may be useful to the publick, I hope you will not think me unreasonably intrusive, if I have recourse to you for fuch information as you are more able to give me than any other man.
"In fupport of an opinion which you have already placed above the need of any more fupport, Mr. Steevens, a very ingenious gentleman, lately of King's College, has collected an account of all the tranflations which Shakspeare might have feen and ufed. He wishes his catalogue to be perfect, and therefore intreats that you will favour him by the infertion of fuch additions as the accuracy of your inquiries has enabled you to make. To this request, I take the liberty of adding my own folicitation.
"We have no immediate ufe for this catalogue, and therefore do not defire that it should interrupt or hinder your more important employments. But it will be kind to let us know that you receive it.
March 21, 1770.
"I am, Sir, &c.
To the Reverend Mr. THOMAS WARTON.
"THE readiness with which you were pleased to promise me fome notes on Shakspeare, was a new instance of your friendship. I fhall not hurry you; but am defired by Mr. Steevens, who helps me in this edition, to let you know, that we fhall print the tragedies first, and shall therefore want first the notes which belong to them. We think not to incommode the readers with a fupplement; and therefore, what we cannot put into its proper place,
6 Prayers and Meditations, p. 95.
will do us no good. We fhall not begin to print before the end of fix weeks, perhaps not so soon.
"I am, &c.
"London, June 23, 1770.
To the Reverend Dr. JOSEPH WARTON.
"I AM revifing my edition of Shakspeare, and remember that I formerly misrepresented your opinion of Lear. Be pleased to write the paragraph as you would have it, and fend it. If you have any remarks of your own upon that or any other play, I fhall gladly receive them.
"Make my compliments to Mrs. Warton. I fometimes think of wandering for a few days to Winchester, but am apt to delay. I am, Sir, "Your most humble fervant,
"Sept. 27, 1770.
To Mr. FRANCIS BARBER, at Mrs. CLAPP's, Bishop-Stortford, Hertfordshire.
"I AM at last fat down to write to you, and should very much blame myfelf for having neglected you fo long, if I did not impute that and many other failings to want of health. I hope not to be fo long filent again. I am very well fatisfied with your progress, if you can really perform the exercises which you are set; and I hope Mr. Ellis does not suffer you to impose on him, or on yourself.
"Make my compliments to Mr. Ellis, and to Mrs. Clapp, and Mr. Smith.
"Let me know what English books you read for your entertainment. You can never be wife unless you love reading.
"Do not imagine that I fhall forget or forfake you; for if, when I examine you, I find that you have not loft your time, you shall want no encouragement from
"London, Sept 25, 1770.
"I HOPE you mind your business. I defign you shall stay with Mrs. Clapp these holidays. If you are invited out you may go, if Mr. Ellis gives leave. I have ordered you fome cloaths, which you will receive, I believe, next week. My compliments to Mrs. Clapp and to Mr. Ellis, and Mr. Smith, &c. I am
"December 7, 1770.
During this year there was a total ceffation of all correfpondence between Dr. Johnfon and me, without any coldnefs on either fide, but merely from procrastination, continued from day to day; and as I was not in London, I had no opportunity of enjoying his company and recording his converfation. To supply this blank, I fhall present my readers with some Collectanea, obligingly furnished to me by the Reverend Dr. Maxwell, of Falkland, in Ireland, fome time affiftant preacher at the Temple, and for many years the focial friend of Johnson, who spoke of him with a very kind regard.
"My acquaintance with that great and venerable character commenced in the year 1754. I was introduced to him by Mr. Grierson, his Majesty's printer at Dublin, a gentleman of uncommon learning, and great wit and vivacity. Mr. Grierfon died in Germany, at the age of twenty-feven. Dr. Johnson highly respected his abilities, and often obferved, that he poffeffed more extensive knowledge than any man of his years he had ever known. His industry was equal to his talents; and he particularly excelled in every fpecies of philological learning, and was, perhaps, the best critick of the age he lived in.
"I must always remember with gratitude my obligation to Mr. Grierfon, for the honour and happiness of Dr. Johnson's acquaintance and friendship, which continued uninterrupted and undiminished to his death: a connection, that was at once the pride and happiness of my life.
"What pity it is, that fo much wit and good fenfe as he continually exhibited in conversation, should perish unrecorded! Few perfons quitted his
"Son of the learned Mrs. Grierfon, who was patronifed by the late Lord Granville, and was the editor of feveral of the clafficks.