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ed what they are said in stories to have done.”—Johnson. “Sir, I am not defending their credibility. I am only saying, that your arguments are not good, and will not overturn the belief of witchcraft.-(Dr. Ferguson said to me, aside, “He is right,') —And then, sir, you have all mankind, rude and civilized, agreeing in the belief of the agency of preternatural powers. You must take evidence : you must consider, that wise and great men have condemned witches to die.”—Crosbie. “But an act of parliament put an end to witchcraft.” -Johnson. No, sir; witchcraft had ceased; and therefore an act of parliament was passed to prevent persecution for what was not witchcraft. Why it ceased, we cannot tell, as we cannot tell the reason of many other things.”—Dr. Cullen, to keep up the gratification of mysterious disquisition, with the grave address for which he is remarkable in his companionable as in his professional hours, talked, in a very entertaining manner, of people walking and conversing in their sleep. I am very sorry I have no note of this. We talked of the Ouran-Outang, and of Lord Monboddo's thinking that he might be taught to speak. Dr. Johnson treated this with ridicule. Mr. Crosbie said, that Lord Monboddo believed the existence of every thing possible.; in short, that ail which is in posse might be found in esse. Johnson. “But, sir, it is as possible that the Ouran-Outang does not speak, as that he speaks. However, I shall not contest the point. I should have thought it not possible to find a Monboddo; yet he exists.”—I again mentioned the stage.-- Johnson. “The appearance of a player, with whom I have drank tea, counteracts the imagination that he is the character he represents. Nay, you know, nobody imagines that he is the character he represents. They say, 'See Garrick ! how he looks to-night! See how he'll clutch the dagger!' That is the buz of the theatre.”
Tuesday 17th August.
Sir William Forbes came to breakfast, and brought with him Dr. Blacklock, whom he introduced to Dr. Johnson, who received him with a most humane complacency; “Dear Dr. Blacklock, I am glad to see you !”—Blacklock seemed to be much surprized, when Dr. Johnson said, “it was easier to him to write poetry than to compose his Dictionary. His mind was less on the stretch in doing the one than the other. Besides; composing a Dictionary requires books and a desk: you can make a poem walking in the fields, or lying in bed.”—Dr. Blacklock spoke of scepticism in morals and religion, with apparent uneasiness, as if he wished for more certainty. Dr. Johnson, who had thought it all over, and whose vigorous understanding was fortified by much experience, thus encouraged the blind Bard to apply to higher speculations what we all willingly submit to in common life; in short, he gave him more familiarly the able and fair reasoning of But. ler's Analogy: “Why, sir, the greatest concern we have in this world, the choice of our profession, must be determined without demonstrative reasoning. Human life is not yet so well known, as that we can have it. And take the case of a man who is ill. I call two physicians : they differ in opinion. I am not to lie down, and die between them: I must do something."
-The conversation then turned on Atheism ; on that horrible book, Systéme de la Nature ; and on the supposition of an eternal necessity, without design, without a governing mind.-Johnson. “ If it were so, why
has it ceased? Why don't we see men thus produced around us now? Why, at least, does it not keep pace, in some measure, with the progress of time? If it stops because there is now no need of it, then it is plain there is, and ever has been, an all-powerful intelligence. But stay! (said he, with one of his satyrick laughs.) Ha! ha! ha! I shall suppose Scotchmen made necessarily, and Englishmen by choice.”
At dinner this day, we had Sir Alexander Dick, whose amiable character, and ingenious and cultivated mind, are so generally known ; (he was then* on the verge of seventy, and is now eighty-one, with his faculties entire, his heart warm, and his temper gay ;) Sir David Dalrymple Lord Hailes ; Mr. Maclaurin, advocate ; Dr. Gregory, who now worthily fills his father's medical chair; and my uncle, Dr. Boswell. This was one of Dr. Johnson's best days. He was quite in his element. All was literature and taste, without
interruption. Lord Hailes, who is one of the best philologists in Great Britain, who has written papers in the World, and a variety of other works in prose and in verse, both Latin and English, pleased him highly. He told him, he had discovered the Life of Cheynel, in the Student, to be his.-Johnson. “No one else knows it." -Dr. Johnson had, before this, dictated to me a lawpaper, upon a question purely in the law of Scotland, concerning vicious intromission, that is to say, intermeddling with the effects of a deceased person, without regular title : which formerly was understood to subject the intermeddler to payment of all the defunct's debts. The principle has of late been relaxed. Dr. Johnson's argument was, for a renewal of its strictness. The pa
per was printed, with additions by me, and given into the Court of Session. Lord Hailes knew Dr. Johnson's part not to be mine, and pointed out exactly where it began, and where it ended. Dr. Johnson said, “ It is much, now, that his lordship can distinguish so."
In Dr. Johnson's Vanity of Human Wishes, there is the following passage:
“ The teeming mother, anxious for her race,
And Sedley curs’d the charms which pleas’d a king."
Lord Hailes told him, he was mistaken in the instances he had given of unfortunate fair ones; for neither Vane nor Sedley had a title to that description. His Lordship has since been so obliging as to send me a note of this, for the communication of which I am sure my readers will thank me.
“ The lines in the tenth Satire of Juvenal, accord“ing to my alteration, should have run thus :
6 Yet Shore* could tell-
“ The first was a penitent by compulsion, the se• cond by sentiment; though the truth is, Mademoi“selle de la Valiere threw herself (but still from senti“ment) in the King's way.
“Our friend chose Vane, who was far from being “ well-looked ; and Sedley, who was so ugly, that “ Charles II, said, his brother had her by way
Mistress of Edward IV.
+ Mistress of Louis XIV.
Mr. Maclaurin's learning and talents enabled him to do his part very well in Dr. Johnson's company. He produced two epitaphs upon his father, the celebrated mathematician. One was in English, of which Dr. Johnson did not change one word. In the other which was in Latin, he made several alterations. In place of the very words of Virgil, “ Ubi luctus et pavor et plurima mortis imago,” he wrote, “Ubi luctus regnant et pavor. He introduced the word prorsus into the line “Mortalibus prorsus non absit solatium,” and after “ Hujus enim scripta evolve, he added, “ Mentemque tantarum rerum sapacem corpori caduco superstitem crede ;” which is quite applicable to Dr. Johnson himself.
Mr. Murray, advocate, who married a niece of lord Mansfield's, and is now one of the judges of Scotland, by the title of Lord Henderland, sat with us a part of the evening; but did not venture to say any thing, that I I remember, which he certainly might have done, had not an over-anxiety prevented him.
At supper we had Dr. Alexander Webster, who though not learned, had such a knowledge of mankind, such a fund of information and entertainment, so clear a head and such accommodating manners, that Dr. Johnson found him a very agreeable companion.
When Dr. Johnson and I were left by ourselves, I read to him my notes of the Opinions of our Judges upon the Question of Literary Property. He did not like them; and said, “they make me think of your Judges not with that respect which I should wish to do.” To the argument of one of them, that there can be no property in blasphemy or nonsense, he answered, “then your rotten sheep are mine!-By that rule when a man's house falls into decay, he must lose it.”-I