« PreviousContinue »
DR. JOHNSON AT THE CHELSEA CHINA
R. A. STEPHENS was told by the foreman of the Chelsea
China Manufactory, then in the workhouse of St. Luke's, (Middlesex), that Dr. Johnson had conceived a notion that he was capable of improving on the manufacture of china. applied to the directors of the Chelsea China Works, and was allowed to bake his compositions in their ovens in Lawrence Street, Chelsea. He was accordingly accustomed to go down with his housekeeper, about twice a week, and stayed the whole day, she carrying a basket of provisions with her. The Doctor, who was not allowed to enter the mixing room, had access to every other part of the house, and formed his composition in a particular apartment, without being overlooked by anyone. He had also free access to the oven, and superintended the whole of the process; but completely failed, both as to composition and baking, for his materials always yielded to the intensity of the heat, while those of the company came out of the furnace perfect and complete. The Doctor retired in disgust, but not in despair, for he aft
tation on this very subject in his works; but the overseer assured Mr. Stephens, in the spring of 1814, that he was still ignorant of the nature of the operation. He seemed to think that the Doctor imagined one single substance was sufficient, while he, on the other hand, asserted that he always used sixteen, and he must have had some practice, as he had nearly lost his eyesight, by firing batches of china, both at Chelsea and Derby, to which the manufacture was afterwards carried.—FAULKNER's Chelsea, 1829, vol. i., p. 273.
This account is confirmed by the following entry in the catalogue of the china preserved at Holland House :—“A small dessert service of old Chelsea presented by the Chelsea Company to Dr. Johnson, who used to work during his leisure hours at the Chelsea Factory.”. - PRINCESS LIECHSTENSTEIN'S Holland House, vol. i., p. 225.
vards gave a di
ANECDOTES AND REMARKS,
BY BISHOP PERCY.
in early life, had not been accustomed to the conversation of gentlemen. His genius was so distinguished, that, although little more than a schoolboy, he was admitted to the best company, both at Lichfield and Stourbridge; and, in the latter neighbourhood, had met even with George, afterwards Lord Lyttelton; with whom, having some colloquial disputes, he is supposed to have conceived that prejudice which so improperly influenced him in the Life of that worthy nobleman. But this could scarcely have happened when he was a boy of fifteen; and, therefore, it is probable he occasionally visited Stourbridge, during his residence at Birmingham, before he removed to London.
Johnson's countenance, when in a good humour, was not disagreeable. His face clear, his complexion good, and his features not ill formed, many ladies have thought they might not have been unattractive when he was young. Much misrepresentation has prevailed on this subject, among such as did not personally know him.
That he had some whimsical peculiarities of the nature described by Mr. Boswell, is certainly true; but there is no reason
; ? These remarks were written by Bishop Percy in an interleaved copy of Dr. Anderson's Life of Johnson, and published as notes to the third edition of that work in 1815.--Editor.
to believe they proceeded from any superstitious motives, wherein religion was concerned: they are rather to be ascribed to the “ mental distempers” to which Boswell has so repeatedly alluded.
Johnson was so extremely short-sighted, that he had no conception of rural beauties; and, therefore, it is not to be wondered, that he should prefer the conversation of the metropolis to the silent groves and views of Hampstead and Greenwich; which, however delightful, he could not see. In his Tour through the Highlands of Scotland, he has somewhere observed, that one mountain was like another; so utterly unconscious was he of the wonderful variety of sublime and beautiful scenes those mountains exhibited. I was once present when the case of a gentle
was mentioned, who, having, with great taste and skill, formed the lawns and plantations about his house into most beautiful landscapes,to complete one part of the scenery, was obliged to apply for leave to a neighbour with whom he was not upon cordial terms; when Johnson made the following remark, which at once shows what ideas he had of landscape improvement, and how happily he applied the most common incidents to moral instruction. “ See how inordinate desires enslave a man! No desire can be more innocent than to have a pretty garden, yet, indulged to excess, it has made this poor man submit to beg a favour of his enemy.”
JOHNSON'S MANNER OF COMPOSING.
Johnson's manner of composing has not been rightly understood. He was so extremely short-sighted, from the defect in his eyes, that writing was inconvenient to hiin; for, whenever he wrote, he was obliged to hold the paper close to his face. He, therefore, never composed what we call a foul draft on paper of any thing he published, but used to revolve the subject in his mind, and turn and form every period, till he had brought the whole to the highest correctness and the most perfect arrangement. Then his uncommonly retentive memory enabled him to deliver a whole essay, properly finished, whenever it was called for. I have often heard him humming and forming periods, in low whispers to himself, when shallow observers thought he was muttering prayers, &c. But Johnson is well known to have represented his own practice, in the following passage in his Life of Pope: “Of composition there are different methods. Some employ at