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and mistaken enthusiasm of the people among whom he happens to be.” GOLDSMITH. “ Sir, he wants only to sell his history, and to tell truth; one an honest, the other a laudable motive."
“ JOHN SON. “ Sir, they are both laudable motives. It is laudable in a man to wish to live by his labours; but he should write so as he may live by them, not so as he may be knocked on the head. I would advise him to be at Calais before he publishes his history of the present age. A foreigner, who ata taches himself to a political party in this country, is in the worst state that can be imagined : he is looked upon as a mere intermeddler. A native may do it from interest.” Boswell.“ Or principle.". GOLDSMITH.“ There are people who tell a hundred political lies every day, and are not hurt by it. Surely, then, one may tell truth with safety.” JohnSON, Why, sir, in the first place, he who tells a hundred lies has disarmed the force of his lies: but, besides, a man had rather have a hundred lies told of him, than one truth which he does not wish should be told.” GOLDSMITH. “ For my part, I'd tell truth, and shame the devil.” Johnson. “ Yes, sir; but the devil will be angry. I wish to shame the devil as much as you do, but I should choose to be out of the reach of his claws." GOLD.
His claws can do you no harm, when you have the shield of truth."
The common remark as to the utility of reading history being made : JOHNSON.“ We must consider how very little history there is; I mean real au. thentic history. That certain kings reigned, and certain battles were fought, we can depend upon as
true ; but all the colouring, all the philosophy of history, is conjecture." BOSWELL. “ Then, sir, you would reduce all history to no better than an almanack, a mere chronological series of remarkable events." Mr. Gibbon, who must at that time have been employed upon his history, of wbich he published the first volume in the following year, was present; but did not step forth in defence of that species of writing. He probably did not like to trust imself with Johnson.*
• Boswell here alludes to a speech made by Gibbon on a former occasion. In a company where they were both present, 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.” 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 voci. ferate 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 assimilated to that ferocious animal, while those who were sitting 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 muttered, in a low tone of voice, "I should not like to trust myself with you."
The custom of eating dogs at Otaheite being mentioned, Goldsmith observed, that this was also a custom in China; that a dog-butcher is as common there as any other butcher ; and that when he walks abroad, all the dogs fall on him. JOHNSON. “ That is not owing to his killing dogs, sir. I remember a butcher at Lichfield, whom a dog that was in the house where I lived always attacked, It is the smell of carnage which provokes this, let the animals he has killed be what they may.” GOLDSMITH.“ Yes, there is a general abhorrence ju animals at the signs of massacre. If you put a tub full of blood into a stable the horses are like to go mad.” JOHNSON. “ I doubt that." GOLDSMITH. «« Nay, sir, it is a fact well authenticated.” Turale. 6. You had better prove it before you put it into your book on natural history. You may do it in my stable if you will.” Johnson. “ Nay, sir, I would not have him prove it. If he is content to take his information from others, he may get through his book with little trouble, and without much endan. gering his reputation ; but if he makes experi. ments for so comprehensive a book as his, there would be no end to them : his erroneous assertions would then fall upon himself; and he might be blamed for not having made experiments as to every particular.”
Boswell related, that he had, several times, when
in Italy, seen the experiment of placing a scorpion within a circle of burning coals; that it ran round and round in extreme pain; and findiog no way to escape, retired to the centre, and, like a true Stoic philosopher, darted its sting into its head, and thus at once freed itself from its woes. “This must end 'em." This, he observed, was a curious fact, as it showed deliberate suicide in a reptile. Johnsou would not admit the fact. He said, Maupertuis was of opinion that it does not kill itself, but dies of the heat; that it gets to the centre of the circle as the coolest place; that its turning its tail in upon its head is merely in convulsion, and that it does not sting itself. He said he would be satisfied if the great anatomist Morgagni, after dissecting a scorpion, on which the experiment had been tried, should çertify that its sting had penetrated into its head.
He seemned pleased to talk of natural philosophy. “ That woodcocks," said he, “ fly over the northern countries, is proved, because they have been observed at sea. Swallows certainly sleep all winter. A number of them conglobulate together, by flying round and round ; and then, all in a heap, throw themselves under water, and lie in the bed of a river.” He said, one of his first essays was a Latin poem upon the glow-worm.
Talking of birds, Boswell mentioned Mr. Daines Barrington's ingenious Essay against the received notion of their migration. JOHNSON. “ I think we have as good evidence for the migration of woodcocks as can be desired. We find they disappear at a certain time of the year, and appear again at a certain time of the year; and some of them, when weary in their flight, have been known to alight on the rigging of ships far out at sea." One of the company observed, that there had been instances of some of them found in summer in Essex. JOHN.' SON Sir, that strengthens our argument. Exceptio probat regulam. Some being fouvd, shows, that, if all remained, many would be found. A few sick or lame ones may be found.” GOLDSMITH, “ There is a partial migration of the swallows; the stronger ones migrate; the others do not."
Johnson repeated an argument, which is found in his Rainbler, against the notion that the brute creation is endowed with the faculty of reason. “ Birds build by instinct; they never improve; they build their first nest as well as any one they ever build.” GOLDSMITH. “ Yet we see, if we take away a bird's nest with the eggs in it, she will make a slighter nest, and lay again.” Johnson. “ Sir, that is because at first she has full time, and makes her nest deliberately. In the case you mention, she is pressed to lay, and must therefore make her nest quickly; and consequently it will be slight," GOLDSMITH. " The nidification of birds is what is least knowu in natural history, though one of the most curious things in it.”
Boswell told him, that he heard Dr. Percy was writing the history of the wolf in Great Britain. JOHNSON, “ The wolf, sir; why the wolf? Why does he not write of the bear, which we had formerly? Nay, it is said we had the beaver. Or why does he not write of the gray rat, the Hanover rat, as it is called, because it is said to have come into this country about the time that the family of Hanover came? I should like to see' The History