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“ Yes, sir; the licentiousness of one woman of quality makes more noise than that of a number of women in lower stations : then, sir, you are to consider the malignity of women in the city against women of quality, which will make them believe any thing of them, such as that they call their coachmen to bed. No, sir; so far as I have observed, the higher in rank, the richer ladies are, they are the betier instructed and the more virtuous.”
This year the reverend Mr. Horne published his letter to Mr. Dunning, on the English particle ; Johnson read it, and though not treated in it with sufficient respect, he had candour enough to say to Mr. Seward, “Were I to make a new edition of my dictionary, I would adopt severals of Mr. Horne's etymologies. I hope they did not put the dog in the pillory for his libel; he has too much literature for that.”
On Saturday, May 16th, I dined with him at Mr. Beauclerk's, with Mr. Langton, Mr. Steevens, Dr. Higgins, and some others. I regret very feelingly every instance of my remissness in recording his memorabilia. I am afraid it is the condition of humanity, (as Mr. Windham of Norfolk once observed to me, after having made an admirable speech in the house of commons, which was highly applauded, but which he afterwards perceived might have been better,) “that we are more uneasy from thinking of our wants, than happy in thinking of our acquisitions." This is an unreasonable mode of disturbing our tranquillity, and should be corrected : let me then comfort myself with the large treasure of Johnson's conversation which I have preserved for my own enjoyment and that of the world; and let me exhibit what I have upon each occasion, whether more or less, whether a bulse, or only a few sparks of a diamond.
s In Mr. Horne Tooke's enlargement of that Letter, which he has since published with the title of "Etɛa IITɛpóevra ; or, the Diversions of Purley; he mentions this compliment, as if Dr. Johnson, instead of several of his etymologies, had said all. His recollection having thus magnified it, shows how ambitious he was of the approbation of so great a man.-Boswell.
He said, “ Dr. Mead lived more in the broad sunshine of life than almost any man."
The disaster of general Burgoyne's army was then the common topick of conversation. It was asked why piling their arms was insisted upon as a matter of such consequence, when it seemed to be a circumstance so inconsiderable in itself. JOHNSON. “Why, sir, a French author says, “Il y a beaucoup de puérilités dans la guerre.' All distinctions are trifles, because great things can seldom occur, and those distinctions are settled by custom. would as willingly have his meat sent to him in the kitchen as eat it at the table here: as men become civilized, various modes of denoting honourable preference are invented.”
He this day made the observations upon the similarity between Rasselas and Candidet: which I have inserted in its proper place, when considering bis admirable philosophical romance. He said Candide he thought had more power in it than any thing that Voltaire had written.
He said, “ The lyrical part of Horace never can be perfectly translated; so much of the excellence is in the numbers and expression. Francis has done it the best: I'll take his, five out of six, against them all."
On Sunday, May 17th, I presented to him Mr. Fullarton, of Fullarton, who has since distinguished himself so much in India, to whom he naturally talked of travels, as Mr. Brydone accompanied him in his tour to Sicily and Malta. He said, “ The information which we have from modern travellers is much more authentick than what we had from ancient travellers: ancient travellers guessed; modern travellers measure. The Swiss admit that there is but one errour in Stanyan. If Brydone were more attentive to bis Bible, he would be a good traveller."
He said, “ Lord Chatham was a dictator; he possessed the power of putting the state in motion : now there is no power, all order is relaxed.” BOSWELL. “ Is there no
' See prefatory notice to Rasselas, in vol.i. of Johnson's works.-Ev.
hope of a change to the better?" JOHNSON.“ sir, when we are weary of this relaxation. So the city of London will appoint its mayors again by seniority.” Bos
“ But is not that taking a mere chance for having a good or a bad mayor?" JOHNSON. “Yes, sir; but the evil of competition is greater than that of the worst mayor that can come : besides, there is no more reason to suppose that the choice of a rabble will be right, than that chance will be right.”
On Tuesday, May 19th, I was to set out for Scotland in the evening. He was engaged to dine with me at Mr. Dilly's: I waited upon bim to remind him of his appointment, and attend him thither; he gave me some salutary counsel, and recommended vigorous resolution against any deviation from moral duty. BosweLL. you
would not have me to bind myself by a solemn obligation?” JOHNSON, (much agitated.) “ What, a vow !0, no, sir : a vow is a horrible thing; it is a snare for sin.
The man who cannot go to heaven without a vow—may go—.” Here, standing erect in the middle of his library, and rolling grand, his pause was truly a curious compound of the solemn and the ludicrous; he half whistled in his usual way when pleasant, and he paused, as if checked by religious awe. Methought he would have added to hellbut was restrained. I humoured the dilemma. What! sir,” said I, ". In coelum jusseris ibit ?"" alluding to his imitation of it,
And bid him go to hell, to hell he goes.
I had mentioned to him a slight fault in his noble imitation of the Tenth Satire of Juvenal, a too near recurrence of the verb spread, in his description of the young enthusiast at college :
Through all his veins the fever of renown,
He had desired me to change spreads to burns, but, for perfect authenticity, I now had it done with his own hand". I thought this alteration not only cured the fault, but was more poetical, as it might carry an allusion to the shirt by which Hercules was inflamed.
We had a quiet comfortable meeting at Mr. Dilly's ; nobody there but ourselves. Mr. Dilly mentioned somebody having wished that Milton's Tractate on Education should be printed along with his poems in the edition of the English poets then going on. JOHNSON. It would be breaking in upon the plan ; but would be of no great consequence. So far as it would be any thing, it would be wrong. Education in England has been in danger of being hurt by two of its greatest men, Milton and Locke. Milton's plan is impracticable, and I suppose has never been tried. Locke's, I fancy, has been tried often enough, but is very imperfect: it gives too much to one side, and too little to the other; it gives too little to literature. I shall do what I can for Dr. Watts; but
materials are very scanty. His poems are by no means his best works: I cannot praise his poetry itself highly; but I can praise its design."
My illustrious friend and I parted with assurances of affectionate regard.
I wrote to him on the 25th of May, from Thorpe in Yorkshire, one of the seats of Mr. Bosville, and gave him an account of my having passed a day at Lincoln, unexpectedly, and therefore without having any letters of introduction ; but that I had been honoured with civilities from the rev. Mr. Simpson, an acquaintance of his, and captain Broadley, of the Lincolnshire militia ; but more particularly from the rev. Dr. Gordon, the chancellor, who first received me with great politeness as a stranger, and, when I informed him who I was, entertained me at his
u The slip of paper on which he made the correction, is deposited by me in the noble library to which it relates, and to which I have presented other pieces of his handwriting.–Boswell.
house with the most flattering attention: I also expressed the pleasure with which I had found that our worthy friend Langton was highly esteemed in his own county town.
TO DR. SAMUEL JOHNSON.
Edinburgh, June 18, 1778.
“ MY DEAR SIR, - Since my return to Scotland, I have been again at Lanark, and have had more conversation with Thomson's sister. It is strange that Murdoch, who was his intimate friend, should have mistaken his mother's maiden name, which he says was Hume, whereas Hume was the name of his grandmother by the mother's side. His mother's name was Beatrix Trotter”, a daughter of Mr. Trotter of Fogo, a small proprietor of land. Thomson had one brother, whom he had with him in England as his amanuensis ; but he was seized with a consumption, and having returned to Scotland to try what his native air would do for him, died young. He had three sisters; one married to Mr. Bell, minister of the parish of Strathaven; one to Mr. Craig, father of the ingenious architect, who gave the plan of the new town of Edinburgh ; and one to Mr. Thomson, master of the grammar school at Lanark. He was of a humane and benevolent disposition; not only sent valuable presents to his sisters, but a yearly allowance in money, and was always wishing to have it in his power to do them more good. Lord Lyttelton's observation, that he loathed much to write,' was very true. His letters to his sister Mrs. Thomson were not frequent; and in one of them he says, “ All my friends who know me, know how backward I am to write letters; and never impute the negligence of my hand to the coldness of my heart. I send you a copy of the last letter which she had from him : she never heard that he had any intention of
* Dr. Johnson was by no means attentive to minute accuracy in his Lives of the Poets ; for notwithstanding my having detected this mistake, he has continued it.--Boswell.