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thoughts of possessing it. “ That (said he to me one day) is the great misery of late marriages; the unhappy produce of them becomes the plaything of dotage : an old man's child, continued he, leads much such a life, I think, as a little boy's dog, teized with awkward fondness, and forced, perhaps, to sit up and beg, as we call it, to divert a company, who at last go away complaining of their disagreeable entertainment.” In consequence of these maxims, and full of indignation against such parents as delight to produce their young ones early into the talking world, I have known Mr. Johnson give a good deal of pain by refusing to hear the verses the children could recite, or the songs they could sing; particularly one friend who told him that his two sons should repeat Gray's Elegy to him alternately that he might judge who had the happiest cadence. “No, pray Sir,” said he, “let the dears both speak it at once; more noise will by that means be made, and the noise will be sooner over.” He told me the story himself, but I have forgot who the father was.

Mr. Johnson's mother was daughter to a gentleman in the country, such as there were many of in those days, who possessing, perhaps, one or two hundred pounds a year in land, lived on the profits, and sought not to increase their income: she was therefore inclined to think higher of herself than of her husband, whose conduct in money matters being but indifferent, she had a trick of teizing him about it, and was, by her son's account, very importunate with regard to her fears of spending more than they could afford, though she never arrived at knowing how much that was; a fault common, as he said, to most women who pride themselves on their æconomy. They did not however, as I could understand, live ill together on the whole : “my father (says he) could always take his horse and ride away for orders when things went badly." The lady's maiden name was Ford ; and the parson who sits next to the punch-bowl in Hogarth's “ Modern Midnight Conversation" was her brother's son. This Ford was a man who chose to be eminent only for vice, with talents that might have made him conspicuous in literature, and respectable in any profession he could have chosen : his cousin has mentioned him in the lives of Fenton and of Broome; and when he spoke of him to me it was always with tenderness, praising his acquaintance with life and manners, and recollect

! Vol. i., p. 9, note 2.

ing one piece of advice that no man surely ever followed more exactly: "Obtain (says Ford) some general principles of every science; he who can talk only on one subject, or act only in one department, is seldom wanted, and perhaps never wished for; while the man of general knowledge can often benefit, and always please.” He used to relate, however, another story less to the credit of his cousin's penetration, how Ford on some occasion said to him, “You will make your way the more easily in the world, I see, as you are contented to dispute no man's claim to conversation excellence, they will, therefore, more willingly allow your pretensions as a writer.” Can one, on such an occasion, forbear recollecting the predictions of Boileau's father, when stroaking the head of the young satirist, Ce petit bon homme (says he) n'à point trop d'esprit, mais il ne dira jamais mal de personne. Such are the prognostics formed by men of wit and sense, as these two certainly were, concerning the future character and conduct of those for whose welfare they were honestly and deeply concerned ; and so late do those features of peculiarity come to their growth, which mark a character to all succeeding generations.

Dr. Johnson first learned to read of his mother and her old maid Catharine, in whose lap be well remembered sitting while she explained to him the story of St. George and the Dragon. I know not whether this is the proper place to add, that such was his tenderness, and such his gratitude, that he took a journey to Litchfield fifty-seven years afterwards to support and comfort her in her last illness; he had inquired for his nurse, and she was dead. The recollection of such reading as had delighted him in his infancy, made him always persist in fancying that it was the only reading which could please an infant; and he used to condemn me for putting Newbery's books into their hands as too trifling to engage their attention. “ Babies do not want (said he) to hear about babies ; they like to be told of giants and castles, and of somewhat which can stretch and stimulate their little minds.” When in answer I would urge the numerous editions and quick sale of “ Tommy Prudent" "Goody Two Shoes : " “Remember always (said he) that the parents buy the books, and that the children never read them.” Mrs. Barbauld however had his best praise, and deserved it; no man was more struck than Mr. Johnson with voluntary descent from possible splendour to painful duty.

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have done that they do not delight in your company. No science can be communicated by mortal creatures without attention from the scholar; no attention can be obtained from children without the infliction of pain, and pain is never remembered without resentment.” That something should be learned, was, however, so certainly his opinion, that I have heard him say, how education had been often compared to agriculture, yet that it resembled it chiefly in this: “ that if nothing is sown, no crop (says he) can be obtained.” His contempt of the lady who fancied her son could be eminent without study, because Shakespeare was found wanting in scholastic learning, was expressed in terms so gross and so well known, I will not repeat them here.

To recollect, however, and to repeat the sayings of Dr. Johnson, is almost all that can be done by the writers of his life; as his life, at least since my acquaintance with him, consisted in little else than talking, when he was not absolutely employed in some serious piece of work;' and whatever work he did, seemed so much below his powers of performance, that he appeared the idlest of all human beings; ever musing till he was called out to converse, and conversing till the fatigue of his friends, or the promptitude of his own temper to take offence, consigned him back again to silent meditation.

The remembrance of what had passed in his own childhood, made Mr. Johnson very solicitous to preserve the felicity of children; and when he had persuaded Dr. Sumner to remit the tasks usually given to fill up boys' time during the holidays, he rejoiced exceedingly in the success of his negociation, and told me that he had never ceased representing to all the eminent schoolmasters in England, the absurd tyranny of poisoning the hour of permitted pleasure, by keeping future misery before the children's eyes, and tempting them by bribery or falsehood to evade it. “Bob Sumner (said he), however, I have at length prevailed upon: I know not indeed whether his tenderness was persuaded, or his reason convinced, but the effect will always be the same.

Poor Dr. Sumner died, however, before the next vacation.”

Mr. Johnson was of opinion, too, that young people should have positive, not general rules given for their direction. “My mother (said he) was always telling me that I did not behave myself

1 This sentence is quoted by Boswell, Life, vol. iv., June, 1784.

and a warmth of imagination little consistent with sound and perfect health. I have heard him relate another odd thing of himself too, but it is one which every body has heard as well as I: how, when he was about nine years old, having got the play of “Hamlet” in his hand, and reading it quietly in his father's kito en, he kept on steadily enough, till coming to the Ghost scene, he suddenly hurried upstairs to the street door that he might see people about him: such an incident, as he was not unwilling to relate it, is probably in every one's possession now; he told it as a testimony to the merits of Shakespeare: but one day when my son was going to school, and dear Dr. Johnson followed as far as the garden gate, praying for his salvation, in a voice which those who listened attentively, could hear plain enough, he said to me suddenly, “Make your boy tell you his dreams: the first corruption that entered into my heart was communicated in a dream." “ What was it, Sir?” said I. “Do not ask me,” replied he, with much violence, and walked away in apparent agitation. I never durst make any further enquiries. He retained a strong åversion for the memory of Hunter,' one of his schoolmasters, who, he said once was a brutal fellow : “so brutal (added be), that no man who had been educated by him ever sent his son to the same school.” I have however heard him acknowledge his scholarship to be very great. His next master he despised, as knowing less than himself, I found; but the name of that gentleman has slipped my memory.

Mr. Johnson was himself exceedingly disposed to the general indulgence of children, and was even scrupulously and ceremoniously attentive not to offend them: he had strongly persuaded himself of the difficulty people always find to erase early impressions either of kindness or resentment, and said," he should never have so loved his mother when a man, had she not given him coffee she could ill afford, to gratify his appetite when a boy.” “ If you had had children Sir," said I, “would you have taught them anything ? " “I hope (replied he), that I should have willingly lived on bread and water to obtain instruction for them; but I would not have set their future friendship to hazard for the sake of thrusting into their heads knowledge of things for which they might not perhaps have either taste or necessity. You teach your daughters the diameters of the planets, and wonder when you

· See vol. i., pp. 18, 19.

have done that they do not delight in your company. No science can be communicated by mortal creatures without attention from the scholar; no attention can be obtained from children without the infliction of pain, and pain is never remembered without resentment.” That something should be learned, was, however, so certainly his opinion, that I have heard him say, how education had been often compared to agriculture, yet that it resembled it chiefly in this : “ that if nothing is sown, no crop (says he) can be obtained.” His contempt of the lady who fancied her son could be eminent without study, because Shakespeare was found wanting in scholastic learning, was expressed in terms so gross and so well known, I will not repeat them here.

To recollect, however, and to repeat the sayings of Dr. Johnson, is almost all that can be done by the writers of his life; as his life, at least since my acquaintance with him, consisted in little else than talking, when he was not absolutely employed in some serious piece of work; and whatever work he did, seemed so much below his powers of performance, that he appeared the idlest of all human beings; ever musing till he was called out to converse, and conversing till the fatigue of his friends, or the promptitude of his own temper to take offence, consigned him back again to silent meditation.

The remembrance of what had passed in his own childhood, made Mr. Johnson very solicitous to preserve the felicity of children; and when he had persuaded Dr. Sumner to remit the tasks usually given to fill up boys' time during the holidays, he rejoiced exceedingly in the success of his negociation, and told me that he had never ceased representing to all the eminent schoolmasters in England, the absurd tyranny of poisoning the hour of permitted pleasure, by keeping future misery before the children's eyes, and tempting them by bribery or falsehood to evade it. “Bob Sumner (said he), however, I have at length prevailed upon: I know not indeed whether his tenderness was persuaded, or his reason convinced, but the effect will always be the same.

Poor Dr. Sumner died, however, before the next vacation.”

Mr. Johnson was of opinion, too, that young people should have positive, not general rules given for their direction. “My mother (said he) was always telling me that I did not behave myself

1 This sentence is quoted by Boswell, Life, vol. iv., June, 1784.

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