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prizes, being mentioned, he held them very cheap: • Bouts-rimés,” said he,“ is a mere conceit, and an old conceit now; I wonder how people were persuaded to write in that manner for this lady." I named a gentleman of his acquaintance who wrote for the Vase. Johnson. “ He was a blockhead for his pains.” BOSWELL. “ The Duchess of Northumberland wrote.” (1) JOHNSON. “ Sir, the Duchess of Northumberland may do what she pleases : nobody will say any thing to a lady of her high rank. But I should be apt to throw ** verses in his face.”
I talked of the cheerfulness of Fleet Street, owing to the constant quick succession of people which we perceive passing through it. Johnson. “Why, Sir, Fleet Street has a very animated appearance ; but I think the full tide of human existence is at Charing Cross."
He made the common remark on the unhappiness which men who have led a busy life experience, when they retire in expectation of enjoying themselves at ease, and that they generally languish for want of their habitual occupation, and wish to return to it. He mentioned as strong an instance of this as can well be imagined. “ An eminent tallowchandler in London, who had acquired a consider
this a fiction, or exaggeration. Be dumb, unbelievers! The collection is printed, published, - yes, on my faith! there are bouts-rimés on a buttered muffin, by her Grace the Duchess of Northumberland,” &c. — Works, vol. v. p. 185. — C.
(1) Lady Elizabeth Seymour married, in 1740, Sir Hugh Smithson, created, in 1766, Duke of Northumberland ; from whom sh was divorced in 1776. - C.
able fortune, gave up the trade in favour of his foreman, and went to live at a country-house near town. He soon grew weary, and paid frequent visits to his old shop, where he desired they might let him know their melting-days, and he would come and assist them; which he accordingly did. Here, Sir, was a man to whom the most disgusting circumstances in the business to which he had been used was a relief from idleness."
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Public Speaking. Statutes against Bribery. Cib
ber's Comedies. Gentility and Morality. — Charles
On Wednesday, 5th April, I dined with him at
We talked of public speaking. Johnson. “We must not estimate a man's powers by his being able or not able to deliver his sentiments in public. Isaac Hawkins Browne, one of the first wits of this country, got into parliament, and never opened his mouth. For my own part, I think it is more disgraceful never to try to speak, than to try it and fail; as it is more disgraceful not to fight, than to fight and be beaten.” This argument appeared to me fallacious; for if a man has not spoken, it may be said that he would have done very well if he had tried ; whereas, if he has tried and failed, there is nothing to be said for him. “Why, then," I asked, “ is it thought disgraceful for a man not to fight, and not disgraceful not to speak in public ?" Johnson. “Because there may be other reasons for a man's not speaking in public than want of resolution: he may have nothing to say (laughing). Whereas, Sir, you know courage is reckoned the greatest of all virtues ; because, unless a man has that virtue, he has no security for preserving any other.”
He observed, that “ the statutes against bribery were intended to prevent upstarts with money from getting into parliament :” adding, that “ if he were a gentleman of landed property, he would turn out all his tenants who did not vote for the candidate whom he supported." LANGTON. “ Would not that, Sir, be checking the freedom of election ?" Johnson. “ Sir, the law does not mean that the privilege of voting should be independent of old family interest, of the permanent property of the country."
On Thursday, 6th April, I dined with him at Mr. Thomas Davies's, with Mr. Hicky, the painter, and my old acquaintance Mr. Moody, the player.
Dr. Johnson, as usual, spoke contemptuously of Colley Cibber.
“ It is wonderful that a man, who for forty years had lived with the great and the witty, should have acquired so ill the talents of conversation : and he had but half to furnish ; for one half of what he said was oaths.” He, however, allowed considerable merit to some of his comedies, and said there was no reason to believe that the “ Careless Husband” was not written by himself. Davies said, he was the first dramatic writer who introduced genteel ladies upon the stage. Johnson refuted his observation by instancing several such characters in comedies before his time. DAVIES (trying to defend himself from a charge of ignorance). “I mean genteel moral characters.” think," said Hicky, “gentility and morality are inseparable.” Boswell. “By no means, Sir. The genteelest characters are often the most immoral. Does not Lord Chesterfield give precepts for uniting wickedness and the graces ? indeed, is not genteel when he gets drunk; but most vices may be committed very genteelly : a man may debauch his friend's wife genteelly : he may cheat at cards genteelly.” Hicky. “I do not think that is genteel.” BOSWELL. “Sir, it may not be like a gentleman, but it may be genteel." JOHNSON. “ You are
two different things.