Page images
[ocr errors]

“No, no," said he, “it has been a very agreeable world to me.” Johnson added, “I respect Dodd for thus speaking the truth; for, to be sure, he had for several years enjoyed a life of great voluptuousness.”

He told us that Dodd's city friends stood by him so, that a thousand pounds were ready to be given to the

gaoler, if he would let him escape. He added, that he knew a friend of Dodd's who walked about Newgate for some time on the evening before the day of his execution, with five hundred pounds in his pocket, ready to be paid to any of the turnkeys who could get him out; but it was too late, for he was watched with much circumspection. He said, Dodd's friends had an image of him made of wax, which was to have been left in his place; and he believed it was carried into the prison.

Johnson disapproved of Dr. Dodd's leaving the world persuaded that “ The Convict's Address to his unhappy Brethren” was of his own writing. “But, Sir," said I, "you contributed to the deception ; for when Mr. Seward expressed a doubt to you that it was not Dodd's own, because it had a great deal more force of mind in it than anything known to be his, you answered, “Why should you think so ? Depend apon it, Sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.' JOHNSON : “Sir, as Dodd got it from me to pass as his own, while that could do him any good, that was an implied promise that I should not own it. To own it, therefore, would have been telling a lie, with the addition of breach of promise, which was worse than simply telling a lie to make it be believed it was Dodd's. Besides, Sir, I did not directly tell a lie: I left the matter uncertain. Perhaps I thought that Seward would not believe it the less to be mine for what I said ; but I would not put it in his power to say

I had owned it." He praised Blair's Sermons : “Yet,” said he, (willing to let us see he was aware that fashionable fame, however deserved, is not always the most lasting) "perhaps they may not be reprinted after seven years ; at least not after Blair's death."

He said, “ Goldsmith was a plant that flowered late. There appeared nothing remarkable about him when he was young ; though when he got high in fame, one of his friends began to recollect something of his being distinguished at College. Goldsmith in the same manner recollected more of that friend's early years, as he grew a greater man.

I mentioned that Lord Monboddo told me, he awaked every morning at four, and then for his health got up and walked in his room naked, with the window open, which he called taking an air bath ; after which he went to bed again, and slept two hours more. Johnson, who was always ready to beat down anything that seemed to be exhibited

[ocr errors]

" He was distinguished in college, as appears from a circumstance mentioned by Dr. Kearney See vol. i., chap. xiii.--MALONE.

with disproportionate importance, thus observed : I suppose, Sir, there is no more in it than this, he wakes at four, and cannot sleep till he chills himself, and makes the warmth of the bed a grateful sensation.”

I talked of the difficulty of rising in the morning. Dr. Johnson told me, “that the learned Mrs. Carter,' at that period when she was eager in study, did not awake as early as she wished, and she therefore had a contrivance, that, at a certain hour, her chamber-light should burn a string to which a heavy weight was suspended, which then fell with a strong sudden noise : this roused her from her sleep, and then she had no difficulty in getting up.” But I said that was my difficulty; and wished there could be some medicine invented which would make one rise without pain, which I never did, unless after lying in bed a very long time. Perhaps there may be something in the stores of nature which could do this. I have thought of a pulley to raise me gradually ; but that would give me pain, as it would counteract my internal inclination. I would have something that can dissipate the vis inertiæ, and give elasticity to the muscles. As I imagine that the human body may be put, by the operation of other substances, into any state in which it has ever been; and as I have experienced a state in which rising from bed was not disagreeable, but easy, nay, sometimes agreeable ; I suppose that this state may be produced, if we knew by what. We can heat the body, we can cool it; we can give it tension or relaxation; and surely it is possible to bring it into a state in which rising from bed will not be a pain.

Johnson observed, that “a man should take a sufficient quantity or sleep, which Dr. Mead says is between seven and nine hours.” I told him, that Dr. Cullen said to me, that a man should not take more sleep than he can take at once. JOHNSON : “ This rule, Sir, cannot hold in all cases; for many people have their sleep broken by sickness; and surely Cullen would not have a man to get up, after having slept but an hour. Such a regimen would soon end in a long sleep."

1992 Dr. Taylor

i This was the learned and accomplished Elizabeth Carter, whose name is frequently mentioned in these Memoirs. She was born at Deal in 1717, and was the daughter of the Rev. Dr. Nicholas Carter, through whose instructions she became acquainted with the Latin and Greek languages. She was also well skilled in French, Spanish, German, Italian, Portuguese, Arabic, and Hebrew. She was known as the translator of Crousay's “Critique on Pope's Essay on Man," Algarotti's “Explanation of Newton's Philosophy," and of “ Epictetus." After her decease, six volumes of her Correspondence were published, which display great intellectual powers. Mr. Cave was the means of first introducing her to many authors and scholars of note, and among those was Dr. Johnson, with whom she continued on terms of intimacy as long as he lived. She died in Clarges-street, in 1806.-ED.

2 This regimen was, however, practised by Bishop Ken, of whom Hawkins (not Sir John) in his life of that venerable prelate, p. 4, tells us," And that neither his study might be the aggressor on his hours of instruction, or what he judged his duty, prevent his improvements; or both, his closet addresses to his God; he strictly accustomed himself to but one sleep, which often obliged him to rise at one or two of the clock in the morning, and sometimes sooner; and grew so habitual, that it continued with him almost till his last illness. And so VOL. III.


remarked, I think very justly, that" a man who does not feel an inclination to sleep at the ordinary times, instead of being stronger than other people, must not be well ; for a man in health has all the natural inclinations to eat, drink, and sleep in a strong degree.”

Johnson advised me to-night not to refine in the education of my children. “Life,” said he, “will not bear refinement; you must do as other people do."

As we drove back to Ashbourne, Dr. Johnson recommended to me, as he had often done, to drink water only: "For,” said he, “you are then sure not to get drunk ; whereas, if you drink wine, you are never sure." I said, drinking wine was a pleasure which I was unwilling to give up. “Why, Sir,” said he, “there is no doubt that not to drink wine is a great deduction from life: but it may be necessary.” He, however, owned that, in his opinion, a free use of wine did not shorten life ; and said, he would not give less for the life of a certain Scotch Lord (whom he named) celebrated for hard drinking, than for that of a sober man. “But stay,” said he, with his usual intelligence and accuracy of inquiry, “ does it take much wine to make him drunk ?" I answered, “a great deal either of wine or strong punch.” “Then,” said he, “ that is the worse.” I presume to illustrate my friend's observation thus :"A fortress which soon surrenders has its walls less shattered, than when a long and obstinate resistance is made.”

I ventured to mention a person who was as violent a Scotsman as he was an Englishman ; and literally had the same contempt for an Englishman compared with a Scotsman, that he had for a Scotsman compared with an Englishman ; and that he would say of Dr. Johnson, “Damned rascal ! to talk as he does of the Scotch.” This seemed, for a moment, “to give him pause.” It perhaps presented his extreme prejudice against the Scotch in a point of view somewhat new to him, by the effect of contrast.

By the time when we returned to Ashbourne, Dr. Taylor was gone to bed. Johnson and I sat up a long time by ourselves.

He was much diverted with an article which I showed him in “ The Critical Review” of this year, giving an account of a curious publication, entitled, “A Spiritual Diary and Soliloquies, by John Rutty, M.D.” Dr. Rutty was one of the people called Quakers, a physician of some eminence in Dublin, and author of several works. This Diary, which was kept from 1753 to 1775, the year in which he died, and was now published in two volumes octavo, exhibited, in the simplicity of his heart, a minute and honest register of the state of his mind; which, though frequently laughable enough, was not more so than the history of many men would be, if recorded with equal fairness.

lively and cheerful was his temper, that he would be very facetious and entertaining to his friends in the evening, even when it was perceived that with difficulty he kept his eyes open; and then seemed to go to rest with no other purpose than the refreshing and enabling him with more vigour and cheerfulness to sing his morning hymn, as he then used to do to his lute before he put on his clothes." —BOSWELL.

The following specimens were extracted by the Reviewers :Tenth month, 1753. “23. Indulgence in bed an hour too long. “Twelfth month, 17. An hypochondriac obnubilation from wind and

indigestion. “Ninth month, 28. An over dose of whisky. “ 29. A dull, cross, choleric day. “First month, 1757—22. A little swinish at dinner and repast. “ 31. Dogged on provocation. “Second month, 5. Very dogged or snappish. “14. Snappish on fasting. “26. Cursed snappishness to those under me, on a bodily indisposition. “Third month, 11. On a provocation, exercised a dull resentment for two

days instead of scolding. “ 22. Scolded too vehemently. “ 23. Dogged again. “Fourth month, 29. Mechanically and sinfully dogged.”

Johnson laughed heartily at this good quietist's self-condemning minutes ; particularly at his mentioning, with such a serious regret, occasional instances of " swinishness in eating, and doggedness of temper.He thought the observations of the Critical Reviewers upon the importance of a man to himself so ingenious and so well expressed, that I shall here introduce them.

After observing, that “there are few writers who have gained any reputation by recording their own actions,” they say,

“We may reduce the egotists to four classes. In the first we have Julius Cæsar: he relates his own transactions ; but he relates them with peculiar grace and dignity, and his narrative is supported by the greatness of his character and achievements. In the second class we have Marcus Antoninus : this writer has given us a series of reflections on his own life ; but his sentiments are so noble, his morality so sublime, that his meditations are universally admired. In the third class we have some others of tolerable credit, who have given importance to their own private history by an intermixture of literary anecdotes, and the occurrences of their own times : the celebrated Huetius has published an entertaining volume upon this plan 'De rebus ad eum pertinentibus.' In the fourth class we have the journalists, temporal and spiritual: Elias Ashmole,' William Lilly, George Whitefield,' John Wesley, and a thousand other old women and fanatic writers of memoirs and meditations."

1 Elias Ashmole was the founder of the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford. In the early part of his life he ardently devoted himself to alchemy. He was born in 1617, and died in 1692.-ED.

2 The well-known astrologer, who was employed during the civil wars, both by Charles I. and the Parliamentary forces, in astrological predictions; and those contained in his almanacs

I mentioned to him that Dr. Hugh Blair, in his lectures on Rhetoric and Belles Lettres, which I heard him deliver at Edinburgh, had animadverted on the Johnsonian style as too pompous; and attempted to imitate it, by giving a sentence of Addison in “The Spectator,” No. 411, in the manner of Johnson. When treating of the utility of the pleasures of imagination in preserving us from vice, it is observed of those who know not how to be idle and innocent,” that“ their very first step out of business is into vice or folly," which Dr. Blair supposed would have been expressed in “The Rambler” thus : “Their very first step out of the regions of business is into the perturbation of vice, or the vacuity of folly.”

.3 JOHNSON : "Sir, these are not the words I should have used. No, Sir ; the imitators of my style have not hit it. Miss Aikin has done it the best ; for she has imitated the sentiment as well as the diction."

I intend, before this work is concluded, to exhibit specimens of imitation of my friend's style in various modes; some caricaturing or mimicking it, and some formed upon it, whether intentionally or with a degree of similarity to it, of which, perhaps, the writers were not conscious.

In Baretti's Review, which he published in Italy under the title of “ FRUSTA LETTERARIA,” it is observed, that Dr. Robertson, the historian, had formed his style upon that of “Il célèbre Samuele Johnson.” My friend himself was of that opinion ; for he once said to me, in a pleasant humour, “Sir, if Robertson's style be faulty, he owes it to me; that is, having too many words, and those too big ones.”

I read to him a letter which Lord Monboddo had written to me, containing some critical remarks upon the style of his “Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland.” His Lordship praised the very fine passage upon landing at Icolmkill ;4 but his own style being exceedingly

are represented to have produced a great effect upon the soldiers and the populace. He was born in Leicestershire in 1602, and died at Horsham in 1681.-ED.

• Whitefield was the founder of the Calvinistic Methodists, and one of the most popular and zealous preachers of his time. He was born at Gloucester in 1714, and died at Newburyport, in New England, in 1770.-ED.

? Wesley was a contemporary and the fellow-labourer of Whitefield, and the great founder of Methodism; but a disagreement arising on the subject of Calvinistic and Arminian doctrines, å separation soon took place; and hence two distinct sects arose. Wesley was born in 1703, and died in 1791.-ED.

3 When Dr. Blair published his “Lectures," he was invidiously attacked for having omitted his censure on Johnson's style, and, on the contrary, praising it highly. But before that time Johnson's "Lives of the Poets” had appeared, in which his style was considerably easier than when he wrote “The Rambler.” It would, therefore, bave been uncandid in Blair, even supposing his criticism to have been just, to have preserved it.-BOSWELL.

4 “We were now treading that illustrious island, which was once the luminary of the Caledonian regions, whence savage clans and roving barbarians derived the benefits of

« PreviousContinue »