Page images



We talked of a work much in vogue at that time, written in a very melliflu- 1776. ous style, but which, under pretext of another subject, contained much artful Arat. 7. infidelity. I said it was not fair to attack us thus unexpectedly; he should have warned us of our danger, before we entered his garden of powery eloquence, by advertising, “ Spring-guns and man-traps set here.” The authour had been an Oxonian, and was remembered there for having “ turned Papist.” I observed, that as he had changed several times-- from the Church of England to the Church of Romefrom the Church of Rome to infidelity—I did not despair yet of seeing him a methodist preacher. Johnson. (laughing) “ It is said, that his range has been more extensive, and that he has once been Mahometan. However, now that he has published his infidelity, he will probably persist in it.” Boswell.

Boswell. “ I am not quite sure of that, Sir.”

I mentioned Sir Richard Steele having published his “ Christian Hero," with the avowed purpose of obliging himself to lead a religious life ; yet, that his conduct was by no means strictly suitable. Johnson. “ Steele, I believe, practised the lighter vices.”

Mr. Warton, being engaged, could not fup with us at our inn; we had therefore another evening by ourselves. I asked Johnson, whether a man's being forward in making himself known to eminent people, and-seeing as much of life, and getting as much information as he could in every way, was not yet lessening himself by his forwardness. Johnson. “No, Sir; a man always makes himself greater, as he increases his knowledge."

I censured some ludicrous fantastick dialogues between two coach-horses, and other such stuff, which Baretti had lately published. He joined with me, and said, “Nothing odd will do long. · Tristram Shandy' did not last.” I expressed a desire to be acquainted with a lady who had been much talked of, and universally celebrated for extraordinary address and infinuation. Johnson. “Never believe extraordinary characters which you hear of people. Depend upon it, Sir, they are exaggerated. You do not see one man shoot a great deal higher than another.” I mentioned Mr. Burke. JOHNSON. “ Yes; Burke is an extraordinary man. His stream of mind is perpetual.” It is very pleasing to me to record, that Johnson's high estimation of the talents of this gentleman was uniforın from their early acquaintance. Sir Joshua Reynolds informs me, that when Mr. Burke was first elected a member of parliament, and Sir John Hawkins expressed a wonder at his attaining a seat, Johnson said, “Now we who know Burke, know, that he will be one of the first men in this country.” And once, when Johnson was ill, and unable to exert himself as

E 2



Ætat, 67.


DR. JOHNSON much as usual without fatigue, Mr. Burke having been mentioned, he said, “ That fellow calls forth all my powers. Were I to see Burke now, it would kill me.” So much was he accustomed to consider conversation as a contest, and fuch was his notion of Burke as an opponent.

Next morning, Thursday, March 21, we set out in a post-chaise to pursue cur ramble. It was a delightful day, and we drove through Blenheim Park. When I looked at the magnificent bridge built by John Duke of Marlborough, over a small rivulet, and recollected the Epigrain made

upon it

« The lofty arch his high ambition shows,
“ The stream, an emblem of his bounty Pows."

[ocr errors]

and saw that now, by the genius of Brown, a magnificent body of water was collected, I said, “ They have drowned the Epigram.” I observed to him, while in the midst of the noble scene around us, “ You and I, Sir, have, I think, feen together the extremes of what can be seen in Britain ;-the wild rough inand of Mull, and Blenheim Park.”

We dined at an excellent inn at Chapel-houise, where he expatiated on the felicity of England in its taverns and inns, and triumphed over the French for not having, in any perfection, the tavern life. “ There is no private house (faid he,) in which people can enjoy themselves so well, as at a capital tavern. Let there be ever so great plenty of good things, ever so much grandeur, ever so much elegance, ever so much desire that every body should be easy; in the nature of things it cannot be : there must always be some degree of care and anxiety. The master of the house is anxious to entertain his guests; the guests are anxious to be agreeable to him: and no man, but a very impudent dog indeed, can as freely command what is in another man's house, as if it were his own. Whereas, at a tavern, there is a general freedom from anxiety. You are sure you are welcome : and the more noise you make, the more trouble you give, the more good things you call for, the welcomer you are. No servants will attend you with the alacrity which waiters do, who are incited by the prospect of an immediate reward, in proportion as they please. No, Sir; there is nothing which has yet been contrived by man, by which so much happiness is produced as by a good tavern or inn.” He then repeated, with great emotion, Shenstone's lines:

« Whoe'er

[ocr errors]

1776. « Whoe'er has travellid life's dull round,

Erat, 67. “ Where'er his stages may have been, “ May sigh to think he still has found

“ The warmest welcome at an inn'." In the afternoon, as we were driven rapidly along in the post-chaise, he said to me, “ Life has not many things better than this."

We stopped at Stratford-upon-Avon, and drank tea and coffee ; and it pleased me to be with him upon the classick ground of Shakspeare's native place. He spoke lightingly of Dyer's “ Fleece.”_" The subject, Sir, cannot be

made poetical. How can a man write poetically of serges and druggets ? Yer

you will hear many people talk to you gravely of that excellent poem, The Fleece.” Having talked of Dr. Grainger's “ Sugar-Cane,” I men-. Lioned to him Mr. Langton's having told me, that this poem, when read in manuscript at Sir Joshua Reynolds's, had made all the affembled wits burstinto a laugh, when, after much blank-verse pomp, the poet began a new. paragraph thus :

“ Now, Muse, let's sing of rats.And what increased the ridicule was, that one of the company, who flily overlooked the reader, perceived that the word had been originally mice, and had been altered to rats, as more dignified ?.

Johnson said, that Dr. Grainger was an agreeable man; a man who would : do any good that was in his power. His translation of Tibullus, he thought, was very well done ; but “ The Sugar-Cane, a Poem,” did not please him ;




We happened to lye this night at the inn at Henley, where Shenstone wrote these lines. 2 Such is this little laughable incident, which has been often related. Dr. Percy, the Bishop of Dromore, who was an intimate friend of Dr. Grainger, and has a particular regard for his memory, has communicated to me the following explanation :

The passage in question was originally not liable to such a perversion; for the authour having : occasion in that part of his work to mention the havock made by rats and mice, had introduced the subject in a kind of mock heroick, and a parody of Homer's battle of the frogs and mice, invoking the Muse of the old Grecian bard in an elegant and well-tumed manner. In that state I had seen it; but afterwards, unknown to me and other friends, he had been perfuaded, contrary to his own better judgement, to alter it, so as to produce the unlucky effect above mentioned.”

The Bishop gives this character of Dr. Grainger :" He was not only a man of genius and : learning, but had many excellent virtues ; being one of the most generous, friendly, and benevo- lent men I ever knew." VOL. II. [E]




[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]

1776. for, he exclaimed, “What could he make of a sugar-cane? One might as well
Arat. 67. write, ' The Parsley-Bed, a Poem ;' or, “ The Cabbage-Garden, a Poem.”

Boswell. “ You must then pickle your cabbage with the fal atticum.
JOHNSON. “ You know there is already · The Hop-Garden, a Poem:' and,
I think, one could say a great deal about cabbage. The poem might begin
with the advantages of civilised society over a rude ftate, exemplified by the
Scotch, who had no cabbages till Oliver Cromwell's foldiers introduced
them; and one might thus thew how arts are propagated by conquest, as
they were by the Roman arms." He seemed to be much diverted with the
fertility of his own fancy.

I told him, that I heard Dr. Percy was writing the history of the wolf
in Great-Britain. Johnson. “ The wolf, Sir! why the wolf? Why does
he not write of the bear, which we had formerly? Nay, it is said we had the
beaver. Or why does he not write of the grey rat, the Hanover rat, as it is
called, because it is said to have come into this country about the time that
the family of Hanover came? I should like to see 'The History of the Grey
Rat, by Thomas Percy, D. D. Chaplain in Ordinary to his Majesty," (laughing
immoderately). Boswell. “ I am afraid a court chaplain could not decently
write of the grey rat.” JOHNSON. “Sir, he need not give it the name of
the Hanover rat.” Thus could he indulge a luxuriant sportive imagination,
when talking of a friend whom he loved and esteemed.

He mentioned to me the singular history of an ingenious acquaintance. “ He settled as a physician in one of the Leeward Inands. A man was sent out to him merely to compound his medicines. This fellow set up as a rival to him in his practice of physick, and got so much the better of him in the opinion of the people of the isand, that he carried away all the business; upon which he returned to England, and soon after died."

On Friday, March 22, having set out early from Henley, where we had lain the preceding night, we arrived at Birmingham about nine o'clock, and, after breakfast, went to call on his old schoolfellow Mr. Hector. A very stupid maid, who opened the door, told us, that “ her master was gone out; he was gone to the country; she could not tell when he would return." In short, she gave us a miserable reception; and Johnson observed, “She would have behaved no better to people who wanted himn in the way of his profession.” He said to her, “ My name is Johnson; tell him I called. Will you remember the name ?” She answered with rustick fimplicity, in the Warwickshire pronunciation, “ I don't understand you, Sir.”—“Blockhead, (said he,) I'll write.” I never heard the word blockhead applied to a woman before, 1.6


[ocr errors]



though I do not see why it should not, when there is evident occasion for it. 1776. He, however, made another attempt to make her understand him, and roared

Ætat. 67. loud in her ear, “ Johnson,” and then the catched the found.

We then called on Mr. Lloyd, one of the people called Quakers. He too was not at home; but Mrs. Lloyd was, and received us courteously, and asked us to dinner. Johnson said to me, “After the uncertainty of all human things at Hector's, this invitation came very well.” We walked about the town, and he was pleased to see it increasing.

I talked of legitimation by subsequent marriage, which obtained in the Roman law, and still obtains in the law of Scotland. JOHNSON. “ I think it a bad thing; because the chastity of women being of the utmost importance, as all property depends upon it, they who forfeit it should not have any possibility of being restored to good character ; nor should the children, by an illicit connection, attain the full rights of lawful children, by the posteriour consent of the offending parties.” His opinion upon this subject deserves. . consideration. Upon his principle there may, at times, be a hardship, and seemingly a strange one, upon individuals ; but the general good of society is better secured. And, after all, it is unreasonable in an individual to repine that he has not the advantage of a state which is made different from his own, by the social institution under which he is born. A woman does not complain that her brother, who is younger than her, gets their common father's estate. Why then should a natural son complain that a younger brother, by the same parents lawfully begotten, gets it? The operation of law is similar in both cases. Besides; an illegitimate son, who has a younger legitimate brother by the same father and mother, has no stronger claim to the father's estate, than if that legitimate brother had only the fame father, from whom alone the estate descends.

Mr. Lloyd joined us in the street; and in a little while we met Friend Hector, as Mr. Lloyd called him. It gave me pleasure to observe the joy which Johnson and he expressed on seeing each other again. Mr. Lloyd and I left them together, while he obligingly shewed me some of the manufactures of this very curious assemblage of artificers. We all met at dinner at Mr. Lloyd's, where we were entertained with great hospitality. Mr. and Mrs. Lloyd had been married the same year with their Majesties, and, like them, had been blessed with a numerous family of fine children, their numbers being exactly the same. Johnson said, “ Marriage is the best state for man in general; and every man is a worse man, in proportion as he is unfit for the married state,

« PreviousContinue »