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ation of his extraordinary mind was increased and confirmed.
The roughness, indeed, which sometimes appeared in his manners, was more striking to me now, from my having been accustomed to the studied smooth complying habits of the continent; and I clearly recognised in him, not without respect for his honest conscientious zeal, the same indignant and sarcastical mode of treating every attempt to unhinge or weaken good principles.
One evening, when a young gentleman teased him with an account of the infidelity of his servant, who, he said, would not believe the scriptures, because he could not read them in the original tongues, and be sure that they were not invented. Why, foolish fellow," said Johnson, "has he any better authority for almost every thing that he believes?"-Boswell. "Then the vulgar, Sir, never can know they are right, but must submit themselves to the learned.”JOHNSON. "To be sure, Sir. The vulgar are the children of the State, and must be taught like children.- Boswell. "Then, Sir, a poor Turk must be a Mahometan, just as a poor Englishman must be a Christian?"-JOHNSON. "Why, yes, Sir; and what then? This now is such stuff (1) as I used to
(1) It may be suspected that Dr. Johnson called this "childish stuff" somewhat hastily, and from a desire of evading the subject; for, no doubt, the principle involved in Mr. Boswell's inquiries is one of very high importance, and of very great difficulty - difficulty so great, that Johnson himself, though, indeed, (as re shall see, post, May 7. 1773), sometimes led to talk seriously, and even warmly, on the subject, seems unable to maintain the full extent of his principles by solid reason, and, therefore, ends the discussion either by ridicule or violence.-C.
talk to my mother, when I first began to think my. self a clever fellow; and she ought to have whipt me for it."
Another evening Dr. Goldsmith and I called on him, with the hope of prevailing on him to sup with us at the Mitre. We found him indisposed, and resolved not to go abroad. "Come then," said Goldsmith, " we will not go to the Mitre to-night, since we cannot have the big man (1) with us.' Johnson then called for a bottle of port, of which Goldsmith and I partook, while our friend, now a water-drinker, sat by us. GOLDSMITH. "I think, Mr. Johnson, you don't go near the theatres now. You give yourself no more concern about a new play, than if you had never had any thing to do with the stage." JOHNSON. "Why, Sir, our tastes greatly alter. The lad does not care for the child's rattle, and the old man does not care for the young man's whore." GOLDSMITH. "Nay, Sir; but your Muse was not a whore." JOHNSON. "Sir, I do not think she was. But as we advance in the journey of life we drop some of the things which have pleased us ; whether it be that we are fatigued and don't choose to carry so many things any farther, or that we find other things which we like better." Boswell. "But, Sir, why don't you give us something in some other way?" GOLDSMITH. "Ay, Sir, we have a claim upon you." JOHNSON. "No, Sir, I am not obliged to do any more. No man is obliged to
(1) These two little words may be observed as marks of Mr. Boswell's accuracy in reporting the expressions of his personages. It is a jocular Irish phrase, which, of all Johnson's acquaintances, no one, probably, but Goldsmith, could have used.-C.
do as much as he can do. A man is to have part of his life to himself. If a soldier has fought a good many campaigns, he is not to be blamed if he retires to ease and tranquillity. A physician, who has practised long in a great city, may be excused if he retires to a small town, and takes less practice. Now, Sir, the good I can do by my conversation bears the same proportion to the good I can do by my writings, that the practice of a physician, retired to a small town, does to his practice in a great city." BOSWELL. "But I wonder, Sir, you have not more pleasure in writing than in not writing." JOHNSON. "Sir, you may wonder." (')
He talked of making verses, and observed, "The great difficulty is, to know when you have made good ones. When composing, I have generally had them in my mind, perhaps fifty at a time, walking up and down in my room; and then I have written them down, and often, from laziness, have written only half lines. I have written a hundred lines in a day. I remember I wrote a hundred lines of 'The Vanity of Human Wishes' in a day. Doctor," turning to Goldsmith, "I am not quite idle; I made one line t'other day; but I made no more." GOLDSMITH.
(1) This is another amusing trait of Mr. Boswell's accuracy and bonne foi. Can any thing be more comic than Johnson's affectation of superiority, even to the degree of supposing that Boswell would not dare to wonder without his special sanction, and the deference with which Boswell receives and records such gracious condescension? - C.
[After all, Johnson was at this time the great established author of fifty-seven, and Boswell the enthusiastic but humble aspirant of twenty-five.]
Let us hear it; we'll put a bad one to it." JOHNSON. "No, Sir; I have forgot it."
Such specimens of the easy and playful conversation of the great Dr. Samuel Johnson are, I think, to be prized; as exhibiting the little varieties of a mind so enlarged and so powerful when objects of consequence required its exertions, and as giving us a minute knowledge of his character and modes of thinking.
LETTER 98. TO BENNET LANGTON, ESQ.
"Johnson's Court, Fleet Street, March 9. 1766.
"DEAR SIR, What your friends have done, that from your departure till now nothing has been heard of you, none of us are able to inform the rest; but as we are all neglected alike, no one thinks himself entitled to the privilege of complaint.
"I should have known nothing of you or of Langton, from the time that dear Miss Langton (1) left us had not I met Mr. Simpson, of Lincoln, one day in the street, by whom I was informed that Mr. Langton, your mamma, and yourself, had been all ill, but that you were all recovered.
"That sickness should suspend your correspondence, I did not wonder; but hoped that it would be renewed at your recovery.
"Since you will not inform us where you are, or how you live, I know not whether you desire to know any thing of us. However, I will tell you that THE CLUB subsists; but we have the loss of Burke's company since he has been engaged in public business (2), in which he has
(1) Mr. Langton's eldest sister.
(2) Mr. Burke came into Parliament under the auspices of the Marquess of Rockingham, in the year 1765.
gained more reputation than perhaps any man at his [first] appearance ever gained before. He made two speeches in the House for repealing the Stamp Act, which were publicly commended by Mr. Pitt, and have filled the town with wonder.
"Burke is a great man by nature, and is expected soon to attain civil greatness. I am grown greater too, for I have maintained the newspapers these many weeks ('); and what is greater still, I have risen every morning since New-year's day, at about eight: when I was up, I have, indeed, done but little; yet it is no slight advancement to obtain, for so many hours more, the consciousness of being.
"I wish you were in my new study; I am now writing the first letter in it. I think it looks very pretty about me.
"Dyer (2) is constant at THE CLUB ; Hawkins is remiss; I am not over diligent; Dr. Nugent, Dr. Goldsmith, and Mr. Reynolds are very constant. Mr. Lye (3) is printing his Saxon and Gothic Dictionary: all THE CLUB subscribes.
"You will pay my respects to all my Lincolnshire friends. I am, dear Sir, most affectionately yours, "SAM. JOHNSON."
(1) Probably with criticisms on his Shakspeare. - C.
(2) Samuel Dyer, Esq., a most learned and ingenious member of the "Literary Club," for whose understanding and attainments Dr. Johnson had great respect. He died Sept. 14. 1772. A more particular account of this gentleman may be found in a Note on the Life of Dryden, p. 186., prefixed to the edition of that great writer's Prose Works, in four volumes, 8vo. 1800: in which his character is vindicated, and the very unfavourable representation of it, given by Sir John Hawkins in his Life of Johnson, pp. 222. 232., is minutely examined. - M.
(3) Edward Lye was born in 1704. He published the Etymologicum Anglicanum of Junius. His great work is that referred to above, which he was printing; but he did not live to see the publication. He died in 1767, and the Dictionary was published, in 1772, by the Rev. Owen Manning, author of the History and Antiquities of Surrey. — C.