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Sir, I fuppofe he finds himself a little disappointed, in not having been able
We have now been favoured with the concluding volume, in which, to use
A writer of deferved eminence being mentioned, Johnfon faid, "Why,
I fpoke of Sir James Macdonald as a young man of most distinguished merit, who united the highest reputation at Eton and Oxford, with the patriarchal spirit of a great Highland Chieftain. I mentioned that Sir James had faid to me, that he had never feen Mr. Johnson, but he had a great respect for him, though at the fame time it was mixed with fome degree of terrour. JOHNSON. "Sir, if he were to be acquainted with me, it might leffen both."
The mention of this gentleman led us to talk of the Western Islands of Scotland, to vifit which he expreffed a wifh that then appeared to me a very romantick fancy, which I little thought would be afterwards realized. He told me, that his father had put Martin's account of those islands into his hands when he was very young, and that he was highly pleased with it; that he was particularly ftruck with the St. Kilda man's notion that the high church of Glafgow had been hollowed out of a rock; a circumftance to which old Mr. Johnson had directed his attention. He faid, he would go to the Hebrides with me, when I returned from my travels, unless fome very good companion fhould offer when I was abfent, which he did not think probable; adding, "There are few people to whom I take fo much to as you." And when I talked of my leaving England, he said, with a very affectionate air, My dear Bofwell, I should be very unhappy at parting, did I think we were not to meet again."-I cannot too often remind my readers, that although fuch inftances of his kindness are doubtlefs very flattering to me, yet I hope my recording them will be afcribed to a better motive than to vanity; for they afford unquestionable evidence of his tenderness and complacency, which fome, while they were forced to acknowledge his great powers, have been so strenuous to deny.
He maintained, that a boy at school was the happiest of human beings. I fupported a different opinion, from which I have never yet varied, that a man Etat. 54. is happier; and I enlarged upon the anxiety and fufferings which are endured at school. JOHNSON. "Ah! Sir, a boy's being flogged is not fo fevere as a man's having the hifs of the world against him. Men have a folicitude about fame; and the greater share they have of it, the more afraid they are of lofing it." I filently asked myself, "Is it poffible that the great Samuel Johnson really entertains any fuch apprehenfion, and is not confident that his exalted fame is established upon a foundation never to be shaken?”
He this evening drank a bumper to Sir David Dalrymple, as a man of worth, a scholar, and a wit.—“ I have (said he) never heard of him except from you; but let him know my opinion of him: for as he does not shew himself much in the world, he fhould have the praife of the few who hear of him."
On Tuesday, July 26, I found Mr. Johnfon alone. It was a very wet day, and I again complained of the disagreeable effects of fuch weather. JOHNSON. "Sir, this is all imagination, which physicians encourage; for man lives in air, as a fish lives in water; so that if the atmosphere press heavy from above, there is an equal refiftance from below. To be fure, bad weather is hard upon people who are obliged to be abroad; and men cannot labour fo well in the open air in bad weather, as in good: but, Sir, a fmith or a tailor, whofe work is within doors, will furely do as much in rainy weather as in fair. Some very delicate frames, indeed, may be affected by wet weather, but not common conftitutions."
We talked of the education of children; and I asked him what he thought was beft to teach them firft. JOHNSON. "Sir, it is no matter what you teach them first, any more than what leg you fhall put into your breeches first. Sir, you may stand disputing which is best to put in first, but in the mean time your breech is bare. Sir, while you are confidering which of two things you should teach your child firft, another boy has learnt them both."
On Thursday, July 28, we again fupped in private at the Turk's Head coffee-house. JOHNSON. "Swift has a higher reputation than he deserves. His excellence is ftrong fenfe; for his humour, though very well, is not remarkably good. I doubt whether the Tale of a Tub' be his; for he never owned it, and it is much above his ufual manner"."
This opinion was given by him more at large at a fubfequent period. See "Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides," 3d edit. p. 32.
"Thomson, I think, had as much of the poet about him as most writers. Every thing appeared to him through the medium of his favourite pursuit. He could not have viewed thofe two candles burning but with a poetical eye."
a great deal of wit, Sir?" JOHNSON. "I do not think fo, Sir. He is, indeed, continually attempting wit, but he fails. And I have no more pleasure in hearing a man attempting wit and failing, than in seeing a man trying to leap over a ditch and tumbling into it."
He laughed heartily, when I mentioned to him a faying of his concerning Mr. Thomas Sheridan, which Foote took a wicked pleasure to circulate. "Why, Sir, Sherry is dull, naturally dull, but it must have taken him a great deal of pains to become what we now fee him. Such an excess of stupidity, Sir, is not in Nature."-" So (said he,) I allowed him all his own merit."
He now added, "Sheridan cannot bear me. I bring his declamation to a point. I ask him a plain question, What do you mean to teach?' Befides, Sir, what influence can Mr. Sheridan have upon the language of this great country by his narrow exertions. Sir, it is burning a farthing candle at Dover, to fhew light at Calais."
Talking of a young man who was uneafy from thinking that he was very deficient in learning and knowledge, he faid, "A man has no reason to complain who holds a middle place and has many below him; and perhaps he has not fix of his years above him ;—perhaps not one. Though he may not know any thing perfectly, the general mafs of knowledge that he has acquired is confiderable. Time will do for him all that is wanting."
The converfation then took a philofophical turn. JOHNSON. "Human experience, which is conftantly contradicting theory, is the great teft of truth. A fyftem, built upon the discoveries of a great many minds, is always of more ftrength, than what is produced by the mere workings of any one mind, which, of itself, can do little. There is not fo poor a book in the world but what would be a prodigious effort were it wrought out entirely by a single mind, without the aid of prior investigators. The French writers are fuperficial, because they are not scholars, and fo proceed upon the mere power of their own minds; and we fee how very little power they have."
"As to the Chriftian religion, Sir, befides the ftrong evidence which we have for it, there is a balance in its favour from the number of great men who have been convinced of its truth, after a ferious confideration of the queftion. Grotius was an acute man, a lawyer, a man accustomed to examine
evinence, and he was convinced. Grotius was not a reclufe, but a man of 1763. the world, who certainly had no bias to the fide of religion. Sir Ifaac Newton Etat. 54. fet out an infidel, and came to be a very firm believer."
He this evening again recommended to me to perambulate Spain". I faid it would amuse him to get a letter from me dated at Salamancha. JOHNSON. "I love the University of Salamancha; for when the Spaniards were in doubt as to the lawfulness of their conquering America, the University of Salamancha gave it as their opinion that it was not lawful." He spoke this with great emotion, and with that generous warmth which dictated the lines in his "London," against Spanish encroachment.
I expreffed my opinion of my friend Derrick as but a poor writer. JOHNSON. "To be fure, Sir, he is; but you are to confider that his being a literary man has got for him all that he has. It has made him King of Bath. Sir, he has nothing to fay for himself but that he is a writer. Had he not been a writer, he must have been sweeping the croffings in the ftreets, and afling halfpence from every body that past."
In justice, however, to the memory of Mr. Derrick, who was my first tutor in the ways of London, and fhewed me the town in its variety of departments, both literary and sportive, the particulars of which Dr. Johnson advised me to put in writing, it is proper to mention what Johnson, at a fubfequent period, faid of him both as a writer and an editor. "Sir, I have often faid, that if Derrick's letters had been written by one of a more established. name, they would have been thought very pretty letters." And, "I fent Derrick to Dryden's relations to gather materials for his life; and I believe he got all that I myself fhould have got"."
Poor Derrick! I remember him with kindnefs. Yet I cannot with-hold. from my readers a pleasant humourous fally which could not have hurt him had he been alive, and now is perfectly harmless. In his collection of poems, there is one upon entering the harbour of Dublin, his native city, after a long abfence. It begins thus:
"Eblana! much lov'd city, hail!
7 I fully intended to have followed advice of fuch weight; but having staid much longer both in Germany and Italy than I proposed to do, and having alfo vifited Corfica, I found that I had. exceeded the time allowed me by my father, and haftened to France in my way homewards. 9 Ibid. p. 142.
8 Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides, 3d edit. p. 104.
And after a folemn reflection on his being "numbered with forgotten dead," there is the following stanza :
"Unless my lines protract my fame,
"And thofe, who chance to read them, cry,
"I knew him! Derrick was his name,
"In yonder tomb his afhes lie."
Which was thus happily parodied by Mr. John Home, to whom we owe the beautiful and pathetick tragedy of " Douglas :"
"Unless my deeds protract my fame,
"I knew him! Derrick was his name,
"On yonder tree his carcafe fwings!"
I doubt much whether the amiable and ingenious authour of these burlesque lines will recollect them, for they were produced extempore one evening while he and I were walking together in the dining-room at Eglintoune castle, in 1760, and I have never mentioned them to him fince.
Johnson faid once to me, "Sir, I honour Derrick for his prefence of mind. One night, when Floyd', another poor authour, was wandering about the streets in the night, he found Derrick faft afleep upon a bulk; upon being fuddenly waked, Derrick started up, My dear Floyd, I am forry to see in this deftitute ftate; will you go home with me to my lodgings?"
I again begged his advice as to my method of study at Utrecht. "Come, (faid he) let us make a day of it. Let us go down to Greenwich and dine, and talk of it there." The following Saturday was fixed for this excursion.
As we walked along the Strand to-night, arm in arm, a woman of the town accofted us, in the ufual enticing manner. "No, no, my girl, (faid Johnson,) it won't do." He, however, did not treat her with harshness, and we talked of the wretched life of fuch women; and agreed, that much more mifery than happiness, upon the whole, is produced by illicit commerce between the fexes.
On Saturday, July 30, Dr. Johnson and I took a fculler at the Templeftairs, and fet out for Greenwich. I asked him if he really thought a knowledge of the Greek and Latin languages an effential requifite to a good education. JOHNSON. "Most certainly, Sir. For those who know them have a very great advantage over those who do not. Nay, Sir, it is wonderful what a difference learning makes upon people even in the common
He published a biographical work, containing an account of eminent writers, in three vols. 8vo, intercourfe