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for the offence he has given, particularly if it seemed to involve the slightest disrespect to the church or to its ministers. [Vol. iv. p. 487 ; vol. iii. p. 341 ; vol. iv. p. 50, 360.]
. “ It is with much regret that I reflect on my stupid negligence to write down some of his discourses, his observations, precepts, &c. The following few short sentences only did I ever take any account of in writing ; and these, which I lately found in an old memorandum pocket-book, of ancient date, were made soon after the commencement of my acquaintance with him. A few others, indeed, relating to the character of the French (ante, vol. iii. p. 289), were taken vivá voce, the day after his arrival from France, Nov. 14, 1775, intending them for the subject of a letter to a friend in the country.
“ Talking on the subject of scepticism :
“ JOHNSON. “The eyes of the mind are like the eyes of the body; they can see only at such a distance: but because we cannot see beyond this point, is there nothing beyond it?'
“ Talking of the want of memory:
“ JOHNSON. "No, sir, it is not true; in general every person has an equal capacity for reminiscence, and for one thing as well as another, otherwise it would be like a person complaining that he could hold silver in his hand, but could not hold copper.'
“ A GENTLEMAN. “I think when a person laughs alone he supposes himself for the moment with company. JOHNSON. “Yes, if it be true that laughter is a comparison of self-superiority, you must suppose some person with you.'
"No, sir,' he once said, “people are not born with a particular genius for particular employments or studies, for it would be like saying that a man could see a great way east, but could not west.
It is good sense applied with diligence to what was at first a mere accident, and which, by great application, grew to be called, by the generality of mankind, a particular genius.
“ Some person advanced, that a lively imagination disqualified the mind from fixing steadily upon objects which required serious and minute investigation. JOHNSON. “ It is true, sir, a vivacious quick imagination does sometimes give a confused idea of things, and which do not fix deep, though, at the same time, he has a capacity to fix them in his memory if he would endeavour at it. It being like a man that, when he is running, does not make observations on what he meets with, and consequently is not impressed by them ; but he has, nevertheless, the power of stopping and informing himself.'
“A gentleman was mentioning it as a remark of an acquaintance of his, that he never knew but one person that was completely wicked.' JOHNSON. “Sir, I don't know what you mean by a person completely wicked.' GENTLEMAN. Why, any one that has
entirely got rid of all shame.' JOHNSON. "How is he, then, completely wicked ? He must get rid too of all conscience.' GENTLEMAN. ' I think conscience and shame the same thing.' Johnson. “I am surprised to hear you say so; they spring from two different sources, and are distinct perceptions: one respects this world, the other the next.' A Lady. “I think, however, that a person who has got rid of shame is in a fair way to get rid of conscience.' Johnson. “Yes, ’tis a part of the way, I grant; but there are degrees at which men stop, some for the fear of men, some for the fear of God: shame arises from the fear of men, conscience from the fear of God.'
“ Dr. Johnson seemed to delight in drawing characters; and when he did so con amore, delighted every one that heard him. Indeed I cannot say I ever heard him draw any con odio, though he professed himself to be, or at least to love, a good hater. But I have remarked that his dislike of any one seldom prompted him to say much more than that the fellow is a blockhead, a poor creature, or some such epithet.
“I shall never forget the exalted character he drew of his friend Mr. Langton, nor with what energy, what fond delight, he expatiated in his praise, giving him every excellence that nature could bestow, and every perfection that humanity could acquire'. A literary lady was present, Miss H. More, who perhaps inspired him with an unusual ardour to shine, which indeed he did with redoubled lustre, deserving himself the praises he bestowed: not but I have often heard him speak in terms equally high of Mr. Langton, though more concisely expressed,
“ This brings to my remembrance the unparalleled eulogium which the late Lord Bath made on a lady he was intimately acquainted with, in speaking of her to Sir Joshua Reynolds. His lordship said that he did not believe that there ever was a more perfect human being created, or ever would be created, than Mrs. Montagu. I give the very words I heard from Sir Joshua's mouth ; from whom also I heard
l that he repeated them to Mr. Burke-observing that Lord Bath could not have said more, ‘And I do not think that he said too much,' was Mr. Burke's reply. I have also heard Dr. Johnson speak of this lady in terms of high admiration. [Vol. iii. p 412-3.]
“ On the praises of Mrs. Thrale he used to dwell with a peculiar delight, a paternal fondness, expressive of conscious exultation in being so intimately acquainted with her.
One day, in speaking of her to Mr. Harris, author of Hermes,' and expatiating on her various perfections,—the solidity of her virtues, the brilliancy of her wit, and the strength of her understanding, &c.—he quoted some lines
[See ante, vol. iv. p. 77, and vol. v. p. 177...Ed.)
(a stanza I believe, but from what author I know not), with which he concluded his most eloquent eulogium, and of these I retained but the two last lines ' :
“Virtues of such a generous kind,
“ It will doubtless appear highly paradoxical to the generality of the world to say, that few men, in his ordinary disposition, or common frame of mind, could be more inoffensive than Dr. Johnson; yet surely those who knew his uniform benevolence, and its actuating principles-steady virtue, and true holiness—will readily agree with me, that peace and good-will towards man were the natural emanations of his heart.
“When travelling with a lady' in Devonshire, in a post-chaise, near the churchyard of Wear, near Torrington, in which she saw the verdant monument of maternal affection described in the Melancholy Tale, and heard the particular circumstances relating to the subject of and
as she was relating them to Dr. Johnson, she heard him heave heavy sighs and sobs, and turning round she saw his dear face bathed in tears! A circumstance he had probably forgotten when he wrote at the end of the manuscript poem with his correcting pen in red ink, I know not when I have been so much affected.
“I believe no one has described his extraordinary gestures or anticks with his hands and feet, particularly when passing over the threshold of a door, or rather before he would venture to pass through any doorway. On entering Sir Joshua's house with poor Mrs. Williams, a blind lady who lived with him, he would quit her hand, or else whirl her about on the steps as he whirled and twisted about to perform his gesticulations; and as soon as he had finished, he would give a sudden spring, and make such an extensive stride over the threshold, as if he was trying for a wager how far he could stride, Mrs. Williams standing groping about outside the door, unless the servant took hold of her hand to conduct her in, leaving Dr. Johnson to perform at the parlour door much the same exercise over again.
“But it was not only at the entrance of a door that he exhibited such strange manæuvres, but across a room or in the street with company, he has stopped on a sudden, as if he had recollected his
· Being so particularly engaged as not to be able to attend to them sufficiently.Miss REYNOLDS.
? [Miss Reynolds herself; and the Melancholy Tale was probably a poem which he had written on this event, whatever it was.--Ed.]
3 [Mr. Boswell frequently i. p. and vol. ii. p. 256) and Mr. Whyte (ante, vol. i. p. 497, and vol. iii. p. 200), have described his gestures very strikingly, though not quite in so much detail as Miss Reynolds. Mr. Boswell's descriptions she must have seen...ED.]
task, and began to perform it there, gathering a mob round him; and when he had finished would hasten to his companion (who probably had walked on before) with an air of great satisfaction that he had done his duty !
“One Sunday morning as I was walking with him in Twickenham meadows he began his anticks both with his feet and hands, with the latter as if he was holding the reins of a horse like a jockey on full speed. But to describe the strange positions of his feet is a difficult task ; sometimes he would make the back part of his heels to touch, sometimes his toes, as if he was aiming at making the form of a triangle, at least the two sides of one. Though, indeed, whether these were his gestures on this particular occasion in Twickenham meadows I do not recollect, it is so long since; but I well remember that they were so extraordinary that men, women, and children gathered round him, laughing. At last we sat down on some logs of wood by the river side, and they nearly dispersed; when he pulled out of his pocket Grotius de Veritate Religionis,' over which he seesawed at such a violent rate as to excite the curiosity of some people at a distance to come and see what was the matter with him.
“He always carried a religious treatise in his pocket on a Sunday, and he used to encourage me to relate to him the particular parts of Scripture I did not understand, and to write them down as they occurred to me in reading the Bible.
“ As we were returning from the meadows that day, I remember we met Sir John Hawkins, whom Dr. Johnson seemed much rejoiced to see ; and no wonder, for I have often heard him speak of Sir John in terms expressive of great esteem and much cordiality of friendship. On his asking Dr. Johnson when he had seen Dr. Hawkesworth, he roared out with great vehemency, 'Hawkesworth is grown a coxcomb, and I have done with him.' We drank tea that afternoon at Sir J. Hawkins's, and on our return I was surprised to hear Dr. Johnson's minute criticism on Lady Hawkins's dress, with every part of which almost he found fault. [Vol. iii. p. 419.]
"Few people (I have heard him say) understood the art of carving better than himself; but that it would be highly indecorous in him to attempt it in company, being so nearsighted, that it required a suspension of his breath during the operation.
“ It must be owned indeed that it was to be regretted that he did not practise a little of that delicacy in eating, for he appeared to want breath more at that time than usual.
- It is certain that he did not appear to the best advantage at the hour of repast ; but of this he was perfectly unconscious, owing probably to his being totally ignorant of the characteristic expressions of the human countenance, and therefore he could have no conception
that his own expressed when most pleased any thing displeasing to others; for, though, when particularly directing his attention towards any object to spy out defects or perfections, he generally succeeded better than most men; partly, perhaps, from a desire to excite admiration of his perspicacity, of which he was not a little ambitious yet I have heard him say, and I have often perceived, that he could not distinguish any man's face half a yard distant from him, not even his most intimate acquaintance. [Vol. iv. p. 200, and 451.]
Though it cannot be said that he was in manners gentle, yet it justly can that he was in affections mild, benevolent, and compassionate; and to this combination of character may I believe be ascribed in a great measure his extraordinary celebrity; his being beheld as a phenomenon or wonder of the age !
“And yet Dr. Johnson's character, singular as it certainly was from the contrast of his mental endowments with the roughness of his manners, was, I believe, perfectly natural and consistent throughout; and to those who were intimately acquainted with him must I imagine have appeared so For being totally devoid of all deceit, free from every tinge of affectation or ostentation, and unwarped by any vice, his singularities, those strong lights and shades that so peculiarly distinguish his character, may the more easily be traced to their primary and natural causes.
“ The luminous parts of his character, his soft affections, and I should suppose his strong intellectual powers, at least the dignified charm or radiancy of them, must be allowed to owe their origin to his strict, his rigid principles of religion and virtue; and the shadowy parts of his character, his rough, unaccommodating manners, were in general to be ascribed to those corporeal defects that I have already observed naturally tended to darken his perceptions of what may be called propriety and impropriety in general conversation ; and
; of course in the ceremonious or artificial sphere of society gave his deportment so contrasting an aspect to the apparent softness and general uniformity of cultivated manners.
“ And perhaps the joint influence of these two primeval causes, his intellectual excellence and his corporeal defects, mutually contributed to give his manners a greater degree of harshness than they would have had if only under the influence of one of them, the imperfect perceptions of the one not unfrequently producing misconceptions in the other.
“Besides these, many other equally natural causes concurred to constitute the singularity of Dr. Johnson's character. Doubtless the progress of his education had a double tendency to brighten and to obscure it. But I must observe, that this obscurity (implying only his awkward uncouth appearance, his ignorance of the rules of politeness, &c.) would have gradually disappeared at a more advanced period, at