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abused, acted with great honour in this instance, and displayed a mind truly liberal. A minister of a more narrow and selfish disposition would have availed himself of such an opportunity to fix an implied obligation on a man of Johnson's powerful talents to give him his support. (1)
Mr. Murphy (2) and the late Mr. Sheridan severally contended for the distinction of having been the first who mentioned to Mr. Wedderburne that Johnson ought to have a pension. When I spoke of this to Lord Loughborough, wishing to know if
(1) Such favours are never conferred under express conditions of future servility, — the phrases used on this occasion have been employed in all similar cases, and they are here in sisted on by Mr. Boswell, in order to reconcile Johnson's conduct on this occasion, with his definitions of pension and pensioner.-C.
(2) This is not correct. Mr. Murphy did not “contest this distinction” with Mr. Sheridan. He claimed, we see, not the first suggestion to Lord Loughborough, but the first notice from his lordship to Johnson. — Č. - [Mr. Murphy's words are : “Lord Loughborough, who, perhaps, was originally a mover in the business, had authority to mention it. He was well acquainted with Johnson; but, having heard much of his independent spirit, and of the downfall of Osborne, the bookseller, he did not know but his benevolence might be rewarded with a folio on his head. He desired the author of these memoirs to undertake the task. This writer thought the opportunity of doing so much good the most happy incident in his life. He went, with out delay, to the chambers in the Inner Temple Lane, which, in fact, were the abode of wretchedness. By slow and studied approaches the message was disclosed. Johnson made a long pause: he asked if it was seriously intended? He fell into å profound meditation, and his own definition of a pensioner occurred to him. He was told, that he, at least, did not come within the definition.' He desired to meet next day, and dine at the Mitre Tavern. At that meeting he gave up all his schiples. On the following day Lord Loughborough conducted hen to the Earl of Bute." - Essay, p. 92.]
he recollected the prime mover in the business, he said, “ All his friends assisted ;” and when I told him that Mr. Sheridan strenuously asserted his claim to it, his Lordship said, “He rang the bell.” And it is but just to add, that Mr. Sheridan told me, that when he communicated to Dr. Johnson that a pension was to be granted him, he replied in a fervour of gratitude, “ The English language does not afford me terms adequate to my feelings on this occasion. I must have recourse to the French. I am pénétré with his Majesty's goodness.” When I repeated this to Dr. Johnson, he did not contradict it.
His definitions of pension and pensioner, partly founded on the satirical verses of Pope (1), which he quotes, may be generally true; and yet every body must allow, that there may be, and have been, instances of pensions given and received upon liberal and honourable terms. Thus, then, it is clear, that there was nothing inconsistent or humiliating in Johnson's accepting of a pension so unconditionally and so honourably offered to him.
But I shall not detain my readers longer by any words of my own, on a subject on which I am happily enabled, by the favour of the Earl of Bute, to present them with what Johnson himself wrote; his Lordship having been pleased to communicate to me a copy of the following letter to his late father, which
(1) [“ The hero William, and the martyr Charles,
One knighted Blackmore, and one pensie r'a Quarles."]
does great honour both to the writer, and to the noble person to whom it is addressed :
LETTER 81. TO THE RIGHT HON. THE EARL
6 July 20. 1762. “My LORD,—When the bills (1) were yesterday delivered to me by Mr. Wedderburne, I was informed by him of the future favours which his Majesty has, by your Lordship’s recommendation, been induced to intend for me.
“Bounty always receives part of its value from the manner in which it is bestowed : your Lordship's kindness includes every circumstance that can gratify delicacy, or enforce obligation. You have conferred your favours on a man who has neither alliance nor interest, who has not merited them by services, nor courted them by officiousness ; you have spared him the shame of solicitation, and the anxiety of suspense.
“What has been thus elegantly given, will, I hope, not be reproachfully enjoyed ; I shall endeavour to give your Lordship the only recompence which generosity desires, -- the gratification of finding that your benefits are not improperly bestowed. I am, my Lord, your Lordship’s most obliged, most obedient, and most hum
(1) It does not appear what bills these were ; evidently something distinct from the pension, yet probably of the same nature, as the words “future favours” seem to imply that there had been some present favour. - C.
(2) The addition of three hundred pounds a year, to what Johnson was able to earn by the ordinary exercise of his talents, raised him to a state of comparative affluence, and afforded him the means of assisting many whose real or pretended wants had formerly excited his compassion. He now practised a rule which he often recommended to his friends, always to go abroad with some loose money to give to beggars, imitating therein, VOL. II.
This year his friend, Sir Joshua Reynolds, paid a visit of some weeks to his native country Devonshire, in which he was accompanied by Johnson, who was much pleased with this jaunt, and declared he had derived from it a great accession of new ideas. He was entertained at the seats of several noblemen and gentlemen in the west of England (1); but the greatest part of this time was passed at Plymouth, where the magnificence of the navy, the ship-building and all its circumstances, afforded him a grand subject of contemplation. The Commissioner of the Dock-yard [Captain Francis Rogers] paid him the compliment of ordering the yacht to convey him and his friend to the Eddystone, to which they accordingly sailed. But the weather was so tempestuous that they could not land.
though certainly without intending it, that good but weak man, old Mr. Whiston, whom I have seen distributing, in the streets, money to beggars on each hand of him, till his pocket was nearly exhausted. - HAWKINS. He loved the poor as I never yet saw any one else do, with an earnest desire to make them happy. What signifies, says some one, giving halfpence to common beggars? they only lay it out in gin or tobacco. “ And why (says Johnson) should they be denied such sweeteners of their existence? it is surely very savage to refuse them every possible avenue to pleasure, reckoned too coarse for our own acceptance. Life is a pill which none of us can bear to swallow without gilding; yet for the poor we delight in stripping it still barer, and are not ashamed to show even
visible displeasure, if ever the bitter taste is taken from their mouths." In pursuance of these principles he nursed whole nests of people in his house, where the lame, the blind, the sick, and the sorrowful found a sure retreat from all the evils whence his little income could secure them. Piozzi. When visiting Lichfield, towards the latter part of his life, he was accustomed, on his arrival, to deposit with Miss Porter as much cash as would pay his expenses back to London. He could not trust himself with his own money, as he felt himself unable to resist the importunity of the numerous claimants on his benevolence. HARWOOD.
(1) At one of these seats Dr. Amyat, physician in London, told me he happened to meet him. In order to amuse him till dinner should be ready, he was taken out to walk in the garden. The master of the house, thinking it proper to introduce something scientific into the conversation, addressed him thus: “ Are you a botanist, Dr. Johnson?"_“No, Sir (answered Johnson), I am not a botanist; and, (alluding, no doubt, to his near sightedness,) should I wish to become a botanist, I must first turn myself into a reptile.”
Reynolds and he were at this time the guests of Dr. Mudge, the celebrated surgeon, and now physician of that place, not more distinguished for quickness of parts and variety of knowledge, than loved and esteemed for his amiable manners ()); and here Johnson formed an acquaintance with Dr. Mudge's father (2), that very eminent divine, the Rev. Zachariah Mudge, Prebendary of Exeter, who was idolised in the west, both for his excellence as a preacher and the uniform perfect propriety of his private conduct. He preached a sermon purposely that Johnson might hear him; and we shall see afterwards that Johnson honoured his memory by drawing his character. (3) While Johnson was at Plymouth, he saw a great many of its inhabitants, and was not sparing of his very entertaining convers
(1) (Dr. John Mudge died in 1791. He was the father a Colonel William Mudge, distinguished by his trigonometrical survey of England and
Wales, carried on by order of the Ordnance.
(2) Thomas Mudge, the celebrated watch-maker in Fleet Street, who made considerable improvements in time-keepers, and wrote several pamphlets on that subject, was another son of Mr. Zachariah Mudge. - HALL, (He died in 1794.)
(3) [See post, March, 1781. “I have heard Sir Joshua declare, that Mr. Ź. Mudge was, in his opinion, the wisest man he ever met with, and that he had intended to have republished his Sermons, and written a sketch of his life and character.” NORTHCOTE,