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Dinner at Owen Cambridge's. Female Portrait
Painters. - Good-humoured Fellows." Isaac Walton's " Lives.” Flattery. - History. Early Habits. “ The Beggar's Opera.” Richard Brinsley Sheridan. Modern Politics. Sir Roger de Coverley. — Visit to Bedlam. Sunday Consultations. Gray's Letters. Alchymy. Johnson's Laugh. Letters to Langton, Mrs. Thrale, &c. Ramble into the Middle Counties. --Tour to France.
On Tuesday, April 18., he and I were engaged to go with Sir Joshua Reynolds to dine with Mr. Cam- . bridge, at his beautiful villa on the banks of the Thames, near Twickenham, Dr. Johnson's tardi.
was such, that Sir Joshua, who had an appointment at Richmond early in the day, was obliged to go by himself on horseback, leaving his coach to Johnson and me. Johnson was in such , good spirits, that every thing seemed to please him as we drove along.
Our conversation turned on a variety of subjects. He thought portrait-painting an improper employment for a woman. (1) “ Public practice of any
(1) This topic was probably suggested to them by Miss Reynolds, who practised that art; and we shall see that one of the last occupations of Johnson's life was to sit for his picture to that lady. — C.
art,” he observed, “and staring in men's faces, is ) very indelicate in a female.” I happened to start a question, whether when a man knows that some of his intimate friends are invited to the house of another friend, with whom they are all equally intimate, he may join them without an invitation. Johnson. “ No, Sir; he is not to go when he is not invited. They may be invited on purpose to abuse him," sniiling
As a curious instance how little a man knows, or wishes to know, his own character in the world, or rather as a convincing proof that Johnson's roughness was only external, and did not proceed from his heart, I insert the following dialogue. Johnson. “ It is wonderful, Sir, how rare a quality good humour is in life. We meet with very few goodhumoured men.” I mentioned four of our friends, none of whom he would allow to be good-humoured. One was acid, another was muddy, and to others he had objections which have escaped me. Then shaking his head and stretching himself at eas the coach, and smiling with much complacency, ne turned to me and said, “I look upon myself as a good-humoured fellow." The epithet fellow, applied to the great lexicographer, the stately moralist, the masterly critic, as if it had been Sam Johnson, a mere pleasant companion, was highly diverting ; and this light notion of himself struck me with wonder. I answered, also smiling, “ No, no, Sir; that will not do. You are good-natured, but not good-humoured; you are irascible. You have not patience with folly and absurdity. I believe you
would pardon them, if there were time to deprecate your vengeance; but punishment follows so quick after sentence, that they cannot escape.”
I had brought with me a great bundle of Scotch magazines and newspapers, in which his “Journey to the Western Islands” was attacked in every mode ; and I read a great part of them to him, knowing they would afford him entertainment. I wish the writers of them had been present; they would have been sufficiently vexed. One ludicrous imitation of his style, by Mr. Maclaurin, now one of the Scotch judges, with the title of Lord Dreghorn, was distinguished by him from the rude mass. “ This,” said he, “is the best. But I could caricature my own style much better myself." He defended his remark upon the general insufficiency of education in Scotland ; and confirmed to me the authenticity of his witty saying on the learning of the Scotch .“ Their learning is like bread in a besieged town; every man gets a little, but no man gets a full meal.” (1) “ There is,” said he, “in Scotland, a diffusion of learning, a certain portion of widely and thinly spread. A merchant has as much learning as one of their clergy.”
He talked of " Isaac Walton's Lives,” which was one of his most favourite books. Dr. Donne's life, he said, was the most perfect of them. He observed, that “it was wonderful that Walton, who
(1) Mrs. Piozzi repeats this story (p. 203.), probably more truly and more forcibly, though with rather less delicacy of expression
—“Every man gets a mouthful, but no man a bellyful."-C.