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for (says Mr. Johnson) though I do not quite agree with the proverb, that Nullum numen abest si sit prudentia, yet we may well say,

that Nullum numen adestni sit prudentia.We had been visiting at a lady's house, whom as we returned some of the company ridiculed for her ignorance: “She is not ignorant (said he), I believe, of any thing she has been taught, or of any thing she is desirous to know; and I suppose if one wanted a little run tea, she might be a proper person enough to apply to."

When I relate these various instances of contemptuous behaviour shewn to a variety of people, I am aware that those who till now have heard little of Mr. Johnson will here cry out against his pride and his severity; yet I have been as careful as I could to tell them, that all he did was gentle, if all he said was rough. Had I given anecdotes of his actions instead of his words, we should I am sure have had nothing on record but acts of virtue differently modified, as different occasions called that virtue forth : and among all the nine biographical essays or performances which I bave heard will at last be written about dear Dr. Johnson, no mean or wretched, no wicked or even slightly culpable action will I trust be found, to produce and put in the scale against a life of seventy years, spent in the uniform practice of every moral excellence and every Christian perfection, save humility alone, says a critic, but that I think must be excepted. He was not however wanting even in that to a degree seldom attained by man, when the duties of piety or charity called it forth.

Lowly towards God, and docile towards the church; implicit in his belief of the gospel, and ever respectful towards the people appointed to preach it; tender of the unhappy, and affectionate to the poor, let no one hastily condemn as proud, a character which may perhaps somewhat justly be censured as arrogant. It must however be remembered again, that even this arrogance was never shewn without some intention, immediate or remote, of mending some fault of conveying some instruction. Had I meant to make a panegyric on Mr. Johnson's well-known excellencies, I should have told his deeds only, not his words—sincerely protesting, that as I never saw him once do a wrong thing, so we had accustomed ourselves to look upon him almost as an excepted being; and I should as much have expected injustice from Socrates or impiety from Pascal, as the slightest deviation from truth and goodness in any transaction one might be engaged in with Samuel Johnson. His attention to veracity was without equal or example: and when I mentioned Clarissa as a perfect character; “On the contrary (said he), you may observe there is always something which she prefers to truth. Fielding's Amelia' was the most pleasing heroine of all the romances (he said); but that vile broken nose never cured, ruined the sale of perhaps the only book, which being printed off betimes one morning, a new edition was called for before night."

Mr. Johnson's knowledge of literary history was extensive and surprising: he knew every adventure of every book you could name almost, and was exceedingly pleased with the opportunity which writing the Poets' Lives gave him to display it. He loved to be set at work, and was sorry when he came to the end of the business he was about. I do not feel so myself with regard to these sheets : a fever which has preyed on me while I wrote them over for the press, will perhaps lessen my power of doing well the first, and probably the last work I should ever have thought of presenting to the Public. I could doubtless wish so to conclude it, as at least to shew my zeal for my friend, whose life, as I once had the honour and happiness of being useful to, I should wish to record a few particular traits of, that those who read should emulate his goodness; but seeing the necessity of making even virtue and learning such as his agreeable, that all should be warned against such coarseness of manners, as drove even from him those who loved, honoured, and esteemed him. His wife's daughter, Mrs. Lucy Porter of Litchfield, whose veneration for his person and character has ever been the greatest possible, being opposed one day in conversation by a clergyman who came often to her house, and feeling somewhat offended, cried out suddenly, Why, Mr. Pearson, said she, you are just like Dr. Johnson, I think: I do not mean that you are a man of the greatest capacity in all the world like Dr. Johnson, but that you contradict one every word one speaks, just like him.

Mr. Johnson told me the story: he was present at the giving of the reproof. It was however observable that with all his odd severity, he could not keep even indifferent people from teizing him with unaccountable confessions of silly conduct which one would think they would scarcely have had inclination to reveal even to their tenderest and most intimate companions; and it was from these unaccountable volunteers in sincerity that he learned to warn the world against follies little known, and seldom thought on by other moralists.

i See Life, vol. iii. p. 89.

Much of his eloquence, and much of his logic have I heard him use to prevent men from making vows on trivial occasions ;? and when he saw a person oddly perplexed about a slight difficulty, “Let the man alone (he would say), and torment him no more about it ; there is a vow in the case, I am convinced; but is it not very strange that people should be neither afraid or ashamed of bringing in God Almighty thus at every turn between themselves and their dinner?” When I asked what ground he had for such imaginations, he informed me, That a young lady once told him in confidence, that she could never persuade herself to be dressed against the bell rung for dinner, till she had made a vow to heaven that she would never more be absent from the family meals."

The strangest applications in the world were certainly made from time to time towards Mr. Johnson, who by that means had an inexhaustible fund of anecdote, and could, if he pleased, tell the most astonishing stories of human folly and human weakness that ever were confided to any man not a confessor by profession.

One day when he was in a humour to record some of them, he told us the following tale: “ A person (said he) had for these last five weeks often called at my door, but would not leave his name, or other message ; but that he wished to speak with me. At last we met, and he told me that he was oppressed by scruples of conscience: I blamed him gently for not applying, as the rules of our church direct, to his parish priest or other discreet clergyman; when, after some compliments on his part, he told me, that he was clerk to a very eminent trader, at whose warehouses much business consisted in packing goods in order to go abroad: that he was often tempted to take paper and packthread enough for his own use, and that he had indeed done so so often, that he could recollect no time when he ever had bought any for himself.—But probably (said I), your master was wholly indifferent with regard to such trivial emoluments; you had better ask for it at once, and so take your trifles with consent.--Oh, Sir ! replies the visitor, my master bid me have as much as I pleased,

See Life, vol. ii. p. 37, and vol, iii, under May 19, 1778.

and was half angry when I talked to him about it.—Then pray Sir (said I), teize me no more about such airy nothings;—and was going on to be very angry, when I recollected that the fellow might be mad perhaps ; so I asked him, When he left the counting-house of an evening ?-At seven o'clock, Sir.—And when do you go to bed, Sir ?-At twelve o'clock.—Then (replied I) I have at least learned thus much by my new acquaintance ;-—that five hours of the four-and-twenty unemployed are enough for a man to go mad in; so I would advise you Sir, to study algebra, if you are not an adept already in it: your head would get less muddy, and you will leave off tormenting your neighbours about paper and packthread, while we all live together in a world that is bursting with sin and sorrow.—It is perhaps needless to add, that this visitor came no more.”

Mr. Johnson had indeed a real abhorrence of a person that had ever before him treated a little thing like a great one: and he quoted this scrupulous gentleman with his packthread very often, in ridicule of a friend who, looking out on Streatham Common from our windows one day, lamented the enormous wickedness of the times, because some bird-catchers were busy there one fine Sunday morning. 66 While half the Christian world is permitted (said he) to dance and sing, and celebrate Sunday as a day of festivity, how comes your puritanical spirit so offended with frivolous and empty deviations from exactness. Whoever loads life with unnecessary scruples, Sir (continued he), provokes the attention of others on his conduct, and incurs the censure of singularity without reaping the reward of superior virtue.”

I must not, among the anecdotes of Dr. Johnson's life, omit to relate a thing that happened to him one day, which he told me of himself. As he was walking along the Strand a gentleman stepped out of some neighbouring tavern, with his napkin in his hand and no hat, and stopping him as civilly as he could—I beg your pardon, Sir; but you are Dr. Johnson, I believe. · Yes, Sir." We have a wager depending on your reply: Pray, Sir, is it irreparable or irrepàirable that one should say ?” The last I think, Sir (answered Dr. Johnson), for the adjective ought to follow the verb; but you had better consult my Dictionary than me, for that was the result of more thought than you will now give me time for." “No, no," replied the gentleman gaily, “ the book I have no certainty at all of; but here is the author, to


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whom I referred : Is he not, Sir?” to a friend with him : “I have won my twenty guineas quite fairly, and am much obliged to you,

so shaking Mr. Johnson kindly by the hand, he went back to finish his dinner or dessert.

Another strange thing be told me once which there was no danger of forgetting : how a young gentleman called on him one morning, and told him that his father having, just before his death, dropped suddenly into the enjoyment of an ample fortune, he, the son, was willing to qualify himself for genteel society by adding some literature to his other endowments, and wished to be put in an easy way of obtaining it. Johnson recommended the university : “for you read Latin, Sir, with facility.“I read it a little to be sure, Sir.” “But do you read it with facility, I

“Upon my word, Sir, I do not very well know, but I rather believe not." Mr. Johnson now began to recommend other branches of science, when he found languages at such an immeasurable distance, and advising him to study natural history, there arose some talk about animals, and their divisions into oviparous and viviparous ; “ And the cat here, Sir," said the youth who wished for instruction, “pray in which class is she ? " Our Doctor's patience and desire of doing good began now to give way to the natural roughness of his temper. “You would do well (said he) to look for some person to be always about you, Sir, who is capable of explaining such matters, and not come to us (there were some literary friends present as I recollect) to know whether the cat lays eggs or not: get a discreet man to keep you company, there are so many who would be glad of your table and fifty pounds a year.” The young gentleman retired, and in less than a week informed his friends that he had fixed on a preceptor to whom no objections could be made; but when he named as such one of the most distinguished characters in our age or nation, Mr. Johnson fairly gave himself up to an honest burst of laughter; and seeing this youth at such a surprising distance from common knowledge of the world, or of anything in it, desired to see his visitor no more.

He had not much better luck with two boys that he used to tell of, to whom he had taught the classics, so that (he said) they were no incompetent or mean scholars : " it was necessary however that something more familiar should be known, and he bid them read the history of England. After a few months had elapsed he asked them, “If they could recollect who first


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