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EXTRACTS RELATING TO JOHNSON, FROM

THE LIFE AND CORRESPONDENCE

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THE
HE desire she had long felt to see Dr. Johnson, was speedily

gratified. Her first introduction to him took place at the house of Sir Joshua Reynolds, who prepared her, as he handed her upstairs, for the possibility of his being in one of his moods of sadness and silence.

She was surprised at his coming to meet her as she entered the room, with good humour in his countenance, and a macaw of Sir Joshua's in his hand ; and still more, at his accosting her with a verse from a Morning Hymn which she had written at the desire of Sir James Stonehouse. In the same pleasant humour he continued the whole of the evening. Some extracts from the letters of one of her sprightly sisters, to the family at home, will afford the best picture of the intercourse and scenes in which Hannah was now beginning to bear a part.

MISS SARAH MORE TO HER SISTER (p. 49).

London, 1774. We have paid another visit to Miss Reynolds. She had sent to engage Dr. Percy (Percy's collection, -now you know him,) quite a sprightly modern, instead of a rusty antique, as I expected He was no sooner gone, than the most amiable and obliging of women (Miss Reynolds,) ordered the coach, to take us to Dr. Johnson's very own house ; yes, Abyssinia's Johnson !

From the Memoirs of the Life and Correspondence of Mrs. Hannah More, by William Roberts, Esq. London : 1834. Vol. i., p. 48, et seq. Dictionary Johnson ! Rambler's, Idler's, and Irene's Johnson ! Can you picture to yourself the palpitation of our bearts as we approached his mansion ? The conversation turned upon a new work of his, just going to the press (the Tour to the Hebrides,) and his old friend Richardson. Mrs. Williams, the blind peet, who lives with him, was introduced to us. She is engaging in her manners; her conversation lively and entertaining. Miss Reynolds told the doctor of all our rapturous exclamations on the road. He shook his scientific head at Hannah, and said, “She was a silly thing.” When our visit was ended he called for his hat, (as it rained) to attend us down a very long entry to our coach, and not Rasselas could have acquitted himself more en cavalier. We are engaged with him at Sir Joshua's, Wednesday evening. What do you think of us ?

I forgot to inention, that not finding Johnson in his little parlour when we came in, Hannah seated herself in his great chair, hoping to catch a little ray of his genius; when he heard it, he laughed heartily, and told her it was a chair on which he never sat. He said it reminded him of Boswell and himself when they stopt a night at the spot (as they imagined) where the Weird Sisters appeared to Macbeth : the idea so worked upon their enthusiasm, that it quite deprived them of rest : however, they learnt, the next morning, to their mortification, that they had been deceived and were quite in another part of the country.

Johnson afterwards mentioned to Miss Reynolds how much he had been touched with the enthusiasm which was visible in the whole manner of the young authoress, and which was evidently genuine and unaffected.

MISS SARAH MORE TO HER SISTER (p. 54).

London, 1775. Tuesday evening we drank tea at Sir Joshua's, with Dr. Johnson. Hannah is certainly a great favourite. She was placed next him, and they had the entire conversation to themselves. They were both in remarkably high spirits ; it was certainly her lucky night! I never heard her say so many good things. The old genius was extremely jocular, and the young one very pleasant. You would have imagined we had been at some comedy had you heard our peals of laughter. They, indeed, tried which could “ pepper the highest,” and it is not clear to me that the lexicographer was really the highest

seasoner.

MRS. HANNAH MORE TO HER SISTER.

London, 1776. I had the happiness to carry Dr. Johnson home from Hill Street, though Mrs. Montagu publicly declared she did not think it prudent to trust us together, with such a declared affection on both sides. She said she was afraid of a Scotch elopement. He has invited himself to drink tea with us to-morrow, that we may read Sir Eldred together. I shall not tell you what he said of it, but to me the best part of his flattery was, that he repeats all the best stanzas by heart, with the energy, though not with the grace of a Garrick.

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We got home in time : I hardly ever spent an evening more pleasantly or profitably. Johnson, full of wisdom and piety, was very communicative. To enjoy Dr. Johnson perfectly, one must have him to oneself, as he seldom cares to speak in mixed parties. Our tea was not over till nine, we then fell upon Sir Eldred: he read both poems through, suggested some little alterations in the first, and did me the honour to write one whole stanza :' but in the Rock, he has not altered a word. Though only a tea-visit, he staid with us till twelve.

MISS SARAH MORE TO HER SISTER (p. 67).

London, 1776. Dr. Johnson and Hannah, last night, had a violent quarrel, till at length laughter ran so high on all sides, that argument was confounded in noise ; the gallant youth, at one in the morning, set us down at our lodgings.

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This stanza begins “ My scorn has oft,” &c.

MRS. HANNAH MORE TO HER SISTER (p. 68).

London, 1776. At six, I begged leave to come home, as I expected my petite assemblée a little after seven. Mrs. Garrick offered me all her fine things, but, as I hate admixtures of finery and meanness, I refused every thing except a little cream, and a few sorts of cakes. They came at seven. The dramatis persone were, Mrs. Buscawen, Mrs. Garrick, and Miss Reynolds; my beaux were Dr. Johnson, Dean Tucker,' and last, but not least in our love, David Garrick. You know that wherever Johnson is, the confinement to the tea-table is rather a durable situation; and it was an hour and a half before I got my enlargement. However, my ears were opened, though my tongue was locked, and they all stayed till near eleven.

Garrick was the very soul of the company, and I never saw Johnson in such perfect good humour. Sally knows we have often heard that one can never properly enjoy the company of these two unless they are together. There is great truth in this remark; for after the Dean and Mrs. Boscawen (who were the only strangers) were withdrawn, and the rest stood up to go, Johnson and Garrick began a close encounter, telling old stories, "e'en from their boyish days," at Lichfield. We all stood round them above an hour, laughing in defiance of every rule of decorum and Chesterfield. I believe we should not have thought of sitting down or of parting, had not an impertinent watchman been saucily vociferous. Johnson outstaid them all, and sat with me half an hour.

London, 1776. Did I ever tell you what Dr. Johnson said to me of my friend the Dean of Gloucester ? I asked him what he thought of him. His answer was verbatim as follows ; “I look upon the Dean of Gloucester to be one of the few excellent writers of this period. I differ from him in opinion, and have expressed that difference in my writings; but I hope what I wrote did not indicate what I did not feel, for I felt no acrimony. No person, however learned, can read his writings without improvement. He is sure to find something he did not know before." I told him the

[Dr. Josiah Tucker, Dean of Gloucester.]

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