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town. Johnson's connection both with Shakspeare and Garrick founded a 1769. double claim to his presence; and it would have been highly gratifying to Ætat. Ca Mr. Garrick. Upon this occasion I particularly lamented that he had not that warmth of friendship for his brilliant pupil, which we may suppose would have had a benignant effect on both. When almost every man of eminence in the literary world was happy to partake in this festival of genius, the absence of Johnson could not but be wondered at and regretted. The only trace of him there, was in the whimsical advertisement of a haberdasher, who fold Shaksperian ribbands of various dyes; and, by way of illustrating their appropriation to the bard, introduced a line from the celebrated Prologue at the opening of Drury-lane theatre :
“ Each change of many-colour'd life he drew.” From Brighthelmstone Dr. Johnson wrote me the following letter, which they who may think that I ought to have fuppreffed, must have less ardent feelings than I have always avowed.
To JAMES BOSWELL, Esq. « DEAR SIR,
“ WHY do you charge me with unkindness? I have omitted nothing that could do you good, or give you pleasure, unless it be that I have forborne to tell you my opinion of your account of Corsica. I believe my opinion, if you think well of my judgement, might have given you pleasure; but when it is considered how much vanity is excited by praise, I am not sure that it would have done you good. Your History is like other histories, but your Journal is in a very high degree curious and delightful. There is between the history and the journal that difference which there will always be found between notions borrowed from without, and notions generated within. Your history was copied from books; your journal rose out of your own experience and observation. You express images which operated strongly upon yourself, and you have impressed them with
upon your readers. I know not whether I could name any narrative by which curiosity is better excited, or better gratified.
“ I am glad that you are going to be married; and as I wish you well in things of less importance, wish you well with proportionate ardour in this crisis of your life.
life. What I can contribute to your happiness, I should be very unwilling to with-hold; for I have always loved and valued you, and shall love
you and value you still more, as you become more regular and useful: effects Ætat. 60. which a happy marriage will hardly fail to produce.
“ I do not find that I am likely to come back very soon from this place. I shall, perhaps, stay a fortnight longer ; and a fortnight is a long time to a lover absent from his mistress. Would a fortnight ever have an end ?
“ I am, dear Sir,
" Your most affectionate humble servant, “ Brighthelmstone,
SAM. JOHNSON." Sept. 9, 1769.
After his return to town, we met frequently, and I continued the practice of making notes of his conversation, though not with so much assiduity as I wish I had done. At this time, indeed, I had a sufficient excuse for not being able to appropriate so much time to my journal ; for General Paoli, after Corsica had been overpowered by the monarchy of France, was now no longer at the head of his brave countrymen, but having with difficulty escaped from his native isand, had fought an asylum in Great-Britain ; and it was my duty, as well as my pleasure, to attend much upon him. Such particulars of Johnson's conversation at this period as I have committed to writing, I shall here introduce, without any strict attention to methodical arrangement. Sometimes short notes of different days shall be blended together, and fometimes a day may seem important enough to be separately distinguished.
He said, he would not have Sunday kept with rigid severity and gloom, but with a gravity and simplicity of behaviour.
I told him that David Hume had made a short collection of Scotticisins. “ I wonder, (said Johnson,) that he should find them.”
He would not admit the importance of the question concerning the legality of general warrants. “ Such a power (he observed,) must be vested in every government, to answer particular cases of necessity; and there can be no just complaint but when it is abused, for which those who administer government must be answerable. It is a matter of such indifference, a matter about which the people care so very little, that were a man to be sent over Britain to offer them an exemption from it at a halfpenny a piece, very few would purchase it.” This was a specimen of that laxity of talking, which I have heard him fairly acknowledge ; for, surely, while the power of granting general warrants was supposed to be legal, and the apprehension of them hung over our heads, we did not possess that security of freedom, congenial to our 4
happy constitution, and which, by the intrepid exertions of Mr. Wilkes, has been happily established.
He said, “ The duration of Parliament, whether for seven years or for the life of the King, appears to me fo immaterial, that I would not give half a crown to turn the scale the one way or the other. The habeas corpus is the single advantage which our government has over that of other countries.”
On the 30th of September we dined together at the Mitre. I attempted to argue for the superiour happiness of the favage life, upon the usual fanciful topicks. Johnson. “Sir, there can be nothing more false. The savages have no bodily advantages beyond those of civilised men. They have not better health; and as to care or mental uneasiness, they are not above it, but below it, like bears. No, Sir; you are not to talk such paradox : let me have no more of’t. It cannot entertain, far less can it instruct. Lord Monboddo, one of your Scotch Judges, talked a great deal of such nonsense. I suffered him ; but I will not suffer you.”—Boswell. “ But, Sir, does not Rousseau talk such nonsense ?” Johnson. “ True, Sir ; but Rousseau knows he is talking nonsense, and laughs at the world for staring at him.” Boswell. “How so, Sir?” Johnson. “ Why, Sir, a man who talks nonsense so well, must know that 'he is talking nonsense. But I am afraid, (chuckling and laughing,) Monboddo does not know that he is talking nonsense 3.” Boswell. “ Is it wrong then, Sir, to affect singularity, in order to make people stare?” Johnson. “ Yes, if you do it by propagating errour : and, indeed, it is wrong in any way. There is in human nature a general inclination to make people stare ; and every wise man has himself to cure of it, and does cure himself. If
you wish to make people stare by doing better than others, why, make them stare till they stare their eyes out. But consider how easy it is to make
people stare, by being absurd. I may do it by going into a drawing-room without my Moes. You remember the gentleman in “The Spectator,” who had a commiffion of lunacy taken out against him for his extreme singularity, such as never wearing a wig, but a night-cap. Now, Sir, abstractedly, the night-cap was best; but, relatively, the advantage was overbalanced by his making the boys run after him.”
Talking of a London life, he said, “ The happiness of London is not to be conceived but by those who have been in it. I will venture to say, there
3 His Lordship having frequently spoken in an abusive manner of Dr. Johnson, in my company, ΙΟΥ one occasion dus the life-time of my illustrious friend could not refrain from retaliation, and repeated to him this saying,
1769. is more learning and science within the circumference of ten miles from where Etat. Co. we now sit, than in all the rest of the kingdom.” Boswell. “ The only
disadvantage is the great distance at which people live from one another.” Johnson. “ Yes, Sir ; but that is occasioned by the largeness of it, which is the cause of all the other advantages.” Boswell. “Sometimes I have been in the humour of wishing to retire to a desart.” Johnson. “Sir, you have desart enough in Scotland.”
Although I had promised myself a great deal of instructive conversation with him on the conduct of the married state, of which I had then a near prospect, he did not say much upon that topick. Mr. Seward heard him once say, that “a man has a very bad chance for happiness in that state, unless he marries a woman of very strong and fixed principles of religion.” He maintained to me, contrary to the common notion, that a woman would not be the worse wife for being learned ; in which, from all that I have observed of Artemisias, I humbly differed from him. That a woman should be sensible and well informed, I allow to be a great advantage ; and think that Sir Thomas Overbury 4, in his rude versification, has very judiciously pointed out that degree of intelligence which is to be desired in a female companion :
“ Give me, next good, an understanding wife,
By Nature wise, not learned by much art; “ Some knowledge on her side will all
They are most firmly good, who best know why.”
When I censured a gentleman of my acquaintance for marrying a second time, as it shewed a disregard of his first wife, he said, “ Not at all, Sir. On the contrary, were he not to marry again, it might be concluded that his first wife had given him a disgust to marriage ; but by taking a second wife he pays the highest compliment to the first, by shewing that she made him so happy as a married man, that he wishes to be so a second time.” So ingenious a turn did he give to this delicate question. And yet, on another occasion, he owned that he once had almost asked a promise of Mrs. Johnson that she would not marry again, but had checked himself. Indeed I cannot help thinking, that in his case the request would have been unreasonable ; for Mrs. Johnson forgot, or thought it no injury to the memory of her first 1769. love,--the husband of her youth and the father of her children,-to make a Ætat. 7o. second marriage, why should she be precluded from a third, should she be fo inclined? In Johnson's persevering fond appropriation of his Tetty, even after her decease, he seems totally to have overlooked the prior claim of the honest Birmingham trader. I presume that her having been married before had, at times, given him some uneasiness; for I remember his observing upon the marriage of one of our common friends, “ He has done a very foolish thing, Sir; he has married a widow, when he might have had a maid.”
4 « A Wife," a poem, 1614.
We drank tea with Mrs. Williams. I had last year the pleasure of seeing Mrs. Thrale at Dr. Johnson's one morning, and had conversation enough with her to admire her talents, and to shew her that I was as Johnsonian as herself. Dr. Johnson had probably been kind enough to speak well of me, for this evening he delivered me a very polite card from Mr. Thrale and her, inviting me to Streatham.
On the 6th of October I complied with this obliging invitation, and found, at an elegant villa, fix miles from town, every circumstance that can make society pleasing. Johnson, though quite at home, was yet looked up to with an awe, tempered by affection, and seemed to be equally the care of his hoft and hostess. I rejoiced at seeing him so happy.
He played off his wit against Scotland with a good humoured pleasantry, which gave me, though no bigot to national prejudices, an opportunity for a little contest with him. I having said that England was obliged to us for gardeners, almost all their good gardeners being Scotchmen,- Johnson. " Why, Sir, that is because gardening is much more necessary amongst you than with us, which makes so many of your people learn it. It is all gardening with you. Things which grow wild here, must be cultivated with great care in Scotland. Pray now, (throwing himself back in his chair, and laughing) are you ever able to bring the shoe to perfection ?”
I boasted that we had the honour of being the first to abolish the unhospitable, troublesome, and ungracious custom of giving vails to servants. Johnson. “ Sir, you abolished vails, because you were too poor to be able to give them.”
Mrs. Thrale disputed with him on the merit of Prior. He attacked him powerfully ; said, he wrote of love like a man who had never felt it: his love verses were college verses: and he repeated the song, “ Alexis shunn'd his fellow swains,” &c. in so ludicrous a manner, as to make us all wonder how any one could have been pleased with such fantastical stuff. Mrs. Thrale stood