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[“That it was unlucky for those who delighted to echo Piozzi, Johnson's sentiments, that he would not endure from them to-day what he had yesterday, by his own manner of treating the subject, made them fond of repeating .”]
Talking of melancholy, he said, “Some men, and very thinking men too, have not those vexing thoughts”. Sir Joshua Reynolds is the same all the
Beauclerk, except when ill and in pain, is the same.
But I believe most men have them in the degree in which they are capable of having them. If I were in the country, and were distressed by that malady, I would force myself to take a book; and every time I did it I should find it the easier. Melancholy, indeed, should be diverted by every means but drinking.”
We stopped at Messieurs Dillys, booksellers in the Poultry; from whence he hurried away, in a hackney coach, to Mr. Thrale's in the Borough. I called at his house in the evening, having promised to acquaint Mrs. Williams of his safe return; when, to my surprise, I found him sitting with her at tea, and, as I thought, not in a very good humour: for, it seems, when he had got to Mr. Thrale's, he found the coach was at the door waiting to carry Mrs. and
· [See post, 1st April, 1781, a similar instance. Menage attributes to the celebrated Duke de Montausier (the Misanthrope of Moliere) a like disposition, and gives an amusing instance.—Menagiana, vol. iii. p. 91.-Ed.]
? The phrase “ vexing thoughts,” is, I think, very expressive. It has been familiar to me from my childhood ; for it is to be found in the “ Psalms in Metre,” used in the churches (I believe I should say kirks) of Scotland, Psal. xliii. y. 5.
"Why art thou then cast down, my soul ?
What should discourage thee ?
Disquieted in me ?”
Miss Thrale, and Signor Baretti, their Italian master, to Bath. This was not showing the attention which might have been expected to the “guide, philosopher, and friend;" the Imlac who had hastened from the country to console a distressed mother, who he understood was very anxious for his return. They had, I found, without ceremony, proceeded on their journey. I was glad to understand from him that it was still resolved that his tour to Italy with Mr. and Mrs. Thrale should take place, of which he had entertained some doubt, on account of the loss which they had suffered ; and his doubts afterwards appeared to be well founded. He observed, indeed
He observed, indeed very justly, that “their loss was an additional reason for their going abroad; and if it had not been fixed that he should have been one of the party, he would force them out; but he would not advise them unless his advice was asked, lest they might suspect that he recommended what he wished on his own account.” I was not pleased that his intimacy with Mr. Thrale's family, though it no doubt contributed much to his comfort and enjoyment, was not without some degree of restraint: not, as has been grossly suggested, that it was required of him as a task to talk for the entertainment of them and their company; but that he was not quite at his ease; which, however, might partly be owing to his own honest pride - that dignity of mind which is always jealous of appearing too compliant.
On Sunday, March 31, I called on him and showed him as a curiosity which I had discovered, his
[How so? The journey must have been settled for some days, and, under the melancholy circumstances in which it was arranged, it would surely have been strange if Dr. Johnson's sudden appearance had interrupted it. Baretti, on the other hand, with more appearance of justice, complained that Johnson had not offered to accompany “ the distressed mother," instead of himself, who went, he tells us, because no one else would go.--En.]
“ Translation of Lobo's Account of Abyssinia,” which Sir John Pringle had lent me, it being then little known as one of his works. He said, “ Take no notice of it,” or “Don't talk of it.” He seemed to think it beneath him, though done at six-and-twenty. I said to him, “Your style, sir, is much improved since you translated this.” He answered, with a sort of triumphant smile, “Sir, I hope it is.”
On Wednesday, April 3, in the morning, I found him very busy putting his books in order, and, as they were generally very old ones, clouds of dust were flying around him.
He had on a pair of large gloves, such as hedgers use. His present appearance put me in mind of my uncle Dr. Boswell's description of him, “A robust genius, born to grapple with whole libraries.”
I gave him an account of a conversation which had passed between me and Captain Cook, the day before, at dinner at Sir John Pringle’s; and he was much pleased with the conscientious accuracy of that celebrated circumnavigator, who set me right as to many of the exaggerated accounts given by Dr. Hawkesworth of his Voyages. I told him that while I was with the captain I catched the enthusiasm of curiosity and adventure, and felt a strong inclination to go with him on his next voyage. JOHNSON. “Why, sir, a man does feel so, till he considers how very little he can learn from such voyages.” BOSWELL. “But one is carried away with the general, grand, and indistinct notion of A VOYAGE ROUND THE WORLD." JOHNSON. “ Yes, sir, but a man is to guard himself against taking a thing in general.” I said I was certain that a great part of what we are told by the travellers to the South Sea must be conjecture, because they had not enough of the language of those countries to understand so much as they have related. Objects
falling under the observation of the senses might be clearly known; but every thing intellectual, every thing abstract-politicks, morals, and religion, must be darkly guessed. Dr. Johnson was of the same opinion. He upon another occasion, when a friend mentioned to him several extraordinary facts, as communicated to him by the circumnavigators, slily observed, “Sir, I never before knew how much I was respected by these gentlemen; they told me none of these things.”
He had been in company with Omai, a native of one of the South Sea Islands, after he had been some time in this country. He was struck with the elegance of his behaviour, and accounted for it thus: “Sir, he had passed his time, while in England, only in the best company; so that all that he had acquired of our manners was genteel. As a proof of this, sir, Lord Mulgrave and he dined one day at Streatham ; they sat with their backs to the light fronting me, so that I could not see distinctly; and there was so little of the savage in Omai, that I was afraid to speak to either, lest I should mistake one for the other.”
We agreed to dine to-day at the Mitre tavern, after the rising of the House of Lords, where a branch of the litigation concerning the Douglas estate, in which I was one of the counsel, was to come on. I brought with me Mr. Murray, solicitor-general of Scotland, now one of the judges of the court of session, with the title of Lord Henderland. I mentioned Mr. Solicitor's relation, Lord Charles Hay', with whom I knew
[This might perhaps have been more justly attributed to the defect of his sight (see ante, p. 286, n) than to any resemblance between Omai and Lord Nulgrave. – ED.]
? [Third son of the third Marquis of Tweedale. He was an officer in the army, and distinguished himself at the battle of Fontenoy ; where he is said to have been the officer who invited the French guards to fire. He was afterwards third in command under Lord Loudon and General Hopson, in an expedition against Canada ; but expressing himself with some violence against the tardiness of his superiors, he was, on the 31st July, 1757, put under arrest and
Dr. Johnson had been acquainted. Johnson. “I wrote something for Lord Charles ', and I thought he had nothing to fear from a court-martial. I suffered a great loss when he died; he was a mighty pleasing man in conversation, and a reading man. The character of a soldier is high. They who stand forth the foremost in danger, for the community, have the respect of mankind. An officer is much more respected than any other man who has little money. In a commercial country, money will always purchase respect. But you find, an officer, who has, properly speaking, no money, is every where well received and treated with attention. The character of a soldier always stands him in stead.” BOSWELL. “ Yet, sir, I think that common soldiers are worse thought of than other men in the same rank of life; such as labourers.” JOHNSON. “Why, sir, a common soldier is usually a very gross man, and any quality which procures respect may be overwhelmed by grossness.
A man of learning may be so vicious or so ridiculous that you cannot respect him. A common soldier, too, generally eats more than he can pay for. But when a common soldier is civil in his quarters, his red coat procures him a degree of respect.” The peculiar respect paid to the military character in France was mentioned. BOSWELL. “I should think that where military men are so numerous, they would be less valuable as not being rare.” JOHNSON. “Nay, sir, wherever a particular character or profession is high in the estimation of a people, those who are of it will be valued
sent to England, to be tried by a court-martial, which, however, did not assemble till Feb. 1760; but Lord Charles died on the 1st of May following, before the sentence was promulgated.--Ed.]
1 [The editor, by the kindness of his friend Sir John Beckett, now judge-advocate general, has looked over the original minutes of this court-martial, but finds nothing that can be supposed to have been written by Johnson.--Ed.]