Imagens das páginas
[ocr errors]


Madam, beforehand they may be bad, as well as good. Nobody has a right to put another under such a difficulty that he must either hurt the person by telling the truth, or hurt himself by telling what is not true.” BOSWELL: “A man often shows his writings to people of eminence, to obtain from them, either from their good nature, or from their not being able to tell the truth firmly, à commendation, of which he may afterwards avail himself.” JohnSON : “Very true, Sir. Therefore the man who is asked by an author what he thinks of his work is put to the torture, and is not obliged to speak the truth ; so that what he says is not considered as his opinion; yet he has said it, and cannot retract it ; and this author, when mankind are hunting him with a canister at his tail, can say, 'I would not have published had not Johnson, or Reynolds, or Musgrave, or some other good judge, commended the work. Yet I consider it as a very difficult question in conscience, whether one should advise a man not to publish a work, if profit be his object; for the man may say, 'Had it not been for you,

I hould have had the money.' Now you cannot be sure ; for you have only your own opinion, and the public may think very differently." SIR JOSHUA REYNOLDS : “You must, upon such an occasion, have two judgments; one as to the real value of the work, the other as to what may please the general taste of the time.” JOHNSON : “But you can be sure of neither; and therefore I should scruple much to give a suppressive vote. Both Goldsmith's comedies were once refused; his first by Garrick, his second by Colman, who was prevailed on at last, by much solicitation, nay, a kind of force, to bring it on. His Vicar of Wakefield,' I myself did not think would have had much success. It was written and sold to a bookseller, before his Traveller," but published after-so little expectation had the bookseller from it. Had it been sold after 'The Traveller,' he might have had twice as much money for it, though sixty guineas was no mean price. The bookseller had the advantage of Goldsmith's reputation from the 'Traveller' in the sale, though Goldsmith had it not in selling the copy.” SIR JOSHUA REYNOLDS : "The Beggars' Opera' affords a proof how strangely people will differ in opinion about a literary performance. Burke thinks it has no merit.” JOHNSON : “It was refused by one of the houses ; but I should have thought it would succeed, not from any great excellence in the writing, but from the novelty, and the general spirit and


gaiety of the piece, which keeps the audience always attentive, and dismisses them in good humour.”

We went to the drawing-room, where was a considerable increase of company. Several of us got round Johnson, and complained that he would not give us an exact catalogue of his works, that there might be a complete edition. He smiled, and evaded our entreaties. That he intended to do it, I have no doubt, because I have heard him say so; and I have in my possession an imperfect list, fairly written out, which he entitles “ Historia Studiorum.” I once got from one of his friends a. list, which there was pretty good reason to suppose was accurate, for it was written down in his presence by this friend, who enumerated each article aloud, and had some of them mentioned to him by Mr. Levett, in concert with whom it was made out; and Johnson, who heard all this, did not contradict it. But when I showed a copy of this list to him, and mentioned the evidence for its exactness, he laughed, and said, “I was willing to let them go on as they pleased, and never interfered.” Upon which I read to him, article by article, and got him positively to own or refuse ; and then, having obtained certainty so far, I got some other articles confirmed by him directly, and afterwards, from time to time, made additions under his sanction.

His friend, Edward Cave, having been mentioned, he told us, “ Cave used to sell ten thousand of 'The Gentleman's Magazine ;' yet, such was then his minute attention and anxiety that the sale should not suffer the smallest decrease, that he would name a particular person who he heard had talked of leaving off the Magazine, and would say, “Let us have something good next month.'”

It was observed, that avarice was inherent in some dispositions. JOHNSON: “No man was born a miser, because no man was born to possession. Every man is born cupidusdesirous of getting ; but not avarus—desirous of keeping.” BOSWELL: I have heard old Mr. Sheridan maintain, with much ingenuity, that a complete miser is a happy man ; a miser who gives himself wholly to the one passion of saving." JOHNSON : “ That is flying in the face of all the world, who have called an avaricious man a miser, because he is miserable. No, Sir, a man who both spends and saves money is the happiest man, because he has both enjoyments."

The conversation having turned on Bon-mots, he quoted, from one of the Ana, an exquisite instance of flattery in a maid of honour in France, who being asked by the Queen what o'clock it was, answered, “What your Majesty pleases.” He admitted that Mr. Burke's classical pun upon Mr. Wilkes's being carried on the shoulders of the mob

numerisque fertur

Lege solutus," 1 was admirable ; and though he was strangely unwilling to allow to that

i Horat. Carm. iv. od. ii. 11.

extraordinary man the talent of wit, he also laughed with approbation at another of his playful conceits ; which was, that 'Horace has in one line given a description of a good desirable manor :3

* Est modus ir rebus, sunt certi denique fines ; 4 that is to say, a modus as to the tithes. anà certain fines."

He observed, “ A man cannot with propriety speak of kimseif, except he relates simple facts, as, ‘I was at Richmond;' or what depends on mensuration, as, 'I am six feet high.' He is sure he has been at Richmond ; he is sure he is six feet high ; but he cannot be sure he is wise, or that he has any other excellence. Then, all censure of a man's self is oblique praise. It is in order to show how much he can spare. It has all the invidiousness of self-praise, and all the reproach of falsehood.” BOSWELL : “Sometimes it may proceed from a man's strong consciousness of his faults being observed. He knows that others would throw him down, and therefore he had better lie down softly of his own accord.”

2 See this question fully investigated in the Notes upon my “ Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides,” edit. 3, p. 21, et seq. And here, as a lawyer mindful of the maxim Suum cuique tribuito, I cannot forbear to mention, that the additional Note beginning with “I find since the former edition," is not mine, but was obligingly furnished by Mr. Malone, who was so kind as to superintend the press while I was in Scotland, and the first part of the second edition was printing. He would not allow me to ascribe it to its proper author; but, as it is exquisitely acute and elegant, I take this opportunity, without his knowledge, to do him justice.-BOSWELL,

31 Sat. i. 106. 4 This, as both Mr. Bindley and Dr. Kearney have observed to me, is the motto to “ An Enquiry into Customary Estates and Tenants' Rights, &c.—with some considerations for restraining excessive fines." By Everard Fleetwood, Esq., 8v0., 1731. But it is probably a mere coincidence. Mr. Burke perhaps never saw that pamphlet.-MALONE.

[graphic][merged small][merged small]




ON Tuesday, April 28, Johnson was engaged to dine at General Paoli's,

where, as I have already observed, I was still entertained in elegant hospitality, and with all the ease and comfort of a home. I called on him and accompanied him in a hackney-coach. We stopped first at the bottom of Hedge-lane, into which he went to leave a letter,“ with good news for a poor man in distress," as he told me. I did not question him particularly as to this. He himself often resembled Lady Bolingbroke's lively description of Pope, that "he was un politique aux choux, et aux raves." He would say, “ I dine to-day in Grosvenor-square ;" this might be with a duke; or perhaps, “I dine to-day at the other end of the town;" or, “ A gentleman of great eminence called on me yesterday.” He loved thus to keep things floating in conjecture : Omne ignotum pro magnifico est. I believe I ventured to dissipate the cloud, to unveil the mystery, more freely and frequently than any of his friends. We stopped again at Wirgman's, the well-known toy-shop, in St. James's-street, at the corner of St. James's-place, to which he had been directed, but not clearly, for he searched about some time, and could not find it at first, and said, “ To direct one only to a corner shop is toying with one." I suppose he meant this as a play upon the word toy; it was the first time I knew him to stoop to such sport. After he had been sometime in the shop, he sent for me to come out of the coach, and help him to choose a pair of silver buckles, as those he had weré too small. Probably this alteration in dress had been suggested by Mrs. Thrale, by associating with whom his external appearance was much improved. He got better clothes, and the dark our, from which he never deviated, was enlivened by metal buttons. His wigs, too, were much better, and during their travels in France he was furnished with a Paris-made wig, of handsome construction. This choosing of silver buckles was a negotiation. “Sir,” said he, “I will not have the ridiculous large ones now in fashion ; and I will give no more than a guinea for a pair.” Such were the principles of the business ; and, after some examination, he was fitted. As we drove along I found him in a talking humour, of which I availed myself. BOSWELL: “I was this morning in Ridley's shop, Sir; and was told that the collection called 'Johnsoniana' has sold very much.” JOHNSON : “Yet The Journey to the Hebrides' has not had a great sale.”

"1 BOSWELL: “That is strange.” JOHNSON : “Yes, Sir; for in that book I have told the world a great deal that they did not know before."

BOSWELL: “I drank chocolate, Sir, this morning with Mr. Eld ; and, to my no small surprise, found him to be a Staffordshire Whig, a being which I did not believe had existed.” JOHNSON: “Sir, there are rascals in all countries.” BOSWELL : “Eld said, a Tory was a creature generated between a nonjuring parson and one's grandmother.” JOHNSON : “ And I have always said, the first Whig was the Devil.” BOSWELL : He certainly was, Sir. The Devil was impatient of subordination ; he was the first who resisted power :

* Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heaven.'' At General Paoli's were Sir Joshua Reynolds, Mr. Langton, Marchese Gherardi of Lombardy, and Mr. John Spottiswoode the younger, of Spottiswoode, the solicitor. At this time fears of an invasion were circulated ; to obviate which, Mr. Spottiswoode observed, that Mr. Fraser, the engineer, who had lately come from Dunkirk, said that the French had the same fears of us. JOHNSON : “It is thus that mutual cowardice keeps us in peace. Were one-half of mankind brave, and

1 Here he either was mistaken, or had a different notion of an extensive sale from what is generally entertained : for the fact is, that four thousand copies of that excellent work were sold very quickly. A new edition has been printed since his death, besides that in the collection of his works.-BOSWELL.

Another edition has been printed since Mr. Boswell wrote the above, besides repeated editions in the general collection of his works during the last ten years.-MALONE.

2 In the phraseology of Scotland, I should have said, “Mr. John Spottiswoode the younger, of that ilk." Johnson knew that sense of the word very well, and has thus explained it in his Dictionary, voce ILK—"It also signifies the same;' as Mackintosh of that ilk denotes a gentleman whose surname and the title of his estate are the same.”—BOSWELL

« AnteriorContinuar »