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"He was no admirer of blank-verfe, and faid it always failed, unless fuftained by the dignity of the fubject. In blank-verfe, he said, the language suffered more distortion, to keep it out of profe, than any inconvenience or limitation to be apprehended from the fhackles and circumfcription of rhyme.
"He reproved me once for faying grace without mention of the name of our Lord JESUS CHRIST, and hoped in future I would be more mindful of the apoftolical injunction.
"He refufed to go out of a room before me at Mr. Langton's house, saying, he hoped he knew his rank better than to prefume to take place of a Doctor in Divinity. I mention fuch little anecdotes, merely to fhew the peculiar turn and habit of his mind.
"He ufed frequently to obferve, that there was more to be endured than enjoyed, in the general condition of human life; and frequently quoted those lines of Dryden :
Strange cozenage! none would live past years again,
Yet all hope pleasure from what still remain.'
For his part, he faid, he never paffed that week in his life which he would with to repeat, were an angel to make the proposal to him.
"He was of opinion, that the English nation cultivated both their foil and their reafon better than any other people; but admitted that the French, though not the highest, perhaps, in any department of literature, yet in every department were very high. Intellectual pre-eminence, he observed, was the highest fuperiority; and that every nation derived their highest reputation from the splendour and dignity of their writers. Voltaire, he faid, was a good narrator, and that his principal merit confisted in a happy selection and arrangement of circumstances.
"Speaking of the French novels, compared with Richardson's, he said they might be pretty baubles, but a wren was not an eagle.
"In a Latin converfation with the Pere Bofcovitz, at the house of Mrs. Cholmondeley, I heard him maintain the fuperiority of Sir Ifaac Newton over all foreign philofophers, with a dignity and eloquence that furprized that learned foreigner. It being obferved to him, that a rage for every thing English prevailed much in France after Lord Chatham's glorious war, he said, he did not wonder at it, for that we had drubbed thofe fellows into a proper reverence for us, and that their national petulance required periodical chaftisement.
"Lord Lyttelton's Dialogues, he deemed a nugatory performance. That man (faid he,) fat down to write a book, to tell the world what the world had Etat, 61. all his life been telling him.'
"Somebody observing that the Scotch Highlanders in the year 1745, had made furprizing efforts, confidering their numerous wants and disadvantages: Yes, Sir, (faid he,) their wants were numerous, but you have not mentioned the greatest of them all,-the want of law.'
Speaking of the inward light, to which fome methodists pretended, he faid, it was a principle utterly incompatible with focial or civil fecurity. If a man (faid he,) pretends to a principle of action of which I can know nothing, nay, not so much as that he has it, but only that he pretends to it; how can I tell what that person may be prompted to do? When a perfon profeffes to be governed by a written afcertained law, I can then know where to find him.'
"The poem of Fingal, he faid, was a mere unconnected rhapfody, a tirefome repetition of the fame images. In vain fhall we look for the lucidus ordo, where there is neither end or object, defign or moral, nec certa recurrit imago,'
Being asked by a young nobleman, what was become of the gallantry and military spirit of the old English nobility, he replied, Why, my Lord, I'll tell you what is become of it; it is gone into the city to look for a fortune.' Speaking of a dull tiresome fellow, whom he chanced to meet, he said, That fellow feems to me to poffefs but one idea, and that is a wrong one.' "Much enquiry having been made concerning a gentleman who had quitted a company where Johnson was, and no information being obtained; at last Johnson obferved, that he did not care to speak ill of any man behind his back, but he believed the gentleman was an attorney.'
"He spoke with much contempt of the notice taken of Woodhouse, the poetical fhoemaker. He faid, it was all vanity and childishness; and that fuch objects were, to thofe who patronifed them, mere mirrours of their own fuperiority. They had better (faid he,) furnish the man with good implements for his trade, than raise fubfcriptions for his poems. He may make an excellent fhoemaker, but can never make a good poet. A fchool-boy's exercife may be a pretty thing for a school-boy, but is no treat for a man.' "Speaking of Boetius, who was the favourite writer of the middle ages, he said it was very furprizing, that upon fuch a subject, and in fuch a fituation, he should be magis philofophus quàm Chriftianus.
"Speaking of Arthur Murphy, whom he very much loved, I don't know Etat. 61. (faid he,) that Arthur can be claffed with the very first dramatick writers; yet at present I doubt much whether we have any thing fuperior to Arthur.' "Speaking of the national debt, he said, it was an idle dream to fuppofe that the country could fink under it. Let the publick creditors be ever fo clamorous, the interest of millions must ever prevail over that of thousands.
"Of Dr. Kennicott's Collations, he obferved, that though the text should not be much mended thereby, yet it was no fmall advantage to know, that we had as good a text as the most confummate industry and diligence could procure.
Johnfon obferved, that fo many objections might be made to every thing, that nothing could overcome them but the neceffity of doing fomething. No man would be of any profeffion, as fimply oppofed to not being of it: but every one must do fomething.
"He remarked, that a London parish was a very comfortless thing, for the clergyman feldom knew the face of one out of ten of his parishioners.
"Of the late Mr. Mallet he fpoke with no great refpect: faid, he was ready for any dirty job: that he had wrote against Byng at the inftigation of the ministry, and was equally ready to write for him, provided he found his
account in it.
"A gentleman who had been very unhappy in marriage, married immediately after his wife died: Johnson said, it was the triumph of hope over experience.
"He obferved, that a man of fenfe and education fhould meet a fuitable companion in a wife. It was a miserable thing when the converfation could only be fuch as, whether the mutton should be boiled or roasted, and probably a dispute about that.
"He did not approve of late marriages, obferving, that more was lost in point of time, than compensated for by any poffible advantages. Even ill afforted marriages were preferable to cheerlefs celibacy.
"Of old Sheridan he remarked, that he neither wanted parts or literature, but that his vanity and Quixotifm obfcured his merits.
"He faid, foppery was never cured; it was the bad ftamina of the mind, which, like thofe of the body, were never rectified: once a coxcomb, and always a coxcomb.
"Being told that Gilbert Cowper called him the Caliban of literature; Well, (faid he,) I must dub him the Punchinello.'
"Speaking of the old Earl of Corke and Orrery, he said, 'that man spent
his life in catching at an object, [literary eminence,] which he had not power Ætat. 61.
"He often used to quote, with great pathos, thofe fine lines of Virgil :
Optima quæque dies miferis mortalibus ævi
• Prima fugit; fubeunt morbi, triftifque fenectus,
Et labor, et duræ rapit inclementia mortis.'
"To find a fubftitution for violated morality, he faid, was the leading feature in all perverfions of religion."
In 1771 he published another political pamphlet, entitled "Thoughts on the late Transactions respecting Falkland's Islands," in which, upon materials furnished to him by ministry, and upon general topicks expanded in his richest ftyle, he fuccessfully endeavoured to perfuade the nation that it was wife and laudable to fuffer the queftion of right to remain undecided, rather than involve our country in another war. It has been fuggefted by fome, with what truth I fhall not take upon me to decide, that he rated the confequence of those inlands to Great-Britain too low. But however this may be, every humane mind must furely applaud the earnestness with which he averted the calamity of war; a calamity fo dreadful, that it is astonishing how civilised, nay, Christian nations, can deliberately continue to renew it. His defcription of its miferies in this pamphlet, is one of the finest pieces of eloquence in the English language. Upon this occafion, too, we find Johnfon lafhing the party in oppofition with unbounded feverity, and making the fullest use of what he ever reckoned a moft effectual argumentative inftrument, contempt. His character of their very able mysterious champion, JUNIUS, is executed with all the force of his genius, and finished with the highest care. He feems to have exulted in fallying forth to fingle combat against the boasted and formidable hero, who bade defiance to "principalities and powers, and the rulers of this world."
This pamphlet, it is obfervable, was foftened in one particular, after the first edition; for the conclufion of Mr. George Grenville's character stood thus: "Let him not, however, be depreciated in his He had powers grave. not univerfally poffeffed: could he have enforced payment of the Manilla ranfom, he could have counted it." Which, inftead of retaining its fly sharp point, was reduced to a mere flat unmeaning expreffion, or, if I may use the word,—truism: “He had powers not univerfally poffeffed and if he sometimes erred, he was likewife fometimes right."
Mr. Strahan, the printer, who had been long in intimacy with Johnson, in the course of his literary labours, who was at once his friendly agent in receiving his penfion for him, and his banker in supplying him with money 'when he wanted it; who was himself now a Member of Parliament, and who loved much to be employed in political negociation; thought he should do eminent service, both to government and Johnfon, if he could be the means of his getting a feat in the House of Commons. With this view, he wrote a letter to one of the Secretaries of the Treafury, of which he gave me a copy in his own hand-writing, which is as follows:
"YOU will eafily recollect, when I had the honour of waiting upon you fome time ago, I took the liberty to obferve to you, that Dr. Johnson would make an excellent figure in the Houfe of Commons, and heartily wifhed he had a feat there. My reasons are briefly thefe:
"I know his perfect good affection to his Majefty, and his government, which I am certain he wishes to fupport by every means in his power.
"He poffeffes a great share of manly, nervous, and ready eloquence; is quick in difcerning the ftrength and weakness of an argument; can express himself with clearness and precifion, and fears the face of no man alive.
"His known character, as a man of extraordinary fenfe and unimpeached virtue, would fecure him the attention of the Houfe, and could not fail to give him a proper weight there.
"He is capable of the greatest application, and can undergo any degree of labour, where he sees it neceffary, and where his heart and affections are ftrongly engaged. His Majefty's minifters might therefore fecurely depend on his doing, upon every proper occafion, the utmost that could be expected from him. They would find him ready to vindicate fuch measures as tended to promote the stability of government, and refolute and steady in carrying them into execution. Nor is any thing to be apprehended from the fuppofed impetuofity of his temper. To the friends of the King you will find him a lamb, to his enemies a lion.
"For these reasons, I humbly apprehend that he would be a very able and useful member. And I will venture to fay, the employment would not be disagreeable to him; and knowing, as I do, his strong affection to the King, his ability to ferve him in that capacity, and the extreme ardour with which I am convinced he would engage in that service, I must repeat, that I wish most heartily to see him in the House.