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“ Talking on the subject of toleration, one day when some friends were 1780. with him in his study, he made his usual remark, that the State has a right Ærat. 77. to regulate the religion of the people, who are the children of the State. A clergyman having readily acquiesced in this, Johnson, who loved discussion, observed, “But, Sir, you must go round to other States than our own. You
· do not know what a Bramin has to say for himself. In short, Sir, I have got no farther than this. Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth, and every other man has a right to knock him down for it. Martyrdom is the test.”
« A man, he observed, should begin to write soon ; for, if he waits till his judgement is matured, his inability, through want of practice to express his conceptions, will make the disproportion so great between what he sees, and what he can attain, that he will probably be discouraged from writing at all. As a proof of the justness of this remark, we may instance what is related of the great Lord Granville; that after he had written his letter, giving an account of the battle of Dettingen, he said, Here is a letter, expressed in terms not good enough for a tallow-chandler to have used.”
« Talking of a Court-martial that was sitting upon a very momentous publick occasion, he expressed much doubt of an enlightened decision; and said, that perhaps there was not a member of it, who in the whole course of his life, had ever spent an hour by himself in balancing probabilities.”
« Goldsmith one day brought to the Club a printed Ode, which he, with others, had been hearing read by its authour in a publick room, at the rate of five shillings each for admission. One of the company having read it aloud, Dr. Johnson said, “Bolder words, and more timorous meaning, I think never were brought together."
“ Talking of Gray's Odes, he said, “They are forced plants, raised in a hot-bed ; and they are poor plants ; they are but cucumbers after all.' A gentleman present, who had been running down Ode-writing in general, as a bad species of poetry, unluckily said, “Had they been literally cucumbers, they had been better things than Odes.'— Yes, Sir, (said Johnson,) for a bog."
“ His distinction of the different degrees of attainment of learning was thus marked upon two occasions. Of Queen Elizabeth he said, “She had learning enough to have given dignity to a Bishop:' and of Mr. Thomas Davies he said, “Sir, Davies has learning enough to give credit to a clergyman.”
“ He used to quote, with great warmth, the saying of Aristotle recorded by Diogenes Laertius ; that there was the same difference between one learned and unlearned, as between the living and the dead.”
" It is very remarkable, that he retained in his memory very night and trivial, as well as important things. As an instance of this, it seems that an inferiour domestick of the Duke of Leeds had attempted to celebrate his Grace's marriage in such homely rhymes as he could make ; and this curious composition having been fung to Dr. Johnson he got it by heart, and used to repeat it in a very pleasant manner. Two of the stanzas were these:
" When the Duke of Leeds shall married be
'She shall have all that's fine and fair,
To hear a man, of the weight and dignity of Johnson, repeating fuch humble attempts at poetry, had a very amusing effect. He, however, feriously observed of the last stanza, that it nearly comprized all the advantages that wealth can give.
“ An eminent foreigner, when he was shewn the British Museum, was very troublesome with many absurd inquiries. Now there, Sir, (faid he;)
" is the difference between an Englishman and a Frenchman. A Frenchman must be always talking, whether he knows any thing of the matter or not: an Englishman is content to say nothing, when he has nothing to say.”
“ His unjust contempt for foreigners was, indeed, extreme. One evening, at Old Slaughter's coffee-house, when a number of them were talking loud about little matters, he said, “Does not this confirm old Meynell's observation-For any thing I see, foreigners are fools.”
“ He said, that once, when he had a violent tooth-ache, a Frenchman accosted him thus : Ah, Monsieur, vous etudiez trop.”
“ Having spent an evening at Mr. Langton's, with the Reverend Dr. Parr, he was much pleased with the conversation of that learned gentleman, and, after he was gone, said to Mr. Langton, “Sir, I am obliged to you for
, having asked me this evening. Parr is a fair man. I do not know when I have had an occasion of such free controversy. It is remarkable how much
of a man's life may pass without meeting with any instance of this kind of 1780.
“ Spanish plays, being wildly and improbably farcical, would please
“ It is evident enough that no one who writes now can use the Pagan
“ The man who uses his talent of ridicule in creating or grossly exag-
the proverbial comparisons, 'obstinate as a pig,' &c. but I don't know whether it might not be true of him, that from a too great eagerness for praise and popularity, and a politeness carried to a ridiculous excess, he was likely, after asserting a thing in general, to give it up again in parts. For instance, if he had said Reynolds was the first of painters, he was capable enough of giving up, as objections might happen to be severally made; first, his outline then the grace in form-then the colouring—and lastly, to have owned that he was such a mannerist, that the disposition of his pictures was all alike.”
“ For hospitality, as formerly practised, there is no longer the same reason; heretofore the poorer people were more numerous, and from want of commerce, their means of getting a livelihood more difficult; therefore the supporting them was an act of great benevolence; now that the poor can find maintenance for themselves and their labour is wanted, a general undiscerning hospitality tends to ill, by withdrawing them from their work to idleness and drunkenness. Then formerly rents were received in kind, so that there was a great abundance of provisions in poffeßion of the owners of the lands, which since the plenty of money afforded by commerce is no longer the case.”
Hospitality to strangers and foreigners in our country is now almost at an end, since from the increase of them that come to us, there have been a fufficient number of people that have found an interest in providing inns and proper accommodations, which is in general a more expedient method for the entertainment of travellers. Where the travellers and strangers are few, more of that hospitality subsists, as it has not been worth while to provide places of accommodation. In Ireland there is still hospitality to strangers, in some degree ; in Hungary and Poland probably more.”
“ Colman, in a note on his tranNation of Terence, talking of Shakspeare's learning, asks, 'What says Farmer to this ?—What says Johnson?' Upon this he observed, “Sir, let Farmer answer for himself: I never engaged in this controversy. I always said, Shakspeare had Latin enough to grammatticise his English.”
“ A clergyman, whom he characterised as one who loved to say little oddities, was affecting one day, at a Bishop's table, a sort of syness and freedom not in character, and repeated, as if part of “The Old Man's Wish,' a song by Dr. Walter Pope, a verse bordering on licentiousness. Johnson rebuked him in the finest manner, by first shewing him that he did not know the passage he was aiming at, and thus humbling him: “Sir, that is not the song: it is thus.' And he gave it right. Then looking stedfastly on him,
OF DR. JOHNSON. "Sir, there is a part of that song which I should wish to exemplify in my
May I govern my passions with absolute sway.'
" Being asked if Barnes knew a good deal of Greek, he answered, 'I doubt, Sir, he was unoculus inter cæcos.”
“ He used frequently to observe, that men might be very eminent in a profession, without our perceiving any particular power of mind in them in conversation. It seems strange (said he,) that a man should see so far to the right, who sees so short a way to the left. Burke is the only man whose common conversation corresponds with the general fame which he had in the world. Take up whatever topick you please, he is ready to meet you.”
“ A gentleman, by no means deficient in literature, having discovered less acquaintance with one of the Classicks than Johnson expected, when the gentleman left the room he observed, “You see, now, how little any body reads.' Mr. Langton happening to mention his having read a good deal in Clinardus's Greek Grammar, “Why, Sir, (said he,) who is there in this town who knows any thing of Clinardus but you and I ?' And upon Mr. Langton's mentioning that he had taken the pains to learn by heart the Epistle of St. Basil, which is given in that Grammar as a praxis, “Sir, (said he,) I never made fuch an effort to attain Greek.”
« Of DodNey's Publick Virtue: a Poem,” he said, It was fine blank ; (meaning to express his usual contempt for blank verse): however, this miserable poem did not sell, and my poor friend Doddy said, Publick Virtue was not a subject to interest the age.”
« Mr. Langton, when a very young man,' read Dodney's Cleone: a Tragedy,' to him, not aware of his extreme impatience to be read to. As it went on he turned his face to the back of his chair, and put himself into various attitudes, which marked his uneasiness. At the end of an act, however, he said, “Come let's have some more, let's go into the Naughter-house again, Lanky. But I am afraid there is more blood than brains.' Yet he afterwards said, "When I heard you read it, I thought higher of its language. When I read it myself, I was more sensible of its pathetick effect;' and then paid it a compliment which many will think very extravagant. ' Sir,
a (said he,) if Otway had written this play, no other of his pieces would have been remembered.' Dodsey himself, upon this being repeated to him, said, X x 2