Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

1773

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

those who preach against the doctrine of the Tķinity. Johnson was highly
offended, and said, “I wonder, Sir, how a gentleman of your piety can Ærat. 6.
introduce this subject in a mixed company.” He told me afterwards, that the
impropriety was, that perhaps some of the company might have talked on the
subject in such terms as would have shocked him; or he might have been
forced to appear in their eyes a narrow-minded man. The gentleman, with
submissive deference, said, he had only hinted at the question from a desire
to hear Dr. Johnson's opinion upon it. Johnson. “ Why then, Sir, I think
that permitting men to preach any opinion contrary to the doctrine of the
established church, tends, in a certain degree, to lessen the authority of the
church, and, consequently, to lessen the influence of religion.” “ It may be
considered, (faid the gentleman,) whether it would not be politick to tolerate
in such a case.” Johnson. “ Sir, we have been talking of right: this is
another question. I think it is not politick to tolerate in such a case.”

Though he did not think it fit that so aweful a subject should be introduced
in a mixed company, and therefore at this time waved the theological ques-
tion; yet his own orthodox belief in the sacred mystery of the Trinity is
evinced beyond doubt, by the following passage in his private devotions ; “O
Lord, hear my prayers, for Jesus Christ's fake ; to whom with thee and
the Holy Ghost, three persons and one God, be all honour and glory, world
without end. Amen."

Boswell. “Pray, Mr. Dilly, how does Dr. Leland's History of Ireland' fell ?” Johnson. (Bursting forth with a generous indignation,) “ The Irish are in a most unnatural state; for we see there the minority prevailing over the majority. There is no instance, even in the ten persecutions, of such severity as that which the Protestants of Ireland have exercised against the Catholicks. Did we tell them we have conquered them, it would be above board: to punish them by confiscation and other penalties, as rebels, was monstrous injustice. King William was not their lawful sovereign : he had not been acknowledged by the parliament of Ireland, when they appeared in arms against him.”

I here suggested something favourable of the Roman Catholicks. Toplady, “ Does not their invocation of saints suppose omnipresence in the saints ?” Johnson. “ No, Sir; it supposes only pluripresence; and when spirits are divested of matter, it seems probable that they should see with more extent than when in an embodied state. There is, therefore, no approach to an

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

1773.

Ætat. 64.

invasion of

any

of the divine attributes, in the invocation of faints. But I think it is will-worship, and presumption. I see no command for it, and therefore think it is safer not to practise it.”

He and Mr. Langton and I went together to the Club, where we found Mr. Burke, Mr. Garrick, and some other members, and amongst them our friend Goldsmith, who fat silently brooding over Johnson's reprimand to him after dinner. Johnson perceived this, and said aside to some of us, “ I'll make Goldsmith forgive me ;” and then called to him in a loud voice, “ Dr. Goldsmith, --something passed to-day where you and I dined; I ask your pardon.” Goldsmith answered placidly, “It must be much from you, Sir, that I take ill.” And so at once the difference was over, and they were on as easy terms as ever, and Goldsmith rattled away as usual.

In our way to the club to-night, when I regretted that Goldsmith would, upon every occasion, endeavour to shine, by which he often exposed' himself, Mr. Langton observed, that he was not like Addison, who was content with the fame of his writings, and did not aim also at excellency in conversation, for which he found himself unfit; and that he said to a lady, who complained of his having talked little in company, Madam, I have but nine-pence in ready money, but I can draw for a thousand pounds.” I observed, that Goldsinith had a great deal of gold in his cabinet, but, not content with that, was always taking out his purfe. Johnson. “Yes, Sir, and that so often an empty purse !”

Goldsmith's incessant desire of being conspicuous in company, was the occasion of his sometimes appearing to such disadvantage as one should hardly have supposed possible in a man of his genius. When his literary reputation had risen deservedly high, and his society was much courted, he became very jealous of the extraordinary attention which was every where paid to Johnson, One evening, in a circle of wits, he found fault with me for talking of Johnson as entitled to the honour of unquestionable superiority. “Sir, (faid he,) you are for making a monarchy of what should be a republick.”

He was still more mortified, when talking in a company with fluent vivacity, and, as he flattered himself, to the admiration of all who were present; a German who sat next him, and perceived Johnson rolling himself, as if about to speak, suddenly stopped him, saying, “Stay, stay,—Toctor Shonson is going to say something.” This was, no doubt, very provoking, especially to one fo irritable as Goldsmith, who frequently mentioned it with strong expressions of indignation.

1773.

It may also be observed, that Goldsmith was sometimes content to be
treated with an easy familiarity, but, upon occasions, would be consequential Ærat. 74.
and important. An instance of this occurred in a small particular. Johnson
had a way of contracting the names of his friends; as, Beauclerk, Beau ;
Boswell, Bozzy; Langton, Lanky; Murphy, Mur; Sheridan, Sherry. I
remember one day, when Tom Davies was telling that Dr. Johnson said,
“ We are all in labour for a name to Goldy's play,” Goldsmith seemed dir-
pleased that such a liberty should be taken with his name, and said, “I have
often desired him not to call me Goldy.” Tom was remarkably attentive to
the most minute circumstance about Johnson. I recollect his telling me
once, on my arrival in London, “Sir, our great friend has made an im-
provement on his appellation of old Mr. Sheridan.

He calls him now
Sberry derry.

[ocr errors]

To the Reverend Mr. BAGSHAW, at Bromley?..

« SIR,

not.

“ I RETURN you my sincere thanks for your additions to my Dictionary; but the new edition has been published fome time, and therefore I cannct now make use of them. Whether I shall ever revise it more, I know

If many readers had been as judicious, as diligent, and as communicative as yourself, my work had been better. The world must at present take it as it is. I am, Sir,

“ Your most obliged

• And most humble servant, “ May 8, 1773.

SAM. JOHNson.”

On Sunday, May 8, I dined with Johnson at Mr. Langton's, with Dr. Beattie
and some other company. He descanted on the subject of Literary Property.
“ There seems, (said he,) to be in authours a stronger right of
that by occupancy; a metaphysical right, a right, as it were, of creation,

property than

? 'The Reverend Thomas Bagshaw, M. A. who died on November 20, 1787, in the seventyseventh year of his aze, Chaplain of Bromley College, in Kent, and Rector of Southfleet. He had resigned the cure of Bromley parilh some time before his death. For this, and another letter from Dr. Johnson in 1784, to the same truly respectable man, I am indebted to Dr. John Loveday, of the Commons, who has obligingly transcribed them for me from the originals in his possession.

1773 which should from its nature be perpetual; but the consent of nations is Ærat. 64. against it, and indeed reason and the interests of learning are against it; for

were it to be perpetual, no book, however useful, could be universally diffused amongst mankind, should the proprietor take it into his head to restrain its circulation. No book could have the advantage of being edited with notes, however necessary to its elucidation, should the proprietor perversely oppose it. For the general good of the world, therefore, whatever valuable work has once been created by an authour, and issued out by him, should be understood as no longer in his power, but as belonging to the publick ; at the same time the authour is entitled to an adequate reward. This he should have by an exclusive right to his work for a considerable number of years."

He attacked Lord Monboddo's strange speculation on the primitive state of human nature; observing, “Sir, it is all conjecture about a thing useless, even were it known to be true. Knowledge of all kinds is good. Conjecture, as to things useful, is good; but conjecture as to what it would be useless to know, such as whether men ever went upon all four, is very idle."

On Monday, May 9, as I was to set out on my return to Scotland next morning, I was desirous to see as much of Dr. Johnson as I could. But I first called on Goldsmith to take leave of him. The jealousy and envy which, though possessed of many most amiable qualities, he frankly avowed, broke out violently at this interview. Upon another occasion, when Goldsmith .confessed himself to be of an envious disposition, I contended with Johnson that we ought not to be angry with him, he was so candid in owning it. “ Nay, Sir, (said Johnson,) we must be angry that a man has such a superabundance of an odious quality that he cannot keep it within his own breast, but it boils over.” In my opinion, however, Goldsmith had not more of it than other people have, but only talked of it freely.

He now seemed very angry that Johnson was going to be a traveller ; faid, - he would be a dead weight for me to carry, and that I should never be able to lug him along through the Highlands and Hebrides.” Nor would he patiently allow me to enlarge upon Johnson's wonderful abilities; but exclaimed, “ Is he like Burke, who winds into a subject like a serpent?” “ But, (said I,) Johnson is the Hercules who strangled ferpents in his cradle."

I dined with Dr. Johnson at General Paoli's. He was obliged, by indisposition, to leave the company early; he appointed me, however, to meet him in the evening at Mr. (now Sir Robert,) Chambers's in the Temple, where he accordingly came, though he continued to be very ill. Chambers, as is .common on such occasions, prescribed various remedies to him. Johnson.

(fretced

I

1773

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]

(fretted by pain,)“ Pr’ythee don't teaze me. Stay till I am well, and then
you shall tell me how to cure myself.” He grew better, and talked with a Ærat. .
noble enthusiasm of keeping up the representation of respectable families. His
zeal on this subject was a circumstance in his character exceedingly remark-
able, when it is considered that he himself had no pretensions to blood. I
heard him once say, “I have great merit in being zealous for subordination
and the honours of birth; for I can hardly tell who was my grandfather.”
He maintained the dignity and propriety of male succession, in opposition to
the opinion of one of our friends, who had that day employed Mr. Chambers
to draw his will, devising his estate to his three sisters, in preference to a remote
heir male. Johnson called them three dowdies, and said, with as high a spirit
as the boldest Baron in the most perfect days of the feudal fyftem, “An ancient
estate should always go to males. It is mighty foolish to let a stranger have
it, because he marries your daughter, and takes your name. As for an estate
newly acquired by trade, you may give it, if you will, to the dog Towzer, and
let him keep his own name.”

I have known him at times exceedingly diverted at what seemed to others
a very fmall sport. He now laughed immoderately, without any reason that
we could perceive, at our friend's making his will ; called him the teftator, and.
added, “I dare say, he thinks he has done a mighty thing. He won't stay till he
gets home to his seat in the country, to produce this wonderful deed: he'll call
up the landlord of the first inn on the road; and, after a suitable preface upon
mortality and the uncertainty of life, will tell him that he should not delay
making his will; and here, Sir, will he say, is my will, which I have just made,
with the assistance of one of the ableft lawyers in the kingdom ; and he will
read it to him (laughing all the time). He believes he has made this will ;
but he did not make it: you, Chambers, made it for him. I trust you have
had more conscience than to make him say, · being of sound understanding;'
ha, ha, ha! I hope he has left me a legacy. I'd have his will turned into
verse, like a ballad.”

In this playful manner did he run on, exulting in his own pleasantry, which certainly was not such as might be expected from the authour of “ The Rambler,” but which is here preserved, that my readers may be acquainted even with the Nightest occasional characteristicks of so eminent a man.

Mr. Chambers did not by any means relish this jocularity upon a matter of which pars magna fuit, and seemed impatient till he got rid of us. Johnson could not stop his merriment, but continued it all the way till we got without the Temple-gate. He then burst into such a fit of laughter, that

[ocr errors]

he

« PreviousContinue »