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have heard him repeat, with scarce a mistake of a word, passages from favourite authors, of three or four octavo pages in length. One instance of the greatness of his retentive faculty himself has thought fit to give, in his life of the Earl of Rochester, where may be seen a Latin poem upon Nothing, written by Passerat; for the insertion whereof he had, as it is said, no other aid than his own recollection. How far he approved that method of reading, which he is above said to have pursued, and what value he set on the powers of memory, may be inferred from his character of the former of those persons in his lives of the poets, of whom he thus speaks :
"He was remarkable for the power of reading ' with great rapidity, and of retaining with great
fidelity what he so easily collected. He, therefore,
always knew what the present question required; " and when his friends expressed their wonder at his
acquisitions, made in a state of apparent negligence I and drunkenness, he never discovered his hours of
reading or method of study, but involved himself in affected silence, and fed his own vanity with their admiration and conjectures.
It is little less than certain, that his own indigence, and the inability of his father to help him, called Johnson from the university sooner than he meant to quit it: his father, either during his continuance there, or possibly before, had been by misfortunes rendered insolvent, if not, as Johnson told me, an actual bankrupt. The non-attainment of a degree, which after a certain standing is conferred almost of course, he regretted not: it is true, he soon felt the want of one; but ample amends were afterwards made him, by
the voluntary grant of the highest academical honours that two of the most learned seminaries in Europe could bestow.
The advantages he derived from an university'edu. cation, small as they may hitherto seem, went a great way towards fixing, as well his "moral as his literary character: the order and discipline of a college life, the reading the best authors, the attendance on public exercises, the early calls to prayer, the frequent instructions from the pulpit, with all the other means of religious and moral improvement, had their proper effect; and though they left his natural temper much as they found it, they begat in his mind thofe fentiments of piety which were the rule of his conduct throughout his future life, and made so conspicuous a part of his character.
He could not, at this early period of his life, divest himself of an opinion, that poverty was disgraceful; and was very severe in his censures of that economy in both our universities, which exacted at meals the attendance of poor scholars, under the several denominations of servitors in the one, and sizers in the other: he thought that the scholar's, like the christian life, levelled all distinctions of rank and worldly pre-eminence; but in this he was mistaken: civil policy had, long before his coming into the world, reduced the several claffes of men to a regular subordination, and given fervitude its sanction. The feudal system of government throughout Europe had lo arranged the several orders of subjects, that the lower were uniformly dependent on the higher ; and in the history of the peerage of our own country, we find the retinues of the higher nobility made up of the fons and daugh
ters of those of the lower: Wolsey had in his train, earls, barons, and knights; and the founder of the present Cavendish family was his gentleman-usher, at a salary of ten pounds a year : and, to justify the practice of personal servicude at meals, we have an example of a child waiting on his parents while at dinner, in the Pietas Puerilis, among the colloquies of Erasinus*.
Upon his leaving the university, he went home to the house of his father, which he found so nearly filled with relations, that is to say, the maiden sisters of his mother and uncle Cornelius Ford, whom his father, on the decease of their brother in the summer of 1731, had taken in to board, that it would scarce receive him.
He brought with him a deep sense of religion, a due reverence for the national church, and a respect for its ministers; and these he retained, though he had been a witness to the profligacy of his uncle Ford, which was nearly enough to have effaced all such impressions from a young mind. Having not then seen, as we now do, ecclesiastical benefices advertised for sale, and considered by the purchasers as lay-fees; nor beheld many of the beneficed clergy abandoning the duties of the clerical function to the lowest of their order, themselves becoming gentlemen at large, mixing in all public recreations and amusements t, neglecting their studies
• Adornatâ parentibus menfâ, recito confecrationem : deinde prandentibus miniftro, donec jubeor et ipse prandium fumere.
+ While this is the case, there can be very little hope of mending the situation of the inferior clergy. An increase of income would raise them to a condition of employing substitutes whom mere neceflity would compel to the performance of their duty, and these would have the same reason to complain as those who at present are the objects of our compassion. In a word, were the gradations of the clergy to be multiplied, the most essential offices of their function would continue, as they tow are, to be the employment of the lowest of them.
for cards, preaching the sermons of others, and affecting, in many particulars of their dress, the garb of the laity, in disobedience to the canon which enjoins decency of apparel to ministers * : I say, not having been a witness to these late refinements in manners, he, notwithstanding the ferocity of his temper, reverenced the clergy as a body of men, who have been the greatest improvers of learning, and to whom mankind have the highest obligations; but lamented that the race was nearly extinct.
As Johnson's stay at the university was not long enough for him to complete his studies, it is natural to suppose, that at his return to Lichfield, he devoted his time to the improvement of them, and that having no call from thence, he continued there till the death of his father, which, as he has noted it, was in the month of December, 1731.
Being thus bereft of the little support his father was able to afford him, and having, not only a profession, but the means of subsistence to seek, he, in the month of March 1732, accepted of an invitation to the office of under-master or usher of a free grammar-school, at Market-Bosworth in Leicestershire, founded and endowed by Sir Wolstan Dixie, lord mayor of London in 1586, the upper master whereof was the reverend Anthony Blackwall, the author of a well-known book on the sacred classics. The patron of this seminary was Sir Wolftan Dixie, baronet, a descendant of the original founder; and the endowment being very small, Johnson's residence was in the mansion-house of Sir Wolftan adjacent thereto; but the treatment he received from this person, who, in the pride of wealth, Thewed no regard for learning or parts, nor respected
• The 74th, of 1603.
any man for his mental endowments, was such that, preferring the chance of the wide world to his patronage, Johnson, in the month of July, in the same year in which he went to Bosworth, resigned his office, and took leave of a place, which he could never after speak of but in terms of the utmost dislike, and even of abhorrence,
By the middle of June, in the year 1732, he was able to estimate that sender pittance which devolved to him upon the decease of his father; the amount whereof I find ascertained by a memorandum in his diary, which, as it is descriptive of his circumstances at the time, I here translate, and at the bottom of the page have inserted verbatim.
1732, June 15, I laid by eleven guineas ; on which day I received all of my father's effects which I can hope for till the death of my mother, (which I pray may be late), that is to say, twenty pounds; so that I have my fortune to make, and care must be taken, that in the mean time, the powers of my mind inay not grow languid through poverty, nor want drive me into wickedness *.
In the month of June in the following year, 1733, I find him resident in the house of a person named Jarvis, at Birmingham, where, as he has noted in his diary, he rendered into English from the French, a voyage to Abyssinia, which has since appeared to be that of Padre Jerome Lobo, a Portuguese Jesuit, with
*,'1732, Junii 15, Undecim aureos deposui, quo die quicquid & ante matris funus, (quod serum fit precor), de paternis bonis • sperare licet, viginti scilicet libras, accepi. Usque adeo mihi mea i fortuna fingenda eft interea, ne paupertate vires animi langues! cant, ne in fagitia egestas adigat, cavendum.