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quired from the master, Mr. Wentworth, by giving instructions to the junior pupils.--He describes this gentleman as unreasonably severe ; and in his correspondence with Dr. Percy, Bishop of Dromore, he thus discriminates between his progress at each of the schools. “ At one I learnt much in the school, but little from the master; in the other I learnt much from the master, but little in the school.”
After remaining upwards of a year at Stourbridge, he returned to his father, and when he had attained the age of nineteen, he was patronised by Mr. Andrew Corbet, a gentleman of Shropshire, who proposed to maintain him at Oxford, in the capacity of companion 'to his son. He was accordingly entered as a commoner of Pembroke College, in October 1728; but Mr. Boswell, on the authority of Dr. Taylor, asserts, that he never derived the least advantage from his patron.
His favourite studies at College were ethics, theology, and classical literature ; and though he was generally reserved in his demeanor, he frequently gave proofs of his extensive reading, by quoting in controversial conversations, such a variety of passages from obscuro ancient authors, as convinced his auditors, that he possessed a memory unusually retentive.
A remarkable anecdote is related of Johnson, while at College, which strongly proves the brilliancy of his talents. The 5th of November being then kept with great solemnity, it was usual for each student to deliver in an exercise upon that subject. Johnson having neg. lected the performance of this duty, composed instead of it some verses, entitled Somnium, the subject of which was, that the muse had appeared to him in his sleep and asserted, “that it did not become him to write on such abstruse points, but that he should confine himself to humbler themes." The versification was considered.
to be so truly Virgilian that Mr. Jorden, his tutor, soli. cited him to translate Pope's Messiah into Latin hexameter verse, as å Christmas exercise. This task he performed with such uncommon rapidity and elegance, that he gained the applause of the whole university : and Pope is reported to have said, that “the author would leave it a question with posterity whether the Latin or the English were the original." While at College he had a great inclination for the reading of Greek : he also projected a common place-book, to the extent of six folio volumes; but Sir John Hawkins asserts, that by far the greater portion of it consisted of blank leaves.
While at Litchfield during the college vacation he was overwhelmed with “morbid melancholy" to such a degree as to render his life miserable. He fancicd himself in a state of approaching insanity, and with this idea he drew up an account of his situation in Latin, and sent it to his god-father, Dr. Swinfen, of Litchfield. Mr. Boswell asserts, that his statement displayed not only an uncommon vigour of fancy and taste, but of judgment. From this dismal malady it appears he never after perfectly recovered.
His religious progress is of importance. He had been instructed at an early age in the doctrines of the Church of England by his mother, who used to confine him on Sundays, and make him read the “ Whole Duty of Man ;? but her strictness only caused in him an inattention to religion, and in and after his fourteenth year he was a talker against it. On going to Oxford he read by chance Law's “ Serious Call to the Unconverted;" when instead of finding it a dull book, as he expected, he declares it was an overmatch for him, and became the first occasion of his thinking in earnest of religion. -Afterwards those tenets of our Church which are most nearly allied to Calvinism were congenial to bis feelings, and they were confirmed by his habits for the remainder of his life.
In the year 1730, Mr. Corbett quitted the university, and his father declined contributing any farther to Johnson's maintenance than paying for his commons; while the remittances from his own family were scanty and irregular, that he could no longer make a decent external appearance. In short, his shoes were so much decayed, that his feet appeared through them; yet so averse was he to being considered as an object of elee. mosynary contribution, that a new pair having been placed at his door by an unknown hand, he indignantly flung them away.
At this period of his distress he seemed indifferent to fame, and, according to Dr. Percy, "he might be seen lounging at the college gate, with a circle of young students, whom he was entertaining with his wit, and keeping from their studies, if not spiriting them up to rebellion against the college discipline, which in his maturer years he so much extolled."
For another year he continued to struggle under all the disadvantages of poverty; and professed a desire to practice either of the civil or common law; but his debts increasing, in consequence of his remittances from Litchfield having failed altogether by the insolvency of his father, he was compelled to quit the college in the autumn of 1731. He had resided at it little more than three years, which circumstance prevented him from obtaining a settlement, from which at a future period of his life he might have derived a subsistence.
On returning to Litchfield the knowledge of his talents procured himn a kind reception in several of the most respectable far es at that place.
In December 1731, his father died in the 79th year of his age; when, after his mother was provided for, the portion of the effects which fell to his share amounted only to 201.
He then found himself obliged to accept the situation of usher in the school of Market Bosworth, in Leicestershire, to which he travelled on foot; he resided in the house of the patron of the school, Sir. W. Dixie, who treated him with intolerable harshness : and this situation proved the most irksome to him of any which he met with in the course of his existence.
Having relinquished this employment, he went on a visit to Mr. Hector, of Birmingham, who had been his school-fellow, and here he performed his first literary work, which was a translation from the French of « Lobo's Voyage to Abyssinia.” It was published in 1733, by Bettesworth and Hicks, of Paternoster-row; and for this task Johnson received only five guineas.
In August 1734, le published proposals for printing by subscription the Latin Poems of Politian, but for want of encouragement the work never made its appearance, though it was to consist of 30 octavo sheets, for the small price of five shillings. In the sanie year being hardly driven to procure subsistence, he wrote under the name of S. Smith, to Mr. Cave, the proprietor of the Gentleman's Magazine, proposing, “on reasonable terms,” to supply him with a variety of literary matter, never printed before. Mr. Cave answered his letter, but it does not appear that any advantage at that tiine resulted from it.
His juvenile attachments to the fair sex were various and transient. He paid his addresses while at Stourbridge school, to Miss Olivia Lloyd, a young Quaker ; and next to Lucy Porter, whose mother he married in. 1735. Mrs. P. was the widow of Mr. Porter, a mer
cer, of Birmingham. It was a love match to both sides, inspired not by the beauty of form, but by a mutual admiration of each other's minds. Johnson's appearance was certainly very forbidding, as, at that time, he was lean and tall, and the scars of the scrophula made his physiognomy hideous. Mrs. Porter was double his age, was very corpulent, had an uncommonly large bosom ; and according to Garrick, “she had florid red cheeks, produced by thick painting, and a liberal use of cordials.” She was worth about 8001. which rendered her to a man in Johnson's circumstances, a desirable acquisition. He immediately hired a large house at Edial, near Litchfield, set up a private classical academy, and advertised for scholars; but the plan proved abortive, for the only pupils he acquired were the celebrated Garrick, then about 18, his brother George, and a Mr. Offely, who died before he had completed his studies.
About this time he commenced his tragedy of Irene ; and in the spring of 1737, he resolved to try his fortune in London, being then in the 28th year of his age. Young Garrick came to town at the same time, with the intention of studying the profession of the law. Johnson, on his arrival, was much reduced in his circumstances, and was obliged to practise the most rigid economy. He took lodgings in Exeter-street, where a poor Irish painter initiated him in the art of living cheaply, and whose true character he afterwards drew, under the title of Ofellens, in the “ Art of Living in London.” In the course of this year he was introduced to Mr. Cave, who was his patron, and for many years his principal resource for employ ent. . He also at this period commenced his intimacy with the well-known Richard Savage.