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1783. something, he suddenly stopped and said, “I can
not go,-but I do not love Beauclerk the less." Ætat, 74.
On the frame of his portrait, Mr. Beauclerk had inscribed,
Ingenium ingens “ Inculto latet hoc sub corpore." After Mr. Beauclerk's death, when it became Mr. Langton's property, he made the inscription be defaced. Johnson said complacently, “ It was kind in you to take it off; and then after a short pause, added, “ and not unkind in him to put it on.”
He said, “How few of his friends' houses would a man choose to be at, when he is sick!" He mentioned one or two. I recollect only Thrale’s.
He observed, “ There is a wicked inclination in most people to suppose an old man decayed in his intellects. If a young or middle-aged man, when leaving a company, does not recollect where he laid his hat, it is nothing; but if the same inattention is discovered in an old man, people will shrug up their shoulders, and say, “His memory is going.”
When I once talked to him of some of the sayings which every body repeats, but nobody knows where to find, such as, Quos Deus vult perdere, prius dementat; he told me that he was once offered ten guineas to point out from whence Semel insanivimus omnes was taken. He could not do it; but many years afterwards met with it by chance in Johannes Baptista Mantuanus,"
s [The words occur, (as Mr. Bindley observes to me,) in the First Eclogue of Mantuanus, De honesto Amore,. &c.
Id commune malum; semel insanivimus omnes,
195 I am very sorry that I did not take a note of an
1783. cloquent argument in which he maintained that the
With the following elucidation of the other saying--Quos Deus (it should rather be Quem Jupiter) vult perdere, prius dementat-Mr. Boswell was furnished by Mr. Richard How, of Aspley, in Bedfordshire, as communicated to that gentleman by his friend Mr. John Pitts, late Rector of Great Brickhill, in Buckinghamshire:
Perhaps no scrap of Latin whatever has been more quoted than this. It occasionally falls even from those who are scrupulous even to pedantry in their Latinity, and will not admit a word into their compositions, which has not the sanction of the first age. The word demento is of no authority, either as a verb active or neuter.. After a long search for the purpose of deciding a bet, some gentlemen of Cambridge found it among the fragments of Euripides, in what edition I do not recollect, where it is given as a translation of a Greek Iambick:
Ον Θεος θελει απολεσαι, πρωτ' αποφρεναι. “ The above scrap was found in the hand-writing of a suicide of fashion, Sir D. O. some years ago, lying on the table of the room where he had destroyed himself. The suicide was a man of classical acquirements : he left no other paper behind him."Another of these proverbial sayings
Incidit in Scyllam, cupiens vitare Charybdim,
Quò tendis inertem,
Incidis in Scyllam, cupiens vitare Charybdim.
1783. situation of Prince of Wales was the happiest of any
person's in the kingdom, even beyond that of the Ætat. 74.
Sovereign. I recollect only--the enjoyment of hope, -the high superiority of rank, without the anxious cares of government, and a great degree of power, both from natural influence wisely used, and from the sanguine expectations of those who look forward to the chance of future favour.
Sir Joshua Reynolds communicated to me the following particulars:
Johnson thought the poems published as translations from Ossian, had so little merit, that he said, “Sir, a man might write such stuff for ever, if he would abandon his mind to it."
He said, “A man should pass a part of his time with the laughers, by which means any thing ridiculous or particular about him might be presented to his view, and corrected." I observed, he must have been a bold laugher who would have ventured to tell Dr. Johnson of any of his particularities."
Having observed the vain ostentatious importance of many people in quoting the authority of Dukes
suggested for enquiry, several years ago, in a Note on The
Solamen miseris socios habuisse doloris
M.] ? I am happy, however, to mention a pleasing instance of his enduring with great gentleness to hear one of his most striking particularities pointed out:--Miss Hunter, á niece of his friend Christopher Smart, when a very young girl, struck by his extraordinary motions, said to him, “ Pray, Dr. Johnson, why do you make such strange gestures ?"-" From bad habit, (he replied.) Do you, my dear, take care to guard against bad habits.” This I was told by the young lady's brother at Margate.
and Lords, as having been in their company, he 1783. said, he went to the other extreme, and did not men
Ætat. 74. tion his authority when he should have done it, had it not been that of a Duke or a Lord.
Dr. Goldsmith said once to Dr. Johnson, that he wished for some additional members to the LITERARY CLUB, to give it an agreeable variety; for (said he,) there can now be nothing new among us: we have travelled over one another's minds. Johnson seemed a little angry, and said, “Sir, you have not travelled over my mind, I promise you. Sir Joshua, however, thought Goldsmith right; observing, that “ when people have lived a great deal together, they know what each of them will say on every subject. A new understanding, therefore, is desirable; because though it may only furnish the same sense upon a question which would have been furnished by those with whom we are accustomed to live, yet this sense will have a different colouring; and colouring is of much effect in every thing else as well as in painting.”
Johnson used to say that he made it a constant rule to talk as well as he could both as to sentiment and expression, by which means, what had been originally effort became familiar and easy. The consequence of this, Sir Joshua observed, was, that his common conversation in all companies was such as to secure him universal attention, as something above the usual coloquial style was expected.
Yet, though Johnson had this habit in company, when another mode was necessary, in order to investigate truth, he could descend to a language intelligible to the meanest capacity. An instance of this was witnessed by Sir Joshua Reynolds, when they were present at an examination of a little black
1783. guard boy, by Mr, Saunders Welch, the late West
minster Justice. Welch, who imagined that he was Ætat. 74,
exalting himself in Dr. Johnson's eyes by using big words, spoke in a manner that was utterly unintelligible to the boy; Dr. Johnson perceiving it, addressed himself to the boy, and changed the pompous phraseology into colloquial language. Sir Joshua Reynolds, who was much amused by this procedure, which seemed a kind of reversing of what might have been expected from the two men, took notice of it to Dr. Johnson, as they walked away by themselves. Johnson said, that it was continually the case; and that he was always obliged to translate the Justice's swelling diction, (smiling,) so as that his meaning might be understood by the vulgar, from whom information was to be obtained.
Sir Joshua once observed to him, that he had talked above the capacity of some people with whom they had been in company together.
- No matter, Sir, (said Johnson); they consider it as a compliment to be talked to, as if they were wiser than they are. So true is this, Sir, that Baxter made it a rule in every sermon that he preached, to say something that was above the capacity of his audience.”
Johnson's dexterity in retort, when he seemed to be driven to an extremity by his adversary, was very remarkable. Of his power in this respect, our common friend, Mr. Windham, of Norfolk, has been pleased to furnish me with an eminent instance, However unfavourable to Scotland, he uniformly
The justness of this remark is confirmed by the following story, for which I am indebted to Lord Eliot : A country Parson, who was remarkable for quoting scraps of Latin in his serions, having died, one of his parishioners was asked how he liked his successor ; “ He is a very good preacher, (was his answer,) but no latiner.”