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Of Guthrie, he said, “Sir, he is a man of parts. He has no great regular fund of knowledge; but by reading so long, and writing so long, he no doubt has picked up a good deal.” He said he had lately been a long while at Lichfield, but had grown very weary before he left it. Boswell. “I wonder at that, Sir ; it is your native place.” JoHNsoN. “Why so is Scotland your native place.” His prejudice against Scotland' appeared remarkably strong at this time. When I talked of our advancement in literature, “Sir,” said he, “you have learnt a little from us, and you think yourselves very great men. Hume would never have written history, had not Voltaire written it before him. He is an echo of Voltaire.” Boswell. “But, Sir, we have lord Kames.” JoHNson. “You have lord Kames. Keep him; ha, ha, ha! We don’t envy you him. Do you ever see Dr. Robertson?” Boswell. “Yes, Sir.” JoHNson. “Does the dog talk of me?” Boswell. “Indeed, Sir, he does, and loves you.” Thinking that I now had him in a corner, and being solicitous for the literary fame of my country, I pressed him for his opinion on the merit of Dr. Robertson's History of Scotland. But to my surprise, he escaped.—“Sir, I love Robertson, and I won’t talk of his book.” It is but justice both to him and Dr. Robertson to add, that though he indulged himself in this sally of wit, he had too good taste not to be fully sensible of the merits of that admirable work. An essay, written by Mr. Dean, a divine of the Church of England, maintaining the future life of brutes,” by an explication of certain parts of the Scriptures, was mentioned, and the doctrine insisted on by a gentleman who seemed fond of curious speculation; Johnson, who did not like to hear of anything concerning a future state which was not authorised by the regular canons of orthodoxy, discouraged this talk; and being offended at its continuation, he watched an opportunity to give the gentleman a blow of reprehension. So, when the poor speculatist, with a serious metaphysical pensive face, addressed him, “But really, Sir, when we see a very sensible dog, we don't know what to think of him ; ” Johnson, rolling with joy at the thought which beamed in his eye, turned quickly round, and replied, “True, Sir: and when we see a very foolish fellow, we don’t know what to think of him.” He then rose up, strided to the fire, and stood for some time laughing and exulting. I told that I had several times, when in Italy, seen the experiment of placing a scorpion within a circle of burning coals; that it ran round and round in extreme pain; and finding no way to escape, retired to the centre, and, like a true Stoic philosopher, darted its sting into its head, and thus at once freed itself from its woes. “This must end ‘em.” I said, this was a curious fact, as it showed deliberate suicide in a reptile. Johnson would not admit the fact. He said, Maupertuis was of opinion that it does not kill itself, but dies of the heat; that it gets to the centre of the circle, as the coolest place; that its turning its tail in upon its head is merely a convulsion, and that
" Johnson's invectives against Scotland, in common conversation, were more in pleasantry and sport than real and malignant; for no man was more visited by natives of that country, nor were there any for whom he had a greater esteem. It was to Dr. Grainger, a Scottish physician, that I owed my first acquaintance with Johnson, in 1756–Percy.
* An Essay on the Future Life of Brute Creatures, by Richard Dean, curate of Middleton. This work is reviewed in the Gentleman's Magazine for 1768, p. 177, in a style very like Johnson's ; and a story of “a very sensible dog” is noticed with censure. So that it may probably have been Johnson's.-Croker.
* I should think it impossible not to wonder at the variety of Johnson's reading, however desultory it might have been. Who could have imagined that the High Church of England-man would be so prompt in quoting Maupertuis, who, I am sorry to think, stands in the list of those unfortunate mistaken men, who call themselves esprits forts: I have, however, a high respect for that philosopher, whom the great Frederic of Prussia loved and honoured, and addressed pathetically in one of his poems— “Maupertuis, cher Maupertuis, Que notre vie est peu de chose.”
There was in Maupertuis a vigour and yet a tenderness of sentiment, united with strong intellectual powers, and uncommon ardour of soul. Would he had been a Christian | I cannot help earnestly venturing to hope that he is one now.
Maupertuis died in 1759, at the age of 62, in the arms of the Bernoullis, tres chrétiennement.—Burney.
it does not sting itself. He said he would be satisfied if the great anatomist Morgagni, after dissecting a scorpion on which the experiment had been tried, should certify that its sting had penetrated into its head.
He seemed pleased to talk of natural philosophy. “That woodcocks,” said he, “fly over the northern countries is proved, because they have been observed at sea. Swallows certainly sleep all the winter. A number of them conglobulate together, by flying round and round, and then all in a heap throw themselves under water and lie in the bed of a river." I He told us, one of his first essays was a Latin poem upon the glow-worm; I am sorry I did not ask where it was to be found.
Talking of the Russians and the Chinese, he advised me to read Bell's “Travels." ? I asked him whether I should read Du Halde's “ Account of China.” “Why, yes,” said he, “as one reads such a book; that is to say, con
He talked of the heinousness of the crime of adultery, by which the peace of families was destroyed. He said, “ Confusion of progeny constitutes the essence of the crime; and therefore a woman who breaks her marriage vows is much more criminal than a man who does it. A man, to be sure, is criminal in the sight of God; but he does not do his wife a very material injury, if he does not insult her; if, for instance, from mere wantonness of appetite, he steals privately to her chamber-maid. Sir, a wife ought not greatly to resent this. I would not receive home a daughter who had run away from her husband on that account. A wife should study to reclaim her husband by more attention to please him. Sir, a man will not, once in a hundred instances, leave his wife and go to a harlot, if his wife has not been negligent of pleasing."
Here he discovered that acute discrimination, that solid judgment, and that knowledge of human nature, for which he was upon all occasions remarkable. Taking care to keep in view the moral and religious duty, as understood
John Bell, of Antermony, who published at Glasgow, in 1763, in two vols. 4to, Travels from St. Petersburgh, in Russia, to divers Parts of Asia.-Croker,
in our nation, he showed clearly, from reason and good sense, the greater degree of culpability in the one sex deviating from it than the other; and, at the same time, in. culcated a very useful lesson as to the way to keep him.
I asked him if it was not hard that one deviation from chastity should so absolutely ruin a young woman. JOHNSON. “Why no, Sir; it is the great principle which she is taught. When she has given up that principle, she has given up every notion of female honour and virtue, which are all included in chastity."
A gentleman talked to him of a lady whom he greatly admired and wished to marry, but was afraid of her superiority of talents. “ Sir," said he, “ you need not be afraid ; marry her. Before a year goes about, you'll find that reason much weaker, and that wit not so bright.” Yet the gentleman may be justified in his apprehension by one of Dr. Johnson's admirable sentences in his “Life of Waller :” “He doubtless praised many whom he would have been afraid to marry; and, perhaps, married one whom he would have been ashamed to praise. Many qualities contribute to domestic happiness, upon which poetry has no colours to bestow; and many airs and sallies may delight imagination, which he who flatters them never can approve."
He praised Signor Baretti. “His account of Italy is a very entertaining book; and, Sir, I know no man who carries his head higher in conversation than Baretti. There are strong powers in his mind. He has not, indeed, many hooks; but with what hooks he has, he grapples very forcibly.”
At this time I observed upon the dial-plate of his watch a short Greek inscription, taken from the New Testament, vúĘ yàpëpyerai, being the first words of our Saviour's solemn admonition to the improvement of that time which is allowed us to prepare for eternity; “the night cometh when no man can work." He some time afterwards laid aside this dial-plate; and when I asked him the reason, he said, “It might do very well upon a clock which a man
keeps in his closet; but to have it upon his watch, which he carries about with him, and which is often looked at by others, might be censured as ostentatious.” Mr. Steevens is now possessed of the dial-plate inscribed as above." He remained at Oxford a considerable time,” I was obliged to go to London, where I received this letter, which had been returned from Scotland.
TO JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ.
“Oxford, March 23, 1768. “My DEAR Boswell,
“I have omitted a long time to write to you, without knowing very well why. I could now tell why I should not write; for who would write to men who publish the letters of their friends, without their leave ** Yet I write to you in spite of my caution, to tell you that I shall be glad to see you, and that I wish you would empty your head of Corsica, which I think has
* Notes and Queries completes the history of this watch.“This watch is in my possession. My mother was niece to the sister of George Steevens, which sister inherited this watch with the rest of George Steevens’ property. It is a metal watch with a tortoise shell case; no maker's name. The dial is inscribed, as mentioned by Boswell, with the words, vić yåp foxerat, “for the night cometh.’ Boswell says the dial-plate was given to Steevens. It seems unlikely that the dial should be separated from the doctor's watch, to which it evidently belonged, and which was worn by him. The watch also has inside the case the words: “Samuel Johnson, London, 1784.’ It was in December, 1784, that Johnson died. “JAMES ProRoft. “Brighton, Jan. 20, 1871.” —Notes and Queries, Fourth Series, vii., 243.-Editor. Sir Walter Scott put the same Greek words on a sun-dial in his garden at Abbotsford. —Lockhart. * Where, it appears, from the Piozzi Letters, vol. i., pp. 10-11, that he was for some time confined to Mr. Chambers’ apartments in New Inn Hall by a fit of illness, and took a strong interest in the triumphant election of high church candidates for the University. “The virtue of Oxford,” he says, “once more prevailed over the slaves of power and the soliciters of favour.”—Croker. * Mr. Boswell, in his Journal of a Tour in Corsica, p. 359-60, had printed the second and third paragraphs of Johnson's letter to him of January 14, 1766.-Croker.