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I staid all this day with him at Streatham. He talked a great deal, in very good humour.
Looking at Messrs. Dillys' splendid edition of Lord Chesterfield's miscellaneous works, he laughed, and said, “Here now are two speeches ascribed to him, both of which were written by me: and the best of it is, they have found out that one is like Demosthenes, and the other like Cicero.”
He centured Lord Kames's “Sketches of the History of Man,” for mifrepresenting Clarendon's account of the appearance of Sir George Villiers'ı ghost, as if Clarendon were weakly credulous; when the truth is, that Clarendon only says, that the story was upon a better foundation of credit, than usually such discourses are founded upon; nay, speaks thus of the person who was reported to have seen the vision, “ the poor man, if he had been at all waking ;"
” which Lord Kames has omitted. He added, “in this book it is maintained that virtue is natural to man, and that if we would but consult our own hearts we should be virtuous. Now after consulting our own hearts all we can, and with all the helps we have, we find how few of us are virtuous. This is saying a thing which all mankind know not to be true.” Boswell. “ Is not modesty natural ?” Johnson. “I cannot say, Sir, as we find no people quite in a state of nature; but I think the more they are taught, the more modest they are. The French are a grofs, ill-bred, untaught people; a lady there will spit on the floor and rub it with her foot. What I gained by being in France was, learning to be better satisfied with my own country. Time may be employed to more advantage from nineteen to twenty-four almost in any way than in travelling; when you set travelling against mere negation, against doing nothing, it is better to be sure ; but how much more would a young man improve were he to study during those years. Indeed, if a young man is wild, and must run after women and bad company, it is better this should be done abroad, as, on his return, he can break off such connections, and begin at home a new man, with a character to form, and acquaintances to make. How little does travelling supply to the conversation of any man who has travelled ? how little to Beauclerk ?” BOSWELL. Boswell.“ What fay you to Lord ?"
-" Johnson. “I never but once heard him talk of what he had seen, and that was of a large serpent in one of the Pyramids of Egypt.” Boswell. “ Well, I happened to hear him tell the same thing, which made me mention him.” I talked of a country life.-JOHNSON.
“ Were I to live in the country I would not devote myself to the acquisition of popularity; I would live in a much better way, much more happily; I would have my time at my own command.” Vol. II.
Boswell. “But, Sir, is it not a sad thing to be at a distance from all our Etat. 79. literary friends ?” JOHNSON. “ Sir, you will by and by have enough of this
conversation, which now delights you so much.”
As he was a zealous friend of subordination, he was at all times watchful to repress the vulgar cant against the manners of the
“ High people, Sir, (faid he,) are the best; take a hundred ladies of quality, you'll find them better wives, better mothers, more willing to sacrifice their own pleasure to their chiidren, than a hundred other women. Tradeswomen (I mean the wives of tradesmen) in the city, who are worth from ten to fifteen thousand pounds, are the worst creatures upon the earth, grossly ignorant, and thinking viciousness fashionable. Farmers, I think, are often worthless fellows. Few lords will cheat; and, if they do, they'll be ashamed of it:. farmers cheat and are not ashamed of it: they have all the sensual vices too of the nobility, with cheating into the bargain. There is as much fornication and adultery amongst farmers as amongst noblemen.” Boswell.“ The notion of the world, Sir, however is, that the morals of women of quality are worse than those in lower stations.”. Johnson. “ Yes, Sir, the licentiousness of one woman of quality makes more noise than that of a number of women in lower stations; then, Sir, you ? are to consider the malignity of women in the city against women of quality, which will make them believe any thing of them, such as that they call their coachmen to bed. No, Sir, so far as I have observed, the higher in rank, the richer ladies are, they are the better instructed and the more virtuous.” This
year the Reverend Mr. Horne published his “ Letter to Mr. Dunning, on the English Particle;” Johnson read it, and though not treated in it with fufficient respect, he had candour enough to say to Mr. Seward, “ Were I
" to make a new edition of my Dictionary, I would adopt several of Mr.. Horne's etymologies; I hope they did not put the dog in the pillory for his libel;, he has too much literature for that."
On Saturday, May 16, I dined with him at Mr. Beauclerk's, with Mr. Langton, Mr. Steevens, Dr. Higgins, and some others. I regret veryfeelingly every instance of my remiffness in recording his memorabilia; I am afraid it is the condition of humanity (as Mr. Windham, of Norfolk, once observed to me, after having made an admirable speech in the House of Commons, which was highly applauded, but which he afterwards perceived
In Mr. Horne Tooke's enlargement of that “ Letter,” which he has fince published with the title of “ E# 106 mWspoorla; or, the Diversions of Purley;" he mentions this compliment, as if Dr. Johnson instead of several of his etymologies had said all. His recollection having thus magnified it, shews how ambitious he was of the approbation of so great a man. 2
might have been better :) “ that we are more uneasy from thinking of our wants, than happy in thinking of our acquisitions.” This is an unreasonable mode of disturbing our tranquillity, and should be corrected; let me then comfort myself with the large treasure of Johnson's conversation which I have preserved for my own enjoyment and that of the world, and let me exhibit what I have upon each occasion, whether more or less, whether a bulse, or only a few sparks of diamond.
He said, “ Dr. Mead lived more in the broad sun-fhine of life than almost
The disaster of General Burgoyne's army was then the common topick of conversation. It was asked why piling their arms was insisted upon as a matter of such consequence, when it seemed to be a circumstance so inconsiderable in itself. Johnson. “Why, Sir, a French authour says, “Il y a beaucoup de puerilités dans la guerre. All distinctions are trifles, because great
' things can seldom occur, and those distinctions are settled by custom. A savage would as willingly have his meat sent to him in the kitchen, as eat it at the table here; as men become civilised, various modes of denoting honourable preference are invented.”
He this day made the observations upon the similarity between “ Rasselas” and “ Candide,” which I have inserted in its proper place, when considering his admirable philosophical Romance. He said “ Candide” he thought had more power in it than any thing that Voltaire had written.
He said, “ The lyrical part of Horace never can be perfectly translated ; so much of the excellence is in the numbers and the expression. Francis has done it the best; I'll take his, five out of fix, against them all.”
On Sunday, May 17, I presented to him Mr. Fullarton, of Fullarton, who has since distinguished himself so much in India, to whom he naturally talked of travels, as Mr. Brydone accompanied him in his tour to Sicily and Malta. He said, “The information which we have from modern travellers is much more authentick than what we had from ancient travellers; ancient travellers guessed; modern travellers measure. The Swiss admit that there is but one errour in Stanyan. If Brydone were more attentive to his Bible, he would be a good traveller.”
He said, “ Lord Chatham was a Dictator; he possessed the power of putting the State in motion; now there is no power, all order is relaxed.” Boswell. " Is there no hope of a change to the better?” Johnson. “ Why,
, yes, Sir, when we are weary of this relaxation. So the City of London will appoint its Mayors again by seniority.” Boswell. “ But is not that taking a a
M m 2
mere chance for having a good or a bad Mayor ?" Johnson. “ Yes, Sir; but the evil of competition is greater than that of the worst Mayor that can come; besides, there is no more reason to suppose that the choice of a rabble will be right, than that chance will be right.”
On Tuesday, May 19, I was to fet out for Scotland in the evening. He was engaged to dine with me at Mr. Dilly's, I waited upon him to remind him of his appointment and attend him thither ; he gave me some falutary counsel, and recommended vigorous resolution against any deviation from moral duty. Boswell. “But you would not have me to bind myself by a solemn obligation?” Johnson. (much agitated)
" What! a vow-O, no, Sir, a vow is a horrible thing, it is a snare for sin. The man who cannot go to Heaven without a vow—may go-" Here, standing erect, in the middle of his library, and rolling grand, his pause was truly a curious compound of the folemn and the ludicrous; he half-whistled in his usual way, when pleasant, and he paused, as if checked by religious awe.-Methought he would have added to Hell - but was restrained. I humoured the dilemma. «What! Sir, (said I,) 'In cælum jusseris ibit;" alluding to his imitation of it,
« And bid him go to Hell, to Hell he goes.”
I had mentioned to him a night fault in his noble “ Imitation of the Tenth Satire of Juvenal,” a too near recurrence of the verb spread, in his description of the young Enthusiast at College:
He had desired me to change Spreads to burns, but for perfect authenticity,
We had a quiet comfortable meeting at Mr. Dilly's; nobody there but ourselves, Mr. Dilly mentioned somebody having wished that Milton's “ Tractate on Education” should be printed along with his Poems in the
3 The Nip of paper on which he made the correction, is deposited by me in the noble library to which it relates, and to which I have presented other pieces of his hand-writing.
edition which 3
edition of the English Poets then going on. Johnson. “It would be 1778. breaking in upon the plan; but would be of no great consequence. So far as it
My illustrious friend and I parted with assurances of affectionate regard.
Johnson maintained a long and intimate friendship with Mr. Welch, who fucceeded the celebrated Henry Fielding as one of his Majesty's Justices of the Peace for Westminster; kept a regular office for the police of that great district; and discharged his important trust, for many years, faithfully and ably. Johnson, who had an eager and unceasing curiosity to know human life in all its variety, told me, that he attended Mr. Welch in his office for a whole winter, to hear the examinations of the culprits ; but that he found an almost uniform tenor of misfortune, wretchedness, and profligacy. Mr. Welch's health being impaired, he was advised to try the effect of a warm climate ; and Johnson, by his interest with Mr. Chamier, procured him leave of absence to go to Italy, and a promise that the pension or salary of two hundred pounds a year, which Government allowed him, hould not be discontinued. Mr. Welch accordingly went abroad, accompanied by his daughter Anne, a young lady of uncommon talents and literature. I have been fortunate enough, as this work was passing through the press, to obtain the following letter ; which, although the first part of my narrative of this year was printed off before I received it, will now come in with very little deviation from chronological order.
To SAUNDERS WELCH, Eja. at the English Coffee-house, Rome,
« DEAR SIR,
“ TO have suffered one of my best and dearest friends to pass almost two years in foreign countries without a letter, has a very shameful appearance of inattention. But the truth is, that there was no particular time in