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of the Gray Rat, by Thomas Percy, D.D. Chaplain in Ordinary to his Majesty.'” (laughing immode. rately.) Boswell. “ I am afraid a court chaplain could not decently write of the gray rat.” JOHNSON. “ Sir, he need not give it the name of the Hanover rat.”
Mr. Seward mentioned the observations which he had made upon the strata of the earth in volca. noes, from which it appeared, that they were so very different in depth at different periods, that no calculation could be made as to the time required for their formation. This fully refuted an antemosaical remark introduced into captain Brydone's entertaining tour, from a kind of vanity, which is too common in those who have not sufficiently studied the most important of all subjects. Dr. Johuson, indeed, had said before, independent of this observation, “ Shall all the accumulated evi. dence of the history of the world ; shall the authority of what is unquestionably the most ancient writing-be overturned by an uncertain remark such as this?"
“ JOHNSON recommended to me," says Boswell, “ to keep a journal of my life, full and unreserved. He said it would be a very good exercise, avd would yield me great satisfaction, when the particulars were faded from my remembrance. I was uncommonly fortunate in having had a previous coincidence of opinion with him upon this subject, for I had kept such a journal for some time, and it was no small pleasure to me to have this to tell him, and to receive his approbation. He counselled me to keep it private, and said, I might surely have a frieod, who would burn it in case of my death. From this habit I have been enabled to give the world so many anecdotes, which would otherwise have been lost to posterity. I mentioned, that I was afraid I put into my journal too many little incidents. JOHNSON. " There is nothing, sir, too little for so little a creature as man. It is by studying little things that we attain the great art of having as little misery and as much happiness as possible.'
“ He told me, that he had, twelve or fourteen times, attempted to keep a journal of his life, but never could persevere. He advised me to do it. • 'The great thing to be recorded,' said he, is the state of your own mind; and you should write down every thing that you remember, for you cannot judge at first what is good or bad; and write immediately, while the impression is fresh, for it will not be the same a week afterwards.'"
Boswell mentioned, that he had in his possession the Life of sir Robert Sibbald, the celebrated Scottish antiquary, and founder of the Royal College of Physicians at Edinburgh, in the original manuscript, in his own hand-writing ; and that it was, he believed, the most natural and candid account of himself that ever was given by any man. instance, he tells, that the duke of Perth, then chancellor of Scotland, pressed him very much to
come over to the Roman catholic faith : that he resisted all his grace's arguments for a considerable time, till one day he felt himself, as it were, instantaneously convinced, and with tears in his eyes ran into the duke's arms, and embraced the ancient religion; that he continued very steady in it for some time, and accompanied his grace to London one winter, and lived in his household; that there he found the rigid fasting prescribed by the church very serere upon him ; that this disposed him to reconsider the controversy; and, having then seen that he was in the wrong, he returned to protestantism. Boswell talked of some time or other publishing this curious life. Mrs. Thrale. “I think you had as well let alone that publication. To discover such weakness exposes a man when he is gone." JOHNSON. “ Nay, it is an honest picture of human nature. How often are the primary motives of our greatest actions as small as Sibbald's, for his re-conversion!" MRS. THRALE. “ But may they not as well be forgotten?" JOHNSON, “ No, madam, a man loves to review his own mind. That is the use of a diary, or journal.” LORD TRIMLES
" True, sir. As the ladies love to see themselves in a glass, so à man likes to see him. self in his journal.” Boswell. “ A very pretty allusion.” Johnson. “ Yes, indeed." BoswELL. " And as a lady adjusts her dress before a mirror, a man adjusts his character by looking at his jour. nal.” He adds, “ I next year found the very same thought in Atterbury's Funeral Sermon on Lady Cutts; where having mentioned her Diary, he says, ' In this glass she every day dressed her
mind.' This is a proof of coincidence, and not of plagiarism ; for I had never read that sernion before."
Johnson said, “ Bayle's Dictionary is a very use. ful work for those to consult, who love the biographical part of literature, which is what I love most."
As he had objected to a part of one of his letters being published, Boswell thought it right to take an opportunity of asking him explicitly, whether it would be improper to publish his letters after his death. His answer was, “ Nay, sir, when I am dead, you may do as you will.”
He said, “ Goldsmith's life of Parnel is poor : not that it is poorly written, but that he had poor materials; for nobody can write the life of a man, but those who have eat, and drank, and lived in social intercourse with him.” Boswell said, if it was not troublesome, and presuming too much, he would request him to tell him all the little circumstances of his life ; what schools he attended when he came to Oxford, when he came to London, &c. He did not disapprove of liis curiosity as to these particulars; but said, “ They'll come out by degrees, as we talk together."
He censured Ruffhead's Life of Pope; and remarked, that“he knew nothing of Pope, and nothing of poetry.” He praised Dr. Joseph Warton's Es. say on Pope ; but added, he supposed we should have no more of it, as the author had not been able to persuade the world to think of Pope as he did. Boswell. “ Why, sir, should that prevent him from continuing his work ? He is an ingenious counsel, who has made the most of his cause:
he is not obliged to gain it.” JOHNSON. “ But, sir, there is a difference when the cause is of a man's own making.”
At another time, he, Mr. Thomas Warton, and Boswell, talked of biography. Johnson. “ It is rarely well executed. They only who live with a man can write his life with any genuine exactness and discrimination; and few people who have lived with a man know what to remark about him. The chaplain of a late bishop, whom I was to assist in writing some memoirs of his lordship, could tell me scarcely any thing." Boswell, “ Mr. Robert Dodsley's life should be written, as he was so much connected with the wits of his time, and by his literary merit had raised himself from the station of a footman.” WartoŇ.“ He published a little rolume under the title of The Muse in Livery." Johnson. " I doubt whether Dodsley's brother would thank a man who should write his life; yet Dodsley himself was not unwilling that his original low condition should be recollected. When lord Lyttelton's Dialogues of the Dead came out, one of which is between Apicius, an ancient epicure, and Dartineuf, a modern epicure, Dodsley said to me,' I knew Dartineuf well, for I was once his footman,'”
Biography led them to speak of Dr. John Campbell, who had written a considerable part of the Biographia Britannica. Johnson, though he valued him highly, was of opinion that there was not so much in his great work, A Political Survey of Great Britain, as the world had been taught to expect; and had said to Boswell, that he believed Campbell's disappointment, on account of the bad