Page images

nor in a haste to leave off."--Boswell. 6 Yet he can listen.”Johnson. “No; I cannot say he is good at that. So desirous is he to talk, that, if one is speaking at this end of the table, he'll speak to somebody at the other end. Burke, sir, is such a man, that if you met him for the first time in a street where you were stopped by a drove of oxen, and you and he stepped aside to take shelter but for five minutes, he'd talk to you in such a manner, that, when you parted, you would say, this is an extraordinary man. Now, you may be long enough with me, without finding any thing extraordinary.” He said, he believed Burke was intended for the law; but either had not money enough to follow it, or had not diligence enough. He said, he could not understand how a man could apply to one thing, and not to another. Robertson said, one man had more judgment, another more imagination.—Johnson. “No sir; it is only, one man has more mind than another. He may direct it differently ; he may, by accident, see the success of one kind of study, and take a desire to excel in it. I am persuaded that, had Sir Isaac Newton applied to poetry, he would have made a very fine epick poem. I could as easily apply to law as to tra- . gick poetry.”-Boswell. • Yet, sir, you did apply to tragick poetry, not to law.”Johnson. “Because, sir, I had not money to study law. Sir, the man who has vigour, may walk to the east, just as well as to the west, if he happens to turn his head that way.Boswell. “But, sir, 'tis like walking up and down a hill ; one man will naturally do the one better than the other. A hare will run up a hill best, from her fore-legs being short; a dog down.”Johnson. “Nay, sir ; that is from mechanical powers. If you make mind mechanical, you may argue in that manner. One mind is a

vice, and holds fast; there's a good memory. Another is a file, and he is a disputant, a controversialist. Another is a razor; and he is sarcastical.”_We talked of Whitefield. He said, he was at the same college with him, and knew him before he began to be better than other people (smiling); that he believed he sincerely meant well, but had a mixture of politicks and ostentation; whereas Wesley thought of religion only.* -Robertson said, Whitefield had strong natural eloquence, which, if cultivated, would have done great things.Johnson. “Why, sir, I take it, he was at the height of what his abilities could do, and was sensible of it. He had the ordinary advantages of education; but he chose to pursue that oratory which is for the mob.”

-Boswell. “ He had great effect on the passions.” -Johnson. “Why sir, I don't think so. He could not represent a succession of pathetick images. He vociferated, and made an impression. There, again, was a mind like a hammer.”—Dr. Johnson now said, a certain eminent political friend of our's was wrong, in his maxim of sticking to a certain set of men on all occasions. “I can see that a man may do right to stick to a party (said he); that is to say, he is a Whig, or he is a Tory, and he thinks one of those parties upon the whole the best, and that to make it prevail, it must be generally supported, though, in particulars, it may be wrong. He takes its faggot of principles, in which there are fewer rotten sticks than in the other, though some rotten sticks to be sure ; and they cannot well be separated. But, to bind one's self to one man, or one set of men, (who may be right to-day and wrong to-morrow,) without any general preference of system, I must disap

* That cannot be said now, after the flagrant part which Mr. John Wesley, took against our American brethren, when, in his own name, he threw amongst his enthusiastick flock, the very individual combustibles of Dr. Johnson's “Taxa. tion no Tyranny;" and after the intolerant spirit which he manifested against our fellow-christians of the Roman Catholick Communion, for which that able champion Father O'Leary, has given him so hearty a drubbing. But I should think myself very unworthy, if I did not at the same time acknowledge Mr. John Wesley's merit, as a veteran “Soldier of Jesus Christ," who has, I do believe “ turned many from darkness into light, and from the power of Satan to the living God."


He told us of Cooke, who translated Hesiod, and lived twenty years, on a translation of Plautus, for which he was always taking subscriptions; and that he presented Foote to a Club, in the following singular manner: “ This is the nephew of the gentleman who was lately hung in chains for murdering his brother.”

* If due attention were paid to this observation, there would be more virtue, even in Politicks. What Dr. Johnson justly condemned, has, I am sorry to say, greatly increased in the present reign. At the distance of four years from this conversation, 21st of February 1777, My Lord Archbishop of York, in his “ Sermon before the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts," thus indignantly describes the then state of parties :

“Parties once had a principle belonging to them, absurd perhaps, and inde* fensible, but still carrying a notion of duty, by which honest minds might easi"ly be caught.

“ But they are now combinations of individuals, who, instead of being the sons " and servants of the community, make a league for advancing their private in"terests. It is their business to hold high the notion of political honour. I believe "and trust, it is not injurious to say, that such a bond is no better than that by “which the lowest and wickedest combinations are held together; and that it “ denotes the last stage of political depravity."

To find a thought, which just shewed itself to us from the mind of Johnson thus appearing again at such a distance of time, and without any communication between them, enlarged to full growth in the mind of Markham, is a curious oba ject of philosophical contemplation. That two such great and luminous minds should have been so dark in one corner,-that they should have held it to be " wicked Rebellion” in the British subjects established in America, to resist the ahject condition of holding all their property at the mercy of British subjects remaining at home, while their allegiance to our common Lord the King was to be preserved inviolate,-iš a striking proof to me, either that “ He who sitteth in Heaven,” scorns the loftiness of Human prides- or that the evil spirit, whose personal existence I strongly believe, and even in this age am confirmed in that belief by a Fell, nay, by a Hurd, has more power than some choose to allow.

I have pre

In the evening I introduced to Mr. Johnson* two good friends of mine, Mr. William Nairne, Advocate, and Mr. Hamilton of Sundrum, my neighbour in the country, both of whom supped with us. served nothing of what passed, except that Dr. Johnson displayed another of his heterodox opinions--a contempt of tragick acting. He said, “the action of all players in tragedy is bad. It should be a man's study to repress those signs of emotion and passion, as they are called.” He was of a directly contrary opinion to that of Fielding, in his Tom Jones ; who makes Partridge say, of Garrick, “why, I could act as well as he “myself. I am sure, if I had seen a ghost, I should “have looked in the very same manner, and done just " as he did.” For, when I asked him, “Would not you, sir, start as Mr. Garrick does, if you saw a ghost?” He answered, “I hope not. If I did, I should frighten the ghost.”

Monday, 16th August.

Dr. William Robertson came to breakfast. We talked of Ogden on Prayer. Dr. Johnson said, “The same arguments which are used against God's hearing prayer, will serve against his rewarding good and punishing evil. He has resolved, he has declared, in the former case as in the latter.” He had last night looked into Lord Hailes's “ Remarks on the History of Scotland.” Dr. Robertson and I said, it was a pity

* It may be observed, that I sometimes call my great friend, Mr. Johnson, sometimes Dr. Johnson ; though he had at this time a doctor's degree from Trinity College, Dublin. The University of Oxford afterwards conferred it upon him by a diploma, in very honourable terms. It was some time before I could bring myself to call him Doctor; but, as he has been long known by that title, I shall give it to him in the rest of this Journal.

Lord Hailes did not write greater things. His lordship had not then published his “ Annals of Scotland.”Johnson. “I remember I was once on a visit at the house of a lady for whom I had a high respect. There was a good deal of company in the room. When they were gone, I said to this lady, What foolish talking have we had !'— Yes, (said she,) but while they talked, you said nothing.'-- I was struck with the reproof. How much better is the man who does any thing that is innocent, than he who does nothing. Besides, I love anecdotes. I fancy mankind may come, in time, to write all aphoristically, except in narrative ; grow weary of preparation, and connection, and illustration, and all those arts by which a big book is made. If a man is to wait till he weaves anecdotes into a system, we may be long in getting them, and get but few, in comparison of what we might get."

Dr. Robertson said, the notions or Eupham Macallan, a fanatick woman, of whom Lord Hailes gives a sketch, were still prevalent among some of the Presbyterians; and therefore it was right in Lord Hailes, a man of known piety, to undeceive them.

We walked out, that Dr. Johnson might see some of the things which we have to shew at Edinburgh. We went to the Parliament-house, where the Parliament of Scotland sat, and where the Ordinary Lords of Session hold their courts; and to the New Session-House adjoining to it, where our Court of Fifteen (the fourteen Ordinaries, with the Lord President at their head) sit as a Court of Review. We went to the Advocates' Library, of which Dr. Johnson took a cursory view, and then to what is called the Laigh (or under) ParliamentHouse, where the records of Scotland, which has an universal security by register are deposited, till the great


« PreviousContinue »