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ning of it, where there were some common-place
In ancient times a peer was as ignorant as any one else. He would have been angry to have it thought he could write his name. Men in .ancient times dared to stand forth with a degree of ignorance with which nobody would now dare to stand forth. I am always angry when I hear ancient times praised at the expense of modern times. There is now a great deal more learning in the world than there was formerly; for it is universally diffused. You have, perhaps, no man who knows as much Greek and Latin as Bentley; no man who knows as much mathematicks as Newton: but you have many more men who know Greek and Latin, and who know mathematicks."
Letters, vol. ij.
[" TO MRS. THRALE.
“ London, May-day, 1783. “ For some days after your departure I was pretty well; but I have begun to languish again, and last night was very tedious and oppressive. I excused myself to-day from dining with General Paoli, where I love to dine; but I was griped by the talons of necessity.
“On Saturday I dined, as is usual, at the opening of the Exhibition. Our company was splendid, whether more numerous than at any former time I know not. Our tables seem always full. On Monday, if I am told truth, were received at the door one hundred and ninety pounds, for the admission of three thousand eight hundred spectators. Supposing the show open ten hours, and the spectators staying one with another each an hour, the room never had fewer than three hundred and eighty justling against each other. Poor Lowe met some discouragement; but I interposed for him, and prevailed.
“ Mr. Barry's exhibition was opened the same day, and a book is published to recommend it; which, if you read it, you will find decorated with some satirical pictures of Sir Joshua
Reynolds and others. I have not escaped. You must, however, think with some esteem of Barry for the comprehension of his design."
“ TO MRS. THRALE.
Letters, vol. ii.
“ London, 8th May, 1783. “ I thought your letter long in coming. I suppose it is true that I looked but languid at the Exhibition, but have been worse since. Last Wednesday—the Wednesday of last week—I came home ill from Mr. Jodrel's, and after a tedious, oppressive, impatient night, sent an excuse to General Paoli, and took on Thursday two brisk catharticks and a dose of calomel. Little things do me no good. At night I was much better. Next day cathartick again, and the third day opium for my cough. I lived without flesh all the three days. The recovery was more than I expected. I went to church on Sunday quite at
“ The Exhibition prospers so much that Sir Joshua says it will maintain the academy. He estimates the probable amount at three thousand pounds. Steevens is of opinion that Croft's books will sell for near three times as much as they cost; which, however, is not more than might be expected.
“ Favour me with a direction to Musgrave' of Ireland ; I have a charitable office to propose to him. Is he knight or baronet?
My present circle of enjoyment is as narrow for me as the Circus (at Bath] for Mrs. Montague. When I first settled in this neighbourhood I had Richardson and Lawrence and Mrs. Allen at hand. I had Mrs. Williams, then no bad companion; and Levett for a long time always to be had. If I now go out, I must go far for company, and at last come back to two sick and discontented women, who can hardly talk if they had any thing to say, and whose hatred of each other makes one great exercise of their faculties."]
On Thursday, 1st May, I visited him in the evening along with young Mr. Burke. He said,
He said, “It is strange that there should be so little reading in the
1 [Sir Richard Musgrave, of Turin, in the county of Waterford, in Ireland, created a baronet in 1782. He published several political works, particularly a History of the Irish Rebellion in 1798 ; written with great asperity against the Roman Catholics, to whose tenets Sir Richard attributed that rebellion. He was for many years a member of the Irish parliament, and died in 1818.-Ed.]
world, and so much writing. People in general do not willingly read, if they can have any thing else to amuse them. There must be an external impulse; emulation, or vanity, or avarice. The progress which the understanding makes through a book has more pain than pleasure in it. Language is scanty and inadequate to express the nice gradations and mixtures of our feelings. No man reads a book of science from pure inclination. The books that we do read with pleasure are light compositions, which contain a quick succession of events. However, I have this year read all Virgil through. I read a book of the Æneid every night, so it was done in twelve nights, and I had a great delight in it. The Georgicks did not give me so much pleasure, except the fourth book. The Eclogues I have almost all by heart. I do not think the story of the Æneid interesting. I like the story of the Odyssey much better; and this not on account of the wonderful things which it contains; for there are wonderful things enough in the Æneid; -the ships of the Trojans turned to sea-nymphs, the tree at Polydorus's tomb dropping blood. The story of the Odyssey is interesting as a great part of it is domestick. It has been said there is pleasure in writing, particularly in writing verses. may have pleasure from writing after it is over, if you have written well!; but you don't go willingly to it again. I know, when I have been writing verses, I have run my finger down the margin, to see how many I had made, and how few I had to make.”
He seemed to be in a very placid humour; and although I have no note of the particulars of young Mr. Burke's conversation, it is but justice to mention in general, that it was such that Dr. Johnson said to
I allow you
· Dum pingit, fruitur arte; postquam pinxerat, fruitur fructu artis.-SE
mé afterwards, “He did very well indeed; I have a mind to tell his father 1.”
66 TO SIR JOSHUA REYNOLDS.
“ 2d May, 1783. “ DEAR SIR,—The gentleman who waits on you with this is Mr. Cruikshanks, who wishes to succeed his friend Dr. Hunter as professor of anatomy in the royal academy. His qualifications are very generally known, and it adds dignity to the institution that such men are candidates. I am, sir, your most humble servant,
“ SAM. JOHNSON.”
I have no minute of any interview with Johnson till Thursday, May 15th, when I find what follows: BOSWELL. “ I wish much to be in parliament, sir.” JOHNSON. “ Why, sir, unless you come resolved to support any administration, you would be the worse for being in parliament, because you would be obliged to live more expensively.” BOSWELL. “Perhaps, sir, I should be the less happy for being in parliament. I never would sell my vote, and I should be vexed if things went wrong." JOHNSON. “ That's cant, sir. It would not vex you more in the House than in the gallery : publick affairs vex no man.” BOSWELL. “Have not they vexed yourself a little, sir ? Have not you been vexed by all the turbulence of this reign, and by that absurd vote of the house of commons, “That the influence of the crown has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished ?"" JOHNSON. “ Sir, I have never slept an hour less, nor eat an ounce less meat. I would have knocked the factious dogs on the head, to be sure; but I was not
[The fond partiality of his father (for such it must be admitted to have been) for the talents of Mr. Richard Burke is now well known. Mr. Burke is reported, with a mixture of personal and paternal pride, to have remarked how extraordinary it was that Lord Chatham, Lord Holland, and he should each have had a son so superior to their fathers.Ed.]
? Let it be remen bered by those who accuse Dr. Johnson of illiberality, that both were Scotchmen.BoswELL.
vexed.” BOSWELL. “I declare, sir, upon my honour, I did imagine I was vexed, and took a pride in it; but it was, perhaps, cant; for I own I neither eat less nor slept less.” JOHNSON. “My dear friend, , clear your mind of cant. You may talk as other people do: you may say to a man, “Sir, I am your humble servant. You are not his most humble servant. You may say, “These are bad times; it is a melancholy thing to be reserved to such times. You don't mind the times. You tell a man, 'I am sorry you had such bad weather the last day of your journey, and were so much wet.' You don't care sixpence whether he is wet or dry. You may talk in this manner; it is a mode of talking in society : but don't think foolishly.”
I talked of living in the country. JOHNSON. “Don't set up for what is called hospitality: it is a waste of time, and a waste of money : you are eaten up, and not the more respected for your liberality. If your house be like an inn, nobody cares for you, A man who stays a week with another makes him a slave for a week." BOSWELL. - But there are people, sir, who make their houses a home to their guests, and are themselves quite easy.” Johnson.
Then, sir, home must be the same to the guests, and they need not come.”
Here he discovered a notion common enough in persons not much accustomed to entertain company, that there must be a degree of elaborate attention, otherwise company will think themselves neglected; and such attention is no doubt very fatiguing. He proceeded : “I would not, however, be a stranger in my own country; I would visit my neighbours, and receive their visits ; but I would not be in haste to return visits. If a gentleman comes to see me, I tell him he does me a great deal of honour. I do not go