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is surely a strange advice ; you may as well resolve that whatever men you happen to get acquainted with, you are to keep to them for life. book may be good for nothing ; or there may be only one thing in it worth knowing : are we to read it all through? These voyages (pointing to the three large volumes of Voyages to the South Sea,' which were just come out) who will read them through? A man had better work his way before the mast, than read them through ; they will be eaten by rats and mice, before they are read through. There can be little entertainment in such books; one set of savages is like another." BOSWELL: “I do not think the people of Otaheité can be reckoned savages. JOHNSON : “ Don't cant in defence of savages.
BOSWELL: They have the art of navigation.” JOHNSON : “A dog or a cat can swim.' BOSWELL :-“ They carve very ingeniously.” JOHNSON : cat can scratch, and a child with a nail can scratch.” I perceived this was none of the mollia tempora fandi ; so desisted.
Upon his mentioning that when he came to college he wrote his first exercises twice over, but never did so afterwards ;-Miss ADAMS : “I suppose, Sir, you could not make them better ?” JOHNSON : “ Yes, Madam, to be sure, I could make them better. Thought is better than no thought.” Miss ADAMS : “Do you think, Sir, you could make your Ramblers better?” JOHNSON : Certainly I could. BOSWELL: “ I'll lay a bet, Sir, you cannot. JOHNSON : But I will, Sir, if I choose. I shall make the best of them you shall pick out better."— BOSWELL : * But you may add to them. I will not allow of that." JOHNSON : “Nay, Sir, there are three ways of making them better ;-putting out, adding, or correcting."
During our visit at Oxford, the following conversation passed between him and me on the subject of my trying my fortune at the English bar. Having asked, whether a very extensive acquaintance in London, which was very valuable, and of great advantage to a man at large, might not be prejudicial to a lawyer, by preventing him from giving sufficient attention to his business ?--JOHNSON : “Sir, you will attend to business as business lays hold of you. When not actually employed, you may see your friends as much as you do now. You may dine at a club every day, and sup with one of the members every night ; and you may be as much at public places as one who has seen them all would wish to be. But you must take care to attend constantly in Westminster Hall; both to mind your business, as it is almost all learnt there (for nobody reads now), and to show that you want to have business. And you must not be too often seen at public places, that competitors may not have it to say, 'He is always at the playhouse or ai Ranelagh, and never to be found at his chambers.' And, Sir, there must be a kind of solemnity in the manner of a professional man. I have nothing particular to say to vou on the subject. All this I should say to any one ; I should have said it to Lord Thurlow twenty years ago.
The PROFESSION may probably think this representation of what is required in a barrister who would hope for success, to be much too indulgent; but certain it is, that as
“The wits of Charles found easier ways to fame,” some of the lawyers of this age, who have risen high, have by no means thought it absolutely necessary to submit to that long and painful course of study which a Plowden, a Coke, and a Hale considered as requisite. My respected friend, Mr. Langton, has shown me, in the hand-writing of his grandfather, a curious account of a conversation which he had with Lord Chief Justice Hale, in which that great man tells him,
That for two years after he came to the inn of the court, he studied sixteen hours a day ; however (his Lordship added), that by this intense application he almost brought himself to his grave, though he were of a very strong constitution, and after reduced himself to eight hours ; but that he would not advise anybody to so much ; that he thought six hours a day, with attention and constancy, was sufficient; that man must use his body as he would his horse and his stomach : not tire him at once, but rise with an appetite.
Johnson & RETURN TO LONDON—Rev. MR. Astle-MR. CATOR-HORACE Waz POLE—“EVER-MEMORABLE" John HALES—“No, SIR"-LORD CHATHAM-BURKE'S Defence OF JOHNSON—“Tommy Townshend"_TRAINED BANDS OF LONDON— Johnson's APOLOGY TO THE COMPOSITOR-ATTITUDENIZING--Johnson's WARMIR IN ARGUMENT-HIs Visit to MARYLEBONE GARDENS—His ATTENTION TO DRESS -His Last Dinner at “The LITERARY CLUB"-INTENDED JOURNEY TO ITALY
- PUBLIC CRIMINALS-MR. Vilette-Dr. Knox-MR. PINKERTON~JAMAICALORD ChesteRFIELD-LORD ELIOT-LORD Thurlow's LETTER IN PAVOUR OF JOHNSON–His SENSIBILITY_ITALY_MRS. THRALE'S INTENDED MAKRIAGE, AND HER ANECDOTES OF JOHNSON,
he was not well to-day, and said very little, employing himseil chiefly in reading Euripides. He expressed some displeasure at me, for not observing sufficiently the various objects on the road. “If I had your eyes, Sir,” said he, “I should count the passengers.” It was wonderful how accurate his observation of visual objects was, notwith. standing his imperfect eyesight, owing to a habit of attention. That he was much satisfied with the respect paid to him at Dr. Adams's is thus attested by himself: “I returned last night from Oxford, after a fortnight's abode with Dr. Adams, who treated me as well as I could expect or wish ; and he that contents a sick man, a man whom it is impossible to please, has surely done his part well."1
After his return to London from this excursion, I saw him frequently, but have few memorandums; I shall therefore here insert some particuiars which I have collected at various times.
The Rev. Mr. Astle, of Ashbourne, in Derbyshire, brother to the learned and ingenious Thomas Astle, Esq., was from his early years
I « Letters to Mrs. Thrale," vol. ii. p. 3,2.-bosWELI.
known to Dr. Johnson, who obligingly advised him as to his studies, and recommended to him the following books, of which a list, which he has been pleased to communicate, lies before me, in Johnson's own handwriting :
Universal History (ancient) — Rollin's Ancient History-Puffendorf's Introduction to History-Vertot's History of Knights of Malta—Vertot's Revolution of Portugal-Vertot's Revolution of Sweden-Carte's History of EnglandPresent State of England-Geographical Grammar—Prideaux's ConnexionNelson's Feasts and Fasts-Duty of Man—Gentleman's Religion-Clarendon's History—Watts's Improvement of the Mind—Watts's Logic~Nature Displayed -Louth's English Grammar-Blackwell on the Classics-Sherlock’s Sermons
- Burnett's Life of Hale-Dupin's History of the Church-Shuckford's Connexions-Law's Serious Call-Walton's Complete Angler-Sandys's TravelsSprat’s History of the Royal Society-England's Gazetteer-Goldsmith's Roman History-Some Commentaries on the Bible.”
It having been mentioned to Dr. Johnson, that a gentleman who had a son whom he imagined to have an extreme degree of timidity, resolved to send him to a public school, that he might acquire confidence;“Sir,” said Johnson, “this is a preposterous expedient for removiug his infirmity ; such a disposition should be cultivated in the shade. Placing him at a public school is forcing an owl upon day."
Speaking of a gentleman whose house was much frequented by low company: “Rags, Sir," said he, “will always make their appearance, where they have a right to do it.”
Of the same gentleman's mode of living, he said, “Sir, the servants, instead of doing what they are bid, stand round the table in idle clusters, gaping upon the guests; and seem as unfit to attend a company as to steer a man of war.”
A dull country magistrate gave Johnson a long tedious account of his exercising his criminal jurisdiction, the result of which was having sentenced four convicts to transportation. Johnson, in an agony of impatience to get rid of such a companion, exclaimed, “I heartily wish, Sir, that I were a fifth.”
Johnson was present when a tragedy was read, in which there occurred this line :
“Who rules o'er freemen should himself be free.” The company having admired it much—“I cannot agree with you,” said Johnson ; "it might as well be said,
• Who drives fat oxen should himself be fat.'” He was pleased with the kindness of Mr. Cator, who was joined with him in Mr. Thrale's important trust, and thus describes him : 1 “There is much good in his character, and much usefulness in his
1" Letters to Mrs. Thrale," vol. ii. f. 284.-Boswel.L.
knowledge." He found a cordial solace at that gentleman s seat at Beckenham, in Kent, which is indeed one of the finest places at which I ever was a guest; and where I find more and more a hospitable welcome.
Johnson seldom encouraged general censure of any profession ; but he was willing to allow a due share of merit to the various departments necessary in civilized life. In a splenetic, sarcastical, or jocular frame of mind, however, he would sometimes utter a pointed saying of that nature. One instance has been mentioned, where he gave a sudden satirical stroke to the character of an attorney. The too indiscriminate admission to that employment, which requires both abilities and integrity, has given rise to injurious reflections, which are totally inapplicable to many very respectable men who exercise it with reputation and honour.
Johnson having argued for some time with a pertinacious gentleman : his opponent, who had talked in a very puzzling manner, happened to say, “I don't understand you, Sir ;” upon which Johnson observed,
Sir, I have found you an argument; but I am not obliged to find you an understanding."
Talking to me of Horry Walpole (as Horace late Earl of Orford was often called), Johnson allowed that he got together a great many curious little things, and told them in an elegant mañner. Mr. Walpole thought Johnson à more amiable character after reading his Letters to Mrs. Thrale: but never was one of the true admirers of that great man." We may suppose a prejudice conceived, if he' ever heard Johnson's account to Sir George Staunton, that when he made the speeches in Parliament for the Gentleman's Magazine, “he always took care to put Sir Robert Walpole in the wrong, and to say everything he could against the electorate of Hanover." The celebrated Heroic Epistle, in which Johnson is satirically introduced, has been ascribed both to Mr. Walpole and Mr. Mason. One day at Mr. Courtenay's, when a gentleman expressed his opinion that there was more energy in that poem than could be expected from Mr. Walpole, Mr. Warton, the late Laureat, observed, “It may have been written by Walpole, and buckram'd by Mason.
He disapproved of Lord Hailes, for having modernised the language of the ever-memorable John Hales of Eton, in an edition which his lordship published of that writer's works.
“ An author's language, Sir,” said he, “is a characteristical part of his composition, and is also characteristical of the age in which he writes. Besides, Sir, when the language is changed we are not sure that the sense is the same. No, Sir: I am sorry Lord Hailes has done this."
I In his Posthumous Works, he has spoken of Johnson in the most contemptuous manner.—MALONE.
2 It is now (1804) known that the “Heroic Epistle" was written by Mason... MALONE.