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afterwards I waited upon him and made an apology, he behaved with the most friendly gentleness.
While I remained in London this year, Johnson and I dined together at several places. I recollect a placid day' at Dr. Butter's (1), who had now removed from Derby to Lower Grosvenor Street, London; but of his conversation on that and other occasions during this period I neglected to keep any regular record, and shall therefore insert here some miscellanous articles which I find in
His disorderly habits, when “making provision for the day that was passing over him," appear from the following anecdote, communicated to me by Mr. John Nichols : “In the year 1763 a young bookseller, who was an apprentice to Mr. Whiston, waited on him with a subscription to his “Shakspeare;' and observing that the doctor made no entry in any book of the subscriber's name, ventured diffidently to ask whether he would please to have the gentleman's address, that it might be properly inserted in the printed list of subscribers. · I shall print no list of subscribers,' said Johnson, with great abruptness ; but almost immediately recollecting himself, added, very complacently, “Sir, I have two very cogent reasons for not printing any list of subscribers : one, that I have lost all the names; the other, that I have spent all the money.'
Johnson could not brook appearing to be worsted answer, and I thus obtained an act of oblivion, and took care never to offend again.
(1) See antè, Vol. VI. p. 305. — C.
.n argument, even when he had taken the wrong ide, to show the force and dexterity of his talents. When, therefore, he perceived that his opponent gained ground, he had recourse to some sudder. mode of robust sophistry.
Once when I was pressing upon him with visible advantage, he stopped me thus :
“ My dear Boswell, let's have no more o. this ; you'll make nothing of it. I'd rather have you whistle a Scotch tune.”
Care, however, must be taken to distinguish between Johnson when he “talked for victory,” and Johnson when he had no desire but to inform and illustrate. “One of Johnson's principal talents," says an eminent friend of his (1), was shown in maintaining the wrong side of an argument, and in a splendid perversion of the truth. If you could contrive to have his fair opinion on a subject, and without any bias from personal prejudice, or from a wish to be victorious in argument, it was wisdom itself, not only convincing, but overpowering."
He had, however, all his life habituated himself to consider conversation as a trial of intellectual vigour and skill : and to this, I think, we may venture to ascribe that unexampled richness and brilliancy which appeared in his own. As a proof at once of his eagerness for colloquial distinction, and his high notion of this eminent friend, he once addressed him thus: -, we now have been several hours together, and you have said but one thing for which I envied you."
(1) The Right Hon. William. Gerrard Hamilton. — M.
He disliked much all speculative desponding considerations, w'ich tended to discourage men from diligence and exertion. He was in this like Dr. Shaw, the great traveller, who, Mr. Daines Barrington told me, used to say, “I hate a cui bono man." Upon being asked by a friend what he should think of a man who was apt to say non est tanti ; “That he's a stupid fellow, Sir," answered Johnson. “What would these tanti men be doing the while ?" When I, in a low-spirited fit, was talking to him with indifference of the pursuits which generally engage us in a course of action, and inquiring a reason for taking so much trouble; “ Sir," said he, in an animated tone, “it is driving on the system of life.”
He told me that he was glad that I had, by General Oglethorpe's means, become acquainted with Dr. Shebbeare. Indeed that gentleman, whatever objections were made to him, had knowledge and abilities much above the class of ordinary writers, and deserves to be remembered as a respectable name in literature, were it only for his admirable “ Letters on the English Nation,” under the name of “Battista Angeloni, a Jesuit.
Johnson and Shebbeare (1) were frequently named together, as having in former reigns had no predilection for the family of Hanover. The author (2)
(1) I recollect a ludicrous paragraph in the newspapers, that the king had pensioned both a He-bear and a She-bear.- B. – See antè, Vol. III. p. 59. — C.
(2) There can be no doubt that it was the joint production ct Mason and Walpole; Mason supplying the poetry, and Walpole! the points. -C.
of the celebrated “ Heroic Epistle to Sir William Chambers” introduces them in one line ("), in a list of those “ who tasted the sweets of his present majesty's reign.”. Such was Johnson's candid relish of the merit of that satire, that he allowed Dr. Gold. smith, as he told me, to read it to him from beginning to end, and did not refuse his praise to its execution.
Goldsmith could sometimes take adventurous liberties with him, and escape unpunished. Beauclerk told me, that when Goldsmith talked of a project for having a third theatre in London solely for the exhibition of new plays, in order to deliver authors from the supposed tyranny of managers, Johnson treated it slightingly, upon which Goldsmith said, “ Ay, ay, this may be nothing to you, who can now shelter yourself behind the corner of a pension;" and Johnson bore this with good-humour.
Johnson praised the Earl of Carlisle's poems (2), which his lordship had published with his name, as not disdaining to be a candidate for literary fame. My friend was of opinion that when a man of rank appeared in that character, he deserved to have his merit handsomely allowed. In this I think he
(1) See antè, Vol. VII. p. 165. — C.
(2) Frederick, fifth Earl of Carlisle born in 1748; died in 1825. — C.
(3) Men of rank and fortune, however, should be pretty well assured of having a real claim to the approbation of the public, as writers, before they venture to stand forth. Dryden, in his preface to “ All for Love," thus expresses himself: -“ Men of pleasant conversation (at least esteemed so) and endued with a trifling kind of fancy, perhaps helped out by a smattering of Latin, are ambitious to distinguish themselves from the herd of gentlemen by their poetry :
was more liberal than Mr. William Whitehead, in his “ Elegy to Lord Villiers,” in which, under the pretext of "superior toils, demanding all their care," he discovers a jealousy of the great paying their court to the Muses :
to the chosen few
;- but be thyself what they record.”
. Rarus enim fermè sensus communis in illa
Fortuna.' And is not this a wretched affectation, not to be contented with what fortune has done for them, and sit down quietly with their estates, but they must call their wits in question, and needlessly expose their nakedness to public view ? Not considering that they are not to expect the same approbation from sober men which they have found from their fatterers after the third bottle: if a little glittering in discourse has passed them on us for witty men, where was the necessity of undeceiving the world ? Would a man who has an ill title to an estate, but yet is in possession of it - would he bring it out of his own accord to be tried at Westminster? We who write, if we want the talents, yet have the excuse that we do it for a poor subsistence; but what can be urged in their defence, who, not having the vocation of poverty to scribble, out of mere wantonness take pains to make themselves ridiculous ? Horace was certainly in the right where he said, That no man is satisfied with his own condition. A poet is not pleased because he is not rich; and the rich are discontented because the poets will not admit them of their number.” — B. - Mr. Boswell seems to insinuate that Lord Carlisle had no claim to the approbation of the public as a writer, and that he exposed himself to ridicule by this publication; and Lord Byron, in one of those wayward fits which too often dis. torted the views of that extraordinary person, recorded the same opinion with the bitterness and exaggeration of a professed satirist. In these judgments I cannot concur. Lord Carlisle was not, indeed, a great poet, but he was superior to many whom Mr. Boswell was ready enough to admit into the « sacred choir." His verses have good sense, sweetness, and elegance. It should be added, in justice both to Lord Carlisle and Lord Byron, that the latter very much regretted the flip. pant and unjust sarcasms he had uttered against his noble friend and relation. - C.