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put the dog in the pillory for his libel ; he has too much literature for that.”
On Saturday, May 16, I dined with him at Mr. Beauclerk's with Mr. Langton, Mr. Steevens, Dr. Higgins, and some others.
I regret very feelingly every instance of my remissness in recording his memorabilia ; I am afraid it is the condition of humanity (as Mr. Windham, of Norfolk, once observed to me, after having made an admirable speech in the House of Commons, which was highly applauded, but which he afterwards perceived might have been better): “ that we are more uneasy from thinking of our wants, than happy in thinking of our acquisitions.” This is an unreasonable mode of disturbing our tranquillity, and should be corrected ; let me then comfort myself with the large treasure of Johnson's conversation which I have preserved for my own enjoyment and that of the world, and let me exhibit what I have upon each occasion, whether more or less, whether a bulse, or only a few sparks of a diamond.
He said, “Dr. Mead lived more in the broad sunshine of life than almost any man."
The disaster of General Burgoyne's army was then the common topic of conversation. It was asked why piling their arms was insisted upon as a matter of such consequence, when it seemed to be a circumstance so inconsiderable in itself. JOHNSON : Why, Sir, a French author says, “Il y a beaucoup de puerilités dans la guerre.' All distinctions are trifles, because great things can seldom occur, and those distinctions are settled by custom. A savage would as willingly have his meat sent to him in the kitchen, as eat it at the table here : as men become civilised, various modes of denoting honourable preference are invented.”
He this day made the observations upon the similarity between “Rasselas” and “ Candide,” which I have inserted in its proper place, when considering his admirable philosophical Romance.
He said, Candide,” he thought, had more power in it than anything that Voltaire had written.
He said, “The lyrical part of Horace never can be perfectly translated ; so much of the excellence is in the numbers and the expression. Francis has done it the best ; I'll take his, five out of six, against them all."
On Sunday, May 17, I presented to him Mr. Fullarton, of Fullarton, who has since distinguished himself so much in India, to whom he naturally talked of travels, as Mr. Brydone accompanied him in his tour to Sicily and Malta. He said, “The information which we have from modern travellers is much more authentic than what we had from ancient travellers ; ancient travellers guessed ; modern travellers
The Swiss admit that there is but one error in Stanyan.
If Brydone were more attentive to his Bible, he would be a good traveller."
He said, “ Lord Chatham was a Dictator; he possessed the power of putting the State in motion ; now there is no power, alì order is relaxed.” BOSWELL: “Is there no hope of a change to the better ?” JOHNSON : “Why, yes, Sir, when we are weary of this relaxation. So the City of London will appoint its Mayors again by seniority.” Bos
But is not that taking a mere chance for having a good or a bad Mayor ?" JOHNSON: “Yes, Sir; but the evil of competition is greater than that of the worst Mayor that can come ; besides there is no more reason to suppose that the choice of a rabble will be right, than that chance will be right.”
On Tuesday, May 19, I was to set out for Scotland in the evening. He was engaged to dine with me at Mr. Dilly's; I waited upon him to remind him of his appointment, and attend him thither; he gave me some salutary counsel, and recommended vigorous resolution against any deviation from moral duty. BOSWELL: “But you would not have me to bind myself by a solemn obligation ?" JOHNSON (much agitated): “What! a vow. Oh, no, Sir; a vow is a horrible thing: it is a snare for sin. The man who cannot go to heaven without a vow, may go~" Here standing erect in the middle of his library, and rolling grand, his pause was truly a curious compound of the solemn and the ludicrous ; he half-whistled in his usual way, when pleasant, and he paused, as if checked by religious awe. Methought he would have added to Hell—but was restrained. I humoured the dilemma. “What, Sir," said I,“ In coelum jusseris ibit ?” alluding to his imitation of it,
“And bid him go to hell, to hell he goes." I had mentioned to him a slight fault in his noble “Imitation of the Tenth Satire of Juvenal,” a too near recurrence of the verb spread, in his description of the young Enthusiast at College:
“ Through all his veins the fever of renown
He had desired me to change spreads to burns; but for perfect authenticity I now had it done with his own hand. I thought this alteration not only cured the fault, but was more poetical, as it might carry an allusion to the shirt by which Hercules was inflamed.
We had a quiet, comfortable meeting at Mr. Dilly's; nobody there
The slip of paper on which he made the correction is deposited by me in the noblo library to which it relates, and to which I have presented other pieces of his handwriting. -BOSWELI..
but ourselves. Mr. Dilly mentioned somebody having wished that Milton's “ Tractate on Education ” should be printed along with his Poems in the edition of the English Poets then going on. JOHNSON : “ It would be breaking in upon the plan ; but would be of no great consequence.
So far as it would be anything, it would be wrong: Education in England has been in danger of being hurt by two of its greatest men, Milton and Locke. Milton's plan is impracticable, and I suppose has never been tried. Locke's, I fancy, has been tried often enough, but is very imperfect; it gives too much to one side, and too little to the other; it gives too little to literature—I shall do what I can for Dr. Watts ; but my materials are very scanty. His poems are by no means his best works ; I cannot praise his poetry itself highly; but I can praise its design.”
My illustrious friend and I parted with assurances of affectionate regard.
I wrote to him on the 25th of May, from Thorpe in Yorkshire, one of the seats of Mr. Bosville, and gave him an account of my having passed a day at Lincoln, unexpectedly, and therefore without having any letters of introduction, but that I had been honoured with civilities from the Rev. Mr. Simpson, an acquaintance of bis, and Captain Broadley, of the Lincolnshire Militia ; but more particularly from the Rev. Dr. Gordon, the Chancellor, who first received me with great politeness as a stranger, and, when I informed him who I was, entertained me at his house with the most flattering attention ; I also expressed the pleasure with which I had found that our worthy friend, Langton, was highly esteemed in his own country town.
66 TO DR. SAMUEL JOHNSON.
“ MY DEAR SIR,
Edinburgh, June 18, 1778.
“Since my return to Scotland, I have been again at Lanark, and have had more conversation with Thomson's sister. It is strange that Murdoch, who was his intimate friend, should have mistaken his mother's maiden name, which he says was Hume, whereas Hume was the name of his grandmother by the mother's side. His mother's name was Beatrix Trotter,' a daughter of Mr. Trotter, of Fogo, a small proprietor of land. Thomson had one brother, whom he had with him in England as his amanuensis; but he was seized with a consumption, and having returned to Scotland, to try what his native air would do for him, died young. He had three sisters, one married to Mr. Bell, minister of the parish of Strathaven ; one to Mr. Craig, father of the ingenious architect, who gave the plan of the New Town of Edinburgh; and one to
Dr. Johnson was by no means attentive to minute accuracy in his “Lives of the Poets; for, notwithstanding my having detected this mistake, he has continned it.-BOSWELL.
Mr. Thomson, master of the grammar-school at Lanark.
He was of a humane and benevolent disposition : not only sent valuable presents to his sisters, but a yearly allowance in money, and was always wishing to have it in his power to do them more good. Lord Lyttleton's observation, that he loathed much to write,' was very true. His letters to his sister, Mrs. Thomson, were not frequent, and in one of them he says, 'All my friends who know me know how backward I am to write letters, and never impute the negligence of my hand to the coldness of my heart.' I send you a copy of the last letter which she had from him; she never heard that he had any intention of going into holy orders. From this late interview with his sister I think much more favourably of him, as I hope you will. I am eager to see more of your Prefaces to the Poets : I solace myself with the few proof-sheets which I have.
“I send another parcel of Lord Hailes's · Annals, which you will please to return to me as soon as you conveniently can. He says, 'he wishes you would cut a little deeper;' but he may be proud that there is so little occasion to use the critical knife. I ever am, my dear Sir, your faithful and affectionate humble servant
“ JAMES BOSWELL."
Mr. Langton has been pleased, at my request, to favour me with some particulars of Dr. Johnson's visit to Warley camp,' where this gentleman was at the time stationed as a Captain in the Lincolnshire militia. I shall give them in his own words, in a letter to me :
“It was in the suinmer of the year 1778 that he complied with my invitation to come down to the camp at Warley, and he stayed with me about a week. The scene appeared, notwithstanding a great degree of ill health that he seemed to labour under, to interest and amuse him, as agreeing with the disposition that I believe you know he constantly manifested towards inquiring into subjects of the military kind. He sat, with a patient degree of attention, to observe the proceedings of a regimental court-martial, that happened to be called in the time of his stay with us; and one night, as late as eleven o'clock, he accompanied the Major of the regiment in going what are styled the Rounds, where he might observe the forms of visiting the guards, for seeing that they and their sentries are ready in their duty on their several posts. He took occasion to converse at times on military topics, one in particular that I see the mention of, in your “Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides,' which lies open
before me, as to gunpowder; which he spoke of to the same effect, in part, that you relate.
“On one occasion, when the regiment were going through their exercisc, he went quite close to the men at one of the extremities of it, and watched all their practice attentively; and when he came away his remark was, “The men indeed do load their muskets and fire with wonderful celerity.' He was likewise particular in inquiring to know what was the weight of the musket balls in use, and within what distance they might be expected to take effect when fired off.
1 Warley is a small township, near Ilalifas, in Yorkshire.
“In walking among the tents, and observing the difference between those of the officers and private men, he said, that the superiority of accommodation of the better conditions of life, to that of the inferior ones, was never exhibited to him in so distinct a view. The civilities paid to him in the camp were from the gentlemen of the Lincolnshire regiment, one of the officers of which accommodated him with a tent in which he slept; and from General Hall who very courteously invited him to dine with him, where he appeared to be very well pleased with this entertainment, and the civilities he received on the part of the General;' the attention likewise of the General's aid-de-camp, Captain Smith, seemed to be very welcome to him, as appeared by their engaging in a great deal of discourse together. The gentlemen of the East York regiment likewise, on being informed of his coming, solicited his company at dinner ; but by that time he had fixed his departure, so that he could not comply with the invitation.”
TO JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ.
London, July 3, 1778. “I have received two letters from you, of which the second complains of the neglect shown to the first. You must not tie your friends to such punctual correspondence. You have all possible assurances of my affection and esteem; and there ought to be no need of reiterated professions. When it may happen that I can give you either counsel or comfort, I hope it will never happen to me that I should neglect you; but you must not think me criminal or cold, if I say nothing when I have nothing to say.
“You are now happy enough. Mrs. Boswell is recovered; and I congratulate you upon the probability of her long life. If general approbation will add anything to your enjoyment, I can tell you that I have heard you mentioned as a man whom everybody likes. I think life has little more to give.
"[Langton] has gone to his regiment. He has laid down his coach, and talks of making more contractions of his expense; how he will succeed I know not. It is difficult to reform a household gradually; it may be better done by a system totally new. I am afraid he has always something to hide. When we pressed him to go to -, he objected the necessity of attending his navigation; yet he could talk of going to Aberdeen, a place not much nearer his navigation. I believe he cannot bear the thought of living at [Langton] in a state of diminution; and of appearing among the gentlemen of the neighbourhood shorn of his beams. This is natural, but it is cowardly. What I told him of the increasing expense of a growing family seems to have struck him. He certainly had gone on with very confused views, and we have, I think, shown him that he is wrong; though, with the common deficience of advisers, we have not shown him how to do right.
“I wish you would a little correct or restrain your imagination, and imagine that happiness, such as life admits, may be had at other places as well 33
1 When I one day at Court expressed to General Hall my sense of the honour he had done my friend, he politely answered, “Sir, I did myself honour."-BOSWELL.