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has great informations, and great command of language ; though, in my opinion, it has not in every respect the highest elegance.”-Boswell
. “Do you think, sir, that Burke has read Cicero much ?--Johnson. " I don't believe it, sir. Burke has great knowledge, great fluency of words, and great promptness of ideas, so that he can speak with great illustration on any subject that comes before him. He is neither like Cicero, nor like Demosthenes, nor like any one else, but speaks as well as he can."
In the 65th page of the first volume of Sir George Mackenzie, Dr. Johnson pointed out a paragraph beginning with Aristotle, and told me there was an error in the text, which he bade me try to discover. I was lucky enough to hit it at once. As the passage is printed, it is said that the devil answers even in engines. I corrected it to---ever in enigmas. “Sir, (said he,) you are a good critick. This would have been a great thing to do in the text of an ancient authour.”
Thursday, 6th September.
Last night much care was taken of Dr. Johnson, who was still distressed by his cold. He had hitherto most strangely slept without a night-cap. Miss M‘Leod made him a large flannel one, and he was prevailed with to drink a little brandy when he was going to bed. He has great virtue, in not drinking wine or any fermented liquor, because, as he acknowledged to us, he could not do it in moderation.-Lady M'Leod would hardly believe him, and said, “I am sure, sir, you would not carry it too far.”—Johnson. “Nay, madam, it carried
I took the opportunity of a long illness to leave it off. It was then prescribed to me not to drink wine; and having broken off the habit, I have never returned to it.”
In the argument on Tuesday night, about natural goodness, Dr. Johnson denied that any child was better than another, but by difference of instruction ; though, in consequence of greater attention being paid to instruction by one child than another, and of a variety of imperceptible causes, such as instruction being counteracted by servants, a notion was conceived, that of two children, equally well educated, one was naturally much worse than the other. He owned, this morning, that one might have a greater aptitude to learn than another, and that we inherit dispositions from our parents. “I inherited, (said he,) a vile melancholy from my father, which has made me mad all my life, at least not sober.”—Lady M'Leod wondered he should tell this.
Madam, (said I,) he knows that with that madness he is superior to other men.”
I have often been astonished with what exactness and perspicuity he will explain the process of any art. He this morning explained to us all the operation of coining, and, at night, all the operation of brewing, so very clearly, that Mr. M'Queen said, when he heard the first, he thought he had been bred in the Mint; when he heard the second, that he had been bred a brewer.
I was elated by the thought of having been able to entice such a man to this remote part of the world. A ludicrous, yet just, image presented itself to my mind, which I expressed to the company. I compared myself to a dog who has got hold of a large piece of meat, and runs away with it to a corner, where he may devour it in peace, without any fear of others taking it from him. “ In London, Reynolds, Beauclerk, and all of them, are
contending who shall enjoy Dr. Johnson's conversation. We are feasting upon it, undisturbed, at Dunvegan.”
It was still a storm of wind and rain. Dr. Johnson however walked out with M‘Leod, and saw Rorie More's cascade in full perfection. Colonel M‘Leod, instead of being all life and gaiety, as I have seen him, was at present grave, and somewhat depressed by his anx. ious concern about M‘Leod's affairs, and by finding some gentlemen of the clan by no means disposed to act a generous or affectionate part to their Chief in his distress, but bargaining with him as with a stranger. However, he was agreeable and polite, and Dr. Johnson said, he was a very pleasing man.-My fellow-traveller and I talked of going to Sweden; and, while we were settling our plan, I expressed a pleasure in the prospect of seeing the king.-Johnson. “I doubt, sir, if he would speak to us.”—Colonel M‘Leod said, “I am sure Mr. Boswell would speak to him.” But, seeing me a little disconcerted by his remark, he politely added, “and with great propriety.”—Here let me offer a short defence of that propensity in my disposition, to which this gentleman alluded. It has procured me much happiness. I hope it does not deserve so hard a name as either forwardness or impudence. If I know myself, it is nothing more than an eagerness to share the society of men distinguished either by their rank or their talents, and a diligence to attain what I desire. If a man is praised for seeking knowledge, though mountains and seas are in his way, may he not be pardoned, whose ardour, in the pursuit of the same object, leads him to encounter difficulties as great, though of a different kind ?
After the ladies were gone from table, we talked of the Highlanders not having sheets; and this led us to consider the advantage of wearing linen.--Johnson.
~ All animal substances are less cleanly than vegetables. Wool, of which fannel is made, is an animal substance; flannel therefore is not so cleanly as linen. I remember I used to think tar dirty ; but when I knew it to be only a preparation of the juice of the pine, I thought so no longer. It is not disagreeable to have the gum that oozes from a plumb-tree upon your fingers, because it is vegetable ; but if you have any candle-grease, any tallow upon your fingers, you are uneasy
rub it off.--I have often thought, that, if I kept a seraglio, the ladies should all wear linen gowns,--or cotton ;-I mean stuffs made of vegetable substances. I would have no silk; you cannot tell when it is clean : It will be very nasty before it is perceived to be so. Linen detects its own dirtiness.”
To hear the grave Dr. Samuel Johnson, “that majestick teacher of moral and religious wisdom,” while sitting solemn in an arm-chair in the isle of Sky, talk, ex cathedra, of his keeping a seraglio, and acknowledge that the supposition had often been in his thoughts, struck me so forcibly with ludicrous contrast, that I could not but laugh immoderately He was too proud to submit, even for a moment, to be the object of ridicule, and instantly retaliated with such keen sarcastick wit, and such a variety of degrading images, of every one of which I was the object, that, though I can bear such attacks as'well as most men, I yet found myself so much the sport of all the company, that I would gladly expunge from my mind every trace of this severe retort.
Talking of our friend Langton's house in Lincolnshire, he said, “ the old house of the family was burnt. A temporary building was erected in its room ; and to this they have been always adding as the family in
creased. It is like a shirt made for a man when he was a child, and enlarged always as he grows older.”
We talked to-night of Luther's allowing the Landgrave
of Hesse two wives, and that it was with the con. sent of the wife to whom he was first married.-John
“ There was no harm in this, so far as she was only concerned, because volenti non fit injuria. But it was an offence against the general order of society, and against the law of the Gospel, by which one man and one woman are to be united. No man can have two wives, but by preventing somebody else from having one."
Friday, 17th September.
After dinner yesterday, we had a conversation upon eunning. M'Leod said that he was not afraid of cunning people ; but would let them play their tricks about him like monkeys. “But, (said I,) they'll scratch ;"> and Mr. M'Queen added, “they'll invent new tricks, as soon as you find out what they do.”—Johnson. “Cunning has effect from the credulity of others, rather than from the abilities of those who are cunning. It requires no extraordinary talents to lie and deceive.”This led us to consider whether it did not require great abilities to be very wicked.—Johnson. “It requires great abilities to have the power of being very wicked ; but not to be very wicked. A man who has the power, which great abilities procure him, may use it well or ill; and it requires more abilities to use it well, than to use it ill. Wickedness is always easier than virtue ; for it takes the short cut to every thing. It is much easier to steal a hundred pounds, than to get it by labour, or any other way. Consider only what act of wickedness re.