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young man, who had not failed to profit by these advantages, and who was, when he came down to Offley to see his father's birthplace, a very handsome and well accomplished gentleman."
After expatiating on the advantages of birth, and the presumption of new men in attempting to found a new system of gentility, Boswell proceeds: "Mr. Thrale had married Miss Hester Lynch Salusbury, of good Welsh extraction, a lady of lively talents, improved by education. That Johnson's introduction into Mr. Thrale's family, which contributed so much to the happiness of his life, was owing to her desire for his conversation, is a very probable and the general supposition; but it is not the truth. Mr. Murphy, who was intimate with Mr. Thrale, having spoken very highly of Dr. Johnson, he was requested to make them acquainted. This being mentioned to Johnson, he accepted of an invitation to dinner at Thrale's, and was so much pleased with his reception both by Mr. and Mrs. Thrale, and they so much pleased with him, that his invitations to their house were more and more frequent, till at last he became one of the family, and an apartment was appropriated to him, both in their house at Southwark and in their villa at Streatham."
Long before this was written, Boswell had quarrelled with Mrs. Thrale (as it is most convenient to call her till her second marriage), and he takes every opportunity of depreciating her. He might at least, however, have stated that, instead of sanctioning the "general supposition" as to the introduction, she herself supplied
the account of it which he adopts. In her "Anecdotes "
"The first time I ever saw this extraordinary man was in the year 1764, when Mr. Murphy, who had long been the friend and confidential intimate of Mr. Thrale, persuaded him to wish for Johnson's conversation, extolling it in terms which that of no other person could have deserved, till we were only in doubt. how to obtain his company, and find an excuse for the invitation. The celebrity of Mr. Woodhouse, a shoemaker, whose verses were at that time the subject of common discourse, soon afforded a pretence*, and Mr. Murphy brought Johnson to meet him, giving me general caution not to be surprised at his figure, dress, or behaviour.* Mr. Johnson liked his new
acquaintance so much, however, that from that time he dined with us every Thursday through the winter, and in the autumn of the next year he followed us to Brighthelmstone, whence we were gone before his arrival; so he was disappointed and enraged, and wrote us a letter expressive of anger, which we were very desirous to pacify, and to obtain his company again if
* "He (Johnson) spoke with much contempt of the notice taken of Woodhouse, the poetical shoemaker. He said that it was all vanity and childishness, and that such objects were to those who patronised them, mere mirrors of their own superiority. They had better, said he, furnish the man with good implements for his trade, than raise subscriptions for his poems. He may make an excellent shoemaker, but can never make a good poet. A schoolboy's exercise may be a pretty thing for a schoolboy, but it is no treat to a man."- Maxwell's Collectanea.
possible. Mr. Murphy brought him back to us again very kindly, and from that time his visits grew more frequent, till in the year 1766 his health, which he had always complained of, grew so exceedingly bad, that he could not stir out of his room in the court he inhabited for many weeks together, I think months."
The "Anecdotes were written in Italy, where she had no means of reference. The account given in “Thraliana" has a greater air of freshness, and proves Boswell right as to the year.
"It was on the second Thursday of the month of January, 1765, that I first saw Mr. Johnson in a room. Murphy, whose intimacy with Mr. Thrale had been of many years' standing, was one day dining with us at our house in Southwark, and was zealous that we should be acquainted with Johnson, of whose moral and literary character he spoke in the most exalted terms; and so whetted our desire of seeing him soon that we were only disputing how he should be invited, when he should be invited, and what should be the pretence. At last it was resolved that one Woodhouse, a shoemaker, who had written some verses, and been asked to some tables, should likewise be asked to ours, and made a temptation to Mr. Johnson to meet him : accordingly he came, and Mr. Murphy at four o'clock brought Mr. Johnson to dinner. We liked each other so well that the next Thursday was appointed for the same company to meet, exclusive of the shoemaker, and since then Johnson has remained till this day our constant acquaintance, visitor, companion, and friend."
In the "Anecdotes" she goes on to say that when she and her husband called on Johnson one morning in Johnson's Court, Fleet Street, he gave way to such an uncontrolled burst of despair regarding the world to come, that Mr. Thrale tried to stop his mouth by placing one hand before it, and desired her to prevail on him to quit his close habitation for a period and come with them to Streatham. He complied, and took up his abode with them from before Midsummer till after Michaelmas in that year. During the next sixteen years a room in each of their houses was set apart for him.
The principal difficulty at first was to induce him to live peaceably with her mother, who took a strong dislike to him, and constantly led the conversation to topics which he detested, such as foreign news and politics. He revenged himself by writing to the newspapers accounts of events which never happened, for the sole purpose of mystifying her; and probably not a few of his mischievous fictions have passed current for history. They made up their differences before her death, and a Latin epitaph of the most eulogistic order from his pen is inscribed upon her tomb.
It had been well for Mrs. Thrale and her guests if there had existed no more serious objection to Johnson as an inmate. At the commencement of the acquaintance, he was fifty-six; an age when habits are ordinarily fixed and many of his were of a kind which it required no common temper and tact to tolerate or control. They had been formed at a period when he was
frequently subjected to the worst extremities of humiliating poverty and want. He describes Savage, without money to pay for a night's lodging in a cellar, walking about the streets till he was weary, and sleeping in summer upon a bulk or in winter amongst the ashes of a glass-house. He was Savage's associate on several occasions of the sort. He told Sir Joshua Reynolds that, one night in particular, when Savage and he walked round St. James's Square for want of a lodging, they were not at all depressed; but in high spirits, and brimful of patriotism, traversed the square for several hours, inveighed against the minister, and "resolved they would stand by their country." Whilst at college he threw away the shoes left at his door to replace the worn-out pair in which he appeared daily. His clothes were in so tattered a state whilst he was writing for the "Gentleman's Magazine" that, instead of taking his seat at Cave's table, he sate behind a screen and had his victuals sent to him.
Talking of the symptoms of Christopher Smart's madness, he said, "Another charge was that he did not love clean linen; and I have no passion for it."
His deficiency in this respect seems to have made a lasting impression on his hostess. Referring to a couplet in "The Vanity of Human Wishes":
"Through all his veins the fever of renown
Spreads from the strong contagion of the gown,"
"he had desired me (says Boswell) to change spreads into burns. I thought this alteration not only cured