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his company, till I hurt my own health not a little by sitting up with him when I was myself far from well. I often made tea for him in London, till four o'clock in the morning. At Streatham, indeed, I managed better, having always some friend who was kind enough to engage him to talk, and favour my retreat.
The first time I ever saw this extraordinary man was in the year 1754, when Mr. Murphy, who had been long the friend and confidential intimate of Mr. Thrale, persuaded him to wish for Johnson's conversation, extoling it in terms which that of no other person could have deserved, till we were only in doubt how to obtain his company, and find an excuse for the invitation. The celebrity of Mr. Woodhouse, a shoemaker, whose verses were at that time the subject of common discourse, soon afforded a pretence, and Mr. Murphy brought Johnson to meet him, giving me general cautions not to be surprised at his figure, dress, or behaviour. What I recollect best of the day's talk, was his earnestly recommending Addison's works to Mr. Woodhouse, as a model for imitation. "Give nights and days, Sir, (said he) to the study of Addison, if you mean either to be a good writer, or, what is more worth, an honest man." When I saw something like the same expression in his criticism on that author, lately published I put him in mind of his past injunctions to the young poct, to which he replied, "That he wished the shoemaker might have remembered them as well.” Mr. Johnson liked his new acquaintance so much, however, that from that time, he dined with us every Thursday through the winter.
In the year 1766, his health, which he had always' complained of, grew so exceedingly bad, that he could not stir out of his room in the court he inhabited for many weeks together, I think months.
Mr. Thrale soon after prevailed on him to quit his close habitation in the court, and come with us to Streatham, where I undertook the care of his health, and had the honour and happiness of contributing to restoration.
*He then lived in Johnfon's Court, Fleet Street, whence he afterwards removed to Bolt Court, where he died.
One day, when he was not pleased with our dinner I asked him, if he ever huffed his wife about his dinner?" So often (replied he) that at last she called to me, and said, Nay, hold Mr. Johnson, and do not make a farce of thanking God for a dinner which in a few minutes you will protest not eatable.”
Avarice was a vice against which, however, I never much heard Mr. Johnson declaim, till one represented it to him connected with cruelty, or some such disgraceful companion. "Do not (said he) discourage your children from hoarding, if they have a taste to it: whoever lays up his penny, rather than part with it for a cake, at least is not the slave of gross appetite; and shows besides a preference, always to be esteemed, of the future to the present moment. Such a mind maybe made a good one; but the natural spendthrift, who grasps his pleasure greedily and coarsely, and cares for nothing but immediate indulgence, is very little to be valued above a negro." We talked of Lady Tavistock, who grieved herself to death for the loss of her husband. "She was rich, and wanted employment (says Johnson) so she cried till she lost all power of restraining her tears: other women are forced to outlive their husbands, who were just as much beloved, depend on it: but they have no time for grief; and I doubt not, if we had put my Lady Tavistock into a small chandler's shop, and given her a nurse-child to tend, her life would have been saved. The poor and the busy have no leisure for sentimental sorrow."
I pitied a friend before him, who had a whining wife, that found every thing painful to her, and nothing pleasing." He does not know that she whimpers (says Johnson); when a door has creaked for a fortnight together, you may observe-the master will scarcely give a sixpence to have it oiled."
For a lady of quality, since dead, who received us at her husband's seat in Wales with less attention than he had long been accustomed to, he had a rougher denunciation: "That woman (cries Johnson) is like sour small-beer, the beverage of her table."
Mr. Johnson's hatred of the Scotch is so well known, and
and so many of his bon mots, expressive of that hatred, have been already repeated in so many books and pamphlets, that it is perhaps scarcely worth while to write down the conversation between him and a friend of that nation who always resides in London, and who at his return from the Hebrides asked him, with a firm tone of voice, What he thought of his country? "That it is a very vile country, to be sure, Sir" (returned for answer Dr. Johnson). Well, Sir! replies the other, somewhat mortified, God made it. Certainly he did (answers Mr. Johnson again); but we must always remember that he made it for Scotchmen."
Mr. Johnson made Dr. Goldsmith a comical answer one day, when seeming to repine at the success of Beattie's Essay on Truth---" Here is such a stir (said he) about a fellow that has written one book, and I have written many." Ah Doctor (says his friend) there go two and forty sixpences, you know, to one guinea.
Dr. Johnson was indeed famous for disregarding public abuse. When the people criticised and answered his pamphlets, papers, &c. Why now those fellows are only advertising my book (he would say); it is surely better a man should be abused than forgotten.'
"He once bade a very celebrated lady, who praised him with too much zeal, perhaps (which always offended him) consider what her flattery was worth, before he choked him with it.”
We were talking of Richardson, who wrote Clarissa: "You think I love flattery (says Dr. Johnson) and so I do; but a little too much always disgusts me that fellow, Richardson, on the contrary, could not be contented to sail quietly down the stream of reputation, without longing to taste the froth from every stroke of the oar."
With regard to slight insults from newspaper abuse, I have already declared his notions. They sting one (says he) but as a fly stings a horse; and the eagle will not catch flies.
Mr. Johnson hated what we call unprofitable chat; and to a gentleman who had disserted some time about the natural history of the mouse" I wonder what
such a one would have said (cried Johnson) if he had ever had the luck to see a lion?"
A young fellow, less confident of his own abilities, lamenting one day that he had lost all his Greek—“ I believe, it happened at the same time, Sir, (said Johnson) that I lost all my large estate in Yorkshire."
But, however roughly he might be suddenly provoked to treat a harmless exertion of vanity, he did not wish to inflict the pain he gave, and was sometimes very sorry when he perceived the people to smart more than they deserved. How harshly you treated that man to day, said I once, who harangued us about garden- ́ ing.- "I am sorry (said he) if I vexed the creature, for there certainly is no harm in a fellow's rattling a -rattle-box, only don't let him think that he thunders."
A Lincolnshire lady showed him a grotto she had been making: Will it not be a pretty cool habitation in summer, said she, Mr. Johnson? "I think it would, Madam (replied he) for a toad."
All desire of distinction had a sure enemy in Mr. Johnson. We met a friend driving six very small ponies, and stopped to admire them. "Why does nobody (said our doctor) begin the fashion of driving six spavined. horses, all spavined of the same leg? it would have a mighty pretty effect, and produce the distinction of doing something worse than the common way."
When Mr. Johnson had a mind to compliment any one, he did it with more dignity to himself, and better effect upon the company, than any man. I can recollect but few instances indeed, though perhaps that may be more my fault than his. When Sir Joshua Reynolds left the room one day, he said, "There goes a man not to be spoiled by prosperity." And when Mrs. Montague showed him some China plates which had once belonged to Queen Elizabeth, he told her, “That they had no reason to be ashamed of their present possessor, who was so little inferior the first."
He sometimes rode on Mr. Thrale's old hunter with a good firmness, and though he would follow the hounds fifty miles an end sometimes, would never own himself either tired or amused. He was, however, proud to be amongst
amongst the sportsmen; and I think no praise ever went so close to his heart, as when Mr. Hamilton called out one day upon Brighthelmstone Downs, "Why, Johnson rides as well, for aught I see, as the, most illiterate fellow in England.
He said of Edmund Burke, "that you could not stand five minutes with that man beneath a shed while it rained, but you must be convinced you had been standing with the greatest man you had ever yet seen.'
Dr. 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 show my zeal for my friend, whose life, as I once had the honour and happines 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 agrecable, that all should be warned against such coarseness of manners, as drove even from him those who loved, honoured, and esteemed him.
I made one day very minute inquiries about the tale of his knocking down Tom Osborne, the bookseller, with his own dictionary, in his shop. And how was that affair, in earnest? do tell me, Mr. Johnson. "There is nothing to tell, dearest lady, but that he was insolent and I beat him, and that he was a blockhead and told of it. I have beat many a fellow, but the rest had the wit to hold their tongues."
It was a perpetual miracle that he did not set himself on fire reading abed, as was his constant custom, when exceedingly unable to keep clear of mischief with our best help and accordingly the fore top of all his wigs.