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Boswell's letter to Garrick.
This day we visited the ruins of Macbeth's castle at Inverness. I have had great romantick satisfaction in seeing Johnson upon the classical scenes of Shakspeare in Scotland; which I really looked upon as almost as improbable as that "Birnam wood should come to Dunsinane'." Indeed, as I have always been accustomed to view him as a permanent London object, it would not be much more wonderful to me to see St. Paul's Church moving along where we now are. As yet we have travelled in postchaises; but to-morrow we are to mount on horseback, and ascend into the mountains by Fort Augustus, and so on to the ferry, where we are to cross to Sky. We shall see that island fully, and then visit some more of the Hebrides; after which we are to land in Argyleshire, proceed by Glasgow to Auchinleck, repose there a competent time, and then return to Edinburgh, from whence the Rambler will depart for old England again, as soon as he finds it convenient. Hitherto we have had a very prosperous expedition. I flatter myself, servetur ad imum, qualis ab incepto processerit'. He is in excellent spirits, and I have a rich journal of his conversation. Look back, Davy3, to Litchfield,-run up through the time that has elapsed since you first knew Mr. Johnson,—and enjoy with me his present extraordinary Tour. I could not resist the impulse of writing to you from this place. The situation of the old castle corresponds exactly to Shakspeare's description. While we were there to-day', it happened oddly, that a raven perched upon one of the chimney-tops, and croaked. Then I in my turn. repeated
piness I shall have to see Mr. Samuel Johnson walking among
Though Birnam wood be come to Dunsinane.'
Macbeth, act v. sc. 8.
'From his first entrance to the closing scene
FRANCIS. Horace, Ars Poet. 1. 126.
"I took the liberty of giving this familiar appellation to my celebrated friend, to bring in a more lively manner to his remembrance the period when he was Dr. Johnson's pupil. BOSWELL.
See ante, p. 147.
Garrick's letter to Boswell.
the romantick rocks and woods of my ancestors at Auchinleck'! Write to me at Edinburgh. You owe me his verses on Great George and tuneful Cibber, and the bad verses which led him to make his fine ones on Philips the musician'. Keep your promise, and let me have them. I offer my very best compliments to Mrs. Garrick, and ever am,
'Your warm admirer and friend,
'To David Garrick, Esq., London.' His answer was as follows:
'Hampton, September 14, 1773.
'You stole away from London, and left us all in the lurch; for we expected you one night at the club, and knew nothing of your departure. Had I payed you what I owed you, for the book you bought for me, I should only have grieved for the loss of your company, and slept with a quiet conscience; but, wounded as it is, it must remain so till I see you again, though I am sure our good friend Mr. Johnson will discharge the debt for me, if you will let him. Your account of your journey to Fores, the raven, old castle, &c., &c., made me half mad. Are you not rather too late in the year for fine weather, which is the life and soul of seeing places? I hope your pleasure will continue qualis ab incepto, &c. 'Your friend' threatens me much. I only wish
'Boswell is here quoting the Preface to the third edition of his Corsica:-'Whatever clouds may overcast my days, I can now walk here among the rocks and woods of my ancestors, with an agreeable consciousness that I have done something worthy.'
* See ante, i. 171, and post, Nov. 21.
'I have suppressed my friend's name from an apprehension of wounding his sensibility; but I would not withhold from my readers a passage which shews Mr. Garrick's mode of writing as the Manager of a Theatre, and contains a pleasing trait of his domestick life. His judgment of dramatick pieces, so far as concerns their exhibition on the stage, must be allowed to have considerable weight. But from the effect which a perusal of the tragedy here condemned had upon myself, and from the opinions of some eminent criticks, I venture to pronounce that it has much poetical merit; and its authour has distinguished himself by several performances which shew that the epithet poetaster was, in the present instance, much misapplied. BOSWELL. Johnson mentioned this quarrel between Garrick and the poet on
Garrick's letter to Boswell.
that he would put his threats in execution, and, if he prints his play, I will forgive him. I remember he complained to you, that his bookseller called for the money for some copies of his which I subscribed for, and that I desired him to call again. The truth is, that my wife was not at home', and that for weeks together I have not ten shillings in my pocket. However, had it been otherwise, it was not so great a crime to draw his poetical vengeance upon me. I despise all that he can do, and am glad that 1 can so easily get rid of him and his ingratitude. I am hardened both to abuse and ingratitude.
'You, I am sure, will no more recommend your poetasters to my civility and good offices.
Shall I recommend to you a play of Eschylus, (the Prometheus,) published and translated by poor old Morell, who is a good scholar', and an acquaintance of mine? It will be but half
March 25, 1773 (Piozzi Letters, i. 80). 'M— is preparing a whole pamphlet against G, and G is, I suppose, collecting materials to confute M—.' M was Mickle, the translator of the Lusiad and author of the Ballad of Cumnor Hall (ante, ii. 209). Had it not been for this poetaster,' Kenilworth might never have been written. Scott, in the preface, tells how the first stanza of Cumnor Hall had a peculiar species of enchantment for his youthful ear, the force of which is not even now entirely spent.' The play that was refused was the Siege of Marseilles. Ever since the success of Hughes's Siege of Damascus a siege had become a popular title' (ante, iii. 294, note 1).
1 She could only have been away for the day; for in 1776 Garrick wrote: As I have not left Mrs. Garrick one day since we were married, near twenty-eight years, I cannot now leave her.' Corres. ii. 150.
* Dr. Morell once entered the school-room at Winchester College, in which some junior boys were writing their exercises, one of whom, struck no less with his air and manner than with the questions he put to them, whispered to his school-fellows, "Is he not a fine old Grecian?" The Doctor, overhearing this, turned hastily round and exclaimed, "I am indeed an old Grecian, my little man. Did you never see my head before my Thesaurus?" The Praepostors, learning the dignity of their visitor, in a most respectful manner showed him the College. Wooll's Life of Dr. Warton, p. 329. Mason, writing to Horace Walpole about some odes, says: They are so lopped and mangled, that they are worse now than the productions of Handel's poet, Dr. Morell.' Walpole's Letters, v. 420. Morell compiled the words for Handel's Oratorios,
Ogden on Prayer.
a guinea, and your name shall be put in the list I am making for him. You will be in very good company.
Now for the Epitaphs!
[These, together with the verses on George the Second, and Colley Cibber, as his Poet Laureat, of which imperfect copies are gone about, will appear in my Life of Dr. Johnson'.]
'I have no more paper, or I should have said more to you. My love and respects to Mr. Johnson.
'I can't write. I have the gout in my hand.' 'To James Boswell, Esq., Edinburgh.'
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 24.
We passed the forenoon calmly and placidly. I prevailed on Dr. Johnson to read aloud Ogden's sixth sermon on Prayer, which he did with a distinct expression, and pleasing solemnity. He praised my favourite preacher, his elegant language, and remarkable acuteness; and said, he fought infidels with their own weapons.
As a specimen of Ogden's manner, I insert the following passage from the sermon which Dr. Johnson now read. The preacher, after arguing against that vain philosophy which maintains, in conformity with the hard principle of eternal necessity, or unchangeable predetermination, that the only effect of prayer for others, although we are exhorted to pray for them, is to produce good dispositions in ourselves towards them; thus expresses himself:
'A plain man may be apt to ask, But if this then, though enjoined in the holy scriptures, is to be my real aim and intention, when I am taught to pray for other persons, why is it that I do not plainly so express it? Why is not the form of the petition brought nearer to the meaning? Give them, say I, to our heavenly father, what is good. But this, I am to understand, will be as it will be,
1 Ante, i. 171, 172.
'I doubt whether any other instance can be found of love being sent to Johnson.
[Oct. 24. and is not for me to alter. What is it then that I am doing? I am desiring to become charitable myself; and why may I not plainly say so? Is there shame in it, or impiety? The wish is laudable: why should I form designs to hide it?
'Or is it, perhaps, better to be brought about by indirect means, and in this artful manner? Alas! who is it that I would impose on? From whom can it be, in this commerce, that I desire to hide any thing? When, as my Saviour commands me, I have entered into my closet, and shut my door, there are but two parties privy to my devotions, GOD and my own heart; which of the two am I deceiving?'
He wished to have more books, and, upon inquiring if there were any in the house, was told that a waiter had some, which were brought to him; but I recollect none of them, except Hervey's Meditations. He thought slightingly of this admired book. He treated it with ridicule, and would not allow even the scene of the dying Husband and Father to be pathetick'. I am not an impartial judge; for Hervey's Meditations engaged my affections in my early years. He read a passage concerning the moon, ludicrously, and shewed how easily he could, in the same style, make reflections on that planet, the very reverse of Hervey's', representing her as treacherous to mankind. He did this with much humour; but I have not preserved the particulars. He then indulged a playful fancy, in making a Meditation on a Pudding, of which I hastily wrote down, in his presence, the following note; which, though imperfect, may serve to give my readers some idea of it.
MEDITATION ON A PUDDING.
'LET us seriously reflect of what a pudding is composed. It is composed of flour that once waved in the golden grain, and drank
' The passage begins:—' A servant or two from a revering distance cast many a wishful look, and condole their honoured master in the language of sighs.' Hervey's Meditations, ed. 1748, i. 40.
1b. ii. 84.
'The Meditation was perhaps partly suggested by Swift's Meditation upon a Broomstick. Swift's Works (1803), iii. 275.