Samuel Johnson eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 213 pages of information about Samuel Johnson.

Amongst the members of the club, however, were such men as Horsley and Windham.  Windham seems to have attracted more personal regard than most politicians, by a generous warmth of enthusiasm not too common in the class.  In politics he was an ardent disciple of Burke’s, whom he afterwards followed in his separation from the new Whigs.  But, though adhering to the principles which Johnson detested, he knew, like his preceptor, how to win Johnson’s warmest regard.  He was the most eminent of the younger generation who now looked up to Johnson as a venerable relic from the past.  Another was young Burke, that very priggish and silly young man as he seems to have been, whose loss, none the less, broke the tender heart of his father.  Friendships, now more interesting, were those with two of the most distinguished authoresses of the day.  One of them was Hannah More, who was about this time coming to the conclusion that the talents which had gained her distinction in the literary and even in the dramatic world, should be consecrated to less secular employment.  Her vivacity during the earlier years of their acquaintance exposed her to an occasional rebuff.  “She does not gain upon me, sir; I think her empty-headed,” was one of his remarks; and it was to her that he said, according to Mrs. Thrale, though Boswell reports a softened version of the remark, that she should “consider what her flattery was worth, before she choked him with it.”  More frequently, he seems to have repaid it in kind.  “There was no name in poetry,” he said, “which might not be glad to own her poem”—­the Bas Bleu.  Certainly Johnson did not stick at trifles in intercourse with his female friends.  He was delighted, shortly before his death, to “gallant it about” with her at Oxford, and in serious moments showed a respectful regard for her merits.  Hannah More, who thus sat at the feet of Johnson, encouraged the juvenile ambition of Macaulay, and did not die till the historian had grown into manhood and fame.  The other friendship noticed was with Fanny Burney, who also lived to our own time.  Johnson’s affection for this daughter of his friend seems to have been amongst the tenderest of his old age.  When she was first introduced to him at the Thrales, she was overpowered and indeed had her head a little turned by flattery of the most agreeable kind that an author can receive.  The “great literary Leviathan” showed himself to have the recently published Evelina at his fingers’ ends.  He quoted, and almost acted passages.  “La!  Polly!” he exclaimed in a pert feminine accent, “only think!  Miss has danced with a lord!” How many modern readers can assign its place to that quotation, or answer the question which poor Boswell asked in despair and amidst general ridicule for his ignorance, “What is a Brangton?” There is something pleasant in the enthusiasm with which men like Johnson and Burke welcomed the literary achievements of the young lady, whose first novels seem to have made a sensation

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Samuel Johnson from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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