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This courtly device failed of its effect. Johnson, who thought that "all was false and hollow," despised the honeyed words, and was even indignant that Lord Chesterfield should, for a moment imagine, that he could be the dupe of such an artifice. His expression to me concerning Lord Chesterfield, upon this occasion, was, " Sir, after making gteat professions, he had, for many yeare, taken no notice of me; but when my Dictionary was coming out, he fell a scribbling in " The World," about it. Upon which, 1 wrote him a letter expressed in civil terms, but such as might shew him that I did not mind what he said or wrote, and that I had done with him."
This is that celebrated letter of which so much has been said, and about which curiosity has been so long excited, without being gratified. I for many years solicited Johnson to favour me with a copy of it, that so excellent a composition might not be lost to posterity. He delayed from time to time to give it me ;% till at last in I7B1, when we were on a visit at Mr. Dilly's, at Southhill in Bedfordshire, he was pleased to dictate it to me from memory. He afterwards found among his papers a copy of it, which he hud dictated to Mr. Baretti, with its title and corrections, in his own hand-writing. This he gave to Mr. Langton; adding that if it were to come into print, he wished it to be from that copy. By Mr. Langton's kindness, I am enabled to enrich my work with a perfect transcript of what the world has so eagerly desired to see.
"To The Right Honouraui.e The Eari. Of Chesterfield.
"my Lord, February 7, 1755.
« I Have been lately informed, by the proprietor of the World, that two papers, in which my Dictionary is recommended to the public, were written by your Lordship. To be so distinguished, is an honour, which, being very little accustomed to favours from the great, I know not well how to receive, or in what terms to acknowledge.
"When, upon some slight encouragement, I first visited your Lordship, I was overpowered, like the rest of mankind, by the enchantment of your address, and could not forbear to wish that 1 might boast myself Le vainquenr du vainquenr de la terre;—that I might obtain that regard for which I saw the world contending; but I found my attendance so little encouraged, that neither pride nor modesty would suffer me to continue it. When I had once addressed your Lordship in public, I had exhausted all the art of pleasing which a retired and
X Dr. Johnson appeared to have had a remarkable delicacy with respect to the circulation of this letter; for Dr. Douglas, Bishop of Salisbury, informs me that having mauy years ago pressed him to be allowed to read it to the second Lord Hardwicke, who was very desirous to hear it (promising at the same time, that no copy of it should be taken) Johnson seemed much pleased that it had attracted the attention of a nobleman of such a respectable character; but after pausing some time, declined to comply with the request, saying, with a smile, " No, Sir; 1 have hurt the dog too much already;" or words to that purpose.
uncourtly scholar can possess. I had done all that I could; and no man is well pleased to have his all neglected, be it ever so little.
"Seven years, my Lord, have now past, since 1 waited in your outward rooms, or was repulsed from your door: during which time I have been pushing on my work through difficulties, of which it is useless to complain, and have brought it, at last, to the verge of publication, without one act of assistance,J one word of encouragement, or one smile of favour. Such treatment 1 did not expect, for I never had a Patron before.
"The shepherd in Virgil grew at last acquainted with Love, and found him a native of the rocks. i
"Is not a Patron, my Lord, one who looks with unconcern on a man struggling for life in the water, and, when he has reached ground, encumbers him with help? The notice which you have been pleased to take of my labours, had it been early, had been kind; but it has been delayed till 1 am indifferent, and cannot enjoy it; till I am solitary, and cannot impart it ;|| till I am known, and do not want it. 1 hope it is no very cynical asperity not to confess obligation!! where no benefit has been received, or to be unwilling that the Public should consider me as owing that to a Patron, which Providence has enabled me to do for myself.
"Having carried on my work thus far with so little obligation to any favourer of learning, I shall not be disappointed though I should conclnde it, if leas be possible, with less; for I have been long wakened from that dream of hope, in which I once boasted myself with so much exultation. "My Lord,
"Your Lordship's most humble
"Most obedient servant,
J The following note is subjoined by Mr. Langton. "Dr. Johnson, when he gave me this copy of his letter, desired that I would annex to his information to me, that whereas it is said in the letter that' no assistance has been received,' be did once receive from Lord Chesterfield the sum of ten pounds, but as that was so inconsiderable a sum, he thought the mention of it could not properly find a place in a letter of the kind that this was."
11 In this passage Dr. Johnson evidently allndes to the loss of his wife. We find the same tender recollection recurring to his mind upon innumerable occasions; and, perhaps no man ever more forcibly felt the truth of the sentiment so elegantly expressed by my friend Mr. Malone, in his Prologne, to Mr. Jephson's tragedy of Julia:
'• Vain—wealth, and fame, and fortune's fostering care,
V If no fond breast the splendid blessings share;
'.' And, each day's bustling pageantry once past,
"There, only there, our bliss is found at last." § Upon comparing this copy with that which Dr. Johnson dictated to me from recollection, the variations arc found to he so slight, that this must be added to the many other proofs which he gave of the wonderful extent and accuracy of his memory. To gratify the curious in composition, I have deposited, both the copies in the British Museum.
"While this was the talk of the town, (says Dr. Adams, in a letter to me) I happened to visit Dr. Warburton, who finding that I was acquainted with Johnson, desired me earnestly to carry his compliments to him, and tell him, that he honoured him for his manly behaviour in rejecting these condescensions of Lord Chesterfield, and for resenting the treatment he had received from him with a proper spirit. Johnson was visibly pleased with this compliment, for he had always a high opinion of Warburton."J Indeed, the force of mind which appeared in this letter, was congenial with that which Warburton himself amply possessed.
There is a curious minute circumstance which struck me, in comparing the various editions of Johnson's Imitations nf Juvenal. In the tenth Satire one of the couplets upon the vanity of wishes even for literary distinction stood thus:
"Yet think what ills the scholar's life assail,
But after experiencing the uneasiness which Lord Chesterfield's fallacious patronage made him feel, he dismissed the word garret from the sad group, and in all the subsequent editions the line stands
"Toil, envy, want, the Patron, and the jail."
That Lord Chesterfield must have been mortified by the lofty contempt, and polite, yet keen, satire with which Johnson exhibited him to himself in this letter, it is impossible to doubt. He, however, with that glossy duplicity which was his constant study, affected to be quite unconcerned. Dr. Adams mentioned to Mr. Kobert Dodsley that he was sorry'Johnson had written his letter to Lord Chesterfield. Dodsley, with the true feelings of trade, said, "he was very sorry too; for that he had a property in the Dictionary, to which his Lordship's patrouxge might have been of consequence." He then told Dr. Adams, that Lord Chesterfield had shewn him the letter. "1 should have imagined (replied Dr. Adams) that Lord Chesterfield would have concealed it." "Poh ! (said Dodsley) do you think a letter from Johnson could hurt Lord Chesterfield? Not at all, Sir. It lay upon his table, where any body might see it. He read it to me; said, 'this man has great powers,' pointed out the severest passages, and observed how well they were expressed." This air of indifference, which imposed upon the worthy Dodsley, was certainly nothing but a.specimen of that dissimulation which Lord Chesterfield inculcated as one of the most essential lessons for the conduct of
J Soon after Edwards's "Canons of Criticism" came out, Johnson was dining at Tonsou the Bookseller's, with dayman the Painter and some more company. Has man related to Sir Joshua Reynolds, that the conversation having turned upon Edwards's book, the gentlemen praised it much, and Johnson allowed its merit. But when they went farther, and appeared to put that author upon a level with Warburton, " Nay, (said Johnson,) he has given him some smart hits to be sure; but there is no proportion between the two men; they must not be named together. A fly, Sir, may sting a stately horse, and make him wince; but one is but an insect, and the other is a horse still." life. His Lordship endeavoured to justify himself to Dodsley from the charges brought against him by Johnson; but we may judge of the flimsiness of his defence, from his having excused his neglect of Johnson, by saying, that, "he had heard he had changed his lodgings, and did not know where he lived ;" as if there could have been the smallest difficulty to inform himself of that circumstance, by enquiring in the literary circle with which his Lordship was well acquainted, and was, indeed, himself, one of its ornaments.
Dr. Adams expostulated with Johnson, and suggested, that his not being admitted when he called on him, was probably not to be imputed to Lord Chesterfield; for his Lordship had declared to Dodsley, that, "he would have turned off the best servant he ever had, if he had known that he denied him to a man who would have been always more than welcome;" and in confirmation of this, he insisted on Lord Chesterfield's general affability and easiness of access, especially to literary men. "Sir, (said Johnson) that is not Lord Chesterfield; he is the proudest man this day existing." "No, (said Dr. Adams) there is one person, at least, as proud; I think, by your own account you are the prouder man of the two." "But mine (replied Johnson instantly) was defensive pride." This, as Dr. Adams well observed, was one of those happy turns for which he was so remarkably ready.
Johnson having now explicitly avowed his opinion of Lord Chesterfield, did not refrain from expressing himself concerning that nobleman with pointed freedom: "This man (said he) I thought had been a Lord among wits; but, I find, he is only a wit among Lords!" And when his letters to his natural son were published, he observed, that "they teach the morals of a whore, and the manners of a dancingmaster."J
J That collection of letters cannot be vindicated from the serious charge of encouraging, in some passages, one of the vices most destructive to the good order and comfort of society, which his Lordship represents as mere fashionable gallantry ; and, in others, of inculcating the base practice of dissimulation, and recommending, with disproportionate anxiety, a perpetual attention to external elegance of manners. But it must, at the same time, be allowed, that they contain many good precepts of conduct, and much genuine information upon life and manners, very happily expressed; and that there was considerable merit in paying so much attention to the improvement of 0nc who was dependent upon his Lordship's protection; it has, probably, been exceeded in no instance by the most exemplary parent; and though I can by no means approve of confounding the distinction between lawful and illicit offspring, which is, in effect, insulting the civil establishment of our country, to look no higher , I cannot help thinking it laudable to be kindly attentive to those, of whose existence we have, in any way, been the cause. Mr. Stanhope's character has been unjustly represented as diametrically opposite to what Lord Chesterfield wished him to be. He has been called dull, gross, and aukward: but 1 knew him at Dresden, when he was Envoy to that court; and though he could not boast of the graces, he was, in truth, a sensible, civil, wellbehaved man.
The character of a " respectable Hottentot," in Lord Chesterfield's letters, has been generally understood to be meant for Johnson, and 1 have no doubt that it was. But I remember when the Literary Pro~ perii! of those letters was contested in the Court of Session in Scotland, and Mr. Henry Dundas.J one of the counsel for the proprietors, read this character as an exhibition of Johnson, Sir David Dalrymple, Lord Hailes, one of the Judges, maintained, with some warmth, that it was not intended as a portrait of Johnson, but of a late noble Lord, distinguished for abstruse science. I have heard Johnson himself talk of the character, and say that it was meant for George Lord Lyttelton, in which I could by no means agree; for his Lordship had nothing of that violence which is a conspicuous feature in the composition. Finding that my illustrious friend could bear to have it supposed that it might be meant for him, I said, laughingly, that there was one trait which unquestionably did not belong to him ; "he throws his meat any where but down his throat," "Sir, (said he,) Lord Chesterfield never saw me eat in his life."
On the 6th of March came out Lord Bolingbroke's works, published by Mr. David Mallet. The wild and pernicious ravings, under the name of " Philosophy," which were thus ushered into the world gave great offence to all well-principled men. Johnson, hearing of their tendency, which nobody disputed, was roused with a just indignation, and propounced this memorable sentence upon the noble author and his editor. "Sir, he was a scoundrel, and a coward: a scoundrel for charging a blunderbuss against religion and morality; a coward, because he had no resolution to fire it off himself, but left half a crown to a beggarly Scotchman, to draw the trigger after his death!" Garrick, who I can attest from my own knowledge, had his mind seasoned with pious reverence, and sincerely disapproved of the infidel writings of several, whom in the course of his almost universal gay intercourse with men of eminence, he treated with external civility, distinguished himself upon this occasion. Mr. Pelham died on the very day on which Lord Bolingbroke's works came out, he wrote an elegant Ode on his death, beginning
"Let others hail the rising suu,
"I bow to that whose course is run."
in which is the following stanza:
"The same sad morn, to Church and state
"A double stroke was given;
"And Pelham fled to heaven."
Johnson this year found an interval of leisure to make an excursion t» Oxford, for the purpose of consulting the libraries there. Of this, and of many interesting circumstances concerning him, during a part of b.*
\ Now [1792J one of his Majesty's principal Secretaries of State.