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1772. “ I have been correcting several Scotch accents in Etat. 63. my friend Boswell. I doubt, Sir, if any Scotchman
ever attains to a perfect English pronunciation." Johnson.“ W'hy, 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 partiq cular county. In the same manner, Dunping may be found out to be a Devonshire man. So most Scotchmen may be found 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, 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 1772. is by no means good English, and makes, “the fools
Ætat. 63. 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, to whom a slight proportion of the 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, 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 froin both, which I conclude is the language of America."
BOSWELL. “ It may be of use, Sir, to have a Dictionary to ascertain the pronunciation.” John
SON. .“ Why, Sir, my Dictionary shows you the Ætat. 63. 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 Diction. ary 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 iny Dictionary, Lord Chesterfield told me that the word great should be pronounced so as to rhyme to siate; and Sir William Yonge 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 too 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 very good humour, I ventured to lead him to the subject of our situation in a future state, having much curiosity to know his notions on that point. JOHNson. “ Why, Sir, the happiness of an unembodied spirit will consist in a consciousness of the favour of God, in the contemplation of truth, and in the possession of felicitating ideas." Boswell. “ But Sir, 1772. is there any harm in our forming to ourselves conjec
Ætat. 63, tures as to the particulars of our happiness, though the scripture has said but
little on the subject? • We know not what we shall be." JOHNSON. “Sir, there is no harm. What philosophy suggests to us on this topick is probable: what scripture tells us is certain. Dr. Henry More has carried it as far as philosophy can. You may buy both his theological and philosophical works in two volumes folio, for about eight shillings.” Boswell. “ One of the most pleasing thoughts is, that we shall see our friends again."9 Johnson. “Yes, Sir; but you must onsider, that when we are become purely rational, many of our friendships will be cut off. Many friendships are formed by a community of sensual pleasures: all these will be cut off. We form many friendships with bad men, because they have agreeable qualities, and they can be useful to us; but, after death, they can no longer be of use to us. We form many friendships by mistake, imagining people to be different from what they really are. After death, we shall see every one in a true light. Then, Sir, they talk of our meeting our relations: but then all relationship is dissolved ; and we shall have no regard for one person more than another, but for their real value. However, we shall either have the satisfaction of meeting our friends, or be satisfied without meeting them.” Boswell.
Boswell. “Yet Sir, we see in scripture, that Dives still retained an anxious
9 (Bishop Hall, in his Epistle, “ discoursing of the different degrees of heavenly glory, and of our mutual knowledge of each other above," (Dec. iii. c. 6,) holds the affirmative on both these questions. M.]
1772. concern about his brethren.” Johnson. “Why, Sir,
we must either suppose that passage to be metaphoriÆtat, 63.
cal, or hold with many divines, and all the Purgatorians, that departed souls do not all at once arrive at the utmost perfection of which they are capable.” BOSWELL. “ I think, Sir, that is
supposition.” Johnson. Why yes, Sir; but we do not know it is a true one. There is no harm in believing it: but you must not compel others to make it an article of faith; for it is not revealed.” BosWELL. “ Do you think, Sir, it is wrong in a man who holds the doctrine of Purgatory, to pray for the souls of his deceased friends.” JOHNSON.
Why no, Sir.” BosWELL. “I have been told, that in the Liturgy of the Episcopal Church of Scotland, there was a form of prayer for the dead.” Johnson. “Sir, it is not in the Liturgy which Laud framed for the Episcopal Church of Scotland: if there is a liturgy older than that, I should be glad to see it.” BoswELL. “ As to our employment in a future state, the sacred writings say little. The Revelation, however, of St. John gives us many ideas, and particularly mentions musick.” Johnson.
Why, Sir, ideas must be given you by means of something which
know: and as to musick there are some philosophers and divines who have maintained that we shall not be spiritualized to such a degree, but that something of matter, very much refined, will remain. In that case, musick may make a part of our future felicity,"
BOSWELL. “ I do not know whether there are any well-attested stories of the appearance of ghosts. You know there is a famous story of the appearance of Mrs. Veal, prefixed to Drelincourt on Death.”