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RECOLLECTIONS OF DR. JOHNSON

BY MISS REYNOLDS.

RECOLLECTIONS OF DR. JOHNSON

BY MISS REYNOLDS.

[From a MS. entitled “Recollections of Dr. Johnson,” communicated, in 1829, to Mr. Croker, by Mr. Palmer, grand-nephew of

Sir Joshua Reynolds.]

"HE first time I was in company with Dr. Johnson, which

, notice he took of a lady present, on her saying that she was inclined to estimate the morality of every person according as they liked or disliked “ Clarissa Harlowe.” He was a great admirer of Richardson's works in general, but of “ Clarissa ” he always spoke with the highest enthusiastic praise. He used to say, that it was the first book in the world for the knowledge it displays of the human heart. Yet of the author I never heard him speak with any degree of cordiality, but rather as if impressed with some cause of resentment against him ; and this has been imputed to something of jealousy, not to say envy, on account of Richardson's having engrossed the attentions and affectionate assiduities of several very ingenious literary ladies, whom he used to call his adopted daughters, and for whom Dr. Johnson had conceived a paternal affection (particularly for two of them, Miss Carter and Miss Mulso, now Mrs. Chapone), previous to their acquaintance with Richardson; and it was said, that he thought himself neglected by them on his account. Dr. Johnson set a higher value upon female friendship than, perhaps, most men; which may reasonably be supposed was not a little enhanced by his acquaintance with those ladies, if it was not originally derived from them. To their society, doubtless, Richardson owed that delicacy of sentiment, that feminine excellence, as I may say, that so peculiarly distinguishes his writings from those of his own sex in general, how high soever they may soar above the other in the more dignified paths of literature, in scientific investigations, and abstruse inquiries.

Dr. Johnson used to repeat, with very apparent delight some lines of a poem written by Miss Mulso ::

Say, Stella, what is love, whose cruel power

Robs virtue of content, and youth of joy ?
What nymph or goddess, in what fatal hour,

Produced to light the mischief-making boy.
" Some say, by Idleness and Pleasure bred,

The smiling babe on beds of roses lay;
There with soft-honey'd dews by Fancy fed,

His infant beauties opend on the day.”! Dr. Johnson had an uncommonly retentive memory for everything that appeared to himn worthy of observation. Whatever he met with in reading, particularly poetry, I believe he seldom required a revisal to be able to repeat verbatim. If not literally so, his deviations were generally improvements. This was the case, in some respects, in Shenstone's poem of “The Inn," which I learned from hearing Dr. Johnson repeat it; and I was surprised, on seeing it lately among the author's works for the first time, to find it so different. One stanza he seems to have extemporised himself:-.

“ And once again I shape my way

Through rain, through shine, through thick and thin,
Secure to meet, at close of day,

A. kind reception at an inn." 2 He always read amazingly quick, glancing his eye from the top to the bottom of the page in an instant.

If he made any pause, it was a compliment to the work; and after see-sawing over it a few minutes, generally repeated the passage, especially if it was poetry.

One day, on taking up Pope's “Essay on Man," a particular passage seemed more than ordinarily to engage his attention; so much so, indeed, that, contrary to his usual custom, after he had left the book and the seat in which he was sitting, he returned to revise it, turning over the pages with anxiety to find it, and then repeated

? Johnson paid the first of those stanzas the great and undeserved compliment of quoting it in his Dictionary, under the word QUATRAIN.” – Croker. 2 See vol. iii., p. 36.

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“ Passions, though selfish, if their means be fair
List under Reason, and deserve her care;
Those that, imparted, court a nobler aim,
Exalt their kind, and take some virtue's name.”

His task, probably, was the whole paragraph, but these lines only were audible.

He seemed much to delight in reciting verses, particularly from Pope. Among the many I have had the pleasure of hearing him recite, the conclusion of the “ Dunciad,” and his “Epistle to Jervas," seemed to claim his highest admiration :

“ Led by some rule that guides, but not constrains,
And finish'd more through happiness than pains,"

"1

he used to remark, was a union that constituted the ultimate degree of excellence in the fine arts.

Two lines from Pope's “ Universal Prayer" I have heard him quote, in

very serious conversation, as his theological creed :

“ And binding Nature fast in fate,
Left free the human will."

Some lines also he used to repeat in his best manner, written in memory of Bishop Boulter, which I believe are not much known :

“Some write their wrongs in marble : he, more just,
Stoop'd down serene and wrote them in the dust;
Trod under foot, the sport of every wind,
Swept from the earth, and blotted from his mind.
There, secret in the grave, he bade them lie,

And grieved they could not ’scape the Almighty's eye.” Of Goldsmith's “ Traveller” he used to speak in terms of the highest commendation. A ladyI remember who had the pleasure of hearing Dr. Johnson read it from the beginning to the end on its first coming out, to testify her admiration of it, exclaimed, “I never more shall think Dr. Goldsmith ugly.”

In having thought so, however, she was by no means singular; an instance of which I am rather inclined to mention, because it involves a remarkable one of Dr. Johnson's ready wit: for this

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