Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

reflection unworthy of him, and I shot my bolt. In return he gave me a tender hug. Con amore he also said of me. The dog is a Whig.” I admired the virtues of Lord Russell, and pitied his fall. I should have been a Whig at the Revolution. There have been periods since, in which I should have been, what I now am, a moderate Tory, a supporter, as far as my little influence extends, of a well-poised balance between the crown and people : but should the scale preponderate against the Salus populi, that moment may it be said ' The dog's a Whig!""

We had a calm after the storm, staid the evening and supped, and were pleasant and gay. But Dr. Percy told me he was very uneasy at what had passed : for there was a gentleman there who was acquainted with the Northumberland family, to whom he hoped to have appeared more respectable, by showing how intimate he was with Dr. Johnson, and who might now, on the contrary, go away with an opinion to his disadvantage. He begged I would mention this to Dr. Johnson, which I afterwards did. His observation upon it was, “This comes of stratagem ; had he told me that he wished to appear to advantage before that gentleman, he should have been at the top of the house all the time.” He spoke of Dr. Percy in the handsomest manner. “Then, Sir,” said I “may I be allowed to suggest a mode by which you may effectually counteract any unfavourable report of what passed. I will write a letter to you upon the subject of the unlucky contest of that day, and you will be kind enough to put in writing, as an answer to that letter, what you have now said ; and as Lord Percy is to dine with us at General Paoli's soon, I will take an opportunity to read the correspondence in his Lordship's presence.” This friendly scheme was accordingly carried into execution without Dr. Percy's knowledge. Johnson's letter placed Dr. Percy's unquestionable merit in the fairest point of view : and I contrived that Lord Percy should hear the correspondence, by introducing it at General Paoli's, as an instance of Dr. Johnson's kind disposition towards one in whom his Lordship was interested. Thus every unfavourable impression was obviated, that could have possibly been made on those by whom he wished most to be regarded. I breakfasted the day after with him, and informed him of my scheme, and its happy completion, for which he thanked me in the warmest terms, and was highly delighted with Dr. Johnson's letter in his praise, of which I gave him a copy. He said, “I would rather have this than degrees from all the universities in Europe. It will be for me, and my children, and grand-children.” Dr. Johnson having afterwards asked me if I had given him a copy of it, and being told I had, was offended, and insisted that I should get it back, which I did. As, however, he did not desire me to destroy either the original or the copy, or forbid me to let it be seen, I think myself at liberty to apply to it his general declaration to me concerning his own letters,—“ That he did not choose they should be published in his lifetime ; but had no objection to their appearing after his death.” I shall therefore insert this kindly correspondence, having faithfully narrated the circumstances accompanying it.

i See Dr. Johnson's “ Journey to the Western Islands," p. 296 :—see his Dictionary, article Oats and my

“Voyage to the Hebrides," first edit.-PENNANT. ? Mr. Boswell's Journal, p. 386.-PENNANT.

3 The illustrious but unfortunate Lord William Russell,-third son of the first Duke of Bedford, who was accused, by the partisans of the Court, in the reign of Charles II., of being engaged in the “Rye House Plot."

TO DR. SAMUEL JOHNSON, “ MY DEAR SIR, “I beg leave to address you in behalf of our friend Dr. Percy, who was much hurt by what you said to him that day we dined at his house ;? when, in the course of the dispute as to Pennant's merit as a traveller, you told Percy that he had the resentment of a narrow mind against Pennant, because he did not find everything in Northumberland. Percy is sensible that you did not mean to injure him ; but he is vexed to think that your behaviour to him on that occasion may be interpreted as a proof that he is despised by you, which I know is not the case. I have told him that the charge of being narrowminded was only as to the particular point in question; and that he had the merit of being a martyr to his noble family.

“Earl Percy is to dine with General Paoli next Friday; and I should be sincerely glad to have it in my power to satisfy his Lordship how well you think of Dr. Percy, who, I find, apprehends that your good opinion of him may be of very essential consequence; and who assures me, that he has the highest respect and the warmest affection for you.

“I have only to add, that my suggesting this occasion for the exercise of your candour and gonerosity, is altogether unknown to Dr. Percy, and proceeds from my good-will towards him, and my persuasion that you will be happy to do him an essential kindness. I am, more and more, my dear Sir,

your most faithful

“ And affectionate humble servant,

“JAMES BOSWELL.

" TO JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ. “SIR,

April 23, 1778. “ The debate between Dr. Percy and me is one of those foolish controversies which begin upon a question of which neither party cares how it is decided, and which is, nevertheless, continued to acrimony, by the vanity with which every man resists confutation. Dr. Percy's warmth proceeded from a cause, which perhaps does him more honour than he could have derived from juster criticism. His abhorrence of Pennant proceeded from his opinion, that Pennant had wantonly and indecently censured his patron. His anger made him resolve that, for having been once wrong, he never should be right. Pennant has much in his notions that I do not like; but still I think him a, very intelligent traveller. If Percy is really offended, I am sorry; for he is a man whom I never knew to offend any one. He is a man very willing to learn, and very able to teach ; a man out of whose company I never go without having learned something. It is sure that he vexes me sometimes, but I am afraid it is by making me feel my own ignorance. So much extension of mind, and so much minute accuracy of inquiry, if you survey your whole circle of acquaintance, you will find so scarce, if you find it at all, that you will value Percy by comparison. Lord Hailes is somewhat like him : but Lord Hailes does not, perhaps, go beyond him in research ; and I do not know that he equals him in elegance. Percy's attention to poetry has given grace and splendour to his studies of antiquity. A mere antiquarian is a rugged being. .

* Sunday, April 12, 1778.-BOSWELL.

Upon the whole, you see that what I might say in sport or petulance to him, is very consistent with full conviction of his merit. I am, dear Sir,

“Your most, &c.,

“ SAM. JOHNSON."

TO THE REVEREND DR. PERCY, NORTHUMBERLAND HOUSE. “DEAR SIR,

South Audley-street, April 25. “I wrote to Dr. Johnson on the subject of the Pennantian controversy ; and have received from him an answer which will delight you. I read it yesterday to Dr. Robertson, at the exhibition; and at dinner to Lord Percy, General Oglethorpe, &c., who dined with us at General Paoli's; who was also a witness to the high testimony to your honour.“

General Paoli desires the favour of your company next Tuesday to dinner, to meet Dr. Johnson. If I can, I will call on you to-day. I am, with sincere regard,

“Your most obedient humble servant,

“ JAMES BOSWELL.1

i Though the Bishop of Dromore kindly answered the letters which I wrote to him relative to Dr. Johnson's early history: yet, in justice to him, I think it proper to add that the account of the foregoing conversation, and the subsequent transaction, as well as of some other conversations in which he is mentioned, has been given to the public without previous communication with his Lordship.-BOSWELL.

[graphic][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

DINNER AT LANGTON S - CHAPTER CONCERNING SNAKES — SOAME JEXYNS-STYLES OF

DIFFERENT PAINTERS—MR. TOPHAM BEAUCLERK — LUXURY--ON GOVERNMENTS-MACCARONIC VERSES—MR. ORME'S ADMIRATION OF JOHNSON-COOKERY_“ THE DUKE OF BERWICK'S MEMOIRS "-LIBERTY AND RESTRAINTS OF THE SEXES-DEGREES OF HarPINESS-SOANE JENYNS'S "INTERNAL EVIDENCE"-AMERICA-EDWARDS ON GRACE-FREE WILL–MANDEVILLE-VICE AND VIRTUE-HANNAH MORE-PROSECUTION OF MURRAY, THE BOOKSELLER_ON DEATH AND ANNIHILATION - WESLEY'S GHOST STORY–MRB. KNOWLES — JANE HARRY, AND HER CONVERSION TO QUAKERISM - GOOD FRIDAYHOUSEHOLD MISMANAGEMENT-WORKS ON TRAVELS-FLEET-STREET.

ON
Monday, April 13, I dined with Johnson at Mr. Langton's, where

were Dr. Porteus, then bishop of Chester, now of London, and Dr. Stinton. He was at first in a very silent mood. Before dinner he said nothing but “Pretty baby,” to one of the children. Langton said very well to me afterwards, that he could repeat Johnson's conversation before dinner, as Johnson had said that he could repeat a complete chapter of “The Natural History of Iceland,” from the Danish of Horrebow, the whole of which was exactly thus :

“CHAP. LXXII. Concerning Snakes. « There are no snakes to be met with throughout the whole island.”

At dinner we talked of another mode in the newspapers of giving modern characters in sentences from the classics, and of the passage

“Parcus deorum cultor et infrequens,

Insanientis dum sapientiæ

Consultus erro, nunc retrorsum

Vela dare, atque iterare cursus

Cogor relictos_” 1 being well applied to Soame Jenyns ;? who, after having wandered in the wilds of infidelity, had returned to the Christian faith. Mr. Langton asked Johnson as to the propriety of sapientiæ consultus. JOHNSON : “Though consultus was primarily an adjective, like amicus it came to be used as a substantive. So we have juris consultus, a consult in law.”

We talked of the styles of different painters, and how certainly a connoisseur could distinguish them. I asked if there was as clear a difference of styles in language as in painting, or even as in handwriting, so that the composition of every individual may be distinguished ? JOHNSON : “Yes. Those who have a style of eminent excellence, such as Dryden and Milton, can always be distinguished.” I had no doubt of this ; but what I wanted to know was, whether there was really a peculiar style to every man whatever, as there is certainly a peculiar hand-writing, a peculiar countenance, not widely different in many, yet always enough to be distinctive :

facies non omnibus una, Nec diversa tamen." 3

66

The Bishop thought not; and said, he supposed that many pieces in Dodsley's collection of poems, though all very pretty, had nothing appropriated in their style, and in that particular could not be at all dis. tinguished. JOHNSON : Why, Sir, I think every man whatever has a peculiar style, which may be discovered by nice examination and comparison with others : but a man must write a great deal to make his style obviously discernible. As logicians say, this appropriation of style is infinite in potestate, limited in actu.

Mr. Topham Beauclerk came in the evening, and he and Dr. Johnson and I stayed to supper. It was mentioned that Dr. Dodd had once wished to be a member of the LITERARY CLUB. JOHNSON : “I should be sorry if any of our club were hanged. I will not say but some of them deserve it." BEAUCLERK (supposing this to be aimed at persons for whom he had at that time a wonderful fancy, which, however, did not last long) was irritated, and eagerly said: “Yon, Sir, have a friend (naming him) who deserves to be hanged; for he speaks behind their backs against those with whom he lives on the best terms, and attacks them in the newspapers. He certainly ought to be kicked.” JOHNSON :

1 Horat. Carm. 1. i. Od. 34. 2 Soame Jenyns was the only son of Sir Roger Jenyns, and M.P. for Cambridgeshire. His principal works are, “A Free Inquiry into the Origin of Evil," and a “ View of the Internal Evidence of the Christian Religion." He was born in 1704, and died in 1787.

Ovid, Met. ii. 13.

3

« AnteriorContinuar »