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him. A gentleman was making an affected rant, as many people do, of great feeliugs about his dear son,' who was at school near London; how anxious he was lest he might be ill, and what he would give to see him. Can't you,' said Fitzherbert, take a post-chaise, and go to him.' This, to bę sure, finished the affected man; but there was not much in ito. However, this was circulated as wit for a whole winter, and I believe part of a summer too; a proof that he was no very witty man. He was an instance of the truth of the observation, that a man will please more upon the whole by negative qualities than by positive; by never offending, than by giving a great deal of delight. In the first place, men hate more steadily than they love ; and if I have said something to hurt a man once, I shall not get the better of this by saying many things to please
Tuesday, September 16th, Dr. Johnson having mentioned to me the extraordinary size and price of some cattle reared by Dr. Taylor, I rode out with our host, surveyed his farm, and was shown one cow which he had sold for a hundred and twenty guineas, and another for which he had been offered a hundred and thirty *. Taylor thus described to me his old schoolfellow and friend, Johnson: “ He is a man of very clear head, great power of words, and a very gay imagination: but there is no disputing with him. He will not hear you; and having a louder voice than you, must roar you down."
u Dr. Gisborne, physician to his majesty's household, has obligingly communicated to me a fuller account of this story than had reached Dr. Johnson. The affected gentleman was the late John Gilbert Cooper, esq. author of a life of Socrates, and of some poems in Dodsley's collection. Mr. Fitzherbert found him one morning, apparently in such violent agitation on account of the indisposition of his son, as to seem beyond the power of comfort. At length, however, he exclaimed, “ I'll write an elegy.” Mr. Fitzherbert, being satisfied by this of the sincerity of his emotions, slyly said, “ Had not you better take a post-chaise, and go and see him ?" It was the shrewdness of the insinuation which made the story be circulated.-Boswell.
* See Johnson's humorous allusions to Dr. Taylor's fondness for cattle, in his letters to Mrs. Thrale, Works, vol. i.-Ed.
In the afternoon I tried to get Dr. Johnson to like the poems of Mr. Hamilton of Bangour, which I had brought with me: I had been much pleased with them at a very early age: the impression still remained on my mind; it was confirmed by the opinion of my friend the honourable Andrew Erskine, himself both a good poet and a good critick, who thought Hamilton as true a poet as ever wrote, and that his not having fame was unaccountable. Johnson, upon repeated occasions while I was at Ashbourne, talked slightingly of Hamilton. He said, there was no power of thinking in his verses; nothing that strikes one; nothing better than what you generally find in magazines, and that the highest praise they deserved was, that they were very well for a gentleman to hand about among his friends. He said the imitation of « Ne sit ancillæ tibi amor,” etc. was too solemn; he read part of it at the beginning. He read the beautiful pathetick song, "Ah, the poor shepherd's mournful fate !" and did not seem to give attention to what I had been used to think tender, elegant strains, but laughed at the rhyme, in Scotch pronunciation, wishes and blushes, reading wushes—and there he stopped, He owned that the 'epitaph on lord Newhall was pretty well done. He read the Inscription in a Summer-house, and a little of the imitations of Horace's epistles; but said he found nothing to make him desire to read on, When I urged that there were some good poetical passages in the book ; "Where,” said he, “will you find so large a collection without some?" I thought the description of winter might obtain his approbation:
See Winter, from the frozen north
He asked, why an “iron chariot ?" and said “icy chains” was an old image. I was struck with the uncertainty of taste, and somewhat sorry that a poet whom I had long read with fondness was not approved by Dr. Johnson. T
comforted myself with thinking that the beauties were too delicate for his robust perceptions. Garrick maintained that he had not a taste for the finest productions of genius: but I was sensible, that when he took the trouble to analyse critically, he generally convinced us that he was right.
In the evening the reverend Mr. Seward of Lichfield, who was passing through Ashbourne in his way home, drank tea with us. Johnson described him thus: “ Sir, bis ambition is to be a fine talker; so he goes to Buxton, and such places, where he may find companies to listen to him. And, sir, he is a valetudinarian; one of those who are always mending themselves. I do not know a more disagreeable character than a valetudinarian, who thinks he may do any thing that is for his ease, and indulges himself in the grossest freedoms : sir, he brings himself to the state of a hog in a stye."
Dr. Taylor's nose bappening to bleed, he said it was because he had omitted to have himself blooded four days after a quarter of a year's interval. Dr. Johnson, who was a great dabbler iv physick, disapproved much of periodical bleeding. For,” said he,
you accustom yourself to an evacuation which nature cannot perform of herself, and therefore she cannot help you, should you, from forgetfulness or any other cause, omit it; so you may be suddenly suffocated. You may accustom yourself to other periodical evacuations, because, should you omit them, nature can supply the omission; but nature cannot open a vein to blood you y.” I do not like to take an emetick," said Taylor, “ for fear of breaking some small vessels." “ Poh!” said Johnson, “if you have so many things that will break, you had better break your neck at once, and there's an end on't. You will break no small vessels :" blowing with high derision.
I mentioned to Dr. Johnson, that David Hume's persisting in his infidelity when he was dying, shocked me much. JOHNSON Why should it shock you, sir ?
y Nature, however, may supply the evacuation by an hæmorrhage.--KEARNEY.
Hume owned he had never read the New Testament with attention. Here then was a man who had been at no pains to enquire into the truth of religion, and had continually turned his mind the other way. It was not to be expected that the prospect of death would alter his way of thinking, unless God should send an angel to set him right.” I said, I had reason to believe that the thought of annihilation gave Hume no pain. JOHNSON. “It was not so, sir. He had a vanity in being thought easy. It is more probable that he should assume an appearance of ease, than that so very improbable a thing should be, as a man not afraid of going (as, in spite of his delusive theory, he cannot be sure but he may go) into an unknown state, and not being uneasy at leaving all he knew. And you are to consider, that upon his own principle of annihilation he had no motive to speak the truth.” The horrour of death, which I had always observed in Dr. Johnson, appeared strong to-night. I ventured to tell him, that I had been for moments in my life not afraid of death; therefore I could suppose another man in that state of mind for a considerable space of time.
“ he never had a moment in which death was not terrible to him." He added, that it had been observed that scarce any man dies in publick but with apparent resolution; from that desire of praise which never quits us. I said, Dr. Dodd seemed to be willing to die, and full of hopes of happiness. “Sir," said he, “ Dr. Dodd would have given both his hands and both his legs to have lived. The better a man is, the more afraid is he of death, having a clearer view of infinite purity.” He owned that our being in an unhappy uncertainty as to our salvation, was mysterious; and said, “Ah! we must wait till we are in another state of being to have many things explained to us.” Even the powerful mind of Johnson seemed foiled by futurity. But I thought that the gloom of uncertainty in solemn religious speculation, being mingled with hope, was yet more consolatory than the emptiness of infidelity. A man can live in thick air, but perishes in an exhausted receiver.
Dr. Johnson was much pleased with a remark which I told him was made to me by general Paoli: “That it is impossible not to be afraid of death ; and that those who at the time of dying are not afraid, are not thinking of death, but of applause, or something else, which keeps death out of their sight: so that all men are equally afraid of death when they see it; only some have a power of turning their sight away from it better than others,"
On Wednesday, September 17th, Dr. Butter, physician at Derby, drank tea with us; and it was settled that Dr. Johnson and I should go on Friday and dine with him. Johnson said, " I'm glad of this.” He seemed weary of the uniformity of life at Dr. Taylor's.
Talking of biography, I said, in writing a life a man's peculiarities should be mentioned, because they mark his character. JOHNSON. “ Sir, there is no doubt as to peculiarities: the question is, whether a man's vices should be mentioned; for instance, whether it should be mentioned that Addison and Parnell drank too freely; for people will probably more easily indulge in drinking from knowing this ; so that more ill may be done by the example, than good by telling the whole truth.” Here was an instance of his varying from himself in talk; for when lord Hailes and he sat one morning calmly conversing in my house at Edinburgh, I well remember that Dr. Johnson maintained, that “if a man is to write a panegyrick, he may keep vices out of sight; but if he professes to write a life, he must represent it really as it was ;” and when I objected to the danger of telling that Parnell drank to excess, he said, that “it would produce an instructive caution to avoid drinking, when it was seen that even the learning and genius of Parnell could be debased by it." And in the Hebrides he maintained, as appears from my Journal”, that a man's intimate friend should mention his faults, if he writes his life.
2 Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides, 3d edit. p. 240.
a Johnson always maintained this when he was designing practice. “It is particularly the duty,” says he in his Rambler, “of those who consign illus