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company; so miserable, that he was impelled to lament his situation in the street to******, whom he hates, and who he knows despises him. “I am a most unhappy man (said he). I am invited to conversations. I go to conversations; but, alas? I have no conversation.". JOHNSON.“ Man commonly cannot be successful in different ways. This gentleman has spent, in getting four thousand pounds a year, the time in which he might have learnt to talk; and now he cannot talk." Mr. Perkins made a shrewd and droll remark: “ If he had got his four thousand a year as a mountebank, he might have learnt to talk at the same time that he was getting his fortune.”
Some other gentlemen came in. The conversation concerning the person whose character Dr. Johnson had treated so slightingly, as he did not know his merit, was resumed. Mrs. Thrale said, “ You think so of him, Sir, because he is quiet, and does not exert himself with force. You'll be saying the same thing of Mr.***** there, who sits as quiet-" This was not well bred; and Johnson did not let it pass without correction.
Nay, Madam, what right have you to talk thus ? Both Mr. ***** and I have reason to take it ill. You may talk so of Mr. *****; but why do you make me do it. Have I said any thing against Mr. *****? You have set him, that I might shoot him: but I have not shot him."
One of the gentlemen said, he had seen three folio volumes of Dr. Johnson's sayings collected by me. must put you right, Sir, (said I;) for I am very exact in authenticity. You could not see folio volumes, for I have none: you might have seen some in quarto and octavo. This is an inattention which one should guard against.” JOHNSON, “Sir, it is a want of concern about
veracity. He does not know that he saw any volumes. If he had seen them he could have remembered their size."
Mr. Thrale appeared very lethargick to-day. I saw him again on Monday evening, at which time he was not thought to be in immediate danger: but early in the morning of Wednesday the 4th, he expired. Johnson was in the house, and thus mentions the event: “ I felt almost the last flutter of his pulse, and looked for the last time upon the face that for fifteen years had never been turned upon me but with respect and benignity."9
Upon that day there was a Call of the LITERARY CLUB; but Johnson apologised for his absence by the following note:
“ MR. JOHNSON knows that Sir Joshua Reynolds and the other gentlemen will excuse his incompliance with the Call, when they are told that Mr. Thrale died this morning.”
Mr. Thrale's death was a very essential loss to Johnson, who, although he did not foresee all that afterwards happened, was sufficiently convinced that the comforts which Mr. Thrale's family afforded him, would now in a great measure cease. He, however, continued to shew a kind attention to his widow and children as long as it was acceptable : and he took upon him, with a very earnest concern, the office of one of his executors, the importance of which seemed greater than usual to him,
9 Prayers and Meditations, p. 191,
[Johnson's expressions on this occasion remind us of Isaac Walton's eulogy on Whitgift, in his Life of Hooker.-—“He lived to be present at the expiration of her (Q. Elizabeth's] last breath, and to behold the closing of those eyes that had long looked upon him with reverence and affection." KEARNEY].
from his circumstances having been always such, that he had scarcely any share in the real business of life. His friends of the CLUB were in hopes that Mr. Thrale might have made a liberal provision for him for his life, which, as Mr. Thrale left no son, and a very large fortune, it would have been highly to his honour to have done; and, considering Dr. Johnson's age, could not have been of long duration; but he bequeathed him only two hundred pounds, which was the legacy given to each of his executors. I could not but be somewhat diverted by hearing Johnson talk in a pompous manner of his new office, and particularly of the concerns of the brewery, which it was at last resolved should be sold. Lord Lucan tells a very good story, which, if not precisely exact, is certainly characteristical; that when the sale of Thrale's brewery was going forward, Johnson appeared bustling about, with an ink-horn and pen in his button-hole, like an exciseman; and on being asked what he really considered to be the value of the property which was to be disposed of, answered, “ We are not here to sell a parcel of boilers and vats, but the potentiality of growing rich beyond the dreams of avarice."
On Friday, April 6, he carried me to dine at a club, which, at his desire, had been lately formed at the Queen's Arms, in St. Paul's Church-yard. He told Mr. Hoole, that he wished to have a City Club, and asked him to collect one; but, said he, “ Don't let them be patriots.” The company were to-day very sensible, well-behaved men. I have preserved only two particulars of his conversation. He said he was glad Lord George Gordon had escaped, rather than that a precedent should be established for hanging a man for constructive treason ; which, in consistency with his true, manly, constitutional Toryism, he considered would be a dangerous engine of arbitrary power. And upon its being mentioned that an opulent and very indolent Scotch nobleman, who totally resigned the management of his affairs to a man of knowledge and abilities, had claimed some merit by saying, “ The next best thing to managing a man's own affairs well, is being sensible of incapacity, and not attempting it, but having full confidence in one who can do it :” Johnson. “ Nay, Sir, this is paltry. There is a middle course. Let a man give application; and depend upon it he will soon get above a despicable state of helplessness, and attain the power of acting for himself.”
On Saturday, April 7, I dined with him at Mr. Hoole's with Governour Bouchier and Captain Orme, both of whom had been long in the East-Indies; and, being men of good sense and observation, were very entertaining. Johnson defended the oriental regulation of different casts of men,' which was objected to as totally destructive of the hopes of rising in society by personal merit. He shewed that there was a principle in it sufficiently plausible by analogy. “ We see (said he) in metals that there are different species; and so likewise in animals, though one species may not differ very widely from another, as in the species of dogs,—the cur, the spaniel, the mastiff. The Bramins are the mastiffs of mankind.”
On Thursday, April 12, I dined with him at a Bishop's, where were Sir Joshua Reynolds, Mr. Berenger, and some more company. He had dined the day before at another Bishop's. I have unfortunately recorded none of his conversation at the Bishop's where we dined together: but I have preserved his ingenious
(Rajapouts, the military cast; the Bramins, pacifick and abstemious. KEARNEY.]
defence of his dining twice abroad in Passion-week; a laxity, in which I am convinced he would not have indulged himself at the time when he wrote his solemn paper in “ The Rambler," upon that awful season. It appeared to me, that by being much more in company, and enjoying more luxurious living, he had contracted a keener relish for pleasure, and was consequently less rigorous in his religious rites. This he would not acknowledge ; but he reasoned with admirable sophistry, as follows: “ Why, Sir, a Bishop's calling company together in this week, is, to use the vulgar phrase, not the thing. But you must consider laxity is a bad thing; but preciseness is also a bad thing; and your general character may be more hurt by preciseness than by dining with a Bishop in Passion-week. There might be a handle for reflection. It might be said, • He refuses to dine with a Bishop in Passion-week, but was three Sundays absent from church.'” BOSWELL. Very true, Sir. But
But suppose a man to be uniformly of good conduct, would it not be better that he should refuse to dine with a Bishop in this week, and so not encourage a bad practice by his example ? ” JOHNSON.
Why, Sir, you are to consider whether you might not do more harm by lessening the influence of a Bishop's character by your disapprobation in refusing him, than by going to him.”
TO MRS. LUCY PORTER, IN LICHFIELD. 66 DEAR MADAM,
“ LIFE is full of troubles. I have just lost my dear friend Thrale. I hope he is happy; but I have had a great loss. I am otherwise pretty well. I require some care of myself, but that care is not ineffectual ; and when I am out of order, I think it often my own fault.