Edmund Hector

Marshall Waingrow (ed.), The Yale Editions of the Private Papers of James Boswell: Research Edition: Correspondence, Vol. 2: The Correspondence and Other Papers of James Boswell relating to the Making of the Life of Johnson (Second Edition)

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Johnsoniana Related by Edmund Hector, Birmingham, Monday 28March1 1785

MS. Yale (C 1524). In JB's hand.

  • Particulars of Dr. Johnson's Life communicated to me
  • by Mr. Hector at Birmingham 17852

Sir John Floyer Physician at Lichfield recommended to Dr. Johnson's Parents to have their son carried to London and touched by Queen Anne which was done. He was very well when he came to school, and had only the scars.3

When at school he never engaged in any of the boyish sports. But in frost he used to go upon Stowpool and make a boy pull off his stockings and shoes and put a garter round him and draw him on the ice.4

When he returned from Oxford he remained some time at Lichfield.5 Then went to Bosworth as under Master of the school. This situation was very irksom to him. He remained there about a year and a half.6

Mr. Hector had been settled at Birmingham about three years. Johnson came there to visit him.7 Mr. Hector had appartments at the house of Mr. Warren Bookseller in the highstreet opposite to where the Swan Inn now is. Mr. Warren was the first established Bookseller in Birmingham.8 Before he opened a shop there, Dr. Johnson's Father used to come every market day and open a shop for books and stationary ware.9 Mr. Hector invited him to live with him which he did—not knowing then whether he might stay a forthnight or a month or what time.10 He was Mr. Hector's guest at the boarding table of Mr. Warren who was also very civil to him on account of the great use Dr. Johnson was to him with his advice in his trade.11 Warren in his Newspaper began a Periodical paper. Johnson furnished some numbers.12 About six months after he took lodgings for himself in the lower part of the town.13 Johnson mentioned that he had read at Pembroke College Lobosts History of Abyssinia and thought an Abridgement and Translation of it might do well.14 How to get the book was the question. Hector borrowed it of the Library of Pembroke.15 Johnson was very indolent.16 Osborn the Printer employed by Warren could not get other work till it was finished and Johnson furnished him with copy only progressively. Hector went to Johnson and told him how the poor Printer and his family suffered. He lay in bed—got the book before him and dictated while Hector wrote.17 Hector wrote it over almost the whole of it and carried it to the Press, and Johnson saw little of the proofsheets. Hector corrected most of them.18 He had five guineas for this Work.19 Johnson was then very idle lounged about with Hector and had a few acquaintances Mr. Porter and Mr. Taylor who afterwards acquired an immense fortune.20 He would sometimes pg 71steal an hour and read but had a vanity in concealing that he ever studied. It was all to be from his own mind.21 When at Stourbridge he was much enamoured of a fair young Quaker Olivia LLoyd on whom he wrote a copy of verses.22 The story which Peter Garrick23 was told by Victor24 that Johnson was one of the three gallants of the dissolute Wife of Mr. Paul (Gimcrack)25 was not true. Dr. James[,]26 Victor and Johnson were said by Victor to be the Triumvirate and Victor said the Lady told him Johnson was the most seducing man she had ever known.27 Johnson never was at Birmingham till James left it.28 James was fond of her— then grew tired—and to get rid of her he palmed her on Dr. Larkin29 by giving her a guinea to fee him that he might be catched. Larkin said to Hector30 'Now here is a guinea which I beleive James has given her to give to me.' Yet with his eyes open he was taken in. Mr. Hector said Johnson never was given to Women.31 Yet he then did not appear to have much Religion.32 He drank freely particularly Bishop33 with a roasted Orange in it. He used to be absent and talk to himself and take peevish fits and abuse Hector who would then keep aloof upon which Johnson would come and coax him.34 Sir Harry Gough told Hector he was obliged to put him out of one of his houses in Gough Square for the Neighbours complained they could not get rest for a man who walked all night and talked to himself.35 When at Birmingham the time now mentioned36 Hector was affraid of Dr. Johnson's head, and he thought there was the same apprehension after he went to London. Johnson had been conscious of it all along but had been affraid to ask Hector for fear of an answer in the affirmative. When last at Birmingham he asked Hector if he had observed in him a tendency to be disorde[re]d in his mind. Hector said he had.37 Hector did not think he would have died So soon. As Water had been carried from his scrotum by punctures he suggested it might be taken by the same means from his legs and that he might grow better.38 Johnson gave a spring of joy, and said 'You have given me another twig.' Parson Ford a Relation of his by the mother's side recommended to him to be sent to Stourbridge School.39 Dr. Johnson some years ago told me there was no man alive who had seen him drunk. Mr. Hector said—'Then he had forgot me.' For once when he lived at Birmingham there came a Relation of his of the name of Ford from Stourbridge to whom he had been under obligations.40 He was it seems a hard drinker and he engaged Johnson and Hector to spend the evening with him at the Swan Inn. Johnson said to Hector 'This fellow will make41 us both drunk. Let us take him by turns, and get rid of him.' It was settled that Hector should go first. He and Ford had drank three bottles of Port before Johnson came. When Johnson arrived, Hector found he had been drinking at Mr. Porter's instead of saving himself. Hector went to bed at the Swan leaving Johnson to drink on with Ford. Next morning he perceived that Johnson who had been his bedfellow had been Very drunk and he damned him. Johnson tried to deny the charge. Literally speaking Hector had not seen him drunk, though he was sure of the fact.42 I said He must have been a monstrous Silenus.pg 72pg 73pg 74pg 75

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Notes

Editor’s Note
1 Dated from the journal.
Editor’s Note
2 A later expansion of the original heading: 'Dr. Johnson'.
Editor’s Note
3 Sir John Floyer, Kt. (1649–1734), was renowned for his studies of the pulse, his advocacy of cold baths, and his research on asthma, with which he was himself afflicted (though he 'panted on to ninety': Life iv. 267). A number of his works were printed for Michael Johnson at Lichfield. SJ, a fellow-asthmatic, read Floyer on the subject with a critical eye (Johns. Glean. iii. 10, 19, 115; Life i. 91 and n. 1, iv. 353, 543–44 [App. J]; see also Denis Gibbs, 'Sir John Floyer (1649–1734)', Johnson Society Transactions, Lichfield, 1968, pp. 19–30). JB's account of SJ's scrofula and of the royal therapy, Life i. 42–43, is based on other sources, but as an afterthought (MS. Life, opp. p. 8) he included, with an acknowledgement to Hector, the information concerning Floyer's role in the affair. For expert reconstructions of this event in SJ's childhood, see Johns. Glean. iii. 61 ff. and Clifford, Young Sam Johnson, pp. 10–13. See also Lawrence C. McHenry, Jr. and Ronald MacKeith, 'Samuel Johnson's Childhood Illnesses and the King's Evil', Medical History (1966) x. 386–99, and John Wiltshire, Samuel Johnson in the Medical World, 1991.
Editor’s Note
4 Cf. Hector's earlier version (ante 1 Feb. 1785). JB revised the anecdote to read: 'He never joined with the other boys in their ordinary diversions: his only amusement was in winter, when he took a pleasure in being drawn upon the ice by a boy barefooted, who pulled him along by a garter fixed round him ...' (Life i. 48). Guy Boas ('Dr. Johnson on Schools and Schoolmasters', English, 1937, i. 540) asks quizzically: 'How did the boy who pulled him enjoy walking barefooted upon the ice, and for how long did he have to keep it up? Was it until his feet were turned to ice-blocks, and his toes to stalactites?' It the alleged action is incredible, JB's insensibility in reporting it is scarcely less so. F.A. Pottle suggested to me that Hector meant only to say that SJ was on skates and the other boy wasn't, and that JB in a fit of literalness took the phrase 'by a Boy barefoot' (as Hector set it down in the first MS. version) to mean by a boy without shoes and stockings (detail of the picture in the second MS. version). This is an ingenious and tempting explanation (cf. 'barefoot-clogs' meaning 'clogs without irons', English Dialect Dictionary), but it leaves some difficulties. If the removal of the boy's shoes and stockings was a spontaneous imaginative act on JB's part, prompted by the 'barefoot' condition mentioned by Hector, was the use to which JB put one of the now useless garters an act of premeditated invention? Hector, it is true, may have described the business of the garter along with the condition of the boy, without, in his view, implying denudation at all. But if the bizarre picture was of JB's making, why then, in the revision of the anecdote for the Life, did he omit the detail of the removal of the shoes and stockings? (He kept the garter.) It can't be inferred from this omission that he eventually saw the light, for he still describes the boy as 'barefooted', and if it be conjectured that he came to understand this to mean (in this context) 'without skates', one would have to ask why he would not take care to prevent the very misconstruction he himself fell victim to. Some alternative sense can be made of the anecdote, and of JB's revision of it, if we regard the omission of the removal of the shoes and stockings as a suppression, and note that it is accompanied by an alteration of 'make a boy' etc. into 'took a pleasure' etc. If the revision was in fact an attempt to touch up the picture, it was crude in its method and obviously unsuccessful in its effect. Show the boy barefooted, and you show SJ playing the bully in this 'sport' ('He never joined with the other boys in their ordinary diversions', the anecdote begins). But show SJ playing the bully, and the barefoot boy, however much at a disadvantage in playing his part, is at least plausible. Taking 'barefoot' literally, then, as JB did, we may imagine SJ not on skates but in his shoes, and the action that of sliding—which (not to justify this variation of it) would make the pulling operation one more of necessity than of convenience.
Editor’s Note
5 From the end of Dec. 1729 to the beginning of Mar. 1732. For JB's attempt to set the chronological record straight, see post To and From Hector, 15 July 1786.
Editor’s Note
6 JB's account of the Bosworth episode, Life i. 84–85, is based mainly on the fuller information later supplied by Hector (post 16 July 1786). SJ's 'Annales' fixes the term at Bosworth from 9 Mar. to July 1732. JB, who saw the 'Annales', but also saw 'one of his little fragments of a diary', misinterpreted the signs. See Diaries, pp. 28–29 and n.
Editor’s Note
7 Hill and Dent (Memorials of the Old Square, p. 25) date Hector's arrival in Birmingham c. 1731 and SJ's visit in 1732, but they give no authorities. Reade (Johns. Glean. v. 96) argues for the end of 1732 as the time of SJ's arrival. See n. 10 following. The Birmingham chapter in SJ's history is briefly set down in the Note Book (p. 10), and is elaborated in the Life (i. 85 ff.), chiefly from the materials which follow.
Editor’s Note
8 MS. orig. 'Lichfield'. Thomas Warren was a printer as well as a bookseller (but not the first established in Birmingham). He was in business in Birmingham at least from 1727, and died in 1767 'greatly advanced in years'. In 1743 he suffered bankruptcy as a result of his association with Lewis Paul's cotton-spinning venture (Johns. Glean. v. 93–94; Life i. 528 [App. G]). See also Letters SJ, ed. Redford, i. 24–27, 104–05, 259–61; and n. 25 following. SJ and JB lodged at the Swan Inn during their visit to Birmingham in 1776 (Journ. 22 Mar. 1776).
Editor’s Note
9 Cf. Note Book, p. 4 and Life i. 36.
Editor’s Note
10 He seems to have stayed about a year and a half, returning to Lichfield early in 1734, but revisiting Birmingham towards the end of that year (Johns. Glean. v. 100, 104).
Editor’s Note
11 '... by his knowledge of literature' (Life i. 85).
Editor’s Note
12 Life i. 86. 'After very diligent inquiry, I have not been able to recover those early specimens of that particular mode of writing by which Johnson afterwards so greatly distinguished himself.' Nor have succeeding biographers. For a description of The Birmingham Journal, see Clifford, Young Sam Johnson, pp. 143–44.
Editor’s Note
13 Life i. 85–86. In his 'Annales' SJ wrote: '1733 Junii 1mo apud F. Jervis Birminghamiae habitare incepi' (Diaries, p. 31). Cf. Hawkins, p. 21.
Editor’s Note
14 Life i. 86. JB adds that SJ was 'urged' to the undertaking by Hector and Warren. The story of SJ's first literary project (of any scope) had been related by Hector in 1776, and is recorded in very brief form in the Note Book (p. 10). See H. W. Liebert, 'Dr. Johnson's First Book', Yale University Library Gazette (1960) xxv. 23 ff. JB's criticism of the book as undistinguished except for the Preface and Dedication is reminiscent of Hawkins (p. 22). See also Life iii.7.
Father Jerome Lobo (1593–1678) was a Portuguese Jesuit missionary to India and Abyssinia. His own account of his travels was apparently never published, but the MS. was translated into French in 1728 by Abbé Joachim le Grand and entitled Voyage (or Relation) historique d'Abissinie. It was this edition which SJ abridged and translated into English. See J. J. Gold, ed., A Voyage to Abyssinia: Translated From the French, vol. XV, Yale Edition of the Works of Samuel Johnson, 1985.
Editor’s Note
15 Life i. 86, where the borrower is SJ rather than Hector, who, L. F. Powell informed me, was not entitled to borrow a book from Pembroke. There is, in any case, no record of the book in the College library (Life i. 528 [App. G]). The omission of the word 'library' in JB's account enabled Reade to suggest (Johns. Glean. v. 108) that the book may have been borrowed from a private source at the College. In the Note Book version SJ is said to have read the book at Warren's.
Editor’s Note
16 'From that kind of melancholy indisposition which I had when we lived together at Birmingham, I have never been free' (SJ to Hector, 7 Oct. 1756; Letters SJ, ed. Redford, i. 141–43).
Editor’s Note
17 Life i. 86–87. Lysons wrote to Mrs. Piozzi at Florence, 14 July 1785: 'I saw Boswell lately at Banks's for the first time and cannot say, that I saw any thing very engaging in his manner—He said that Mr. Hector told him that when Johnson was translating Le Bo's Abyssinia which was the first work he engaged in, he lay in bed and was too lazy to write, but dictated to Hector who was then his Amanuensis—' (Clifford, 'Further Letters of the Johnson Circle', Bull. Rylands Lib. 1936, xx. 276–77). The story was duly incorporated in the Anecdotes (Johns. Misc. i. 178).
Editor’s Note
18 Life i. 87, omitting the detail of Hector's rewriting.
Editor’s Note
19 Life i. 87. As an afterthought (MS. Life, p. 43) JB interpolated the phrase 'only the sum of'. See however Johns. Glean. v. 97 for a more realistic estimate.
Editor’s Note
20 Life i. 86. The first part of the sentence is replaced by the remark that he 'had no settled plan of life'. The phrase 'had a few acquaintances' was improved by stages in the MS. Life (p. 40): from 'had a few good acquaintances' to 'made some valuable acquaintances'. Harry Porter (d. 1734), the husband of SJ's future wife, was a mercer or woollen draper, established in a house in the High Street which Warren was to occupy after his death (Johns. Glean. v. 99, 102, 106). John Taylor (1711–75), 'the Shakespeare or Newton of Birmingham', lived on the same street, in a house now occupied by Lloyds Bank. He was High Sheriff of Warwickshire in 1756, and with Sampson Lloyd the Third founded in 1765 the first regular banking-house in Birmingham. He was best known, however, as the inventor and manufacturer of the gilt button and enamelled snuff-box, and as the possessor of a fortune of £200,000 (Hill and Dent, Memorials of the Old Square, pp. 101–02; Johns. Glean. v. 97–98; Life i. 86 n. 3). See also Letters SJ, ed. Redford, i. 259–61 and Journ. 22 Mar. 1776.
Editor’s Note
21 Not used. Cf. JB's account of SJ's reading, Life i. 70–71.
Editor’s Note
22 'which I have not been able to recover' (Life i. 92). Olivia Lloyd (1707–75) was the youngest child of Sampson Lloyd the First of Birmingham by his second wife, Mary Crowley of Stourbridge. SJ may have met her through his cousin 'Parson' Ford and his wife, Judith Crowley, Olivia's aunt. She was also related (remotely) to the Carlesses, and hence to Hector himself. In 1735 she married Thomas Kirton of Brimton, Berkshire (Reades, p. 151; Johns. Glean iii. 159–60; Life i. 529).
Editor’s Note
23 Peter Garrick (1710–95), 'the elder brother of David, strongly resembling him in countenance and voice, but of more sedate and placid manners' (Life ii. 311). 'He was David with a sourdine [i.e. a mute]: the same instrument, but not so loud or sharp' (Journ. 23 Mar. 1776). According to David, he was SJ's 'prime favourite' (Letters of David Garrick, ed. D. M. Little and G. M. Kahrl, 1963, iii. 1084). Peter was a wine merchant in Lichfield, where he played host to SJ and the Thrales in July 1774 and to SJ and JB in Mar. 1776 (Life ii. 462, 466, v. 429; Journ. 23–24 Mar. 1776).
Editor’s Note
24 Benjamin Victor (d. 1778), Poet Laureate of Ireland, theatre manager, and historian of the stage. JB met 'old Victor' in 1762 and wrote of him; 'He is an honest, indolent, conversable man and has a great many anecdotes' (Journ. 30 Nov. 1762).
Editor’s Note
25 Lewis Paul (d. 1759), the inventor, was the son of a French refugee druggist in London and the ward of the third Earl of Shaftesbury. In 1738 he took out a patent for a roller-spinning machine (which appears actually to have been the invention of John Wyatt) and set up a mill at Birmingham, with the assistance of Wyatt, Warren the printer, Cave, Dr. James, and Mrs. Desmoulins. Although the enterprise failed (it was successfully developed by Arkwright ten years later), Paul persisted in his researches on cotton-carding and cotton-spinning machines. SJ acted as intermediary for Paul and his financial backers. See John Wyatt, Master Carpenter & Inventor, 1885; R. K. Dent, 'The Sorrows of an Inventor', Central Literary Magazine (Birmingham), 1917, xxiii. 482–86; Letters SJ, ed. Redford, passim; and Clifford, Young Sam Johnson, pp. 241–42. Paul was married in Feb. 1728 to Sarah Bull Meade, a widow, who died in Sept. of the next year. The term 'Gym crack' was used by Wyatt, in letters to his brother, as early as 1733 for the 'fly shuttle'.
Editor’s Note
26 See ante From Hector, 1 Feb. 1785 and n. 8. For James's sexual indulgences, see Journ. 1 Apr. 1775 and Dr. Campbell's Diary, ed. Clifford, pp. 68–69.
Editor’s Note
27 JB had heard a very similar tale ten years earlier from Peter Garrick. 'He said a Lady, a very fine woman, said to him that Mr. Johnson was a very seducing man among the women when he chose it; and he added that it was suspected he had seduced her. This was not very probable' (Journ. 24 Mar. 1775). JB makes use of the first part of Garrick's anecdote in order to enforce his claim that SJ was not unattractive to women, Life iv. 57 n. 3. Cf. ibid. 73.
Editor’s Note
28 It is not known just when James left Birmingham (he was married there in 1737), but I have seen no evidence to preclude the possibility of either James's or SJ's having known Mrs. Paul. She was Mrs. Paul from Feb. 1728 and died in Sept. 1729; SJ was at leisure in Lichfield from the fall of 1726 to the fall of 1728, and had many relatives in and around Birmingham whom he could have visited. See Johns. Glean. iii. 124 n., 164, 177 ff.
Editor’s Note
29 Perhaps George Larkin (b. c. 1702), of Bristol. He was a bachelor of medicine at this time, and did not become an M.D. until 1737 (Alum. Oxon.).
Editor’s Note
30 Hector's appearance among the dramatis personae helps fix the time of his residence in Birmingham: see preceding n. 7. Larkin, who was not one of the original 'Triumvirate', probably became involved in 1729. SJ spent this year at Oxford.
Editor’s Note
31 Meaning that he was chaste—not indifferent. At least so JB interpreted it: 'His juvenile attachments to the fair sex were, however, very transient; and it is certain, that he formed no criminal comnection whatsoever. Mr. Hector, who lived with him in his younger days in the utmost intimacy and social freedom, has assured me, that even at that ardent season his conduct was strictly virtuous in that respect' (Life i. 93–94). Cf. ibid. iv. 395–96, where JB belatedly mentions, '(with all possible respect and delicacy, however,) that his conduct, after he came to London, and had associated with Savage and others, was not so strictly virtuous, in one respect, as when he was a younger man'. See F. A. Pottle, 'The Dark Hints of Sir John Hawkins and Boswell', New Light on Dr. Johnson, ed. F. W. Hilles, 1959, pp. 153–162.
Editor’s Note
32 SJ dated his religious reawakening from a sickness suffered (he thought) when he was twenty-two (Journ. 30 Apr. 1783), altered to 'at an early part of my life' (Life iv. 215). For JB's attempt to date SJ's first serious attack of 'morbid melancholy', see post To and From Hector, 15 July 1786.
Editor’s Note
33 'that liquor called Bishop, which Johnson had always liked' (Life i. 251). Hill noted (n. 1) the definition given in SJ's Dictionary: 'A cant word for a mixture of wine, oranges, and sugar.'
Editor’s Note
34 Not used. See Introduction, p. xxxviii.
Editor’s Note
35 Not used. SJ lived at No. 17 Gough Square from 1747 until 23 Mar. 1759, when he moved to Staple Inn (Clifford, Young Sam Johnson, p. 293; Life iii. 535). According to Hawkins (p. 365) he was compelled to leave his house in Gough Square for lack of funds; but Hector's story gains some support from an entry in SJ's Prayers and Meditations, dated 25 Mar. 1759: 'callest me to a ... reformation of my thoughts words and practices.... let the change which I am now making in outward things, produce in [me] ... a change of manners' (Diaries, p. 68). In one of his notebooks on SJ's writings, JB alludes to this passage with the query: 'what was the change he was going to make?'
Sir Henry Gough, Bt. (d. 1798) added in 1788 the name of his maternal uncle, Sir Henry Calthorpe, whose estates he had inherited, and in 1796 he became Baron Calthorpe of Calthorpe (Norfolk) (Comp. Peer. ii. 490). Hector's acquaintance with Gough may be accounted for by the fact that Gough was brought up in Edgbaston, which forms the west district of Birmingham.
Editor’s Note
36 1732–34.
Editor’s Note
37 Not used; cf. ante From Hector, 1 Feb. 1785 and n. 23. JB carefully explains that SJ himself had confounded madness with melancholy, and shows impatience with those who 'have given credit to his groundless opinion' (Life i. 66, iii. 98–99, 175). See Introduction, pp. xxxix–xl.
Editor’s Note
38 See Life iv. 399 and n. 6, 418 n. 1.
Editor’s Note
40 'Parson' Ford, to whom SJ was surely 'under obligations' and of whom it was said 'that no liquor could fluster him' (Johns. Glean. ix. 1), would qualify eminently, had he not died in 1731, or a year before SJ was living in Birmingham. It is clear in any case from the context that another Ford is meant: perhaps SJ's maternal uncle, Cornelius Ford (1674–?buried 1734 at Old Swinford, near Stourbridge), famous as a broad-jumper (Reades, pp. 156–57; Anecdotes: Johns. Misc. i. 149), or Gregory Ford (1706–48), of Stourbridge, SJ's first cousin (Reades, Tabular Pedigree xxix).
Editor’s Note
41 MS. orig. 'fill'
Editor’s Note
42 Not used. See Introduction, p. xli. Reynolds was another who is said never to have seen SJ intoxicated but once (Life i. 379 n. 2). See also Journ. 24 Apr. 1779.
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