Page images

He told us of Cooke, who translated Hesiod, and lived twenty years on a translation of Plautus, for which he was always taking subscriptions; and that he presented Foote to a club in the following singular manner: "This is the nephew of the gentleman who was lately hung in chains for murdering his brother." l

In the evening I introduced to Mr. Johnson2 two good friends of mine, Mr. William Nairne, advocate, and Mr. Hamilton of Sundrum, my neighbour in the country, both of whom supped with us. I have preserved nothing of what passed, except that Dr. Johnson displayed another of his heterodox opinions—a contempt of tragic acting. He said, the action of all players in tragedy is bad. It should be a man's study to repress those signs of emotion and passion, as they are called. He was of a directly contrary opinion to that of Fielding, in his "Tom Jones ;" who makes Partridge say of Garrick, " Why, I could act as well as he myself. I am sure, if I had seen a ghost, I should have looked in the very same manner, and done just as he did." For, when I asked him, "Would not you, Sir, start as Mr. Garrick does, if you saw a ghost?" he answered, "I hope not. If I did, I should frighten the ghost."

home, while their allegiance to our common lord the king was to be preserved inviolate, is a striking proof, to me, either that " he who sitteth in heaven" scorns the loftiness of human pride, or that the evil spirit, whose personal existence I strongly believe, and even in this age am confirmed in that belief by a Fell, nay, by a Hurd, has more power than some choose to allow.

1 Mr. Foote's mother was the sister of Sir John Dinely Goodere, Bart., and of Captain Goodere, who commanded H.M.S. Ruby, on board which, when lying in King's Road, Bristol, in January, 1741, the captain caused his brother to be forcibly carried, and there barbarously murdered. Captain Goodere was, with two of his accomplices, executed for this crime in the April following. The circumstances of this extravagant case, and some other facts connected with this family, lead to an opinion that Captain Goodere was insane j and some unhappy circumstances in Foote's life render it probable that he had not wholly escaped this hereditary irregularity of mind. The last baronet, who called himself Sir John Dinely, died in 1809, a poor Knight of Windsor—insane and in indigence.—broker.

Foote's first publication was a pamphlet in defence of his uncle's memory.—Walter Scott.

1 It may be observed, that I sometimes call my great friend Mr. Johnson, sometimes Dr. Johnson ; though he had at this time a Doctor's degree from Trinity College, Dublin. The University of Oxford afterwands conferred it upon him by a diploma, in very honourable terms. It was some time before I could bring myself to call him Doctor; but, as he has been long known by that title, I shall give it to him in the rest of this Journal.

Monday, August 16th.—Dr. William Robertson came to breakfast. We talked of Ogden on Prayer. Dr. Johnson said, "the same arguments which are used against God's hearing prayer, will serve against his rewarding good, and punishing evil. He has resolved, he has declared, in tInformer case as in the latter." He had last night looked into Lord Hailes's "Remarks on the History of Scotland." Dr. Robertson and I said, it was a pity Lord Hailes did not write greater things. His lordship had not then published his "Annals of Scotland." Johnson. "I remember I was once on a visit at the house of a lady for whom I had a high respect. There was a good deal of company in the room. When they were pone, I said to this lady, 'What foolish talking have we had !'—' Yes,' said she, ' but while they talked, you said nothing.' I was struck with the reproof. How much better is the man who does any thing that is innocent, than he who does nothing! Besides, I love anecdotes. I fancy mankind may come, in time, to write all aphoristically, except in narrative; grow weary of preparation, and connection, and illustration, and all those arts by which a big book is made. If a man is to wait till he weaves anecdotes into a system, we may be long in getting them, and get but few, in comparison of what we might get."

Dr. Robertson said, the notions of Euphan Macullan, a fanatic woman of whom Lord Hailes gives a sketch,1 were still prevalent among the Presbyterians; and therefore, it was right in Lord Hailes, a man of known piety, to undeceive them.

We walked out, that Dr. Johnson might see some of the things which we have to show at Edinburgh. We went to the Parliament House,2 where the Parliament of Scotland

1 Chap, xvi., p. 254, of his Remarks on the History of Scotland. Edin., 1773.—Editor.

2 It was on this visit to the parlinmpnt-house, that Mr. Henrv Erskine (brother of Lord Buchan and Lord Erskine), after heing presented to Dr. Johnson by Mr. Boswell, and having made his bow, slipped a shilling sat, and where the ordinary lords of session hold their courts, and to the new session-house adjoining to it, where our court of fifteen (the fourteen ordinaries, with the lord president at their head) sit as a court of review. We went to the advocates' library, of which Dr. Johnson took a cursory view; and then to what is called the Laigh (or under) Parliament House, where the records of Scotland which has an universal security by register, are deposited, till the great register office be finished.1 I was pleased to behold Dr. Samuel Johnson rolling about in this old magazine of antiquities. There was by this time, a pretty numerous circle of us attending upon him. Somebody talked of happy moments for composition, and how a man can write at one time and not at another. "Nay," said Dr. Johnson, "a man may write at any time, if he will set himself doggedly to it." *

I here began to indulge old Scottish sentiments, and to express a warm regret, that, by our union with England, we were no more; our independent kingdom was lost. Johnson. "Sir, never talk of your independency, who could let your queen remain twenty years in captivity, and then be put to death, without even a pretence of justice, without your ever attempting to rescue her; and such a queen too! as every man of any gallantry of spirit would have sacrificed his life for." Worthy Mb. James Kerr, keeper of the records. "Half our nation was bribed by English money." Johnson. "Sir, that is no defence : that makes you worse." Good Mr. Brown, keeper of the advocates' library.3 "We had better say nothing about it." Boswell. "You would have been glad, however, to have had us last war, Sir, to fight your battles!" Johnson. "We should have had you for the same price, though there had been no union, as we might have had Swiss, or other troops. No, no, I shall agree to a separation. You have only to go home." Just as he had said this, I, to divert the subject, showed him the signed assurances of the three successive kings of the Hanover family, to maintain the presbyterian establishment in Scotland, "We'll give you that," said he, "into the bargain."

into Boswell'a hand, whispering that it was for the sight of his bear.— Walter Scott.

This was the subject of a cotemporary caricature.— Wright.

1 This great Register Office, built from the designs of R. and I. Adam, is now one of the architectural beauties of Edinburgh, though recently the effect of the fine facade has been marred by the erection of Steele's statue of the Duke of Wellington.—Editor.

'This word is commonly used to signify sullenly, gloomily; and in that sense alone it appears in Dr. Johnson's Dictionary. I suppose he meant by it, " with an obstinate resolution, similar to that of a sullen man."

s He wrote a preface to the first part of the Catalogue of the library, compiled and printed by Kuddimnn in 1742. He also compiled and published the second part of the Catalogue, containing books acquired

We next went to the great church of St. Giles, which has lost its original magnificence in the inside, by being divided into four places of presbyterian worship.1 "Come," said Dr. Johnson jocularly to Principal Robertson,2 "let me see what was once a church!" We entered that division which was formerly called the New Church, and of late the High Church, so well known by the eloquence of Dr. Hugh Blair. It is now very elegantly fitted up; but it was then shamefully dirty. Dr. Johnson said nothing at the time; but when we came to the great door of the royal infirmary, where, upon a board, was this inscription, "Clean youi feet!" he turned about slyly, and said, "There is no occasion for putting this at the doors of your churches!"

We then conducted him down the Post-house Stairs, Parliament Close, and made him look up from the Cowgate to the highest building in Edinburgh (from which he had just descended), being thirteen floors or stories from the ground upon the back elevation; the front wall being built upon the edge of the hill, and the back wall rising from the bottom of the hill several stories before it comes to a level with the front wall.3 We proceeded to the college,

by the library from 1742 to 1776, in 1770. He was Librarian from 1766 to 1794, and died in 1801.— Editor.

1 But to its original magnificence it has been restored (1882). mainly through the public spirit and munificence of Dr. William Chambers.— Editor.

2 I have hitherto called him Dr. William Robertson, to distinguish him from Dr. James Robertson, who is soon to make his appearance; but Principal from his being the head of our college, is his usual designation, and is shorter: so I shall use it hereafter.

1 This lofty house was burnt down in 1824. The site is now occupied by Sir William Forbes's bank.—Chambers.

with the Principal at our head, Dr. Adam Ferguson, whose "Essay on the History of Civil Society " gives him a respectable place in the ranks of literature, was with us. As the college buildings are indeed very mean, the Principal said to Dr. Johnson, that he must give them the same epithet that a Jesuit did when showing a poor college abroad: "Hce miserias nostrce," Dr. Johnson was, however, much pleased with the library, and with the conversation of Dr. James Robertson, professor of Oriental languages, the librarian. We talked of Kennicott's edition of the Hebrew Bible, and hoped it would be quite faithful. Johnson. "Sir, I know not any crime so great that a man could contrive to commit, as poisoning the sources of eternal truth."

I pointed out to him where there formerly stood an old wall enclosing part of the college, which I remember bulged out in a threatening manner, aud of which there was a common tradition similar to that concerning Bacon's study at Oxford, that it would fall upon some very learned man. It had some time before this been taken down, that the street might be widened, and a more convenient wall built. Dr. Johnson, glad of an opportunity to have a pleasant hit at Scottish learning, said, "They have been afraid it never would fall."

We showed him the royal infirmary, for which, and for every other exertion of generous public spirit in his power, that noble-minded citizen of Edinburgh, George Drummond,1 will be ever held in honourable remembrance. And we were too proud not to carry him to the abbey of Holyrood House, that beautiful piece of architecture, but, alas! that deserted mansion of royalty, which Hamilton of Bangour, in one of his elegant poems, calls,

"A virtuous palace, where no monarch dwells."

I was much entertained while Principal Robertson fluently harangued to Dr. Johnson, upon the spot, concerning

1 This excellent magistrate died in 1766. Some years after his death, a bust of him, by Nullekens, was placed in the public hall of the hospital, with this inscription from the pen of Robertson:—" Georyw Drummond, to whom this country is indebted for all the benefit which it derives from the royal infirmary.''

« PreviousContinue »