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who know Mr. Burke, know, that he will be one of the first men in the country.”
Of Dr. Taylor of Ashbourne, Johnson said, “Tay. lor is a very sensible acute man, and has a strong mind: he has great activity in some respects; and yet such a sort of indolence, that, if you should put a pebble upon his chimney-piece, you would find it there, in the same state, a year afterwards.”
Talking of an acquaintance, distinguished for knowing an uncommon variety of miscellaneous articles both in antiquities and polite literature, he observed, You know, sir, he runs abont with little weight upon his mind.” And talking of another very ingenious' gentleman, who, from the warmth of his temper, was at variance with many of his acquaintance, and wished to avoid him, he said, “ Sir, he leads the life of an outlaw."
Dr. Robertson expatiated on the character of a certain nobleman; that he was one of the strongestminded men that ever lived ; that he would sit in company quite sluggish, while there was nothing to call forth his intellectual vigour; but the moment that any important subject was started, for instance, how this country is to be defended against a French invasion, he would rouse himself, and show his extraordinary talents with the most powerful abi. lity and animation. JOHNSON. “ Yet this man cut his own throat. The true strong and sound mind is the mind that can embrace equally great things and small. Now I am told the king of Prussia will say to a servant,.' Bring me a bottle of such a wine, which came in such a year; it lies in such a .corner of the cellars. I would have a man great in great things, and elegant in little things." He
said to Boswell afterwards, when they were by themselves, “ Robertson was in a mighty romantic humour; he talked of one whom he did not know; but I downed him with the king of Prussia.” BosWELL. Yes, sir, you threw a bottle at bis head.”
An ingenious gentleman was mentioned, concerning whom both Robertson and Ramsay agreed that he had a constant firmness of mind; for after a laborious day, and amidst a multiplicity of cares and anxieties, he would sit down with his sisters, and be quite cheerful and good-humoured. Such a disposition, it was observed, was a happy gift of pature. Johnson. “ I do not think so; a man has from nature a certain portion of mind; the use he makes of it depends upon his own free will. That a man has always the saine firmness of mind, I do not say; because every man feels his mind less firm at one time than another; but I think a man's being in a good or bad humour depends upon his will." I, however,” Boswell adds, “ could not help thinking, that a man's humour is often uncontrollable by his will."
He thus characterised the duke of Devonshire, grandfather of the present representative of that very respectable family : “ He was not a man of superior abilities, but he was a man strictly faithful to his word. If, for instance, he had promised you an acorn,
and none had grown that year in his woods, he would not have contented himself with that excuse: he would have sent to Denmark for it: so unconditional was he in keeping his word; so high as to the point of honour.”
This was a liberal testimony from the Tory Johnson to the vir. tue of a great Whig nobleman.
Johnson gave, in his happy discriminative manner, a portrait of the late Mr. Fitzherbert of Derbyshire. “ There was no sparkle, no brilliancy in Fitzherbert; but I never knew a man who was so generally acceptable. He made every body quite easy, overpowered nobody by the superiority of his talents, made no man think worse of himself by being his rival, seemed always to listen, did not oblige you to hear much from him, and did not oppose what you said. Every body liked him ; but he had no friend, as I understand the word, nobody with whom he exchanged intimate thoughts. People were willing to think well of every thing about him. A gentleman was making an affected rant, as many people do, of great feelings about
his dear son, who was at school near London how anxious he was lest he might be, ill, and what he would give to see him. Can't you,' said Fitzherbert, take a post-chaise, and go to him?' This, to be sure, finished the affected man; but there was not much in it.* However, this was circulated as wit for a whole winter, and I believe a part of a summer too; a proof that he was no
* Dr. Gisborne, physician to his majesty's household, has given a fuller account of this story than had reached Dr. Johnson. The affected gentleman was the late John Gilbert Cooper, esq. author of a Life of Socrates, and of some poems in Dodsley's collection. Mr. Fitzherbert found him one morning apparently in such violent agitation, on ae count of the indisposition of his son, as to seem beyond the power of comfort. At length, however, he exclaimed, “ I'll write an elegy. Mr. Fitzherbert being satisfied, by this, of the sincerity of his emotions, slyly said, “ Had not you better take a post-chaise, and go and see him ?"
It was the shrewdness of the insinuationwhich made the story be eirculated.
very witty man. He was an instance of the truth of the observation, that a man will please more upon the whole by negative qualities than by positive; by never offending, than by giving a great deal of delight. In the first place, men hate more "steadily than they love : and if I have said something to hurt a man once, I shall not get the better of this, by saying many things to please him."
Speaking of a certain literary friend, he said “ He is a very pompous puzzling fellow : he lent me a letter once that somebody had written to him, no matter what it was about ; but he wanted to have the letter back, and expressed a mighty value
he hoped it was to be met with again; he would not lose it for a thousand pounds. I laid my hand upon it soon afterwards, and gave it him. I believe, I said I was very glad to have met with it. O, then he did not know that it signified any thing. So you see, when the letter was lost it was worth a thousand pounds, and when it was found it was not worth a farthing."
A writer of deserved eminence being mentioned, Johnson said, “Why, sir, he is a man of good parts, but being originally poor, he has got a love of mean company and low jocularity; a very bad thing, sir. To laugh is good, and to talk is good ; but you ought no more to think it enough if you laugh, than you are to think it enough if you talk. You may laugh in as many ways as you talk; and surely every way of talking that is practised cannot be esteemed."
“ Has not ****** a great deal of wit, sir ?" Johnson. “ I do not think so, sir. He is, indeed, continually attempting wit, but he fails : and I have no more pleasure in hearing a man attempting wit
and failing, than in seeing a man trying to leap over a ditch, and tumbling into it.”
He described the father of one of his friends thus : “ Sir, he was so exuberant a talker at public meetings, that the gentlemen of his county were afraid of him. No business could be done for his declamation."
Talking of a penurious gentleman of his acquaintance, Johnson said, “Sir, he is narrow, not so much from avarice, as from impotence to spend · his money. He cannot find in his heart to pour out a bottle of wine ; but he would not much care if it should sour.”
In the evening the rev. Mr. Seward, of Lichfield, who was passing through Ashbourne in his way home, drank tea there at Dr. Taylor's. Johnson described him thus : “ Sir, his ambition is to be a fipe talker; so he goes to Buxton, and such places, where he may find companies to listen to him. And, sir, he is a valetudinarian ; one of those who are always mending themselves. I do not know a more disagreeable character than a valetudinarian, who thinks he may do any thing that is for his ease, and indulges himself in the grossest freedoms : sir, he brings himself to the state of a hog in a sty.”
Talking of some of the modern plays, he said False Delicacy was totally void of character. He praised Goldsmith's Good-natured Man; said it was the best comedy that had appeared since The Provoked Husband, and that there had not been of late any such character exhibited on the stage as that of Croaker. Boswell observed it was the Suspirius of his Rambler. He said, Goldsmith bad owned he had borrowed it thence. Sir,” continued he,