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work, had killed him. He this evening observed of 1776. it, “ That work was his death.” Mr. Warton, not
Ætat. 07. adverting to his meaning, answered, “I believe so ; from the great attention he bestowed on it.” Johnson. “Nay, Sir, he died of want of attention, if he died at all by that book.”
We talked of a work much in vogue at that time, written in a very mellifluous style, but which, under pretext of another subject, contained much artful in. fidelity. I said it was not fair to attack us unexpecteelly; he should have warned us of our danger, before we entered his garden of flowery eloquence, by advertising, “ Spring-guns and men-traps set here." The authour had been an Oxonian, and was remembered there for having “turned Papist.” I observed, that as he had changed several times from the Church of England to the Church of Rome;---from the Church of Rome to infidelity, I did not despair yet of seeing him a methodist preacher. Johnson. (laughing.) “ It is said, that his range has been more extensive, and that he has once been Mahometan. However, now that he has published his infidelity, he will probably persist in it.” BosweLL. “I am not quite sure of that, Sir."
I mentioned Sir Richard Steele having published his “ Christian Hero," with the avowed purpose of obliging himself to lead a religious life; yet, that his conduct was by no means strictly suitable.” JOHNson. “ Steele, I believe, practised the lighter vices.”
Mr. Warton, being engaged, could not sup with us at our inn ; we had therefore another evening by ourselves. I asked Johnson, whether a man's being forward to make himself known to eminent people,
1776. and seeing as much of life, and getting as much in
formation as he could in every way, was not yet lesÆtat. 67.
sening himself by his forwardness. Johnson. “ No, Sir; a man always makes himself greater as he increases his knowledge.”
I censured some ludicrous fantastick dialogues between two coach-horses and other such stuff, which Baretti had lately published. He joined with me, and said, “ Nothing odd will do long. "Tristram Shandy' did not last.” I expressed a desire to be acquainted with a lady who had been much talked of, and universally celebrated for extraordinary address and insinuation. JOHNSON. “ Never believe extraordinary characters which you hear of people. Depend upon it, Sir, they are exaggerated. You do not: see one man shoot a great deal higher than another.” I mentioned Mr. Burke. JOHNSON, “ Yes; Burke is an extraordinary man. His stream of mind is perpetual.” It is very pleasing to me to record, that Johnson's high estimation of talents of this gentleman was uniforin from their early acquaintance. Sir Joshua Reynolds informs me, that when Mr. Burke was first elected a member of Parliament, and Sir John Hawkins expressed a wonder at his attaining a seat, Johnson said, “ Now we who know Mr. Burke, know, that he will be one of the first men in the country.” And once, when Johnson was ill, and unable to exert himself as much as usual without fatigue, Mr. Burke having been mentioned, he said " That fellow calls forth all my powers. Were I to see Burke now it would kill me.” So much was he accustomed to consider conversation as a contest, and such was his notion of Burke as an opponent.
Next morning, Thursday, March 21, we set out 1776. in a post-chaise to pursue our ramble. It was a de
Ætat. 67 lightful day, and we rode through Blenheim park. When I looked at the magnificent bridge built by John Duke of Marlborough, over a small rivulet, and recollected the Epigram made upon
it56. The lofty arch his high ambition shows,
“ The stream, an emblem of his bounty flows:" and saw that now, by the genius of Brown, a magnificent body of water was collected, I said, “ They have drowned the Epigram.” I observed to him, while in the midst of the noble scene around us, " You and I, Sir, have, I think, seen together the extremes of what can be seen in Britain the wild rough island of Mull, and Blenheim park.”
We dined at an excellent inn at Chapel-house, where he expatiated on the felicity of England in its taverns and inns, and triumphed over the French for not having, in any perfection, the tavern life. “There is no private house, (said he,) in which people can enjoy themselves so well, as at a capital tavern. Let there be ever so great plenty of good things, ever $0 much grandeur, ever so much elegance, ever so much desire that every body should be easy; in the .nature of things it cannot be: there must always be some degree of care and anxiety. The master of the house is anxious to entertain his guests; the guests are anxious to be agreeable to him; and no man, but a very impudent dog indeed, can as freely command what is in another man's house, as if it were his own. Whereas, at a tavern, there is a general freedom from anxiety. You are sure you are welcome: and the more noise you make, the more
1776. trouble you give, the more good things you call for, 67 the welcomer you are. No servants will attend you
with the alacrity which waiters do, who are incited by the prospect of an immediate reward in proportion as they please. No, Sir; there is nothing which has yet been contrived by man, by which so much happiness is produced as by a good tavern or inn." He then repeated, with great emotion, Shenstone's lines: “ Whoe'er has travellid life's dull round,
« Where'er his stages may have been, “ May sigh to think he still has found
“ The warmest welcome at an inn."6 My illustrious friend, I thought, did not suffi. cently admire Shenstone. That ingenious and elegant gentleman's opinion of Johnson appears in one
s Sir John Hawkins has preserved very few Memorabilia of Johnson. There is, however, to be found, in his bulky tome, a very excellent one upon this subject. “In contradiction to those, who, having a wife and children, prefer domestick enjoyments to those which a tavern affords, I have heard him assert, that a tarern chair was the throne of human felicity.—' As soon (said he) as I enter the door of a tavern, I experience an oblivion of care, and a freedom from solicitude : when I am seated, I find the master courteous, and the servants obsequious to my call; anxious to know and ready to supply my wants: wine there exhilarates my spirits, and prompts me to free conversation and an interchange of discourse with those whom I most love: I dogmatise and am contradicted, and in this conflict of opinion and sentiments I find delight.”
6 We happened to lie this night at the inn at Henley, where Shenstone wrote these lines.*
• I give them as they are found in the corrected edition of his Works, published after his death. In Dedsley's collection the stanza ran thus:
“Whoe'er has travellid life's dull round,
“ Whate'er his various tour has been, “ May sigh to think how oft he found
“ His warmest welcome at an Inn."
of his letters to Mr. Greaves, dated Feb. 9, 1760. 1776. “ I have lately been reading one or two volumes of S
ftat. 67. the Rambler ; who, excepting against some few hardnesses in his manner, and the want of more examples to enliven, is one of the most nervous, most perspicuous, most concise, most harmonious prose writers I know. A learned diction improves
In the afternoon, as we were driven rapidly along in the post chaise, he said to me “ Life has not many things better than this.”
We stopped at Stratford-upon-Avon, and drank tea and coffee; and it pleased me to be with him upon the classick ground of Shakspeare's native place.
He spoke slightingly of “Dyer's Fleece."-" The subject, Sir, cannot be made poetical. How can a man write poetically of serges and druggets! Yet you will hear many people talk to you gravely of that excellent poem, “The Fleece.” Having talked of Grainger's “ Sugar-Cane," I mentioned to him Mr. Langton's having told me, that this puem,
when read in manuscript at Sir Joshua Reynolds's, had made all the assembled wits burst into a laugh, when, after much blank-verse pomp, the poet began a new paragraph thus:
“Now, Muse, let's sing of rats."
And what increased the ridicule was, that one of the company, who slily overlooked the reader, perceived
7 “ He too often makes use of the abstract for the concrete."