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and said, “ Here are now two speeches ascribed to him, both of which were written by me: and the best of it is, they have found out that one is lik Demosthenes, and the other like Cicero."()
He censured Lord Kames's “ Sketches of the History of Man,” for misrepresenting Clarendon's account of the appearance of Sir George Villiers's ghost, as if Clarendon were weakly credulous; when the truth is, that Clarendon only says, that the story was upon a better foundation of credit than usually such discourses are founded upon; nay, speaks thus of the person who was reported to have seen the vision, “ the poor man, if he had been at all waking ;” which Lord Kames has omitted. He added, “ In this book it is maintained that virtue is natural to man, and that if we would but consult our own hearts we should be virtuous. Now, after consulting our own hearts all we can, and with all the helps we have, we find how few of us are virtuous. This is saying a thing which all mankind know not to be true.” BOSWELL. “ Is not modesty natural ?” Johnson. 6 I cannot say, Sir, as we find no people quite in a state of nature ; but, I think, the more they are taught, the more modest they are. The French are a gross, ill-bred, untaught people; a lady there will spit on the floor and rub it with her foot. What I gained by being in France was, learning to be better satisfied with my own country. Time may be employed to more advantage from nineteen to twenty-four, almost in
(1) See antè, Vol. I. p. 172. — C.
any way than in travelling. When you set travelling against mere negation, against doing nothing, it is better to be sure; but how much more would a young man improve were he to study during those years. Indeed, if a young man is wild, and must run after women and bad company, it is better this should be done abroad, as, on his return, he can break off such connections, and begin at home a new man, with a character to form, and acquaintance to make. How little does travelling supply to the conversation of any man who has travelled ! how little to Beauclerk !” BOSWELL. “ What say you to Lord
·()” Johnson. “I never but once heard him talk of what he had seen, and that was of a large serpent in one of the pyramids of Egypt." BOSWELL. “ Well, I happened to hear him tell the same thing, which made me mention him.”
I talked of a country life. JOHNSON. “ Were I to live in the country, I would not devote myself to the acquisition of popularity; I would live in a much better way, much more happily ; I would have my time at my own command.” BOSWELL. But, Sir, is it not a sad thing to be at a distance from all our literary friends ?” Johnson. “ Sir, you will by-and-by have enough of this conversation, which now delights you so much."
As he was a zealous friend of subordination, he was at all times watchful to repress the vulgar cant against the manners of the great. “ High people,
(1) James, first earl of Charlemont. His lordship was, to the last, in the habit of telling the story alluded to rather too often. -C.
Sir," said he, “ are the best: take a hundred ladies of quality, you'll find them better wives, better mothers, more willing to sacrifice their own pleasure to their children, than a hundred other women. Tradeswomen (I mean the wives of tradesmen) in the city, who are worth from ten to fifteen thousand pounds, are the worst creatures upon the earth, grossly ignorant, and thinking viciousness fashionable. Farmers, I think, are often worthless fellows. Few lords will cheat; and, if they do, they 'll be ashamed of it: farmers cheat, and are not ashamed of it: they have all the sensual vices too of the nobility, with cheating into the bargain. There is as much fornication and adultery amongst farmers as amongst noblemen.” BOSWELL. “ The notion of the world, Sir, however, is, that the morals of women of quality are worse than those in lower stations.” Johnson. “ Yes, Sir; the licentiousness of one woman of quality makes more noise than that of a number of women in lower stations : then, Sir, you are to consider the malignity of women in the city against women of quality, which will make them believe any thing of them, such as that they call their coachmen to bed. No, Sir; so far as I have observed, the higher in rank, the richer ladies are, they are the better instructed, and the more virtuous.” This year
the Reverend Mr. Horne published his “ Letter to Mr. Dunning on the English Particle." Johnson read it; and though not treated in it with sufficient respect, he had candour enough to say to Mr. Seward, “ Were I to make a new edition of my
Dictionary, I would adopt several (1) of Mr. Horne's etymologies. I hope they did not put the dog in the pillory for his libel; he has too much literature for that." (2)
On Saturday, May 16., I dined with him at Mr. Beauclerk's with Mr. Langton, Mr. Steevens, Dr. Higgins, and some others. I regret very feelingly every instance of my remissness in recording his memorabilia ; I am afraid it is the condition of humanity (as Mr. Windham, of Norfolk, once observed to me, after having made an admirable speech in the House of Commons, which was highly applauded, but which he afterwards perceived might have been better), “ that we are more uneasy from thinking of our wants, than happy in thinking of our acquisitions.” This is an unreasonable mode of disturbing our tranquillity, and should be corrected : let me then comfort myself with the large treasure of Johnson's conversation which I have preserved for my own enjoyment and that of the world, and let me exhibit what I have upon each occasion, whether more or less, whether a bulse, or only a few sparks of a diamond.
He said, “ Dr. Mead lived more in the broad sunshine of life than almost any man.” (3)
(1) In Mr. Horne Tooke's enlargement of that “ Letter," which he has since published with the title of “
Επεα πτεροεντα, or, The Diversions of Purley," he mentions this compliment, as if Dr. Johnson, instead of several of his etymologies, had said all. His recollection having thus magnified it, shows how ambitious he was of the approbation of so great a man.
(2) See antè, p. 165. and 206. - C (3) Dr. Richard Mead was born in 1673, and died in 1754. His collection of pictures, and coins (which sold for wards of 16,0001.), were, during his life, most liberally open to
The disaster of General Burgoyne's army (1) was then the common topic of conversation. It was asked why piling their arms was insisted upon as a matter of such consequence, when it seemed to be a circumstance so inconsiderable in itself. Johnson.
Why, Sir, a French author says, ' Il y a beaucoup de puerilités dans la guerre.' All distinctions are trifles, because great things can seldom occur, and those distinctions are settled by custom. A savage would as willingly have his meat sent to him in the kitchen, as eat it at the table here: as men become civilised, various modes of denoting honourable preference are invented.”
He this day made the observations upon the similarity between “ Rasselas” and “ Candide :" which I have inserted in its proper place (2), when considering his admirable philosophical romance.
He said, “ Candide,” he thought, had more power in it than any thing that Voltaire had written.
He said, “ The lyrical part of Horace never can be perfectly translated; so much of the excellence is in the numbers and expression. Francis has done it the best ; I'll take his, five out of six, against them all.”
On Sunday, May 17., I presented to him Mr. Fullarton, of Fullarton, who has since distinguished himself so much in India (3), to whom he naturally
public curiosity. He was much visited by the literati and foreigners, and did certainly live in the “sun-shine of life.” — C.
(1) Its surrender at Saratoga, October, 1777. — C. (2) See antè, Vol. II. p. 105. — C.
(3) [In 1787, Mr. Fullarton published a “ View of the En glisi. Interests in India."]