The projected tour to Italy.

[A.D. 1776.

Thrale's, in the Borough. I called at his house in the evening, having promised to acquaint Mrs. Williams of his safe return; when, to my surprize, I found him sitting with her at tea, and, as I thought, not in a very good humour: for, it seems, when he had got to Mr. Thrale's, he found the coach was at the door waiting to carry Mrs. and Miss Thrale, and Signor Baretti, their Italian master, to Bath'. This was not shewing the attention which might have been expected to the 'Guide, Philosopher, and Friend,' the Imlac3 who had hastened from the country to console a distressed mother, who he understood was very anxious for his return. They had, I found, without ceremony, proceeded on their intended journey. I was glad to understand from him that it was still resolved that his tour to Italy with Mr. and Mrs. Thrale should take place, of which he had entertained some doubt, on account of the loss which they had suffered; and his doubts afterwards proved to be well-founded. He observed, indeed very justly, that 'their loss was an additional reason for their going abroad; and if it had not been fixed that he should have been one of the party, he would force them out; but he would not advise them unless his advice was asked, lest they might suspect that he recommended what he wished on his own account.' I was not pleased that his intimacy

Baretti says, that Mrs. Thrale abruptly proposed to start for Bath, as wishing to avoid the sight of the funeral. She had no man-friend to go with her,' and so he offered his services. Johnson at that moment arrived. I expected that he would spare me the jaunt, and go himself to Bath with her; but he made no motion to that effect.' European Mag. xiii. 315. It was on the evening of the 29th that Boswell found Johnson, as he thought, not in very good humour. Yet on the 30th he wrote to Mrs. Thrale, and called on Mr. Thrale. On April 1 and April 4 he again wrote to Mrs. Thrale. He would have gone a second time, he says, to see Mr. Thrale, had he not been made to understand that when he was wanted he would be sent for. Piozzi Letters, i. 309–314.

2 Pope, Essay on Man, iv. 390. Boswell twice more applies the same line to Johnson, post, June 3, 1781, and under Dec. 13, 1784.

3 Imlac consoles the Princess for the loss of Pekuah. 'When the clouds of sorrow gather over us, we see nothing beyond them, nor can imagine how they will be dispelled; yet a new day succeeded to the night, and sorrow is never long without a dawn of ease. But they who restrain themselves from receiving comfort do as the savages would have done, had they put out their eyes when it was dark.' Rasselas, ch. 35. Keep yourself busy,' wrote Johnson to Mrs. Thrale, and you will in time grow cheerful. New prospects may open, and new enjoyments may come within your reach.' Piozzi Letters, i. 315.

Aetat. 67.]

The enthusiasm of curiosity.


with Mr. Thrale's family, though it no doubt contributed much to his comfort and enjoyment, was not without some degree of restraint: not, as has been grossly suggested, that it was required of him as a task to talk for the entertainment of them and their company; but that he was not quite at his ease; which, however, might partly be owing to his own honest pride —that dignity of mind which is always jealous of appearing too compliant.

On Sunday, March 31, I called on him, and shewed him as a curiosity which I had discovered, his Translation of Lobo's Account of Abyssinia, which Sir John Pringle had lent me, it being then little known as one of his works'. He said, 'Take no notice of it,' or 'don't talk of it.' He seemed to think it beneath him, though done at six-and-twenty. I said to him, 'Your style, Sir, is much improved since you translated this.' He answered with a sort of triumphant smile, 'Sir, I hope it is.' On Wednesday, April 3, in the morning I found him very busy putting his books in order, and as they were generally very old ones, clouds of dust were flying around him. He had on a pair of large gloves such as hedgers use. His present appearance put me in mind of my uncle, Dr. Boswell's' description of him, 'A robust genius, born to grapple with whole libraries.'

I gave him an account of a conversation which had passed between me and Captain Cook, the day before, at dinner at Sir John Pringle's3; and he was much pleased with the conscientious accuracy of that celebrated circumnavigator, who set me right as to many of the exaggerated accounts given by Dr. Hawkesworth of his Voyages. I told him that while I was with the Captain, I catched the enthusiasm of curiosity and adventure, and felt a strong inclination to go with him on his next voyage. JOHNSON. 'Why, Sir, a man does feel so, till he considers how very little he can learn from such voyages.' BOSWELL. But one is carried away with the general grand and indistinct notion of A VOYAGE ROUND THE WORLD.'

[blocks in formation]



[A.D. 1776.

JOHNSON. 'Yes, Sir, but a man is to guard himself against taking a thing in general.' I said I was certain that a great part of what we are told by the travellers to the South Sea must be conjecture, because they had not enough of the language of those countries to understand so much as they have related. Objects falling under the observation of the senses might be clearly known; but every thing intellectual, every thing abstract-politicks, morals, and religion, must be darkly guessed. Dr. Johnson was of the same opinion. He upon another occasion, when a friend mentioned to him several extraordinary facts, as communicated to him by the circumnavigators, slily observed, 'Sir, I never before knew how much I was respected by these gentlemen; they told me none of these things.'

He had been in company with Omai, a native of one of the South Sea Islands, after he had been some time in this country. He was struck with the elegance of his behaviour, and accounted for it thus: Sir, he had passed his time, while in England, only in the best company; so that all that he had acquired of our manners was genteel. As a proof of this, Sir, Lord Mulgrave and he dined one day at Streatham; they sat with their backs. to the light fronting me, so that I could not see distinctly; and there was so little of the savage in Omai, that I was afraid to speak to either, lest I should mistake one for the other'.'

We agreed to dine to-day at the Mitre-tavern, after the rising of the House of Lords, where a branch of the litigation concerning the Douglas Estate2, in which I was one of the counsel, was to come on. I brought with me Mr. Murray, Solicitor-General of Scotland, now one of the Judges of the Court of Session, with the title of Lord Henderland. I mentioned Mr. Solicitor's relation, Lord Charles Hay3, with whom I knew Dr. Johnson

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

Aetat. 67.]

The character of a soldier.


had been acquainted. JOHNSON. 'I wrote something' for Lord Charles; and I thought he had nothing to fear from a courtmartial. I suffered a great loss when he died; he was a mighty pleasing man in conversation, and a reading man. The character of a soldier is high. They who stand forth the foremost in danger, for the community, have the respect of mankind. An officer is much more respected than any other man who has as little money. In a commercial country, money will always purchase respect. But you find, an officer, who has, properly speaking, no money, is every where well received and treated with attention. The character of a soldier always stands him in stead'.' BOSWELL. 'Yet, Sir, I think that common soldiers are worse thought of than other men in the same rank of life; such as labourers.' JOHNSON. 'Why, Sir, a common soldier is usually a very gross man3, and any quality which procures respect may be overwhelmed by grossness. A man of learning may be so vicious or so ridiculous that you cannot respect him. A common soldier too, generally eats more than he can pay for. But when a common soldier is civil in his quarters, his red coat procures him a degree of respect.' The peculiar

Mylord Charles Hay, capitaine aux gardes anglaises, cria :-Messieurs des gardes françaises, tirez. Le comte d'Auteroche leur dit à voix haute-Messieurs, nous ne tirons jamais les premiers; tirez vousmêmes.'

1 See post, 1780, in Mr. Langton's Collection. Hay was third in command in the expedition to North America in 1757. It was reported that he said that 'the nation's wealth was expended in making sham-fights and planting cabbages.' He was put under arrest and sent home to be tried. Gent. Mag. 1758, p. 170. Mr. Croker says that 'the real state of the case was that he had gone mad, and was in that state sent home.' He died before the sentence of the court-martial was promulgated. Croker's Boswell, p. 497.

In Thoughts on the Coronation of George III (Works, v. 458) he ex

pressed himself differently, if indeed the passage is of his writing (see ante, i. 361). He says:-'It cannot but offend every Englishman to see troops of soldiers placed between him and his sovereign, as if they were the most honourable of the people, or the King required guards to secure his person from his subjects. As their station makes them think themselves important, their insolence is always such as may be expected from servile authority.' In his Journey to the Hebrides (ib. ix. 30) he speaks of 'that courtesy which is so closely connected with the military character.' See post, April 10, 1778.

3 It is not in the power even of God to make a polite soldier.' Menander; quoted by Hume, Essays, Part i. 20, note.

[blocks in formation]


Good humour in disputations.

[A.D. 1776. respect paid to the military character in France was mentioned. BOSWELL. I should think that where military men are so numerous, they would be less valued as not being rare.' JOHNSON. Nay, Sir, wherever a particular character or profession is high in the estimation of a people, those who are of it will be valued above other men. We value an Englishman highly in this country, and yet Englishmen are not rare in it.'

Mr. Murray praised the ancient philosophers for the candour and good humour with which those of different sects disputed with each other. JOHNSON. 'Sir, they disputed with good humour, because they were not in earnest as to religion. Had the ancients been serious in their belief, we should not have had their Gods exhibited in the manner we find them represented in the Poets. The people would not have suffered it. They disputed with good humour upon their fanciful theories, because they were not interested in the truth of them: when a man has nothing to lose, he may be in good humour with his opponent. Accordingly you see in Lucian, the Epicurean, who argues only negatively, keeps his temper; the Stoick, who has something positive to preserve, grows angry'. Being angry with one who controverts an opinion which you value, is a necessary consequence of the uneasiness which you feel. Every man who

tering of soldiers. By the Mutiny Act the innkeeper was required to find each foot-soldier lodging, diet, and small beer for fourpence a day. By the Act as amended that year if he furnished salt, vinegar, smallbeer, candles, fire, and utensils to dress their victuals, without payment, he had not to supply diet except on a march. Ib. pp. 416, 420. The allowance of small-beer was fixed at five pints a day, though it was maintained that it should be six. Lord Baltimore, according to Johnson, said that 'as every gentleman's servants each consumed daily six pints, it surely is not to be required that a soldier should live in a perpetual state of warfare with his constitution.' Ib. p. 418. Burke, writing in 1794, says :-'In quarters the inn

keepers are obliged to find for the soldiers lodging, fire, candle-light, small-beer, salt and vinegar gratis.' Burke's Corres. iv. 258. Johnson wrote in 1758 (Works, vi. 150):— 'The manner in which the soldiers are dispersed in quarters over the country during times of peace naturally produces laxity of discipline; they are very little in sight of their officers; and when they are not engaged in the slight duty of the guard are suffered to live every man his own way.' Fielding, in Tom Jones, bk. ix. ch. 6, humourously describes an innkeeper's grievances.

This alludes to the pleadings of a Stoic and an Epicurean for and against the existence of the Divinity in Lucian's Jupiter the Tragic. CROKER.


« ElőzőTovább »