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1772. “ I have been correcting several Scotch accents in Ætat. 63. my friend Boswell. I doubt, Sir, if any Scotchman
ever attains to a perfect English pronunciation." Johnson. “ Why, Şir, few of them do, because they do not persevere after acquiring a certain degree of it. But, Sir, there can be no doubt that they may attain to a perfect English pronunciation, if they will. We find how near they come to it; and certainly, a man who conquers nineteen parts of the Scottish accent, may conquer the twentieth. But, Sir, when a man has got the better of nine tenths he grows weary, he relaxes his diligence, he finds he has corrected his accent so far as not to be disagreeable, and he no longer desires his friends to tell him when he is wrong; nor does he choose to be told. Sir, when people watch me narrowly, and I do not watch myself, they will find me out to be of a parti cular county. In the same manner, Dunping may be found out to be a Devonshire man. So most Scotchmen may be found out. But, Sir, little aberrations are of no disadvantage. I never catched Mallet in a Scotch accent; and yet Mallet, I suppose, was past five-and-twenty before he came to London.”
Upon another occasion I talked to him on this subject, having myself taken some pains to improve my pronunciation, by the aid of the late Mr. Love, of Drury-lane theatre, when he was a player at Edinburgh, and also of old Mr. Sheridan. Johnson said to me “Sir, your pronunciation is not offensive.” With this concession I was pretty well satisfied; and let me give my countrymen of North-Britain an advice not to aim at absolute perfection in this res spect; not to speak High English, as we are apt to call what is far removed from the Scotch, but which 1772. is by no means good English, and makes, “the fools
Ætat. 63. who use it,” truly ridiculous. Good English is plain, easy, and smooth in the mouth of an unaffected English Gentleman. A studied and factitious pronunciation, which requires perpetual attention, and imposes perpetual constraint, is exceedingly disgusting. A small intermixture of provincial peculiarities may, perhaps, have an agreeable effect, as the notes of different birds concur in the harmony of the grove, and please more than if they were all exactly alike. I could naine some gentlemen of Ireland, to whom a slight proportion of the accent and recitative of that country is an advantage. The same observation will apply to the gentlemen of Scotland. I do not mean that we should speak as broad as a certain prosperous member of Parliament from that country; though it has been well observed, that "it has been of no small use to him ; as it rouses the attention of the House by its uncommonness : and is equal to tropes and figures in a good English speaker.” I would give as an instance of what I mean to recommend to my countrymen, the pronunciation of the late Sir Gilbert Elliot; and
presume to add that of the present Earl of Marchmont, who told me, with great good humour, that the master of a shop in London, where he was not known, said to him, “ I suppose, Sir, you are an American.” Why so, Sir ?" (said his Lordship.)
“ Because, Sir, (replied the shopkeeper,) you speak neither English nor Scotch, but something different froin both, which I conclude is the language of Ainerica."
Boswell. “ It may be of use, Sir, to have a Dictionary to ascertain the pronunciation,” John
SON. .“ Why, Sir, my Dictionary shows you the Ætat. 63.
accent of words, if you can but remember them.” BosWELL. “ But, Sir, we want marks to ascertain the pronunciation of the vowels. Sheridan, I believe, has finished such a work.” Johnson. “ Why Sir, consider how inuch easier it is to learn a language by the ear, than by any marks. Sheridan's Diction. ary may do very well ; but you cannot always carry it about with you : and, when you want the word, you have not the Dictionary. It is like a man who has a sword that will not draw. It is an admirable sword, to be sure : but while your enemy is cutting your throat, you are unable to use it. Besides, Sir, what entitles Sheridan to fix the pronunciation of English? He has, in the first place, the disadvantage of being an Irishman : and if he says he will fix it after the example of the best company, why they differ among themselves. I remember an instance: when I published the Plan for iny Dictionary, Lord Chesterfield told me that the word great should be pronounced so as to rhyme to state; and Sir William Yonge sent me word that it should be pronounced so as to rhyme to seat, and that none but an Irishman would pronounce it grait. Now here were too men of the highest rank, the one, the best speaker in the House of Lords, the other, the best speaker in the House of Commons, differing entirely."
I again visited him at night. Finding him in a very good humour, I ventured to lead him to the subject of our situation in a future state, having much curiosity to know his notions on that point. Johnson. “Why, Sir, the happiness of an unembodied spirit will consist in a consciousness of the favour of God, in the contemplation of truth, and in the pos
session of felicitating ideas." Boswell. “ But Sir, 1772. is there any harm in our forming to ourselves conjectures as to the particulars of our happiness, though the scripture has said but very little on the subject?
We know not what we shall be." Johnson. “Sir, there is no harm. What philosophy suggests to us on this topick is probable: what scripture tells us is certain. Dr. Henry More has carried it as far as philosophy can. You may buy both his theological and philosophical works in two volumes folio, for about eight shillings." BOSWELL.' “ One of the most pleasing thoughts is, that we shall see our friends again."9 JOHNSON. “Yes, Sir; but you must Fonsider, that when we are become purely rational, many of our friendships will be cut off. Many friendships are formed by a community of sensual pleasures: all these will be cut off. We form many friendships with bad men, because they have agreeable qualities, and they can be useful to us; but, after death, they can no longer be of use to us. We form many friendships by mistake, imagining people to be different from what they really are. After death, we shall see every one in a true light. Then, Sir, they talk of our meeting our relations: but then all relationship is dissolved ; and we shall have no regard for one person more than another, but for their real value. However, we shall either have the satisfaction of meeting our friends, or be satisfied without meeting them.” BOSWELL, " Yet Sir, we see in scripture, that Dives still retained an anxious
9 (Bishop Hall, in his Epistle, « discoursing of the different degrees of heavenly glory, and of our mutual knowledge of each other above," (Dec. iii, c. 6,) holds the affirmative on both these questions. M.]
1772. concern about his brethren.” Johnson. “Why, Sir,
we must either suppose that passage to be metaphori-