« PreviousContinue »
always the steadiest light.-Lowth is another bishop who has risen by his learning."
Dr. Johnson examined young Arthur, Lord Monboddo's son, in Latin. He answered very well; upon which he said with complacency, "Get you gone! When King James comes back,* you shall be in the Muses' Welcome !"-My lord and Dr. Johnson disputed a little, whether the Savage or the London shopkeeper had the best existence; his lordship, as usual, preferring the Savage.-My Lord was extremely hospitable, and I saw both Dr. Johnson and him liking each other better every hour.
Dr. Johnson having retired for a short time, his lordship spoke of his conversation as I could have wished. Dr. Johnson had said, "I have done greater feats with my knife than this;" though he had eaten a very hearty dinner. My lord, who affects or believes he follows an abstemious system, seemed struck with Dr. Johnson's manner of living. I had a particular satisfaction in being under the roof of Monboddo, my lord being my father's old friend, and having been always very good to me. We were cordial together. He asked Dr. Johnson and me to stay all night. When I said we must be at Aberdeen, he replied, "Well, I am like the Romans: I shall say to you, 'Happy to come;-happy to depart!" He thanked Dr. Johnson for his visit.-Johnson. "I little thought, when I had the honour to meet your lordship in London, that I should see you at Monboddo." After dinner, as the ladies were going away, Dr. Johnson would stand up. He insisted that politeness was of great consequence in society. "It is (said he,) ficti
* I find, some doubt has been entertained concerning Dr. Johnson's meaning here. It is to be supposed that he meant, “when a king shall again be entertained in Scotland."
tious benevolence. It supplies the place of it amongst those who see each other only in publick, or but little. Depend upon it, the want of it never fails to produce something disagreeable to one or other. I have always applied to good breeding, what Addison in his Cato says
"Honour's a sacred tie; the law of Kings;
"The noble mind's distinguishing perfection,
"That aids and strengthens Virtue where it meets her.
When he took up his large oak stick, he said, "My lord, that's Homerick;" thus pleasantly alluding to his lordship's favourite writer.
Gory, my lord's black servant, was sent as our guide, to conduct us to the high road. The circumstance of each of them having a black servant was another point of similarity between Johnson and Monboddo. I observed how curious it was to see an African in the north of Scotland, with little or no difference of manners from those of the natives. Dr. Johnson laughed to see Gory and Joseph riding together most cordially. "Those two fellows, (said he,) one from Africa, the other from Bohemia, seem quite at home." -He was much pleased with Lord Monboddo today. He said, he would have pardoned him for a few paradoxes, when he found he had so much that was good but that, from his appearance in London, he thought him all paradox; which would not do.— He observed that his lordship had talked no paradoxes to-day. "And as to the savage and the London shopkeeper, (said he ) I don't know but I might have taken the side of the savage equally, had any body else taken the side of the shopkeeper."-He had said to my lord,
in opposition to the value of the savage's courage, that it was owing to his limited power of thinking, and repeated Pope's verses, in which "Macedonia's madman" is introduced, and the conclusion is,
"Yet ne'er looks forward farther than his nose."
I objected to the last phrase, as being low.-Johnson. Sir, it is intended to be low: it is satire. The expression is debased, to debase the character."
When Gory was about to part from us, Dr. Johnson called to him, "Mr. Gory, give me. leave to ask you a question! are you baptised ?" Gory told him he was, and confirmed by the Bishop of Durham. He then gave him a shilling.
We had tedious driving this afternoon, and were somewhat drowsy. Last night I was afraid Dr. Johnson was beginning to faint in his resolution; for he said, "If we must ride much, we shall not go; and there's an end on't."-To-day when he talked of Sky with spirit, I said, Why, sir, you seemed to me to despond yesterday. You are a delicate Londoner;—you are a maccaroni; you can't ride."-Johnson. "Sir, I shall ride better than you. I was only afraid I should not find a horse able to carry me."—I hoped then there would be no fear of getting through our wild Tour.
We came to Aberdeen at half an hour past eleven. The New Inn, we were told, was full. This was comfortless. The waiter, however, asked if one of our names was Boswell, and brought me a letter left at the inn it was from Mr. Thrale, enclosing one to Dr. Johnson. Finding who I was, we were told they would contrive to lodge us by putting us for a night into a room with two beds. The waiter said to me in
the broad strong Aberdeenshire dialect, "I thought I knew you, by your likeness to your father."-My father puts up at the New Inn, when on his circuit. Little was said to night. I was to sleep in a little pressbed in Dr. Johnson's room. I had it wheeled out into the dining-room, and there I lay very well.
Sunday 22d August.
I sent a message to Professor Thomas Gordon, who came and breakfasted with us. He had secured seats for us at the English chapel. We found a respectable congregation, and an admirable organ, well played by Mr. Tait.
We walked down to the shore. Dr. Johnson laughed to hear that Cromwell's soldiers taught the Aberdeen people to make shoes and stockings, and to plant cabbages. He asked if weaving the plaids was ever a domestick art in the Highlands, like spinning or knitting. They could not inform him here. But he conjectured probably, that where people lived so remote from each other, it was likely to be a domestick art; as we see it was among the ancients, from Penelope.-I was sensible to-day, to an extraordinary degree, of Dr. Johnson's excellent English pronunciation. I cannot account for its striking me more now than any other day but it was as if new to me; and I listened to every sentence which he spoke, as to musical composition.-Professor Gordon gave him an account of the plan of education in his college. Dr. Johnson said, it was similar to that at Oxford.-Waller the poet's great grandson was studying here. Dr. Johnson wondered that a man should send his son so far off, when there were so many good schools in England. He said, "At a great school there
is all the splendour and illumination of many minds; the radiance of all is concentrated in each, or at least reflected upon each. But we must own that neither a dull boy, nor an idle boy, will do so well at a great school as at a private one. For at a great school there are always boys enough to do well easily, who are suf ficient to keep up the credit of the school; and after whipping being tried to no purpose, the dull or idle boys are left at the end of a class, having the appearance of going through the course, but learning nothing at all. Such boys may do good at a private school, where constant attention is paid to them, and they are watched. So that the question of publick or private education is not properly a general one; but whether one or the other is best for my son."
We were told the present Mr. Waller was a plain country gentleman; and his son would be such another. I observed, a family could not expect a poet but in a hundred generations.—“ Nay, (said Dr. Johnson,) not one family in a hundred can expect a poet in a hundred generations." He then repeated Dryden's celebrated lines,
Three poets in three distant ages born, &c.
and a part of a Latin translation of it done at Oxford:* he did not then say by whom.
* London, 2nd May, 1778.
Dr. Johnson acknowledged that he was himself the authour of the translafation above alluded to, and dictated it to me as follows:
Quos laudet vates Graius Romanus et Anglus
Carmen grande sonans; Anglus utrumque tulit,