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On Sunday, March 30, I found him at home in 1783. the evening, and had the pleasure to meet with Dr.
Ætat. 74. Brocklesby, whose reading, and knowledge of life, and good spirits, supply him with a never-failing source of conversation. He mentioned a respectable gentleman, who became extremely penurious near the close of his life. Johnson said there must have been a degree of madness about him. « Not at all, Sir, (said Dr. Brocklesby,) his judgement was entire.” Unluckily, however, he mentioned that although he had a fortune of twenty-seven thousand pounds, he denied himself many comforts, from an apprehension that he could not afford them. Nay, Sir, (cried Johnson,) when the judgement is so disturbed that a man cannot count, that is pretty well."
I shall here insert a few of cohnson's sayings, without the formality of dates, as they have no reference to any particular time or place.
“ The more a man extends and varies his acquaintance the better.” This, however, was meant with a just restriction; for, he on another occasion said to me, “Sir, a man may be so much of every thing, that he is nothing of any thing."
“ Raising the wages of day-labourers is wrong; for it does not make them live better, but only makes them idler, and idleness is a very bad thing for human nature.”
“ It is a very good custom to keep a journal for a man's own use; he may write upon a card a day all that is necessary to be written, after he has had experience of life. At first there is a great deal to be written, because there is a great deal of novelty; but when once a man has settled his opinions, there is seldom much to be set down."
1783. “There is nothing wonderful in the Journal which
we see Swift kept in London, for it contains slight Ætat. 74.
topicks, and it might soon be written.”
. lady whom I mentioned. JOHNSON. “ Keeping accounts, Sir, is of no use when a man is spending his own money, and has nobody to whom he is to account. You won't eat less beef to-day, because you have written down what it cost yesterday.” I mentioned another lady who thought as he did, so that her husband could not get her to keep an account of the expence of the family, as she thought it enough that she never exceeded the sum allowed her. JOHNSON. “ Sir, it is fit she should keep an account, because her husband wishes it; but I do not see its use." I maintained that keeping an account has this advantage, that it satisfies a man that his money has not been lost or stolen, which he might sometimes be apt to imagine, were there no written state of his expence; and besides, a calculation of economy so as not to
[In his Life of Swift, he thus speaks of this Journal : “ In the midst of his power and his politicks, he kept a journal of his visits, his walks, his interviews with ministers, and quarrels with his servant, and transmitted it to Mrs. Johnson and Mrs. Dingley, to whom he knew that whatever befel him was interesting, and no account could be too minute. Whether these diurnal trifles were properly exposed to eyes which had never received any pleasure from the Dean, may be reasonably doubted: they have, however, some odd attractions: the reader finding frequent mention of names which he has been used to consider as important, goes on in hope of information ; and as there is nothing to fatigue attention, if he is disappointed, he can hardly complain.”
It may be added, that the reader not only hopes to find, but does find, in this very entertaining Journal, much curious information, respecting persons and things, which he will in vain seek for in other books of the same period. M.]
exceed one's income, cannot be made without a view 1783. of the different articles in figures, that one may see
Ætat. 74. how to retrench in some particulars less necessary than others. This he did not attempt to answer,
Talking of an acquaintance of ours, whose narratives, which abounded in curious and interesting topicks, were unhappily found to be very fabulous; I mentioned Lord Mansfield's having said to me,
Suppose we believe one half of what he tells." JOHNSON. " Ay; but we don't know which half to believe. By his lying we lose not only our reverence for him, but all comfort in his conversation.” BosWELL. “ May we not take it as amusing fiction?” Johnson. “Sir, the misfortune is, that you will insensibly believe as much of it as you incline to believe.”
It is remarkable, that notwithstanding their congeniality in politicks, he never was acquainted with a late eminent noble judge, whom I have heard speak of him as a writer, with great respect. Johnson, I know not upon what degree of investigation, entertained no exalted opinion of his Lordship's intellectual character. Talking of him to me one day, he said, “It is wonderful, Sir, with how little real superiority of mind men can make an eminent figure in publick life." He expressed himself to the same purpose concerning another law-lord, who, it seems, once took a fancy to associate with the wits of London; but with so little success, that Foote said, “ What can he mean by coming among us? He is not only dull himself, but the cause of dullness in others.” Trying him by the test of his colloquial powers, Johnson had found him very defective. He once said to Sir Joshua Reynolds, “ This man now
1783. has been ten years about town, and has made nothing
of it;” meaning as a companion.' He said to me, Ætat. 74.
“ I never heard any thing from him in company that was at all striking; and depend upon it, Sir, it is when you come close to a man in conversation, that you discover what his real abilities are: to make a speech in a publick assembly is a knack. Now I honour Thurlow, Sir; Thurlow is a fine fellow; he fairly puts his mind to yours.
After repeating to him some of his pointed, lively sayings, I said, “ It is a pity, Sir, you don't always remember your own good things, that you may have a laugh when you will.” Johnson. “ Nay, Sir, it is better that I forget them, that I may be reminded of them, and have a laugh on their being brought to my recollection."
When I recalled to him his having said as we sailed up Lochlomond, “ That if he wore any thing fine, it should be very fine;" I observed that all his thoughts were upon a great scale. Johnson. “Depend upon it, Sir, every man will have as fine a thing as he can get; as large a diamond for his ring.” Bos
“ Pardon me, Sir: a man of a narrow mind will not think of it, a slight trinket will satisfy him:
'Nec sufferre queat majoris pondera gemmæ.” I told him I should send him some “ Essays”
Knowing as well as I do what precision and elegance of oratory his Lordship can display, I cannot but susp_ct that ủis unfavourable appearance in a social circle, which drew such animadversions upon him, must be owing to a cold affectation of conse. quence, from being reserved and stiff. If it be so, and he might be an agreeable man if he would, we cannot be sorry that he misses his aim.
which I had written," which I hoped he would be 1783. so good as to read, and pick out the good ones. Etat. 77. JOHNSON. “ Nay, Sir, send me only the good ones; don't make me pick them.”
I heard him once say, “ Though the proverb Nullum numen abest, si sit prudentia,' does not always prove true, we may be certain of the converse of it, Nullum numen adest, si sit imprudentia.”
Once, when Mr. Seward was going to Bath, and asked his commands, he said, “ Tell Dr. Harrington that I wish he would publish another volume of the “ Nuge antiquæe;": it is a very pretty book.”' Mr. Seward seconded this wish, and recommended to Dr. Harrington to dedicate it to Johnson, and take for his motto, what Catullus says to Cornelius Nepos:
namque tu solebas, “ Meas esse aliquid putare nugas.” As a small proof of his kindliness and delicacy of feeling, the following circumstance may be mentioned: One evening when we were in the street together; and I told him I was going to sup at Mr. Beauclerk's, he said, “I'll go with you.” After having walked part of the way, seeming to recollect
* [Under the title of “ The Hypocondriack.” M.] 3 It has since appeared.
*[ A new and greatly improved edition of this very curious collection was published by Mr. Park in 1804, in two volumes, octayo. In this edition the letters are chronologically arranged, and the account of the Bishops, which was formerly printed from a very corrupt copy, is taken from Sir John Harrington's original manuscript, which he presented to Henry, Prince of Wales, and is now in the Royal Library in the Museum. M. VOL. IV.