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1776. Shrewsbury, where he was rector of St. Chad's, in Ætat. 67.
order to get from him what particulars he could recollect of Johnson's academical life.
He now obligingly gave me part of that authentick information, which, with what I afterwards owed to his kindness, will be found incorporated in its proper place in this work.
Dr. Adams had distinguished himself by an able answer to David Hume's “ Essay on Miracles." He told me he had once dined in company with Huine in London : that Hume shook hands with him, and said, “ You have treated me much better than I deserve ;” and that they exchanged visits. I took the liberty to object to treating an infidel writer with smooth civility. Where there is a controversy concerning a passage in a classick author, or concerning a question in antiquities, or any other subject in which human happiness is not deeply interested, a man may treat his antagonist with politeness and even respect. But where the controversy is concerning the truth of religion, it is of such vast importance to him who maintains it, to obtain the victory, that the person of an opponent ought not to be spared. If a man firmly believes that religion is an invaluable treasure, he will consider a writer who endeavours to deprive mankind of it as a robber ; he will look upon him as odious, though the infidel might think himself in the right. A robber who reasons as the gang do in the “Beggar's Opera," who call themselves practical philosophers, and may have as much sincerity as pernicious speculative philosophers, is not the less an object of just indignation. An abandoned profligate may think that it is not wrong to debauch my wife? but shall I, therefore, not detest him?
And if I catch him in making an attempt, shall I 1776. treat him with politeness ? No, I will kick him down
Ætat. 67. stairs, or run him through the body; that is, if I really love my wife, or have a true rational notion of honour. An Infidel then shall not be treated hand. somely by a Christian, merely because he endeavours to rob with ingenuity. I do declare however, that I am exceedingly unwilling to be provoked to anger, and could I be persuaded that truth would not suffer from a cool moderation in its defenders, I should wish to preserve good humour, at least, in every controversy ; nor, indeed, do I see why a man should lose his temper while he does all he can to refute an opponent. I think ridicule may be fairly used against an infidel ; for instance, if he be an ugly fellow, and yet absurdly vain of his person, we may contrast his appearance with Cicero's beautiful image of Virtue, could she be seen. Johnson coincided with me and said, “ when a man voluntarily engages in an important controversy, he is to do all he can to lessen his antagonist, because authority from personal respect has much weight with most people, and often more than reasoning. If my antagonist writes bad language, though that may not be essential to the question, I will attack him for his bad language.” ADAMS. “ You would not jostle a chimney-sweeper: Johnson. “ Yes, Sir, if it were necessary to jostle him down."
Dr. Adams told us, that in some of the Colleges at Oxford, the fellows had excluded the students from social intercourse with them in the common room. Johnson. “ They are in the right, Sir: there can be no real conversation, no fair exertion of mind
1776. amongst them, if the young men are by; for a man
who has a character does not choose to stake it in their Ætat. 67.
presence." BOSWELL. “ But, Sir, may there not be very good conversation without a contest for superiority?” Johnson. “ No animated conversation, Sir, for it cannot be but one or other will come off superiour. I do not mean that the victor must have the better of the argument, for he may take the weak side; but his superiority of parts and knowledge will necessarily appear : and he to whom he thus shews himself superiour is lessened in the eyes of the young men. You know it was said. “ Mallem cum Scaligero errare quam cum Clavio recte sapere.
In the same manner take Bentley's and Jason de Nores' Comments upon Horace, you will admire Bentley more when wrong, than Jason when right.”
We walked with Dr. Adams into the master's garden, and into the common room. Johnson. (after a reverie of meditation,) “ Ay! Here I used to play at draughts with Phil. Jones and Fluyder. Jones loved beer, and did not get very forward in the church. Fludyer turned out a scoundrel, a Whig, and said he was ashamed of having been bred at Oxford. He had a living at Putney, and got under the eye of some retainers to the court at that time, and so became a violent Whig: but he had been a scoundrel all along to be sure." BosweLL. “ Was he a scoundrel, Sir, in any other way than that of being a political scoundrel ? Did he cheat at draughts ?" JOHNSON. “ Sir, we never played for money."
He then carried me to visit Dr. Bentham, Canon of Christ-Church, and Divinity professor, with whose learned and lively conversation we were much pleased.
Sir, it is a great Ætat. 67.
He gave us an invitation to dinner, which Dr. John- 1776. son told me was a high honour. thing to dine with the Canons of Christ Church.” We could not accept his invitation, as we were engaged to dine at University College. We had an excellent dinner there, with the Masters and Fellows, it being St. Cuthbert's day, which is kept by them as a festival, as he was a saint of Durham, with which this college is much connected.
We drank tea with Dr. Horne, late President of Magdalen College, and Bishop of Norwich, of whose abilities, in different respects, the publick has had eminent proofs, and the esteem annexed to whose character was increased by knowing him personally. He had talked of publishing an edition of Walton's Lives, but had laid aside that design, upon Dr. Johnson's telling him, from mistake, that Lord Hailes intended to do it. I had wished to negociate between Lord Hailes and him, that one or other should perform so good a work. Johnson. “ In order to do it well, it will be necessary to collect all the editions of Walton's Lives. By way of adapting the book to the taste of the present age, they have, in a late edition, left out a vision which he relates Dr. Donne had, but it should be restored ; and there should be a critical catalogue given of the works of the different persons whose lives were written by Walton, and therefore their works must be carefully read by the editor."
We then went to Trinity College, where he introduced me to Mr. Thomas Warton, with whom we passed a part of the evening. We talked of biography.-Johnson. “ It is rarely well executed. They only who live with a man can write his life with any genuine exactness and discrimination ; and few
1776. people who have lived with a man know what to re
mark about him. The chaplain of a late Bishop, Ætat. 67.
whom I was to assist in writing some memoirs of his Lordship, could tell me scarcely any thing."
I said, Mr. Robert Dodsley's life should be written, as he had been so much connected with the wits of his time, and by his literary merit had raised himself from the station of a footman. Mr. Warton said, he had published a little volume under the title of “ The Muse in Livery.” Johnson. “ I doubt whether Dodsley's brother would thank a man who should write his life ; yet Dodsley himself was not unwilling that his original low condition should be recollected. When Lord Lyttelton's Dialogues of the Dead' came out, one of which is between Apicius, an ancient epicure, and Dartineuf, a modern epicure, Dodsley said to me, I knew Dartineuf well, for I was once his footman.”
Biography led us to speak of Dr. John Campbell, who had written a considerable part of the “ Biographia Britannica." Johnson, though he valued him highly, was of opinion that there was not so much in his great work, “A Political Survey of Great Britain,” as the world had been taught to expect;4 and had said to me, that he believed Campbell's disappointment on account of the bad success of that
3 It has been mentioned to me by an accurate English friend, that Dr. Johnson could never have used the phrase almost nothing, as not being English ; and therefore I have put another in its place. At the same time, I am not quite convinced it is not good EngJish. For the best writers use this phrase
“ little or nothing ;" i. e. almost so little as to be nothing.
4 Yet surely it is a very useful work, and of wonderful research and labour for one inan to have executed.