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I maintained it to be a poetical conceit. A Pict being painted, if he is slain in battle, and a vest being made of his skin, it is a painted vest won from him, though he was naked.
Johnson spoke unfavourably of a certain pretty voluminous author, saying, " He used to write anonymous books, and then other books commending those books, in which there was something of rascality."
I whispered him, " Well, Sir, you are now in good humour." JohnSon. "Yes, Sir." I was going to leave him, and had got as far as the staircase. He stopped me, and smiling, said, "Get you gone, in;" a curious mode of inviting me to stay, which 1 accordingly did for some time longer.
This little incidental quarrel and reconciliation, which, perhaps I may be thought to have detailed too minutely, must be esteemed as one of many proofs which his friends had, that though he might be charged with bad humour at times, he was always a good-natured man ; and I have heard Sir Joshua Reynolds, a nice and delicate observer of manners, particularly remark, that when upon any occasion Johnson had been rough to any person in company, be took the first opportunity of reconciliation, by drinking to him, or addressing his discourse to him ; but if he found his dignified indirect overtures sullenly neglected, he wasquite indifferent, and considered himself as having done all that be ought to do, and the other as now in the wrong.
Being to set out for Scotland on the 10th of November, I wrote to him at Streatham, begging that he would meet me in town on the 91h ; but if this should be very inconvenient to him, I would go thither. His answer was as follows:
"To James Boswell, Esq. "Dear Sir,
"Upon balancing the inconveniences of both parties, 1 find it will less incommode you to spend your night here, than me to come to town. 1 wish to see you, and am ordered by the lady of this house to invite you hither. Whether you can come or not, 1 shall not have any occasion of writing to you again before your marriage, end therefore tell you now, that with great sincerity I wish you happiness.
"1 am, dear Sir, "Your most affectionate humble servant, "Nov. 9, 1769. "Sam. Johnson."
1 was detained in town till it was too late on the 9th, so went to him early in the morning of the 10th of November. "Now, (said he,) that you are going to marry, do not expect more from life, than life will afford. You may often find yourself out of humour, and you may
"A vest as admir'd Vortiger had on, "Which, from this Island's foes, his grandsire won "Whose artful colour pass'd the Tyrian dye, "Oblig'd to trinmph In this legacy." It is probable, I think, that some wag, in order to make Howard still more ridiculous than he really was, has formed the couplet as it now circulates.
often think your wife not studious enough to please you; and yet you may have reason to consider yourself as upon the whole very happily married."
Talking of marriage in general, he observed, "Our marriage service is too refined. It is calculated only for the best kind of marriage ; whereas, we should have a form for matches of convenience, of which there are many." He agreed with me that there was no absolute necessity for having the marriage ceremony performed by a regular clergyman, for this was not commanded in scripture.
I was volatile enough to repeat to him a little epigrammatick song of mine, on matrimony, which Mr. Garrick had a few days before procured to be set to music by the very ingenious Mr. Dibden.
A Matrimonial Thought.
"With Kate's allurements smitten,
"And call'd her dearest kitten.
"And cross like other wives,
"I fear she has nine lives."
My illustrious friend said, " It it very well, Sir; but you should not swear." Upon which 1 altered "O! by my soul," to " alas, alas!"
He was so good as to accompany me to London, and see me into the post-chaise which was to carry me on the road to Scotland. And sure I am, that however inconsiderable many of the particulars recorded at this time may appear to some, they will be esteemed by the best part of my readers as genuine traits of his character, contributing together to give a full, fair, and distinct view of it.
In 1770, he published a political pamphlet, entitled "The False Alarm," intended to justify the conduct of ministry and their majority in the House of Commons, for having virtually assumed it as an axiom, that the expulsion of a Member of Parliament was equivalent to exclusion, and thus having declared Colonel Lutterel to be duly elected for the county of Middlesex, notwithstanding Mr. Wilks had a great majority of votes. This being justly considered as a gross violation of the right of election, au alarm for the constitution extended itself all over the kingdom. To prove this alarm to be false, was the purpose of Johnson's pamphlet; but even his vast powers were inadequate to cope with constitutional truth and reason, and his argument failed of effect; and the House of Commons have since expunged the offensive resolution from their Journals. That the House of Commons might have expelled Mr. Wilkes repeatedly, and as often as he should be re-chosen, was not denied ; but incapacitation cannot be but by an act of the whole legislature. It was wonderful to see how a prejudice in favour of government in general, and an aversion to public clamour, could blind and contract such
an understanding as Johnson's in this particular case; yet the wit, the sarcasm, the eloquent vivacity which this pamphlet displayed, made it be read with great avidity at the time, and it will ever be read with pleasure, for the sake of its composition. That it endeavoured to infuse a narcotick indifference, as to public concerns, into the minds of the people, and that it broke out sometimes into an extreme coarseness of contemptuous abuse, is but too evident.
It must not,' however, be omitted, that when the storm of his violence subsides, he takes a fair opportunity to pay a grateful compliment to the King, who had rewarded his merit: " These lowborn railers have endeavoured, surely without effect, to alienate the affections of the people from the only King who for almost a century has much appeared to desire, -or much endeavoured to deserve them." And " Every honest man must lament, that the faction has been regarded with frigid nentrality by the Tories, who being long accustomed to signalise their principles by opposition to the Court, do not yet consider, that they have at last a King who knows not the name of party, and who wishes to be the common father of all his people."
To this pamphlet, which was at once discovered to be Johnson's, several answers came out, in which, care was taken to remind the public of his former attacks upon government, and of his now being a pensioner, without allowing for the honourable terms npou which Johnson's pension was granted and accepted, or the change of system which the British court had undergone upon the accession of his present Majesty. He was, however, soothed in the highest strain of panegyric, in a poem called "The Remonstrance," by the Reverend Mr. Stockdale, to whom he was, upon many occasions, a kind protector.
The following admirable minute made by him, describes so well his own state, and that of numbers to whom self-examination is habitual, that 1 cannot omit it:
"June 1, 1770.—Every man naturally persuades himself that he can keep his resolutions, nor is he convinced of his imbecility but by length of time and frequency of experiment. This opinion of our own constancy is so prevalent, that we always despise him who suffers his general and settled purpose to be overpowered by an occasional desire. They, therefore, whom frequent failures have made desperate, cease to form resolutions ; and they who are become cunning, do not tell them. Those who do not make them are very few, but of their effect little is perceived; for scarcely any man persists in a course of life planned by choice, but as he is restrained from deviation by some external power. He who may live as he will, seldom lives long in the observation of his own rules."J
Of this year 1 have obtained the following letters:
"To The Reverend Dr. Farmer, Camrridge. "Sir,
"As no man ought to keep wholly to himself any possession that
may be useful to the public, 1 hope you will not think me unreasonably
X Prayers and Meditations, p. tj j.
intrusive, if I have recourse to you for such information as you are more able to give me than any other man.
"In support of an opinion which you hare already placed above the need of any more support, Mr. Steevens, a very ingenious gentleman, lately of King's College, has collected an account of all the translations which Shakspeare might have seen and used. He wishes his catalogne to be perfect, and therefore intreats that you will favour him by the insertion of such additions as the accuracy of your enqniries has enabled you to make. To this reqnest I take the liberty of adding my own •olicitation.
"We have no immediate use for this catalogne, and therefore do not desire that it should interrupt or hinder your more important employments. But it will be kind to let us know that you receive it.
"I am, Sir, Sec. "Johnson's-court, Fleet-street, "sam. Johnson."
March 21, 1770.
"To The Reverend Mb. Thomas Warton. "Dear Sir, "The readiness with which you were pleased to promise me some notes on Shakspeare, was a new instance of your friendship. I shall not hurry you; but am desired by Mr. Steevens, who helps me in this edition, to let you know, that we shall print the tragedies first, and shall therefore want first the notes which belong to them. We think not to incommode the readers with a supplement; and therefore, what we cannot put into its proper place, will do us no good. We shall not begin to print before the end of six weeks, perhaps not so soon.
"I am, &c. "London, June 23, 1770. "Sam. Johnson."
"To The Rev. Del Joseph Warton. "Dear Sir,
"I am revising my edition of Shakspeare, and remember that I formerly misrepresented your opinion of Lear. Be pleased to write the paragraph as you would have it, and send it. If you have any remarks of your own upon that or any other play, I shall gladly receive them.
"Make my compliments to Mrs. Warton. I sometimes think of wandering for a few days to Winchester, but am apt to delay. I am, Sir,
"Your most humble servant, "Sept. 27, 1770. "Sam. Johnson."
"To Mr. Francis Barber, At Mrs. Ci.app's, Bishopstortford,
Hertfordshire. "dear Francis,
"I am at last sat down to write to yon, and should very much blame myself for having neglected you so long, if I did not impute that and many other failings to want of health. I hope not to be so long silent again. I am very well satisfied with your progress, if you can really perform the exercises which you ere set; and 1 hope Mr. Ellis does not suffer you to impose on him, or on yourself.
"Make my compliments to Mr. Ellis, and to Mrs. Clapp, and Mr. Smith.
"Let me know what English books you read for yoor entertainment. You can never be wise unless you love reading.
"Do not imagine that I shall forget or forsake you ; for if, when 1 examine you, I find that you have not lost your time, you shall want no encouragement from "Your's affectionately,
"London, Sept. 25, 1770. "Sam. Johnson."
To thE SAME.
"I hope you mind your business. I design you shall stay with Mrs. Clapp these holidays. If you are invited out you may go, if Mr. Ellis gives leave. 1 have ordered you some clothes, which you will receive, I believe, next week. My compliments to Mrs. Clapp and to Mr. Ellis, and Mr. Smith, &c. "I am
"Your affectionate, "December 7, 1770. "Sam. Johnson."
During this year there was a total cessation of all correspondence between Dr. Johnson and me, without any coldness on either side, but merely from procrastination, continued from day to day; and as 1 was not in London I had no opportunity of enjoying his company and recording his conversation. To supply this blank, I shall present my readers with some Collectanea, obligingly furnished to me by the Rev. Dr. Maxwell, of Falkland, in Ireland, some time assistant preacher at the Temple, and for many years the social friend of Johnson, who spoke of him with a very kind regard.
"My acquaintance with that great and venerable character commenced in the year 1764. I was introduced to him by Mr. Grierson.J his Majesty's printer at Dublin, a gentleman of uncommou learning, and great wit and vivacity. Mr. Grierson died in Germany, at the age of twentyseven. Dr. Johnson highly respected his abilities, and often observed, that he possessed more extensive knowledge than any man of his rears lie had ever known. His industry was equal to bis talents; and he particularly excelled in every species of philological learning, and was, perhaps, the best critic of the age he lived in.
"I must always remember with gratitude my obligation to Mr. Grierson, for the honour and happiness of Dr. Johnson's acquaintance and friendship, which continued uninterrupted and undiminished to hisdeath: a connection, that was at once the pride and happiness of my life.
J Son of the learned Mrs. Grierson, who was patronised by the late Lord Granville, and was the editor of several of the classics.
Her edition of Tacitus, with the notes ofllvckins, in three volumes, dvo. 1730, was deilicalcd in very elegant Latin to John, Lord Carteret, (afterward. Earl Granville,) l>y whom she was patronized during his residcuce in Ireland as Lord Lientenant between 1?24 and 1730.