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Famous American Belles of the Nineteenth Century By Virginia Tatnall Peacock Characters: 32466

Updated: 2017-12-04 00:02

If we were not quite such a business people, and had not so fully satisfied ourselves that the making of money is the chief end of existence, we should put up a statue to Dr. Johnson in Fleet Street, even if we had to knock down a house or two to find room for it. The statue by Mr. Percy Fitzgerald that has been erected in St. Clement Danes Churchyard, in the Strand, is better than nothing, but it is too insignificant in appearance, and stands in the wrong place. Johnson is still so far removed from death that he is more alive to-day than when he was living, and Fleet Street, and the courts and alleys opening out of Fleet Street, are his proper kingdom. Other great spirits haunt the same ground, but he overshadows them all.

At one time or another during the later forty-seven years of his life Johnson had sixteen different addresses in London, and six of them were in Fleet Street byways. On his first visit to town, in 1737, he had lodgings at Exeter Street, Strand, and made some short stay at Greenwich, whence he wrote to Cave, the publisher, offering to contribute to his Gentleman's Magazine. Next year he and his wife finally removed from Lichfield, and lodged first in Woodstock Street, Hanover Square, and then in Castle Street, Cavendish Square. Presently he flitted to the Strand; to Bow Street; to Holborn; to Fetter Lane; to Holborn again; then to Gough Square, at the top of Wine Office Court, where he lived for ten years; then to Staple Inn; to Gray's Inn; to No. 1 Inner Temple Lane; to No. 7 Johnson's Court (so named before his time, as Boswell Court was before Boswell's); and thence to Bolt Court, where, in 1784, he died.

Of all these homes of Johnson's, only two are now surviving-that in Staple Inn, which cannot be identified (we know only that it was one of the houses in the square); and that in Gough Square, which, next to the Bolt Court house, was the most interesting of his sixteen residences-and one is grateful that, mainly owing to the good offices of Mr. Cecil Harmsworth, it has been saved from demolition, and is now opened as a Johnson museum.

Johnson was still a bookseller's hack and a comparatively unknown man when, in 1747, at the age of thirty-eight, he started work on his Dictionary. He was then living in Holborn; but next year he moved into Gough Square, and it was here that most of this colossal work was done. And to-day, when you visit that house, you find that all the teeming life of the last hundred and sixty years has drained out of it completely, and nothing remains in the old rooms but memories of Johnson and his friends. He works there for ever now in the study that used to be his, poring short-sightedly over books and papers; and in the queer, sloping-ceilinged garret above are his six assistants, copying, hunting out references for the Dictionary, and busy with all the mechanical part of the undertaking. You have only to stand there and think of it, and, if you have read Boswell and Hawkins, the life of the household as it was in those ten years long past refashions itself around you in the magic, old-world atmosphere of the place.


Five publishers joined in commissioning Johnson to compile the Dictionary, and arranged to pay him a sum of £1575, out of which he had to engage his assistants. "For the mechanical part," writes Boswell, "he employed six amanuenses; and let it be remembered by the natives of North Britain, to whom he is supposed to have been so hostile, that five of them were of that country. There were two Messieurs Macbean; Mr. Shiels; Mr. Stewart, son of Mr. George Stewart, bookseller at Edinburgh; and a Mr. Maitland. The sixth of these humble assistants was Mr. Peyton, who, I believe, taught French, and published some elementary tracts." That upper room in Gough Square was fitted up like a counting-house, and each of the six workers in it was allotted his separate task. Boswell goes on to describe Johnson's method: "The words, partly taken from other dictionaries and partly supplied by himself, having been first written down with spaces left between them, he delivered in writing their etymologies, definitions, and various significations. The authorities were copied from the books themselves, in which he had marked the passages with a black-lead pencil, the traces of which could easily be effaced. I have seen several of them in which that trouble had not been taken, so that they were just as when used by the copyists. It is remarkable that he was so attentive in the choice of the passages in which words were authorised that one may read page after page of his Dictionary with improvement and pleasure; and it should not pass unobserved that he has quoted no author whose writings had a tendency to hurt sound religion and morality.... He is now to be considered as 'tugging at his oar,' as engaged in a steady, continued course of occupation, sufficient to employ all his time for some years, and which was the best preventive of that constitutional melancholy which was ever lurking about him, ready to trouble his quiet."

In after years, with his natural, large kindness of disposition, Johnson retained a sympathetic interest in those six assistants of his. The elder of the two Macbeans fell at length into great poverty, and Johnson helped him by writing a preface to his System of Ancient Geography, and afterwards influenced Lord Thurlow in getting him admitted as a Poor Brother of the Charterhouse. He had Shiel, who was dying of consumption, to help him with his Lives of the Poets; and when Peyton died almost destitute, it was Johnson who paid his funeral expenses.

Whilst he was "tugging at his oar" and making steady headway with the Dictionary, Johnson sought recreation in founding one of his many literary clubs-an informal little club that met of evenings in Ivy Lane, Paternoster Row, and numbered among its members Hawkesworth, who succeeded Johnson as compiler of Parliamentary debates for the Gentleman's Magazine, and later edited and wrote most of a bi-weekly, The Adventurer; Dr. Bathurst, who with Johnson and Warton contributed to that Adventurer; and Hawkins, who in due course became one of Johnson's executors and biographers. He had published his satire, London, eleven years before this; but it was whilst he was living in Gough Square, with the Dictionary in full progress, that he wrote and published his only other great satire, The Vanity of Human Wishes, with its references to the hope deferred, the hardships of his own life, and the obscurity and poverty from which he was but now gradually beginning to emerge:-

"When first the college rolls receive his name,

The young enthusiast quits his ease for fame;

Resistless burns the fever of renown,

Caught from the strong contagion of the gown:

O'er Bodley's dome his future labours spread,

And Bacon's mansion trembles o'er his head.

Are these thy views? proceed, illustrious youth,

And virtue guard thee to the throne of truth!

Yet should thy soul indulge the generous heat,

Till captive science yields her last retreat;

Should reason guide thee with her brightest ray

And pour on misty doubt resistless day;

Should no false kindness lure to loose delight,

Nor praise relax, nor difficulty fright;

Should tempting novelty thy cell refrain,

And sloth effuse her opiate fumes in vain;

Should beauty blunt on fops her fatal dart,

Nor claim the triumph of a lettered heart;

Should no disease thy torpid veins invade

Nor melancholy's phantom haunt thy shade;

Yet hope not life from grief or danger free,

Nor think the doom of man reversed for thee:

Deign on the passing world to turn thine eyes,

And pause awhile from learning to be wise:

There mark what ills the scholar's life assail,

Toil, envy, want, the patron, and the jail.

See nations slowly wise, and meanly just,

To buried merit raise the tardy bust.

If dreams yet flatter, yet again attend,

Hear Lydiat's life, and Galileo's end."

Had the Gough Square house been memorable only as the birthplace of the Dictionary, it would have been enough to have given it immortality; for, as Carlyle says (and Carlyle once went reverently over these rooms, and wrote a record of his visit), "Had Johnson left nothing but his Dictionary, one might have traced there a great intellect, a genuine man. Looking to its clearness of definition, its general solidity, honesty, insight, and successful method, it may be called the best of all dictionaries. There is in it a kind of architectural nobleness; it stands there like a great, solid, square-built edifice, finished, symmetrically complete; you judge that a true builder did it." But, still while the Dictionary was going on, shortly after the publication of The Vanity of Human Wishes, which yielded him £15, Garrick produced his tragedy of Irene at Drury Lane. It was a failure on the stage; the audience shrieked "Murder! murder!" when the bowstring was placed round the heroine's neck; but Johnson, feeling that a dramatic author should be more gaily dressed than it was his wont to appear, sat in a box on the first night in a scarlet waistcoat, with rich gold lace, and a gold-laced hat, and accepted his failure with unruffled calmness; and Dodsley paid him £100 for the right to publish the play as a book.

Still while he was in the thick of the Dictionary, he set himself, in 1750, to start The Rambler, and you may take it that he was sitting in his Gough Square study one night when he wrote that prayer before publishing his first number:-

"Almighty God, the giver of all good things, without whose help all labour is ineffectual, and without whose grace all wisdom is folly; grant, I beseech Thee, that in this undertaking Thy Holy Spirit may not be withheld from me, but that I may promote Thy glory, and the salvation of myself and others. Grant this, O Lord, for the sake of Thy Son Jesus Christ. Amen."


His first number was printed on the 20th March 1750, and he issued it every Saturday and Tuesday afterwards for two years. "This," as Boswell has it, "is a strong confirmation of the truth of a remark of his, that 'a man may write at any time, if he will set himself doggedly to it'; for, notwithstanding his constitutional indolence, his depression of spirits, and his labour in carrying on his Dictionary, he answered the stated calls of the press twice a week, from the stores of his mind, during all that time; having received no assistance, except four billets in No. 10, by Miss Mulso, now Mrs. Chapone; No. 30, by Miss Catherine Talbot; No. 97, by Mr. Samuel Richardson; and Nos. 44 and 100, by Mrs. Elizabeth Carter." He was so pressed for time that he wrote a good many of the essays in such haste that he had no opportunity even to read them through again before they were printed. One thing that particularly gratified Johnson in connection with the Rambler was that his wife said to him, after she had read a few numbers, "I thought very well of you before, but I did not imagine you could have written anything equal to this."

Gough Square is hallowed, too, with sadder memories of Johnson's wife, for she died here in March 1752; and to the end of his days he never forgot her or ceased to sorrow for her. She was a plain-featured woman some years older than himself, but he always spoke of her with a wonderful tenderness and love, and as of one who had been beautiful to look upon. How deeply he felt her loss is evident not merely from some of his sayings, but from his letters, and from those Prayers and Meditations, in which he set down his most intimate thoughts and feelings. After his death, this written prayer was found among his papers, dated in the month after her passing:-

"April 26th, 1752, being after 12 at night of the 25th.

"O Lord! Governor of heaven and earth, in whose hands are embodied and departed spirits, if Thou hast ordained the souls of the dead to minister to the living, and appointed my departed wife to have care of me, grant that I may enjoy the good effects of her attention and ministration, whether exercised by appearance, impulses, dreams, or in any other manner agreeable to Thy government. Forgive my presumption, enlighten my ignorance, and however meaner agents are employed, grant me the blessed influences of Thy Holy Spirit, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."


You may stand in the Square to-night, after twelve at night, when all the windows of all the other houses are dark, as they were in that night of 1752, and look up at the window in which the solitary light burned then, whilst, within, the grief-stricken Johnson sat alone in his study writing down that humble, mournful aspiration, and as you look the same light kindles there and glimmers desolately again for all who have eyes to see it. Nor was this the only record of his sorrow that was written in that room, for you find these notes in his journal a year later:-

"March 28, 1753. I kept this day as the anniversary of my Tetty's death, with prayers and tears in the morning. In the evening I prayed for her conditionally, if it were lawful."

"April 23, 1753. I know not whether I do not too much indulge the vain longings of affection; but I hope they intenerate my heart, and that when I die like my Tetty, this affection will be acknowledged in a happy interview, and that in the meantime I am incited by it to piety. I will, however, not deviate too much from common and received methods of devotion."

Boswell tells us that he preserved her wedding-ring reverently as long as he lived, keeping it in "a little round wooden box, in the inside of which he pasted a slip of paper, thus inscribed by him in fair characters, as follows:-


Eliz. Johnson,

Nupta Jul. 9o, 1736,

Mortua, eheu!

Mart. 17o, 1752.'"

Some thought of her, indeed, rises again and again thereafter in those Prayers and Meditations of his, and so makes this house peculiarly reminiscent of her. Before Mrs. Johnson's death, Mrs. Anna Williams had become a constant visitor at the house here. She was a poetess in a small way, daughter of a Welsh physician, and was in London having both her eyes treated for cataract. After his wife's death, Johnson gave Mrs. Williams accommodation in Gough Square whilst her eyes were operated upon; and, the operation failing and complete blindness following it, with his usual big-hearted humanity he allowed her an apartment in this and each of his subsequent homes; and you remember Boswell's complaint of how his fastidious susceptibilities were outraged by the way in which she felt round the edges of the cups to see if they were full, when she presided over the tea-table. In the same spirit, Johnson gave house-room here also, and elsewhere, to that simplest and most kindly of medical practitioners, Dr. Robert Levett, on whose death, several years later, he wrote the best of his shorter poems.

You get a good idea of his general manner of life in Gough Square from the note that Boswell obtained from Francis Barber, Johnson's black servant, who wrote that on his wife's death Johnson was "in great affliction. Mrs. Williams was then living in his house, which was in Gough Square. He was busy with the Dictionary. Mr. Shiels and some others of the gentlemen who had formerly written for him used to come about the house. He had then little for himself, but frequently sent money to Mr. Shiels when in distress. The friends who visited him at that time were chiefly Dr. Bathurst, and Mr. Diamond, an apothecary in Cork Street, Burlington Gardens, with whom he and Mrs. Williams generally dined every Sunday. There were also Mr. Cave; Dr. Hawkesworth; Mr. Rydal, merchant on Tower Hill; Mrs. Masters, the poetess, who lived with Mr. Cave; Mrs. Carter; and sometimes Mrs. Macaulay; also Mrs. Gardiner, wife of a tallow-chandler on Snow Hill, not in the learned way, but a worthy good woman; Mr. (now Sir Joshua) Reynolds; Mr. Miller; Mr. Dodsley; Mr. Bouquet; Mr. Payne, of Paternoster Row, bookseller; Mr. Strachan the printer; the Earl of Orrery; Lord Southwell; Mr. Garrick."



was shortly after the conclusion of The Rambler that Johnson first made the acquaintance of Bennet Langton. He had taken lodgings in a house that was frequently visited by Dr. Levett; and, with Johnson's permission, Levett one day brought Langton to Gough Square, and, says Boswell:-

"Mr. Langton was exceedingly surprised when the sage first appeared. He had not received the smallest intimation of his figure, dress, or manner. From perusing his writings, he fancied he should see a decent, well-dressed-in short, a remarkably decorous philosopher. Instead of which, down from his bed-chamber, about noon, came, as newly risen, a huge uncouth figure, with a little dark wig which scarcely covered his head, and his clothes hanging loose about him. But his conversation was so rich, so animated, and so forcible, and his religious and political notions so congenial with those in which Langton had been educated, that he conceived for him that veneration and attachment which he ever preserved."

In 1753 Johnson "relieved the drudgery of his Dictionary" by writing essays for Hawkesworth's Adventurer, and in this and the next two years did a lot of reviewing and varied hack-work for the magazines and miscellanies of his time; and in February 1775 he wrote that nobly scathing and touching letter to Lord Chesterfield, that is too well known to need reprinting, but must needs be reprinted here, because it was written from Gough Square, and would make any house from which it was written an honoured and sacred place to all who value the dignity of literature and glory in the emancipation of the literary man from the condescending benevolence of the private patron:-

"My Lord,-I have been lately informed, by the proprietor of The World, that two papers in which my Dictionary is recommended to the public were written by your lordship. To be so distinguished is an honour which, being very little accustomed to favours from the great, I know not well how to receive, or in what terms to acknowledge.

"When, upon some slight encouragement, I first visited your lordship, I was overpowered, like the rest of mankind, by the enchantment of your address, and could not forbear to wish that I might boast myself Le vainqueur du vainqueur de la terre-that I might obtain that regard for which I saw the whole world contending; but I found my attendance so little encouraged that neither pride nor modesty would suffer me to continue it. When I had once addressed your lordship in public, I had exhausted all the art of pleasing which a retired and uncourtly scholar can possess. I had done all that I could; and no man is well pleased to have his all neglected, be it ever so little.

"Seven years, my lord, have now passed since I waited in your outward rooms, or was repulsed from your door; during which time I have been pushing on with my work through difficulties, of which it is useless to complain, and have brought it, at last, to the verge of publication, without one act of assistance, one word of encouragement, or one smile of favour. Such treatment I did not expect, for I never had a patron before.

"The shepherd in Virgil grew at last acquainted with Love, and found him a native of the rocks.

"Is not a patron, my lord, one who looks with unconcern on a man struggling for life in the water, and, when he has reached ground, encumbers him with help? The notice which you have been pleased to take of my labours, had it been early, had been kind; but it has been delayed till I am indifferent, and cannot enjoy it; till I am solitary, and cannot impart it; till I am known, and do not want it. I hope it is no very cynical asperity not to confess obligations where no benefit has been received, or to be unwilling that the public should consider me as owing that to a patron which Providence has enabled me to do for myself.

"Having carried on my work thus far with so little obligation to any favourer of learning, I shall not be disappointed though I shall conclude it, if less be possible, with less; for I have been long wakened from that dream of hope, in which I once boasted myself with so much exultation,

"My lord, your lordship's most humble,

"Most obedient servant,

"Sam. Johnson."

A few months after this the Dictionary was finished. There had been many delays; it was long behind the stipulated time, and the patience of the publishers was exhausted; but at last Johnson sent the last sheets of the great work to Mr. Miller, the Strand bookseller, who was chiefly concerned in the venture, and when the messenger returned from Miller's shop Johnson asked him, "Well, what did he say?" "Sir," answered the messenger, "he said, 'Thank God I have done with him.'" "I am glad," replied Johnson, with a smile, "that he thanks God for anything."

The publication of the Dictionary made him at once the most famous man of letters in London; but he had already spent the money that was paid for his labour, and had still to work hard with his pen to make "provision for the day that was passing over him." In 1757 he took up again a scheme for an elaborate edition of Shakespeare with notes, and issued proposals and invited subscriptions for it; but it was another nine years before his Shakespeare made its appearance. Among his many visitors in 1758, Dr. Charles Burney, the father of Fanny Burney, called and "had an interview with him in Gough Square, where he dined and drank tea with him, and was introduced to the acquaintance of Mrs. Williams. After dinner, Mr. Johnson proposed to Mr. Burney to go up with him into his garret, which, being accepted, he there found about five or six Greek folios, a deal writing-desk, and a chair and a half. Johnson, giving his guest the entire seat, tottered himself on one with only three legs and one arm. Here he gave Mr. Burney Mrs. Williams's history, and showed him some volumes of Shakespeare already printed, to prove that he was in earnest." They proceeded to criticise Shakespeare's commentators up there, and to discuss the controversy then raging between the friends of Pope and Bolingbroke in connection with an unauthorised publication of certain of Bolingbroke's letters to Pope, who was recently dead. And in the April of this same year Johnson began to write his essays for The Idler.


Here, then, you have a varied and intimate series of pictures, a sort of panoramic view of the life that Johnson lived in his Gough Square house, and amid his old surroundings are able to recreate him for yourself in all his varying circumstances and changing moods-working there at his Dictionary and his multifarious writings; sorrowing for his wife; entertaining his friends; sallying forth morning and evening to walk along Fleet Street to the church of St. Clement Danes, in the Strand, assuming that he kept the resolution to do so that is entered at this date in his journal; and, almost every Sunday afternoon, coming staidly down the steps with Mrs. Williams, and setting out to dine with Mr. Diamond, the apothecary of Cork Street; on many evenings strolling along Wine Office Court, to forgather with friends in the parlour of the "Cheshire Cheese," where the seat traditionally occupied by him and Goldsmith is still to be seen; or going farther to a meeting of his club in Ivy Lane. There is a capital story told by Hawkins of how one night at that club a suggestion was made that they should celebrate the publication of Mrs. Lennox's first novel, The Life of Harriet Stuart, with a supper at the Devil Tavern, in Fleet Street. Johnson threw himself heart and soul into the proposal, and declared that they would honour the event by spending the whole night in festivity. On the evening fixed, at about eight o'clock, Mrs. Lennox and her husband, and some twenty friends and members of the club, gathered at the Devil Tavern, Temple Bar, and, by Johnson's orders, a magnificent hot apple-pie adorned with bay leaves formed a principal item of the menu. He himself crowned Mrs. Lennox with laurel; and, true to his resolve, he kept the feast going right through the night. "At 5 A.M.," says Hawkins, "Johnson's face shone with meridian splendour, though his drink had been only lemonade." The day was beginning to dawn when they all partook of a "second refreshment of coffee," and it was broad daylight and eight o'clock before the party broke up, and Johnson made his way back up Fleet Street, round into Gough Square, and to the prosaic resumption of work on the Dictionary.

Soon after starting The Idler, Johnson left Gough Square and took rooms in Staple Inn, where he presently wrote Rasselas in the evenings of one week, and so raised £100, that "he might defray the expenses of his mother's funeral, and pay some little debts which she had left."

All these things had happened, and Johnson had risen into fame and become "the great Cham of letters," before Boswell had made his acquaintance. The historic meeting between these two did not come about until 1763, and then it took place at No. 8 Russell Street, Covent Garden-another famous house that is fortunately still in existence. It was then occupied by Thomas Davies, the actor, who had retired from the stage and opened a bookseller's shop there. He knew Johnson, who frequently visited him, and on his invitation Boswell was there several times in hopes of meeting the great man; again and again it happened that on the days when he was in waiting Johnson failed to appear, but in the end his patience was rewarded, and this is his own account of the interview, taken from notes he made of it on the very day of its occurrence:-

"At last, on Monday, the 16th of May, when I was sitting in Mr. Davies's back parlour, after having drunk tea with him and Mrs. Davies, Johnson unexpectedly came into the shop; and Mr. Davies, having perceived him through the glass door in the room in which we were sitting, advancing towards us, he announced his awful approach to me, somewhat in the manner of an actor in the part of Horatio, when he addresses Hamlet on the appearance of his father's ghost: 'Look, my lord, it comes!' I found that I had a very perfect idea of Johnson's figure, from the portrait of him painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds soon after he had published his Dictionary, in the attitude of sitting in his easy-chair in deep meditation. Mr. Davies mentioned my name, and respectfully introduced me to him. I was much agitated; and recollecting his prejudice against the Scotch, of which I had heard much, I said to Davies, 'Don't tell where I come from.' 'From Scotland,' cried Davies roguishly. 'Mr. Johnson,' said I, 'I do indeed come from Scotland, but I cannot help it.' He retorted, 'That, sir, I find, is what a very great many of your countrymen cannot help.' This stroke stunned me a good deal; and when we had sat down, I felt myself not a little embarrassed and apprehensive of what might come next. He then addressed himself to Davies: 'What do you think of Garrick? He has refused me an order for the play for Miss Williams, because he knows the house will be full, and that an order would be worth three shillings.' Eager to take any opening to get into conversation with him, I ventured to say, 'O sir, I cannot think Mr. Garrick would grudge such a trifle to you.' 'Sir,' said he, with a stern look, 'I have known David Garrick longer than you have done, and I know no right you have to talk to me on the subject.' Perhaps I deserved this check; for it was rather presumptuous in me, an entire stranger, to express any doubt of the justice of his animadversion upon his old acquaintance and pupil. I now felt myself much mortified, and began to think that the hope which I had long indulged of obtaining his acquaintance was blasted." But he sat on resolutely, and was rewarded by hearing some of Johnson's conversation, of which he kept notes, that are duly reproduced in the Life.


"I was highly pleased with the extraordinary vigour of his conversation," he concludes his account of the meeting, "and regretted that I was drawn away from it by an engagement at another place. I had for a part of the evening been left alone with him, and had ventured to make an observation now and then, which he received very civilly; so I was satisfied that, though there was a roughness in his manner, there was no ill-nature in his disposition. Davies followed me to the door; and when I complained to him a little of the hard blows which the great man had given me, he kindly took upon him to console me by saying, 'Don't be uneasy; I can see he likes you very well.'"

Davies's shop is kept nowadays by a Covent Garden salesman. Instead of being lined with books, it is filled with baskets of fruit and sacks of potatoes, and the parlour wall and that glass-panelled parlour door are thrown down, and parlour and shop are all one. But the upper part of the house remains practically unaltered, and with a little imagining you can restore the lower to what it was when these walls held the gruff rumbling of the Doctor's voice, and looked down on the humiliation of Boswell under the roguish eyes of Davies and his pretty wife.

Another house that has glamorous associations with Johnson is No. 5 Adelphi Terrace, where Garrick lived, and where he died, in a back room on the first floor, in 1779. Two years later Johnson was one of a party that dined there with Mrs. Garrick, and one cannot do better than repeat the indispensable Boswell's report of the event:-

"On Friday, April 20, I spent with him one of the happiest days that I remember to have enjoyed in the whole course of my life. Mrs. Garrick, whose grief for the loss of her husband was, I believe, as sincere as wounded affection and admiration could produce, had this day, for the first time since his death, a select party of his friends to dine with her. The company was: Mrs. Hannah More, who lived with her, and whom she called her chaplain; Mrs. Boscawen, Mrs. Elizabeth Carter, Sir Joshua Reynolds, Dr. Burney, Dr. Johnson, and myself. We found ourselves very elegantly entertained at her house in the Adelphi, where I have passed many a pleasing hour with him 'who gladdened life.' She looked well, talked of her husband with complacency, and while she cast her eyes on his portrait, which hung over the chimney-piece, said that 'death was now the most agreeable object to her.'... We were all in fine spirits; and I whispered to Mrs. Boscawen, 'I believe this is as much as can be made of life.'" After recording the conversation of Johnson and divers of the others, Boswell goes on: "He and I walked away together. We stopped a little by the rails of the Adelphi, looking on the Thames, and I said to him, with some emotion, that I was now thinking of two friends we had lost who once lived in the buildings behind us, Beauclerk and Garrick. 'Ay, sir,' said he tenderly, 'and two such friends as cannot be supplied.'"


In the summer of 1784 Boswell was in London as usual, and saw Johnson, then an old man of seventy-five, for the last time. On the 30th June, he and Johnson dined with Sir Joshua Reynolds in Leicester Square, and when Johnson went home Boswell accompanied him in Sir Joshua's coach to the entry of Bolt Court, in Fleet Street, and was so affected at parting that he would not accompany him to the house, and they bade each other an affectionate adieu in the carriage. Johnson stepped out on to the pavement, and, walking briskly, vanished into the yawn of Bolt Court, and, for Boswell, into the jaws of death, for he never saw him again. He went home to the north two days after, and in December Johnson died.

On his annual visits to London Boswell lived in various lodgings; but in or about 1786 he rented the house, still standing, at 56 Great Queen Street, and brought his wife to town with him. They occupied this place for some two years; and it is evident from his letters to Bishop Percy and the Rev. T. W. Temple that, whilst residing there, he wrote most of the last seven years of his Life of Johnson. Boswell died in London, in 1795, at No. 122 (formerly 47) Great Portland Street.

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