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your loudest note can be but one, and so the variety is less in proportion to the loudness. Now some people have occasion to speak to an extensive audience, and must speak loud to be heard.” WALKER. “ The art is to read strong, though low.”
Talking of the arigin of language: -Johnson. fos It must have come by inspiration. A thousand, nay a million of children could not invent a language. While the organs are pliable, there is not understanding enough to form a language; by the time that there is understanding enough, the organs are become stiff. We know that after a certain age we cannot learn to pronounce a new language. No foreigner, who comes to England when advanced in life, ever pronounces English tolerably well; at least such instances are very rare.
When I maintain that language must have come by inspiration. I do not mean that inspiration is required for rhetorick, and all the beauties of language; for when once man has language, we can conceive that he may gradually form modifications of it. I mean only that inspiration seems to me to be necessary to give man the faculty of speech; to inform him that he may have speech; which I think he could no more find out without inspiration, than cows or hogs would think of such a faculty.” WALKER. “ Do you think, Sir, that there are any perfect sy: nonymes in any language?” Johnson. “ Originally there were not: but by using words negligez tly, or in poetry, one word comes to be confounded with another.”
He talked of Dr. Dodd 66 A friend of mine"
sai he, came to me and told me, that a lady (1) wished to have Dr. Dodd's picture in a bracelet, and asked me for a motto. I said, I could think of no better than Currat Lex. I was very willing to have .him pardoned, that is, to have the sentence changed to transportation ; but, when he was once hanged, I did not wish he should be made a saint."
Mrs. Burney, wife of his friend, Dr. Burney, came in, and he seemed to be entertained with her conversation.
Garrick's funeral was talked of as extravagantly expensive. Johnson, from his dislike to exaggeration, would not allow that it was distinguished by an extraordinary pomp.
6 Were there not six horses to each coach ?” said Mrs. Burney. John
“ Madam, there were no more six horses than six phønixes." ()
Mrs. Burney wondered that some very beautiful new buildings [Finsbury Square] should be erected in Moorfields, in so shocking a situation as between Bedlam and St. Luke's Hospital; and said she could not live there. Johnson. “ Nay, madam, you see nothing there to hurt you. You no more think of madness by having windows that look,to Bedlam, than you think of death by having windows that look to a churchyard.” Mrs. Burney.
6. We may
(1) I have been told that the lady was Dr. Dodd's relict; but if this were so, Dr. Johnson could not have been aware of it, as he could hardly have disapproved of her wearing his picture, and would surely not have insulted her by such an answer. - -C.
(2) Johnson, who attended the funeral, ought to have known: but, blind as he was, and in such circumstances, he probably did not observe very accurately; for the other authorities say that there were six horses, - C.
look to a churchyard, Sir; for it is right that we should be kept in mind of death.” Johnson. “ Nay, Madam, if you go to that, it is right that we should be kept in mind of madness, which is occasioned by too much indulgence of imagination. I think a very moral use may be made of these new buildings: I would have those who have heated imaginations live there, and take warning." MRS. BURNEY. “But, Sir, many of the poor people that are mad have become so from disease, or from distressing events. It is, therefore, not their fault, but their misfortune; and, therefore, to think of them is a melancholy consideration.”
Time passed on in conversation till it was too late for the service of the church at three o'clock. I took a walk, and left him alone for some time; then returned, and we had coffee and conversation again by ourselves.
I stated the character of a noble friend of mine as a curious case for his opinion (1):-“ He is the inost inexplicable man to me that I ever knew. Can you explain him, Sir? He is, I really believe, noble-minded, generous, and princely. But his most intimate friends may be separated from him for years, without his ever asking a question concerning them. He will meet them with a formality, a coldness, a stately indifference; but when they come close to him, and fairly engage him in conversation, they find him as easy, pleasant, and kind as they could wish. One then supposes that what is so
(1) Probably Lord Mountstuart, afterwards first Marquis of Bute.-C.
agreeable will soon be renewed; but stay away from him for half a year, and he will neither call on you, nor send to inquire about you.” Johnson. “Why, Sir, I cannot ascertain his character exactly, as I do not know nim; but I should not like to have such a man for my friend. He may iove study, ard wish not to be interrupted by his friends; Amici fures temporis. He may be a frivolous man, and be so much occupied with petty pursuits that he may not want friends. Or he may have a notion that there is dignity in appearing indifferent, while he in fact may not be more indifferent at his heart than another."
We went to evening prayers at St. Clement's, at seven, and then parted. ()
(1) The reader will recollect, that in the year 1775, when Dr. Johnson visited France, he was kindly entertained by the English Benedictine monks at Paris (Vol. VI p. 17). One of that body, the Rev. James Compton, in the course of some conversation with him at that time, asked him, should become converts to the protestant faith, and should visit England, whether they might hope for a friendly reception from him: to which he warmly replied, “that he should receive such a convert most cordially.” In consequence of this conversation, Mr. Compton, a few years afterwards, having some doubts concerning the religion in which he had been bred, was induced, by reading the 110th Number of “ The Rambler," (on REPENTANCE,) to consider the subject more deeply; and the result of his inquiries was, a determination to become a pro
With this view, in the summer of 1782, he returned to his native country, from whence he had been absent from his sixth to his thirty-fifth year; and on his arrival in London, very scantily provided with the means of subsistence, he immediately repaired to Bolt Court, to visit Dr. Johnson; and having informed him of his desire to be admitted into the church of England, for this purpose solicited his aid to procure for him an introduction to the bishop of London, Dr. Lowth. At the time of his first visit, Johnson was so much indisposed, that he could allow him only a short conversation of a few minutes; but he desired him to call again in the course of the following week, When Mr. Compton visited him a second time, he was perfectly
any of them
recovered from his indisposition ; received him with the utmost cordiality; and not only undertook the management of the business in which his friendly terposition had been requested, but with great kindness exerted himself in this gentleman's favour, with a view to his future subsistence, and immediately supplied him with the means of present support.
Finding that the proposed introduction to the bishop of London had from some accidental causes been deferred, lest Mr. Compton, who then lodged at Highgate, should suppose himself neglected, he wrote him the following note:
“ October 6. 1782. “SIR, - I have directed Dr. Vyse's letter to be sent to you, that you may know the situation of your business. Delays are incident to all affairs; but there appears nothing in your case of either superciliousness or neg. lect. Dr. Vyse seems to wish you well
I am, &c.
SAM. JOHNSON.” Mr. Compton having, by Johnson's advice, quitted Highgate, and settled in London, had now more frequent opportunities of visiting his friend, and profiting by his conversation and advice. Still, however, his means of subsistence being very scanty, Dr. Johnson kindly promised to afford him a decent maintenance, until by his own exertions he should be able to obtain a livelihood; which benevolent offer he accepted, and lived entirely at Johnson's expense till the end of January, 1783; in which month, having previously been introduced to Bishop Lowth, he was received into our communion in St. James's parish church. In the following April, the place of under-master of St. Paul's school having become vacant, his friendly protector did him a more essential service, by writing the following letter in his favour, to the Mercers' Company, in whom the appointment of the under-master lay: -
“ Bolt Court, Fleet-street, April 19. 1783. “ GENTLEMEN, - At the request of the Reverend Mr. James Compton, who now solicits your votes to be elected under-master of St. Paul's school, I testify, with great sincerity, that he is, in my opir.ion, a man of abilities sufficient, and more than sufficient, for the duties of the office for which he is a candidate I am, &c.
SAM. JOHNSON.” Though this testimony in Mr. Compton's favour was not attended with immediate success, yet Johnson's kindness was not without effect; for his letter procured 'Mr. Compton so many well-wishers in the respectable company of mercers, that he was honoured, by the favour of several of its members, with more applications to teach Latin and French than he could find time to attend to. In 1796, the Rev. Mr. Gilbert, one of his majesty's French chaplains, having accepted a living in Guernsey, nominated Mr. Compton as his substitute at the French chapel of St. James's; which appointment, in April, 1811, he relinquished for better in the French chapel at Bethnal Green. By the favour of Dr. Porteus, the late excellent Bishop of London, he was also appointed, in 1802, chaplain of the Dutch chapel at St. James's; a station which he still holds - M.