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of that writer's works. “ An authour's language, 1784. Sir, (said he,) is a characteristical part of his composition, and is also characteristical of the age in which he writes. Besides, Sir, when the language is changed we are not sure that the sense is the same. No, Sir: I am sorry Lord Hailes has done this.”
Here it may be observed, that his frequent use of the expression, No, Sir, was not always to intimate contradiction ; for he would say so when he was about to enforce an affirmative proposition which had not been denied, as in the instance last mentioned. I used to consider it as a kind of flag of defiance : as if he had said, “ Any argument you may offer against this, is not just. No, Sir, it is not.” It was like Falstaff's “ I deny your Major." .
Sir Joshua Reynolds having said that he took the altitude of a man's taste by his stories and his wit, and of his understanding by the remarks which he repeated; being always sure that he must be a weak man, who quotes common things with an emphasis as if they were oracles ;-Jolinson agreed with him ; and Sir Joshua having also observed that the real character of a man was found out by his amusements, -Johnson added, “ Yes, Sir; no man is a hypocrite in his pleasures.”
I have mentioned Johnson's general aversion to pun. He once, however, endured one of mine. When we were talking of a numerous company in which he had distinguished himself highly, I said, “ Sir, you were a Cod surrounded by smelts. Is not this enough for you? at a time too when you were not fishing for a compliment ?” Ie laughed at this with a complacent approbation. Old Mr. Sheridan observed, upon my mentioning it to him, “ He liked
1784: your compliment so well, he was willing to take it
with pun sauce.” For my own part I think no inÆtat. 75.
nocent species of wit or pleasantry should be suppressed: and that a good pun may be admitted among the smaller excellencies of lively conversation.
Had Johnson treated at large De Claris Oratoribus, he might have given us an admirable work. When the Duke of Bedford attacked the ministry as vehemently as he could, for having taken upon them to extend the time for the importation of corn, Lord Chatham, in his first speech in the House of Lords, boldly avowed himself to be an adviser of that measure. “My colleagues, (said he,) as I was confined by indisposition, did me the signal honour of coming to the bed-side of a sick man, to ask his opinion. But, had they not thus condescended, I should have taken up my bed and walked, in order to have delivered that opinion at the Council-Board.” Mr. Langton, who was present, mentioned this to Johnson, who observed, “ Now, Sir, we see that he took these words as he found them ; without considering, that though the expression in Scripture, take up thy bed and walk, strictly suited the instance of the sick man restored to health and strength, who would of course be supposed to carry his bed with him, it could not be proper in the case of a man who was lying in a state of feebleness, and who certainly would not add to the difficulty of moving at all, that of carrying his bed.”
When I pointed out to him in the newspaper one of Mr. Grattan's animated and glowing speeches, in favour of the freedom of Ireland, in which this ex
pression occurred (I know not if accurately taken): : 56 We will persevere, till there is not one link of
the English chain left to clank upon the rags of the 1784. meanest beggar in Ireland ;” — “ Nay, Sir, (said
Ætat. 750 Johnson,) don't you perceive that one link cannot clank ?” :
Mrs. Thrale has published, as Johnson's, a kind of parody or counterpart of a fine poetical passage in one of Mr. Burke's speeches on American Taxation. It is vigorously but somewhat coarsely executed ; and I am inclined to suppose, is not quite correctly exhibited. I hope he did not use the words “ vile agents” for the Americans in the House of Parliament; and if he did so, in an extempore effusion, I wish the lady had not committed it to writing.
Mr. Burke uniformly shewed Johnson the greatest respect; and when Mr. Townshend, now lord Sydney, at a period when he was conspicuous in oppo. sition, threw out some reflection in parliament upon the grant of a pension to a man of such prlitical principles as Johnson ; Mr. Burke, though then of the same party with Mr. Townshend, stood warmly forth in defence of his friend, to whom, he justly observed, the pension was granted solely on account of his eminent literary merit. I am well assured, that Mr. Townshend's attack upon Johnson was the oce casion of his 56 hitching in a rhyme;" for, that in the original copy of Goldsmith's character of Mr. Burke, in his “Retaliation,” another person's name stood in the couplet where Mr. Townshend is now introduced : “ Though fraught with all learning kept straining
his throat, “ To persuade Tommy Townshend to lend him a vote.”
? « Anecdotes," p: 43.
1784. It may be worth remakring, among the minutiæ of Ætat. 75."
my collection, that Johnson was once drawn to serve
He was very constant to those whom he once employed, if they gave him no reason to be displeased. When somebody talked of being imposed on in the purchase of tea and sugar, and such articles: “ That will not be the case, (said he,) if you go to a stately shop, as I always do. In such a shop it is not worth their while to take a petty advantage.”
An authour of most anxious and restless vanity being mentioned, “ Sir, (said he,) there is not a young sapling upon Parnassus more severely blown about by every wind of criticism than that poor fellow."
The difference, he observed, between a well-bred and an ill-bred man is this: “ One immediately attracts your liking, the other your aversion. You love the one till you find reason to hate him ; you hate the other till you find reason to love him.”
The wife of one of his acquaintance had fraudulently made a purse for herself out of her husband's fortune. Feeling a proper compunction in her last moments, she confessed how much she had secreted; but before she could tell where it was placed, she was seized with a convulsive fit and expired. Her husband said, he was more hurt by her want of con
fidence in him, than by the loss of his money. “I 1784. told him, (said Johnson,) that he should consoles
jÆtat. 75. himself: for perhaps the money might be found, and he was sure that his wife was gone.".
A foppish physician oncé reminded Johnson of his having been in company with him on a former occasion, " I do not remember it, Sir.” The physician still insisted ; adding that he that day wore so fine a coat that it must have attracted his notice. 6s Sir, (said Johnson,) had you been dipt in Pactolus, I should not have noticed you."
He seemed to take a pleasure in speaking in his own style ; for when lie had carelessly missed it, he would repeat the thought translated into it. Talking of the Comedy of " The Rehearsal,” he said, “ It has not wit enough to keep it sweet.” This was easy ;-he therefore caught himself, and pronounced a more round sentence; “It has not vitality enough to preserve it from putrefaction."
He censured a writer of entertaining Travels for assuming a feigned character, saying, (in his sense of the word,) “ He carries out one lye; we know not how many he brings back.” At another time, talking of the saṁe person, he observed, “Sir, your assent to a man whom you have never known to falsify, is a debt: but after you have known a man to falsify, your assent to him then is a favour." .
Though he liad no taste for painting, he admired much the manner in which Sir Joshuà Reynolds treated of his art, in his “ Discourses to the Royal Academy." He observed one day of a passage in them, “ I think I might as well have said this myself :" and once when Mr. Langton was sitting by him, he read one of them very eagerly, and expressed