Slike strani
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]

406 JOHNSON A GOOD-NATURED MAN [1769 I maintained it to be a poetical conceit. A Pict being painted, if he is slain in battle, and a vest is made of his skin, it is a painted vest won from him, though he was naked.

Johnson spoke unfavourably of a certain pretty volumi. nous authour, saying, 'He used to write anonymous books, and then other books commending those books, in which there was something of rascality.'

I whispered him, "Well, Sir, you are now in good humour.' JOHNSON. ' Yes, Sir.' I was going to leave him, and had got as far as the staircase. He stopped me, and smiling, said, 'Get you gone in ; a curious mode of inviting me to stay, which I accordingly did for some time longer.

This little incidental quarrel and reconciliation, which, perhaps, I may be thought to have detailed too minutely, must be esteemed as one of many proofs which his friends had, that though he might be charged with bad humour at times, he was always a good-natured man; and I have heard Sir Joshua Reynolds, a nice and delicate observer of man. ners, particularly remark, that when upon any occasion Johnson had been rough to any person in company, he took the first opportunity of reconciliation, by drinking to him, or addressing his discourse to him ; but if he found his dignified indirect overtures sullenly neglected, he was quite indifferent, and considered himself as having done all that he ought to do, and the other as now in the wrong.

Being to set out for Scotland on the 10th of November, i I wrote to him at Streatham, begging that he would meet me in town on the 9th ; but if this should be very inconvenient to him, I would go thither. His answer was as follows : that he understands they were suppressed in the late edition or editions of Blackmore. After all (says this intelligent writer) it is not unworthy i of particular observation, that these lines so often quoted do not exist either in Blackmore or Howard.' In The British Princes, 8vo. 1669. now before me, p. 96, they stand thus :

!
A vest as admired Voltiger had on,
Which, from this Island's foes, his grandsire won,
Whose artful colour pass'd the Tyrian dye,

Oblig'd to triumph in this legacy.' It is probable, I think, that some wag, in order to make Howard still more ridiculous than he really was, has formed the couplet as it now cir. culates.

6

1769)

THE MARRIAGE SERVICE

407

"To JAMES BOSWELL, Esq. DEAR SIR,–Upon balancing the inconveniences of both parties, I find it will less incommode you to spend your night here, than me to come to town. I wish to see you, and am ordered by the lady of this house to invite you hither. Whether you can come or not, I shall not have any occasion of writing to you again before your marriage, and therefore tell you now, that with great sincerity I wish you happiness. I am, dear Sir, your most affectionate humble servant, Nov. 9, 1769.'

'SAM. JOHNSON.'

I was detained in town till it was too late on the ninth, so went to him early on the morning of the tenth of November. Now (said he,) that you are going to marry, do not expect more from life, than life will afford. You may often find yourself out of humour, and you may often think your wife not studious enough to please you, and yet you may have reason to consider yourself as upon the whole very happily married.'

Talking of marriage in general, he observed, 'Our marriage service is too refined. It is calculated only for the best kind of marriages ; whereas, we should have a form for matches of convenience, of which there are many.' He agreed with me that there was no absolute necessity for having the marriage ceremony performed by a regular clergyman, for this was not commanded in scripture.

I was volatile enough to repeat to him a little epigrammatick song of mine, on matrimony, which Mr. Garrick had a few days before procured to be set to musick by the very ingenious Mr. Dibden.;

'A MATRIMONIAL THOUGHT.
'In the blithe days of honey-moon,

With Kate's allurements smitten,
I lov'd her late, I lov'd her soon,

And call'd her dearest kitten.
But now my kitten's grown a cat,

And cross like other wives,
0! by my soul, my honest Mat,

I fear she has nine lives.'

408 PARLIAMENT EXPELS WILKES [1770

My illustrious friend said, 'It is very well, Sir; but you should not swear.' Upon which I altered 'O! by my soul, to · Alas, alas !'

He was so good as to accompany me to London, and see me into the post-chaise which was to carry me on my road to Scotland. And sure I am, that, however inconsiderable many of the particulars recorded at this time may appear to some, they will be esteemed by the best part of my readers as genuine traits of his character, contributing together to give a full, fair, and distinct view of it.

1770 : ÆTAT. 61.]-IN 1770 he published a political pamphlet, entitled The False Alarm, intended to justify the conduct of ministry and their majority in the House of Commons, for having virtually assumed it as an axiom, that the expulsion of a Member of Parliament was equivalent to exclusion, and thus having declared Colonel Lutterel to be duly elected for the county of Middlesex, notwithstanding Mr. Wilkes had a great majority of votes. This being justly considered as a gross violation of the right of election, an alarm for the constitution extended itself all over the kingdom. To prove this alarm to be false, was the purpose of Johnson's pamphlet; but even his vast powers were inadequate to cope with constitutional truth and reason, and his argument failed of effect; and the House of Commons have since expunged the offensive resolution from their Journals. That the House of Commons might have expelled Mr. Wilkes repeatedly, and as often as he should be re-chosen, was not denied ; but incapaci. tation cannot be but by an act of the whole legislature. It was wonderful to see how a prejudice in favour of govern. ment in general, and an aversion to popular clamour, could blind and contract such an understanding as Johnson's, in this particular case ; yet the wit, the sarcasm, the eloquent vivacity which this pamphlet displayed, made it be read with great avidity at the time, and it will ever be read with pleasure, for the sake of its composition. That it endeavoured to infuse a narcotick indifference, as to publick concerns, into the minds of the people, and that it broke out sometimes into an extreme coarseness of contemptuous abuse, is but too evident.

It must not, however, be omitted, that when the storm

[ocr errors]

1770] THE FORMING OF RESOLUTIONS 409 of his violence subsides, he takes a fair opportunity to pay a grateful compliment to the King, who had rewarded his merit: These low-born rulers have endeavoured, surely without effect, to alienate the affections of the people from the only King who for almost a century has much appeared to desire, or much endeavoured to deserve them. And, * Every honest man must lament, that the faction has been regarded with frigid neutrality by the Tories, who being long accustomed to signalise their principles by opposition to the Court, do not yet consider, that they have at last a King who knows not the name of party, and who wishes to be the common father of all his people.

To this pamphlet, which was at once discovered to be Johnson's, several answers came out, in which, care was taken to remind the publick of his former attacks upon government, and of his now being a pensioner, without allowing for the honourable terms upon which Johnson's pension was granted and accepted, or the change of system which the British court had undergone upon the accession of his present Majesty. He was, however, soothed in the highest strain of panegyrick, in a poem called The Remonstrance, by the Rev. Mr. Stockdale, to whom he was, upon many occasions, a kind protector.

The following admirable minute made by him describes so well his own state, and that of numbers to whom selfexamination is habitual, that I cannot omit it :

June 1, 1770. Every man naturally persuades himself that he can keep his resolutions, nor is he convinced of his imbecility but by length of time and frequency of experiment. This opinion of our own constancy is so prevalent, that we always despise him who suffers his general and settled purpose to be overpowered by an occasional desire. They, therefore, whom frequent failures have made desperate, cease to form resolutions; and they who are become cunning, do not tell them. Those who do not make them are very few, but of their effect little is perceived ; for scarcely any man persists in a course of life planned by choice, but as he is restrained from deviation by some external power. He who may live as he will, seldom lives long in the observation of his own rules 1.'

1 Pr. and Med. p. 95. [p. 101].

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

410 REVISION OF HIS SHAKSPEARE [1770 Of this year I have obtained the following letters :

TO THE REVEREND DR. FARMER, CAMBRIDGE. "SIR, -As no man ought to keep wholly to himself any possession that may be useful to the publick, I hope you will not think me unreasonably intrusive, if I have recourse to

you for such information as you are more able to give me than any

other man. 'In support of an opinion which you have already placed above the need of any more support, Mr. Steevens, a very ingenious gentleman, lately of King's College, has collected an account of all the translations which Shakspeare might have seen and used. He wishes his catalogue to be perfect, and therefore intreats that you will favour him by the insertion of such additions as the accuracy of your inquiries has enabled you to make. To this request, I take the liberty of adding my own solicitation.

We have no immediate use for this catalogue, and therefore do not desire that it should interrupt or hinder your more important employments. But it will be kind to let us know that you receive it. I am, Sir, &c. Johnson's-court, Fleet-street, SAM. JOHNSON.'

March 21, 1770.

TO THE REVEREND MR. THOMAS WARTON. * DEAR SIR,—The readiness with which you were pleased to promise me some notes on Shakspeare, was a new instance of your friendship. I shall not hurry you ; but am desired by Mr. Steevens, who helps me in this edition, to let you know, that we shall print the tragedies first, and shall therefore want first the notes which belong to them. We think not to incommode the readers with a supplement; and therefore, what we cannot put into its proper place, will do us no good. We shall not begin to print before the end of six weeks, perhaps not so soon.

I am, &c. London, June 23, 1770.'

SAM. JOHNSON.' TO THE REV. DR. JOSEPH WARTON. DEAR SIR,—I am revising my edition of Shakspeare, and remember that I formerly misrepresented your opinion of Lear. Be pleased to write the paragraph as you would

[ocr errors]
« PrejšnjaNaprej »