Samuel Johnson eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 213 pages of information about Samuel Johnson.
affected in her manners.  She is said to have treated her husband with some contempt, adopting the airs of an antiquated beauty, which he returned by elaborate deference.  Garrick used his wonderful powers of mimicry to make fun of the uncouth caresses of the husband, and the courtly Beauclerc used to provoke the smiles of his audience by repeating Johnson’s assertion that “it was a love-match on both sides.”  One incident of the wedding-day was ominous.  As the newly-married couple rode back from church, Mrs. Johnson showed her spirit by reproaching her husband for riding too fast, and then for lagging behind.  Resolved “not to be made the slave of caprice,” he pushed on briskly till he was fairly out of sight.  When she rejoined him, as he, of course, took care that she should soon do, she was in tears.  Mrs. Johnson apparently knew how to regain supremacy; but, at any rate, Johnson loved her devotedly during life, and clung to her memory during a widowhood of more than thirty years, as fondly as if they had been the most pattern hero and heroine of romantic fiction.

Whatever Mrs. Johnson’s charms, she seems to have been a woman of good sense and some literary judgment.  Johnson’s grotesque appearance did not prevent her from saying to her daughter on their first introduction, “This is the most sensible man I ever met.”  Her praises were, we may believe, sweeter to him than those of the severest critics, or the most fervent of personal flatterers.  Like all good men, Johnson loved good women, and liked to have on hand a flirtation or two, as warm as might be within the bounds of due decorum.  But nothing affected his fidelity to his Letty or displaced her image in his mind.  He remembered her in many solemn prayers, and such words as “this was dear Letty’s book:”  or, “this was a prayer which dear Letty was accustomed to say,” were found written by him in many of her books of devotion.

Mrs. Johnson had one other recommendation—­a fortune, namely, of L800—­little enough, even then, as a provision for the support of the married pair, but enough to help Johnson to make a fresh start.  In 1736, there appeared an advertisement in the Gentleman’s Magazine.  “At Edial, near Lichfield, in Staffordshire, young gentlemen are boarded and taught the Latin and Greek languages by Samuel Johnson.”  If, as seems probable, Mrs. Johnson’s money supplied the funds for this venture, it was an unlucky speculation.

Johnson was not fitted to be a pedagogue.  Success in that profession implies skill in the management of pupils, but perhaps still more decidedly in the management of parents.  Johnson had little qualifications in either way.  As a teacher he would probably have been alternately despotic and over-indulgent; and, on the other hand, at a single glance the rough Dominie Sampson would be enough to frighten the ordinary parent off his premises.  Very few pupils came, and they seem to have profited little, if a story as told of two of his pupils refers to this time. 

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Samuel Johnson from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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