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habitation within my inclosures, where he had good neighbours near to him, I received an answer in February, of which I extract what follows:
“I am delighted with your account of your activity at Auchinleck, and wish the old gentleman, whom you have so kindly removed, nay live long to promote your prosperity by his prayers. You have now a new character and new duties : think on them and practise them.
“ Make an impartial estimate of your revenue; and whatever it is, live upon less. Resolve never to be poor. Frugality is not only the basis of quiet, but of beneficence. No man can help others that wants help himself. We must have enough, before we have to spare.
“I am glad to find that Mrs. Boswell grows well ; and hope that, to keep her well, no care nor caution will be omitted. May you long live happily together. When you come hither, pray bring with you Baxter's 'Anacreon.' I cannot get that edition in London."
On Friday, March 21, having arrived in London the night before, I was glad to find him at Mrs. Thrale's house, in Argyll Street, appearances of friendship between them being still kept up. I was shown into his room; and after the first salutation he said, “I am glad you are come; I am very ill.” He looked pale, and was distressed with a difficulty of breathing ; but after the common inquiries, he assumed his usual strong animated style of conversation. Seeing me now for the first time as a laird, or proprietor of land, he began thus: “Sir, the superiority of a country gentleman over the people upon his estate is very agreeable; and he who says he does not feel it to be agreeable, lies; for it must be agreeable to have a casual superiority over those who are by nature equal with us.” BOSWELL. “Yet, Sir, we see great proprietors of land who prefer living in London.” Johnson. “Why, Sir, the pleasure of living in London, the intellectual superiority that is enjoyed there, may counterbalance the other. Besides, Sir, a man may prefer the state of the country gentleman upon the whole, and yet there may never be a moment when he is willing to make the change, to quit London for it.” He said, “It is better
to have five per cent. out of land than out of money, because it is more secure; but the readiness of transfer and prompt. ness of interest make many people rather choose the funds. Nay, there is another disadvantage belonging to land, com. pared with money: a man is not so much afraid of being a hard creditor, as of being a hard landlord.” BOSWELL. “ Because there is a sort of kindly connexion between a landlord and his tenants." JOHNSON. “ No, Sir; many landlords with us never see their tenants. It is because, if a landlord drives away his tenants, he may not get others; whereas the demand for money is so great, it may always be lent.”
He talked with regret and indignation of the factious opposition to government at this time, and imputed it in a great measure to the Revolution. “Sir," said he, in a low voice, having come nearer to me, while his old prejudices seemed to be fermenting in his mind,“ this Hanoverian family is isolée here. They have no friends. Now the Stuarts had friends who stuck by them so late as 1745. When the right of the king is not reverenced, there will not be reverence for those appointed by the king."
His observation, that the present royal family has no friends, has been too much justified by the very ungrateful behaviour of many who were under great obligations to his majesty: at the same time there are honourable exceptions; and the very next year after this conversation, and ever since, the king has had as extensive and generous support as ever was given to any monarch, and has had the satisfaction of knowing that he was more and more endeared to his people.
He repeated to me his verses on Mr. Levett, with an emotion which gave them full effect; and then he was pleased to say, “ You must be as much with me as you can. You have done me good. You cannot think how much better I am since you came in.”
He sent a message to acquaint Mrs. Thrale that I was arrived. I had not seen her since her husband's death. She soon appeared, and favoured me with an invitation to stay to dinner, which I accepted. There was no other company but herself and three of her daughters, Dr. Johnson, and I. She too said she was very glad I was come; for
she was going to Bath, and should have been sorry to leave Dr. Johnson before I came. This seemed to be attentive and kind ; and I, who had not been informed of any change, imagined all to be as well as formerly. He was little inclined to talk at dinner, and went to sleep after it; but when he joined us in the drawing-room he seemed revived, and was again himself.
Talking of conversation, he said, “There must, in the first place, be knowledge—there must be materials ; in the second place, there must be a command of words; in the third place, there must be imagination, to place things in such views as they are not commonly seen in ; and, in the fourth place, there must be presence of mind, and a resolution that is not to be overcome by failures ; this last is an essential requisite; for want of it many people do not excel in conversation. Now I want it; I throw up the game upon losing a trick.” I wondered to hear him talk thus of himself, and said, “I don't know, Sir, how this may be ; but I am sure you beat other people's cards out of their hands.” I doubt whether he heard this remark. While he went on talking triumphantly, I was fixed in admiration, and said to Mrs. Thrale, “O for short-hand to take this down!”_“You'll carry it all in your head,” said she: “a long head is as good as short-hand.”
It has been observed and wondered at, that Mr. Charles Fox never talked with any freedom in the presence of Dr. Johnson; though it is well known, and I myself can witness, that his conversation is various, fluent, and exceedingly agreeable. Johnson's own experience, however, of that gentleman's reserve, was a sufficient reason for his going on thus: “Fox never talks in private company; not from any determination not to talk, but because he has not the first motion. A man who is used to the applause of the House of Commons has no wish for that of a private company. A man accustomed to throw for a thousand pounds, if set down to throw for sixpence, would not be at the pains to count his dice. Burke's talk is the ebullition of his mind. He does not talk from a desire of distinction, but because his mind is full.”
He thus curiously characterised one of our old acquaintance: “[Sheridan) is a good man, Sir; but he is a vain
man and a liar. He, however, only tells lies of vanity; of victories, for instance, in conversation, which never happened.” This alluded to a story, which I had repeated from that gentleman, to entertain Johnson with its wild bravado. “This Johnson, Sir,” said he, “whom you are all afraid of, will shrink, if you come close to him in argument, and roar as loud as he. He once maintained the paradox, that there is no beauty but in utility.. 'Sir,' said I, 'what say you to the peacock's tail, which is one of the most beautiful objects in nature, but would have as much utility if its feathers were all of one colour?' He felt what I thus produced, and had recourse to his usual expedient, ridicule; exclaiming, “A peacock has a tail, and a fox has a tail;' and then he burst out into a laugh. •Well, Sir,' said I, with a strong voice, looking him full in the face, you have unkennelled your fox; pursue him if you dare.' He had not a word to say, Sir.” Johnson told me that this was fiction from beginning to end.
After musing for some time, he said, “I wonder how I should have any enemies ; for I do harm to nobody.” 2 BOSWELL. “In the first place, Sir, you will be pleased to recollect that you set out with attacking the Scotch; so you got a whole nation for your enemies." Johnson. “Why, I own that by my definition of oats I meant to vex them.” BOSWELL. “Pray, Sir, can you trace the cause of
1 Were I to insert all the stories which have been told of contests boldly maintained with him, imaginary victories obtained over him, of reducing him to silence, and of making him own that his antagonist had the better of him in argument, my volumes would swell to an immoderate size. One instance, I find, has circulated both in conversation and in print; that when he would not allow the Scotch writers to have merit, the late Dr. Rose, of Chiswick, asserted, that he could name one Scotch writer whom Dr. Johnson himself would allow to have written better than any man of the age; and upon Johnson's asking who it was, answered “ Lord Bute, when he signed the warrant for your pension.” Upon which Johnson, struck with the repartee, acknowledged that it was true. When I mentioned it to Johnson, “ Sir," said he, “ if Rose said this, I never heard it.”
2 This reflection was very natural in a man of a good heart, who was not conscious of any ill-will to mankind, though the sharp sayings which were sometimes produced by his discrimination and vivacity, which he perhaps did not recollect, were, I am afraid, too often remembered with resentment.
your antipathy to the Scotch?” JOHNSON. “I cannot, Sir.” BOSWELL. “Old Mr. Sheridan says it was because they sold Charles the First." Johnson. “Then, Sir, old Mr. Sheridan has found out a very good reason.”
Surely the most obstinate and sulky nationality, the most determined aversion to this great and goud man, must be cured, when he is seen thus playing with one of his prejudices, of which he candidly admitted that he could not tell the reason. It was, however, probably, owing to his having had in his view the worst part of the Scottish nation, the needy adventurers, many of whom he thought were advanced above their merits by means which he did not approve. Had he in his early life been in Scotland, and seen the worthy, sensible, independent gentlemen, who live rationally and hospitably at home, he never could have entertained such unfavourable and unjust notions of his fellow-subjects. And accordingly we find, that when he did visit Scotland, in the latter period of his life, he was fully sensible of all that it deserved, as I have already pointed out when speaking of his “ Journey to the Western Islands."
Next day, Saturday, 22nd March, I found him still at Mrs. Thrale's, but he told me that he was to go to his own house in the afternoon. He was better, but I perceived he was but an unruly patient; for Sir Lucas Pepys, who visited him while I was with him, said, “If you were tractable, Sir, I should prescribe for you.”
I related to him a remark which a respectable friend had made to me upon the then state of government, when those who had been long 'in opposition had attained to power, as it was supposed, against the inclination of the sovereign. '“ You need not be uneasy," said this gentleman, “about the king. He laughs at them all; he plays them one against another.” JOHNSON. “Don't think so, Sir. The king is as much oppressed as a man can be. If he plays them one against another, he wins nothing."
I had paid a visit to General Oglethorpe in the morning, and was told by him that Dr. Johnson saw company on Saturday evenings, and he would meet me at Johnson's that night. When I mentioned this to Johnson, not doubting that it would please him, as he had a great value for