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Johnson's kindness of disposition. [A.D. 1778.
'Don't you eat supper, Sir?' JOHNSON. No, Sir.' EDWARDS. For my part, now, I consider supper as a turnpike through which one must pass, in order to get to bed'.'
JOHNSON. 'You are a lawyer, Mr. Edwards. Lawyers know life practically. A bookish man should always have them to converse with. They have what he wants.' WARDS. I am grown old: I am sixty-five.' JOHNSON. 'I shall be sixty-eight next birth-day. Come, Sir, drink water, and put in for a hundred.'
Mr. Edwards mentioned a gentleman who had left his whole fortune to Pembroke College. JOHNSON. 'Whether to leave one's whole fortune to a College be right, must depend upon circumstances. I would leave the interest of the fortune I bequeathed to a College to my relations or my friends, for their lives. It is the same thing to a College, which is a permanent society, whether it gets the money now or twenty years hence; and I would wish to make my relations or friends feel the benefit of it.'
This interview confirmed my opinion of Johnson's most humane and benevolent heart. His cordial and placid behaviour to an old fellow-collegian, a man so different from himself; and his telling him that he would go down to his farm and visit him, showed a kindness of disposition very rare at an advanced age. He observed, 'how wonderful it was that they had both been in London forty years, without having ever once met, and both walkers in the street too!' Mr. Edwards, when going away, again recurred to his consciousness of senility, and looking full in Johnson's face, said to him,' You'll find in Dr. Young,
"O my coevals! remnants of yourselves'!"'
I am not absolutely sure but this was my own suggestion, though it is truly in the character of Edwards. BOSWELL.
'O my coevals! remnants of yourselves!
Johnson like a ghost.
Johnson did not relish this at all; but shook his head with impatience. Edwards walked off, seemingly highly pleased with the honour of having been thus noticed by Dr. Johnson. When he was gone, I said to Johnson, I thought him but a weak man. JOHNSON. 'Why, yes, Sir. Here is a man who has passed through life without experience: yet I would rather have him with me than a more sensible man who will not talk readily. This man is always willing to say what he has to say.' Yet Dr. Johnson had himself by no means that willingness which he praised so much, and I think so justly; for who has not felt the painful effect of the dreary void, when there is a total silence in a company, for any length of time; or, which is as bad, or perhaps worse, when the conversation is with difficulty kept up by a perpetual effort?
Johnson once observed to me, 'Tom Tyers described me the best: "Sir (said he), you are like a ghost: you never speak till you are spoken to'."'
Strike deeper their vile roots, and closer cling,
Young's Night Thoughts, Night iv. 1 See Boswell's Hebrides, Aug. 20, 1773. According to Mrs. Piozzi 'he liked the expression so well that he often repeated it.' Piozzi's Anec. p. 208. He wrote to her :-'Have you not observed in all our conversations that my genius is always in extremes; that I am very noisy or very silent; very gloomy or very merry; very sour or very kind?' Piozzi Letters, ii. 166. In Mme. D'Arblay's Diary (ii. 310) we read that Dr. Johnson is never his best when there is nobody to draw him out;' and in her Memoirs of Dr. Burney (ii. 107) she adds that 'the masterly manner in which, as soon as any topic was started, he seized it in all its bearings, had so much the air of belonging to the leader of the discourse, that this singularity was unsuspected save by the experienced observation of long years of acquaintance.' Malone wrote in 1783-' I have always found him very communicative; ready to give his opinion on any subject that was mentioned. He seldom, however, starts a subject himself; but it is very easy to lead him into one.' Prior's Malone, p. 92. What Dugald Stewart says of Adam Smith (Life, p. 114) was equally true of Johnson:-'He was scarcely ever known to start a new topic himself, or to appear unprepared upon those topics that were introduced by others.' Johnson, in his long fits of silence, was perhaps like Cowper, but when aroused he was alto
Mr. Thomas Tyers.
[A.D. 1778. The gentleman whom he thus familiarly mentioned was Mr. Thomas Tyers, son of Mr. Jonathan Tyers, the founder of that excellent place of publick amusement, Vauxhall Gardens, which must ever be an estate to its proprietor, as it is peculiarly adapted to the taste of the English nation; there being a mixture of curious show,-gay exhibition,-musick, vocal and instrumental, not too refined for the general ear;— for all which only a shilling is paid'; and, though last, not least, good eating and drinking for those who choose to purchase that regale'. Mr. Thomas Tyers was bred to the law; but having a handsome fortune, vivacity of temper, and eccentricity of mind, he could not confine himself to the regularity of practice. He therefore ran about the world with a pleasant carelessness, amusing everybody by his des ultory conversation". He abounded in anecdote, but was
gether unlike. Cowper says of himself: The effect of such continual listening to the language of a heart hopeless and deserted is that I can never give much more than half my attention to what is started by others, and very rarely start anything myself.' Southey's Cowper, v. 10.
1 In summer 1792, additional and more expensive decorations having been introduced, the price of admission was raised to two shillings. I cannot approve of this. The company may be more select; but a number of the honest commonalty are, I fear, excluded from sharing in elegant and innocent entertainment. An attempt to abolish the one-shilling gallery at the playhouse has been very properly counteracted. Boswell.
Regale, as a noun, is not in Johnson's Dictionary. It was a favourite word with Miss Burney.
''Tyers is described in The Idler, No. 48, under the name of Tom Restless; "a circumstance," says Mr. Nichols, "pointed out to me by Dr. Johnson himself." Lit. Anec. viii. 81. When Tom Restless rises he goes into a coffee-house, where he creeps so near to men whom he takes to be reasoners, as to hear their discourse, and endeavours to remember something which, when it has been strained through Tom's head, is so near to nothing, that what it once was cannot be discovered. This he carries round from friend to friend through a circle of visits, till, hearing what each says upon the question, he becomes able at dinner to say a little himself; and as every great genius relaxes himself among his inferiors, meets with some who wonder how so young a man can talk so wisely.'
Aetat. 69.] Johnson bred to no profession.
I therefore cannot
not sufficiently attentive to accuracy. venture to avail myself much of a biographical sketch of Johnson which he published, being one among the various persons ambitious of appending their names to that of my illustrious friend. That sketch is, however, an entertaining little collection of fragments. Those which he published of Pope and Addison are of higher merit; but his fame must chiefly rest upon his Political Conferences, in which he introduces several eminent persons delivering their sentiments in the way of dialogue, and discovers a considerable share of learning, various knowledge, and discernment of character. This much may I be allowed to say of a man who was exceedingly obliging to me, and who lived with Dr. Johnson in as easy a manner as almost any of his very numerous accquaintance.
Mr. Edwards had said to me aside, that Dr. Johnson should have been of a profession'. I repeated the remark to Johnson that I might have his own thoughts on the subject. JOHNSON. 'Sir, it would have been better that I had been of a profession. I ought to have been a lawyer.' BOSWELL. 'I do not think, Sir, it would have been better, for we should not have had the English Dictionary.' JOHNSON. 'But you would have had Reports.' BOSWELL. 'Ay; but there would not have been another, who could have written the Dictionary. There have been many very good Judges. Suppose you had been Lord Chancellor; you would have delivered opinions with more extent of mind, and in a more ornamented manner, than perhaps any Chancellor ever did, or ever will do. But, I believe, causes have been as judiciously decided as you could have done.' JOHNSON. 'Yes, Sir. Property has been as well settled.'
Johnson, however, had a noble ambition floating in his
''That accurate judge of human life, Dr. Johnson, has often been heard by me to observe, that it was the greatest misfortune which could befall a man to have been bred to no profession, and pathetically to regret that this misfortune was his own.' More's Practical Piety, p. 313. MARKLAND.
Johnson's disappointed ambition.
[A.D. 1778. mind, and had, undoubtedly, often speculated on the possibility of his supereminent powers being rewarded in this great and liberal country by the highest honours of the state. Sir William Scott informs me, that upon the death of the late Lord Lichfield, who was Chancellor of the University of Oxford, he said to Johnson, 'What a pity it is, Sir, that you did not follow the profession of the law'. You might have been Lord Chancellor of Great Britain, and attained to the dignity of the peerage; and now that the title of Lichfield, your native city, is extinct, you might have had it'.' Johnson, upon this, seemed much agitated; and, in an angry tone, exclaimed, 'Why will you vex me by suggesting this, when it is too late?'
But he did not repine at the prosperity of others. The late Dr. Thomas Leland told Mr. Courtenay, that when Mr. Edmund Burke shewed Johnson his fine house and lands near Beaconsfield, Johnson coolly said, 'Non equidem invideo; miror magis'.'
1 He had wished to study it. See ante, i. 155.
The fourth Earl of Lichfield, the Chancellor of Oxford, died in 1772. The title became extinct in 1776, on the death of the fifth earl. The present title was created in 1831. Courthope's Hist. Peerage, p. 286.
See post, March 23, 1783, where Boswell vexed him in much the same way.
I am not entirely without suspicion that Johnson may have felt a little momentary envy; fór no man loved the good things of this life better than he did; and he could not but be conscious that he deserved a much larger share of them, than he ever had. I attempted in a newspaper to comment on the above passage, in the manner of Warburton, who must be allowed to have shewn uncommon ingenuity, in giving to any authour's text whatever meaning he chose it should carry. [Ante, ii. 41, note 3.] As this imitation may amuse my readers, I shall here introduce it :
'No saying of Dr. Johnson's has been more misunderstood than his applying to Mr. Burke when he first saw him at his fine place at Beaconsfield, Non equidem invideo; miror magis. These two celebrated men had been friends for many years before Mr. Burke entered on his parliamentary career. They were both writers, both members of THE LITERARY CLUB; when, therefore, Dr. Johnson saw Mr. Burke in a