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at all times regarded as the children of a man who had gone to view the wall of China. I am serious, sir."
When we had left Mr. Scott's, he said, “ Will you go home with me?” “Sir," said I, “it is late ; but I'll go with you for three minutes." JOHNSON.
Or four.” We went to Mrs. Williams's room, where we found Mr. Allen the printer, who was the landlord of his house in Boltcourt, a worthy obliging man, and his very old acquaintance; and what was exceedingly amusing, though he was of a very diminutive size, he used, even in Johnson's presence, to imitate the stately periods and slow and solemn utterance of the great man. I this evening boasted that, although I did not write what is called stenography, or shorthand, in appropriated characters devised for the purpose, I had a method of my own of writing half words, and leaving out some altogether, so as yet to keep the substance and language of any discourse which I had heard so much in view, that I could give it very completely soon after I had taken it down. He defied me, as he had once defied an actual shorthand writer; and he made the experiment by reading slowly and distinctly a part of Robertson's History of America, while I endeavoured to write it in my way of taking notes. It was found that I had it very imperfectly; the conclusion from which was, that its excellence was principally owing to a studied arrangement of words, which could not be varied or abridged without an essential injury.
On Sunday, April 12th, I found him at home before dinner: Dr. Dodd's poem, entitled Thoughts in Prison, was lying upon his table. This appearing to me an extraordinary effort by a man who was in Newgate for a capital crime, I was desirous to hear Johnson's opinion of it: to my surprise, he told me he had not read a line of it. I took up the book and read a passage to him. Johnson. “Pretty well, if you are previously disposed to like them.” I read another passage, with which he was better pleased. He then took the book into his own hands, and having looked at the prayer at the end of it, he said, “ What
evidence is there that this was composed the night before he suffered ? I do not believe it.” He then read aloud where he prays for the king, etc. and observed, “ Sir, do you think that a man, the night before he is to be banged, cares for the succession of a royal family? Though, he may have composed this prayer then. A man who has been canting all his life, may cant to the last. And yet a man who has been refused a pardon after so much petitioning, would hardly be praying thus fervently for the king."
He and I and Mrs. Williams went to dine with the reverend Dr. Percy. Talking of Goldsmith, Johnson said he was very envious. I defended him by observing that he owned it frankly upon all occasions. JOHNSON. “ Sir, you are enforcing the charge. He had so much envy that he could not conceal it. He was so full of it, that he overflowed. He talked of it, to be sure, often enough. Now, sir, what a man avows, he is not ashamed to think; though many a man thinks what he is ashamed to avow.
We are all envious naturally; but by checking envy, we get the better of it. So we are all thieves naturally: a child always tries to get at what it wants the nearest way: by good instruction and good habits this is cured, till a man has not even an inclination to seize what is another's; has no struggle with himself about it.”
And here I shall record a scene of too much heat between Dr. Johnson and Dr. Percy, which I should have suppressed, were it not that it gave occasion to display the truly tender and benevolent heart of Johnson, who, as soon as he found a friend was at all hurt by any thing which he had “ said in his wrath,” was not only prompt and desirous to be reconciled, but exerted himself to make ample reparation.
Books of travels having been mentioned, Johnson praised Pennant very highly, as he did at Dunvegan in the isle of Sky". Dr. Percy, knowing himself to be the heir male of
h Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides, edit. 3rd, p. 221. VOL. III.
the ancient Percies', and, having the warmest and most dutiful attachment to the noble house of Northumberland, could not sit quietly and hear a man praised, who had spoken disrespectfully of Alnwick castle and the duke's pleasure grounds, especially as he thought meanly of his travels. He therefore opposed Johnson eagerly. JOHNSON. “ Pennant, in what he has said of Alnwick, has done what he intended; he has made you very angry.” Percy. “ He has said the garden is trim, which is representing it like a citizen's parterre; when the truth is, there is a very large extent of fine turf and gravel walks.” JOHNSON. “ According to your own account, sir, Pennant is right. It is trim. Here is grass cut close, and gravel rolled smooth. Is not that trim? The extent is nothing against that; a mile may be as trim as a square yard. Your extent puts me in mind of the citizen's enlarged dinner, two pieces of roast beef and two puddings. There is no variety, no mind exerted in laying out the ground; no trees.” Percy. “He pretends to give the natural history of Northumberland, and yet takes no notice of the immense number of trees planted there of late.” JohnSON. “ That, sir, has nothing to do with the natural history; that is civil history. A man wbo gives the natural history of the oak, is not to tell how many oaks have been
i See this accurately stated, and the descent of his family from the earls of Northumberland clearly deduced, in the rev. Dr. Nash's excellent History of Worcestershire, vol. ii. p. 318. The doctor has subjoined a note, in which he says,
“ The editor hath seen and carefully examined the proofs of all the particulars above mentioned, now in the possession of the rev. Thomas Percy.”
The same proofs I have also myself carefully examined, and have seen some additional proofs, which have occurred since the doctor's book was published ; and, both as a lawyer accustomed to the consideration of evidence, and as a genealogist versed in the study of pedigrees, I am fully satisfied. I cannot help observing, as a circumstance of no small moment, that in tracing the bishop of Dromore's genealogy, essential aid was given by the late Elizabeth duchess of Northumberland, heiress of that illustrious house; a lady not only of high dignity of spirit, such as became her noble blood, but of excellent understanding and lively talents. With a fair pride I can boast of the honour of her grace's correspondence, specimens of which adorn my archives.-Boswell.
planted in this place or that. A man who gives the natural history of the cow, is not to tell how many cows are milked at Islington. The animal is the same, whether milked in the Park or at Islington.” PERCY. “ Pennant does not describe well: a carrier who goes along the side of Lochlomond would describe it better." JOHNSON. “I think he describes very well.” PERCY. “I travelled after him." JOHNSON. “And I travelled after him.” PERCY. “ But, my good friend, you are short-sighted, and do not see so well as I do.” I wondered at Dr. Percy's venturing thus. Dr. Johnson said nothing at the time; but inflammable particles were collecting for a cloud to burst. In a little while Dr. Percy said something more in disparagement of Pennant. JOHNSON, (pointedly.) “ This is the resentment of a narrow mind, because he did not find every thing in Northumberland." PERCY, (feeling the stroke.)“ Sir, you may be as rude as you please.” JOHNSON. Hold, sir! don't talk of rudeness: remember, sir, you told me” (puffing hard with passion struggling for a vent) “ I was short-sighted. We have done with civility. We are to be as rude as we please.” Percy. “ Upon my honour, sir, I did not mean to be uncivil.” JOHNSON. “I cannot say so, sir; for I did mean to be uncivil, thinking you had been uncivil.” Dr. Percy rose, ran up to him, and, taking him by the hand, assured him affectionately that his meaning had been misunderstood; upon which a reconciliation instantly took place. Johnson. “My dear sir, I am willing you shall hang Pennant." PERCY, (resuming the former subject.) “ Pennant complains that the helmet is not hung out to invite to the hall of hospitality. Now I never heard that it was a custom to hang out a helmet k.” JOHNSON.
k It certainly was a custom, as appears from the following passage in Perceforest, vol. iii. p. 108 :-“ Fasoient mettre au plus hault de leur hostel un heaulme, en signe que tous les gentils hommes et gentilles femmes entrassent hardiment en leur hostel comme en leur propre,” etc.—KEARNEY.
The author's second son, Mr. James Boswell, had noticed this passage in Perceforest, and suggested to me the same remark.-Malone.
“ Hang him up, hang him up.” BOSWELL, (humouring the joke.) “ Hang out his skull instead of a helmet, and you may drink ale out of it in your hall of Odin, as he is your enemy; that will be truly ancient. There will be Northern Antiquities'.” JOHNSON. “He's a whig, sir ; a sad dog,” (smiling at his own violent expressions merely for political difference of opinion.) " But he's the best traveller I ever read: he observes more things than any one else does."
I could not help thinking that this was too high praise of a writer who traversed a wide extent of country in such haste, that he could put together only curt frittered fragments of his own, and afterwards procured supplemental intelligence from parochial ministers, and others not the best qualified or most impartial narrators, whose ungenerous prejudice against the house of Stuart glares in misrepresentation; a writer, who at best treats merely of superficial objects, and shows no philosophical investigation of character and manners, such as Johnson has exbibited in his masterly Journey over part of the same ground; and who, it should seem, from a desire of ingratiating himself with the Scotch, has flattered the people of North Britain so inordinately and with so little discrimination, that the judicious and candid amongst them must be disgusted, while they value more the plain, just, yet kindly report of Johnson.
Having impartially censured Mr. Pennant as a traveller in Scotland, let me allow him, from authorities much better than mine, his deserved praise as an able zoologist; and let me also, from my own understanding and feelings, acknowledge the merit of his London, which, though said to be not quite accurate in some particulars, is one of the most pleasing topographical performances that ever appeared in any language. Mr. Pennant, like his countrymen in general, has the true spirit of a gentleman. As a proof of it, I shall quote from his London the passage in
| The title of a book translated by Dr. Percy.--BosweLL.