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by having had an exception made in his favour in an Irish act of parliament concerning insolvent debtors.
“ Thus to be singled out,” said he, “ by a legislature, as an object of publick consideration and kindness, is a proof of no common merit.”
At Streatham, on Monday, March 29th, at breakfast, he maintained that a father had no right to control the inclinations of his daughter in marriage.
On Wednesday, March 31st, when I visited him, and confessed an excess of which I had very seldom been guilty: that I had spent a whole night in playing at cards, and that I could not look back on it with satisfaction ; instead of a harsh animadversion, he mildly said, “ Alas, sir, on how few things can we look back with satisfaction !"
On Thursday, April 1st, he commended one of the dukes of Devonshire for “ a dogged veracity!.” He said too, “ London is nothing to some people; but to a man whose pleasure is intellectual, London is the place. And there is no place where economy can be so well practised as in London: more can be had here for the money, even by ladies, than anywhere else. You cannot play tricks with your fortune in a small place; you must make an uniform appearance. Here a lady may have well-furnished apartments, and elegant dress, without any meat in her kitchen.”
I was amused by considering with how much ease and coolness he could write or talk to a friend, exhorting him not to suppose that happiness was not to be found as well in other places as in London ; when he himself was at all times sensible of its being, comparatively speaking, a heaven upon earth. The truth is, that by those who from sagacity, attention, and experience have learnt the full advantage of London, its pre-eminence over every other place, not only for variety of enjoyment, but for comfort, will be felt with a philosophical exultation. The freedom from remark and petty censure with which life may be
passed there, is a circumstance which a man who knows the teasing restraint of a narrow circle must relish highly. Mr. Burke, whose orderly and amiable domestick habits might make the eye of observation less irksome to him than to most men, said once very pleasantly, in my hearing, “ Though I have the honour to represent Bristol, I should not like to live there; I should be obliged to be so much upon my good behaviour.” In London, a man may live in splendid society at one time, and in frugal retirement at another, without animadversion. There, and there alone, a man's own house is truly his castle, in which he can be in perfect safety from intrusion whenever he pleases. I never shall forget how well this was expressed to me one day by Mr. Meynell : “ The chief advantage of London,” said he, “is, that a man is always so near his burrow."
He said of one of his old acquaintances, “ He is very fit for a travelling governour. He knows French very well. He is a man of good principles : and there would be no danger that a young gentleman should catch his manner; for it is so very bad, that it must be avoided. In that respect he would be like the drunken Helot.”
A gentleman has informed me, that Johnson said of the same person,
Sir, he has the most inverted understanding of any man whom I have ever known.”
On Friday, April 2nd, being Good Friday, I visited him in the morning as usual; and finding that we insensibly fell into a train of ridicule upon the foibles of one of our friends, a very worthy man, I, by way of a check, quoted some good admonition from the Government of the Tongue, that very pious book. It happened also remarkably enough, that the subject of the sermon preached to us to-day by Dr. Burrows, the rector of St. Clement Danes, was the certainty that at the last day we must give an account of “ the deeds done in the body ;” and amongst various acts of culpability he mentioned evil speaking. As we were moving slowly along in the crowd from church, Johnson jogged my elbow and said, “ Did you attend to
the sermon ?” « Yes, sir," said I ; "it was very applicable to us.” He, however, stood upon the defensive. “Why, sir, the sense of ridicule is given us, and may be lawfully used. The author of the Government of the Tongue would have us treat all men alike."
In the interval between morning and evening service, he endeavoured to employ himself earnestly in devotional exercises; and, as he has mentioned in his Prayers and Meditations, gave me Les Pensées de Paschal, that I might not interrupt him. I preserve the book with re
His presenting it to me is marked upon it with his own hand; and I have found in it a truly divine unction. We went to church again in the afternoon.
On Saturday, April 3rd, I visited him at night, and found him sitting in Mrs. Williams's room, with her, and one who he afterwards told me was a natural son of the second lord Southwell. The table had a singular appearance, being covered with a heterogeneous assemblage of oysters and porter for his company, and tea for himself. I mentioned my having heard an eminent physician, who was himself a christian, argue in favour of universal toleration, and maintain, that no man could be hurt by another man's differing from him in opinion. Johnson. “Sir, you are to a certain degree hurt by knowing that even one man does not believe.”
On Easter-day, after solemn service at St. Paul's, I dined with him: Mr. Allen the printer was also his guest. He was uncommonly silent; and I have not written down any thing, except a single curious fact, which, having the sanction of his inflexible veracity, may be received as a striking instance of human insensibility and inconsideration. As he was passing by a fishmonger who was skinning an eel alive, he heard him “curse it, because it would not lie still."
On Wednesday, April 7th, I dined with him at sir
m Works, vol. ix. p. 265.
n Mr. Mauritius Lowe, a painter, in whose favour Johnson, some years afterwards, wrote a kind letter to sir Joshua Reynolds.-MALONE. VOL. III.
Joshua Reynolds's. I have not marked what company was there. Johnson harangued upon the qualities of different liquors; and spoke with great contempt of claret, as so weak, that“ a man would be drowned by it before it made him drunk.” He was persuaded to drink one glass of it, that he might judge, not from recollection, which might be dim, but from immediate sensation. He shook his head, and said, “ Poor stuff! No, sir, claret is the liquor for boys; port for men; but he who aspires to be a hero (smiling) must drink brandy. In the first place, the flavour of brandy is most grateful to the palate ; and then brandy will do soonest for a man what drinking can do for him. There are, indeed, few who are able to drink brandy. That is a power rather to be wished for than attained. And yet,” proceeded he, “as in all pleasure hope is a considerable part, I know not but fruition comes too quick by brandy. Florence wine I think the worst: it is wine only to the eye; it is wine neither while you are drinking it, nor after you have drunk it; it neither pleases the taste, nor exhilarates the spirits.” I reminded him how heartily he and I used to drink wine together when we were first acquainted ; and how I used to have a headache after sitting up with him. He did not like to have this recalled; or, perhaps, thinking that I boasted improperly, resolved to have a witty stroke at me: Nay, sir, it was not the wine that made your head ache, but the sense that I put into it.” Boswell. “What, sir! will sense make the head ache ?" JOHNSON. “Yes, sir, (with a smile,) when it is not used to it."—No man who has true relish of pleasantry could be offended at this; especially if Johnson in a long intimacy had given him repeated proofs of his regard and good estimation. I used to say, that as he had given me a thousand pounds in praise, he had a good right now and then to take a guinea from me.
On Thursday, April 8th, I dined with him at Mr. Allan Ramsay's, with lord Graham and some other company. We talked of Shakespeare's witches. JOHNSON. “ They are beings of his own creation: they are a compound of malignity and meanness, without any abilities; and are quite different from the Italian magicians. King James says
in his Dæmonology, ' Magicians command the devils : witches are their servants.' The Italian magicians are elegant beings.” RAMSAY. “Opera witches, not Drurylane witches.”—Johnson observed, that abilities might be employed in a narrow sphere, as in getting money, which, he said, he believed no man could do without vigorous parts, though concentrated to a point. RAMSAY, “ Yes, like a strong horse in a mill; he pulls better."
Lord Graham, while he praised the beauty of Lochlomond, on the banks of which is his family seat, complained of the climate, and said he could not bear it. JOHNSON.
Nay, my lord, don't talk so: you may bear it well enough. Your ancestors have borne it more years than I can tell.” This was a handsome compliment to the antiquity of the house of Montrose. His lordship told me afterwards, that he had only affected to complain of the climate; lest, if he had spoken as favourably of his country as he really thought, Dr. Johnson might have attacked it. Johnson was very courteous to lady Margaret Macdonald. “Madam," said he, “when I was in the isle of Sky, I heard of the people running to take the stones off the road, lest lady Margaret's horse should stumble."
Lord Graham commended Dr. Drummond at Naples as a man of extraordinary talents; and added, that he had a great love of liberty. JOHNSON. “He is young, my lord, (looking to his lordship with an arch smile ;) all boys love liberty, till experience convinces them they are not so fit to govern themselves as they imagined. We are all agreed as to our own liberty; we would have as much of it as we can get; but we are not agreed as to the liberty of others : for in proportion as we take, others must lose. I believe we hardly wish that the mob should have liberty to govern us. When that was the case some time ago, no man was at liberty not to have candles in his windows." RAMSAY, “ The result is, that order is better than con