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“Very well, very well.—There is no catching him.” JOHNSON. “At the same time one does not know what to say. For perhaps one may, a year after, hang himself from uneasiness for having shot a highwayman m. Few minds are fit to be trusted with so great a thing." BOSWELL. Then, sir, you would not shoot him.” JOHNSON “ But I might be vexed afterwards for that too.”
Thrale's carriage not having come for him, as he expected, I accompanied him some part of the way home to his own house. I told him that I had talked of him to Mr. Dunning a few days before, and had said, that in his company we did not so much interchange conversation as listen to him; and that Dunning observed upon this, “One is always willing to listen to Dr. Johnson;" to which I answered, " That is a great deal from you, sir." — “Yes, sir,” said Johnson, “ a great deal indeed. Here is a man willing to listen, to whom the world is listening all the rest of the year.” Boswell. “I think, sir, it is right to tell one man of such a handsome thing which has been said of him by another. It tends to increase benevolence.” JOHNSON. “Undoubtedly it is right, sir."
On Tuesday, April 7th, I breakfasted with him at his house. He said, “ Nobody was content.” I mentioned to him a respectable person in Scotland whom he knew; and I asserted, that I really believed he was always content. JOHNSON. “No, sir, he is not content with the present; he has always some new scheme, some new plantation,
m The late duke of Montrose was generally said to have been uneasy on that account; but I can contradict the report from his grace's own authority. As he used to admit me to very easy conversation with him, I took the liberty to introduce the subject. His grace told me, that when riding one night near London, he was attacked by two highwaymen on horseback, and that he instantly shot one of them, upon which the other galloped off ; that his servant, who was very well mounted, proposed to pursue him and take him; but that his grace said, “No, we have had blood enough: I hope the man may live to repent.” His grace, upon my presuming to put the question, assured me that his mind was not at all clouded by what he had thus done in self defence.BoSWELL.
something which is future. You know he was not content as a widower, for he married again.” BOSWELL. “But he is not restless." JOHNSON. “Sir, he is only locally at rest. A chymist is locally at rest; but his mind is hard at work. This gentleman has done with external exertions. It is too late for him to engage in distant projects." BosWELL. “He seems to amuse himself quite well; to have his attention fixed, and bis tranquillity preserved, by very small matters. I have tried this; but it would not do with me." JOHNSON, (laughing.) “No, sir; it must be born with a man to be contented to take up with little things. Women have a great advantage, that they may take up with little things without disgracing themselves : a man cannot, except with fiddling. Had I learnt to fiddle, I should have done nothing else.” BOSWELL. “
BOSWELL. “Pray, sir, did you ever play on any musical instrument ?" JOHNSON. “No, sir. I once bought me a flagelet; but I never made out a tune.” BoswELL. “A flagelet, sir !-s0 small an instrument"? I should have liked to hear you play on the violoncello. That should have been your instrument.” JOHNSON. “Sir, I might as well have played on the violoncello as another; but I should have done nothing else. No, sir; a man would never undertake great things, could he be amused with small. I once tried knotting. Dempster's sister undertook to teach me; but I could not learn it." BosWELL. “So, sir, it will be related in pompous narrative, Once for his amusement be tried knotting ; nor did this Hercules disdain the distaff.'» JOHNSON. “Knitting of stockings is a good amusement. As a freeman of Aberdeen, I should be a knitter of stockings.” He asked me to go down with him and dine at Mr. Thrale’s at Streatham, to which I agreed. I had lent him an Account of Scotland in 1702, written by a man of various enquiry, an English chaplain to a regiment
n When I told this to Miss Seward, she smiled, and repeated with admirable readiness, from Acis and Galatea,
Bring me a hundred reeds of ample growth,
stationed there. Johnson. “It is sad stuff, sir; miserably written, as books in general then were. There is now an elegance of style universally diffused. No man now writes so ill as Martin's Account of the Hebrides is written, A man could not write so, ill if he should try. Set a merchant's clerk now to write, and he'll do better.”
He talked to me with serious concern of a certain female friend's "laxity of narration, and inattention to truth.”—“I am as much vexed," said he, “at the ease with which she hears it mentioned to her, as at the thing itself. I told her, • Madam, you are contented to hear every day said to you, what the highest of mankind have died for, rather than bear.'—You know, sir, the highest of mankind have died rather than bear to be told they had uttered a falsehood. Do talk to her of it: I am weary.”
Boswell. “Was not Dr. John Campbell a very inaccurate man in his narrative, sir? He once told me, that he drank thirteen bottles of port at a sitting." JOHNSON. “Why, sir, I do not know that Campbell ever lied with pen and ink; but you could not entirely depend on any thing he told you in conversation, if there was fact mixed with it. However, I loved Campbell: he was a solid orthodox man: he had a reverence for religion. Though defective in practice, he was religious in prin
° Lord Macartney observes upon this passage, “I have heard him tell many things, which, though embellished by their mode of narrative, had their foundation in truth; but I never remember any thing approaching to this. If he had written it, I should have supposed some wag had put the figure of one before the three.”-I am, however, absolutely certain that Dr. Campbell told me it; and I gave particular attention to it, being myself a lover of wine, and therefore curious to hear whatever is remarkable concerning drinking. There can be no doubt that some men can drink, without suffering any injury, such a quantity as to others appears incredible. It is but fair to add, that Dr. Campbell told me, he took a very long time to this great potation; and I have heard Dr. Johnson say, “Sir, if a man drinks very slowly, and lets one glass evaporate before he takes another, I know not how long he may drink.” Dr. Campbell mentioned a colonel of militia who sat with him all the time, and drank equally. - BOSWELL.
ciple; and he did nothing grossly wrong that I have heard P."
I told him that I had been present the day before, when Mrs. Montague, the literary lady, sat to Miss Reynolds for her picture; and that she said, “she had bound up Mr. Gibbon's History without the last two offensive chapters; for that she thought the book so far good, as it gave, in an elegant manner, the substance of the bad writers medii ævi, which the late lord Lyttelton advised her to read." JOHNSON. “Sir, she has not read them: she shows none of this impetuosity to me: she does not know Greek, and, I fancy, knows little Latin. She is willing you should think she knows them; but she does not say she does." BoSWELL. “Mr. Harris, who was present, agreed with her,” JOHNSON. “Harris was laughing at her, sir. Harris is a sound sullen scholar; he does not like interlopers. Harris, however, is a prig, and a bad prigI looked into his book, and thought he did not understand his own system.” BOSWELL. “He says plain things in a formal and abstract way, to be sure; but this method is good : for to have clear notions upon any subject, we must have recourse to analytick arrangement. JOHNSON. “Sir, it is what every body does, whether they will or no. But sometimes things may be made darker by definition. I see a cow. I define her, animal quadrupes ruminans cornutum. But a goat ruminates, and a cow may have no horns. Cow is plainer.” Boswell. “I think Dr. Franklin's definition of man a good one-A
p Dr. John Campbell died about two years before this conversation took place; Dec. 10th, 1776.—MALONE.
9 What my friend meant by these words concerning the amiable philosopher of Salisbury, I am at a loss to understand. A friend suggests, that Johnson thought his manner as a writer affected, while at the same time the matter did not compensate for that fault: in short, that he meant to make a remark quite different from that which a celebrated gentleman made on a very eminent physician : “He is a coxcomb, but a satisfactory coxcomb.”—Boswell.
According to Mr. Malone, the “ celebrated gentleman” here alluded to, was the late right honourable William Gerard Hamilton; but he does not give us any clue to discover the " eminent physician.”—Ev.
tool-making animal.'” JOHNSON. “But many a man never made a tool: and suppose a man without arms, he could not make a tool."
Talking of drinking wine, he said, “I did not leave off wine because I could not bear it: I have drunk three bottles of port without being the worse for it. University college has witnessed this.” BOSWELL. “Why then, sir, did you leave it off ?” JOHNSON. “Why, sir, because it is so much better for a man to be sure that he is never to be intoxicated, never to lose the power over himself. I shall not begin to drink wine again till I grow old, and want it.” BOSWELL. I think, sir, you once said to me, that not to drink wine was a great deduction from life.” JOHNSON. “It is a diminution of pleasure, to be sure; but I do not say a diminution of happiness. There is more happiness in being rational.” BOSWELL. “But if we could have pleasure always, should not we be happy ? The greatest part of men would compound for pleasure.” JOHNSON. “Supposing we could have pleasure always, an intellectual man would not compound for it. The greatest part of men would compound, because the greatest part of men are gross.”
BOSWELL. “I allow there may be greater pleasure than from wine. I have had more pleasure from your conversation. I have indeed; assure you I have.” JOHNSON. “When we talk of pleasure, we mean sensual pleasure. When a man says he had pleasure with a woman, he does not mean conversation, but something of a different nature. Philosophers tell you, that pleasure is contrary to happiness. Gross men prefer animal pleasure. So there are men who have preferred living among savages. Now what a wretch must be be, who is content with such conversation as can be had among savages! You may remember an officer at Fort Augustus, who had served in America, told us of a woman whom they were obliged to bind, in order to get her back from savage life.” BOSWELL, “She must have been an animal, a beast.”
JOHNSON Sir, she was a speaking cat."