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His observation that the present royal family has no friends has been too much justified by the very ungrateful behaviour of many who were under great obligations to his majesty: at the same time there are honourable exceptions; and the very next year after this conversation, and ever since, the king has had as extensive and generous support as ever was given to any monarch, and has had the satisfaction of knowing that he was more and more endeared to his people.
He repeated to me his verses on Mr. Levett, with an emotion which gave them full effect; and then he was pleased to say,
66 You must be as much with me as you can.
You have done me good. You cannot think how much better I am since you came in.”
He sent a message to acquaint Mrs. Thrale that I was arrived. I had not seen her since her husband's death. She soon appeared, and favoured me with an invitation to stay to dinner, which I accepted. There was no other company but herself and three of her daughters, Dr. Johnson, and I. She too said she was very glad I was come; for she was going to Bath, and should have been sorry to leave Dr. Johnson before I came. This seemed to be attentive and kind; and I, who had not been informed of any change, imagined all to be as well as formerly. He was little inclined to talk at dinner, and went to sleep after it; but when he joined us in the drawing-room he secmed revived, and was again himself.
Talking of conversation, he said, “ There must,
in the first place, be knowledge — there must be materials ; in the second place, there must be a command of words ; in the third place, there must be imagination, to place things in such views as they are not commonly seen in ; and, in the fourth piace, there must be presence of mind, and a resolution that is not to be overcome by failures : this last is an essential requisite ; for want of it many people do not excel in conversation. Now I want it; I throw up the game upon losing a trick." I wondered to hear him talk thus of himself, and said, “ I don't know, Sir, how this may be ; but I am sure you beat other people's cards out of their hands." I doubt whether he heard this remark. While he went on talking triumphantly, I was fixed in admiration, and said to Mrs. Thrale, “O for short-hand to take this down !". all in your head,” said she: “a long head is as good as short-hand.”
It has been observed and wondered at, that Mr. Charles Fox never talked with any freedom in the presence of Dr. Johnson; though it is well known, and I myself can witness, that his conversation is various, fluent, and exceedingly agreeable. Johnson's own experience, however, of that gentleman's reserve, was a sufficient reason for his going on thus: “ Fox never talks in private company; not from any determination not to talk, but because he has not the first motion. A man who is used to the applause of the house of commons has no wish for that of a private company. A man accustomed to throw for a thousand pounds, if set down to throw
You'll carry it
66 # **
for sixpence, would not be at the pains to count his dice. Burke's talk is the ebullition of his mind. He does not talk from a desire of distinction, but because his mind is full.”
He thus curiously characterised one of our old acquaintance :
** (1) is a good man, Sir; but he is a vain man and a liar. He, however, only tells lies of vanity ; of victories, for instance, in conversation, which never happened.” This alluded to a story, which I had repeated from that gentleman, to entertain Johnson with its wild bravado. “ This Johnson, Sir,” said he, “ whom you are all afraid of, will shrink, if you come close to him in argument, and roar as loud as he. He once maintained the paradox, that there is no beauty but in utility. Sir, said I, what say you to the peacock's tail, which is one of the most beautiful objects in nature, but would have as much utility if its feathers were all of one colour?' He felt what I thus produced, and had recourse to his usual ex. pedient, ridicule ; exclaiming, “A peacock has a tail, and a fox has a tail ;' and then he burst out into a laugh. « Well, Sir,' said I, with a strong voice, looking him full in the face, you have unkennelled your fox; pursue him if you
dare. He had not a word to say, Sir.” Johnson told me that this was fiction from beginning to end. (?) (1) This alludes to old Mr. Sheridan. - C.
(2) Were I to insert all the stories which have been told of contests boldly maintained with him, imaginary victories obtained over him, of reducing him to silence, and of making him own that his antagonist na? the beiter of him in argument, my volumes would swell to an immoderate size. One instance, I ind, has circulated both in conversation and in print; that when
After musing for some time, he said, “ I wonder how I should have any enemies; for I do harm to nobody.” (1) Boswell. “ In the first place, Sir, you will be pleased to recollect that you set out with attacking the Scotch ; so you got a whole nation for your enemies." Johnson. “
Why, I own that by my definition of oats I meant to vex them.” Bos
Pray, Sir, can you trace the cause of your antipathy to the Scotch ?” JOHNSON. “ I cannot, Sir."(2) Boswell. “Old Mr. Sheridan says because they sold Charles the First.” Johnson. " Then, Sir, old Mr Sheridan has found out a very good reason.”
Surely the most obstinate and sulky nationality, the most determined aversion to this great and good man, must be cured, when he is seen thus playing
ne would not allow the Scotch writers to have merit, the late Dr. Rose, of Chiswick, asserted, that he could name one Scotch writer whom Dr. Johnson himself would allow to have written better than any man of the age; and upon Johnson's asking who it was, answered, “ Lord Bute, when he signed the warrant for your pension.” Upon which Johnson, struck with the repartee, acknowledged that this was true. When I mentioned it to Johnson, « Sir,” said he, “ if Rose said this, I never heard it.”
(1) This reflection was very natural in a man of a good heart, who was not conscious of any ill-will to mankind, though the sharp sayings which were sometimes produced by his discrimination and vivacity, which he perhaps did not recollect, were, I am afraid, too often remembered with resentment.
(2) When Johnson asserted so distinctly that he could not trace the cause of his antipathy to the Scotch, it may seem unjust to attribute to him any secret personal motive; but it is the essence of prejudice to be unconscious of its cause, and I am convinced that Johnson received in early life some serious injury or affront from the Scotch. If his personal history during the years 1745 and 1746 were known, something would probably be found to account for this (as it now seems) absurd national aversion. -- C.
with one of his prejudices, of which he candidly ad. mitted that he could not tell the reason. however, probably owing to his having had in his view the worst part of the Scottish nation, the needy adventurers (1), many of whom he thought were advanced above their merits by means which he did not approve.
Had he in his early life been in Scotland, and seen the worthy, sensible, independent gentlemen, who live rationally and hospitably at home, he never could have entertained such unfavourable and unjust notions of his fellowsubjects. And accordingly we find that when he did visit Scotland, in the latter period of his life, he was fully sensible of all that it deserved, as I have already pointed out when speaking of his “Journey to the Western Islands."
Next day, Saturday, 22d March, I found him still at Mrs. Thrale's, but he told me that he was to go to his own house in the afternoon. He was better, but I perceived he was but an unruly patient; for Sir Lucas Pepys, who visited him, while I was with him said, “ If you were tractable, Sir, I should prescribe for you."
I related to him a remark which a respectable friend had made to me upon the then state of go
(1) This can hardly have been the cause. Many of Johnson's earliest associates were indeed “needy Scotch adventurers ;" that is, they were poor scholars, indigent men of education and talent, who brought those articles to the London market, as Dr. Johnson himself had done. Such were Shiels, Stewart, Macbean, &c. But Johnson had no aversion to these men: on the contrary, he lived with them in familiar friendship, did them active kindnesses, and with Macbean (who seems to have been the survivor of his earliest friends) he continued in the b ndest intercourse to his last hour.-C.