Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

kind; and I who had not been informed of any 1783. change, imagined all to be as well as formerly. Her was little inclined to talk at dinner, and went to sleep after it; but when he joined us in the’drawing-room, he seemed revived, and was again himself,

Talking of conversation, he said, “ There must, in the first place, be knowledge, there must be materials ;-in the second place, there must be a command of words ;- in the third place, there must be imagination, to place things in such views as they are not commonly seen in ;—and in the fourth place, there must be presence of mind, and a resolution that is not to be overcome by failures; this last is an essential requisite; for want of it many people do not excel in conversation. Now I want it; I throw up the game upon losing a trick.” I wondered to hear him talk thus of himself, and said, “ I don't know, Sir, how this may be ; but I am sure you beat other people's cards out of their hands.” I doubt whether he heard this remark. While we went on talking triumphantly, I was fixed in admiration, and said to Mrs. Thrale, “ O, for short-hand to take this down!" - You'll carry it all in your head, (said she;) a long head is as good as short-hand.”

It has been observed and wondered at, that Mr. Charles Fox never talked with any freedom in the presence of Dr. Johnson; though it is well known, and I myself can witness, that his conversation is various, fluent, and exceedingly agreeable. Johnson's own experience, however, of that gentleman's reserve was a sufficient reason for his going on thus : : “ Fox never talks in private company; not from any determination not to talk, but because he has not the first motion. A man who is used to the applause of

1783. the House of Commons, has no wish for that of a

private company. A man accustomed to throw for a Ætat. 74.

thousand pounds, if set down to throw for sixpence, would not be at the pains to count his dice. Burke's talk is the ebullition of his mind; he does not talk from a desire of distinction, but because his mind is full.”

He thus curiously characterised one of our old acquaintance: “******** is a good man, Sir; but he is a vain inan and a liar. He, however, only tells lies of vanity; of victories, for instance, in conversation, which never happened.” This alluded to a story which I had repeated from that gentleman, to entertain Johnson with its wild bravado : “ This Johnson, Sir, (said he, whom you are all afraid of, will shrink, if you come close to him in argument, and roar as loud as he. He once maintained the paradox, that there is no beauty but in utility. Sir, (said I,) what say you to the peacock's tail, which is one of the most beautiful objects in nature, but would have as much utility if its feathers were all of one colour. He felt what I thus produced, and had recourse to his usual expedient, ridicule ; exclaiming,

A peacock has a tail, and a fox has a tail ;' and then he burst out into a laugh.--- Well, Sir, (said I, with a strong voice, looking him full in the face,) you have unkennelled your fox; pursue him if you dare.' He had not a word to say, Sir”—Johnson, told me, that this was fiction from beginning to end.

* Were I to insert all the stories which have been told of contests boldly maintained with him, imaginary victories obtained over him, of reducing him to silence, and of making him own that his antagonist had the better of him in argument, my volumes would

VELL

After musing for some time, he said, “I wonder 1783. how I should have any enemies; for I do harın to nobody." Boswell. - In the first place, Sir, you will be pleased to recollect, that you set out with ata tacking the Scotch ; so you got a whole nation for your enemies.” JOHNSON, “ Why, I own, that by my definition of oats I meant to vex them.” BosWELL. “ Pray, Sir, can you trace the cause of your antipathy to the Scotch." Johnson. " I cannot, Sir.” BOSWELL. « Old Mr. Sheridan says, it was because they sold Charles the First.” Johnso, " Then, Sir, old Mr. Sheridan has found out a ver good reason.”

Surely the most obstinate and sulky rationality, the most determined aversion to this great and good man, must be cured, when he is seen thus playing with one of his prejudices, of which he candidly admitted that he could not tell the reason. It was, how : ever, probably owing to his having had in his view the worst part of the Scottish nation, the needy adven

swell to an immoderate size. One instance, I find, has círculated both in conversation and in print; that when he woåld not allow the Scotch writers to have merit, the late Dr. Rose, of Chiswick, asserted, that he could name one Scotch writer, whom Dr. Johnson himself would allow to have written better than any man of the age ; and upon Johnson's asking who it was, answered, “ Lord Bute, when he signed the warrant for your pension." Upon which, Johnson, struck with the repartee, acknowledged that this was true, When I mentioned it to Johnson, “ Sir, (said he,) if Rose said this, I never heard it."

5 This reflection was very natural in a man of a good heart, who was not conscious of any ill-will to mankind, though the sharp sayings which were sometimes produced by his discrimination and vivacity, which he perhaps did not recollect, were, I am afraid, too often remembered with resentment.

1783. turers, many of whom he thought were advanced

above their inerits, by means which he did not ap. Ætat. 74.

prove. Had he in his early life been in Scotland, and seen the worthy, sensible, independent gentlemen, who live rationally and hospitably at home, he never could have entertained such unfavourable and unjust notions of his fellow-subjects. And accordingly we find, that when he did visit Scotland, in the latter period of his life, he was fully sensible of all that it deserved, as I have already pointed out, when speaking of his " Journey to the Western Islands."

Next day, Saturday, March 22, I found him still at Mrs. Thrale's, but he told me that he was to go to his own house in the afternoon. He was better, but I perceived he was but an unruly patient, for Sir Lucas Pepys, who visited him, while I was with him said, “ If you were tractable, Sir, I should prescribe for you."

I related to him a remark which a respectable friend had made to me, upon the then state of Government, when those who had been long in opposition had attained to power, as it was supposed, against the inclination of the Sovereign. “You need not be uneasy (said this gentleman) about the King. He laughs at them all; he plays them one against another." Johnson. “Don't think so, Sir. The King is as much oppressed as a man can be. If he plays them one against another, he wins nothing." ..

I had paid a visit to General Oglethorpe in the morning, and was told by him that Dr. Johnson saw company on Saturday evenings, and he would meet me at Johnson's that night. When I mentioned this to Johnson, not doubting that it would please

Ætat. 74.

him, as he had a great value for Oglethorpe, the fret- 1783. fulness of his disease unexpectedly shewed itself; his anger suddenly kindled, and he said, with vehe:nence, “ Did not you tell him not to come? Am I to be hunted in this manner?” I satisfied him that I could not divine that the visit would not be convenient, and that I certainly could not take it upon me of my own accord to forbid the General.

I found Dr. Johnson in the evening in Mrs. Williams's room, at tea and coffee with her and Mrs. Desmoulins, who were also both ill ; it was a sad scene, and he was not in a very good humour. He said of a performance that had lately come out, “Sir, if you should search all the madhouses in England, you would not find ten men who would write so, and think it sense.”

I was glad when General Oglethorpe's arrival was announced, and we left the ladies. Dr. Johnson attended him in the parlour, and was as courteous as ever. The General said, he was busy reading the writers of the middle age. Johnson said they were very curious. OGLETHORPE. “The House of Commons has usurped the power of the nation's money, ar, used it tyrannically. Government is now carried on by corrupt influence, instead of the inherent right in the King." Johnson. “ Sir, the want of inherent right in the King occasions all this disturbance. What we did at the Revolution was necessary : but it broke our constitution." OGLETHORPE. “ My father did not think it necessary.”

o I have, in my “ Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides," fully expressed my sentiments upon this subject. The Revolution was pecessary, but not a subject for glory; because it for a long time

« ElőzőTovább »