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Aetat. 67.]

Johnson's provincial accents.



of the people in Dr. Johnson's own town. He expatiated in praise of Lichfield and its inhabitants, who, he said, were 'the most sober, decent people' in England, the genteelest in proportion to their wealth, and spoke the purest English. I doubted as to the last article of this eulogy: for they had several provincial sounds; as there, pronounced like fear, instead of like fair; once pronounced woonse, instead of wunse, or wonse. Johnson himself never got entirely free of those provincial accents". Garrick sometimes used to take him off, squeezing a lemon into a punch-bowl, with uncouth gesticulations, looking round the company, and calling out, 'Who's for poonsh? '

Very little business appeared to be going forward in Lichfield. I found however two strange manufactures for so inland a place, sail-cloth and streamers for ships; and I observed them making some saddle - cloths, and dressing sheepskins: but upon the whole, the busy hand of industry seemed to be quite slackened. Surely, Sir, (said I,) you are an idle set of people.' 'Sir, (said Johnson,) we are a city of philosophers, we work with our heads, and make the boobies of Birmingham work for us with their hands.'

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England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people.' See ante, i. 341, note 3.

“I remember,” said Dr. Johnson,“when all the decent people in Lichfield got drunk every night.” Boswell's Hebrides, Aug. 19. See post, iii. 89.

He had to allow that in literature they were behind the age. Nearly four years after the publication of Evelina, he wrote :- - Whatever Burney [by Burney he meant Miss Burney) may think of the celerity of fame, the name of Evelina had never been heard at Lichfield till I brought it. I am afraid my dear townsmen will be mentioned in future days as the last part of this nation that was civilised. But the days of darkness are soon to be at an end; the reading society ordered it to be procured this week.' Piozzi Letters, ii. 221.

s See ante, ii. 182.

* Garrick himself, like the Lichfieldians, always said — shupreme, shuperior. BURNEY.

• Johnson did not always speak so disrespectfully of Birmingham. In his Taxation no Tyranny (Works, vi. 228), he wrote :—* The traders of Birmingham have rescued themselves from all imputation of nar




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Garrick's conversation.

(A.D. 1776.

There was at this time a company of players performing at Lichfield. The manager, Mr. Stanton, sent his compliments, and begged leave to wait on Dr. Johnson. Johnson received him very courteously, and he drank a glass of wine with us. He was a plain decent well-behaved man, and expressed his gratitude to Dr. Johnson for having once got him permission from Dr. Taylor at Ashbourne to play there upon moderate terms. Garrick's name was soon introduced. JOHNSON. ‘Garrick's conversation is gay and grotesque. It is a dish of all sorts, but all good things. There is no solid meat in it: there is a want of sentiment in it. Not but that he has sentiment sometimes, and sentiment, too, very powerful and very pleasing: but it has not its full proportion in his conversation.'

When we were by ourselves he told me, ‘Forty years ago, Sir, I was in love with an actress here, Mrs. Emmet, who acted Flora, in Hob in the Well. What merit this lady had as an actress, or what was her figure, or her manner, I have not been informed: but, if we may believe Mr. Garrick, his old master's taste in theatrical merit was by no means refined'; he was not an elegans formarum spectator! Garrick used to tell, that Johnson said of an actor, who played Sir Harry Wildair' at Lichfield, “There is a courtly vivacity about the fellow;' when in fact, according to Garrick's account,' he was the most vulgar ruffian that ever went upon

boards.' We had promised Mr. Stanton to be at his theatre on Monday.

Dr. Johnson jocularly proposed me to write a

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row selfishness by a manly recommendation to Parliament of the rights and dignity of their native country.' The boobies in this case were sound Tories.

* This play was Cibber's Hob; or The Country Wake, with additions, which in its turn was Dogget's Country Wake reduced. Reed's Biog. Dram. ii. 307.

? Boswell says, post, under Sept. 30, 1783, that ^ Johnson had thought more upon the subject of acting than might be generally supposed.'

3 A nice observer of the female form. CROKER. Terence, Eun.


jii. 5.


In Farquhar's Comedy of Sir Harry Wildair.


Aetat. 67.)

Mr. Green's museum.



Prologue for the occasion : ‘A Prologue, by James Boswell, Esq. from the Hebrides.' I was really inclined to take the hint. Methought, “Prologue, spoken before Dr. Samuel Johnson, at Lichfield, 1776;' would have sounded as well as, “ Prologue, spoken before the Duke of York, at Oxford,' in Charles the Second's time. Much might have been said of what Lichfield had done for Shakespeare, by producing Johnson and Garrick. But I found he was averse to it.

. We went and viewed the museum of Mr. Richard Green, apothecary here, who told me he was proud of being a relation of Dr. Johnson's. It was, truely, a wonderful collection, both of antiquities and natural curiosities, and ingenious works of art. He had all the articles accurately arranged, with their names upon labels, printed at his own little press; and on the staircase leading to it was a board, with the names of contributors marked in gold letters. A printed catalogue of the collection was to be had at a bookseller's. Johnson expressed his admiration of the activity and diligence and good fortune of Mr. Green, in getting together, in his situation, so great a variety of things; and Mr. Green told me that Johnson once said to him, 'Sir, I should as soon have thought of building a man of war, as of collecting such a museum.' Mr. Green's obliging alacrity in shewing it was very pleasing. His engraved portrait, with which he has favoured me, has a motto truely characteristical of his disposition, Nemo sibi vivat.'

A physician being mentioned who had lost his practice, because his whimsically changing his religion had made people distrustful of him, I maintained that this was unreasonable, as religion is unconnected with medical skill. JOHNSON. “Sir, it is not unreasonable; for when people see a man absurd in what they understand, they may conclude the same of him in what they do not understand. If a physician were to take to eating of horse - flesh, nobody would employ him; though one may eat horse-flesh, and be a very skilful physician. If a man were educated in an absurd religion, his continuing to profess it would not hurt him, though his changing to it would.'




Dining with friends.

[A.D. 1776.

We drank tea and coffee at Mr. Peter Garrick's, where was Mrs. Aston, one of the maiden sisters of Mrs. Walmsley, wife of Johnson's first friend', and sister also of the lady of whom Johnson used to speak with the warmest admiration, by the name of Molly Aston', who was afterwards married to Captain Brodie of the navy.

On Sunday, March 24, we breakfasted with Mrs. Cobb, a widow lady, who lived in an agreeable sequestered place close by the town, called the Friary, it having been formerly a religious house. She and her niece, Miss Adey, were great admirers of Dr. Johnson; and he behaved to them with a kindness and easy pleasantry, such as we see between old and intimate acquaintance. He accompanied Mrs. Cobb to St. Mary's church, and I went to the cathedral, where I was very much delighted with the musick, finding it to be peculiarly solemn and accordant with the words of the service.

We dined at Mr. Peter Garrick's, who was in a very lively humour, and verified Johnson's saying, that if he had cultivated gaiety as much as his brother David, he might have equally excelled in it. He was to-day quite a London narrator, telling us a variety of anecdotes with that earnestness and attempt at mimicry which we usually find in the wits of the metropolis. Dr. Johnson went with me to the cathedral in the afternoon'. It was grand and pleasing to contemplate this illustrious writer, now full of fame, worshipping in the ‘solemn temple' of his native city.

I returned to tea and coffee at Mr. Peter Garrick's, and then found Dr. Johnson at the Reverend Mr. Seward's', Canon Residentiary, who inhabited the Bishop's palace',

· Gilbert Walmsley, ante, i. 94.

See ante, i. 96. • Cradock (Memoirs, i. 74) says that in the Cathedral porch, a gentleman, who might, perhaps, be too ambitious to be thought an acquaintance of the great Literary Oracle, ventured to say, “ Dr. Johnson, we have had a most excellent discourse to-day,” to which he replied, “ That may be, Sir, but it is impossible for you to know it." ' * The Tempest, act. iv. sc. I.

6 See post, iii. 172. Johnson, in 1763, advising Miss Porter to rent a house, said :-You might have the Palace for twenty pounds.' Croker's Boswell, p. 145.


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