p. 120.

Aston', sir, the sister of those ladies with whom yon dined at Lichfield. I shall be at home to-morrow." BOSWELL. “ Then let us dine by ourselves at the Mitre, to keep up the old custom, the custom of the manor,' custom of the Mitre.” JOHNSON. “Sir, so it shall be.”

[Dr. Johnson had however an avowed and scarcely Piozzi, limited partiality for all who bore the name or boasted the alliance of an Aston or a Hervey ; [but above all for Miss Mary Aston, whom he has celebrated in his criticisms on Pope's epitaphs, as a lady of great beauty and elegance.] And when Mr. Thrale once asked him which had been the happiest period of his past life? he replied, it was that year in which he spent one whole evening with Molly Aston. “ That indeed,” said he, “ was not happiness, it was rapture; but the thoughts of it sweetened the whole year.” Mrs. Piozzi observes, that the evening alluded to was not passed téte-d-téte, but in a select company, of which the present Lord Kilmorey' was one. “Molly," said Dr. Johnson, “was a beauty and a scholar, and

• Johnson had an extraordinary admiration of this lady, notwithstanding she was a violent whig. In answer to her high-flown speeches for liberty, he ad. dressed to her the following epigram, of which I presume to offer a translation :

“Liber ut esse velim, suasisti pulchra Maria,
Ut maneam liber-pulchra Maria, vale !"
Adieu, Maria! since you 'd have me free :

For, who beholds thy charms, a slave must be.
A correspondent of “ The Gentleman's Magazine," who subscribes himself
Sciolus, to whom I am indebted for several excellent remarks, observes, “ The
turn of Dr. Johnson's lines to Miss Aston, whose whig principles he had been
combating, appears to me to be taken from an ingenious epigram in the • Me.
nagiana,' vol. iii. p. 376, edit. 1716, on a young lady who appeared at a mas-
querade, habillée en Jesuite, during the fierce contentions of the followers of Mo-
linos and Jansenius concerning free-will:

« On s'etonne ici que Caliste Ait pris l'habit de Moliniste.

Puisque cette jeune beauté

Ote a chacun sa liberté

N'est-ce pas une Janseniste ?"_BOSWELL. . (See ante, vol. iii. p. 131, n., where Lord Kilmorey should have been stated to be John, the tenth viscount-Ep.)

p. 121.

a wit and a whig; and she talked all in praise of liberty: and so I made that epigram upon her-She was the loveliest creature I ever saw !

Mrs. Piozzi asked him what his wife thought of this attachment? “She was jealous, to be sure, said he, “and teased me sometimes, when I would let her; and one day, as a fortune-telling gipsy passed us, when we were walking out in company with two or three friends in the country, she made the wench look at my hand, but soon repented her curiosity; for, says the gipsy, your heart is divided, sir, between a Betty and a Molly : Betty loves you best, but you take most delight in Molly's company : when I turned about to laugh, I saw my wife was crying. Pretty charmer ! she had no reason !"]

On Saturday, May 9, we fulfilled our purpose of dining by ourselves at the Mitre, according to the old custom. There was, on these occasions, a little circumstance of kind attention to Mrs. Williams, which must not be omitted. Before coming out, and leaving her to dine alone, he gave her her choice of a chicken, a sweetbread, or any other little nice thing, which was carefully sent to her from the tavern ready drest.

Our conversation to-day, I know not how, turned, I think, for the only time at any length, during our long acquaintance, upon the sensual intercourse between the sexes, the delight of which he ascribed chiefly to imagination. “Were it not for imagination, sir,” said he," a man would be as happy in the arms of a chambermaid as of a duchess. But such is the adventitious charm of fancy, that we find men who have violated the best principles of society, and ruined their fame and their fortune, that they might possess a woman of rank.” It would not be proper to record

the particulars of such a conversation in moments of unreserved frankness, when nobody was present on whom it could have any hurtful effect. That subject, when philosophically treated, inay surely employ the mind in a curious discussion, and as innocently as anatomy; provided that those who do treat it keep clear of inflammatory incentives.

“ From grave to gay, from lively to severe,"—We were soon engaged in very different speculation ; humbly and reverently considering and wondering at the universal mystery of all things, as our imperfect faculties can now judge of them. “There are,” said he, “ innumerable questions to which the inquisitive mind can in this state receive no answer : Why do you and I exist? Why was this world created ? Since it was to be created, why was it not created sooner ?”

On Sunday, May 10, I supped with him at Mr. Hoole's, with Sir Joshua Reynolds. I have neglected the memorial of this evening, so as to remember no more of it than two particulars: one that he strenuously opposed an argument by Sir Joshua, that virtue was preferable to vice, considering this life only; and that a man would be virtuous were it only to preserve his character; and that he expressed much wonder at the curious formation of the bat, a mouse with wings; saying, that it was almost as strange a thing in physiology, as if the fabulous dragon could be seen.

On Tuesday, May 12, I waited on the Earl of Marchmont, to know if his lordship would favour Dr. Johnson with information concerning Pope, whose Life he was about to write. Johnson had not flattered himself with the hopes of receiving any civility from this nobleman; for he said to me, when I mentioned Lord Marchmont as one who could tell him a great deal about Pope,-“ Sir, he will tell me VOL. IV.


I can.

nothing." I had the honour of being known to his lordship, and applied to him of myself, without being commissioned by Johnson. His lordship behaved in the most polite and obliging manner, promised to tell all he recollected about Pope, and was so very courteous as to say, “Tell Dr. Johnson I have a great respect for him, and am ready to show it in any way

I am to be in the city to-morrow, and will call at his house as I return." His lordship however asked, “ Will he write the Lives of the Poets' impartially? He was the first that brought whig and tory into a dictionary. And what do you think of the definition of Excise ? Do you know the history of his aversion to the word transpire ?" Then taking down the folio Dictionary, he showed it with this censure on its secondary sense: To escape from secrecy to notice; a sense lately innovated from France, without necessity'.' “The truth was, Lord Bolingbroke, who left the Jacobites, first used it; therefore it was to be condemned. He should have shown what word would do for it, if it was unnecessary." I afterwards put the question to Johnson: “Why, sir,” said he, “get abroad.BOSWELL. “ That, sir, is using two words.” Johnson. “Sir, there is no end to this. You may as well insist to have a word for old age.”

BOSWELL. Well, sir, senectus." Johnson. “Nay, sir, to insist always that there should be one word to express a thing in English, because there is one in another language, is to change the language.'

1 (Few words, however, of modern introduction have had greater success than this-for it is not only in general, but even in vulgar use. Johnson's awkward substitute of “get abroad" does not seem to express exactly the same meaning : a secret may get abroad by design, by accident, by breach of confidence; but it is said to transpire when it becomes known by small indirect circumstances-by symptoms-by inferences. It is now often used in the direct sense of “get abroad," but, as appears to the editor, incorrectly.--Ed.)

I availed myself of this opportunity to hear from his lordship many particulars both of Pope and Lord Bolingbroke, which I have in writing.

I proposed to Lord Marchmont, that he should revise Johnson's Life of Pope: “So,” said his lordship, you would put me in a dangerous situation. You know he knocked down Osborne, the bookseller."

Elated with the success of my spontaneous exertion to procure material and respectable aid to Johnson for his very favourite work, “the Lives of the Poets," I hastened down to Mr. Thrale's, at Streatham, where he now was, that I might ensure his being at home next day; and after dinner, when I thought he would receive the good news in the best humour, I announced it eagerly: "I have been at work for you to-day, sir. I have been with Lord Marchmont. He bade me tell you he has a great respect for you, and will call on you to-morrow at one o'clock, and communicate all he knows about Pope.” Here I paused, in full expectation that he would be pleased with this intelligence, would praise my active merit, and would be alert to embrace such an offer from a nobleman. But whether I had shown an over-exultation, which provoked his spleen; or whether he was seized with a suspicion that I had obtruded him on Lord Marchmont, and humbled him too much ; or whether there was any thing more than an unlucky fit of ill-humour, I know not; but to my surprise the result was,-JOHNSON. “I shall not be in town to-morrow. I don't care to know about Pope.” Mrs. THRALE: (surprised as I was, and a little angry). “I suppose, sir, Mr. Boswell thought, that as you are to write Pope's Life, you would wish to know about him.” Johnson. “ Wish! why yes.

[See ante, vol. i. p. 129.-ED.)

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