Page images
PDF
EPUB

to see him perhaps for ten weeks ; then we are very complaisant to each other. No, sir, you will have much more influence by giving or lending money where it is wanted, than by hospitality.”

On Saturday, 17th May, I saw him for a short time. Having mentioned that I had that morning been with old Mr. Sheridan, he remembered their former intimacy with a cordial warmth, and said to me, “ Tell Mr. Sheridan I shall be glad to see him and shake hands with him.” BOSWELL.

BOSWELL. “It is to me very wonderful that resentment should be kept up so long.” JOHNSON. “ Why, sir, it is not altogether resentment that he does not visit me; it is partly falling out of the habit,-partly disgust, such as one has at a drug that has made him sick. Besides, he knows that I laugh at his oratory.”

[Of Sheridan's Book on Oratory, Dr. Johnson said, Gent. “ It is impossible to read it without feeling a per- vol. iv. petual elevation of hope, and a perpetual disap- p. 28%. pointment. If we should have a bad harvest this year, Sheridan would say it was owing to the neglect of oratory.”]

Another day I spoke of one of our friends, of whom he, as well as I, had a very high opinion. He expatiated in his praise; but added, “ Sir, he is a cursed whig, a bottomless whig, as they all are now !.”

I mentioned my expectations from the interest of an eminent person then in power; adding, “But I have no claim but the claim of friendship: however, some people will go a great way from that motive.” JOHNSON. “Sir, they will go all the way from that motive.” A gentleman talked of retiring.

“Never think of that,” said Johnson. The gentleman urged,

· [Mr. Burke, who, however, proved himself, on the French Revolution, not to be a bottomless whig.-Ed.]

[Probably Lord Mountstuart. See ante, vol. iii. p. 317.Ed.]

“I should then do no ill." JOHNSON. “Nor no

good either. Sir, it would be a civil suicide.” En. [Mr. Boswell about this period was negotiating

another dinner with Dr. Johnson and Mr. Wilkes at the house of the latter; but though Johnson had no objection, the dinner does not seem to have taken

place. Wilkes “ JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ. TO JOHN WILKES, ESQ. Corresp. vol. iv.

“ Wednesday, 21st May (1783). “Mr. Boswell's compliments to Mr. Wilkes. He rejoices to find he is so much better as to be abroad. He finds that it would not be unpleasant to Dr. Johnson to dine at Mr. Wilkes's. The thing would be so curiously benignant, it were a pity it should not take place. Nobody but Mr. Boswell should be asked to meet the doctor. Mr. Boswell goes for Scotland on Friday the 30th. If then a card were sent to the doctor on Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday without delay, it is to be hoped he would be fixed; and notice will be sent to Mr. Boswell.”

p. 314.

Wilkes

“MR, BOSWELL TO MR. AND MISS WILKES. Corresp. vol. iv.

“ Mr. Boswell presents his best compliments to Mr. and Miss p. 321. Wilkes; encloses Dr. Johnson's answer; and regrets much that

so agreeable a meeting must be deferred till next year, as Mr. Boswell is to set out for Scotland in a few days. Hopes Mr. Wilkes will write to him there."

Enclosed,

“ 24th May, 1783. “ Dr. Johnson returns thanks to Mr. and Miss Wilkes for their kind invitation ; but he is engaged for Tuesday to Sir Joshua Reynolds, and for Wednesday to Mr. Paradise."]

On Monday, May 26, I found him at tea, and the celebrated Miss Burney, the authour of “ Evelina” and “Cecilia," with him. I asked if there would be any speakers in parliament, if there were no places to be obtained. JOHNSON. “ Yes, sir. Why do you speak here? Either to instruct and entertain, which is a benevolent motive; or for distinction, which is a selfish motive." I mentioned “ Cecilia."

[ocr errors]

Johnson (with an air of animated satisfaction). “Sir, if you talk of Cecilia,' talk on."

We talked of Mr. Barry's exhibition of his pictures. Johnson. “Whatever the hand may have done, the mind has done its part. There is a grasp of mind there which you find nowhere else ?."

I asked whether a man naturally virtuous, or one who has overcome wicked inclinations, is the best. JOHNSON. “Sir, to you, the man who has overcome wicked inclinations is not the best. He has more merit to himself. I would rather trust my money to a man who has no hands, and so a physical impossibility to steal, than to a man of the most honest principles. There is a witty satirical story of Foote. He had a small bust of Garrick placed upon his bureau. “You may be surprised,' said he, that I allow him to be so near my gold ;—but you will observe he has no hands.'

On Friday, May 29, being to set out for Scotland next morning, I passed a part of the day with him in more than usual earnestness, as his health was in a more precarious state than at any time when I had parted from him. He, however, was quick and lively, and critical, as usual. I mentioned one who was a very learned man. JOHNSON. “ Yes, sir, he has a great deal of learning ; but it never lies straight. There is never one idea by the side of another; 'tis all entangled : and then he drives it so awkwardly upon conversation !"

I stated to him an anxious thought, by which a sincere Christian might be disturbed, even when conscious of having lived a good life, so far as is con

· In Mr. Barry's printed analysis or description of these pictures, he speaks of Johnson's character in the highest terms.- BOSWELL. (Yet see what Johnson himself says on this point, in the conclusion of his Letter to Mrs. Thrale, of the 1st of May, ante, p. 99.-Ev.]

sistent with human infirmity: he might fear that he should afterwards fall away, and be guilty of such crimes as would render all his former religion vain. Could there be, upon this awful subject, such a thing as balancing of accounts ? Suppose a man who has led a good life for seven years commits an act of wickedness, and instantly dies; will his former good life have any effect in his favour? Johnson. "Sir, if a man has led a good life for seven years, and then is hurried by passion to do what is wrong, and is suddenly carried off, depend upon it he will have the reward of his seven years' good life: God will not take a catch of him. Jpon this principle Richard Baxter believes that a suicide may be saved. If,' says he, “it should be objected that what I maintain may encourage suicide, I answer, I am not to tell a lie to prevent it.'” BOSWELL. “But does not the text say, “As the tree falls, so it must lie ?'” JOHNSON.

Yes, sir; as the tree falls: but,”-after a little pause —“that is meant as to the general state of the tree, not what is the effect of a sudden blast.” In short, he interpreted the expression as referring to condition, not to position. The common notion, therefore, seems to be erroneous; and Shenstone's witty remark? on divines trying to give the tree a jerk upon a deathbed, to make it lie favourably, is not well founded.

I asked him what works of Richard Baxter's I should read. He said, “ Read any of them; they are all good.

He said, “Get as much force of mind as you can. Live within your income. Always have something

66

[ocr errors]

i[“ When a tree is falling, I have seen the labourers, by a trivial jerk with a rope, throw it upon the spot where they would wish it to lie. Divines under standing this text too literally, pretend, by a little interposition in the article of death, to regulate a person's everlasting happiness. fancy the allusion will hardly countenance their presumption." Shenstone's Works, v. ii. p. 297.--Ed.]

saved at the end of the year. Let your imports be more than your exports, and you 'll never go far wrong."

I assured him, that in the extensive and various range of his acquaintance there never had been any one who had a more sincere respect and affection for him than I had. He said, “I believe it, sir. Were I in distress, there is no man to whom I should sooner come than to you. I should like to come and have a cottage in your park, toddle about, live mostly on milk, and be taken care of by Mrs. Boswell. She and I are good friends now; are we not ?”

Talking of devotion, he said, “ Though it be true that “God dwelleth not in temples made with hands,' yet in this state of being our minds are more piously affected in places appropriated to divine worship, than in others. Some people have a particular room in their houses where they say their prayers; of which I do not disapprove, as it may animate their devotion."

He embraced me, and gave me his blessing, as usual when I was leaving him for any length of time. I walked from his door to-day with a fearful apprehension of what might happen before I returned.

*** TO THE RIGHT HONOURABLE WILLIAM WINDHAM.

“ London, 31st May, 1783. “ SIR,—The bringer of this letter is the father of Miss Philips', a singer, who comes to try her voice on the stage at Dublin.

“ Mr. Philips is one of my old friends; and as I am of opinion that neither he nor his daughter will do any thing that can disgrace their benefactors, I take the liberty of entreating you to countenance and protect them so far as may be suitable to your station 2 and character, and shall consider myself as

Now the celebrated Mrs. Crouch.-BOSWELL. [She died in October, 1805, æt. 45.-Ed.]

2 Mr. Windham was at this time in Dublin, secretary to the Earl of Northington, then lord lieutenant of Ireland. --BOSWELL.

« PreviousContinue »