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as to read better than he might do without being 1783. taught, yes. Formerly it was supposed that there
Etat. 74, was no difference in reading, but that one read as well as another." Boswell. “ It is wonderful to see old Sheridan as enthusiastick about oratory as ever. WALKER.“ His enthusiasm as to what oratory will do, may be too great: but he reads well.” JOHNSON. “ He reads well, but he reads low; and you know it is much easier to read low than to read high; for when you read high, you are much more limited, your loudest note can be but one, and so the variety is less in proportion to the loudness. Now some people have occasion to speak to an extensive audience, and must speak loud to be heard.” WALKER.“ The art is to read strong, though low."
Talking of the origin of language ;-Johnson. “It must have come by inspiration. A thousand, nay, a million of children could not invent a language. While the organs are pliable, there is not understanding enough to form a language; by the time that there is understanding enough, the organs are become stiff. We know that after a certain age we cannot learn to pronounce a new language. No foreigner, who comes to England when advanced in life, ever pronounces English tolerably well; at least such instances are very rare.
When I maintain that language must have come by inspiration, I do not mean that inspiration is required for rhetorick, and all the beauties of language; for when once man has language, we can conceive that he may gradually form modifications of it. I mean only that inspiration seems to me to be necessary to give man the faculty of speech; to inform him that he
have speech; which I think he could no more find out without inspiration, than cows or hogs would think.
1783. of such a faculty.” WALKER. “ Do you think, Sir,
that there are any perfect synonimes in any lanEtat. 74. guage?” JOHNSON.“
Originally there were not ; but by using words negligently, or in poetry, one word comes to be confounded with another."
He talked of Dr. Dodd. “ A friend of mine, (said he,) came to me and told me, that a lady wished to have Dr. Dodd's picture in a bracelet, and asked me for a motto. I said, I could think of no better than Currat Lex. I was very willing to have him pardoned, that is, to have the sentence changed to transportation: but, when he was once hanged, I did not wish he should be made a saint."
Mrs. Burney, wife of his friend Dr. Burney, came in, and he seemed to be entertained with her conversation.
Garrick's funeral was talked of as extravagantly expensive. Johnson, from his dislike to exaggeration, would not allow that it was distinguished by any extraordinary pomp.
" Were there not six horses to each coach?" said Mrs. Burney. Johnson. “ Madam, there were no more six horses than six phænixes."
Mrs. Burney wondered that some very beautiful new buildings should be erected in Moorfields, in so shocking a situation as between Bedlam and St. Luke's Hospital; and said she could not live there. JOHNSON. “ Nay, Madam, you see nothing there to hurt you.
You no more think of madness by having windows that look to Bedlam, than you think of death by having windows that look to a church-yard.” Mrs. BURNEY.
look to a church-yard, Sir; for it is righi that we should be kept in mind of death.” JOHNSON. “ Nay, Madam, if you go to that, it is right that we should be kept in mind of madness, which is occasioned by too much indul
gence of imagination. I think a very moral use may be made of these new buildings: I would have
Ætat. 74. those who have heated imaginations live there, and take warning.” Mrs. BURNEY. “But, Sir, many of the poor people that are mad, have become so from disease, or from distressing events. It is, therefore, not their fault, but their misfortune; and, therefore, to think of them, is a melancholy consideration.”
Time passed on in conversation till it was too late for the service of the church at three o'clock. I took a walk, and left him alone for some time; then returned, and we had coffee and conversation again by ourselves.
I stated the character of a noble friend of mine, as a curious case for his opinion :-" He is the most inexplicable man to me that I ever knew. Can
you explain him, Sir? He is, I really believe, nobleminded, generous, and princely. But his most intimate friends may be separated from him for years, without his ever asking a question concerning them. He will meet them with a formality, a coldness, a stately indifference; but when they come close to him, and fairly engage him in conversation, they find him as easy, pleasant, and kind, as they could wish. One then supposes that what is so agreeable will soon be renewed; but stay away from him for half a year, and he will neither call on you, nor send to enquire about you.” Johnson. “ Why, Sir, I cannot ascertain his character exactly, as I do not know him; but I should not like to have such a man for my friend. He may love study, and wish not to be interrupted by his friends; Anici fures temporis. He may be a frivolous man, and be so much occupied with petty pursuits, that he may not want friends. Or he have a potion that there is a dignity in appearing in
Or he may
1783. different, while he in fact may not be more indiffere Etat. 74.
ent at his heart than another."
We went to evening prayers at St. Clement's, at seven, and then parted.
On Sunday, April 20, being Easter-day, after attending solemn service at St. Paul's, I came to Dr. Johnson, and found Mr. Lowe, the painter, sitting with him. Mr. Lowe mentioned the great number of new buildings of late in London, yet that Dr. Johnson had observed, that the number of inhabitants was not increased. JOHNSON. “ Why, Sir, the bills of mortality prove that no more people die now than formerly; so it is plain no more live. The register of births proves nothing, for not one tentlı of the people of London are born there." Boswell. “ I believe, Sir, a great many of the children born in London die early.” JOHNSON. “Why, yes, Sir." BOSWELL: “ But those who do live, are as stout and strong people as any: Dr. Price says, they must be naturally strong to get through.” JOHNSON. “That is system, Sir. A great traveller observes, that it is said there are no weak or deformed people among the Indians; but he with much sagacity assigns the reason of this, which is, that the hardship of their life as hunters and fishers, does not allow weak or diseased children to grow up. Now had I been an Indian, I must have died early; my eyes would not have served me to get food. I indeed now could fish, give me English tackle; but had I been an Indian I must have starved, or they would have knocked me on the head, when they saw I could do nothing.” Boswell. “ Perhaps they would have taken care of you; we are told they are fond of oratory, you would have talked to them.” JOHNSON. * Nay, Sir, I should not have lived long enough to
be fit to talk; I should have been dead before I 1783. was ten years old. Depend upon it, Sir, à savage, Ætat. 74. when he is hungry, will not carry about with him a looby of nine years old, who cannot help himself. They have no affection, Sir.” Boswell. “ I believe natural affection, of which we hear so much, is very small.” JOHNSON. “ Sir, natural affection is nothing: but affection from principle and established duty, is sometimes wonderfully strong." Lowe. “ A hen, Sir, will feed her chickens in preference to herself.” JOHNSON. “ But we don't know that the hen is hungry; let the hen be fairly hungry, and I'll warrant she'll peck the corn herself. A cock, I believe, will feed hens instead of himself; but we don't know that the cock is hungry." BOSWELL. “And that, Sir, is not from affection but gallantry. But some of the Indians have affection.” JOHNSON. “ Sir, that they help some of their children is plain; for some of them live, which they could not do without being helped.”
I dined with him; the company were, Mrs. Williams, Mrs. Desmoulins, and Mr. Lowe. He seemed not to be well, talked little, grew drowsy soon after dinner, and retired, upon which I went away.
Having next day gone to Mr. Burke's seat in the country, from whence I was recalled by an express, that a near relation of mine had killed his antagonist in a duel, and was himself dangerously wounded, I saw little of Dr. Johnson till Monday, April 28, when I spent a considerable part of the day with him, and introduced the subject, which then chiefly occupied my mind. Johnson. “I do not see, Sir, that fighting is absolutely forbidden in Scripture; I see revenge forbidden, but not self-defence.” Boswell, “ The Quakers say it is; · Unto him that