Imatges de pÓgina

pily had too much honour to appropriate the composition of another man."

524. First Interview with Johnson. (1)


We talked of Johnson. Dr. Parr said, he had once begun to write a life of him; and if he had continued it, it would have been the best thing he had ever written. "I should have related not only every thing important about Johnson, but many things about the men who flourished at the same time;" adding, with an expression of sly humour, taking care, at the same time, to display my own learning." He said, Dr. Johnson was an admirable scholar, and that he would have had a high reputation for more learning, if his reputation for intellect and eloquence had not overshadowed it; the classical scholar was forgotten in the great original contributor to the literature of his country. One of the company reminded him of his first interview with Dr. Johnson, as related by Mr. Langton in Boswell's account of his life. After the interview was over, Dr. Johnson said," Parr is a fair man; I do not know when I have had an occasion of such free controversy; it is remarkable how much of a man's life may pass without meeting with any instance of this kind of open discussion." (2) To this remark Dr. Parr replied with great vehemence, "I remember the interview well: I gave him no quarter. The subject of our dispute was the liberty of the press. Dr. Johnson was very great: whilst he was arguing, I observed that he stamped. Upon this I stamped. Dr. Johnson said, 'Why did you stamp, Dr. Parr?' I replied, 'Sir, because you stamped; and I was resolved not to give you the advantage even of a stamp in the argument." It is impossible to do


(1) [This and the next article are from a paper entitled "Two Days with Dr. Parr," in Blackwood's Mag. vol. xvii. p. 599.]

(2) [See antè, Vol. VII. p. 363.]

justice to his description of this scene; the vehemence, the characteristic pomposity, with which it was accompanied, may easily be imagined by those who knew him, but cannot be adequately represented to those who did not.

525. Johnson's Prayers and Meditations." (1) Permit me (says Dr. Parr), as a friend to the cause of virtue and religion, to recommend most earnestly to readers of every class the serious perusal of Dr. Johnson's "Prayers and Meditations," lately published. They mark, by the most unequivocal and vivid proofs, the sincerity of his faith, the fervour of his devotion, and the warmth of his benevolence: they are equally intelligible, and equally instructive, to the learned and the unlearned; they will animate the piety of the Christian, and put to shame the coldness and obduracy of the proud philosopher; they show at once the weakness and the strength of Johnson's mind; but that weakness melts every attentive reader into compassion, and that strength impresses him with veneration. He that possesses both integrity of principle, and tenderness of feeling he that admires virtue, and reveres religion he that glows with the love of mankind, and reposes his trust in God—will himself become a wiser and a better man from contemplating those thoughts which passed in the mind of one of the wisest and the best of men, when he communed with his own heart, and poured forth his supplications before the throne of Heaven for mercy and for grace.

(1) [From the "Gentleman's Magazine," vol. lv. p. 675.]





526. Acquaintance with Johnson. (2)

My connection with Dr. Johnson, though quite close and quite familiar, during a great number of years, was nevertheless, like every other intimacy, subject at intervals to the vicissitudes of coincidence and discrepance in opinion; not that I ever dreamt of any equality between our powers of pronouncing judgment in ambiguous and questionable cases, but in mere consequence of that untoward cast of mind which often makes this and that and t'other object appear to Mr. Joseph of such a form, of such a size, of such and such a quality, when Mr. Samuel conceives them all to be greatly different, if not the absolute reverse. Not unfrequently, therefore, were our debates on divers topics, now of more, now of less, importance. To them, and to a multitude of disquisitions I heard from him on innumerable matters, I am indebted for the best part of that little knowledge I have; and if there is any kind of rectitude and fidelity in my ideas, I will ever remember, with gratitude as well as pride, that I owe more of it to him and to his books, than to any other man I ever knew, or any other books I ever studied. However, in spite of my obsequiousness to his great superiority, and my ready submission to most of his dictates, never

(1) [See antè, Vol. II. p. 55.]

(2) [From Baretti's "Strictures on Signora Piozzi's publication of Dr. Johnson's Letters."]

could I implicitly adopt some few of his principal notions and leading opinions, though ever so ardently desirous of conforming all mine to those of a man, whose innate and acquired faculties, as far as my judgment reaches, were never equalled by any of his most farfamed contemporaries. One of the points on which my friend and I most widely differed, and most frequently disputed, especially during the last seven or eight years of his life, was certainly that of his Mistress's excellence, or no excellence; and every body knows that his Mistress, as he emphatically called her, was my pretty Hester Lynch, alias Mrs. Thrale, alias La Piozzi.

527. Johnson and the Thrales.

The Signora Piozzi says, that " while she remained at Streatham or at London, her carriage and servants were not entirely at her command," but at Johnson's. But, in the name of goodness, had she not told us, in her "Anecdotes," that "the Doctor wanted as little as the gods, and required less attendance, sick or well, than she ever saw any human creature?" It is a fact, not to be denied, that, when at Streatham or in the Borough, Johnson wanted nothing else from her servants, than to be shaved once in three days, as he was almost beardless; and as for her carriage, never once during the whole time of their acquaintance did he borrow, much less command it, for any purpose of his own. Either she in hers, or Mr. Thrale in his, took him from town to Streatham without the least inconvenience to either ; and he was brought back generally on Saturdays by Mr. Thrale, who repaired every day to the Borough about his affairs presently after breakfast. When Johnson went to them or from them in town, he constantly made use of an hackney, and would have been greatly offended had Madam ever offered to order the horses out of the stable on his sole account. True it is, that Johnson

was not lavish of his money when he began to have any to save, but he scorned to be considered as oversaving it; and of this we have a pretty lively proof, p. 38. vol. ii. of his Letters, where he rebukes Mr. Thrale for wishing to have him brought to Brightelmstone by Dr. Burney, that he might not be at the expense of a postchaise or of the stage-coach: " Burney is to bring me? says Johnson. "Pray why so? Is it not as fit that I should bring Burney? My Master is in his 'old lunes,' and so am I." This asperity of language proves how ticklish Johnson was on the most distant supposition that he grudged expense when necessary.


It is not true, that Dr. Johnson "would often not rise till twelve, and oblige her to make breakfast for him till the bell rang for dinner." It is a constant fact, that, during Johnson's acquaintance with the Thrale family, he got the habit of rising as early as other folks, nor ever made Mr. Thrale stay a single moment for his breakfast, knowing that his business called him away from the breakfast table about ten o'clock every morning, except Sundays; nor had Mr. Thrale quitted the table a moment but the Doctor swallowed his last cup, and Madam was at liberty to go about her hens and turkeys, leaving him to chat with me or any body else that happened to be there, or go up in his room, which was more usual, from whence he did not stir till dinner-time.


Johnson's austere reprimands and unrestrained upbraidings, when face to face with Madam, always delighted Mr. Thrale, and were approved even by her children and I remember to this purpose a piece of mortification she once underwent by a trait de naïveté of poor little Harry, some months before he died. 66 Harry," said his father to him, on entering the room, are you listening to what the Doctor and mamma are about?" Yes, papa," answered the boy. And," quoth Mr. Thrale, "what are they saying?"




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