« PreviousContinue »
figure which hung in the room, and pointed out the elegant contour of the bosom, with the finger of an arch connoisseur. He afterwards, in a conversation with me, waggishly insisted, that all the time Johnson showed visible signs of a fervent admiration of the corresponding charms of the fair Quaker.
This record, though by no means so perfect as I could wish, will serve to give a notion of a very curious interview, which was not only pleasing at the time, but had the agreeable and benignant effect of reconciling any animosity, and sweetening any acidity, which in the various bustle of political contest, had been produced in the minds of two men, who though widely different had so many things in common -classical learning, modern literature, wit and humour, and ready repartee-that it would have been much to be regretted, if they had been for ever at a distance from each other.
Mr. Burke gave me much credit for this successful negociation; and pleasantly said, "that there was nothing equal to it in the whole history of the Corps Diplomatique."
I attended Dr. Johnson home, and had the satisfaction to hear him tell Mrs. Williams how much he had been pleased with Mr. Wilkes's company, and what an agreeable day he had passed.
I talked a good deal to him of the celebrated Margaret Caroline Rudd, whom I had visited, induced by the fame of her talents, address, and irresistible power of fascination. To a lady who disapproved of my visiting her, he said, on a former occasion, "Nay, Madam, Boswell is in the right; I should have visited her myself, were it not that they have now a trick of putting every thing into the newspapers." This evening, he exclaimed, "I envy him his acquaintance with Mrs. Rudd."
I mentioned a scheme which I had of making a tour to the Isle of Man, and giving a full account of it; and that Mr. Burke had playfully suggested as a motto,
"The proper study of mankind is MAN."
JOHNSON: "Sir, you will get more by the book than the jaunt will cost you; so you will have your diversion for nothing, and add to your reputation."
BOSWELL'S DEPARTURE FOR SCOTLAND-CORRESPONDENCE RESPECTING DR. GOLDSMITH'S EPITAPH-A LITERARY ROUND ROBIN-GENERAL CORRESPONDENCE BETWEEN JOHNSON, BOSWELL, SIR JOSHUA REYNOLDS, LEVETT, STEEVENS, AND SIR A. DICK-COUNT MANUCCI -MR. PATERSON-JOHNSON'S SUASORIUM-GRANGER'S BIOGRAPHICAL DICTIONARY MR. LANGTON-DISCORDANCES OF THE BOSWELL FAMILY-DR. BLAIR'S SERMONS-PRAYER FOR EASTER-DAY-STEEVENS-DR. MEMIS'S LAW-SUIT-SIR ALLAN MACLEAN'S SUITSIR A. DICK'S RURAL PURSUITS-SHAW's ERSE GRAMMAR JOHNSON'S REMARKS ON THE ERSE DIALECT-JOHNSON'S ENGAGEMENT TO WRITE THE "LIVES OF THE ENGLISH POETS."
ON the evening of the next day, May 16, I took leave of Johnson, being to set out for Scotland. I thanked him with great warmth for all his kindness. "Sir," said he, "you are very welcome. Nobody repays it with more."
How very false is the notion that has gone round the world, of the rough, and passionate, and harsh manners of this great and good man. That he had occasional sallies of heat of temper, and that he was sometimes, perhaps, too "easily provoked" by absurdity and folly, and sometimes too desirous of triumph in colloquial contest, must be allowed. The quickness both of his perception and sensibility disposed him to sudden explosions of satire; to which his extraordinary readiness
of wit was a strong and almost irresistible incitement. To adopt one of the finest images in Mr. Home's "Douglas,"
"On each glance of thought
Decision followed, as the thunderbolt
I admit that the beadle within him was often so eager to apply the lash, that the judge had not time to consider the case with sufficient deliberation.
That he was occasionally remarkable for violence of temper may be granted: but let us ascertain the degree, and not let it be supposed that he was in a perpetual rage, and pever without a club in his hand to knock down every one who approached him. On the contrary, the truth is, that by much the greatest part of his time he was civil, obliging, nay, polite in the true sense of the word; so much so, that many gentlemen who were long acquainted with him never received, or even heard a strong expression from him.
The following letters concerning an Epitaph which he wrote for the monument of Dr. Goldsmith, in Westminster Abbey, afford at once a proof of his unaffected modesty, his carelessness as to his own writings, and of the great respect which he entertained for the taste and judgment of the excellent and eminent person to whom they are addressed :
"TO SIR JOSHUA REYNOLDS.
May 16, 1776.
"I have been kept away from you, I know not well how, and of those vexatious hinderances I know not when there will be an end. I therefore send
you the poor dear Doctor's epitaph. Read it first yourself; and if you then think it right, show it to the Club. I am, you know, willing to be corrected. If you think anything much amiss, keep it to yourself till we come together. I have sent two copies, but prefer the card. The dates must be settled by Dr. Percy. I am, Sir, your most humble servant, "SAM. JOHNSON."
TO THE SAME.
June 22, 1776.
"SIR, "Miss Reynolds has a mind to send the Epitaph to Dr. Beattie; I am very willing, but having no copy cannot immediately recollect it. She tells me you have lost it. Try to recollect, and put down as much as you retain; you perhaps may have kept what I have dropt. The lines for which I am at a loss are something of rerum civilium sive naturalium. It was a sorry trick to lose it; help me if you can. I am, Sir,
"The gout grows better but slowly."
"Your most humble servant,
1 These words must have been in the other copy They are not in that which was preferred.-BOSWELL.
It was, I think, after I had left London in this year, that this epitaph gave occasion to a Remonstrance to the MONARCH OF LITERATURE, for an account of which I am indebted to Sir William Forbes of Pitsligo.
have the subject more fully and clearly before
my readers them, I shall first insert the epitaph::
Poetæ, Physici, Historici,
Qui nullum fere scribendi genus
Nullum quod tetigit non ornavit :
Affectuum potens at lenis dominator:
Oratione grandis, nitidus, venustus:--
Natus in Hiberniâ Fornia Longfordiensis,
April IV, MDCCLXXIV.2
Sir William Forbes writes to me thus:
"I enclose the Round Robin. This jeu d'esprit took its rise one day at dinner, at our friend Sir Joshua Reynolds's. All the company present, except myself, were friends and acquaintance of
Dr. Goldsmith. The epitaph, written for him by Dr. Johnson, became the subject of conversation, and various emendations were suggested, which it was agreed should be submitted to the Doctor's consideration. But the question was, who should have the courage to propose them to him? At last it was hinted that there could be no way so good as that of a Round Robin, as the sailors call it, which they make use of when they enter into a conspiracy, so as not to let it be known who puts his name first or last to the paper. This proposition was instantly assented to; and Dr. Barnard, Dean of Derry, now Bishop of Killaloe, drew up an address to Dr. Johnson on the occasion, replete with wit and humour, but which it was feared the Doctor might think treated the subject with too much levity. Mr. Burke then proposed the address as it stands in the paper in writing, to which I had the honour to officiate as clerk.
"Sir Joshua agreed to carry it to Dr. Johnson, who received it with much good humour, and desired Sir Joshua to tell the gentlemen, that he would
1 This was a mistake, which was not discovered till after Goldsmith's monument was put in Westminster Abbey. He was born November 29, 1728; and therefore, when he died, he was in his 47th year.-MALONE.
2 Besides this Latin Epitaph, Johnson honoured the memory of his friend Goldsmith with one short one in Greek. See chap. viii., vol. ii.-BoswELL.
3 This prelate, who was afterwards translated to the See of Limerick, died at Wimbledon. in Surrey, June 7, 1806, in his eightieth year. The original Round Robin remained in his possession; the paper, which Sir William Forbes transmitted to Mr. Boswell, being only a copy.-MALONE.
He, however, upon seeing Dr. Warton's name to the suggestion that the Epitaph should be in English, observed to Sir Joshua, "I wonder that Joe Warton, a scholar by profession, should be such a fool." He said, too, "I should have thought Mund Burke would have had more sense." Mr. Langton, who was one of the company at Sir Joshua's, like a sturdy scholar, refused resolutely to sign the Round Robin. The Epitaph is engraved upon Dr. Goldsmith's monument without any alteration. At another time, when somebody endeavoured to argue in favour of its being in English, Johnson said, "The language of the country of which a learned man was a native, is not the language fit for his epitaph, which