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him, I observed, that Johnson spared none of us; and I quoted the passage in Horace, in which he compares one who attacks his friends for the sake of a laugh, to a pushing ox, that is marked by a bunch of hay put upon his horns : "foenum habet in cornu.” “Aye,” said Garrick vehemently, “ he has a whole mow of it.”
Talking of history, Johnson said, “ We may know historical facts to be true, as we may know facts in common life to be true. Motives are generally unknown. We cannot trust to the characters we find in history, unless when they are drawn by those who knew the persons; as those, for instance, by Sallust and by lord Clarendon.”
He would not allow much merit to Whitfield's oratory. "His popularity, sir,” said he, “is chiefly owing to the peculiarity of his manner. He would be followed by crowds were he to wear a nightcap in the pulpit, or were he to preach from a tree.”
I know not from what spirit of contradiction he burst out into a violent declamation against the Corsicans, of whose heroism I talked in high terms. “Sir,” said he, “what is all this rout about the Corsicans? They have been at war with the Genoese for upwards of twenty years, and have never yet taken their fortified towns. They might have battered down their walls, and reduced them to powder in twenty years. They might have pulled the walls in pieces, and cracked the stones with their teeth in twenty years." It was in vain to argue with him upon the want of artillery: he was not to be resisted for the moment.
On the evening of October the 10th, I presented Dr. Johnson to general Paoli. I had greatly wished that two men for whom I had the highest esteem, should meet. They met with a manly ease, mutually conscious of their own abilities, and of the abilities of each other. The
general spoke Italian, and Dr. Johnson English, and understood one another very well, with a little aid of interpretation from me, in which I compared myself to an isthmus which joins two great continents. Upon Johnson's ap
proach, the general said, “ From what I have read of your works, sir, and from what Mr. Boswell has told me of you, I have long held you in great veneration.” The general talked of languages being formed on the particular notions and manners of a people, without knowing which, we cannot know the language. We may know the direct signification of single words; but by these no beauty of expression, no sally of genius, no wit is conveyed to the mind. All this must be by allusion to other ideas. “Sir," said Johnson, "you talk of language as if you had never done any thing else but study it, instead of governing a nation.” The general said, “Questo è un troppo gran complimento," this is too great a compliment. Johnson answered, “I should have thought so, sir, if I had not heard
you talk.” The general asked him what he thought of the spirit of infidelity which was so prevalent. JOHNSON. “Sir, this gloom of infidelity, I hope, is only a transient cloud passing through the hemisphere, which will soon be dissipated, and the sun break forth with his usual splendour.” “You think then," said the general, " that they will change their principles like their clothes." JOHNSON. “Why, sir, if they bestow no more thought on principles than on dress, it must be so.” The general said, that “a great part of the fashionable infidelity was owing to a desire of showing courage. Men who have no opportunities of showing it as to things in this life, take death and futurity as objects on which to display it." JOHNSON. "That is mighty foolish affectation. Fear is one of the passions of human nature, of which it is im possible to divest it. You remember that the emperor Charles the fifth, when he read upon the tombstone of a Spanish nobleman, 'Here lies one who never knew fear, wittily said, “Then he never snuffed a candle with his fingers.
He talked a few words of French to the general; but finding he did not do it with facility, he asked for pen, ink, and paper, and wrote the following note:
« J'ai lu dans la géographie de Lucas de Linda un
pater-noster écrit dans une langue tout-à-fait différente de l'Italienne, et de toutes autres lesquelles se dérivent du Latin. L'auteur l'appelle « linguam Corsicæ rusticam:' elle a peut-être passé, peu à peu ; mais elle a certainement prévalue autrefois dans les montagnes et dans la campagne.
Le même auteur dit la même chose en parlant de Sardaigne ; qu'il y a deux langues dans l'isle, une des 'villes, l'autre de la campagne."
The general immediately informed him that the lingua rustica was only in Sardinia.
Dr. Johnson went home with me, and drank tea till late in the night. He said, “ General Paoli had the loftiest port of any man he had ever seen.” He denied that military men were always the best bred men. “ Perfect good breeding,” he observed, " consists in having no particular mark of any profession, but a general elegance of manners; whereas, in a military man, you can commonly distinguish the brand of a soldier, 'l'homme d'épée.'
Dr. Johnson shunned to-night any discussion of the perplexed question of fate and free will, which I attempted to agitate: “Sir," said he, “we know our will is free, and there's an end on't."
He honoured me with his company at dinner on the 16th of October, at my lodgings in Old Bond-street, with sir Joshua Reynolds, Mr. Garrick, Dr. Goldsmith, Mr. Murphy, Mr. Bickerstaff, and Mr. Thomas Davies. Garrick played round him with a fond vivacity, taking hold of the breasts of his coat, and, looking up in his face with
lively archness, complimented him on the good health which he seemed then to enjoy ; while the sage, shaking his head, beheld him with a gentle complacency. One of the company not being come at the appointed hour, I proposed, as usual upon such occasions, to order dinner to be served ; adding, “ Ought six people to be kept waiting for one?" Why, yes," answered Johnson, with a delicate humanity, “if the one will suffer more by your sitting down, than the six will do by waiting.” Goldsmith, to divert the tedious minutes, strutted about, bragging of his dress, and I believe was seriously vain of it, for his mind was wonderfully prone to such impressions. “Come, come," said Garrick, “talk no more of that. You are, perhaps, the worst-eh, eh!”—Goldsmith was eagerly attempting to interrupt him, when Garrick went on, laughing ironically, “ Nay, you will always look like a gentleman; but I am talking of being well or ill drest.” “Well, let me tell you," said Goldsmith, “ when my tailor brought home my bloom-coloured coat, he said, “Sir, I have a favour to beg of you: when any body asks you who made your clothes, be pleased to mention John Filby, at the Harrow in Water-lane.'” Johnson. “Why, sir, that was because he knew the strange colour would attract crowds to gaze at it, and thus they might hear of him, and see how well he could make a coat even of so absurd a colour.”
After dinner our conversation turned first upon Pope. Johnson said, his characters of men were admirably drawn, those of women not so well. He repeated to us, in his forcible melodious manner, the concluding lines of the Dunciad". While he was talking loudly in praise of those lines, one of the company ventured to say, “Too fine for such a poem :-a poem on what?” JOHNSON. (with a disdainful look,) “Why, on dunces. It was worth while being a dunce then. Ah, sir, hadst thou lived in those days! It is not worth while being a dunce now, when there are no wits.” Bickerstaff observed, as a peculiar circumstance, that Pope's fame was higher when he was alive than it was then. Johnson said, his pastorals were poor things, though the versification was fine. He told us, with high satisfaction, the anecdote of Pope's enquiring who was the author of his London, and saying, he will be soon déterré. He observed, that in Dryden's poetry there were passages drawn from a profundity which Pope could never reach. He repeated some fine lines on love, by the former, (which I have now forgotten,) and gave great applause to the character of Zimri. Goldsmith said, that Pope's character of Addison showed a deep knowledge of the human heart.' Johnson said, that the description of the temple, in The Mourning Brides, was the finest poetical passage he had ever read; he recollected none in Shakspeare equal to it.—" But,” said Garrick, all alarmed for the god of his idolatry,' “ we know not the extent and variety of his powers. We are to suppose there are such passages in his works. Shakspeare must pot suffer from the badness of our memories." Johnson, diverted by this enthusiastick jealousy, went on with great ardour: “ No, sir ; Congreve has nature;” (smiling on the tragick eagerness of Garrick ;) but composing himself, he added, “Sir, this is not comparing Congreve on the whole with Shakspeare on the whole; but only maintaining that Congreve has one finer passage than any that can be found in Shakspeare. Sir, a man may have no more than ten guineas in the world, but he may have those ten guineas in one piece; and so may have a finer piece than a man who has ten thousand pounds: but then he has only one ten-guinea piece.- What I mean is, that you can show me no passage where there is simply a description of material objects, without any intermixture of moral notions", which produces such an effect.” Mr. Murphy
s Mr. Langton informed me that he once related to Johnson, (on the authority of Spence,) that Pope himself admired those lines so much, that when he repeated them his voice faltered : “And well it might, sir,” said Johnson, " for they are noble lines.”--J. Boswell.
The passage alluded to occurs in act ii. scene 8. The whole of the scene should, in justice to its merit, be transcribed; but the following passage from Almeria's speech is the one on which the remarks above were chiefly made.
How reverend is the face of this tall pile;
And shoot a chillness to my trembling heart.- En. u In Congreve's description there seems to be an intermuture of moral no. tions; as the affecting power of the passage arises from the vivid impression of the described objects on the mind of the speaker : And shoots a chi}}ness," etc.-Kearney.