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Linley; but I would rather sit with you than hear Miss Linley sing." "And I, Madam," replied Johnson, "would rather sit with you than sit upon a throne." The Doctor would not be surpassed even in a trifling compliment.
491. Learned Ladies.
Several ladies being in company with Dr. Johnson, it was remarked by one of them, that a learned woman was by no means a rare character in the present age; when Johnson replied, "I have known a great many ladies who knew Latin, but very few who knew English." A lady observed, that women surpassed men in epistolary correspondence. Johnson said, "I do not know that." "At least," said the lady," they are most pleasing when they are in conversation." No, Madam," returned Johnson, "I think they are most pleasing when they hold their tongues.”
492. Saying good Things.
A friend of Dr. Johnson's, in conversation with him, was lamenting the disagreeable situation in which those persons stood, who were eminent for their witticisms, as they were perpetually expected to be saying good things that it was a heavy tax on them. "It is, indeed," said Johnson, a very heavy tax on them; a tax which no man can pay who does not steal."
493. Burke. Sir Joshua Reynolds.
Speaking of how much Sir Joshua owed to the writings and conversation of Johnson, Mr. Burke said, that "nothing showed more the greatness of Sir Joshua's parts, than his taking advantage of both, and making some application of them to his profession, when Johnson neither understood, nor desired to understand, any thing of painting, and had no distinct idea of its nomenclature, even in those parts which had got most into use in common life."
ANECDOTES OF DR. JOHNSON,
BY ANNA SEWARD. (')
494. Johnson's "Beauties."
LOVE is the great softener of savage dispositions. Johnson had always a metaphysic passion for one princess or other: first, the rustic Lucy Porter, before he married her nauseous mother; next, the handsome, but haughty, Molly Aston; next, the sublimated, methodistic, Hill Boothby, who read her bible in Hebrew ; and, lastly, the more charming Mrs. Thrale, with the beauty of the first, the learning of the second, and with more worth than a bushel of such sinners and such saints. It is ridiculously diverting to see the old elephant forsaking his nature before these princesses
"To make them mirth, use all his might, and writhe,
This last and long-enduring passion for Mrs. Thrale was, however, composed equally, perhaps, of cupboard love, Platonic love, and vanity tickled and gratified, from morn to night, by incessant homage. The two first ingredients are certainly oddly heterogeneous; but Johnson, in religion and politics, in love and in hatred, was composed of such opposite and contradictory materials, as never before met in the human mind.
(1) [From "Letters of Anna Seward, written between the
This is the reason why folk are never weary of talking, reading, and writing about a man —
"So various, that he seem'd to be
495. Johnson's Courtship.
I have often heard my mother say she perfectly remembered Johnson's wife. He has recorded of her that beauty which existed only in his imagination. She had a very red face, and very indifferent features; and her manners in advanced life for her children were all grown up when Johnson first saw her had an unbecoming excess of girlish levity, and disgusting affectation. The rustic prettiness and artless manners of her daughter, the present Mrs. Lucy Porter, had won Johnson's youthful heart, when she was upon a visit at my grandfather's in Johnson's school-days. Disgusted by his unsightly form, she had a personal aversion to him. Business taking Johnson to Birmingham, on the death of his own father, and calling upon his coy mistress there, he found her father dying. He passed all his leisure hours at Mr. Porter's, attending his sick-bed, and, in a few months after his death, asked Mrs. Johnson's consent to marry the old widow. After expressing her surprise at a request so extraordinary. No, Sam, my willing consent you will never have to so preposterous a match. You are not twenty-five, and she is turned of fifty. If she had any prudence, this request had never been made to me. Where are your means of subsistence? Porter has died poor, in consequence of his wife's expensive habits. You have great talents, but, as yet, have turned them into no profitable channel.” "Mother, I have not deceived Mrs. Porter: I have told her the worst of me; that I am of mean extraction, that I have no money, and that I have had an uncle hanged. She replied, that she
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I am sorry to see you engaged in altercation. with a Lady, who seems unwilling to be conorned of hen rrrows, surely it word be ingenuous to acknowledge, then to perisvere. I most solemnly declare, at that time Johnson was an enhie stangen to D Porter & family; & it was almost two years after, that I introdued him to the as quazn tance of Pester, whom thought my Cleaths