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“ While this was the talk of the town (says Dr. Adams in a letter to me), I happened to visit Dr. Warburton, who, finding that I was acquainted with Johnson, desired me earnestly to carry his compliments to him, and to tell him, that he honoured him for his manly behaviour in rejecting these condescensions of Lord Chesterfield, and for resenting the treatment he had received from him with a proper spirit. Johnson was visibly pleased with this compliment, for he had always a high opinion of Warburton.” (1) Indeed, the force of mind which appeared in this letter, was congenial with that which Warburton himself amply possessed.
There is a curious minute circumstance which struck me, in comparing the various editions of Johnson's Imitations of Juvenal. In the tenth Satire one of the couplets upon the vanity of wishes even for literary distinction stood thus:
6 Yet think what ills the scholar's life assail,
Toil, envy, want, the garret, and the jail.”
But after experiencing the uneasiness which Lord Chesterfield's fallacious patronage made him feel,
(1) Soon after Edwards's “ Canons of Criticism” came out, Johnson was dining at Tonson the bookseller's, with Hayman the painter and some more company. Hayman related to Sir Joshua Reynolds, that the conversation having turned upon Edwards's book, the gentlemen praised it much, and Johnson allowed its merit. But when they went farther, and appeared to put that author upon a level with Warburton, “ Nay, (said Johnson,) he has given him some smart hits to be sure; but there is no proportion between the two men; they must not be named together. A fly, sir, may sting a stately horse and make him wince; but one is but an insect, and the other is a horse still." — B.
he dismissed the word garret from the sad group, and in all the subsequent editions the line stands
“ Toil, envy, want, the Patron, and the jail." That Lord Chesterfield must have been mortified by the lofty contempt, and polite, yet keen, satire with which Johnson exhibited him to himself in this letter, it is impossible to doubt. He, however, with that glossy duplicity which was his constant study, affected to be quite unconcerned. Dr. Adams mentioned to Mr. Robert Dodsley that he was sorry Johnson had written his letter to Lord Chesterfield. Dodsley, with the true feelings of trade, said " he was very sorry too; for that he had a property in the Dictionary, to which his lordship’s patronage might have been of consequence.” He then told Dr. Adams, that Lord Chesterfield had shown him the letter. “I should have imagined (replied Dr. Adams) that Lord Chesterfield would have concealed it.”
“ Poh! (said Dodsley), do you think a letter from Johnson could hurt Lord Chesterfield ? Not it all, sir. It lay upon his table, where any body might see it. He read it to me; said, “This man has great powers,' pointed out the severest passages, and observed how well they were expressed.” This air of indifference, which imposed upon the worthy Dodsley, was certainly nothing but a specimen of that dissimulation which Lord Chesterfield inculcated as one of the most essential lessons for the conduct of life. (') His lordship endeavoured to justify him
(1) Why? If, as may have been the case, Lord Chesterfield felt that Johnson was unjust towards him, he would not have
self to Dodsley from the charges brought against him by Johnson; but we may judge from the flimsiness of his defence, from his having excused his neglect of Johnson, by saying, that “ he had heard he had changed his lodgings, and did not know where he lived;" as if there could have been the smallest difficulty to inform himself of that circumstance, by inquiring in the literary circle with which his lordship was well acquainted, and was, indeed, himself, one of its ornaments.
Dr. Adams expostulated with Johnson, and suggested, that his not being admitted when he called on him, was probably not to be imputed to Lord Chesterfield; for his lordship had declared to Dodsley, that “ he would have turned off the best servant he. ever had, if he had known that he denied him to a man who would have been always more than welcome;" and in confirmation of this, he insisted on Lord Chesterfield's general affability and easiness of access, especially to literary men. “ Sir, (said Johnson) that is not Lord Chesterfield; he is the proudest man this day existing."-“ No, (said Dr. Adams, ) there is one person, at least, as proud; I think, by your own account, you are the prouder man of the two." _“But mine (replied Johnson instantly) was
been mortified - Il n'y a que la vérité qui blesse. By Mr. Boswell's own confession, it appears that Johnson did not give copies of this letter ; that for many years Boswell had in vain solicited him to do so, and that he, after the lapse of twenty years, did so reluctantly. With all these admissions, how can Mr. Boswell attribute to any thing but conscious rectitude Lord Chesterfield's exposure of a letter which the author was so willing to bury in oblivion ?- C.
defensive pride.” This, as Dr. Adams well observed, was one of those happy turns (1) for which he was so remarkably ready.
Johnson having now explicitly avowed his opinion of Lord Chesterfield, did not refrain from expressing himself concerning that nobleman with pointed freedom: “ This man (said he) I thought had been a lord among wits: but, I find, he is only a wit among lords !” () And when his Letters to his natural son were published, he observed, that “ • they teach the morals of a whore, and the manners of a dancing master.” ()
(1) This, like all the rest of the affair, seems discoloured by prejudice. Lord Chesterfield made no attack on Johnson, who certainly acted on the offensive, and not the defensive. — C.
(2) Johnson's character of Chesterfield seems to be imitated from — inter doctos nobilissimus, inter nobiles doctissimus, inter utrosque optimus ; (ex Apuleio, v. Erasm. - Dedication of Adagies to Lord Mountjoy ;) and from SWTNS E Didogopeis, Didogodos ev 18.0tals. Proclus de Critia. -- KEARNEY.
(3) That collection of Letters cannot be vindicated from the serious charge of encouraging, in some passages, one of the vices most destructive to the good order and comfort of society, which his Jordship represents as mere fashionable gallantry; and, in others, of inculcating the base practice of dissimulation, and recommending, with disproportionate anxiety, a perpetual attention to external elegance of manners. But it must, at the same time, be allowed, that they contain many good precepts of conduct, and much genuine information upon life and manners, very happily expressed ; and that there was considerable merit in paying so much attention to the improvement of one who was dependent upon his lordship’s protection: it has, probably, been exceeded in no instance by the most exemplary parent: and though I can by no means approve of confounding the distinction between lawful and illicit offspring, which is, in effect, insulting the civil establishment of our country, to look no higher; I cannot help thinking it laudable to be kindly attentive to those, of whose existence we have, in any way, been the cause. Mr. Stanhope's character has been unjustly represented as diametrically opposite to what Lord Chesterfield wished him to be. He has been called dull, gross, and awk.
The character of a respectable Hottentot,” in Lord Chesterfield's Letters, has been generally understood to be meant for Johnson, and I have no doubt that it was. But I remember when the Literary Property of those letters was contested in the court of session in Scotland, and Mr. Henry Dundas (1), one of the counsel for the proprietors, read this character as an exhibition of Johnson, Sir David Dalrymple, Lord Hailes, one of the judges, maintained, with some warmth, that it was not intended as a portrait of Johnson, but of a late noble lord (2) distinguished for abstruse science. I have heard Johnson himself talk of the character, and say that it was meant for George Lord Lyttelton, in which I could by no means agree ; for his lordship had nothing of that violence which is a conspicuous feature in the composition. Finding that my illustrious friend could bear to have it supposed that it . might be meant for him, I said, laughingly, that there was one trait which unquestionably did not belong to him; “he throws his meat anywhere but down his
ward : but I knew him at Dresden, when he was envoy to that court; and though he could not boast of the
in truth, a sensible, civil, well-behaved man. - B.
[Lord Chesterfield died in 1773. The “ Letters” were published the year following, by his son's widow; but the author appears to have given no authority for such a step.]
(1) [Afterwards Viscount Melville. He died in 1811.]
(2) Probably George, second Earl of Macclesfield, who pube lished, in 1751, a learned pamphlet on the alteration of the style, and was, in 1752, elected President of the Royal Society. Lord Macclesfield's manner was, no doubt, awkward and embarrassed, but little else in his character reseinbles that of the
respectable Hottentot," which more probably was, as the world has supposed, intended for Johnson.-C.