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certainly did not give to him the offence it does to many. He loved "conversation without effort," he said; and the encomiums I have heard him so often pronounce on the manners of Topham Beauclerc in society, constantly ended in that peculiar praise, that "it was without effort."
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."
84. Newspaper Abuse.
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."
85. Death and Sickness. - Garrick.- Thrale.
Knowing the state of Mr. Johnson's nerves, and how easily they were affected, I forbore reading in a new magazine one day, the death of a Samuel Johnson who expired that month; but my companion, snatching up the book, saw it himself, and contrary to my expectation, — "Oh!" said he; "I hope death will now be glutted with Sam. Johnsons, and let me alone for some time to come: I read of another namesake's departure last week.”
Though Mr. Johnson was commonly affected, even to agony, at the thoughts of a friend's dying, he troubled himself very little with the complaints they might make to him about ill health. "Dear Doctor," said he one day to a common acquaintance, who lamented the tender state of his inside," do not be like the spider, man; and spin conversation thus incessantly out of thy own bowels." I told him of another friend, who suffered grievously with the gout: "He will live a vast many years for all that," replied he, "and then what signifies how much he suffers? but he will die at last, poor fellow, there's the misery; gout
seldom takes the fort by a coup-de-main, but, turning the siege into a blockade, obliges it to surrender at discretion." A lady he thought well of was disordered in her head : "What help has she called in?" inquired Johnson. "Dr. James, Sir," was the reply. "What is her dis"Oh, nothing positive, rather a gradual and gentle decline." "She will die then, pretty dear!" answered he: "when death's pale horse runs away with persons on full speed, an active physician may possibly give them a turn; but if he carries them on an even slow pace, down hill too! no care nor skill can save them."
When Garrick was on his last sick-bed, no arguments, or recitals of such facts as I had heard, would persuade Mr. Johnson of his danger: he had prepossessed himself with a notion, that to say a man was sick, was very near wishing him so; and few things offended him more than prognosticating even the death of an ordinary acquaintance. Ay, ay," said he, "Swift knew the world pretty well when he said, that
'Some dire misfortune to portend,
No enemy can match a friend."
The danger then of Mr. Garrick, or of Mr. Thrale, whom he loved better, was an image which no one durst present before his view: he always persisted in the possibility and hope of their recovering disorders from which no human creatures, by human means alone, ever did recover. His distress for their loss was, for that very reason, poignant to excess; but his fears of his own salvation were excessive his truly tolerant spirit, and Christian charity, which " hopeth all things," and "believeth all things, made him rely securely on the safety of his friends, while his earnest aspiration after a blessed immortality made him cautious of his own steps, and timorous concerning their consequences. He knew how much had been given, and filled his mind with fancies of how much would be required, till his impressed imagination was often disturbed by them, and his health suffered from the sensibility of his too tender conscience: a real Christian is so apt to find his task above his power of performance!
Mr. Johnson did not, however, give in to ridiculous refinements either of speculation or practice, or suffer himself to be deluded by specious appearances. "I have had dust thrown in my eyes too often," would he say, "to be blinded so. Let us never confound matters of belief with matters of opinion."
Some one urged in his presence the preference of hope to possession; and, as I remember, produced an Italian sonnet on the subject. "Let us not," cries Johnson, "amuse ourselves with subtleties and sonnets, when speaking about hope, which is the follower of faith and the precursor of eternity; but if you only mean those air-built hopes which to-day excites and to-morrow will destroy, let us talk away, and remember that we only talk of the pleasures of hope we feel those of possession, and no man in his senses would change the last for the first: such hope is a mere bubble, that by a gentle breath may be blown to what size you will almost, but a rough blast bursts it at once. Hope is an amusement rather than a good, and adapted to none but very tranquil minds."
88. Unprofitable Chat.
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 !"
I well remember that at Brighthelmstone once, when he was not present, Mr. Beauclerc asserted that he was afraid of spirits; and I, who was secretly offended at the charge, asked him, the first opportunity I could find, what ground he had ever given to the world for such a report? "I can," replied he, "recollect nothing nearer it, than my telling Dr. Lawrence, many years ago, that a long time
after my poor mother's death, I heard her voice call Sam !" "What answer did the doctor make to your story, Sir?" said I. "None in the world," replied he; and suddenly changed the conversation. Now, as Mr. Johnson had a most unshaken faith, without any mixture of credulity, this story must either have been strictly true, or his persuasion of its truth the effect of disordered spirits. I relate the anecdote precisely as he told it me; but could not prevail on him to draw out the talk into length, for further satisfaction of my curiosity.
90. Talents and Erudition.
He always made a great difference in his esteem between talents and erudition; and when he saw a person eminent for literature, though wholly unconversable, it fretted him. "Teaching such tonies," said he to me one day, "is like setting a lady's diamonds in lead, which only obscures the lustre of the stone, and makes the possessor ashamed on't."
91. Every-day Knowledge.
Useful, and what we call every-day knowledge, had the most of his just praise. "Let your boy learn arithmetic, dear Madam," was his advice to the mother of a rich young heir "he will not then be a prey to every rascal which this town swarms with: teach him the value of money, and how to reckon it; ignorance to a wealthy lad of oneand-twenty is only so much fat to a sick sheep: it just serves to call the rooks about him;
And all that prey on vice or folly
Here the gamester, light and jolly,
There the lender, grave and sly."
These improviso lines, making part of a long copy of verses which my regard for the youth', on whose birthday they were written, obliges me to suppress lest they should give him pain, show a mind of surprising activity and
1 [Sir John Lade. See Boswell, vol. viii. p. 414.]