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a very celebrated lady, was then just come to London from an obscure situation in the country. At Sir Joshua Reynolds's one evening, she met Dr. Johnson. She very soon began to pay her court to him in the most fulsome strain. "Spare me, I beseech you, dear Madam,' was his reply. She still laid it on. “Pray, Madam, let us have no more of this,' he rejoined. Not paying any attention to these warnings, she continued still her eulogy. At length, provoked by this indelicate and vain obtrusion of compliments, he exclaimed, Dearest lady, consider with yourself what your flattery is worth, before you bestow it so freely.'

“How different does this story appear, when accompanied with all those circumstances which really belong to it, but which Mrs. Thrale either did not know, or has suppressed !”

How do we know that these circumstances really belong to it? what essential difference do they make ? and how do they prove Mrs. Thrale's inaccuracy, who expressly states the nature of the probable, though certainly most inadequate, provocation.

The other instance is a story which she tells us, on Mr. Thrale's authority, of an argument between Johnson and a gentleman, which the master of the house, a nobleman, tried to cut short by saying, loud enough for the Doctor to hear, “Our friend has no meaning in all this, except just to relate at the Club to-morrow how he teased Johnson at dinner to-day; this is all to do himself honor.” “No, upon my word,” replied the other, “I see no honor in it, whatever you may do." Well, Sir," returned Mr. Johnson, sternly, “if you do not see the honor, I am sure I feel the disgrace.” Malone, on the authority of a nameless friend, assorts that it was not at the house of a nobleman, that the gentleman's remark was uttered in a low tone, and that Johnson made no retort at all. As Mrs. Piozzi could hardly have invented the story, the sole question is, whether Mr. Thrale or Malone's friend was right. She has written in the margin: was the house of Thomas Fitzmaurice, son to Lord Shelburne, and Pottinger the hero."

“ Mrs. Piozzi,” says Boswell, “has given a similar misrepresentation of Johnson's treatment of Garrick in this particular (as to the Club), as if he had used these contemptuous expressions : * If Garrick does apply, I'll blackball him. Surely one ought to sit in a society like ours —

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“ Unelbowed by a gamester, pimp, or player.'” The lady retorts, “ He did say so, and Mr. Thrale stood astonished.” Johnson was constantly depreciating the profession of

the stage.

Whilst finding fault with Mrs. Piozzi for inaccuracy in another place, Boswell supplies an additional example of Johnson's habitual disregard of the ordinary rules of good breeding in society :

“ A learned gentleman (Dr. Vansittart], who, in the course of conversation, wished to inform us of this simple fact, that the council

upon the circuit of Shrewsbury were much bitten by fleas, took, I

suppose, seven or eight minutes in relating it circumstantially. He in a plenitude of phrase told us, that large bales of woollen cloth were lodged in the town-hall; that by reason of this, fleas nestled there in prodigious numbers; that the lodgings of the council were near the town-hall; and that those little animals moved from place to place with wonderful agility. Johnson sat in great impatience till the gentleman had finished his tedious narrative, and then burst out (playfully, however), 'It is a pity, Sir, that you have not seen a lion; for a flea has taken


such a time, that a lion must have served you a twelvemonth.””

He complains in a note that Mrs. Piozzi, to whom he told the anecdote, has related it “as if the gentleman had given the natural history of the mouse.” But, in a letter to Johnson, she tells him, “I have seen the man that saw the mouse," and he replies, “ Poor V-, he is a good man,” &c.; so that her version of the story is the best authenticated. Opposite Boswell's aggressive paragraph she has written : “I saw old Mitchell of Brighthelmstone affront bim (Johnson) terribly once about fleas. Johnson being tired of the subject, expressed his impatience of it with coarseness. “Why, Sir,' said the old man, 'why should not Flea bite o' me be treated as Phlebotomy? It empties the capillary vessels.''

Boswell's Life of Johnson was not published till 1791 ; but the controversy kindled by the Tour to the Hebrides and the Anecdotes raged fiercely enough to fix general attention and afford ample scope for ridicule : “ The Bozzi, &c. subjects,” writes Hannah More in April, 1786, “ are not exhausted, though everybody


seems heartily sick of them. Everybody, however, conspires not to let them drop. That, the Cagliostro, and the Cardinal's necklace, spoil all conversation, and destroyed a very good evening at Mr. Pepys' last night." In one of Walpole's letters about the same time we find :

“ All conversation turns on a trio of culprits, — Hastings, Fitzgerald, and the Cardinal de Rohan. . . . . So much for tragedy. Our comic performers are Boswell and Dame Piozzi. The cock biographer has fixed a direct lie on the hen, by an advertisement in which he affirms that he communicated his manuscript to Madame Thrale, and that she made no objection to what he says of her low opinion of Mrs. Montagu's book. It is very possible that it might not be her real opinion, but was uttered in compliment to Johnson, or for fear he should spit in her face if she disagreed with him ; but how will she get over her not objecting to the passage remaining ? She must have known, by knowing Boswell, and by having a similar intention herself, that his Anecdotes' would certainly be published: in short, the ridiculous woman will be strangely disappointed. As she must have heard that the whole first impression of her book was sold the first day, no doubt she expected on her landing to be received like the governor of Gibraltar, and to find the road strewed with branches of palm. She, and Boswell, and their Hero are the joke of the public. A Dr. Walcot, soi-disant Peter Pindar, has published a burlesque eclogue, in which Boswell and the Signora are the interlocutors, and all the absurdest passages in the works of both are ridiculed. The print-shops teem with satiric prints in them : one in which Boswell, as a monkey, is riding on Johnson, the bear, has this witty inscription, My Friend delineavit? But enough of these mountebanks.”

What Walpole calls the absurdest passages are precisely those which possess most interest for posterity ; namely, the minute personal details, which bring Johnson home to the mind's eye. Peter Pindar, however, was simply acting in his vocation when he made the best of them, as in the following lines. His satire is in the form of a Town Eclogue, in which Bozzy and Piozzi contend in anecdotes, with Hawkins for umpire :

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“ Did any one, that he was happy, cry
Johnson would tell him plumply, ’t was a lie.
A Lady told him she was really so;
On which he sternly answered, “ Madam, no!
Sickly you are, and ugly, — foolish, poor;
And therefore can't be happy, I am sure.
'T would make a fellow hang himself, whose ear
Were, from such creatures, forced such stuff to hear.'”


“Lo, when we landed on the Isle of Mull,
The megrims got into the Doctor's skull:
With such bad humors he began to fill,
I thought he would not go to Icolmkill:
But lo! those megrims (wonderful to utter!)
Were banished all by tea and bread and butter!”

At last they get angry, and tell each a few home truths :

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" Who, from M.Donald's rage to save his snout, Cut twenty lines of defamation out ? "


" Who would have said a word about Sam's wig,
Or told the story of the peas and pig?
Who would have told a tale so very flat,
Of Frank the Black, and Hodge the mangy cat?”


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Good me! you 're grown at once confounded tender ; Of Doctor Johnson's fame a fierce defender: I'm sure you've mentioned many a pretty story Not much redounding to the Doctor's glory. Now for a saint upon us you would palm him – First murder the poor man, and then embalm him!'


“ Well, Ma'am! since all that Johnson said or wrote, You hold so sacred, how have you forgot To grant the wonder-hunting world a reading Of Sam's Epistle, just before your wedding ; Beginning thus (in strains not formed to flatter),



If that most ignominious matter
Be not concluded'

Farther shall I say?
No — we shall have it from yourself some day,
To justify your passion for the Youth,
With all the charms of eloquence and truth.”


“What was my marriage, Sir, to you or him? He tell me what to do! — a pretty whim! He, to propriety (the beast) resort ! As well might elephants preside at court. Lord! let the world to damn my match agree ; Good God! James Boswell, what's that world to me? The folks who paid respects to Mistress Thrale, Fed on her pork, poor souls! and swilled her ale, May sicken at Piozzi, nine in ten Turn up the nose of scorn — good God! what then? For

me, the Devil may fetch their souls so great ; They keep their homes, and I, thank God, my meat. When they, poor owls! shall beat their cage, a jail, I, unconfined, shall spread my peacock tail; Free as the birds of air, enjoy my ease, Choose my own food, and see what climes I please.

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