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The Life of Johnson
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On Friday, March 20, I found him at his own house, sitting with Mrs. Williams, and was
informed that the room formerly allotted to me was now appropriated to a charitable
purpose; Mrs. Desmoulins, and I think her daughter, and a Miss Carmichael, being all
lodged in it. Such was his humanity, and such his generosity, that Mrs. Desmoulins
herself told me, he allowed her half-a-guinea a week. Let it be remembered, that this was
above a twelfth part of his pension.
His liberality, indeed, was at all periods of his life very remarkable. Mr. Howard, of
Lichfield, at whose father's house Johnson had in his early years been kindly received,
told me, that when he was a boy at the Charter-House, his father wrote to him to go and
pay a visit to Mr. Samuel Johnson, which he accordingly did, and found him in an upper
room, of poor appearance. Johnson received him with much courteousness, and talked a
great deal to him, as to a school-boy, of the course of his education, and other particulars.
When he afterwards came to know and understand the high character of this great man,
he recollected his condescension with wonder. He added, that when he was going away,
Mr. Johnson presented him with half-a-guinea; and this, said Mr. Howard, was at a time
when he probably had not another.
We retired from Mrs. Williams to another room. Tom Davies soon after joined us. He had
now unfortunately failed in his circumstances, and was much indebted to Dr. Johnson's
kindness for obtaining for him many alleviations of his distress. After he went away,
Johnson blamed his folly in quitting the stage, by which he and his wife got five hundred
pounds a year. I said, I believed it was owing to Churchill's attack upon him,
'He mouths a sentence, as curs mouth a bone.'
JOHNSON. 'I believe so too, Sir. But what a man is he, who is to be driven from the
stage by a line? Another line would have driven him from his shop.'
He returned next day to Streatham, to Mr. Thrale's; where, as Mr. Strahan once
complained to me, 'he was in a great measure absorbed from the society of his old
friends.' I was kept in London by business, and wrote to him on the 27th, that a separation
from him for a week, when we were so near, was equal to a separation for a year, when
we were at four hundred miles distance. I went to Streatham on Monday, March 30.
Before he appeared, Mrs. Thrale made a very characteristical remark:--'I do not know for
certain what will please Dr. Johnson: but I know for certain that it will displease him to
praise any thing, even what he likes, extravagantly.'
At dinner he laughed at querulous declamations against the age, on account of luxury,--
increase of London,--scarcity of provisions,-- and other such topicks. 'Houses (said he,)
will be built till rents fall: and corn is more plentiful now than ever it was.'