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more paradoxical, that he could write a sheet of dictionary with as much pleasure as a sheet of poetry. He acknowledged, indeed, that the latter was much easier than the former. For in the one case, books and a desk were requisite; in the other, you might compose when lying in bed, or walking in the fields, &c. He did not, however, descend to explain, nor to this moment can I comprehend, how the labours of a mere Philologist, in the most refined sense of that term, could give equal pleasure with the exercise of a mind replete with elevated conceptions and pathetic ideas, while taste, fancy, and intellect were deeply enamoured of nature, and in full exertion. You may likewise, perhaps, remember, that when I complained of the ground which Scepticism in religion and morals was continually gaining, it did not appear to be on my own account, as my private opinions upon these important subjects had long been inflexibly determined. What I then deplored, and still deplore, was the unhappy influence which that gloomy hesitation had, not only upon particular characters, but even upon life in general; as being equally the bane of action in our present state, and of such consolations as we might derive from the hopes of a future.
I have the pleasure of remaining with sincere esteem and respect,
Your most obedient humble servant,
Edinburgh, Nov. 12, 1785.
I am very happy to find that Dr. Blacklock's apparent uneasiness on the subject of Scepticism was not on his own account, (as I supposed,) but from a benevolent concern for the happiness of mankind. With respect, however, to the question concerning poetry, and composing a dictionary, I am confident that my statement of Dr. Johnson's position is accurate. One may misconceive the motive by which a person is induced to discuss a particular topick (as in the case of Dr. Blacklock's speaking of Scepticism); but an assertion, like that made by Dr. Johnson, cannot be easily mistaken. And indeed it seems not very probable, that he who so pathetically laments the drudgery to which the unhappy lexicographer is doomed, and is known to have written his splendid imitation of Juvenal with astonishing rapidity, should have had "as much pleasure in writing a sheet of a dictionary as a sheet of poetry." Nor can I concur with the ingenious writer of the foregoing letter, in thinking it an axiom as evident as any in Euclid, that "poetry is of easier execution than lexicography." I have no doubt that Bailey, and the "mighty blunderbuss of law," Jacob, wrote ten pages of their respective Dictionaries with more ease than they could have written five pages of poetry.
If this book sin mid again be reprinted, I shall, with the utmost readiness correct any errours I may have committed, in stating conversations, provided it can be clearly shewn to me that I have been inaccurate. But I am slow to believe, (as I have elsewhere observed,) that any man's memory, at the distance of several years, can preserve facts or sayings with such fidelity as may be done by writing them down when they are recent: and I beg it may be remembered, that it is not upon memory, but upon what was written at the time, that the authenticity of my Journal rests.
VERSES WRITTEN BY SlR AlEXANDER (now Ijord) Macdonald; ADDRESSED AND PRESENTED TO Dr. JOHNSON, AT Ab.midale,
In The Isle Of Sky.1
Viator, o qui nostra per squora
Undique conglomcrantur oris.
Donaldiani,—qxiotquot in insults
Cierc Jluctus siste, Procelliger,
Xec te vicissim paniteat virum
Quidni! peremptum clade tuentibus
See ante, p. 118.
Valtte luctus ;—liinc lacrymabilcs
Fingalia mcmorantur aula,
Illustris hospes! max spatiabcre
Audin? rcsurgem spiral anhclitu
Aliana guassans tela gravi manu
ALLEGED MEETING OF JOHNSON AND ADAM SMITH AT GLASGOW.
"Mr. Boswell has chosen to omit, for reasons which will be presently obvious, that Johnson and Adam Smith met at Glasgow; but I have been assured by Professor John Miller that they did so, and that Smith, leaving the party in which he had met Johnson, happened to come to another company, where Miller was. Knowing that Smith had been in Johnson's society, they were anxious to know what had passed, and the more so, as Dr. Smith's temper seemed much ruffled. At first Smith would only answer, 'He's a brute, he's a brute;' but, on closer examination, it appeared that Johnson no sooner saw Smith than he attacked him for some point of his famous letter on the death of Hume. Smith vindicated the truth of his statement. 'What did Johnson say?' was the universal inquiry. 'Why, he said,' replied Smith, with the deepest impression of resentment, ' he said, you lie!' 'And what
did you reply?' 'I said, You are a son of a !' On such
terms did these two great moralists meet and part, and such was the classical dialogue between two great teachers of philosophy." —Sir Walter Scott (Note 2 in Croker's edition, to Oct. 29, 1773).
Now had Scott paused for one minute to verify his authority— and before such a story was admitted at the expense of two of the most eminent men of the eighteenth century, such a small share of hesitation would have seemed advisable—he would have discovered that, Professor John Miller notwithstanding, there could not have been one atom of truth in this wretched anecdote. In the autumn of 1773, when Johnson and Smith are said to have met at Glasgow, David Hume was alive. His death did not take place till nearly three years after Johnson's visit. Adam Smith's well-known letter to William Strahan, the printer, announcing the death of Hume on Sunday, August 25th, 1776, and using the words: "Upon the whole, I have always considered him, both in his lifetime and since his death, as approaching as nearly the idea of a perfectly wise and virtuous man, as perhaps the nature of human frailty will permit," was published in the autumn of the same year. It would be well if all fabrications could be crushed as certainly and decisively as this. No one will suspect Scott of a malicious motive in telling this story: there was no root of bitterness in his mind. But the same story has been repeated, where there was no special occasion even for an allusion to it, by the editors of the " Correspondence of William Wilberforce," London, Murray, 1840. Writing to Mr. T. Hawkins Brown, Mr. Wilberforce alluded to a certain coolness he had experienced in Dr. Smith, which was perhaps characteristic of the author of "The Wealth of Nations." To this merely casual, and, we doubt not, legitimate observation, the editors of those volumes added the following note, vol. i., p. 40;—"Adam Smith had visited London in the spring of this year, and been introduced by Mr. Dundas to Mr. Pitt, Mr. Wilberforce, &c. They met frequently, and one day the conversation turned on Dr. Johnson's visit to Scotland. 'Some of our friends,' said Adam Smith, 'were anxious that we should meet, and a party was arranged for the purpose. In the course of the evening I was seen entering another society, and perhaps with a manner a little confused. 'Have you met Dr. Johnson?' my friends exclaimed. 'Yes, I have.' 'And what passed between you?' 'Immediately on my being introduced he addressed me: 'Dr. Smith, how came you to say that Hume was nearly the best man you ever knew?' 'Because he was so,' I answered. 'Sir,' he replied, 'you lie.' 'And what,' said they, 'was your answer?' 'Sir, you are the son of a bitch.' This example of Adam Smith's characteristic coolness can only be preserved by retaining his own coarseness of expression." This is, of course, the same story that Miller told to Scott, and which Scott imparted to Mr. Croker—who, however, utterly rejected it —for his edition of Boswell's "Tour." Thus good stories are concocted and passed on from mouth to mouth—even from generation to generation. If, however, instead of going out of their way to give additional currency to a fabrication, derogatory to the characters of two great men, the editors of that correspondence had only compared dates which were open to every schoolboy, they would not have incurred the guilt of a moral offence—graver even than the one of using coarseness of expression, so heedlessly attributed to Adam Smith.— Editor.