Page images

while a boy turned round a wheel to give the mass rotundity. I thought this as excellent in its species of power, as making good verses in its species. Yet I had no respect for this potter. Neither, indeed, has a man of any extent of thinking for a mere verse-maker, in whose numbers, however perfect, there is no poetry, no mind. The china was beautiful; but Dr. Johnson justly observed it was too dear; for that he could have vessels of silver, of the same size, as cheap as what were here made of porcelain.

I felt a pleasure in walking about Derby, such as I always have in walking about any town to which I am not accustomed. There is an immediate sensation of novelty; and one speculates on the way in which life is passed in it, which, although there is a sameness everywhere upon the whole, is yet minutely diversified. The minute diversities in everything are wonderful. Talking of shaving the other night at Dr. Taylor's, Dr. Johnson said, “Sir, of a thousand shavers, two do not shave so much alike as not to be distinguished.” I thought this not possible, till he specified so many of the varieties in shaving ;-holding the razor more or less perpendicular ;-drawing long or short strokes ;-beginning at the upper part of the face, or the under-at the right side or the left side. Indeed, when one considers what variety of sounds can be uttered by the wind-pipe, in the compass of a very small aperture, we may be convinced how many degrees of difference there may be in the application of a razor.

We dined with Dr. Butter, whose lady is daughter of my cousin, Sir John Douglas, whose grandson is now presumptive heir of the noble family of Queensberry. Johnson and he had a good deal of medical conversation. Johnson said, he had somewhere or other given an account of Dr. Nichols's discourse “ De Animd Medica.” He told us, • that whatever a man's distemper was, Dr. Nichols would not attend nim as a physician, if his mind was not at ease ; for he believed that no medicines would have any influence. He once attended a man in trade, upon whom he found none of the medicines he prescribed had any effect; he asked the man's wife privately whether his affairs were not in a bad way? She said no. He continued his attendance some time, still without success. At length the man's wife told him, she had discovered that her husband's affairs were in a bad way. When Goldsmith was dying, Dr. Turton said to him, 'Your pulse is in greater disorder than it should be, from the degree of fever which you have : is your mind at ease ?' Goldsmith answered it was not.”

After dinner, Mrs. Butter went with me to see the silk-mill which Mr. John Lombe had had a patent for,” having brought away the contrivance from Italy. I am not very conversant with mechanics ; but the simplicity of this machine, and its multiplied operations, struck me with an agreeable surprise. I had learnt from Dr. Johnson, during this interview, not to think with a dejected indifference of the works of art and the pleasures of life, because life is uncertain and short; but to consider such indifference as a failure of reason, a morbidness of mind; for happiness should be cultivated as much as we can, and the objects which are instrumental to it should be steadily considered as of importance, with a reference not only to ourselves, but to multitudes in successive ages. Though it is proper to value small parts, as

1 Dr. Butter was at this time a practising physician at Derby. He afterwards removed to London, where he died in his 79th year, March 22, 1805. He is author of several medical tracts.-MALONE."

2 See Hutton's "History of Derby," a book which is deservedly esteemed for its information, accuracy, and good narrative. Indeed the age in which we live is eminently distinguished by topographical excellence.--BOSWELL.

“ Sands make the mountain, moments make the year;" yet we must contemplate, collectively, to have a just estimation of objects. One moment's being uneasy or not, seems of no consequence; yet this may be thought of the next, and the next, and so on, till there is a large portion of misery. In the same way one must think of happiness, of learning, of friendship. We cannot tell the precise moment when friendship is formed. As in filling a vessel drop by drop, there is at last a drop which makes it run over; so in a series of kindnesses there is at last one which makes the heart run over. We must not divide objects of our attention into minute parts, and think separately of each part. It is by contemplating a large mass of human existence, that a man, while he sets a just value on his own life, does not think of his death as annihilating all that is great and pleasing in the world, as if actually contained in his mind, according to Berkeley's reverie. If his imagination be not sickly and feeble, it "wings its distant way" far beyond himself, and views the world in unceasing activity of every sort. It must be acknowledged, however, that Pope's plaintive reflection, that all things would be as gay as ever, on the day of his death, is natural and common. We are apt to transfer to all around us our own gloom, without considering that at any given point of time there is, perhaps, as much youth and gaiety in the world as at another. Before I came into this life, in which I have had so many pleasant scenes, have not thousands and tens of thousands of deaths and

funerals happened, and have not families been in grief for their nearest relations ? But have those dismal circumstances at all affected me? Why then should the gloomy scenes which I experience or which I know, affect others ? Let us guard against imagining that there is an end of felicity upon earth, when we ourselves grow old, or are unhappy.

Dr. Johnson told us at tea, that when some of Dr. Dodd's pious friends were trying to console him by saying that he was going to leave " a wretched world,” he had honesty enough not to join in the cant :

“No, no,” said he, “it has been a very agreeable world to me." Johnson added, “I respect Dodd for thus speaking the truth ; for, to be sure, he had for several years enjoyed a life of great voluptuousness."

He told us that Dodd's city friends stood by him so, that a thousand pounds were ready to be given to the gaoler, if he would let him escape. He added, that he knew a friend of Dodd's who walked about Newgate for some time on the evening before the day of his execution, with five hundred pounds in his pocket, ready to be paid to any of the turnkeys who could get him out; but it was too late, for he was watched with much circumspection. He said, Dodd's friends had an image of him made of wax, which was to have been left in his place; and he believed it was carried into the prison.

Johnson disapproved of Dr. Dodd's leaving the world persuaded that “ The Convict's Address to his unhappy Brethren” was of his own writing. “But, Sir,” said I, "you contributed to the deception ; for when Mr. Seward expressed a doubt to you that it was not Dodd's own, because it had a great deal more force of mind in it than anything known to be his, you answered, “Why should you think so ? Depend upon it, Sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.' JOHNSON : Sir, as Dodd got it from me to pass as his own, while that could do him any good, that was an implied promise that I should not own it. To own it, therefore, would have been telling a lie, with the addition of breach of promise, which was worse than simply telling a lie to make it be believed it was Dodd's. Besides, Sir, I did not directly tell a lie: I left the matter uncertain. Perhaps I thought that Seward would not believe it the less to be mine for what I said ; but I would not put it in his power to say I had owned it."

He praised Blair's Sermons : “Yet,” said he, (willing to let us see he was aware that fashionable fame, however deserved, is not always the most lasting) "perhaps they may not be reprinted after seven years ; at least not after Blair's death."

He said, “Goldsmith was a plant that flowered late. There appeared i nothing remarkable about him when he was young ; though when he

got high in fame, one of his friends began to recollect something of his being distinguished at College. Goldsmith in the same manner recollected more of that friend's early years, as he grew a greater man."

I mentioned that Lord Monboddo told me, he awaked every morning at four, and then for his health got up and walked in his room naked, with the window open, which he called taking an air bath , after which he went to bed again, and slept two hours more. Johnson, who was always ready to beat down anything that seemed to be exhibited

" He was distinguished in college, as appears from a circumstance mentioned by Dr. Kearney See vol. i., chap. xiii.-MALONE.

with disproportionate importance, thus observed : I suppose, Sir, there is no more in it than this, he wakes at four, and cannot sleep till he chills himself, and makes the warmth of the bed a grateful sensation."

I talked of the difficulty of rising in the morning. Dr. Johnson told me, " that the learned Mrs. Carter,' at that period when she was eager in study, did not awake as early as she wished, and she therefore had a contrivance, that, at a certain hour, her chamber-light should burn a string to which a heavy weight was suspended, which then fell with a strong sudden noise : this roused her from her sleep, and then she had i no difficulty in getting up.” But I said that was my difficulty ; and wished there could be some medicine invented which would make one rise without pain, which I never did, unless after lying in bed a very long time. Perhaps there may be something in the stores of nature which could do this. I have thought of a pulley to raise me gradually ; but that would give me pain, as it would counteract my internal inclination. I would have something that can dissipate the vis inertice, and give elasticity to the muscles. As I imagine that the human body may be put, by the operation of other substances, into any state in which it has ever been ; and as I have experienced a state in which rising from bed was not disagreeable, but easy, nay, sometimes agreeable ; I suppose that this state may be produced, if we knew by what. We can heat the body, we can cool it; we can give it tension or relaxation ; and surely it is possible to bring it into a state in which rising from bed will not be a pain.

Johnson observed, that“ a man should take a sufficient quantity or sleep, which Dr. Mead says is between seven and nine hours.” I told him, that Dr. Cullen said to me, that a man should not take more sleep than he can take at once. JOHNSON : This rule, Sir, cannot hold in all cases; for many people have their sleep broken by sickness; and surely Cullen would not have a man to get up, after having slept but an hour. Such a regimen would soon end in a long sleep."2 Dr. Taylor

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

1 This was the learned and accomplished Elizabeth Carter, whose name is frequently mentioned in these Memoirs. She was born at Deal in 1717, and was the daughter of the Rev. Dr. Nicholas Carter, through whose instructions she became acquainted with the Latin and Greek languages. She was also well skilled in French, Spanish, German, Italian, Portuguese, Arabic, and Hebrew. She was known as the translator of Crousay's “Critique on Pope's Essay on Man," Algarotti's “Explanation of Newton's Philosophy," and of “Epictetus." After her decease, six volumes of her Correspondence were published, which display great intellectual powers. Mr. Cave was the means of first introducing her to many authors and scholars of note, and among those was Dr. Jonson, with whom she continued on terms of intimacy as long as he lived. She died in Clarges-street, in 1806.-ED.

2 This regimen was, however, practised by Bishop Ken, of whom Hawkins (not Sir Jolm) in his life of that venerable prelate, p. 4, tells us, “ And that neither his study might be the aggressor on his hours of instruction, or what he judged his duty, prevent his improvements; or both, his closet addresses to his God; he strictly accustomed himself to but one sleep, which often obliged him to rise at one or two of the clock in the morning, and sometimes sooner; and grew so habitual, that it continued with him almost till his last illness. And so VOL. III.



remarked, I think very justly, that"a man who does not feel an inclination to sleep at the ordinary times, instead of being stronger than other people, must not be well ; for a man in health has all the natural inclinations to eat, drink, and sleep in a strong degree.”

Johnson advised me to-night not to refine in the education of my children. “Life,” said he will not bear refinement; you must do as other people do.”

As we drove back to Ashbourne, Dr. Johnson recommended to me, as he had often done, to drink water only: "For," said he, "you are then sure not to get drunk ; whereas, if you drink wine, you are never sure.

.” I said, drinking wine was a pleasure which I was unwilling to give

“Why, Sir," said he, “there is no doubt that not to drink wine is a great deduction from life: but it may be necessary.” He, however, owned that, in his opinion, a free use of wine did not shorten life ; and said, he would not give less for the life of a certain Scotch Lord (whom he named) celebrated for hard drinking, than for that of a sober man. “But stay,” said he, with his usual intelligence and accuracy of inquiry, “ does it take much wine to make him drunk ?" I answered,“ a great deal either of wine or strong punch.” “

“Then," said he, “that is the worse.” I presume to illustrate my friend's observation thus :-“A fortress which soon surrenders has its walls less shattered, than when a long and obstinate resistance is made."

I ventured to mention a person who was as violent a Scotsman as he was an Englishman ; and literally had the same contempt for an Englishman compared with a Scotsman, that he had for a Scotsman compared with an Englishman ; and that he would say of Dr. Johnson, “Damned rascal ! to talk as he does of the Scotch.” This seemed, for a moment, “to give him pause.” It perhaps presented his extreme prejudice against the Scotch in a point of view somewhat new to him, by the effect of contrast.

By the time when we returned to Ashbourne, Dr. Taylor was gone to bed. Johnson and I sat up a long time by ourselves.

He was much diverted with an article which I showed him in “ The Critical Review” of this year, giving an account of a curious publication, entitled, "A Spiritual Diary and Soliloquies, by John Rutty, M.D.” Dr. Rutty was one of the people called Quakers, a physician of some eminence in Dublin, and author of several works. This Diary, which was kept from 1753 to 1775, the year in which he died, and was now published in two volumes octavo, exhibited, in the simplicity of his heart, a minute and honest register of the state of his mind; which,

llvely and cheerful was his temper, that he would be very facetious and entertaining to his friends in the evening, even when it was perceived that with difficulty he kept his eyes open; and then seemed to go to rest with no other purpose than the refreshing and enabling him with more vigour and cheerfulness to sing his morning hymn, as he then used to do to his lute before he put on his clothes."--BOSWELL,

« PreviousContinue »