Page images


Ætat, 68.

in the Hebrides he maintained, as appears from my "Journals,” that a man's intimate friend should mention his faults, if he writes his life.

He had this evening, partly, I suppose, from the spirit of contradiction to his Whig friend, a violent argument with Dr. Taylor, as to the inclinations of the people of England at this time towards the Royal Family of Stuart. He grew so outrageous as to say, “ that, if England were fairly polled, the

fo present King would be sent away to-night, and his adherents hanged to-morrow." Taylor, who was as violent a Whig as Johnson was a Tory, was roused by this to a pitch of bellowing. He denied, loudly, what Johnson said ; and maintained, that there was an abhorrence against the Stuart family, though he admitted that the people were not much attached to the present Kingo. Johnson. “ Sir, the state of the country is this: the people knowing it to be agreed on all hands that this King has not the hereditary right to the crown, and there being no hope that he who has it can be restored, have grown cold and indifferent upon the subject of loyalty, and have no warm attachment to any King. They would not, therefore, risk any thing to restore the exiled family. They would not give twenty shillings a piece to bring it about. But, if a

a mere vote could do it, there would be twenty to one; at least, there would be a very great majority of voices for it. For, Sir, you are to consider, that all those who think a King has a right to his crown, as a man has to his estate, which is the just opinion, would be for restoring the King who certainly

, has the hereditary right, could he be trusted with it; in which there would be no danger now, when laws and every thing else are so much advanced ; and every King will govern by the laws. And you must also consider, Sir, that there is nothing on the other side to oppose to this; for it is not alledged by any one that the present family has any inherent right: so that the Whigs could not have a contest between two rights."

Dr. Taylor admitted, that if the question as to hereditary right were to be tried by a poll of the people of England, to be sure the abstract doctrine would be given in favour of the family of Stuart; but he said, the conduct of that family, which occasioned their expulsion, was so fresh in the minds of the people, that they would not vote for a restoration. Dr. Johnson, I think,


S“ Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides, 3d edit. p. 210.

6 Dr. Taylor was very ready to make this admission, because the party with which he was connected was not in power. There was then some truth in it, owing to the pertinacity of faétious clamour. Had he lived till now, it would have been impoffible for him to deny that his Majesty possesses the warmest affection of his people.





was contented with the admission as to the hereditary right, leaving the original Ærat. 68. point in dispute, viz. what the people upon the whole would do, taking in

right and affection; for he said, people were afraid of a change, even when they thought it right. Dr. Taylor said something of the Night foundation of the hereditary right of the house of Stuart. “ Sir, (said Johnson, the house of Stuart fucceeded to the full right of both the houses of York and Lancaster, whose common source had the undisputed right. A right to a throne is like a right to any thing else. Possession is sufficient, where no better right can be shewn. This was the case with the Royal Family of England, as it is now with the King of France: for as to the first beginning of the right, we are in the dark."

Thursday, September 18. Last night Dr. Johnson had proposed that the crystal lustre, or chandelier, in Dr. Taylor's large room, should be lighted up some time or other. Taylor faid, it should be lighted up next night. “ That will do very well, (faid I,) for it is Dr. Johnson's birth-day.” When we were in the Ine of Sky, Johnson had desired me not to mention his birthday. He did not seem pleased at this time that I mentioned it, and said (somewhat sternly) « he would not have the lustre lighted the next night.”

Some ladies, who had been present yesterday when I mentioned his birthday, came to dinner to-day, and plagued him unintentionally, by wishing him joy. I know not why he diniked having his birth-day mentioned, unless it were that it reminded him of his approaching nearer to death, of which he had a constant dread.

I mentioned to him a friend of mine who was formerly gloomy from low spirits, and much distressed by the fear of death, but was now uniformly placid, and contemplated his dissolution without any perturbation. (said Johnson,) this is only a disordered imagination taking a different turn."

We talked of a collection being made of all the English Poets who had published a volume of poems. Johnson told me, “ that a Mr. Coxeter, whom he knew, had gone the greatest length towards this ; having collected, I think, about five hundred volumes of poets whose works were little known, but that upon his death Tom Osborne bought them, and they were dis

persed, which he thought a pity, as it was curious to see any series com<yplete; and in every volume of poems something good may be found.”

” He observed, that a gentleman of eminence in literature had got into a bad style of poetry of late. “ He puts (said he) a very common thing in a strange dress till he does not know it himself, and thinks other people do not

« Sir, know it.” Boswell. “That is owing to his being so much versant in old

1777 English Poetry.” Johnson. “What is that to the purpose, Sir? If I say a Æcat. 68. man is drunk, and you tell me it is owing to his taking inuch drink, the matter is not mended. No, Sir,

has taken to an odd mode. For example; he'd write thus :

· Hermit hoar, in solemn cell,

Wearing out life's evening gray."

Gray evening is common enough; but evening gray he'd think fine.Stay;

we'll make out the stanza:

Hermit hoar, in solemn cell,

Wearing out life's evening gray ; " Smite thy bosom, sage, and tell,

- What is bliss ? and which the way ?”

Boswell. “But why smite his bosom, Sir?” Johnson. “ Why to shew he was in earnest,” (smiling). He at an after period added the following ftanza :

« Thus I spoke; and speaking sigh’d;

“ -Scarce repress’d the starting tear ;« When the smiling sage reply'd

“ —Come, my lad, and drink some beer 7.”

7 As some of my readers may be gratified by reading the precise progress of this little compo. fition, I shall insert it from my notes. “ When Dr. Johnson and I were fitting tête à tête at the Mitre tavern, May 9, 1778, he said, Where is bliss,' would be better. He then added a ludicrous ftanza, but would not repeat it, left I should take it down. It was foniewhat as follows; the last line I am sure I remember:

[blocks in formation]

• The hoary

reply'd, • Come, my lad, and drink some beer.' " In spring, 1779, when in better humour, he made the second stanza, as in the text. There was only one variation afterwards made on my suggestion, which was changing hoary in the third line to fmiling, both to avoid a fámeness with the epithet in the first line, and to describe the hermit in his pleasantry. He was then very well pleased that I should preserve it."


[blocks in formation]


I cannot help thinking the first stanza very good folemn poetry, as also the Ærat. 63. three first lines of the second. Its last line is an excellent burlesque surprize

on gloomy sentimental enquirers. And, perhaps, the advice is as good as can be given to a low-spirited disfatisfied being.--"Don't trouble your head with sickly thinking: take a cup, and be merry.”

Friday, September 19, after breakfast, Dr. Johnson and I set out in Dr. Taylor's chaise to go to Derby. The day was fine, and we resolved to go by Keddlestone, the seat of Lord Scarsdale, that I might see his Lordship's fine house. I was struck with the magnificence of the building; and the extensive park, with the finest verdure, covered with deer, and cattle, and sheep, delighted me. The number of old oaks, of an immense size, filled me with a sort of respectful admiration: for one of them sixty pounds was offered. The excellent smooth gravel roads; the large piece of water formed by his Lordship from some small brooks, with a handsome barge upon it; the venerable Gothick church, now the family chapel, just by the house ; in short, the grand groupe of objects agitated and distended my mind in a most agreeable manner. “ One should think (faid I) that the proprietor of all this must be happy.”—“ Nay, Sir, (said Johnson,) all this excludes but one evil-poverty *.

Our names were sent up, and a well-drest elderly housekeeper, a most diftinct articulator, shewed us the house; which I need not describe, as it is published in “ Adams's Works in Architecture.” Dr. Johnson thought better of it to-day than when he saw it before ; for the other night he attacked it violently, saying, “ It would do excellently for a town hall. The large room with the pillars (said he) would do for the Judges to sit in at the aflizes; the circular room for a jury chamber; and the rooms above for prisoners.” Still he thought the large room ill lighted, and of no use but for dancing in; and the bed-chambers but indifferent rooms; and that the immense fum which it cost was injudiciously laid out. Dr. Taylor had put him in mind of his appearing pleased with the house. “ But (said he) that was when Lord Scarsdale was present. Politeness obliges us to appear pleased with a man's works when he is present. No man will be so ill bred as to question you. You may

therefore pay compliments without saying what is not true. I should

[ocr errors]


• When I mentioned Dr. Johnson's remark to a lady of admirable good sense and quickness of understanding, the observed, " It is true, all this excludes only one evil ; but how much good does it let in "



say to Lord Scarfdale of his large room, "My Lord, this is the most costi; room that I ever saw ;' which is true.”

Ætat, 68. Dr. Manningham, physician in London, who was visiting at Lord Scarsdale's, accompanied us through many of the rooms, and soon afterwards my Lord himself, to whom Dr. Johnson was known, appeared, and did the honours of the house. We talked of Mr. Langton. Johnson, with a warm vehemence of affectionate regard, exclaimed, “ The earth does not bear a worthier man than Bennet Langton.” We saw a good many fine pictures, which I think are described in one of “Young's Tours.” There is a printed catalogue of them which the housekeeper put into my hand; I should like to view them at leisure. I was much struck with Daniel interpreting Nebuchadnezzar's dream by Rembrandt. We were shown a pretty large library. In his Lordship's dressing-room lay Johnson's small Dictionary : he shewed it to me, with some eagerness, saying, “ Look’ye! Que terra nostri non plena laboris.He observed, also, Goldsmith's “ Animated Nature ;” and said, “ Here's our friend! The poor Doctor would have been happy to hear of this.”

In our way, Johnson strongly expressed his love of driving fast in a postchaise. “ If (said he) I had no duties, and no reference to futurity, I would spend my life in driving briskly in a post-chaise with a pretty woman ; but she should be one who could understand me, and would add something to the conversation.” I observed, that we were this day to stop just where the Highland army did in 1745. Johnson. “ It was a noble attempt.” Boswell. “I wish we could have an authentick history of it.” Johnson, “ If your were not an idle dog you might write it, by collecting from every body what they can tell, and putting down your

authorities.” BOSWELL. “But I could not have the advantage of it in my

life-time.” Johnson.
Johnson. “You might

have the satisfaction of its fame, by printing it in Holland; and as to profit,
consider how long it was before writing came to be considered in a pecuniary
view. Baretti says, he is the first man that ever received copy-money in
Italy.” I said, that I would endeavour to do what Dr. Johnson suggested ;
and I thought that I might write so as to venture to publish my “ History of
the Civil War in Great-Britain in 1745 and 1746,” without being obliged to.
go to a foreign press.

[ocr errors]

9 I am now happy to understand, that Mr. John Home, who was himself gallantly in the field: for the reigning family, in that interesting warfare, but is generous enough to do justice to the other side, is preparing an account of it for the press,


« PreviousContinue »