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For, indeed, not only are the gaiety and heroism of a highwayman very
1775. captivating to a youthful imagination, but the arguments for adventurous Ætat. 76. depredation are so plausible, the allusions fo lively, and the contrasts with the ordinary and more painful modes of acquiring property are so artfully displayed, that it requires a cool and strong judgement to resist so imposing an aggregate: yet, I own, I should be very sorry to have “ The Beggars Opera” suppressed; for there is in it so much of real London life, so much brilliant wit, and such a variety of airs, which, from early association of ideas, engage, soothe, and enliven the mind, that no performance which the theatre exhibits, delights me more.
The late “ worthy” Duke of Queensberry, as Thomson, in his “Seasons,” justly characterises him, told me, that when Gay first shewed him “ The Beggars Opera,” his Grace's observation 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, shewed us to day, that there was good reason enough to doubt concerning its success. 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 disposition to damn it, and that it was saved by the song, " Oh ponder well, be not severe.” Quin himself had so 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 she should no longer fing in publick, though his father was very earnest fhe mould, because her talents would be liberally rewarded so as to make her a good fortune. It was questioned whether the young gentleman, who had not a shilling in the world, but was blest with very uncommon talents, was not foolishly delicate, or foolishly proud, and his father truly rational without being mean. Johnson, with all the high spirit of a Roman senator, exclaimed, “He resolved wisely and, nobly to be fure. He is a brave man. Would not a gentleman be disgraced by having his wife singing publickly for hire ? No, Sir, there can be no doubt here. I know not if I should not prepare myself for a publick singer, as readily as let my wife be one."
Johnson arraigned the modern politicks of this country, as entirely devoid of all principle of whatever kind. “ Politicks (said he) are now nothing more than means of rising in the world. With this fole view do men engage in politicks, and their whole conduct proceeds upon it. How different in that respect is the state of the nation now from what it was in Rri
the time of Charles the First, during the Usurpation, and after the RestoraÆtat. 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 last. But to be sure the brightest strokes of his wit owed their force to the impression of the characters, which was upon men's minds at the time; to their knowing them, at table and in the street; in short, being familiar with them; and above all, to his fatire being directed against those 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 First was undoubtedly not committed with the approbation or consent of the people. Had that been the case, parliament would not have ventured to consign the regicides to their deserved 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 absolute as Louis the Fourteenth.” A gentleman observed he would have done no harm if he had. JOHNSON. “Why, Sir, absolute princes seldom do any harm. But they who are governed by them are governed by chance. There is no security for good government.” CAMBridge. « There have been many fad victims to absolute power.” Johnson. “So, Sir, have there been to popular factions.” Boswell. “ The question is, which is worst, one wild beast or many?”
Johnson praised “ The SPECTATOR,” particularly the character of Sir Roger de Coverley. He said, “ 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 Addison for some very fine writing. We have the example of Cervantes making Don Quixote die. I never could see why Sir Roger is represented as a little cracked. It appears to me that the story of the widow was intended to have something superinduced upon it: but the superstructure did not come."
Somebody found fault with writing verses in a dead language, maintaining that they were merely arrangements of so many words, and laughed at the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, for sending 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 posible; I would have verses in every language that there are the means of acquiring. Nobody imagines that an University is to have at once two hundred poets; but it should be able to shew two hundred scholars, Peiresc's death was
lamented, I think, in forty languages. And I would have at every coronation, , 1775.
Having set out next day on a visit to the Earl of Pembroke, at Wilton,
On Saturday, the sixth 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 Sesion, by Dr. Memis, of Aberdeen, that in the same translation of a charter in which physicians 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 supposes himself disgraced by the doctorship, or supposes the doctorsip disgraced by himself. To be disgraced by a title which he shares in common with every illustrious name of his profession, with Boerhaave, with Arbuthnot, and with Cullen, can surely diminish no man's reputation. It is, I suppose, to the doctorate, from which he shrinks, that he owes his right of practising physick. A Doctor of Medicine is a physician under the protection of the laws, and by the stamp of authority. The physician who is not a Doctor, usurps a profession, and is authorised only by himself to decide upon health and sickness, and life and death. That this gentleman is a Doctor, his diploma makes evident; a diploma not obtruded upon him, but obtained by solicitation, and for which fees were paid. With what countenance any man can refuse the title which he has either begged or bought, is not easily discovered.
“ All verbal injury must comprise in it either some false position, or some unnecessary declaration of defamatory truth. That in calling him Doctor, a false appellation was given him, he himself will not pretend, who at the same time that he complains of the title, would be offended if we supposed him to
1775. be not a Doctor. If the title of Doctor be a defamatory truth, it is time Ærat. 66. to diffolve our colleges, for why should the publick give salaries to men whose
approbation is reproach? It may likewise deserve the notice of the publick to consider what help can be given to the professors of physick, who all share with this unhappy gentleman the ignominious appellation, and of whom the very boys in the street are not afraid to say, There goes the Doctor.
“ What is implied by the term Doctor is well known. It distinguishes him to whom it is granted, as a man who has attained such knowledge of his profession as qualifies him to instruct 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 skill, for nemo docet quod non didicit. In England, whoever practises physick, not being a Doctor, must 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 consequence of such petty variation, I hope they would have avoided it'. But, probably, as they meant no ill, they suspected no danger, and, therefore, consulted only what appeared to them propriety or convenience.”
A few days afterwards I consulted him upon a cause, Paterson and others against Alexander and others, which had been decided by a casting vote in the Court of Session, determining that the Corporation of Stirling was corrupt; and setting aside 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 consideration, the following sentences upon the subject:
“ There is a difference between majority and superiority; majority is applied to number, and superiority to power; and power like many other things, is to be estimated non numero sed pondere. Now though the greater number is not corrupt, the greater weight is corrupt, fo that corruption
: In justice to Dr. Memis, though I was against him as an Advocate, I must mention, that he objected to the variation very earnestly, before the tranflation was printed off.
predominates in the borough, taken collettively, though, perhaps, taken
This in my opinion was a very nice cafe ; but the decision was affirmed
On Monday, May 8, we went together and vilited the mansions 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 straw; fupposed 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 insanity was very affecting. I accompanied him home, and dined and drank tea with him.
Talking of an acquaintance of ours, distinguished for knowing an uncommon variety of miscellaneous articles both in antiquities and polite literature, he ebserved, “ You know, Sir, he runs about with little weight upon his mind.” And talking of another very ingenious gentleman, who from the warmth of
temper was at variance with many of his acquaintance, and wilhed to avoid them, he said, “ Sir, he leads the life of an outlaw.”
On Friday, May 12, as he had been so good as to assign me a room in: his house, where I might seep occasionally, when I happened to sit with him to a late hour, I took possession of it this night, found every thing in excellent order, and was attended by honest Francis with a most civil assiduity. I asked him whether I might go to a consultation with another lawyer upon Sunday, as that appeared to me to be doing work as much in my way, as if an artisan should work on the day appropriated for religious rest. Johnson.“ Why, Sir, when you are of consequence enough to oppose the practice of consulting upon Sunday, you should do it: but you may