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Of this curious creature I have heard Johnson tell how he remained fasting three whole days: and at the end when his consoling friend brought him a nice beefsteak, how he refused to touch it till the dish (he had no plate) had been properly rubbed over with shalot. 66 What inhabitants this world has in it!”
“ You were kind in paying my forfeits at the club; it cannot be expected that many should meet in the summer, however they that continue in town should keep up appearances as well as they can. I hope to be again among you.”—Johnson.
There is a story of poor dear Garrick, whose attention to his money-stuff never forsook him — relating that when his last day was drawing to an end, he begged a gentleman present to pay his club forfeits, “and don't let them cheat you,” added he, "for there cannot be above nine, and they will make out ten.”
At the end of the second volume of “ Letters printed several translations from Boëthius, the joint performances of Dr. Johnson and Mrs. Piozzi. She has written on the last leaf:
Book 3rd, Metre 7, being completely my own, I would not print, though Dr. Johnson commended my doing it so well, and said he could not make it either more close or more correct :
That pleasure leaves a parting pain
Soon she deposits all her sweets,
In reference to the second line in this couplet:
Fondly view'd his following bride,
she remarks :
And this beautiful line, which I saw him compose, you will find,” said I, “ in Fletcher's Bonduca.”
Impossible,” replies Dr. Johnson, “I never read a play of Beaumont and Fletcher's in my life.” This passed in Southwark: when we went to Streatham Park, I took down the volume and showed him the line.
There is an allusion to this incident in the 6 Thraliana,” and the entry is an additional illustration of the variety of her knowledge and the tenacity of her memory.
It refers to Dr. Parker's complimentary verses describing an imaginary request of Apollo to the Graces and Muses to admit her of their number, and concluding with these lines :
“ Henceforth acknowledge every pen
For a long time (she writes) I thought this conceit original, but it is not. There is an old Greek epigram only of two lines which the doctor has here spun into
length ( vide “Anthol.” lib. 7), and there is some account of it too in Bonhours.
What, however, is much more extraordinary, is that the famous Tristram Shandy itself is not absolutely original; for when I was at Derby in the summer of 1744, I strolled by mere chance into a bookseller's shop, where however I could find nothing to tempt curiosity but a strange book about Corporal Bates, which I bought and read for want of better sport, and found it to be the very novel from which Sterne took his first idea. The character of Uncle Toby, the behaviour of Corporal Trim, even the name of Tristram itself, seems to be borrowed from this stupid history of Corporal Bates, forsooth. I now wish I had pursued Mr. Murphy's advice of marking down all passages from different books which strike, by their resemblance to each other, as fast as they fell in my way; for one forgets again in the hurry and tumult of life's cares and pleasures, almost everything that one does not commit to paper.
The verses written by Bentley upon Learning, and published in Dodsley's Miscellanies, how like they are to Evelyn's verses on Virtue, published in Dryden's Miscellanies ! yet I do not suppose them a plagiarism. Old Bentley would have scorned such tricks; besides, what passed once between myself and Mr. Johnson should cure me of suspicion in these cases.
MARGINAL NOTES ON WRAXALL'S “HISTORICAL
MEMOIRS OF MY OWN TIME."
I SEND Wraxall with the quartos, that you may read something written of your poor friend as well as something written by her. His book will be a relief when you get into the dark ages of “Retrospection.” — Mrs. Piozzi to Sir James Fellowes.
Her note on Wraxall's statement relating to Marie Antoinette's first confinement is:
You see how cautious Sir N. Wraxall is — but you may likewise see through his caution. He knew no doubt better than myself, that about this time a swathed baby made of white marble was laid at the bed chamber door with this inscription :
“Je ne suis point de Cire,- subintelligitur Sire
Je suis de pierre — subintelligitur Pierre.”
A Life-Guard Man as I was informed.*
* Recent and impartial history favours the belief in Marie Antoinette's personal purity; but her indiscretion was of a nature to give rise to the coarsest scandal amongst a people whose loyalty was rapidly declining into a diametrically opposite train of feelings. In the following epigram the speakers are the Queen and Mlle. d'Oliva, the courtesan who personated her Majesty in the affair of the Diamond Necklace :
“ Vile espèce, ose tu bien
Jouer le rôle d'une reine ?
The Dauphin, who died very young, and the other, who lived to suffer still more whom every one pities, are mentioned in the 2nd vol., but I can't find the place now. Ils étoient vrais Descendans de Louis XIV., mais comment ? Juste Ciel !
In reference to Wraxall's description of the celebrated women of the day, she has pasted in copies of the following verses:
(Said to be written by Charles Fox.)*
(Said to be written by Mr. Chamberlayne, who threw himself out
of the window.)
* In the Album at Crewe Hall.