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I said the great article of Christianity is the revelation of immortality. Johnson admitted it was.
In the evening, a gentleman-farmer, who was on a visit at Dr. Taylor's, attempted to dispute with Johnson in favour of Mungo Campbell, who shot Alexander, Earl of Eglinton, upon his having fallen, when retreating from his Lordship, who he believed was about to seize his gun, as he had threatened to do. He said he should have done just as Campbell did. JOHNSON: "Whoever would do as Campbell did deserves to be hanged ; not that I could, as a juryman, have found him legally guilty of murder ; but I am glad they found means to convict him.”* The gentleman-farmer said, “A poor man has as much honour as a rich man : and Campbell had that to defend." Johnson exclaimed, “A poor man has no honour."
From an engraving The English yeoman, not dismayed,
MRS. CATHERINE MACAULAY (b. 1731, d. 1791) proceeded : “Lord Eglinton was a
daughter of Alexander Sawbrige, a literary lady
of advanced political views, or a female patriot," damned fool to run on upon Campbell, as Johnson described her. She was the author of
* History of England, 1685-1715," and other after being warned that Campbell
works. In 1760 she married Dr. George Macaulay, would shoot him if he did.” Johnson, a Scotch physician, and later William Graham.
She visited America in 1785 and was received by who could not bear anything like
George Washington. Among her admirers was swearing, angrily replied,
Dr. Wilson, the rector of St. Stephen, Walbrook,
who placed her bust in his church during her life. not a damned fool : he only thought time, but removed it on her second marriage. too well of Campbell. He did not believe Campbell would be such a damned scoundrel, as to do so damned a thing." His emphasis on damned, accompanied with frowning looks, reproved his opponent's want of decorum in his presence.
Talking of the danger of being mortified by rejection, when making approaches to the acquaintance of the great, I observed, “I am, however, generally for trying, * Nothing venture, nothing have.' JOHNSON: “Very true, Sir ; but I have always been more afraid of failing, than hopeful of success.” And, indeed, though we had all just respect for rank, no man ever less courted the favour of the great.
During this interview at Ashbourne, Johnson seemed to be more uniformly social, cheerful, and alert, than I had almost ever seen him. He was prompt on great occasions and on small. Taylor, who praised everything of his own to excess, in short, “whose geese were all swans,” as the proverb says, expatiated on the excellence of his bull-dog, which, he told us, was “perfectly well shaped.” Johnson,
Campbell was an excise man who had caught one of Lord Eglinton's servants smuggling. Campbell hanged himself in prison. Croker says that " It is hard to believe that the Government could have permitted him to be executed; for Lord Eglinton was grossly the aggressor, and Campbell fired (whether by accident or design) when in the act of falling, as he retreated from Lord Eglinton." Dr. Hill points out, by quoting from the Annual Register, that Campbell was trespassing on Lord Eglinton's property when the affair happened, after having been expressly warned off.]
after examining the animal attentively, thus repressed the vain-glory of our host :
“No, Sir, he is not well shaped ; for there is not the quick transition from the thickness of the forepart, to the tenuity—the thin part-behind-which a bull-dog ought to have.” This tenuity was the only hard word that I heard him use during this interview, and, it will be observed, he instantly put another expression in its place. Taylor said a small bull-dog was as good as a large one. JOHNSON : "No, Sir; for, in proportion to his size, he has strength : and your argument would prove that a good bull-dog may be as small as a mouse.” It was amazing how he entered with perspicuity and keenness upon every thing that occurred in conversation. Most men, whom I know, would no more think of discussing a question about a bull-dog than of attacking a bull.
I cannot allow any fragment whatever that floats in my memory concerning the great subject of this work to be lost. Though a small particular may appear trifling to some, it will be relished by others; while every little spark adds something to the general blaze : and to please the true, candid, warm admirers of Johnson, and in any degree increase the splendour of his reputation, I bid defiance to the shafts of ridicule, or even of malignity. Showers of them have been discharged at my “ Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides ; ” yet it still sails unhurt along the stream of time, and as an attendant upon Johnson,
Pursues the triumph, and partakes the gale." One morning, after breakfast, when the sun shone bright, we walked out together, and “pored” for some time with placid indolence upon an artificial water-fall, which Dr. Taylor had made by building a strong dyke of stone across the river behind the garden. It was now somewhat obstructed by branches of trees and other rubbish, which had come down the river, and settled close to it. Johnson, partly from a desire to see it play more freely, and partly from that inclination to activity which will animate, at times, the most inert and sluggish mortal, took a long pole which was lying on a bank, and pushed down several parcels of this wreck with painful assiduity, while I stood quietly by, wondering to behold the Sage thus curiously employed, and smiling with a humorous satisfaction each time when he carried his point. He worked till he was quite out of breath; and having found a large dead cat, so heavy that he could not move it after several efforts, “ Come," said he (throwing down the pole), “ you shall take it now”; which I accordingly did, and, being a fresh man, soon made the cat tumble over the cascade. This may be laughed at as too trifling to record; but it is a small characteristic trait in the Flemish picture which I give of my friend, and in which, therefore, I mark the most minute particulars. And let it be remembered that “ Æsop at play” is one of the instructive apologues of antiquity.
I mentioned an old gentleman of our acquaintance whose memory was beginning to fail. JOHNSON: “There must be a diseased mind, where there is a failure of memory at seventy. A man's head, Sir, must be morbid, if he fails so soon.” My friend, being now himself sixty-eight, might think thus : but I imagine that threescore and ten, the Psalmist's period of sound human life in later ages, may have a failure, though there be no disease in the constitution.
Talking of Rochester's Poems, he said he had given them to Mr. Steevens to castrate for the edition of the poets, to which he was to write Prefaces. Dr. Taylor
* [This was unnecessary, for it had been done in the early part of the present century, by Jacob Tonson. M.]
(the only time I ever heard him say anything witty) * observed that “ If Rochester had been castrated himself, his exceptionable poems would not have been written.” I asked if Burnet had not given a good “Life of Rochester.” JOHNSON: “We have a good Death : there is not much Life." I asked whether “ Prior's Poems ” were to be printed entire : Johnson said they were. I mentioned Lord Hailes's censure of Prior, in his Preface to a collection of "Sacred Poems,” by various hands, published by him at Edinburgh a great many years ago, where he mentions “those impure tales which will be the eternal opprobrium of their ingenious author.” JOHNSON : “Sir, Lord Hailes has forgot. There is nothing in Prior that will excite to lewdness. If Lord Hailes thinks there is, he must be more combustible than other people.” I instanced the tale of “ Paulo Purganti and his Wife.” JOHNSON : “Sir, there is nothing there, but that his wife wanted to be kissed, when poor Paulo was out of pocket. No, Sir, Prior is a lady's book. No lady is ashamed to have it standing in her library.”
The hypochondriac disorder being mentioned, Dr. Johnson did not think it so common as I supposed. “ Dr. Taylor (said he) is the same one day as another. Burke and Reynolds are the same. Beauclerk, except when in pain, is the same. I am not so myself ; but this I do not mention commonly."
I complained of a wretched changefulness, so that I could not preserve, for any long continuance, the same views of anything. It was most comfortable to me to experience, in Dr. Johnson's company, a relief from this uneasiness. His steady vigorous mind held firm before me those objects which my own feeble and tremulous imagination frequently presented in such a wavering state, that my reason could not judge well of them.
Dr. Johnson advised me to-day to have as many books about me as I could ; that I might read upon any subject upon which I had a desire for instruction at the time. “What you read then (said he), you will remember ; but if you have not a book immediately ready, and the subject moulds in your mind, it is a chance if you have again a desire to study it.” He added, “ If a man never has an eager desire for instruction, he should prescribe a task for himself. But it is better when a man reads from immediate inclination.
He repeated a good many lines of Horace's Odes, while we were in the chaise; I remember particularly the Ode “ Eheu, fugaces." (1. II. Od. 14.]
He said the dispute as to the comparative excellence of Homer or Virgil † was inaccurate. “We must consider (said he) whether Homer was not the greatest poet, though Virgil may have produced the finest poem. I Virgil was indebted to Homer for the whole invention of the structure of an epic poem, and for many of his beauties."
He told me that Bacon was a favourite author with him ; but he had never read his works till he was compiling the English Dictionary, in which he said I might see Bacon very often quoted. Mr. Seward recollects his having mentioned that a Dictionary of the English Language might be compiled from Bacon's writings alone,
* I am told that Horace, Earl of Orford, has a collection of Bon-Mots by persons who never said bat une.
• I am informed by Mr. Langton that a great many years ago he was present when this question was agitated between Dr. Johnson and Mr. Burke ; and, to use Johnson's phrase, they “talked their best 'Johnson for Homer, Burke for Virgil. It may well be supposed to have been one of the ablest and most brilliant contests that ever was exhibited. How much must we regret that it has not been preserved.
: (But where is the inaccuracy, if the admirers of Homer contend that he was not only prior to turniin point of time, but superior in excellence ? J. B.-0.]
and that he had once an intention of giving an edition of Bacon, at least of his English works, and writing the Life of that great man. Had he executed this intention, there can be no doubt that he would have done it in a most masterly manner. Mallet's “ Life of Bacon ” has no inconsiderable merit as an acute and elegant dissertation relative to its subject; but Mallet's mind was not comprehensive enough to embrace the vast extent of Lord Verulam's genius and research. Dr. Warburton therefore observed, with witty justness," that Mallet in his “Life of Bacon,' had forgotten that he was a philosopher ; and if he should write the 'Life of the Duke of Marlborough, which he had undertaken to do, he would probably forget that he was a General.”
Wishing to be satisfied what degree of truth there was in a story which a friend of Johnson's and mine had told me to his disadvantage, I mentioned it to him in direct terms; and it was to this effect : that a gentleman who had lived in great intimacy with him, shown him much kindness, and even relieved him from a spunging house, having afterwards fallen into bad circumstances, was one day, when Johnson was at dinner with him, seized for debt, and carried to prison ; that Johnson sat still undisturbed, and went on eating and drinking; upon which the gentleman's sister, who was present, could not suppress her indignation ; “What, Sir (said she), are you so unfeeling as not even to offer to go to my brother in his distress; you who have been so much obliged to him ? ” And that Johnson answered, “Madam, I owe him no obligation ; what he did for me he would have done for a dog."
Johnson assured me that the story was absolutely false : but like a man conscious of being in the right, and desirous of completely vindicating himself from such a charge, he did not arrogantly rest on a mere denial, and on his general character, but proceeded thus :-“Sir, I was very intimate with that gentleman, and was once relieved by him from an arrest; but I never was present when he was arrested, never knew that he was arrested, and I believe he never was in difficulties after the time when he relieved me. I loved him much : yet, in talking of his general character, I may have said, though I do not remember that I ever did say so, that as his generosity proceeded from no principle, but was a part of his profusion, he would do for a dog what he would do for a friend : but I never applied this remark
particular instance, and certainly not to his kindness to me. If a profuse man, who does not value his money, and gives a large sum to a whore, gives half as much, or an equally large sum to relieve a friend, it cannot be esteemed as virtue. This was all that I could say of that gentleman; and, if said at all, it must have been said after his death. Sir, I would have gone to the world's end to relieve him. The remark about the dog, if made by me, was such a sally as might escape one when painting a man highly.”
On Tuesday, September 23, Johnson was remarkably cordial to me. It being necessary for me to return to Scotland soon, I had fixed on the next day for my setting out, and I felt a tender concern at the thought of parting with him. He had at this time, frankly communicated to me many particulars, which are inserted in this work in their proper places ; and once, when I happened to mention that the expense of my jaunt would come to much more than I had computed, he said, “Why, Sir, if the expense were to be an inconvenience, you would have reason to regret it: but, if you have had the money to spend, I know not that you could have purchased as much pleasure with it in any other way.”
[It appears from the part of the original journal in Mr. Anderton's papers, that the friend who told the story was Mr. Beauclerk, and the gentleman and lady alluded to were Mr. (probably Henry) and Miss Hervey. There is reason to fear that Boswell's indiscretion in betraying Mr. Beauclerk's naine impaired the cordiality between him and Dr. Johnson.--Croker.]
731 During this interview at Ashbourne, Johnson and I frequently talked with wonderful pleasure of mere trifles which had occurred in our tour to the Hebrides ; for it had left a most agreeable and lasting impression upon his mind. He found fault with me for using the phrase to make money.
“Don't you see (said he) the impropriety of it? To make money is to coin it; you should say get money.” The phrase, however, is, I think, pretty current.* But Johnson was at all times jealous of infractions upon the genuine English Language, and prompt to repress colloquial barbarisms ; such as pledging myself, for undertaking ; line, for department, or branch, as, the civil line, the banking line. He was particularly indignant against the almost universal use of the word idea in the sense of notion or opinion, when it is clear that idea can only signify something of which an image can be formed in the mind. We may have an idea or image of a mountain, a tree, a building ; but we cannot surely have an idea or image of an argument or proposition. Yet we hear the sages of the law
delivering their ideas upon the question under consideration ; ” and the first speakers in parliament "entirely coinciding in the idea which has been ably stated by an honourable member;" or “reprobating an idea unconstitutional, and fraught with the most dangerous consequences to a great and free country.” Johnson called this “modern cant."
I perceived that he pronounced the word heard as if spelt with a double e, heerd, instead of sounding it herd, as is most usually done.† He said his reason was that if it were pronounced herd, there would be a single exception from the English pronunciation of the syllable car, and he thought it better, not to have that exception.
What about early * ["To get money" would not always express the meaning; money may be The R Hon! Iohn
Earle of Rochester gotten by inheritance or donation : "to make money implies some degree of
of Adderbury un personal effort, or attention, and Johnson England &Viscount
Wilmot of Atholna admits it in this sense in his Dictionary : in Ireland. Born Apibus
Died: 26 July 200 · TO MAKE — to raise a profit from amisking," with example from Shakspeare — " he made five marks From an engraving by R. White rady money.”—Croker.] (In the age of Queen Elizabeth this
JOHN WILMOT, EARL OF ROCHESTER (b. 1618, d. 1680) word was frequently written, as doubtless a selection of whose poetical works was included in it was pronounced, hard. M.]
Johnson's edition of the “ English Poets."