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On the 6th of March came out Lord Bolingbroke's works, Aublished by Mr. David Mallet'. The wild and pernicious ravings, under the name of Philosophy, which were thus ushered into the world, gave great offence to all well-principled men. Johnson, hearing of their tendency', which nobody disputed,
he is called Mr. L. Lyttelton did not become Sir George Lyttelton till Sept. 14, 1751. He was raised to the peerage in 1757. Horace Walpole (Reign of George III, i. 256) says of him :
–His ignorance of mankind, want of judgment, with strange absence and awkwardness, involved him in mistakes and ridicule.' Had Chesterfield's letter been published when it was written, no one in all likelihood would have so much as dreamt that Johnson was aimed at. But it did not come before the world till twenty-three years later, when Johnson's quarrel with Chesterfield was known to every one, when Johnson himself was at the very head of the literary world, and when his peculiarities had become a matter of general interest.
* About four years after this time Gibbon, on his return to England, became intimate with Mr. and Mrs. Mallet. He thus wrote of them: -*The most useful friends of my father were the Mallets; they received me with civility and kindness at first on his account, and afterwards on my own; and (if I may use Lord Chesterfield's words) I was soon domesticated in their house. Mr. Mallet, a name among the English poets, is praised by an unforgiving enemy for the ease and elegance of his conversation, and his wife was not destitute of wit or learning. Gibbon's Misc. Works, i. 115. The ‘unforgiving enemy' was Johnson, who wrote (Works, viii. 468) > His conversation was elegant and easy. The rest of his character may, without injury to his memory, sink into silence.' Johnson once said :—'I have seldom met with a man whose colloquial ability exceeded that of Mallet.' Johnson's Works, 1787, xi. 214. See post, March 27, 1772, and April 28, 1783; and Boswell's Hebrides, Sept. 10, 1773.
· Johnson had never read Bolingbroke's Philosophy. I have never read Bolingbroke's impiety,' he said (post, under March 1, 1758). In the memorable sentence that he, notwithstanding, pronounced upon the author, he exposed himself to the retort which he had recorded in his Life of Boerhaave (Works, vi. 277). "As Boerhaave was sitting in a common boat, there arose a conversation among the passengers upon the impious and pernicious doctrine of Spinosa, which, as they all agreed, tends to the utter overthrow of all religion. Boerhaave sat and attended silently to this discourse for some time, till one of the company ... instead of confuting the positions of Spinosa by argument began to give a loose to contumelious language and virulent
A beggarly Scotchman.
was roused with a just indignation, and pronounced this memorable sentence upon the noble authour and his editor. 'Sir, he was a scoundrel and a coward': a scoundrel, for charging a blunderbuss against religion and morality; a coward, because he had not resolution to fire it off himself, but left half a crown to a beggarly Scotchman, to draw the trigger after his death”!' Garrick, who I can attest from my own knowledge, had his mind seasoned with pious reverence, and sincerely disapproved of the infidel writings of several, whom, in the course of his almost universal gay intercourse with men of eminence, he treated with external civility, distinguished himself upon this occasion. Mr. Pelham having died on the very day on which Lord Bolingbroke's
invectives, which Boerhaave was so little pleased with, that at last he could not forbear asking him, whether he had ever read the author he declaimed against.'
Lord Shelburne said that ‘Bolingbroke was both a political and personal coward.
Fitzmaurice's Shelburne, i. 29. It was in the summer of this year that Murphy became acquainted with Johnson. (See post, 1760.) “The first striking sentence that he heard from him was in a few days after the publication of Lord Bolingbroke's posthumous works. Mr. Garrick asked him, “if he had seen them." "Yes, I have seen them." “What do you think of them?" “Think of them !" He made a long pause, and then replied : “ Think of them! a scoundrel and a coward! A scoundrel who spent his life in charging a gun against Christianity; and a coward, who was afraid of hearing the report of his own gun; but left half-a-crown to a hungry Scotchman to draw the trigger after his death!” His mind, at this time strained and over laboured by constant exertion, called for an interval of repose and indolence. But indolence was the time of danger; it was then that his spirits, not employed abroad, turned with inward hostility against himself.' Murphy's Johnson, p. 79, and Piozzi's Anec. p. 235. Adam Smith, perhaps, had this saying of Johnson's in mind, when in 1776 he refused the request of the dying Hume to edit after his death his Dialogues on Natural Religion. Hume wrote back :—'I think your scruples groundless. Was Mallet anywise hurt by his publication of Lord Bolingbroke? He received an office afterwards from the present King and Lord Bute, the most prudish man in the world.' Smith did not yield. J. H. Burton's Hume, ii. 491.
Ode on Mr. Pelham's death.
works came out, he wrote an elegant Ode on his death, beginning
*Let others hail the rising sun,
I bow to that whose course is run ;' in which is the following stanza:
*The same sad morn, to Church and State
A double stroke was given;
And Pelham fled to heaven'' Johnson this year found an interval of leisure to make an excursion to Oxford, for the purpose of consulting the libraries there. Of this, and of many interesting circumstances concerning him, during a part of his life when he conversed but little with the world, I am enabled to give a particular account, by the liberal communications of the Rev. erend Mr. Thomas Wartono, who obligingly furnished me with several of our common friend's letters, which he illustrated with notes. These I shall insert in their proper places.
According to Horace Walpole (Letters, ii. 374), Pelham died of a surfeit. As Johnson says (Works, viii. 310) :— The death of great men is not always proportioned to the lustre of their lives. The death of Pope was imputed by some of his friends to a silver saucepan, in which it was his delight to heat potted lampreys.' Fielding in The Voyage to Lisbon (Works, X. 201) records :— I was at the worst on that memorable day when the public lost Mr. Pelham. From that day I began slowly, as it were, to draw my feet out of the grave.' ““I shall now have no more peace," the King said with a sigh; being told of his Minister's death.' Walpole's George II, i. 378.
• Thomas Warton, the younger brother of Dr. Warton, was a fellow of Trinity College, Oxford. He was Poetry Professor from 1758 to 1768. Mant's Warton, i. xliv. In 1785 he was made Poet Laureate. 16. lxxxiii. Mr. Mant, telling of an estrangement between Johnson and the Wartons, says that he had heard 'on unquestionable authority that Johnson had lamented, with tears in his eyes, that the Wartons had not called on him for the last four years; and that he has been known to declare that Tom Warton was the only man of genius whom he knew without a heart. 16. xxxix.
"TO THE REVEREND MR. THOMAS WARTON. 'Sir,
'It is but an ill return for the book with which you were pleased to favour me', to have delayed my thanks for it till now. I am too apt to be negligent; but I can never deliberately shew my disrespect to a man of your character: and I now pay you a very honest acknowledgement, for the advancement of the literature of our native country. You have shewn to all, who shall hereafter attempt the study of our ancient authours, the way to success; by directing them to the perusal of the books which those authours had read. Of this method, Hughes and men much greater than Hughes, seem never to have thought. The reason why the authours, which are yet read, of the sixteenth century, are so little understood, is, that they are read alone; and no help is borrowed from those who lived with them, or before them. Some part of this ignorance I hope to remove by my book®, which now draws towards its end; but which I cannot finish to my mind, without visiting the libraries at Oxford, which I, therefore, hope to see in a fortnight. I know not how long I shall stay, or where I shall lodge: but shall be sure to look for you at my arrival, and we shall easily settle the rest. I am, dear Sir,
'Your most obedient, &c.
'Sam. JOHNSON.' '[London] July 16, 1754.'
Of his conversation while at Oxford at this time, Mr. Warton preserved and communicated to me the following memorial, which, though not written with all the care and attention which that learned and elegant writer bestowed on those compositions which he intended for the publick eye, is so happily expressed in an easy style, that I should injure it by any alteration :
''Observations on Spenser's Fairy Queen, the first edition of which was now just published.' WARTON.
'Hughes published an edition of Spenser.' WARTON. See Johnson's Works, vii. 476.
3.His Dictionary.' WARTON.
s •He came to Oxford within a fortnight, and stayed about five weeks. He lodged at a house called Kettel-hall, near Trinity College. But during this visit at Oxford, he collected nothing in the libraries for his Dictionary.' WARTON.
Johnson's visit to Oxford.
"When Johnson came to Oxford in 1754', the long vacation was beginning, and most people were leaving the place. This was the first time of his being there, after quitting the University. The next morning after his arrival, he wished to see his old College, Pembroke. I went with him. He was highly pleased to find all the College-servants' which he had left there still remaining, particularly a very old butler*; and expressed great satisfaction at being recognised by them, and conversed with them familiarly. He waited on the master, Dr. Radcliffe, who received him very coldly. Johnson at least expected, that the master would order a copy of his Dictionary, now near publication : but the master did not choose to talk on the subject, never asked Johnson to dine, nor even to visit him, while he stayed at Oxford. After we had left the lodgings, Johnson said to me, “ There lives a man, who lives by the revenues of literature, and will not move a finger to support it. If I come to live at Oxford, I shall take up my abode at Trinity.” We then called on the Reverend Mr. Meeke, one of the fellows, and of Johnson's standing. Here was a most cordial greeting on both sides. On leaving him, Johnson said, “I used to think
'Pitt this year described, in the House of Commons, a visit that he had paid to Oxford the summer before. He and his friends 'were at the window of the Angel Inn; a lady was desired to sing God save great George our King. The chorus was re-echoed by a set of
young lads drinking at a college over the way (Queen's], but with additions of rank treason.' Walpole's George II, i. 413.
A Fellow of Pembroke College, of Johnson's time, described the college servants as in ‘the state of servitude the most miserable that can be conceived amongst so many masters.' He says that 'the kicks and cuffs and bruises they submit to entitle them, when those who were displeased relent,' to the compensation that is afforded by draughts of ale. *There is not a college servant, but if he have learnt to suffer, and to be officious, and be inclined to tipple, may forget his cares in a gallon or two of ale every day of his life.' Dr. Johnson: His Friends, &c., p. 45.
* It was against the Butler that Johnson, in his college days, had written an epigram :
Quid mirum Maro quod digne canit arma virumque,
Quid quod putidulum nostra Camoena sonat ?
Virgilio vires uva Falerna dedit.