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tative he was modest ; though inflexible he was candid; and though metaphysical yet orthodox.” 4
On Friday, March 30, I dined with him at Sir Joshua Reynolds's, with the Earl of Charlemont, Sir Annesley Stewart, Mr. Eliot, of Port-Eliot, Mr. Burke, Dean Marlay, Mr. Langton; a most agreeable day, of which I regret that every circumstance is not preserved; but it is unreasonable to require such a multiplication of felicity.
Mr. Eliot, with whom Dr. Walter Harte had travelled, talked to us of his History of Gustavus Adolphus,” which he said was a very good book in the German translation. JOHNSON. “ Harte was excessively vain. He put copies of his book in manuscript into the hands of Lord Chesterfield and Lord Granville, that they might revise it. Now how absurd was it to suppose that two such noblemen would revise so big a manuscript. Poor man ! he left London the day of the publication of his book, that he might be out of the way of the great praise he was to receive; and he was ashamed to return, when he found how ill his book had succeeded. It was unlucky in coming out on the same day with Robertson's · History of Scotland.' His husbandry, however, is good.” BOSWELL. “ So he was fitter for that than for heroick history: he did well, when he turned his sword into a plough-share.”
Mr. Eliot mentioned a 'curious liquor peculiar to his country, which the Cornish fishermen drink. They call it Mahogany; and it is made of two parts gin, and one part treacle, well beaten together. I begged to have some of it made, which was done with proper skill by Mr. Eliot. I thought it very good liquor; and
4 “ London Chronicle,” May 2, 1769. This respectable man is there mentioned to have died on the 3d of April, that year, at Cofa dect, the seat of Thomas Veale, Esq. in his way to London.
said it was a counterpart of what is called Athol Porridge in the Highlands of Scotland, which is a mixture of whisky and honey. Johnson said, “ that must be a better liquor than the Cornish, for both its component parts are better."
He also observed, Mahogany must be a modern name ; for it is not long since the wood called mahogany was known in this country.” I mentioned his scale of liquors :-claret for boys,-port for men,-brandy for heroes. “ Then (said Mr. Burke) let me have claret: I love to be a boy ; to have the careless gaiety of boyish days.” JOHNSON. “I should drink claret too, if it would give me that; but it does not: it neither makes boys men, nor men boys. You'll be drowned by it, before it has any effect upon you.”
I ventured to mention a ludicrous paragraph in the news-papers, that Dr. Johnson was learning to dance of Vestris. Lord Charlemont, wishing to excite him to talk, proposed in a whisper, that he should be asked, whether it was true. “ Shall I ask him?" said his Lordship. We were, by a great majority, clear for the experiment. Upon which his Lordship very gravely, and with a courteous air said, “ Pray, Sir, is it true that you are taking lessons of Vestris ?." risking a good deal, and required the boldness of a General of Irish Volunteers to make the attempt. Johnson was at first startled, and in some heat answered, “ How can your Lordship ask so simple a question ? But immediately recovering himself, whether from unwillingness to be deceived, or to appear deceived, or whether from real good humour, he kept up the joke: Nay, but if any body were to answer the paragraph, and contradict it, I'd have a reply, and would say, that he who contradicted it was no friend either to Vestris or me. For why should not Dr. Johnson add to his other powers a little corporeal
agility ? Socrates learnt to dance at an advanced age, and Cato learnt Greek at an advanced age. Then it might proceed to say, that this Johnson, not content with dancing on the ground, might dance on the rope; and they might introduce the elephant dancing on the rope. A nobleman' wrote a play, called ' Love in a hollow Tree.' He found out that it was a bad one, and therefore wished to buy up all the copies, and burn them. The Duchess of Marlborough had kept one; and when he was against her at an election, she had a new edition of it printed, and prefixed to it, as a frontispiece, an elephant dancing on a rope; to shew, that his Lordship's writing comedy was as aukward as an elephant dancing on a rope.”
On Sunday, April 1, I dined with him at Mr. Thrale's, with Sir Philip Jennings Clerk and Mr. Perkins, who had the superintendence of Mr. Thrale's brewery, with a salary of five hundred pounds a year. Sir Philip had the appearance of a gentleman of ancient family, well advanced in life. He wore his own white hair in a bag of goodly size, a black velvet coat, with an embroidered waistcoat, and very rich laced ruffles ; which Mrs. Thrale said were old fashioned, but which, for that reason, I thought the more respectable, more like a Tory; yet Sir Philip was then in Opposition in Parliament. • Ah, Sir, (said Johnson,) ancient ruffles and modern principles do not agree.” Sir Philip defended the Opposition to the American war ably and with temper, and I joined him. He said, the majority of the nation was against the ministry. JOHNSON. “1, Sir, am against the ministry ; but it is for having too
5 William, the first. Viscount Grimston. [Lord Charlemont was much offended, although apparently without much reason, at this narrative of the conversation. See his "Memoirs" by Hardy, vol. i. p. 401. A. C.] 6 See Vol. II.
276. VOL. IV.
little of that, of which Opposition thinks they have too much. Were I minister, if any man wagged his finger against me, he should be turned out; for that which it is in the power of government to give at pleasure to one or to another, should be given to the supporters of Government. If you will not oppose at the expence of losing your place, your opposition will not be honest, you will feel no serious grievance; and the present opposition is only a contest to get what others have. Sir Robert Walpole acted as I would do. As to the American war, the sense of the nation is with the ministry. The majority of those who can understand is with it; the majority of those who can only hear, is against it; and as those who can only hear are more numerous than those who can understand, and Opposition is always loudest, a majority of the rabble will be for Opposition.”
This boisterous vivacity entertained us; but the truth in my opinion was that those who could understand the best were against the American war, as almost every man now is, when the question has been coolly considered.
Mrs. Thrale gave high praise to Mr. Dudley Long, (now North). JOHNSON. “ Nay, my dear lady, don't talk so.
Mr. Long's character is very short. It is nothing. He fills a chair. He is a man of genteel appearance, and that is all. I know nobody who blasts by praise as you do: for whenever there is exaggerated
7 Here Johnson condescended to play upon the words Long and short. But little did he know that, owing to Mr. Long's reserve in his presence, he was talking thus of a gentleman distinguished amongst his acquaintance, for acuteness of wit ; and to whom I think the French expression, .Il petille d'esprit,' is particularly suited. He has gratified me by mentioning that he heard Dr. Johnson say, Sir, if I were to lose Boswell, it would be a limb amputated."
praise, every body is set against a character. They are provoked to attack it. Now there is Pepys; 4 you praised that man with such disproportion, that I was incited to lessen him, perhaps more than he deserves. His blood is upon your head. By the same principle, your malice defeats itself; for your censure is too violent. And yet (looking to her with a leering smile) she is the first woman in the world, could she but restrain that wicked tongue of hers ;—she would be the only woman, could she but command that little whirligig."
Upon the subject of exaggerated praise I took the liberty to say, that I thought there might be very high praise given to a known character which deserved it, and therefore it would not be exaggerated. Thus, one might say of Mr. Edmund Burke, he is a very wonderful man. JOHNSON. “ No, Sir, you would not be safe, if another man had a mind perversely to contradict. He might answer, Where is all the wonder? Burke is, to be sure, a man of uncommon abilities, with a great quantity of matter in his mind, and a great fluency of language in his mouth. But we are not to be stunned and astonished by him.' So you see, Sir, even Burke would suffer, not from any fault of his own, but from your folly.”
Mrs. Thrale mentioned a gentleman who had acquired a fortune of four thousand a year in trade, but was absolutely miserable, because he could not talk in
8 William Weller Pepys, Esq. one of the Masters in the High Court of Chancery, and well known in polite circles. My acquaintance with him is not sufficient to enable me to speak of him from my own judgement. But I know that both at Eton and Oxford he was the intimate friend of the late Sir James Macdonald, the Marcellus of Scotland, whose extraordinary talents, learning, and virtues, will ever be remembered with admiration and regret,