Gambar halaman

ale! And, when it came, she would not taste it, till she had wrangled with the man for not bringing her fuller Now, Madame Duval could not have done a


grosser thing!"

A sympathetic simper now ran from mouth to mouth, save to mine, and to that of Dr. Johnson; who gravely pretended to pass off what he had said as if it were a merely accidental reminiscence of some vulgar old acquaintance of his own. And this, as undoubtedly, and most kindly, he projected, prevented any sort of answer that might have made the book a subject of general discourse. And presently afterwards, he started some other topic, which he addressed chiefly to Mr. Thrale. But if what it was, you you expect me to tell you think far more grandly of my powers of attention without, when all within is in a whirl, than I deserve.

Be it, however, what it might, the next time there was a pause, we all observed a sudden play of the muscles in the countenance of the Doctor, that showed him to be secretly enjoying some ludicrous idea and accordingly, a minute or two after, he pursed up his mouth, and, in an assumed pert, yet feminine accent, while he tossed up his head to express wonder, he affectedly minced out, "La, Polly! — only think! Miss has danced with a Lord!" This was resistless to the whole set, and a general, though a gentle laugh, became now infectious; in which, I must needs own to you, I could not, with all my embarrassment, and all my shame, and all my unwillingness to demonstrate my consciousness, help being caught -so indescribably ludicrous and unexpected was a mimicry of Miss Biddy Brangton from Dr. Johnson! The Doctor, however, with a refinement of delicacy of which I have the deepest sense, never once cast his eyes my way during these comic traits; though those of every body else in the company had scarcely for a moment any

other direction.

But imagine my relief and my pleasure, in playfulness such as this from the great literary Leviathan, whom I had dreaded almost as much as I had honoured! How far was I from dreaming of such sportive condescension!

He clearly wished to draw the little snail from her cell, and, when once she was out, not to frighten her back. He seems to understand my queeralities · as some one has called my not liking to be set up for a sign-post with more leniency than any body else."

424. Lives of the Poets.

While that charming work, "The Lives of the Poets," was in its progress, when only the Thrale family and its nearly adopted guests, the two Burneys, were assembled, Dr. Johnson would frequently produce one of its proof sheets to embellish the breakfast table, which was always in the library; and was, certainly, the most sprightly and agreeable meeting of the day; for then, as no strangers were present to stimulate exertion, or provoke rivalry, argument was not urged on by the mere spirit of victory; it was instigated only by such truisms as could best bring forth that conflict of pros and cons which elucidates opposing opinions. Wit was not flashed with the keen sting of satire; yet it elicited not less gaiety from sparkling with an unwounding brilliancy, which brightened, without inflaming, every eye, and charmed, without tingling, every ear.

These proof sheets Mrs. Thrale was permitted to read aloud; and the discussions to which they led were in the highest degree entertaining. Dr. Burney wistfully desired to possess one of them; but left to his daughter the risk of the petition. A hint, however, proved sufficient, and was understood not alone with compliance, but vivacity. Boswell, Dr. Johnson said, had engaged Frank Barber, his negro servant, to collect and preserve all the proof sheets; but though it had not been without the knowledge, it was without the order or the interference of their author: to the present solicitor, therefore, willingly and without scruple, he now offered an entire life; adding, with a benignant smile, "Choose your poet!"

Without scruple, also, was the acceptance; and, without hesitation, the choice was Pope. And that not merely because, next to Shakspeare himself, Pope draws human characters the most veridically, perhaps, of any poetic

delineator; but for yet another reason. Dr. Johnson composed with so ready an accuracy, that he sent his copy to the press unread; reserving all his corrections for the proof sheets: and, consequently, as not even Dr. Johnson could read twice without ameliorating some passages, his proof sheets were at times liberally marked with changes; and, as the Museum copy of Pope's Translation of the Iliad, from which Dr. Johnson has given many examples, contains abundant emendations by Pope, I secured at once, on the same page, the marginal alterations and second thoughts of that great author, and of his great biographer.

When the book was published, Dr. Johnson brought to Streatham a complete set, handsomely bound, of the Works of the Poets, as well as his own Prefaces, to present to Mr. and Mrs. Thrale. And then, telling me that to the King, and to the chiefs of Streatham alone he could offer so large a tribute, he most kindly placed before me a bound copy of his own part of the work; in the title-page of which he gratified my earnest request by writing my name, and "From the Author.'

After which, at my particular solicitation, he gave me a small engraving of his portrait from the picture of Sir Joshua Reynolds. And while, some time afterwards, I was examining it at a distant table, Dr. Johnson, in passing across the room, stopped to discover by what I was occupied; which he no sooner discerned, than he began see-sawing for a moment or two in silence; and then, with a ludicrous half-laugh, peeping over my shoulder, he called out: "Ah ha! Sam Johnson!-I see thee!

and an ugly dog thou art!"

He even extended his kindness to a remembrance of Mr. Bewley, the receiver and preserver of the wisp of a Bolt Court hearth-broom, as a relic of the Author of the Rambler; which anecdote Dr. Burney had ventured to confess; and Dr. Johnson now, with his compliments, sent a set of the Prefaces to St. Martin's Street, directed, "For the Broom Gentleman :" which Mr. Bewley received with rapturous gratitude.

425. Boswell at full Length.

When next Dr. Burney took me back to Streatham, he found there, recently arrived from Scotland, Mr. Boswell; whose sprightly Corsican tour, and heroic, almost Quixotic, pursuit of General Paoli, joined to the tour to the Hebrides with Dr. Johnson, made him an object himself of considerable attention.

He spoke the Scotch accent strongly, though by no means so as to affect, even slightly, his intelligibility to an English ear. He had an odd mock solemnity of tone and manner, that he had acquired imperceptibly from constantly thinking of and imitating Dr. Johnson, whose own solemnity, nevertheless, far from mock, was the result of pensive rumination. There was, also, something slouching in the gait and dress of Mr. Boswell, that wore an air, ridiculously enough, of purporting to personify the same model. His clothes were always too large for him; his hair, or wig, was constantly in a state of negligence; and he never for a moment sat still or upright upon a chair. Every look and movement displayed either intentional or involuntary imitation. Yet certainly it was not meant as caricature; for his heart, almost even to idolatry, was in his reverence of Dr. Johnson.

Dr. Burney was often surprised that this kind of farcical similitude escaped the notice of the Doctor; but attributed his missing it to a high superiority over any such suspicion, as much as to his near-sightedness; for fully was Dr. Burney persuaded, that had any detection of such imitation taken place, Dr. Johnson, who generally treated Mr. Boswell as a school-boy, whom, without the smallest ceremony, he pardoned or rebuked, alternately, would so indignantly have been provoked, as to have instantaneously inflicted upon him some mark of his displeasure. And equally he was persuaded that Mr. Boswell, however shocked and even inflamed in receiving it, would soon, from his deep veneration, have thought it justly incurred; and, after a day or two of pouting and sullenness, would have compromised the matter by one

[graphic][merged small][merged small][merged small]
« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »