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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 dis tinction, but because his mind is full."
He thus curiously characterised one of our old acquaintance: “* * * * * * * * 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 He had not a dare.' Johnson told me that this was a fiction from
word to say, Sir." beginining to end.'
1 This alludes to old Mr. Sheridan.-C.
2 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
After musing some time, he said, "I wonder how I should have 1 BOSWELL. "In the any enemies for I do harm to nobody." 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 BOSWELL. vex them." Pray, Sir, can you trace the cause of your BOSWELL. antipathy to the Scotch;" JOHNSON. "I cannot, Sir." * "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 good 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 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
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 this was true. When I mentioned it to Johnson, "Sir," said he, "if Rose said this, I never heard it."
1 This reflection was very natural to 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 discrimi nation and vivacity, which he perhaps did not recollect, were, I am afraid, too often remem. bered with resentment.
2 When Johnson asserted so distinctly that he could not trace the cause of his antipathy to the Scotch, it may seem unjust to attribute to him any secret personal motive; but it is the essence of prejudice to be unconscious of its cause, and I am convinced that Johnson received in early life some serious injury or affront from the Scotch. If his personal history during the years 1745 and 1746 were known, something would probably be found to account for this (as it now seems) absurd national aversion.-C.
This can hardly have been the cause. Many of Johnson's earliest associates were indeed "needy Scotch adventurers;" that is, they were poor scholars, indigent men of education and tal ent, who brought those articles to the London market, as Dr. Johnson himself had done. Such were Shiels, Stewart, Macbean, etc. But Johnson had no aversion to these men: on the contrary, he lived with them in familiar friendship, did them active kindnesses, and with Macbean (who seems to have been the survivor of his earliest friends) he continued in the kindest intercourse to his last hour.-C.
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, 22d 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 Oglethorpe, the fretfulness of his disease unexpectedly showed itself; his anger suddenly kindled, and he said, with vehemence, "Did not you tell him not to come? Am I to be hunted in this manner?" I satisfied him that I could not divine that the visit would not be convenient, and that I certainly could not take it upon me of my own accord to forbid the general.
I found Dr. Johnson in the evening in Mrs. Williams's room, at tea and coffee with her and Mrs. Desmoulins, who were also both ill; it was a sad scene, and he was not in a very good humour. He said of a performance that had lately come out, "Sir, if you should search all the madhouses in England, you would not find ten men who would write so, and think it sense.”
I was glad when General Oglethorpe's arrival was announced, and we left the ladies. Dr. Johnson attended him in the parlour, and was as courteous as ever. The general said he was busy reading the writers of the middle age. Johnson said they were very
curious. OGLETHORPE.. "The house of commons has usurped the power of the nation's money, and used it tyrannically. Government is now carried on by corrupt influence, instead of the inherent right of the king." JOHNSON. "Sir, the want of inherent right in the king occasions all this disturbance. What we did at the revolution was necessary: but it broke our constitution." OGLETHORPE. "My father did not think it necessary."
On Sunday, 23d March, I breakfasted with Dr. Johnson, who seemed much relieved, having taken opium the night before. He however protested against it, as a remedy that should be given with the utmost reluctance, and only in extreme necessity. I mentioned how commonly it was used in Turkey, and that therefore it could not be so pernicious as he apprehended. He grew warm, and said, "Turks take opium, and Christians take opium; but Russel, in his account of Aleppo, tells us, that it is as disgraceful in Turkey to take too much opium, as it is with us to get drunk. Sir, it is amazing how things are exaggerated. A gentleman was lately telling in a company where I was present, that in France as soon as a man of fashion marries, he takes an opera girl into keeping; and this he mentioned as a general custom. Pray, Sir,' said I, 'how many opera girls may there be ?' He answered, About fourscore.' 'Well, then, Sir,' said I, 'you see there can be no more than fourscore men of fashion who can do this.""
Mrs. Desmoulins made tea; and she and I talked before him upon a topic which he had once borne patiently from me when we were by ourselves, his not complaining of the world, because he was not called to some great office, nor had attained to great wealth. He flew into a violent passion, I confess with some justice, and commanded us to have done. "Nobody," said he, “has a right to talk in this manner, to bring before a man his own character, and the events of his life, when he does not choose it should be done. I never have sought the world; the world was not to seek me. It is
1 I have, in my "Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides," fully expressed my sentiments upon this subject. The revolution was necessary, but not a subject for glory; because it for a long time blasted the generous feelings of loyalty. And now, when by the benignant effect of time the present royal family are established in our affections, how unwise is it to revive by celebrations the memory of a shock, which it would surely have been better that our constitution had not required!
All the com
rather wonderful that so much has been done for me. plaints which are made of the world are unjust. I never knew a man of merit neglected: it was generally by his own fault that he failed of success. A man may hide his head in a hole: he may go into the country, and publish a book now and then, which nobody reads, and then complains he is neglected. There is no reason why any person should exert himself for a man who has written a good book: he has not written it for any individual. I may as well make a present to the postman who brings me a letter. When patronage was limited, an author expected to find a Mecenas, and complained if he did not find one. Why should he complain? This Maecenas has others as good as he, or others who have got the start of him." BOSWELL. "But, surely, Sir, you will allow that there are men of merit at the bar, who never get practice." JOHNSON." Sir, you are sure that practice is got from an opinion that the person employed deserves it best; so that if a man of merit at the bar does not get practice, it is from error, not from injustice. He is not neglected. A horse that is brought to market may not be bought, though he is a very good horse: but that is from ignorance, not from inattention."
There was in this discourse much novelty, ingenuity, and discrimination, such as is seldom to be found. Yet I cannot help thinking that men of merit, who have no success in life, may be forgiven for lamenting, if they are not allowed to complain. They may consider it as hard that their merit should not have its suitable distinction. Though there is no intentional injustice towards them on the part of the world, their merit not having been perceived, they may yet repine against fortune or fate, or by whatever name they choose to call the supposed mythological power of destiny. It has, however, occurred to me, as a consolatory thought, that men of merit should consider thus:-How much harder would it be, if the same persons had both all the merit and all the prosperity? Would not this be a miserable distribution for the poor dunces? Would men of merit exchange their intellectual superiority, and the enjoyments arising from it, for external distinction and the pleasures of wealth? If they would not, let them not envy others, who are poor where they are rich, a compensation which is made to them. Let them look