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find it fame,” acted evidently from vanity. JOHNSON : “I have seen no beings who do as much good from benevolence, as she does from whatever motive. If there are such under the earth, or in the clouds, I wish they would come up or come down. What Soame Jenyns says upon this subject is not to be minded; he is a wit. No, Sir ; to act from pure benevolence is not possible for finite beings. Human benevolence is mingled with vanity, interest, or some other motive.”
He would not allow me to praise a lady then at Bath ; observing, “She does not gain upon me, Sir; I think her empty-headed.” He was, indeed, a stern critic upon characters and manners. Even Mrs. Thrale did not escape his friendly animadversion at times. When he and I were one day endeavouring to ascertain, article by article, how one of our friends could possibly spend as much money in his family as he told us he did, she interrupted us by a lively extravagant sally, on the expense of clothing his children, describing it in a very ludicrous and fanciful manner. Johnson looked a little angry, and said, “Nay, madam, when you are declaiming, declaim ; and when you are calculating, calculate.” At another time, when she said, perhaps affectedly, “I don't like to fly.”—JOHNSON : “With your wings, madam, you must fly: but have a care, there are clippers abroad.” How very well was this said, and how fully has experience proved the truth of it; but have they not clipped rather rudely, and gone a great deal closer than was necessary ?
A gentleman expressed a wish to go and live three years at Otaheité, or New Zealand, in order to obtain a full acquaintance with people so totally different from all that we have ever known, and be satisfied what pure nature can do for man. JOHNSON : “What could you learn, Sir ? What can savages tell, but what they themselves have seen? Of the past, or the invisible, they can tell nothing. The inhabitants of Otaheité and New Zealand are not in a state of pure nature; for it is plain they broke off from some other people. Had they grown out of the ground you might have judged of a state of pure nature. Fanciful people may talk of a mythology being amongst them ; but it must be invention. They have once had religion, which has been gradually debased. And wat account of their religion can you suppose to be learnt from sa vages ? Only consider, Sir, our own state. Our religion is in a book ; we have an order of men whose duty it is to teach it; we have one day in the week set apart for it, and this is in general pretty well observed ; yet ask the first ten gross men you meet, and hear what they can tell of their religion."
On Monday, April 29, he and I made an excursion to Bristol, where I was entertained with seeing him inquire upon the spot into the authenticity of “ Rowley's poetry,' as I had seen him inquire upon the spot into the authenticity of “Ossian's poetry.” George Catcot, the pewterer, who was as zealous for Rowley as Hugh Blair was for Ossian (I trust my reverend friend will excuse the comparison), attended us at our inn, and with a triumphant air of lively simplicity, called out, “I'll make Dr. Johnson a convert.” Dr. Johnson, at his desire, read aloud some of Chatterton's fabricated verses, while Catcot stood at the back of his chair, moving himself like a pendulum, and beating time with his feet, and now and then looking into Dr. Johnson's face, wondering that he was not yet convinced. We called on Mr. Barret, the surgeon, and saw some of the originals, as they were called, which were executed very artificially ; but from a careful inspection of them, and a consideration of the circumstances with which they were attended, we were quite satisfied of the imposture, which, indeed, has been clearly demonstrated, from internal evidence, by several able critics."
1 The production of the poet Chatterton, who palmed it upon the world as written by Rowley, a priest of Bristol in the fifteenth century.-Ev.
Honest Catcot seemed to pay no attention whatever to any objections, but insisted, as an end of all controversy, that we should go with him to the tower of the church of St. Mary Redcliff, and view with our own eyes the ancient chest in which the manuscripts were found. To this, Dr. Johnson good-naturedly agreed ; and though troubled with a shortness of breathing, laboured up a long flight of steps till we came to the place where the wondrous chest stood. There,” said Catcot, with a bouncing confident credulity," there is the very chest itself.” After this ocular demonstration, there was no more to be said. He brought to my
1 Mr. Tyrwhitt. Mr. Warton. Mr. Malone.-BOSWELL.
recollection a Scotch Highlander, a man of learning too, and who had seen the world, attesting, and at the same time giving his reasons for the authenticity of Fingal :-“I have heard all that poem when I was young.” -“ Have you, Sir ? Pray what have you heard ? "_“I have heard Ossian, Oscar, and every one of them.”
Johnson said of Chatterton, “This is the most extraordinary young man that has encountered my knowledge. It is wonderful how the whelp has written such things."
We were by no means pleased with our inn at Bristol. “Let us see now," said I, “how we should describe it.” Johnson was ready with his raillery.
“ Describe it, Sir ? Why, it was so bad that Boswell wished to be in Scotland !”
After Dr. Johnson's return to London, I was several times with him at his house, where I occasionally slept in the room that had been assigned for me. I dined with him at Dr. Taylor's, at General Oglethorpe’s, and at General Paoli's. To avoid a tedious minuteness, I shall group together what I have preserved of his conversation during this period also, without specifying each scene where it passed, except one, which will be found so remarkable as certainly to deserve a very par.. ticular relation. Where the place or the persons do not contribute to the zest of the conversation, it is unnecessary to encumber my page with mentioning them. To know of what vintage our wine is, enables us to judge of its value, and to drink it with more relish ; but to have the produce of each vine of one vineyard, in the same year, kept separate, would serve no purpose. To know that our wine (to use an advertising phrase) is “ of the stock of an Ambassador lately deceased,” heightens its flavour ; but it signifies nothing to know the bin where each bottle was once deposited.
“ Garrick,” he observed, “ does not play the part of Archer in 'The Beaux Stratagem’ well. The gentleman should break out through the footman, which is not the case as he does it.”
“Where there is no education, as in savage countries, men will have the upper hand of women. Bodily strength, no doubt, contributes to this ; but it would be so, exclusive of that; for it is mind that always governs. When it comes to dry understanding, man has the better."
The little volumes entitled ' Respublicæ,' which are very well done were a bookseller's work."
“ There is much talk of the misery which we cause to the brute creation ; but they are recompensed by existence. If they were not useful to man, and therefore protected by him, they would not be nearly so numerous." This argument is to be found in the able and benignant Hutchinson's "Moral Philosophy.” But the question is, whether the animals who endure such sufferings of various kinds for the service and entertainment of man, would accept of existence upon the terms on which they have it. Madame Sevigné, who, though she had many
enjoyments, felt with delicate sensibility the prevalence of misery, complains of the task of existence having been imposed upon her without her consent.
“That man is never happy for the present is so true, that all his relief from unhappiness is only forgetting himself for a little while. Life is a progress from want to want, not from enjoyment to enjoyment."
Though many men are nominally entrusted with the administration of hospitals and other public institutions, almost all the good is done by one man, by whom the rest are driven on; owing to confidence in him and indolence in them.”
“Lord Chesterfield's Letters to his Son, I think, might be made a very pretty book. Take out the immorality, and it should be put in the hands of every young gentleman. An elegant manner and easiness of behaviour are acquired gradually and imperceptibly. No man can say “I'll be genteel.' There are ten genteel women for one genteel man, because they are more restrained. A man without some degree of restraint is insufferable ; but we are all less restrained than women. Were a woman sitting in company to put out her legs before her as most men do, we should be tempted to kick them in.” No man was a more attentive and nice observer of behaviour in those in whose
he happened to be, than Johnson; or, however strange it may seem to many, had a higher estimation of its refinements. Lord Eliot informis me, that one day when Johnson and he were at dinner in a gentleman's house in London, upon Lord Chesterfield's Letters being mentioned, Johnson surprised the company by this sentence : “Every man of any education would rather be called a rascal than accused of deficiency in the graces.” Mr. Gibbon, who was present, turned to a lady who knew Johnson well, and lived much with him, and in his quaint manner tapping his box, addressed her thus : “Don't you think, Madam (looking towards Johnson), that among all your acquaintance you could find one exception ?” The lady smiled, and seemed to acquiesce.
“I read,” said he, “Sharpe's Letters on Italy over again, when I was at Bath. There is a great deal of matter in them.”
“Mrs. Williams was angry that Thrale's family did not send regularly to her every time they heard from me while I was in the Hebrides. Little people are apt to be jealous ; but they should not be jealous ; for they ought to consider, that superior attention will necessarily be paid to superior fortune or rank. Two persons may have equal merit, and on that account may have an equal claim to attention ; but one of then may have also fortune and rank,and so may have a double claim.”
Talking of his notes on Shakspeare, he said, “I despise those who do not see that I am right in the passage where as is repeated, and 'asses of great charge’ introduced. That on ‘To be, or not to be,' is disputable.”
It may be observed, that Mr. Malone, in his very valuable edition of Shakspeare, has
A gentleman, whom I found sitting with him one morning, said, that in his opinion the character of an infidel was more detestable than that of a man notoriously guilty of an atrocious crime. I differed from him, because we are surer of the odiousness of the one than of the error of the other. JOHNSON : “Sir, I agree with him ; for the infidel would be guilty of any crime if he were inclined to it.”
“Many things which are false are transmitted from book to book, and gain credit in the world. One of these is the cry against the evil of luxury. Now the truth is, that luxury produces much good. Take the luxury of buildings in London. Does it not produce real advantage in the conveniency and elegance of accommodation, and this all from the exertion of industry? People will tell you, with a melancholy face, how many builders are in gaol. It is plain they are in gaol, not for building ; for rents are not fallen.—A man gives half a guinea for a dish of green peas. How much gardening does this occasion ? how many labourers must the competition to have such things early in the market keep in employment ? You will hear it said very gravely, “Why was not the half-guinea, thus spent in luxury, given to the poor? To how many might it have afforded a good meal.' Alas ! has it not gone to the industrious poor, whom it is better to support than the idle poor ? You are much surer that you are doing good when you pay money to those who work, as the recompense of their labour, than when you give money merely in charity. Suppose the ancient luxury of a dish of peacock's brains were to be revived, how many carcases would be left to the poor at a cheap rate; and as to the rout that is made about people who are ruined by extravagance, it is no matter to the nation that some individuals suffer. When so much general productive exertion is the consequence of luxury, the nation does not care though there are debtors in gaol ; nay, they would not care though their creditors were there too!”
The uncommon vivacity of General Oglethorpe's mind, and variety of knowledge, having sometimes made his conversation seem too desultory, Johnson observed, “ Oglethorpe, Sir, never completes what he has to say.
He on the same account made a similar remark on Patrick Lord Elibank : “Sir, there is nothing conclusive in his talk.”
When I complained of having dined at a splendid table without hearing one sentence of conversation worthy of being remembered, he said, “Sir, there seldom is any such conversation.” BOSWELL: “Why then meet at table ?" JOHNSON : “Why to eat and drink together, and to promote kindness ; and, Sir, this is better done where there is no solid conversation ; for when there is, people differ in opinion, and get
fully vindicated Dr. Johnson from the idle censures which the first of these notes has given rise to. The interpretation of the other passage, which Dr. Johnson allows to be disputable, he has clearly shown to be erroneous.-BOSWELL. VOL. III.