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them to hear a sermon, than to fix their minds on 1772. prayer.
On Monday, April 6, I dined with him at Sir Ætat. 63 Alexander Macdonald's, where was a young officer in the regimentals of the Scots Royal, who talked with a vivacity, fluency, and precision so uncommon, that he attracted particular attention. He proved to be the Honourable Thomas Erskine, youngest brother to the Earl of Buchan, who has since risen into such brilliant reputation at the bar in Westminster-hali.
Fielding being mentioned, Johnson exclaimed, - he was a blockhead; and upon my expressing my astonishment at so strange an assertion, he said, " What I mean by his being a blockhead is, that he was a barren rascal.” Boswell.“ Will you not allow, Sir, that he draws very natural pictures of human life?” Johnson. “Why, Sir, it is of very low life. Richardson used to say, that had he not known who Fielding was, he should have believed he was an ostler. Sir, there is more knowledge of the heart in one letter of Richardson's, than in all · Tom Jones. I, indeed, never read Joseph Andrews." ERSKINE. " Surely, Sir, Richardson is very tedious." Johnson. "
66 Why, Sir, if you were to read Richardson for the story, your impatience would be so much fretted that you would hang your
5 [Johnson's severity against Fielding did not arise from any viciousness in his style, but from his loose life, and the profligacy of almost all his male characters. Who would venture to read one of his novels aloud to modest women ? His novels are male amusements, and very amusing they certainly are.--Fielding's conversation was coarse, and so tinctured with the rank weeds of the Garden, that it would now be thought only fit for a bro. thel. B.]
177$ self. But you must read him for the sentiment, and Ætat. 63.consider the story as only giving occasion to the
sentiment.”—I have already given my opinion of Fielding ; but I cannot refrain from repeating here my wonder at Johnson's excessive and unaccountable depreciation of one of the best writers that England has produced. “ Tom Jones” has stood the test of publick opinion with such success, as to have established its great merit, both for the story, the sentiments, and the manners, and also the varieties of diction, so as to leave no doubt of its having an animated truth of execution throughout.
A book of travels, lately published under the title of Coriat Junior, and written by Mr. Paterson, was mentioned. Johnson said, this book was in imitation of Sterne,' and not of Coriat, whose name Paterson had chosen as a whimsical one. “ Tom Coriat, (said he,) was a humourist about the court of James the First. He had a mixture of learning, of wit, and of buffoonery. He first travelled through Europe, and published his travels. He afterwards travelled on foot through Asia, and had made many remarks; but he died at Mandoa and his remarks
We talked of gaming, and animadverted on it with severity. JOHNSON. “ Nay, gentlemen, let us not aggravate the matter. It is not roguery to play with a man who is ignorant of the
you are master of it, and so win his money; for he thinks he can play better than you, as you think you cam
6 Mr. Samuel Paterson, eminent for his knowledge of books,
7 Mr. Paterson, in a pamphlet, produced some evidence to shew that his work was written before Sterne's · Sentimental Journey' appeared.
play better than he ; and the superiour skill carries 1772. it. Erskine. “ He is a fool, but you are not a Ætat. 63. rogue.” JOHNSON."
“ That's much about the truth, Sir. It must be considered, that a man who only does what every one of the society to which he belongs would do, is not a dishonest man. In the republick of Sparta, it was agreed, that stealing was not dishonourable, if not discovered. I do not commend a society where there is an agreement that what would not otherwise be fair, shall be fair ; but I maintain, that an individual of any society, who practices what is allowed, is not a dishonest man." Boswell. “ So then, Sir, you do not think ill of a man who wins perhaps forty thousand pounds in a winter?". JOHNSON. “ Sir, I do not call a gamester a dishonest man ; but I call him an unsocial man, an unprofitable man. Gaming is a mode of transferring property without producing any intermediat good. Trade gives employment to numbers, and so produces intermediate good."
Mr. Erskine told us, that when he was in the island of Minorca, he not only read prayers, but preached two sermons to the regiment. He seemed to object to the passage in scripture, where we are told that the angel of the Lord smote in one night forty thousand Assyrians. « Sir, (said Johnson,) you should recollect that there was a supernatural interposition ; they were destroyed by pestilence. You are not to suppose that the angel of the LORD went about and stabbed each of them with a dagger, or knocked them on the head, man by man."
[One hundred and eighty-five thousand. See Isaiah, xxxvü. 36, and 2 Kings, xix. 35. M.]
1772. After Mr. Erskine was gone, a discussion took Ætat. 63. place, whether the present Earl of Buchan, when
Lord Cardross, did right to refuse to go Secretary of the Embassy to Spain, when Sir James Gray, a man of inferiour rank, went Ambassadour. Dr. Johnson said, that perhaps in point of interest he did wrong; but in point of dignity he did well. Sir Alexander insisted that he was wrong; and said that Mr. Pitt intended it as an advantageous thing for him. “ Why, Sir, (said Johnson,) Mr. Pitt might think it an advantageous thing for him to make him a vintner, and get him all the Portugal trade : but he would have demeaned himself strangely had he accepted of such a situation. Sir, had he gone Secretary while his inferiour was Ambassadour, he would have been a traitor to his rank and family.'
I talked of the little attachment which .subsisted between near relations in London.
“ Sir, (said Johnson,) in a country so commercial as ours, where every man can do for himself, there is not so much occasion for that attachment. No man is thought the worse of here, whose brother was hanged. In uncommercial countries, many of the branches of a family must depend on the stock ; so, in order to make the head of the family take care of them, they are represented as connected with his reputation, that, self-love being interested, he may exert himself to promote their interest. You have first large circles, or clans; as commerce increases, the connection is confined to families ; by degrees, that too goes off, as having become unnecessary, and there being few opportunities of intercourse. One brother is a merchant in the city, and another is an officer in the guards ; how little intercourse can these two 1772. have !
Ætat. 63. I argued warmly for the old feudal system. Sir Alexander opposed it, and talked of the pleasure of seeing all men free and independent. Johnson. “I agree with Mr. Boswell, that there must be high satisfaction in being a feudal Lord; but we are to consider, that we ought not to wish to have a number of men unhappy for the satisfaction of one."-I maintained that numbers, namely, the vassals or followers, were not unhappy; for that there was a reciprocal satisfaction between the Lord and them: he being kind in his authority over thein; they being respectful and faithful to him.
On Thursday, April 9, I called on him to beg he would go and dine with me at the Mitre tavern. He had resolved not to dine at all this day, I know not for what reason; and I was so unwilling to be deprived of his company, that I was content to submit . to suffer a want, which was at first somewhat painful, but he soon made me forget it; and a man is always pleased with himself, when he finds his intellectual inclinations predominate.
He observed, that to reason philosophically on the nature of prayer, was very unprofitable.
Talking of ghosts, he said, he knew one friend, who was an honest man and a sensible man, who told him he had seen a ghost; old Mr. Edward Cave, the printer at St. John's Gate. He said, Mr. Cave did not like to talk of it, and seemed to be in great horrour whenever it was mentioned. BosWELL.
Pray, Sir, what did he say was the appearance ?" Johnson. Why, Sir, something of a shadowy being."