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would now take his tea with us; and in one of those evening visits, which were the pleasantest periods of my knowledge of him, saying, when taking leave, that he was leaving London, Lady Hawkins said, "I suppose you are going to Bath?" "Why should you suppose so? said he. "Because," said my mother, "I hear Mrs. Thrale is gone there." "I know nothing of Mrs. Thrale," he roared out; "good evening to you." The state of affairs was soon made known.
To Warburton's great powers he did full justice. He did not always, my brother says, agree with him in his notions; "but," said he, " with all his errors, si non errasset, fecerat ille minus." Speaking of Warburton's contemptuous treatment of some one who presumed to differ from him, I heard him repeat with much glee the coarse expressions in which he had vented this feeling, that there could be no doubt of his hearty approbation.
He said, he doubted whether there ever was a man who was not gratified by being told that he was liked by the women,
558. Reading and Study.
Speaking of reading and study, my younger brother heard him say, that he would not ask a man to give up his important interests for them, because it would not be fair; but that, if any man would employ in reading that time which he would otherwise waste, he would answer for it, if he were a man of ordinary endowment, that he would make a sensible man. "He might not," said he, "make a Bentley, but he would be a sensible man."
559. Thurlow. - Burke. - Boswell.
It may be said of Johnson, that he had a peculiar individual feeling of regard towards his many and various friends, and that he was to each what I might call the indenture or counterpart of what they were to him. My brother says, that any memoirs of his conversations with Lord Thurlow or Burke would be invaluable: to the former he acknowledged that he always " talked his best;" and the latter would, by the force of his own powers, have tried those of Johnson to the utmost. But still the inquisitive world, that world whose inquisitiveness has tempted almost to sacrilege, would not have been satisfied without the minor communications of Boswell, though he sometimes sorely punctured his friend to get at what he wanted.
It is greatly to the honour of Johnson, that he never accustomed himself to descant on the ingratitude of mankind, or to comment on the many causes he had to think harshly of the world. He said once to my youngest brother, "I hate a complainer." This hatred. might preserve him from the habit.
561. Envy. Dr. Taylor.
Johnson was, with all his infirmities, bodily and mental, less of the thorough-bred irritabile genus of authors, than most of his compeers: he had no petty feelings of animosity, to be traced only to mean causes. He said of some one, indeed, that he was a good hater," as if he approved the feeling; but I understand by the expression, that it was at least a justifiable, an honest and avowed aversion, that obtained this character for its possessor. But still more to his honour is it, that his irritability was not excited by the most common cause of mortification. He saw the companion of his studies and the witness of his poverty, Taylor, raised
by the tide of human affairs to bloating affluence, and, I should presume, with pretensions of every kind, far, very far inferior to his: yet I do not recollect having ever heard of a sigh excited by his disparity of lot. That he envied Garrick, while he loved and admired him, is true; but it was under the pardonable feeling of jealousy, in seeing histrionic excellence so much more highly prized, than that which he knew himself to possess.
562. Reynolds's "Discourses."
On Johnson's death, Mr. Langton said to Sir John Hawkins, "We shall now know whether he has or has not assisted Sir Joshua in his 'Discourses ;"" but Johnson had assured Sir John, that his assistance had never exceeded the substitution of a word or two, in preference to what Sir Joshua had written.
563." Mr. James Boswell."
My father and Boswell grew a little acquainted; and when the Life of their friend came out, Boswell showed himself very uneasy under an injury, which he was much embarrassed in defining. He called on my father, and being admitted, complained of the manner in which he was enrolled amongst Johnson's friends, which was as "Mr. James Boswell of Auchinleck." Where was the offence? It was one of those which a complainant hardly dares to embody in words: he would only repeat, "Well, but Mr. James Boswell! surely, surely, Mr. James Boswell!!" "I know," said my father, "Mr. Boswell, what you mean; you would have had me say that Johnson undertook this tour with THE Boswell." He could not indeed absolutely covet this mode of proclamation; he would perhaps have been content with "the celebrated," or "the well-known," but he could not confess quite so much; he therefore acquiesced in the amendment proposed, but he was forced to depart without any promise of correction in a subsequent edition.
BY JOHN NICHOLS, ESQ. (1)
564. "Literary Anecdotes."- Thirlby.
My intimate acquaintance with that bright luminary of literature, Johnson, did not commence till he was advanced in years; but it happens to have fallen to my lot (and I confess that I am proud of it) to have been present at many interesting conversations in the latest periods of the life of this illustrious pattern of true piety. In the progress of his "Lives of the Poets," I had the good fortune to conciliate his esteem, by several little services. Many of his short notes during the progress of that work are printed in the Gentleman's Magazine, and in one of his letters to Mrs. Thrale he says, "I have finished the life of Prior and now a fig for Mr. Nichols !" Our friendship, however, did not cease with the termination of those volumes.
Of his birth-place, Lichfield, Dr. Johnson always spoke with a laudable enthusiasm. "Its inhabitants," he said, "were more orthodox in their religion, more pure in their language, and more polite in their manners, than any other town in the kingdom ;" and he often lamented, that "no city of equal antiquity and worth had been so destitute of a native to record its fame, and transmit its history to posterity."
(1) [From "Literary Anecdotes of the Eighteenth Century," in 9 vols. 8vo. 1812-15. For a character of Mr. Nichols and of this work, see antè, Vol. VIII. p. 374.]
566. Roxana and Statira.
Mr. Cradock informs me, that he once accompanied Dr. Johnson and Mr. Steevens to Marylebone Gardens, to see "La Serva Padrona" performed. Mr. Steevens, being quite weary of the burletta, exclaimed, "There is no plot; it is merely an old fellow cheated, and deluded by his servant; it is quite foolish and unnatural.” Johnson instantly replied, "Sir, it is not unnatural. It is a scene that is acted in my family every day in my life." This did not allude to the maid servant, however, so much as to two distressed ladies, whom he generously supported in his house, who were always quarrelling. These ladies presided at Johnson's table by turns when there was company; which, of course, would produce disputes. I ventured one day to say, "Surely, Dr. Johnson, Roxana for this time should take place of Statira." "Yes, Sir," replied the Doctor; but, in my family, it has never been decided which is Roxana, and which is Statira."
567. Joseph Reed's Tragedy.
It happened that I was in Bolt Court on the day when Mr. Henderson, the justly celebrated actor, was first introduced to Dr. Johnson; and the conversation turning on dramatic subjects, Henderson asked the Doctor's opinion of "Dido" and its author. "Sir," said Johnson, "I never did the man an injury; yet he would read his tragedy to me."
568. Samuel Boyse. (1)
The following particulars of the unfortunate Samuel Boyse I had from Dr. Johnson's own mouth :-" -"By addressing himself to low vices, among which were gluttony and extravagance, Boyse rendered himself so contemptible and wretched, that he frequently was without the least subsistence for days together. After (i) See antè, Vol. VIII. p. 183.