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nolds, “ This man now has been ten years about town, and has made nothing of it;" meaning as a companion'. He said to me,
He said to me, “ I never heard any thing from him in company 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 make a speech in a public assembly is a knack. Now, I honour Thurlow, sir ; Thurlow is a fine fellow; he fairly puts his mind to yours.”
After repeating to him some of his pointed, lively sayings, I said, “ 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 them, and have a laugh on their being brought to my recollection.”
When I recalled to him his having said, as we sailed up Lochiomond, “ That if he wore any thing fine, it should be very fine;" I observed that all his thoughts were upon a great scale. Johnson. “ 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 a narrow mind will not think of it; a slight trinket will satisfy him:
• Nec sufferre queat majoris pondera gemmæ.”
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 ones. JOHNSON. “Nay, sir, send me only the good ones : don't make me pick them.”
1 Knowing as well as I do what precision and elegance of oratory his lordship can display, I cannot but suspect that his unfavourable appearance in a social circle, which drew such animadversions upon him, must be owing to a cold affectation of consequence, from being reserved and stiff. If it be so, and he might be an agreeable man if he would, we cannot be sorry that he misses his aim. -BoswELL.
2 Under the title of “ The Hypochondriack.”—MALONE.
I heard him once say, “ Though the proverb • Nullum numen abest, si sit prudentia, does not always prove true, we may be certain of the converse of it, Nullum numen adest, si sit imprudentia .”
Once, when Mr. Seward was going to Bath, and asked his commands, he said, “ Teli Dr. Harington that I wish he would publish another volume of the
Nugæ Antiquæ ?;' it is a very pretty book 3." Mr. Seward seconded this wish, and recommended to Dr. Harington to dedicate it to Johnson, and take for his motto what Catullus says to Cornelius Nepos :
namque tu solebas
Meas esse aliquid putare NUGAS.” As a small proof of his 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."
On the frame of his portrait Mr. Beauclerk had inscribed
*[Mrs. Piozzi gives a more classical version of Johnson's variation : “Nullum numen adest ni sit prudentia.” Ante, vol. iv. p. 18.--Ed.]
2 It has since appeared.-BOSWELL. [Though the MSS., of which this work was composed, had descended to Dr. Harington, the work was not edited by him, but by the Reverend Henry Harington, M. A.-J. H. MARKLAND.]
3 A new and greatly improved edition of this very curious collection was published by Mr. Park in 1804, in two volumes, octavo. In this edition the letters are chronologically arranged, and the account of the bishops, which was formerly printed from a very corrupt copy,
is taken from Sir John Harrington's original manuscript, which he presented to Henry, Prince of Wales, and is now in the royal library in the museum.-MALONE. [The whole passage is very descriptive of Johnson :
Iracundior est paulo: minus aptus acutis
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 in his intellects. If a young or middle-aged man, 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 vult 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 Baptista Mantuanus '.
1 The words occur (as Mr. Bindley observes to me) in the first Eclogue of Mantuanus, “ De Honesto Amore,” &c.
“ Id commune malum; semel insanivimus omnes.” With the following elucidation of the other saying Quos Deus (it should rather be, Quem Jupiter) vult perdere, prius dementut-Mr. Boswell was furnished by Mr. Richard How, of Aspley, in Bedfordshire, as communicated to that gentleman by his friend, Mr. John Pitts, late rector of Great Brickhill in Buckinghamshire : “ Perhaps no scrap of Latin whatever has been more quoted than this. It occasionally falls even from those who are scrupulous even to pedantry in their Latinity, and will not admit a word into their compositions which has not the sanction of the first age.” The word demento is of no au. thority, either as a verb active or neuter. After a long search, for the purpose of deciding a bet, some gentlemen of Cambridge found it among the fragments of Euripides, in what edition I do not recollect, where it is given as a translation of a Greek Iambick:
Ον Θεος θελει απολεσαι, πρωτ' αποφρεναι. " The above scrap was found in the hand-writing of a suicide of fashion, Sir D. 0., some years ago, lying on the table of the room where he had destroyed himself. The suicide was a man of classical acquirements: he left no other paper behind him."
Another of these proverbial sayings,
I am very sorry that I did not take a note of an eloquent 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 sovereign. I recollect only—the enjoyment of hope —the high superiority of rank, 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 particulars :
Johnson thought the poems published as translations from Ossian had so little merit, that he said,
Sir, a man might write such 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 presented to his view, and corrected.” I observed, he must have been a bold laugher who would have ventured to tell Dr. Johnson of any of his peculiarities '. I, some years ago, in a note on a passage in The Merchant of Venice, traced to its source. It occurs (with a slight variation) in the Alexandreis of Philip Gualtier (a poet of the thirteenth century), which was printed at Lyons in 1558. Darius is the person addressed :
Quo tendis inertem,
Incidis in Scyllam, cupiens vitare Charybdim.” The authour of this line was first acertained by Galleottus Martius, who died in 1476, as is observed in Menagiana, vol. iii. p. 130, edit. 1762. For an account of Philip Gualtier, see Vossius de Poet. Latin., p. 254, fol. 1697. A line, not less frequently quoted than any of the preceding, was suggested for inquiry, several years ago, in a note on The Rape of Lucrece:
Solamen miseris socios habuisse doloris.” But the authour of this verse has not, I believe, been discovered.—MALONE.
1 I am happy, however, to mention a pleasing instance of his enduring with great gentleness to hear one of his most striking particularities pointed out: Miss Hunter, a niece of his friend, Christopher Smart, when a very young girl, struck by his extraordinary motions, said to him, “ Pray, Dr. Johnson, why do you make such strange gestures ?”. “ From bad habit,” he replied. my dear, take care to guard against bad habits.” This I was told by the young lady's brother at Margate. BosWELL.
6. Do you,
Having observed the vain ostentatious importance of many people in quoting the authority of dukes and lords, as having been in their company, he said, he went to the other extreme, and did not mention his authority when he should have done it, had it not been that of a duke or a lord.
Dr. Goldsmith said once to Dr. Johnson that he wished for some additional members to the Literary Club, to give it an agreeable variety ; " for,” said he, “ there can now be nothing new among us: we have travelled over one another's minds. Johnson seemed a little angry, and said, “ Sir, you have not travelled over my mind, I promise you.” Sir Joshua, however, thought Goldsmith 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 furnish 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 much effect in every thing else as well as in painting.”
Johnson used to say that he made it a constant rule 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 descend to a 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