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to the office, being chosen from temporary political views. JOHNSON. “ Why, Sir, in such a government as ours, no man is appointed to an office because he is the fittest for it, nor hardly in any other government; because there are so many connections and dependencies to be studied. A despotic prince may choose a man to an office, merely because he is the fittest for it. The king of Prussia may do it.” Sir A. “I think, Sir, almost all great lawyers, such at least as have written upon law, have known only law, and nothing else.” Johnson. “ Why no, Sir; Judge Hale was a great lawyer, and wrote upon law; and yet he knew a great many other things, and has written upon other things. Selden too.” Sir A. “ Very true, Sir; and Lord Bacon. But was not Lord Coke a mere lawyer?” Johnson. “ Why, I am afraid he was; but he would have taken it very ill if you had told him so. He would have prosecuted you for scandal.” Boswell. “ Lord Mansfield is not a mere lawyer.” Johnson. “ No, Sir, I never was in Lord Mansfield's company; but Lord Mansfield was distinguished at the University. Lord Mansfield, when he first came to town, drank champagne with the wits,' as Prior says. He was the friend of Pope.” (1) Sir A. “ Barristers, I believe, are not so abusive now as they were for
(1) He was one of his executors. The large space which (thanks to Mr. Boswell) Dr. Johnson occupies in our estimate of the society of his day, makes it surprising that he should never have been in company with Lord Mansfield; but Boswell was disposed to over-rate the extent and rank of Johnson's acquaintance. — C.
merly. (1) I fancy they had less law long ago, and so were obliged to take to abuse, to fill up the time. Now they have such a number of precedents, they have no occasion for abuse.” JOHNSON. “ Nay, Sir, they had more law long ago than they have now. As to precedents, to be sure they will increase in course of time; but the more precedents there are, the less occasion is there for law; that is to say, the less occasion is there for investigating principles.” SIR A. “I have been correcting several Scotch accents in my friend Boswell. I doubt, Sir, if any Scotchman ever attains to a perfect English pronunciation.” JOHNSON. “ Why, Sir, few of them do, because they do not persevere after acquiring a certain degree of it. But, Sir, there can be no doubt that they may attain to a perfect English pronunciation, if they will. We find how near they come to it; and certainly, a man who conquers nineteen parts of the Scottish accent, may conquer the twentieth. But, Sir, when a man has got the better of nine tenths he grows weary, he relaxes his diligence, he finds he has corrected his accent so far as not to be disagreeable, and he no longer desires his friends to tell him when he is wrong ; nor does he choose to be told. Sir, when people watch me narrowly, and I do not watch myself, they will find me out to be of a particular county. In the same manner, Dunning may be found out to be a Devonshire man. So most Scotchmen may be found
(1) The general tone of society is probably improved in this respect, and barristers are more men of the world, and mix more in polite company than at the times Sir A. Macdonald alluded to.-C.
out. But, Sir, little aberrations are of no disadvantage. I never catched Mallet in a Scotch accent; and yet Mallet, I suppose, was past five-and-twenty before he came to London.”
Upon another occasion I talked to him on this subject, having myself taken some pains to improve my pronunciation, by the aid of the late Mr.Love(2), of Drury Lane theatre, when he was a player at Edinburgh, and also of old Mr. Sheridan. Johnson said to me “ Sir, your pronunciation is not offensive.” With this concession I was pretty well satisfied; and let me give my countrymen of North Britain an advice not to aim at absolute perfection in this respect; not to speak High English, as we are apt to call what is far removed from the Scotch, but which is by no means good English, and makes “the fools who use it” truly ridiculous. Good English is plain, easy, and smooth in the mouth of an unaffected English gentleman. A studied and factitious pronunciation, which requires perpetual attention, and imposes perpetual constraint, is exceedingly disgusting. A small intermixture of provincial peculiarities may, perhaps, have an agreeable effect, as the notes of different birds concur in the harmony of the grove, and please more than if they were all exactly alike. I could name some gentlemen of Ireland, (2) to whom a slight proportion of the
(1) Love was an assumed name. He was the son of Mr. Dance, the architect. He resided many years at Edinburgh as manager of the theatre: he removed, in 1762, to Drury Lane, and died in 1771.-C.
(2) Mr. Boswell probably included, in this observation, Mr. Burke; who, to the last, retained more of the Irish accent than was agreeable to less indulgent ears. — C.
accent and recitative of that country is an advantage. The same observation will apply to the gentlemen of Scotland. I do not mean that we should speak as broad as a certain prosperous member of parliament from that country ((); though it has been well observed, that “ it has been of no small use to him, as it rouses the attention of the House by its uncommonness; and is equal to tropes and figures in a good English speaker.” I would give as an instance of what I mean to recommend to my countrymen, the pronunciation of the late Sir Gilbert Elliot(); and may I presume to add that of the present Earl of Marchmont(3), who told me, with great good humour, that the master of a shop in London, where he was not known, said to him, “ I suppose, Sir, you are an American.” “ Why so, Sir?” said his Lordship. “ Because, Sir,” replied the shopkeeper, “ you speak neither English nor Scotch, but something different from both, which I conclude is the language of America."
BOSWELL. “ It may be of use, Sir, to have a Dictionary to ascertain the pronunciation.” JohnSON. “ Why, Sir, my Dictionary shows you the
(1) Mr. Dundas, successively Lord Advocate, Secretary of Staté, First Lord of the Admirality, and Viscount Melville, whose accent, and many of whose phrases, were to the last peculiarly national. — C.
(2) The third Baronet, father of the first Lord Minto; a gentleman of distinction in the political, and not unknown in the poetical, world : he died in 1777. — C. [Sir Gilbert Elliot wrote the beautiful pastoral ballad quoted in the notes to the Lay of the Last Minstrel, “ Why left I Aminta !” &c.]
(3) Hugh, fourth Earl of Marchmont, the friend and executor of Pope ; born in 1708, died in 1794. — C.
accent of words, if you can but remember them." BOSWELL. “ But, Sir, we want marks to ascertain the pronunciation of the vowels. Sheridan, I believe, has finished such a work.” JOHNSON. “ Why, Sir, consider how much easier it is to learn a language by the ear, than by any marks. Sheridan's Dictionary may do very well; but you cannot always carry it about with you: and, when you want the word, you have not the Dictionary. It is like a man who has a sword that will not draw. It is an admirable sword, to be sure: but while your enemy is cutting your throat, you are unable to use it. Besides, Sir, what entitles Sheridan to fix the pronunciation of English? He has, in the first place, the disadvantage of being an Irishman; and if he says he will fix it after the example of the best company, why, they differ among themselves. I remember an instance; when I published the plan for my Dictionary, Lord Chesterfield told me that the word great should be pronounced so as to rhyme to state ; and Sir William Yonge (1) sent me word that it should be pronounced so as to rhyme to seat, and that none but an Irishman would pronounce it grait. Now, here were two men of the highest rank, the one, the best speaker in the House of Lords, the other, the best speaker in the House of Commons, differing entirely."
I again visited him at night. Finding him in a
(1) Sir William Yonge, Secretary at War in Sir Robert Walpole's administration, and therefore very odious to Pope, who makes frequent depreciating allusions to him. He died in 1755. C.