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with satisfaction-instead of a harsh animadversion, he mildly said, “ Alas, Sir, on how few things can we look back with satisfaction."
On Thursday, April 1, he commended one of the Dukes of Devonshire for “a dogged veracity.” He said too, "London is nothing to some people; but to a man whose pleasure is intellectual, London is the place. And there is no place where economy can be so well practised as in London : more can be had here for the money, even by ladies, than any where else. You cannot play tricks with your fortune in a small place; you must make an uniform appearance. Here a lady may have well-furnished apartments. an elegant dress, without any meat in her kitchen."
I was amused by considering with how much ease and coolness he could write or talk to a friend, exhorting him not to suppose that happiness was not to be found as well in other places as in London ; when he himself was at all times sensible of its being, comparatively speaking, a heaven upon earth. The truth is, that by those who from sagacity, attention, and experience, have learnt the full advantage of London, its pre-eminence over every other place, not only for variety of enjoyment, but for comfort, will be felt with a philosophical exultation. The freedom from remark and petty censure, with which life may be passed there, is a circumstance which a man who knows the teasing restraint of a narrow circle must relish highly. Mr. Burke, whose orderly and amiable domestic habits might make the eye of observation less irksome to him than to most men, said once very pleasantly in my hearing, “Though I have the honour to represent Bristol, I should not like to live there; I should be obliged to be so much upon my good behaviour." In London, a man may live in splendid society at one time, and in frugal retirement at another, without animadversion. There, and there alone, a man's own house is truly his castle, in which he can be in perfect safety from intrusion whenever he pleases. I never shall forget how well this was expressed to me one day by Mr. Meynell: “The chief advantage of London,” said he, “is, that a man is always so near his burrow."
He said of one of his old acquaintances, “He is very fit for a travelling governor. He knows French very well. He is a man of good principles ; and there would be no danger that a young gentleman should catch his manner; for it is so very bad, that it must be avoided. In that respect he would be like the drunken Helot."
A gentleman has informed me, that Johnson said of the same person, Sir, he has the most inverted understanding of any man whom I have ever known.”
On Friday, April 2, being Good-Friday, I visited him in the morning as usual; and finding that we insensibly fell into a train of ridicule upon the foibles of one of our friends, a very worthy man, I, by way of a check, quoted some good admonition from "The Government of the
Tongue "—that very pious book. It happened also remarkably enough, that the subject of the sermon preached to us to-day by Dr. Burrows, the rector of St. Clement Danes, was the certainty that at the last day we must give an account of “ the deeds done in the body;” and amongst various acts of culpability he mentioned evil-speaking. As we were moving slowly along in the crowd from church, Johnson jogged my elbow, and said, “Did you attend to the sermon ?”—“Yes, Sir,” said I, “it was very applicable to us." He, however, stood upon the defensive. “Why, Sir, the sense of ridicule is given us, and may be lawfully used. The author of 'The government of the Tongue’ would have us treat all men alike.”
In the interval between morning and evening service, he endeavoured to employ himself earnestly in devotional exercise; and, as he has mentioned in his “Prayers and Meditations” (p. 173), gave me “ Les Pensées de Pascal,” that I might not interrupt him. I preserve the book with reverence. His presenting it to me is marked upon it with his own hand, and I have found in it a truly divine unction. We went to church again in the afternoon.
On Saturday, April 3, I visited him at night, and found him sitting in Mrs. Williams's room, with her, and one who he afterwards told me was a natural son of the second Lord Southwell. The table had a singular appearance, being covered with a heterogeneous assemblage of oysters and porter for his company, and tea for himself. I mentioned my having heard an eminent physician, who was himself a Christian, argue in favour of universal toleration, and maintain, that no man could be hurt by another man's differing from him in opinion. JOHNSON : “Sir, you are, to a certain degree, hurt by knowing that even one man does not believe."
On Easter-day, after solemn service at St. Paul's, I dined with him : Mr. Allen, the printer, was also his guest. He was uncommonly silent; and I have not written down anything, except a single curious fact, which, having the sanction of his inflexible veracity, may be received as a striking instance of human insensibility and inconsideration. As he was passing by a fishmonger who was skinning an eel alive, he heard
curse it, because it would not lie still.” On Wednesday, April 7, I dined with him at Sir Joshua Reynolds's. I have not marked what company was there. Johnson harangued upon the qualities of different liquors ; and spoke with great contempt of claret, as so weak, that “a man would be drowned by it before it made him drunk.” He was persuaded to drink one glass of it, that he might judge, not from recollection, which might be dim, but from immediate sensation. He shook his head, and said, “Poor stuff! No, Sir, claret is the liquor for boys ; port for men : but he who aspires to be a hero
Mr. Mauritius Lowe, a painter.-MALONE
(smiling) must drink brandy. In the first place, the flavour of brandy is most grateful to the palate ; and then brandy will do soonest for a man what drinking can do for him. There are, indeed, few who are able to drink brandy. That is a power rather to be wished for than attained. And yet,” proceeded he, “as in all pleasure hope is a considerable part, I know not but fruition comes too quick by brandy. Florence wine I think the worst; it is wine only to the eye; it is wine neither while you are drinking it, nor after you have drunk it: it neither pleases the taste, nor exhilarates the spirits.” I reminded him how heartily he and I used to drink wine together, when we were first acquainted ; and how I used to have a headache after setting up with him. He did not like to have this recalled, or, perhaps, thinking that I boasted improperly, resolved to have a witty stroke at me; “ Nay, Sir, it was not the wine that made your head ache, but the sense that I put into it.” BOSWELL: “What, Sir, will sense make the head ache ?” JOHNSON: “Yes, Sir (with a smile), when it is not used to it.”—No man who has a true relish of pleasantry could be offended at this ; especially if Johnson in a long intimacy had given him repeated proofs of his regard and good estimation. I used to say, that as he had given me 10001. in praise, he had a good right now and then to take a guinea from me.
On Thursday, April 8, I dined with him at Mr. Allan Ramsay's, with Lord Graham and some other company. We talked of Shakspeare's witches. JOHNSON : “They are beings of his own creation-; they are a compound of malignity and meanness, without any abilities; and are quite different from the Italian magician. King James says, in his ‘Dæmonology;''Magicians command the devils: witches are their servants.' The Italian sicians are elegant beings.” RAMSAY: “Opera witches, not Drury-lane witches.” Johnson observed, that abilities might be employed in a narrow sphere, as in getting money, which he said he believed no man could do, without vigorous parts, though concentrated to a point. RAMSAY: “Yes, like a strong horse in a mill, he pulls better.”
Lord Graham, while he praised the beauty of Loch Lomond, on the banks of which is his family seat, complained of the climate, and said he could not bear it. Johnson: “vay, my Lord, don't talk so : you may bear it well enough. Your ancestors have borne it more years than I can tell.” This was a handsome compliment to the antiquity of the House of Montrose. His Lordship told me afterwards, that he had only affected to complain of the climate ; lest, if he had spoken as favourably of his country as he really thought, Dr. Johnson might have attacked it. Johnson was very courteous to Lady Margaret Macdonald. “Madam,” said he, “when I was in the Isle of Sky, I heard of the people running to take the stones off the road, lest Lady Margaret's horse should stumble."
Lord Graham commended Dr. Drummond at Naples as a man of extraordinary talents; and added, that he had a great love of liberty. JOHNSON : “He is young, my Lord (looking to his Lordship with an arch smile); all boys love liberty, till experience convinces them they are not so fit to govern themselves as they imagined. We are all agreed as to our own liberty : we would have as much of it as we can get ; but we are not agreed as to the liberty of others : for in proportion as we take, others must lose. I believe we hardly wish that the mob should have liberty to govern us.
When that was the case some time ago, no man was at liberty not to have candles in his windows." RAMSAY:“The result is, that order is better than confusion.” JOHNSON : “ The result is, that order cannot be had but by subordination.”
On Friday, April 16, I had been present at the trial of the urfortunate Mr. Hackman, who, in a fit of frantic jealous love, had shot Miss Ray, the favourite of a nobleman. Johnson, in whose company I had dined to-day with some other friends, was much interested by my account of what passed, and particularly with his prayer for the mercy of heaven. He said, in a solemn fervid tone, “I hope he shall find mercy."
This day a violent altercation arose between Johnson and Beauclerk [at the club), which having made much noise at the time, I think it proper, in order to prevent any future misrepresentation, to give a minute account of it.
In talking of Hackman, Johnson argued, as Judge Blackstone had done, that his being furnished with two pistols was a proof that he meant to shoot two persons. Mr. Beauclerk said, “No; for that every wise man who intended to shoot himself took two pistols, that he might be sure of doing it at once. Lord -'s.cook shot himself with one pistol, and lived ten days in great agony. Mr.
who loved buttered muffins, but durst not eat them because they disagreed with his stomach, resolved to shoot himself; and then he eat three buttered muffins for breakfast, before shooting himself, knowing that he should not be troubled with indigestion : he had two charged pistols ; one was found lying charged upon the table by him, after he had shot himself with the other.” “Well,” said Johnson, with an air of triumph, “you see here one pistol was sufficient.” Beauclerk replied smartly, “ Because it happened to kill him.” And either then or very little afterwards, being piqued at Johnson's triumphant remark, added, “This is what you don't know, and I do.” There was then a cessation of the dispute ; and some minutes intervened, during which, dinner and the glass went on cheerfully; when Johnson suddenly and abruptly exclaimed, “Mr. Beauclerk, how came you to talk so petulantly to me, as, “This is what you don't know, but what I know ? One thing I know, which you don't seem to know, that you are very uncivil." BEAUCLERK : Because you began by being uncivil (which you always ure).” The words in parentheses were, I believe not heard by Dr.
Johnson. Here again there was a cessation of arms. Johnson told me that the reason why he waited at first some time without taking any notice of what Mr. Beauclerk said, was because he was thinking whether he should resent it. But when he considered that there were present a young Lord and an eminent traveller, two men of the world with whom he had never dined before, he was apprehensive that they might think they had a right to take such liberties with him as Beauclerk did, and therefore resolved he would not let it pass ; adding, “that he would not appear a coward.” A little while after this, the conversation turned on the violence of Hackman's temper. Johnson then said, “It was his business to command his temper, as my friend Mr. Beauclerk should have done some time ago.” BEAUCLERK : I should learn of
Sir.” JOHNSON : “Sir, you have given me opportunities enough of learning, when I have been in your company. No man loves to be treated with contempt.” BEAUCLERK (with a polite inclination toward Johnson) : “Sir, you have known me twenty years, and however I may have treated others, you may be sure I could never treat you with contempt.” JOHNSON : “Sir, you have said more than was necessary.” Thus it ended ; and Beauclerk's coach not having come for him till very late, Dr. Johnson and another gentleman sat with him a long time after the rest of the company were gone ; and he and I dined at Beauclerk's on the Saturday se'nnight following.
After this tempest had subsided, I recollect the following particulars of his conversation :
“I am always for getting a boy forward in his learning, for that is a sure good. I would let him at first read any English book which happens to engage his attention ; because you have done a great deal when
you have brought him to have entertainment from a book. He'll get better books afterwards.”
“Mallet, I believe, never wrote a single line of his projected Life of the Duke of Marlborough. He groped for materials, and thought of it till he had exhausted his mind. Thus it sometimes happens that men entangle themselves in their own schemes."
“To be contradicted in order to force you to talk is mighty unpleasing. You shine, indeed ; but it is by being ground.”
Of a gentleman who made some figure among the Literati of his time (Mr. Fitzherbert), he said, “What eminence he had was by a felicity of manner; he had no more learning than what he could not
On Saturday, April 24, I dined with him at Mr. Beauclerk’s, with Sir Joshua Reynolds, Mr. Jones (afterwards Sir William), Mr. Langton, Mr. Steevens, Mr. Paradise, and Dr. Higgins. I mentioned that Mr. Wilkes had attacked Garrick to me, as a man who had no friend. JOHNSON: “I believe he is right, Sir. [O pinol, où plaos]–He had friends but no friend. Garrick was so diffused. he had no man to