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And afterwards, in a letter to Mrs. Thrale,
'Since you cannot guess, I will tell you, that the generous man I returned him a very thankful and re
was Gerard Hamilton.
I applied to Mr. Hamilton, by a common friend, and he has been so obliging as to let me have Johnson's letter to him upon this occasion, to adorn my collection.
'TO THE RIGHT HONOURABLE WILLIAM GERARD HAMILTON.
"Your kind enquiries after my affairs, and your generous offers, have been communicated to me by Dr. Brocklesby. I return thanks with great sincerity, having lived long enough to know what gratiiude is due to such friendship; and entreat that my refusal may not be imputed to sullenness or pride. I am, indeed, in no want. Sickness is, by the generosity of my physicians, of little expence to me. But if any unexpected exigence should press me, you shall see, dear Sir, how cheerfully I can be obliged to so much liberality. 'I am, Sir,
'November 19, 1783'.'
'Your most obedient
'And most humble servant,
I find in this, as in former years, notices of his kind attention to Mrs. Gardiner3, who, though in the humble station of a tallow-chandler upon Snow-hill, was a woman of excellent good sense, pious, and charitable. She told me, she had
1 Piozzi Letters, vol. ii. p. 342. BOSWELL. The letter to Miss Thrale was dated Nov. 18. Johnson wrote on Dec. 13: You must all guess again at my friend.' It was not till Dec. 31 that he told the name.
2 Miss Burney, who visited him on this day, records :-'He was, if possible, more instructive, entertaining, good-humoured, and exquisitely fertile than ever. Mme. D'Arblay's Diary, ii. 284. The day before he wrote to one of Mrs. Thrale's little daughters :- I live here by my own self, and have had of late very bad nights; but then I have had a pig to dinner which Mr. Perkins gave me. Thus life is chequered.' Piozzi Letters, ii. 327.
See ante, i. 281.
Lord Carlisle's tragedy.
been introduced to him by Mrs. Masters', the poetess, whose volumes he revised, and, it is said, illuminated here and there with a ray of his own genius. Mrs. Gardiner was very zealous for the support of the Ladies' charity-school, in the parish of St. Sepulchre. It is confined to females; and, I am told, it afforded a hint for the story of Betty Broom in The Idler. Johnson this year, I find, obtained for it a sermon from the late Bishop of St. Asaph, Dr. Shipley, whom he, in one of his letters to Mrs. Thrale', characterises as 'knowing and conversible;' and whom all who knew his Lordship, even those who differed from him in politicks, remember with much respect'.
The Earl of Carlisle having written a tragedy, entitled The Father's Revenge, some of his Lordship's friends applied to Mrs. Chapone to prevail on Dr. Johnson to read and give his opinion of it', which he accordingly did, in a letter to that lady. Sir Joshua Reynolds having informed me that this letter was in Lord Carlisle's possession, though I was
1 See ante, i. 281.
2 Nos. 26 and 29.
3 Piozzi Letters, i. 334. See ante, iv. 87. He strongly opposed the war with America, and was one of Dr. Franklin's friends. Franklin's Memoirs, ed. 1818, iii. 108.
It was of this tragedy that the following story is told in Rogers's Table-Talk, p. 177 :—' Lord Shelburne could say the most provoking things, and yet appear quite unconscious of their being so. In one of his speeches, alluding to Lord Carlisle, he said :-"The noble Lord has written a comedy.” No, a tragedy." "Oh, I beg pardon; I thought it was a comedy." See ante, iv. 132. Pope, writing to Mr. Cromwell on Aug. 19, 1709, says :-'One might ask the same question of a modern life, that Rich did of a modern play: “Pray do me the favour, Sir, to inform me is this your tragedy or your comedy?” ' Pope's Works, ed. 1812, vi. 81.
Mrs. Chapone, when she was Miss Mulso, had written four billets in The Rambler, No. 10.' See ante, i. 235. She was one of the literary ladies who sat at Richardson's feet. Wraxall (Memoirs, ed. 1815, i. 155) says that under one of the most repulsive exteriors that any woman ever possessed she concealed very superior attainments and extensive knowledge.' Just as Mrs. Carter was often called the learned Mrs. Carter,' so Mrs. Chapone was known as 'the admirable Mrs. Chapone.' See ante, iii. 424.
not fortunate enough to have the honour of being known to his Lordship, trusting to the general courtesy of literature, I wrote to him, requesting the favour of a copy of it, and to be permitted to insert it in my Life of Dr. Johnson. His Lordship was so good as to comply with my request, and has thus enabled me to enrich my work with a very fine piece of writing, which displays both the critical skill and politeness of my illustrious friend; and perhaps the curiosity which it will excite, may induce the noble and elegant Authour to gratify the world by the publication' of a performance, of which Dr. Johnson has spoken in such terms.
'To MRS. CHAPONE.
By sending the tragedy to me a second time', I think that a very honourable distinction has been shewn me, and I did not delay the perusal, of which I am now to tell the effect.
The construction of the play is not completely regular; the stage is too often vacant, and the scenes are not sufficiently connected. This, however, would be called by Dryden only a mechanical defect'; which takes away little from the power of the poem, and which is seen rather than felt.
A rigid examiner of the diction might, perhaps, wish some words changed, and some lines more vigorously terminated. from such petty imperfections what writer was ever free?
'The general form and force of the dialogue is of more importance. It seems to want that quickness of reciprocation which characterises the English drama, and is not always sufficiently fervid or animated.
'Of the sentiments I remember not one that I wished omitted. In the imagery I cannot forbear to distinguish the comparison of joy succeeding grief to light rushing on the eye accustomed to
A few copies only of this tragedy have been printed, and given to the authour's friends. BOSWELL.
* Dr. Johnson having been very ill when the tragedy was first sent to him, had declined the consideration of it. BOSWELL.
* Johnson refers, I suppose, to a passage in Dryden which he quotes in his Dictionary under mechanick:- Many a fair precept in poetry is like a seeming demonstration in mathematicks, very specious in the diagram, but failing in the mechanick operation.'
Boswell's life at Auchinleck.
darkness. It seems to have all that can be desired to make it please. It is new, just, and delightful'.
With the characters, either as conceived or preserved, I have no fault to find; but was much inclined to congratulate a writer, who, in defiance of prejudice and fashion, made the Archbishop a good man, and scorned all thoughtless applause, which a vicious churchman would have brought him.
'The catastrophe is affecting. The Father and Daughter both culpable, both wretched, and both penitent, divide between them our pity and our sorrow.
Thus, Madam, I have performed what I did not willingly undertake, and could not decently refuse. The noble writer will be pleased to remember, that sincere criticism ought to raise no resentment, because judgement is not under the controul of will; but involuntary criticism, as it has still less of choice, ought to be more remote from possibility of offence.
'November 28, 1783.'
'I am, &c.,
I consulted him on two questions of a very different nature: one, whether the unconstitutional influence exercised by the Peers of Scotland in the election of the representatives of the Commons', by means of fictitious qualifications, ought not to be resisted?-the other, What, in propriety and humanity, should be done with old horses unable to labour? I gave him some account of my life at Auchinleck and expressed my satisfaction that the gentlemen of
'I could have borne my woes; that stranger Joy
Shrinks from the sun's bright beams; and that which flings
2 Lord Cockburn (Life of Lord Jeffrey, i. 74) describing the representation of Scotland towards the close of last century, and in fact till the Reform Bill of 1832, says: There were probably not above 1500 or 2000 county electors in all Scotland; a body not too large to be held, hope included, in Government's hand. The election of either the town or the county member was a matter of such utter indifference to the people, that they often only knew of it by the ringing of a bell, or by seeing it mentioned next day in a newspaper.'
the county had, at two publick meetings, elected me their Præses or Chairman'.
'TO JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ.
'Like all other men who have great friends, you begin to feel the pangs of neglected merit; and all the comfort that I can give you is, by telling you that you have probably more pangs to feel, and more neglect to suffer. You have, indeed, begun to complain too soon; and I hope I am the only confidant of your discontent. Your friends have not yet had leisure to gratify personal kindness; they have hitherto been busy in strengthening their ministerial interest. If a vacancy happens in Scotland, give them early intelligence; and as you can serve Government as powerfully as any of your probable competitors, you may make in some sort a warrantable claim.
"Of the exaltations and depressions of your mind you delight to talk, and I hate to hear. Drive all such fancies from you.
'On the day when I received your letter, I think, the foregoing page was written; to which, one disease or another has hindered me from making any additions. I am now a little better. But sickness and solitude press me very heavily. I could bear sickness better, if I were relieved from solitude".
'Six years later, when he was Præses of the Quarter-Sessions, he carried up to London an address to be presented to the Prince of Wales. This,' he wrote, ' will add something to my conspicuousness. Will that word do?' Letters of Boswell, p. 295.
This part of this letter was written, as Johnson goes on to say,. a considerable time before the conclusion. The Coalition Ministry, which was suddenly dismissed by the King on Dec. 19, was therefore still in power. Among Boswell's 'friends' was Burke. See ante, iv. 257.
3 On Nov. 22 he wrote to Dr. Taylor :-'I feel the weight of solitude very pressing, after a night of broken and uncomfortable slumber I rise to a solitary breakfast, and sit down in the evening with no companion. Sometimes, however, I try to read more and more.' Notes and Queries, 6th S., v. 482. On Dec. 27 he wrote to Mrs. Thrale :'You have more than once wondered at my complaint of solitude, when you hear that I am crowded with visits. Inopem me copia fecit. Visitors are no proper companions in the chamber of sickness. They come when I could sleep or read, they stay till I am weary. . . . The