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Of all men Goldsmith is the most unfit to go out upon such an inquiry; for he is utterly ignorant of such arts as we already possess, and consequently could not know what would be accessions to our present stock of mechanical knowledge. Sir, he would bring home a grinding barrow, which you see in every street in London, and think that he had furnished a wonderful improvement.'
“Greek, Sir,' said he, 'is like lace; every man gets as much of it as he
“When Lord Charles Hay, after his return from America, was preparing his defence to be offered to the court-martial which he had demanded, having heard Mr. Langton as high in expressions of admiration of Johnson as he usually was, he requested that Dr. Johnson might be introduced to him; and Mr. Langton having mentioned it to Johnson, he very kindly and readily agreed; and, being presented by Mr. Langton to his lordship, while under arrest, he saw him several times; upon one of which occasions Lord Charles read to him what he had prepared, which Johnson signified his approbation of, saying, “It is a very good soldierly defence.' Johnson said that he had advised his lordship, that as it was in vain to contend with those who were in possession of power, if they would offer him the rank of lieutenant-general, and a government, it would be better judged to desist from urging his complaints. It is well known that his lordship died before the sentence was made known.
“ Johnson one day gave high praise to Dr. Bentley's verses in Dodsley's Collection, which he recited with his usual energy. Dr. Adam Smith, who was present, observed, in his decisive professorial manner, “Very well,—very well.' Johnson, however, added, “Yes, they are very well, Sir; but you may observe in what manner they are well. They are the forcible verses ? of a man of a
1 It should be remembered, that this was said twenty-five or thirty years ago, when lace was very generally worn.-M.
2 Dr. Johnson, in his Life of Cowley, says, that these are "the only English verses which Bentley is known to have written.” I shall here insert them, and hope my readers will apply them.
Who strives to mount Parnassus' hill,
And thence poetic laurels bring,
Must fly with swan's or eagle's wing.
Her mysteries and arcana know,
Must stoop as delving Woodward low.
Tongues, arts, and arms, and history,
And in the endless labour die.
“ Who travels in religious jars,
(Truth mix'd with error, shades with rays,)
strong mind, but not accustomed to write verse ; for there is some uncouthness in the expression.'
Drinking tea one day at Garrick's with Mr. Langton, he was questioned if he was not somewhat of a heretic as to Shakspeare. Said Garrick, “I doubt he is a little of an infidel.' 'Sir,' said Johnson, ‘I will stand by the lines I have written on Shakspeare in my prologue at the opening of your theatre.' Mr. Langton suggested, that in the line,
* And panting Time toil'd after him in vain,' Johnson might have had in his eye the passage in the 'Tempest,' where Prospero says of Miranda, —
She will outstrip all praise,
And make it halt behind her.'
Johnson said nothing. Garrick then ventured to observe, 'I do not think
Like Whiston, wanting pyx or stars,
In ocean wide or sinks or strays.
“But grant our hero's hope long toil
And comprehensive genius crown,
Yet what reward, or what renown?
Envy steps in and stops his rise;
His lustre, and his worth decries.
To college and old books confin'd;
Dunces advance, he's left behind:
Great without patron, rich without South Sea."-B. A different, and probably a more accurate, copy of these spirited verses is to be found in “ The Grove, or a Collection of Original Poems and Translations," &c. 1721. In this miscellany the last stanza, which in Dodsley's copy is unquestionably uncouth, is thus exhi. bited:
" Inglorious or by wants enthrallid,
To college and old books confined,
Dunces advanced, he's left behind.”—J. BOSWELL, Jun. 1 The difference between Johnson and Smith is apparent even in this slight instance, Smith was a man of exti ordinary application, and had his mind crowded with all manner of subjects; but the force, acuteness, and vivacity of Johnson were not to be found there. He has book-making so much in his thoughts, and was so chary of what might be turned to account: in that way, that he once said to Sir Joshua Reynolds, that he made it a rule, when in company, never to talk of what he understood. Beauclerk hąd for a short time a pretty high opinion of Smith's conversation. Garrick, after listening to him for a while, as to one of whom his expectations had been raised, turned slily to a friend, and whispered him, “What say you to this meh? Flabby, I think."
that the happiest line in the praise of Shakspeare.' Johnson exclaimed (smil. ing), “Prosaical rogues! next time I write, I'll make both time and space pant.'2
“It is well known that there was formerly a rude custom for those who were sailing upon the Thames to accost each other as they passed in the most abusive language they could invent; generally, however, with as much satirical humour as they were capable of producing. Addison gives a specimen of this ribaldry in Number 338 of the 'Spectator,' when Sir Roger de Coverly and he are going to Spring-garden.” Johnson was once eminently successful in this species of contest. A feilow having attacked him with some coarse raillery, Johnson answered him thus, “Sir, your wife, under pretence of keeping a bawdy-house, is a receiver of stolen goods.' One evening when he and Mr. Burke and Mr. Langton were in company together, and the admirable scolding of Timon of Athens was mentioned, this instance of Johnson's was quoted, and thought to have at least equal excellence.
“As-Johnson always allowed the extraordinary talents of Mr. Burke, so Mr. Burke was fully sensible of the wonderful powers of Johnson. Mr. Langton recollects having passed an evening with both of them, when Mr. Burke repeatedly entered upon topics which it was evident he would have illustrated with extensive knowledge and richness of expression ; but Johnson always seized upon the conversation, in which, however, he acquitted himself in a most masterly manner. As Mr. Burke and Mr. Langton were walking home, Mr. Burke observed that Johnson had been very great that night: Mr. Langton joined in this, but added, he could have wished to hear more from another person (plainly intimating that he meant Mr. Burke). 'O, no,' said Mr. Burke, “it is enough for me to have rung the bell to him.'
“Beauclerk having observed to him of one of their friends, that he was awkward at counting money; Why, Sir,' said Johnson, ‘I am likewise awk. ward at counting money. But then, Sir, the reason is plain; I have had very little money to count.'
“He had an abhorrence of affectation. Talking of old Mr. Langton, of
of his age.
1 I am sorry to see in the “ Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh,” Vol. II. “ An Essay on the Character of Hamlet," written, I should suppose, by a very young man, though called “Reverend," who speaks with presumptuous petulance of the first literary character
Amidst a cloudy confusion of words (which hath of late too often passed in Scotland for metaphysics), he thus ventures to criticise one of the noblest lines in our language: “ Dr. Johnson has remarked, that. Time toiled after him in vain.' But I should apprehend, that this is entirely to mistake the character. Time toils after every great man, as well as after Shakspeare. The workings of an ordinary mind keep pace, indeed, with time; they move no faster; they have their beginning, their middle, and their end; but superior natures can reduce these into a point. They do not, indeed, suppress them; but they sus . pend, or they lock them up in the breast.” The learned society, under whose sanction such gabble is ushered into the world, would do well to offer a premium to any one who will dis cover its meaning.
whom he said, “Sir, you will seldom see such a gentleman, such are his stores of literature, such his knowledge in divinity, and such bis exemplary life ;' he added, "and Sir, he has no grimace, no gesticulation, no bursts of admi. ration on trivial occasions: he never embraces you with an overacted cordiality.'
· Being in company with a gentleman who thought fit to maintain Dr. Berkeley's ingenious philosophy, that nothing exists but as perceived by some mind; when the gentleman was going away, Johnson said to him, 'Pray, Sir, don't leave us; for we may perhaps forget to think of you, and then you will cease to exist.'
“Goldsmith, upon being visited by Johnson one day in the Temple, said to him with a little jealousy of the appearance of his accommodation, 'I shall soon be in better chambers than these.' Johnson at the same time checked him, and paid him a handsome compliment, implying that a man of his talents should be above attention to such distinction's— Nay, Sir, never mind that: Nil te qucesiveris extra.'
"At the time when his pension was granted to bim, he said, with a noble literary ambition, 'Had this happened twenty years ago, I should have gone to Constantinople to learn Arabick, as Pococke did.'
“As an instance of the niceness of his taste, though he praised West's translation of Pindar, he pointed out the following passages as faulty, by expressing a circumstance so minute as to detract from the general dignity which should prevail :
' Down then from thy glittering nail
“When Mr. Vesey' was proposed as a member of the Literary Club, Mr. Burke began by saying that he was a man of gentle manners. 'Sir,' said Johnson, you need say no more. When you have said a man of gentle manners, you have said enough.'
“The late Mr. Fitzherbert told Mr. Langton that Johnson said to him, “Sir, a man has no more right to say an uncivil thing than to act one; no more right to say a rude thing to another than to knock him down.'
6. • My dear friend, Dr. Bathurst,' said he, with a warmth of approbation, 'declared he was glad that his father, who was a West India planter, had left his affairs in total ruin, because, having no estate, he was not under the temptation of having slaves.'
“Richardson had little conversation, except about his own works, of which Sir Joshua Reynolds said he was always willing to talk, and glad to have them introduced. Johnson, when he carried Mr. Langton to see him, professed that he could bring him out into conversation, and used the allusive expres.
1 The Right Hon. Agmondesham Vesey was elected a member of the Literary Club in 1778, and died August 11th, 1786.-M.
sion, 'Sir, I can make him rear.' But he failed; for in that interview Richard. son said little else than that there lay in the room a translation of his Clarissa into German.
“Once when somebody produced a newspaper in which there was a letter of stupid abuse of Sir Joshua Reynolds, of which Johnson himself came in for a share, ‘Pray,' said he, let us have it read aloud from beginning to end; which being done, he, with a ludicrous earnestness, and not directing his look to any particular person, called out, 'Are we alive after all this satire ?'
“He had a strong prejudice against the political character of Secker, one instance of which appeared at Oxford, where he expressed great dissatisfaction at his varying the old-established toast, "Church and king. The Arch. bishop of Canterbury,' said he, with an affected, smooth, smiling grimace, • drinks, “ Constitution in Church and state,” Being asked what difference there was between the two toasts, he said, “Why, Sir, you may be sure he meant something. Yet, when the life of that prelate, prefixed to his sermons by Dr. Porteus and Dr. Stinton, his chaplains, first came out, he read it with the utmost avidity, and said, 'It is a life well written, and that well deserves to be recorded.'
“Of a certain noble lord, he said, 'Respect him you could not; for he had no mind of his own. Love him you could not; for that which you could do with him every one else could.'
“Of Dr. Goldsmith he said, “No man was more foolish when he had not a pen in his hand, or more wise when he had.'
“He told in his lively manner the following literary anecdote : 'Green and Guthrie, an Irishman and a Scotchman, undertook a translation of Duhalde's History of China. Green said of Guthrie, that he knew no English, and Guthrie of Green, that he knew no French ; and these two undertook to translate Duhalde's History of China. In this translation there was found, 'the twenty-sixth day of the new moon.' Now, as the whole age of the moon is but but twenty-eight days, the moon, instead of being new, was nearly as old as it could be. The blunder arose from their mistaking the word neuvième, ninth, for nouvelle, or neuve, new.'
“Talking of Dr. Blagden's copiousness and precision of communication, Dr. Johnson said, “Blagden, Sir, is a delightful fellow.'
“On occasion of Dr. Johnson's publishing his pamphlet of 'The False Alarm,' there came out a very angry answer (by many supposed to be by Mr. Wilkes). Dr. Johnson determined on not answering it; but, in conversation with Mr. Langton, mentioned a particular or two, which, if he had replied to it, he might perhaps have inserted. In the answerer's pamphlet, it had been said with solemnity, 'Do you consider, Sir, that a house of commons is to the peo.
1 Afterwards Sir Charles Blagden. Hannah More's account of him is, “Doctor Blagden is Secretary to the Royal Society, so modest, so sensible, and so knowing, that he exemplifies Pope's line, 'Willing to teach, and yet not proud to know."-Life, Vol. II. p. 98.-C.