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whipt me very well. Without that, Sir, I should have done nothing.' He told Mr. Langton, that while Hunter was flogging his boys unmercifully, he used to say, 'And this I do to save you from the gallows.' Johnson, upon all occasions, expressed his approbation of enforcing instruction by means of the rod1. 'I would rather (said he) have the rod to be the general terrour to all, to make them learn, than tell a child, if you do thus, or thus, you will be more esteemed than your brothers or sisters. The rod produces an effect which terminates in itself. A child is afraid of being whipped, and gets his task, and there's an end on't; whereas, by exciting emulation and comparisons of superiority, you lay the foundation of lasting mischief; you make brothers and sisters hate each other".'
When Johnson saw some young ladies in Lincolnshire who were remarkably well behaved, owing to their mother's strict discipline and severe correction3, he exclaimed, in one of Shakspeare's lines a little varied,
'Rod, I will honour thee for this thy duty'.'
Johnson's observation to Dr. Rose, on this subject, deserves to be recorded. Rose was praising the mild treatment of children at school, at a time when flogging began to be less practised than formerly: 'But then, (said Johnson,) they get nothing else and what they gain at one end, they lose at the other.' BURNEY. See post, under Dec. 17, 1775.
* This passage is quoted from Boswell's Hebrides, Aug. 24, 1773. Mr. Boyd had told Johnson that Lady Errol did not use force or fear in educating her children; whereupon he replied, Sir, she is wrong,' and continued in the words of the text.
Gibbon in his Autobiography says:
The domestic discipline of our ancestors has been relaxed by the philosophy and softness of the age: and if my father remembered that he had trembled before a stern parent, it was only to adopt with his son an opposite mode of behaviour.' Gibbon's Works, i. 112. Lord Chesterfield writing to a friend on Oct. 18,
3 Johnson, however, hated anything that came near to tyranny in the management of children. Writing to Mrs. Thrale, who had told him that she had on one occasion gone against the wish of her nurses, he said: That the nurses fretted will supply me during life with an additional motive to keep every child, as far as is possible, out of a nurse's power. A nurse made of common mould will have a pride in overcoming a child's reluctance. There are few minds to which tyranny is not delightful; power is nothing but as it is felt, and the delight of superiority is proportionate to the resistance overcome.' Piozzi Letters, ii. 67. + Sword, I will hallow thee for this That
Johnson a King of men.
That superiority over his fellows, which he maintained with so much dignity in his march through life, was not assumed from vanity and ostentation, but was the natural and constant effect of those extraordinary powers of mind, of which he could not but be conscious by comparison; the intellectual difference, which in other cases of comparison of characters, is often a matter of undecided contest, being as clear in his case as the superiority of stature in some men above others. Johnson did not strut or stand on tip-toe: He only did not stoop. From his carliest years his superiority was perceived and acknowledged'. He was from the beginning "Avaέ åròpŵv, a king of men. His schoolfellow, Mr. Hector, has obligingly furnished me with many particulars of his boyish days: and assured me that he never knew him corrected at school, but for talking and diverting other boys from their business. He seemed to learn by intuition; for though indolence and procrastination were inherent in his constitution, whenever he made an exertion he did more than any one else. In short, he is a memorable instance of what has been often observed, that the boy is the man in miniature : and that the distinguishing characteristicks of each individual are the same, through the whole course of life. His favourites used to receive very liberal assistance from him; and such was the submission and deference with which he was treated, such the desire to obtain his regard, that three of the boys, of whom Mr. Hector was sometimes one, used to come in the morning as his humble attendants, and carry him to school. One in the middle stooped, while he sat upon his back, and one on each side supported him; and thus he was borne triumphant. Such
thy deed.' 2 Henry VI, act iv. sc. 10. John Wesley's mother, writing of the way she had brought up her children, boys and girls alike, says:-‘When turned a year old (and some before) they were taught to fear the rod, and to cry softly; by which means they escaped abundance of correction they might otherwise have had.' Wesley's Journal, i. 370.
'There dwelt at Lichfield gentleman of the name of Butt, to whose house on holidays he was
ever welcome. The children in the family, perhaps offended with the rudeness of his behaviour, would frequently call him the great boy, which the father once overhearing said :— 'You call him the great boy, but take my word for it, he will one day prove a great man.' Hawkins's Johnson, p. 6.
2 See post, March 22, 1776 and Johnson's visit to Birmingham in Nov. 1784.
Johnson's tenacious memory.
a proof of the early predominance of intellectual vigour is very remarkable, and does honour to human nature. Talking to me once himself of his being much distinguished at school, he told me, 'they never thought to raise me by comparing me to any one; they never said, Johnson is as good a scholar as such a one; but such a one is as good a scholar as Johnson; and this was said but of one, but of Lowe; and I do not think he was as good a scholar.'
He discovered a great ambition to excel, which roused him to counteract his indolence. He was uncommonly inquisitive; and his memory was so tenacious, that he never forgot any thing that he either heard or read. Mr. Hector remembers having recited to him eighteen verses, which, after a little pause, he repeated verbatim, varying only one epithet, by which he improved the line.
He never joined with the other boys in their ordinary diversions his only amusement was in winter, when he took a pleasure in being drawn upon the ice by a boy barefooted, who pulled him along by a garter fixed round him; no very easy operation, as his size was remarkably large. His defective sight, indeed, prevented him from enjoying the common sports; and he once pleasantly remarked to me, 'how wonderfully well he had contrived to be idle without them.' Lord Chesterfield, however, has justly observed in one of his letters, when earnestly cautioning a friend against the pernicious effects of idleness, that active sports are not to be reckoned idleness in young people; and that the listless torpor of doing nothing, alone deserves that name'. Of this dismal inertness of disposition, Johnson had all his life too great a share. Mr. Hector relates, that he could not oblige him more than by sauntering away the hours of vacation in the fields, during which he was more engaged in talking to himself than to his companion.'
Dr. Percy, the Bishop of Dromore, who was long intimately acquainted with him, and has preserved a few anecdotes concerning him, regretting that he was not a more diligent collector,
'You should never suffer your son to be idle one minute. I do not call play, of which he ought to have a good share, idleness; but I mean
sitting still in a chair in total inaction;
His fondness for romances.
informs me, that when a boy he was immoderately fond of reading romances of chivalry, and he retained his fondness for them through life; so that (adds his Lordship) spending part of a summer' at my parsonage-house in the country, he chose for his regular reading the old Spanish romance of Felixmarte of Hircania, in folio, which he read quite through. Yet I have heard him attribute to these extravagant fictions that unsettled turn of mind which prevented his ever fixing in any profession.'
1725 ÆTAT. 16.-AFTER having resided for some time at the house of his uncle, Cornelius Ford3, Johnson was, at the age of fifteen, removed to the school of Stourbridge, in Worcestershire, of which Mr. Wentworth was then master. This step was taken by the advice of his cousin, the Reverend Mr. Ford, a man in whom both talents and good dispositions were disgraced by licentiousness, but who was a very able judge of what was right.
'The summer of 1764.
Johnson, writing of Paradise Lost, book ii. 1. 879, says :-'In the histo of Don Bellianis, when one of the knights approaches, as I remember, the castle of Brandezar, the gates are said to open, grating harsh thunder upon their brazen hinges.' Johnson's Works, v. 76. See post, March 27, 1776, where he had with him upon a jaunt Il Palmerino d'Inghilterra.' Prior says of Burke that 'a very favourite study, as he once confessed in the House of Commons, was the old romances, Palmerin of England and Don Belianis of Greece, upon which he had wasted much valuable time. Prior's Burke, p. 9.
3 Hawkins (Life, p. 2) says that the uncle was Dr. Joseph Ford ‘a physician of great eminence.' The son, Parson Ford, was Cornelius. In Boswell's Hebrides, Oct. 15, 1773, Johnson mentions an uncle who very likely was Dr. Ford. In Notes and Queries, 5th S. v. 13, it is shown that by the will of the widow of Dr. Ford the Johnsons received £200 in 1722. VOL. I.
On the same page the Ford pedigree is given, where it is seen that Johnson had an uncle Cornelius. It has been stated that 'Johnson was brought up by his uncle till his fifteenth year.' I understand Boswell to say that Johnson, after leaving Lichfield School, resided for some time with his uncle before going to Stourbridge.
He is said to be the original of the parson in Hogarth's Modern Midnight Conversation. BOSWELL.
In the Life of Fenton Johnson describes Ford as 'a clergyman at that time too well known, whose abilities, instead of furnishing convivial merriment to the voluptuous and dissolute, might have enabled him to excel among the virtuous and the wise.' Johnson's Works, viii. 57. Writing to Mrs. Thrale on July 8, 1771, he says, 'I would have been glad to go to Hagley [close to Stourbridge] for I should have had the opportunity of recollecting past times, and wandering per montes notos et flumina nota, of recalling the images At
At this school he did not receive so much benefit as was expected. It has been said, that he acted in the capacity of an assistant to Mr. Wentworth, in teaching the younger boys. Mr. Wentworth (he told me) was very able man, but an idle man, and to me very severe; but I cannot blame him much. I was then a big boy; he saw I did not reverence him; and that he should get no honour by me. I had brought enough with me, to carry me through; and all I should get at his school would be ascribed to my own labour, or to my former master. Yet he taught me a great deal.'
He thus discriminated, to Dr. Percy, Bishop of Dromore, his progress at his two grammar-schools. At one, I learnt much in the school, but little from the master; in the other, I learnt much from the master, but little in the school.'
The Bishop also informs me, that 'Dr. Johnson's father, before he was received at Stourbridge, applied to have him admitted as a scholar and assistant to the Reverend Samuel Lea, M.A., head master of Newport school, in Shropshire (a very diligent, good teacher, at that time in high reputation, under whom Mr. Hollis1 is said, in the Memoirs of his Life, to have been also educated2). This application to Mr. Lea was not successful; but Johnson had afterwards the gratification to hear that the old gentleman, who lived to a very advanced age, mentioned it as one of the most memorable events of his life, that he was very near having that great man for his scholar.'
He remained at Stourbridge little more than a year, and then returned home, where he may be said to have loitered, for two years, in a state very unworthy his uncommon abilities. He had already given several proofs of his poetical genius, both in his school-exercises and in other occasional compositions. Of these I have obtained a considerable collection, by the favour of Mr. Wentworth, son of one of his masters, and of Mr. Hector, his school-fellow and friend; from which I select the following specimens:
of sixteen, and reviewing my conversations with poor Ford.' Piozzi Letters, i. 42. See also post, May 12, 1778.
See post, April 20, 1781.
As was likewise the Bishop of Dromore many years afterwards. BOSWELL.