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Piozzi, ridiculously? perhaps because I made those verses
to imitate [Warton]1."
Mrs. Piozzi gives another comical instance of caricatura imitation. Some one praising these verses of Lopez de Vega,
"Se acquien los leones vence
more than he thought they deserved, Dr. Johnson instantly observed, "that they were founded on a trivial conceit; and that conceit ill-explained, and ill-expressed beside. The lady, we all know, does not conquer in the same manner as the lion does: 'tis a mere play of words," added he, " and you might as well say, that
'If the man who turnips cries,
'Tis a proof that he had rather
And this humour is of the same sort with which he answered the friend who commended the following line:
"Who rules o'er freemen should himself be free."
"To be sure," said Dr. Johnson,
"Who drives fat oxen should himself be fat."
This readiness of finding a parallel, or making one, was shown by him perpetually in the course of conversation. When the French verses of a certain pantomime were quoted thus,
1 [Mrs. Piozzi had here added the verses cited by Boswell, “ Hermit hoar,” exactly as he has given them; which is remarkable, because her book appeared so long before his.-ED.]
he cried out gaily and suddenly, almost in a moment,
"I am Cassandra come down from the sky,
"Je suis Cassandre descendue des cieux,
Pour vous faire entendre, mesdames et messieurs,
The pretty Italian verses too, at the end of Baretti's book, called "Easy Phraseology," he did all' improviso, in the same manner:
"Viva! viva la padrona!
"Long may live my lovely Hetty!
The famous distich too, of an Italian improvisatore, who, when the Duke of Modena ran away from the comet in the year 1742 or 1743,
"Se al venir vestro i principi sen' vanno
which,” said he, "would do just as well in our language thus:
"If at your coming princes disappear,
Comets! come every day-and stay a year.''
When some one in company commended the verses of M. de Benserade à son Lit:
"Theatre des ris et des pleurs,
Lit! ou je nais, et ou je meurs,
[The reader will recollect that Mrs. Thrale's name was Hester.—ED.]
To which he replied without hesitating,
"In bed we laugh, in bed we cry,
The near approach a bed may show
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 sixty pounds 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 Gothick church, now the family chapel, just by the house; in short, the grand group of objects agitated and distended my mind in a most agreeable manner. "One should think," said I, "that the proprietor of all this must be happy." "Nay, sir,” said Johnson, "all this excludes but one evilpoverty 1."
Our names were sent up, and a well-drest elderly housekeeper, a most distinct articulator, showed us the house; which I need not describe, as there is an account of it published in "Adams's Works in Archi
1 When I mentioned Dr. Johnson's remark to a lady of admirable good sense and quickness of understanding, she observed, "It is true all this excludes only one evil; but how much good does it let in !"-First edition. To this observation much praise has been justly given. Let me then now do myself the honour to mention that the lady who made it was the late Margaret Montgomerie, my very valuable wife, and the very affectionate mother of my children, who, if they inherit her good qualities, will have no reason to complain of their lot. Dos magna parentum virtus.—Second edition.-BoswELL.
tecture." Dr. Johnson thought better of it to-day, than when he saw it before'; for he had lately attacked it violently, saying, "It would do excellently for a townhall. The large room with the pillars," said he, "would do for the judges to sit in at the assizes; the circular room for a jury-chamber; and the room above for prisoners." Still he thought the large room ill lighted, and of no use but for dancing in; and the bedchambers but indifferent rooms; and that the immense sum which it cost was injudiciously laid out. Dr. Taylor had put him in mind of his appearing pleased with the house. "But,' said he, "that was when Lord Scarsdale was present. Politeness obliges us to appear pleased with a man's works when he is present. No man will be so ill-bred as to question you. You may therefore pay compliments without saying what is not true. I should say to Lord Scarsdale of his large room, 'My lord, this is the most costly room that I ever saw; which is true."
Dr. Manningham, physician in London, who was visiting at Lord Scarsdale's, accompanied us through many of the rooms; and soon afterwards my lord himself, to whom Dr. Johnson was known, appeared, and did the honours of the house. We talked of Mr. Langton. Johnson, with a warm vehemence of affectionate regard, exclaimed, "The earth does not bear a worthier man than Bennet Langton." We saw a good many fine pictures, which I think are described in one of "Young's Tours." There is a printed catalogue of them, which the housekeeper put into my hand. I should like to view them at leisure. I was much struck with Daniel interpreting Nebuchadnezzar's dream, by Rembrandt. We were
1 [See ante, Tour in Wales, vol. iii. p. 129.—ED.]
shown a pretty large library. In his lordship's dressing-room lay Johnson's small dictionary: he showed it to me, with some eagerness, saying, "Look 'ye! Quæ regio in terris nostri non plena laboris." He observed, also, Goldsmith's "Animated Nature;" and said, "Here's our friend! The poor doctor would have been happy to hear of this.”
In our way, Johnson strongly expressed his love of driving fast in a post-chaise '. "If," said he, "I had no duties, and no reference to futurity, I would spend my life in driving briskly in a post-chaise with a pretty woman; but she should be one who could understand me, and would add something to the conversation." I observed, that we were this day to stop just where the Highland army did in 1745. JOHNSON. "It was a noble attempt." BOSWELL. "I wish we could have an authentick history of it." JOHNSON. "If you were not an idle dog you might write it, by collecting from every body what they can tell, and putting down your authorities." BOSWELL. "But I could not have the advantage of it in my lifetime." JOHNSON. "You might have the satisfaction of its fame, by printing it in Holland; and as to profit, consider how long it was before writing came to be considered in a pecuniary view. Baretti says he is the first man that ever received copymoney in Italy." I said that I would endeavour to do what Dr. Johnson suggested; and I thought that I might write so as to venture to publish my "History of the Civil War in Great Britain in 1745 and 1746" without being obliged to go to a foreign press 2.
[See ante, vol. iii. p. 339, and p. 370.-ED.]
2 I am now happy to understand that Mr. John Home, who was himself gallantly in the field for the reigning family in that interesting warfare, but is generous enough to do justice to the other side, is preparing an account of it for the press. BOSWELL.