صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

appear offensive to many, but those who knew he was too blind to discern the perfections of an art which applies itself immediately to our eye-sight, must acknowledge he was not in the wrong.

He delighted no more in music than painting1; he was almost as deaf as he was blind: travelling with Dr. Johnson was for these reasons tiresome enough. Mr. Thrale loved prospects, and was mortified that his friend could not enjoy the sight of those different dispositions of wood and water, hill and valley, that travelling through England and France affords a man. But when he wished to point them out to his companion: 'Never heed such nonsense,' would be the reply: a blade of grass is always a blade of grass, whether in one country or another: let us if we do talk, talk about something; men and women are my subjects of enquiry; let us see how these differ from those we have left behind.'

When we were at Rouen together 3, he took a great fancy to the Abbé Roffette, with whom he conversed about the destruction of the order of Jesuits, and condemned it loudly, as a blow to the general power of the church, and likely to be followed with many and dangerous innovations, which might at length become fatal to religion itself, and shake even the foundation of Christianity. The gentleman seemed to wonder and delight in his conversation: the talk was all in Latin, which

'He said of music, 'it excites in my mind no ideas, and hinders me from contemplating my own.' Hawkins's Johnson, p. 319. See also Life, ii. 409.

2 The more a man likes scenery the more he dislikes to have it pointed out to him. Johnson was not wholly insensible to scenery. In his Tour to Wales he describes how 'the way lay through pleasant lanes, and overlooked a region beautifully diversified with trees and grass.' Ib. v. 439. See ib. n. 2 for my note on his insen

sibility to nature, and post, p. 323.
3 In September, 1775. Life, ii.

385.
The order was suppressed in
France in 1764, and generally in 1773.
Penny Cyclopaedia, ed. 1839, xiii.
113.

Gibbon, during the alarm caused by the Reign of Terror, 'argued in favour of the Inquisition at Lisbon, and said he would not, at the present moment, give up even that old establishment.' Gibbon's Misc. Works, i. 328.

both

2

both spoke fluently, and Mr. Johnson pronounced a long eulogium upon Milton with so much ardour, eloquence, and ingenuity, that the Abbé rose from his seat and embraced him. My husband seeing them apparently so charmed with the company of each other, politely invited the Abbé to England, intending to oblige his friend; who, instead of thanking, reprimanded him severely before the man, for such a sudden burst of tenderness towards a person he could know nothing at all of; and thus put a sudden finish to all his own and Mr. Thrale's entertainment from the company of the Abbé Roffette.

[ocr errors]

When at Versailles the people shewed us the theatre. As we stood on the stage looking at some machinery for playhouse purposes: Now we are here, what shall we act, Mr. Johnson,The Englishman at Paris 3? No, no (replied he), we will try to act Harry the Fifth.' His dislike of the French was well known to both nations, I believe; but he applauded the number of their books and the graces of their style 5. They have few sentiments (said he), but they express them neatly; they have little meat too, but they dress it well.' Johnson's own

''While Johnson was in France, he was generally very resolute in speaking Latin. It was a maxim with him that a man should not let himself down, by speaking a language which he speaks imperfectly.' Life, ii. 404. For instances of his colloquial Latin see ib. ii. 125, n. 5, 406.

2 For Johnson's lofty praise of Milton see ib. i. 230.

3 A comedy by Foote.

In a note on The Merry Wives of Windsor he says:-'To be a foreigner was always in England, and I suppose everywhere else, a reason of dislike.' Johnson's Shakespeare, ii. 479. But according to Reynolds 'the prejudices he had to countries did not extend to individuals.' Life, iv. 169, n. 1. See also ib. iv. 15.

[ocr errors]

5 He admitted that the French, though not the highest perhaps in any department of literature, yet in every department were very high.' Ib. ii. 125. 'He spoke often in praise of French literature. "The French are excellent in this, (he would say,) they have a book on every subject."' Ib. iv. 237. 'There is,' he said, 'perhaps, more knowledge circulated in the French literature than in any other. There is more original knowledge in English.' Ib. v. 310. In Macaulay's Essay on Horace Walpole (Essays, ed. 1843, ii. 107), there is an interesting expansion of the last passage.

6

During his visit to Paris he says:-Mr. Thrale keeps us a very fine table; but I think our cookery very bad.' Life, ii. 385. 'Their meals are gross.' Ib. p. 389. 'Mr.

notions

notions about eating however was nothing less than delicate; a leg of pork boiled till it dropped from the bone, a veal-pye with plums and sugar, or the outside cut of a salt buttock of beef, were his favourite dainties: with regard to drink, his liking was for the strongest, as it was not the flavour, but the effect he sought for, and professed to desire2; and when I first knew him, he used to pour capillaire into his Port wine. For the last twelve years however, he left off all fermented liquors 3. To make himself some amends indeed, he took his chocolate liberally, pouring in large quantities of cream, or even melted butter; and was so fond of fruit, that though he usually eat seven or eight large peaches of a morning before breakfast began, and treated them with proportionate attention after dinner again, yet I have heard him protest that he never had quite as much as he wished of wall-fruit, except once in his life, and that was when we were all together at Ombersley, the seat of my Lord Sandys 5. I was saying to a friend one day, that I did not like

Thrale justly observed that the cookery of the French was forced upon them by necessity; for they could not eat their meat unless they added some taste to it.' Life, ii. 403. Arthur Young wrote :-'There is not better beef in the world than at Paris.' Travels in France (1792-4), 1890, p. 306. In 1769 there was a tax of fifty shillings upon every ox sold in Paris. Burke's Works, ed. 1808, ii. 88.

[ocr errors]

By plums Mrs. Piozzi probably meant raisins. In Johnson's Dictionary the second definition of plum is raisin; grape dried in the sun. In the Art of Cookery, by a Lady, ed. 1748, p. 134, among the ingredients of a veal-pie are included 'some stoned raisins and currants washed clean, and some sugar.' Opposite the passage in the Life (i. 470) where Johnson says, 'This was a good dinner enough, to be sure; but it was not a dinner to ask a man to,' Mr. Hussey wrote on the margin of

his copy I have more than once allowed him to dine with me on a Buttock of Beef; but he could not expect more at my house.' For his gross feeding see Life, i. 467. For the plums with the veal pie see ante, p. 109, where he has 'farcimen farinaceum cum uvis passis.'

2

''Brandy,' he said, 'will do soonest for a man what drinking can do for him.' Ib. iii. 381.

3 Three years before his death he was drinking wine at Mr. Thrale's house. Ib. iv. 72.

*Susan Burney, describing her visit to Streatham in 1779, says :-' There sat Mrs. Thrale and Dr. Johnson, the latter finishing his breakfast upon peaches. . . . He insisted upon my eating one of his peaches, and, when I had eat it, took a great deal of pains to persuade me to take another.' Early Diary of F. Burney, ii. 256.

5 Life, v. 455. Johnson, a few months before his death, wrote to Dr. Brocklesby:-'What I consider as a

goose

goose; one smells it so while it is roasting, said I: 'But you, Madam (replies the Doctor), have been at all times a fortunate woman, having always had your hunger so forestalled by indulgence, that you never experienced the delight of smelling your dinner beforehand.' Which pleasure, answered I pertly, is to be enjoyed in perfection by such as have the happiness to pass through Porridge-Island of a morning. 'Come, come (says he gravely), let's have no sneering at what is so serious to so many hundreds of your fellow-creatures, dear Lady, turn another way, that they may not be tempted by the luxuries of Porridge-Island to wish for gratifications they are not able to obtain: you are certainly not better than all of them; give God thanks that you are happier.'

I received on another occasion as just a rebuke from Mr. Johnson, for an offence of the same nature, and hope I took care never to provoke a third; for after a very long summer particularly hot and dry, I was wishing naturally but thoughtlessly for some rain to lay the dust as we drove along the Surry roads.

symptom of radical health, I have a voracious delight in raw summer fruit, of which I was less eager a few years ago.' Life, iv. 353.

[ocr errors]

Porridge-Island is a mean street in London, filled with cook-shops for the convenience of the poorer inhabitants; the real name of it I know not, but suspect that it is generally known by, to have been originally a term of derision. Note by Mrs. Piozzi.

'The fine gentleman whose lodgings no one is acquainted with; whose dinner is served up under cover of a pewter plate from the cook's shop in Porridge Island, and whose annuity of a hundred pounds is made to supply a laced suit every year, and a chair every evening to a rout, returns to his bedroom on foot, and goes shivering and supperless to bed, for the pleasure of appearing among people of equal importance with the

Quality of Brentford.' The World,
Nov. 29, 1753, No. 48.

Charles Knight, describing a walk in 1812 from Covent Garden to Pim

lico, says:- 'We make our way to Charing Cross, deviating a little from the usual route, that I may see how some of the worthy electors of Westminster are lodged and fed. We are in the alleys known in the time of Ben Jonson as the Bermudas but since called the Caribbee Islands... Close at hand is Porridge Island, then famous for cook-shops, as in the middle of the previous century. We are out of the labyrinth, and are in a neglected open space, on the north of which stands the King's Mews. Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery have swept away these relics of the pride of the Crown and the low estate of the people.' Passages of a Working Life, i. 117.

...

'I cannot

'I cannot bear (replied he, with much asperity and an altered look), when I know how many poor families will perish next winter for want of that bread which the present drought will deny them, to hear ladies sighing for rain, only that their complexions may not suffer from the heat, or their clothes be incommoded by the dust ;-for shame! leave off such foppish lamentations, and study to relieve those whose distresses are real.'

[ocr errors]

With advising others to be charitable however, Dr. Johnson did not content himself. He gave away all he had, and all he ever had gotten, except the two thousand pounds he left behind'; and the very small portion of his income which he spent on himself, with all our calculation, we never could make more than seventy, or at most fourscore pounds a year, and he pretended to allow himself a hundred. He had numberless dependents out of doors as well as in, who, as he expressed it, did not like to see him latterly unless he brought 'em money.' For those people he used frequently to raise contributions on his richer friends'; 'and this (says he) is one of the thousand reasons which ought to restrain a man from drony 3 solitude and useless retirement. Solitude (added he one day) is dangerous to reason, without being favourable to virtue: pleasures of some sort are necessary to the intellectual as to the corporeal health; and those who resist gaiety, will be likely for the most part to fall a sacrifice to appetite; for the solicitations of sense are always at hand, and a dram to a vacant and solitary person is a speedy and seducing relief. Remember (continued he) that the solitary mortal is certainly luxurious, probably superstitious, and possibly mad: the mind stagnates for want of employment, grows morbid, and is extinguished like a candle in foul air '

[blocks in formation]
« السابقةمتابعة »