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satire was native in the soil, and has often amused very superior minds to her own.
499. Lucy Porter.
After a gradual decay of a few months, we have lost dear Lucy Porter ('), the earliest object of Dr. Johnson's love. In youth, her fair, clean complexion, bloom, and rustic prettiness, pleased the men. More than once she might have married advantageously; but as to the enamoured affections,
"High Taurus' snow, fann'd by the eastern wind,
Spite of the accustomed petulance of her temper, and odd perverseness, since she had no malevolence, I regret her as a friendly creature, of intrinsic worth, with whom, from childhood, I had been intimate. She was one of those few beings who, from a sturdy singularity of temper, and some prominent good qualities of head and heart, was enabled, even in her days of scanty maintenance, to make society glad to receive and pet the grown spoiled child. Affluence was not hers till it came to her in her fortieth year, by the death of her eldest brother. From the age of twenty till that period, she had boarded with Dr. Johnson's mother, who still kept that bookseller's shop by which her husband had supplied the scanty means of subsistence. Meantime, Lucy Porter kept the best company in our little city, but would make no engagement on market days, lest Granny, as she called Mrs. Johnson, should catch cold by serving in the shop. By these good traits in her character, were the most respectable inhabitants of Lichfield induced to bear, with kind smiles, her mulish obstinacy and perverse contradictions.
(1) [Miss Porter survived Dr. Johnson just thirteen months. She died at Lichfield, in her seventy-first year, January 13. 1786.]
Johnson himself set the example, and extended to her that compliant indulgence which he showed not to any other person. I have heard her scold him like a schoolboy, for soiling her floor with his shoes; for she was clean as a Dutch-woman in her house, and exactly neat in her person. Dress, too, she loved in her odd way; but we will not assert that the Graces were her handmaids. Friendly, cordial, and cheerful to those she loved, she was more esteemed, more amusing, and more regretted, than many a polished character, over whose smooth, but insipid surface, the attention of those who have mind passes listless and uninterested.
500. Dinner at Dilly's. Jane Harry.
The following are the minutes of that curious conversation (1) which passed at Mr. Dilly's, on the 15th of April, 1778, in a literary party, formed by Dr. Johnson, Mr. Boswell, Dr. Mayo, and others, whom Mrs. Knowles and myself had been invited to meet, and in which Dr. Johnson and that lady disputed so earnestly. It commenced with Mrs. Knowles saying: "I am to ask thy indulgence, Doctor, towards a gentle female to whom thou usedst to be kind, and who is uneasy in the loss of that kindness. Jenny Harry weeps at the consciousness that thou wilt not speak to her.' JOHNSON. "Madam, I hate the odious wench, and desire you will not talk to me about her." KNOWLES. KNOWLES. "Yet, what is her crime, Doctor?" JOHNSON. "Apostacy, Madam; apostacy from the community in which she was educated." KNOWLES. "Surely the quitting one community for another cannot be a crime, if it is done from motives of conscience. Hadst thou been educated in the Romish church, I must suppose thou wouldst have abjured its errors, and that there would have been merit in the abjuration." JOHNSON. " JOHNSON." Madam, if I
(1) [See antè, Vol. VII. p. 142. and 144. n.]
had been educated in the Roman Catholic faith, I believe I should have questioned my right to quit the religion of my fathers; therefore, well may I hate the arrogance of a young wench, who sets herself up for a judge on theological points, and deserts the religion in whose bosom she was nurtured." KNOWLES." She has not done so; the name and the faith of Christians are not denied to the sectaries." JOHNSON." If the name is not, the common sense is." KNOWLES. "I will not dispute this point with thee, Doctor, at least at present; it would carry us too far. Suppose it granted, that, in the mind of a young girl, the weaker arguments appeared the strongest, her want of better judgment should excite thy pity, not thy resentment." JOHNSON. "Madam, it has my anger and my contempt, and always will have them." KNOWLES." Consider, Doctor, she must be sincere. Consider what a noble fortune she has sacrificed." JOHNSON. "Madam, madam, I have never taught myself to consider that the association of folly can extenuate guilt." KNOWLES. "Ah! Doctor, we cannot rationally suppose that the Deity will not pardon a defect in judgment (supposing it should prove one) in that breast where the consideration of serving Him, according to its idea, in spirit and truth, has been a preferable inducement to that of worldly interest." JOHNSON. "Madam, I pretend not to set bounds to the mercy of the Deity; but I hate the wench, and shall ever hate her. I hate all impudence; but the impudence of a chit's apostacy I nauseate.' KNOWLES. "Jenny is a very gentle creature. She trembles to have offended her parent, though far removed from his presence; she grieves to have offended her guardian; and she is sorry to have offended Dr. Johnson, whom she loved, admired, and honoured." JOHNSON. "Why, then, Madam, did she not consult the man whom she pretends to have loved, admired, and honoured, upon her new-fangled scruples? If she had looked up to
that man with any degree of the respect she professes, she would have supposed his ability to judge of fit and right, at least equal to that of a raw wench just out of her primer." KNOWLES. "Ah! Doctor, remember it was not from amongst the witty and the learned that Christ selected his disciples, and constituted the teachers of his precepts. Jenny thinks Dr. Johnson great and good; but she also thinks the Gospel demands and enjoins a simpler form of worship than that of the Established Church; and that it is not in wit and eloquence to supersede the force of what appears to her a plain and regular system, which cancels all typical and mysterious ceremonies, as fruitless and even idolatrous; and asks only obedience to its injunctions, and the ingenuous homage of a devout heart." JOHNSON. "The homage of a fool's head, Madam, you should say, if you will pester me about the ridiculous wench." KNOWLES. "If thou choosest to suppose her ridiculous, thou canst not deny that she has been religious, sincere, disinterested. Canst thou believe that the gate of Heaven will be shut to the tender and pious mind, whose first consideration has been that of apprehended duty?" JOHNSON." Pho, pho, Madam, who says it will?” KNOWLES. "Then if Heaven shuts not its gate, shall man shut his heart? If the Deity accept the homage of such as sincerely serve him under every form of worship, Dr. Johnson and this humble girl will, it is to be hoped, meet in a blessed eternity, whither human animosity must not be carried." JOHNSON. "Madam, I am not fond of meeting fools anywhere; they are detestable company, and while it is in my power to avoid conversing with them, I certainly shall exert that power; and so you may tell the odious wench, whom you have persuaded to think herself a saint, and of whom you will, I suppose, make a preacher; but I shall take care she does not preach to me."-The loud and angry tone in which he thundered out these replies
to his calm and able antagonist, frightened us all, except Mrs. Knowles, who gently, not sarcastically, smiled at his injustice. Mr. Boswell whispered me, "I never saw this mighty lion so chafed before." (1)
501. Boswell's "Tour."
The general style of Boswell's Tour is somewhat too careless, and its egotism is ridiculous; but surely to the cold-hearted and fastidious reader only, will it seem ridiculous. The slipshod style is richly compensated by the palpable fidelity of the interesting anecdotes ; the egotism, by that good-humoured ingenuousness with which it is given, and by its unsuspecting confidence in the candour of the reader. The incidents, and characteristic traits of this valuable work, grapple our attention perforce. How strongly our imagination is impressed when the massive Being is presented to it, stalking, like a Greenland bear, over the barren Hebrides, roaming round the black rocks and lonely coasts, in a small boat, on rough seas, and saluting Flora Macdonald in the Isle of Sky!
The spirit of Boswell's Tour with Johnson runs clear to the last syllable. Those who are not interested in its anecdotes can have little intellectual curiosity, and no imagination. Those who are not entertained with the perpetual triumph of sarcastic wit over fair, ingenuous argument, must be sturdier moralists than ever Johnson himself affected to have been; and those who do not love the biographer, as they read, whatever imperfections they may find in the massive Being whom
(1) ["Boswell's Life of Johnson is out. It contains the memorable conversation at Dilly's, but without that part of it of which I made minutes. This omission is surely unjustifiable, as I gave Mr. Boswell my memoir, and I am sure it contains nothing but what was said by Mrs. Knowles and the despot." SEWARD, May 19. 1791.-For Boswell's reasons for leaving out the lady's communication, see antè, Vol. VII. p. 144.; and for Mrs. Knowles's version of this conversation, see post, Part xxxii.]