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though frequently laughable enough, was not more so than the history of many men would be, if recorded with equal fairness.
The following specimens were extracted by the Reviewers :“ Tenth month, 1753. “23. Indulgence in bed an hour too long. “ Twelfth month, 17. An hypochondriac obnubilation from wind and
indigestion. “Ninth month, 28. An over dose of whisky. “ 29. A dull, cross, choleric day. “ First month, 1757—22. A little swinish at dinner and repast. “ 31. Dogged on provocation. “Second month, 5. Very dogged or snappish. “14. Snappish on fasting. “26. Cursed snappishness to those under me, on a bodily indisposition. “Third month, 11. On a provocation, exercised a dull resentment for two
days instead of scolding. “22. Scolded too vehemently. “ 23. Dogged again. “ Fourth month, 29. Mechanically and sinfully dogged.”
Johnson laughed heartily at this good quietist's self-condemning minutes ; particularly at his mentioning, with such a serious regret, occasional instances of swinishness in eating, and doggedness of temper.” He thought the observations of the Critical Reviewers upon the importance of a man to himself so ingenious and so well expressed, that I shall here introduce them.
After observing, that “there are few writers who have gained any reputation by recording their own actions,” they say,
“We may reduce the egotists to four classes. In the first we have Julius Cæsar: he relates his own transactions ; but he relates them with peculiar grace and dignity, and his narrative is supported by the greatness of his character and achievements. In the second class we have Marcus Antoninus : this writer has given us a series of reflections on his own life ; but his sentiments are so noble, his morality so sublime, that his meditations are universally admired. In the third class we have some others of tolerable credit, who have given importance to their own private history by an intermixture of literary anecdotes, and the occurrences of their own times : the celebrated Huetius has published an entertaining volume upon this plan 'De rebus ad eum pertinentibus.' In the fourth class we have the journalists, temporal and spiritual : Elias Ashmole, William Lilly, George Whitefield, John Wesley, and a thousand other old women and fanatic writers of memoirs and meditations."
1 Elias Ashmole was the founder of the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford. In the early part of his life he ardently devoted himself to alchemy. He was born in 1617, and died in 1692.-ED.
2 The well-known astrologer, who was employed during the civil wars, both by Charles I. and the Parliamentary forces, in astrological predictions; and those contained in his almanacs are represented to have produced a great effect upon the soldiers and the populace. He was born in Leicestershire in 1602, and died at Horsham in 1681.-ED.
I mentioned to him that Dr. Hugh Blair, in his lectures on Rhetoric and Belles Lettres, which I heard him deliver at Edinburgh, had animadverted on the Johnsonian style as too pompous; and attempted to imitate it, by giving a sentence of Addison in “The Spectator,” No. 411, in the manner of Johnson. When treating of the utility of the pleasures of imagination in preserving us from vice, it is observed of those who know not how to be idle and innocent,” that “their very first step out of business is into vice or folly,” which Dr. Blair supposed would have been expressed in “The Rambler" thus : “Their very first step out of the regions of business is into the perturbation of vice, or the vacuity of folly."3 JOHNSON : “Sir, these are not the words I should have used. No, Sir ; the imitators of my style have not hit it. Miss Aikin has done it the best ; for she has imitated the sentiment as well as the diction.”
I intend, before this work is concluded, to exhibit specimens of imitation of my friend's style in various modes; some caricaturing or mimicking it, and some formed upon it, whether intentionally or with a degree of similarity to it, of which, perhaps, the writers were not conscious.
In Baretti's Review, which he published in Italy under the title of “Frusta LETTERARIA,” it is observed, that Dr. Robertson, the historian, had formed his style upon that of “Il célèbre Samuele Johnson.” My friend himself was of that opinion ; for he once said to me, in a pleasant humour, “Sir, if Robertson's style be faulty, he owes it to me; that is, having too many words, and those too big ones.'
I read to him a letter which Lord Monboddo had written to me, containing some critical remarks upon the style of his “Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland." His Lordship praised the very fine passage upon landing at Icolmkill ;4 but his own style being exceedingly ary and hard, he disapproved of the richness of Johnson's language, and of his frequent use of metaphorical expressions. JOHNSON: “Why, Sir, this criticism would be just, if, in my style, superfluous words, or words too big for the thoughts, could be pointed out; but this I do not believe can be done. For instance, in the passage which Lord Monboddo admires,' We were now treading that illustrious region,' the word illustrious contributes nothing to the mere narration ; for the fact might be told without it: but it is not therefore superfluous ; for it awakes the mind to peculiar attention, where something of more than usual importance is to be presented. “Illustrious !?—for what ? and then the sentence proceeds to expand the circumstances connected with Iona. And, Sir, as to metaphorical expression, that is a great excellence in style, when it is used with propriety, for it gives you two ideas for one ; conveys the meaning more luminously, and generally with a perception of delight."
Whitefield was the founder of the Calvinistic Methodists, and one of the most popular and zealous preachers of his time. He was born at Gloucester in 1714, and died at Newbury. port, in New England, in 1770.—ED.
? Wesley was a contemporary and the fellow-labourer of Whitefield, and the great founder of Methodism; but a disagreement arising on the subject of Calvinistic and Arminian doctrines, a separation soon took place; and hence two distinct sects arose. Wesley was born in 1703, and died in 1791.-Ed.
3 When Dr. Blair published his “Lectures,” he was invidiously attacked for having omitted his censure on Johnson's style, and, on the contrary, praising it highly. But before that time Johnson's “Lives of the Poets” had appeared, in which his style was considerably easier than when he wrote “The Rambler.” It would, therefore, have been uncandid in Blair, even supposing his criticism to have been just, to have preserved it.BOSWELL.
4 “We were now treading that illustrious island, which was once the luminary of the Caledonian regions, whence savage clans and roving barbarians derived the benefits of a friend to the constitution in Church and State.” We should not then have had it too much crowded with obscure dissenting teachers, doubtless men of merit and worth, but not quite to be numbered amongst “the most eminent persons who have flourished in Great Britain and Ireland."? knowledge, and the blessings of religion. To abstract the mind from all local emotion would be impossible if it were endeavoured, and would be foolish if it were possible. Whatever withdraws us from the power of our senses, whatever makes the past, the distant, or the future predominate over the present, advances us in the dignity of thinking beings. Far from me, and from my friends, be such frigid philosophy, as may conduct us, indifferent and unmoved, over any ground which has been dignified by wisdom, bravery, or virtue. The man is little to be envied, whose patriotism would not gain force upon the plain of Marathon or whose piety would not grow warmer among the ruins of Iona."
He told me that he had been asked to undertake the new edition of “ The Biographia Britannica,” but had declined it ; which he afterwards said to me he regretted. In this regret many will join, because it would have procured uis more of Johnson's most delightful species of writing ; and, although my friend Dr. Kippis' has hitherto discharged the task judiciously, distinctly, and with more impartiality than might have been expected from a Separatist, it were to have been wished that the superintendence of this literary Temple of Fame had been assigned to On Saturday, September 20, after breakfast, when Taylor was gone out to his farm, Dr. Johnson and I had a serious conversation by ourselves on melancholy and madness ; which he was, I always thought, erroneously inclined to confound together. Melancholy, like “great wit,” may be “near allied to madness ;" but there is, in my opinion, a distinct separation between them. When he talked of madness, he was to be understood as speaking of those who were in any great degree disturbed, or, as it is commonly expressed, " troubled in mind.” Some of the ancient philosophers held, that all deviations from right reason were madness ; and whoever wishes to see the opinions both of ancients and moderns upon this subject, collected and illustrated with a variety of curious facts, may read Dr. Arnold's very entertaining work.'
Had our tour produced nothing else but this sublime passage, the world must have acknowledged that it was not made in vain. Sir Joseph Banks, the present respectable President of the Royal Society, told me he was so much struck on reading it, that he clasped his bands together, and remained for some time in an attitude of silent admiration.-BOSWELL.
1 After having given to the public the first five volumes of a new edition of the “Biographia Britannica," between the years 1778 and 1793, Dr. Kippis died, October 8, 1795; and the work is not likely to be soon completed.-MALONE.
2 In this censure, which has been carelessly uttered, I carelessly joined. But in justice to Dr. Kippis, who, with that manly, candid good temper which marks his character, set me right, I now with pleasure retract it; and I desire it may be particularly observed, as pointed out by him to me, that “The new lives of dissenting divines, in the first four volumes of the second edition of The Biographia Britannica,' are those of John Abernethy, Thomas Amory, George Benson, Hugh Broughton (the learned Puritan), Simon Browne, Joseph Boyse (of Dublin), Thomas Cartwright (the learned Puritan), and Samuel Chandler. The only doubt I have ever heard suggested is, whether there should have been an article of Dr. Amory. But I was convinced, and am still convinced, that he was entitled to one, from the reality of his learning, and the excellent and candid nature of his practical writings.
Johnson said, “A madman loves to be with people whom he fears ; not as a dog fears the lash, but of whom he stands in awe.” I was struck with the justness of this observation. To be with those of whom a person, whose mind is wavering and dejected, stands in awe, represses and composes an uneasy tumult of spirits, and consoles him with the contemplation of something steady, and at least comparatively great.
He added, “Madmen are all sensual in the lower stages of the distemper. They are eager for gratifications to soothe their minds, and divert their attention from the misery which they suffer ; but when they
“The new lives of clergymen of the Church of England, in the same four volumes, are as follow :-John Balguy, Edward Bentham, George Berkeley (Bishop of Cloyne), William Berriman, Thomas Birch, William Borlase, Thomas Bott, James Bradley, Thomas Broughton, John Brown, John Burton, Joseph Butler (Bishop of Durham), Thomas Carte, Edmund Castell, Edmund Chishull, Charles Churchill, William Clarke, Robert Clayton (Bishop of Clogher), John Conybeare (Bishop of Bristol), George Costard, and Samuel Croxall.-I am not conscious," says Kippis, “ of any partiality in conducting the work. I would not willingly insert a dissenting minister that does not justly deserve to be noticed, or omit an established clergyman that does. At the same time I shall not be deterred from introducing dissenters into 'The Biographią,' when I am satisfied that they are entitled to that distinction, from their writings, learning, and merit."
Let me add, that the expression “A friend to the constitution in Church and State," was not meant by me as any reflection upon this reverend gentleman, as if he were an enemy to the political constitution of his country, as established at the Revolution, but, from my steady and avowed predilection for a Tory, was quoted from Johnson's Dictionary, where that distinction is so defined.-BOSWELL.
1 "Observations on Insanity,” by Thomas Arnold, M.D., London, 1782.–BOSWELL.
2 Carden composed his mind, tending to madness (or rather actually mad, for such he seems in his writings, learned as they are), by exciting voluntary pain. V. Card. Op. et Vit.-- KEARNEY.
This was Jerome Carden, an Italian physician of considerable note in his time, but of great eccentricity of character. With all his talents he appears to have been a consummate empiric, and strongly addicted to astrology. Having predicted the time of his death, he is said to have starved himself in order to verify the prediction. He wrote on a great variety of subjects, and in 1663 his works were printed at Lyons in 10 vols. fol. He was born in 1501, and died in 1576.
grow very ill, pleasure is too weak for them, and they seek for pain. Employment, Sir, and hardships prevent melancholy. I suppose in all our army in America there was not one man who went mad.”
We entered seriously upon a question of much importance to me, which Johnson was pleased to consider with friendly attention. I had long complained to him that I felt discontented in Scotland, as too narrow a sphere, and that I wished to make my chief residence in London, the great scene of ambition, instruction, and amusement : a scene, which was to me, comparatively speaking, a heaven upon earth. JOHNSON : “Why, Sir, I never knew any one who had such a gust for London as you have, and I cannot blame you for your wish to live there ; yet, Sir, were I in your father's place, I should not consent to your settling there ; for I have the old feudal notions, and I should be afraid that Auchinleck would be deserted, as you would soon find it more desirable to have a country-seat in a better climate. however, that to consider it as a duty to reside on a family estate is a prejudice; for we must consider that working-people get employment equally, and the produce of the land is sold equally, whether a great family resides at home or not; and if the rents of an estate be carried to London, they return again in the circulation of commerce; nay, Sir, we must perhaps allow, that carrying the rents to a distance is a good, because it contributes to that circulation. We must, however, allow that a well-regulated great family may improve a neighbourhood in civility and elegance, and give an example of good order, virtue, and piety; and so its residence at home may be of much advantage. But if a great family be disorderly and vicious, its residence at home is very pernicious to a neighbourhood. There is not now the same inducement to live in the country as formerly; the pleasures of social life are much better enjoyed in town; and there is no longer in the country that power and influence in proprietors of land which they had in old times, and which made the country so agreeable to them. The Laird of Auchinleck now is not near so great a man as the Laird of Auchinleck was a hundred years ago."
I told him, that one of my ancestors never went from home without being attended by thirty men on horseback. Johnson's shrewdness and spirit of inquiry were exerted upon every occasion. “Pray,” said he,
* We read in the Gospels, that those unfortunate persons who were possessed with evil spirits (which, after all, I think is the most probable cause of madness, as was first suggested to me by my respectable friend Sir John Pringle), had recourse to pain, tearing themselves, and jumping sometimes into the fire, sometimes into the water. Mr. Seward has furnished me with a remarkable anecdote in confirmation of Dr. Johnson's observation. A tradesman who had acquired a large fortune in London, retired from business, and went to live at Worcester. His mind, being without its usual occupation, and having nothing else to supply its place, preyed upon itself, so that existence was a torment to him. At last he was seized with the stone; and a friend who found him in one of its severest fits, having expressed his concera, “No, no, Sir,” said he, “ don't pity me; what I now feel is ease, compared with that torture of mind from which it relieves me."-BOSWELL.