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Here my friend for once discovered a want of knowledge or forgetfulness; for 1778. Louis the Fourteenth did send an embassy to the King of Siam, and the Abbé Acat. 69. Choisis, who was employed in it, published an account of it in two volumes.
Next day, Thursday, April 30, I found him at home by himself. Johnson.
Well, Sir, Ramsay gave us a splendid dinner, I love Ramsay. You will not find a man in whose conversation there is more instruction, more information, and more elegance, than in Ramsay's.” Boswell.“ What I admire in Ramsay, is his continuing to be so young." Johnson.
Johnson. “ Why yes, Sir, it is to be admired. I value myself upon this, that there is nothing of the old man in my conversation. I am now sixty-eight, and I have no more of it than at twenty-eight.” Boswell. “But, Sir, would not you wish to know old age? He who is never an old man does not know the whole of human life; for old age is one of the divisions of it.” JOHNSON. “Nay, , Sir, what talk is this ? Boswell.“ I mean, Sir, the Sphinx's description of it-morning, noon, and night. I would know night, as well as morning and noon.” Johnson. “ What, Sir, would you know what it is to feel the evils of old age? Would you have the gout? Would you have decrepitude ?”-Seeing him heated, t would not argue any farther ; but I was confident that I was in the right. I would, in due time, be a Neftor, an elder of the people ; and there should be fome difference between the conversation of twenty-eight and sixty-eight. A grave picture should not be gay. There is a serene, solemn, placid old age. Johnson. “ Mrs. Thrale's mother said of me what flattered me much. A clergyman was complaining of want of society in the country where he lived; and said, “They talk of runts ;' (that is, young cows). “Sir, (said Mrs. Salusbury,) Mr. Johnson would learn to talk of runts :' meaning that I was a man who would make the most of my situation, whatever it was.” He added, “ I think myself a very polite man.”
On Saturday, May 2, I dined with him at Sir Joshua Reynolds's, where there was a very large company, and a great deal of conversation ; but owing to some circumstance which I cannot now recollect, I have no record of any part of it, except that there were several people there by no means of the Johnsonian school; so that less attention was paid to him than usual, which put him out of humour; and upon some imaginary offence from me, he attacked me with such rudeness, that I was vexed and angry, because it gave those persons an opportunity of enlarging upon his supposed ferocity, and ill treatment of his best friends. I was so much hurt, and had my pride so much roused, that I kept away from him for a week; and, perhaps,
might have kept away much longer, nay, gone to Scotland without seeing him again, had not we fortunately met and been reconciled. To such unhappy chances are human friendíhips liable.
On Friday, May 8, I dined with him at Mr. Langton's. I was reserved and silent, which I suppose he perceived, and might recollect the cause. After dinner, when Mr. Langton was called out of the room, and we were by ourselves, he drew his chair near to mine, and said, in a tone of conciliating courtesy, “ Well, how have
done?" Boswell. “Sir, you have made me very uneasy by your behaviour to me when we were last at Sir Joshua Reynolds’s. You know, my dear Sir, no man has a greater respect and affection for you, or would sooner go to the end of the world to serve you. Now to treat me so." He insisted that I had interrupted him, which I assured him was not the case; and proceeded, “ But why treat me fo before people who neither love you nor me?” Johnson. “ Well, I am sorry for it. I'll make it up to you twenty different ways, as you please.” Boswell. “I said to-day to Sir Joshua, when he observed that you tossed me sometimes, I don't care how often, or how high he tosses me, when only friends are present, for then I fall upon soft ground: but I do not like falling on stones, which is the case when enemies are present.—1 think this a pretty good image, Sir.” Johnson. “Sir, it is one of the happiest I have ever heard.”
The truth is, there was no venom in the wounds which he inflicted at any time, unless they were irritated by some malignant infusion by other hands. We were instantly as cordial again as ever, and joined in hearty laugh at some ludicrous but innocent peculiarities of one of our friends. Boswell. “ Do you think, Sir, it is always culpable to laugh at a man to his face ?” Johnson.
Why, Sir, that depends upon the man and the thing. If it is a night man, and a night thing, you may; for you take nothing valuable from him.”
” He said, “ I read yesterday Dr. Blair's fermon on Devotion, from the text Cornelius, a devout man.' His doctrine is the best limited, the best expressed: there is the most warmth without fanaticism, the most rational transport. There is one part of it which I disapprove, and I'd have him correct it; which is, that he who does not feel joy in religion is far from the kingdom of heaven.' There are many good men whose fear of God predominates over their love. It may discourage. It was rashly said. A noble sermon it is indeed. I wish Blair would come over to the Church of England.”
When Mr. Langton returned to us, the “flow of talk” went on. An eminent authour being mentioned ;-Johnson. “ He is not a pleasant man. His conversation is neither instructive nor brilliant. He does not talk as if
impelled impelled by any fullness of knowledge or vivacity of imagination. His 1778. conversation is like that of any other sensible man. He talks with no wish Ætat. 69. either to inform or to hear, but only because he thinks it does not become
to sit in a company and say nothing.” Mr. Langton having repeated the anecdote of Addison having distinguished between his powers in conversation and in writing, by saying “ I have only nine-pence in my pocket; but I can draw for a thousand pounds ; " --Johnson. “ He had not that retort ready, Sir; he had prepared it before-hand." LANGTON. (turning to me) « A fine furmise. Set a thief to catch a thief.”
Johnson called the East-Indians barbarians. Boswell. “ You will except the Chinese, Sir?” JOHNSON. “ No, Sir.” Boswell.“ Have they not
“ arts ?” Johnson. “ They have pottery.” Boswell." What do you say to the written characters of their language ?” Johnson. “Sir, they have not an alphabet. They have not been able to form what all other nations have formed. Boswell, “ There is more learning in their language than in any other, from the immense number of their characters.” JOHNSON. “ It is only more difficult from its rudeness; as there is more labour in hewing down a tree with a stone than with an axe."
He said, “ I have been reading Lord Kames's “Sketches of the History of Man.' In treating of severity of punishment, he mentions that of Madame Lapouchin, in Russia, but he does not give it fairly; for I have looked at Chappe D’Auteroche, from whom he has taken it. He stops where it is said that the spectators thought her innocent, and leaves out what follows; that she nevertheless was guilty. Now this is being as culpable as one can conceive, to misrepresent fact in a book, and for what motive? It is like one of those lies which people tell, one cannot see why. The woman's life was spared ; and no punishment is too great for the favourite of an Empress who had conspired to dethrone her mistress. Boswell. “He was only giving a picture of the lady in her sufferings.” Johnson. “ Nay, don't endeavour to palliate this. Guilt is a principal feature in the picture. Kames is puzzled with a question that puzzled me when I was a very young man. Why is it that the interest of money is lower, when money is plentiful ; for five pounds has the same proportion of value to a hundred pounds when money is plentiful, as when it is scarce ? A lady explained it to me.
. It is (faid she) because when money is plentiful there are so many more who have money to lend, that they bid down one another. Many have then a hundred pounds; and one says, Take mine rather than another's, and you shall have it at
; four per cent.” Boswell.“ Docs Lord Kames decide the question?” Johnson. Vol. II. LI
« I think
1778. « I think he leaves it as he found it.” Boswell. “This must have been
an extraordinary lady who instructed you, Sir. May I ask who she was ?" Ætat. 69.
Johnson. “ Molly Alon', Sir, the fifter of those ladies with whom you dined at Lichfield. I shall be at home to-morrow.” Boswell. “Then let us dine by ourselves at the Mitre, to keep up the old custom, the custom of the Manor,' the custom of the mitre.” Johnson. “ Sir, so it shall be."
On Saturday, May 9, we fulfilled our purpose of dining by ourselves at the Mitre, according to old custom. There was, on these occasions, a little circumstance of kind attention to Mrs. Williains, which must not be omitted. Before coming out, and leaving her to dine alone, he gave her her choice of a chicken, a sweetbread, or any other little nice thing, which was carefully sent to her from the tavern, ready drest.
Our conversation to-day, I know not how, turned, (I think for the only time at any length, during our long acquaintance,) upon the sensual intercourse between the fexes, the delight of which he ascribed chiefly to imagination. “Were it
« not for imagination, Sir, (said he,) a man would be as happy in the arms of a chambermaid as of a Duchess. But such is the adventitious charm of fancy, that we find men who have violated the best principles of society, and ruined their fame and their fortune, that they might posless a woman of rank.” It would not be proper to record the particulars of such a conversation in moments of unreserved frankness, when nobody was present on whom it could have any hurtful effect. That subject, when philosophically treated, may surely employ the mind in as curious discusion, and as innocently as anatomy; provided that those who do treat it keep clear of inflammatory incentives.
“ From grave to gay, from lively to severe,”-we were soon engaged in very different speculation ; humbly and reverently considering and wondering at the universal mystery of all things, as our imperfect faculties can now judge of them. “ There are (said he) innumerable questions to which the inquisitive mind can in this state receive no answer : Why do you and I exist ? Why was this world created ? Since it was to be created, why was it not created fooner?”
* Johnson had an extraordinary admiration of this lady, netwithstanding she was a violent Whig. In answer to her high-flown speeches for Liberty, he addressed to her the following Epigram, of which I presume to offer a translation :
“ Liber ut effe velim fuafifi pulchra Maria,
On Sunday, May 10, I supped with him at Mr. Hoole’s, with Sir Joshua 1778. Reynolds. I have neglected the memorial of this evening, so as to remember Ærat. To no more of it than two particulars ; one, that he strenuously opposed an argument by Sir Joshua, that virtue was preferable to vice, considering this life only; and that a man would be virtuous were it only to preserve his character : and, that he expressed much wonder at the curious formation of the bat, a mouse with wings; saying, that “it was almost as strange a thing in physiology, as if the fabulous dragon could be seen.”
On Tuesday, May 12, I waited on the Earl of Marchmont, to know if his Lordship would favour Dr. Johnson with information concerning Pope, whose Life he was about to write. Johnson had not flattered himself with the hopes of receiving any civility from this nobleman; for he said to me, when I mentioned Lord Marchmont as one who could tell him a great deal about Pope, “Sir, he will tell me nothing.” I had the honour of being known to his Lordship, and applied to him of myself, without being commissioned by Johnson. His Lordship behaved in the most polite and obliging manner, promised to tell all he recollected about Pope, and was so very courteous as to say, “Tell Dr. Johnson I have a great respect for him, and am ready to shew it in any way I can. I am to be in the city to-morrow, and will call at his house as I return." His Lordship however asked, “ Will he write the Lives of the Poets impartially? He was the first that brought Whig and Tory into a Dictionary. And what do you think of his definition of Excise ? Do you know the history of his aversion to the word transpire?” Then taking down the folio Dictionary, he shewed it with this censure on its secondary sense: “ To escape from secrefy to notice ; a sense lately innovated from France, without necessity.” The truth was, Lord Bolingbroke, who left the Jacobites, first used it; therefore, it was to be condemned. He should have shewn what word would do for it, if it was unnecessary.” I afterwards put the question to Johnson: “Why, Sir, (said he,) get abroad.” Boswell. “ That, Sir, is using two words.” Johnson. “ Sir, there's no end of this. You may as well insist to have a word for old age.” Boswell. “ Well, Sir,
a Senectus.” Johnson. “ Nay, Sir, to insist always that there should be one word to express a thing in English, because there is one in another language, is to change the language.”
I availed myself of this opportunity to hear from his Lordship many particulars both of Pope and Lord Bolingbroke, which I have in writing.
I proposed to Lord Marchmont that he should revise Johnson's Life of