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TAE EARL OF MARCHMONT_" TRANSPIRE," AND "GET ABROAD"-PEERS THE JUDGES OF
LAW-POPE-DIVORCES—EXTRAVAGANCE-PARSON FORD's Ghost-HUMMUMS-VIRTUE AND VICE-LORD CHESTERFIELD'S SPEECHES WRITTEN BY JOHNSON—KAIMES'S SKETCHES -SIR GEORGE VILLIERS'S GHOST-Johnson's CONDEMNATION OF FRENCH MANNERSLORD CHARLEMONT-A COUNTRY LIFE-ON SUBORDINATION-Rev. MR. HORNE—DR. MEAD-GENERAL BURGOYNE'S ARMY -“RASSELAS" AND “ CANDIDE" - FRANCIS'S “ HORACE”—MR. FULLARTON-LORD CHATHAM-EDUCATION-BOSWELL'S DEPARTURE FOR SCOTLAND-CORRESPONDENCE—THOMPSON'S SISTER-VISIT TO WARLEY CAMP-MR.
LANGTON-DR. BURNEY-REV. J. HUSSEY-SIR JOSHUA REYNOLDS'S “DISCOURSES." ON Tuesday, May 12, I waited on the Earl of Marchmont, to know if
his lordship would favour Dr. Johnson with information concerning Pope, whose Life he was about to write. Johnson had not flattered himself with the hopes of receiving any civility from this nobleman : for he said to me, when I mentioned Lord Marchmont as one who could tell him a great deal about Pope, “Sir, he will tell me nothing." I had the honour of being known to his lordship, and applied to him of myself, without being commissioned by Johnson. His lordship behaved in the most polite and obliging manner, promised to tell all he recollected about Pope, and was so very courteous as to say, “Tell Dr. Johnson I have a great respect for him, and am ready to show it in any way I can. I am to be in the City to-morrow, and will call at his house as I return.” His lordship, however, asked, “Will he write 'the Lives of the Poets' impartially? He was the first that brought Whig and Tory into a dictionary. And what do you think of his definition of Excise ! Do you know the history of his aversion to the word transpire ?” Then taking down the folio dictionary, he showed it with this censure on its secondary sense : “To escape from secresy to notice; a sense lately innovated from France, without necessity.” The truth was, Lord Bolingbroke, who left the Jacobites, first used it; therefore it was to be condemned. He should have shown what word would do for it, if it was unnecessary. I afterwards put the question to Johnson. “Why, Sir," said he, "get abroad.” BOSWELL : “That, Sir, is using two words.” JOHNSON : “Sir, there is no end of this. You may as well insist to have a word for old age.” BOSWELL: “Well, Sir, Senectus.” JOHNSON : “ Nay, Sir, to insist always that there should be one word to express a thing in English, because there is one in another language, is to change the language.”
I availed myself of this opportunity to hear from his lordship many particulars both of Pope and Lord Bolingbroke, which I have in writing.
I proposed to Lord Marchmont, that he should revise Johnson's “Life of Pope.” “So,” said his lordship, "you would put me in a dangerous situation. You know he knocked down Osborne, the bookseller.”
Elated with the success of my spontaneous exertion to procure material and respectable aid to Johnson for his very favourite work, “The Lives of the Poets," I hastened down to Mr. Thrale’s, at Streatham, where he now was, that I might ensure his being at home next day; and after dinner, when I thought he would receive the good news in the best humour, I announced it eagerly : “I have been at work for you to-day, Sir. I have been with Lord Marchmont. He bade me tell you, he has a great respect for you, and will call on you to-morrow at one o'clock, and communicate all he knows about Pope." Here I paused, in full expectation that he would be pleased with this intelligence, would praise my active merit, and would be alert to embrace such an offer from a nobleman. But whether I had shown an over-exultation, which provoked his spleen, or whether he was seized with a suspicion that I had obtruded him on Lord Marchmont, and humbled him too much, or whether there was anything more than an unlucky fit of ill-humour, I know not; but to my surprise, the result was-JOHNSON : “I shall not be in town to-morrow. I don't care to know about Pope.” MRS. THRALE (surprised as I was, and a little angry): “I suppose, Sir, Mr. Boswell thought that as you are to write Pope's Life, you would wish to know about him.” JOHNSON : “Wish! why yes. If it rained knowledge, I'd hold out my hand ; but I would not give myself the trouble to go in quest of it.” There was no arguing with him at the moment. Sometime afterwards he said, “Lord Marchmont will call on me, and then I shall call on Lord Marchmont.” Mrs. Thrale was uneasy at his unaccountable caprice, and told me that if I did not take care to bring about a meeting between Lord Marchmont and him, it would never take place, which would be a great pity. I sent a card to his lordship, to be left at Johnson's house, acquainting him that Dr. Johnson could not be in town next day, but would do himself the honour of waiting on him at another time. I give this account fairly, as a specimen of that unhappy temper with which this great and good man had occasionally to struggle, from something morbid in his constitution. Let the most censorious of my readers suppose himself to have a violent fit of the toothache, or to have received a severe stroke on the shin-bone, and when in such a state to be asked a question, and if he has any candour he will not be surprised at the answers which Johnson sometimes gave in moments of irritation, which, let me assure them, is exquisitely painful. But it must not be erroneously supposed that he was, in the smallest degree, careless concerning any work which he undertook, or that he was generally thus peevish. It will be seen that in the following year he had a very agreeable interview with Lord Marchmont, at his lordship's house, and this very afternoon he soon forgot any fretfulness, and fell into conversation as usual.
I mentioned a reflection having been thrown out against four Peers for having presumed to rise in opposition to the opinion of the twelve judges, in a cause in the House of Lords, as if that were indecent. Johnson: “Sir, there is no ground for censure. The Peers are judges themselves, and supposing them really to be of a different opinion, they might from duty be in opposition to the judges, who were there only to be consulted."
In this observation I fully concurred with him ; for, unquestionably, all the Peers are rested with the highest judicial powers, and when they are contident that they understand a cause, are not obliged-nay, ought not-to acquiesce in the opinion of the ordinary law judges, or eren in that of those who, from their studies and experience, are called the law lords I consider the Peers in general as I do a jury, who ought to listen with respectful attention to the sages of the law; but if, after hearing them, they have a firm opinion of their own, are bound as honest men to decide accordingly. Nor is it so dificult for them to understand even law questions, as is generally thought, provided they will bestow suicient attention upon them. This observation was nusda by my honouri relation the late Lori Cacheart, who had spent his life in camps and courts; yet he assured me that he could firm
a clear opinion upon most of the causes that came before the House of Lords, as they were so well enucleated in the cases.”
Mrs. Thrale told us that a curious clergyman of our acquaintance had discovered a licentious stanza, which Pope had originally in his “ Universal Prayer,” before the stanza,
What conscience dictates to be done,
Or warns us not to do,” &c. It was this
“ Can sins of moment claim the rod
Of everlasting fires ?
Which Nature's self inspires ?”
and that Dr. Johnson observed, “It had been borrowed from Guarini.”! There are, indeed, in Pastor Fido, many such iimsy superficial reasonings, as that in the last two lines of this stanza.
BOSWELL : “ In that stanza of Pope's, 'rod of fires' is certainly a bad metaphor.” Mrs. THRALE : “And ‘sins of moment' is a faulty expression; for its true import is momentous, which cannot be intended.” JOHNSON : “ It must have been written of moments. Of moment is momentous ; of moments, momentary. I warrant you, however, Pope wrote this stanza, and some friend struck it out. Boileau? wrote some such thing, and Arnaud struck it out, saying, ' Vous gagnerez deux ou trois impies, et perdrez je ne sais combien des honnêtes gens. These fellows want to say a daring thing, and don't know how to go about it. Mere poets know no more of fundamental principles than—" Here he was interrupted somehow Mrs. Thrale mentioned Dryden. JOHNSON : “He puzzled himself about predestination. How foolish it was in Pope to give all his friendship to lords, who thought they honoured him by being with him; and to choose such lords as Burlington and Cobham, and Bolingbroke! Bathurst was negative, a pleasing man; and I have heard no ill of Marchmont; and then always saying, 'I do not value you for being a lord,' which was a sure proof that he did. I never say, I do not value Boswell more for being born to an estate, because I do not care.” BOSWELL: “Nor for being a Scotchman ?" JOHNSON : “Nay, Sir, I do value you more for being a Scotchman. You are a Scotchman without the faults of Scotchmen. You would not have been so valuable as you are, had you not been a Scotchman.”
1 Battista Guarini was an Italian poet of some celebrity, whose principal composition was & pastoral drama, entitled “Pastor Fido." He was born at Ferrara in 1537, and was secretary to Ferdinand de Medicis, Grand Duke of Tuscany, as well as to the Duke of Urbino. He died in 1612.
2 Boileau, as a poet and a satirist, enjoyed a reputation in France very similar to that of Pope in England. He was born in 1636, and died in 1711.
3 This was Francis Arnaud, the author of numerous poems, plays, and prose fictions, who was favourably noticed by Voltaire and Frederick of Prussia.
Talking of divorces, I asked if Othello's doctrine was not plausible :
“He that is robb’d, not wanting what is stolen,
Let him not know't, and he's not robb'd at all." Dr. Johnson and Mrs. Thrale joined against this. JOHNSON : “ Ask any man if he'd wish not to know of such an injury.” BOSWELL : “Would you tell your friend to make him unhappy ?" JOHNSON : “Perhaps, Sir, I should not ; but that would be from prudence on my own account. A man would tell his father.” BOSWELL: “Yes; because he would not have spurious children to get any share of the family inheritance.” Mrs. THRALE: “Or he would tell his brother.” BosWELL: “ Certainly, his elder brother.” JOHNSON: “You would tell your friend of a woman's infamy, to prevent his marrying a whore; there is the same reason to tell him of his wife's infidelity, when he is married, to prevent the consequences of imposition. It is a breach of confidence not to tell a friend.” BOSWELL: “Would you tell Mr.
?" (naming a gentleman who assuredly was not in the least danger of such a miserable disgrace, though married to a fine woman.) JOHNSON: “No, Sir ; because it would do no good; he is so sluggish, he'd never go to Parliament and get through a divorce."
He said of one of our friends, “He is ruining himself without pleasure. A man who loses at play, or who runs out his fortune at court, makes his estate less, in hopes of making it bigger (I am sure of this word, which was often used by him); but it is a sad thing to pass through the quagmire of parsimony to the gulf of ruin. To pass over the flowery path of extravagance is very well."
Amongst the numerous prints pasted on the walls of the diningroom at Streatham, was Hogarth’s “Modern Midnight Conversation.” I asked him what he knew of Parson Ford, who makes a conspicuous figure in the riotous group. JOHNSON : “Sir, he was my acquaintance and relation, my mother's nephew. He had purchased a living in the country, but not simoniacally. I never saw him but in the country. I have been told he was a man of great parts ; very profligate, but I never heard he was impious.” BOSWELL: “Was there not a story of his ghost having appeared ?" JOHNSON : “Sir, it was believed. A waiter at the Hummums, in which house Ford died had been absent for some time, and returned, not knowing that Ford was dead. Going down to the cellar, according to the story, he met him ; going down again, he met him a second time. When he came up, he asked some of the people of the house what Ford could be doing there. They told him Ford was dead. The waiter took a fever, in which he lay for some time. When he recovered he said he had a message to deliver to some women from Ford ; but he was not to tell what, or to whom. He walked out; he was followed ; but somewhere about St. Paul's they lost him. He came back, and said he had delivered the message, and