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sayings, more so than at any time when I was happy enough to have an opportunity of hearing his wisdom and wit. There is no help for it now.
I must content myself with presenting such scraps as I have. But I am nevertheless ashamed and vexed to think how much has been lost. It is not that there was a bad crop this
year; but that I was not sufficiently careful in gathering it in. I, therefore, in some instances cap only exhibit a few detached fragments.
Talking of the wonderful concealment of the authour of the celebrated letters signed Junius; he said, “ I should have believed Burke to be Junius, because I know no man but Burke who is capable of writing these letters; but Burke spontaneously denied it to
The case would have been different, had I asked him if he was the authour; a man so questioned, as to an anonymous publication, may think he has a right to deny it.”
He observed that his old friend, Mr. Sheridan, had been honoured with extraordinary attention in his own country, by having had an exception made in his favour in an Irish Act of Parliament concerning insolvent debtors. “ Thus to be singled out (said he) by a legislature, as an object of publick consideration and kindness, is a proof of 'no common merit."
At Streatham, on Monday, March 29, at breakfast, he maintained that a father had 'no right to controul the inclinations of his daughters in marriage.
On Wednesday, March 31, when I visited him, and confessed an excess of which I had very seldom been guilty; that I had spent a whole night in playing at cards, and that I could not look back on it with satisfaction: instead of a harsh animadversion, he mildly said, “ Alas, sir, on how few things can we look back with satisfaction !"
On Thursday, April 1, he commended one of the
Dukes of Devonshire for “a dogged veracity.”! He said too, “ London is nothing to some people ; but to a man whose pleasure is intellectual, London is the place. And there is no place where economy can be so well practised as in London: more can be had here for the money, even by ladies, than any where else. You cannot play tricks with your fortune in a small place; you must make an uniform appear
Here a lady may have well-furnished apartments, and elegant dress, without any meat in her kitchen.”
I was amused by considering with how much ease and coolness he could write or talk to a friend, exhorting him not to suppose that happiness was not to be found as well in other places as in London ; when he himself was at all times sensible of its being, comparatively speaking, a heaven upon earth. The truth is, that by those who from sagacity, attention, and experience, have learnt the full advantage of London, its pre-eminence over every other place, not only for variety of enjoyment, but for comfort, will be felt with a philosophical exultation. The freedom from remark and petty censure, with which life may be passed there, is a circumstance which a man who knows the teasing restraint of a narrow circle must relish highly. Mr. Burke, whose orderly and amiable domestick habits might make the eye of observation less irksome to him than to most men, said once very pleasantly, in my hearing, “Though I have the honour to represent Bristol, I should not like to live there ; I should be obliged to be so much upon my good behaviour,” In London, a man may live in splendid society at one time, and in frugal retirement at another, without animadversion, There, and there alone, a man's own house is truly his castle, in which
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he can be in perfect safety from intrusion whenever he pleases. I never shall forget how well this was expressed to me one day by Mr. Meynell: “The chief advantage of London (said he) is, that a man is always so near his burrow.”
He said of one of his old acquaintances, “ He is very fit for a travelling governour. He knows French very well. He is a man of good principles; and there would be no danger that a young gentleman should catch his manner; for it is so very bad, that it must be avoided. In that respect he would be like the drunken Helot."
A gentleman has informed me, that Johnson said of the same person,
• Sir, he has the most inverted understanding of any man whom I have ever known.”
On Friday, April 2, being Good-Friday, I visited him in the morning as usual ; and finding that we insensibly fell into a train of ridicule upon the foibles of one of our friends, a very worthy man, I, by way of a check, quoted some good admonition from “ The Government of the Tongue,” that very pious book. It happened also remarkably enough, that the subject of the sermon preached to us to-day by Dr. Burrows, the rector of St. Clement Danes, was the certainty that at the last day we must give an account of “ the deeds done in the body;" and amongst various acts of culpability he mentioned evil-speaking. As we were moving slowly along in the crowd from church, Johnson jogged my elbow, and said, “ Did you attend to the sermon ?" Yes, sir (said I), it was very applicable to us." He, however, stood upon the de fensive. Why, sir, the sense
of ridicule is given us, and may be lawfully used. The authour of “The Government of the Tongue’ would have us treat all men alike.”
In the interval between morning and evening service, he endeavoured to employ himself earnestly
in devotional exercise; and, as he has mentioned in his “ Prayers and Meditations,'
Les Pensées de Paschal,” that I might not interrupt him. I preserve
the book with reverence. His presenting it to me is marked upon it with his own hand, and I have found in it a truly divine unction. We went to church again in the afternoon.
On Saturday, April 3, I visited him at night, and found him sitting in Mrs. Williams's room, with her, and one who he afterwards told me was a natural son of the second Lord Southwell. The table had a singular appearance, being covered with a heterogeneous assemblage of oysters and porter for his company, and tea for himself. I mentioned my having heard an eminent physician, who was himself a Christian, argue in favour of universal toleration, and maintain, that no man could be hurt by another man's differing from him in opinion. Johnson. “Sir, you are to a certain degree hurt by knowing that even one man does not believe."
On Easter-day, after solemn service at St. Paul's, I dined with him : Mr. Allen the printer was also his guest. He was uncommonly silent; and I have not written down any thing, except a single curious fact, which, having the sanction of his inflexible veracity, may be received as a striking instance of human in'sensibility and inconsideration. As he was passing by a fishmonger who was skinning an eel alive, he heard him
curse it, because it would not lie still.” On Wednesday, April 7, I dined with him at Sir Joshua Reynolds's. I have not marked what company was there. Johnson harangued upon the qualities of different liquors; and spoke with great contempt of claret, as so weak, that “a man would be drowned
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by it before it made him drunk." He was persuaded to drink one glass of it, that he might judge, not from recollection, which might be dim, but from immediate sensation. He shook his head, and said, “ Poor stuff! No, sir, claret is the liquor for boys; port for men ; but he who aspires to be a hero (smiling) must drink brandy. In the first place, the flavour of brandy is most grateful to the palate; and then brandy will do soonest for a man what drinking can do for him. There are, indeed, few who are able to drink brandy. That is a power rather to be wished for than attained. And yet (proceeded he), as in all pleasure hope is a considerable part, I know not but fruition comes too quick by brandy. Florence wine I think the worst; it is wine only to the eye; it is wine neither while you are drinking it, nor after you have drunk it; it neither pleases the taste, nor exhilarates the spirits.” I reminded him how heartily he and I used to drink wine together, when we were first acquainted ; and how I used to have a head-ache after sitting up with him. He did not like to have this recalled, or, perhaps, thinking that I boasted improperly, resolved to have a witty stroke at me; Nay, sir, it was not the wine that made
head ache, but the sense that I put into it.”
BOSWELL. « What, sir! will sense make the head ache?" Johnson. “ Yes, sir (with a smile), when it is not used to it.”—No man who has a true relish of pleasantry could be offended at this ; especially if Johnson in a long intimacy had given him repeated proofs of his regard and good estimation. I used to say, that as he had given me a thousand pounds in praise, he had a good right now and then to take a guinea from me.
On Thursday, April 8, I dined with him at Mr. Allen Ramsay's, with Lord Graham and some other company. We talked of Shakspeare's witches. John