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“Men can be estimated by those who know them not, only as they are represented by those who know them ; and therefore I flatter myself that I owe much of the pleasure which this distinction gives me, to your concurrence with Dr. Andrews in recommending me to the learned society.
“Having desired the Provost to return my general thanks to the University, I beg that you, Sir, will accept my particular and immediate acknowledgments. I am, Sir, your most obedient and most humble servant,
“SAM. JoAnson.” (1) He appears this year to have been seized with a temporary fit of ambition, for he had thoughts both of studying law, and of engaging in politics. His “Prayer [p. 67.] before the Study of Law” is truly admirable:
Sept. 26. 1765. Almighty God, the giver of wisdom, without whose help resolutions are vain, without whose blessing study is ineffectual ; enable me, if it be thy will, to attain such knowledge as may qualify me to direct the doubtful, and instruct the ignorant; to prevent wrongs and terminate contentions; and grant that I may use that knowledge which I shall attain, to thy glory and my own salvation, for Jesus Christ's sake. Amen."
(1) His great affection for our own universities, and particularly his attachment to Oxford, prevented Johnson from receiving this honour as it was intended, and he never assumed the title which it conferred. He was as little pleased to be called Doctor in consequence of it, as he was with the title of Domine, which a friend of his once incautiously addressed him by. He thought it alluded to his having been a schoolmaster; and, though he has ably vindicated Milton from the reproach that Salmasius meant to fix on him, by saying that he was of that profession, he wished to have it forgotten, that himself had ever been driven to it as the means of subsistence, and had failed in the attempt. — HAWKINS. VOL. II.
His prayer in the view of becoming a politician is entitled, “ Engaging in politics with H-n, no doubt, his friend, the Right Hon. William Gerard Hamilton (1), for whom, during a long acquaintance, he had a great esteem, and to whose conversation he once paid this high compliment: “I am very unwilling to be left alone, Sir, and therefore I go with my company down the first pair of stairs, in some hopes that they may, perhaps, return again; I go with you, Sir, as far as the streetdoor.” In what particular department he intended to engage (2) does not appear, nor can Mr. Hamil
(1) Mr. Hamilton had been secretary to Lord Halifax, as Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland, and remained a short time with his successor, Lord Northumberland, but he resigned in 1764. Though he never spoke in parliament after this, his biographer informs us (perhaps on the authority of this passage), that he meditated taking an active part in political life: he, however, did not, and his alliance with Johnson, whatever it was intended to be, seems to have produced little or nothing. He died in 1796.-C.
(2) In the preface to a late collection of Mr. Hamilton's Pieces, it has been observed that our author was, by the generality of Johnson's words, "led to suppose that he was seized with a temporary fit of ambition, and that hence he was induced to apply his thoughts to law and politics. But Mr. Boswell was certainly mistaken in this respect: and these words merely allude to Johnson's having at that time entered into some engagement with Mr. Hamilton occasionally to furnish him with his sentiments on the great political topics which should be considered in parliament." In consequence of this engagement, Johnson, in November, 1766, wrote a very valuable tract, entitled “ Considerations on Corn,” which is printed as an appendix to the works of Mr. Hamilton, published by T. Payne in 1808. - M. - It seems very improbable that so solemn a “prayer, on engaging in politics,” should have had no meaning. It were perhaps vain now to inquire after what Mr. Hamilton professed not to be able to explain; but we may be sure that it was, in Johnson's opinion, no such trivial and casual assistance as is suggested in Mr. Malone's note. From a letter to Miss Porter
His prayer is in general terms : Enlighten my understanding with knowledge of right, and govern my will by thy laws, that no deceit may mislead me, nor temptation corrupt me; that I may always endeavour to do good, and hinder evil.” There is nothing upon the subject in his diary.
(post, January 14. 1766), it may be guessed, that this engage ment was in some way connected with the parliamentary session and it may have been an alliance to write pamphlets or para graphs in favour of a particular line of politics. - C.
Acquaintance with the Thrales. -- Publication of the
Edition of Shakspeare. — Kenrick. - Letter to Boswell. - Boswell returns to England. Voltaire on Pope and Dryden. --Goldsmith's “ Traveller,” and “Deserted Village.” — Suppers at the Mitre resumed.
“ Equal Happiness." “Courting great Men."
Convents. - Second Sight.- Corsica. - Rousseau. - Subordination. — “Making Verses.” — Letters to Langton.
This year was distinguished by his being introduced into the family of Mr. Thrale, one of the most eminent brewers in England, and member of parliament for the borough of Southwark. Foreigners are not a little amazed when they hear of brewers, distillers, and men in similar departments of trade, held forth as persons of considerable consequence. In this great commercial country it is natural that a situation which produces much wealth should be considered as very respectable ; and, no doubt, honest industry is entitled to esteem. But, perhaps, the too rapid advances of men of low extraction tends to lessen the value of that distinction by birth and gentility, which has ever been found beneficial to the grand scheme of subordination. Johnson used to give this account of the rise of Mr. Thrale's father :