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gave liberal praise to George Buchanan, as a writer. 1783. In a conversation concerning the literary merits of the two countries, in which Buchanan was intro. duced, a Scotchman, imagining that on this ground he should have an undoubted triumph over him, exclaimed, “ Ah, Dr. Johnson, what would you have said of Buchanan, had he been an Englishman?"-"Why, Sir, (said Johnson, after a little pause,) I should not have said of Buchanan, had he been an Englishman, what I will now say of him as a Scotchman,—that he was the only man of genius his country ever produced.”
And this brings to my recollection another instance of the same nature. I once reminded him that when Dr. Adam Smith was expatiating on the beauty of Glasgow, he had cut him short by saying, “ Pray, Sir, have you ever seen Brentford?" and I took the liberty to add, My dear Sir, surely that was shocking.—,
”“Why, then, Sir, (he replied,) you have never seen Brentford.”
Though his usual phrase for conversation was talk, yet he made a distinction; for when he once told me that he dined the day before at a friend's house,
a very pretty company;" and I asked him if there was good conversation, he answered, No, Sir; we had talk enouglı, but no conversation; there was nothing discussed.”
Talking of the success of the Scotch in London, he imputed it in a considerable degree to their spirit of nationality. “ You know, Sir, (said he,) that no Scotchman publishes a book, or has a play brought upon the stage, but there are five hundred people ready to applaud him.”
He gave much praise to his friend, Dr. Burney's
ing his so
1783. elegant and entertaining travels, and told Mr.
Seward that he had them in his eye, when writÆtat. 74."
Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland.”
Such was his sensibility, and so much was he affected by pathetick poetry, that, when he was read. ing Dr. Beattie's “ Hermit,” in my presence, it brought tears into his eyes.
He disapproved much of mingling real facts with fiction. On this account he censured a book entitled “ Love and Madness.”
Mr. Hoole told him, he was born in Moorfields, and had received part of his early instruction in Grub-street. “ Sir, (said Johnson, smiling) you have been regularly educated.” Having asked who was his instructor, and Mr. Hoole having answered,
My uncle, Sir, who was a taylor;" Johnson, recollecting himself, said, “Sir, I knew him; we called him the metaphysical taylor. He was of a club in Old-street, with me and George Psalmanazar, and some others: but pray,. Sir, was he a good taylor?" Mr. Hoole having answered that he believed he was too mathematical, and used to draw squares and triangles on his shop-board, so that he did not excel in the cut of a coat;"_" I am sorry for it (said Johnson,) for I would have every man to be master of his own business.”
In pleasant reference to himself and Mr. Hoole, as brother authours, he often said, “Let you and I, Sir, go together, and eat a beef-steak in Grub-street." Sir William Chambers, that great Architect' whose 1783. works shew a sublimity of genius, and who is esteem
9 [The particular passage which excited this strong emotion, was, as I have heard from iny father, the third stanza, night," &c. J. B.-0.]
« 'Tis | The Honourable Horace Walpole, late Earof Orford, thus bears testimony to this gentleman's merit as a writer : Mr. Chambers's ' Treatise on Civil Architecture,' is the most sensible book, and the most exempt from prejudices, that ever was written on that science.- Preface to“ Anecdotes of Painting in England.”
Ætat. 74. ed by all who know him, for his social, hospitable, and generous qualities, submitted the manuscript of his “ Chinese Architecture,” to Dr. Johnson's perusal. Johnson was much pleased with it, and said, “ It wants no addition nor correction, but a few lines of introduction;" which he furnished, and Sir William adopted.? He said to Sir William Scott, “The age
is running mad after innovation; and all the business of the world is to be done in a new way; men are to be hanged in a new way ; Tyburn itself is not safe from the fury of innovation." It having been argued that this was an improvement.-“ No, Sir, (said !:e, eagerly,) it is not an improvement; they object, that the old method drew together a number of specta.
2 The introductory lines are these : It is difficult to avoid praising too little or too much. The boundless panegyricks which have been lavished upon the Chinese learning, policy, and arts, shew with what power novelty attracts regard, and how naturally "esteem swells into admiration.
“ I am far from desiring to be numbered among the exaggerators of Chinese excellence. I consider them as great, or wise, only in comparison with the nations that surround them; and have no intention to place them in competition either with the antients or with the moderns of this part of the world; yut they must be allowed to claiın our notice as a distinct and very singular race of men : as the inhabitants of a region divided by its situation from all civilized countries, who have formed their own manners, and invented their own arts, without the assistance of example.”
1783. tors. Sir, executions are intended to draw specta
tors. If they do not draw spectators, they don't anÆtat. 74. swer their purpose.
The old method was most satisfactory to all parties; the publick was gratified by a procession ; the criminal was supported by it. Why is all this to be swept away?” I perfectly agree with Dr. Johnson upon this head, and am persuaded that executions now, the solemn procession being discontinued, have not nearly the effect which they formerly had. Magistrates both in London, and elsewhere, have, I am afraid, in this, had too much regard to their own ease.
Of Dr. Hurd, Bishop of Worcester, Johnson said to a friend,“ Hurd, Sir, is one of a set of men “ who account for every thing systematically ; for “ instance, it has been a fashion to wear scarlet “ breeches; these men would tell
that according " to causes and effects, no other wear could at that “ time have been chosen.” He, however, said of him at another time to the same gentleman, “ Hurd, “ Sir, is a man whose acquaintance is a valuable ac“quisition."
That learned and ingenious Prelate it is well known published at one period of his life “ Moral and Political Dialogues," with a woefully whiggish cast. Afterwards, his Lordship having thought better, came to see his errour, and republished the work with a more constitutional spirit. Johnson, however, was unwilling to allow him full credit for his political conversion. I remember when his Lordship declined the honour of being Archbishop of Canterbury, Johnson said “I am glad he did not go to Lambeth; for, after all, I fear he is a Whig in his heart.”
Johnson's attention to precision and clearness in expression was very remarkable. He disapproved of
Ætat. 74. a parenthesis ; and I believe in all his voluminous writings, not half a dozen of them will be found. He never used the phrases the former and the latter, having observed, that they often occasioned obscurity; he therefore contrived to construct his sentences so as not to have occasion for them, and would even rather repeat the same words, in order to avoid them. Nothing is more common than to mistake surnames, when we hear them carelessly uttered for the first time. To prevent this, he used not only to pronounce them slowly and distinctly, but to take the trouble of spelling them; a practice which I have often followed ; and which I wish were general.
Such was the heat and irritability of his blood, that not only did he pare his nails to the quick ; but scraped the joints of his fingers with a pen-knife, till they seemed quite red and raw.
The heterogeneous composition of human nature was remarkably exemplified in Johnson. His liberality in giving his money to persons in distress was extraordinary. Yet there lurked about him a propensity to paltry saving. One day I owned to him that “I was occasionally troubled with a fit of narrowness."
Why, Sir, (said he,) so am I. But I do not tell it.' He has now and then borrowed a shilling of me; and when I asked him for it again, seemed to be rather out of humour. A droll little circumstance once occurred: As if he meant to reprimand my minute exactness as a creditor, he thus addressed me; “ Boswell, lend me sixpence-not to be repaid.”
This great man's attention to small things was very remarkable. As an instance of it, he one day