Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

my pride prevented me from doing my duty, and I gave my father a refusal. To do away the sin of this disobedience, I this day went in a postchaise to Uttoxeter, and going into the market at the time of high business, uncovered my head, and stood with it bare an hour before the stall which my father had formerly used, exposed to the sneers of the standers-by and the inclemency of the weather; a penance by which I trust I have propitiated heaven for this only instance, I believe, of contumacy toward my father.'

612. Nollekens's Bust of Johnson. (1)

When Dr. Johnson sat to Mr. Nollekens for his bust, he was very much displeased at the manner in which the head had been loaded with hair; which the sculptor insisted upon, as it made him look more like an ancient poet. The sittings were not very favourable, which rather vexed the artist, who, upon opening the street door, a vulgarity he was addicted to, peevishly whined, "Now, Doctor, you did say you would give my bust half an hour before dinner, and the dinner has been waiting this long time." To which the Doctor's reply was, "Bow, wow, wow." The bust is a wonderfully fine one, and very like; but certainly the sort of hair is objectionable; having been modelled from the flowing locks of a sturdy Irish beggar, originally a street pavier, who, after he had sat an hour, refused to take a shilling; stating, that he could have made more by begging.

613. Johnson and Mrs. Thrale in Nollekens's Studio.

Mrs. Thrale one morning entered Nollekens's studio, accompanied by Dr. Johnson, to see the bust of Lord

(1) [This and the two following are from "Nollekens and his Times, by John Thomas Smith, Keeper of the Prints and Drawings in the British Museum." 8vo. 1828.]

Mansfield, when the sculptor vociferated, "I like your picture by Sir Joshua very much. He tells me it's for Thrale, a brewer over the water: his wife's a sharp woman, one of the blue-stocking people." "Nolly,' Nolly," observed the Doctor, "I wish your maid would stop your foolish mouth with a blue-bag." At which Mrs. Thrale smiled, and whispered to the Doctor, "My dear Sir, you'll get nothing by blunting your arrows upon a block."

614. Johnson's Silver Tea-pot.

I was one morning agreeably surprised by a letter which Mrs. Maria Cosway put into my hand, written by W. Hoper, Esq., giving me permission to make a drawing of Dr. Johnson's silver tea-pot in his possession. Upon the side of this tea-pot the following inscription is engraven: "We are told by Lucian, that the earthen lamp, which had administered to the lucubrations of Epictetus, was at his death purchased for the enormous sum of three thousand drachmas: why, then, may not imagination equally amplify the value of this unadorned vessel, long employed for the infusion of that favourite herb, whose enlivening virtues are said to have so often protracted the elegant and edifying lucubrations of Samuel Johnson; the zealous advocate of that innocent beverage, against its declared enemy, Jonas Hanway? It was weighed out for sale, under the inspection of Sir John Hawkins, at the very minute when they were in the next room closing the incision through which Mr. Cruickshank had explored the ruined machinery of its dead master's thorax. So Bray (the silversmith, conveyed there in Sir John's carriage, thus hastily to buy the plate,) informed its present possessor, Henry Constantine Nowell; by whom it was, for its celebrated services, on the 1st of November, 1788, rescued from the indiscriminating obliterations of the furnace."

615. Johnson's Watch, and Punch-bowl.

The ensuing is an answer to one of my interrogatory epistles. It is from my friend, the Rev. Hugh Pailye, canon of Lichfield: "I certainly am in possession of Dr. Johnson's watch, which I purchased from his black servant, Francis Barber. His punch-bowl is likewise in my possession, and was purchased by the Rev. Thomas Harwood, the historian of Lichfield. It was bought at Mrs. Harwood's sale, by John Barker Scott Esq., who afterwards presented it to me.'

[ocr errors]

616. Dialogue at Dilly's, between Mrs. Knowles and Dr. Johnson. (1)

MRS. K. Thy friend, Jenny Harry, desires her kind respects to thee, Doctor.

DR. J. To me! Tell me not of her! I hate the odious wench for her apostacy: and it is you, Madam, who have seduced her from the Christian religion.

MRS. K. This is a heavy charge, indeed. I must beg leave to be heard in my own defence: and I entreat the attention of the present learned and candid company, desiring they will judge how far I am able to clear myself of so cruel an accusation.

DR. J. (much disturbed at this unexpected challenge) said, You are a woman, and I give you quarter.

MRS. K. I will not take quarter. There is no sex in souls; and, in the present cause, I fear not even Dr. Johnson himself. -("Bravo! ("Bravo!" was repeated by the company, and silence ensued.)

(1) [See antè, Vol. VII. p. 142. and 144.; and p. 15. of this volume. "The narrative of Boswell," says Mr. Nichols (Lit. Illust., vol. iv. p. 831.), not proving satisfactory to Molly Knowles (as she was familiarly styled), she gave the Dialogue between herself and the sturdy moralist, in her own manner, in the Gent. Mag. vol. lxi. p. 500." In 1805, Mrs. Knowles had it reprinted in a small pamphlet. She died in 1807, at the age of eighty.]

DR. J. Well then, Madam, I persist in my charge, that you have seduced Miss Harry from the Christian religion.

MRS. K. If thou really knewest what were the principles of the Friends, thou wouldst not say she had departed from Christianity. But, waving that discussion for the present, I will take the liberty to observe, that she had an undoubted right to examine and to change her educational tenets, whenever she supposed she had found them erroneous: as an accountable creature, it was her duty so to do.

DR. J. Pshaw! pshaw! An accountable creature! Girls accountable creatures! It was her duty to remain with the church wherein she was educated; she had no business to leave it.

MRS. K. What! not for that which she apprehended to be better? According to this rule, Doctor, hadst thou been born in Turkey, it had been thy duty to have remained a Mahometan, notwithstanding Christian evidence might have wrought in thy mind the clearest conviction! and, if so, then let me ask, how would thy conscience have answered for such obstinacy at the great and last tribunal?

DR. J. My conscience would not have been answerable.

MRS. K. Whose, then, would?

DR. J. Why the state, to be sure. In adhering to the religion of the state as by law established, our implicit obedience therein becomes our duty.

MRS. K. A nation, or state, having a conscience, is a doctrine entirely new to me, and, indeed, a very curious piece of intelligence; for I have always understood that a government, or state, is a creature of time only; beyond which it dissolves, and becomes a nonentity. Now, gentlemen, can your imagination body forth this monstrous individual, or being, called a state, composed of millions of people? Can you behold it stalking forth

into the next world, loaded with its mighty conscience, there to be rewarded or punished, for the faith, opinions, and conduct, of its constituent machines called men ? Surely the teeming brain of Poetry never held up to the fancy so wondrous a personage! (When the laugh occasioned by the personification was subsided, the Doctor very angrily replied,)

DR. J. I regard not what you say as to that matter. I hate the arrogance of the wench, in supposing herself a more competent judge of religion than those who educated her. She imitated you, no doubt; but she ought not to have presumed to determine for herself in so important an affair.

MRS. K. True, Doctor, I grant it, if, as thou seemest to imply, a wench of twenty years be not a moral agent.

DR. J. I doubt it would be difficult to prove those deserve that character who turn Quakers.

MRS. K. This severe retort, Doctor, induces me charitably to hope thou must be totally unacquainted with the principles of the people against whom thou art so exceedingly prejudiced, and that thou supposest us a set of infidels or deists.

DR. J. Certainly, I do think you little better than deists.

MRS. K. This is indeed strange; 'tis passing strange, that a man of such universal reading and research, has not thought it at least expedient to look into the cause of dissent of a society so long established, and so conspicuously singular!

DR. J. Not I, indeed! I have not read your Barclay's Apology; and for this plain reason I never thought it worth my while. You are upstart sectaries, perhaps the best subdued by a silent contempt.

MRS. K. This reminds me of the language of the rabbis of old, when their hierarchy was alarmed by the increasing influence, force, and simplicity of dawning

[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinua »