Page images

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

[graphic][merged small]

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.-MALONE.

[graphic][merged small][merged small]


NEXT day I found him at home in the morning. He praised Delany's "Observations on Swift ;" said that his book and Lord Orrery's might both be true, though one viewed Swift more, and the other less favourably; and that, between both, we might have a complete notion of Swift.

Talking of a man's resolving to deny himself the use of wine, from moral and religious considerations, he said, "He must not doubt about it. When one doubts as to pleasure, we know what will be the conclusion. I now no more think of drinking wine than a horse does. The wine upon the table is no more for me than for the dog that is under the table."

On Thursday, April 9, I dined with him at Sir Joshua Reynolds's, with the Bishop of St. Asaph (Dr. Shipley), Mr. Allan Ramsay,' Mr. Gibbon, Mr. Cambridge, and Mr. Langton. Mr. Ramsay had lately returned from Italy, and entertained us with his observations upon Horace's villa, which he had examined with great care. I relished this much, as it brought fresh into my mind what I had viewed with great pleasure thirteen years before. The

Bishop, Dr. Johnson, and Mr. Cambridge joined with Mr. Ramsay in recollecting the various lines in Horace relating to the subject.

Horace's journey to Brundusium being mentioned, Sat. 1. i. 5, Johnson observed, that the brook which he describes is to be seen now, exactly as at that time: and that he had often wondered how it happened, that small brooks, such as this, kept the same situation for ages, notwithstanding earthquakes, by which even mountains have been changed, and agriculture, which produces such a variation upon the surface of the earth. CAMBRIDGE: "A Spanish writer has this thought in a poetical conceit." After observing that most of the solid structures of Rome are totally perished, while the Tiber remains the same, he adds,



'Lo que erà firme huió, solamente
Lo Fugitivo permanece y dura.""

JOHNSON: Sir, that is taken from Janus Vitalis :

immota labescunt;


Et quæ perpetuò sunt agitata manent.""

The Bishop said, it appeared from Horace's writings that he was a cheerful contented man. JOHNSON: "We have no reason to believe that, my Lord. Are we to think Pope was happy, because he says so in his writings? We see in his writings what he wished the state of his mind to appear. Dr. Young, who pined for preferment, talks with contempt of it in his writings, and affects to despise everything that he did not despise." BISHOP OF ST. ASAPH: "He was like other chaplains, looking for vacancies: but that is not peculiar to the clergy.

1 Allan Ramsay, painter to his Majesty, who died 10th of August, 1784, in the seventy-first year of his age, much regretted by his friends.-BOSWELL.

« PreviousContinue »