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Illness of Joshua Reynolds.
[A.D. 1764. held his head to one side towards his right shoulder, and shook it in a tremulous manner, moving his body backwards and forwards, and rubbing his left knee in the same direction, with the palm of his hand. In the intervals of articulating he made various sounds with his mouth, sometimes as if ruminating, or what is called chewing the cud, sometimes giving a half whistle, sometimes making his tongue play backwards from the roof of his mouth, as if clucking like a hen, and sometimes protruding it against his upper gums in front, as if pronouncing quickly under his breath, too, too, too: all this accompanied sometimes with a thoughtful look, but more frequently with a smile. Generally when he had concluded a period, in the course of a dispute, by which time he was a good deal exhausted by violence and vociferation, he used to blow out his breath like a Whale. This I supposed was a relief to his lungs; and seemed in him to be a contemptuous mode of expression, as if he had made the arguments of his opponent fly like chaff before the wind.
I am fully aware how very obvious an occasion I here give for the sneering jocularity of such as have no relish of an exact likeness; which to render complete, he who draws it must not disdain the slightest strokes. But if witlings should be inclined to attack this account, let them have the candour to quote what I have offered in my defence.
He was for some time in the summer at Easton Maudit, Northamptonshire, on a visit to the Reverend Dr. Percy, now Bishop of Dromore. Whatever dissatisfaction he felt at what he considered as a slow progress in intellectual improvement, we find that his heart was tender, and his affections warm, as appears from the following very kind letter:
'TO JOSHUA REYNOLDS, ESQ., IN LEICESTER-FIELDS, LONDON. 'Dear Sir,
'I did not hear of your sickness till I heard likewise of your recovery, and therefore escaped that part of your pain, which every man must feel, to whom you are known as you are known
'Having had no particular account of your disorder, I know not
Johnson at Cambridge.
in what state it has left you. If the amusement of my company can exhilarate the languor of a slow recovery, I will not delay a day to come to you; for I know not how I can so effectually promote my own pleasure as by pleasing you, or my own interest as by preserving you, in whom, if I should lose you, I should lose almost the only man whom I call a friend.
'Pray let me hear of you from yourself, or from dear Miss Reynolds'. Make my compliments to Mr. Mudge. I am, dear Sir, 'Your most affectionate
'And most humble servant,
At the Rev. Mr. Percy's, at Easton
1765: ÆTAT. 56.]—EARLY in the year 1765 he paid a short visit to the University of Cambridge, with his friend Mr. Beauclerk. There is a lively picturesque account of his behaviour on this visit, in The Gentleman's Magazine for March 1785, being an extract of a letter from the late Dr. John Sharp. The two following sentences are very characteristical:
'Sir Joshua's sister, for whom Johnson had a particular affection, and to whom he wrote many letters which I have seen, and which I am sorry her too nice delicacy will not permit to be published. BosWELL. Whilst the company at Mr. Thrale's were speculating upon a microscope for the mind, Johnson exclaimed:-"I never saw one that would bear it, except that of my dear Miss Reynolds, and hers is very near to purity itself." Northcote's Reynolds, i. 80. Once, says Northcote, there was a coolness between her and her brother. She wished to set forth to him her grievances in a letter. Not finding it easy to write, she consulted Johnson, who offered to write a letter himself, which when copied should pass as her own.' This he did. It began :-'I am well aware that complaints are always odicus, but complain I must.' Such a letter as this she saw would not pass with Sir Joshua as her own, and so she could not use it. Ib. p. 203. Of Johnson's letters to her Malone published one, and Mr. Croker several more. Mme. D'Arblay, in the character she draws of her (Memoirs of Dr. Burney, i. 332), says that 'Dr. Johnson tried in vain to cure her of living in an habitual perplexity of mind and irresolution of conduct, which to herself was restlessly tormenting, and to all around her was teazingly wearisome.'
Trinity College, Dublin.
[A.D. 1765. 'He drank his large potations of tea with me, interrupted by many an indignant contradiction, and many a noble sentiment.'
-Several persons got into his company the last evening at Trinity, where, about twelve, he began to be very great; stripped poor Mrs. Macaulay to the very skin, then gave her for his toast, and drank her in two bumpers'.'
The strictness of his self-examination and scrupulous Christian humility appear in his pious meditation on Easterday this year.
'I purpose again to partake of the blessed sacrament; yet when I consider how vainly I have hitherto resolved at this annual commemoration of my Saviour's death, to regulate my life by his laws, I am almost afraid to renew my resolutions.'
The concluding words are very remarkable, and shew that he laboured under a severe depression of spirits.
'Since the last Easter I have reformed no evil habit, my time has been unprofitably spent, and seems as a dream that has left nothing behind. My memory grows confused, and I know not how the days pass over me. Good Lord deliver me'!'
No man was more gratefully sensible of any kindness done to him than Johnson. There is a little circumstance in his diary this year, which shews him in a very amiable light.
'July 2.-I paid Mr. Simpson ten guineas, which he had formerly lent me in my necessity, and for which Tetty expressed her gratitude.'
'July 8.—I lent Mr. Simpson ten guineas more'.'
Here he had a pleasing opportunity of doing the same kindness to an old friend, which he had formerly received from him. Indeed his liberality as to money was very remarkable. The next article in his diary is,
'July 16.-I received seventy-five pounds. Lent Mr. Davis twenty-five.'
Trinity College, Dublin, at this time surprised Johnson with a spontaneous compliment of the highest academical
1 See Appendix C. See ante, p. 400.
Pr. and Med. p. 61. BOSWELL. • His quarter's pension. See ante, p. 435
Aetat. 56.] Johnson created Doctor of Laws. 565 honours, by eating him Doctor of Laws'. The diploma, which is in y possession, is as follows:
'OMNIBUS ad quos præsentes literæ pervenerint, salutem. Nos Præpositus et Socii seniores Collegii sacrosanctæ et individuæ Trinitatis Regina Elizabethæ juxta Dublin, testamur, Samueli Johnson, Armigero, ob egregiam scriptorum elegantiam et utilitatem, gratiam concessam fuisse pro gradu Doctoratûs in utroque Fure, octavo die
' Mr. Croker, misunderstanding a passage in Hawkins, writes:— Hawkins says that he disliked to be called Doctor, as reminding him that he had been a schoolmaster.' What Hawkins really says (Life, p. 446) is this: His attachment to Oxford prevented Johnson from receiving this honour as it was intended, and he never assumed the title which it conferred. He was as little pleased to be called Doctor in consequence of it, as he was with the title of Domine, which a friend of his once incautiously addressed him by. He thought it alluded to his having been a schoolmaster.' It is clear that 'it' in the last line refers only to the title of Domine. Murphy (Life, p. 98) says that Johnson never assumed the title of Doctor, till Oxford conferred on him the degree. Boswell states (post, March 31, 1775, note): -It is remarkable that he never, so far as I know, assumed his title of Doctor, but called himself Mr. Johnson.' In this, as I show there, Boswell seems to be not perfectly accurate. I do not believe Hawkins's assertion that Johnson 'was little pleased to be called Doctor in consequence of his Dublin degree.' In Boswell's Hebrides, most of which was read by him before he received his Oxford degree, he is commonly styled Doctor. Boswell says in a note on Aug. 15, 1773:— 'It was some time before I could bring myself to call him Doctor.' Had Johnson disliked the title it would have been known to Boswell, Mrs. Thrale, it is true, in her letters to him, after he had received both his degrees, commonly speaks of him as Mr. Johnson. We may assume that he valued his Oxford degree of M.A. more highly than the Dublin degree of LL.D.; for in the third edition of the Abridgment of his Dictionary, published in 1766, he is styled Samuel Johnson, A.M. In his Lives of the Poets he calls himself simply Samuel Johnson. He had by that time risen above degrees. In his Journey to the Hebrides (Works, ix. 14), after stating that 'An English or Irish doctorate cannot be obtained by a very young man,' he continues: It is reasonable to suppose. that he who is by age qualified to be a doctor, has in so much time gained learning sufficient not to disgrace the title, or wit sufficient not to desire it.'
'Trinity College made him, it should seem, Armiger at the same time that it made him Doctor of Laws.
On becoming a politician.
Julii, Anno Domini millesimo septingentesimo sexage mo-quinto. cujus rei testimonium singulorum manus et sigillum 1.5 in hisce utimur apposuimus; vicesimo tertio die Julii, Anno Domini millesimo septingentesimo sexagesimo-quinto.
This unsolicited mark of distinction, conferred on so great a literary character, did much honour to the judgement and liberal spirit of that learned body. Johnson acknowledged the favour in a letter to Dr. Leland, one of their number; but I have not been able to obtain a copy of it'.
He appears this year to have been seized with a temporary fit of ambition, for he had thoughts both of studying law and of engaging in politics. His 'Prayer before the Study of Law' is truly admirable :
'Sept. 26, 1765.
'Almighty God, the giver of wisdom, without whose help resolutions are vain, without whose blessing study is ineffectual; enable me, if it be thy will, to attain such knowledge as may qualify me to direct the doubtful, and instruct the ignorant; to prevent wrongs and terminate contentions; and grant that I may use that knowledge which I shall attain, to thy glory and my own salvation, for JESUS CHRIST's sake. Amen'.'
His prayer in the view of becoming a politician is entitled, 'Engaging in POLITICKS with H— -n,' no doubt his friend, the Right Honourable William Gerard Hamilton', for whom, during a long acquaintance, he had a great esteem, and to whose conversation he once paid this high compliment: 'I am very unwilling to be left alone, Sir, and therefore I go with my company down the first pair of stairs, in some hopes that they may, perhaps, return again. I go with you, Sir, as far as the street-door.' In what particular
'See Appendix D for this letter.
1 Pr. and Med. p. 66. Boswell.
Single-speech Hamilton, as he was commonly called, though in the House of Commons he had spoken more than once. For above thirty sessions together, however, he held his tongue. Prior's Burke, p. 67.