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Ascham says the wits do, Men know not how; and at last die obscurely, men mark not where''

Dr. Johnson had indeed a veneration for the voice of mankind beyond what most people will own; and as he liberally confessed that all his own disappointments proceeded from himself, he hated to hear others complain of general injustice 2. I remember when lamentation was made of the neglect shewed to Jeremiah Markland3, a great philologist as some one ventured to call him He is a scholar undoubtedly Sir (replied Dr. Johnson), but remember that he would run from the world, and that it is not the world's business to run after him. I hate a fellow whom pride, or cowardice, or laziness drives into a corner, and [who] does nothing when he is there but sit and growl; let him come out as I do, and bark. The world (added he) is chiefly unjust and ungenerous in this, that all are ready to encourage a man who once talks of leaving it, and few things do really provoke me more, than to hear people prate of retirement, when they have neither skill to discern their own motives, or penetration to estimate the consequences: but while a fellow is active to gain

'Ascham is not writing of 'the wits' in the eighteenth century sense of the term, but of 'quick wits,' those who at school'take their lesson readily;' who 'commonly be apt to take, unapt to keep; soon hot, and desirous of this and that, as cold, and soon weary of the same again;' who are 'ever quick, hasty, rash, heady and brain-sick.' Of them he says:-'In youth also they be ready scoffers, privy mockers, and ever over-light and merry; in age, soon testy, very waspish and always over-miserable. And yet few of them come to any great age by reason of their misordered life when they were young; but a great deal fewer of them come to show any great countenance, or bear any great authority abroad in the world, but either live obscurely, men know not how, or die obscurely, men mark not

when.' Ascham's Works, ed. 1864, iii. 99.

2 Life, iv. 172.

3 Ib. iv. 161; Letters, ii. 276.

Markland is perhaps alluded to in the following passage:-'All the complaints which are made of the world are unjust. I never knew a man of merit neglected: it was generally by his own fault that he failed of success. A man may hide his head in a hole: he may go into the country, and publish a book now and then, which nobody reads, and then complain he is neglected. There is no reason why any person should exert himself for a man who has written a good book: he has not written it for any individual. I may as well make a present to the postman who brings me a letter.' Life, iv. 172.

either power or wealth (continued he), every body produces some hindrance to his advancement, some sage remark, or some unfavourable prediction; but let him once say slightly, I have had enough of this troublesome bustling world, 'tis time to leave it now: Ah, dear Sir! cries the first old acquaintance he meets, I am glad to find you in this happy disposition: yes, dear friend! do retire and think of nothing but your own ease: there's Mr. William will find it a pleasure to settle all your accounts and relieve you from the fatigue; Miss Dolly makes the charmingest chicken broth in the world, and the cheesecakes we eat of her's once, how good they were: I will be coming every two or three days myself to chat with you in a quiet way; so snug! and tell you how matters go upon 'Change, or in the House, or according to the blockhead's first pursuits, whether lucrative or politic, which thus he leaves; and lays himself down a voluntary prey to his own sensuality and sloth, while the ambition and avarice of the nephews and nieces, with their rascally adherents, and coadjutors, reap the advantage, while they fatten their fool'.'

As the votaries of retirement had little of Mr. Johnson's applause, unless that he knew that the motives were merely devotional, and unless he was convinced that their rituals were accompanied by a mortified state of the body, the sole proof of their sincerity which he would admit, as a compensation for such fatigue as a worldly life of care and activity requires 2; so of the various states and conditions of humanity, he despised none more I think than the man who marries for a maintenance: and of a friend who made his alliance on no higher principles, he said once, 'Now has that fellow (it was a nobleman of whom we were speaking) at length obtained a certainty of three meals a day, and for that certainty, like his brother dog in the fable, he will get his neck galled for life with a collar 3.'

I 'Every man has those about him who wish to soothe him into inactivity and delitescence, nor is there any semblance of kindness more vigorously to be repelled than that which voluntarily offers a vicarious performance of the tasks of life, and

conspires with the natural love of ease against diligence and perseverance.' Letters, i. 401. See Life, ii. 337; iii. 176, n. 1.

2 Ib. v. 62; ante, p. 209.

3 This nobleman was Lord Sandys. Hayward's Piozzi, i. 296. 'He marThat

That poverty was an evil to be avoided by all honest means however, no man was more ready to avow: concealed poverty particularly, which he said was the general corrosive that destroyed the peace of almost every family; to which no evening perhaps ever returned without some new project for hiding the sorrows and dangers of the next day'. 'Want of money (says Dr. Johnson) is sometimes concealed under pretended avarice, and sly hints of aversion to part with it; sometimes under stormy anger, and affectation of boundless rage; but oftener still under a shew of thoughtless extravagance and gay neglect-while to a penetrating eye, none of these wretched veils suffice to keep the cruel truth from being seen. Poverty is hic et ubique (says he), and if you do shut the jade out of the door, she will always contrive in some manner to poke her pale lean face in at the window.'

I have mentioned before, that old age had very little of Mr. Johnson's reverence: 'a man commonly grew wickeder as he grew older (he said), at least he but changed the vices of youth; headstrong passion and wild temerity, for treacherous caution, and desire to circumvent. I am always (said he) on the young people's side, when there is a dispute between them and the old ones: for you have at least a chance for virtue till age has withered its very root 2.' While we were talking, my mother's spaniel, whom he never loved, stole our toast and butter; Fye Belle! said I, you used to be upon honour: 'Yes

ried the widow of W. P. King, Esq., who left his whole estate to her, by which means she brought a large fortune to her second husband.' Burke's Peerage. Johnson visited him with the Thrales in 1774. Life, v. 455.

1 'Poverty, my dear friend, is so great an evil, and pregnant with so much temptation, and so much misery, that I cannot but earnestly enjoin you to avoid it.' Ib. iv. 149. Poverty takes away so many means of doing good, and produces

so much inability to resist evil, both natural and moral, that it is by all virtuous means to be avoided.' Ib. p. 152. 'Resolve not to be poor: whatever you have, spend less. Poverty is a great enemy to human happiness; it certainly destroys liberty, and it makes some virtues impracticable, and others extremely difficult.' Ib. p. 157.

2 'I believe men may be generally observed to grow less tender as they advance in age.' Rambler, No. 78.


Madam (replies Johnson), but Belle grows old. His reason for hating the dog was, 'because she was a professed favourite (he said), and because her Lady ordered her from time to time to be washed and combed: a foolish trick (said he) and an assumption of superiority that every one's nature revolts at; so because one must not wish ill to the Lady in such cases (continued he), one curses the cur.' The truth is, Belle was not well behaved, and being a large spaniel, was troublesome enough at dinner with frequent solicitations to be fed. This animal (said Dr. Johnson one day) would have been of extraordinary merit and value in the state of Lycurgus; for she condemns one to the exertion of perpetual vigilance.'

He had indeed that strong aversion felt by all the lower ranks of people towards four-footed companions very completely', notwithstanding he had for many years a cat which he called Hodge, that kept always in his room at Fleet-street; but so exact was he not to offend the human species by superfluous attention to brutes, that when the creature was grown sick and old, and could eat nothing but oysters, Mr. Johnson always went out himself to buy Hodge's dinner, that Francis the Black's delicacy might not be hurt, at seeing himself employed for the convenience of a quadruped 2.

No one was indeed so attentive not to offend in all such sort of things as Dr. Johnson; nor so careful to maintain the ceremonies of life and though he told Mr. Thrale once, that he had never sought to please till past thirty years old, considering the matter as hopeless, he had been always studious not to make enemies, by apparent preference of himself3. It happened very comically, that the moment this curious conversation past, of which I was a silent auditress, was in the coach, in some distant province, either Shropshire or Derbyshire I believe; and as soon as it was over, Mr. Johnson took out of his pocket a little book and

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read, while a gentleman of no small distinction for his birth and elegance, suddenly rode up to the carriage, and paying us all his proper compliments, was desirous not to neglect Dr. Johnson; but observing that he did not see him, tapt him gently on the shoulder-'Tis Mr. Ch-Im-ley, says my husband;—'Well, Sir! and what if it is Mr. Ch-Im-ley!' says the other sternly, just lifting his eyes a moment from his book, and returning to it again with renewed avidity'.

He had sometimes fits of reading very violent; and when he was in earnest about getting through some particular pages, for I have heard him say he never read but one book, which he did not consider as obligatory, through in his whole life (and Lady Mary Wortley's Letters3 was the book); he would be quite lost to company, and withdraw all his attention to what he was reading, without the smallest knowledge or care about the noise made round him. His deafness made such conduct less odd and less difficult to him than it would have been to another man; but his advising others to take the same method, and pull a little book out when they were not entertained with what was going forward in society, seemed more likely to advance the growth of science than of polished manners, for which he always pretended extreme veneration *.

' For Boswell's comment on this story see Life, iv. 345.

2 'Mr. Elphinston talked of a new book that was much admired, and asked Dr. Johnson if he had read it. JOHNSON. "I have looked into it." "What (said Elphinston,) have you not read it through?" Johnson, offended at being thus pressed, and so obliged to own his cursory mode of reading, answered tartly, “No, Sir, do you read books through?” Ib. ii. 226.

He read Amelia through without stopping (b. iii. 43), and rejoiced at finding that Clarissa was not to be curtailed. Letters, i. 21. A few months before his death, having had

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