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Sir, that is because gardening is much more neces
1769. sary amongst you than with us, which makes so many
Ætat. 60 of your people learn it. It is all gardening with you. Things which grow wild here, must be cultivated with great care in Scotland. Pray now (throwing himself back in his chair, and laughing,) are you ever able to bring the sloe to perfection?"
I boasted that we had the honour of being the first to abolish the unhospitable, troublesome, and ungracious custom of giving vails to JOHNSON. “Sir, you abolished vails, because you , were too poor to be able to give them.”
Mrs. Thrale disputed with him on the merit of Prior. He attacked him powerfully; said he wrote of love like a man who had never felt it: his love verses were college verses ; and he repeated the song " Alexis shunn'd his fellow swains,” &c. in so ludicrous a manner, as to make us all wonder how any one could have been pleased with such fantastical stuff. Mrs. Thrale stood to her gun with great courage, in defence of amorous ditties, which Johnson despised, till he at last silenced her by saying, “My dear Lady, talk no more of this. Nonsense can be defended but by nonsense.”
Mrs. Thrale then praised Garrick's talents for light gay poetry; and, as a specimen, repeated his song in “ Florizel and Perdita,” and dwelt with peculiar pleasure on this line :
“ I'd smile with the simple, and feed with the poor."
JOHNSON. “Nay, my dear Lady, this will never do. Poor David ! Smile with the simple ;-What folly is that? And who would feed with the poor that can
1769. help it? No, no; let me smile with the wise, and Etat. 60.
feed with the rich." I repeated this sally to Garrick, and wondered to find his sensibility as a writer not a little irritated by it. To sooth him, I observed, that Johnson spared none of us ; and I quoted the passage in Horace, in which he compares one who attacks his friends for the sake of a laugh, to a pushing ox, that is marked by a bunch of hay put upon his horns : foenum habet in cornu." “ Ay, (said Garrick, vehemently,) he has a whole mow of it.”
Talking of history, Johnson said, “We may know historical facts to be true, as we may know facts in common life to be true. Motives are generally unknown. We cannot trust to the characters we find in history, unless when they are drawn by those who knew the persons; as those, for instance, by Sallust and by Lord Clarendon."
He would not allow much merit to Whitfield's oratory. “ His popularity, Sir, (said he,) is chiefly owing to the peculiarity of his manner. He would be followed by crowds were he to wear a night-cap in the pulpit, or were he to preach from a tree.”
I know not from what spirit of contradiction he burst out into a violent declamation against the Corsicans, of whose heroism I talked in high terms. " Sir (said he,) what is all this rout about the Corsicans ? They have been at war with the Genoese for upwards of twenty years, and have never yet taken their fortified towns. They might have battered down their walls, and reduced them to powder in twenty years. They might have pulled the walls in pieces, and cracked the stones with their teeth in twenty years.” It was in vain to argue with him in great
upon the want of artillery: he was not to be resisted 1709. for the moment.
Ætat.60 On the evening of October 10, I presented Dr. Johnson to General Paoli. I had greatly wished that two men, for whom I had the highest esteem, should meet. They met with a manly ease, mutually conscious of their own abilities, and of the abilities of each other. The General spoke Italian, and Dr. Johnson English, and understood one another very well, with a little aid of interpretation from me, in which I compared myself to an isthmus which joins two great continents. Upon Johnson's approach, the General said, “ From what I have read of
your works, Sir, and from what Mr. Boswell has told me of you, I have long held you
great veneration." The General talked of languages being formed on the particular notions and manners of a people, without knowing which, we cannot know the language. We may know the direct signification of single words ; but by these no beauty of expression, no sally of genius, no wit is conveyed to the mind. All this must be by allusion to other ideas, “ Sir, (said Johnson,) you talk of language, as if you had never done any thing else but study it, instead of governing a nation.” The General said, “ Questo e un troppo gran complimento;" this is too great a compliment. Johnson answered, “I should have thought so, Sir, if I had not heard you talk.” The General asked him what he thought of the spirit of infidelity which was so prevalent. JOHNSON. “Sir, this gloom of infidelity, I hope, is only a transient cloud passing through the hemisphere, which will soon be dissipated, and the sun break forth with his usual splendour." " You think then, (said the General,) that
1769. they will change their principles like their clothes.""
JOHNSON. Ætat, 60.
Why, Sir, if they bestow no more thought on principles than on dress, it must be so.” The General said, that “ a great part of the fashionable infidelity was owing to a desire of shewing courage. Men who have no opportunities of shewing it as to things in this life, take death and futurity as objects on which to display it.” Johnson. “ That is mighty foolish affectation. Fear is one of the passions of human nature, of which it is impossible to divest it. You remember that the Emperour Charles V. when he read upon the tomb-stone of a Spanish nobleman, Here lies one who never knew fear, wittily said, 'Then he never snuffed a candle with his fingers."
He talked a few words of French to the General; but finding he did not do it with facility, he asked for pen, ink, and paper, and wrote the following note :
J'ai lu dans la geographie de Lucas de Linda un Pater-noster écrit dans une langue tout à-fait differente del Italienne, et de toutes autres lesquelles se derivent du Latin. L'auteur l'appelle linguam Corsicæ rusticam ; elle a peut-etre passé, peu à peu; mais elle a certainement prevalue autrefois dans les montagnes et dans la campagne. Le même auteur dit la même chose en parlant de Sardaigne ; qu'il y a deux langues dans l’Isle une des villes, l'autre de la campagne.”
The General immediately informed him that the lingua rustica was only in Sardinia.
Dr. Johnson went home with me, and drank tea till late in the night. He said, “General Paoli had the loftiest port of any man he had ever seen.” He denied that military men were always the best bred
“. Perfect good breeding, he observed, con- 1769. sists in having no particular mark of any profession, Ætat. 6o. but a general elegance of manners; whereas, in a military man, you can commonly distinguish the brand of a soldier, l'homme d'epée.”
Dr. Johnson shunned to-night any discussion of the perplexed question of fate and free will, which I attempted to agitate : “ Sir, (said he,) we know our will is free, and there's an end on't.
He honoured me with his company at dinner on the 16th of October, at my lodgings in Old Bondstreet, with Sir Joshua Reynolds, Mr. Garrick, Dr. Goldsmith, Mr. Murphy, Mr. Bickerstaff, and Mr. Thomas Davies. Garrick played round hiin with a. fond vivacity, taking hold of the breasts of his coat, and, looking up in his face with a lively archness, complimented him on the good health which he seemed then to enjoy ; while the sage, shaking his head, beheld him with a gentle complacency. One of the company not being come at the appointed hour, I proposed, as usual upon such occasions, to order dinner to be served ; adding, “ Ought six people to be kept waiting for one?" (answered Johnson, with a delicate humanity,) if the one will suffer more by your sitting down, than the six will do by waiting." Goldsmith, to divert the tedious minutes, strutted about, bragging of his dress, and I believe was seriously vain of it, for his mind was wonderfully prone to such impressions. “ Come, come, (said Garrick,) talk no inore of that. You are perhaps, the worst-el, eh!"-Goldsmith was eagerly attempting to interrupt him, when Garrick went on, laughing ironically, “ Nay, you will alway's look like a gentleman ; but I am talking of being