페이지 이미지


for, indeed, not only are the gaiety and heroifm of a highwayman very captivating to a youthful imagination, but the arguments for adventurous Etat. 66. depredation are fo plaufible, the allufions fo lively, and the contrafts with the ordinary and more painful modes of acquiring property are fo artfully difplayed, that it requires a cool and ftrong judgement to refift fo impofing an aggregate: yet, I own, I should be very forry to have "The Beggars Opera" fuppreffed; for there is in it fo much of real London life, fo much brilliant wit, and such a variety of airs, which, from early affociation of ideas, engage, foothe, and enliven the mind, that no performance which the theatre exhibits, delights me more.

The late "worthy" Duke of Queensberry, as Thomson, in his "Seafons," justly characterises him, told me, that when Gay firft fhewed him "The Beggars Opera," his Grace's obfervation was, "This is a very odd thing, Gay; I am fatisfied that it is either a very good thing, or a very bad thing." It proved the former, beyond the warmest expectations of the authour or his friends. Mr. Cambridge, however, fhewed us to day, that there was good reafon enough to doubt concerning its fuccefs. He was told by Quin, that during the first night of its appearance it was long in a very dubious state; that there was a difpofition to damn it, and that it was faved by the fong, "Oh ponder well, be not fevere." Quin himself had fo bad an opinion of it, that he refused the part of Captain Macheath, and gave it to Walker, who acquired great celebrity by his grave yet animated performance of it.

We talked of a young gentleman's marriage with an eminent finger, and his determination that fhe fhould no longer fing in publick, though his father was very earnest she should, because her talents would be liberally rewarded fo as to make her a good fortune. It was queftioned whether the young gentleman, who had not a fhilling in the world, but was bleft with very uncommon talents, was not foolishly delicate, or foolishly proud, and his father truly rational without being mean. Johnson, with all the high fpirit of a Roman fenator, exclaimed, "He refolved wifely and, nobly to be fure. He is a brave man. Would not a gentleman be difgraced by having his wife finging publickly for hire? No, Sir, there can be no doubt here. I know not if I should not prepare myself for a publick finger, as readily as let my wife be one."

Johnfon arraigned the modern politicks of this country, as entirely devoid of all principle of whatever kind. "Politicks (faid he) are now nothing more than means of rifing in the world. With this fole view do men engage in politicks, and their whole conduct proceeds upon it. How different in that refpect is the ftate of the nation now from what it was in Rrr



the time of Charles the Firft, during the Ufurpation, and after the ReftoraEtat. 66. tion, in the time of Charles the Second. Hudibras affords a strong proof how much hold political principles had then upon the minds of men. There is in Hudibras a great deal of bullion, which will always laft. But to be fure the brighteft ftrokes of his wit owed their force to the impreffion of the characters, which was upon men's minds at the time; to their knowing them, at table and in the ftreet; in fhort, being familiar with them; and above all, to his fatire being directed against thofe whom a little while before they had hated and feared. The nation in general has ever been loyal, has been at all times attached to the monarch, though a few daring rebels have been wonderfully powerful for a time. The murder of Charles the Firft was undoubtedly not committed with the approbation or confent of the people. Had that been the cafe, parliament would not have ventured to confign the regicides to their deferved punishment. And we know what exuberance of joy there was when Charles the Second was restored. If Charles the Second had bent all his mind to it, had made it his fole object, he might have been as abfolute as Louis the Fourteenth." A gentleman observed he would have done no harm if he had. JOHNSON. "Why, Sir, abfolute princes feldom do any harm. But they who are governed by them are governed by chance. There is no fecurity for good government.' CAMBRIDGE. "There have been many fad victims to abfolute power." JOHNSON." So, Sir, have there been to popular factions." BOSWELL.. "The question is, which is worst, one wild beaft or many?"

Johnfon praised "The SPECTATOR," particularly the character of Sir Roger de Coverley. He faid, "Sir Roger did not die a violent death, as has been generally fancied. He was not killed; he died only because others were to die, and because his death afforded an opportunity to Addifon for fome very fine writing. We have the example of Cervantes making Don Quixote die.-I never could fee why Sir Roger is reprefented as a little cracked. It appears to me that the ftory of the widow was intended to have fomething fuperinduced upon it: but the fuperftructure did not come."

Somebody found fault with writing verfes in a dead language, maintaining that they were merely arrangements of fo many words, and laughed at the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, for fending forth collections of them not only in Greek and Latin, but even in Syriack, Arabick, and other more unknown tongues. JOHNSON. "I would have as many of these as poffible;. I would have verfes in every language that there are the means of acquiring. Nobody imagines that an Univerfity is to have at once two hundred poets;. but it fhould be able to fhew two hundred fcholars. Peirefc's death was


[ocr errors]


lamented, I think, in forty languages. And I would have at every coronation, and every death of a King, every Gaudium, and every Luctus, Univerfity Etat. 66. verfes in as many languages as can be acquired. I would have the world to be thus told, Here is a school where every thing may be learnt."

Having fet out next day on a vifit to the Earl of Pembroke, at Wilton, and to my friend, Mr. Temple, at Mamhead, in Devonshire, and not having returned to town till the fecond of May, I did not fee Dr. Johnson for a confiderable time, and during the remaining part of my ftay in London, kept very imperfect notes of his conversation, which had I according to my ufual custom written out at large foon after the time, much might have been preferved, which is now irretrievably loft. I can now only record fome particular scenes, and a few fragments of his memorabilia. But to make fome amends for my relaxation of diligence in one refpect, I have to prefent my readers with arguments upon two law cafes, with which he favoured me.

On Saturday, the fixth of May, we dined by ourselves at the Mitre, and he dictated to me what follows, to obviate the complaint already mentioned, which had been made in the form of an action in the Court of Seffion, by Dr. Memis, of Aberdeen, that in the fame tranflation of a charter in which phyficians were mentioned, he was called Doctor of Medicine.

"THERE are but two reasons for which a physician can decline the title of Doctor of Medicine, because he fuppofes himself difgraced by the doctorship, or supposes the doctorship disgraced by himself. To be difgraced by a title which he shares in common with every illuftrious name of his profeffion, with Boerhaave, with Arbuthnot, and with Cullen, can furely diminish nọ man's reputation. It is, I fuppofe, to the doctorate, from which he fhrinks, that he owes his right of practifing phyfick. A Doctor of Medicine is a phyfician under the protection of the laws, and by the ftamp of authority. The physician who is not a Doctor, ufurps a profeffion, and is authorised only by himself to decide upon health and ficknefs, and life and death. That this gentleman is a Doctor, his diploma makes evident; a diploma not obtruded upon him, but obtained by folicitation, and for which fees were paid. With what countenance any man can refufe the title which he has either begged or bought, is not easily discovered.

"All verbal injury muft comprise in it either fome falfe pofition, or fome unneceffary declaration of defamatory truth. That in calling him Doctor, a falfe appellation was given him, he himself will not pretend, who at the fame time that he complains of the title, would be offended if we supposed him to

[blocks in formation]


be not a Doctor. If the title of Doctor be a defamatory truth, it is time Etat. 66. to diffolve our colleges, for why fhould the publick give falaries to men whofe

approbation is reproach? It may likewife deferve the notice of the publick to confider what help can be given to the profeffors of phyfick, who all share with this unhappy gentleman the ignominious appellation, and of whom the very boys in the street are not afraid to fay, There goes the Doctor.

"What is implied by the term Doctor is well known. It diftinguifhes him to whom it is granted, as a man who has attained fuch knowledge of his profeffion as qualifies him to inftruct others. A Doctor of Laws is a man who can form lawyers by his precepts. A Doctor of Medicine is a man who can teach the art of curing diseases. There is an old axiom which no man has yet thought fit to deny, Nil dat quod non habet. Upon this principle to be a Doctor implies fkill, for nemo docet quod non didicit. In England, whoever practifes phyfick, not being a Doctor, muft practice by a licence: but the doctorate conveys a licence in itself.

By what accident it happened that he and the other physicians were mentioned in different terms, where the terms themselves were equivalent, or where in effect that which was applied to him was the more honourable, perhaps they who wrote the paper cannot now remember. Had they expected a lawsuit to have been the confequence of fuch petty variation, I hope they would have avoided it'. But, probably, as they meant no ill, they fufpected no danger, and, therefore, confulted only what appeared to them propriety or convenience."

A few days afterwards I confulted him upon a caufe, Paterfon and others against Alexander and others, which had been decided by a casting vote in the Court of Seffion, determining that the Corporation of Stirling was corrupt, and fetting afide the election of fome of their officers, because it was proved that three of the leading men who influenced the majority, had entered into an unjustifiable compact, of which, however, the majority were ignorant.. He dictated to me, after a little confideration, the following fentences upon the fubject:

"THERE is a difference between majority and fuperiority; majority is applied to number, and fuperiority to power; and power like many other things, is to be estimated non numero fed pondere. Now though the greater number is not corrupt, the greater weight is corrupt, fo that corruption

3 In juftice to Dr. Memis, though I was against him as an Advocate, I muft mention, that he objected to the variation very earnestly, before the tranflation was printed off.



predominates in the borough, taken collectively, though, perhaps, taken
numerically, the greater part may be uncorrupt. That borough which is fo
conflituted as to act corruptly, is in the eye of reafon corrupt, whether it be by
the uncontroulable power of a few, or by an accidental pravity of the multitude.
The objection, in which is urged the injuftice of making the innocent fuffer
with the guilty, is an objection not only against fociety, but against the
poffibility of fociety. All focieties, great and finall, fubfift upon this
condition; that as the individuals derive advantages from union, they may
likewife fuffer inconveniences; that as thofe who do nothing and fometimes
those who do ill, will have the honours and emoluments of general virtue and
general profperity, fo thofe likewife who do nothing or perhaps do well, must
be involved in the confequences of predominant corruption."

This in my opinion was a very nice cafe; but the decifion was affirmed
in the House of Lords.

On Monday, May 8, we went together and visited the manfions of Bedlam. I had been informed that he had once been there before with Mr. Wedderburne, (now Lord Loughborough,) Mr. Murphy, and Mr. Foote; and I had heard Foote give a very entertaining account of Johnfon's happening to have his attention arrested by a man who was very furious, and who, while beating his ftraw, fuppofed it to be William Duke of Cumberland, whom he was punishing for his cruelties in Scotland in 1746. There was nothing peculiarly remarkable this day; but the general contemplation of infanity was very affecting. I accompanied him home, and dined and drank tea with him.

Talking of an acquaintance of ours, diftinguished for knowing an uncommon variety of miscellaneous articles both in antiquities and polite literature, he obferved, "You know, Sir, he runs about with little weight upon his mind.” And talking of another very ingenious gentleman, who from the warmth of his temper was at variance with many of his acquaintance, and wished to avoid them, he faid, " Sir, he leads the life of an outlaw."

On Friday, May 12, as he had been fo good as to affign me a room in. his house, where I might fleep occafionally, when I happened to fit with. him to a late hour, I took poffeffion of it this night, found every thing in excellent order, and was attended by honeft Francis with a moft civil. affiduity. I afked him whether I might go to a confultation with another lawyer upon Sunday, as that appeared to me to be doing work as much int my way, as if an artifan fhould work on the day appropriated for religious reft. JOHNSON. "Why, Sir, when you are of confequence enough to oppofe the practice of confulting upon Sunday, you should do it: but you may go



Ætat. 66.

« 이전계속 »