페이지 이미지

do wish that you had mentioned Garrick.” Johnson. 6 My dear Sir, had I mentioned him, I must have mentioned many more ; Mrs. Pritchard, Mrs. Cibber-nay, and Mr. Cibber too; he too altered Shakspeare.” Boswell. “ You have read his “Apology' (1), Sir ?” Johnson. “ Yes, it is very entertaining. But as for Cibber himself, taking from his conversation all that he ought not to have said, he was a poor creature. I remember when he brought me one of his Odes to have my opinion of it, I could not bear such nonsense, and would not let him read it to the end; so little respect had I for that great man ! (laughing.) Yet I remember Richardson wondering that I could treat him with familiarity.”

I mentioned to him that I had seen the execution of several convicts at Tyburn (2), two days before, and that none of them seemed to be under any concern. JOHNSON. “ Most of them, Sir, have never thought at all.” BOSWELL. “But is not the fear of death natural to man ?” Johnson. “So much so, Sir, that the whole of life is but keeping away the thoughts of it.” He then, in a low and earnest tone, talked of his meditating upon the awful hour of his own dissolution, and in what manner he should conduct himself upon that occasion : “I know not,” said

(1) The Memoirs of himself and of the Stage, which Cibber published under the modest title of an " Apology for his Life.” See antè, Vol. II. p. 176. — C.

(2) Six unhappy men were executed at Tyburn, on Wednesday, the 18th (one day before). It was one of the irregularities of Mr. Boswell's mind to be passionately fond of seeing these melancholy spectacles. —- C.

[merged small][ocr errors]

he, “ whether I should wish to have a friend by me, or have it all between God and myself.”

Talking of our feeling for the distresses of others : --JOHNSON. “ Why, Sir, there is much noise made about it, but it is greatly exaggerated. No, Sir, we have a certain degree of feeling to prompt us to do good ; more than that Providence does not intend. It would be misery to no purpose.” BOSWELL. “But suppose now, Sir, that one of your intimate friends were apprehended for an offence for which he might be hanged.” JOHNSON. “ I should do what I could to bail him, and give him any other assistance; but if he were once fairly hanged, I should not suffer.” BOSWELL. “ Would you eat your dinner that day, Sir ?” Johnson. “ Yes, Sir; and eat it as if he were eating with me. Why, there's Baretti, who is to be tried for his life to-morrow, friends have risen up for him on every side; yet if he should be hanged, none of them will eat a slice of plum-pudding the less. Sir, that sympathetic feeling goes a very little way in depressing the mind.”

I told him that I had dined lately at Foote's, who shewed me a letter which he had received from Tom Davies, telling him that he had not been able to sleep from the concern he felt on account of this sad affair of Baretti,begging of him to try if he could suggest any thing that might be of service; and, at the same time, recommending to him an industrious young man who kept a pickle-shop.” Johnson. " Ay, Sir, here you have a specimen of human sympathy; a friend hanged, and a cucumber pickled. We know not whether Baretti or the pickle-man has kept Davies from sleep ; nor does he know himself. (1) And as to his not sleeping, Sir; Tom Davies is a very great man ; Tom has been upon the stage, and knows how to do those things : I have not been upon the stage, and cannot do those things.” Boswell. “I have often blamed myself, Sir, for not feeling for others as sensibly as many say they do.” Johnson. “Sir, don't be duped by them any more. You will find these very feeling people are not very ready to do you good. They pay you by feeling.(2)

Boswell. “ Foote has a great deal of humour.” Johnson. “ Yes, Sir.” Bos WELL. “ He has a singular talent of exhibiting character.” JOHNSON. “ Sir, it is not a talent; it is a vice; it is what others abstain from. It is not comedy, which exhibits the character of a species, as that of a miser gathered from many misers : it is farce which exhibits individuals.” Boswell. “ Did not he think of exhibiting you, Sir?” Johnson. “ Sir, fear restrained him ; he knew I would have broken his bones. I would have saved him the trouble of cutting off a leg ; I would not have left him a leg to cut off.” BOSWELL. “Pray, Sir, is not Foote an infidel ? " Johnson. “I do not know, Sir, that the fellow is

(1) It would seem that Davies's anxiety was more sincere than Johnson would represent. He says, in a letter to Granger, “I have been so taken up with a very unlucky accident that befell an intimate friend of mine, that for this last fortnight I have been able to attend to no business, though ever so urgent." Granger's Letters, p. 28. — C.

(2) (On the subject of this conversation, see note (2) of p. 99. post.)

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

an infidel; but if he be an infidel, he is an infidel as a dog is an infidel ; that is to say, he has never thought upon the subject.” (1) BoswELL. “I suppose, Sir, he has thought superficially, and seized the first notions which occurred to his mind.” JOHNson. “ Why then, Sir, still he is like a dog, that snatches the piece next him. Did you never observe that dogs have not the power of comparing ? A dog will take a small bit of meat as readily as a large, when both are before him.”

“ Buchanan," he observed, “has fewer centos than any modern Latin poet. He has not only had great knowledge of the Latin language, but was a great poetical genius. Both the Scaligers praise him.” · He again talked of the passage in Congreve with high commendation, and said, “ Shakspeare never has six lines together without a fault. (2) Perhaps you may find seven : but this does not refute my general assertion. If I come to an orchard, and say

(1) When Mr. Foote was at Edinburgh, he thought fit to entertain a numerous Scotch company, with a great deal of coarse jocularity, at the expense of Dr. Johnson, imagining it would be acceptable. I felt this as not civil to me; but sat very patiently till he had exhausted his merriment on that subject; and then observed, that surely Johnson must be allowed to have some sterling wit, and that I had heard him say a very good thing of Mr. Foote himself. “Ah! my old friend Sam," cried Foote, “ no man says better things : do let us have it.” Upon which I told the above story, which produced a very loud laugh from the company. But I never saw Foote so disconcerted. He looked grave and angry, and entered into a serious refutation of the justice of the remark." “ What, Sir," said he, “talk thus of a man of liberal education ;-a man who for years was at the University of Oxford ; -a man who has added sixteen new characters to the English drama of his country!”

(2) What strange “ laxity of talk” this is from the author of the “ Preface to Shakspeare!" See antè, p. 87. — C. VOL. III.


there's no fruit here, and then comes a poring man, who finds two apples and three pears, and tells me,

Sir, you are mistaken, I have found both apples and pears,' I should laugh at him : what would that be to the purpose ? ”

Boswell. “What do you think of Dr. Young's Night Thoughts,’ Sir?” Johnson. “Why, Sir, there are very fine things in them.” Boswell. “Is there not less religion in the nation now, Sir, than there was formerly ? ” Johnson. “I don't know, Sir, that there is.” BOSWELL. “ For instance, there used to be a chaplain in every great family, which we do not find now.” JOHNSON. “Neither do you find any of the state servants which great families used formerly to have. There is a change of modes in the whole department of life.”

Next day, October 20., he appeared, for the only time I suppose in his life, as a witness in a court of justice, being called to give evidence to the character of Mr. Baretti, who, having stabbed a man in the street(1), was arraigned at the Old Bailey for murder. Never did such a constellation of genius enlighten the awful Sessions-house, emphatically called Justice-hall ; Mr. Burke, Mr. Garrick, Mr. Beauclerk, and Dr. Johnson : and undoubtedly their favourable testimony had due weight with the court and jury.

(1) TOn the 3d of October, as Baretti was going hastily up the Haymarket, he was accosted by a woman, who behaving with great indecency, he was provoked to give her a blow on the hand : upon which, three men immediately interfering, and endeavouring to push him from the pavement, with a view to throw him into a puddle, he was alarmed for his safety, and rashly struck one of them with a knife (which he constantly wore for the purpose of carving fruit and sweetmeats), and gave him a wound, of which he died the next day. - Europ. Mag. vol. xvi. p. 91.]

« 이전계속 »