15 May: Johnson dining with his enemies.

Boswell had arranged for Johnson to go with him to dine with Mr Dilly the bookseller, but the date had slipped Johnson’s mind. He had been expecting to dine in with Mrs Williams, the blind poet who lived with him and Frank – Francis Barber, his servant, a former slave. Boswell persuaded Mrs Williams to allow Johnson to break his date to dine with her. Boswell had been plotting for Johnson and Wilkes to meet, since they were often at odds in print. ‘How to manage it, was a nice and difficult matter’, but on May 15, 1776, Johnson and Bozzie went to Dilly’s.

As soon as I had announced to him Mrs. Williams’ consent, he roared, ‘Frank, a clean shirt,’ and was very soon drest.

When I had him fairly seated in a hackney-coach with me, I exulted as much as a fortune-hunter who has got an heiress into a post-chaise with him to set out for Gretna-Green.

When we entered Mr. Dilly’s drawing room, he found himself in the midst of a company he did not know. I kept myself snug and silent, watching how he would conduct himself. I observed him whispering to Mr. Dilly, ‘Who is that gentleman, Sir?’—’Mr. Arthur Lee.’—

JOHNSON. ‘Too, too, too,’ (under his breath,) which was one of his habitual mutterings[195]. Mr. Arthur Lee could not but be very obnoxious to Johnson, for he was not only a patriot but an American. He was afterwards minister from the United States at the court of Madrid. ‘

And who is the gentleman in lace?’—’Mr. Wilkes, Sir.’ This information confounded him still more; he had some difficulty to restrain himself, and taking up a book, sat down upon a window-seat and read, or at least kept his eye upon it intently for some time, till he composed himself. His feelings, I dare say, were aukward enough. But he no doubt recollected his having rated me for supposing that he could be at all disconcerted by any company, and he, therefore, resolutely set himself to behave quite as an easy man of the world, who could adapt himself at once to the disposition and manners of those whom he might chance to meet.

from “Life of Johnson by James Boswell, via Kindle.

Johnson and Wilkes sat together and were unfailingly attentive to each other and enjoyed an evening of conversation and wit.

The day after tomorrow we find Jesus sitting down to eat with his enemies; no clean shirt, not even clean hands – and that’s where the trouble began.

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Filed under Daily Reflections, PLaces

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