Slike strani





Facing p. 96

SAMUEL JOHNSON, after the Portrait by Sir Joshua

Reynolds, 1770 ·

SAMUEL JOHNSON, after the Portrait by O. Hum-

phrey, about 1777
SAMUEL JOHNSON, after the Portrait by Opie
SAMUEL JOHNSON, after the Portrait in possession of

Mr. Archdeacon Cambridge

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]





AVING left Ashbourne in the evening, we stopped

to change horses at Derby, and availed ourselves of a moment to enjoy the conversation of my countryman, Dr. Butter, then physician there. He was in great indignation because Lord Mountstuart's bill for a Scotch militia' had been lost. Dr. Johnson was as violent against it. 'I am glad, (said he,) that Parliament has had the spirit to throw it out. You wanted to take advantage of the timidity of our scoundrels;' (meaning, I suppose, the ministry). It may be observed, that he used the epithet scoundrel very commonly not quite in the sense in which it is generally understood, but as a strong term of disapprobation ; as when he abruptly answered Mrs. Thrale, who had asked him how he did, “Ready to become a scoundrel, Madam; with a little more spoiling you will, I think, make me a complete rascal*:'



See ante, March 15, 1776. * Anecdotes of Johnson, p. 176. BOSWELL. “It is,' he said, “so very difficult for a sick man not to be a scoundrel.' Ib. p. 175. He called Fludyer a scoundrel (ante, March 20, 1776), apparently because he became a Whig. 'He used to say a man was a scoundrel that was afraid of anything. · Whoever thinks of going to bed before twelve o'clock is,” he said, “a scoundrel.” Johnson's Works (1787), xi. 199, 211. Mr. Croker points out that ‘Johnson in his Dictionary defined knave, a scoundrel; sneakup, a scoundrel; rascal, a scoundrel ; loon, a scoundrel; lout, a scoundrel; poltroon, a scoundrel; and that he coined the word scoundrelism' (Boswell's Hebrides, Aug. 25, 1773). Churchill, in The Ghost, Book ii. (Poems, i. 1. 217), describes Johnson as one

• Who makes each sentence current pass,

With puppy, coxcomb, scoundrel, ass.'

he 2

Early friends of great men.

(A.D. 1776.

he meant, easy to become a capricious and self-indulgent valetudinarian; a character for which I have heard him express great disgust.

Johnson had with him upon this jaunt, 'Il Palmerino d'Inghilterra,' a romance' praised by Cervantes; but did not like it much. He said, he read it for the language, by way of preparation for his Italian expedition.—We lay this night at Loughborough.

On Thursday, March 28, we pursued our journey. I mentioned that old Mr. Sheridan complained of the ingratitude of Mr. Wedderburne' and General Fraser, who had been much obliged to him when they were young Scotchmen entering upon life in England. JOHNSON. Why, Sir, a man is very apt to complain of the ingratitude of those who have risen far above him. A man when he gets into a higher sphere, into other habits of life, cannot keep up all his former connections. Then, Sir, those who knew him formerly upon a level with themselves, may think that they ought still to be treated as on a level, which cannot be; and an acquaintance in a former situation may bring out things which it would be very disagreeable to have mentioned be. fore higher company, though, perhaps, every body knows of them.' He placed this subject in a new light to me, and shewed that a man who has risen in the world, must not be condemned too harshly for being distant to former acquaintance, even though he may have been much obliged to them. It is, no doubt, to be wished that a proper degree of atten. tion should be shewn by great men to their early friends. But if either from obtuse insensibility to difference of situation, or presumptuous forwardness, which will not submit even to an exteriour observance of it, the dignity of high

Swift liked the word. 'God forbid,' he wrote, “that ever such a scoun. drel as Want should dare to approach you.' Swift's Works, ed. 1803,

xviii. 39.

See ante, i. 57, for Johnson's fondness for the old romances. • Boswell, ante, i. 447, implies that Sheridan's pension was partly due to Wedderburne's influence.

place Aetat. 67.)

Breakfast at Barnet.


one ;-Dr. James, and poor Harry'.' (Meaning Mr. Thrale's son.)

Having lain at St. Alban's, on Thursday, March 28, we breakfasted the next morning at Barnet. I expressed to him a weakness of mind which I could not help; an uneasy apprehension that my wife and children, who were at a great distance from me, might, perhaps, be ill. “Sir, (said he,) consider how foolish you would think it in them to be apprehensive that you are ill'.' This sudden turn relieved me for the moment; but I afterwards perceived it to be an ingenious fallacy. I might, to be sure, be satisfied that they had no reason to be apprehensive about me, because I knew that I myself was well: but we might have a mutual anxiety, without the charge of folly; because each was, in some degree, uncertain as to the condition of the other.

I enjoyed the luxury of our approach to London, that metropolis which we both loved so much, for the high and varied intellectual pleasure which it furnishes'. I experienced immediate happiness while whirled along with such a companion, and said to him, “Sir, you observed one day at General Oglethorpe's', that a man is never happy for the present, but when he is drunk. Will you not add,—or when driving rapidly in a post-chaise?" JOHNSON. “No, Sir, you are driving rapidly from something, or to something.'



* Johnson wrote to Mrs. Thrale on the birth of a second son who died early :—'I congratulate you upon your boy; but you must not think that I shall love him all at once as well as I love Harry, for Harry you know is so rational. I shall love him by degrees.' Piozzi Letters, i. 206. A week after Harry's death he wrote:- I loved him as I never expect to love any other little boy; but I could not love him as a parent. Ib. p. 310.

* Johnson had known this anxiety. He wrote to Mrs. Thrale from Ashbourne on July 7, 1775:—- I cannot think why I hear nothing from you. I hope and fear about my dear friends at Streatham. But I may have a letter this afternoon-Sure it will bring me no bad news.' Ib. i. 263. See Boswell's Hebrides, Sept. 21, 1773.

See ante, ii. 86. Ante, April 10, 1775. See ante, March 21, 1776, and post, Sept. 19, 1777.


« PrejšnjaNaprej »