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sheet of review, is it meant that it shall be all of the writer's own composition ? or are extracts, made from the book reviewed, deducted?” JOHNSON. “No, Sir; it is a sheet, no matter of what.” BOSWELL. “I think that is not reasonable.” JOHNSON. “Yes, Sir, it is. A man will more easily write a sheet all his own, than read an octavo volume to get extracts.” To one of Johnson's wonderful fertility of mind, I believe writing was really easier than reading and extracting; but with ordinary men the case is very different. A great deal, indeed, will depend upon the care and judgment with which extracts are made. I can suppose the operation to be tedious and difficult; but in many instances we must observe crude morsels cut out of books as if at random: and when a large extract is made from one place, it surely may be done with very little trouble. One, however, I must acknowledge, might be led, from the practice of reviewers, to suppose that they take a pleasure in original writing; for we often find, that instead of giving an accurate account of what has been done by the author whose work they are reviewing, which is surely the proper business of a literary journal, they produce some plausible and ingenious conceits of their own, upon the topics which have been discussed.
Upon being told that old Mr. Sheridan, indignant at the neglect of his oratorical plans, had threatened to go to America: JOHNSON. “I hope he will go to America.” BOSWELL. “The Americans don't want oratory.” JOHNSON. “But we can want Sheridan.”
On Monday, April 28, I found him at home in the morning, and Mr. Seward with him. Horace having been mentioned : BOSWELL. “ There is a great deal of thinking in his works. One finds there almost every thing but religion.” SEWARD. “He speaks of his returning to it, in his Ode Parcus Deorum cultor et infrequens." JOHNSON. “ Sir, he was not in earnest; this was merely poetical.” BOSWELL. “There are, I am afraid, many people who have no religion at all.” SEWARD. “ And sensible people, too.” JOHNSON. “Why, Sir, not sensible in that respect. There must be either a natural or a moral stupidity, if one lives in a total neglect of so very important a concern." SEWARD. “I wonder that there should be people without religion.”
JOHNSON. “Sir, you need not wonder at this, when you consider how large a proportion of almost every man's life is passed without thinking of it. I myself was for some years totally regardless of religion. It had dropped out of my mind. It was at an early part of my life. Sickness brought it back, and I hope I have never lost it since.” BOSWELL. “My dear Sir, what a man must you have been without religion! Why you must have gone on drinking, and swearing, and—” JOHNSON (with a smile). “I drank enough, and swore enough, to be sure.” SEWARD. “One should think that sickness and the view of death would make more men religious." JOHNSON. “Sir, they do not know how to go about it: they have not the first notion. A man who has never had religion before, no more grows religious when he is sick, than a man who has never learnt figures can count when he has need of calculation.”
I mentioned a worthy friend of ours, whom we valued much, but observed that he was too ready to introduce religious discourse upon all occasions. JoHNSON. “Why, yes, Sir, he will introduce religious discourse without seeing whether it will end in instruction and improvement, or produce some profane jest. He would introduce it in the company of Wilkes, and twenty more such.”
I mentioned Dr. Johnson's excellent distinction between liberty of conscience and liberty of teaching. JOHNSON. “ Consider, Sir; if you have children whom you wish to educate in the principles of the church of England, and there comes a quaker who tries to pervert them to his principles, you would drive away the quaker. You would not trust to the predomination of right which you believe is in your opinions; you will keep wrong out of their heads. Now the vulgar are the children of the state. If any one attempts to teach them doctrines contrary to what the state approves, the magistrate may and ought to restrain him.” SEWARD. “ Would you restrain private conversation, Sir?” JOHNSON. “Why, Sir, it is difficult to say where private conversation begins, and where it ends. If we three should discuss even the great question concerning the existence of a Supreme Being by ourselves, we should not be restrained;
Mr. Langton.- Croker.
for that would be to put an end to all improvement. But if we should discuss it in the presence of ten boarding-school girls, and as many boys, I think the magistrate would do well to put us in the stocks, to finish the debate there."
Lord Hailes had sent him a present of a curious little printed poem, on repairing the university of Aberdeen, by David Malloch, which he thought would please Johnson, as affording clear evidence that Mallet had appeared even as a literary character by the name of Malloch ; his changing which to one of softer sound had given Johnson occasion to introduce him into his Dictionary, under the article Alias. This piece was, I suppose, one of Mallet's first essays. It is preserved in his works, with several variations. Johnson having read aloud, from the beginning of it, where there were some commonplace assertions as to the superiority of ancient times :-“ How false,” said he, “is all this, to say that in ancient times learning was not a disgrace to a peer, as it is now !' In ancient times a peer was as ignorant as anyone else. He would have been angry to have it thought he could write his name. Men in ancient times dared to stand forth with a degree of ignorance with which nobody would now dare to stand forth. I am always angry when I hear ancient times praised at the expense of modern times. There is now a great deal more learning in the world than there was formerly; for it is universally diffused. You have, perhaps, no man who knows as much Greek and Latin as Bentley; no man who knows as much mathematics as Newton: but you have many more men who know Greek and Latin, and who know mathematics.”
1 Malloch, as Mr. Bindley observes to me, "continued to write his name thus, after he came to London. His verses prefixed to the second edition of Thomson's Winter are so subscribed, and so are his Letters written in London, and published a few years ago in the European Magazine ; but he soon afterwards adopted the alteration to Mallet, for he is so called in the list of subscribers to Savage's Miscellanies, printed in 1726; and thenceforward uniformly Mallet, in all his writings.”— Malone.
A notion has been entertained, that no such exemplification of Alias is to be found in Johnson's Dictionary, and that the whole story was waggishly fabricated by Wilkes in the North Briton. The real fact is, that it is not to be found in the folio or quarto editions, but was added by Johnson in his own octavo abridgment, in 1756.–J. Boswell, jun.
On Thursday, 1st May, I visited him in the evening along with young Mr. Burke. He said, “It is strange that there should be so little reading in the world, and so much writing. People in general do not willingly read, if they can have any thing else to amuse them. There must be an external impulse; emulation, or vanity, or avarice. The progress which the understanding makes through a book has more pain than pleasure in it. Language is scanty and inadequate to express the nice gradations and mixtures of our feelings. No man reads a book of science from pure inclination. The books that we do read with pleasure are light compositions, which contain a quick succession of events. However, I have this year read all Virgil through. I read a book of the Æneid every night, so it was done in twelve nights, and I had a great delight in it. The Georgics did not give me so much pleasure, except the fourth book. The Eclogues I have almost all by heart. I do not think the story of the Æneid interesting. I like the story of the Odyssey much better; and this not on account of the wonderful things which it contains; for there are wonderful things enough in the Æneid ;-the ships of the Trojans turned to sea-nymphs,—the tree at Polydorus's tomb dropping blood. The story of tho Odyssey is interesting, as a great part of it is domestic. It has been said there is pleasure in writing, particularly in writing verses. I allow you may have pleasure from writing after it is over, if you have written well; but you don't go willingly to it again. I know, when I have been writing verses, I have run my finger down the margin, to see how many I had made, and how few I had to make.”
He seemed to be in a very placid humour; and although I have no note of the particulars of young Mr. Burke's conversation, it is but justice to mention in general, that it was such that Dr. Johnson said to me afterwards, “He did very well indeed ; I have a mind to tell his father.” ?
1 Richard Burke died Aug. 2, 1794, in his thirty-fifth year.-Malone.
The fond partiality of his father (for such it must be admitted to have been) for his talents is now well known. Mr. Burke is reported, with a mixture of personal and paternal pride, to have remarked how extraordinary it was that Lord Chatham, Lord Holland, and he should each have had a son so superior to their fathers.-Croker.
TO SIR JOSHUA REYNOLDS.
“May 2, 1783. “Dear Sir,
“ The gentleman who waits on you with this is Mr. Cruikshank, who wishes to succeed his friend Dr. Hunter' as professor of anatomy in the Royal Academy. His qualifications are very generally known, and it adds dignity to the institution that such men are candidates. I am, Sir, &c., “Sam. Johnson."
I have no minute of any interview with Johnson till Thursday, May 15th, when I find what follows: BOSWELL. “I wish much to be in parliament, Sir.” JOHNSON. “ Why, Sir, unless you come resolved to support any administration, you would be the worse for being in parliament, because you would be obliged to live more expensively." BOSWELL.“ Perhaps, Sir, I should be the less happy for being in parliament. I never would sell my vote, and I should be vexed if things went wrong." JOHNSON. “ That's cant, Sir. It would not vex you more in the House than in the gallery: public affairs vex no man.” BOSWELL. “Have not they vexed yourself a little, Sir ? Have not you been vexed by all the turbulence of this reign, and by that absurd vote of the House of Commons, That the influence of the crown has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished'"? Johnson. “ Sir, I have never slept an hour less, nor eat an ounce less meat. I would have knocked the factious dogs on the head, to be sure; but I was not vexed.” BOSWELL. “I declare, Sir, upon my honour, I did imagine I was vexed, and took a pride in it; but it was, perhaps, cant; for I own I neither eat less nor slept less." Johnson. “My dear friend, clear your mind of cant. You may talk as other people do; you may say to a man, 'Sir, I am your humble servant. You are not his
i William Hunter, M.D., the elder brother of the illustrious John Hunter, born at Kilbride, Lanarkshire, May 22, 1718, died in London, March 30, 1783. William Cruikshank, born at Edinburgh, 1745, died in London, 1800; he was most assiduous in his attentions to Johnson in his declining years.-Editor.
? Let it be remembered by those who accuse Dr. Johnson of illibe. rality, that both were Scotchmen.