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would call a non sequitur, for the finest musical sensibility may coexist with the most commonplace qualities. But the lady's evidence is clear on the essential point; and another passage from her letters may assist us in determining the precise nature of Johnson's feelings towards Mrs. Piozzi, and the extent to which his later language and conduct regarding her were influenced by pique :
"Love is the great softener of savage dispositions. Johnson had always a metaphysic passion for one princess or another: first, the rustic Lucy Porter, before he married her nauseous mother; next the handsome, but haughty, Molly Aston; next the sublimated, methodistic Hill Boothby, who read her bible in Hebrew; and lastly, the more charming Mrs. Thrale, with the beauty of the first, the learning of the second, and with more worth than a bushel of such sinners and such saints. It is ridiculously diverting to see the old elephant forsaking his nature before these princesses:
"To make them mirth, use all his might, and writhe,
"This last and long-enduring passion for Mrs. Thrale was, however, composed perhaps of cupboard love, Platonic love, and vanity tickled and gratified, from morn to night, by incessant homage. The two first ingredients are certainly oddly heterogeneous; but Johnson, in religion and politics, in love and in hatred, was composed of such opposite and contradictory materials, as never before met in the human mind. This
is the reason why folk are never weary of talking, reading, and writing about a man
"So various that he seem'd to be,
Not one, but all mankind's epitome.''
After quoting the sentence printed in italics, the reviewer says: "On this hint Mr. Hayward enlarges, nothing loth." I quoted the entire letter without a word of comment, and what is given as my "enlarging" is an olla podrida of sentences torn from the context in three different and unconnected passages of this Introduction. The only one of them which has any bearing on the point shews, though garbled, that, in attributing motives, I distinguished between Johnson and his set.
Having thus laid the ground for fixing on me opinions I had nowhere professed, the reviewer asks, "Had Mr. Hayward, when he passed such slighting judgment on the motives of the venerable sage who awes us still, no fear before his eyes of the anathema aimed by Carlyle at Croker for similar disparagement.? 'As neediness, and greediness, and vain glory are the chief qualities of most men, so no man, not even a Johnson, acts, or can think of acting, on any other principle. Whatever, therefore, cannot be referred to the two former categories, Need and Greed, is without scruple ranged under the latter.""
This style of criticism is as loose as it is unjust; for
* Edinb. Review, No. 230, p. 511,
one main ingredient in Miss Seward's mixture is Platonic love, which cannot be referred to either of the three categories. Her error lay in not adding a fourth ingredient,—the admiration which Johnson undoubtedly felt for the admitted good qualities of Mrs. Thrale. But the lady was nearer the truth than the reviewer, when he proceeds in this strain:
"We take an entirely different view at once of the character and the feelings of Johnson. Rude, uncouth, arrogant as he was spoilt as he was, which is far worse, by flattery and toadying and the silly homage of inferior worshippers-selfish as he was in his eagerness for small enjoyments and disregard of small attentions
that which lay at the very bottom of his character, that which constitutes the great source of his power in life, and connects him after death with the hearts of all of us, is his spirit of imaginative romance. He was romantic in almost all things-in politics, in religion, in his musings on the supernatural world, in friendship for men, and in love for women."
"Such was his fancied 'padrona,' his mistress,' his 'Thralia dulcis,' a compound of the bright lady of fashion and the ideal Urania who rapt his soul into spheres of perfection."
Imaginative romance in politics, in religion, and in musings on the supernatural world, is here only another term for prejudice, intolerance, bigotry, and credulity
for rabid Toryism, High Church doctrines verging on Romanism, and a confirmed belief in ghosts. Im
aginative romance in love and friendship is an elevating, softening, and refining influence, which, especially when it forms the basis of character, cannot co-exist with habitual rudeness, uncouthness, arrogance, love of toadying, selfishness, and disregard of what Johnson himself called the minor morals. Equally heterogeneous is the "compound of the bright lady of fashion and the ideal Urania." A goddess in crinoline would be a semi-mundane creature at best; and the image unluckily suggests that Johnson was unphilosophically, not to say vulgarly, fond of rank, fashion, and their appendages.
His imagination, far from being of the richest or highest kind, was insufficient for the attainment of dramatic excellence, was insufficient even for the nobler parts of criticism. Nor had he much to boast of in the way of delicacy of perception or sensibility. His strength lay in his understanding; his most powerful weapon was argument: his grandest quality was his good sense.
Thurlow, speaking of the choice of a successor to Lord Mansfield, said, "I hesitated long between the intemperance of Kenyon, and the corruption of Buller; not but what there was a d- --d deal of corruption in Kenyon's intemperance, and a dd deal of intemperance in Buller's corruption." Just so, we may hesitate long between the romance and the worldliness of Johnson, not but what there was a d—d deal of romance in his worldliness, and a d--d deal of worldliness in his romance.
The late Lord Alvanley, whose heart was as inflammable as his wit was bright, used to tell how a successful rival in the favour of a married dame offered to retire from the field for 500l., saying, "I am a younger son: her husband does not give dinners, and they have no country house: no liaison suits me that does not comprise both." At the risk of provoking Mr. Carlyle's anathema, I now avow my belief that Johnson was, nay, boasted of being, open to similar influences; and as for his "ideal Uranias," no man past seventy idealises women with whom he has been corresponding for years about his or their "natural history," to whom he sends recipes for "lubricity of the bowels," with an assurance that it has had the best effect upon his own.*
Rough language, too, although not incompatible with affectionate esteem, can hardly be reconciled with imaginative romance
"Perhaps it was right to dissemble your love,
"His ugly old wife," says the reviewer, "was an angel." Yes, an angel so far as exalted language could make her one; and he had always half-a-dozen angels or goddesses on his list.
"Je change d'objet, mais la
*Letters, vol. ii. p. 397. actually begins "My dear Angel." lines on Celia ? or the repudiation of the divine nature by Ermodotus, which occurs twice in Plutarch?
The letter containing the recipe
The late Lord Melbourne complained that two ladies of quality, sisters, told him too much of their "natural history."