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1777. is nothing on the other side to oppose to this : for
it is not alledged by any one that the present family has any inherent right: so that the Whigs could not have a contest between two rights.'
Dr. Taylor admitted, that if the question as to hereditary right were to be tried by a poll of the people of England, to be sure the abstract doctrine would be given in favour of the family of Stuart ; but he said, the conduct of that family, which occasioned their expulsion, was so fresh in the minds of the people, that they would not vote for a restoration. Dr. Johnson, I think, was contented with the admission as to the hereditary right, leaving the original point in dispute, viz. what the people upon the whole would do, taking in right and affection ; for he said, people were afraid of a change, even though they think it right. Dr. Taylor said something of the slight foundation of the hereditary right of the house of Stuart. “ Sir, (said Johnson,) the house of Stuart succeeded to the full right of both the houses of York and Lancaster, whose common source had the undisputed right. A right to a throne is like a right to any thing else. Possession is sufficient, where no better right can be shown. This was the case with the Royal Family of England, as it is now with the King of France: for as to the first beginning of the right we are in the dark.”
Thursday, September 18. Last night Dr. John. son had proposed that the crystal lustre, or chandelier, in Dr. Taylor's large room, should be lighted up some time or other. Taylor said, it should be lighted up next night. “That will do very well, (said I.) for it is Dr. Johnson's birth-day.” When we were in the Isle of Sky, Johnson had desired me not to mention his birth-day. He did not seem pleased at 1777. this time that I mentioned it, and said (somewhat Ætat. 68. sternly,) “ he would not have the lustre lighted the next day.”
Some ladies, who had been present yesterday when I mentioned his birth-day, came to dinner to-day, and plagued him unintentionally, by wishing him joy. I know not why he disliked having his birthday mentioned, unless it were that it reminded him of his approaching nearer to death, of which he had a constant dread.
I mentioned to him a friend of mine who was formerly gloomy from low spirits, and much distressed by the fear of death, but was now uniformly placid, and contemplated his dissolution without any perturbation. “Sir, (said Johnson,) this is only a disordered imagination taking a different turn.”
We talked of a collection being made of all the English Poets who had published a volume of poems. Johnson told me, 66 that a Mr. Coxeter, whom he knew, had gone the greatest length towards this; having collected, I think, about five hundred volumes of poets whose works were little known; but that upon his death Tom Osborne bought them, and they were dispersed, which he thought a pity, as it was curious to see any series complete ; and
s [Thomas Coxeter, Esq. who had also made a large collection of old plays, and from whose manuscript notes the Lives of the English Poets, by Shiels and Cibber, were principally compiled, as should have been mentioned in a former page. See p. 29 and 30 of this volume. Mr. Coxeter was bred at Trinity College, Oxford, and died in London, April 17, 1747, in his fifty-ninth year. A particular account of him may be found in “ The Gentleman's Magazine " for 1781, p. 173. Malone.)
something good may be
He observed, that a gentleman of eminence in literature had got into a bad style of Poetry of late. “ He puts (said he) a very common thing in a strange dress till he does not know it himself, and thinks other "
people do not know it.” BOSWELL. « That is owing to his being so much versant in old English poetry." JOHNSON. “What is that to the purpose,
, Sir? If I say a man is drunk, and you tell me it is owing to his taking much drink, the matter is not mended. No, Sir, has taken to an odd mode. For example: he'd write thus ;
“ Hermit hoar, in solemn cell,
“ Wearing out life's evening gray."
“ Hermit hoar, in solemn cell,
· Wearing out life's evening gray :
" Boswell. “But why smite his bosom, Sir!" JOHNson. “Why to shew he was in earnest,” (smiling). -He at an after period added the following stanza :
“ Thus I spoke; and speaking sigh'd ;
“-Scarce repress'd the starting tear ;“ When the smiling sage reply'd
Come, my lad, and drink some beer."
6 As some of my
be gratified by reading the progress of this little composition, I shall insert it from
notes. " When Dr. Johnson and I were sitting tête-à-tête at the Mitre
I cannot help thinking the first stanza very good 1777. solemn poetry, as also the first three lines of the
Etat, 68. second. Its last line is an excellent burlesque surprize on gloomy sentimental enquirers. And, perhaps, the advice is as good as can be given to a low-spirited dissatisfied being : :-" Don't trouble your head with sickly thinking: take a cup, and be merry."
Friday, September 19, after breakfast, Dr. Johnson and I set out in Dr. Taylor's chaise to go to Derby. The day was fine and we resolved to go by Keddlestone, the seat of Lord Scarsdale, that I might see his Lordship's fine house. I was struck with the magnificence of the building; and the extensive park, with the finest verdure, covered with deer, and cattle, and sheep, delighted me. The number of old oaks, of an immense size, filled me with a sort of respectful admiration; for one of them sixty pounds was offered. The excellent smooth gravel roads ; the large piece of water formed by his Lordship from some small brooks, with a handsome barge upon the venerable Gothick church, now the family cha
tavern, May 9, 1778, he said " Where is bliss,' would be better. He then added a ludicrous stanza, but would not repeat it, lest I should take it down. It was somewhat as follows; the last line I am sure I remember : • While I thus
seer, • The hoary
reply'd, • Come, my lad, and drink some beer.' “In spring, 1779, when in better humour, he made the second stanza, as in the text. There was only one variation afterwards made on my suggestion, which was changing hoary in the third line to smiling, both to avoid a sameness with the epithet in the first line, and to describe the hermit in his pleasantry. He was then very well pleased that I should preserve it."
1777. pel, just by the house ; in short, the grand group of Ætat. 68. objects agitated and distended my mind in a most
agreeable manner. “ One should think (said I,)
Our names were sent up, and a well-drest elderly housekeeper, a most distinct articulator, shewed us the house ; which I need not describe, as there is an account of it published in “ Adams's Works in Architecture.” Dr. Johnson thought better of it today, than when he saw it before ; for he had lately attacked it violently, saying, “ It would do excellently for a town-hall. The large room with the pillars (said he) would do for the Judges to sit in at the assizes ; the circular room for a jury-chamber; and the room above for prisoners." Still he thought the large room ill lighted, and of no use but for dancing in; and the bed-chambers but indifferent rooms; and that the immense sum which it cost was injudiciously laid out. Dr. Taylor had put him in mind of his appearing pleased with the house. “But (said he) that was when Lord Scarsdale was present. Politeness obliges us to appear pleased with a man's works when he is present. No man will be so ill bred as to question you.
7 When I mentioned Dr. Johnson's remark to a lady of admirable good sense and quickness of understanding, she observed, “It is true, all this excludes only one evil ; but how much good does it let in?"-To this observation much praise has been justly given. Let me then now do myself the honour to mention that the lady who made it was the late Margaret Montgomerie, my very valu. able wife, and the very affectionate mother of my children, who, if they inherit her good qualities, will have no reason to complain of their lot. Dos magna parentum virtus.