A King in Close-up
When I was a schoolboy we were taught that the
American Revolution had occurred because our ancestors were fed up with
the tyranny of King George III. They particularly resented being taxed by a
government in which they had no vote, and they adopted the slogan
No taxation without representation. The slightest tax
increase drove them to fury.
His Majesty enquired if he was then writing any thing. He answered, he was not, for he had pretty well told the world what he knew, and must now read to acquire more knowledge. The King, as it should seem with a view to urge him to rely on his own stores as an original writer, and to continue his labours, then said I do not think you borrow much from any body. Johnson said, he thought he had already done his part as a writer. I should have thought so too, (said the King,) if you had not written so well. Johnson observed to me, upon this, that No man could have paid a handsomer compliment; and it was fit for a King to pay. It was decisive. When asked by another friend, at Sir Joshua Reynoldss, whether he made any reply to this high compliment, he answered, No, Sir. When the King had said it, it was to be so. It was not for me to bandy civilities with my Sovereign. Perhaps no man who had spent his whole life in courts could have shewn a more nice and dignified sense of true politeness, than Johnson did in this instance.Johnson later added that they may talk of the King as they will; but he is the finest gentleman I have ever seen.
If we hadnt learned long ago that George III was a dreadful ogre, we might get the mistaken impression that he was a man of qualities gracious, tactful, considerate, and quick-witted. Not that his personal demeanor can excuse wrongs he did in his capacity as ruler, but a glimpse of his human side is bound to make you wonder if American revolutionary propaganda is entirely just to him. Are we really so much better off under the sort of men who rule America today?
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