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1775. furnish; for one half of what he said was oaths.” He, however, allowed
considerable merit to some of his comedies, and said there was no reason to Ætat. 66.
believe that “ The Careless Husband” was not written by himself. Davies
the stage. Johnson refuted this observation by instancing several such characters in comedies before his time. Davies. (trying to defend himself from a charge of ignorance,) “ I mean genteel moral characters.” “I think (faid Hicky,) gentility and morality are inseparable.” Boswell. “By no means, Sir. The genteelest characters are often the most immoral. Does not Lord Chesterfield give precepts for uniting wickedness and the graces ? A man, indeed, is not genteel when he gets drunk ; but most vices may be committed very genteely: a man may debauch his friend's wife genteely: he may cheat at cards genteely.” Hicky. “I do not think that is genteel.” Boswell. “Sir, it may not be like a gentleman, but it may be genteel.” Johnson. “You are meaning two different things. One means exteriour grace ; the other honour. It is certain, that a man may be very immoral with exteriour grace. Lovelace, in “Clariffa,' is a very genteel and a very wicked character. Tom Hervey, who died t’other day, though a vicious man, was one of the genteelest men that ever lived.” Tom Davies instanced Charles the Second. Johnson, (taking fire at any attack upon this Prince, for whom he had an extraordinary partiality,) “Charles the Second was licentious in his practice; but he always had a reverence for what was good. Charles the Second knew his people, and rewarded merit. The Church was at no time better filled than in his reign. He was the best King we have had from his time till the reign of his present Majesty, except James the Second, who was a very good King, but unhappily believed that it was necessary for the salvation of his subjects that they should be Roman Catholicks. He had the merit of endeavouring to do what he thought was for the salvation of the souls of his subjects, till he lost a great empire. We, who thought that we should not be faved if we were Roman Catholicks, had the merit of maintaining our religion, at the expence of submitting ourselves to the government of King William, (for it could not be done otherwise, )—to the government of one of the most worthless scoundrels that ever existed. No; Charles the Second was not such a man as
(naming another King). He did not destroy his father's will. He took money, indeed, from France: but he did not betray those over whom he ruled: he did not let the French fleet pass ours. George the First knew nothing, and desired to know nothing; did nothing, and desired to do nothing: and the only good thing that is told of him is, that he wished to restore the crown to its hereditary successor,” He roared with prodigious
violence against George the Second. When he ceased, Moody interjected, in 1775. an Irish tone, and with a comick look, “Ah! poor George the Second.”
I mentioned that Dr. Thomas Campbell had come from Ireland to London, principally to see Dr. Johnson. He seemed angry at this observation. Davies. “ Why, you know, Sir, there came a man from Spain to see Livy'; and Corelli came to England to see Purcell, and, when he heard he was dead, went directly back again to Italy.” JOHNSON. “ I should not have wished to be dead to disappoint Campbell, had he been so foolish as you represent him ; but I should have wished to have been a hundred miles off.” This was apparently perverse ; and I do believe it was not his real way of thinking: he could not but like a man who came so far to see him. He layghed with some complacency, when I told him Campbell's odd expression to me concerning him: “ That having seen such a man, was a thing to talk of a century hence;"-as if he could live so long.
We got into an argument whether the Judges who went to India might with propriety engage in trade. Johnson warmly maintained that they might. “For why (he urged) should not Judges get riches, as well as those who deserve them less.” I said, they should have sufficient salaries, and have nothing to take off their attention from the affairs of the publick. Johnson. “No Judge, Sir, can give his whole attention to his office; and it is very proper
that he should employ what time he has to himself, for his own advantage, in the most profitable manner.” “Then, Sir, (said Davies, who enlivened the dispute by making it somewhat dramatick,) he may become an insurer; and when he is going to the bench, he may be stopped,- Your Lordship cannot go yet: here is a bunch of invoices: several ships are about to fail.” Johnson. “ Sir, you may as well say a judge should not have a house ; for they may come and tell him, “Your Lordship’s house is on fire;' and so, instead of minding the business of his Court, he is to be occupied in getting the engine with the greatest speed. There is no end of this. Every Judge who has land, trades to a certain extent in corn or in cattle; and in the land itself, undoubtedly. His steward acts for him, and fo do clerks for a great merchant. A Judge may be a farmer; but he is not to geld his own pigs. A Judge may play 2 little at cards for his amusement ; but he is not to play at marbles, or at chuck-farthing in the Piazza. No, Sir; there is no profession to which a man gives a very great proportion of his time. It is wonderful when a calculation is made, how little the mind is actually employed in the discharge of
1775 any profession. No man would be a Judge, upon the condition of being Ætat. 66. obliged to be totally a Judge. The best employed lawyer has his mind at
work but for a small proportion of his time: a great deal of his occupation is merely mechanical.—I once wrote for a magazine : I made a calculation, that if I should write but a page a day, at the same rate, I should, in ten years, write nine volumes in folio, of an ordinary size and print.” Boswell. “ Such as Carte's History?” Johnson. “Yes, Sir. When a man writes from his own mind, he writes very rapidly'. The greatest part of a writer's time is spent in reading, in order to write: a man will turn over half a library to make one book.”
I argued warmly against the Judges trading, and mentioned Hale as an instance of a perfect Judge, who devoted himself entirely to his office. Johnson. “Hale, Sir, attended to other things beside law: he left a great estate." Boswell, “ That was, because what he got, accumulated without any exertion and anxiety on his part.”
While the dispute went on, Moody once tried to say something upon our sile.. Tom Davies clapped him on the back, to encourage him.. Beauclerk, to whom I mentioned this circumstance, said, that “ he could not conceive a more humiliating situation than to be clapped on the back by Tom Davies."
We spoke of Rolt, to whose Dictionary of Commerce, Dr. Johnson wrote the Preface. JOHNSON. “ Old Gardner the bookseller employed Rolt and Smart to write a monthly miscellany, called “The Visitor. There was a formal written contract, which Allen the printer faw. Gardner thought as you do of the Judge. They were bound to write nothing else. They were to have, I think, a third of the profits of this sixpenny pamphlet; and the contract was for ninety-nine years. I wish I had thought of giving this to Thurlow, in the cause about Literary Property. What an excellent instance would it have been of the oppression of booksellers towards poor authours !” (smiling). Davies, zealous for the honour of the Trade, said, Gardner was not properly a booka seller. JOHNSON. “Nay, Sir; he certainly was a bookseller. He had served his time regularly, was a member of the Stationers' company, kept a shop in the face of mankind, purchased copy-right, and was a bibliopole, Sir, in every fense. I wrote for some months in The Visitor,' for poor Smart, while he was mad, not then knowing the terms on which he was engaged to write, and thinking I was doing him good. I hoped his wits would soon return to him. Mine returned to me, and I wrote in 'The Visitor' no longer..
Johnson certainly did, who had a mind stored with knowledge, and teeming with imagery: but the observation is not applicable to writers in generale.
Friday, April 7, I dined with him at a tavern, with a numerous company. 1775 JOHNSON. " I have been reading Twiss's Travels in Spain,' which are just Ætat. 66. come out. They are as good as the first book of travels that you will take up. They are as good as those of Keyser or Blainville ; nay, as Addison's, if you except the learning. They are not so good as Brydone's, but they are better than Pococke's. I have not, indeed, cut the leaves yet ; but I have read in them where the pages are open, and I do not suppose that what is in the
pages which are closed is worse than what is in the open pages.-It would seem (he added,) that Addison had not acquired much Italian learning, for we do not find it introduced into his writings. The only instance that I recollect, is his quoting - Stavo bene. Per star meglio, sto qui.”
I mentioned Addison's having borrowed many of his classical remarks from Leandro Alberti. Mr. Beauclerk said, “It was alledged that he had borrowed also from another Italian authour.” Johnson. “ Why, Sir, all who go to look for what the Classicks have said of Italy must find the same passages ; and I should think it would be one of the first things the Italians would do on the revival of learning, to collect all that the Roman authours had said of their country.”
Ofian being mentioned;-JOHNSON. “ Supposing the Irish and Erse languages to be the same, which I do not believe, yet as there is no reason to fuppose that the inhabitants of the Highlands and Hebrides ever wrote their native language, it is not to be credited that a long poem was preserved among them. If we had no evidence of the art of writing being practised in one of the counties of England, we should not believe that a long poem was preserved there, though in the neighbouring counties, where the same language was spoken, the inhabitants could write.” BEAUCLERK. “ The ballad of Lullabalero was once in the mouths of all the people of this country, and is said to have had a great effect in bringing about the Revolution. Yet I. question whether any body can repeat it now; which shews how improbable it is that much poetry should be preserved by tradition.”
One of the company suggested an internal objection to the antiquity of the poetry said to be Offian's, that we do not find the wolf in it, which must have been the case had it been of that age.
The mention of the wolf had led Johnson to think of other wild beasts; and while Sir Joshua Reynolds and Mr. Langton were carrying on a dialogue about something which engaged them earnestly, 'he, in the midst of it, broke out, “ Pennant tells of Bears” [what he added, I have forgotten.) They went on, which he being dull of hearing, did not perceive, or, if he did, was
not willing to break off his talk; so he continued to vociferate his remarks, and Bear (“ like a word in a catch,” as Beauclerk said,) was repeatedly heard at intervals, which coming from him who, by those who did not know him, had been so often aslimilated to that ferocious animal, while we who were fitting around could hardly stifle laughter, produced a very ludicrous effect. Silence having ensued, he proceeded : “ We are told, that the black bear is innocent; but I should not like to trust myself with him.” Mr. Gibbon muttercd, in a low tone of voice, “ I should not like to trust myself with you.' This piece of sarcastick pleasantıy was a prudent resolution, if applied to a competition of abilities.
Patriotisin having become one of our topicks, Johnson suddenly uttered, in a strong determined tone, an apothegm, at which many will start : “ Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.” But let it be considered, that he did not mean a real and generous love of our country, but that pretended patriotism which so many, in all ages and countries, have made a cloak for self-interest. I maintained, that certainly all patriots were not scoundrels. Being urged (not by Johnson,) to name one exception, I mentioned an eminent person, whom we all greatly admired. Johnson. “Sir, I do not say that he is not honest; but we have no reason to conclude from his political conduct that he is honest. Were he to accept of a place from this ministry, he would lose that character of firmness which he has, and might be turned out of his place in a year. This ministry is neither stable, nor grateful to their friends, as Sir Robert Walpole was : so that he may think it more for his interest to take his chance of his party coming in.”
Mrs. Pritchard being mentioned, he said, “Her playing was quite mechanical. It is wonderful how little mind she had. Sir, she had never read the tragedy of Macbeth all through. She no more thought of the play out of which her part was taken, than a shoemaker thinks of the skin, out of which the piece of leather, of which he is making a pair of shoes, is cut.
On Saturday, May 8, I dined with him at Mr. Thrale's, where we met the Irish Dr. Campbell. Johnson had supped the night before at Mrs. Abington's, with some fashionable people whom he named ; and he seemed much pleased with having made one in so elegant a circle.
Mrs. Thrale, who frequently practised a coarse mode of Aattery, by repeating his bon mots in his hearing, told us that he had said, a certain celebrated actor was just fit to stand at the door of an auction-room, with a long pole, and cry, “ Pray, gentlemen, walk in ;” and that a certain authour, upon hearing this, had said, that another still more celebrated actor was fit for nothing better than