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I would have a man great in great things, and elegant in little things." He said to me afterwards, when we were by ourselves, "Robertson was in a mighty romantic humour; he talked of one whom he did not know; but I downed him with the King of Prussia." "Yes, Sir," said I, "You threw a bottle at his head."
An ingenious gentleman was mentioned, concerning whom both Robertson and Ramsay agreed that he had a constant firmness of mind; for, after a laborious day, and amidst a multiplicity of cares, and anxieties, he would sit down with his sisters, and be quite cheerful and good-humoured. Such a disposition, it was observed, was the happy gift of nature. JOHNSON. "I do not think so: a man has from nature a certain portion of mind; the use he makes of it depends upon his own free will. That a man has always the same firmness of mind, I do not say; because every man feels his mind less firm at one time than another ; but I think, a man's being in a good or bad humour depends upon his will." I, however, could not help thinking that a man's humour is often uncontrollable by his will.
Johnson harangued against drinking wine. "A man," said he, may choose whether he will have abstemiousness and knowledge, or claret and ignorance." Dr. Robertson (who is very companionable) was beginning to dissent as to the proscription of claret. JOHNSON (with a placid smile). "Nay, Sir, you shall not differ with me; as I have said that the man is most perfect who takes in the most things, I am for knowledge and claret." ROBERTSON (holding a glass of generous claret in his hand). "Sir, I can only drink your health." JOHNSON." "Sir, I should be sorry if you should be ever in such a state as to be able to do nothing more." ROBERTSON. "Dr. Johnson, allow me to say, that in one respect I have the advantage of you; when you were in Scotland you would not come to hear any of our preachers; whereas, when I am here, I attend your public worship without scruple, and, indeed, with great satisfaction." JOHNSON. "Why, Sir, that is not so extraordinary the King of Siam şent ambassadors to Louis the Fourteenth, but Louis the Fourteenth sent none to the King of Siam."'
1 Mrs. Piozzi confidently mentions this as having passed in Scotland.-Anecdotes, p. 62.
Here my friend for once discovered a want of knowledge or forgetfulness; for Louis the Fourteenth did send an embassy to the King of Siam,' and the Abbé Choisi, who was employed in it, published an account of it in two volumes.
Next day, Thursday, April 30,' I found him at home by himself. JOHNSON. "Well, Sir, Ramsay gave us a splendid dinner. I love Ramsay. You will not find a man in whose conversation there is more instruction, more information, and more elegance than in Ramsay's." BoSWELL. "What I admire in Ramsay, is his continuing to be so young." JOHNSON. "Why, yes, Sir, it is to be admired. I value myself upon this, that there is nothing of the old man in my conversation. I am now sixty-eight, and I have no more of it than at twenty-eight." BOSWELL. "But, Sir, would not you wish to know old age? He who is never an old man, does not know the whole of human life; for old age is one of the divisions of it." JOHNSON. "Nay, Sir, what talk is this?" BOSWELL. "I mean, Sir, the Sphinx's description of it :-morning, noon, and night. I would know night, as well as morning and noon." JOHNSON. What, Sir, would you know what it is to feel the evils of old age? Would you have the gout? Would you have decrepitude?" Seeing him heated, I would not argue any farther; but I was confident that I was in the right. I would, in due time, be a Nestor, an elder of the people; and there should be some difference between the conversation of twenty-eight and sixty-eight."
1 The Abbé de Choisi was sent by Louis XIV. on an embassy to the King of Siam in 1683, with a view, it has been said, to convert the king of the country to Christianity.-M. The Chevalier de Chaumont was the ambassador: the Abbé de Choisi was, as Boswell correctly states, only "employed in it," and it was in return of this mission that the King of Siam sent his embassy to Louis.-C.
2 "April 30, 1778. Since I was fetched away from Streatham, the Journal (of engagements) stands thus: Saturday, Sir Joshua; Sunday, Mr. Hoole; Monday, Lord Lucan; Tuesday, Gen. Paoli; Wednesday, Mr. Ramsay; Thursday, Old Bailey; Friday, Club; Saturday, Sir Joshua; Sunday, Lady Lucan. Monday, pray let it be Streatham, and very early; do, now, let it be very early; for I may be carried away-just like Ganymede of Troy. Do, now, let me know whether you will send for me-early-on Monday. But take some care, or your letter will not come till Tuesday."-Letters to Mrs. Thrale. There is a dinner given at the Old Bailey to the judges, counsel, and a few guests. The venerable Mr. Chamberlain Clarke remembered to have taken Johnson to this dinner, he being then sheriff. The judges were Blackstone and Eyree. Mr. Justice Blackstone conversed with Johnson on the subject of their absent friend, Sir Robert Chambers.-C.
3 Johnson clearly meant (what the author has often elsewhere mentioned), that he had aone of the listlessness of old age; that he had the same activity and energy of mind, as for
A grave picture should not be gay. There is a serene, solemn, placid old age. JOHNSON. "Mrs. Thrale's mother said of me what flattered me much. A clergyman was complaining of want of society in the country where he lived; and said 'They talk of runts,' (that is young cows.)' 'Sir (said Mrs. Salusbury), Mr. Johnson would learn to talk of runts; meaning that I was a man who would make the most of my situation, whatever I was." He added, "I think myself a very polite man."
On Saturday, May 2, I dined with him at Sir Joshua Reynolds's, where there was a very large company, and a great deal of conversation; but, owing to some circumstance which I cannot now recollect, I have no record of any part of it, except that there were several people there by no means of the Johnsonian school; so that less attention was paid to him than usual, which put him out of humour: and upon some imaginary offence from me, he attacked me with such rudeness, that I was vexed and angry, because it gave those persons an opportunity of enlarging upon his supposed ferocity, and
merly; not that a man of sixty-eight might dance in a public assembly with as much propriety as he could at twenty-eight. His conversation being the product of much various knowledge, great acuteness, and extraordinary wit, was equally well suited to every period of life; and as in his youth it probably did not exhibit any unbecoming levity, so certainly in his later years it was totally free from the garrulity and querulousness of old age.-M.
1 Such is the signification of this word in Scotland, and, it should seem, in Wales. (See Skinner in v.) But the heifers of Scotland and Wales, when brought to England, being always smaller than those of this country, the word runt has acquired a secondary sense, and generally signifies a heifer diminutive in size, small beyond the ordinary growth of that animal, and in this sense alone the word is acknowledged by Dr. Johnson in his Dictionary.-M.
2 Lord Wellesley has been so obliging as to give me the following account of the cause of this quarrel: "Boswell, one day at Sir Joshua's table, chose to pronounce a high-flown panegyric on the wits of Queen Anne's reign, and exclaimed, 'How delightful it must have been to have lived in the society of Pope, Swift, Arbuthnot, Gay, and Bolingbroke! We have no such society in our days." SIR JOSHUA. 'I think, Mr. Boswell, you might be satisfied with your great friend's conversation.' JOHNSON. Nay, Sir, Boswell is right; every man wishes for preferment, and if Boswell had lived in those days, he would have obtained promotion.' SIR JOSHUA. How so, Sir?' JOHNSON. 'Sir, he would have had a high place in the Dunciad,' This anecdote Lord Wellesley heard from Mr. Thomas Sydenham, who received it from Mr. Knight, on the authority of Sir Joshua Reynolds himself." I, however, suspect, that this is but another version of the repartee of the same kind, in reference to the Dunciad, made in Sir Joshua's presence, though not at his house, some years before (see antè, Vol. II. p. 13. Johnson's playful retort seems so much less offensive than fifty others, that Boswell relates himself to have endured patiently, that it is improbable that he should have resented it so deeply. The anecdote, in passing through the hands of Mr. Knight and Mr. Sydenham, may have lost its true date, and acquired something beyond its true expression.-C.
ill treatment of his best friends. I was so much hurt, and had my pride so much roused, that I kept away from him for a week; and, perhaps, might have kept away much longer, nay, gone to Scotland without seeing him again, had not we fortunately met and been reconciled. To such unhappy chances are human friendships liable.
On Friday, May 8, I dined with him at Mr. Langton's. I was reserved and silent, which I suppose he perceived, and might recollect the cause. After dinner, when Mr. Langton was called out of the room, and we were by ourselves, he drew his chair near to mine, and said, in a tone of conciliating courtesy, "Well, how have you done?" BOSWELL. "Sir, you have made me very uneasy by your behaviour to me when we were last at Sir Joshua Reynolds's. You know, my dear Sir, no man has a greater respect and affection for you, or would sooner go to the end of the world to serve you. Now, to treat me so—." He insisted that I had interrupted, which I assured him was not the case; and proceeded—“But why treat me so before people who neither love you nor me?" JOHNSON. " Well, I am sorry for it. I'll make it up to you twenty different ways, as you please." BOSWELL. "I said to-day to Sir Joshua, when he observed that you tossed me somtimes, I don't care how often or how high he tosses me, when only friends are present, for then I fall upon soft ground; but I do not like falling on stones, which is the case when enemies are present. I think this is a pretty good image, Sir." JOHNSON. "Sir, it is one of the happiest I have ever heard."1
The truth is, there was no venom in the wounds which he inflicted at any time, unless they were irritated by some malignant infusion by other hands. We were instantly as cordial again as ever, and joined in a hearty laugh at some ludicrous but innocent peculiarities of one of our friends. BOSWELL. "Do you think, Sir, it is always culpable to laugh at a man to his face ?" that depends upon the man and the thing. If it is a slight man, and a slight thing, you may; for you take nothing valuable from him."
JOHNSON. " Why, Sir,
The simplicity with which Boswell repeats this flattery, without seeing that it was only peace-offering, is very characteristic and amusing.-C.
He said, "I read yesterday Dr. Blair's sermons on devation, from the text Cornelius, a devout man.' His doctrine is the best limited, the best expressed; there is the most warmth without fanaticism, the most rational transport. There is one part of it which I disapprove, and I'd have him correct it; which is, that he who does not feel joy in religion is far from the kingdom of heaven! there are many good men whose fear of God predominates over their love. It may discourage. It was rashly said.' A noble sermon it is indeed. I wish Blair would come over to the church of England."
When Mr. Langton returned to us, the "flow of talk went on.” an eminent author being mentioned: JOHNSON. "He is not a pleasant man. His conversation is neither instructive nor brilliant. He does not talk as if impelled by any fullness of knowledge or vivacity of imagination. His conversation is like that of any other sensible man. He talks with no wish either to inform or to hear, but only because he thinks it does not become to sit in company
and say nothing.
Mr. Langton having repeated the anecdote of Addison having distinguished between his powers in conversation and in writing, by saying, "I have only ninepence in my pocket; but I can draw for a thousand pounds ;"-JOHNSON. "He had not that retort ready, Sir; he had prepared it beforehand." LANGTON (turning to me). "A fine surmise. Set a thief to catch a thief."
Johnson called the East Indians barbarians. BOSWELL, "You will except the Chinese, Sir ?" JOHNSON. "No, Sir." BOSWELL. "Have they not arts?" JOHNSON. They have pottery." Bas WELL. "What do you say to the written characters of their lat
1 The passage referred to is, " Of what nature must that man's religion be, who professes to worship God and to believe in Christ, and yet raises his thoughts towards God and his Saviour without any warmth of gratitude or love? This not the man whom you would choose for your bosom friend, or whose heart you would expect to answer with reciprocal warmth to yours; such a person must as yet be far from the kingdom of heaven."-Blair's Sermons, vol. i. p. 261. Dr. Johnson's remark is certainly just; and it may be, moreover, observed that, from Blair's expressions, and his reference to human friendships and affections, he might be understood to mean, that unless we feel the same kind of "warmth " and affection towards God that we do towards the objects of human love, we are far from the kingdom of heaven-an idea which seems to countenance fanaticism, and which every sober-minded Christian feels to be a mere play on words; for the love of God and the love of one's wife and friend are certainly not the same passion.-C.
2 No doubt Dr. Robertson.-C.