페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

he is not obliged to gain it.” Johnson. “But, sir, there is a difference when the cause is of a inan's own making."

At another time, he, Mr. Thomas Warton, and Boswell, talked of biography. JOHNSON. “ It is rarely well executed. They only who live with a man can write his life with any genuine exactness and discrimination, and few people who have lived with a man know what to remark about him. The chaplain of a late bishop, whom I was to assist in writing some memoirs of his lordship, could tell me scarcely any thing." Boswell. “ Mr. Robert Dodsley's life should be written, as he was so much connected with the wits of his time, and by his literary merit had raised himself from the station of a footman.” WARTON. “He published a little volume under the title of The Muse in Livery." JOHNSON. “ I doubt whether Dodsley's brother would thank a man who should write his life; yet Dodsley himself was not unwilling that his ori. ginal low condition should be recollected. When lord Lyttelton's Dialogues of the Dead came out, one of which is between Apicius, an ancient epicure, and Dartineuf, a modern epicure, Dodsley said to me, ' I knew Dartineuf well, for I was once his footman.'"

Biography led them to speak of Dr. John Camp. bell, who had written a considerable part of the Biographia Britannica. Johnson, though he valued him highly, was of opinion that there was not so much in his great work, A Political Survey of Great Britain, as the world had been taught to expect; and had said to Boswell, that he believed Campbell's disappointment, on account of the bad

success of that work, had killed him. He this evening observed of it, " That work was his death." Mr. Warton, not adverting to his meaning, answered, “ I believe so, from the great attention he bestowed on it.” JOHNSON.

Nay, sir, he died of want of attention, if he died at all by that book."

Boswell said, " In writing a life, a man's peculiarities should be mentioired, because they mark his character.” JOHNSON. “Sir, there is no doubt as to peculiarities: the question is, whether a man's vices should be mentioned; for instance, whether it should be mentioned, that Addison and Parnell drank too freely: for people will probably more easily indulge in drinking from knowing this; so that more ill may be done by the example, than good by telling the whole truth.” On this, Boswell remarks, “ Here was an instance of his varying from himself in talk; for when lord Hailes and he sat one morning calmly conversing, in my house at Edinburgh, I well remember that Dr. Johnson maintained, that “if a man is to write A Panegyric, he may keep vices out of sight; but if he professes to write A Life, he must represent it really as it was ;' and when I objected to the danger of telling that Paruell drank to excess, he said, that

it would produce an instructive caution to avoid drinking, when it was seen, that even the learning and genius of Parnell could be debased by it. And in the Hebrides, he maintained, as appears from my Journal, that a man's intimate friend should men. tion his faults, if he writes his life.”

No. IX.

BONS MOTS.

When Dr. Johnson had finished some part of his tragedy of Irene, he read what he had done to Mr. Walmsley, who objected to his having already brought his heroine into great distress; and asked him, “ How can you possibly contrive to plunge her into deeper calamity?” Johnson, in sly allusion to the supposed oppressive proceedings of the court of which Mr. Walmsley was registrar, replied, Sir, I can put her into the spiritual court!"

Soon after Edwards's Canons of Criticism came out, Johoson was dining at Tonson the bookseller's, with Hayman the painter, and some more company. Hayman related to sir Joshua Reynolds, that the conversation having turned upon Edwards's book, the gentlemen praised it much, and Johnson allowed its merit: but when they went farther, and appeared to put that author upon a level with Warburton, Nay,” said Johnson, “ he has given him some smart hits to be sure; but there is no proportion between the two men ; they must not be named together. A fly, sir, maç stiug a stately horse, and make him wince; but one is but an iu. sect, and the other is a horse still.”

On the 6th of March, 1754, came out lord Bolingbroke's works, published by Mr. David Mallet. Johnson, hearing of their tendency, was roused with a just indignation, and pronounced this me

morable sentence upon the noble author and his editor: “Sir, he was a scoundrel, and a coward : a scoundrel, for charging a blunderbuss against religion and morality; a coward, because he had not resolution to fire it off himself, but left half a crown to a beggarly Scotchman, to draw the trigger after his death !"

One day,” says Boswell, “ be read to us a dis. sertation which he was preparing for the press, entitled, A History and Chronology of the Fabulous Ages. Some old divinities. of Thrace, related to the Titans, and called the Cabiri, made a very im. portant part of the theory of this piece; and in a conversation afterwards, Mr. Wise talked much of his Cabiri. As we returned to Oxford in the evening, I out-walked Johnson, and he cried out, Suflamina, a Latin word which came from his mouth with peculiar grace, and was as much as to say, Put on your drag chain. Before we got home, I again walked too fast for him; and he now cried out, : Why you walk as if you were pursued by all the Cabiri in a body.'

When the messenger, who carried the last sheet of Johnson's Dictionary to. Millar, returned, Johnson asked him,“ Well, what did he say?" Sir," · answered the messenger, “ he said, thank God, I have done with him.'" “I am glad," replied Johnson, with a smile," that he thanks God for any thing."

At a gentleman's seat in the west of England, in order to amuse him till dinner should be ready, he was taken out to walk in the garden. The master of the house, thinking it proper to introduce some

.

thing scientific into the conversation, addressed him thus : “ Are you a botanist, Dr. Johnson ?" “ No, sir,” answered Johnson, “ I am not a botanist; aod, (alluding, no doubt, to his near-sightedness) should I wish to become a botanist, I must first turn myself into a reptile."

When Mr. Davies first introduced Boswell to Johnson, he was much agitated; and, recollecting his prejudice against the Scotch, of which he had heard much, said to Davies, “ Don't tell where I come from." “ From Scotland,” cried Davies, roguishly. “Mr. Johnson," said Boswell, “ I do indeed come from Scotland, but I can't help it." To which Johnson replied, “ That, sir, I find is what a great many of your countrymen cannot help."

Mr. Ogilvie was unlucky enough to choose for the topic of his conversation the praises of his native country. He began with saying, that there was very rich land around Edinburgh. Goldsmith, who had studied physic there, contradicted this very untruly, with a sneering laugh. Disconcerted a little by this, Mr. Ogilvie then took a new ground, where he probably thought himself perfectly safe; for he observed, that Scotland had a great many noble wild prospects. JOHNSON. “ I believe, sir, you have a great many: Norway, too, has noble wild prospects; and Lapland is remarkable for prodigious noble wild prospects : but, sir, let me tell you, the noblest prospect which a Scotchman ever sees, is the high road that leads him to England."

Johnson said he had lately been a long while at Lichfield, but had grown very weary before he left it. Boswell. “ I wonder at that, sir; it is your

« 이전계속 »