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instance, however, may occur where a man's patron 1778. will do nothing for him, unless he will drink: there
Ætat. 69. may be a good reason for drinking."
I mentioned a nobleman, who I believed was really uneasy, if his company would not drink hard. JOHNSON. “ That is from having had people about him whom he has been accustomed to command." Boswell. “ Supposing I should be tête-d-tête with him at table.” JOHNSON. “Sir, there is no more reason for your drinking with him, than his being sober with you. Boswell. “ Why, that is true ; for it would do him less hurt to be sober, than it would do me to get drunk.” JOHNSON.“
JOHNSON. “ Yes, Sir; and from what I have heard of him, one would not wish to sacrifice himself to such a man. If he must always have somebody to drink with him, he should buy a slave, and then he would be sure to have it. They who submit to drink as another pleases, make themselves his slaves." BOSWELL. “ But, Sir, you
will surely make allowance for the duty of hospitality. A gentleman who loves drinking, comes to visit me.” JONHSON. “ Sir, a man knows whom he visits; he comes to the table of a sober man." BOSWELL. “ But, Sir, you and I should not have been so well received in the Highlands and Hebrides, if I had not drunk with our worthy friends. Had I drunk water only as you did, they would not have been so cordial.” JOHNSON. “ Sir William Temple mentions, that in his travels through the Netherlands he had two or three gentlemen with him ; and when a bumper was necessary, he put it on them. Were I to travel again through the islands, I would have Sir Joshua with me to take the bumpers.” Boswell.“ But, Sir, let me put a case. Suppose Sir Joshua should
1778. take a jaunt into Scotland; he does me the honour
to pay me a visit at my house in the country ; I am Ætat. 69.
overjoyed at seeing him; we are quite by ourselves; shall I unsociably and churlishly let him sit drinking by himself? No, no, my dear Sir Joshua, you shall not be treated so, I will take a bottle with you."
The celebrated Mrs. Rudd being mentioned. JOHNSON. “ Fifteen years ago I should have gone to see her.” SPOTTISWOODE.
SPOTTISWOODE. "Because she was fifteen years younger ? " JOHNSON. “ No, Sir ; but now they have a trick of putting every thing into the news-papers.”
He begged of General Paoli to repeat one of the introductory stanzas of the first book of Tasso's “ Jerusalem,” which he did, and then Johnson found fault with the simile of sweetening the edges of a cup for a child, being transferred from Lucretius into an epick poem. The General said he did not imagine Homer's poetry was so ancient as is supposed, because he ascribes to a Greek colony circumstances of refinement not found in Greece itself at a later period, when Thucydides wrote, JOHNSON. " I recol, lect but one passage quoted by Thucydides from Homer, which is not to be found in our copies of Homer's works; I am for the antiquity of Homer, and think that a Grecian colony by being nearer Persia might be more refined than the mother country."
On Wednesday, April 29, I dined with him at Mr. Allan Ramsay's, where were Lord Binning, Dr. Robertson the historian, Sir Joshua Reynolds, and the Honourable Mrs. Boscawen, widow of the Admiral, and mother of the present Viscount Falmouth ; of whom, if it be not presumptuous in me to praise her,
I would say, that her manners are the most agreeable, 1778. and her conversation the best, of any lady with whom
Ætat. 69 I ever had the happiness to be acquainted. Before Johnson came we talked a good deal of him? Ramsay said, he had always found him a very polite man, and that he treated him with great respect, which he did very sincerely. I said, I worshipped him. RoBERTSON. “But some of you spoil him : you
should not worship him ; you should worship no man.' Boswell. “I cannot help worshipping him, he is so much superiour to other men.” ROBERTSON. “In criticism, and in wit and conversation, he is no doubt very excellent; but in other respects he is not above other men ; he will believe any thing, and will strenuously defend the most minute circumstance connected with the Church of England.” BOSWELL. “ Believe me, Doctor, you are much mistaken as to this ; for when you talk with him calmly in private, he is very liberal in his way of thinking." ROBERTSON. “ He and I have been always very gracious ; the first time I met him was one evening at Strahan's, when he had just had an unlucky altercation with Adam Smith, to whom he had been so rough, that Strahan, after Smith was gone, had remonstrated with him, and told him that I was coming soon, and that he was uneasy to think that he might behave in the same manner to me. No, no, Sir, (said Johnson) I warrant you Robertson and I shall do very well.' " Accordingly he was gentle and good-humoured and courteous with me, the whole evening; and he has been so upon every occasion that we have met since. I have often said, (laughing) that I have been in a great measure indebted to Smith for my good reception.” BOSWELL. “ His power of reasoning is very
1778. strong, and he has a peculiar art of drawing characÆtat. 69. ters, which is as rare as good portrait painting.” Sir
Joshua Reynolds. “ He is undoubtedly admirable in this; but, in order to mark the characters which he draws, he overcharges them, and gives people more than they really have, whether of good or bad.”
No sooner did he, of whom we had been thus talking so easily, arrive, than we were all as quiet as a school upon the entrance of the head-master; and were very soon sat down to a table covered with such variety of good things, as contributed not a little to dispose him to be pleased.
RAMSAY. “ I am old enough to have been a contemporary of Pope. His poetry was highly admired in his life-time, more a great deal than after his death." JOHNSON. “ Sir, it has not been less ad. mired since his death; no authours ever had so much fame in their own life-time as Pope and Voltaire ; and Pope's poetry has been as much admired since his death as during his life; it has only not been as much talked of, but that is owing to its being now more distant, and people having other writings to talk of. Virgil is less talked of than Pope, and Homer is less talked of than Virgil; but they are not less admired. We must read what the world reads at the moment. It has been maintained that this. superfętation, this teeming of the press in modern times, is prejudicial to good literature, because it obliges us to read so much of what is of inferiour value, in order to be in the fashion; so that better works are neglected for want of time, because a man will have more gratification of his vanity in conversation, from having read modern books, than from having read the best works of antiquity. But it
must be considered, that we have now more know- 1778. ledge generally diffused ; all our ladies read now, Ætat.69. which is a great extension. Modern writers are the moons of literature; they shine with reflected light, with light borrowed from the ancients. Greece appears to me to be the fountain of knowledge; Rome of elegance.” RAMSAY." I suppose Homer's “Iliad' to be a collection of pieces which had been written before his time. I should like to see a translation of it in poetical prose, like the book of Ruth or Job.” ROBERTSON. “ Would you, Dr. Johnson, who are master of the English language, but try your hand upon a part of it.” Johnson. “Sir, you could not read it without the pleasure of verse.
We talked of antiquarian researches. Johnson. “ All that is really known of the ancient state of Bri. tain is contained in a few pages.
We can know no more than what the old writers have told us; yet what large books have we upon it, the whole of which, excepting such parts as are taken from those old writers, is all a dream, such as Whitaker's - Manchester.' I have heard Henry's . History of Britain' well spoken of; I am told it is carried on in separate divisions, as the civil, the military, the religious history; I wish much to have one branch well done, and that is the history of manners, of common life. ROBERTSON. “ Henry should have applied his attention to that alone, which is enough for any man; and he might have found a great deal scattered in
? This experiment, which Madame Dacier made in vain, has since been tried in our own language, by the editor of “ Ossian,” and we must either think very meanly of his abilities, or allow that Dr. Johnson was in the right. And Mr. Cowper, a man of real genius, has miserably failed in his blank verse translation.