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not comply with it, but at the risk of such answer and suspicions as I believe you do not wish me to undergo.
“I have seen your son this morning ; he seems a pretty youth, and will, perhaps, find some better friend than I can procure him ; but though he should at last miss the university, he may still be wise, useful, and happy. I am, Madam, your most humble servant,
LETTER 80. TO MR. JOSEPH BARETTI,
“ London, July 20. 1762. “SIR, — However justly you may accuse me for want of punctuality in correspondence, I am not so far lost in negligence as to omit the opportunity of writing to you, which Mr. Beauclerk’s passage through Milan affords me.
“I suppose you received the Idlers, and I intend that you shall soon receive Shakepeare, that you may explain his works to the ladies of Italy, and tell them the story of the editor, among the other strange narratives with which your long residence in this unknown region has supplied you.
“ As you have now been long away, I suppose your curiosity may pant for some news of your old friends. Miss Williams and I live much as we did. Miss Cotterel still continues to cling to Mrs. Porter (/), and Charlotte is now big of the fourth child. Mr. Reynolds gets six thousands a year. Levet is lately married, not without much suspicion that he has been wretchedly cheated in his match. (2) Mr. Chambers is
(1) See antè, Vol. I. p. 291. n. Miss Charlotte Cotterel appears to have married the Rev. John Lewis, who became Dean of Ossory in 1755. — C.
(2) (See aniè, Vol. I. p. 290. n. “ Levet married, when he was near sixty, a woman of the town, who had persuaded him (notwithstanding their place of congress was a small coal-shed
gone this day, for the first time, the circuit with the Judges. Mr. Richardson (') is dead of an apoplexy, and his second daughter (2) has married a merchant.
“My vanity, or my kindness, makes me flatter myself, that you would rather hear of me than of those whom I have mentioned; but of myself I have very little which I care to tell. Last winter I went down to my native town, where I found the streets much narrower and shorter than I thought I had left them, inhabited by a new race of people, to whom I was very little known. My play-fellows were grown old, and forced me to suspect that I was no longer young. My only remaining friend has changed his principles, and was become the tool of the predominant faction. My daughter-in-law, from whom I expected most, and whom I met with sincere benevolence, has lost the beauty and gaiety of youth, without having gained much of the wisdom of age. I wandered about for five days, and took the first convenient opportunity of returning to a place, where, if there is not much happiness, there is, at least, such a diversity of good and evil, that slight vexations do not fix upon the heart.
in Fetter Lane) that she was nearly related to a man of fortune, but was kept by him out of large possessions. Johnson used to say that, compared with the marvels of this transaction, the Arabian Nights seemed familiar occurrences. Never was hero more completely duped. He had not been married four months before a writ was taken out against him, for debts contracted by his wife. He was secreted, and his friend then procured him a protection from a foreign minister. In a short time afterwards she ran away from him, and was tried for picking pockets at the Old Bailey. She pleaded her own cause, and was acquitted; a separation took place; and Johnson then took Levet home, where he continued till his death” STEEVENS.)
(1) Samuel Richardson, the author of Clarissa, &c sied July 4. 1761, aged 72.- M.
(2) Martha, his chief amanuensis, married Edward Bridgen, April, 1762.-C.
“I think in a few weeks to try another excursion ; though to what end? Let me know, my Baretti, what has been the result of your return to your own country: whether time has made any alteration for the better, and whether, when the first raptures of salutation were over, you did not find your thoughts confessed their disappointment.
“ Moral sentences appear ostentatious and tumid, when they have no greater occasions than the journey of a wit to his own town: yet such pleasures and such pains make up the general mass of life; and as nothing is little to him that feels it with great sensibility, a mind able to see common incidents in their real state, is disposed by very common incidents to very serious contemplations. Let us trust that a time will come, when the present moment shall be no longer irksome; when we shall not borrow all our happiness from hope, which at last is to end in disappointment.
“ I beg that you will shew Mr. Beauclerk all the civilities which you have in your power ; for he has always been kind to me.
“ I have lately seen Mr. Stratico, Professor of Padua, who has told me of your quarrel with an Abbot of the Celestine order ; but had not the particulars very ready in his memory. When you write to Mr. Marsili, let him know that I remember him with kindness.
“ May you, my Baretti, be very happy at Milan, or some other place nearer to, Sir, your most affectionate humble servant,
The accession of George the Third to the throne of these kingdoms, opened a new and brighter prospect to men of literary merit, who had been honoured with no mark of royal favour in the preceding reign. His present Majesty's education in this
country, as well as his taste and beneficence, prompted him to be the patron of science and the arts; and early this year Johnson having been represented to him as a very learned and good man, without any certain provision, his Majesty pleased to grant him a pension of three hundred pounds a year. The Earl of Bute, who was then Prime Minister, had the honour to announce this instance of his Sovereign's bounty, concerning which, many and various stories, all equally erroneous, have been propagated; maliciously representing it as a political bribe to Johnson, to desert his avowed principles, and become the tool of a government which he held to be founded in usurpation. I have taken care to have it in my power to refute them from the most authentic information. Lord Bute told me, that Mr. Wedderburne, now Lord Loughborough, was the person who first mentioned this subject to him. Lord Loughborough told me, that the pension was granted to Johnson solely as the reward of his literary merit, without any stipulation whatever, or even tacit understanding that he should write for administration. His Lordship added, that he was confident the political tracts which Johnson afterwards did write, as they were entirely consonant with his own opinions, would have been written by him, though no pension had been granted to him. (1)
(1) This seems hardly consistent with some admitted facts. One, at least, of these pamphlets, The Patriot, was “called for ” by his political friends (see post, letter to Mr. Boswell, Nov. 26. 1774); and two of the others were (see post, letter to Langton, March 20. 1771, and March 21. 1775) submitted to the revision and correction of ministers. — C.
Mr. Thomas Sheridan and Mr. Murphy, who then lived a good deal both with him and Mr. Wedderburne, told me, that they previously talked with Johnson upon
this matter, and that it was perfectly understood by all parties that the pension was merely honorary. Sir Joshua Reynolds told me, that Johnson called on him after his Majesty's intention had been notified to him, and said he wished to consult his friends as to the propriety of his accepting this mark of the royal favour, after the definitions which he had given in his Dictionary of pension and pensioners. He said he should not have Sir Joshua's answer till next day, when he would call again, and desired he might think of it. Sir Joshua answered that he was clear to give his opinion then, that there could be no objection to his receiving from the King a reward for literary merit; and that certainly the definitions in his Dictionary were not applicable to him. Johnson, it should seem, was satisfied, for he did not call again till he had accepted the pension, and had waited on Lord Bute to thank him. He then told Sir Joshua that Lord Bute said to him expressly, “ It is not given you for any thing you are to do, but for what you have done.” (1) His Lordship, he said, behaved in the handsomest manner. He repeated the words twice, that he might be sure Johnson heard them, and thus set his mind perfectly at ease. This nobleman, who has been so virulently
(1) This was said by Lord Bute, as Dr. Burney was informed by Johnson himself, in answer to a question which he put, previously to his acceptance of the intended bounty: -“Pray, my lord, what am I expected to do for this pension? ” — M,