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“ That, Sir, is what a great many of your country
men cannot help,” had no point, or even meaning : Ætat. 66;
and that upon this being mentioned to Mr. Fitzherbert, he observed, “ It is not every man that can carry a bon mot.”
On Monday, April 10, I dined with him at General Oglethorpe's, with Mr. Langton and the Irish Dr. Campbell, whom the General had obligingly given me leave to bring with me. This learned gentleman was thus gratified with a very high intellectual feast, by not only being in company with Dr. Johnson, but with General Oglethorpe, who had been so long a celebrated name both at home and abroad."
I must, again and again, intreat of my readers not to suppose that my imperfect record of conversation contains the whole of what was said by Johnson, or
5 Let me here be allowed to pay my tribute of most sincere gratitude to the memory of that excellent person, my intimacy with whom was the more valuable to me, because my first acquaintance with him was unexpected and unsolicited. Soon after the publication of my “ Account of Corsica,” he did me the honour to call on me, and approaching me with a frank courteous air, said, “ My name, Sir, is Oglethorpe, and I wish to be acquainted with you.” I was not a little flattered to be thus addressed by an eminent man, of whom I had read in Pope, from my early years,
“ Or, driven by strong benevolence of soul,
“ Will fly, like Oglethorpe, from pole to pole." I was fortunate enough to be found worthy of his good opinion, insomuch, that I not only was invited to make one in the many respectable companies whom he entertained at his table, but had a cover at his hospitable board every day when I happened to be disengaged ; and in his society I never failed to enjoy learned and animated conversation, seasoned with genuine sentiments of virtue and religion.
other eminent persons who lived with him. What I 1775. have preserved, however, has the value of the most
Ætat. 66. perfect authenticity.
He this day enlarged upon Pope's melancholy remark,
“ Man never is, but always to be blest."
He asserted, that the present was never a happy state to any human being ; but that, as every part of life, of which we are conscious, was at some point of time a period yet to come, in which felicity was expected, there was some happiness produced by hope. Being pressed upon this subject, and asked if he really was of opinon, that though, in general, happiness was very rare in human life, a man was not sometimes happy in the moment that was present, he answered, “ Never, but when he is drunk.”
He urged General Oglethorpe to give the world his Life. He said, " I know no man whose Life would be more interesting. If I were furnished with materials, I should be very glad to write it."6 Mr. Scott of Amwell's Elegies were lying in the
Dr. Johnson observed “ They are very well; but such as twenty people might write.” Upon this I took occasion to controvert Horace's maxim,
mediocribus esse poetis
6 The General seemed unwilling to enter upon it at this time'; but upon a subsequent occasion he commnunicated to me a number of particulars, which I have committed to writing; but I was not sufficiently diligent in obtaining more from him, not apprehending that his friends were so soon to lose him ; for notwithstanding his great age, he was very healthy and vigorous, and was at last carried off by a violent fever, which is often fatal at any period of life.
1775. for here, (I observed,) was a very middle-rate poet, Ætat. 66.
who pleased many readers, and therefore poetry of a middle sort was entitled to some esteem ; nor could I see why poetry should not, like every thing else, have different gradations of excellence, and consequently of value. Johnson repeated the common remark, that “ as there is no necessity for our having poetry at all, it being merely a luxury, an instrument of pleasure, it can have no value, unless when exquisite in its kind.”
I declared myself not satisfied. Why, then, Sir, (said he,) Horace and you must settle it." He was not much in the humnour of talking
No inore of his conversation for some days appears in my journal, except that when a gentleman told him he had bought a suit of lace for his lady, he said, “ Well, Sir, you have done a good thing and a wise thing." “ I have done a good thing, (said the gentleman,) but I do not know that I have done a wise thing." Johnson. “ Yes, Sir ; no money is better spent thąn what is laid out for domestick satisfaction. A man is pleased that his wife is drest as well as other people; and a wife is pleased that she is drest."
On Friday, April 14, being Good Friday, I repaired to him in the morning, according to my usual custom on that day, and breakfasted with him. I observed that he fasted so very strictly, that he did not even taste bread, and took no inilk with his tea; I suppose because it is a kind of animal food.
He entered upon the state of the nation, and thus discoursed : “ Sir, the great misfortune now is, that government hạs too little power. All that it has to bestow must of necessity be given to support itself; so that it cannot reward merit. No man, for in
stance, can now be made a Bishop for his learning 1775. and piety ;' his only chance for promotion is his be
Etat. 66. ing connected with somebody who has parliamentary interest. Our several ministers in this reign have out-bid each other in concessions to the people. Lord Bute, though a very honourable man,--a man who meant well,--a inan who had his blood full of prerogative,---was a theoretical statesman,-a bookminister,--and thought this country could be governed by the influence of the Crown alone. Then, Sir, he gave up a great deal. He advised the King to agree that the Judges should hold their places for life, instead of losing them at the accession of a new King. Lord Bute, I suppose, thought to make the King popular by this concesssion ; but the people never minded it, and it was a most impolitick mea
There is no reason why a Judge should hold his office for life, more than any other person in publick trust. A Judge may be partial otherwise than to the Crown: we have seen Judges partial to the populace. A Judge may become corrupt, and yet there may not be legal evidence against him. A Judge may become froward from age. A Judge may grow anfit for his office in many ways. It was desirable that there should be a possibility of being delivered from him by a new King. That is now gone by an act of Parliament ex gratiâ of the Crown. Lord Bute advised the King to give up a very large sum of money, for which nobody thanked him.
-7. From this too just observation there are some eminent exceptions.
8 The money arising from the property of the prizes taken before the declaration of war, which were given to his Majesty by the peace of Paris, and amounted to upwards of 700,0001,
1775. , was of consequence to the King, but nothing to the Ætat. 66.publick, among whom it was divided. When I say
Lord Bute advised, I mean, that such acts were done when he was minister, and we are to suppose that he advised them.--Lord Bute shewed an undue partiality to Scotchmen. He turned out Dr. Nichols, a very eminent man, from being physician to the King, to make room for one of his countrymen, a man very low in his profession. He had ********** and **** to go on errands for him. He had occasion for people to go on errands for him ; but he should not have had Scotchmen ; and, certainly, he should not have suffered them to have access to him before the first people in England.”
I told him, that the admission of one of them before the first people in England, which had given the greatest offence, was no more than what happens at every minister's levee, where those who attend are admitted in the order that they have come, which is better than admitting them according to their rank; for if that were to be the rule, a man who has waited all the morning might have the mortification to see a peer, newly come, go in before him, and keep him
and from the lands in the ceded islands, which were estimated at 200,0001. more. Surely, there was a noble munificence in this gift from a Monarch to his people. And let it be remembered, that during the Earl of Bute's administration, the King was graciously pleased to give up the hereditary revenues of the Crown, and to accept, instead of them, of the limited sum of 800,0001. a year; upon which Blackstone observes, that “ The hereditary revenues, being put under the same management as the other branches of the publick patrimony, will produce more, and be better collected than heretofore; and the publick is a gainer of upwards of 100,000l. per annum, by this disinterested bounty of his Majesty. Book I. Chap. viii. p. 330."