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son, “I thank you. It is a very handsome compliment, and I believe you speak sincerely."
He was in the habit of paying the most minute attention to every branch of domestic economy, and his suggestions are invariably marked by shrewdness and good sense. Thus when Mrs. Thrale was giving evening parties, he told her that, though few people might be hungry after a late dinner, she should always have a good supply of cakes and sweetmeats on a side table, and that some cold meat and a bottle of wine would often be found acceptable. Notwithstanding the imperfection of his eyesight, and his own slovenliness, he was a critical observer of female dress and demeanor, and found fault without ceremony or compunction when any of his canons of taste or propriety were infringed. Several amusing examples are enumerated by Mrs. Thrale :
“I commended a young lady for her beauty and pretty behavior one day, however, to whom I thought no objections could have been made. •I saw her,' said Dr. Johnson, 'take a pair of scissors in her left hand though ; and for all her father is now become a nobleman, and as you say excessively rich, I should, were I a youth of quality ten years hence, hesitate between a girl so neglected, and a negro.'
" It was indeed astonishing how he could remark such minuteness with a sight so miserably imperfect; but no accidental position of a riband escaped him, so nice was his observation, and so rigorous his demands of propriety. When I went with him to Lichfield, and came down stairs to breakfast at the inn, my dress did not please him, and he made me alter it entirely before he would stir a step with us about the town, saying most satirical things concerning the appearance I made in a riding-habit; and adding, “ 'T is very strange that such eyes as yours cannot discern propriety of dress : if I had a sight only half as good, I think I should see to the centre.'
“Another lady, whose accomplishments he never denied, came to our house one day covered with diamonds, feathers, &c., and he did not seem inclined to chat with her as usual. I asked him why? when the company was gone. “Why, her head looked so like that of a woman who shows puppets,” said he, “and her
voice so confirmed the fancy, that I could not bear her to-day ; when she wears a large cap, I can talk to her.'
“When the ladies wore lace trimmings to their clothes, he expressed his contempt of the reigning fashion in these terms : ‘A Brussels trimming is like bread-sauce,' said he, “it takes away the glow of color from the gown, and gives you nothing instead of it ; but sauce was invented to heighten the flavor of our food, and trimming is an ornament to the manteau, or it is nothing. Learn,' said he, that there is propriety or impropriety in everything how slight soever, and get at the general principles of dress and of behavior ; if you then transgress them, you will at least know that they are not observed.'”
Madame D'Arblay confirms this account. He had just been finding fault with a bandeau worn by Lady Lade, a very large woman, standing six feet high without her shoes :
“ Dr. J. — The truth is, women, take them in general, have no idea of grace. Fashion is all they think of. I don't mean Mrs. Thrale and Miss Burney, when I talk of women !- they are goddesses ! — and therefore I except them.
“ Mrs. Thrale. — Lady Lade never wore the bandeau, and said she never would, because it is unbecoming.
“ Dr J. (laughing). — Did not she ? then is Lady Lade a charming woman, and I have yet hopes of entering into engagements with her!
“ Mrs. T. - Well, as to that I can't say ; but to be sure, the only similitude I have yet discovered in you, is in size : there you agree mighty well.
“ Dr. J. – Why, if anybody could have worn the bandeau, it must have been Lady Lade ; for there is enough of her to carry
it off; but you are too little for anything ridiculous ; that which –2 ūtiņâm2Ẹ2ỨŻâtiņâÂ2ÒâÒâ§âm2?2/2ņēģ22/2/2/2/2/2/2/222222 upon a Lilliputian, and of you there is so little in all, that one single absurdity would swallow up half of you.”
Matrimony was one of his favorite subjects, and he was fond of laying down and refining on the duties of the married state, and the amount of happiness and comfort to be found in it. But once when he was musing over the fire in the drawing-room at Streatham, a young gentleman called to him suddenly, “Mr. Johnson, would you advise me to marry ?” “I would advise no man to marry, Sir," replied the Doctor in a very angry tone, “who is not likely to propagate understanding ;” and so left the room. “Our companion,” adds Mrs. Thrale, in the “ Anecdotes," “ looked confounded, and I believe had scarce recovered the consciousness of his own existence, when Johnson came back, and, drawing his chair among us, with altered looks and a softened voice, joined in the general chat, insensibly led the conversation to the subject of marriage, where he laid himself out in a dissertation so useful, so elegant, so founded on the true knowledge of human life, and so adorned with beauty of sentiment, that no one ever recollected the offence, except to rejoice in its consequences.”
The young gentleman was Mr. Thrale's nephew, Siv John Lade; who was proposed, half in earnest, whilst still a minor, by the Doctor as a fitting mate for the author of " Evelina." He married a woman of the town, became a celebrated member of the Four-in-Hand Club, and contrived to waste the whole of a fine fortune before he died.
In “ Thraliana” she says: “ Lady Lade consulted him about her son, Sir John. •Endeavor, Madam,' said he (Johnson), to procure him knowledge ; for really ignorance to a rich man is like fat to a sick sheep, it only serves to call the rooks about him. On the same occasion it was that he observed how a mind unfurnished with subjects and materials for thinking can keep up no dignity at all in solitude. “It is,' says he,“ in the state of a mill without grist.'”
The attractions of Streatham must have been very strong, to induce Johnson to pass so much of his time away from “the busy hum of men” in Fleet Street, and “the full tide of human existence" at Charing Cross. He often found fault with Mrs. Thrale for living so much in the country, “ feeding the chickens till she starved her understanding.” Walking in a wood when it rained, she tells us, “was the only rural image he pleased his fancy with; for he would say, after one has gathered the apples in an orchard, one wishes them well baked, and removed to a London eatinghouse for enjoyment.” This is almost as bad as the foreigner, who complained that there was no ripe fruit in England but the
JOHNSON'S FONDNESS FOR A CARRIAGE.
roasted apples. Amongst other modes of passing time in the country, Johnson once or twice tried hunting, and, mounted on an old horse of Mr. Thrale's, acquitted himself to the surprise of the “ field,” one of whom delighted him by exclaiming, “ Why, Johnson rides as well, for aught I see, as the most illiterate fellow in England.” But a trial or two satisfied him.
“He thought at heart like courtly Chesterfield,
It is very strange, and very melancholy, was his reflection, that the paucity of human pleasures should persuade us ever to call hunting one of them. The mode of locomotion in which he delighted was the vehicular. As he was driving rapidly in a postchaise with Boswell, he exclaimed, “ Life bas not many things better than this.” On their way from Dr. Taylor's to Derby in 1777, he said, “ If I had no duties, and no reference to futurity, I would spend my life in driving briskly in a postchaise with a pretty woman, but she should be one who could understand me, and would add something to the conversation."
Mr. Croker attributes his enjoyment to the novelty of the pleasure ; his poverty having in early life prevented him from travelling post. But a better reason is given by Mrs. Thrale :
“I asked him why he doted on a coach so ? and received for answer, that in the first place, the company were shut in with him there ; and could not escape, as out of a room ; in the next place, he heard all that was said in a carriage, where it was my turn to be deaf: and very impatient was he at my occasional difficulty of hearing. On this account he wished to travel all over the world ; for the very act of going forward was delightful to him, and he gave himself no concern about accidents, which he said never happened ; nor did the running away of the horses on the edge of a precipice between Vernon and St. Denys in France convince him to the contrary: ‘for nothing came of it,' he said,
except that Mr. Thrale leaped out of the carriage into a chalkpit, and then came up again, looking as white !' When the truth was, all their lives were saved by the greatest providence ever exerted in favor of three human creatures ; and the part Mr. Thrale took from desperation was the likeliest thing in the world to produce broken limbs and death.”
The drawbacks on his gratification and on that of his fellowtravellers were his physical defects, and his utter insensibility to the beauty of nature, as well as to the fine arts, in so far as they were addressed to the senses of sight and hearing. “He delighted,” says Mrs. Thrale, “ no more in music than painting ; he was almost as deaf as he was blind ; travelling with Dr. Johnson was, for these reasons, tiresome enough. Mr. Thrale loved prospects, and was mortified that his friend could not enjoy the sight of those different dispositions of wood and water, hill and valley, that travelling through England and France affords a man. But when he wished to point them out to his companion : 'Never heed such nonsense,' would be the reply: “a blade of grass is always a blade of grass, whether in one country or another: let us, if we do talk, talk about something; men and women are my subjects of inquiry ; let us see how these differ from those we have left behind.”
It is no small deduction from our admiration of Johnson, and no trifling enhancement of his friends' kindness in tolerating his eccentricities, that he seldom made allowance for his own palpable and undeniable deficiencies. As well might a blind man deny the existence of colors, as a purblind man assert that there was no charm in a prospect or in a Claude or Titian, because he could see none. Once, by way of pleasing Reynolds, he pretended to lament that the great painter's genius was not exerted on stuff more durable than canvas, and suggested copper. Sir Joshua urged the difficulty of procuring plates large enough for historical subjects. “What foppish obstacles are these !” exclaimed Johnson. “ Here is Thrale has a thousand ton of copper : you may paint it all round if you will, I suppose ; it will serve him to brew in afterwards. Will it not, Sir ? ” (to Thrale who sat by.)
He always “civilized” to Dr. Burney, who has supplied the following anecdote :-
“ After having talked slightingly of music, he was observed to listen very attentively while Miss Thrale played on the barpsi. chord ; and with eagerness he called to her, “Why don't you dash