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134

A projected voyage up the Baltick.

[A.D. 1777.

astonish. Let us, by all means, have another expedition. I shrink a little from our scheme of going up the Baltick'. I am sorry you have already been in Wales; for I wish to see it. Shall we go to

It appears that Johnson, now in his sixty-eighth year, was seriously inclined to realise the project of our going up the Baltick, which I had started when we were in the Isle of Sky [Boswell's Hebrides, Sept. 16]; for he thus writes to Mrs. Thrale ; Letters, vol. i. p. 366 :—

'Ashbourne, Sept. 13, 1777. 'BOSWELL, I believe, is coming. He talks of being here to day: I shall be glad to see him: but he shrinks from the Baltick expedition, which, I think, is the best scheme in our power: what we shall substitute I know not. He wants to see Wales; but, except the woods of Bachycraigh, what is there in Wales, that can fill the hunger of ignorance, or quench the thirst of curiosity? We may, perhaps, form some scheme or other; but, in the phrase of Hockley in the Hole, it is a pity he has not a better bottom.

Such an ardour of mind, and vigour of enterprise, is admirable at any age but more particularly so at the advanced period at which Johnson was then arrived. I am sorry now that I did not insist on our executing that scheme. Besides the other objects of curiosity and observation, to have seen my illustrious friend received, as he probably would have been, by a Prince so eminently distinguished for his variety of talents and acquisitions as the late King of Sweden; and by the Empress of Russia, whose extraordinary abilities, information, and magnanimity, astonish the world, would have afforded a noble subject for contemplation and record. This reflection may possibly be thought too visionary by the more sedate and cold-blooded

part of my readers; yet I own, I frequently indulge it with an earnest, unavailing regret. BOSWELL. In The Spectator, No. 436, Hockley in the Hole is described as 'a place of no small renown for the gallantry of the lower order of Britons.' Fielding mentions it in Jonathan Wild, bk. i. ch. 2: — 'Jonathan married Elizabeth, daughter of Scragg Hollow, of Hockley in the Hole, Esq., and by her had Jonathan, who is the illustrious subject of these memoirs.' In The Beggar's Opera, act i. Mrs. Peachum says to Filch: "You should go to Hockley in the Hole, and to Marylebone, child, to learn valour. These are the schools that have bred so many brave men.' Hockley in the Hole was in Clerkenwell. That Johnson had this valour was shewn two years earlier, when he wrote to Mrs. Thrale about a sum of £14,000 that the Thrales had received: 'If I had money enough, what would I do? Perhaps, if you and master did not hold me, I might go to Cairo, and down the Red Sea to Bengal, and take a ramble in India. Would this be better than building and planting? It would surely give more variety to the eye, and more amplitude to the mind. Half fourteen thousand would send me out to see other forms of existence, and bring me back to describe them.' Piozzi Letters, i. 266. To the 'King of Sweden' late was added in the second edition; Gustavus III having been assassinated in March 1792. The story is somewhere told that George III, on hearing the news, cried out, 'What, what, what! Shot, shot, shot!' The Empress of Russia was Catherine II.

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Aetat. 68.] Johnson and Boswell at Ashbourne.

135

Ireland, of which I have seen but little? We shall try to strike out a plan when we are at Ashbourne. I am ever,

'Your most faithful humble servant,

'JAMES BOSWELL.'

'TO JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ.

'DEAR SIR,

'I write to be left at Carlisle, as you direct me; but you cannot have it. Your letter, dated Sept. 6, was not at this place till this day, Thursday, Sept. 11; and I hope you will be here before this is at Carlisle 1. However, what you have not going, you may have returning; and as I believe I shall not love you less after our interview, it will then be as true as it is now, that I set a very high value upon your friendship, and count your kindness as one of the chief felicities of my life. Do not fancy that an intermission of writing is a decay of kindness. No man is always in a disposition to write; nor has any man at all times something to say.

'That distrust which intrudes so often on your mind is a mode of melancholy, which, if it be the business of a wise man to be happy, it is foolish to indulge; and if it be a duty to preserve our faculties entire for their proper use, it is criminal. Suspicion is very often an useless pain. From that, and all other pains, I wish you free and safe; for I am, dear Sir,

'Ashbourne, Sept. 11, 1777.'

'Most affectionately yours,

'SAM. JOHNSON.'

On Sunday evening Sept. 14, I arrived at Ashbourne, and drove directly up to Dr. Taylor's door. Dr. Johnson and he appeared before I had got out of the post-chaise, and welcomed me cordially2.

1 It so happened. The letter was forwarded to my house at Edinburgh. BOSWELL. Arthur Young (Tour through the North of England, iv. 431-5) describes, in 1768, some of the roads along which Boswell was to travel nine years later. 'I would advise all travellers to consider the country between Newcastle-underLine and Preston as sea, and as soon think of driving into the ocean as venturing into such detestable roads. I am told the Derby way to Manchester is good, but further is

not penetrable.' The road from Wigan to Preston he calls 'infernal,' and 'cautions all travellers, who may accidentally purpose to travel this terrible country, to avoid it as they would the devil; for a thousand to one they break their necks or their limbs. They will here meet with ruts which I actually measured four feet deep, and floating with mud only from a wet summer; what therefore must it be after a winter?'

2 Johnson wrote to Mrs. Thrale on

136

Grief for the loss of friends.

[A.D. 1777.

I told them that I had travelled all the preceding night, and gone to bed at Leek in Staffordshire; and that when I rose to go to church in the afternoon, I was informed there had been an earthquake', of which, it seems, the shock had been felt in some degree at Ashbourne. JOHNSON. 'Sir, it will be much exaggerated in popular talk: for, in the first place, the common people do not accurately adapt their thoughts to the objects; nor, secondly, do they accurately adapt their words to their thoughts: they do not mean to lie; but, taking no pains to be exact, they give you very false accounts. A great part of their language is proverbial. If anything rocks at all, they say it rocks like a cradle; and in this way they go on.'

The subject of grief for the loss of relations and friends being introduced, I observed that it was strange to consider how soon it in general wears away. Dr. Taylor mentioned a gentleman of the neighbourhood as the only instance he had ever known of a person who had endeavoured to retain grief. He told Dr. Taylor, that after his Lady's death, which affected him deeply, he resolved that the grief, which he cherished with a kind of sacred fondness, should be lasting; but that he found he could not keep it long. JOHNSON. 'All grief for what cannot in the course of nature be helped, soon wears away; in some sooner, indeed, in some later; but it never continues very long, unless where there is madness, such as will make a man have pride so fixed in his mind, as to imagine himself a King; or any other passion in an unreasonable way: for all unnecessary grief is unwise, and therefore will not be long retained by a sound mind. If, indeed, the

Sept. 15, 1777 :-'Last night came
Boswell. I am glad that he is come.
He seems to be very brisk and
lively, and laughs a little at *** [no
doubt Taylor].' Piozzi Letters, i.
368. On the 18th he wrote:-' Bos-
well is with us in good humour, and
plays his part with his usual vivacity.'
On this Baretti noted in his copy:-
'That is, he makes more noise than
anybody in company, talking and
laughing loud.' On p. 216 in vol. i.
he noted:-'Boswell is not quite
right-headed in my humble opinion.'

In the Gent. Mag. for 1777, p.

458, it is described as a 'violent shock.'

2 'Grief has its time' he once said (post, June 2, 1781). Grief is a species of idleness,' he wrote to Mrs. Thrale (Piozzi Letters, i. 77). He constantly taught that it is a duty not to allow the mind to prey on itself. 'Gaiety is a duty when health requires it' (Croker's Boswell, p. 529). 'Encourage yourself in bustle, and variety, and cheerfulness,' he wrote to Mrs. Thrale ten weeks after the death of her only surviving son (Piozzi Letters, i. 341). Even to

cause

Aetat, 68.] Commendations of Johnson's HEBRIdes.

137

cause of our grief is occasioned by our own misconduct, if grief is mingled with remorse of conscience, it should be lasting.' BOSWELL. But, Sir, we do not approve of a man who very soon forgets the loss of a wife or a friend.' JOHNSON. 'Sir, we disapprove of him, not because he soon forgets his grief, for the sooner it is forgotten the better, but because we suppose, that if he forgets his wife or his friend soon, he has not had much affection for them'.'

I was somewhat disappointed in finding that the edition of The English Poets, for which he was to write Prefaces and Lives, was not an undertaking directed by him: but that he was to furnish a Preface and Life to any poet the booksellers pleased. I asked him if he would do this to any dunce's works, if they should ask him. JOHNSON. 'Yes, Sir; and say he was a dunce.' My friend seemed now not much to relish talking of this edition.

On Monday, September 15, Dr. Johnson observed, that every body commended such parts of his Journey to the Western Islands, as were in their own way. 'For instance, (said he,) Mr. Jackson (the all-knowing) told me there was more good sense upon trade in it, than he should hear in the House of Commons in a year, except from Burke. Jones commended the part which treats of language; Burke that which describes the inhabitants of mountainous countries'.'

think in the most reasonable manner,' he said at another time, 'is for the present not so useful as not to think.' Ib. i. 202. When Mr. Thrale died, he wrote to his widow :-'I think business the best remedy for grief, as soon as it can be admitted.' Ib. ii. 197. To Dr. Taylor Johnson wrote: 'Sadness only multiplies self. Notes and Queries, 6th S., v. 461.

I 'There is no wisdom in useless and hopeless sorrow; but there is something in it so like virtue, that he who is wholly without it cannot be loved, nor will by me at least be thought worthy of esteem.' Piozzi Letters, ii. 198. Against this Baretti

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138

The salaries of curates.

[A.D. 1777.

After breakfast, Johnson carried me to see the garden belonging to the school of Ashbourne, which is very prettily formed upon a bank, rising gradually behind the house. The Reverend Mr. Langley', the head-master, accompanied us.

While we sat basking in the sun upon a seat here, I introduced a common subject of complaint, the very small salaries which many curates have, and I maintained, 'that no man should be invested with the character of a clergyman, unless he has a security for such an income as will enable him to appear respectable; that, therefore, a clergyman should not be allowed to have a curate, unless he gives him a hundred pounds a year; if he cannot do that, let him perform the duty himself.' JOHNSON. 'To be sure, Sir, it is wrong that any clergyman should be without a reasonable income; but as the church revenues were sadly diminished at the Reformation, the clergy who have livings cannot afford, in many instances, to give good salaries to curates, without leaving themselves too little; and, if no curate were to be permitted unless he had a hundred pounds a year, their number would be very small, which would be a disadvantage, as then there would not be such choice in the nursery for the church, curates being candidates for the higher ecclesiastical offices, according to their merit and good behaviour.' He explained the system of the English Hierarchy exceedingly well. 'It is not thought fit (said he) to trust a man with the care of a parish till he has given proof as a curate that he shall deserve such a trust.' This is an excellent theory; and if the practice were according to it, the Church of England would be, admirable indeed. However, as I have heard Dr. Johnson observe as to the Universities, bad practice does not infer that the constitution is bad2.

We had with us at dinner several of Dr. Taylor's neighbours,

but to him as a student of national politics and economy, to whom any general reflections on the character of mountaineers would be welcome. In Johnson's Works (1787), xi. 201, it is stated that 'it was the philosophy of the book that Burke thought well of.'

Mr. Langley, I have little doubt, is the Mr. L- of the following

passage in Johnson's letter, written from Ashbourne on July 12, 1775:— 'Mr. L and the Doctor still continue at variance; and the Doctor is afraid and Mr. L- not desirous of a reconciliation. I therefore step over at by-times, and of by-times I have enough.' Piozzi Letters, i. 267.

2 See ante, ii. 52.

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