페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

1763

Ætat. St.

intercourse of life, which does not appear to be much connected with it.” « And yet, (said I) people will go through the world very well, and carry on the business of life to good advantage, without learning.” Johnson. “Why, Sir, that

may be true in cases where learning cannot possibly be of any use; for instance, this boy rows us as well without learning, as if he could fing the song of Orpheus to the Argonauts, who were the first sailors.” He then called to the boy, “ What would you give, my lad, to know about the Argonauts ?” “ Sir, (said the boy,) I would give what I have." Johnson was much pleased with his answer, and we gave him a double fare. Mr. Johnson then turning to me, “Sir, (said he) a desire of knowledge is the natural feeling of mankind; and every human being, whose mind is not debauched, will be willing to give all that he has to get knowledge."

We landed at the Old Swan, and walked to Billingsgate, where we took oars, and moved smoothly along the silver Thames. It was a very fine day. We were entertained with the immense number and variety of ships that were lying at anchor, and with the beautiful country on each side of the river.

I talked of preaching, and of the great success which those called Methodists? have. Johnson. “ Sir, it is owing to their expressing themselves in a plain

and

[ocr errors]

? All who are acquainted with the history of Religion, (the most important, surely, that concerns the human mind,) know that the appellation of Methodists was first given to a society of Students in the University of Oxford, who about the year 1730, were distinguished by an earnest and methodical attention to devout exercises. This disposition of mind is not a novelty or peculiar to any sect, bat has been, and still may be found, in many Christians of every denomination. Johnson himself was, in a dignified manner, a Methodist. In his Rambler, No. 110, he mentions with respect “ the whole discipline of regulated piety ;” and in his “ Prayers and Meditations,” many instances occur of his anxious examination into his fpiritual state. That this religious earnestness, and in particular an observation of the influence of the Holy Spirit, has sometimes degenerated into folly, and sometimes been counterfeited for base purposes, cannot be denied. But it is not, therefore, fair to decry it when genuine. The principal argument in reason and good sense against methodism is, that it tends to debase human nature, and prevent the generous exertions of goodness, by an unworthy supposition that God will pay no regard to them, although it is positively said in the scriptures that he “ will reward every man according to his works.” But I am happy to have it in my power to do justice to those whom it is the fashion to ridicule, without any knowledge of their tenets ; and this I can do by quoting a passage from one of their best apologists, Mr. Milner, who thus expresses their doctrine upon this subject. Justified by faith, renewed in his faculties, and constrained by the love of Christ, their believer moves in the sphere of love and gratitude, and all his duties flow more or less from this principle. And though they are accumulating for him in heaven a treasure of bliss proportioned to

[ocr errors]

1763.

Ætat. 54

and familiar manner, which is the only way to do good to the common people, and which clergymen of genius and learning ought to do from a principle of duty, when it is suited to their congregations ; a practice, for which they will be praised by men of sense. To insist against drunkenness as a crime, because it debases Reason, the noblest faculty of man, would be of no service to the common people : but to tell them that they may die in a fit of drunkenness, and shew them how dreadful that would be, cannot fail to make a deep impression. Sir, when your Scotch clergy give up their homely manner; ; religion will soon decay in that country.” Let this observation, as Johnson meant it, be ever remembered.

I was much pleased to find myself with Johnson at Greenwich, which he celebrates in his “ London” as a favourite scene. I had the poem in my pocket, and read the lines aloud with enthusiasm :

« On Thames's banks in silent thought we stood,
“ Where Greenwich smiles upon the silver food:
« Pleas’d with the seat which gave Eliza birth,
« We kneel, and kiss the confecrated earth.”

He remarked that the structure of Greenwich hospital was too magnificent for a place of charity, and that its parts were too much detached to make one

great whole.

Buchanan, he said, was a very fine poet; and observed, that he was the first who complimented a lady, by ascribing to her the different perfections of the heathen goddesses; but that Johnston improved upon this, by making his lady, at the same time, free from their defects.

He dwelt upon Buchanan's elegant verses to Mary Queen of Scots, Nympha Caledoniæ, &c. and spoke with enthusiasm of the beauty of Latin verse. “ All the modern languages (said he) cannot furnish so melodious a line as

Formosam refonare deces Amarillida filvas.

Afterwards he entered upon the business of the day, which was to give me his advice as to a course of study. And here I am to mention with much

bis faithfulness and activity, and it is by no means inconsistent with his principles to feel the force of this consideration, yet love itself sweetens every duty to his mind; and he thinks there is no absurdity in his feeling the love of God as the grand commanding principle of his life.” Elsays on several religious Subjects, &c. by Joseph Milner, A. M. Master of the Grammar School of Kingston-uponHull, 1789, p. 11.

regret,

1763.

Ætat. 54:

segret, that my record of what he said is miserably scanty. I recollect with admiration an animating blaze of eloquence, which roused every

intellectual power in me to the highest pitch, but must have dazzled me fo much, that my memory could not preserve the substance of his discourse ; for the note which I find of it is no more than this :-" He ran over the grand scale of human knowledge ; advised me to select some particular branch to excel in, but to acquire a little of every kind.” The defect of my minutes will be fully supplied by a long letter upon the subject which he favoured me with, after I had been some time at Utrecht, and which my readers will have the pleasure to peruse in its proper place.

We walked in the evening in Greenwich Park. He asked me, I suppose by way of trying my disposition, “Is not this very fine ?" Having no exquisite relish of the beauties of Nature, and being more delighted with “ the busy hum of men,” I answered, “ Yes, Sir; but not equal to Fleet-street.” Johnson. “ You are right, Sir."

I am aware that many of my readers may censure my want of taste. Let me, however, shelter myself under the authority of a very fashionable Baronet in the brilliant world, who, on his attention being called to the fragrance of a May evening in the country, observed, “ This may be very well; but, for my part, I prefer the finell of a flambeau at the play-house.”

We staid so long at Greenwich, that our fail up the river, in our return to London, was by no means so pleasant as in the morning; for the night air was so cold that it made me shiver. I was the more sensible of it from having sat up all the night before, recollecting and writing in my journal what I thought worthy of preservation ; an exertion, which, during the first part of my acquaintance with Johnson, I frequently made. I remember having fat up four nights in one week, without being much incommoded in the day time.

Johnson, whose robust frame was not in the least affected by the cold, scolded me, as if my shivering had been a paltry effeminacy, saying, “Why do you shiver ?” Sir William Scott, of the Commons, told me, that when he complained of a head-ach in the post-chaise, as they were travelling together to Scotland, Johnson treated him in the same manner :, “At your age, Sir, I had no head-ach.” It is not easy to make allowance for sensations in others, which we ourselves have not at the time. We must all have experienced how very differently we are affected by the complaints of our neighbours, when we are well and when we are ill. In full health, we can scarcely believe that they Suffer much ; fo faint is the image of pain upon our imagination : when Softened by sickness, we readily sympathize with the sufferings of others. Kk 2

We

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

We concluded the day at the Turk's Head coffee-house very socially. He was pleased to listen to a particular account which I gave him of my family, and of its hereditary estate, as to the extent and population of which he asked questions, and made calculations; recommending, at the same time, a liberal kindness to the tenantry, as people over whom the proprietor was placed by Providence. He took delight in hearing my description of the romantick seat of my ancestors. “ I must be there, Sir, (faid he) and we will live in the old castle ; and if there is not a room in it remaining, we will build one." I was highly flattered, but could scarcely indulge a hope that Auchinleck would indeed be honoured by his presence, and celebrated by a description, as it afterwards was, in his “ Journey to the Western Inands.”

After we had again talked of my setting out for Holland, he said “ I must see thee out of England : I will accompany you to Harwich.” I could not find words to express what I felt upon this unexpected and very great mark of his affectionate regard.

Next day, Sunday, July 31, I told him I had been that morning at a meeting of the people called Quakers, where I had heard a woman preach. Johnson. Sir, a woman's preaching is like a dog's walking on his hinder legs. It is not done well; but you are surprized to find it done at all."

On Tuesday, August 2, (the day of my departure from London having. been fixed for the 5th,) Dr. Johnson did me the honour to pass a part of the morning with me at my Chambers. He said, that “ he always felt an inclination to do nothing.” I observed, that it was strange to think that the most indolent man in Britain had written the most laborious work, THE ENGLISH: DICTIONARY.

I mentioned an imprudent publication, by a certain friend of his, at an early period of life, and asked him if he thought it would hurt him. Johnson.“ No, Sir; not much. It may, perhaps, be mentioned at an election.”

I had now made good my title to be a privileged man, and was carried by him in the evening to drink tea with Miss Williams, whom, though under the misfortune of having lost her sight, I found to be agreeable in conver-fation; for she had a variety of literature, and expressed herself well; but her peculiar value was the intimacy in which she had long lived with Johnson, by which she was well acquainted with his habits, and knew how to lead him on to talk.

After tea he carried me to what he called his walk, which was a long narrow paved court in the neighbourhood, overshadowed by some trees. There we fauntered a considerable time, and I complained to him that my love of

• London

[ocr errors]

He was

London and of his company was such, that I shrunk almost from the 1763. thought of going away even to travel

, which is generally so much desired by Ærat. 54. young men. He roused me by manly and spirited conversation. He advised me, when settled in any place abroad, to study with an eagerness after knowledge, and to apply to Greek an hour every day; and when I was moving. about, to read diligently the great book of mankind.

On Wednesday, August 3, we had our last social evening at the Turk's Head coffee-house, before my setting out for foreign parts. I had the milfortune, before we parted, to irritate him unintentionally. I mentioned to him how common it was in the world to tell absurd stories of him, and to ascribe to him very strange sayings. Johnson.

. “ What do they make me say, Sir?” Boswell. “Why, Sir, as an instance very strange indeed, (laughing heartily as I spoke,) David Hume told me, you said that you would stand before a battery of cannon, to restore the Convocation to its full powers. Little did I apprehend that he had actually said this, but I was soon convinced of my errour; for, with a determined look, he thundered out, “ And would I not, Sir ? Shall the Presbyterian Kirk of Scotland have its General Affembly, and the Church of England be denied its Convocation ?” walking up and down the room while I told him the anecdote; but when he uttered this explosion of high-church zeal, he had come close to my chair, and his eyes flashed with indignation. I bowed to the storm, and diverted the force of it, by leading him to expatiate on the influence which religion derived from maintaining the church with great external respectability.

I must not omit to mention that he this year wrote “ The Life of Ascham,t” and the Dedication to the Earl of Shaftesbury,t prefixed to the edition of that writer's English works, published by Mr. Bennet.

On Friday, August 5, we set out early in the morning in the Harwich stage coach. A fat elderly gentlewoman, and a young Dutchman, seemed the most inclined among us to conversation. At the inn where we dined, the gentlewoman said that she had done her best to educate her children ; and, particu-larly, that she had never suffered them to be a moment idle. Johnson. “I: wish, Madam, you would educate me too; for I have been an idle fellow all

“ I am sure, Sir, (said she) you have not been idle.” Johnson. “ Nay, Madam, it is very true; and that gentleman there (pointing to me,) has been idle. He was idle at Edinburgh... His father sent him to Glasgow, where he continued to be idle. He then came to London, where he has been very idle ; and now he is going to Utrecht, where he will be as idle as

ever."

my life.

« 이전계속 »