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Many instances of his resolution
be mentioned. One day, at Mr. Beauclerk's house in the country, when two large dogs were fighting (), he went up to them, and beat them till they separated ; and at anot er time, when told of the danger there was that a gun might burst if charged with many balls, he put in six or seven, and fired it off against a wall. Mr. Langton told me, that when they were swimming together near Oxford, he cautioned Dr. Johnson against a pool, which was reckoned particularly dangerous ; upon which Johnson directly swam into it. He told me himself that one night he was attacked in the street by four men, to whom he would not yield, but kept them all at bay, till the watch came up, and carried both him and them to the roundhouse. In the playhouse at Lichfield, as Mr. Garrick informed me, Johnson having for a moment quitted a chair which was placed for him between the sidescenes, a gentleman took possession of it, and, when Johnson on his return civilly demanded his seat, rudely refused to give it up; upon which Johnson laid hold of it, and tossed him and the chair into the pit. (2) Foote, who so successfully revived the old
prayer in Latin, at once to deprecate God's mercy, to satisfy himself that his mental powers remained unimpaired, and to keep them in exercise, that they might not perish by permitted stagnation. When one day he had at my house taken tincture of antimony instead of emetic wine, for a vomit, he was himself the person to direct what to do for him, and managed with as much coolness and deliberation as if he had been prescribing for an indifferent person.
Piozzi. (1) [See antè, p. 65.]
(2) If Mrs. Piozzi had reported any statement so obviously exaggerated as this, Mr. Boswell would have been very indignant. - C.
comedy, by exhibiting living characters, had resolved to imitate Johnson on the stage, expecting great profits from his ridicule of so celebrated a man. Johnson being informed of his intention, and being at dinner at Mr. Thomas Davies's, the bookseller, from whom I had the story, he asked Mr. Davies, “ what was the common price of an oak stick ?" and being answered sixpence, “Why then, Sir,” said he, “give me leave to send your servant to purchase me a shilling one. I'll have a double quantity ; for I am told Foote means to take me off, as he calls it, and I am determined the fellow shall not do it with impunity.” Davies took care to acquaint Foote of this, which effectually checked the wantonness of the mimic. Mr. Macpherson's menaces made Johnson provide himself with the same implement of defence; and had he been attacked, I have no doubt that, old as he was, he would have made his corporal prowess be felt as much as his intellectual.
His “Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland”. is a most valuable performance. It abounds in extensive philosophical views of society, and in ingenious sentiment and lively description. A considerable part of it, indeed, consists of speculations, which many years before he saw the wild regions which we visited together, probably had employed his attention, though the actual sight of those scenes undoubtedly quickened and augmented them. Mr. Orme (1), the very able historian, agreed with me in
(1) Robert Orme, Esq., the historian of Hindostan, was born at Anjengo, in the Travancore country, in 1728, and died et Faling, in 1801.]
this opinion, which he thus strongly expressed : “ There are in that book thoughts, which, by long revolution in the great mind of Johnson, have been formed and polished like pebbles rolled in the ocean !”
That he was to soine degree of excess a true born Englishman, so as to have entertained an undue prejudice against both the country and the people of Scotland, must be allowed. But it was a prejudice of the head, and not of the heart. (1) He had no illwill to the Scotch ; for, if he had been conscious of that, he never would have thrown himself into the bosom of their country, and trusted to the protection of its remote inhabitants with a fearless confidence, His remark upon the nakedness of the country, from its being denuded of trees, was made after having travelled two hundred miles along the eastern coast, where certainly trees are not to be found near the road; and he said it was
a map of the road” which he gave. His disbelief of the authenticity of the poems ascribed to Ossian, a Highland bard, was con- IV, firmed in the course of his journey, by a very strict examination of the evidence offered for it; and al. though their authenticity was made too much a national point by the Scotch, there were many respectable persons in that country, who did not concur in (1) This is a distinction which I am not sure that I under
Did Mr. Boswell think that he improved the case by representing Johnson's dislike of Scoland as the result not of feeling but of reason? In truth, in the printed Journal of his Tour, there is nothing that a fair and liberal Scotchman can or does complain of; but his conversation is full of the harshest and often most unjust sarcasms against the Scotch, nationally and individually. — C.
this : so that his judgment upon the question ought not to be decried, even by those who differ from him. As to myself, I can only say, upon a subject now become very uninteresting, that when the fragments of Highland poetry first came out, I was much pleased with their wild peculiarity, and was one of those who subscribed to enable their editor, Mr. Macpherson, then a young man, to make a search in the Highlands and Hebrides for a long poem in the Erse language, which was reported to be preserved somewhere in those regions. But when there came forth an Epic IV. 196 poem in six books, with all the common circumstances of former compositions of that nature; and when, upon an attentive examination of it, there was found a perpetual recurrence of the same images which appear in the fragments ; and when no ancient manuscript, to authenticate the work, was deposited in any public library, though that was insisted on as à reasonable proof; who could forbear to doubt ?
Johnson's grateful acknowledgments of kindness received in the course of this tour completely refute the brutal reflections which have been thrown out against him, as if he had made an ungrateful return; and his delicacy in sparing in his book those who we find, from his letters to Mrs. Thrale, were just objects of censure (1), is much to be admired. (2) His candour and amiable disposition is conspicuous from his conduct, when informed by Mr. Macleod, of
(1) Sir Archibald Macdonald. — C.
(2) We have seen his kind acknowledgment of Macleod's hospitality, and the loss of poor Col is recorded in his Journal in affectionate and pathetic terms.
Rasay, that he had committed a mistake, which that gentleman some uneasiness. He wrote him & courteous and kind letter, and inserted in the newspapers an advertisement, correcting the mistake. (1)
The observations of my friend Mr. Dempster (2) in a letter written to me, soon after he had read Dr. Johnson's book, are so just and liberal, that they cannot be too often repeated :
“There is nothing in the book, from beginning to end, that a Scotchman need to take amiss. What he says of the country is true ; and his observations on the people are what must naturally occur to a sensible, observing, and reflecting inhabitant of a convenient metropolis, where a man on thirty pounds a year may be better accommodated with all the little wants of life, than Col or Sir Allan. I am charmed with his researches concerning the Erse language, and the antiquity of their manuscripts. I am quite convinced ; and I shall rank Ossian and his Fingals and Oscars amongst the nursery tales, not the true history of our country, in all time to
“ Upon the whole, the book cannot displease, for it has no pretensions. The author neither says he is a geographer, nor an antiquarian, nor very learned in the history of Scotland, nor a naturalist, nor a fossilist. The manners of the people, and the face of the country, are all he attempts to describe, or seems to have thought of. Much were it to be wished, that they who have travelled into more remote, and of course more curious regions, had all possessed his good sense. Of the state of learning, his observations on Glasgow University show he has formed a very sound judgment. He understands our climate too; and he has accurately observed the
(1) See Vol. IV. p. 298. - C.