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.scenes of his celebrated "History of Scotland." We surveyed that part of the palace appropriated to the Duke of Hamilton, as keeper, in which our beautiful Queen Mary lived, and in which David Rizzio was murdered, and also the state rooms. Dr. Johnson was a great reciter of all sorts of things, serious or comical. I overheard him repeating here in a kind of muttering tone, a line of the old ballad, "Johnny Armstrong's Last Good Night."
"And ran him through the fair body !"'
We returned to my house, where there met him at diuner, the Duchess of Douglas,2 Sir Adolphus Oughton, Lord Chief Baron [Orde], Sir William Forbes, Principal Robertson, Mr. Cullen, advocate. Before dinner, he told us of a curious conversation between the famous George Faulkner and him. George said, that England had drained Ireland of fifty thousand pounds in specie, annually, for fifty years. "How so, Sir: " said Dr. Johnson: "you must have very great trade?"—" No trade."—"Very rich mines? "—"No mines."—" From whence, then, does all this money come?" —" Come! why out of the blood and bowels of the poor people of Ireland!"
He seemed to me to have an unaccountable prejudice against Swift;3 for I once took the liberty to ask him, if Swift had personally offended him, and he told me he had not. He said to-day, '- Swift is clear, but he is shallow. In coarse humour he is inferior to Arbuthnot; in delicate humour he is inferior to Addison. So he is inferior to his contemporaries, without putting him against the whole world. I doubt if the 'Tale of a Tub' was his; it has so much more thinking, more knowledge, more power, more colour, than any of the works which are indisputably his. If it was his, I shall only say, he was impar sibi."
1 The stanza from which he took this line is—
"But then rose up all Edinburgh,
They rose up by thousands three;
And ran him through the fair body!"
2 Margaret, daughter of James Douglas, Esq., of the Mains. "An old lady," writes Dr. Johnson." who talks broad Scotch with a paralytic voice, and is scarce understood by her own countrymen."—Letters, vol. i., p. 109.—Croker.
2 There probably was no opportunity for what could bo in strictness called personal oftence. as they had never met; but 1 suspect that the affair of the Dublin degree (Life, vol. i., p. 93) may have created this prejudice. But what could Johnson mean by calling Swift "shallow"I If he be shallow, who, in his department of literature, is profound? Without admitting that Swift was " inferior in coarse humour to Arbuthnot" (of whose precise share in the works to which he is supposed to have contributed, we know little or nothing), it may be observed, that he who is second to the greatest masters of different stvles may be said to bfl the first on the whole. It i* as certain that the Tale of a Tub was Swift's as that the Rambler was Johnson's.—Croker.
We gave him as good a dinner as we could. Our Scotch muir-fowl, or grouse, were then abundant, and quite in. season; and so far as wisdom and wit can be aided by administering agreeable sensations to the palate, my wife took care that our great guest should not be deficient.
Sir Adolphus Oughton, then our deputy commander-inchief, who was not only an excellent officer, but one of the most universal scholars ' I ever knew, had learned the Erse language, and expressed his belief in the authenticity of Ossian's Poetry. Dr. Johnson took the opposite side of that perplexed question, and I was afraid the dispute would have run high between them. But Sir Adolphus, who had a very sweet temper, changed the discourse, grew playful, laughed at Lord Monboddo's notion of men having tails, and called him a judge a posteriori, which amused Dr. Johnson, and thus hostilities were prevented.
At supper we had Dr. Cullen, his son the advocate, Dr. Adam Fergusson, and Mr. Crosbie, advocate. Witchcraft was introduced. Mr. Crosbie said he thought it the greatest blasphemy to suppose evil spirits counteracting the Deity, and raising storms, for instance, to destroy his creatures. Johnson. "Why, Sir, if moral evil be consistent with the government of the Deity, why may not physical evil be also consistent with it? It is not more strange that there should be evil spirits than evil men: evil unembodied spirits, than evil embodied spirits. And as to storms, we know there are such things; and it is no worse that evil spirits raise them than that they rise." Crosbie. "But it is not credible that witches should have effected what they are said in stories to have done." Johnson. "Sir, I am not defending their credibility. I am only saying that your arguments are not good, and will not overturn the belief of witchcraft.—(Dr. Fergussou said to me aside, 'He is right.')—And then, Sir, you have all mankind, rude and civilized, agreeing in the belief of the agency of preternatural powers. You must take evidence ; you must consider that wise and great men have condemned witches to die.'' Ceosbie. "But an act of parliament put an end to witchcraft." Johnson. "No, Sir, witchcraft had ceased; and, therefore, an act of parliament was passed to prevent persecution for what was not witchcraft. Why it ceased we cannot tell, as we cannot tell the reason of many other things." Dr. Cullen, to keep up the gratification of mysterious disquisition, with the grave address for which he is remarkable in his companionable as in his professional hours, talked in a very entertaining manner, of people walking and conversing in their sleep. I am very sorry I have no note of this. We talked of the ouranoutang, and of LordMonboddo's thinking that he might be taught to speak. Dr. Johnson treated this with ridicule. Mr. Crosbie said that Lord Mouboddo believed the existence of every thing possible; in short, that all which is in posse might be found in esse. Johnson. "But, Sir, it is as possible that the ouran-outang does not speak, as that he speaks. However, I shall not contest the point. I should have thought it not possible to find a Monboddo; yet he exists." I again mentioned the stage. Johnson. "The appearance of a player, with whom I have drunk tea, counteracts the imagination that he is the character he represents. Nay, you know, nobody imagines that he is the character he represents. They say, ' See Garrick! how he looks to-night! See how he'll clutch the dagger!' That is the buzz of the theatre."
1 Lord Stowell remembered with pleasure the elegance and extent iii Sir Adolphus Oughton's literature, and the suavity of his manners.— Oroker.
Tuesday, Aug. 17.—Sir William Forbes came to breakfast, and brought with him Dr. Blacklock, whom he introduced to Dr. Johnson, who received him with a most humane complacency; "Dear Dr. Blacklock, I am glad to see you!" Blacklock seemed to be much surprised when Dr. Johnson said, "it was easier to him to write poetry than to compose his Dictionary. His mind was less on the stretch in doing the one than the other.1 Besides, composing a dictionary requires books and a desk: you can make a poem walking in the fields, or lying in bed." Dr. Blacklock spoke of scepticism in morals and religion with apparent uneasiness, as if he wished for more certainty.2 'Dr. Johnson, who had thought it all over, and whose vigorous understanding was fortified by much experience, thus encouraged the blind bard to apply to higher speculations what we all willingly submit to in common life: in short, he gave him more familiarly the able and fair reasoning of Butler's Analogy: "Why, Sir, the greatest concern we have in this world, the choice of our profession, must be determined without demonstrative reasoning. Human life is not yet so well known, as that we can have it: and take the case of a man who is ill. I call two physicians: they differ in opinion. I am not to lie down, and die between them: I must do something." The conversation then turned on atheism; on that horrible book, "Systeme de la Nature ; " 3 and on the supposition of an eternal necessity without design, without a governing mind. Johnson. "If it were so, why has it ceased? Why don't we see men thus produced around us now? Why, at least, does it not keep pace, in some measure, with the progress of timer If it stops because there is now no need of it, then it is plain there is, and ever has been, an all-powerful intelligence. But stay! (said he, with one of his satiric laughs). Ha! ha! ha! I shall suppose Scotchmen made necessarily, and Englishmen by choice."
At dinner this day we had Sir Alexander Dick, whose amiable character and ingenious and cultivated mind are so generally known (he was then on the verge of seventy, and is now (1785) eighty-one, with his faculties entire, his heart warm, and his temper gay) ;4 Sir David Dalrymple, Lord Hailes; Mr. Haclaurin, advocate; Dr. Gregory, who now worthily fills his father's medical chair; and my uncle, Dr. Boswell. This was one of Dr. Johnson's best days. He was quite in his element. All was literature and taste, without any interruption. Lord Hailes, who is one of the best philologists in Great Britain, who has written papers in the "World," and a variety of other works in prose and in verse, both Latin and English, pleased him highly. He told him he had discovered the Life of Cheynel, in the " Student," to be his. Johnson. "No one else knows it." Dr. Johnson had before this dictated to me a law-paperl upon a question purely in the law of Scotland, concerning vicious intromission, that is to say, intermeddling with the effects of a deceased person, without a regular title; which formerly was understood to subject the intermeddler to payment of all the defunct's debts. The principle has of late been relaxed. Dr. Johnson's argument was for a renewal of its strictness. The paper was printed, with additions by me, and given into the court of session. . Lord Hailes knew Dr. Johnson's part not to be mine, and pointed out exactly where it began and where it ended. Dr. Johnson said, " It is much now that his lordship can distinguish so."
1 There is hardly any operation of the intellect which requires nicer and deeper consideration than definition. A thousand men may write verses for one who has the power of defining and discriminating the exact meaning of words and the principles of grammatical arrangement. —Croktr.
2 See his Letter on this subject in the Appendix.
5 Written by the Baron d'Holbach, and published in the year 1770 under the pseudonym of Mirabaud.—Editor.
* Sir A. Dick was born in 17U3; died Nov. 10, 1785.— Wright.
In Dr. Johnson's "Vanity of Human Wishes" there is the following passage:—
"The teeming mother, anxious for her race,
Begs, for each birth, the fortune of a face;
Yet Vane could tell what ills from beauty spring:
And Sedley cursed the charms which pleased a king."
Lord Hailes told me he was mistaken in the instances tie had given of unfortunate fair ones; for neither Vane nor Sedley had a title to that description. His lordship has since been so obliging as to send me a note of this, for the communication of which I am sure my readers will thank me.
"The lines in the tenth Satire of Juvenal, according to my alteration, should run thus:—
1 See Life, vol. ii., pp. 187-191.