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1775

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Ætat. 66,

“ The many learned labours which have since that time employed the attention and displayed the abilities of that great man, so much to the advancement of literature and the benefit of the community, render him worthy of more distinguished honours in the republick of letters: and I persuade myself, that I shall act agreeably to the sentiments of the whole University, in desiring that it may be proposed in Convocation to confer on him the degree of Doctor in Civil Law by diploma, to which I readily give my consent; and am,

Mr. Vice-Chancellor and Gentlemen,

" Your affectionate friend and fervant, « Downing-street,

« NORTH. March 23, 1775."

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DIPLOMA

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CANCELLARIUS, Magistri, et Scholares Universitatis Oxonienfis, omnibus

ad quos præfentes Literæ pervenerint, Salutem in Domino Sempiternam.

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“ SCIATIS, virum illustrem, SAMUELEM JOHNSON, in omni humaniorum literarum genere eruditum, omniumque scientiarum comprehensione felicissimum, fcriptis suis, ad popularium mores formandos fummâ verborum elegantia ac fententiarum gravitate compofitis, ita olim inclaruise, ut dignus videretur cui ab Academia fuâ eximia quædam laudis præmia deferentur, quique venerabilem- Magiftrorum Ordinem summa cum dignitate cooptaretur :

« Cùm verò eundem clarisimum virum tot pofteà tantique labores, in patria præfertim linguâ ornandå et stabiliendå feliciter impensi, ita infigniverint, ut it Literarum Republica PRINCEPS jam et PRIMARIUS jure habeatur ; Nos CancelLARIUS, Magistri et Scholares Universitatis Oxoniensis, quò talis viri merita pari bonoris remuneratione exæquentur, et perpetuum fuce fimid laudis, noftræque erga literas propenfiffimæ voluntatis extet monumentum, in folenni Convocatione Doctorum et Magistrorum regentium et non regentium, prædiétum SAMUELEM JOHNSON Doctorem in Jure Civili renunciavimus et constituimus, . eumque virtute præfentis Diplomatis fmgulis juribus, privilegiis et bonoribus, ad iftum gradum quàquà pertinentibus, frui et gaudere jussimus. In cujus rei teftimonium commune Universitatis Oxonienfis figillum præfentibus apponi fecimus.

Datum in Domo nostre Convocationis die tricesimo mensis Martii, Anna Domini Millefimo, feptingentesimo, septuagesimo quinto?..

Extracted from the Convocation Register, Oxford, 1 The original is in my poffeflion,

« Viro

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« Viro reverendo THOMÆ FOTHERGILL, S. T. P. Universitatis Oxoniensis

Vice-Cancellario.

" S. P. D.

" SAM. JOHNSON.

* MULTIS non est opus, ut teftimonium quo, te præfide, Oxonienses nomen meum posteris commendârunt, quali animo acceperim compertum faciam. Nemo fibi placens non lætatur ; nemo fibi non placet, qui vobis, literarum arbitris, placere potuit. Hoc tamen habet incommodi tantum beneficium, quod mihi nunquam pofthàc fine vestræ famæ detrimento vel labi liceat vel cessare ; femperque fit timendum, ne quod mihi tam eximiæ laudi est, vobis aliquando fiat opprobrio. Vale 8.

7. Id. Apr. 1775."

He revised some sheets of Lord Hailes's “Annals of Scotland,” and wrote a few notes on the margin with red ink, which he bade me tell his Lordship did not sink into the paper, and might be wiped off with a wet sponge, so that he did not spoil his manuscript. I told him there were very few of his friends so accurate as that I could venture to put down in writing what they told me as his sayings. Johnson. “Why should you write down my sayings?” Boswell. “ I write them when they are good.” Johnson. “ Nay, you may as well write down the sayings of any one else that are good.” But where, I might with great propriety have added, can I find such?

I visited him by appointment in the evening, and we drank tea with Mrs. Williams. He told me that he had been in the company of a gentleman whose extraordinary travels had been much the subject of conversation. But I found that he had not listened to him with that full confidence, without which there is little satisfaction in the society of travellers. I was curious to hear what opinion so able a judge as Johnson had formed of his abilities, and I asked if he was not a man of sense. Johnson. “Why, Sir, he is not a diftinct relater; and I should say, he is neither abounding nor deficient in sense. I did not perceive any superiority of understanding.” Boswell. “But will you not allow him a nobleness of resolution, in penetrating into distant regions?”

8 " The original is in the hands of Dr. Fothergill, then Vice-Chancellor, who made this transcript.

• T. WARTON."

JOHNSON.

1775:

Ætat. 66.

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Johnson. “ That, Sir, is not to the present purpose: we are talking of his
sense. A fighting cock has a nobleness of resolution.”

Next day, Sunday, April 2, 1 dined with him at Mr. Hoole's. We talked
of Pope. Johnson.“ He wrote his 'Dunciad” for fame. That was his primary
motive. Had it not been for that, the dunces might have railed against him
till they were weary, without his troubling himself about them. He delighted
to vex them, no doubt; but he had more delight in seeing how well he could
vex them.”

The “Odes to Obscurity and Oblivion,” in ridicule of “ cool Mason and warm Gray,” being mentioned, Johnson said, “ They are Colman's best things.” Upon its being observed that it was believed these Odes were made by Colman and Lloyd jointly ;-Johnson. “ Nay, Sir, how can two people make an Ode ? Perhaps one made one of them, and one the other.” I observed that two people had made a play, and quoted the anecdote of Beaumont and Fletcher, who were brought under fufpicion of treason, because while concerting the plan of a tragedy when fitting together at a tavern, one of them was overheard saying to the other, “I'll kill the King.' Johnson. “ The first of these Odes is the best : but they are both good. They exposed a very bad kind of writing.” Boswell. “Surely, Sir, Mr. Mason's “Elfrida” . is a fine poem : at least you will allow there are some good passages in it." Johnson. “ There are now and then some good imitations of Milton s bad manner.”

I often wondered at his low estimation of the writings of Gray and Mason. Of Gray's poetry I have, in a former part of this work; expressed my high opinion; and for that of Mr. Mason I have ever entertained a warm admiration. His “ Elfrida” is exquisite, both in poetical description and moral sentiment; and his “Caractacus” is a noble drama. Nor can I omit paying my tribute of praise to some of his finaller poems which I have read with pleasure, and which no criticism shall persuade me not to like.. If I wondered at Johnson's not tasting the works of Mason and Gray, ftill more have I wondered at their not tasting his works; that they should be insensible to his energy of dićtion, to his splendour of images, and comprehension of thought. Tastes may differ as to the violin, the Aute, the hautboy, in short, all the lesser instruments: but who can be insensible to the powerful impressions of the majestick organ?

His “ Taxation no Tyranny” being mentioned, he said, “ I think I have not been attacked enough for it. Attack is the re-action. I never think I

have

1775. have hit hard, unless it rebounds.” Boswell. “ I don't know, Sir, what you Atat. 66. would be at.

Five or six shots of small arms in every newspaper, and repeated cannon'ading in pamphlets, might, I think satisfy you. But, Sir, you'll never make out this match, of which we have talked, with a certain political lady, since you are so severe against her principles.” Johnson. “ Nay, Sir, I have the better chance for that. She is like the Amazons of old; she must be courted by the sword. But I have not been severe

upon

her.” BosWELL. Yes, Sir, you have made her ridiculous.” Johnson. “ That was already done, Sir. To endeavour to make her ridiculous, is like blacking the chimney.” I put

him in mind that the landlord at Ellon in Scotland said, that he heard he was the greatest man in England, -next to Lord Mansfield. Sir, (said he,) the exception defined the idea. A Scotchman could go no farther :

“ The force of Nature could no farther go."

“ Aye,

Lady Miller's collection of verses by fashionable people, which were put into her Vase at Batheaston villa, near Bath, in competition for honorary prizes, being mentioned, he held them very cheap: Bouts rimés (said he,) is a mere conceit, and an old conceit now ; I wonder how people were persuaded to write in that manner for this lady.” I named a gentleman of his acquaintance, who wrote for the Vase. JOHNSON. “ He was a blockhead for his pains.” Boswell. “ The Duchess of Northumberland wrote.” Johnson. “ Sir, the Duchess of Northumberland may do what she pleases: nobody will say any thing to a lady of her high rank. But I should be apt to throw ******'s verses in his face.”

I talked of the cheerfulness of Fleet-street, owing to the constant quick succession of people which we perceive passing through it. Johnson.

Why, Sir, Fleet-street has a very animated appearance; but I think the full tide of human existence is at Charing-cross.”

He made the common remark on the unhappiness which men who have led a busy life experience, when they retire in expectation of enjoying themselves at ease, and that they generally languish for want of their habitual occupation, and wish to return to it. He mentioned as strong an instance of this as can well be imagined. “ An eminent tallow-chandler in London, who had acquired a considerable fortune, gave up the trade in favour of his foreman, and went to live at a country-house near town. He soon grew weary, and paid frequent visits to his old shop, where he desired they might let him know

their melting-days, and he would come and assist them ; which he accordingly 1775. did. Here, Sir, was a man, to whom the most disgusting circumstance in Ætat. 66. the business to which he had been used, was a relief from idleness.”

On Wednesday, April 5, I dined with him at Messieurs Dillys, with Mr. John Scott of Amwell, the Quaker, Mr. Langton, Mr. Miller, (now Sir John,) and Dr. Thomas Campbell, an Irish clergyman, whom I took the liberty of inviting to Messieurs Dillys' table, having seen him at Mr. Thrale's, and been told that he had come to England chiefly with a view to see Dr. Johnson, for whom he entertained the highest veneration. He has since published “ A philosophical Survey of the South of Ireland,” a very entertaining book, which has, however, one fault ;--that it assumes the fictitious character of an Englislmnan.

We talked of publick speaking.-JOHNSON. “ We must not estimate a man's powers by his being able or not able to deliver his sentiments in publick. Isaac Hawkins Browne, one of the first wits of this country, got into parliament, and never opened his mouth. For my own part, I think it is more disgraceful never to try to speak, than to try it and fail; as it is more disgraceful not to fight, than to fight and be beaten.” This argument appeared to me fallacious; for if a man has not spoken, it may be said that he would have done very well if he had tried; whereas, if he has tried and failed, there is nothing to be said for him. “ Why then, (I asked,) is it thought disgraceful for a man not to fight, and not disgraceful not to speak in publick?” Johnson. “Because there may

be other reasons for a man's not speaking in publick than want of resolution: he may have nothing to say, (laughing). Whereas, Sir, you know courage is reckoned the greatest of all virtues; because, unless a man has that virtue, he has no security for preserving any other.”

He observed, that “the statutes against bribery were intended to prevent upstarts with money from getting into parliament;” adding, that “ if he were a gentleman of landed property, he would turn out all his tenants who did not vote for the candidate whom he supported.” Langton. “Would not that, Sir, be checking the freedom of election ?” Johnson. “ Sir, the law does not mean that the privilege of voting should be independent of old family interest; of the permanent property of the country.”

On Thursday, April 6, I dined with him at Mr. Thomas Davies's, with Mr. Hicky the painter, and my old acquaintance Mr. Moody the player.

Dr. Johnson, as usual, spoke contemptuously of Colley Cibber. “It is wonderful that a man, who for forty years had lived with the great and the witty, hould have acquired fo ill the talents of conversation : and he had but half to PPP

furnish;

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