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could not but'express to him my wonder; because, though my eyes, as he observed, were better than his, I could not by any means equal him in representing visible objects. I said, the difference between us in this respect was as that between a man who has a good instrument, but plays well on it, and a man who has a good instrument, on which he can play very imperfectly.
I recollect a very fine amphitheatre, surrounded with hills covered with woods, and walks neatly formed along the side of a rocky steep, on the quarter next the house, with recesses under projections of rock, overshadowed with trees; in one of which recesses, we were told, Congreve wrote his “ Old Bachelor.”-We viewed a remarkable natural curiosity at Islam; two rivers bursting near each other from the rock, not from immediate springs, but after having run for many miles under ground. Plott, in his “ History of Staffordshire,” gives an account of this curiosity; but Johnson would not believe it, though we had the attestation of the gardener, who said, he had put in corks, where the river Manyfold sinks into the ground, and had catched them in a net, placed before one of the openings where the water bursts out. Indeed such subterraneous courses of water are found in various parts of our globe. *
Talking of Dr. Johnson's unwillingness to believe extraordinary things, I ventured to say, “Sir, you come near Hume's argument against
* See Plott's “ History of Staffordshire, p. 88, and the authorities referred to by him.
miracles, “That it is more probable witnesses should lie, or be mistaken, than that they should happen.” Johnson. “Why, Sir, Hume, taking the proposition simply, is right. But the Christian revelation is not proved by the miracles alone, but as connected with prophecies, and with the doctrines in confirmation of which the miracles were wrought.”
He repeated his observation, that the differe ences among Christians are really of no consequence. For instance, (said he) if a Protestant objects to a Papist, 'You worship images; the Papist can answer, “I do not insist on your doing it; you may be a very good Papist without it: I do it only as a help to my devotion.” 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 Munge Campbell, who shot Alexander, Earl of Eglintoune, upon his having fallen, when retreating from his Lordship, who, he believed, was about to seize his gun, as he bad threatened to do. He said, ke should have just done as Campbell did. JOH XSON. “Whoever would do as Cainpbell 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.” The English yeoman, not dismayed, proceeded : " Lord Eglintoune was a damned fool to run on upon Campbell, after being warned that Campbell would shoot him if he did.” Johnson, who could not bear any thing like swearing, angrily replied, “He was not a damned fool: he only thought 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 opponeut'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 ventare, nothing have.' JOHNSON. “Very true, Şir; but I have always been more afraid of failing, tban hopeful of success.” And, indeed, though he bad 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 every thing 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, 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 fore-part, 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 amazivg 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 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 Jolinson, 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 an 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 according did, and being a fresh man, soon made the cat tumble over the cascade. This may be laughed at as too trilling 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.