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boy, by Mr. Saunders Welch, the late Westminster justice. Welch, who imagined that he was exalting himself in Dr. Johnson's eyes by using big words, spoke in a manner that was utterly unintelligible to the boy; Dr. Johnson perceiving it, addressed himself to the boy, and changed the pompous phraseology into colloquial language. Sir Joshua Reynolds, who was much amused by this proceeding, 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 themselves. 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 vulgar, 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
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 !.”
Johnson'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 com
The justness of this remark is confirmed by the following story, for which I am indebted to Lord Eliot:-A country parson, who was remarkable for quoting scraps of Latin in his sermons, having died, one of his parishioners was asked how he liked his successor : “ He is a very good preacher,” was his answer, “ but no Latiner.”—BOSWELL. [Mr. Chalmers makes this anecdote interesting by giving it " a local habitation and a name.'
This “very good preacher” was, he says, the celebrated Dr. Edward Pocock, who had a living at Childry, near Oxford. One of his Oxford friends, as he travelled through Childry, inquiring, for his diversion, of some people, who was their minister ? and how they liked him ? received from them this answer: one Mr. Pocock, a plain, honest man; but, master,” said they, “he is no Latiner.”—Pocock's Life, sect. iii.-Ed.]
- Our parson is
mon 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. In 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, exclaimed, “Ah, Dr. Johnson, 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 Englishman, what I will now say of him as 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 when Dr. Adam Smith was expatiating 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
never seen Brentford.” Piozzi [When his friend Mr. Strahan, a native of ScotAnec. p. 133. land, at his return from the Hebrides asked him,
with a firm tone of voice, what he thought of his country? “ That it is a very vile country to be sure, sir;" returned for answer Dr. Johnson. “Well, sir !" replies the other somewhat mortified, “ God made it.” “Certainly he did,” answers Dr. Johnson again;
* This prompt and sarcastic retort may not unaptly be compared with Sir Henry Wotton's celebrated answer to a priest in Italy, who asked him “ Where was your religion to be found before Luther?” “My religion was to be found then, where yours is not to be found now, in the written word of God.” But Johnson's admirable reply has a sharper edge ard perhaps more ingenuity than that of Wotton.-MALONE. [In Selden's Table Talk we have the following more witty reply made to this same question : “ Where was America an hundred or six score years ago ?"-J. H. MarkLAND.]
“ but we must always remember that he made it for Scotchmen, and comparisons are odious, Mr. Strahan; but God made hell.”]
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 Scotch in London, he imputed it in a considerable degree to their spirit of nationality. “ You know, sir,” said he," that no Scotchman publishes a book, or has a play brought upon the stage, but there are five hundred people ready to applaud him.'
He gave much praise to his friend Dr. Burney's elegant and entertaining Travels, and told Mr. Seward that he had them in his eye when writing his “ Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland."
Such was his sensibility, and so much was he affected by pathetick poetry, that, when he was reading Dr. Beattie's “Hermit,” in my presence, it brought tears into his eyes '.
He disapproved much of mingling real facts with fiction. On this account 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 Grubstreet. Sir,” said Johnson, smiling, been regularly educated.” Having asked who was his instructor, and Mr. Hoole having answered, "My uncle, sir, who was a tailor;" Johnson, recollecting himself, said, “Sir, I knew him: we called him the
1 The particular passage which excited this strong emotion was, as I have heard from my father, the third stanza, “ 'Tis night,” &c.-J.BOSWELL. (It is the fourth stanza.-J. H. MARKLAND.]
Hawk. p. 547.
metaphysical tailor. He was of a club in Old-street, with me and George Psalmanazar, and some others : but pray, sir, was he a good tailor?” Mr. Hoole having answered that he believed he was too mathematical, and used to draw squares and triangles on his shopboard, so that he did not excel in the cut of a coat,--"I am sorry for it,” said Johnson, “ for I would have every man to be master of his own business."
[This probably was the person to whom the following anecdote, told by Sir J. Hawkins, relates. Johnson would frequently adjourn with Psalmanazar from his lodgings to a neighbouring alehouse, and, in the common room, converse with him on subjects of importance. In one of these conversations, Johnson took occasion to remark on the human mind, that it had a necessary tendency to improvement, and that it would frequently anticipate instruction, and enable ingenious minds to acquire knowledge. “Sir," said a stranger that overheard him, “that I deny: I am a tailor, and have had many apprentices, but never one that could make a coat till I had taken great pains in teaching him.”]
In pleasant reference to himself and Mr. Hoole, as brother authours, he often said, “ Let you and I, sir, go together, and eat a beef-steak in Grub-street."
Sir William Chambers, that great architect, whose works show a sublimity of genius, and who is esteemed by all who know him, for his social, hospitable, and generous qualities, submitted the manuscript of his “ Chinese Architecture” to Dr. Johnson's perusal. Johnson was much pleased with it, and said, “ It wants no addition nor correction, but a few lines of introduction;" which he furnished, and Sir William adopted ?
1 [The Editor does not recollect any work of Sir W. Chambers which can be said to exhibit “sublimity of genius."--Ed.]
He said to Sir William Scott, “The age is running mad after innovation; and all the business of the world is to be done in a new way; men are to be hanged in a new way; Tyburn itself is not safe from the fury of innovation.” It having been argued that this was an improvement,—“No, sir,” said he, eagerly, “it is not an improvement; they object, that the old method drew together a number of spectators. Sir, executions are intended to draw spectators. If they do not draw spectators, they don't answer their purpose. The old method was most satisfactory to all parties; the publick was gratified by a procession; the criminal was supported by it. Why is all this to be swept away?” I perfectly agree with Dr. Johnson upon this head, and ain persuaded that executions now, the solemn procession being discontinued, have not nearly the effect which they formerly had.
Magistrates, both in London and elsewhere, have, I am afraid, in this had too much regard to their own ease.
Of Dr. Hurd, Bishop of Worcester, Johnson said
1 The Honourable Horace Walpole, now Earl of Orford, thus bears testi. mony to this gentleman's merit as a writer : “Mr. Chambers's Treatise on Civil Architecture is the most sensible book, and the most exempt from prejudices, that ever was written on that science.”—Preface to Anecdotes of Painting in England. The introductory lines are these : “It is difficult to avoid praising too little or too much. The boundless panegyricks which have been lavished upon the Chinese learning, policy, and arts, show with what power novelty attracts regard, and how naturally esteem swells into admiration.
“I am far from desiring to be numbered among the exaggerators of Chinese exceller.ce. I consider them as great, or wise, only in comparison with the nations that surround them; and have no intention to place them in competition either with the ancients or with the moderns of this part of the world; yet they must be allowed to claim our notice as a distinct and very singular race of men; as the inhabitants of a region divided by its situation from all civilized countries, who have formed their own manners, and invented their own arts, without the assistance of example."--BOSWELL.
[What could Dr. Johnson have meant by saying, that the criminal was supported by a public procession ? The reverse is obviously the truth. It must be recollected that Boswell had the mania of witnessing executions. -Ed.]