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those low characters." Upon which I observed, “Sir, you would be in the wrong; for your great excellence is your variety of playing, your representing so well, characters so very different." JOHNSON. “Garrick, Sir, was not in earnest in what he said; for, to be sure, his peculiar excellence is his variety; and, perhaps, there is not any one character which has not been as well acted by somebody else, as he could do it." BOSWELL. “Why then, Sir, did he talk so?” Johnson. “Why, Sir, to make you answer as you did.” BOSWELL, "I don't know, Sir; he seemed to dip deep into his mind for the reflection." Johnson. "He had not far to dip, Sir; he had said the same thing, probably, twenty times before."
Of a nobleman raised at a very early period to high office, he said, “His parts, Sir, are pretty well for a Lord; but would not be distinguished in a man who had nothing else but his parts."
A journey to Italy was still in his thoughts. He said, "A man who has not been in Italy, is always conscious of an inferiority, from his not having seen what it is expected a man should see. The grand object of traveling is to see the shores of the Mediterranean. On those shores were the four great Empires of the world; the Assyrian, the Persian, the Grecian, and the Roman.--All our religion, almost all our law, almost all our arts, almost all that sets us above savages, has come to us from the shores of the Mediterranean." The General observed, that "the Mediterranean would be a noble subject for a poem."
I introduced Aristotle's doctrine in his Art of Poetry, of “the kábapois tộv naOnuárwv, the purging of
the passions," as the purpose of tragedy. “But how the passions to be purged by terror and pity?"? (said I, with an assumed air of ignorance, to incite him to talk, for which it was often necessary to employ some address.) JOHNSON. “Why, Sir, you are to consider what is the meaning of purging in the original sense. It is to expel impurities from the human body. The mind is subject to the same imperfection. The passions are the great movers of human actions; but they are mixed with such impurities, that it is necessary they should be purged or refined by means of terror and pity. For instance, ambition is a noble passion; but by seeing upon the stage, that a man who is so excessively ambitious as to raise himself by injustice, is punished, we are terrified at the fatal consequences of such a passion. In the same manner a certain degree of resentment is necessary; but if we see that a man carries it too far, we pity the object of it, and are taught to moderate that passion." My record upon this occasion does great injustice to Johnson's expression, which was so forcible and brilliant, that Mr. Cradock whispered me, “O that his words were written in a book!!!
I observed the great defect of the tragedy of Othello was, that it had not a moral ;, for that no man could resist the circumstances of suspicion which were artfully suggested to Othello's mind. Johnson. “In the first place, Sir, we learn from Othello this very useful moral, not to make an unequal match; in the second place, we learn not to yield too readily to suspicion. The handkerchief is merely a trick, though a very pretty trick; but there are no other circumstances of reasonable sus
picion, except what is related by Iago of Cassio's warm expressions concerning Desdemona in his sleep; and that depended entirely upon the assertion of one man. No, Sir, I think Othello has more moral than almost any play."
Talking of a penurious gentleman of our acquaintance, Johnson said, “Sir, he is narrow, not so much from a varice, as from impotence to spend his money. Ile cannot find in his heart to pour out a bottle of wine; but he would not much care if it should sour.''
We discussed the question, whether drinking improved conversation and benevolence. Sir Joshua maintained it did. Johxsox. "Xo, Sir; before dinner men meet with great inequality of understanding; and those who are conscious of their inferiority, have the modesty not to talk. When they have drunk wine, every man feels himself happy, and loses that modesty, and grows impudent and vociferous; but he is not improved; he is only not sensible of his defects. Sir Joshua said the Doctor was talking of the effects of excess in wine; but that a moderate glass enlivened the mind, by giving a proper circulation to the blood. “I am, (said he,) in very good spirits, when I get up in the morning. By dinner-time I am exhausted; wine puts me in the same state as when I got up; and I am sure that moderate drinking makes people talk better." Johnsox. "No, Sir; wine gives not light, gay, ideal hilarity; but tumultuous, noisy, clamorous merriment. I have heard none of those drunken,nay, drunken is a coarse word, -none of those vinous flights." Sir Joshua. “Because you have sat by, quite sober, and felt an envy of the happiness of
those who were drinking." Johnson. "Perhaps, contempt.-And, Sir, it is not necessary to be drunk one's self, to relish the wit of drunkenness. Do we not judge of the drunken wit of the dialogue between Iago and Cassio, the most excellent in its kind, when we are quite sober! Wit is wit, by whatever means it is produced; and, if good, will appear so at all times. I admit that the spirits are raised by drinking, as by the common participation of any pleasure; cock-fighting, or bear-baiting, will raise the spirits of a company, as drinking does, though surely they will not improve conversation. I also admit, that there are some sluggish men who are improved by drinking; as there are fruits which are not good till they are rotten. There are such men, but they are medlars. I indeed allow that there have been a very few men of talents who were improved by drinking; but I maintain that I am right as to the effects of drinking in general; and let it be considered, that there is no position, however false in its universality, which is not true of some particular man.” Sir William Forbes said, “Might not a man warmed with wine be like a bottle of beer, which is made brisker by being set before the fire?”—“Nay, (said Johnson, laughing,) I cannot answer that; that is too much for me.
IIe said, that for general improvement, a man should read whatever his immediate inclination prompts him to; though to be sure, if a man has a science to learn, he must regularly and resolutely advance. “What we read with inclination makes a much stronger impression. If we read without inclination, half the mind is employed in fixing the attention." He read Fielding's Amelia through
without stopping. “If a man begins to read in the middle of a book, and feels an inclination to go on, let him not quit it, to go to the beginning. He may perhaps not feel again the inclination.”
On Monday, April 29, he and I made an excursion to Bristol, where I was entertained with seeing him inquire upon the spot, into the authenticity of "Rouley's Poetry," as I had seen him inquire upon the spot into the authenticity of “Ossian's Poetry.” George Catcot, the pewterer, who was as zealous for Rowley, as Dr. Hugh Blair was for Ossian, (I trust my reverend friend will excuse the comparison,) attended us at our inn, and with a triumphant air of lively simplicity called out, “I'll make Dr. Johnson a convert.” Dr. Johnson, at his desire, read aloud some of Chatterton's fabricated verses, while Catcot stood at the back of his chair, moving himself like a pendulum, and beating time with his feet, and now and then looking into Dr. Johnson's face, wondering that he was not yet convinced. We called on Mr. Barret, the surgeon, and saw some of the originals as they were called, which were executed very artificially ; but from a careful inspection of them, and a consideration of the circumstances with which they were attended, we were quite satisfied of the imposture, which, indeed, has been clearly demonstrated from internal evidence, by several able critics.
Honest Catcot seemed to pay no attention whatever to any objections, but insisted, as an end of all controversy, that we should go with him to the tower of the church of St. Mary, Redcliff, and view with our own eyes the ancient chest in which the manuscripts were found. To this, Dr. Johnson good-naturedly