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People Johnson sought after.
observances, were all the ministers of religion what they. should be, and what many of them are, such a power might be wisely and safely lodged with the Church.
On Saturday, April 14', I drank tea with him. He praised the late Mr. Duncombe', of Canterbury, as a pleasing man. 'He used to come to me: I did not seek much after him. Indeed I never sought much after any body.' BOSWELL. 'Lord Orrery', I suppose.' JOHNSON. 'No, Sir; I never went to him but when he sent for me.' BOSWELL. 'Richardson?' JOHNSON. 'Yes, Sir. But I sought after George Psalmanazar the most. I used to go and sit with him at an alehouse in the city"."
I am happy to mention another instance which I discovered of his seeking after a man of merit. Soon after the Honourable Daines Barrington had published his excellent Observations on the Statutes, Johnson waited on that worthy and learned gentleman; and, having told him his name, courteously said, 'I have read your book, Sir, with great pleasure, and wish to be better known to you.' Thus began an acquaintance, which was continued with mutual regard as long as Johnson lived.
Talking of a recent seditious delinquent, he said, 'They
terms, that of which Dr. Johnson did not disapprove!' Marshall's Minutes etc., on Agriculture, ii. 65–70.
2 William Duncombe, Esq. He married the sister of John Hughes the poet; was the authour of two tragedies and other ingenious productions; and died 26th Feb. 1769, aged 79. MALONE. In his Life of Hughes (Works, vii. 477), Johnson says 'an account of Hughes is prefixed to his works by his relation, the late Mr. Duncombe, a man whose blameless elegance deserved the same respect.'
'See ante, i, 214, 281, of Boswell's Hebrides, Sept. 22.
• See ante, i. 168.
See Appendix A.
No doubt Parson Horne, better known as Horne Tooke, who was at this time in prison. He had signed an advertisement issued by the Constitutional Society asking for a subscription for 'the relief of the widows, etc., of our beloved American fellow-subjects, who had been inhumanly murdered by the King's troops at Lexington and Concord.'
[A.D. 1778. should set him in the pillory, that he may be punished in a way that would disgrace him.' I observed, that the pillory does not always disgrace. And I mentioned an instance of a gentleman' who I thought was not dishonoured by it. JOHNSON. Ay, but he was, Sir. He could not mouth and strut as he used to do, after having been there. People are not willing to ask a man to their tables who has stood in the pillory.'
The Gentleman who had dined with us at Dr. Percy's' came in. Johnson attacked the Americans with intemperate vehemence of abuse. I said something in their favour; and added, that I was always sorry when he talked on that subject. This, it seems, exasperated him; though he said
For this 'very gross libel' he had in the previous November been sentenced to a fine of £200 and a year's imprisonment. Ann. Reg. XX. 234-245. See post, May 13, 1778.
'Mr. Croker's conjecture that Dr. Shebbeare was the gentleman is supported by the favourable way in which Boswell (post, May 1781) speaks of Shebbeare as 'that gentleman,' and calls him 'a respectable name in literature.' Shebbeare, on Nov. 28, 1758, was sentenced by Lord Mansfield to stand in the pillory, to be confined for three years, and to give security for his good behaviour for seven years, for a libellous pamphlet intitled A Sixth Letter to the People of England. Gent. Mag. xxviii. 555. (See ante, p. 18, note 1.) On Feb. 7, 1759, the under-sheriff of Middlesex was found guilty of a contempt of Court, in having suffered Shebbeare to stand upon the pillory only, and not in it. Ib. xxix. 91. Before the seven years had run out, Shebbeare was pensioned. Smollett, in the preface to Humphry Clinker, represents the publisher of that novel as writing to the imaginary author:-'If you should be sentenced to the pillory your fortune is made. As times go, that's a sure step to honour and preferment. I shall think myself happy if I can lend you a lift.' See also in the same book Mr. Bramble's Letter of June 2.
2 See p. 312 of this volume. BOSWELL. Why Boswell mentions this gentleman at all, seeing that nothing that he says is reported, is not clear. Perhaps he gave occasion to Johnson's attack on the Americans. It is curious also why both here and in the account given of Dr. Percy's dinner his name is not mentioned. In the presence of this unknown gentleman Johnson violently attacked first Percy, and 1.ext Boswell.
nothing at the time. The cloud was charged with sulphureous vapour, which was afterwards to burst in thunder.— We talked of a gentleman' who was running out his fortune in London; and I said, 'We must get him out of it. All his friends must quarrel with him, and that will soon drive him away.' JOHNSON. Nay, Sir; we'll send you to him. If your company does not drive a man out of his house, nothing will.' This was a horrible shock, for which there was no visible cause. I afterwards asked him why he had said so harsh a thing. JOHNSON. Because, Sir, you made me angry about the Americans.' BOSWELL. But why did. you not take your revenge directly?' JOHNSON. (smiling) 'Because, Sir, I had nothing ready. A man cannot strike till he has his weapons.' This was a candid and pleasant confession.
He shewed me to-night his drawing-room, very genteelly fitted up; and said, 'Mrs. Thrale sneered when I talked of my having asked you and your lady to live at my house'. I was obliged to tell her, that you would be in as respectable a situation in my house as in hers. Sir, the insolence of wealth will creep out.' BOSWELL. She has a little both of the insolence of wealth, and the conceit of parts.' JOHNSON. The insolence of wealth is a wretched thing; but the conceit of parts has some foundation. To be sure it should not be. But who is without it?' BOSWELL. 'Yourself, Sir.' JOHNSON. 'Why I play no tricks: I lay no traps.' BosWELL. No, Sir. You are six feet high, and you only do not stoop.'
We talked of the numbers of people that sometimes have composed the household of great families. I mentioned that there were a hundred in the family of the present Earl of Eglintoune's father. Dr. Johnson seeming to doubt it, I
1 Mr. Langton no doubt. See ante, iii. 56. He had paid Johnson a visit that morning. Pr. and Med. p. 165.
2 See ante, p. 245.
9 See ante, i. 572, where Johnson says that 'her learning is that of a schoolboy in one of the lower forms.'
The unhappiness of human life. [A.D. 1778.
began to enumerate. 'Let us see my Lord and my Lady two.' JOHNSON. Nay, Sir, if you are to count by twos, you may be long enough.' BOSWELL. 'Well, but now I add two sons and seven daughters, and a servant for each, that will make twenty; so we have the fifth part already.' JOHNSON. 'Very true. You get at twenty pretty readily; but you will not so easily get further on. We grow to five feet pretty readily; but it is not so easy to grow to seven.'
On Sunday, April 19, being Easter-day, after the solemnities of the festival in St. Paul's Church, I visited him, but could not stay to dinner. I expressed a wish to have the arguments for Christianity always in readiness, that my religious faith might be as firm and clear as any proposition whatever, so that I need not be under the least uneasiness, when it should be attacked. JOHNSON. 'Sir, you cannot answer all objections. You have demonstration for a First Cause you see he must be good as well as powerful, because there is nothing to make him otherwise, and goodness of itself is preferable. Yet you have against this, what is very certain, the unhappiness of human life. This, however, gives us reason to hope for a future state of compensation, that there may be a perfect system. But of that we were not sure, till we had a positive revelation.' I told him, that his Rasselas had often made me unhappy; for it represented the misery of human life so well, and so convincingly to a thinking mind, that if at any time the impression wore off, and I felt myself easy, I began to suspect some delusion.
On Monday, April 20', I found him at home in the morning. We talked of a gentleman' who we apprehended was gradually involving his circumstances by bad management.
'On this day Johnson recorded in his review of the past year:'My nights have been commonly, not only restless, but painful and fatiguing.' He adds, 'I have written a little of the Lives of the Poets, I think with all my usual vigour. . . . This year the 28th of March passed away without memorial. Poor Tetty, whatever were our faults and failings, we loved each other. I did not forget thee yesterday. Couldst thou have lived!' Pr. and Med. pp. 169, 170.
'Mr. Langton. See ante, iii. 56.