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The more a man extends and varies his acquaintance the better. This, however, was meant with a just restriction : for, he on another occasion said to me, Sir, a man may be so much of every thing, that he is nothing of any thing.
Raising the wages of day-labourers is wrong; for it does not make them live better, but only makes them idler, and idleness is a very bad thing for human nature,
It is a very good custoin to keep a journal for a man's own use; he may write upon a card a day all that is necessary to be written, after he has had experience of life. At first there is a great deal to be written, because there is a great deal of vovelty ; but when once a man has settled his opinions, there is seldom much to be set down.
There is nothing wonderful in the journal which we see Swift kept in London, for it contains slight topics, and it might soon be written.
1 praised the accuracy of an account-book of a lady whom I mentioned. Johnson. Keeping accounts, Sir, is no use when a man is spending his own money,
and has nobody to whom he is to account. You won't eat less beef to day, because you have written down what it cost yesterday. I mentioned another lady who thonght as he did, so that her husband could not get her to keep an account of her expence of the family, as she thought it enough that she never exceeded the sum allowed her. Johnson. Sir, it is fit she should keep an account, because her husband wishes it; but I do not see its use. I maintained that keeping an account has this advantage, that it satisfies a man that his modry bas oot been lost or stolen, which he might sometimes be apt to imagine, were there no written state of his expence; and besides, a calculation of economy so as not to exceed one's income, cannot be made without a view of the different articles in figures, that one may see how to retrench in some particulars less necessary than others. This he did not attempt to answer.
Talking of an acquaintance of ours, whose narratives, which abounded in curious and interesting topics, were unhappily found to be very fabulous; I mentioned Lord Mansfield's having said to me, “Suppose we believe one half of what he tells,” Johnson. Ay; but we don't know which half to believe. By his lying we lose not only our reverence for him, but all comfort in his conversation. Boswell. May we not take it as amusing fiction Johnson. Sir, the misfortune is, that you will inseosibly believe as much of it as you incliue to believe.
It is remarkable, that notwithstanding their congeniality in politics, he never was acquainted with a late eminent judge, whom I have heard speak of him as a writer, with great respect. Jobuson, I know not upon what degree of investigation, entertained no exalted opinion of his Lordship's intellectual character. Talking of him to me one day, he said, It is wonderful, Sir, with how little real superiority of mind men can make an eminent figure in public life. He expressed himself to the same purpose concerning another law-lord, who, it seems, once took a
fancy to associate with the wits of London; but with so little success, that Foote said, What can he inean by coming amoog us? He is not only dull himself, but the cause of dulluess in others. Trying bim by the test of his colloquial powers, Johuson had found him very defective. He once said to Sir Joshua Reynolds, This man now has been ten years about town, and has made pothing of it; meaning as a companion. He said to me, I vever heard any thing from himn in coin pany that was at all striking; and depend upon it, Sir, it is when you come close to a man in conversation, that you discover what his real abilities are : to muke a speech in a public assembly is a nack. Now I honour Thurlow, Sir; Thurlow is a fine fellow ; he fairly puts his mind to yours.
After repeating to hiin sorbe of his pointed, lively sayings, I said, It it is a pity, Sir, you don't always remember your own good things, that you may have a laugh when you will. Johnson. Nay, Sir, it is better that I forget them, that I may be reminded of thein, and have a laugh on their being brought to my recollection.
When I recalled to him his huving said as we sailed up Lochlomond, That if he wore any thing fine, it should be very line ; l observed that all his thoughts were upon a great scale. Johuson. Depend upon it, Sir, every man will have as fine a thing as he can get; as large a diamond for his ring. Boswell. Pardon me, Sir: a man of narrow mind will not think of it, a slight trinket will satisfy him.
Nec sufferre queat majoris pondera gemice,
I told him I should send him some Essays" which I had written, which I hoped he would be so good as to read, and pick out the good
Johnson. Nay, Sir, send me only the good ones; don't make me pick them.
I heard him once say, Though the proverb Nullum numen adest, si sit prudentia,' does not always prove true, we may be certain of the converse of it, Nullum numen adest, si sit imprudentia.
Vuce, when Mr. Seward was going to Bath, and asked his commands he said, Tell Dr. Harrington that I wish he would publish another volume of the · Nugce antiquce ;' it is a very pretty book. Mr. Seward seconded this wish, and recommended to Dr. Harrington to dedicate it to Johnson, and take for his motto, what Catullus says to Cornelius Nepos :
-namque tu solebas
As a small proof of bis kindliness and delicacy of feeling, the following circumstance may be mentioned : One evening when we were in the street together, and I told him I was going to sup at Mr. Beauclerk's, he said, I'll go with you. After having walked part of the way, seeming to recollect something, he suddenly stopped and said, I cannot go,--but I do not love Beauclerk the less. No. 11.
On the frame of his portrait, Mr. Beauclerk had inscribed,
After Mr. Beauclerk's death, when it became Mr. Langton's property, he made the inscription be defaced. Johnson said complacently, It was kind in you to take it off; and then after a short pause, added, and not unkind in him to put it on.
He said, How few of his friends houses would a man choose to be at when he is sick ! He mentioned one or two. I recollect only Thrale's.
He observed, There is a wicked inclination in most people to suppose an old man decayed jo his intellects. If a young or middle-aged map, when leaving a company, does not recollect where he laid his hat, it is nothing; but if the same inattention is discovered in an old man, people will shrug up their shoulders, and say, His memory is going.
When I once talked to him of some of the sayings which every body repeats, but nobody knows where to find, such as, Quos Deus oult perdere, prius dementat; he told me that he was once offered ten guineas
to point out from whence Semel insanivimus omnes was taken. He could • 'not do it; but many years afterwards met with it by chance in Johannes Baplista Mantuanus.
I am very sorry that I did not take a note of an eloqueut argument in which he maintained that the situation of Prince of Wales was the happiest of any person's in the kingdom, even beyond that of the Sove. reig". I recollect only-the enjoyment of hope, -the high superiority of rook, without the anxious cares of government,—and a great degree of power, both from natural influence wisely used, and from the sanguine expectations of those who look forward to the chance of future favour.
Sir Joshua Reynolds communicated to me the following particolari.
Johnson thought the poems published as translations from Ossian, had so little merit, that he said, Sir, a man might write auch stuff for ever, if he would abandon his mind to it.
He said, A man should pass a part of his time with the laughers, by which means any thing ridiculous or particular about him might be prevented to his view, and corrected. I observed, he must have been a bold laugher who would have ventured to tell Dr. Johuson of any of his particularities.
Having observed the vain ostentatious importance of many people in quoting the authority of Dukes aud Lords, as having been in their company, he said, he went to the other extreme, and did not mention bis authority when he should have done it, had it not been that of a Duke or a Lord.
Dr. Golisinith said once to Dr. Johnson, that he wished for some additional members to the Literary Club, to give it an agreeable variety; fur (said he) there cau now be nothing new imong us: we have travelled
over one another's m.iods. Johnson said, Sir, you have uot travelled over my mind, I promise you. Sir Joshua, however, thought Gold. smith right; observing, that when people have lived a great deal together, they know what each of them will say on every subject. A new understanding, therefore, is desirable; because though it may only fornish the same sense upon a question which would have been furnished by those with whom we are accustomed to live, yet this sense will have a different colouring; and colouring is of inuch effect in every thing else as well as in painting.
Johnson used to say he made ita constant role to talk as well as he could, both as to sentiment and expression; by which means, what had been originally effort became familiar and easy. The consequence of this, Sir Joshua observed, was, that his common conversation in all companies was such as to secure him universal attention, as something above the usual colloquial style was expected.
Yet, though Johnson had this habit in company, when another mode was necessary, in order to investigate truth, he could Jescend to u language intelligible to the meanest capacity. An instance of this was witnessed by Sir Joshua Reynolds, when they were present at an examination of a little blackguard boy, by Mr. Saunders Welch, the late Westmipster Justice. Welch, who imagined that he was exalting himself in Dr. Johoson's eyes by using big words, spoke in a manver that was uiterly unintelligible to the boy; Dr. Johnson perceiving it, addressed himself to the boy, and changed the pom pous phraseology into colloquial language, Sir Joshua Reynolds, who was much amused by this procedure, which seemed a kind of reversing of what might have been expected from the two men, took notice of it to Dr. Johnson, as they walked away by theinselves. Johnson said, that it was continually the case; and that he was always obliged to translate the Justice's swelling diction, smiling,) so as that his meaning might be understood by the yulgar, from whom information was to be obtained.
Sir Joshua once observed to him, that he had talked above the capacity of some people with whom they had been in company together, No matter, Sir, (said Johnson); they consider it as a compliment to be talked to, as if they were wiser than they are. So true is this, Sir, that Baxter made it a rule in every sermon that he preached, to say something that was above the capacity of his audience,
Johuson's dexterity in retort, when he seemed to be driven to an extremity by his adversary, was very remarkable, of his power in this respect, our common friend, Mr. Windham of Norfolk, has been pleased to furnish me with an eminent instance, However unfavourable to Scotland, he uniformly gave liberal praise to George Buchanan, as a writer. lo a conversation concerning the literary merits of the two countries, in which Buchanan was introduced, a Scotchman, imagining that on this ground he should have an undoubted triumph over him, ex. claimed, Ah, Dr. Jobnson, what would you have said of Buchanan, had he been an Englishman.-Why, Sir, (said Johnson, after a little pause,) I should not have said of Buchanan, had he been an Englishmer, what I will now say of hiin as a Scotchman,-that he was the only man of genius his country ever produced.
And this brings to my recollection another instance of the same nature. I once reminded him that whea Ir. Adam Smith was expatiatiog on the beauty of Glasgow, he had cut him short by saying, Pray, Sir, have you ever seen Brentford? and I took the liberty to add, My dear Sir, surely that was shocking.--Why, then, Sir, (he replied,) you have vever seen Breutford.
Though his usual phrase for conversation was talk, yet he made a distinction; for when he once told me that he dined the day before at a friend's house, with a very pretty company; and I asked him if there was good conversation, he answered, No, Sir; we had talk enough, but no conversation ; there was nothing discussed.
Talking of the success of the Scoich in London, he imputed it in a considerable degree to their spiri: of nationality. Tou know, Sir, said he,) that no Scotchmao publishes a bouk, or has a play brought upon the stage, but there are five bạodred people ready to applaud him.,
He gave much praise to his friend, Dr. Burney's elegant and enter taining travels, and told Mr. Seward that he had them in his
when writing his “ Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland."
Such was his sensibility, and so much was he affected by pathetic poetry, that when he was reading Dr. Beattiee's “ Hermit,” in my presence, it brought tears into his eyes.
He disapproved much of mingling real facts with fiction. On this accouot he censured a book entitled “ Love and Madness."
Mr. Hoole told him, he was born in Moorfields, and had received part of his early instruction in Grub-street. Sir, (said Johnson smiliog you have been regularly educated. Having asked who was his instructor, and Mr. Hoole having answered, My uncle, Sir, who was a taylor, Joboson recollecting himself, said, Sir, I kuew him; we called hiin the metaphisical taylor. He was of a club in Old-street, with me and George Psalmanazar, and some others ; but pray, Sir, was be a good taylor? Mr. Hoole having auswered that he believed he was too mathematical, and used to draw squares and triangles ou his shop-board, so that he did not excel in the cut of a coat ;-- I am sorry for it, (said Johosong) for I would have every man to be master of his own business.
In pleasant reference to himself and Mr. Hoole, as brother authors, he often said, Let you and I, Sir, go together, and eat a beef-steak in Grub Btreet.
Sir William Chambers, that great Architect, whose works shew a subJimity of genius, and who is esteemed by all who know bim, for his social, hospitable, and generous qualities, submitted the manuscript of his Chinese Architecture, to Dr. Johnsou's perusal. Johnson was much pleased with it, and said, It wants no addition nor correction, but a few Jimes of introduction; which he furnished, and Sir William adopted.