페이지 이미지

He said to Sir William Scott, The age is running mad after inovation ; and all the business of the world is to be done in a new way; men are to be hanged in a new way; Tyburn itself is not safe from the fury of ina. vation. It having been argued that this was an improvement.--No, Sir, (said he, eagerly, it is not an improvement; they object, that the old method drew together a number of spectators. Sir, executions are intended to draw spectators. If they do not draw spectators, they don't answer their purpose. The old method was most satisfactory to all parties; the public was gratified by a procession; the criminal was sopported by it. Why is all this to be swept away? I perfectly agree with Dr. Johnson upon this head, and am persuaded that executions now, the solemn procession being discontinued, have not wearly the effect which they formerly had. Magistrates both in London, and elsewhere, have, I am afraid, in this, had too much regard to their own ease.

Of Dr. Hurd, Bishop of Worcester, Jobuson said to a friend, -Hurd, Sir, is one of a set of men who account for every thing systematically: for instance, it has been a fashion to wear scarlet breeches: these men would tell you, that according to causes and effects, no other wear could at that time have been chosen. He, however, said of him at another time to the same gentleman. Hurd, Sir, is a man whose acquaintance is a valuable acquisition.

That learned and ingenious Prelate it is well known published at one period of his life “Moral and Political Dialogues," with a woefully whig. ish cast. Afterwards, his Lordship having thought better, came to see his error, and republished the work with a more constitutional spirit. Johnson, however, was unwilling to allow him full credit for his political conversation. I remember when liis Lordship declined the honour of being Archbisbop of Canterbury, Johnson said, I am glad he did not go to Lambeth; for, after all, I fear he is a Whig in his heart.

Johnson's attention to precision and clearness in expression was very remarkable. He disapproved of a parenthesis ; and I believe in all his voluminous writingö, not half a dozen of them will be found. He never used the phrases the former and the latter, having observed, that they often occasioned obscurity ; he therefore contrived to construct his seotences so as not to have occasiou for them, and would even rather repeat the same words in order to avoid them. Nothing is more common than to mistake suruames, when we hear them carelessly uttered for the first time. To prevent this, he used not only to pronounce them slowly and distinctly, but to take the trouble of spelling them; a practice which I have often followed, and which I wish were general.

Such was the heat and irritability of his blood, that not only did he pare bis nails to the quick, but scraped the joints of his fingers with a pen knife, till they seemed quite red and raw.

The heterogeneous composition of human nature was remarkably exemplified in Johnson. His liberality in giving his money to persons in distress was extraordioary. Yet there lurked about him a propensity to


paltry saving. One day I owned to him, that I was occasionally troubled with a fit of narrowness. Why, Sir, (said he,) so am I. But I do not tell it. He has now and theu borrowed a shilling of me; and when I asked him for it again, seemed to be rather out of humour. A droll little circumstance once occured : As if he meant to reprimand my minute exactness as a creditor, he thus addressed me:- Boswell, lend six-pence-not to be repaid.

This great mau's attention to small things was very remarkable. As an instance of it, he one day said to me, Sir when you get silver in change for a guinea, look carefully at it; you may find some curious piece of coio.

Though a stern true-born Englishman, and fully prejudiced against all other nations, he had discernment enough to see, and candour enough to censure, the cold reserve too common among Englishnien towards strangers : Sir, (said he,) two men of any other nation who are shewn into # room together, at a house where they are both visitors, will imme. diately find some conversation. But two Englishmen will probably go each to a different window, and remain in obstinate sileuce. Sir, we as yet do not enough understand the common rights of humanity.

Johnson was at a certain period of his life a good deal with the Earl of Shelburne, now Marquis of Lansdown, as he doubtless could not but have a due value for that nobleman's activity of mind, and uncommod acquisitions of important knowledge, however much he mighi disa pprove of other parts of his Lordship's character, which were widely different from his own).

Maurice Morgann, Esq. anthor of the very ingenious “ Essay on the character of Falstaff," being a particular friend of his Lordship, had once an opportunity of entertaining Johnson for a day or two at Wycombe when its Lord was absent, and by him I have been favoured with two anecdotes.

One is not a little to the credit of Johnson's candour. Mr. Morgann and he had a dispute pretty late at night, in which Johnson would not give up, though he had the wrong side ; and in short, both kept the field. Next morning, when they wet in the breakfasting-room, Dr. Johnson accosted Mr. Morgann thus : Sir, I have been thinking on our dispute last night ;-You were in the right.

The other was as follows : Johuson, for sport perhaps, or from the spirit of contradiction, eagerly maintained that Derrick had merit as a writer. Mr. Margaun argued with him directly, in vain. At length he had recourse to this device. Pray, Sir, (said he,) whether do you reckon Derrick or Smart the best poet? Johnson at once felt himself roused; and auswered, Sir, there is no settling the point of precedency between a louse and a fiea.

Once, when checking my boasting too frequently of myself in company, be said to me, Boswell, you often vannt so much as to provoke ridicule. You put me in mind of a man who was standing in the

kitchen of an inn with his back to the fire, aud thus accosted the person next him, Do you know, Sir, who I am ? No, Sir, (said the other,) I have not that advantage. Sir, (said he,) I am the great Twalmley, who invented the New Floodgate Iron. The Bishop of killaloe, on my repeating the story to him, defended Twalmley, by observing that he was entitled to the epithet of great; for Virgil in his groupe of worthies in the Elysian fields

Hic manus ob patriam pugnando vulnera passi ! &c.


Inventas aut qui vitam excoluere per artes.

He was pleased to say to me one morning when we were left alone in his study, Boswell, I think I am easier with you than almost any body.

He would not allow Mr. David Hume any credit for his political principles, though similar to his own; saying of him, Sir, he was a Tory by chance.

His acute observation of human life made him remark, Sir, there is nothing by which a man exasperates most people, more than by displaying a superior ability of brilliancy in couversation. They seem pleased at the time; but their envy makes them curse him at their hearts.

My readers will probably be surprised to hear that the great Dr. Johnson could amuse himself with so slight and playfol a species of composition as a Charade. I have recovered one which he made on Dr. Buruard, now Lord Bishop of Killaloe ; who has been pleased for many years to treat me with so much intimacy and social ease, that I may presume to call him not only my Right Reverend, but my dear, Friend. I therefore with peculiar pleasure give to the world a just and elegant compliment thus paid to his Lordship by Johuson.


My first* shots out thieves from your house or your room,
My secondt expresses a Syrian perfume.
Ms wholet is a man in whose converse is shar'd
The strength of a Bar and the sweetness of Nard.

Jolinson asked Richard Owen Cambridge, Esq. if he had read the Spabish translation of Sallust, suid to be written by a Prince of Spain, with the assistance of his tutor, who is professedly the author of a treatise annexed, on the Phæoician language.

Mr. Cambridge commended the work, particularly as he thought the Translator understood his author better thau is commonly the case with Translators; but said, he was disappointed in the purpose for which he borrowed the book; to see whether a Spaniard could be better fure nished with inscriptions from monuments, coins, or other antiquities, which he might more probably find on a coast, so immediately opposite

[blocks in formation]

to Carthage, than the Antiquaries of any other countries, Johnson. I am very sorry you were not gratified in your expectations. Cambridge. The language would have been of little use, as there is no history esisting in that tongue to balance the partial accounts which the Roman writers have left us. Johnson. No, Sir. They have not been partial, they have told their own story, without shame or regard to equitable treatment of their injured enemy; they had no compunction, to feeling for a Carthaginian. Why, Sir, they would never have borne Virgil's description of Æneas's treatment of Dido, if she had not been a Carthagioian.

I gratefully acknowledge this and other communications from Mr. Cambridge, whom, if a beautiful villa on the banks of the Thames, a few miles distant from London, a numerous and excellent library, which he accurately knows and reads, a choice collection of pictures, which he understands and relishes, an easy fortune, an amiable family, an extensive circle of friends and acquaintance, distinguished by rank. fashion, and genius, a literary fame, various, elegant and still increasing, colloquial talents rarely to be found, and with all these means of happiness, enjoying, when well advanced in years, bealth and vigour of body, serenity and animation of mind, do not entitle to be addressed fortunate sener ! I know not to whom, in any age, that expression could with propriety have been used. Long may be live to hear and to feel it !

Johnson's love of little children, which he discovered upon all occasions, calling them pretty dears, and giving them sweetmeats, was ar undoubted proof of the real humanity and gentleness of his disposition.

His uncommon kindness to his servants, and rious concern, not only for their comfort in this world, hut their happiness in the next, was another unquestionable evidence of what all, who were intimately acquainted with bim, kuew to be true.

Nor would it be just under this head, to omit the foodness which he shewed for animals which he had taken under his protection. I never shall forget the indulgence with which he treated Hodge, his cat; for whom he himself used to go out and buy oysters, lest the servants, have ing that trouble, should take a dislike to the poor creature. I ain, unluckily one of those who have an antipathy to a cat, so that I at upeasy when in the room with one ; and I own, I frequently suffered a good deal from the presence of this saine Hodge. I recollect him one day scrambling up Dr. Johnson's breast, apparently with much satisfaction, while my friend smiling and half-whistling, rubbed down his back, and pulled him by the tail; and when I observed he was a fine cat, saying why, yes, Sir, but I have had cats whom I liked better than this ; and then as if perceiving Hodge to be out of countenance, adding, but he is a very five cat, a very fine cat indeed.

This reminds me of the ludicrous account which he gave Mr. Langton,

son's pen.

of the despicable state of a young gentleman of good family. Sir, when I heard of him last, he was running about town shooting cats. And then, in a sort of kindly reverie, he bethought himself of his own favourite cat, and said, But Hodge shan't be shot; no, no, Hodge shall pot be shot.

He thought Mr. Beauclerk made a shrewd and judicious remark to Mr. Langtoo, who, after having been for the first time in company with a well-known wit about town, was warmly admiring and praising him,See him again, said Beauclerk.

His respect for the Hierarchy, and particularly the Dignitaries of the Church, has been more than once exbibited in the course of this work.

Mr. Seward saw him presented to the Archbishop of York, and described his Bow to an Archbishop, as such a studied elaboration of homage, such an extention of limb, such a flexion of body, as have seldom or ever been equalled.

I canuot help mentioning with much regret, that by my own negligence I lost an opportunity of having the history of my family from its founder Thomas Boswell, in 1504, recorded and illustrated by John

Such was his goodness to me, that when I presumed to 90licit him for so great a favour, he was pleased to say, Let me have all the materials you can collect, and I will do it both in Latin and English ; then let it be printed, and copies of it be deposited in various places for security and preservation. I can now only do the best I can to make up for this loss, keeping my great Master steadily io view. Family histories, like the imagines majorum of the ancients, excite to virtue; and I wish that they who really have biood, would be more careful to trace and ascertain its course. Some have affected to laugh at the history of the house of Yvery; it would be well if many others would transmit their pedigrees to posterity, with the same accuracy and generous zeal, with which the Noble Lord who compiled that work has honoured and perpetuated his ancestry.

On Thursday, April 10, I introduced to him, at his house in Boltcourt, the Honourable and Reverend William Stuart, son of the Earl of Bute; a gentleman truly worthy of being known to Johnson ; being, with all the advantages of bigh birth, learning, travel, and elegant manners, an exemplary parish-priest in every respect.

After some compliments on both sides, the tour which Johnson and I had made to the Hebrides was mentioned.—Johnson. I got an acquisition of more ideas by it than by any thing that I remember. I saw quite a different system of life. Boswell. You would not like to make the same journey again? Johnson: Why; no, Sir; not the same; it is a tale told. Gravina, an Italian critic, observes, that every man den sires to see that of which he has read; bnt no man desires to read an account of what he has seen; so much does description fall short of reality. Description only excites curiosity: seeing satisfies it. Other people may go and see the Hebrides. Boswell. I should wish to go and see No 11.

5 0

« 이전계속 »