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house, sitting with Mrs. Williams, and was informed that the room formerly allotted to me was now appropriated to a charitable purpose ; Mrs. Desmoulins", and, I think, her daughter, and a Miss Carmichael, being all lodged in it. Such was his humanity, and such his generosity, that Mrs. Desmoulins herself told me he allowed her half a guinea a week. Let it be remembered, that this was above a twelfth part of his pension.
His liberality, indeed, was at all periods of his life very remarkable. Mr. Howard, of Lichfield, at whose father's house Johnson had in his early years been kindly received, told me, that when he was a boy at the Charter-house, his father wrote to him to go and pay a visit to Mr. Samuel Johnson, which he accordingly did, and found him in an upper room, of poor appearance.
Johnson received him with much courteousness, and talked a great deal to him, as to a schoolboy, of the course of his education, and other particulars. When he afterwards came to know and understand the high character of this great man, he recollected his condescension with wonder. He added, that when he was going away, Mr. Johnson presented him with half a guinea ; and this, said Mr. Howard, was at a time when he probably had not another.
[Johnson's patience was as much tried by these Ep. inmates as his generosity. The dissensions that Piozzi, the many odd ? inhabitants of his house chose to
Daughter of Dr. Swinfen, Johnson's godfather, and widow of Mr. Des. moulins, a writing-master.--BOSWELL.
(In Malone's MS. notes, he, on more than one occasion, reprobates “ the misrepresentations," as he calls them, “ of this mendacious lady," on the subject of Johnson's inmates and pensioners; and he particularly notices this pass. age, from which, he says, " it might be inferred that he had twenty in his house, whereas Mrs. Williams, Mrs. Desmoulins occasionally, and Levett, with his two servants, composed the whole." This is the style in which Malone and Boswell usually treated Mrs. Piozzi ; and, as generally happens, she is right,
Piozzi, live in distressed and mortified him exceedingly. He p. 164,5.
really was sometimes afraid of going home, because he was so sure to be met at the door with numberless complaints; and he used to lament pathetically to Mrs. Thrale, and to Mr. Sastres, the Italian master, who was much his favourite, that they made his life miserable from the impossibility he found of making theirs happy, when every favour he bestowed on one was wormwood to the rest. If, however, Mrs. Thrale ventured to blame their ingratitude, and condemn their conduct, he would instantly set about softening the one and justifying the other; and finished commonly by telling her, that she knew not how to make allowances for situations she never experienced.]
We retired from Mrs. Williams to another room. Tom Davies soon after joined us.
He had now unfortunately failed in his circumstances, and was much indebted to Dr. Johnson's kindness for obtaining for him many alleviations of his distress. After he went away, Johnson blamed his folly in quitting the stage, by which he and his wife got five hundred pounds a year. I said, I believed it was owing to Churchill's attack upon him,
“ He mouths a sentence as curs mouth a bone."
JOHNSON. “I believe so too, sir. But what a man is he who is to be driven from the stage by a line? Another line would have driven him from his shop!"
I told him that I was engaged as counsel at the bar of the house of commons to oppose a road-bill in the county of Stirling, and asked him what mode he would advise me to follow in addressing such an audience. JOHNSON. “Why, sir, you must provide yourself with a good deal of extraneous matter, which you are to produce occasionally, so as to fill up the time; for you must consider, that they do not listen much. If you begin with the strength of your cause, it may be lost before they begin to listen. When you catch a moment of attention, press the merits of the question upon them.” He said, as to one point of the merits, that he thought“ it would be a wrong thing to deprive the small landholders of the privilege of assessing themselves for making and repairing the high roads; it was destroying a certain portion of liberty without a good reason, which was always a bad thing.” When I mentioned this observation next day to Mr. Wilkes, he pleasantly said, “ What! does he talk of liberty ? Liberty is as ridiculous in his mouth as religion in mine.” Mr. Wilkes's advice as to the best mode of speaking at the bar of the house of commons was not more respectful towards the senate than that of Dr. Johnson. “Be as impudent as you can, as merry as you can, and say whatever comes uppermost. Jack Lee' is the best heard there of any counsel; and he is the most impudent dog, and always abusing us.”
or, at least, justifiable in what she says. Surely, in this particular case, when we find that, besides Dr. Johnson, his house contained Mr. Levett, Mrs. Wil. liams, Miss Carmichael, Mrs. Desmoulins, Miss Desmoulins, a negro, and a female servant, Mrs. Piozzi was justified in talking of his “ many inmates.". Ed.]
In my interview with Dr. Johnson this evening, I was quite easy, quite as his companion; upon which I find in my journal the following reflection : “ So ready is my mind to suggest matter for dissatisfaction, that I felt a sort of regret that I was so easy.
(Mr. Lee, afterwards solicitor-general in the Rockingham administration. “He was a man of strong parts, though of coarse manners, and who never hesitated to express in the coarsest language whatever he thought.”_Wrarallos Mem. vol. ii. p. 237. He was particularly distinguished by the violence of his invective against the person and administration of Lord Shelburne in 1782. ED.]
I missed that awful reverence with which I used to contemplate MR. SAMUEL JOHNSON, in the complex magnitude of his literary, moral, and religious character. I have a wonderful superstitious love of mystery; when, perhaps, the truth is, that it is owing to the cloudy darkness of my own mind. I should be glad that I am more advanced in my progress of being, so that I can view Dr. Johnson with a steadier and clearer eye. My dissatisfaction tonight was foolish. Would it not be foolish to regret that we shall have less mystery in a future state ? That' we now see in a glass darkly, but shall then see face to face '?'” This reflection, which I thus freely communicate, will be valued by the thinking part of my readers, who may have themselves experienced a similar state of mind.
He returned next day to Streatham, to Mr. Thrale's; where, as Mr. Strahan once complained to me," he was in a great measure absorbed from the society of his old friends." I was kept in London by business, and wrote to him on the 27th, that “a separation from him for a week, when we were so near, was equal to a separation for a year, when we were at four hundred miles distance.” I went to Streatham on Monday, March 30. Before he appeared, Mrs. Thrale made a very characteristical remark: “I do not know for certain what will please Dr. Johnson : but I know for certain that it will displease him to praise any thing, even what he likes, extravagantly."
At dinner he laughed at querulous declamations against the age, on account of luxury,--increase of London,-scarcity of provisions,—and other such topicks. “ Houses," said he,“ will be built till rents
(1 Cor. c. xiii. v. 12.-E..]
fall; and corn is more plentiful now than ever it was.”
I had before dinner repeated a ridiculous story told me by an old man, who had been a passenger with me in the stage-coach to-day. Mrs. Thrale, having taken occasion to allude to it in talking to me, called it “ The story told you by the old woman.” Now, madam,” said I, "give me leave to catch you in the fact: it was not an old woman, but an old man, whom I mentioned as having told me this.” sumed to take an opportunity, in the presence of Johnson, of showing this lively lady' how ready she was, unintentionally, to deviate from exact authenticity of narration.
Thomas à Kempis (he observed) must be a good book, as the world has opened its arms to receive it. It is said to have been printed, in one language or other, as many times as there have been months since it first came out. I always was struck with this sentence in it: “ Be not angry that you cannot make others as you wish them to be, since you cannot make yourself as you wish to be 3.”
He said, “I was angry with Hurd about Cowley for having published a selection of his works : but, upon better consideration, I think there is no impropriety in a man's publishing as much as he chooses of any authour, if he does not put the rest out of the way. A man, for instance, may print the Odes of
(If mistakes like this were all that Mr. Boswell could impute to Mrs. Thrale, he had better have spared his censures. The inaccuracy was evidently trifling; probably had no effect on the story, and might be involuntary, as Mrs. Thrale might not have distinctly heard whether Boswell had said old man or old roman. The editor notices these trifles to show the animus, the spirit in which Mr. Boswell is prone to distort Mrs. Thrale's character.-ED.)
? The first edition was in 1492. Between that period and 1792, according to this account, there were three thousand six hundred editions. But this is very improbable.—MALONE.
i The original passage is : Si non potes te talem facere, qualem vis, quomodo poteris alium ad tuum habere beneplacitum ? De Imit. Christ. lib. i. cap. xvi. -J. BoswELL. VOL. IV.