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"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 did.' Here, Sir, was a man, to whom the most disgusting circumstance in 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 Englishman.
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
This was Murphy's story originally, who always told it of dripping-night, instead of melting-day.—Mrs. Piozzi, Marginalia.
2 In a letter to Temple Boswell gives a little programme of their enjoyments. "To-day I dine at Sir John Pringle's; to-morrow at Dilly's, with Mr. Johnson and Langton, &c.; Thursday at Tom Davies's, with Mr. Johnson and some others; Friday at the Turk's Head, Gerrard-street, with our club, Sir Joshua Reynolds, &c., who now dine once a month and sup every Friday. My forenoons are spent in visiting, and you know the distances in London makes that business enough." A few days later-after all this dissipation he writes to his friend," I have only to tell you, my divine, that I yesterday received the holy sacrament in St. Paul's, and was
exalted in piety." He had prepared for this rite by a banquet with Wilkes on the Saturday evening.
• Johnson was strictly accurate.
Browne's name is not to be found in the list of Parliamentary speakers. "I had a friend," wrote Johnson to Mrs. Piozzi, "of great eminence in the learned and the witty world, who had hung up some pots on his wall to furnish nests for sparrows. The poor sparrows, not knowing his character, were seduced by the convenience, and I never heard any man speak of any future enjoyment with such contortions of delight as he exhibited when he talked of eating the young ones." On the margin of her copy Mrs. Piozzi writes that this was Hawkins Browne. Sidney Smith's grotesque description of his dancing at the court of Naples will be familiar to the reader.
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, should have acquired so ill the talents of conversation and he had but half to furnish; for one half of what he said was oaths." He, however, allowed considerable merit to some of his comedies, and said there was no reason to believe that "The
'Boswell's report is meagre, but Dr. Campbell jotted down some notes which show that the conversation was interest. ing and characteristic. This proves that Boswell was fitful in his task of reporter, and sometimes allowed as much to escape him as he secured.
"The Doctor when I came in had an answer, titled Taxation and Tyranny, to his last pamphlet in his hand. laughed at it, and said he would read no more of it, for that it paid him compliments, but gave him no information. He asked if there were any more of them. Then Boswell (who understood bis temper well) asked him somewhat, for I was not attending, relative to the provincial assemblies. The Doctor in process of discourse with him, argued with great vehemence that the assemblies were nothing more than our vestries. I asked him was there not this difference, that an act of the assemblies required the
King's assent to pass into a law: his
Careless Husband" was not written by himself. Davies said, he was the first dramatick writer who introduced genteel ladies upon the stage. Johnson refuted this observation by instancing several such characters in comedies before his time. DAVIES. (trying to defend himself from a charge of ignorance,) "I mean genteel moral characters." "I think, (said Hicky,) gentility and morality are inseparable." BOSWELL. “ By no means, Sir. The genteelest
characters are often the most immoral.
Does not Lord Chesterfield give precepts for uniting wickedness and the graces? A man, indeed, is not genteel when he gets drunk; but most vices may be committed very genteely: a man may debauch his friend's wife genteely he may cheat at cards genteely." HICKY. "I do not think that is genteel." BOSWELL. "Sir, it may not be like a gentleman, but it may be genteel." JOHNSON. "You are meaning two different things. One means exteriour grace; the other honour. It is certain, that a man may be very immoral with exteriour grace. Lovelace, in Clarissa,' is a very genteel and a very wicked character. Tom Hervey, who died t'other day, though a vicious man, was one of the genteelest men that ever lived." Tom Davies instanced Charles the Second. JOHNSON. (taking fire at any attack upon this Prince, for whom he had an extraordinary partiality,) "Charles the Second was licentious in his practice; but he always had a reverence for what was good. Charles the Second knew his people, and rewarded merit. The Church was at no time better filled than in his reign. He was the best King we have had from his time till the reign of his present Majesty, except James the Second, who was a very good King, but unhappily believed that it was necessary for the salvation of his subjects that they should be Roman Catholicks. He had the merit of endeavouring to do
rance. Learning was new among them, and he doubted not but they would in time be a learned people, for they were a fine, bold, enterprising people. compared England and Scotland to two lions, the one saturated with his belly full, and the other prowling for prey. But the test he offered to prove, that Scotland, though it had learning enough for common life, yet had not sufficient for the dignity of literature, was that he defied anyone to produce a classical book written in Scotland since Buchanan. Robertson, he said, used pretty words, but he liked Hume better, and neither of them would he allow to be more to Clarendon than a rat to a cat. . . Turning to me, he said, 'You have produced
classical writers and scholars: I don't know,' he says, 'that any man is before Usher as a scholar, unless it may be Selden; and you have a philosopher, Boyle, and you have Swift and Congreve, but the latter,' he says, 'denied you;' and he might have added, the former too. He then added, 'You certainly have a turn for the drama, for you have Southerne and Farquahar, and Congreve, and many living authors and players.' Encouraged by this, I went back to assert the genius of England in old times, and ventured to say that the first professors of Oxford and Paris, &c., were Irish. 'Sir,' says he, 'I believe there is something in what you say. I am content with it, since they are not Scotch.'"
what he thought was for the salvation of the souls of his subjects, till he lost a great empire. We, who thought that we should not be saved if we were Roman Catholicks, had the merit of maintaining our religion, at the expence of submitting ourselves to the government of King William, (for it could not be done otherwise,) -to the government of one of the most worthless scoundrels that ever existed. No; Charles the Second was not such a man as
-,1 (naming another King). He did not destroy his father's will. He took money, indeed, from France: but he did not betray those over whom he ruled: he did not let the French fleet pass ours. George the First knew nothing, and desired to know nothing; did nothing, and desired to do nothing: and the only good thing that is told of him is, that he wished to restore the crown to its hereditary successor." He roared with prodigious violence against George the Second. When he ceased, Moody interjected in an Irish tone, and with a comick look, "Ah! poor George the Second."
I mentioned that Dr. Thomas Campbell had come from Ireland to London, principally to see Dr. Johnson. He seemed angry at this observation. DAVIES." Why, you know, Sir, there came a man from Spain to see Livy; and Corelli came to England to see Purcell, and, when he heard he was dead, went directly back again to Italy." JOHNSON. "I should not have wished to be dead to disappoint Campbell, had he been so foolish as you represent him; but I should have wished to have been a hundred miles off." This was apparently perverse; and I do believe it was not his real way of thinking: he could not but like a man who came so far to see him. He laughed with some complacency, when I told him. Campbell's odd expression to me concerning him: "That having seen such a man, was a thing to talk of a century hence;"—as if he could live so long."
Plin. Epist. Lib. ii. Ep. 3.
vowing that "he would clean shoes for
We got into an argument whether the Judges who went to India might with propriety engage in trade. Johnson warmly maintained that they might. "For why (he urged) should not Judges get riches, as well as those who deserve them less." I said, they should have sufficient salaries, and have nothing to take off their attention from the affairs of the publick. JOHNSON. "No Judge, Sir, can give his whole attention to his office; and it is very proper that he should employ what time he has to himself, for his own advantage, in the most profitable manner." "Then, Sir, (said Davies, who enlivened the dispute by making it somewhat dramatick,) he may become an insurer; and when he is going to the bench, he may be stopped,—' Your Lordship cannot go yet: here is a bunch of invoices: several ships are about to sail.'" JOHNSON. Sir, you may as well say a judge should not have a house; for they may come and tell him, 'Your Lordship's house is on fire;' and so, instead of minding the business of his Court, he is to be occupied in getting the engine with the greatest speed. There is no end of this. Every Judge who has land, trades to a certain extent in corn or in cattle; and in the land itself, undoubtedly. His steward acts for him, and so do clerks for a great merchant. A Judge may be a farmer; but he is not to geld his own pigs. A Judge may play a little at cards for his amusement; but he is not to play at marbles, or at chuck-farthing in the Piazza. No, Sir; there is no profession to which a man gives a very great proportion of his time. It is wonderful when a calculation is made, how little the mind is actually employed in the discharge of any profession. No man would be a Judge, upon the condition of being obliged to be totally a Judge. The best employed lawyer has his mind at work but for a small proportion of his time: a great deal of his occupation is merely mechanical.-I once wrote for a magazine: I made a calculation, that if I should write but a page a day, at the same rate, I should, in ten years, write nine volumes in folio, of an ordinary size and print." BoSWELL. "Such as Carte's History?" JOHNSON. "Yes, Sir. When a man writes from his own mind, he writes very rapidly. The greatest part of a writer's time is spent in reading, in order to write: a man will turn over half a library to make one book."
I argued warmly against the Judges trading, and mentioned Hale as an instance of a perfect Judge, who devoted himself
Johnson certainly did, who had a mind stored with knowledge, and teeming with imagery; but the observation is not applicable to writers in general.