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my explanation, and was in the kindest and most agreeable frame of mind. As he had objected to a part of one of his letters being published, I thought it right to take this opportunity of asking him explicitly whether it would be improper to publish his letters after his death. His answer was, “ Nay, Sir, when I am dead, you may do as you will.”
He talked in his usual style with a rough contempt of popular liberty. “They make a rout about universal liberty, without considering that all that is to be valued, or indeed can be enjoyed by individuals, is private liberty. Political liberty is good only so far as it produces private liberty. Now, Sir, there is the liberty of the press, which you know is a constant topic. Suppose you and I and two hundred more were restrained from printing our thoughts; what then? What proportion would that restraint upon us bear to the private happiness of the nation?”
This mode of representing the inconveniences of restraint as light and insignificant, was a kind of sophistry in which he delighted to indulge himself
, in opposition to the extreme laxity for which it has been fashionable for too many to argue, when it is evident, upon reflection, that the very essence of government is restraint ; and certain it is, that as government produces rational happiness, too much restraint is better than too little. But when restraint is unnecessary, and so close as to gall those who are subject to it, the people may and ought to remonstrate ; and, if relief is not granted, to resist. Of this manly and spirited principle, no man was more convinced than Johnson himself.
About this time Dr. Kenrick attacked him, through my sides, in a pamphlet, entitled “ An Epistle to James Boswell, Esq., occasioned by his having transmitted the Moral Writings of Dr. Samuel Johnson to Pascal Paoli, General of the Corsicans.” I was at first inclined to answer this pamphlet ; but Johnson, who knew that my doing so would only gratify Kenrick, by keeping alive what would soon die away of itself, would not suffer me to take any notice of it.
His sincere regard for Francis Barber, his faithful negro servant, made him so desirous of his further improvement, that he now placed him at a school at Bishop Stortford, in Hertfordshire. This humane attention does Johnson's heart much honour. Out of many letters which Mr. Barber received from his master, he has preserved three, which he kindly gave me, and which I shall insert according to their dates.
“TO MR. FRANCIS BARBER. “ DEAR FRANCIS,
May 28, 1768. "I have been very much out of order. I am glad to hear that you are well, and design to come soon to you. I would have you stay at Mrs. Clapp's for the present, till I can determine what we shall do. Be a good boy. “My compliments to Mrs. Clapp and to Mr. Fowler.
“I am, yours affectionately,
Soon afterwards he supped at the Crown and Anchor tavern, in the Strand, with a company whom I collected to meet him. They were Dr. Percy, now Bishop of Dromore. Dr. Douglas, now Bishop of Salisbury,
Mr. Langton, Dr. Robertson,
opportunity of hearing them talk, for with an excess of prudence, for which Johnson afterwards found fault with them, they hardly opened their lips, and that only to say something which they were certain would not expose them to the sword of Goliath ; such was their anxiety for their fame when in the presence of
Johnson. He was this evening in remarkable vigour of mind, and eager to exert himself in conversation, which he did with great readiness and fluency ; but I am sorry to find that I have preserved but a small part of what passed.
He allowed high praise to Thomson as a poet ; but when one of the company said he was also a very good man, our moralist contested this with great warmth, accusing him of gross sensuality and licentiousness of manners. I was very much afraid that in writing Thomson's life, Dr. Johnson would have treated his private character with a stern severity, but I was agreeably disappointed ; and I may claim a little merit in it, from my having been at pains to send him authentic accounts of the affectionate and generous conduct of that poet to his sisters, one of whom, the wife of Mr. Thomson, schoolmaster at Lanark, I knew, and was presented by her with three of his letters, one of which Dr. Johnson has inserted in his life.
He was vehement against old Dr. Mounsey, of Chelsea College, as "a fellow who swore and talked bawdy.” “I have often been in his company,” said Dr. Percy," and never heard him swear or talk bawdy." Mr. Davies, who sat next to Dr. Percy, having after this had some conversation aside with him, made a discovery which, in his zeal to pay court to Dr. Johnson, he eagerly proclaimed aloud from the foot of the table : " Oh, Sir, I have found out a very good
1 Messenger Mounsey, M.D. died at his apartments in Chelsea College, Dec. 26, 1788, at the great age of ninety-five. An extraordinary direction in his will may be found in "The Gentleman's Magazine," vol. l., part ii. p. 1183.—Malone.
reason why Dr. Percy never heard Mounsey swear or talk bawdy, for he tells me he never saw him but at the Duke of Northumberland's table.” “And so, Sir," said Dr. Johnson loudly to Dr. Percy, “you would shield this man from the charge of swearing and talking bawdy, because he did not do so at the Duke of Northumberland's table. Sir, you might as well tell us that you had seen him hold up his hand at the Old Bailey, and he neither swore nor talked bawdy; or that you had seen him in the cart at Tyburn, and he neither swore nor talked bawdy. And is it thus, Sir, that you presume to controvert what I have related ?" Dr. Johnson's animadversion was uttered in such a manner, that Dr. Percy seemed to be displeased, and soon afterwards left the company, of which Johnson did not at that time take
notice. Swift having been mentioned, Johnson, as usual, treated him with little respect as an author. Some of us endeavoured to support the Dean of St. Patrick's, by various arguments. One in particular praised his “ Conduct of the Allies.” JOHNSON : Sir, his . Conduct of the Allies' is a performance of very little ability.” “Surely, Sir,” said Dr. Douglas, "you must allow it has strong facts."1 JOHNSON :
Why, yes, Sir; but what is that to the merit of the composition ? In the Sessions-paper of the Old Bailey there are strong facts. Housebreaking is a strong fact; robbery is a strong fact; and murder is a mighty strong fact : but is great praise due to the historian of those strong facts ? No, Sir, Swift has told what he had to tell distinctly enough, but that is all. He had to count ten, and he has counted it right.”—Then recollecting that Mr. Davies, by acting as an informer, had been the occasion of his talking somewhat too harshly to his friend Dr. Percy, for which, probably, when the first ebullition was over, he felt some compunction, he took an opportunity to give him a hit: so added, with a preparatory laugh, “ Why, Sir, Tom Davies might have written the Conduct of the Allies.”” Poor Tom being thus suddenly dragged into ludicrous notice in presence of the Scottish Doctors, to whom he was ambitious of appearing to advantage, was grievously mortified. Nor did his punishment rest here ; for upon subsequent occasions, whenever he, "statesman all o’er”? assumed a strutting importance, I used to hail him—“The Author of the Conduct of the Allies.”
1 My respectable friend, upon reading this passage, observed that he probably must have said not simply “strong facts,” but “ strong facts well arranged." His lordship, however, knows too well the value of written documents to insist on setting his recollection against my notes taken at the time. He does not attempt to traverse the record. The fact, perhaps, may have been, either that the additional words escaped me in the noise of a numerous company, or that Dr. Johnson, from his impetuosity and eagerness to seize an opportunity to make a lively retort, did not allow Dr. Douglas to finish his sentence.BOSWELL
When I called upon Dr. Johnson next morning, I found him highly satisfied with his colloquial prowess the preceding evening. “Well,” said he,
we had good talk. BOSWELL: “Yes, Sir, you tossed and gored several persons.”
The late Alexander Earl of Eglintoune, who loved wit more than wine, and men of genius more than sycophants, had a great admiration of Johnson; but from the remarkable elegance of his own manners, was, perhaps, too delicately sensible of the roughness which sometimes appeared in Johnson's behaviour. One evening about this time, when his Lordship did me the honour to sup at my lodgings with Dr. Robertson and several other men of literary distinction, he regretted that Johnson had not been educated with more refinement, and lived more in polished society. “No, no, my Lord,” said Signor Baretti, “ do with him what you would, he would always have been a bear. True,” answered the Earl, with a smile,“ but he would have been a dancing bear.”
To obviate all the reflections which have gone round the world to Johnson's prejudice, by applying to him the epithet of a bear, let me impress upon my readers a just and happy saying of my friend Goldsmith, who knew him well: “Johnson, to be sure, has a roughness in his manner; but no man alive has a more tender heart. He has nothing of the bear but his skin.”
1 See the hard drawing of him in Churchill's RosCIAD.-Boswell.
JOHNSON APPOINTED PROFESSOR OF ANCIENT LITERATURE-Boswell AT THE STRATFORD JUBILEE_HIS ACCOUNT OF CORSICA—Scotch GARDENING—JOHNSON AND Boswell Visit MR. AND MRS. THRALE-Boswell INTRODUCES JOHNSON to General Paoli-GOLDSMITH'S TAILOR-Mrs. Montagu's Essay on SHAKS
Foote- BARETTI'S TRIAL-MRS. Williams's Tea-TABLE — Johnson's VIEWS OF ROMANISM AND CONVERSION TO POPERY—THE MARRIAGE SERVICE.
N 1769, so far as I can discover, the public was favoured with
friends. His “Meditations” too strongly prove that he suffered much both in body and mind ; yet was he perpetually striving against evil, and nobly endeavouring to advance his intellectual and devotional improvement. Every generous and grateful heart must feel for the distresses of so eminent a benefactor to mankind; and now that his unhappiness is certainly known, must respect that dignity of character which prevented him from complaining.
His Majesty having the preceding year instituted the Royal Academy of Arts in London, Johnson had now the honour of being appointed Professor in Ancient Literature.1 In the course of the year he wrote some letters to Mrs. Thrale, passed some part of the summer at Oxford and at Lichfield, and when at Oxford he wrote the following letter :
1 In which place he has been succeeded by Bennet Langton, Esq. When that truly religious gentleman was elected to this honorary Professorship, at the same time that Edward Gibbon, Esq., noted for introducing a kind of sneering infidelity into his Historical Writings, was elected Professor in Ancient History, in the room of Dr. Goldsmith, I observed that it brought to my mind, “ Wicked Will Whiston and good Mr. Ditton." -I am now also of that admirable institution as Secretary for Foreign Correspondence, by the favour of the Academicians, and the approbation of the sovereign. – Boswell.