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success of his new comedy, that he has thought every thing that concerned him must be of importance to the public.” Boswell: “I fancy, Sir, this is the first time that he has been engaged in such an adventure." JohnSON: “Why, Sir, I believe it is the first time he has beat; he may have been beaten before. This, Sir, is a new plume
I mentioned Sir John Dalrymple’s “Memoirs of Great Britain and Ireland,” and his discoveries to the prejudice of Lord Russell and Algernon Sydney. Johnson :
Why, Sir, every body who had just notions of Government thought them rascals before. It is well that all mankind now see them to be rascals.” BOSWELL: “But, Sir, may not those discoveries be true without their being rascals ? " JOHNSON : “Consider, Sir, would any
of them have been willing to have had it known that they intrigued with France ? Depend upon it, Sir, he who does what he is afraid should be known, has something rotten about him. This Dalrymple seems to be an honest fellow ; for
; he tells equally what makes against both sides. But nothing can be poorer than his mode of writing, it is the mere bouncing of a schoolboy : Great He ! but greater She ! and such stuff.”i
I could not agree with him in this criticism ; for though Sir John Dalrymple’s style is not regularly formed in any respect, and one cannot help smiling sometimes at his affected grandiloquence, there is in his writing a pointed vivacity, and much of a gentlemanly spirit.
At Mr. Thrale's, in the evening, he repeated his usual paradoxical declamation against action in public speaking. “Action can have no effect upon reasonable minds. It may augment noise, but it never can enforce argument. If you speak to a dog, you use action ; you hold up your hand thus, because he is a brute ; and in proportion as
; men are removed from brutes, action will have the less influence upon them.” Mrs. THRALE: “What then,
· Alluding, as Hallam pointed out to Croker, to the description of the parting between Lord and Lady Russell : “He great in this last act of his life, but she greater."
Sir, becomes of Demosthenes's saying? Action, action, action!'” Johnson : “Demosthenes, Madam, spoke to an assembly of brutes ; to a barbarous people.
I thought it extraordinary, that he should deny the power of rhetorical action upon human nature, when it is proved by innumerable facts in all stages of society. Reasonable beings are not solely reasonable. They have fancies which may be pleased, passions which may be roused.
Lord Chesterfield being mentioned, Johnson remarked, that almost all of that celebrated nobleman's witty sayings were puns. He, however, allowed the merit of good wit to his Lordship's saying of Lord Tyrawley and himself, when both very old and infirm : “Tyrawley and I have been dead these two years ; but we don't choose to have it known."
He talked with an approbation of an intended edition of “ The Spectator," with notes ; two volumes of which had been prepared by a gentleman eminent in the literary world, and the materials which he had collected for the remainder had been transferred to another hand. He observed, that all works which describe manners, require notes in sixty or seventy years, or less ; and told us, he had communicated all he knew that could throw light upon “ The Spectator.” He said, “ Addison had made his Sir Andrew Freeport a true Whig, arguing against giving charity to beggars, and throwing out other such ungracious sentiments ; but that he had thought better, and made amends by making him found a hospital for decayed farmers.” He called for the volume of “ The Spectator,” in which that account is contained, and read it out aloud to us. He read so well, that every thing acquired additional weight and grace from his utterance.
The conversation having turned on modern imitations of ancient ballads, and some one having praised their simplicity, he treated them with that ridicule which he always displayed when that subject was mentioned.
i See Nos. 232 and 549.
He disapproved of introducing Scripture phrases into secular discourse. This seemed to me a question of some difficulty. A Scripture expression may be used, like a highly classical phrase, to produce an instantaneous strong impression ; and it may be done without being at all improper. Yet I own there is danger, that applying the language
of our sacred book to ordinary subjects may tend to lessen our reverence for it. If therefore it be introduced at all, it should be with very great caution.
On Thursday, April 8, I sat a good part of the evening with him, but he was very silent. He said : “Burnet's
“ • History of his Own Times' is very entertaining. The style, indeed, is mere chit-chat. I'do not believe that
Burnet intentionally lied ; but he was so much prejudiced, that he took no pains to find out the truth. He was like a man who resolves to regulate his time by a certain watch ; but will not inquire whether the watch is right of not.”
Though he was not disposed to talk, he was unwilling that I should leave him ; and when I looked at my watch, and told him it was twelve o'clock, he cried, “What's that to you and me?” and ordered Frank to tell Mrs. Williams that we were coming to drink tea with her, which we did. It was settled that we should go to church
. together next day.
On the 9th of April, being Good Friday, I breakfasted with him on tea and cross-buns ; Doctor Levett, as Frank called him, making the tea. He carried me with him to the church of St. Clement Danes, where he had his seat ; and his behaviour was, as I had imaged to myself, solemnly devout. I never shall forget the tremulous earnestness with which he pronounced the awful petition in the Litany : “In the hour of death, and in the day of judgment, good Lord deliver us.”
We went to church both in the morning and evening. In the interval between the two services we did not dine ; but he read in the Greek New Testament, and I turned over several of his books.
In Archbishop Laud's diary, I found the following A DINNER AT JOHNSON'S HOUSE 5 passage, which I read to Dr. Johnson : "1623. February ,
" 1, Sunday. I stood by the most illustrious Prince Charles, at dinner. He was then very merry, and talked occasionally of many things with his attendants. Among other things, he said, that if he were necessitated to take any particular profession of life he could not be a lawyer, adding his reasons : 'I cannot,' said he, defend a bad, nor yield in a good cause.' JOHNSON : “Sir, this is false reasoning ; because every cause has a bad side : and a lawyer is not overcome, though the cause which he has endeavoured to support be determined against him.”
I told him that Goldsmith had said to me a few days before, “ As I take my shoes from the shoemaker, and my coat from the tailor, so I take my religion from the priest. I regretted this loose way of talking. Johnson: “Sir, he knows nothing; he has made up his mind about nothing.”
To my great surprise he asked me to dine with him on Easter-day. I never supposed that he had a dinner at his house; for I had not then heard of any one of his friends having been entertained at his table. He told me, “I
" generally have a meat-pie on Sunday: it is baked at a public oven, which is very properly allowed, because one man can attend it; and thus the advantage is obtained of not keeping servants from church to dress dinners.”
April 11, being Easter Sunday, after having attended Divine Service at St. Paul's, I repaired to Dr. Johnson's. I had gratified my curiosity much in dining with Jean JACQUES ROUSSEAU, while he lived in the wilds of Neuf
el: I had as great a curiosity to dine with Dr. Samuel Johnson, in the dusky recess of a court in Fleet Street. I supposed we should scarcely have knives and forks, and only some strange, uncouth, ill-drest dish; but I found every thing in very good order. We had no other company
. but Mrs. Williams and a young woman whom I did not know. As a dinner here was considered as a singular phenomenon, and as I was frequently interrogated on the subject, my readers may perhaps be desirous to know our bill of fare. Foote, I remember, in allusion to Francis, the negro, was willing to suppose that our repast was black broth. But the fact was that we had a very good soup, a boiled leg of lamb and spinach, a veal pie, and a rice pudding
1 Afterwards Charles I. B.
Of Dr. John Campbell, the author, he said: “He is a very inquisitive and a very able man, and a man of good religious principles, though I am afraid he has been deficient in practice. Campbell is radically right; and we may hope, that in time there will be good practice.”
He owned that he thought Hawkesworth was one of his imitators, but he did not think Goldsmith was. Goldsmith, he said, had great merit. Boswell: “But, , Sir, he is much indebted to you for his getting so high in the public estimation.”, JOHNSON: “Why, Sir, he has perhaps got sooner to it by his intimacy with me.
Goldsmith, though his vanity often excited him to occasional competition, had a very high regard for Johnson, which he had at this time expressed in the strongest manner in the Dedication of his Comedy, entitled “She Stoops to Conquer.”ı
Johnson observed, that there were very few books printed in Scotland before the Union. He had seen a complete collection of them in the possession of the Hon. Archibald Campbell, a non-juring bishop.? I wish this collection had been kept entire. Many of them are in the library of the Faculty of Advocates at Edinburgh. I told Dr. Johnson that I had some intention to write the life of the learned and worthy Thomas Ruddiman. He
1 “By inscribing this slight performance to you, I do not mean so much to compliment you as myself. It may do me some honour to inform the public, that I have lived many years in intimacy with you. It may serve the interests of mankind also to inform them, that the greatest wit may be found in a character, without impairing the most unaffected piety." B.
2 See an account of this learned and respectable gentleman, and of his curious work on the Middle State, in the Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides, 3rd edit. p. 371. B.