페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

a stick in his hand, no doubt we should pity the state of his mind; but our primary consideration would be to take care of ourselves. We should knock him down first and pity him afterwards.

No, Sir, every man will dispute with great good humour upon a subject in which he is not interested. I will dispute very calmly upon the probability of another man's son being hanged; but if a man zealously enforces the probability that my owo son will be hanged, I shall certaioly not be in a very good humour with him. I added this illustration, If a man endeavours to convince me that my wife, whom I love very much, and in whom I place great confidence, is a disagreeble woman, and is even unfaithful to me, I shall be very angry, for he is putting ne in fear of being unhappy. Murray. But, Sir, truth will always bear an examination. Johnson. Yes, Sir, but it is painful to be forced to defend it. Consider, Sir, how should you like, though conscious of your innocence, to be tried before a jury for a capital crime, once a week.

We taiked of education at great schools; the advantages and disadvantages of which Johnson displayed in a luminous manner; but his arguments preponderated so much in favour of the benefit which a boy of good parts might receive at one of them, that I have reason to believe Mr. Murray was very much influenced by what he had heard to-day, in his determination to send his own son to Westminster school.-I have acted in the same manner with regard to my own two sons; having placed the eldest at Eton, and the second at Westminster. I cannot say which is best. But in justice to both those noble seminaries, I with high satisfaction declare, that my boys have derived from them a great deal of good, and no evil : and I trust they will, like Horace, be grateful to their father for giving them so valuable an education.

I introduced the topic, which is often ignorantly urged, that the Unie versities of England are too rich; so that learning does not flourish in them as it would do, if those who teach had smaller salaries, and der pended on their assiduity for a great part of their income. Johnson. Sir, the very reverse of this is the truth; the English Universities are not rich enough. Our fellowships are only sufficient to support a man during his studies to fit him for the world, and accordingly in general they are held no longer than till opportunity offers of getting away. Now and then, perhaps, there is a fellow who grows old in his college ; but this is against his will, unless he be a man very indolent indeed. A hundred a year is reckoned a good fellowship, and that is no more than is necessary to keep a man decently as a scholar. We do not allow our fellows to marry, because we consider academical institutions as preparatory to a settlement in the world. It is only by being employed as a tutor, that a fellow can obtain any thing more than a livelihood. To be sure, a man, who has enough without teaching, will probably not teach; for we would all be idle if we could. In the same maoner, a man who is to get nothing by teaching will not exert himself. Gresham-College was intended as a place of instruction for London; able professors were to read lectures gratis, they contrived to have no scholars; whereas, if they had been allowed to receive but sixpence a lecture from each scholar, they would have been emulous to have had many scholars. Every body will agree that it should be the interest of those who teach to have scholars; and this is the case in our Universities. That they are too rich is certainly not true; for they have nothing good enough to keep a man of eminent learning with them for his life. In the foreign Universities a professorship is a high thing. It is as much almost as a man can make by his learning ; and thereforefwe find the most learned men abroad are in the Universities. It is not so with us. Our Universities are impoverished of learning, by the penury of their provisions. I wish there were many places of a thousand a year at Oxford, to keep first-rate men of learning from quitting the University. Undoubtedly if this were the case, literature would have a still greater dignity and splendour at Oxford, and there would be grander living sources of instruction.

I mentioned Mr. Maclaurin's uneasiness on account of a degree of ridicule carelessly thrown on his deceased father in Goldsmith's “History of Animated Nature,” in which that celebrated mathematician is represented as being subject to fits of yawning so violent as to render him incapable of proceeding in his lecture: a story altogether unfounded, but for the publication of which the law would give no reparation. This led us to agitate the question, whether legal redress could be obtained, even when a man's deceased relation was calumniated in a publication. Mr. Murray maintained there should be reparation, unless the author could justify himself by proving the fact. Johnson. Sir, it is of so much more consequence that truth should be told, than that individuals should not be made uneasy, that it is much better that the law does not restrain writing freely concerning the characters of the dead.

Damages will be given to a man who is calumniated in his life-time, because he may be hurt in his worldly interest, or at least hurt in his mind: but the law does not regard that oveasiness which a man feels on having his ancestor calumniated. That is too nice. Let him deny what is said, and let the inatter have a fair chance by discussion. But if a man could say nothing against a character but what he can prove, history could not be written; for a great deal is known of men of which proof cannot be brought. A minister may be notoriously known to take bribes, and yet you may not be able to prove it. Mr. Murray suggested, that the author be obliged to shew some sort of evidence, though he would not require & strict legal proof: but Johnson firmly and resolutely opposed any restraint whatever, as adverse to a free investigatiou of the characters of mankind.

On Thursday, April 4, having called on Dr. Johnson, I said, it was a pity that truth was not so firm as to bid defiance to all attacks, so that it might be shot at as much as people chose to attempt, and yet remain uohurt. Johnson. Then, Sir, it would not be shot at. Nobody attempts to dispute that two and two make four: but with contests concerning moral truth, human passions are generally mixed, and therefore it most ever be liable to assault and misrepresentation.

On Friday, April 5, being Good Friday, after having attended the morning service at St. Clement's church, I walked home with Johnson. We talked of the Roman Catholie religios. Johason. In the barbatous ages, Sir, priests and people were equally deceived: but afterwards there were gross corruptions introduced by the clergy, such as indolgences tó priests to have concubines, and the worship of images, pot, indeed, inculcated, but koowingly permitted. He strongly censured the licensed stens at Rome. Boswell. So thes, Sir, you would allow of no irregular intercourse whatever between the sexes Johnson, To be sure I would not, Sir. I would panish it much more than it is done, and so restraio it. In all countries there has been fornication, as in all countries there has been theft; but there may be more or less of the one as well as of the other, in proportion to the force of law. All men will naturally como init fornication, as all men will naturally steal. And, Sir, it is very absurd to argoe, as has been often done, that prostitutes are necessary to prevent the violent effects of appetite from violating the decent order of life; nay, should be permitted in order to preserve the chastity of oor wives and daughters. Depend upon it, Sir, severe laws, steadily enforced, would be sufficient against those evils, and would promote marriage.

I stated to bím this case ;-Suppose a man has a daughter, who he knows has been seduced, but ber misfortune is concealed from the world; should he keep her in his house? Would he not, by doing so, be accessary to imposition ? And, perhaps, a worthy, unsuspecting man might come and marry this woman, onless the father inform him of the truth. Johnson. Sir, he is accessary to do imposition. His daughter is in his house ; and if a man courts her, he takes his chanee. If a friend, or indeed, if any man asks his opinion whether he should marry her, he ought to advise him against it, without telling why, because his real opinion is then reqnired. Or, if he has other daughters who know of hee frailty, he ought not to keep her io his house. You are to consider the state of life is this; we are to judge of one amother's characters as well as we can; and a inan is not bound in honesty or honour, to tell us the faults of his daughter or of himself. A man who has debauched his friend's daughter is not obliged to say to every body—“Take care of me; don't let me into your house without suspicion. I once debauched a friend's daughter. I may debauch yours.”

Mr. Thrale called upon him, and appeared to bear the loss of his son with a manly composure. There was no affectation about him; and he talked, as usual, opon iudifferent subjects. He seemed to me to hesitate as to the intended Italian tour, on which, I flattered myself, he and Mrs. Thrale and Dr. Johnson were soon to set out; and, therefore, I pressed it as much as I could. I mentioned that Mr. Beauclerk had said, that Baretti, whom they were to carry with them, would keep them so long in

the little towns of his own district, that they would not have time to see Rome. I mentioned this to put them on their guard. Johnson. Sir, we do not thank Mr. Beauclerk for supposing that we are to be directed by Baretti. No, Sir; Mr. Thrale is to go, by my advice, to Mr. Jackson, (the all-knowing) and get from him a plan for seeing the most that can be seen in the time that we have to travel. We must, to be sure, see Rome, Naples, Florence, and Venice, and as much more as we can. (Speaking with a toue of animation.)

When I expressed an earnest wish for his remarks on Italy, he said, "I do not see that I could make a book upon Italy; yet I should be glad to get two hundred pounds, or five hundred pounds, by such a work.” This shewed both that a journal of his Tour upon the Continent was not wholly out of his contemplation, and that he uniformly adhered to that strange opinion which bis indolent disposition made him utter: “ No man bat a blockhead ever wrote, except for money.” Numerous ind stances to refute this will occur to all who are versed in the history of literature.

He gave us one of the many sketches of character which were treasüred in his mind, and which he was wont to produce quite unexpecta edly in a very entertaining manner. “I lately, (said he,) received a letter from the East Indies, from a gentleman whom I formerly knew very well; he had returned from that country with a handsome fortune, as it was reckoned, before means were found to acquire those immense sums which have been brought from thence of late; he was a scholar, and an agreeable man, and lived very prettily in London, till his wife died. After her death, he took to dissipation and gaming, and lost all he had. One evening he lost a thousand pounds to a gentleman whose name I am sorry I have forgotten. Next inorning he sent the gentleman five hundred pounds, with an apology that it was all he had in the world. The gentleman sent the money back to him, declaring he would not accept of it; and adding, that if Mr. - had occasion for five bundred pounds more, he would lend it to him. He resolved to go out again to the East Indies, and make his fortune anew. He got a cousia derable appointment, and I had some intention of accompanying him. Had I thought then as I do now, I should have gone: but at that time, I had objections to quitting England.”

It was a very remarkable circumstance about Johnson, whom shallow observers have supposed to have been ignorant of the world, that very few meu had seen greater variety of characters; and none could observe them better, as was evident from the strong, yet nice portraits which he often drew. I have frequently thought that if he had made out what the French call une catalogue raisonnée of all the people who had passed under his observation, it would have afforded a very rich fund of instruction and entertainment. The suddenness with which his accounts of some of them started out in conversation, was not less pleasing than surprising. I remember he once observed to me, “ It is wonderful, Sir,

SR

No. 7,

what is to be found in London. The most literary conversation that I ever enjoped, was at the table of Jack Ellis, a money-scrivener behind the Royal Exchange, with whom I at one period used to dioe geoerally ouce a week.”

Volumes would be required to contain a list of bis numerous and various acquaintance, none of whom he ever forgot; and could describe and discriminate them all with precision and vivacity. He associated with persons the most widely different in manners, abilities, rank, and accomplishments. He was at once the companion of the brilliant Colonel Forrester of the guards, who wrote “The Polite Philosopher,” and of the aukward and upcouth Robert Levett; of Lord Thurlow, and Mr. Sastres, the Italian master; and has dined one day with the beag. tiful, gay, and fascinating Lady Craven, and the next with good Mrs. Gardiner, the tallow-chandler, on Soow-bill.

On my expressing my wonder at bis discovering so much of the knowledge peculiar to different professions, he told me, “I learnt what I know of law chiefly from Mr. Ballow, a very able man. I learnt some too from Chambers; but was not so teachable then. One is not willing to be taught by a young man. When I expressed a wish to know more about Mr. Ballow, Johoson said, “Sir, I have seen him but once these twenty years. The tide of life has driven us different ways.” I was sorry at the time to hear this; but whoever quits the creeks of private connections, and fairly gets into the great ocean of London, will, by imperceptible degrees, unavoidably experience such cessations of acquaintauce.

“My knowledge of physic, (he added,) I learnt from Dr. James, whom I helped in writing the proposals for his Dictionary, and also a little iu the Dictionary itself. I also learnt from Dr. Lawrence, but was then grown more stubborn."

A curious incident happened to-day, while Mr. Thrale and I sat with bim. Francis avnounced that a large packet was brought to him from the post-office, said to have come from Lisbon, and it was charged seven pounds ten shillings. He would not receive it, supposing it to be some trick, nor did he even look at it. But upon enquiry afterwards he found that it was a real packet for birn, from that very friend in the East Indies of whom he had been speaking; and the ship which carried it having come to Portugal, this packet, with others, had been put into the postoffice at Lisbon.

I mentioned a new gaming-club, of which Mr. Beauclerk had given me an account, where the members played to a desperate extent. John2011. Depend upon it, Sir, this is mere talk. Who is ruined by gaming? You will not find six instances in an age. There is a strange rout made about deep play: whereas you have many more ruined by adventurous trade, aod yet we do not hear such an outcry against it. Thrale. There may be few people absolutely ruined by deep play; but very many are inuch hurt in their circumstances by it. Johnson, Yes, Sir, and so are

« 이전계속 »