« PrejšnjaNaprej »
Lord Chancellor Thurlow's letter. [A.D. 1780.
more strength of body, and greater vigour of mind, than I think is common at that age'.'
But still he complains of sleepless nights and idle days, and forgetfulness, or neglect of resolutions. He thus pathetically expresses himself,
Surely I shall not spend my whole life with my own total disapprobation'.'
Mr. Macbean, whom I have mentioned more than once, as one of Johnson's humble friends, a deserving but unfortunate man, being now oppressed by age and poverty, Johnson solicited the Lord Chancellor Thurlow, to have him admitted into the Charterhouse. I take the liberty to insert his Lordship's answer, as I am eager to embrace every occasion of augmenting the respectable notion which should ever be entertained of my illustrious friend :
'TO DR. SAMUEL JOHNSON.
'London, October 24, 1780.
'I have this moment received your letter, dated the 19th, and returned from Bath.
'In the beginning of the summer I placed one in the Chartreux', without the sanction of a recommendation so distinct and so authoritative as yours of Macbean; and I am afraid, that according to the establishment of the House, the opportunity of making the charity so good amends will not soon recur. But whenever a vacancy shall happen, if you'll favour me with notice of it, I will
1 Miss Burney described an evening spent by Johnson at Dr. Burney's some weeks earlier :-' He was in high spirits and good humour, talked all the talk, affronted nobody, and delighted everybody. I never saw him more sweet, nor better attended to by his audience.' In December she wrote:- Dr. Johnson is very gay, and sociable, and comfortable, and quite as kind to me as ever.' A little later she wrote to Mrs. Thrale:-- 'Does Dr. Johnson continue gay and good-humoured, and "valuing nobody" in a morning?' Mme. D'Arblay's Diary, i. 412, 429, 432.
2 Pr. and Med. p. 185. Boswell.
• See Boswell's Hebrides, Oct. 27.
Mr. Thrale loses the election.
try to recommend him to the place, even though it should not be my turn to nominate.
'I am, Sir, with great regard,
And obedient servant,
'TO JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ.
'I am sorry to write you a letter that will not please you, and yet it is at last what I resolve to do. This year must pass without an interview; the summer has been foolishly lost, like many other of my summers and winters. I hardly saw a green field, but staid in town to work, without working much.
'Mr. Thrale's loss of health has lost him the election'; he is now going to Brighthelmston, and expects me to go with him; and how long I shall stay, I cannot tell. I do not much like the place, but yet I shall go, and stay while my stay is desired. We must, therefore, content ourselves with knowing what we know as well as man can know the mind of man, that we love one another, and
' Macbean was, on Lord Thurlow's nomination, admitted ‘a poor brother of the Charterhouse.' Ante, i. 216. Johnson, on Macbean's death on June 26, 1784, wrote:-' He was one of those who, as Swift says, stood as a screen between me and death. He has, I hope, made a good exchange. He was very pious; he was very innocent; he did no ill; and of doing good a continual tenour of distress allowed him few opportunities; he was very highly esteemed in the house [the Charterhouse].' Piozzi Letters, ii. 373. The quotation from Swift is found in the lines On the Death of Dr. Swift:—
'The fools, my juniors by a year,
Are tortured with suspense and fear,
When death approached, to stand between.'
Johnson, in May, had persuaded Mrs. Thrale to come up from Bath to canvass for Mr. Thrale. 'My opinion is that you should come for a week, and show yourself, and talk in high terms. Be brisk, and be splendid, and be publick. The voters of the Borough are too proud and too little dependant to be solicited by deputies; they expect the gratification of seeing the candidate bowing or curtseying before them. If you are proud, they can be sullen. Mr. Thrale certainly shall not come, and yet somebody must appear whom the people think it worth the while to look at.' Piozzi Letters, ii. 114.
Johnson's liking for David Boswell.
that we wish each other's happiness, and that the lapse of a year cannot lessen our mutual kindness.
'I was pleased to be told that I accused Mrs. Boswell unjustly, in supposing that she bears me ill-will. I love you so much, that I would be glad to love all that love you, and that you love; and I have love very ready for Mrs. Boswell, if she thinks it worthy of acceptance. I hope all the young ladies and gentlemen are well.
'I take a great liking to your brother. He tells me that his father received him kindly, but not fondly; however, you seem to have lived well enough at Auchinleck, while you staid. Make your father as happy as you can.
'You lately told me of your health: I can tell you in return, that my health has been for more than a year past, better than it has been for many years before. Perhaps it may please GOD to give us some time together before we are parted.
'I am, dear Sir,
'October 17, 1780.'
'Yours most affectionately,
THE alehouse in the city where Johnson used to go and sit with George Psalmanazar was, no doubt, the club in Old Street, where he met also 'the metaphysical tailor,' the uncle of Hoole the poet (post, under March 30, 1783). Psalmanazar is mentioned a third time by Boswell (post, May 15, 1784) in a passage borrowed from Hawkins's edition of Johnson's Works, xi. 206, where it is stated that 'Johnson said: "He had never seen the close of the life of any one that he wished so much his own to resemble as that of him, for its purity and devotion." He was asked whether he ever contradicted him. "I should as soon," said he, "have thought of contradicting a bishop." When he was asked whether he had ever mentioned Formosa before him, he said, "he was afraid to mention even China." We learn from Hawkins's Life of Johnson, p. 547, that ‘Psalmanazar lived in Ironmonger Row, Old Street; in the neighbourhood whereof he was so well known and esteemed, that, as Dr. Hawkesworth once told me, scarce any person, even children, passed him without shewing him the usual signs of respect.' In the list of the writers of the Universal History that Johnson drew up a few days before his death his name is given as the historian of the Jews, Gauls, and Spaniards (post, November 1784). According to Mrs. Piozzi (Anecdotes, p. 175): His pious and patient endurance of a tedious illness, ending in an exemplary death, confirmed the strong impression his merit had made upon the mind of Mr. Johnson. "It is so very difficult," said he always, "for a sick man not to be a scoundrel." Johnson, in Prayers and Meditations, p. 102, mentions him as a man 'whose life was, I think, uniform.' Smollett, in Humphry Clinker (in Melford's Letter of June 10), describes him as one 'who, after having drudged half a century in the literary mill, in all the simplicity and abstinence of an Asiatic, subsists upon the charity of a few booksellers,
just sufficient to keep him from the parish.' A writer in the Annual Register for 1764 (ii. 71), speaking of the latter part of his life, says He was concerned in compiling and writing works of credit, and lived exemplarily for many years.' He died a few days before that memorable sixteenth day of May 1753, when Boswell first met Johnson. It is a pity that no record has been kept of the club meetings in Ironmonger Row, for then we should have seen Johnson in a new light. Johnson in an alehouse club, with a metaphysical tailor on one side of him, and an aged writer on the other side of him, 'who spoke English with the city accent and coarsely enough',' and whom he would never venture to contradict, is a Johnson that we cannot easily imagine.
Of the greater part of Psalmanazar's life we know next to nothing-little, I believe, beyond the few facts that I have here gathered together. His early years he has described in his Memoirs. That he started as one of the most shameless impostors, and that he remained a hypocrite and a cheat till he was fully forty, if not indeed longer, his own narrative shows. That for many years he lived laboriously, frugally, and honestly seems to be no less certain. How far his Memoirs are truthful is somewhat doubtful. In them he certainly confesses the impudent trick which he had played in his youth, when he passed himself off as a Formosan convert. He wished, he writes, 'to undeceive the world by unravelling that whole mystery of iniquity' (p. 5). He lays bare roguery enough, and in a spirit, it seems, of real sorrow. Nevertheless there are passages which are not free from the leaven of hypocrisy, and there are, I suspect, statements which are at least partly false. Johnson, indeed, looked upon him as little less than a saint; but then, as Sir Joshua Reynolds tells us, though 'Johnson was not easily imposed upon by professions to honesty and candour, he appeared to have little suspicion of hypocrisy in religion'. It was in the year 1704 that Psalmanazar published his Historical and Geographical Description of Formosa. So gross is the forgery that it almost passes belief that it was widely accepted as a true narrative. He gave himself out as a native of that island and a convert to Christianity. He lied so foolishly as to maintain that in the Academies of Formosa Greek was studied
1 Hawkins's Johnson's Works, xi. 206. It is curious that Psalmanazar, in his Memoirs, p. 101, uses the mongrel word transmogrify. Taylor's Life of Reynolds, ii. 459.