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mount to her chamber ere they returned, and did not come down till Mr. Boswell was gone.'—p. 190-197.
We have no doubt that these details are greatly overcharged. Johnson's assumption of authority over Beswell is childish, and, we think, evidently a caricature. We doubt, too, that the allusion to the Brangtons' occurred on this occasion, as we know that Johnson used it on another, (Letters to Mrs. Thrale, April 11, 1780,) and think he would hardly, after its having occasioned so remarkable a scene, have repeated it to one of the original party. Nor do we believe, that, in the year 1779, when this transaction must have happened, it was considered ill-bred to rise from a morning collation before the eloth was removed.
In fact, there are many little circumstances scattered through the work, which induce us to doubt the accuracy of some of Madame d'Arblay's recollections. For instance, in an account of a conversation with General Paoli, which-though, according to her usual negligence or caution, it is undated-must have taken place about the end of 1782, she describes the General as toasting Dr. Johnson's health, 'with smiling pomposity, as "the Great Vagabond," meaning to designate Dr. Johnson as “the Rambler.”(ii. 258.) Now Boswell, under the date 1779, tells us of an Italian translation of · The Rambler,' which a certain foreign minister had mentioned to Johnson, and which he (Boswell) had been informed was ludicrously rendered Il Vagabondo' (Croker's Boswell, iv., p. 287). If Paoli used the expression at all, it must have been in playful allusion to this prior misnomer, and not as meaning with pomposity' to designate • The Rambler' as
The Great Vagabond ;' moreover, Paoli had been above thirteen years resident in London, and in habits of intimacy with Dr. Johnson, at the time that Madame d'Arblay attributes to him this blunder, which would have been hardly credible after an acquaintance of three months. Circumstances of this nature, and there are many such, confirm a very natural suspicion, that the details of Madame d'Arblay's reminiscences-after a lapse of above fifty years—are not always to be implicitly relied on.
But her anecdotes of Dr. Johnson are more likely to be exact, because she professes to extract them from letters written by her at the time.
• Dr. Johnson was announced! Everybody rose to do him honour; and he returned the attention with the most formal courtesy. My father then, having welcomed him with the warmest respect, whispered to him that music was going forward ; which he would not, my father thinks, have found out; and placing him on the best seat vacant, told his daughters to go on with the duet; while Dr. Johnson, intently rolling towards them one eye-for they say he does not see with the 1 2
other-made a grave nod, and gave a dignified motion with one hand, in silent approvance of the proceeding.
He is indeed very ill-favoured! Yet he has naturally a noble figure; tall, stout, grand, and authoritative: but he stoops horribly ; his back is quite round : his mouth is continually opening and shutting, as if he were chewing something; he has a singular method of twirling his fingers and twisting his hands; his vast body is in constant agitation, see-sawing backwards and forwards; his feet are never a moment quiet; and his whole great person looked often as if it were going to roll itself quite voluntarily from his chair to the floor.
His dress, considering the times, and that he had meant to put on all his best-becomes, for he was engaged to dine with a very fine party at Mrs. Montagu's, was as much out of the common road as his figure. He had a large, full, bushy wig, a snuff-colour coat, with gold buttons, (or, peradventure, brass,) but no ruffles to his doughty fists; and not, I suppose, to be taken for a Blue, though going to the Blue Queen, he had on very coarse black worsted stockings. He is shockingly near-sighted ; a thousand times more so than either my Padre or myself. He did not even know Mrs. Thrale till she held out her hand to him, which she did very engagingly.
• When the duet was finished, my father introduced your Hettina’ (Miss Hester Burney, the eldest daughter) ' to him, as an old acquaintance, to whom, when she was a little girl, he had presented his Idler. His answer to this was imprinting on her pretty face-not a half touch of a courtly salute—but a good, real, substantial, and very loud kiss. Everybody was obliged to stroke their chins, that they might hide their mouths. Beyond this chaste embrace, his attention was not to be drawn off two minutes longer from the books, to which he now strided his way; for we had left the drawing-room for the library, on account of the piano-forte. He pored over them, shelf by shelf, almost brushing them with his eye-lashes from near examination. At last, fixing upon something that happened to hit his fancy, he took it down, and, standing aloof from the company, which he seemed clean and clear to forget, he began without further ceremony, and very composedly, to read to himself; and as intently as if he had been alone in his own study. We were all excessively provoked: for we were languishing, fretting, expiring, to hear him talk- not to see him read !-what could that do for us? My sister then played another duet, accompanied by my father, to which Miss Thrale seemed very attentive; and all the rest quietly resigned. But Dr. Johnson had opened a volume of the British Encyclopedia, and was so deeply engaged, that the music, probably, never reached his ears. When it was over, Mrs. Thrale, in a laughing manner, said, “ Pray, Dr. Burney, will you be so good as to tell me what that song was, and whose, which Savoi sung last night at Bach's concert, and which you did not hear ?” My father confessed himself by no means so able a diviner, not having had time to consult the stars, though he lived in the house of Sir Isaac Newton. But anxious to draw Dr. Johnson into conversation, he ventured to interrupt him with
Mrs. Thrale’s conjuring request relative to Bach's concert. The Doctor, comprehending his drift, good-naturedly put away his book, and, see-sawing, with a very humorous smile, drolly repeated, “ Bach, Sir?-Bach's concert ?—And pray, Sir, who is Bach?—Is he a piper?” You may imagine what exclamations followed such a question. Mrs. Thrale gave a detailed account of the nature of the concert, and the fame of Mr. Bach; and the many charming performances she had heard, with all their varieties, in his rooms. When there was a pause, “ Pray, Madam,” said he, with the calmest gravity, “ what is the expense for all this?”
0," answered she, “ the expense is--much trouble and solicitation to obtain a subscriber's ticket-or else, half-aguinea." “ Trouble and solicitation,” he replied, " I will have nothing to do with !-but, if it be so fine,- I would be willing to give," — he hesitated, and then finished with—« eighteen pence.—Ha! ha!-" Chocolate being then brought, we returned to the drawing-room; and Dr. Johnson, when drawn away from the books, freely, and with social good-humour, gave himself up to conversation.
· The intended dinner of Mrs. Montagu being mentioned, Dr. Johnson laughingly told us that he had received the most flattering note that he had ever read, or that anybody else had ever read, of invitation from that lady. “ So have I, too,” cried Mrs. Thrale. “So, if a note from Mrs. Montague is to be boasted of, I beg mine may not be forgotten." “ Your note, Madam,” cried Dr. Johnson, smiling, can bear no comparison with mine ; for I am at the head of all the philosophers-she says." " And I," returned Mrs. Thrale, “ have all the Muses in my train.” “ A fair battle !" cried my father; “ come! compliment for compliment; and see who will hold out longest.” “I am afraid for Mrs. Thrale," said Mr. Seward ; " for I know that Mrs. Montagu exerts all her forces, when she sings the praises of Dr. Johnson.” “ O yes !" cried Mrs. Thrale," she has often praised him till he has been ready to faint.” Well,” said
father, you two ladies must get him fairly between you to-day, and see which can lay on the paint the thickest, Mrs. Montagu or Mrs. Thrale.” “I had rather,” said the Doctor, very composedly, “ go to Bach's concert !”—p. 90-96.
The account of this morning visit is spread out over fourteen pages-Boswell would have given all the pith and character of it in two or three. Long as this extract has been, we must add an account of Madame d'Arblay's last interview with her admirable friend, also extracted from a cotemporary letter. .
• 25th Nov. 1784.-You will easily conceive how gladly I seized the opportunity of making a longer visit than usual to my revered Dr. Johnson, whose health, since his return from Litchfield, has been deplorably deteriorated. He was alone, and I had a more satisfactory and entertaining conversation with him than I have had for many months past. He was in better spirits, too, than I have seen him, except upon our first meeting, since he came back to Bolt Court. He owned, nevertheless, that his nights were grievously restless and painful; and told me that he was going, by medical advice, to try what sleeping out of town might do for him. And then, with a smile, but a smile of more sadness than mirth!-he added : " I remember that my wife, when she was near her end, poor woman - was also advised to sleep out of town: and when she was carried to the lodging that had been prepared for her, she complained that the staircase was in very bad condition ; for the plaster was beaten off the walls in many places. “O!" said the man of the house, “ that's nothing ; it's only the knocks against it of the coffins of the poor sonls that have died in the lodging." He forced a faint laugh at the man's brutal honesty ; but it was a laugh of ill-disguised, though checked, secret anguish. I felt inexpressibly shocked, both by the perspective and retrospective view of this relation ; but, desirous to confine my words to the literal story, I only exclaimed against the man's un feeling absurdity in making so unnecessary a confession. " True !" he cried ; “ such a confession to a person then mounting his stairs for the recovery of her health—or, rather, for the preservation of her life, contains, indeed, more absurdity than we can well lay our account to.”
• We talked then of poor Mrs. Thrale' (she had now become Mrs. Piozzi) —but only for a moment for I saw him so greatly moved, and with such severity of displeasure, that I hastened to start another subject; and he solemnly enjoined me to mention that no more!
gave him concisely the history of the Bristol milk-woman,* who is at present zealously patronized by the benevolent Hannah More. expressed my surprise at the reports generally in circulation, that the first authors that the milk-woman read, if not the only ones, were Milton and Young. “I find it difficult," I added, “ to conceive how Milton and Young could be the first authors with any reader. Could a child understand them? And grown persons, who have never read, are, in literature, children still.” “ Doubtless," he answered. " But there is nothing so little comprehended as what is Genius. They give it to all, when it can be but a part. The milk-woman had surely begun with some ballad—Chevy Chase or the Children in the Wood. Genius is, in fact, knowing the use of tools. But there must be tools, or how use them ? A man who has spent all his life in this room, will give a very poor account of what is contained in the next."
“ Certainly, Sir; and yet there is such a thing as invention? Shakspeare could never have seen a Caliban ?" No; but he had seen a man, and knew how to vary him to a monster. A person, who could draw a monstrous cow, must know first what a cow is commonly; or how can he tell that to give her an ass's head, or an elephant's tusk, will make her monstrous ? Suppose you show me a man, who is a very expert carpenter, and that an admiring stander-by, looking at some of his works, exclaims, 'O! he was born a carpenter! What would have become of that birth-right, if he had never seen any wood ?" Presently, dwelling on this idea, he went on :-“ Let two men, one with genius, the other with none, look together at an overturned waggon; he who has no genius will think of the waggon only as he then sees * Ann Yearsley. See Soutbey's · Essay on Uneducated Poets.'
* be not
it—that is to say, overturned—and walk on: he who has genius will give it a glance of examination, that will paint it to his imagination such as it was previously to its being overturned; and when it was standing still; and when it was in motion ; and when it was heavy loaded ; and when it was empty: but both alike must see the waggon to think of it at all.”
• The pleasure with which I listened to his illustration now animated him on; and he talked upon this milk-woman, and upon a once as famous shoemaker ;* and then mounted his spirits and his subject to our immortal Shakspeare, flowing and glowing on, with as much wit and truth of criticism and judgment, as ever yet I have heard him display. Delightfully bright are his faculties, though the poor, infirm, shaken machine that contains them seems alarmingly giving way! And soon, exhilarated as he became by the pleasure of bestowing pleasure, I saw a palpable increase of suffering in the midst of his sallies; I offered, therefore, to go into the next room, there to wait for the carriage ; an offer which, for the first time! he did not oppose; but taking, and most affectionately pressing, both my hands, “ Be not," he said, in a voice of even melting kindness and concern, longer in coming again for my letting you go now!” I eagerly assured him I would come the sooner, and was running off; but he called me back, and in a solemn voice, and a manner the most energetic, said, “ Remember me in your prayers !”-vol. iii. p. 2-7.
Of Dr. Burney's interview with their Majesties George III. and Queen Charlotte, when admitted to the honour of presenting them with his account of the Commemoration of Handel, we have the following report :
*He found their Majesties together, without any attendants or any state, in the library; where he presented both to the King and to the Queen a copy of his Commemoration. They had the appearance of being in a serene tête-à-tête, that bore every mark of frank and cheerful intercourse. His reception was the most gracious; and they both seemed eager to look at his offerings, which they instantly opened and examined. “ You have made, Dr. Burney,” said his Majesty, “a much more considerable book of this Commemoration than I had expected; or, perhaps, than you had expected yourself?” “ Yes, Sire,” he answered ; "the subject grew upon me as I proceeded, and a continual accumulation of materials rendered it almost daily more interesting." His Majesty then detailed his opinion of the various performers; and said that one thing only had discredited the business, and that was the inharmonious manner in which one of the bass singers had sung his part; which had really been more like a man groaning in a fit of the cholic, than singing an air. The Doctor laughingly agreed that such sort of execution certainly more resembled a convulsive noise, proceeding from some one in torture, than any species of harmony ; and
* Mr. Woodhouse. See Southey's ' Essay on Uneducated Poets,' or our review of that work in No. lxxxvii.