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it, then you must keep fires in it, and you must have a gardener to take care of it.” BOSWELL. “But if I have a gardener at any rate?” JOHNSON. “Why, yes.” BoSWELL. “I'd have it near my house; there is no need to have it in the orchard." JohnsoŅ. “ Yes, I'd have it near my house. I would plant a great many currants; the fruit is good, and they make a pretty sweetmeat.'
I record this minute detail, which some may think trifling, in order to show clearly how this great man, whose mind could grasp such large and extensive subjects, as he has shown in his literary labours, was yet well-informed in the common affairs of life, and loved to illustrate them.
Mr. Walker, the celebrated master of elocution", came in, and then we went up stairs into the study. I asked him if he had taught many clergymen. Johnson. "I hope not.” WALKER.“I have taught only one, and he is the best reader I ever heard, not by my teaching, but by his own natural talents." JOHNSON. “Were he the best reader in the world, I would not have it told that he was taught.” Here was one of his peculiar prejudices. Could it be any disadvantage to the clergyman to have it known that he was taught an easy and graceful delivery ? BosWELL. “Will you not allow, sir, that a man may be taught to read well ?” JOHNSON. “Why, sir, so far as to read better than he might do without being taught, yes. Formerly it was supposed that there was no difference in reading, but that one read as well as another.' BOSWELL. “It is wonderful to see old Sheridan as enthusiastick about oratory as ever.”
WALKER. “His enthusiasm as to what ora
[He published several works on elocution and pronunciation, and died Au-! gust 1, 1807, in the seventy-sixth year of his age.-Ed.]
tory will do, may be too great : but he reads well.” JOHNSON. “He reads well, but he reads low; and you know it is much easier to read low than to read high ; for when you read high, you are much more limited, your loudest note can be but one, and so the variety is less in proportion to the loudness. Now some people have occasion to speak to an extensive audience, and must speak loud to be heard.” WALKER. “ The art is to read strong, though low.”
Talking of the origin of language :-Johnson. “ It must have come by inspiration. A thousand, nay a million of children could not invent a language. While the organs are pliable, there is not understanding enough to form a language; by the time that there is understanding enough, the organs are become stiff. We know that after a certain age we cannot learn to pronounce a new language. No foreigner, who comes to England when advanced in life, ever pronounces English tolerably well; at least such instances are very rare.
When I maintain that language must have come by inspiration, I do not mean that inspiration is required for rhetorick, and all the beauties of language; for when once man has language, we can conceive that he may gradually form modifications of it. I mean only that inspiration seems to me to be necessary to give man the faculty of speech ; to inform him that he may have speech; which I think he could no more find out without inspiration, than cows or hogs would think of such a faculty.” WALKER. “Do you think, sir, that there are any perfect synonymes in any language ?” JOHNSON. “Originally there were not : but by using words negligently, or in poetry, one word comes to be confounded with another."
He talked of Dr. Dodd. “A friend of mine," said
he, " came to me and told me, that a lady' wished to have Dr. Dodd's picture in a bracelet, and asked me for a motto. I said, I could think of no better than Currat Lex. I was very willing to have him pardoned, that is, to have the sentence changed to transportation : but, when he was once hanged, I did not wish he should be made a saint.'
Mrs. Burney, wife of his friend, Dr. Burney, came in, and he seemed to be entertained with her conversation.
Garrick's funeral was talked of as extravagantly expensive. Johnson, from his dislike to exaggeration, would not allow that it was distinguished by an extraordinary pomp.
“ Were there not six horses to each coach ?” said Mrs. Burney. Johnson. “Madam, there were no more six horses than six phenixes."
Mrs. Burney wondered that some very beautiful new buildings should be erected in Moorfields, in so shocking a situation as between Bedlam and St. Luke's Hospital; and said she could not live there. JOHNSON. “Nay, madam, you see nothing there to hurt you. You no more think of madness by having windows that look to Bedlam, than you think of death by having windows that look to a churchyard." Mrs. BURNEY. “We may look to a churchyard, sir; for it is right that we should be kept in mind of death.” JOHNSON. “Nay, madam, if you go to that, it is right that we should be kept in mind of madness, which is occasioned by too much indulgence of imagination. I think a very moral use may be made of these new buildings : I would have those who have heated imaginations live there, and take warning.” Mrs. BURNEY. “But, sir, many of the
1 [The Editor has been told that the lady was Dr. Dodd's relict ; but if this was so, Dr. Johnson could not have been aware of it, as he could hardly have disapproved of her wearing his picture, and would surely not have insulted her by such an answer. -ED.)
poor people that are mad have become so from disease, or from distressing events. It is, therefore, not their fault, but their misfortune; and, therefore, to think of them is a melancholy consideration.”
Time passed on in conversation till it was too late for the service of the church at three o'clock. I took a walk, and left him alone for some time; then returned, and we had coffee and conversation again by ourselves.
I stated the character of a noble friend of mine as a curious case for his opinion :-"He is the most inexplicable man to me that I ever knew. Can you explain him, sir ? He is, I really believe, nobleminded, generous, and princely. But his most intimate friends may be separated from him for years, without his ever asking a question concerning them. He will meet them with a formality, a coldness, a stately indifference; but when they come close to him, and fairly engage him in conversation, they find him as easy, pleasant, and kind as they could wish. One then supposes that what is so agreeable will soon be renewed; but stay away from him for half a year, and he will neither call on you, nor send to inquire about you.” JOHNSON.
JOHNSON. “Why, sir, I cannot ascertain his character exactly, as I do not know him; but I should not like to have such a man for my friend. He may love study, and wish not to be interrupted by his friends ; Amici fures temporis. He may be a frivolous man, and be so much occupied with petty pursuits that he may not want friends. Or he may have a notion that there is dignity in appearing indifferent, while he in fact may not be more indifferent at his heart than another."
We went to evening prayers at St. Clement's, at seven, and then parted.
[Probably Lord Mount Stuart, afterwards first Marquis of Bute.-E..]
[The reader will recollect, that in the year 1775, Malone. when Dr. Johnson visited France, he was kindly entertained by the English Benedictine monks at Paris'. One of that body, the Rev. James Compton, in the course of some conversation with him at that time, asked him, if any of them should become converts to the protestant faith, and should visit England, whether they might hope for a friendly reception from him: to which he warmly replied, " that he should receive such a convert most cordially." In consequence of this conversation, Mr. Compton, a few years afterwards, having some doubts concerning the religion in which he had been bred, was induced, by reading the 110th Number of “The Rambler,” (on REPENTANCE,) to consider the subject more deeply; and the result of his inquiries was, a determination to become a protestant. With this view, in the summer of 1782, he returned to his native country, from whence he had been absent from his sixth to his thirty-fifth year; and on his arrival in London, very scantily provided with the means of subsistence, he immediately repaired to Bolt-court, to visit Dr. Johnson; and having informed him of his desire to be admitted into the church of England, for this purpose solicited his aid to procure for him an introduction to the bishop of London, Dr. Lowth. At the time of his first visit, Johnson was so much indisposed, that he could allow him only a short conversation of a few minutes; but he desired him to call again in the course of the following week. When Mr. Compton visited him a second time, he was per
1 See vol. iii. p. 364.-MALONE.
» [Mr. Markland observes, that in the very paper of the Rambler, to which Mr. Compton's conversion is attributed, is to be found a passage, by no means in principle hostile to the fasts and other penitential observances practised by the Romish church. It is, indeed, to be hoped and believed that Mr. Compton's conversion rested upon deeper grounds than the observations in the Ram. bler. -Ed.]