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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 inquiry, an English Chaplain to a regiment 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 have 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 anything that 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 principle; and he did nothing grossly wrong that I have heard."2
I told him, that I had been present the day before when Mrs. Montagu, 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 avi, which the late Lord Lyttleton advised her to read." JOHNSON: "Sir, she has not read them: she shows none of this impetuosity to me: she does not
1 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 anything 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 I 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.
2 Dr. John Campbell died about two years before this conversation took place; Dec. 10 1776.-MALONE.
know Greek, and, I fancy, knows little Latin. She is willing you should.
Sir, it is what everybody 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 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 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 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; I 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 very different nature. Philosophers tell you, that pleasure is contrary to happiness. Gross men prefer animal pleasure. So there are men who have preferred living
1 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. The celebrated gentleman here alluded to, was the late Right Honourable William Gerard Hamilton-MALONE.
among savages. Now what a wretch must he 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."
I mentioned to him that I had become very weary in a company where I heard not a single intellectual sentence, except that "a man who had been settled ten years in Minorca was become a much inferior man to what he was in London, because a man's mind grows narrow in a narrow place." JOHNSON: "A man's mind grows narrow in a narrow place, whose mind is enlarged only because he has lived in a large place: but what is got by books and thinking, is preserved in a narrow place as well as in a large place. A man cannot know modes of life as well in Minorca as in London; but he may study mathematics as well. in Minorca." BOSWELL, “I don't know, Sir, if you had remained ten years in the Isle of Col, you would not have been the man you now are." JOHNSON: “Yes, Sir, if I had been there from fifteen to twentyfive; but not if from twenty-five to thirty-five." BOSWELL: I own, Sir, the spirits which I have in London make me do everything with more readiness and vigour. I can talk twice as much in London as anywhere else."
Of Goldsmith, he said, "He was not an agreeable companion, for he talked always for fame. A man who does so never can be pleasing. The man who talks to unburden his mind is the man to delight you. An eminent friend of ours is not so agreeable as the variety of his knowledge would otherwise make him, because he talks partly from ostentation.”
Soon after our arrival at Thrale's, I heard one of the maids calling eagerly on another, to go to Dr. Johnson. I wondered what this could mean. I afterwards learnt, that it was to give her a Bible, which he had brought from London as a present to her.
He was for a considerable time occupied in reading " Mémoires de Fontenelle," leaning and swinging upon the low gate into the court, without his hat.
I looked into Lord Kaimes's "Sketches of the History of Man ;" and mentioned to Dr. Johnson his censure of Charles the Fifth, for celebrating his funeral obsequies in his life-time, which I told him, I had been used to think a solemn and affecting act. JOHNSON: "Why, Sir, a man may dispose his mind to think so of that act of Charles; but it is so liable to ridicule, that if one man out of ten thousand laughs at it, he'll make the other nine thousand nine hundred and ninety-nine laugh too." I could not agree with him in this.
Sir John Pringle had expressed a wish that I would ask Dr. Johnson's opinion what were the best English sermons for style. I took an opportunity to-day of mentioning several to him. Atterbury? JOHNSON:
"Yes, Sir, one of the best." BOSWELL: "Tillotson ?" JOHNSON: "Why, not now. 1 should not advise a preacher at this day to imitate Tillotson's style; though I don't know; I should be cautious of objecting to what has been applauded by so many suffrages.-South is one of
the best, if you except his peculiarities, and his violence, and sometimes coarseness of language.-Seed has a very fine style; but he is not very theological. Jortin's sermons are very elegant.-Sherlock's style too is very elegant, though he has not made it his principal study.-And you may add Smallridge. All the latter preachers have a good style. Indeed, nobody now talks much of style: everybody composes pretty well. There are no such inharmonious periods as there were a hundred years ago. I should recommend Dr. Clarke's sermons, were he orthodox. However, it is very well known where he is not orthodox, which was upon the doctrine of the Trinity, as to which he is a condemned heretic so one is aware of it." BOSWELL: "I like Ogden's Sermons on Prayer very much, both for neatness of style and subtilty of reasoning." JOHNSON: "I should like to read all that Ogden has
written." BoSWELL: "What I wish to know is, what sermons afford the best specimen of English pulpit eloquence." JOHNSON: "We have no sermons addressed to the passions, that are good for anything; if you mean that kind of eloquence." A CLERGYMAN (whose name I do not recollect): "Were not Dodd's sermons addressed to the passions ?" JOHNSON: "They were nothing, Sir, be they addressed to what they may."
At dinner Mrs. Thrale expressed a wish to go and see Scotland. JOHNSON: "Seeing Scotland, Madam, is only seeing a worse England. It is seeing the flower gradually fade away to the naked stalk. Seeing the Hebrides, indeed, is seeing quite a different scene."
Our poor friend, Mr. Thomas Davies, was soon to have a benefit at Drury-lane theatre, as some relief to his unfortunate circumstances. We were all warmly interested for his success, and had contributed to it. However, we thought there was no harm in having our joke, when he could not be hurt by it. I proposed that he should be brought on to speak a Prologue upon the occasion; and I began to mutter fragment of what it might be; as, that when now grown old, he was obliged to cry, "Poor Tom's a-cold;"-that he owned he had been driven from the stage by a Churchill, but that was no disgrace, for a Churchill had beat the French; that he had been satirised as mouthing a sentence as curs mouth a bone," but he was now glad of a bone to pick. "Nay," said Johnson, “I would have him to say,
'Mad Tom is come to see the world again."
He and I returned to town in the evening. Upon the road, I endeavoured to maintain, in argument, that a landed gentleman is not under any obligation to reside upon his estate; and that by living in London he does no injury to his country. JOHNSON: Why, Sir, he does no injury to his country in general, because the money which he draws from it gets back again into circulation; but to his particular district, his particular parish, he does an injury. All that he has to give away is not given to those who have the first claim to it. And though I have said that the money circulates back, it is a long time before that happens. Then, Sir, a man of family and estate ought to consider himself as having the charge of a district, over which he is to diffuse civility and happiness."1
1 See, however, the conversation under Sept. 20, 1777, where his decision on this subject is more favourable to the absentee.-MALOone.