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knew, had gone the greatest length towards this; having collected, I think, about five hundred volumes of poets whose works were little known; but that upon his death Tom Osborne bought them, and they were dispersed, which he thought a pity, as it was curious to see any series complete; and in every volume of poems something good may be found.”
He observed, that a gentleman of eminence in literature had got into a bad style of Poetry of late. puts (said he) a very common thing in a strange dress till he does not know it himself, and thinks other people do not know it.” BOSWELL. “ That is owing to his being so much versant in old English poetry.” JOHNSON. “ What is that to the purpose, Sir? If I say a man is drunk, and you tell me it is owing to his taking much drink, the matter is not mended. No, Sir,has taken to an odd mode. For example: he'd write thus;
“ Hermit hoar, in solemn cell,
“ Wearing out life's evening gray." Gray evening is common enough ; but evening gray he'd think fine. Stay ;-we'll make out the stanza:
• Hermit hoar, in solemn cell,
• Wearing out life's evening gray: • Smite thy bosom, sage, and tell,
• What is bliss ? and which the way ?' BOSWELL. “ But why smite his bosom, Sir!” JOHNSON. “Why to shew he was in earnest,” (smiling: He at an after period added the following stanza :
“ Thus I spoke : and speaking sighed;
“ -Scarce repress'd the starting tear ;“ When the smiling sage reply'd
-Come, my lad, and drink some beer." 6
6 As some of my
progress of this little composition, I shall insert it from my notes.
" When Dr. Johnson and I were sitting tête-à-tête at the Mitre-tavern,
I cannot help thinking the first stanza very good solemu poetry, as also the first three lines of the second. Its last line is an excellent burlesque surprize on gloomy sentimental enquiries. And, perhaps, the advice is as good as can be given to a low-spirited dissatisfied being :
-“ Don't trouble your head with sickly thinking: take a cup, and be merry.”
Friday, September 19, after breakfast, Dr. Johnson and I set out in Dr. Taylor's chaise to go to Derby. The day was fine, and we resolved to go by Keddlestone, the seat of Lord Scarsdale, that I might see his Lordship's fine house. I was struck with the magnificence of the building; and the extensive park, with the finest verdure, covered with deer, and cattle, and sheep, delighted me. The number of old oaks, of an immense size, filled me with a sort of respectful admiration; for one of them sixty pounds was offered. The excellent smooth gravel roads; the large piece of water formed by his Lordship from some small brooks, with a handsome barge upon it; the venerable Gothick church, now the family chapel, just by the house; in short, the.. grand group of objects agitated and distended my mind in a most agreeable manner, One should think (said
May 9, 1778, he said "Where is bliss,' would be better. He then added a ludicrous stanza, but would not repeat it, lest I should take it down. It was somewhat as follows; the last line I am sure I remember: • While I thus
seer, « The hoary
reply'd, Come, my lad, and drink some beer.': “ In spring, 1779, when in better humour, he made the second stanza, as in the text. There was only one variation afterwards made on my suggestion, which was changing hoary in the third line to smiling, both to avoid a sameness with the epithet in the first line, and to describe the hermit in his pleasantry. He was then very well pleased that I should preserve it."
1,) that the proprietor of all this must be happy.”“ Nay, Sir, (said Johnson,) all this excludes but one evil-poverty.”?
Our names were sent up, and a well-drest elderly housekeeper, a most distinct articulator, shewed us the house; which I need not describe, as there is an account of it published in “ Adams's works in Architecture.” Dr. Johnson thought better of it to-day, than when he saw it before ; for he had lately attacked it violently, saying, “ It would do excellently for a townhall. The large room with the pillars (said he would do for the Judges to sit in at the assizes.; the circular room for a jury-chamber; and the room above for prisoners." Still he thought the large room ill lighted, and of no use but for dancing in; and the bed-chambers but indifferent rooms; and that the immense sum which it cost was injudiciously laid out. Dr. Taylor had put him in mind of his appearing pleased with the house. “ But (said he) that was when Lord Scarsdale was present. Politeness obliges us to appear pleased with a man's works when he is present. No man will be so ill-bred as to question you. You may therefore pay compliments without saying what is not true. I should say to Lord Scarsdale of his large room, My Lord, this is the most costly room that I ever saw ;
which is true.” Dr. Manningham, physician in London, who was visiting at Lord Scarsdale's, accompanied us through
7 When I mentioned Dr. Johnson's remark to a lady of admirable good sense and quickness of understanding, she observed, “It is true, all this excludes only one evil; but how much good does it let in ?"-To this observation much praise has been justly given. Let me then now do myself the honour to mention that the lady who made it was the late Margaret Montgomerie, my very valuable wife, and the very affectionate mother of my children, who, if they inherit her good qualities, will have no reason to complain of their lot. Dos Magna parentum virtus.
many of the rooms, and soon afterwards my Lord himself, to whom Dr. Johnson was known, appeared, and did the honours of the house. We talked of Mr. Langton. Johnson, with a warm vehemence of affectionate regard, exclaimed, “ The earth does not bear a worthier man than Bennet Langton.' We saw a good many fine pictures, which I think are described in one of “ Young's Tours." There is a printed catalogue of them, which the housekeeper put into my hand; I should like to view them at leisure. I was much struck with Daniel interpreting Nebuchadnezzar's dream, by Rembrandt.-We were shewn a pretty large library. In his Lordship's dressing-room lay Johnson's small Dictionary: he shewed it to me, with some eagerness, saying, “
“ Look 'ye! Quæ regio in terris nostri non plena laboris.” He observed, also, Goldsmith’s “ Animated Nature;” and said, “ Here's our friend! The poor Doctor would have been happy to hear of this.”
In our way, Johnson strongly expressed his love of driving fast in a post-chaise. “If (said he) I had no duties, and no reference to futurity, I would spend my life in driving briskly in a post-chaise with a pretty woman; but she should be one who could understand me, and would add something to the conversation." I observed, that we were this day to stop just where the Highland army did in 1745. JOHNSON. “ It was a noble attempt.” BOSWELL. “ I wish we could have an authentick history of it.” JOHNSON. “ If you were not an idle dog you might write it, by collecting from every body what they can tell, and putting down your authorities." Boswell. “But I could not have the advantage of it in my life-time.” JOHNSON. “ You might have the satisfaction of its fame, by printing it in Holland ; and as to profit, consider how long it was before writing came to be considered in a pecuniary
view. Baretti says, he is the first man that ever re
ceived copy-money in Italy.” I said that I would endeavour to do what Dr. Johnson suggested; and I
thought that I might write so as to venture to publish my “ History of the Civil War in Great Britain in 1745 and 1746,” without being obliged to go to a foreign press.
When we arrived at Derby, Dr. Butter accompanied * us to see the manufactory of china there. I admired the ingenuity and delicate art with which a man fashioned clay into a cup, a saucer, or a tea-pot, while a boy turned round a wheel to give the mass rotundity. I thought this as excellent in its species of power, as making good verses in its species. Yet I had no respect for this potter. Neither, indeed, has a man of any extent of thinking for a mere verse-maker, in whose numbers, however perfect, there is no poetry, no mind. The china was beautiful, but Dr. Johnson justly observed it was too dear; for that he could have vessels of silver, of the same size, as cheap as what were here made of porcelain.
I felt a pleasure in walking about Derby, such as I always have in walking about any town to which I am not accustomed. There is an immediate sensation of novelty; and one speculates on the way in which life is pässed in it, which, although there is a sameness every where upon the whole, is yet minutely diversified. The minute diversities in every thing are wonderful. Talking of shaving the other night at Dr. Taylor's, Dr. Johnson said, “ Sir, of a thousand shavers, two do
: I am now happy to understand that Mr. John Home, who was himself gallantly in the field for the reigning family, in that interesting warfare, but is generous enough to do justice to the other side, is preparing an account of it for the press. [It appeared in one vol. 4to. 1802. A. C.]