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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 17, 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 Panegyric, 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.
He had this evening (partly, I suppose, from the spirit of contradiction to his Whig friend) a violent argument with Dr. Taylor, as to the inclinations of the people of England at this time towards the royal family of Stuart. He grew so outrageous as to say, "that if England were fairly polled the present king would be sent away to-night, and his adherents hanged to-morrow." Taylor, who was as violent a Whig as Johnson was a Tory, was roused by this to a pitch of bellowing. He denied loudly what Johnson said, and maintained that there was an abhorrence against the Stuart family, though he admitted that the
1 "Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides," 3d edit., p. 240.-BoSWELL.
people were not much attached to the present king.1 JOHNSON: "Sir, the state of the country is this: the people knowing it to be agreed on all hands that this king has not the hereditary right to the crown, and there being no hope that he who has it can be restored, have grown cold and indifferent upon the subject of loyalty, and have no warm attachment to any king. They would not, therefore, risk anything to restore the exiled family. They would not give 20s. a piece to bring it about. But if a mere vote could do it, there would be twenty to one; at least, there would be a very great majority of voices for it. For, Sir, you are to consider, that all those who think a king has a right to his crown, as a man has to his estate, which is the just opinion, would be for restoring the king who certainly has the hereditary right, could he be trusted with it; in which there would be no danger now, when laws and every thing else are so much advanced and every king will govern by the laws. And you must also consider, Sir, that there is nothing on the other side to oppose this; for it is not alleged by any one that the present family has any inherent right: so that the Whigs could not have a contest between two rights."
Dr. Taylor admitted, that if the question as to hereditary right were to be tried by a poll of the people of England, to be sure the abstract doctrine would be given in favour of the family of Stuart; but he said the conduct of that family, which occasioned their expulsion, was so fresh in the minds of the people, that they would not vote for a restoration. Dr. Johnson, I think, was contented with the admission as to the hereditary right, leaving the original point in dispute, viz. what the people upon the whole would do, taking in right and affection; for he said, people were afraid of a change, even though they think it right. Dr. Taylor said something of the slight foundation of the hereditary right of the house of Stuart. "Sir," said Johnson, "the house of Stuart succeeded to the full right of both the houses of York and Lancaster, whose common source had the undisputed right. A right to a throne is like a right to anything else. Possession is sufficient, where no better right can be shown. This was the case with the royal family of England, as it is now with the king of France: for as to the first beginning of the right we are in the dark."
Thursday, September 18. Last night Dr. Johnson had proposed that the crystal lustre, or chandelier, in Dr. Taylor's large room should be lighted up some time or other. Taylor said it should be lighted up next night. “That will do very well," said I, “ for it is Dr. Johnson's birthday." When we were in the Isle of Sky, Johnson had desired me not to mention his birthday. He did not seem pleased at this time
1 Dr. Taylor was very ready to make this admission, because the party with which he was connected was not in power. There was then some truth in it, owing to the pertinacity of factious clamour. Had he lived till now, it would have been impossible for him to deny that his Majesty possesses the warmest affection of his people.-BOSWELL.
that I mentioned it, and said somewhat sternly, "he would not have the lustre lighted the next day."
Some ladies, who had been present yesterday when I mentioned his birthday, came to dinner to-day, and plagued him unintentionally by wishing him joy. I know not why he disliked having his birthday mentioned, unless it were that it reminded him of his approaching nearer to death, of which he had a constant dread.
I mentioned to him a friend of mine who was formerly gloomy from low spirits, and much distressed by the fear of death, but was now uniformly placid, and contemplated his dissolution without any perturbation. Sir," said Johnson, "this is only a disordered imagination taking a different turn."
We talked of a collection being made of all the English Poets who had published a volume of poems. Johnson told me "that a Mr. Coxeter,"1 whom he knew, had gone the greatest length towards this having collected, I think, about five hundred volumes of poets whose works were little known; but that upon his death Tom Osborne bought them, and they were dispersed, which he thought a pity, as it was curious to see any series complete; and in every volume of poems something good may be found."
He observed, that a gentleman of eminence in literature had got into a bad style of Poetry of late. "He puts," said he, "a very common thing in a strange dress till he does not know it himself, and thinks other people do not know it." BOSWELL: "That is owing to his being so much versant in old English poetry." JOHNSON: "What is that to the purpose, Sir? If I say a man is drunk, and you tell me it is owing to his taking much drink, the matter is not mended. No, Sir, has taken to an odd mode. For example, he'd write thus :
'Hermit hoar, in solemn cell,
Gray evening is common enough; but evening gray he'd think fine Stay-we'll make out the stanza :
'Hermit hoar, in solemn cell,
Wearing out life's evening gray,
BOSWELL: "But why smite his bosom, Sir?" JOHNSON: "Why to
1 Thomas Coxeter, Esq., who had also made a large collection of old plays, and from whose manuscript notes "The Lives of the English Poets," by Shiels and Cibber, were principally compiled, as should have been mentioned in a former page. See pp. 18-20 of this volume. [Mr. Coxeter was bred at Trinity College, Oxford, and died in London, April 17, 1747, in his fifty-ninth year. A particular account of him may be found in "The Gentleman's Magazine” for 1781, p. 173.—MALONE.]
show he was in earnest" (smiling).-He, at an after period, added the following stanza :—
"Thus I spoke; and speaking sigh'd,
Come, my lad, and drink some beer."1
I cannot help thinking the first stanza very good solemn poetry, as also the first three lines of the second. Its last line is an excellent burlesque surprise on gloomy sentimental inquirers. And, perhaps, the advice as good as can be given to a low-spirited, dissatisfied being :-"Don't trouble your head with sickly thinking: take a cup and be merry."
1 As some of my readers may be gratified by reading the progress of this little composition, I shall insert it from my notes.-"When Dr. Johnson and I were sitting tête-à-tête at the Mitre Tavern, May 9, 1778, he said, 'Where is bliss' would be better. He then added a ludicrous stanza, but would not repeat it, lest I should take it down. It was somewhat as follows; the last line I am sure I remember:
'While I thus
cried, seer, replied,
Come, my lad, and drink some beer.'
In spring, 1779, when in better humour, he made the second stanza, as in the text. There was only one variation afterwards made on my suggestion, which was changing hoary, in the third line, to smiling, both to avoid a sameness with the epithet in the first line, and to describe the hermit in his pleasantry He was then very well pleased that I should preserve it."-BOSWELL.
KEDDLESTONE, THE SEAT OF LORD SCARSDALE-DR. MANNINGHAM-BENNET LANGTON-
FRIDAY, September 19, after breakfast, Dr. Johnson and I set out in Dr. Taylor's chaise to go to Derby. The day was fine, and we resolved to go by Keddlestone, the seat of Lord Scarsdale, that I might see his Lordship's fine house. I was struck with the magnificence of the building; and the extensive park, with the finest verdure, covered with deer, and cattle, and sheep, delighted me. The number of old oaks, of an immense size, filled me with a sort of respectful admiration. For one of them, 60%. was offered. The excellent smooth gravel roads the large piece of water formed by his Lordship from some small brooks, with a handsome barge upon it: the venerable Gothic church,