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Norfolk, by the name of the Philosopher of Massingham, who, from the Ramblers, and Plan of his Dictionary, and long before the author's 'fame was established, by the Dictionary itself, or any other work, had conceived such a reverence for him, that he urgently begged Dr. Rurney to give him the cover of the first letter he had received from him, as a relick of so estimable a writer. This was in 1755. In 1760, when Dr. Burney visited Dr. Johnson, at the Temple, in London, where he had then chambers, he happened to arrive there before he was up, and being shown into the room where he was to breakfast, finding himself alone; he exainined the contents of the apartment, to try. whether he could, undiscovered, steal any thing to send to his friend Bewley, as another relick of the ada. mirable Dr. Johnson. But finding nothing better to, his purpose, he cut some bristles off a hearth broom, and enclosed them in a letter to his country enthusiast, who received them with due reverence.
“ The Doctor was so sensible of the honour done him by a man of genius and science, to whom he was an utter stranger, that he said to Dr. Burney, “ Sir, there is no man possessed of the smallest portion of modesty, but must be flattered with the admiration of such a man. I'll give him a set of my Lives, if he will. do me the honour to accept of them."
In this he kept his word ; and Dr. Burney had not: only the pleasure of gratifying his friend with a pre- . sent more worthy of his acceptance than the segment of a hearth-broom, but soon after of introducing him; to Dr. Johnson himself, in Bolt-court, with whom he. had the satisfaction of conversing a considerable time, not a fortnight before his death, which happened in. St. Martin's-street, during his visit to Dr. Burney, in: the house where the great Sir Isaac Newton had lived: and died before,
In one of his registers of the year 1782, there occurs, the following curious passage : “ Jan. 20. The mi.. nistry is dissolved. I prayed with Francis, and gave thanks,” It has been the subject of discussion, whether there are two distinct particulars mentioned: here, or.
that we are to understand the giving of thanks to be in consequence of the dissolution of the ministry. In support of the last of these conjectures, may be urged his mean opinion of that ministry, which has frequently appeared in the course of this work; and it is strongly confirmed by what he said on the subject to Mr. Seward :-“ I am glad the ministry is removed. Such a bunch of imbecility never disgraced a country.. If they sent a messenger into the City to take up a printer, the messenger was taken up instead of the printer, and cominitted by the sitting Alderman. If they sent one army to the relief of another, the first army was defeated and taken before the second arrived. I will not say what they did was always wrong ; but it was always done at a wrong time.”
In December, 1782, he writes to Mr. B. “ Having passed almost this whole year in a succession of disorders, I went in October to Brighthelmstone, whither I came in a state of so much weakness that I rested four times in walking between the inn and the lodging. By physic and abstinence I grew better, and am now reasonably easy, though at a great distance from health. I am afraid, however, that health begins, after seventy, and often long before, to have a meaning different from that which it had at thirty. But it is culpable to murmur at the established order of the creation, as it is vain to oppose it. He that lives, must grow old, and he that would rather grow old than die, has God to thank for the infirmities of old age.”
The death of Mr. Thrale had made a very materiał alteration upon Johnson, with respect to his reception in that family. The manly authority of the husband no longer curbed the lively exuberance of the lady:-and as her vanity had been fully gratified, by having the Colossus of Literature attached to her for many years, she gradually became less assiduous to please
It has been observed and wondered at, that Mr. Charles Fox never talked with any freedom in the presence of Dr. Johnson, though it is well known that his conversation is, various, fluent, and exceedingly
agreeable. Johnson's experience, however, founded him in going on thus; “ Fox never talks in private company, not from any determination not to talk, but because he has not the first motion. A man who is used to the applause of the House of Commons, has no wish for that of a private company. A man accustomed to throw for a thousand pounds, if set down to throw for sixpence, would not be at the pains to count his dice. Burke's talk is the ebulition of his mind; he does not talk from a desire of distinction, but because his mind is full.”
Mr. B. and the Doctor once talked of the accusation against a gentleman for supposed delinquencies in India. JOHNSON. “What foundation there is for accusation I know not, but they will not get at him. Where bad actions are committed at so great a distánce, a delinquent can obscure the evidence till the scent becomes cold: there is a cloud between, which cannot be penetrated, therefore all distant power is bad. I am clear that the best plan for the government of India is a despotic governor; for if he be a good man, it is evidently the best government; and supposing him to be a bad man, it is better to have one plunderer than many. A governor, whose power is checked, lets others plunder that he himself may be allowed to plunder. But if despotic, he sees' that the more he lets others plunder the less there will be for : himself, so he restrains them; and though he himself plunders, the country is a gainer, compared with being plundered by numbers."
In the autumn of 1783, he received a visit from the celebrated Mrs. Siddons. He gives this account of it, in one of his letters to Mrs. Thrale : " Mrs. Siddons, in her visit to me, behaved with great modesty and propriety, and left nothing behind her to be censured or despised. Neither praise nor money, the two powerful corrupters of mankind, seem to have depraved her. I shall be glad to see her again. Her brother Kemble calls on me, and pleases me very well. Mrs. Siddons and I talked of plays; and she told me her intention of exhibiting this winter the
characters of Constance, Catherine, and Isabella, in Shakspeare."
When Mrs. Siddons came into the room, there happened to be no chair ready for her, which he obserying, said, with a smile, “ Madam, you who so often occasion a want of seats to other people, will the more easily excuse the want of one yourself.”
Having placed himself by her, he with great good humour entered upon a consideration of the English drama; and among other enquiries, particularly asked her, which of Shakspeare's characters she was most pleased with. Upon her answering that she thought the character of Queen Catherine, in Henry the Eighth, the most natural. I think so too, Madam, (said he ;) and whenever you perform it, I will once more hobble out to the theatre myself.” Mrs, Siddons promised she would do herself the honour of acting his favourite part for him; but many circumstances happened to prevent the representation of King Henry the Eighth during the Doctor's life.
In the course of this visit he thus gave his opinion upon the merits of some of the principal performers whom he remembered to have seen upon the stage.-“ Mrs. Porter in the vehemence of rage, and Mrs. Clive in the sprightliness of humour, I have never secn equalled. What Clive did best, she did better than Garrick ; but could not do half so many things well; she was a better romp than -any I ever saw in nature Pritchard, in common life, was a vulgar ideot; she would talk of her gownd: but, when she appeared upon the stage, seemed to be inspired by gentility and understanding. I once talked with Colley Cibber, and thought him ignorant of the principles of his art. Garrick, Madam, was no declaimer; there was not one of his own scene-shifters, who could not have spoken To be, or not to be, better than he did; yet he was the only one whom I could call a master both in tragedy and comedy ; though I liked him best in comedy. A true conception of character, and natural expression of it, were his distinguishing excel. lencies,"
Having expatiated, with his usual force and elow. quence, on Mr. Garrick's extraordinary eminence as an actor, he concluded with this compliment to his social talents :- And after all, Madam, I thought him less to be envied on the stage than at the head of a table."
" Johnson, indeed, had thought more upon the sub- ject of acting than might be generally supposed. Talking of it one day to Mr. Kemble, he said, “ Are you, Sir, one of those enthusiasts who believe yourself transformed into the very characters you represent ?" Upon Mr. Kemble's answering he had never felt so strong a persuasion himself. “ To be sure not, Sir," (said Johnson). “ 'The thing is impossible. And if Garrick really believed himself to be that monster Richard the Third, he deserved to be hanged every time he performed it."
After the re-establishment of his health, as mentione ed by Mrs. Piozzi, he continued free from any alarming complaints till 1783, when during the night, in the summer season, he was attacked with a paralytic stroke, at his house, in Bolt-court, Fleet-street, which deprived him of the powers of speech. He awoke with the attack, and immediately wrung the bell; but on the approach of his servant could not articulate a syllable.
Feeling, however, that he retained the full use of his senses, he signified a desire for pen, ink, and paper, and wrote the following note to Mr. Allen, a printer, who lived next door to him; a very honest, virtuous good man, who had been his intimate and confidential friend for inany years,
66 DEAR SIR, " It hath pleased Almighty God this morning to de" prive me of the powers of speech ; and as I do not