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military, the religious history. I wish much to have one branch well done, and that is the history of manners of common life.” ROBERTSON : "Henry should have applied his attention to that alone, which is enough for any man; and he might have found a great deal scattered in various books, had he read solely with that view. Henry erred in not selling his first volume at a moderate price to the bocksellers, that they might have pushed him on till he had got reputation. I sold my 'History of Scotland' at a moderate price, as a work by which the booksellers might either gain or not; and Cadell has told me that Millar and he have got six thousand pounds by it. I afterwards received a much higher price for my writings. An author should sell his first work for what the booksellers will give, till it shall appear whether he is an author of merit, or, which is the same thing as to purchase-money, an author who pleases the public.”
Dr. Robertson expatiated on the character of a certain nobleman [Lord Clive]; that he was one of the strongest-minded men that ever lived ; that he would sit in company quite sluggish, while there was nothing to call forth his intellectual vigour; but the moment that any important subject was started—for instance, how this country is to be defended against a French invasion—he would rouse himself, and show his extraordinary talents with the most powerful ability and animation, JOHNSON: “Yet this man cut his own throat. The true strong and sound mind is the mind that can embrace equally great things and small. Now, I am told the King of Prussia will say to a servant, ‘Bring me a bottle of such a wine, which came in such a year ; it lies in such a corner of the cellars.' I would have a man great in great things, and elegant in little things.” He said to me afterwards, when we were by ourselves, “Robertson was in a mighty romantic humour ; he talked of one whom he did not know; but I downed him with the King of Prussia.” “Yes, Sir,” said I, “you threw a bottle at his head."
An ingenious gentleman was mentioned, concerning whom both Robertson and Ramsay agreed that he had a constant firmness of mind ; for after a laborious day, and amidst a multiplicity of cares and anxieties, he would sit down with his sisters, and be quite cheerful and good-humoured. Such a disposition, it was observed, was a happy gift of nature. JOHNSON : “I do not think so; a man has from nature a certain portion of mind ; the use he makes of it depends upon his own free will. That a man has always the same firmness of mind, I do not say ; because every man feels his mind less firm at one time than another ; but I think a man's being in good or bad humour depends upon his will.” I, however, could not help thinking that a man's humour is often uncontrollable by his will.
Johnson harangued against drinking wine. “A man,” said he, “ may choose whether he will have abstemiousness and knowledge, or
claret and ignorance.” Dr. Robertson (who is very companionable) was beginning to dissent as to the prescription of claret. JOHNSON (with a placid smile): “Nay, Sir, you shall not differ with me, as I have said that the man is most perfect who takes in the most things, I am for knowledge and claret.” ROBERTSON (holding a glass of generous claret in his hand): “Sir, I can only drink your health.” JOHNSON : Sir, I should be
should be ever in such a state as to be able to do nothing more.” ROBERTSON: “Dr. Johnson, allow me to say, that in one respect I have the advantage of you ; when you were in Scotland you would not come to hear any of our preachers, whereas, when I am here, I attend your public worship without scruple, and, indeed, with great satisfaction.” JOHNSON : "Why, Sir, that is not so extraordinary; the King of Siam sent ambassadors to Louis the Fourteenth ; but Louis the Fourteenth sent none to the King of Siam.”
Here my friend for once discovered a want of knowledge or forgetfulness, for Louis the Fourteenth did send an embassy to the King of Siam, and the Abbé Choisi, who was employed in it, published an account of it in two volumes.
Next day, Thursday, April 30, I found him at home by himself. JOHNSON: “Well, Sir, Ramsay gave us a splendid dinner. I love Ramsay. You will not find a man in whose conversation there is more instruction, more information, and more elegance, than in Ramsay's.” BOSWELL: “What I admire in Ramsay, is his continuing to be so young." JOHNSON : “Why, yes, Sir, it is to be admired. I value myself upon this, that there is nothing of the old man in my conversation. I am now sixty-eight, and I have no more of it than at twentyeight.” BOSWELL: “But, Sir, would you not wish to know old age ? He who is never an old man, does not know the whole of human life; for old age is one of the divisions of it.” JOHNSON : “Nay, Sir, what talk is this?” BOSWELL: “I mean, Sir, the Sphinx's description of it --morning, noon, and night. I would know night, as well as morning and noon." JOHNSON : “What, Sir, would you know what it is to feel the evils of old age? Would you have the gout? Would you have decrepitude ?” Seeing him heated, I would not argue farther ; but I was confident that I was in the right. I would, in due time, be a Nestor, an elder of the people ; and there should be some difference between the conversation of twenty-eight and sixty-eight. A grave “Sir,
1 Mrs. Piozzi confidently mentions this as having passed in Scotland. “ Anecdotes," p. 92. - BOSWELL.
2 The Abbé de Choisi was sent by Louis XIV. on an embassy to the King of Siam in 1683 with a view, it has been said, to convert the King of that country to Christianity.-MALONE,
3 Johnson clearly meant (what the author has often elsewhere mentioned), that he had none of the listlessness of old age, that he had the same activity and energy of mind as formerly not that a man of sixty-eight might dance in a public assembly with as much propriety as he could at twenty-eight. His conversation, being the product of much various knowledge, great acuteness and extraordinary wit, was equally well suited to every period of life; and as in his youth it probably did not exhibit any unbecoming levity, so certainly in his later years it was totally free from the garrulity and querulousness of old age.-MALONE.
picture should not be gay. There is a serene, solemn, placid old age. JOHNSON : “Mrs. Thrale's mother said of me what flattered me much. A clergyman was complaining of want of society in the country where he lived, and said, “They talk of runts ;' that is, young cows. said Mrs. Salusbury, “Mr. Johnson would learn to talk of runts, meaning that I was a man who would make the most of my situation, whatever it was.” He added, “I think myself a very polite man.”
On Saturday, May 2, I dined with him at Sir Joshua Reynolds's, where there was a very large company, and a great deal of conversation; but owing to some circumstances which I cannot now recollect, I have no record of any part of it, except that there were several people there by no means of the Johnsonian school; so that less attention was paid to him than usual, which put him out of humour; and upon some imaginary offence from me, he attacked me with such rudeness, that I was vexed and angry, because it gave those persons an opportunity of enlarging upon his supposed ferocity, and ill-treatment of his best friends. I was so much hurt, and had my pride so much roused, that I kept away from him for a week; and, perhaps, might have kept away much longer, nay, gone to Scotland without seeing him again, had not we fortunately met and been reconciled. To such unhappy chances are human friendships liable !
On Friday, May 8, I dined with him at Mr. Langton's. I was reserved and silent, which I supposed he perceived, and might recollect the cause. After dinner, when Mr. Langton was called out of the room, and we were by ourselves, he drew his chair near to mine, and said, in a tone of conciliating courtesy, “Well, how have you done ?" BOSWELL: “Sir, you have made me very uneasy by your behaviour to me when we were last at Sir Joshua Reynolds’s. You know, my dear Sir, no man has a greater respect and affection for you, or would sooner go to the end of the world to serve you. Now, to treat me so—" He insisted that I had interrupted him, which I assured him was not the case; and proceeded, “But why treat me so before people who neither love you nor me?” JOHNSON : “Well, I am sorry for it. I'll make it up to you twenty different ways, as you please.” BOSWELL: “I said to-day to Sir Joshua, when he observed that you tossed me sometimes, I don't care how often, or how high he tosses me, when only friends are present, for then I fall upon soft ground; but I do not like falling on
· Such is the signification of this word in Scotland, and it should seem in Wales. (See Skinner in v.) But the heifers of Scotland and Wales, when brought to England, being always smaller than those of this country, the word runt has acquired a secondary sense, and generally signifies a heifer diminutive in size, small beyond the ordinary growth of that animal; and in this sense alone the word is acknowledged by Dr. Johnson in his Dictionary. -MALONE
stones, which is the case when enemies are present. I think this is a pretty good image, Sir.” Johnson : “Sir, it is one of the happiest I ever have heard."
The truth is, there was no venom in the wounds which he inflicted at any time, unless they were irritated by some malignant infusion by other hands. We were instantly as cordial again as ever, and joined in hearty laugh at some ludicrous but innocent peculiarities of one of our friends. BOSWELL: “Do you think, Sir, it is always culpable to laugh at a man to his face ?” JOHNSON : “Why, Sir, that depends upon the man and the thing. If it is a slight man, and a slight thing, you may; for you take nothing valuable from him."
He said, “I read yesterday Dr. Blair's sermon on Devotion, from the text ‘Cornelius, a devout man. His doctrine is the best limited, the best expressed ; there is the most warmth without fanaticism, the most rational transport. There is one part of it which I disapprove, and I'd have him correct it; which is, that, “he who does not feel joy in religion is far from the kingdom of heaven !' There are many good men whose fear of God predominates over their love. It may discourage. It was rashly said. A noble sermon it is, indeed. I wish Blair would come over to the Church of England.”
When Mr. Langton returned to us, the “flow of talk” went on. An eininent author being mentioned :-JOHNSON : “He is not a pleasant
His conversation is neither instructive nor brilliant. He does not talk as if impelled by any fulness of knowledge or vivacity of imagination. His conversation is like that of any other sensible man. He talks with no wish either to inform or to hear, but only because he thinks it does not become [Dr. Robertson] to sit in a company and say nothing."
Mr. Langton having repeated the anecdote of Addison having dis tinguished between his powers in conversation and in writing, by saying, “I have only ninepence in my pocket ; but I can draw for a thousand pounds : ”—JOHNSON: "He had not that retort ready, Sir ; he had prepared it beforehand." LANGTON (turning to me): “A fine surmise. Set a thief to catch a thief."
Johnson called the East Indians barbarians. BOSWELL: “ You will except the Chinese, Sir ?" JOHNSON : “No, Sir.” BOSWELL: “ Have they not arts ?” JOHNSON : “They have pottery.” BOSWELL: “What do you say to the written characters of their language ?” JOHNSON : “Sir they have not an alphabet. They have not been able to form what all other nations have formed.” BOSWELL: “ There is more learning in their language than in any other, from the immense number of their characters." JOHNSON: “It is only more difficult from its rudeness ; as there is more labour in hewing down a tree with a stone than with an axe.”
He said, “I have been reading Lord Kaimes's 'Sketches of the
History of Man.'
In treating of severity of punishment, he mentions that of Madame Lapouchin, in Russia ; but he does not give it fairly ; for I have looked at Chappe d'Auteroche, from whom he has taken it. He stops where it is said that the spectators thought her innocent, and leaves out what follows,—that she nevertheless was guilty. Now this is being as culpable as one can conceive, to misrepresent fact in a book ; and for what motive? It is like one of those lies which people toll, one cannot see why. "he woman's life was spared, and no punishment was too great for the favourite of an Empress who had conspired to dethrone her mistress.” BOSWELL : “He was only giving a picture of the lady in her sufferings.” JOHNSON : “Nay, don't endeavour to palliate this. Guilt is a principal feature in the picture.—Kaimes is puzzled with a question that puzzled me when I was a very young man. Why is it that the interest of money is lower when money is plentiful ; for five pounds has the same proportion of value to a hundred pounds when money is plentiful, as when it is scarce ? A lady explained
"It is,' said she, “because when money is plentiful there are so many more who have money to lend, that they bid down one another. Many have then a hundred pounds; and one says, Take mine rather than another's, and you shall have it at four per cent.'' BOSWELL: “Does Lord Kaimes decide the question ?” JOHNSON: “I think he leaves it as he found it." BOSWELL : “ This must have been an extraordinary lady who instructed you, Sir. May I ask who she was ?
it to me.
1 “Voyage en Sibérie,” par M. l'Abbé Chappe d'Auteroche, 3 vols. fol., 1761.-ED. 2 On consulting the two authorities above mentioned, we find that Lord Kaimes (b. i., sketch v.) has given the details of this barbarous punishment almost in the very words of the Abbé Chappe, with the exception of one slight omission, which Johnson considers the height of culpability, but which appears quite unnecessary to the story. As the narrative, however, is short, and illustrative of early Russian barbarism, it is worth extracting. The omitted passage, of which Johnson so bitterly complains, is supplied within brackets:
“No traveller who visited St. Petersburgh during the reign of the Empress Elizabeth can be ignorant of Madame Lapouchin, the great ornament of that Court. Her intimacy with a foreign Ambassador liaving brought her under suspicion of plotting against the government, she was condemned to undergo the punishment of the knout. At the place of execution she appeared in a genteel undress, which heightened her beauty. Of whatever indiscretion she might have been guilty, the sweetness of her countenance and her composure left not the spectators the slightest suspicion of guilt. [Abbé Chappe here remarks (to quote his own words): Tous ceux que j'ai consultés par la suite m'ont cependant assuré qu'elle étoit coupable.') Her youth also, her beauty, her life and spirit pleaded for her, but all in vain; she was deserted by all, and abandoned to surly executioners, whom she beheld with astonishment, seeming to doubt whether such preparations were intended for her. The cloak that covered her bosom being pulled off, modesty took the alarm, and made her start back; she turned pale, and burst into tears. One of the executioners stripped her naked to the waist, seized her with both hands, and threw her on his back, raising her some inches from the gronnd. The other executioner, laying hold of her delicate limbs with his rough fists, put her in a posture for receiving the punishment. Then, laying hold of the knout, a sort of whip made of a leathern strap, he, with a single stroke, tore off a slip of skin from the neck downward, repeating his strokes till all the skin of her back was cut off in small slips. The executioner finished his task with cutting out her tongue! after which she was banished to Siberia."-ED.