« ElőzőTovább »
Johnson, talking of the fear of death, said, “ Some 1784. people are not afraid, because they look upon salva
Ætat. 75. tion as the effect of an absolute decree, and think they feel in themselves the marks of sanctification. Others, and those the most rational in my opinion, look upon salvation as conditional; and as they never can be sure that they have complied with the conditions, they are afraid."
In one of his little manuscript diaries, about this time, I find a short notice, which marks his amiable dispositions more certainly than a thousand studied declarations.--- Afternoon spent cheerfully and elegantly, I hope without offence to God or man; though in no holy duty, yet in the general exercise and cultivation of benevolence."
On Monday, May 17, I dined with him at Mr. Dilly's, where were Colonel Vallancy, the Reverend Dr. Gibbons, and Mr. Capel Lofft, who, though a most zealous Whig, has a mind so full of learning and knowledge, and so much exercised in various departments, and withal so much liberality, that the stupendous powers of the literary Goliath, though they did not frighten this little David of popular spirit, could not but excite his admiration. There was also Mr. Braithwaite of the Post-office, that amiable and friendly man, who, with modest and unassuming manners, has associated with many of the wits of the age. Johnson was very quiescent to-day. Perhaps too I was indolent. I find nothing more of him in my notes, but that when I mentioned that I had seen in the King's library sixty-three editions of my favourite Thomas à Kempis, amongst which it was in eight languages, Latin, German, French, Italian, Spanish, English, Arabick, and Armenian,-he
1784. said, he thought it unnecessary to collect many
edi. tions of a book, which were all the same, except as Ætat.75.
paper and print ; he would have the original, and all the translations, and all the editions which had any variations in the text. He approved of the famous collection of editions of Horace by Douglas, mentioned by Pope, who is said to have had a closet filled with them; and he added, “every man should try to collect one book in that manner, and present it to a publick library.”
On Tuesday, May 18, I saw him for a short time in the morning. I told him that the mob had called out, as the King passed, “ No Fox-No Fox," which I did not like. He said,
He said, “They were right, Sir.” I said, I thought not ; for it seemed to be making Mr. Fox the King's competitor. There being no audience, so that there could be no triumph in a victory, he fairly agreed with me. I said it might do very well, if explained thus: “Let us have no Fox ;" understanding it as a prayer to his Majesty not to appoint that gentleman minister.
On Wednesday, May 19, I sat a part of the evening with him, by ourselves. I observed, that the death of our friends might be a consolation against the fear of our own dissolution, because we might have more friends in the other world than in this. He perhaps felt this as a reflection upon his apprehension as to death; and said, with heat, “ How can a man know where his departed friends are, or whether they will be his friends in the other world. How many friendships have you known formed upon principles of virtue? Most friendships are formed by caprice or by chance, mere confederacies. in vice or leagues in folly."
We talked of our worthy friend Mr. Langton. 1785. He said, “ I know not who will go to Heaven if
Ætat. 75. Langton does not. Sir, I could almost
Sir, I could almost say, Sit anima mea cum Langtono." I mentioned a very eminent friend as a virtuous man. Johnson. “ Yes, Sir ; but
has not the evangelical virtue of Langton.
I am afraid, would not scruple to pick up a wench.”
He however charged Mr. Langton with what he thought want of judgement upon an interesting occasion. • When I was ill, (said he) I desired he would tell me sincerely in what he thought my life was faulty. Sir, he brought me a sheet of paper, on which he had written down several texts of Scripture, recommending christian charity. And when I questioned him what occasion I had given for such an animadversion, all that he could say amounted to this,—that I sometimes contradicted people in conversation. Now what harm does it do to any man to be contradicted ?” BOSWELL. “ I suppose he meant the manner of doing it; roughly,—and harshly." JOHNSON. « And who is the worse for that ?” Bos
“ It hurts people of weaker nerves." John
“I know no such weak-nerved people.” Mr. Burke, to whom I related this conference, said, “ It is well, if when a man comes to die, he has nothing heavier upon his conscience than having been a little rough in conversation.”
Johnson, at the time when the paper was presented to him, though at first pleased with the attention of his friend, whom he thanked in an earnest manner, soon exclaimed in a loud and angry tone, “What is your drift, Sir?” Sir Joshua Reynolds pleasantly observed, that it was a scene for a comedy, to see a
1784. penitent get into a violent passion and belabour his
confessor.4 Ætat. 75.
I have preserved no more of his conversation at the times when I saw him during the rest of this month, till Sunday, the 30th of May, when I met him in the evening at Mr. Hoole's, where there was a large company both of ladies and gentlemen. Sir James Johnston happened to say, that he paid no regard to the arguments of counsel at the bar of the House of Commons, because they were paid for speaking. Johnson. “ Nay, Sir, argument is argument. You cannot help paying regard to their ar. guments, if they are good. If it were testimony, you might disregard it, if you knew that it were purchased. There is a beautiful image in Bacon' upon
* After all, I cannot, but be of opinion, that as Mr. Langton was seriously requested by Dr. Johnson to mention what appeared to him erroneous in the character of his friend, he was bound as an honest man, to intimate what he really thought, which he certainly did in the most delicate manner; so that Johnson himself, when in a quiet frame of mind, was pleased with it. The texts suggested are now before me, and I shall quote a few of them. “ Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” Mat. v. 5.-"I therefore, the prisoner of the LORD, beseech you, that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering, forbearing one another in love." Ephes. v. 1, 2.-" And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.” Col. iii. 14.-" Charity suffereth long, and is kind : charity envieth not, charity vauriteth not itself, is not puffed up: doth not behave itself unseemly, is not easily provoked.” 1 Cor. xiii. 4, 5.
[Dr. Johnson's memory deceived him. The passage referred to is not Bacon's, but Boyle's: and may be found, with a slight variation, in Johnson's Dictionary, under the word-CROSSBOW.-So happily selected are the greater part of the examples itt that incomparable work, that if the most striking passages found
this subject : testimony is like an arrow shot from a
1784. long bow; the force of it depends on the strength of
Ætat. 73. the hand that draws it. Argument is like an arrow from a cross-bow, which has equal force though shot
by a child.”
He had dined that day at Mr. Hoole's, and Miss Helen Maria Williams being expected in theevening, Mr. Hoole put into his hands her beautiful “ Ode on the Peace :” Johnson read it over, and when this elegant, and accomplished young ladywas presented to him, he took her by the hand in the most courteous manner, and repeated the finest stanza of her poem ; this was the most delicate and pleasing compliment he could
pay. Her respectable friend, Dr. Kippis, from whom I had this anecdote, was standing by, and was not a little gratified.
Miss Williams told me, that the only other time
in it were collected by one of our modern book-makers, under the title of THE BEAUTIES OF JOHNSON'S DICTIONARY, they would form a very pleasing and popular volume. M.]
6 The Peace made by that very able statesman, the Earl of Shelburne, now Marquis of Lansdown, which may fairly be considered as the foundation of all the prosperity of Great Britain since that sime.
. In the first edition of my Work, the epithet amiable was given. I was sorry to be obliged to strike it out; but I could not in justice suffer it to remain, after this young lady had not only written in favour of the savage Anarchy with which France has been visited, but had (as I have been informed by good authority,) walked, without horrour, over the ground at the Thuilleries when it was strewed with the naked bodies of the faithful Swiss Guards, who were barbarously massacred for having bravely defended, against a crew of ruffians, the Monarch whom they had taken an oath to defend. From Dr. Johnson she could now expect not endearment but repulsion.