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1778. pendent of serious fears as to futurity. A reverend friend of ours (naming Alcat. 69. him) iells me, that he feels an uneasiness at the thoughts of leaving his house
, , his study, his books.” Johnson. “ This is foolish in *****. A man need not be uneasy on these grounds; for, as he will retain his consciousness, he may say with the philosopher, Omnia mea mecum porto." Boswell. “ True, Sir: we may carry our books in our head; but still there is something painful in the thought of leaving for ever what has given us pleasure. I remember many years ago, when my imagination was warm, and I happened to be in a melancholy mood, it distressed me to think of going into a state of being in which Shakspeare's poetry did not exist. A lady whom I then much admired, a very amiable woman, hunoured my fancy, and relieved me by saying, · The first thing you will meet in the other world, will be an elegant copy of Shakspeare's works presented to you.” Dr. Johnson smiled benignantly at this, and did not appear to disapprove of the notion.
We went to St. Clement's church again in the afternoon, and then returned and drank tea and coffee in Mrs. Williams's room ; Mrs. Desmoulins doing the honours of the tea-table. I observed that he would not even look at a proof-sheet of his “ Life of Waller” on Good-Friday.
Mr. Allen, the printer, brought a book on agriculture, which was printed, and was soon to be published. It was a very strange performance, the authour having mixed in it his own thoughts upon various topicks, along with his remarks on ploughing, fowing, and other farming operations. Hc seemed to be an absurd profane fellow, and had introduced in his book many fneers at religion, with equal ignorance and conceit. Dr. Johnson permitted me to read some passages aloud. One was, that he resolved to work on Sunday, and did work, but he owned he felt fome weak compunction; and he had this very curious reflection :-" I was born in the wilds of Christi.. anity, and the briars and thorns still hang about me." Dr. Johnson could not help laughing at this ridiculous image, yet was very angry at the fellow's impiety. “ However, (said he,) the Reviewers will make him hang himself.” He however observed, “ that formerly there might have been a dispensation obtained for working on Sunday in the time of harvest.” Indeed in ritual observances, were all the ministers of religion what they should be, and what many of them are, such a power might be wisely and safely lodged with the Church.
On Saturday, April 14, I drank tea with him. He praised the late Mr. Duncombe, of Canterbury, as a pleafing man. « He used to come to me : I did not seek much after him. Indeed I never fought much after any body
.” Boswell. “Lord Orrery, I suppose.” JOHNSON. “ No, Sir, I never went
to him but when he sent for me.” Boswell. « Richardson ?” Johnson.
Yes, Sir. But I sought after George Pfalmanazar the most. I used to go and sit with him at an alehouse in the city.”
I am happy to mention another instance which I discovered of his seeking after a man of merit. Soon after the Honourable Daines Barrington had published his excellent “ Observations on the Statutes,” Johnson waited on that worthy and learned gentleman; and, having told him his name, courteously said, “I have read your book, Sir, with great pleasure, and wish to be better known to you.” Thus began an acquaintance, which was continued with mutual regard as long as Johnson lived.
Talking of a recent seditious delinquent, he said, “They should set him in the pillory, that he may be punished in a way that would disgrace him.” I observed, that the pillory does not always disgrace. And I mentioned an instance of a gentleman who I thought was not dishonoured by it. JOHNSON.
Aye, but he was, Sir. He could not mouth and strut as he used to do, after having been there. People are not very willing to ask a man to their tables who has stood in the pillory.”
The gentleman who had dined with us at Dr. Percy's ? came in. Johnson
He shewed me to-night his drawing-room, very genteelly fitted up; and
3 See p. 217 of this Volume,
1778. will creep out.” BOSWELL: “ She has a little both of the insolence of Ætat. 69. wealth, and the conceit of parts.” Johnson. “ The infolence of wealth is a
wretched thing; but the conceit of parts has some foundation. To be sure
Boswell. “ Yourself, Sir.”
We talked of the numbers of people that sometimes have composed the household of families. I mentioned that there were a hundred in the family of the present Earl of Eglintoune's father. Dr. Johnson seeming to doubt it, I began to enumerate. “ Let us see: my Lord and my lady two.” Johnson. "
Nay, Sir, if you are to count by twos, you may be long enough.” Boswell. “ Well, but now I add two sons and seven daughters, and a servant for each, that will make twenty ; so we have the fifth part already.” Johnson. “ Very true. You get at twenty pretty readily ; but you will not so easily get further on. We grow to five feet pretty readily; but it is not so easy to grow to seven.”
On Sunday, April 19, being Easter-day, after the folemnities of the festival in St. Paul's church, I visited him, but could not stay to dinner. I expressed a wish to have the arguments for Christianity always in readiness, that my religious faith might be as firm and clear as any proposition whatever, so that I need not be under the least uneasiness when it should be attacked. Johnson. “Sir, you cannot answer all objections. You have demonstration for a First Cause : you see he must be good as well as powerful, because there is nothing to make him otherwise, and goodness of itself is preferable. Yet you have against this, what is very certain, the unhappiness of human life. This, however, gives us reason to hope for a future state of compensation, that there may be a perfect system. But of that we were not sure till we had a positive revelation.” I told him, that his “ Rasselas” had often made me unhappy; for it represented the misery of human life so well, and so convincingly to a thinking mind, that if at any time the impression wore off, and I felt myself easy, I began to suspect some delusion. On Monday, April 20, I found him at home in the morning. We talked
gentleman who we apprehended was gradually involving his circumstances by bad management. JOHNSON. “ Wasting a fortune is evaporation
Johnson by a thousand imperceptible means. If it were a stream, they'd stop it. You must speak to him. It is really miserable. Were he a gamester, it could be said he had hopes of winning. Were he a bankrupt in trade, he
a might have grown rich; but he has neither spirit to spend, nor resolution to
spare. He does not spend fast enough to have pleasure from it. He has
On Saturday, April 25, I dined with him at Sir Joshua Reynolds's, with
He proceeded :-" Demosthenes Taylor, as he was called, (that is, the translator of Demosthenes,) was the most silent man, the merest statue of a man that I have ever seen. I once dined in company with him, and all he said during the whole time was no more than Richard. How a man should say only Richard, it is not easy to imagine. But it was thus: Dr. Douglas was talking of Dr. Zachary Grey, and ascribing to him something that was written by Dr. Richard Grey. So to correct him, Taylor said, (imitating his affected sententious emphasis and nod,) Richard."
Mrs. Cholmondeley, in a high flow of spirits, exhibited some lively failies of hyperbolical compliment to Johnson, with whom she had been long acquainted, and was very easy. He was quick in catching the manner of the moment, and answered her somewhat in the style of the hero of a romance, “Madam, you crown me with unfading laurels.
I happened, I know not how, to say that a pamphlet meant a prose piece. Johnson. “ No, Sir. A few sheets of poetry unbound are a pamphlet, as much as a few sheets of profe.” MUSGRAVE. “A pamphlet may be understood to mean a poetical piece, in Westminster-Hall, that is in formal language ; but in common language it is understood to mean prose.” Johnson. (and here was one of the many instances of his knowing clearly 1 i 2
and telling exactly how a thing is) “A pamphlet is understood in common language to mean prose, only from this, that there is so much more profe written than poetry; as when we say a book, prose is understood for the same reason, though a book may as well be in poetry as in prose. We understand what is most general, and we name what is less frequent.”
We talked of a certain lady's verses on Ireland. Miss Reynolds. “ Have you seen them, Sir?” Johnson. “ No, Madam. I have seen a transation
, from Horace, by one of her daughters. She shewed it me.” Miss Reynolds. “ And how was it, Sir?” Johnson. “Why very well for a young Miss’s : verses ;--that is to say, compared with excellence, nothing; but, very well, for the person who wrote them. I am vexed at being shewn verses in that. manner.” Miss Reynolds.“ But if they should be good, why not give them hearty praise?” Johnson. “ Why, Madam, because I have not then. . got the better of my bad humour from having been shewn them. You. must consider, Madam; before-hand 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 is not true.” Boswell. “A man often shews 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, a commendation, of which he may afterwards avail himself.” Johnson. “ Very true, Sir. Therefore
. a man, who is asked by an authour 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 be considered as his opinion ; yet he has said it, and cannot retract it; and this authour, when mankind are hunting hiin with a cannister 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 fay, 'Had it not been for you, I should have had the money.? Now you cannot be sure; for you have only your own opinion, and the publick may think very differently.” Sir Joshua Reynolds. “ You must upon such an occasion have two judgements; one as to the real value of the work, the other as to what may please the general taste at 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 His