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Sir, Ætat. 74."
should think that sickness, and the view of death 1783. would make more men religious.” Johnson. " Sir, they do not know how to go about it : they have not the first notion. A man who has never had religion before, no inore grows religious when he is sick, than a man who has never learnt figures can count when he has need of calculation."
I mentioned a worthy friend of ours whom we valued much, but observed that he was too ready to in. troduce religious discourse upon all occasions. JOHNSON. “ Why, yes, Sir, he will introduce religious discourse without seeing whether it will end in instruction and improvement, or produce some profane jest. He would introduce it in the company of Wilkes, and twenty more such."
I mentioned Dr. Johnson's excellent distinction between liberty of conscience and liberty of teaching. JOHNSON. " Consider, Sir; if you have children whom
wish to educate in the principles of the Church of England, and there comes a Quaker who tries to pervert them to his principles, you would drive away the Quaker. You would not trust to the predomination of right; which you believe is in your opinions; you will keep wrong out of their heads. Now the vulgar are the children of the State. If
any one attempts to teach them doctrines contrary to what the State approves, the magistrate may and ought to restrain him.”
SewARD.“ Would you restrain private conversation, Sir?” Johnson.“Why, Sir, it is difficult to say where private conversation begins, and where it ends. If we three should discuss even the great question concerning the existence of a Supreme Being by ourselves, we should not be restrained ; for that would be to put an end to all im,
1783. provement. But if we should discuss it in the preÆtat. 74.
sence of ten boarding-school girls, and as many boys, I think the magistrate would do well to put us in the stocks, to finish the debate there."
Lord Hailes had sent him a present of a curious little printed poem, on repairing the University of Aberdeen, by David Malloch, which he thought would please Johnson, as affording clear evidence that Mallet had appeared even as a literary character by the name of Malloch; his changing which to one of softer sound, had given Johnson occasion to introduce him into his Dictionary, under the article Alias. This piece was, I suppose, one of Mallet's first essays. It is preserved in his works, with several variations. Johnson having read aloud, from the beginning of it, where there were some common-place assertions as to the superiority of ancient times ;-" How false (said he) is all this, to say that in ancient times learning was not a disgrace to a Peer as it is now. In ancient times a Peer was as ignorant as any one else. He would have been angry to have it thought
' (Malloch, as Mr. Bindley observes to me, "continued to write his name thus, after he came to London. His verses prefixed to the second edition of Thomson's - Winter' are so subscribed, and so are his Letters written in London, and published a few years ago in the European Magazine ;' but he soon afterwards adopted the alteration to Mallet, for he is so called in the list of Subscribers to Savage's Miscellanies printed in 1726 ; and thenceforward uniformly Mallet, in all his writings.” M.]
(A notion has been entertained, that no such exemplification of Alias is to be found in Johnson's Dictionary, and that the whole story was waggishly fabricated by Wilkes in the North BRITAIN. The real fact is, that it is not to be found in the Folio, or Quarto editions, but was added by Johnson in his own Octavo Abridgement, in 1756. J.B.-0.]
he could write his name. Men in ancient times 1783 dared to stand forth with a degree of ignorance with
Ætat. 74. which nobody would dare now to stand forth. I am always angry, when I hear ancient times praised at the expence of modern times. There is now a great deal more learning in the world than there was formerly; for it is universally diffused. You have, perhaps, no man who knows as much Greek and Latin as Bentley; no man who knows as much mathematicks as Newton: but you may have many more men who know Greek and Latin, and who know mathematicks.”
On Thursday, May 1, I visited him in the evening along with young Mr. Burke. He said, “ It is strange that there should be so little reading in the world, and so much writing. People in general do not willingly read, if they can have any thing else to amuse them. There must be an external impulse; emulation, or vanity, or avarice. The gress which the understanding makes through a book, has more pain than pleasure in it. Language is scanty, and inadequate to express the nice gradations and mixtures of our feelings. No man reads a book of science from pure inclination. The books that we do read with pleasure are light compositions, which contain a quick succession of events. However, I have this year read all Virgil through. I read a book of the Æneid every night, so it was done in twelve nights, and I had a great delight in it. The Georgicks did not give me so much pleasure, except - the fourth book. The Eclogues I have almost all by heart. I do not think the story of the Æneid inte. resting. I like the story of the Odyssey much better; and this not on account of the wonderful things
1783. which it contains; for there are wonderful things Ætat. 74.
enough in the Æneid ;-—the ships of the Trojans turned to sea-nymphs,mthe tree at Polydorus’s tomb dropping blood. The story of the Odyssey is interesting, as a great part of it is domestick-It has been said, there is pleasure in writing, particularly in writing verses. I allow, you may have pleasure from writing, after it is over, if you have written well;" but you don't go willingly to it again. I know when I have been writing verses, I have run my finger down the margin, to see how many I had made, and how few I had to make."
He seemed to be in a very placid humour, and although I have no note of the particulars of young Mr. Burke's conversation, it is but justice to mention in general, that it was such that Dr. Johnson said to me afterwards, “ He did very well indeed; I have a mind to tell his father."
TO SIR JOSHUA REYNOLDS.
“ The gentleman who waits on you with this, is Mr. Cruikshanks, who wishes to succeed his friend Dr. Hunter, as Professor of Anatomy in the Royal Academy. His qualifications are very generally known, and it adds dignity to the institution that such men are candidates. I am, Sir,
6 Your most humble servant, May 2, 1783.
" Sam. JOHNSON."
* [Dum pingit, fruitur arte; postquam pinxerat, fruitur fructų artis. SENECA. K.]
3 Let it be remembered by those who accuse Dr. Johnson of illiberality, that both were Scotchmen.
I have no minute of any interview with Johnson 1785. till Thursday, May 15th, when I find what follows:
Ætat. 74. BOSWELL. “ I wish much to be in Parliament, Sir." Johnson. “Why, Sir, unless you come resolved to support any administration, you would be the worse for being in Parliament, because you would be obliged to live more expensively."-Boswell. “Perhaps, Sir, I should be the less happy for being in Parliament. I never would sell my vote, and I should be vexed if things went wrong.” Johnson. “That's cant, Sir. It would not vex you more in the house, than in the gallery: public affairs vex no man." Boswell. “ Have not they vexed yourself a little, Sir? Have not you been vexed by all the turbulence of this reign, and by that absurd vote of the House of Commons, “That the influence of the Crown has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished ?" JOHNSON. “Sir, I have never slept an hour less, nor eat an ounce less meat. I would have knocked the factious dogs on the head, to be sure; but I was not vexed.” Boswell. “ I declare, Sir, upon my honour, I did imagine I was vexed, and took
pride in it; but it was, perhaps, cant; for I own I neither eat less, nor slept less." Johnson. “ My dear friend, clear your mind of cant. You may talk as other people do : you may say to a man, . Sir, I am your most humble servant.' You are not his most humble sirvant. You may say, “These are bad times; it is a melancholy thing to be reserved to such times.': You don't mind the times. You tell a man, • I am sorry you had such bad weather the last day of your journey, and were so much wet.' You don't care six-pence whether he is wet or dry. You may talk in this manner; it is a mode of talking in Society: but don't think foolishly."