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He told us, that he had given Mrs. Montagu a catalogue of all Daniel De Foe's works of imagination; most, if not all, of which, as well as of his other works, he now enumerated, allowing a considerable share of merit to a man, who, bred a tradesman, had written so variously and so well. Indeed his “Robinson Crusoe” is enough of itself to establish his reputation.
He expressed great indignation at the imposture of the Cock-lane ghost, and related with much satisfaction, how he had assisted in detecting the cheat, and had published an account of it in the newspapers. Upon this subject, I incautiously offended him, by pressing him with too many questions, and he showed his displeasure. I apologised, saying that “I asked questions in ordered to be instructed and entertained; I repaired eagerly to the fountain ; but that the moment he gave me a hint, the moment he put a lock upon the well, I desisted.” “But, Sir," said he, “ that is forcing one to do a disagreeable thing :” and he continued to rate me. “Nay, Sir," said I, “when you have put a lock upon the well, so that I can no longer drink, do not make the fountain of your wit play upon me and wet me.”
He sometimes could not bear being teased with questions. I was once present when a gentleman asked so many, as, “What did you do, Sir?”—“What did you say, Sir ?" that he at last grew enraged, and said, “I will not be put to the question. Don't you consider, Sir, that these are not the manners of a gentleman ? I will not be baited with what and why; what is this ? what is that? why is a cow's tail long? why is a fox's tail bushy?” The gentleman, who was a good deal out of countenance, said, “Why, Sir, you are so good, that I venture to trouble you.” JOHNSON: “Sir, my being so good is no reason why you should be so ill."
Talking of the Justitia hulk at Woolwich, in which criminals were punished, by being confined to labour, he said, “I do not see that they are punished by this: they must have worked equally, had they never been guilty of stealing. They now only work; so, after all, they have gained; what they stole is clear gain to them; the confinement is nothing. Every man who works is confined: the smith to his shop, the tailor to his garret.” BOSWELL: “And Lord Mansfield to his Court.” J OHNSON: “Yes, Sir. You know the notion of confinement may be ei ended, as in the song, 'Every island is a prison.' There is, in Dodsley's collection, a copy of verses to the author of that song.”
Smith's Latin verses on Pococke, the great traveller,' were mentioned. He repeated some of them, and said, they were Smith's best
exuberant praise would Bentley or Taylor have spoken of it. Sir William Scott, to whom I communicated Dr. Kearney's remark, is perfectly satisfied that it is correct. For the other observations, we are indebted to the same gentleman. Every classical reader will lament that they are not more numerous.-MALONE.
1 Smith's verses are on Edward Pococke, the great Oriental linguist. He travelled, it is true; but Dr. Richard Pococke, late Bishop of Ossory, who published Travels through the Cast is usually called the great traveller.–KEARNEY,
He talked with an uncommon animation of travelling into distant countries; that the mind was enlarged by it, and that an acquisition of dignity of character was derived from it. He expressed a particular enthusiasm with respect to visiting the wall of China. I caught it for the moment, and said I really believed I should go and see the wall of China, had I not children, of whom it was my duty to take care.
Sir,” said he, “ by doing so, you would do what would be of importance in raising your children to eminence. There would be a lustre reflected
upon them from your spirit and curiosity. They would be at all times regarded as the children of a man who had gone to view the wall of China-I am serious, Sir.”
When we had left Mr. Scott's, he said, “Will you go home with me?”
“Sir,” said I, “it is late ; but I'll go with you for three minutes.” JOHNSON: “Or four.” We went to Mrs. Williams's room, where we found Mr. Allen, the printer, who was the landlord of his house in Boltcourt, a worthy, obliging man, and his very old acquaintance; and what was exceedingly amusing, though he was of a very diminutive size, he used, even in Johnson's presence, to imitate the stately periods and slow and solemn utterance of the great man. In this evening, boasted, that although I did not write what is called stenography, or short-hand, in appropriated characters devised for the purpose, I had a method of my own of writing half words, and leaving out some altogether, so as yet to keep the substance and language of any discourse which I had heard so much in view, that I could give it very completely soon after I had taken it down. He defied me, as he had once defied an actual shorthand writer; and he made the experiment by reading slowly and distinctly a part of Robertson's “History of America," while I endeavoured to write it in my way of taking notes. It was found that I had it very imperfectly; the conclusion from which was, that its excellence was principally owing to a studied arrangement of words, which could not be varied or abridged without an essential injury.
On Sunday, April 12, I found him at home before dinner ; Dr. Dodd's poem, entitled “Thoughts in Prison,” was lying upon his table. This appearing to me an extraordinary effort by a man who was in Newgate for a capital crime, I was desirous to hear Johnson's opinion of it to my surprise he told me he had not read a line of it. I took up the book, and read a passage to him. JOHNSON : “Pretty well, if you are previously disposed to like them.” I read another passage, with which he was better pleased. He then took the book into his own hands, and having looked at the prayer at the end of it, he said, “What evidence is there that this was composed the night before he suffered ? I do not believe it.” He then read aloud where he prays for the king, &c., and observed, “Sir, do you think that a man, the night before he is to be hanged, cares for the succession of a royal family ?—Though he may have composed this prayer then. A man, who has been canting all his life, may cant to the last.-And yet a man, who has been refused a pardon, after so much petitioning, would hardly be praying thus fervently for the king.”
He and I, and Mrs. Williams, went to dine with the Reverend Dr. Percy. Talking of Goldsmith, Johnson said, he was very envious. I defended him, by observing, that he owned it frankly upon all occasions. JOHNSON: “Sir, you are enforcing the charge. He had so much envy, that he could not conceal it. He was so full of it, that he overflowed. He talked of it, to be sure, often enough. Now, Sir, what a man avows he is not ashamed to think; though many a man thinks what he is ashamed to avow. We are all envious naturally; but by checking envy we get the better of it. So we are all thieves naturally; a child always tries to get at what it wants the nearest way. By good instruction and good habits this is cured, till a man has not even an inclination to seize what is another's; has no struggle with himself about it.”
And here I shall record a scene of too much heat between Dr. Johnson and Dr. Percy, which I should have suppressed, were it not that it gave occasion to display the truly tender and benevolent heart of Johnson, who, as soon as he found a friend was at all hurt by anything which he had “said in his wrath,” was not only prompt and desirous to be reconciled, but exerted himself to make ample reparation.
Books of Travels having been mentioned, Johnson praised Pennant? very highly, as he did at Dunvegan, in the Isle of Sky. Dr. Percy knowing himself to be the heir male of the ancient Percys: and having the warmest and most dutiful attachment to the noble House of Northumberland, could not sit quietly and hear a man praised, who had spoken disrespectfully of Alnwick-castle, and the Duke's pleasuregrounds, especially as he thought meanly of his travels. He therefore
1 Thomas Pennant, the celebrated naturalist, and tourist. The principal works which emanated from his pen were his “British Zoology," a “ Tour in Scotland," his “ Account of London," and “Literary Memoirs ;” all works of considerable repute. He was born in Downing, co. Flint., and died in 1718.
2 " Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides," edit. 3, p. 221.-BOSWELL.
3 See this accurately stated, and the descent of his family from the Earls of Northumberland clearly deduced, in the Reverend Dr. Nash's excellent “ History of Worcestershire, vol. ii. p. 318. The Doctor has subjoined å note, in which he says, “The Editor hath seen and carefully examined the proofs of all the particulars above-mentioned, now in the possession of the Reverend Thomas Percy."
The same proofs I have also myself carefully examined, and have seen some additional proofs which have occurred since the Doctor's book was published; and both as a Lawyer accustomed to the consideration of evidence, and as a Genealogist versed in the study of pedigrees, I am fully satisfied. I cannot help observing, as a circumstance of no small moment, that in tracing the Bishop of Dromore's genealogy, essential aid was given by the late Elizabeth Duchess of Northumberland, heiress of that illustrious house; a lady not only of high dignity of spirit, such as became her noble blood, but of excellent understanding and lively talents. With a fair pride I can boast of the honour of her Grace's correspondence, specimens of which adorn my archives.-BOSWELL.
opposed Johnson eagerly. JOHNSON : “Pennant, in what he has said of Alnwick, has done what he intended; he has made you very angry.” PERCY: “He has said, the garden is trim, which is representing it, like a citizen's parterre, when the truth is, there is a very large extent of fine turf and gravel walks.” JOHNSON :-“ According to your own account, Sir, Pennant is right. It is trim. Here is grass cut close, and gravel rolled smooth. Is not that trim? The extent is nothing against that; mile
may be as trim as a square yard. Your extent puts me in mind of the citizen's enlarged dinner, two pieces of roast beef and two puddings. There is no variety, no mind exerted in laying out the ground, no trees.”
PERCY : “He pretends to give the natural history of Northumberland, and yet takes no notice of the immense number of trees planted there of late.” JOHNSON : “That, Sir, has nothing to do with the natural history; that is, civil history. A man who gives the natural history of the oak, is not to tell how many oaks have been planted in this place or that. A man who gives the natural history of the cow, is not to tell how many cows are milked at Islington. The animal is the same, whether milked in the Park or at Islington.” PERCY: “Pennant does not describe well; a carrier who goes along the side of Lochlomond would describe it better.” JOHNSON: “I think he describes very well.” PERCY: “I travelled after him." JOHNSON : “And I travelled after him.” PERCY: “But, my good friend, you are short-sighted, and do not see so well as I do." I wondered at Dr. Percy's venturing thus. Dr. Johnson said nothing at the time; but inflammable particles were collecting for a cloud to burst. In a little while Dr. Percy said something more in disparagement of Pennant. JCHNSON (pointedly): “This is the resentment of a narrow mind, because he did not find everything in Northumberland.” PERCY (feeling the stroke): “Sir, you may be as rude as you please.” JOHNSON: “Hold, Sir! Don't talk of rudeness; remember, Sir, you told me (puffing hard with passion struggling for a vent) I was short-sighted. We have done with civility. We are to be as rude as we please.” PERCY: "Upon my honour, Sir, I did not mean to be uncivil.” JOHNSON: “I cannot say so, Sir; for I did mean to be uncivil, thinking you had been uncivil.” Dr. Percy rose, ran up to him, and taking him by the hand, assured him affectionately that his meaning had been misunderstood ; upon which a reconciliation instantly took place. JOHNSON : “My dear Sir, I am willing you shall hang Pennant." PERCY (resuming the former subject): “Pennant complains that the helmet is not hung out to invite to the hall of hospitality. Now, I never heard that it was a
1 It certainly was a custom, as appears from the following passage in Perce-forest, vol. iii. p. 108 :-"Fasoient mettre au plus bault de leur hostel un heaulme, en signe que tous les gentils hommes et gentilles femmes entrassent hardiment en leur hostel comme en leur propre," &c. -KEARNEY. ! The author's second son, Mr. James Boswell late of Brazen-Rose College, in Oxford and now of the Inner Temple, had noticed this passage in Perce-forest, and suggested to me the same remark.-MALONE.
custom to hang out a helmet.” JOHNSON : “ Hang him up, hang him up.” BOSWELL (humouring the joke) : “Hang out his skull instead of a helmet, and you may drink ale out of it in your hall of Odin, as he is your enemy; that will be truly ancient. There will be 'Northern Antiquities.'' JOHNSON : “He's a Whig, Sir ; a sad dog, (smiling at his own violent expressions, merely for political difference of opinion). But he's the best traveller I ever read; he observes more things than any one else does.”'
I could not help thinking that this was too high praios of a writer who traversed a wide extent of country in such haste, that he could put together only curt frittered fragments of his own, and afterwards procured supplemental intelligence from parochial ministers, and others not the best qualified or most impartial narrators, whose ungenerous prejudice against the house of Stuart glares in misrepresentation : a writer, who at best treats merely of superficial objects, and shows no philosophical investigation of character and manners, such as Johnson has exhibited in his masterly “Journey” over part of the same ground; and who, it should seem from a desire of ingratiating himself with the Scotch, has flattered the people of North Britain so inordinately and with so little discrimination, that the judicious and candid amongst them must be disgusted, while they value more the plain, just, yet kindly report of Johnson.
Having impartially censured Mr. Pennant as a traveller in Scotland, let me allow him, from authorities much better than mine, his deserved praise as an able zoologist : and let me also, from my own understanding and feelings, acknowledge the merits of his “London," which, though said to be not quite accurate in some particulars, is one of the most pleasing topographical performances that ever appeared in any language. Mr. Pennant, like his countrymen in general, has the true spirit o! a gentleman. As a proof of it, I shall quote from his “ London ” the passage in which he speaks of my illustrious friend :—“I must by no means omit Bolt-court, the long residence of Dr. Samuel Johnson, man of the strongest natural abilities, great learning, a most retentive memory, of the deepest and most unaffected piety and morality, mingled with those numerous weaknesses and prejudices which his friends have kindly taken care to draw from their dread abode. I brought on myself his transient anger, by observing that 'in his tour in Scotland he once had long and woeful experience of oats being the food of men in Scotland, as they were of horses in England. It was a national
1 The title of a book translated by Dr. Percy.-BOSWELL.
% This is the common cant against faithful Biography. Does the worthy gentleman mean that I, who was taught discrimination of character by Johnson, should have omitted his frailties, and, in short have bedaubed him as the worthy gentleman has bedaubed. Scotland ?-BOSWELL.