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[359] The Monks of Medmenham Abbey. See Almon’s _Life of Wilkes_, iii.

60, for Wilkes’s account of this club. Horace Walpole (_Letters_, i. 92) calls Whitehead ‘an infamous, but not despicable poet.’

[360] From _The Conference_, Churchill’s _Poems_, ii. 15.

[361] In the _Life of Pope_ Johnson writes:–‘Paul Whitehead, a small poet, was summoned before the Lords for a poem called _Manners_, together with Dodsley his publisher. Whitehead, who hung loose upon society, sculked and escaped; but Dodsley’s shop and family made his appearance necessary.’ Johnson’s _Works_, viii. 297. _Manners_ was published in 1739. Dodsley was kept in custody for a week. _Gent. Mag_.

ix. 104. ‘The whole process was supposed to be intended rather to intimidate Pope [who in his _Seventeen Hundred and Thirty-Eight_ had given offence] than to punish Whitehead, and it answered that purpose.’

CHALMERS, quoted in _Parl. Hist_. x. 1325

[362] Sir John Hawkins, p. 86, tells us:–‘The event is _antedated_, in the poem of _London_; but in every particular, except the difference of a year, what is there said of the departure of Thales, must be understood of Savage, and looked upon as _true history_.’ This conjecture is, I believe, entirely groundless. I have been a.s.sured, that Johnson said he was not so much as acquainted with Savage when he wrote his _London_. If the departure mentioned in it was the departure of Savage, the event was not _antedated_ but _foreseen_; for _London_ was published in May, 1738, and Savage did not set out for Wales till July, 1739. However well Johnson could defend the credibility of _second sight_ [see _post_, Feb. 1766], he did not pretend that he himself was possessed of that faculty. BOSWELL. I am not sure that Hawkins is altogether wrong in his account. Boswell does not state _of his own knowledge_ that Johnson was not acquainted with Savage when he wrote _London_. The death of Queen Caroline in Nov. 1737 deprived Savage of her yearly bounty, and ‘abandoned him again to fortune’ (Johnson’s _Works_, viii. 166). The elegy on her that he composed on her birth-day (March 1) brought him no reward. He was ‘for some time in suspense,’ but nothing was done. ‘He was in a short time reduced to the lowest degree of distress, and often wanted both lodging and food’ (_Ib_. p. 169). His friends formed a scheme that ‘he should retire into Wales.’ ‘While this scheme was ripening’ he lodged ‘in the liberties of the Fleet, that he might be secure from his creditors’ (_Ib_. p. 170). After many delays a subscription was at length raised to provide him with a small pension, and he left London in July 1739 (_Ib_. p 173). _London_, as I have shewn, was written before April 6, 1738. That it was written with great rapidity we might infer from the fact that a hundred lines of _The Vanity of Human Wishes_ were written in a day. At this rate _London_ might have been the work of three days. That it was written in a very short time seems to be shown by a pa.s.sage in the first of these letters to Cave. Johnson says:–‘When I took the liberty of writing to you a few days ago, I did not expect a repet.i.tion of the same pleasure so soon; … but having the enclosed poem, &c.’ It is probable that in these few days the poem was written. If we can a.s.sume that Savage’s elegy was sent to the Court not later than March 1–it may have been sent earlier–and that Johnson’s poem was written in the last ten days of March, we have three weeks for the intervening events. They are certainly not more than sufficient, if indeed they are sufficient. The coincidence is certainly very striking between Thales’s retirement to ‘Cambria’s solitary sh.o.r.e’

and Savage’s retirement to Wales. There are besides lines in the poem–additions to Juvenal and not translations–which curiously correspond with what Johnson wrote of Savage in his _Life_. Thus he says that Savage ‘imagined that he should be transported to scenes of flowery felicity; … he could not bear … to lose the opportunity of listening, without intermission, to the melody of the nightingale, which he believed was to be heard from every bramble, and which he did not fail to mention as a very important part of the happiness of a country life’ (_Ib_. p. 170). In like manner Thales prays to find:–

‘Some pleasing bank where verdant osiers play, Some peaceful vale, with nature’s paintings gay.

There every bush with nature’s musick rings; There every breeze bears health upon its wings.’

Mr. Croker objects that ‘if Thales had been Savage, Johnson could never have admitted into his poem two lines that point so forcibly at the drunken fray, in which Savage stabbed a Mr. Sinclair, for which he was convicted of _murder_:–

“Some frolic _drunkard_, reeling from a feast, _Provokes_ a broil, and _stabs_ you in a jest.”‘

But here Johnson is following Juvenal. Mr. Croker forgets that, if Savage was convicted of murder, ‘he was soon after admitted to bail, and pleaded the King’s pardon.’ ‘Persons of distinction’ testified that he was ‘a modest inoffensive man, not inclined to broils or to insolence;’

the witnesses against him were of the lowest character, and his judge had shewn himself as ignorant as he was brutal. Sinclair had been drinking in a brothel, and Savage a.s.serted that he had stabbed him ‘by the necessity of self defence’ (_Ib_. p. 117). It is, however, not unlikely that Wales was suggested to Johnson as Thales’s retreat by Swift’s lines on Steele, in _Miscellanies in Prose and Verse_ (v. 181), published only three years before _London_:–

‘Thus Steele who owned what others writ, And flourished by imputed wit, From perils of a hundred jails Withdrew to starve and die in Wales.’

[363] The first dialogue was registered at Stationers’ Hall, 12th May, 1738, under the t.i.tle _One Thousand Seven Hundred and Thirty Eight_. The second dialogue was registered 17th July, 1738, as _One Thousand Seven Hundred and Thirty Eight, Dialogue_ 2. Elwin’s _Pope_, iii. 455.

David Hume was in London this spring, finding a publisher for his first work, _A Treatise of Human Nature_. J. H. Burton’s _Hume_, i. 66.

[364] Pope had published _Imitations of Horace_.

[365] P. 269. BOSWELL. ‘Short extracts from _London, a Poem_, become remarkable for having got to the second edition in the s.p.a.ce of a week.’

_Gent. Mag_. viii. 269. The price of the poem was one shilling. Pope’s satire, though sold at the same price, was longer in reaching its second edition (_Ib_. p. 280).


‘One driven by strong benevolence of soul Shall fly, like Oglethorpe, from pole to pole.’

Pope’s _Imitations of Horace_, ii. 2. 276.

‘General Oglethorpe, died 1785, earned commemoration in Pope’s gallery of worthies by his Jacobite politics. He was, however, a remarkable man.

He first directed attention to the abuses of the London jails. His relinquishment of all the attractions of English life and fortune for the settlement of the colony of Georgia is as romantic a story at that of Bishop Berkeley’ (Pattison’s _Pope_, p. 152). It is very likely that Johnson’s regard for Oglethorpe was greatly increased by the stand that he and his brother-trustees in the settlement of Georgia made against slavery (see _post_, Sept. 23, 1777). ‘The first principle which they laid down in their laws was that no slave should be employed. This was regarded at the time as their great and fundamental error; it was afterwards repealed’ (Southey’s _Wesley_, i. 75). In spite, however, of Oglethorpe’s ‘strong benevolence of soul’ he at one time treated Charles Wesley, who was serving as a missionary in Georgia, with great brutality (_Ib_. p. 88). According to Benjamin Franklin (_Memoirs_, i. 162) Georgia was settled with little forethought. ‘Instead of being made with hardy industrious husbandmen, it was with families of broken shop-keepers, and other insolvent debtors; many of idle habits, taken out of the jails, who being set down in the woods, unqualified for clearing land, and unable to endure the hardships of a new settlement, perished in numbers, leaving many helpless children unprovided for.’

Johnson wished to write Oglethorpe’s life; _post_, April 10, 1775.

[367] Horace Walpole (_Letters_, viii. 548), writing of him 47 years after _London_ was published, when he was 87 years old, says:–‘His eyes, ears, articulation, limbs, and memory would suit a boy, if a boy could recollect a century backwards. His teeth are gone; he is a shadow, and a wrinkled one; but his spirits and his spirit are in full bloom: two years and a-half ago he challenged a neighbouring gentleman for trespa.s.sing on his manor.’

[368] Once Johnson being at dinner at Sir Joshua’s in company with many painters, in the course of conversation Richardson’s _Treatise on Painting_ happened to be mentioned, ‘Ah!’ said Johnson, ‘I remember, when I was at college, I by chance found that book on my stairs. I took it up with me to my chamber, and read it through, and truly I did not think it possible to say so much upon the art.’ Sir Joshua desired of one of the company to be informed what Johnson had said; and it being repeated to him so loud that Johnson heard it, the Doctor seemed hurt, and added, ‘But I did not wish, Sir, that Sir Joshua should have been told what I then said.’ Northcote’s _Reynolds_, i. 236. Jonathan Richardson the painter had published several works on painting before Johnson went to college. He and his son, Jonathan Richardson, junior, brought out together _Explanatory Notes on Paradise Lost_.

[369] Sir Joshua Reynolds, from the information of the younger Richardson. BOSWELL. See _post_, Oct. 16, 1769, where Johnson himself relates this anecdote. According to Murphy, ‘Pope said, “The author, whoever he is, will not be long concealed;” alluding to the pa.s.sage in Terence [_Eun_. ii. 3, 4], _Ubi, ubi est, diu celari non potest_.’

Murphy’s _Johnson_, p. 35.

[370] Such as _far_ and _air_, which comes twice; _vain_ and _man_, _despair_ and _bar_.

[371] It is, however, remarkable, that he uses the epithet, which undoubtedly, since the union between England and Scotland, ought to denominate the natives of both parts of our island:–

‘Was early taught a BRITON’S rights to prize.’


Swift, in his _Journal to Stella_ (Nov. 23, 1711), having to mention England, continues:–‘I never will call it _Britain_, pray don’t call it Britain.’ In a letter written on Aug. 8, 1738, again mentioning England, he adds,–‘Pox on the modern phrase Great Britain, which is only to distinguish it from Little Britain, where old clothes and old books are to be bought and sold’ (Swift’s _Works_, 1803, xx. 185). George III ‘gloried in being born a Briton;’ _post_, 1760. Boswell thrice more at least describes Johnson as ‘a true-born Englishman;’ _post_, under Feb.

7, 1775, under March 30, 1783, and Boswell’s _Hebrides_ under Aug. 11, 1773. The quotation is from _Richard II_, Act i. sc. 3.


‘For who would leave, unbrib’d, Hibernia’s land, Or change the rocks of Scotland for the Strand?

There none are swept by sudden fate away, But all, whom hunger spares, with age decay.’

_London_, 1. 9-12.

[373] In the _Life of Savage_, Johnson, criticising the settlement of colonies, as it is considered by the poet and the politician, seems to be criticising himself. ‘The politician, when he considers men driven into other countries for shelter, and obliged to retire to forests and deserts, and pa.s.s their lives, and fix their posterity, in the remotest corners of the world, to avoid those hardships which they suffer or fear in their native place, may very properly enquire, why the legislature does not provide a remedy for these miseries, rather than encourage an escape from them. He may conclude that the flight of every honest man is a loss to the community…. The poet guides the unhappy fugitive from want and persecution to plenty, quiet, and security, and seats him in scenes of peaceful solitude, and undisturbed repose.’ Johnson’s _Works_, viii. 156.

[374] Three years later Johnson wrote:–‘Mere una.s.sisted merit advances slowly, if, what is not very common, it advances at all.’ _Ib_. vi. 393.

[375] ‘The busy _hum_ of men.’ Milton’s _L’Allegro_, 1. 118.

[376] See Boswell’s _Hebrides_, Oct. 21, 1773, and _post_, March 21, 1775, for Johnson’s attack on Lord Chatham. In the _Life of Thomson_ Johnson wrote:–‘At this time a long course of opposition to Sir Robert Walpole had filled the nation with clamours for liberty, of which no man felt the want, and with care for liberty, which was not in danger.’

Johnson’s _Works_, viii. 370. Hawkins says (_Life_, p. 514);–‘Of Walpole he had a high opinion. He said of him that he was a fine fellow, and that his very enemies deemed him so before his death. He honoured his memory for having kept this country in peace many years, as also for the goodness and placability of his temper.’ Horace Walpole (_Letters_, v. 509), says:–‘My father alone was capable of acting on one great plan of honesty from the beginning of his life to the end. He could for ever wage war with knaves and malice, and preserve his temper; could know men, and yet feel for them; could smile when opposed, and be gentle after triumph.’

[377] Johnson in the _Life of Milton_ describes himself:–‘Milton was naturally a thinker for himself, confident of his own abilities, and disdainful of help or hindrance. From his contemporaries he neither courted nor received support; there is in his writings nothing by which the pride of other authors might be gratified, or favour gained; no exchange of praise, nor solicitation of support.’ Johnson’s _Works_, vii. 142. See _post_ Feb. 1766, for Johnson’s opinion on ‘courting great men.’

[378] In a billet written by Mr. Pope in the following year, this school is said to have been in _Shropshire_; but as it appears from a letter from Earl Gower, that the trustees of it were ‘some worthy gentlemen in Johnson’s neighbourhood,’ I in my first edition suggested that Pope must have, by mistake, written Shropshire, instead of Staffordshire. But I have since been obliged to Mr. Spearing, attorney-at-law, for the following information:–‘William Adams, formerly citizen and haberdasher of London, founded a school at Newport, in the county of Salop, by deed dated 27th November, 1656, by which he granted “the yearly sum of _sixty pounds_ to such able and learned schoolmaster, from time to time, being of G.o.dly life and conversation, who should have been educated at one of the Universities of Oxford or Cambridge, and had taken the degree of _Master of Arts_, and was well read in the Greek and Latin tongues, as should be nominated from time to time by the said William Adams, during his life, and after the decease of the said William Adams, by the Governours (namely, the Master and Wardens of the Haberdashers’ Company of the City of London) and their successors.” The manour and lands out of which the revenues for the maintenance of the school were to issue are situate _at Knighton and Adbaston, in the county of Stafford_.’ From the foregoing account of this foundation, particularly the circ.u.mstances of the salary being sixty pounds, and the degree of Master of Arts being a requisite qualification in the teacher, it seemed probable that this was the school in contemplation; and that Lord Gower erroneously supposed that the gentlemen who possessed the lands, out of which the revenues issued, were trustees of the charity.

Such was probable conjecture. But in the _Gent. Mag_. for May, 1793, there is a letter from Mr. Henn, one of the masters of the school of Appleby, in Leicestershire, in which he writes as follows:–

‘I compared time and circ.u.mstance together, in order to discover whether the school in question might not be this of Appleby. Some of the trustees at that period were “worthy gentlemen of the neighbourhood of Litchfield.” Appleby itself is not far from the neighbourhood of Litchfield. The salary, the degree requisite, together with the _time of election_, all agreeing with the statutes of Appleby. The election, as said in the letter, “could not be delayed longer than the 11th of next month,” which was the 11th of September, just three months after the annual audit-day of Appleby school, which is always on the 11th of June; and the statutes enjoin _ne ullius praeceptorum electio diutius tribus mensibus moraretur, etc_.

‘These I thought to be convincing proofs that my conjecture was not ill-founded, and that, in a future edition of that book, the circ.u.mstance might be recorded as fact.

‘But what banishes every shadow of doubt is the _Minute-book_ of the school, which declares the headmastership to be _at that time_ VACANT.’

I cannot omit returning thanks to this learned gentleman for the very handsome manner in which he has in that letter been so good as to speak of this work. BOSWELL.

[379] ‘What a pity it is, Sir,’ said to him Sir William Scott, afterwards Lord Stowell, ‘that you did not follow the profession of the law! You might have been Lord Chancellor of Great Britain’ _Post_, April 17, 1778.

[380] See _post_, beginning of 1770.

[381] See _post_, March 21, 1775.


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