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probation at another of his playful conceits ; which was, that "Horace has in one line given a description of a good desirable
that is to say, a modus as the tithes and certain fines.”
He observed, “A man cannot with propriety speak of himself, except he relates simple facts ; as, 'I was at Richmond ;' or what depends on mensuration ; as, 'I am six feet high.' He is sure he has been at Richmond ; he is sure he is six feet high ; but he cannot be sure he is wise, or that he has any other excellence. Then, all censure of a man's self is oblique praise. It is in order to show how much he can spare. It has all the invidiousness of self-praise and all the reproach of falsehood.” Boswell. “Sometimes it may proceed from a man's strong consciousness of his faults being observed. He knows that others would throw him down, and therefore he had better lie down softly of his own accord.”
1 This, as both Mr. Bindley and Dr. Kearney have observed to me, is the motto to “An Inquiry into Customary Estates and Tenants' Rights, &c. ; with some Considerations for restraining excessive Fines," by Everard Fleetwood, Esq. 8vo. 1731. But it is, probably, a mere coincidence. Mr. Burke, perhaps, never saw that pamphlet.—M.
Buying Buckles—"The first Whig "-Wine-Tasso-Homer-Adam Smith-Pope-Voltaire
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On Tuesday, April 28, he was engaged to dine at General Paoli's, where, as I have already observed, I was still entertained in elegant hospitality, and with all the ease and comfort of a home. I called on him, and accompanied him in a hackney-coach. We stopped first at the bottom of Hedge-lane, into which he went to leave a letter, “with good news for a poor man in distress," as he told me. I did not question him particularly as to this. He himself often resembled Lady Bolingbroke's lively description of Pope : that “he was un politique aux choux et aux raves." He would say, “I dine today in Grosvenor-square ;" this might be with a duke ; or, perhaps, “I dine to-day at the other end of the town ;" or, “A gentleman of great eminence called on me yesterday.” He loved thus to keep things floating in conjecture : Omne ignotum pro magnifico est. I believe I ventured to dissipate the cloud, to unveil the mystery, more freely and frequently than any of his friends. We stopped again at Wirgman's the well-known toy-shop in St. James's Street, at the corner of St. James's Place, to which he had been directed, but not clearly, for he searched about some time, and could not find it at first ; and said, “ To direct one only to a corner shop is toying with one." I supposed he meant this as a play upon the word toy : it was the first time that I knew him stoop to such sport. After he had been some time in the shop, he sent for me to come out of the coach, and help him to choose a pair of silver buckles, as those he had were too small. Probably this alteration in dress had been
suggested by Mrs. Thrale, by associating with whom, his external appearance was much improved. He got better clothes ; and the dark colour, from which he never deviated, was enlivened by metal buttons. His wigs, too, were much better; and, during their travels in France, he was furnished with a Paris-made wig, of handsome construction.'
This choosing of silver buckles was a negotiation: "Sir," said he, “I will not have the ridiculous large ones now in fashion ; and I will give no more than a guinea for a pair.” Such were the principles of the business ; and, after some examination, he was fitted. As we drove along, I found him in a talking humour, of which I availed myself. BOSWELL. “I was this morning in Ridley's shop, Sir ; and was told, that the collection called 'Johnsoniana' had sold very much.” Johnson. “Yet the 'Journey to the Hebrides' has not had a great sale." ? BOSWELL. “That is strange." Johnson. “Yes, Sir ; for in that book I have told the world a great deal that they did not know before."
BOSWELL. “I drank chocolate, Sir, this morning with Mr. Eld; and, to my no small surprise, found him to be a Staffordshire Whig, a being which I did not believe had existed.” Johnson. there are rascals in all countries.” BOSWELL. “Eld said, a Tory was a creature generated between a nonjuring parson and one's grandmother.” Johnson. "And I always said, the first Whig was the Devil.” BOSWELL. “He certainly was, Sir. The Devil was impatient of subordination ; he was the first who resisted power :
‘Better to reign in hell, than serve in heaven.'”
1 In general his wigs were very shabby, and their fore parts were burned away by the near approach of the candle, which his short-sightedness rendered necessary in reading. At Streatham, Mr. Thrale's butler had always a better wig ready; and as Johnson passed from the drawing-room when dinner was announced, the servant would remove the ordinary wig, and replace it with the newer one; and this ludicrous ceremony was performed every day.-C.
2 Here he either was mistaken, or had a different notion of an extensive sale from what is generally entertained : for the fact is, that four thousand copies of that excellent work were sold very quickly. A new edition has been printed since his death, besides that in the collection of his works -B. Another edition has been printed since Mr. Boswell wrote the above, besides repeated editions in the general collection of his works during the last twenty years.-M. 1804. Hannah More says, that “ Cadell the publisher told her, that he had sold 4,000 the first week.”—Life, vol. i. p. 39. This enormous sale at first, made, perhaps, John son think the subsequent sale scanty.-C. 1835.
At General Paoli's were Sir Joshua Reynolds, Mr. Langton, Marchese Gherardi of Lombardy, and Mr. John Spottiswoode the younger, of Spottiswoode,' the solicitor. At this time fears of an invasion were circulated ; to obviate which Mr. Spottiswoode observed, that Mr. Fraser, the engineer, who had lately come from Dunkirk, said, that the French had the same fears of us. JOHNSON. “ It is thus that mutual cowardice keeps us in peace.
Were one half of mankind brave, and one half cowards, the brave would be always beating the cowards. Were all brave, they would lead a very uneasy life ; all would be continually fighting : but being all cowards, we go on very well."
We talked of drinking wine. Johnson. “I require wine, only when I am alone. I have then often wished for it, and often taken it.” SPOTTISWOODE.“ What, by way of a companion, Sir ?” Johnson. “To get rid of myself, to send myself away. Wine gives great pleasure ; and every pleasure is of itself a good. It is a good, unless counterbalanced by evil. A man may have a strong reason not to drink wine ; and that may be greater than the pleasure. Wine makes a man better pleased with himself. I do not say that it makes him more pleasing to others. Sometimes it does. But the danger is, that while a man grows better pleased with himself, he may be growing less pleasing to others. Wine gives a man nothing. It neither gives him knowledge nor wit ; it only animates a man, and enables him to bring out what a dread of the company has repressed. It only puts in motion what has been locked up in frost. But this may be good, or it may be bad.” SPOTTISWOODE.
So, Sir, wine is a key which opens a box ; but this box may be either full or empty ?” Johnson. “Nay, Sir, conversation is the key : wine is a picklock, which forces open the box, and injures it. A man should cultivate his mind so as to have that confidence and
* In the phraseology of Scotland, I should have said, “Mr. John Spottiswoode, the younger, of that ilk.” Johnson knew that sense of the word very well, and has thus explained it in his “Dictionary-coce, Ilk. “It also signifies the same; as, Mackintosh of that ilk, denotes a gentleman whose surname and the title of his estate are the same."
? It is observed in “Waller's Life," in the “ Biographia Britannica,” that he drank only water; and that while he sat in a company who were drinking wine, “he had the dexterity to accommodate his discourse to the pitch of theirs as it sunk." If excess in drinking be meant, the remark is acutely just. But surely a moderate use of wine gives a gaiety of spirits which water-drinkers know not.
readiness without wine, which wine gives.” BOSWELL. “The great difficulty of resisting wine is from benevolence. For instance, a good worthy man asks you to taste his wine, which he has had twenty years in his cellar.” Johnson.“ Sir, all this notion about benevolence arises from a man's imagining himself to be of more importance to others than he really is. They don't care a farthing whether he drinks wine or not.” Sir Joshua REYNOLDS. “Yes, they do for the time.” Johnson. “For the time! If they care this minute, they forget it the next. And as for the good worthy man, how do you know he is good and worthy? No good and worthy man will insist upon a another man's drinking wine. As to the wine twenty years in the cellar,--of ten men, three say this, merely because they must say something ; three are telling a lie, when they say they have had the wine twenty years ; three would rather save the wine ; one, perhaps, cares. I allow it is something to please one's company ; and people are always pleased with those who partake pleasure with them. But after a man has brought himself to relinquish the great personal pleasure which arises from drinking wine,' any other consideration is a trifle. To please others by drinking wine, is something only, if there be nothing against it. I should, however, be sorry to offend worthy men :
“ Curst be the verse, how well soe'er it flow,
That tends make one worthy man my foe.'”
BOSWELL. “Curst be the spring, the water.” Johnson. “But let us consider what a sad thing it would be, if we were obliged to drink or do anything else that may happen to be agreeable to the company where we are." LANGTON. “By the same rule, you must join with a gang of cut-purses." Johnson. “Yes, Sir ; but yet we must do justice to wine; we must allow it the power it possesses. To make a man pleased with himself, let me tell you, is doing a very great thing;
Si patriæ volumus, si nobis vivere cari.'
I was at this time myself a water-drinker, upon trial, by Johnson's recommendation. JOHNSON. “Boswell is a bolder combatant
1 See antè, Vol. I. p. 91, and Vol. III. p. 249.-C.