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Johnson's character.

[A.D. 1784. be denied, that he had many prejudices; which, however, frequently suggested many of his pointed sayings, that rather shew a playfulness of fancy than any settled malignity. He was steady and inflexible in maintaining the obligations of religion and morality; both from a regard for the order of society, and from a veneration for the GREAT SOURCE of all order; correct, nay stern in his taste; hard to please, and easily offended'; impetuous and irritable in his temper, but of a most humane and benevolent heart', which shewed itself not only in a most liberal charity, as far as his circumstances would allow, but in a thousand instances of active benevolence. He was afflicted with a bodily disease, which made him often restless and fretful; and with a constitutional melancholy, the clouds of which darkened the brightness of his fancy, and gave a gloomy cast to his whole course of thinking: we, therefore, ought not to wonder at his sallies of impatience and passion at any time; especially when provoked by obtrusive ignorance, or presuming petulance; and allowance must be made for his uttering hasty and satirical sallies even against his best friends. And, surely, when it is considered, that, ' amidst sickness and sorrow',' he exerted his faculties in so many works for the benefit of mankind, and particularly that he atchieved the great and admirable DICTIONARY of our language, we must

'He was always indulgent to the young, he never attacked the unassuming, nor meant to terrify the diffident.' Mme. D'Arblay's Diary, ii. 343.

* In the Olla Podrida, a collection of Essays published at Oxford, there is an admirable paper upon the character of Johnson, written by the Reverend Dr. Horne, the last excellent Bishop of Norwich. The following passage is eminently happy: To reject wisdom, because the person of him who communicates it is uncouth, and his manners are inelegant;—what is it, but to throw away a pine-apple, and assign for a reason the roughness of its coat?' BOSWELL. The Olla Podrida was published in weekly numbers in 1787-8. Boswell's quotation is from No. 13.


'The English Dictionary was written . . . amidst inconvenience and distraction, in sickness and in sorrow.' Preface to Johnson's Dictionary, Works, v. 51.


be astonished at his resolution. The solemn text, ' of him to whom much is given, much will be required',' seems to have been ever present to his mind, in a rigorous sense, and to have made him dissatisfied with his labours and acts of goodness, however comparatively great; so that the unavoidable consciousness of his superiority was, in that respect, a cause of disquiet. He suffered so much from this, and from the, gloom which perpetually haunted him, and made solitude frightful, that it may be said of him, 'If in this life only he had hope, he was of all men most miserable'.' He loved praise, when it was brought to him; but was too proud to seek for it. He was somewhat susceptible of flattery. As he was general and unconfined in his studies, he cannot be considered as master of any one particular science; but he had accumulated a vast and various collection of learning and knowledge, which was so arranged in his mind, as to be ever in readiness to be brought forth. But his superiority over other learned men consisted chiefly in what may be called the art of thinking, the art of using his mind; a certain continual power of seizing the useful substance of all that he knew, and exhibiting it in a clear and forcible manner; so that knowledge, which we often see to be no better than lumber in men of dull understanding, was, in him, true, evident, and actual wisdom. His moral precepts are practical; for they are drawn from an intimate acquaintance with human nature. His maxims carry conviction; for they are founded on the basis of common sense, and a very attentive and minute survey of real life. His mind was so full of imagery, that he might have been perpetually a poet; yet it is remarkable, that, however rich his prose is in this respect, his poetical pieces, in general, have not much of that splendour, but are rather distinguished by strong sentiment and acute observation,


For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: Luke, xii. 48.

"If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable,' I Corinthians, xv. 19.



Johnson's character.

[A.D. 1784. conveyed in harmonious and energetick verse, particularly in heroick couplets. Though usually grave, and even aweful, in his deportment, he possessed uncommon and peculiar powers of wit and humour; he frequently indulged himself in colloquial pleasantry; and the heartiest merriment' was often enjoyed in his company; with this great advantage, that as it was entirely free from any poisonous tincture of vice or impiety, it was salutary to those who shared in it. He had accustomed himself to such accuracy in his common conversation, that he at all times expressed his thoughts

1 See ante, ii. 301, note 2.

Though a perfect resemblance of Johnson is not to be found in any age, parts of his character are admirably expressed by Clarendon in drawing that of Lord Falkland, whom the noble and masterly historian describes at his seat near Oxford :- Such an immenseness of wit, such a solidity of judgement, so infinite a fancy, bound in by a most logical ratiocination.--His acquaintance was cultivated by the most polite and accurate men, so that his house was an University in less volume, whither they came, not so much for repose as study, and to examine and refine those grosser propositions, which laziness and consent made current in conversation.'

Bayle's account of Menage may also be quoted as exceedingly applicable to the great subject of this work:- His illustrious friends erected a very glorious monument to him in the collection entitled Menagiana. Those who judge of things aright, will confess that this collection is very proper to shew the extent of genius and learning which was the character of Menage. And I may be bold to say, that the excellent works he published will not distinguish him from other learned men so advantageously as this. To publish books of great learning, to make Greek and Latin verses exceedingly well turned, is not a common talent, I own; neither is it extremely rare. It is incomparably more difficult to find men who can furnish discourse about an infinite number of things, and who can diversify them an hundred ways. How many authours are there, who are admired for their works, on account of the vast learning that is displayed in them, who are not able to sustain a conversation. Those who know Menage only by his books, might think he resembled those learned men; but if you shew the MENAGIANA, you distinguish him from them, and make him known by a talent which is given to very few learned men. There it appears that he was a man who spoke off-hand a thousand good things. His memory extended to what was ancient and mod

with great force, and an elegant choice of language, the effect of which was aided by his having a loud voice, and a slow deliberate utterance'. In him were united a most logical head with a most fertile imagination, which gave him an extraordinary advantage in arguing: for he could reason close or wide, as he saw best for the moment. Exulting in his intellectual strength and dexterity, he could, when he pleased, be the greatest sophist that ever contended in the lists of declamation; and, from a spirit of contradiction and a delight in shewing his powers, he would often maintain the wrong side with equal warmth and ingenuity; so that, when there was an audience, his real opinions could seldom be gathered from his talk'; though when he was in company with a single friend, he would discuss a subject with genuine fairness: but he was too conscientious to make errour permanent and pernicious, by deliberately writing it; and, in all his numerous works, he earnestly inculcated what appeared to him to be the truth; his piety being constant, and the ruling principle of all his conduct'.

Such was SAMUEL JOHNSON, a man whose talents, acquirements, and virtues, were so extraordinary, that the more his character is considered, the more he will be regarded

ern; to the court and to the city; to the dead and to the living languages; to things serious and things jocose; in a word, to a thousand sorts of subjects. That which appeared a trifle to some readers of the Menagiana, who did not consider circumstances, caused admiration in other readers, who minded the difference between what a man speaks without preparation, and that which he prepares for the press. And, therefore, we cannot sufficiently commend the care which his illustrious friends took to erect a monument so capable of giving him immortal glory. They were not obliged to rectify what they had heard him say; for, in so doing, they had not been faithful historians of his conversations.' BOSWELL. Boswell's quotation from Clarendon (ed. 1826, iv. 242) differs somewhat from the original.

1 See ante, ii. 373, and iv. 273.

2 See ante, iv. 129.

To this finely-drawn character we may add the noble testimony of Sir Joshua Reynolds:- His pride had no meanness in it; there was nothing little or mean about him.' Taylor's Reynolds, ii. 457. by


Johnson's character.

by the present age, and by posterity, with admiration and


In Johnson's character of Boerhaave there is much that applies equally well to himself. Thus died Boerhaave, a man formed by nature for great designs, and guided by religion in the exertion of his abilities. He was of a robust and athletick constitution of body, so hardened by early severities and wholesome fatigue that he was insensible of any sharpness of air, or inclemency of weather. He was tall, and remarkable for extraordinary strength. There was in his air and motion something rough and artless, but so majestick and great at the same time, that no man ever looked upon him without veneration, and a kind of tacit submission to the superiority of his genius. . . . He was never soured by calumny and detraction, nor ever thought it necessary to confute them; "for they are sparks," said he, "which, if you do not blow them, will go out of themselves." ... He was not to be overawed or depressed by the presence, frowns, or insolence of great men; but persisted, on all occasions, in the right with a resolution always present and always calm. . . . Nor was he unacquainted with the art of recommending truth by elegance, and embellishing the philosopher with polite literature. . . . He knew the importance of his own writings to mankind, and lest he might by a roughness and barbarity of style, too frequent among men of great learning, disappoint his own intentions, and make his labours less useful, he did not neglect the politer arts of eloquence and poetry. Thus was his learning at once various and exact, profound and agreeable. . . . He asserted on all occasions the divine authority and sacred efficacy of the holy Scriptures; and maintained that they alone taught the way of salvation, and that they only could give peace of mind.' Johnson's Works, vi. 288.


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