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BOSWELL. “This has been a very factious reign, owing to the too great indulgence of Government.” JOHNSON. “ I think so, Sir. What at first was lenity, grew timidity. Yet this is reasoning à posteriori, and may not be just. Supposing a few had at first been punished, I believe faction would have been crushed; but it might have been said, that it was a sanguinary reign. A man cannot tell d priori what will be best for government to do. This reign has been very unfortunate. We have had an unsuccessful war; but that does not prove that we have been ill governed. One side or other must prevail in war, as one or other must win at play. When we beat Louis, we were not better governed ; nor were the French better governed, when Louis beat us.”
On Saturday, April 12, I visited him, in company with Mr. Windham, of Norfolk, whom, though a Whig, he highly valued. One of the best things he ever said was to this gentleman; who, before he set out for Ireland as Secretary to Lord Northington, when Lord Lieutenant, expressed to the Sage some modest and virtuous doubts, whether he could bring himself to practise those arts which it is supposed a person in that situation has occasion to employ. “Don't be afraid, Sir, (said Johnson, with a pleasant smile,) you will soon make a very pretty rascal."
He talked to-day a good deal of the wonderful extent and variety of London, and observed, that men of curious enquiry might see in it such modes of life as very few could even imagine. He in particular recommended to us to explore Wapping, which we resolved to do,
Mr. Lowe, the painter, who was with him, was very much distressed that a large picture which he had painted was refused to be received into the Exhibition of the Royal Academy. Mrs. Thrale knew Johnson's character so superficially, as to represent him as unwilling to do small acts of benevolence; and mentions, in particular, that he would hardly take the trouble to write a letter in favour of his friends. The truth, however, is, that he was remarkable, in an extraordinary degree, for what she denies to him ; and, above all, for this very sort of kindness, writing letters for those to whom his solicitations might be of service. He now gave Mr. Lowe the following, of which I was diligent enough, with his permission,
We accordingly carried our scheme into execution, in October, 1792 ; but whether from that uniformity which has in modern times, in a great degree, spread through every part of the metropolis, or from our want of sufficient exertion, we were disappointed.
to take copies at the next coffee-house, while Mr. Windham was so good as to stay by me.
“To SIR JOSHUA REYNOLDS.
“ MR. Lowe considers himself as cut off from all credit and all hope, by the rejection of his picture from the Exhibition. Upon this work he has exhausted all his powers, and suspended all his expectations: and, certainly, to be refused an opportunity of taking the opinion of the publick, is in itself a very great hardship. It is to be condemned without a trial.
“If you could procure the revocation of this incapacitating edict, you would deliver an unhappy man from great affliction. The Council has sometimes reversed its own determination; and I hope, that by your interposition this luckless picture may be got admitted.
“I am, &c.
“SAM. JOHNSON.” “ April 12, 1783."
“ To MR. BARRY. SIR,
“MR. Lowe's exclusion from the exhibition gives him more trouble than you and the other gentlemen of the Council could imagine or intend. He considers disgrace and ruin as the inevitable consequence of your determination.
“He says, that some pictures have been received after rejection ; and if there be any such precedent, I earnestly entreat that you will use your interest in his favour. Of his work I can say nothing ; I pretend not to judge of painting ; and this picture I never saw: but I conceive it extremely hard to shut out any man from the possibility of success; and therefore I repeat my request that you will propose the reconsideration of Mr. Lowe's case; and if there be any among the Council with whom my name can have any weight, be pleased to communicate to them the desire of, Sir,
“ Your most humble servant,
“SAM. JOHNSON." · April 12, 1783."
Such intercession was too powerful to be resisted; and Mr. Lowe's performance was admitted at Somerset Place. The subject, as I recollect, was the Deluge, at that point of time when the water was verging to the top of the last uncovered
mountain. Near to the spot was seen the last of the antediluvian race, exclusive of those who were saved in the ark of Noah. This was one of those giants, then the inhabitants of the earth, who had still strength to swim, and with one of his hands held aloft his infant child. Upon the small remaining dry spot appeared a famished lion, ready to spring at the child and devour it. Mr. Lowe told me that Johnson said to him,
Sir, your picture is noble and probable.”—“A compliment, indeed, (said Mr. Lowe,) from a man who cannot lie, and cannot be mistaken.”
About this time he wrote to Mrs. Lucy Porter, mentioning his bad health, and that he intended a visit to Lichfield. is, (says he,) with no great expectation of amendment that I make every year a journey into the country: but it is pleasant to visit those whose kindness has been often experienced."
On April 18, (being Good-Friday,) I found him at breakfast, in his usual manner upon that day, drinking tea without milk, and eating a cross bun to prevent faintness; we went to St. Clement's church, as formerly. When we came home from church, he placed himself on one of the stone-seats at his garden-door, and I took the other, and thus in the open air, and in a placid frame of mind, he talked away very easily. JOHNSON.“ Were I a country gentleman, I should not be very hospitable, I should not have crowds in my house." BOSWELL. “Sir Alexander Dick tells me, that he remembers having a thousand people in a year to dine at his house; that is, reckoning each person as one, each time that he dined there." JOHNSON. * That, Sir, is about three a day.” BOSWELL. “How your statement lessens the idea." JOHNSON. “That, Sir, is the good of counting. It brings every thing to a certainty, which before floated in the mind indefinitely.” BOSWELL. “But Omne ignotum pro magnifico est : one is sorry to have this diminished.” JOHNSON. “Sir, you should not allow yourself to be delighted with errour.” BOSWELL. “Three a day seem but few.” JOHNSON. “Nay, Sir, he who entertains three a day, does very liberally. And if there is a large family, the poor entertain those three, for they eat what the poor would get: there must be superfluous meat; it must be given to the poor, or thrown out.” BOSWELL. “I observe in London, that the poor go about and gather bones, which I understand are manufactured.” JOHNSON. “Yes, Sir; they boil them, and extract a grease from them for greasing wheels and other purposes. Of the best pieces they make a mock ivory, which
is used for hafts to knives, and various other things; the coarser pieces they burn, and pound, and sell the ashes." BOSWELL. * For what purpose, Sir?" JOHNSON. "Why, Sir, for making a furnace for the chemists for melting iron. A paste made of burnt bones will stand a stronger heat than any thing else. Consider, Sir; if you are to melt iron, you cannot line your pot with brass, because it is softer than iron, and would melt sooner; nor with iron, for though malleable iron is harder than cast iron, yet it would not do; but a paste of burnt-bones will not melt.” BOSWELL. “Do you know, Sir, I have discovered a manufacture to a great extent, of what you only piddle at,-scraping and drying the peel of oranges. At a place in Newgate-street, there is a prodigious quantity prepared, which they sell to the distillers." JOHNSON.“ Sir, I believe they make a higher thing out of them than a spirit; they make what is called orangebutter, the oil of the orange inspissated, which they mix perhaps with common pomatum, and make it fragrant. The oil does not fly off in the drying."
BOSWELL. “I wish to have a good walled garden.” JOHNSON. “I don't think it would be worth the expence to you. We compute, in England, a park-wall at a thousand pounds a mile; now a garden-wall must cost at least as much. You intend your trees should grow higher than a deer will leap. Now let us see ;-for a hundred pounds you could only have forty-four square yards, which is very little ; for two hundred pounds, you may have eighty-four square yards, which is very well. But when will you get the value of two hundred pounds of walls, in fruit, in your climate ? No, Sir, such contention with Nature is not worth while. I would plant an orchard, and have plenty of such fruit as ripen well in your country. My friend, Dr. Madden, of Ireland, said, that, in an orchard there should be enough to eat, enough to lay up, enough to be stolen, and enough to rot upon the ground. Cherries are an early fruit, you may have them; and you may have the early apples and pears.” BOSWELL. “We cannot have nonpareils.” JOHNSON. “Sir, you can no more have nonpareils, than you can have grapes.
BOSWELL. “We have them, Sir ; but they are very bad." JOHNSON. “Nay, Sir, never try to have a thing, merely to shew that you cannot have it. From ground that would let for forty shillings you may have a large orchard; and you see
1 It is suggested to me by an anonymous Annotator on my Work, that the reason why Dr. Johnson collected the peels of squeezed oranges, may be found, in the 358th Letter in Mrs. Piozzi's Collection, where it appears that he recommended “dried orange-peel, finely powdered," as a medicine.
it costs you only forty shillings. Nay, you may graze the ground, when the trees are grown up; you cannot, while they are young.” BOSWELL. “Is not a good garden a very common thing in England, Sir?” JOHNSON. “Not so common, Sir, as you imagine. In Lincolnshire there is hardly an orchard ; in Staffordshire very little fruit.” BOSWELL. “Has Langton no orchard ?” JOHNSON. “No, Sir.” BOSWELL. “How so, Sir?” JOHNSON. “Why, Sir, from the general negligence of the county. He has it not, because nobody else has it.” BOSWELL. “A hot-house is a certain thing; I may have that.” JOHNSON. “A hot-house is pretty certain; but you must first build it, then you must keep fires in it, and you must have a gardener to take care of it.” BOSWELL. “ But if I have a gardener at any rate ?_" JOHNSON. “Why, yes.” BOSWELL. “I'd have it near my house; there is no need to have it in the orchard." JOHNSON. “Yes, I'd have it near my house.--I would plant a great many currants; the fruit is good, and they make a pretty sweetmeat.”
I record this minute detail, which some may think trifling, in order to show clearly how this great man, whose mind could grasp such large and extensive subjects, as he has shewn in his literary labours, was yet well-informed in the common affairs of life, and loved to illustrate them.
Mr. Walker, the celebrated master of elocution, came in, and then we went up stairs into the study. I asked him if he had taught many clergymen, JOHNSON. "I hope not." WALKER.
“ “I have taught only one, and he is the best reader I ever heard, not by my teaching, but by his own natural talents.” JOHNSON. “Were he the best reader in the world, I would not have it told that he was taught.” Here was one of his peculiar prejudices. Could it be any disadvantage to the clergyman to have it known that he was taught an easy and graceful delivery? Boswell.“ Will you not allow, Sir, that a man may be taught to read well ?” JOHNSON. “Why, Sir, so far as to read better than he might do without being taught, yes. Formerly it was supposed that there was no difference in reading, but that one read as well as another." BOSWELL. “It is wonderful to see old Sheridan as enthusiastick about oratory as ever.” WALKER. “His enthusiasm as to what oratory will do, may be too great: but he reads well.” JOHNSON. “He reads well
, but he reads low; and you know it is much easier to read low than to read high ; for when you read high, you are much more limited, your loudest note can be but one, and so the variety is less in