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remark; Garrick has undoubtedly the merit of a temperate and unassuming behaviour in society; for more pains have been taken to spoil that fellow, than if he had been heir apparent to the empire of India !"
When Garrick was one day mentioning to me Dr. Johnson's illiberal treatment of him, on different occasions ; “ I question,” said he, “ whether, in his calmest and most dispassionate moments, he would allow me the high theatrical merit which the public have been so generous as to attribute to me." I told him, that I would take an early opportunity to make the trial, and that I would not fail to inform him of the result of my experiment. As I had rather an active curiosity to put Johnson's disinterested generosity fairly to the test, on this apposite subject, I took an early opportunity of waiting on him, to hear his verdict on Garrick's pretensions to his great and universal fame. I found him in very good and social humour ; and I began a conversation which naturally led to the mention of Garrick. I said something particular on his excellence as an actor; and I added, “ But pray, Dr. Johnson, do you really think that he deserves that illustrious theatrical character, and that prodigious fame, which he has ac. quired ?"
Oh, Sir," said he," he deserves every thing that he has acquired, for having seized the very soul of Shakspeare ; for having embodied it in himself; and for having extended its glory over the world.”. I was not slow in communicating to Garrick the answer of the Delphic oracle. The tear started in his eye“ Oh ! Stockdale,” said he,“ such a praise from such e man !- this atones for all that has passed.”
550. Intoxication. I called on Dr. Johnson one morning, when Mrs. Williams, the blind lady, was conversing with him. She was telling him where she had dined the day before. - There were several gentlemen there,” said she," and
when some of them came to the tea-table, I found that there had been a good deal of hard drinking.” She closed this observation with a common and trite moral reflection ; which, indeed, is very ill-founded, and does great injustice to animals — “ I wonder what pleasure men can take in making beasts of themselves !” “ I wonder, Madam,” replied the Doctor, “ that you have not penetration enough to see the strong inducement to this excess; for he who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man."
551. Mrs. Bruce. Mrs. Bruce, an old Scotch lady, the widow of Captain Bruce, who had been for many years an officer in the Russian service, drank tea with me one afternoon at my lodgings in Bolt Court, when Johnson was one of the company. She spoke very broad Scotch ; and this alarmed me for her present social situation. Johnson," said she," you tell us, in your Dictionary, that in England oats are given tu horses ; but that in Scotland they support the people. Now, Sir, I can assure you, that in Scotland we give oats to our horses, as well as you do to yours in England." I almost trembled for the widow of the Russian hero; I never saw a more contemptuous leer than that which Johnson threw at Mrs. Bruce: however, he deigned her an answer, “ I am very glad, Madam, to find that you treat your horses as well as you treat yourselves.” I was delivered from my panic, and I wondered that she was so gently set down,
BY MISS HAWKINS. (1)
552. Johnson's Person and Dress. WHEN first I remember Johnson, I used to see him sometimes at a little distance from the house, coming to call on my father ; his look directed downwards, or rather in such abstraction as to have no direction. His walk was heavy, but he got on at a great rate, his left arm always placed across his breast, so as to bring the hand under his chin; and he walked wide, as if to support his weight. Got out of a hackney coach, which had set him down in Fleet Street, my brother Henry says, he made his way up Bolt Court in the zig-zag direction of a blast of lightning ; submitting his course only to the deflections imposed by the impossibility of going further to right or left.
His clothes hung loose, and the pocket on the right hand swung violently, the lining of his coat being always visible. I can now call to mind his brown hand, his metal sleeve-buttons, and my surprise at seeing him with plain wristbands, when all gentlemen wore ruffles; his coat-sleeve being very wide, showed his linen almost to his elbow. His wig in common was cut and bushy; if by chance he had one that had been dressed in separate
(1) [From the Memoirs of Letitia Hawkins (daughter of Sir John), 2 vols. 8vo. 1827]
curls, it gave him a disagreeable look, not suited to his years or character.
In his colloquial intercourse, Johnson's compliments were studied, and therefore lost their effect: his head dipped lower; the semicircle in which it revolved was of greater extent; and his roar was deeper in its tone when he meant to be civil. His movement in reading, which he did with great rapidity, was humorously described after his death, by a lady, who said, that" his head swung seconds."
The usual initial sentences of his conversation led. some to imagine that to resemble him was as easy as to mimic him, and that, if they began with “ Why, Sir,” or “ I know no reason,” or “ If any man chooses to think,” or “ If you mean to say,” they must, of course, “talk Johnson.”
That his style might be imitated, is true; and that its strong features made it easier to lay hold on it than on a milder style, no one will dispute.
553. The Economy of Bolt Court. What the economy of Dr. Johnson's house may have been under his wife's administration, I cannot tell; but under Miss Williams's management, and, indeed, afterwards, when he was overcome at the misery of those around him, it always exceeded my expectation, as far as the condition of the apartment into which I was admitted could enable me to judge. It was not, indeed, his study: amongst his books he probably might bring Magliabecchi to recollection; but I saw him only in the decent drawing-room of a house, not inferior to others on the same local situation, and with stout old-fashioned mahogany table and chairs. He was a liberal customer to his tailor, and I can remember that his linen was often a strong contrast to the colour of his hands.
554. Bennet Langton. On one occasion, I remember Johnson's departing, from his gentleness towards Mr. Langton, and in his irritation showing some inconsistency of ideas. I went with my father to call in Bolt Court one Sunday after church. There were many persons in the Doctor's drawing-room, and among them Mr. Langton, who stood leaning against the post of an open door, undergoing what I suppose the giver of it would have called an “ objurgation.” Johnson, on my father's entrance, went back to explain the cause of this, which was no less than that Mr. Langton, in his opinion, ought then to have been far on his road into Lincolnshire, where he was informed his mother was very ill.
Mr. Langton's pious affection for his mother could not be doubted, – she was a parent of whom any son might have been proud; but this was a feeling which never could have been brought into the question by her son : the inert spirit, backed, perhaps, by hope, and previous knowledge of the extent of similar attacks, prevailed ; and Johnson's arguments seemed hitherto rather to have riveted Mr. Langton's feet to the place where he was, than to have spurred him to quit it. My father, thus referred to, took up the subject, and a few half-whispered sentences from him made Mr. Langton take his leave ; but, as he was quitting the room, Johnson, with one of his howls, and his indescribable but really pathetic slow semi-circuits of his head, said most energetically, “ Do, Hawkins, teach Langton a little of the world."
555. Mrs. Thrale. On the death of Mr. Thrale, it was concluded by some, that Johnson would marry the widow; by others, that he would entirely take up his residence in her house; which, resembling the situation of many other learned men, would have been nothing extraordinary or censurable. The path he would pursue was not evident ; when, on a sudden, he came out again, and sought my father with kind eagerness.
Calls were exchanged: he