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launched from the metropolis, he would go forward very well; and I got our common friends there to assist in setting him afloat. To Mrs. Thrale, in particular, whose enchantment over him seldom failed, I was much obliged.' It was, '- I'll give thee a wind."—" Thou art kind." To attract him. we had invitations from the chiefs Macdonald and Macleod; and, for additional aid, I wrote to Lord Elibank, Dr. William Robertson, and Dr. Beattie.
To Dr. Robertson, so far as my letter concerned the present subject, I wrote as follows :—
"Our friend, Mr. Samuel Johnson, is in great health and spirits; and, I do think, has a serious resolution to visit Scotland this year. The more attraction, however, the better; and, therefore, though I know he will be happy to meet you there, it will forward the scheme, if, in your answer to this, you express yourself concerning it with that power of which you are so happily possessed, and which may be so directed as to operate strongly upon him."
His answer to that part of my letter was quite as I could have wished. It was written with the address and persuasion of the historian of America.
"When I saw you last, you gave us some hopes that you might prevail with Mr. Johnson to make out that excursion to Scotland, with the expectation of which we have long flattered ourselves. If he could order matters so as to pass some time in Edinburgh, about the close of the summer season, and then visit some of the Highland scenes. I am confident he would be pleased with the grand feature* of nature in many parts of this country: he will meet with many persons here who respect him. and some whom I am persuaded he will think not unworthy of his esteem. I wish he would make the experiment. He sometimes cracks his jokes upon us; but he will find that we can distinguish between the stabs of malevolence and the rebukes of the righteous, which are
1 She gives, in one of her letters to Dr. Johnson, the reasons which induced her lo approve this excursion :—" Fatigue is profitable to your health, upon the whole, and keeps fancy from playing foolish tricks. Exercise for your body, and exertion for your mind, will contribute mon? than all the medicine in the universe to preserve that life we all consider as invaluable,"—Letters, vol. i., p. 190.—Crokn.
like excellent oil,1 and break not the head. Otter my best compliments to him, and assure him that I shall be happy to have the satisfaction of seeing him under my roof."
To Dr. Beattie I wrote, "The chief intention of this letter is to inform you, that I now seriously believe Mr. Samuel Johnson will visit Scotland this year: but I wish that every power of attraction may be employed to secure our having so valuable an acquisition, and therefore I hope you will, without delay, write to me what I know you think, that I may read it to the mighty sage, with proper emphasis. before I leave London, which I must do soon. He talks of you with the same warmth that he did last year. We are to see as much, of Scotland as we can, in the months of August and September. We shall not be long of being at Marischal College.2 He is particularly desirous of seeing some of the Western Islands."
Dr. Beattie did better: ipse vend. He was, however, so polite as to waive his privilege of nil mihi rescribas, and wrote from Edinburgh as follows :—
"Your very kind and agreeable favour of the 20th of April overtook me here yesterday, after having gone to Aberdeen, which place I left about a week ago. I am to set out this day for London, and hope to have the honour of paying my respects to Mr. Johnson and you, about a week or ten days hence. i shall then do what I can to enforce the topic you mention; but at present I cannot enter upon it, as I am in a very great hurry, for I intend to begin my journey within an hour or two."
He was as good as his word, and threw some pleasing motives into the northern scale. But, indeed, Mr. Johnson loved all that he heard, from one whom he tells us, in his "Lives of the Poets," Gray found " a poet, a philosopher, and a good man."
My Lord Elibank did not answer my letter to his lordship for some time. The reason will appear when we come to
1 Our friend Edmund Burke, who, by this time, had received some pretty severe strokes from Dr. Johnson, on account of the unhappy ditference in their politics, upon my repeating this passage to him, exclaimed, " Oil of vitriol!"
'* This, I find, is a Scotticism. I should have said, " It will not be long before we shall be at Marischal College."
the Isle of Sky. I shall then insert my letter, with letters from his lordship, both to myself and Mr. Johnson. I beg it may be understood, that I insert my own letters, as I relate my own sayings, rather as keys to what is valuable belonging to others, than for their own sake.
Luckily Mr. Justice (now Sir Robert) Chambers, who was about to sail for the East Indies, was going to take leave of his relations at Newcastle, and he conducted Dr. Johnson to that town.1 Mr. Scott, of University College, Oxford (now Dr. Scott of the Commons),2 accompanied him from thence to Edinburgh. With such propitious convoys did he proceed to my native city. But, lest metaphor should make it be supposed he actually went by sea, I choose to mention that he travelled in post-chaises, of which the rapid motion was one of his most favourite amusements.
Dr. Samuel Johnson's character, religious, moral, political, and literary, nay, his figure and manner, are, I believe, more generally known than those of almost any man; yet it may not be superfluous here to attempt a sketch of him. Let my readers, then, remember that he was a sincere and zealous Christian, of high Church of England and monarchical principles, which he would not tamely suffer to be questioned; steady and inflexible in maintaining the obligations of piety and virtue, both from a regard to the order of society, and from a veneration for the Great Source of all order; correct, nay, stern in his taste; hard to please, and easily offended; impetuous and irritable in his temper, but of a most humane and benevolent heart; having a mind stored with a vast and various collection of learning and knowledge, which he communicated with peculiar perspicuity and force, in rich and choice expression. He united a most logical head with a most fertile imagination, which gave him an extraordinary advantage in arguing; for he
1 TO JAMES BOSWELL, ESQ.
"Newcastle, August 11, 1773 "Dear Sir,
"I came hither last night, and hope, but Ho not absolutely promise, to be in Edinburgh on Saturday. Beattie will not come so soon. I am, Sir, your most humble servant, "Sail Johnson.
"My compliments to your lady."
2 Afterwards Sir William Scott and Lord Stowell.—Editor.
could reason close or wide, as he saw best fur the moment. He could, when he chose it, be the greatest sophist that ever wielded a weapon in the schools of declamation, but he indulged this only in conversation; for he owned he sometimes talked for victory; he was too conscientious to make error permanent and pernicious, by deliberately writing it. He was conscious of his superiority. He loved praise when it was brought to him; but was too proud to seek for it. He was somewhat susceptible of flattery. His mind was so full of imagery, that he might have been perpetually a poet. It has often been remarked, that in his poetical pieces, which it is to be regretted are so few, because so excellent, his style is easier than in his prose. There is deception in this: it is not easier, but better suited to the dignity of verse; as one may dance with grace, whose motions, in ordinary walking, in the common step, are awkward. He had a constitutional melancholy, the clouds of which darkened the brightness of his fancy, and gave a gloomy cast to his whole course of thinking: yet, though grave and awful in his deportment, when he thought it necessary or proper, he frequently indulged himself in pleasantry and sportive sallies. 'He was prone to superstition, but not to credulity. Though his imagination might incline him to a belief of the marvellous and the myterious, his vigorous reason examined the evidence with jealousy. He had a loud voice, and a slow, deliberate utterance, which no doubt gave some additional weight to the sterling metal of his conversation. Lord Pembroke said once to me at Wilton, with a happy pleasantry, and some truth, that "Dr. Johnson's sayings would not appear so extraordinary, were it not for his bow-wow way." But I admit the truth of this, only on some occasions. The Messiah played upon the Canterbury organ is more sublime than when played on an inferior instrument; but very slight music will seem grand, when conveyed to the ear through that majestic medinm. While, therefore, Dr. Johnson's sayings are read, let his manner be taken along with them. Let it, however, be observed, that the sayings themselves are generally great; that, though he might be an ordinary composer at times, he was for the most part a Handel. His person was large, robust, I may say approaching to the gigantic, and grown unwieldy from corpulency. His countenance was naturally of the cast of an ancient statue, but somewhat disfigured by the scars of that evil, which, it was formerly imagined, the royal touch could cure. He was now in his sixty-fourth year, and was becoming a little dull of hearing. His sight had always been somewhat weak; yet, so much does mind govern, and even supply the deficiency of organs, that his perceptions were uncommonly quick and accurate. His head, and sometimes also his body, shook with a kind of motion like the effect of a palsy: he appeared to be frequently disturbed by cramps, or convulsive contractions,1 of the nature of that distemper called St. Vitus's dance. He wore a full suit of plain brown clothes, with twisted hair-buttons of the same colour, a large bushy greyish wig, a plain shirt, black worsted stockings. and silver buckles. Upon his tour, when journeying, he wore boots, and a very wide brown cloth great coat, with pockets which might have almost held the two volumes of his folio Dictionary; and he carried in his Land a large English oak stick. Let me not be censured for mentioning such minute particulars: every thing relative to so great a man is worth observing. I remember Dr. Adam Smith, in his rhetorical lectures at Glasgow,2 told us he was glad to know that Milton wore latchets in his shoes instead of buckles. When I mention the oak stick, it is but letting Hercules have his club ; and, by-and-by, my readers will find this stick will bud, and produce a good joke.
This imperfect sketch of "the combination and the form" of that wonderful man, whom I venerated and
1 Such they appeared to me; but, since the first edition, Sir Joshua Reynolds has observed to me. that " Dr. Johnson's extraordinary gestures were only habits, in which he indulged himself at certain times. When in company, where he was net free, or when engaged earnestly in conversation, he never gave way to such habits, which proves that they were not involuntary." I still, however, think that these gestures were involuntary; fur surely, had not that been the case, he would have re- , strained them in the public streets.
2 A few days before his death, Adam Smith ordered all his manuscripts, except some detached essays, to be burnt. The lectures on Rhetoric, which Bosweli says he heard at Glasgow, and which Dugald Stewart speaks of as delivered at Edinburgh in the year 1748, were probably among those which were thus consumed. Life, by Dugald Stewart, appended to Smith's Works.— Works, vol. v., p. 512.—Editor,