« ElőzőTovább »
Johnson, finding himself thus presented as giving an instance of a man who had lived without uneasiness, was much offended, for he looked upon such a quotation as unfair: his anger burst out in an unjustifiable retort, insinuating that the gentleman's remark was a sally of ebriety: “Sir, there is one passion I would advise you to command; when you have drunk out that glass, don't drink another." Here was exemplified what Goldsmith said of him, with the aid of a very witty image froin one of Cibber's comedies: “ There is no arguing with Johnson : for if his pistol misses fire, he knocks you down with the butt end
Another was this: when a gentleman' of eminence in the literary world was violently censured for attacking people by anonymous paragraphs in newspapers, he, from the spirit of contradiction, as I thought, took up his defence, and said, “ Come, come, this is not so terrible a crime; he means only to vex them a little. I do not say that I should do it; but there is a great difference between him and me: what is fit for Hephæstion is not fit for Alexander.” Another, when I told him that a young and handsome countess had said to me, “I should think that to be praised by Dr. Johnson would make one a fool all one's life;" and that I answered, “ Madam, I shall make him a fool to-day, by repeating this to him ;" he said, “I am too old to be made a fool: but if you say I am made a fool, I shall not deny it. I am much pleased with a compliment, especially from a pretty woman."
On the evening of Saturday, May 15, he was in fine spirits at our Essex Head Club. He told us, “I dined yesterday at Mrs. Garrick's with Mrs. Carter, Miss Hannah More, and Miss Fanny Burney. Three euch women are not to be found : I know not where I could find a fourth, except Mrs. Lennox, who is superior to them all.” BosWELL. “What! had you them all to yourself, Sir?” JOHNSON. “I had them all, as much as they were had ; but it might have been better had there been more company there.” BosWELL. “ Might not Mrs. Montagu have been a fourth ? ” Johnson. “Sir, Mrs. Montagu does not make a trade of
i George Steevens.- Croker.
her wit: but Mrs. Montagu is a very extraordinary woman: she has a constant stream of conversation, and it is always impregnated; it has always meaning.” BOSWELL. “Mr. Burke has a constant stream of conversation.” JOHNSON. “Yes, Sir; if a man were to go by chance at the same time with Burke under a shed to shun a shower, he would say,
this is an extraordinary man.' If Burke should go into a stable to see his horse dressed, the ostler would say, 'we have had an extraordinary man here."" BOSWELL. “Foote was a man who never failed in conversation. If he had gone into a stable,” JOHNSON. “ Sir, if he had gone into a stable, the ostler would have said, “here has been a comical fellow ;' but he would not have respected him.” BOSWELL. “And, Sir, the ostler would have answered him, -would have given him as good as he brought, as the common saying is.” JOHNSON. “Yes, Sir; and Foote would have answered the ostler. When Burke does not descend to be merry, his conversation is very superior indeed. There is no proportion between the powers which he shows in serious talk and in jocularity. When he lets himself down to that he is in the kennel.” I have in another place opposed, and I hope with success, Dr. Johnson's very singular and erroneous notion as to Mr. Burke's pleasantry. Mr. Windham now said low to me, that he differed from our great friend in this observation; for that Mr. Burke was often very happy in his merriment. It would not have been right for either of us to have contradicted Johnson at this time, in a society all of whom did not know and value Mr. Burke as much as we did. It might have occasioned something more rough, and at any rate would probably have checked the flow of Johnson's good humour. He called to us with a sudden air of exultation, as the thought started into his mind, “O! Gentlemen, I must tell you a very great thing. The Empress of Russia has ordered the · Rambler' to be translated into the Russian language; so I shall be read on the banks of the Wolga. Horace boasts that his fame would extend as far as the banks of
1 Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides, pp. 19, 20.
? I have since beard that the report was not well founded; but the elation discovered by Johnson, in the belief that it was true, showed a noble ardour for literary fame.
the Rhone ; now the Wolga is farther from me than the Rhone was from Horace.” BoSWELL. “You must certainly be pleased with this, Sir.” JOHNSON. “I am pleased, Sir, to be sure. A man is pleased to find he has succeeded in that which he has endeavoured to do.”
One of the company mentioned his having seen a noble person driving in his carriage, and looking exceedingly well, notwithstanding his great age. JOHNSON. “Ah, Sir, that is nothing. Bacon observes, that a stout healthy old man is like a tower undermined.”
On Sunday, May 16, I found him alone: he talked of Mrs. Thrale with much concern, saying, “Sir, she has done every thing wrong since Thrale's bridle was off her neck ;" and was proceeding to mention some circumstances which have since been the subject of public discussion, when he was interrupted by the arrival of Dr. Douglas, now Bishop of Salisbury.
Dr. Douglas, upon this occasion, refuted a mistaken notion which is very common in Scotland, that the ecclesiastical discipline of the Church of England, though duly enforced, is insufficient to preserve the morals of the clergy, inasmuch as all delinquents may be screened by appealing to the convocation, which being never authorised by the king to sit for the despatch of business, the appeal never can be heard. Dr. Douglas observed, that this was founded upon ignorance; for that the bishops have sufficient power to maintain discipline, and that the sitting of the convocation was wholly immaterial in this respect, it being not a court of judicature, but like a parliament, to make canons and regulations as times may require.
Johnson, talking of the fear of death, said, “ Some people are not afraid, because they look upon salvation as the effect of an absolute decree, and think they feel in themselves the marks of sanctification. Others, and those the most rational in my opinion, look upon salvation as conditional; and as they never can be sure that they have complied with the conditions, they are afraid.”
In one of his little manuscript diaries about this time I find a short notice, which marks his amiable disposition more certainly than a thousand studied declarations. “ Afternoon spent cheerfully and elegantlv, I hope without offence to God or man; though in no holy duty, yet in the general exercise and cultivation of benevolence.”
On Monday, May 17, I dined with him at Mr. Dilly's, where were Čolonel Vallancy, the Reverend Dr. Gibbons, and Mr. Capel Lofft, who, though a most zealous Whig, has a mind so full of learning and knowledge, and so much exercised in various departments, and withal so much liberality, that the stupendous powers of the literary Goliath, though they did not frighten this little David of popular spirit, could not but excite his admiration. There was also Mr. Braithwaite of the Post-office, that amiable and friendly man, who, with modest and unassuming manners, has associated with many of the wits of the age. Johnson was very quiescent to-day. Perhaps, too, I was indolent. I find nothing more of him in my notes, but that when I mentioned that I had seen in the king's library sixty-three editions of my favourite Thomas à Kempis,-amongst which it was in eight languages, Latin, German, French, Italian, Spanish, English, Arabic, aud Armenian,-he said he thought it unnecessary to collect many editions of a book, which were all the same, except as to the paper and print; he would have the original, and all the translations, and all the editions which had any variations in the text. He approved of the famous collection of editions of Horace by Douglas,' mentioned by Pope, who is said to have had a closet filled with them; and he added, “ every man should try to collect one book in that manner, and present it to a public library.”
On Tuesday, May 18, I saw him for a short time in the morning. I told him that the mob had called out, as the
The mention by Pope is in the following lines of the Dunciad, and the subjoined note :
« Bid me with Pollio sup, as well as dine,
And Douglas lend his soft obstetric hand. “ Douglas, a physician of great learning and no less taste; above all, curious in what related to Horace; of whom he collected every edition, translation, and comment, to the number of several hundred volumes.” -Dunciad, b. iv., l. 392. Dr. James Douglas was born in Scotland in 1675, and died in London in 1742. He published some medical works. -Croker.
BOSWELL'S LIFE OF JOHNSON.
king passed, “No Fox, no Fox!” which I did not like. He said, “They were right, Sir." I said, I thought not; for it seemed to be making Mr. Fox the king's competitor. There being no audience, so that there could be no triumph in a victory, he fairly agreed with me. I said it might do very well, if explained thus: “Let us have no Fox," understanding it as a prayer to his Majesty not to appoint that gentleman minister.
On Wednesday, May 19, I sat a part of the evening with him, by ourselves. I observed, that the death of our friends might be a consolation against the fear of our own dissolu. tion, because we might have more friends in the other world than in this. He perhaps felt this as a reflection upon his apprehension as to death, and said, with heat, “How can a man know where his departed friends are, or whether they will be his friends in the other world? How many friendships have you known formed upon principles of virtue? Most friendships are formed by caprice or by chance-mnere confederacies in vice or leagues in folly.”
We talked of our worthy friend Mr. Langton. He said, “I know not who will go to heaven if Langton does not. Sir, I could almost say Sit anima mea cum Langtono." I mentioned a very eminent friend as a virtuous man. JohnSON. “Yes, Sir; but has not the evangelical virtue of Langton. - I am afraid, would not scruple to pick up a wench.”
He however charged Mr. Langton with what he thought want of judgment upon an interesting occasion. “When I was ill,” said he, “I desired he would tell me sincerely in what he thought my life was faulty. Sir, he brought me a sheet of paper, on which he had written down several texts of Scripture recommending Christian charity. And when I questioned him what occasion I had given for such an animadversion, all that he could say amounted to this, -that I sometimes contradicted people in conversation. Now what harm does it do to any man to be contradicted?” BOSWELL. “I suppose he meant the manner of doing it; roughly and harshly.” JOHNSON. “And who is the worse
1 To open parliament. The Westminster election had concluded only thie day before in favour of Mr. Fox, whose return, however, was de. layed by the requisition for a scrutiny.-Croker.