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Dr. Marvel's Collectanea-Johnson's Politics, and general Mode of Life--Opulent Trader
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DURING this year there was a total cessation of all correspondence between Dr. Johnson and me, without any coldness on either side, but merely from procrastination, continued from day to day ; and, as I was not in London, I had no opportunity of enjoying his company and recording his conversation. To supply this blank, I shall present my readers with some Collectanea, obligingly furnished to me by the Rev. Dr. Maxwell,' of Falkland, in Ireland, some time assistaut preacher at the Temple, and for many years the social friend of Johnson, who spoke of him with a very kind regard
Collectanea. “My acquaintance with that great and venerable character commenced in the year 1754. I was introduced to him by Mr. Grierson,' his Majesty's printer at Dublin, a gentleman of uncommon learning, and great wit and vivacity. Mr. Grierson died Germany, at the age of twenty-seven. Dr. Johnson highly respected his abilities, and often observed, that he possessed more extensive knowledge than any man of his years he had ever known. His ndustry was equal to his talents; and he particularly excelled in every
i Dr. William Maxwell was the son of Dr. John Maxwell, Archdeacon of Downe, in Ireland, and cousin of the Honourable Henry Maxwell, Bishop of Dromore in 1765, and of Meath in 1766, from whom he obtained preferment; but having a considerable property of his own, be resigned the living when, as it is said, his residence was insisted on; and he fixed himself ir Bath, where he died, so late as 1818, at the age of 87.-C.
? Son of the learned Mrs. Grierson, who was patronised by the late Lord Granville, and we de editor of several of the classics.-B.
species of philological learning, and was, perhaps, the best critic of the age be lived in.
“ī must always remember with gratitude my obligation to Mr. Grierson, for the honour and happiness of Dr. Johnson's acquaintance and friendship, which continued uninterrupted and undiminished to his death : a connection, that was at once the pride and happiness of my life.
“What a pity it is, that ow muca wit and good sense as he continually exhibited in conversation, should perish unrecorded! Few persons quitted his company without perceiving themselves wiser and better than they were before. Un serious subjects he flashed the most interesting conviction upon his audiWis; and upon lighter topics, you might have supposed- Albano musah u. monte locutas.
“Though I can hope to add but little to the celebrity of so exalted a character, by any communications I can furnish, yet, out of pure respect to his memory, I will venture to transmit to you some anecdotes concerning him, which fell under my own observation. The very minutiæ of such a character must be interesting, and may be compared to the filings of diamonds.
“In politics he was deemed a Tory, but certainly was not so in the obnoxious or party sense of the term; for while he asserted the legal and salutary prerogatives of the crown, he no less respected the constitutional liberties of the people. Whiggism, at the time of the Revolution, he said, was accompanied with certain principles; but latterly, as a mere party distinction under Walpole and the Pelhams, was no better than the politics of stock-jobbers, and the religion of infidels.
“ He detested the idea of governing by parliamentary corruption, and asserted most strenuously, that a prince steadily and conspicuously pursuing the interests of his people could not fail of parliamentary concurrence. A prince of ability, he contended, might and should be the directing soul and spirit of his own administration; in short, his own minister, and not the mere head of a party : and then, and not till then, would the royal dignity be sin. cerely respected.
• Johnson seemed to think, that a certain degree of crown influence over the Houses of Parliament (not meaning a corrupt and shameful dependence) was very salutary, nay, even necessary, in our mixed government. “For,' said he, “if the members were under no crown influence, and disqualified from receiving any gratification from Court, and resembled, as they possibly might, Pym and Haslerig, and other stubborn and sturdy members of the Long Parliament, the wheels of government would be totally obstructed. Such men would oppose, merely to show their power, from envy, jealousy, and perversity of disposition; and, not gaining themselves, would hate and oppose all who
i On the necessity of crown influence, see Boucher's “Sermons on the American Revo ution," p. 218; and Paley's “Moral Philosophy," b. vi. ch. vii. p. 491, 4to., there quotedBLAKEWAY.
did: not loving the person of the prince, and conceiving they owed him little gratitude, from the mere spirit of insolence and contradiction, they would oppose and thwart him upon all occasions.'
“The inseparable imperfection annexed to all human governments consisted, he said, in not being able to create a sufficient fund of virtue and principle to carry the laws into due and effectual execution. Wisdom might plan, but virtue alone could execute. And where could sufficient virt'ie be found ? variety of delegated, and often discretionary, powers must be entrusted sor::ewhere ; which, if not governed by integrity and conscience, would necessarily be abused, till at last the constable would sell his for a shilling.
“ This excellent person was sometimes charged with abetting slavish and arbitrary principles of government. Nothing, in my opinion, could be a grosser calumoy and misrepresentation; for how can it be rationally supposed, that he should adopt such pernicious and absurd opinions, who supported his philosophical character with so much dignity, was extremely jealous of his personal liberty and independence, and could not brook the smallest appearance of degloot or insult, even from the highest personages ?
"But let us view him in some instances of more familiar life.
“ His general mode of life, during my acquaintance, seemed to be pretty uniform About twelve o'clock I commonly visited him, and frequently found bini in bed, or declaiming over his tea, which he drank very plentifully. He generally had a levee of morning visiters, chiefly men of letters ; Hawkesworth, Goldsmith, Murphy, Langton, Steevens, Beauclerk, &c. &c., and sometimes learned ladies; particularly I remember a French lady of wit and fashion doing him the honour of a visit. He seemed to me to be considered as a kind of pub lic oracle, whom everybody thought they had a right to visit and consult; and doubtless they were well rewarded. I never could discover how he found time for his compositions. He declaimed all the morning, then went to dinner at a tavern, where he commonly stayed late, and then drank his tea at some friend's Louse, over which he loitered a great while, but seldom took supper. I fancy Iso must have read and wrote chiefly in the night, for I can scarcely recollect that he ever refused goin' with me to a tavern, and he often went to Rane. lagh, which he deemed a place of innocent recreation.
“He frequently gave all the silver in his pocket to the poor, who watched him between his house and the tavern where he dined. He walked the streets at all hours, and said he was never robbed, for the rogues knew he had little money, nor had the appearance of having much.
“Though the most accessible and communicative man alive, yet when he suspected he was invited to be exhibited, he constantly spurned the invitation,
“Two young women from. Staffordshire visited bim when I was present, to consult him on the subject of Methodism, to which they were inclined. "Come,' said he, 'you pretty fools, dine with Maxwell and me at the Mitre, and we will talk over that subject;' wlich they did, and after dinner he took one of them upon his knee, and fondled her for half an hour together
Upon a visit to me at a country lodging near Twickenham, he asked what sort of society I had there. I told him, but indifferent; as they chiedy ccasisted of opulent traders, retired from business. He said, he never much like: that class of people ; ‘For, Sir,' said he, 'they have lost the civility of trades. men, without acquiring the manners of gentlemen.'
“Johuson was much attached to London : he observed, that a man stored bis mind better there, than any where else ; and that in remote situations a man's body might be feasted, but his mind was starved, and his faculties apt to degenerate, from want of exercise and competition. 'No place,' he said, 'cured a man's vanity or arrogance, so well as London ; for as no man was either great or good per se, but as compared with others not so good or great, he was sure to find in the metropolis many his equals, and some his superiors. He observed, that a man in London was in less danger of falling in love in G's. creetly, than anywhere else ; for there the difficulty of deciding between th. conflicting pretensions of a vast variety of objects, kept him safe. He told me, that he had frequently been offered country preferment, if he would consent to take orders; but he could not leave the improved society of the capital, or consent to exchange the exhilarating joys and splendid decorations of public life, for the obscurity, insipidity and uniformity of remote situations.
Speaking of Mr. Harte, Canon of Windsor, and writer of 'The History of Gustavus Adolphus,' he much commended him as a scholar, and a man of the most companionable talents he had ever known. lle said, the defects in his history proceeded not from imbecility, but froun for pery.
“ He loved, he said, the old black-letter books; they were rich in matter, though their style was inelegant; wonderfully so, considering how conversant the writers were with the best models of antiquity.
Burton's · Anatomy of Melancholy,' said he, was the only book that ever took him out of bed two hours sooner than he wished to rise.
“He frequently exhorted me to set about writing a History of Ireland; and archly remarked, there had been some good Irish writers, and that one Irislı man might at least aspire to be equal to another. He had great compassion for the miseries and distresses of the Irish nation, particularly the Papists; aud severely reprobated the barbarous debilitating policy of the British goverument, which, he said, was the most detestable mode of persecution. To a gentleman who hinted such policy might be necessary to support the authority of the English government, he replied by saying, 'Let the authority of the English government perish, rather than be maintained by iniquity. Better would it be to restrain the turbulence of the natives by the authority of the sword, and to make them amenable to law and justice by an effectual and vigorous police, than to grind them to powder by all manner of disabilities and incapacities Better', said he, ‘to hang or drown people at once, than by an unrelculis : persecution to beggar and starve them.' The moderation and humanity of the present times have, in some measure, justified the wisdom of his observations.
“Dr. Johnson was often accused of prejudices, nay, antipathy, with regarų
to the natives of Scotland. Surely, so illiberal a prejudice never entered his mind : and it is well known, many natives of that respectable country possessed a large share of his esteem : nor were any of them ever excluded from his good offices, as far as opportunity permitted. True it is, he considered the Scotch, nationally, as a crafty designing people, eagerly attentive to their own interest, and too apt to overlook the claims and pretensions of other people. While they confine their benevolence, in a manner, exclusively to those of their own country, they expect to share in the good offices of other people. Now, said Johnson, this principle is either right or wrong; if right, we should do well to imitate such conduct; if wrong, we cannot too much detest it.'
Being solicited to compose a funeral sermon for the daughter of a trades. man, he naturally inquired into the character of the deceased; and being told she was remarkable for her humility and condescension to inferiors, he observed, that those were very laudable qualities, but it might not be so easy to discover who the lady's inferiors were.
“Of a certain player' he remarked, that his conversation usually threatened and announced more than it performed; that he fed you with a continual renovation of hope, to end in a constant succession of disappointment.
“When exasperated by contradiction, he was apt to treat his opponents with too much acrimony : as 'Sir, you don't see your way through that question :' —Sir, you talk the language of ignorance.' On my observing to him, that a certain gentleman had remained silent the whole evening, in the midst of a very brilliant and learned society, “Sir,' said he, the conversation overflowed, and drowned him.'
“ His philosophy, though austere and solemn, was by no means morose and cynical, and never blunted the laudable sensibilities of his character, or exempted him from the influence of the tender passions. Want of tenderness, he always alleged, was want of parts, and was no less a proof of stupidity than depravity.
“Speaking of Mr. Hanway, who published ‘An Eight Days' Journey from London to Portsmouth, Jonas,' said he, 'acquired some reputation by travelling abroad, but lost it all by travelling at home.'
“Of the passion of love he remarked, that its violence and ill effects were much exaggerated; for who knows any real sufferings on that head, more than from the exorbitancy of any other passion ?
“He much commended ‘Law's Serious Call,'' which, he said, was the finest piece of hortatory theology in any language ‘Law,' said he, ‘fell latterly into the reveries of Jacob Behmen,' whom Law alleged to have been somewhat in
I No doubt Mr. Sheridan.-0.
. He had published “An Account of the British Trade over the Caspian Sea, with Travels through Russia, Persia, Germany, and Holland." These travels contain very curious diteils of the then state of Persia.-0.
3 See antè, Vol. I. p. 62. * A German fanatic, born near Görlitz, in Upper Lusatia, in 1575. He wrote a multitude