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ftudies, he prosecuted them with diligence, attended both public and private lectures, performed his exercises with alacrity, and in short, neglected no means or opportunities of improvement. He had at this time a great emulation, to call it by no worse a name, to excel his competitors in literature. There was a young gentleman of his college, named Meekes, whose exercises he could not bear to hear commended ; and whenever he declaimed or disputed in the hall, Johnson would retire to the farthest corner thereof, that he might be out of the reach of his voice.
In this course of learning, his favourite objects were classical literature, ethics, and theology, in the latter whereof he laid the foundation by studying the Fathers. If we may judge from the magnitude of his Adversaria, which I have now by me, his plan for study was a very extensive one. The heads of science, to the extent of six folio volumes, are copiously branched throughout it; but, as is generally the case with young ftudents, the blank far exceed in number the written leaves.
To fay the truth, the course of his studies was far from regular: he read by fits and starts, and, in the intervals, digested his reading by meditation, to which he was ever prone. Neither did he regard the hours of study, farther than the discipline of the college compelled him. It was the practice in his time, for a servitor, by order of the master, to go round to the rooms of the young men, and knocking at the door, to enquire if they were within, and, if no answer was returncd, to report them absent: Johnson could not endure this intrusion, and would frequently be silent, when the utterance of a word would have insured him from cen
fure; and, farther to be revenged for being disturbed when he was as profitably employed as perhaps he could be, would join with others of the young men in the college in hunting, as they called it, the servitor, who was thus diligent in his duty; and this they did with the noise of pots and candlesticks, singing to the tune of Chevy-chace, the words in that old ballad,
"To drive the deer with hound and horn,' &c. not seldom to the endangering the life and limbs of the unfortunate victim.
These, and other such levities, marked his behaviour for a short time after his coming to college; but he foon convinced those about him, that he came thither for other purposes than to make sport either for himself or them. His exercises were applauded, and his tutor was not so shallow a man, but that he could discover in Johnson great skill in the classics, and also a talent for Latin versification, by such compositions as few of his standing could equal. Mr. Jordan taking advantage, therefore, of a transgression of this his pupil, the absenting himself from early prayers, imposed on him for a vacation exercise, the task of translating into Latin verse the Messiah of Mr. Pope, which being shewn to the author of the original, by a son of Dr. Arbuthnot, then a gentleman-commoner of Christ-church, and brother of the late Mr. Arbuthnot of the Exchequer-office, was read, and returned with this encomium: "The ' writer of this poem will leave it a question for posterity, whether his or mine be the original.'* This
Mr. Pope, in another instance, gave a proof of his candor and disposition to encourage the essays of young men of genius. When Smart published his Latin translation of Mr. Pope's ode on St. Ceci.
translation found its way into a miscellany published by subscription at Oxford, in the year 1731, under the name of J. Husbands.
He had but little relish for mathematical learning, and was content with such a degree of knowledge in physics, as he could not but acquire in the ordinary exercises of the place : his fortunes and circumstances had determined him to no particular course of study, and were such as seemed to exclude him from every one of the learned profesions. He, more than once, signified to a friend who had been educated at the same school with him, then at Christchurch, and intended for the bar, an inclination to the practice of the civil or the common law; the former of these required a long course of academical institution, and how to succeed in the latter, he had not learned ;* but his father's inability to support him
lia's day, Mr. Pope having read it, in a letter to Newbery the pub. lisher of it returned his thanks to the author, with an assurance, that it exceeded his own original. This fact Newbery himself told me, and offered to shew me the letter in Mr. Pope's hand-writing.
* In the two professions of the civil and common law, a notable difference is discernible: the former admits such only as have had the previous qualification of an university education; the latter receives all whose broken fortunes drive, or a confidence in their abilities tempts to seek a maintenance in it. Men of low extraction, domestic servants, and clerks to eminent lawyers, have become special pleaders and advocates; and, by an unrestrained abuse of the liberty of speech, have acquired popularity and wealth. A remarkable instance of this kind occurs in the account of a famous lawyer of the last century, lord chief justice Saunders, as exhibited in the life of the lord keeper Guilford, Page 223.
• He was at first no better than a poor beggar boy, if not a parish foundling, without known parents or relations. He had found
checked these wishes, and left him to seek the means of a future subsistence. If nature could be said to have pointed out a profession for him, that of the bar seems to have been it: in that faculty, his acuteness and pe. netration, and above all, his nervous and manly elocution, could scarcely have failed to distinguish him, and to have raised him to the highest honours of that lucrative profession; but, whatever nature might have intended for him, fortune seems to have been the arbiter of his destiny, and by shutting up the avenues to wealth and civil honours, to have left him to display his talents in the several characters of a moralist, a philosopher,
and a poet.
The time of his continuance at Oxford is divisible into two periods, the former whereof commenced on the 31st day of October, 1728, and determined in Decem
way to live by obsequiousness, (in Clement's-Inn, as I remember,) ' and courting the attornies clerks for scraps. The extraordinary 'observance and diligence of the boy, made the society willing to
do him good. He appeared very ambitious to learn to write ; ' and one of the attornies got a board knocked up at a window on 'the top of a staircase, and that was his desk, where he fat and 'wrote after copies of court and other hands the clerks gave him.
He made himself fo expert a writer, that he took in business, and ' earned some pence by hackney-writing. And thus, by degrees, he pushed his faculties, and fell to forms; and, by books that Were lent him, became an exquisite entering-clerk : and, by the fame course of improvement of himself, an able counsel, first in special pleading, then at large. And, after he was called to the bar, had practice in the King's Bench court equal with any
He succeeded Pemberton in the office of chief justice of the king's bench, and died of an apoplexy and palfy a fhort time before the revolution. A curious delineation of his person and character may be seen in the volume above cited.
ber, 1729, when, as appears by a note in his diary in these words, ' 1729 Dec. S. J. Oxonio rediit,' he left that place, the reason whereof, was a failure of pecuniary supplies from his father ; but meeting with another fource, the bounty, as it is supposed, of some one or more of the members of the cathedral, he returned, and made
the whole of his residence in the university, about three years, during all which time his academical ftudies, though not orderly, were to an astonishing degree intense. Whoever has perused Mr. Spence's life of Antonio Magliabechi, may discerna near resemblance in their manner of reading, between that person and Johnson: the former, says his author, ' seems never to • have applied himself to any particular study. A par• fion for reading was his ruling passion, and a prodi
gious memory his great talent: he read every book • almost indifferently, as they happened to come into « his hands; he read them with a surprising quick
ness, and yet retained, not only the sense of what he read, but, often, all the words and the very manner
of spelling them, if there was any thing peculiar of • that kind in any author.'
A like propensity to reading, and an equal celerity in the practice thereof, were observable in Johnson : it was wonderful to see, when he took up a book, with what eagerness he perused, and with what haste his eye, for it has been related, that he had the use of only one, travelled over it: he has been known to read a volume, and that not a small one, at a sitting ; nor was he inferior in the power of memory to him with whom he is compared : whatever he read, became his own for ever, with all the advantages that a penetrating judgment and deep reflection could add to it. I