« PreviousContinue »
Mr. Fraser sent a servant to conduct us by a short passage into the high road. I observed to Dr. Johnson, that I had a most disagreeable notion of the life of country gentlemen; that I left Mr. Fraser just now, as one leaves a prisoner in a jail. Dr. Johnson said, that I was right in thinking them unhappy, for that they had not enough to keep their minds in motion. I started a thought this afternoon which amused us a great part of the way. "If," said I, "our Club should come aud set up in St. Andrew's, as a college, to teach all that each of us can in the several departments of learning and taste, we should rebuild the city: Tyc should draw a wonderful concourse of students." Dr. Johnson entered fully into the spirit of this project. We immediately fell to distributing the offices. I was to teach civil and Scotch law; Burke, politics and eloquence; Garrick, the art of public speaking; Langton was to be our Grecian, Column our Latin professor; Nugent, to teach physic; Lord Charlemont, modern history; Beauclerk, natural philosophy; Vesey, Irish antiquities, or Celtic learning;' Jones, Oriental learning; Goldsmith, poetry and ancient history; Chamier, commercial politics; Reynolds, painting, and the arts which have beauty for their object; Chambers, the law of England. Dr. Johnson at first said, "I'll trust theology to nobody but myself." But upon due consideration, that Percy is a clergyman, it was agreed that Percy should teach practical divinity and British antiquities; Dr. Johnson himself, logic, metaphysics, and scholastic divinity. In this manner did we amuse ourselves, each suggesting, and each varying or adding, till the whole was adjusted. Dr. Johnson said we only wanted a mathematician since Dyer died, who was a very good one; but as to everything else we should have a very capital university.2
'Since the first edition, it has been suggested by one of the Club, who knew Mr. Vesey better than Dr. Johnson and I, that we did not assign him a proper place, for he was quite unskilled in Irish antiquities and Celtic learning, but might with propriety have been made professor of architecture, which he understood well, and has left a very good specimen of his knowledge and taste in that art, by an elegant house built on a plan of his own formation, at Lucan, a few miles from Dublin.
2 Our club, originally at the Turk's Head, Gerrard Street, then at Prince's, Sackville Street, now at Baxter's, Dover Street, which at Mr.
We got at night to Banff. I sent Joseph on to Duff House: but Earl Fife was not at home, which I regretted much, as we should have had a very elegant reception from his lordship. We found here but an indifferent inn.1 Dr. Johnson wrote a long letter to Mrs. Thrale.2 I wondered to see him write so much so easily. He verified his own doctrine, that "a man may always write when he will set himself doggedly to it."
Thursday, Aug. 26.—We got a fresh chaise here, a very good one, and very good horses. We breakfasted at Culleu. They set down dried haddocks broiled, along with our tea. I ate one: but Dr. Johnson was disgusted by the sight of them, so they were removed.3 Cullen has a comfortable appearance, though but a very small town, and the houses mostly poor buildings.
Garriek's funeral acquired a name for the first time, and was called The Literary Chih, was instituted in 1764, and now consists of thirty-five members. It has, since 1773, been greatly augmented, and though Dr. Johnson, with justice, observed that, by losing Goldsmith, Garrick, Nugent, Chamier, Beauclerk, we had lost what would make an eminent club, yet when I mention, as an accession. Mr. Fox, Dr. George Fordyce, Sir Charles Bunbury, Lord Ossory, Mr. Gibbon, Dr. Adam Smith, Mr. R. B. Sheridan, the Bishops of Killaloe and St. Asaph, Dean Murlay, Mr. Steevens, Mr. Dunning, Sir Joseph Banks, Dr. Scott of the Commons, Earl Spencer, Mr. Windham of Norfolk, Lord Elliott, Mr. Malone, Dr. Joseph Warton, the Rev. Thomas Warton, Lord Lucan, Mr. Burke, junior, Lord Palmerston, Dr. Burney, Sir William Hamilton, and Dr. Warren, it will be acknowledged that we might establish a second university of high reputation.
Boswell has given two accounts of " The Club,'' one contained in this note, the other more full in the Life; see vol. ii., pp. S-3.—Editor.
1 Here, unluckily, the windows had no pulleys, and Dr. Johnson, who was constantly eager for fresh air, had much struggling to get one of them kept open. Thus he had a notion impressed upon him, that this wretched defect was general in Scotland, in consequence of which he has erroneously enlarged upon it in his'' Journey." 1 regretted that he did not allow me to read over his book before it was printed. I should have changed very little, but I should have suggested an alteration in a few places where he has laid himself open to be attacked. I hope I should have prevailed with him to omit or soften his assertion, that a "Scotsman must be a sturdy moralist, who does not prefer Scotland to truth,'' —for I really think it is not founded, and it is harshly said.
2 The letter dated Banff, Aug. 25, 1773, in the Letters, vol. i., p. 110117.—Editor.
3 A protest may be entered on the part of most Scotsmen against the Doctors taste in this particular. A Finnon haddock dried over the smoke of the sea-weed, and sprinkled with salt water during the process, acquires a relish of a very peculiar and delicate flavour, inimitable on any other coast than that of Aberdeenshire. Some of our Edinburgh philosophers tried to produce their equal in vain. I was one of a party at a dinner, where the philosophical haddocks were placed in competition with the genuine Finnon-fish. These were served round without distinction whence they came: but only one gentleman, out of twelve present, espoused the cause of philosophy.— Walter Scott.
I called on Mr. Robertson, who has the charge of Lord Findlater's affairs, and was formerly Lord Monboddo's clerk, was three times in France with him, and translated Condamine's Account of the Savage Girl, to which his lordship wrote a preface, containing several remarks of his own. Robertson said he did not believe so much as his lordship did; that it was plain to him the girl confounded what she imagined with what she remembered; that, besides, sbe perceived Condamine and Lord Monboddo forming theories, and she adapted her story to them.
Dr. Johnson said, "It is a pity to see Lord Monboddo publish such notions as he has done; a man of sense, and of so much elegant learning. There would be little in a fool doing it; we should only laugh: but when a wise man does it, we are sorry. Other people have strange notions; but they conceal them. If they have tails, they hide them; but Monboddo is as jealous of his tail as a squirrel." I shall here put down some more remarks of Dr. Johnson's on Lord Monboddo, which were not made exactly at this time, but come in well from connection. He said he did not approve of a judge's calling himself Farmer Burnett,1 and going about with a little round hat.2 He laughed heartily at his lordship's saving he was an enthusiastioal farmer; "For," said he, "what can he do in farming by his enthusiasm?" Here, however, I think Dr. Johnson mistaken. He who wishes to be successful, or happy, ought to be enthusiastical, that is to say, very keen in all the occupations or diversions of life. An ordinary gentleman-farmer will be satisfied with looking at his fields once or twice a day: an euthusiastical farmer will be constantly employed on them; wjll have his mind earnestly engaged; will talk perpetually of them. But Dr. Johnson has much of the nil admirari in smaller concerns. That survey of life which gave birth to his " Vanity of Human Wishes" early sobered his mind. Besides, so great a mind as his cannot be moved by inferior objects: an elephant does not run and skip like lesser animals.
1 It is the custom in Scotland for the judges of the Court of Session to have the title of Lords, from their estates; thus Mr. Burnett is Lord Monboddo, as Mr. Home was Lord Karnes. There is something a little awkward in this; for they are denominated in deeds by their names, with the addition of " one of the senators of the college of justice;" and subscribe their Christian and surname, as James Burnett, Henry Home, even in judicial acts.
We see that the same custom prevailed amongst other gentlemen as well as the judges. All the lairds who are called by the names of their estates, as Rasay, Col. &c., sign their Christian and surnames, as J. Macleod, A. Maclean, &c. The dignity of the judicial bench has consecrated, in the case of the judges, what was once the common practice of the country.—Croker.
1 It may be worth while to remark, that down to a very recent period, judges both in Loudon and Edinburgh were distinguished, when mixing
Mr. Robertson sent a servant with us, to show us through Lord Findlater's wood, by which our way was shortened, and we saw some part of his domain, which is indeed admirably laid out. Dr. Johnson did not choose to walk through it. He always said that he was not come to Scotland to see fine places, of which there were enough in England; but wild objects—mountains—waterfalls—peculiar manners; in short, things which he had not seen before. I have a notion that he at no time has had much taste for rural beauties. I have myself very little.
Dr. Johnson said there was nothing more contemptible than a country gentleman living beyond his income, and every year growing poorer and poorer. He spoke strongly of the influence which a man has by being rich, "A man," said he, "who keeps his money, has in reality more use from it than he can have by spending it." I observed that this looked very like a paradox: but he explained it thus: "If it were certain that a man would keep his money locked up for ever, to be sure he would have no influence; but, as so many want money, and he has the power of giving it, and they know not but by gaining his favour they may obtain it, the rich man will always have the greatest influence. He, again, who lavishes his money, is laughed at as foolish,
in common society, by certain grave peculiarities of dress: these, with some few ancient and venerable exceptions, have now disappeared: and it seems doubtful whether the innovation was wise.—Lockkart, 1835.
and in a great degree with justice, considering how much is spent from vanity. Even those who partake of a man's hospitality have but a transient kindness for him. If he has not the command of money, people know he cannot help them if he would: whereas the rich man always cau. if he will, and for the chance of that, will have much weight." Boswell. "But philosophers and satirists have all treated a miser as contemptible." Johnson. " He is so philosophically; but not in the practice of life." BosWell. "Let me see now: I do not know the instances of misers in England, so as to examine into their influence." Johnson. "We have had few misers in England." BosWell. "There was Lowther." 1 Johnson. "Why, Sir, Lowther, by keeping his money, had the command of the county, which the family has now lost, by spending it.2 I take it he lent a great deal; and that is the way to have influence, and yet preserve one's wealth. A man may lend his money upon very good security, and yet have his debtor much under his power." Boswell. "No doubt, Sir. He can always distress him for the money: as no man borrows who is able to pay on demand quite conveniently."
We dined at Elgin, and saw the noble rains of the cathedral. Though it rained m ach, Dr. Johnson examined them with the most patient attention. He could not here feel any abhorrence at the Scottish reformers, for he had been told by Lord Hailes, that it was destroyed before the reformation, by the Lord of Badenoch,3 who had a quarrel
1 He means, no doubt, Sir James Lowther, of Whitehaven, Bart., who died in 1755, immensely rich, but without issue, and his estates devolved on his relation, Sir James, afterwards first Earl of Lonsdale. — Croker.
2 I do not know what was at this time the state of the parliamentary interest of the ancient family of Lowther; a family before the conquest: but all the nation knows it to be very extensive at present. A due mixture of severity and kindness, economy and munificence characterizes its present representative.*
3 Kote, by Lord .Hailes.—" The cathedral of Elgin was burnt by the Lord of Badenoch, because the Bishop of Moray had pronounced an
* The second Viscount and only Earl Lonsdale of this branch, who wa* recommended to Boswell's peculiar favour by having married Ladv Mary Stuart, the daughter of John Earl of Bute.— Croker.