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one-half cowards, the brave would be always beating the cowards. Were all brave, they would lead a very uneasy life; all would be continually fighting ; but being all cowards, we go on very well.”
We talked of drinking wine. JOHNSON: “I require wine only when I am alone. I have then often wished for it, and often taken it.” SPOTTISWOODE: What, by way of a companion, Sir ?” JOHNSON : “To get rid of myself—to send myself away. Wine gives great pleasure, and every pleasure is of itself a good. It is a good, unless counterbalanced by evil. A man may have a strong reason not to drink wine: and that may be greater than the pleasure. Wine makes a man better pleased with himself. I do not say that it makes him more pleasing to others. Sometimes it does. But the danger is, that while a man grows better pleased with himself, he may be growing less pleasing to others.' Wine gives a man nothing. It neither gives him knowledge nor wit; it only animates a man, and enables him to bring out what a dread of the company has repressed. It only puts in motion what has been locked up in frost. But this may be good or it may be bad.” SPOTTISWOODE: “So, Sir, wine is a key which opens a box; but this box may be either full or empty?" JOHNSON : “Nay, Sir, conversation is the key; wine is a pick-lock, which forces open the box, and injures it. A man should cultivate his mind so as to have that confidence and readiness, without wine, which wine gives.” BOSWELL: “The great difficulty of resisting wine is from benevolence. For instance, a good worthy man asks you to taste his wine, which he has had twenty years in his cellar.” JOHNSON: "Sir, all this notion about benevolence arises from a man's imagining himself to be of more importance to others than he really is. They don't care a farthing whether he drinks wine or not.” Sir JOSHUA REYNOLDS : “Yes, they do for the time.” JOHNSON : “ For the time!if they care this minute, they forget it the next. And as for the good worthy man-how do you know he is good and worthy? No good and worthy man will insist upon another man's drinking wine. As to the wine twenty years in the cellar-of ten men, three say this, merely because they must say something ; three are telling a lie, when they say they have had the wine twenty years ; three would rather save the wine; one, perhaps, cares. I allow it is something to please one's company; and people are always pleased with those who partake pleasure with them. But after a man has brought himself to relinquish the great personal pleasure which arises from drinking wine, any other consideration is a trifle. To please others by drinking wine, is something only, if there be nothing against it. I should, however, be sorry to offend worthy men:
1 It is observed in Waller's Life, in “The Biographia Britannica," that he drank only water; and that while he sat in a company who were drinking wine “he had the dexterity to accommodate his discourse to the pitch of theirs as it sunk.” If excess in drinking be meant, the remark is acutely just. But surely a moderate use of wine gives a gaiety of spirits which water drinkers know not.-BOSWELL.
Curst be the verse, how well soe'er it flow,
BOSWELL: Curst be the spring, the water.” JOHNSON: “But let us consider what a sad thing it would be, if we were obliged to drink or do anything else that may happen to be agreeable to the company where
LANGTON : “By the same rule you must join with a gang of cut-purses.” JOHNSON : “ Yes, Sir; but yet we must do justice to wine ; we must allow it the power it possesses. To make a man plea sed with himself, let me tell you, is doing a very great thing :
"Si patriæ volumus, si Nobis vivere cari.'”
I was at this time myself a water-drinker, upon trial, by Johnson's recommendation. JOHNSON. “Boswell is a bolder combatant than Sir Joshua: he argues for wine without the help of wine ; but Sir Joshua with it.” Sir Joshua REYNOLDS : “But to please one's company is a strong motive.” JOHNSON (who from drinking only water supposed every body who drank wine to be elevated): “I won't argue any more with you, Sir. You are too far gone.” SIR JOSHUA: “I should have thought so indeed, Sir, had I made such a speech as you have now done." JOHNSON (drawing himself in, and I really thought blushing): “Nay, don't be angry. I did not mean to offend you.” SIR JOSHUA: “At first the taste of wine was disagreeable to me; but I brought myself to drink it, that I might be like other people. The pleasure of drinking wine is so connected with pleasing your company, that altogether there is something of social goodness in it.” JOHNSON : “ Sir, this is only saying the same thing over again.” SIR JOSHUA : “No, this is new." JOHNSON: “You put it in new words, but it is an old thought. This is one of the disadvantages of wine, it makes a man mistake words for thoughts.” BOSWELL: “I think it is a new thought; at least it is in a new attitude.” JOHNSON : “Nay, Sir, it is only in a new coat; or an old coat with a new facing. (Then laughing heartily)—
It is the old dog in a new doublet. An extraordinary instance, however, may occur where a man's patron will do nothing for him, unless he will drink : there
may be a good reason for drinking.'
I mentioned a nobleman, who I believed was really uneasy, if his company would not drink hard. JOHNSON: “ That is from having had people about him whom he has been accustomed to command." BOSWELL: Supposing I should be tête-à-tête with him at table." JOHNSON: “Sir, there is no more reason for your drinking with hiin, than his being sober with you.” BOSWELL: “Why, that is true ; for it would do him less hurt t be sober, than it would do me to get drunk.” Jonsson: “Yes, Sir: and from what I have heard of him, one would not wish to sacrifice himself to such a man. If he must always have somebody to drink with him, he should buy a slave, and then he would be sure to have it. They who submit to drink as another pleases, make themselves his slaves.” BOSWELL: But, Sir, you will surely make allowance for the duty of hospitality. A gentleman who loves drinking, comes to visit me.” JOHNSON : “Sir, a man knows whom he visits ; he comes to the table of a sober man. BOSWELL: “But, Sir, you and I should not have been so well received in the Highlands and Hebrides, if I had not drunk with our worthy friends. If I had drunk water only as you did, they would not have been so cordial.” JOHNSON: “Sir William Temple mentions, that in his travels through the Netherlands he had two or three gentlemen with him; and when a bumper was
necessary he put it on them. Were I to travel again through the islands, I would have Sir Joshua with me to take the bumpers.” BOSWELL: “But, Sir, let me put a case. Suppose Sir Joshua should take a jaunt into Scotland; he does me the honour to pay me a visit at my house in the country; I am overjoyed at seeing him ; we are quite by ourselves : shall I unsociably and churlishly let him sit drinking by himself ? No, no, my dear Sir Joshua, you shall not be treated so, I will take a bottle with you."
The celebrated Mrs. Rudd being mentioned, - JOHNSON: “Fifteen years ago I should have gone to see her.” SPOTTISWOODE: “Because she was fifteen years younger ?” John
SON: “No, Sir; but now they have a trick of putting everything into the newspapers."
He begged of General Paoli to repeat one of the introductory stanzas of the first book of Tasso’s “ Jerusalem,” which he did, and then Johnson found fault with the simile of sweetening the edges of a cup for a child being transferred from Lucretius into an epic poem. The General said he did not imagine Homer's poetry was so ancient as is supposed, because he ascribes to a Greek colony circumstances of refinement not found in Greece itself at a later period, when Thucydides
wrote. JOHNSON : “I recollect but one passage quoted by Thucydides from Homer, which is not to be found in our copies of Homer's works ; I am for the antiquity of Homer, and think that a Grecian colony by being nearer Persia might be more refined than the mother country.”
On Wednesday, April 29, I dined with him at Mr. Allan Ramsay's, where were Lord Binning, Dr. Robertson the historian, Sir Joshua Reynolds, and the Honourable Mrs. Boscawen, widow of the Admiral, and mother of the present Viscount Falmouth ;' of whom, if it be not presumptuous in me to praise her, I would say, that her manners are the most agreeable, and her conversation the best, of any lady with whom I ever had the happiness to be acquainted. Before Johnson came, we talked a good deal of him; Ramsay said, he had always found him a very polite man, and that he treated him with great respect, which he did very sincerely. I said, I worshiped him. ROBERTSON : “But some of you spoil him: you should not worship him; you should worship no man." BOSWELL: “I cannot help worshiping him,—he is so much superior to other men.” ROBERTSON : “In criticism, and in wit and conversation, he is no doubt very excellent; but in other respects he is not above other men; he will believe anything, and will strenuously defend the most minute circumstances connected with the Church of England.” BOSWELL: “ Believe me, Doctor, you are much mistaken as to this; for when you talk with him calmly in private, he is very liberal in his way of thinking.” ROBERTSON : He and I have been always very gracious; the first time I met him was one evening at Strahan's, when he had just had an unlucky altercation with Adam Smith ; to whom he had been so rough, that Strahan, after Smith was gone, had remonstrated with him, and told him that I was coming soon, and that he was uneasy to think that he might behave in the same manner to me. "No, no, Sir,' said Johnson, 'I warrant you Robertson and I shall do very well. Accordingly he was gentle and goodhumoured and courteous with me the whole evening; and he has been so upon every occasion that we have met since. I have often said (laughing) that I have been in a great measure indebted to Smith for my good reception.” BOSWELL: “His power of reasoning is very strong, and he has a peculiar art of drawing characters, which is as rare as good portrait painting.” Sir Joshua REYNOLDS : “He is undoubtedly admirable in this; but, in order to mark the characters which he draws, he overcharges them, and gives people more than they really have, whether of good or bad.”
1 Mrs. Frances Boscawen was the daughter of William Evelyn Granville, Esq., of St. Clair, Kent, and was married, in 1742, to Admiral Boscawen, brother of the second Viscount Falmouth, on whose death, in 1782, the son of the Admiral and of Mrs. Boscawen succeeded to the peerage. Thus, if the above was penned in 1778, Boswell would be wrong in calling Mrs. Boscawen the "mother of the present Viscount Falmouth;" she was only his sister-inlaw. We must therefore infer that the above was written subsequently to 1782.-ED.
No sooner did he, of whom we had been thus talking so easily, arrive, than we were all as quiet as a school upon the entrance of the head-master; and were very soon sat down to a table covered with such variety of good things, as contributed not a little to dispose him to be pleased.
RAMSAY: "I am old enough, to have been a contemporary of Pope. His poetry was highly admired in his lifetime,- -more a great deal than after his death.” JOHNSON : “Sir, it has not been less admired since his death ; no authors ever had so much fame in their own lifetime as Pope and Voltaire ; and Pope's poetry has been as much admired since his death as during his life ; it has only not been as much talked of; but that is owing to its being now more distant, and people having other writings to talk of. Virgil is less talked of than Pope, and Homer is less talked of than Virgil ; but they are not less admired. We must read what the world reads at the moment. It has been maintained that this superfetation, this teeming of the press in modern times, is prejudicial to good literature, because it obliges us to read so much of what is of inferior value, in order to be in the fashion; so that better works are neglected for want of time, because a man will have more gratification of his vanity in conversation, from having read modern books, than from having read the best works of antiquity. But it must be considered, that we have now more knowledge generally diffused ; all our ladies read now, which is a great extension. Modern writers are the moons of literature ; they shine with reflected light, with light borrowed from the ancients. Greece appears to me to be the fountain of knowledge ; Rome of elegance.” RAMSAY: “I suppose Homer's 'Tliad' to be a collection of pieces which had been written before his time. I should like to see a translation of it in poetical prose, like the book of Ruth or Job.” ROBERTSON : “Would you, Dr. Johnson, who are master of the English language, but try your hand upon a part of it.” JOHNSON: “ Sir, you could not read it without the pleasure of verse.
We talked of antiquarian researches. JOHNSON : “All that is really known of the ancient state of Britain is contained in a few pages. We can know no more than what the old writers have told us; yet what large books have we upon it, the whole of which, excepting such parts as are taken from those old writers, is all a dream, such as Whittaker's ‘Manchester.' I have heard Henry's: 'History of Britain' well spoken of. I am told it is carried on in separate divisions, as the civil, the
1 This experiment, which Madame Dacier made in vain, has since been tried in our own language by the editor of “Ossian," and we must either think very meanly of his abilities, or allow that Dr. Johnson was in the right. And Mr. Cowper, a man of real genius, has miserably failed in his blank verse translation.-BOSWELL.
? Dr. Robert Henry was minister of one of the churches in Edinburgh, and his "History or Great Britain " was published in 6 vols. 4to. He was born at St. Ninians, near Stirling, in 1718, and died in 1790.-ED.