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ation. It was here that he made that frank and truly original confession, that “ignorance, pure ignorance," was the cause of a wrong definition in his Dictionary of the word pastern, to the no small surprise of the lady who put the question to him ; who having the most profound reverence for his character, so as almost to suppose him endowed with infallibility, expected to hear an explanation (of what, to be sure, seemed strange to a common reader,) drawn from some deep-learned source with which she was unacquainted.
Sir Joshua Reynolds, to whom I was obliged for my information concerning this excursion, mentions a very characteristical anecdote of Johnson while at Plymouth. Having observed, that in consequence of the Dock-yard a new town had arisen about two miles off as a rival to the old ; and knowing from his sagacity, and just observation of human nature, that it is certain, if a man hates at all, he will hate his next neighbour; he concluded that this new and rising town could not but excite the envy and jealousy of the old, in which conjecture he was very soon confirmed; he therefore set himself resolutely on the side of the old town, the established town, in which his lot was cast, considering it as a kind of duty to stand by it. He accordingly entered warmly into its interests, and upon every occasion talked of the Dockers, as the inhabitants of the new town were called, as upstarts and aliens. Plymouth is very plentifully supplied with water by a river brought into it from a great distance, which is so abundant that it runs to waste in the town. The Dock, or
New-town, being totally destitute of water, petitioned Plymouth that a small portion of the conduit might be permitted to go to them, and this was now under consideration. Johnson, affecting to entertain the passions of the place, was violent in opposition; and half-laughing at himself for his pretended zeal, where he had no concern, exclaimed, “ No, no! I am against the Dockers; I am a Plymouth-man. Rogues! let them die of thirst. They shall not have a drop !" (1)
Lord Macartney obligingly favoured me with a copy of the following letter, in his own hand-writing, from the original, which was found, by the present Earl of Bute, among his father's papers.
LETTER 82. TO THE RIGHT HON. THE EARL
6 Temple Lane, Nov. 3. 1762. “MY LORD,—That generosity, by which I was recommended to the favour of his Majesty, will not be offended at a solicitation necessary to make that favour permanent and effectual.
(1) A friend of mine once heard him, during this visit, exclaim with the utmost vehemence, “ Í HATE a Docker.”. BLAKEWAY. This feud happily subsided, but the Dockers continued to our own days dissatisfied with being considered as a mere appendage to Plymouth; and they solicited and obtained, in 1823, the king's royal licence that the town of Plymouth-dock should be hereafter called Devonport-a name singularly illchosen on the part of the Dockers - for it happens, ludicrously enough, that the port of Plymouth is wholly within the county of Devon; while Hamoaze, the port of Dock, is equally in Devon and Cornwall. So that the Dockers have assumed a name which could properly belong only to the antagonist town; and, to crown the blunder, the separate name was given just when the increase of buildings had completed the union of the two towns. - CROKER.
“ The pension appointed to be paid me at Michael. mas I have not received, and know not where or from whom I am to ask it. I beg, therefore, that your Lordship will be pleased to supply Mr. Wedderburne with such directions as may be necessary, which, I believe, his friendship will make him think it no trouble to convey to me.
“ To interrupt your Lordship, at a time like this, with such petty difficulties, is improper and unseasonable ; but your knowledge of the world has long since taught you, that every man's affairs, however little, are important to himself. Every man hopes that he shall escape neglect ; and, with reason, may every man, whose vices do not preclude his claim, expect favour from that beneficence which has been extended to, my Lord, your Lordship’s most obliged, and most humble servant,
LETTER 83. TO MR. JOSEPH BARETTI,
“ London, Dec. 21. 1762. “SIR,-You are not to suppose, with all your conviction of my idleness, that I have passed all this time without writing to my Baretti. I gave a letter to Mr. Beauclerk, who in my opinion, and in his own, was hastening to Naples for the recovery of his health ; but he has stoppeal at Paris, and I know not when he will proceed. Langton is with him.
“I will not trouble you with speculations about peace and war. The good or ill success of battles and embassies extends itself to a very small part of domestic life: we all have good and evil, which we feel more sensibly than our petty part of public miscarriage or prosperity. I am sorry for your disappointment, with which you seem more touched than I should expect a man of your resolution and experience to have been, did I not know that general truths are seldom applied to particular occasions; and that the fallacy of our self
love extends itself as wide as our interest or affections. Every man believes that mistresses are unfaithful, and patrons capricious; but he excepts his own mistress, and his own patron. We have all learned that greatness is negligent and contemptuous, and that in courts life is often languished away in ungratified expectation; but he that approaches greatness, or glitters in a court, imagines that destiny has at last exempted him from the common lot.
“ Do not let such evils overwhelm you as thousands have suffered, and thousands have surmounted ; but turn your thoughts with vigour to some other plan of life, and keep always in your mind, that, with due submission to Providence, a man of genius has been seldom ruined but by himself. Your patron's weakness or insensibility will finally do you little hurt, if he is not assisted by your own passions. Of your love I know not the propriety, nor can estimate the power; but in love, as in every other passion of which hope is the essence, we ought always to remember the uncertainty of events. There is, indeed, nothing that so much seduces reason from vigilance, as the thought of passing life with an amiable woman; and if all would happen that a lover fancies, I know not what other terrestrial happiness would deserve pursuit. But love and marriage are different states. Those who are to suffer the evils together, and to suffer often for the sake of one another, soon lose that tenderness of look, and that benevolence of mind, which arose from the participation of unmingled pleasure and successive amusement. A woman, we are sure, will not be always fair ; we are not sure she will always be virtuous : and man cannot retain through life that respect and assiduity by which he pleases for a day or for a month. I do not, however, pretend to have discovered that life has any thing more to be desired than a prudent and virtuous marriage; therefore know not what counsel to give you.
“ If you can quit your imagination of love and greatness, and leave your hopes of preferment and brida) raptures to try once more the fortune of literature and industry, the way through France is now open. We flatter ourselves that we shall cultivate, with great diligence, the arts of peace; and every man will be welcome among us who can teach us any thing we do not know. For your part, you will find all your old friends willing
to receive you.
“Reynolds still continues to increase in reputation and in riches. Miss Williams, who very much loves you, goes on in the old way. Miss Cotterel is still with Mrs. Porter. Miss Charlotte is married to Dean Lewis, and has three children. Mr. Levet has married a street-walker. But the gazette of my narration must now arrive to tell you, that Bathurst went physician to the army, and died at the Havannah.
“I know not whether I have not sent you word that Huggins (1) and Richardson are both dead. When we see our enemies and friends gliding away before us, let
(1) Huggins, the translator of Ariosto. His enmity to Baretti and Johnson will be explained by the following extract from a MS. letter of Dr. Warton to his brother, dated Winslade, April 28. 1755:
“ He (Huggins) abuses Baretti infernally, and says that he one day lent Baretti a gold watch and could never get it afterwards; that after many excuses Baretti skulked, and then got Johnson to write to Mr. Huggins a suppliant letter ; that this letter stopped Huggins awhile, while Baretti got a protection from the Sardinian ambassador; and that, at last, with great difficulty, the watch was got from a pawnbroker's, to whom Baretti had sold it. What a strange story, and how difficult to be believed ! Huggins wanted to get an approbation of his translation from Johnson, but Johnson would not, though Huggins says 't was only to get money from him. To crown all, he says that Baretti wanted to poison Croker. By some means or other, Johnson must know this story of Huggins.”
Baretti had been employed by Huggins to revise his trans lation. The person whom Huggins accused Baretti of an attempt to poison, was the Rev. Temple Henry Croker, the author of several works, and amongst others of a translation of Ariosto's Orlando, published in 1755, and of his Satires, in 1759. — C.