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blaze of eloquence, which roused every intellectual power in me to the highest pitch, but must have dazzled me so much, that my memory could not preserve the substance of his discourse ; for the note which I find of it is no more than this :- :-“ He ran over the grand scale of human knowledge; advised me to select some particular branch to excel in, but to acquire a little of every kind.” The defect of my minutes will be fully supplied by a long letter upon the subject, which he favoured me with, after I had been some time at Utrecht, and which my readers will have the pleasure to peruse in its proper place.
We walked in the evening in Greenwich Park. He asked me, I suppose by way of trying my disposition, “ Is not this very fine ?” Having no exquisite relish of the beauties of nature, and being more delighted with the busy hum of men," I answered, “ Yes, Sir; but not equal to Fleet-street.” Johnson. “ You are right, Sir.” I am aware that
my readers may censure my want of taste. Let me, however, shelter myself under the authority of a very fashionable baronet (1) in the brilliant world, who, on his attention being
(1) My friend Sir Michael Le Fleming. This gentleman, with all his experience of sprightly and elegant life, inherits, with the beautiful family domain, no inconsiderable share of that love of literature, which distinguished his venerable grandfather the Bishop of Carlisle. He one day observed to me, of Dr. Johnson, in a felicity of phrase, “ There is a blunt dignity about him on every occasion.” - -B. — Sir Michael Le Fleming (of Rydall in Westmoreland] died of an apoplectic fit, May 19. 1806, while conversing, at the Admiralty, with Lord Howick, [now the Earl Grey]. — M. & C.
called to the fragrance of a May evening in the country, observed, “ This may be very well; but, for my part, I prefer the smell of a flambeau at the playhouse."
We staid so long at Greenwich, that our sail up the river, in our return to London, was by no means so pleasant as in the morning ; for the night air was so cold that it made me shiver. I was the more sensible of it from having sat up all the night before recollecting and writing in my Journal what I thought worthy of preservation; an exertion, which, during the first part of my acquaintance with Johnson, I frequently made. I remember having sat up four nights in one week, without being much incommoded in the daytime.
Johnson, whose robust frame was not in the least affected by the cold, scolded me, as if my shivering had been a paltry effeminacy, saying, “Why do you shiver ?" Sir William Scott('), of the Commons, told me, that when he complained of a headach in the post-chaise, as they were travelling together to Scotland, Johnson treated him in the same manner: “ At your age, Sir, I had no headach.”
It is not easy to make allowance for sensations in others, which we ourselves have not at the time. We must all have experienced how very differently we are affected by the complaints of our neighbours, when we are well and when we are ill. In full health, we can scarcely believe that they suffer much; so faint is the image
(1) Now Lord Stowell, who accompanied Dr. Johnson from Newcastle to Edinburgh in 1773. — C.
of pain upon our imagination: when softened by sickness, we readily sympathise with the sufferings of others.
We concluded the day at the Turk’s Head coffeehouse very socially. He was pleased to listen to a particular account which I gave him of my family, and of its hereditary estate, as to the extent and population of which he asked questions, and made calculations ; recommending, at the same time, a liberal kindness to the tenantry, as people over whom the proprietor was placed by Providence. He took delight in hearing my description of the romantic seat of
ancestors. “I must be there, Sir,” said he, “and we will live in the old castle; and if there is not a room in it remaining, we will build one.” I was highly flattered, but could scarcely indulge a hope that Auchinleck would indeed be honoured by his presence, and celebrated by a description, as it afterwards was, in his “ Journey to the Western Islands.”
After we had again talked of my setting out for Holland, he said, “I must see thee out of England; I will accompany you to Harwich.” I could not find words to express what I felt upon this unexpected and very great mark of his affectionate regard. (1)
Next day, Sunday, July 31., I told him I had been that morning at a meeting of the people called Quakers, where I had heard a woman preach. John
“ Sir, a woman preaching is like a dog's
(1) [Boswell had first met Johnson only ten weeks before this time, viz. on the 16th of May. — MARKLAND.?
walking on his hind legs. " It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all.”
On Tuesday, August 2., (the day of my departure from London having been fixed for the 5th,) Dr. Johnson did me the honour to pass a part of the morning with me at my chambers. He said, that “ he always felt an inclination to do nothing." I observed, that it was strange to think that the most indolent man in Britain had written the most laborious work, The English DictioNARY.
I mentioned an imprudent publication, by a certain friend of his, at an early period of life, and asked him if he thought it would hurt him. Johnson. Sir; not much. It may, perhaps, be mentioned at an election." ( )
I had now made good my title to be a privileged man, and was carried by him in the evening to drink tea with Miss Williams, whom, though under the misfortune of having lost her sight, I found to be agreeable in conversation ; for she had a variety of literature, and expressed herself well; but her peculiar value was the intimacy in which she had long
(1) This probably alludes to Mr. Burke's “ Vindication of Natural Society," a work published in 1756, in a happy imitation of Lord Bolingbroke's style, and in an ironical adoption of his principles : the whole was so well done, that it at first passed as a genuine work of Lord Bolingbroke's, and subsequently as a serious and (as in style and imagery it certainly is) splendid exposition of the principles of one of his disciples. Lord Chesterfield and Bishop Warburton are stated to have been so deceived; and it would seem, from the passage in the text, that Johnson and Boswell were in the same error. In 1765, Mr. Burke reprinted this piece, with a preface, in which he throws off altogether the mask of irony. Mr. Boswell calls him a friend of Johnson's, for he himself had not yet met Mr, Burke,
ÆTAT. 54. HIS “ WALK.". -THE CONVOCATION. 253
lived with Johnson, by which she was well acquainted with his habits, and knew how to lead him on to talk.
After tea he carried me to what he called his walk, which was a long narrow paved court in the neighbourhood, overshadowed by some trees. There we sauntered a considerable time; and I complained to him that my love of London and of his company was such, that I shrunk almost from the thought of going away even to travel, which is generally so much desired by young men.
He roused me by manly and spirited conversation. He advised me, when settled in any place abroad, to study with an eagerness after knowledge, and to apply to Greek an hour every day; and when I was moving about, to read diligently the great book of mankind. •
On Wednesday, August 3., we had our last social evening at the Turk's Head coffee-house, before my setting out for foreign parts. I had the misfortune, before we parted, to irritate him unintentionally. I mentioned to him how common it was in the world to tell absurd stories of him, and to ascribe to him very strange sayings. Johnson. “What do they make me say, Sir ?” BoswELL. “Why, Sir, as an instance very strange indeed, (laughing heartily as I spoke,) David Hume told me, you said that you would stand before a battery of cannon to restore the Convocation to its full powers.” Little did I apprehend that he had actually said this : but I was soon convinced of my error ; for, with a determined look, he thundered out, “ And would I not, Sir ? Shall the Presby :