페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

The great Douglas cause was at this time a very general subject of discussion. I found he had not studied it with much attention, but had only heard parts of it occasionally. He, however, talked of it, and said, “ I am of opinion that positive proof of fraud should not be required of the plaintiff, but that the Judges should decide according as probability shall appear to preponderate, granting to the defendant the presumption of filiation to be strong in his favour. And I think too, that a good deal of weight should be allowed to the dying declarations, because they were spontaneous. There is a great difference between what is said without our being urged to it, and what is said from a kind of compulsion. If I praise a man's book without being asked my opinion of it, that is honest praise, to which one may trust. But if an authour asks me if I like his book, and I give him something like praise, it must not be taken as my real opinion.

“ I have not been troubled for a long time with authours desiring my opinion of their works. I used once to be sadly plagued with a man who wrote verses, but who literally had no other notion of a verse, but that it consisted of ten syllables. Lay your knife and your fork across your plate, was to him a verse:

is a villain, and ought to be hanged. If, finished his harangue. The double feel. for instance, he believes himself to be ing which I have mentioned is expeMacbeth, he has committed murder, he rienced by many men in the common is a vile assassin who, in violation of the intercourse of life. Were nothing but laws of hospitality, as well as of other the real character to appear society would principles, has imbrued his hands in the not be half so safe and agreeable as we blood of his king while he was sleeping find it. It being necessary, then, in the under his roof. If, Sir, he has really intercourse of life to have such appear. been that person in his own mind, he has ances, and dissimulations being to most in his own mind been as guilty as Mac- people irksome and fatiguing, we inbeth.'

sensibly, for our own ease, adopt feelings “If I may be allowed to conjecture suitable to every occasion; and so, like what is the nature of that mysterious players, are to a certain degree a different power by which a player really is the character from our own. It is needless character he represents, my notion is, he to mention many instances of this: every must have a kind of double feeling. man's experience must have furnished The feelings and passions of the cha- him with a variety of instances which racter which he represents must take full will readily occur to him. He will recol. possession, as it were, of the antechamber lect instances in every funeral that he has of his mind, while his own character attended-every birthday entertainment remains in the innermost recess. This is at which he has been a guest-every experienced in some measure by the country seat, the beauties of which have barrister who enters warmly into the been shown him by its master-every cause of his client, while at the same party of pleasure in which he has shared. time, when he examines himself coolly, In short he can hardly recollect a scene he knows he is much in the wrong, and of social life where he has not been condoes not even wish to prevail; but scious, more or less, of having been during the time of his pleading, the obliged to work himself into a state of genuine colour of his mind is laid over feeling which he would not naturally with a temporary glaring varnish, which have had." flies off instantaneously when he has

Lay your knife and your fork, across your plăte. As he wrote a great number of verses he sometimes by chance made good ones, though he did not know it."

He renewed his promise of coming to Scotland, and going with me to the Hebrides, but said he would now content himself with seeing one or two of the most curious of them. He said “Macaulay, who writes the account of St. Kilda, set out with a prejudice against prejudices, and wanted to be a smart modern thinker; and yet he affirms for a truth, that when a ship arrives there all the inhabitants are seized with a cold.”

He expatiated on the advantages of Oxford for learning. “There is here, Sir, (said he,) such a progressive emulation. The students are anxious to appear well to their tutors; the tutors are anxious to have their pupils appear well in the college; the colleges are anxious to have their students appear well in the University; and there are excellent rules of discipline in every college. That the rules are sometimes ill observed, may be true ; but is nothing against the system. The members of an University may, for a season, be unmindful of their duty. I am arguing for the excellency of the institution."

Of Guthrie he said, “ Sir, he is a man of parts. He has no great regular fund of knowledge; but by reading so long, and writing so long, he no doubt has picked up a good deal."

He said he had lately been a long while at Lichfield, but had grown very weary before he left it. Boswell. “I wonder at that, Sir; it is your native place." JOHNSON. “Why oo is Scotland your native place.”

His prejudice against Scotland appeared remarkably strong at this time. When I talked of our advancement in literature, “Sir, (said he,) you have learnt a little from us, and you think yourselves very great men. Hume would never have written History, had not

Cor. et Ad.-Line 10: After “cold," read as follows :-"Dr. John Campbell, the celebrated writer, took a great deal of pains to ascertain this fact, and attempted to account for it on physical principles, from the effect of effiluvia from human bodies. Johnson at another time praised Macaulay for his magnanimity,' in asserting this wonderful story, because it was well attested. A lady of Norfolk, by a letter to my friend Dr. Burney, has favoured me with the following solution : Now for the explication of this seeming mystery, which is so very obvious as, for that reason, to have escaped the penetration of Dr. Johnson and his friend, as well as that of the authour. 'Reading the book with my ingenious friend, the late Reverend Mr. Christian of Docking-after ruminating a little, “The cause, (says he,) is a natural one. The situation of St. Kilda renders a North-East Wind indispensably necessary before a stranger can land. The wind, not the stranger, occasions an epidemick cold : " If I am not mistaken, Mr. Macaulay is dead, if living, this solution might please him, as I hope it will Mr. Boswell, in return for the many agreeable hours his works have afforded us.'”

Voltaire written it before him. He is an echo of Voltaire." Boswell. “But, Sir, we have Lord Kames." JOHNSON. “ You have Lord Kames. Keep him; ha, ha, ha! We don't envy you him. Do you ever see Dr. Robertson ?" Boswell. “Yes, Sir.” JOHNSON. “Does the dog talk of me?" BOSWELL. “Indeed, Sir, he does, and loves you." Thinking that I now had him in a corner, and being solicitous for the literary fame of my country, I pressed him for his opinion on the merit of Dr. Robertson's History of Scotland. But, to my surprise, he escaped.—“Sir, I love Robertson, and I won't talk of his book.”

It is but justice both to him and Dr. Robertson to add, that though he indulged himself in this sally of wit, he had too good taste not to be fully sensible of the merits of that admirable work.

An essay, written by Mr. Deane, a divine of the Church of England, maintaining the future life of brutes, by an explication of certain parts of the Scriptures, was mentioned, and the doctrine insisted on by a gentleman who seemed fond of curious speculation. Johnson, who did not like to hear of any thing concerning a future state which was not authorised by the regular canons of orthodoxy, discouraged this talk; and being offended at its continuation, he watched an opportunity to give the gentleman a blow of reprehension. So, when the poor speculatist, with a serious metaphysical pensive face, addressed him, “But really, Sir, when we see a very sensible dog, we don't know what to think of him.” Johnson, rolling with joy at the thought, which beamed in his eye, turned quickly round and replied, “True, Sir: and when we see a very foolish fellow, we don't know what to think of him.” He then rose up, strided to the fire, and stood for some time laughing and exulting

I told him that I 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 finding no way to escape, retired to the centre, and, like a true Stoick philosopher, darted its sting into its head, and thus at once freed itself from its woes. This must end 'em.” I said, this was a curious fact, as it shewed deliberate suicide in a reptile. Johnson would not admit the fact. He said, Maupertuis was of opinion that it does not kill

Cor. et Ad.-Line 38: On “Maupertuis " put the following note :-"I should think it impossible not to wonder at the variety of Johnson's reading, however desultory it might have been. Who could have imagined that the High Church of England-man would be so prompt in quoting Maupertuis, who, I am sorry to think, stands in the list of those unfortunate mistaken men, who call themselves esprits forts. 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 a convulsion, and that it does not sting itself. He said he would be satisfied if the great anatomist Morgagni, after dissecting a scorpion upon whom the experiment had been tried, should certify that its sting had penetrated into its head.

He seemed pleased to talk of natural philosophy. “That wood. cocks, (said he,) fly over to the northern countries, is proved, because they have been observed at sea. Swallows certainly sleep all the winter. A number of them conglobulate together, by flying round and round, and then all in a heap throw themselves under water, and lye in the bed of a river." He told us one of his first essays was a Latin poem upon the glow-worm. I am sorry I did not ask where it was to be found.

Talking of the Russians and the Chinese, he advised me to read Bell's travels. I asked him whether I should read Du Halde's account of China. “Why yes, (said he,) as one reads such a book; that is to say, consult it.”

He talked of the heinousness of the crime of adultery, by which the peace of families was destroyed. He said, “Confusion of progeny constitutes the offence of the crime; and therefore a woman who breaks her marriage vows is much more criminal than nan who does it.

A man, to be sure, is criminal in the sight of God: but he does not do his wife a very material injury, if he does not insult her; if, for instance, from mere wantonness of appetite, he steals privately to her chambermaid. Sir, a wife ought not greatly to resent this. I would not receive home a daughter who had run away from her husband on that account. A wife should study to reclaim her husband by more attention to please him. Sir, a man will not, once in a hundred instances, leave his wife and go to a harlot, if his wife has not been negligent of pleasing."

I asked him if it was not hard that one deviation from chastity should so absolutely ruin a young woman. JOHNSON. “Why no, Sir; it is the great principle which she is taught. When she has I have, however, a high respect for that Philosopher whom the Great Frederick of Prussia loved and honoured, and addressed pathetically in one of his Poems,

Maupertuis cher Maupertuis

Que notre vie est peu de chose."
There was in Maupertuis a vigour and yet a tenderness of sentiment, united with
strong intellectual powers, and uncommon ardour of soul. Would he had been a
Christian! I cannot help earnestly venturing to hope is one now.

Cor. et Ad.-Line 5 : For “upon whom” read “upon which."
Toid.--Line 31: After “ pleasing," read as follows :—“Here he discovered that

a

given up that principle, she has given up every notion of female honour and virtue, which are all included in chastity."

A gentleman talked to him of a lady whom he greatly admired and wished to marry, but was afraid of her superiority of talents. Sir, (said he,) you need not be afraid; marry her.

Before a year goes about, you'll find that reason much weaker, and that wit not so bright." Yet the gentleman may be justified in his apprehension by one of Dr. Johnson's admirable sentences in his life of Waller : “ He doubtless praised many whom he would have been afraid to marry; and, perhaps, married one whom he would have been ashamed to praise. Many qualities contribute to domestick happiness, upon which poetry has no colours to bestow; and many airs and sallies may delight imagination, which he who flatters them never can approve."

He praised Signor Baretti. “ His account of Italy is a very entertaining book; and, Sir, I know no man who carries his head higher in conversation than Baretti. There are strong powers in his mind. He has not, indeed, many hooks; but with what hooks he has he grapples very forcibly."

At this time I observed upon the dial-plate of his watch a short Greek inscription, taken from the New Testament, Nuß epKETAL, being the first words of our Saviour's solemn admonition to the improvement of that time which is allowed us to prepare for eternity ; “the night cometh when no man can work.”

He some time afterwards laid aside this dial-plate; and when I asked him the reason, he said, “ It might do very well upon a clock which a man keeps in his closet; but to have it upon his watch which he carries about with him, and which is often looked at by others, might be censured as ostentatious." Mr. Steevens is now possessed of the dial-plate inscribed as above.

He remained at Oxford a considerable time, I was obliged to go

acute discrimination, that solid judgment, and that knowledge of human nature, for which he was upon all occasions remarkable. Taking care to keep in view the moral and religious duty, as understood in our nation, he shewed clearly from reason and good sense, the greater degree of culpability in the one sex deviating from it than the other; and, at the same time, inculcated a very useful lesson as to the way to keep him. Errata.-Line 22: Read Not yap Epketai.

* This insertion, made in 1793, is highly characteristic. Being at the time troubled with gloom and scruples on the score of his past life, to which weakness he had a sad tendency, he is glad to soothe his conscience by emphasizing this declaration of his friend's.

• Mr. George Berkeley, son to the bishop, records a curious discussion which took place on this occasion, and has not been noticed in any of the editions of Boswell's “Johnson.At the chambers of the worthy master of University College, I had spent an evening with JOHNSON,

« 이전계속 »